ICC Extraordinary Conference
At the beginning of this year, the ICC decided to transform the 15th Congress of its section in France into an Extraordinary International Conference. The decision was motivated by the open outbreak of an organisational crisis immediately following its 14th International Congress in April 2001. This crisis has led to the departure from our organisation of several militants, who have recently regrouped in what they call the "Internal Fraction of the ICC". As we shall see, the Conference took note of the fact that these militants had deliberately set themselves outside the organisation, even if today they proclaim to whoever is prepared to listen that they have been "excluded".
While most of the Conference was focused on organisational issues, it also discussed the analysis of the international situation, and adopted the resolution which is published in this issue of the International Review.
The aim of this article is to give an account of the conference's most important work, the nature of its discussions, and its decisions on organisational issues, since this was its main purpose. It will also set out our analysis of the self-styled "internal fraction" of the ICC, which presents itself today as the real continuity of the ICC's organisational gains, but which in reality is nothing other than a new parasitic grouping, such as the ICC and other organisations of the proletarian political milieu have had to confront in the past. But before we deal with these questions, it is necessary to consider another, which has been the object of much misunderstanding in today's proletarian political milieu: the importance of questions of functioning for communist organisations.
We say this because we have often heard or read the comment that "the ICC is obsessed with organisational questions", or that "it's articles on the question are of no interest, it's just their own internal affairs". This kind of judgement is understandable enough on the part of non-militants, even when they sympathise with Left Communist positions. When one is not a member of a proletarian political organisation, it is clearly difficult to measure fully the problems that such an organisation can encounter in its functioning. That said, it is much more surprising to meet with this kind of comment on the part of members of organised political groups. This is one of the expressions of the weakness of the present proletarian political milieu, resulting from the organic and political break between today's organisations and those of the past workers' movement, as a result of the counter-revolution which crushed the class from the end of the 1920s until the end of the 1960s.
For this reason, and before we deal with the questions which concerned the conference, we will begin with a brief reminder of some organisational lessons of the past workers' movement, on the basis in particular of two of the most well-known amongst them: the International Workingmen's Association (IWA), or 1st International (in which Marx and Engels were militants), and the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP), whence emerged the Bolshevik Party that in 1917 took the lead of the only victorious proletarian revolution, before it degenerated as a result of its international isolation. We will look more particularly at these organisations' two congresses where organisational issues took centre stage: the IWA's 1872 Hague Congress, and the 1903 Congress of the RSDLP which gave rise to the formation of the Bolshevik and Menshevik fractions, which were to play directly opposing roles in the revolution of 1917.
The IWA was founded in September 1864 in London, on the initiative of a number of French and English workers. It adopted a centralised structure straight away, with a central Council, which after the 1866 Geneva Congress was known as the General Council. Marx was to play a leading role within the Council, since it fell to him to write a large number of its basic texts, such as the IWA's founding address, its statutes, and the address on the Paris Commune (The Civil War in France, May 1871). The IWA (or "The International", as the workers called it) quickly became a "power" in the advanced countries (above all in Western Europe). Up till the 1871 Paris Commune, it regrouped a growing number of workers and was a leading factor in the development of the proletariat's two essential weapons: its organisation and its consciousness. This is why, indeed, the International was subjected to increasingly bitter attacks by the bourgeoisie: slander in the press, infiltration by informers, persecution of its members, etc. But the IWA ran the greatest danger from the attacks of some of its own members against the International's very mode of organisation.
Already, when the IWA was founded, the provisional rules were translated by the Parisian sections, strongly influenced by Proudhon's federalist conceptions, in a way that considerably weakened the International's centralised character. But the most dangerous attacks were to come later, with the entry into its ranks of the "Alliance de la démocratie socialiste" founded by Bakunin. This latter was to find fertile ground within important sections of the International, due to its own weaknesses, which were in turn the result of the weaknesses of the proletariat at the time, characteristic of its previous stage of development.
This weakness was especially marked in the most backward sectors of the European proletariat, where it had only just emerged from the peasant and artisan classes. Bakunin, who entered the International in 1868 after the collapse of the "League for Peace and Liberty", used these weaknesses to try to subject the International to his anarchist conceptions, and to bring it under his control. The tool for this operation was to be the "Alliance de la démocratie socialiste", which he had founded as a minority in the League for Peace and Liberty.
The latter was an organisation of bourgeois republicans, founded on the initiative notably of Garibaldi and Victor Hugo, one of whose main objectives was to compete with the IWA for the support of the working class. Bakunin was a member of the League's leadership, which he claimed gave it a "revolutionary impetus", and urged it to propose a merger with the IWA, refused by the latter at its Brussels congress in 1868. Following the failure of the League for Peace and Liberty, Bakunin decided to enter the IWA, not just as a militant but as part of the leadership.
"To be recognised as leader of the International, he had to present himself as the leader of another army, whose absolute devotion to his person was to be assured by a secret organisation. After openly implanting his society in the International, he intended to spread its ramifications into every section, and so to take over an absolute authority. With this aim, he founded the (public) Alliance for Socialist Democracy in Geneva (?) But this public Alliance hid another, which in its turn was directed by the still more secret Alliance of the international brotherhood, the Centurion Guards of the dictator Bakunin".1
The Alliance was thus both a public and a secret society, which in fact intended to form an International within the International. Its secret structure and the collusion this allowed amongst its members was supposed to ensure its "influence" over as many of the IWA's sections as possible, especially those where anarchist conceptions encountered the greatest echo. In itself, the existence of several different trends of thought within the IWA did not pose any problem. By contrast, the activity of the Alliance, aimed at replacing the official structure of the International, was a serious factor of disorganisation, and endangered the latter's very existence. The Alliance first tried to take control of the International at the Basle Congress in September 1869 by trying to have a motion adopted in favour of the abolition of the right of inheritance, against the motion proposed by the General Council. With this aim in view, its members, in particular Bakunin and James Guillaume, warmly supported an administrative resolution strengthening the powers of the General Council. Failing in this, however, the Alliance (which itself had adopted secret statutes based on an extreme centralisation) began a campaign against the "dictatorship" of the General Council, which it aimed to reduce to the role of a "statistical and correspondence bureau" to use the Alliancists terms, or to a mere "letter-box" as Marx answered them. Against the principle of centralisation as an expression of the proletariat's international unity, the Alliance preached "federalism", the complete "autonomy of the sections", and the non-obligatory nature of Congress decisions. In fact, the alliance wanted to do whatever it liked in the sections that had come under its control. The way would be open to the complete disorganisation of the IWA.
This was the danger faced by the Hague Congress in 1872. This congress was essentially devoted to organisational questions. As we wrote in the International Review n°87 "after the fall of the Paris Commune, the absolute priority for the workers' movement became to shake off the weight of its own sectarian past, to overcome the influence of petty bourgeois socialism. It is this political framework which explains the fact that the central question dealt with at the Hague Congress was not the Paris Commune itself, but the defence of the statutes of the International against the plots of Bakunin and his supporters" ("The Hague Congress of 1872: The struggle against political parasitism").
After confirming the decisions of the London Conference, which had been held one year previously, in particular those concerning the necessity for the working class to create its own political party and on the strengthening of the authority of the General Council, the Congress debated the question of the Alliance on the basis of a report by an enquiry commission, and finally decided on the exclusion of Bakunin and James Guillaume, the leader of the Jura Federation of the IWA, which was completely under the control of the Alliance. It is worth highlighting certain aspects of the attitude of members of the Alliance at or on the eve of the Congress:
- several sections controlled by the Alliance (in particularly the Jura Federation, and certain sections in Spain and the United States) refused to pay their dues to the General Council, and their delegates only paid their debt (of their back dues) under the threat of seeing their mandate invalidated;
- the delegates from sections controlled by the Alliance undertook a veritable blackmail of the Congress, demanding that it violate its own rules by taking account solely of votes based on imperative mandates, and threatening to withdraw if the Congress did not meet their demands;2
- the refusal by certain members of the Alliance to co-operate with the Commission of Enquiry established by the Congress, or even to recognise it, accusing it of being a "Holy Inquisition".3
This Congress was the IWA's high point (it was the only Congress that Marx attended, which gives an idea of how important he considered it), but also its swan song because of the crushing defeat of the Paris Commune and the demoralisation that this provoked within the proletariat. Marx and Engels were aware of this reality. This is why, along with the measures aimed at keeping the IWA out of the hands of the Alliance, they also proposed that the General Council be moved to New York, far from the conflicts that were dividing the International. This was also a means for allowing the International to die a natural death (confirmed by the 1876 Philadelphia Conference), without its prestige being hijacked by the Bakuninist intriguers.
The latter, and the anarchists have perpetuated this legend, claimed that Marx and the General Council excluded Bakunin and Guillaume because of their different vision of the question of the state (when they did not explain the conflict between Marx and Bakunin by questions of personality). In short, Marx was supposed to have wanted to settle a disagreement on general theoretical questions with administrative measures. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The Hague Congress took no measures against the members of the Spanish delegation, who shared Bakunin's ideas and had belonged to the Alliance, but who declared that they no longer did so. Similarly, the "anti-authoritarian" IWA formed after the Hague Congress from the Federations which refused to accept its decisions was not made up solely of anarchists, since it also included the German Lassalleans, who were great defenders of "state socialism" to use Marx's words. In fact, the real struggle within the IWA was between those who stood for the unity of the workers' movement (and therefore the binding nature of Congress decisions), and those who demanded the right to do whatever they pleased, each isolated from the others, treating the Congresses as mere assemblies, where everyone could exchange "points of view" without taking any decisions. With this informal mode of organisation, it would fall to the Alliance to carry out, in secret, a real centralisation of the Federations, as indeed Bakunin's correspondence explicitly stated. Putting these "anti-authoritarian" conceptions to work in the International would have been the best way to deliver it up to the intrigues, and the hidden and uncontrolled power of the Alliance, in other words the adventurers who led it.
The 2nd Congress of the RSDLP was the occasion for a similar confrontation between the defenders of a proletarian conception of the revolutionary organisation, and the petty-bourgeois conception.
There are similarities between the situation in the West European workers' movement at the time of the IWA, and the movement in Russia at the turn of the century. In both cases, the workers' movement was still in its youth, the separation in time being due to Russia's late industrial development. The IWA's purpose was to regroup in a united organisation, the different workers' societies that the proletariat's development had created. Similarly, the aim of the RSDLP's 2nd Congress was to unite the different committees, groups and circles of the social democracy which had developed in Russia and in exile. Following the disappearance of the Central Committee, which had been formed by the RSDLP's 1st Congress in 1897, there had been almost no formal links between these different formations. The 2nd Congress thus saw, as with the IWA, a confrontation between a conception of the organisation representing the movement's past, that of the "Mensheviks" ("minorityites") and a conception expressing the requirements of the new situation, that of the "Bolsheviks" ("majorityites").
The Mensheviks' approach, as it became clear later (very quickly in the revolution of 1905, and still more of course during the revolution of 1917, when the Mensheviks stood alongside the bourgeoisie), was determined by the penetration of bourgeois and petty-bourgeois ideology, in particular of the anarchist variety, within the Russian social-democracy. In particular, as Lenin noted, "Most of the opposition [ie the Mensheviks] was made up of our Party's intellectual elements", who thus became the bearers of petty-bourgeois conceptions of the organisational question. These elements, as a result, "naturally raise the standard of revolt against the indispensable restrictions of the organisation, and they establish their spontaneous anarchism as a principle of struggle (...) making demands in favour of 'tolerance' etc" (Lenin, op cit). And indeed, there are many similarities between the behaviour of the Mensheviks and that of the anarchists in the IWA (Lenin speaks on several occasions of the Mensheviks "aristocratic anarchism").
Like the anarchists after the Hague Congress, the Mensheviks refused to recognise and apply the decisions of the 2nd RSDLP Congress, declaring that "the Congress is not divine" and that "its decisions are not sacred". In particular, just as the Bakuninists went to war against the principle of centralisation and the "dictatorship of the General Council" after failing to take control of it, one reason that the Mensheviks began to reject centralisation after the Congress was the fact that several of them had been removed from the central organs elected by the Congress. There are even likenesses in the way the Mensheviks campaigned against Lenin's "personal dictatorship" and "iron fist", which echo Bakunin's accusations of Marx's "dictatorship" over the General Council.
"When I consider the approach of the friends of Martov after the Congress (...) I can only say that this is an insane attempt, unworthy of Party members, to tear the Party apart (...) And why? Solely because one is discontented at the makeup of the central organs, because objectively this is the only question which separated us, since the subjective appreciations (such as offence, insults, expulsions, pushing aside, casting slurs, etc) were nothing but the fruit of wounded pride and a sick imagination. This sick imagination and wounded pride led straight to the most shameful gossiping: without waiting to find out about the activity of the new centres, nor having seen them in action, some go about spreading gossip about their "inadequacy", or about the "iron glove" of Ivan Ivanovitch, or the "fist" of Ivan Nikiforovitch, etc (...) Russian social-democracy still has a difficult step to take, from the circle spirit to the party spirit; from a petty-bourgeois mentality to a consciousness of its revolutionary duty; gossip and the pressure of circles considered as a means of action, against discipline" (Lenin, Report on the 2nd Congress of the RSDLP).
It is worth noting that the weapon of blackmail used in their day by Guillaume and the Alliance was also part of the Mensheviks' arsenal. Martov, the Mensheviks' leading figure, refused to take part in the editorial committee of the party's publication Iskra, to which he had been elected by the Congress, on the grounds that his friends Axelrod, Potressov and Zassoulich had not been appointed to it.
Given the examples of the IWA and the 2nd Congress of the RSDLP, we can see the importance of questions linked to the mode of organisation of revolutionary formations. In fact, these were the questions that were to produce the first decisive decantation between the proletarian current on the one hand, and the bourgeois and petty bourgeois currents on the other. This importance is no accident. It springs precisely from the fact that one of the main channels for the infiltration of ideologies foreign to the proletariat - bourgeois or petty-bourgeois - is precisely that of their functioning.
Marxists have thus always paid the greatest attention to the organisational question. Within the IWA, Marx and Engels themselves took the lead in the fight to defend proletarian principles. And it was no accident that they played a decisive role in the decision by the Hague Congress to devote most of its labours to organisational questions, at a time when the working class had just been confronted with two of the most important events of the period, which received much less attention: the Franco-Prussian war and the Paris Commune. This choice has led most bourgeois historians to consider this Congress as being the least important of the IWA's history, whereas it was in reality the most important since it made it possible for the 2nd International to make new advances in the development of the workers' movement.
Within the 2nd International, Lenin was also seen as "obsessed" with the organisational question. The quarrels that agitated Russian Social Democracy were incomprehensible within the other socialist parties, and Lenin was seen as a "sectarian" who dreamed of nothing but splits. In fact, it was Lenin who drew the deepest inspiration from Marx and Engels' struggle against the Alliance. The validity of his combat was to be brilliantly demonstrated in 1917, by his party's ability to take the lead in the revolution.
The ICC, for its part, has followed the tradition of Marx and Lenin in paying the greatest attention to organisational questions. In January 1982, the ICC devoted an Extraordinary Conference to the question following the crisis of 1981.4 Finally, between late 1993 and 1996, our organisation undertook a fundamental battle to strengthen its organisational tissue, against the "circle spirit" and for the "party spirit" as Lenin defined them in 1903. Our International Review n°82 gives an account of the ICC's 11th Congress, which was essentially devoted to the organisational questions that we confronted at the time.5 We followed this with a series of articles on organisational questions devoted to the struggles within the IWA (International Review n°85-88), and two articles entitled "Have we become Leninists?" (International Review n°96-97) on the fight by Lenin and the Bolsheviks on the organisational issue. Finally, in our previous issue, we published substantial extracts from an internal document on the question of functioning within the ICC, which served as an orientation text for the struggle of 1993-96.
A transparent attitude vis-à-vis the difficulties encountered by our organisation has nothing to do with any 'exhibitionism' on our part. The experience of communist organisations is an integral part of the experience of the working class. This is why Lenin devoted an entire book, One step forward, two steps back to the 2nd Congress of the RSDLP. By giving an account of its organisational life, the ICC is thus doing nothing other than assuming its responsibility in the face of the working class.
Obviously, when a revolutionary organisation publicises its problems and internal discussions, this is a choice dish for all the adversaries waiting to denigrate it. This is also, and even especially, the case for the ICC. As we wrote in International Review n°82, "we won't find any jubilation in the bourgeois press over the difficulties that our organisation is going through today: the ICC is still too small, both in its size and in its influence amongst the working masses, for the bourgeoisie to have any interest in talking about it and trying to discredit it. It is preferable for the bourgeoisie to erect a wall of silence around the positions and even the existence of revolutionary organisations. This is why the work of denigrating them, and sabotaging their intervention, is undertaken by a whole series of groups and parasitic elements whose function is to drive away individuals who are coming towards class positions, to disgust them with any participation in the difficult task of developing a proletarian political milieu (?) Within the parasitic movement, we find fully-fledged groups like the 'Groupe Communiste Internationaliste' (GCI) and its splits (such as 'Contre le Courant'), the defunct 'Communist Bulletin Group" (CBG) or the ex-"External Fraction of the ICC", which were all formed from splits from the ICC. But parasitism is not limited to such groups. It is also spread by unorganised elements, who may meet from time to time in ephemeral discussion groups whose main concern is to circulate all kinds of gossip about our organisation.6 These elements are often ex-militants who have given in to the pressure of petty-bourgeois ideology and have proven unable to maintain their commitment within the organisation, or who have been frustrated that the organisation failed to give them the recognition they thought they deserved, or again who could not stand being the object of criticism (?) Obviously, these elements are absolutely incapable of building anything whatever. By contrast, they are often very effective, with their petty agitation and their concierge's chatter, at discrediting and destroying what the organisation is trying to build" ("11th Congress of the ICC").
However, it is not the wriggling of the parasites that will prevent the ICC from setting before the whole proletarian milieu the lessons of its own experience. In the preface to One step forward, two steps back, in 1904, Lenin wrote: "They [our adversaries] exult and grimace at the sight of our discussions; obviously, they will try, to serve their own purposes, to brandish my pamphlet devoted to the defects and weaknesses in our Party. The Russian social-democrats are sufficiently tempered in battle not to be troubled by such pinpricks, and to continue in spite of everything with their task of self-criticism, mercilessly unveiling their own weaknesses, which will be overcome necessarily and without fail by the growth of the workers' movement. Let our adversaries try to give us an image of the situation in their own 'parties' which comes close to that presented by the minutes of our 2nd Congress!".
We intend to adopt the same approach in giving an account of the problems of functioning which have affected our organisation lately, and which were at the centre of the work of the Conference.
The origins of the ICC's recent organisational difficulties
The ICC's 11th Congress adopted a resolution on its activities which drew the main lessons from the crisis our organisation underwent in 1993, and from the struggle for its recovery. We published large extracts in International Review n°82, and we reproduce some of them here since they throw a light on our recent difficulties.
"The framework of analysis the ICC adopted for laying bare the origins of its weaknesses was in continuity with the historic struggle waged by marxism against the influence of petty bourgeois ideology that weighed on the organisation of the proletariat (...) In particular, it was vital for the organisation to have as its central concern, as it was for the Bolsheviks after 1903, the struggle against the circle spirit and for the party spirit (...) It is in this sense that becoming aware of the weight of the circle spirit in our origins was an integral part of a general analysis elaborated long before, the one which saw the basis of our weaknesses in the break in the organic continuity with previous communist organisations, the result of the counter-revolution which descended on the working class at the end of the 20s. However, this realisation allowed us to go further than we had done before and to go to the deeper roots of our difficulties. In particular, it allowed us to understand the phenomenon - already noted in the past but not sufficiently elucidated - of the formation of clans in the organisation: these clans were in reality the result of the decomposition of the circle spirit which kept going long after the period in which circles had been an unavoidable step in the reconstruction of the communist vanguard" (11th Congress Resolution on activities, point 4).
On the question of clans, our article on the 11th Congress made this point: "This analysis was based on previous experiences of the workers' movement (for example, the attitude of the former editors of Iskra grouped around Martov who, unhappy with the decisions of the 2nd Congress of the RSDLP, had formed the Menshevik fraction), but also on precedents in the history of the ICC. We can't go into detail here but what we can say is that the 'tendencies' which have appeared in the ICC corresponded much more to such a clan dynamic than to real tendencies based on an alternative positive orientation. The principal motor of these 'tendencies' was not the divergences their members may have had with the orientations of the organisation. Instead they were based on an agglomeration of elements frustrated and discontented with the central organs, of those 'loyal' to individuals who saw themselves as being 'persecuted' or insufficiently recognised".
The article emphasised that the whole ICC (including the militants most directly involved in it) recognised that it was faced with a clan which occupied a particularly important position in the organisation and which, while it was not simply an organic product of the ICC's weaknesses, had "concentrated and crystallised a great number of the deleterious characteristics which affected the organisation and whose common denominator was anarchism..." (Activities resolution, point 5).
The resolution continued "The ICC's understanding of the phenomenon of the clans and their particularly destructive role has allowed it to put its finger on a large amount of the bad functioning which affected most of the territorial sections" (idem, point 5).
It drew up a balance sheet of our organisation's struggle: "... the Congress notes the overall success of the combat engaged by the ICC in the autumn of 1993 (...) the - sometimes spectacular - redressment of some of the sections with the greatest organisational difficulties in 1993 (...), the deepening that has come from a number of sections in the ICC (...), all these facts confirm the full validity of the combat both in its theoretical bases and its concrete application".
However, the resolution also warned against any kind of triumphalism: "This does not mean that the combat we have conducted to date should come to an end. (...) The ICC will have to continue this combat through a permanent vigilance, the determination to identify every weakness and to confront it without delay. (...) In reality, the history of the workers' movement, including that of the ICC, teaches us, and the debate has fully confirmed this, that the struggle for the defence of the organisation is a permanent one, and without respite. In particular, the ICC must remember that the Bolsheviks' struggle for the party spirit, and against the circle spirit continued for many years. It will be the same for our organisation, which will have to watch for and eliminate any demoralisation, any feeling of impotence as a result of the length of the combat." (ibid, point 13).
And precisely, the ICC's recent Conference pointed out that one of the major causes of our organisational problems during the last decade was a relaxation in our vigilance faced with a reappearance of the difficulties and weaknesses which had affected the organisation in the past. In reality, the greater part of the organisation had lost sight of the warning which concluded the resolution of the 11th Congress. It consequently had the greatest difficulty in identifying the reappearance of clannism within the Paris section and within the International Secretariat (IS)7, in other words the two parts of the organisation which had been the most affected by this disease in 1993.
The development of the crisis at the heart of the ICC and the formation of the "internal fraction"
The slide into clannism got under way in March 2000, when the IS adopted a document on questions of functioning which was criticised by a small number of comrades. While they recognised the entire validity of most of the ideas in the text, notably on the need for a greater confidence among the different parts of the organisation, they considered that it made certain concessions to a democratist vision, and tended to call into question our conceptions of centralisation. To summarise, they considered that the document led to an idea that "more confidence means less centralisation". It has never been a problem for the ICC that some parts of the organisation should criticise a text adopted by the central organ. On the contrary, the ICC and its central organ have always insisted that every disagreement or doubt should be expressed openly within the organisation in order to reach the greatest possible clarity. The attitude of the central organ towards disagreements has always been to answer them as seriously as possible. But in the spring of 2000, the majority of the IS adopted a quite different attitude from what had been its habit in the past. For this majority, the fact that a tiny minority of comrades criticised a text of the IS could only spring from a spirit of opposition for opposition's sake, or from the fact that one of them was affected by family problems while another was suffering from depression. One argument used by the IS members was to say that the text had been written by a particular militant, and would have had a different reception had it been the work of a different author. The response to the arguments of the comrades in disagreement was therefore not to put forward counter-arguments, but to denigrate the comrades or even to try to avoid publishing their texts on the grounds that they would "spread crap in the organisation", or that comrades who had been affected by the pressure brought to bear on them would not be able to stand the pressure of responses by other ICC militants to these texts. In short, the IS developed a completely hypocritical policy of stifling debate in the name of "solidarity".
This political attitude, totally foreign to the ICC's methods up till then, suddenly underwent a further degeneration when a member of the IS in turn began to support some of the criticisms made of the document adopted by the commission in March 2000. Relatively immune from denigration till then, this militant himself now became the target of a campaign aimed at discrediting him: if he adopted this or that position, it was because he was being "manipulated by someone close to him". At the same time, the attitude of the IS was to reduce the discussions on the question as far as possible to a banality, declaring that it was not "the debate of the century". And when more developed and critical contributions began to appear, the majority of the IS tried to push the whole of the ICC's central organ into declaring the debate closed. The International Bureau refused to follow the IS. It also decided, against the will of the latter's majority, to create a Delegation for Information, mostly made up of comrades who were not members of the IS, and charged with examining the problems of functioning which were developing in and around the commission.
These decisions prompted a new "radicalisation" among the majority of the IS' members. They addressed to the Delegation for Information all kinds of accusations against the comrades in disagreement, pointing out all kinds of particularly serious "organisational failings" on their part, "alerting" the Delegation to the "dubious" or "unworthy" behaviour of one of these militants. In short, those members of the IS who had considered the creation of the Delegation to be a waste of time now informed it of a cunning and destructive attack on the organisation, which should have made them the first to call for the formation of just such a Delegation in order to conduct an enquiry into these militants. One member of the IS - Jonas - not only refused to appear before the Delegation, but refused outright to recognise it.8 At the same time, he began - behind the scenes - to spread the idea that one of the militants in disagreement was a state agent manipulating those around her with the aim of "destroying the ICC". Other IS members tried different ways of putting pressure on the Delegation, and in early May 2001 several of them tried to intimidate the Delegation into renouncing its communication to the Congress of a "preliminary communication" laying down a framework for understanding the problems that were affecting the IS and the Paris section.9 On the very morning of the Congress, just before it began, the majority of the IS tried a final manoeuvre: they demanded that the International Bureau meet in order to adopt a resolution disavowing the work of the Delegation for Information. The DI had already been convinced of the existence of a clannish dynamic within the IS far more by the attitude of the majority of the latter's members than by the testimony of the comrades who had criticised the IS' policy. Similarly, the majority of the IB was convinced of the existence of the same dynamic fundamentally by the attitude of the IS members at this last meeting before the Congress. At the time, however, the IB counted on these militants' ability to come to their senses, as had already been the case of an important number of militants who had been caught in a clannish dynamic in 1993. This is why the IB proposed that all the militants belonging to the old IS should be re-elected to the central organ. At the same time, it proposed that the old Delegation for Information should be strengthened to include other comrades and become an Information Commission. Finally, it proposed to the Congress that it should not yet communicate the DI's preliminary conclusions, and asked the Congress to accord its confidence to the new Information Commission. The Congress ratified unanimously these proposals.
Two days after the Congress, a member of the old IS violated the Congress' decisions by revealing in the Paris section the information which the IB, with the Congress' approval, had decided to withhold until it could be communicated in full and in an appropriate framework. His aim was to set the Paris section against the rest of the ICC and against the International Bureau. The other members of the old IS majority supported him, and refused to condemn this outright violation of the organisation's statutes.
Inasmuch as the Congress is the organisation's sovereign body, the deliberate violation of its decisions (like the Mensheviks in 1903) is a particularly serious fault. At the time, however, the militant was not sanctioned beyond a verbal condemnation of his action: the organisation continued to count on the capacity of the clan's members to get a grip on themselves. In reality, this violation of the statutes was only the first in a long line of infractions by members of the old IS or those they persuaded to follow in their open war against the organisation. We have not the space to detail all these infractions here; we will limit ourselves to some characteristic examples, for which the members of the present "internal fraction" are responsible to varying degrees:
- the use and publication of the proceedings of the central organs without the latter's consent;
- campaigns of slander against members of the Information Commission, accused of being "liars" and "Torquemadas" (after a leader of the Spanish Inquisition, which is reminiscent of Alerini's denunciation of the Hague Congress Enquiry Commission as a "Holy Inquisition");
- systematic and slanderous campaigns behind the scenes against a member of the organisation, accused without a shadow of proof of "indignity", being an adventurer, or even a state agent (this latter accusation being explicitly put about by Jonas and another member of the present "fraction", but also suggested by other militants close to him), manipulating others in order to destroy the ICC;
- secret correspondence by members of the ICC's central organ with militants in other countries in order to spread slanders against those they now described as the "liquidationist faction", and to turn them against the International Bureau (in other words the same policy that Bakunin used to recruit for his "Alliance");
- holding secret meetings (five during August and September 2001), whose aim was not to work out political analyses but to hatch a plot against the ICC. When the militants involved in these meetings announced the formation of a "Working Collective", they declared amongst other things that "we are not holding secret meetings".
It was only by accident, and as a result of the clumsiness of one of this brotherhood's members, that the proceedings of one of these secret meetings came into the organisation's hands.
Shortly afterwards, a plenary session of the International Bureau adopted unanimously (in other words, including the votes of two members of the present "internal fraction") a resolution whose main passages we quote here:
"1. Having read () the proceedings of the meeting of 20/08 between the seven comrades forming the so-called 'working collective', and after examining its content where are expressed:
- an openly declared awareness that they are acting outside the statutes and have no preoccupation other than how to hide the fact from the rest of the organisation;
- the rest of the organisation considered as 'the others', 'them', in other words enemies who have to be 'destabilised' in the words of one of the participants;
- the intention of hiding their real thoughts and activity from the rest of the organisation;
- the establishment of a group discipline at the same time as they advocated violating the discipline of the organisation;
- the elaboration of a strategy to deceive the organisation and to impose their own policies;
the IB condemns this behaviour, which is in flagrant violation of our organisational principles and reveals an utter disloyalty towards the rest of the organisation (?)
2. The activity of the members of the 'collective' constitutes an extremely serious organisational fault and deserves the severest sanctions. However, inasmuch as the participants at this meeting have decided to disband the 'collective', the IB decides to forego the sanction, with the intention that the militants who have committed the fault should not merely disband the 'collective' but:
- should undertake a thorough critique of their behaviour;
- should undertake a reflection in depth on the reasons that led them to behave as enemies of the organisation.
In this sense, this resolution of the IB should not be interpreted as an under-estimation of the seriousness of the fault committed, but as an encouragement to the participants in the secret meeting of 20/08 to realise this seriousness".
Confronted with the destructive nature of their behaviour, the members of the "collective" took a step back. Two of those who had taken part in the secret meetings really did apply what the resolution asked: they undertook a sincere critique of their approach and are today loyal militants of the ICC. Two others, despite having voted in favour of the resolution, preferred to resign rather than undertake the required critique. As for the others, they all too quickly dumped their good intentions, only a few weeks later forming the "internal fraction of the ICC" and adopting the "Declaration" of the "working collective" which they had rejected a short time before.
No sooner was this self-styled "fraction" formed, than its members distinguished themselves by undertaking an escalation of attacks against the organisation and its militants, combining an utter vacuity of political argument, the most outrageous lies, the most disgusting slanders, and a systematic violation of our rules of functioning which obviously forced the ICC to sanction them.10 A resolution adopted on 18th November 2001 by the central organ of the section in France declared: "The militants of the 'fraction' say that they want to convince the rest of the organisation of the validity of their 'analyses'. Their behaviour, and their enormous lies, prove that this is just one more lie (?) With their present behaviour, they are certainly unlikely to convince anybody at all (?) In particular, the Executive Commission denounces the 'tactic' which consists of systematically violating the ICC's statutes, in order to be able - when the organisation is forced to take measures to defend itself - to shout about 'Stalinist degeneration' and so justify the formation of a self-styled 'fraction'".
One of "fraction's" endlessly repeated lies is that the ICC has sanctioned them in order to avoid debating the fundamental questions. The truth is that their arguments have been refuted repeatedly, often in depth, by numerous contributions from individual militants and sections of the ICC, whereas their own texts systematically avoid replying either to these contributions, or even to the official reports and orientation texts proposed by the central organs. This is in fact one of the "fraction's" favourite methods: attributing their own turpitude to the rest of the organisation, and more especially to those they describe as the "liquidationist faction". For example, in one of their first "founding texts", a "counter-report" on the ICC's activities for the September 2001 IB Plenum, they accuse the ICC's central organs of adopting "an orientation that breaks with that of the organisation hitherto (?) from the end of the combat of 1993-96 to the 14th Congress which has just been held". And to demonstrate just how much he agrees with the orientations of the 14th Congress, a few weeks later the author of this document? rejects en bloc the activities resolution adopted by the Congress, and which he himself had voted. In the same vein, the "counter-report" haughtily declares that "we refer to the combat which has always existed (?) for the rigorous, rather than the 'rigid' respect for the statutes. Without a firm respect for the statutes and their defence, there is no more organisation". And yet this document serves as a platform for secret meetings whose participants agree amongst themselves that they are outside the statutes, and only weeks later begin to write pages and pages of pretentious pseudo-theory with the sole aim of justifying the systematic violation of the statutes.
We could go on with more examples of the same kind, but the article would fill the entire Review. We will however cite one more, significant, example: the "fraction's" pretension to be the real defender of the continuity of our struggle for the defence of the organisation during 1993-96. This does not prevent the "counter-report" from declaring that "The lessons of 1993 are not limited to clannism. Indeed this is not their principal element". Better still, the "Declaration" of the formation of the "working collective" asks: "Clans and clannism: notions to be found in the history of sects and free-masonry, but not (?) in the workers' movement of the past? Why? Can the alpha and omega of organisational questions be reduced to the 'danger of clannism'?". In fact, the members of the "fraction" aim to put over the idea that the notion of the "clan" does not belong to the workers' movement (which is false, since Rosa Luxemburg already used the term to describe the coterie of the German social-democratic leadership). This is indeed a radical method for refuting the ICC's analysis that these militants' behaviour is the evidence of a clan dynamic: "the notion of the clan is invalid". And all that in the name of the struggle of 1993-96, whose most important documents we have cited at length and which all insist on the fundamental role of clannism in the weaknesses of the ICC!
The formation of a parasitic group
Like the Alliance within the IWA, the "fraction" became a parasitic organism within the ICC. And just like the Alliance, which declared open and public war on the IWA once it had failed to take control of it, the clan of the old majority in the IS and its friends has decided to attack our organisation publicly as soon as it realised that it had lost all control over it, and that its behaviour, far from rallying the hesitant had on the contrary allowed these comrades to understand what was really at stake in the struggle for our organisation. The decisive moment in this qualitative step in the "fraction's" war against the ICC was the plenary session of the International Bureau at the beginning of 2002. After serious discussion, this meeting adopted a certain number of important decisions:
a) the transformation of the French section's congress, planned for March 2002, into an international extraordinary conference of the whole ICC;
b) the suspension of the members of the "fraction" for a whole series of violations of the statutes (including the refusal to pay their dues in full); the organisation left them until the conference to reflect, and to commit themselves to respecting the statutes failing which the conference could only conclude that they had placed themselves deliberately and of their own accord outside the organisation;
c) a decision in principle to exclude Jonas, following a detailed report by the Information Commission which highlighted his behaviour, worthy of that of an agent provocateur, the definitive decision to be taken only once Jonas had been made aware of the accusation against him and had had an opportunity to present his defence.11
It is worth noting that the two members of the "fraction" who took part in the plenary session abstained on the first decision. This is a thoroughly paradoxical attitude on the part of militants who constantly declared that the militants of the ICC as a whole were being deceived and manipulated by the "liquidationist faction" and the "decisional organs". No sooner was the opportunity given to the whole organisation to discuss and decide collectively on our problems, than our valiant fractionists put up an obstruction. This is an attitude totally opposed to that of the left fractions in the workers' movement, who always demanded that congresses be held to handle problems in the organisation, something that the right systematically avoided.
As for the other two decisions, the International Bureau pointed out that the militants concerned could appeal against them to the conference, and proposed that Jonas should submit his case to a jury of honour formed by militants of the proletarian political milieu if he considered himself unjustly accused by the ICC. Their response was a new escalation. Jonas refused either to meet the organisation to present his defence, or to appeal to the Conference, or to ask to be heard by a jury of honour: so crushing is the evidence that it is clear for all the militants of the ICC, and for Jonas himself, that he has no honour to defend. At the same time, Jonas announced his entire confidence in the "fraction". The "fraction" itself began to spread slanders against the ICC in public, first by writing to the other groups of the Communist Left, then by sending several texts to our subscribers, thus revealing that the member of the "fraction" who had been responsible for the file of subscribers until the summer of 2001 had stolen the file even before the formation of the "collective", let alone the "fraction". In the documents sent to our subscribers, we can read in particular that the central organs of the ICC have conducted against Jonas and the "fraction" "ignoble campaigns to hide and try to discredit the political positions, which they are unable to answer seriously". The rest is of the same ilk. The "fraction's" documents distributed outside the ICC testify to the "fraction's" total solidarity with Jonas and call him to work with them. The "fraction" thus reveals itself for what it has been right from the beginning, when Jonas remained in the shadows: a camarilla of the friends of Citizen Jonas.
Despite their open and public war on the ICC by the Jonas camarilla, our organisation's central organ sent several letters to each Parisian member of the "fraction", inviting them to present their defence to the conference. The "fraction" at first pretended to accept, but at the last minute carried out its final and most wretched action against our organisation. It refused to appear before the conference unless the organisation recognised the "fraction" in writing and withdrew all the sanctions adopted in conformity with our statutes (including the exclusion of Jonas). To appeal against the sanctions adopted by the organisation, these militants simply demanded that we start by withdrawing the sanctions. This is obviously the simplest solution - they would no longer have anything to appeal against! Confronted with this situation, all the delegations of the ICC, although they were ready to listen to the arguments of these militants (indeed, on the evening before the conference the delegations had already formed an appeals commission composed of members from several territorial delegations with a view to allowing the Parisian members of the "fraction" to present their arguments), had no alternative but to recognise that these elements had put themselves outside the organisation. Faced with their refusal to defend themselves before the conference and to present their arguments to the appeals commission, the ICC noted their desertion and could thus no longer consider them as members of the organisation.12
The conference also condemned unanimously the criminal methods used by the Jonas camarilla, consisting of the "kidnapping" (with their agreement?) of two delegates of the Mexican section as soon as they arrived at the airport. These members of the "fraction" were delegated by their section to defend their positions at the conference, and their airfares had already been paid by the ICC. They were met by two Parisian members of the "fraction", who took them away and refused to allow them to attend the conference. When we protested, and demanded that the "fraction" should repay the price of the airfares should the Mexican delegates fail to attend the conference, a Parisian member of the "fraction" replied with incredible cynicism: "That's your problem"! All the militants of the ICC have expressed their profound indignation by adopting a resolution denouncing the embezzlement of the ICC's funds and the refusal to repay the money spent by the organisation, revelatory of the criminal methods used by the Jonas camarilla. These methods are on a par with those of the Chénier tendency (which stole equipment from the organisation in 1981), and finally convinced the last comrades who hesitated to recognise the parasitic and anti-proletarian nature of this self-styled "fraction". The "fraction" has since replied to the ICC, refusing to return the political material and the money belonging to our organisation. The Jonas camarilla has today become, not only a parasitic group whose nature the ICC has already analysed in its "Theses on parasitism" published in the International Review n°94,13 but a criminal gang, which not only practices slander and blackmail to destroy our organisation, but steals as well.
The transformation of longstanding militants of our organisation, most of whom had important responsibilities in the central organs, into a criminal gang, immediately raises the question: how is such a thing possible? The influence of Jonas has obviously played a part in constantly pushing the members of the "fraction" to "radicalise" their attacks on the ICC in the name of "rejecting centrism". That said, this explanation is far from adequate in explaining such a degeneration, and the Conference laid the basis for going further in our understanding.
The conference's political framework for understanding our difficulties
On the one hand, the conference recognised that the fact that longstanding militants of a proletarian organisation betray the struggle they have engaged in for decades, is not a new phenomenon in the workers' movement: militants of the first order such as Plekhanov (the founding father of marxism in Russia) or Kautsky (the marxist reference of the German social-democracy, the "pope" of the 2nd International) ended their militant lives in the ranks of the ruling class (the first supported the war in 1914, the second condemned the Russian revolution of 1917).
Moreover, the conference set the question of clannism within the wider question of opportunism:
"The circle spirit and clannism, these key questions posed by the orientation text of 1993, are but particular expressions of a more general phenomenon: opportunism in organisational questions. It is evident that this tendency, which in the case of relatively small groups such as the Russian Party in 1903 or the ICC has been closely linked to circle and clannish forms of affinitarianism, did not express itself in the same way for instance within the mass parties of the declining Second or Third Internationals.
"Nonetheless, the different expressions of this same phenomenon necessarily share certain principle characteristics. Among these, one of the most notable is the incapacity of opportunism to engage in a proletarian debate. In particular, it is unable to maintain organisational discipline as soon as it finds itself defending minority positions.
"There are two principle expressions of this incapacity. In situations in which opportunism is on the ascent within proletarian organisations, opportunism tends to downplay the divergences, either claiming them to be 'misunderstandings', as Bernsteinian revisionism did, or else systematically adopting the political positions of one's opponents, as in the early days of the Stalinist current.
"Where opportunism is on the defensive, as in 1903 in Russia or in the history of the ICC, it reacts hysterically to being in the minority, declaring war on the statutes and presenting itself as the victim of repression in order to avoid the debate. The two main characteristics of opportunism in such a situation are, as Lenin pointed out, the sabotage of the work of the organisation, and the staging of scenes and scandals.
"Opportunism is inherently incapable of the serene approach of theoretical clarification and patient persuasion which characterised the internationalist minorities during World War I, Lenin's attitude in 1917, or that of the Italian Fraction in the 30s and the French Fraction thereafter. (...)
"The present clan is a caricature of this approach. As long as it felt itself in control, it tried to play down the divergences emerging in RI, while concentrating on discrediting those who voiced disagreements. As soon as the debate began to develop a theoretical dimension, the attempt was made to prematurely close it. As soon as the clan felt itself in a minority,14 and even before the debate could develop, questions (...) were inflated into programmatic divergences justifying the systematic rejection of the statutes" (Conference Resolution on activities, point 10).
The conference also considered the ideological weight of capitalism's decomposition on the working class:
"One of the principle characteristics of the phase of decomposition is that the stalemate between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat imposes on society a painful and protracted agony. As a result, the process of the development of the class struggle, of the maturation of consciousness, and of the construction of the organisation becomes much slower, more torturous and contradictory. The consequence of this is a tendency towards the gradual erosion of political clarity, militant conviction and organisational loyalty, the principle counter weights to the political and personal weaknesses of each militant (?)
"Because the victims of such a dynamic have begun to share in the lack of any perspective which today is the lot of decomposing bourgeois society, they are condemned to manifest, more than any other clan in the past, an irrational immediatism, a feverish impatience, an absence of reflection, and the radical loss of theoretical capacities - in fact all the main aspects of decomposition" (idem, point 6).
The conference also pointed out that one of the underlying causes both for the IS' and the whole organisation's initial incorrect positions on the question of functioning, and the anti-organisational turn taken by the members of the "fraction" and the time that the ICC as a whole took to identify this turn, is the result of the weight of democratism in our ranks. It consequently decided to open a discussion on the question of democratism, on the basis of an orientation text to be drawn up by the ICC's central organ.
Finally, the conference insisted on the importance of the struggle under way in the organisation:
"The combat of revolutionaries is a constant battle on two fronts: for the defence and construction of the organisation, and the intervention towards the class as a whole. All the aspects of this work mutually depend on each other (?)
"At the centre of the present combat is the defence of the capacity of the generation of revolutionaries which emerged after 1968 to pass on the mastery of the marxist method, the revolutionary passion and devotion, and the experience of decades of class struggle and organisational combat to a new generation. It is thus essentially the same combat being waged within the ICC and towards the outside, towards the searching elements secreted by the proletariat, in the preparation of the future class party" (idem, point 20).
1 The Alliance for Socialist Democracy and the International Workingmen's Association, a report on the Alliance drawn up by Marx, Engels, Lafargue and other militants, on a mandate from the IWA's Hague Congress.
2 The reactions to these threats are significant: "Ranvier protests at the threat to leave the hall on the part of Splingard, Guillaume and others, who thereby only prove that it is THEY and not us who have taken position IN ADVANCE on the questions under discussion". "Morago [a member of the Alliance] speaks of the tyranny of the Council, but is it not Morago himself who wants to impose the tyranny of his mandate on the Congress?" (intervention by Lafargue).
3 "Alerini thinks that the Commission only has a moral conviction, and no material proof; he belonged to the Alliance, and is proud of it (?) you are the Holy Inquisition; we demand a public enquiry with conclusive and tangible proof".
4 See the articles, "Crisis in the revolutionary movement", "Report on the structure and functioning of the revolutionary organisation", and the "Presentation of the ICC's 5th Congress", in International Review n°28, 33, and 35 respectively.
5 "The 11th Congress of the ICC: the struggle for the defence and construction of the organisation".
6 This is the case with the "Cercle de Paris", formed at the end of the 1990s by ex-militants of the ICC close to Simon (an adventurist element excluded from the ICC in 1995), which has published a pamphlet entitled "Que ne pas faire?" ("What is not to be done?"), consisting of a slew of slanders against our organisation, depicted as a Stalinist sect.
7 In other words, the permanent commission of the ICC's central organ, the International Bureau, which is made up of militants from all the territorial sections.
8 In other words, he adopted the same attitude as James Guillaume before the IWA's Hague Congress.
9 This attitude of intimidating an Information Commission is not new either: Utin, who had testified to the Hague Congress' Enquiry Commission on Bakunin's behaviour, was physically attacked by one of Bakunin's supporters.
10 In a circular to all the sections in November 2001, the International Bureau listed these violations of our statutes. Here is a short extract from the list:
- "leaking information on internal questions (...)
- refusal by three members of the central organs to take part in meetings where their attendance is required by the statutes (...);
- mailing a bulletin to comrades' home addresses, in total violation of our centralised rules of functioning and in violation of our statutes;
- refusal to pay their dues at the normal rate decided by the ICC [the members of the "fraction" had decided unilaterally to pay only 30% of their dues];
- refusal to make known to the central organs the content of a supposed 'History of the IS', which has circulated among certain militants and which contains absolutely intolerable attacks against the organisation and some of its militants;
- blackmail by threatening to publish, outside the organisation, internal documents of the organisation and notably of its central organs".
11 See the "Communiqué to our readers" published in World Revolution n°252
12 Just as the Bakuninists denounced the decision of the Hague Congress as a trick to prevent them from putting forward their positions, the Jonas camarilla denounced the ICC's taking note of their desertion as an exclusion in disguise aimed at silencing their disagreements.
13 For example, the "fraction" is now trying to set the groups of the proletarian milieu against each other, and to accentuate their divisions. In the same way, in its Bulletin n°11 it has launched a campaign of seduction and flattery towards elements of the parasitic milieu, like those of the "Cercle de Paris" which the "fraction's" members were not backward in condemning in the past. Once again, they adopt the same attitude of the thoroughly "anti-authoritarian" Bakuninists who allied themselves, after the Hague Congress with the "statist" Lassalleans.
14 Jonas expressed his view of the crisis as follows: "Now that we're no longer in the driver's seat, the ICC is screwed".