The International Extraordinary Conference of the ICC
The ICC decided, earlier this year, to change the 15th Congress of its French section into an Extraordinary International Conference.
The fundamental task of this conference was to face up to an organisational crisis the most serious in the history of the ICC that emerged suddenly right after its 14th International Congress in April 2001.
Our readers will have read in our press that an ex-militant, Jonas, has been excluded from the ICC for political unworthiness, consisting, amongst other things, of destroying the fabric of the organisation by circulating in a persistent and underhand way calumny and rumours about comrades of the organisation in order to cause disruptions in several sections of the ICC.
This individual regrouped around him, largely on the basis of these rumours, other militants who were mobilised into an all-out war on the organisation, attempting to unravel its centralised statutory principles of functioning, threatening the very existence of the ICC.
This clique directed by Jonas proclaimed itself a ‘fraction’, even though it had been totally incapable of putting forward the least programmatic divergence justifying such a title. The only ‘principle’ of these elements was destructive hate and an insatiable thirst for vengeance. Because they were put in a minority, and were themselves discredited by being incapable of developing the least political argumentation, their actions consisted of plotting against the central organ of the ICC through secret meetings, then systematically sabotaging the activity of the organisation through manoeuvres, provocations, campaigns of calumny, blackmail and the threat to spread their calumnies to the outside, as testified by the content of their infamous ‘internal bulletins’ which are now sent to certain groups and sympathisers of the communist left.
After a year of destructive behaviour trying to destabilise the organisation (as a member of the ‘fraction’ said explicitly in a secret meeting: ‘we must destabilise them’) and pushing militants to rebellion against the central organs of the ICC, the clique of Jonas carried out its last, most miserable act against the organisation. It refused to attend the International Conference unless the organisation recognised this ‘fraction’ in writing and withdrew the sanctions that it had taken in conformity with its statutes (notably the exclusion of Jonas). Faced with this situation, all the delegations of the ICC, even though ready to hear the appeal of these elements (to this effect, the delegations had formed an international commission of appeal on the eve of the Conference composed of militants of several ICC sections so that the four Parisian members of the ‘fraction’ could 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 in front of the conference and to make an appeal in front of the commission, the ICC recognised their desertion and could no longer consider them as members of the organisation.
The Conference also condemned unanimously the loutish methods used by the Jonas clique to ‘kidnap’ at the airport two delegates of the Mexican section, members of the ‘fraction’, coming to the Conference to defend their positions (these delegates were complicit in their own ‘disappearance’). While the ICC had paid their airplane tickets so they could come to the Conference to defend the positions of the ‘fraction’, these two Mexican delegates were taken away by two Parisian members of the ‘fraction’ preventing them from attending the Conference. In reply to our protests and our demand to be reimbursed for the tickets if the Mexican delegates (who had received a mandate of their section) did not attend the Conference, one of the two Parisian members of the ‘fraction’ in their ‘welcoming committee’ (an ex-member of the central organ of the ICC) laughed in our face: ‘that’s your problem!’. What incredible cynicism! Faced with the hijacking of the funds of the organisation and the refusal to reimburse the ICC for the two tickets, typical of the gangster methods used by the Jonas clique, all the militants of the ICC expressed their deep indignation by adopting a resolution condemning this behaviour. These methods, which are quite comparable to those of the Chenier Tendency (who stole the material of the organisation in 1981), convinced those last comrades still hesitant about the parasitic and anti-proletarian nature of this pseudo-fraction.
The conference was therefore confronted with two necessities. The first and most pressing need was to continue to defend the ICC and its organisational principles in the most rigorous and intransigent way against the repeated attacks and provocations of this parasitic grouping. The second was to draw the profound lessons of these events: what weaknesses of the organisation allowed the parasitic grouping, instigated by Jonas, to appear and develop so rapidly and destructively? It is the second aspect that the present article proposes to develop. (For the first aspect our readers can refer to the article ‘A parasitic attack aimed at discrediting the ICC’ published on our website).
The defence and construction of a revolutionary organisation is a permanent combat
According to bourgeois propaganda revolutionary organisations of the proletariat are doomed to failure since the communist principles that assure their cohesion proletarian solidarity and mutual confidence inevitably come into conflict with the naturally selfish, competitive motivations of the individuals that compose them. Revolutionary organisations, according to this vision, can only be mirror images of the corruption that reigns in the political parties of the bourgeoisie. The latter, not only incessantly propagates the ideology of ‘everyman for himself’ it also gives this theory a practical support through open repression, when necessary, and by fomenting disunity within revolutionary organisations by directly or indirectly encouraging the work of agents provocateurs, adventurers and parasites.
The exploited nature of the working class makes its revolutionary organisations extremely vulnerable to the destructive pressures of bourgeois society. The construction of revolutionary organisations has always required a permanent effort, a constant vigilance, a critical and self-critical attitude without which they run the risk of being destroyed and losing years of effort, thus setting back the revolutionary process.
The struggle of the Marxists in the First International for centralisation against the destructive intrigues of Bakunin in 1872, the struggle of Lenin and the Bolsheviks against the organisational opportunism and ‘landlord anarchism’ of the Mensheviks in 1903, the struggle of the communist left against the degenerating 3rd International in the twenties and thirties, have all prefigured the series of struggles that the ICC has waged since its inception for the internal application of centralised rules of functioning against the circle spirit and clannism, against individualism and petit-bourgeois democratism.
In the same spirit the ICC, contrary to other groups of the communist left who have also been shaken by splits, has always revealed its internal problems so that the revolutionary movement can draw the lessons and strengthen the whole of the proletarian political milieu. We are perfectly aware that groups and elements of the parasitic milieu will descend like vultures on this organisational crisis of the ICC to feed their malicious gossip about the supposed ‘Stalinist degeneration’ of our organisation. Nevertheless, the ICC must continue to draw the lessons of each crisis that it experiences in order to reinforce itself politically.
Given the difficulty of constructing revolutionary organisations, the idea that they are immunised against opportunist degeneration, whether at the programmatic or organisational level, and that they can develop peacefully and without clashes, is particularly dangerous.
It was precisely the development of such an illusion within the ICC, the idea that henceforth the organisation could construct itself without major political combats within it, that the International Conference stigmatised. Thus the ICC showed a certain naivete and a lack of vigilance faced with the persistence of the circle spirit. We had the illusion that this weakness, coming from the historic circumstances of the foundation of the ICC (marked by the weight of petit-bourgeois ‘68ism’ and its leftist and anarchist components) had been eradicated for ever thanks to its combat of 1993-95.
This illusion not only revealed an amnesia about the history of the Marxist movement, but also a loss of sight of the extremely difficult conditions facing the ICC in the present period of the social decomposition of capitalism.
In fact one of the factors which crystallised the recent crisis of the ICC was a discussion on confidence and solidarity within the organisation which, from the beginning, had been oriented by the majority of the members of the International Secretariat (the permanent commission of the central organ) with a different method to that used previously by the ICC in all its debates. From the opening of this discussion, these members of the International Secretariat began a real campaign aimed at discrediting minority comrades in order to put them ‘outside the ICC’ (according to the actual words of a member of the so-called fraction). They began to introduce a monolithic conception within the central organ, totally foreign to the principles of the ICC, even to the extent of opposing the publication in the internal bulletins of contributions of comrades having divergences with the policy of the majority of the International Secretariat. Faced with this serious deviation, that risked leading to the abandonment of the principles of functioning of the ICC and to an organisational degeneration, the central organ of the ICC took the decision, ratified at the 14th Congress of the ICC, to nominate an Investigation Commission charged with clarifying the disfunctioning within its International Secretariat.
Faced with the disavowal of the policy of the International Secretriat Jonas immediately announced his resignation presenting himself as a victim ‘of an enterprise of demolition of the organisation’. According to Jonas, if the International Secretariat (of which he was a member) was disavowed in this way by the central organ of the ICC, then this could only be the work of a ‘cop’. Just after his resignation, Jonas (who didn’t have the courage to come to the 14th Congress of the ICC to defend his positions) immediately pushed seven of the comrades closest to him to meet secretly to form a ‘fraction’. He said to a delegation of the IB: ‘Since we are no longer in charge, the ICC is lost’. The vision of Jonas (of being ‘in charge’) is not the ICC conception of the role of the central organs. This vision, that of bourgeois cliques, little bureaucrats, adventurers and Stalinists cannot tolerate the least divergence, and, bereft of arguments, uses the method of calumny to create disruption first within the organisation and now within the proletarian political milieu too.
Faced with manoeuvres of Jonas and his supporters, aiming to stifle any divergence in the name of ‘confidence’ toward the majority of the International Secretariat (i.e. calling on the ICC to have a blind, unprincipled faith in it) the debate on confidence and solidarity had to be reoriented by the central organ just after the 14th Congress of the ICC, using an historical and theoretical framework that the clique of Jonas continuously denigrated without - as the Extraordinary Conference noted - any political argumentation. This orientation allowed the Conference to begin to develop a serious and argumented debate, within which all the militants without exception could defend their position, expressing their doubts or disagreements in a constructive and fraternal spirit. Clarifying disagreements with the sole objective of reinforcing the organisation as a unified and thus centralised political body, replaced the goal of denigrating comrades who didn’t share one’s point of view.
The weight of democratic ideology
Among the other weaknesses in which Jonas and his clique found a prop, were not only the weight of the circle spirit but also the pressure of democratist ideology on the organisation. In the ICC, democratism was recently manifested through an opportunist tendency to put in question our principles of centralisation, especially through the idea that confidence can only develop within the organisation in inverse proportion to its centralisation. Once the ICC became conscious of the danger of liquidating our principles of centralisation under the weight of democratic ideology, the Jonas clan persisted in the defence of this revisionist version and took it to its pitiful, liquidationist, conclusion. Thus on the 31 January the so-called fraction addressed a declaration to all the militants of the ICC (published in the fraction’s internal bulletin) renouncing all loyalty to the ICC. In place of a centralised debate, clearly posing the divergences while respecting the statutes of the ICC, this clique demanded that the militants of the ICC take up its own litany of insults and calumnies against the central organs of the ICC and some of its members. In other words the clan of the friends of Jonas demanded a whole series of bourgeois rights: the right to spread the worst lies and calumnies against militants and against the central organs in the name of ‘freedom of expression’, the right to destabilise the organisation by plotting behind its back, the right to flout all the rules of functioning of the ICC, the right to only pay 30% of their dues, the right to desert meetings they should attend, the right to steal address lists of subscribers, the right to steal the notes of the central organs to falsify them, the right to steal money from the ICC and to sequest two delegates of the Mexican section to prevent them attending the Conference (out of fear that it would convince them). All this in the name of the ‘freedom of expression’; in fact the freedom to sabotage and destroy! The Conference clearly revealed that the manoeuvres of Jonas had destroyed militants by transforming them into a gang of impostors and forgers. These militants were naive enough to think that by baptising themselves a ‘fraction’, they would be able to mask their petit-bourgeois democratism and their destructive individualism against our principles of centralisation. In other words the clan of the friends of Jonas followed the slogan of the students of May 68: it took its desires for reality. And when the ICC defended itself, did not let itself be destroyed by their putschist methods, and applied the sanctions called for in the statutes, it was denounced in an hysterical way as a degenerate, Stalinist sect, manipulated by a ‘cop’ and ‘Torquemadas’ (according to Jonas’ own words!) This was the sordid motor force behind the formation of this pseudo-fraction. It was nothing other than the weapon of citizen Jonas against the proletarian political milieu: the most shameful and dangerous clan in the whole history of the ICC.
The analysis of this clan’s ideological and political roots was the task set by the Extraordinary Conference of the ICC. The debates at this conference were very rich and the manner of its conduct underlined that, contrary to the calumnies of the ‘fraction’ and the whole anti-ICC parasitic milieu, our organisation, far from stifling divergences, exhorted all the militants to assume their responsibility and express their disagreements. The political depth and passion which animated the debates of this Conference showed the determination of the ICC to mobilise itself for the defence of the organisation and its principles. Finally the ICC recognised the gravity of the stakes for the proletarian political milieu contained in the methods of the clique of Jonas (which is trying to infiltrate the IBRP in order to drag it into its policy of destroying the ICC).
Even though the ICC, throughout its history, has experienced several splits, it has been able to resist their negative effects. Despite numerical losses, the ICC has been able to maintain and politically reinforce an international centralised organisation, comprising sections in fourteen countries. Even though this crisis has been the most serious in the history of the ICC the manoeuvres of the Jonas clique failed to destroy our sections in the USA and Mexico (just as the Chenier Tendency, in the 1981 crisis, failed to destroy the section of the ICC in Britain). The ICC has been able to limit the damage and our numerical losses have been relatively minor in relation to the ambitions of the Jonas ‘fraction’. We have lost some militants but we have saved the organisation and its principles.
The Conference was deeply dismayed at the destructive and suicidal folly into which Jonas had dragged some ICC militants. Militants who were comrades of struggle for many years, in particular one who had always, up till then, shown the greatest loyalty toward the ICC, the greatest confidence toward the central organ and an exemplary determination in the different struggles for the defence and construction of the organisation. The ICC saved two comrades who had participated actively in the secret meetings of the ‘collective’ (which became the ‘fraction’). Becoming conscious of the particularly destructive and suicidal character of their trajectory, these two comrades reported in detail to the Investigation Commission how they were dragged into this sordid adventure. Two other militants that Jonas presented as ‘centrists’ and who had also participated in the secret meetings of the ‘collective’ preferred to resign rather than join the ‘fraction’ and follow the miserable course of this parasitic regroupment.
We are fully conscious that the ICC’s achievement is modest faced with the capitalist hostility that surrounds us. But that in no way diminishes the work of the defence of the organisation realised by the recent Extraordinary Conference which contained not only important lessons for the reinforcement of the ICC, but also for the development of a wider debate in the proletarian political milieu on the dangers which threaten revolutionary organisations. The whole of the milieu must be capable of resisting the destructive forces of bourgeois society, the opportunist temptation and the sirens of parasitism, today and in the period to come.