In its number 463 (August-September 2002), the newspaper Le Proletaire, organ of the Parti Communiste International (PCI) (note 1) published an article entitled: 'In connection with the crisis in the ICC' which deserves a certain number of corrections. Initially, the article affirms that one of the members of the so-called 'Internal Fraction' ('IFICC') which had been constituted in the ICC (note 2) "is denounced ... as a probable 'agent provocateur'." Here is what we wrote in World Revolution 252 concerning the exclusion of Jonas (to which Le Proletaire refers implicitly):
"One of the most intolerable and repugnant aspects of his behaviour is the veritable campaign that he promoted and carried out against a member of the organisation, accusing them in the corridors and even in front of people external to the ICC of manipulating his followers and the central organs on behalf of the police force. Today, Jonas has become a keen enemy of the ICC and is behaving in a manner worthy of an agent provocateur. We don't know what his underlying motivations are, but what we are quite sure that he represents a danger for the proletarian political milieu."
It is clear that the behaviour of Citizen Jonas is more than disconcerting and all the militants of the ICC are convinced that his actions aim at destroying our organisation or at least at causing it as much damage as an agent provocateur could have done (note 3). However, all readers will have been able to read that "We don't know what his underlying motivations are" and will be able to thus note that we have never said that Jonas is a "probable agent provocateur". Such a charge, even in the form of assumption, is extremely serious and even if the revolutionary organisations can be moved to bear it against one their former members, it can be only following a very thorough investigation. It is because of that, moreover, that our Extraordinary Conference, which took place last spring, elected a special Commission to continue investigations regarding Jonas. As for the PCI, we think that it would have done better to limit itself strictly to what we really wrote so far, rather than devoting itself to extrapolations which lead to a falsification of our claims.
In addition, the PCI says to us that: "It is obviously out of the question that, as we have been asked to do, we give an opinion for one or the other camp - whether for the dissidents in the name of democracy, or for the majority in the name of the 'defence of the organisations of the proletarian milieu'" This sentence calls for several remarks. Initially, as it is formulated, it makes you think (even if it is not said explicitly) that the ICC, like the 'IFICC' , has asked the PCI to take its side. Nothing is more false. The 'IFICC' actually demanded of the PCI, in a letter that it addressed to it at the same time as to other groups of the communist left, on 27 January 2002, to take a position in its favour against the ICC:
"Today we see only one solution: for us to address you so that you ask our organisation to open its eyes and to rediscover its sense of responsibility Because we are in disagreement, today the ICC has done everything it can to marginalise us and demolish us morally and politically." (note 4). However, on 6 February 2002, we actually sent a letter to the PCI, as to other organisations of the communist left (IBRP (note 5), PCI Il Programma Comunista, PCI Il Partito) concerning the 'IFICC'. But contrary to what is alleged by 'the Fraction', our letter by no means asks the recipient groups to give an opinion for one camp against the other; its objective is to rectify a certain number of lies and calumnies against our organisation which were contained in the letter of the 'Fraction' of 27 January. That said, the principal remark that we should make about the PCI's assertion that "it is obviously out of the question" for it to give an opinion for one or the other camp, is that it is contradicted immediately afterwards. Indeed, one can read some lines further on:
"That however does not prevent us from raising the methods employed by the ICC in response to its current dissidents, which undoubtedly do not go back to yesterday and are unfortunately too well known: 'criminalising' opponents by defamatory charges in order to isolate them completely, to counter any possible doubt or any request for political explanation on behalf of the militants by the creation of a climate of a 'fortress under siege' which makes it possible to mobilise them 'in defence of the organisation' against opponents who end up being depicted as being in the service of the bourgeoisie. These processes of sinister memory were never employed either by Marx or by Lenin; they are in fact characteristic of organisations gangrened by opportunism and/or beset by serious contradictions between their analyses and reality. They would be deadly in a revolutionary party because they inevitably destroy the political homogeneity which constitutes its cement. Whatever might be believed, a system of militarist bureaucratism can only end up choking internal political life. This tends to prevent one from facing and solving the political problems that cannot help but be posed to revolutionary militants, and transforms them into simple parrots. The political questioning that is driven back, however, inevitably continues to act underground and finishes up sooner or later reappearing with all the more virulence, in the form of destructive organisational crises."
In fact, the PCI, which claims to have read "the material published by the two sides", espouses almost to the letter the libellous theses spread by the 'IFICC' and thus clearly takes position in favour of the latter against the ICC.
The internal regime of communist organisations
We should salute the fact that today the PCI affirms that "a system of militarist bureaucratism can only end up choking internal political life, this tends to prevent one from facing and solving the political problems that cannot help but be posed to revolutionary militants, and transforms them into simple parrots"
This is an idea that our current has never tired of repeating in answer to the conceptions of the PCI. In 1947, our comrades of the Gauche Communiste de France (Communist Left of France - political ancestor of the ICC) had the following to say about the organisational ideas of the PCI:
"On this common basis [the criteria of class and the revolutionary programme] tending towards the same goal, many divergences always emerge along the road. These divergences always express either the absence of all the elements for an answer, or the real difficulties of the struggle, or the immaturity of thought. They can neither be conjured away nor prohibited, but on the contrary must be resolved by the experience of the struggle itself and by the free confrontation of ideas. The regime of the organisation, therefore, consists not in stifling divergences but in creating the conditions for their solution. That is to say, to promote, to bring them into the light of day, instead of allowing them to develop clandestinely. Nothing poisons the atmosphere of an organisation more than when divergences remain hidden. Not only does the organisation thereby deprive itself of any possibility of resolving them, but it slowly undermines its very foundations. At the first difficulty, at the first serious reverse, the edifice that one believed was as solid as a rock cracks and collapses, leaving behind a pile of stones. What was only a tempest is transformed into a decisive catastrophe" (Internationalisme 25, 'Discipline our principal strength', republished in International Review 34).
At the beginning of 1983, we used the same language in response to the crisis which the PCI had just undergone:
"Where then is this famous 'monolithic bloc' of a party? This party without faults? This 'monolithism', asserted by the ICP [PCI], has only ever been a Stalinist invention. There never were 'monolithic' organisations in the history of the workers' movement. Constant discussion and organised political confrontation within a collective and unitary framework is the condition for the true solidarity, homogeneity and centralisation of a proletarian political organisation. By stifling any debate, by hiding divergences behind the word of 'discipline', the ICP has only compressed the contradictions until an explosion was reached. Worse, by preventing clarifications both outside as inside the organisation, it has numbed the vigilance of its militants. The Bordigist sanctification of hierarchical truth and the power of leaders has left the militants bereft of theoretical and organisational weapons in the face of the splits and resignations. The ICP seems to recognise this when it writes:
'We intend to deal [with these questions] in a more developed way in our press, by placing the problems which are being posed to the activity of the party before our readers'" ('The International Communist Party (Communist Programme) at a turning point in its history', International Review No. 32).
When we defended these ideas, the PCI did not have enough scornful words to stigmatise our 'democratism' (note 6) but by comparing what we wrote 50 years and 20 years ago with what the PCI says to us now, one can only be struck by the similarity of the ideas. In fact, it is almost a carbon copy. One can at least deduce one thing from this: the comrades of the PCI, in spite of their great speeches on 'invariance', were able to hear our arguments. We will not ask them for any royalties. However, we think that, more than our own arguments, it is the lasting reality of the facts, and particularly the dramatic collapse of the PCI in 1982, which is the decisive element that has allowed a handful of militants reclaiming the positions of Bordiga to understand the nonsense of certain 'invariant' dogmas about the alleged 'monolithism' of the party (note 7).
However, we maintain today what we say 20 or 50 years ago and we categorically reject the charges of the PCI concerning our alleged "methods in response to our current dissidents". Today, like yesterday, we consider that the political dissensions which emerge in the organisation must be regulated by wide-ranging centralised debate and not by administrative or 'bureaucratic' measures. Just like 20 years ago, we make and apply the following rules in the face of the divergences which can emerge in our organisation:
"- having regular meetings of the local sections, and putting on the agenda of these meetings the main questions being discussed in the organisation: in no way must this debate be stifled; - the widest possible circulation of various contributions within the organisation through the appropriate instruments [the internal bulletins]; - rejection of any disciplinary or administrative measure on the part of the organisation with regard to members who raise disagreements" ('Report on the Structure and Functioning of the Revolutionary Organisation', adopted by the Extraordinary International Conference of January 1982, published in International Review No. 33).
However, like 20 years ago, we consider respect for the following rules to be indispensable: "- rejection of secret and bilateral correspondence which, far from allowing debate to be more clear, can only obscure it by giving rise to misunderstandings, distrust and the tendency towards the constitution of an organisation within the organisation; - respect by the minority of the indispensable organisational discipline.
While the organisation must prohibit the use of any administrative or disciplinary means in the face of disagreements, that doesn't mean that it cannot use these means in any circumstances. On the contrary, it is indispensable that it resorts to measures such as temporary suspension or definitive exclusion, when it is confronted with attitudes, behaviours or actions which constitute a danger to the existence of the organisation, to its security and its capacity to carry out its tasks.
Moreover, it is important that the organisation takes all the measures necessary to protect itself from attempts at infiltration or destruction by agents of the capitalist state, or by elements who, without being directly manipulated by these organs, behave in a way likely to facilitate their work. When such behaviour comes to light, it is the duty of the organisation to take measures not only in defence of its own security, but also in defence of the security of other communist organisations." (ibid.).
The exclusion of Jonas and the sanctions against members of the 'Fraction'
It is thus in strict application of these principles, and not to "criminalise opponents by defamatory charges in order to isolate them completely" that the ICC decided in early 2002 to exclude the element Jonas and to publish a communiqu� in the press about it. We acted in exactly the same way in 1981 with regard to the individual Chenier, who had entered our organisation a few years before. Only a few months after being expelled, Chenier began an official career in a trade union and the Socialist Party (i.e. in the party that was running the government at this time), for whom he had probably been working secretly for a long time. It is clear that the communiqu� that we published in our press about this person from then on prevented him from continuing the destructive work he had been doing for several years in the ICC and other organisations he had passed through, notably the PCI. If the latter had taken the trouble to make public its own decision to expel Chenier and the reasons for doing so (which we only learned about from a militant of the PCI after Chenier had been expelled from the ICC), it is obvious that we would never have allowed such an element to enter into our organisation. It was precisely for this reason that we put our readers on their guard against Jonas, who "represents a danger for the proletarian political milieu" just like Chenier had done, even if his motivations may have been different.
Similarly, the disciplinary measures we took towards other members of the 'IFICC' had nothing to do with a will to stifle debate. The opposite is the case: it was because these militants had since the beginning of the debate refused to engage in the discussion (because they knew they did not have serious arguments that could have convinced the militants of the ICC) that they systematically violated the statutes of the organisation. The disciplinary measures that the ICC could not help but impose served as a pretext to create scandals and loud claims that "The ICC is doing everything it can to marginalise us and demolish us morally and politically".
The PCI should say whether it is an example of 'militarist bureaucratism' to take disciplinary measures when militants, among many other infractions: - refuse to be present at meetings in which they have a responsibility to participate; - violate decisions adopted unanimously by the organisation (including by themselves); - organise secret correspondence and meetings with the aim, explicitly recognised among themselves, of plotting against the organisation and waging campaigns of slander against certain of its militants; - refuse to pay their dues in full; - steal the list of our subscribers' addresses, the notes of meetings of the central organs (in order to use them in a fraudulent way), as well as the money of the organisation.
It was not because a 'liquidationist leadership' (to use the terms of the IFICC) has created "a climate of a 'fortress under siege' which makes it possible to mobilise the militants 'in defence of the organisation' against opponents", as the PCI puts it, that our Extraordinary Conference unanimously ratified the sanctions against Jonas and the other members of the so-called 'Fraction'. It was quite simply because ALL the militants of the ICC, apart from the members of this 'Fraction' had been convinced of the necessity for such sanctions faced with an accumulation of evidence of deliberately destructive activity by these elements. The militants of the ICC are neither parrots nor zombies. If some amongst us have decided to trample on the principles which they had hitherto defended by blindly following a particular individual (for reasons of affinity, wounded pride, attempts to settle personal scores, or because of a loss of conviction), all the others rejected such behaviour and were able to make up their minds about this without anyone forcing their hand.
In the second part of this article, which will appear in the next issue of WR, we will see that the PCI has let itself be dragged by the 'IFICC' into also throwing out ant-ICC slanders.
(1) This is the PCI which also publishes Il Comunista in Italy, not to be confused with the PCI which publishes Il Programma Comunista and Cahiers Internationalistes in France, nor with the PCI which publishes Il Partito Comunista and La Gauche Communiste. Each of these three PCIs claims to be the true one, representing the current of the communist left of Italy animated by Amadeo Bordiga after the Second World War. Back
(2) See on this subject our articles 'The International Extraordinary Conference of the ICC', 'Public Meetings on the Defence of the Revolutionary Organisation' and '"Internal Fraction" of the ICC: Serving the Bourgeoisie Admirably' in WR 254, 255 and 258 respectively, as well as 'The Fight for Organisational Principles' in International Review No. 110. Back
(3) See on this subject our article 'Revolutionary Organisations Struggle against Provocation and Slander' in WR 252. Back
(4) In spite of this letter, the IFICC has the gall to write in its Bulletin No. 13: "we want to affirm that, on our part, we never asked anybody to take sides between the ICC and Fraction". It is indeed a new shameless lie of the 'IFICC' in the tradition of this regroupment which seems to have endorsed the motto of Goebbels, head of Nazi propaganda: "a lie a thousand times repeated becomes a truth". Back
(5) The IBRP (International Bureau for the Revolutionary Party): a group laying claim to the Italian communist left, consisting of the Partito Comunista Internazionalista in Italy and the Communist Workers' Organisation in Britain. Back
(6) It should be noted that these attacks were primarily carried our in a verbal way by the militants of the PCI and that one finds very few examples of it in its publications. Indeed, at that time, whereas the PCI represented the most significant organisation laying claim to the communist left on an international scale and while it affected a transcendental disdain with regard to the ICC, its press did not condescend to polemicise with ours, unless in an exceptional way. This is not the case any more today, which obviously we salute, except when this polemic is based on unfounded rumours and not on realities. Back
(7) Nevertheless, the comrades of the PCI always seem to themselves assert this 'monolithism', resulting in the exclusion of 'dissidents'. Evidence of this can be found in the article that Le Proletaire published recently, 'In memory of Suzanne Voute': "Marginalised in the Party, Suzanne consequently ceased her participation in the press and the central bodies. Increasingly reticent in the activity which was undertaken, she fell into open opposition at the end of the sixties, when the first signs of a new political crisis started to appear, accusing the Party of having fallen into activism and the leadership of having become the agent of opportunist influences. The divergences were such that they pushed Suzanne and the comrades who followed her to constitute a kind of fractional group inside the Party. The impossibility of joint work and the wish on her part and by the militants who shared her views not to leave the organisation in spite of the political rupture led to the decision to exclude them in 1981." (Le Proletaire 461, March-April 2002). We want to raise the point here that, even according the statements Le Proletaire, the exclusion of Suzanne Voute was based on the fact that she expressed dissensions with the view of the PCI at that time and not on her behaviour within the organisation. Le Proletaire could, however, tell us whether Suzanne, for example, said in the corridors or outside the organisation that such and such a PCI militant was a 'cop', etc. As for the ICC, the only exclusions which it has pronounced have followed the description of "behaviour unworthy of a communist militant" (Chenier in 1981, Simon in 1995, Jonas at the beginning of 2002). Concerning the exclusion of Jonas, that we pronounced only recently (since, as opposed to what they say, the other members of the 'Fraction' were not excluded), the criterion selected had nothing to do with 'political divergences' which they never expressed in any case, but on the fact, as stated above, that he was "behaving in a manner worthy of an agent provocateur". Back