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A man is running down the street stabbing himself... The ICC

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Alf's picture
Alf
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Apr 23 2006 22:35

To John the point I am making about bourgeois vilification of revolutionaries is not about the ICC in itself. It's about the global ideological offensive of the bourgeoisie. A basic plank of bourgeois propaganda over the past 15 years, although it is much older than that, is that the working class is finished, marxism and communism are dead, and that the sole sad remnants of the movement for a communist future are crazed fanatics or, at best, laughable curiosities. If you are not aware of this offensive, or merely underestimate it, you will be caught up in it.

Yes I was quite serious about you coming to our meetings. We fully accept that the question of behaviour is essential to discuss, and in fact have been trying to go to the roots of this question for some time now. We are perfectly ready to listen to and consider your criticisms of our behaviour. At the same time we would hope that you would listen to our criticisms of the behaviour we have often encountered in the anarchist milieu. If there is a real discussion, it could lead to real developments.

I am equally serious about the idea of holding 'live' libcom meetings, although I am not sure what their format would be.

Jef, your post was excellent. I think it is crucial that you accept that we have been making an effort to communicate more effectively.

As I said, we are willing to listen to criticisms of interventions we have made in the past. In fact we always try to review and criticise our own interventions and understand that if no communciation takes place, they have not been effective. However, when you say that you have 'often found ICC members to be robotic, dogmatic and unwilling to engage in debate', how 'often' has that been really? If you prefer you could PM me on this.

alibadani
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Apr 24 2006 06:41

Alf,

I'm pretty sure that I read, a couple years back, an ICC article in French about a book written about the ultra-left. The book had some accusations about left communists bieng pro-Nazi and things like that. Do you remember this article, and the book it refers to?

bastarx
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Apr 24 2006 06:57
alibadani wrote:
Alf,

I'm pretty sure that I read, a couple years back, an ICC article in French about a book written about the ultra-left. The book had some accusations about left communists bieng pro-Nazi and things like that. Do you remember this article, and the book it refers to?

I suspect it was:

Christophe Bourseiller. L’Histoire generale de “l’ultra-gauche”. Paris, Ed. Denoel, 2003.

Loren Goldner's review of it is at:

http://home.earthlink.net/~lrgoldner/bourseiller.html

Pete

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Alf
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Apr 24 2006 07:38

yes, that's the one, thanks Peter. Goldner's review is very scathing, I am pleased to say.

bastarx
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Apr 24 2006 07:52

Did you get my PM Alf?

Pete

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Alf
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Apr 24 2006 09:23

Peter - yes, I've replied via e-mail and PM

Smash Rich Bastards
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Apr 24 2006 16:28
OliverTwister wrote:
To make things more complicated: this happened in the northeast, where most classist anarchists identify at least in the proximity of NEFAC. This guy, and some of the other principal players in the story, were to my understanding involved with NEFAC on different levels; so this may also have had to do with the reaction that would have happened if an anti-union manager had been involved with NEFAC.

There was a person from Baltimore that was gonna get booted from NEFAC for taking a position as a Starbucks manager awhile back (hiring/firing power = enough of a boss to be told to fuck off), but I believe he voluntarily left. Is this who you're talking about? Never heard about him having any run-ins with wobblies. I thought there was some issue with him not handing over some information to UNITE-HERE, not the IWW (I don't know that he was ever a member of the IWW) which some anarchists took him to task on. I don't think there was ever any violence or threats, maybe a little guilt-tripping. Rumors, rumors...

ernie
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Apr 24 2006 17:18

The fact that a number of posts from different sources have rejected the stealing of typewriters or other basic resources by those leaving an organisation is extremely important, because it establishes the principle that thieving has no place in the relations within and between proletarian organisations. The confidence that those with whom you militate are not going to rip you off is fundamental to militancy. If one has to spend one’s time wondering whether someone is going to run off with a group’s material because they no longer agree with the organisation, this can only work against a collective confidence, solidarity and discussion.

This point is central to the importance of the question of the 'paper' materials of an organisation. The internal materials of an organisation are what they say on the tin, internal. They are the means for the development of a collective and dynamic life of an organisation. Through the bulletins an organisation can discuss its activities, positions can be developed and opposed, etc. Internal bulletins are essential to the life of an organisation. The stealing of computers is an attack on the ability of an organisation to carry out its activity towards the class, as everyone appears to agree; the stealing of internal bulletins does the same for the internal life of an organisation. If comrades think that elements who disagree with a organisation will simply walk off with the bulletins and do what ever they want with them, this can only undermine confidence between comrades and work directly against the development of discussions.

Such a position also leaves the door wide open to those who want to come in to an organisation to destroy it. If one can join a group and simply walk off with its internal materials why should anyone trust that group: they obviously don't take their activity seriously or the defence of those who contact them or their militants.

As Alf says, if a comrade leaves the organisation and wants to keep texts they wrote which are of a general interest this can be discussed with the organisation: the central point is it is not a question of an individual’s property, but of the collective resources of an organisation.

The stealing of any material from a proletarian organisation is not only an attack on that organisation, but an affront to the most basic principles of any organisation of the class, whether minority or general. It introduces a gangster attitude into organisations of the working class, an attitude that undermines the solidarity and confidence that are the fundamental strengths of the working class movement.

It was to oppose this gangrene that the ICC retrieved its materials and explained why it had done so through its press.

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Lazy Riser
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Apr 24 2006 18:17

Hi

PaulMarsh wrote:
When have the bourgeoisie ever vilified the ICC?
Ben wrote:
"The ICC are rubbish. They are a bunch of commie scum."

Love

LR

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madashell
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Apr 24 2006 18:36

Sorry to interupt a perfectly good bunfight, but did the ICC really ever use the phrase "alien penetrator of the pure revolutionary organ?" grin

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Apr 24 2006 18:38
ernie wrote:
If comrades think that elements who disagree with a organisation will simply walk off with the bulletins and do what ever they want with them, this can only undermine confidence between comrades and work directly against the development of discussions.

Are you actually defending the use of physical force to take back old copies of internal bulletins?

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Apr 24 2006 18:41

Ernie - I agree with you re: physical materials. Internal bulletins though is just silly, because if the person intended to be disruptive deliberately they'd just photocopy them.

Mike Harman
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Apr 24 2006 18:59

And if a number of people split from an organisation, or an organisation splits in two, is it simply the name which entitles one faction to claim everything as their own?

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Lazy Riser
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Apr 24 2006 19:16

Hi

No. It is the level of development in their understanding of Capital.

Love

LR

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Felix Frost
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Apr 24 2006 19:30

Unfortunately, the kind of behavior we are talking about here isn't limited to the ICC. I can think of a number of cases where anarchist or syndicalist organizations have split and the splinter groups have fought over printing presses and other organizational assets (including on at least one occation, breaking into the other faction's space to reclaim/steal their material). Or cases where members have quit and not returned money or material that the organization wanted back, and this still being argued bitterly about 20 years later. It is sad when the ICC denounces members who quit the group as "parasites", but the attitude of the IWA towards the the groups that have split from it is not really that much better.

The question that we should ask ourselves is why are we not able to resolve such conflicts in a comradly manner, instead of behaving like rival street gangs. Why is it that it that we spend so much of our time fighting with the people who are closest to us politically, and who we often only recently considered to be our close comrades. I find myself agreeing more and more with Camatte in his description of political groups as rackets, each peddling their particular brand of revolutionary ideology, but identical in their essence. For the political racket, the main enemy becomes not the capitalists, but the rival gang who are trying to recruit the same menbers

ernie
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Apr 24 2006 20:13

Catch, john amd madashell, as my post tried to explain for the ICC it is a question of the defence of our organisation, as well as other organisation from the spread of gangsterism. It is clear that you do not defend gangsterism, but what may be at the heart of the difference that we have on this question is the nature and functioning of an organisation. At the time of the events of the 81 we held an extraordinary congress of the organisation to discus why the secrete tendency, that had emerged in the organisation, had developed. Also to clarify the principles at stack in the events, within the organisation there were also hesitations about the actions taken. Two reports were adopted by the congress which enabled the whole organisation to develop its understanding of this question. You may find it useful to read them, because they explain why we think the defence of the organisation is so important http://en.internationalism.org/specialtexts/IR033_functioning.htm

http://en.internationalism.org/specialtexts/IR029_function.htm

This is an important question so please do not think this is a plug, it is real concern to help clarify our actions.

Catch on the question of what happens when a split takes places involving a large number of comrades. This is a question that raise the whole question of the role of fractions in an organisation, which we cannot take up here: but will be worth coming back to.

Felix your point about the ICC call those who 'split' parasites also needs responding to, because for the ICC the concept of parasitism is a heritage of the workers' movement. Again we need to come back to this. We have produced a text on this question, which we can link you to or send you a copy if you want.

As for the point on organisation, the above texts may answer some of your concerns.[/url]

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Steven.
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Apr 24 2006 20:22

Ernie - I made a practical point about IBs which you fail to address...

knightrose
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Apr 24 2006 20:53

There's a huge problem with this discussion. There's only one side to it. Those that left the ICC in 1981 are no longer politically active. They are unable to reply. A couple of them were friends of mine back then, but that's all. They left the ICC and then went on to help form Wildcat in Manchester. Hardly the actions of parasites! I can only relay my memories of what they said back then. I believe that their view was that they were part of the organisation, had paid dues into it and had left as a group. As such, they felt entitled to keep the typewriter they had in Manchester. (Don't confuse that with a modern computer with a hard drive and storage space) For that they experienced a raid by ICC members from more than one country and as I recall the raids took place simultaneously around Europe in the houses of those who had left the ICC.

If I were the ICC, I wouldn't be bandying around words like "gangsterism".

For what it's worth, and to put things into perspective, typewriters weren't expensive - people generally got them second hand. They were mostly used to cut stencils for leaflets. For example, for the best part of 15 years, I knocked out leaflets and newsletters on a portable machine my dad got for me from work. It's value was £2. Electric machines were more expensive and were used for printed magazines. I have no idea what the offending machine in Manchester was. I also recollect that the raid on the Manchester house was on a shared place - some of the flatmates who were terrorised were not members of the ICC.

Mike Harman
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Apr 24 2006 21:01

See the ICC posts make it sound like a few individuals, a faction is something very different to one or two people fucking off with some equipment.

John iirc they didn;t have photocopiers in 1981, or not everywhere like now.

knightrose
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Apr 24 2006 21:04

1981 - we used to produce leaflets on gestetner and roneo duplicating machines. You bought a stencil from a shop, took the ribbon out of the typewriter and typed directly onto the stencil. That cut holes in it, letter shaped. The duplicator let ink through which printed on to the paper. It was messy and time consuming. There may well have been photocopiers around, but they were very expensive. Some magazines were printed litho - but that cost a lot too. By the end of the 80s things had changed and we were using litho more.

Beltov
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Apr 24 2006 21:21

Hi,

I've been following this thread while I've been away and it has moved on quite a lot, but there's still a few points I'd like to make as I can speak from first hand experience on the issues raised on this thread. [BTW, if any of you recognise me from the following then please respect my anonymity on these boards as I have a small family and job to consider and I wouldn't want them putting at risk :wink:]

First, at the bottom of Page 2 PaulMarsh said that,

PaulMarsh wrote:
...in the 1990s I can remember either speaking or chairing Class War public meetings of 100+ people, with many of those present new to politics. As soon as questions were taken from the floor, either the first speaker or the second was from the ICC (and they accuse others of parasitism!) and you could see people around the room begin to shuffle in their seats and feel uncomfortable. The ICC may not have converted anyone else to their principles, but they left a fair few people in the audience wishing they had stayed in and watched Coronation Street!

Before I joined the ICC I was a member of the Class War Federation (as it then was) in the early to mid '90s and was present at some of those meetings. At the time myself and others (including some of the founding members of CW) were trying to increase the level of theoretical debate and clarity within the organisation, but we became disillusioned when much of this effort fell on barren ground – the prevailing current being endless stunts to gain media publicity. In fact, some of the only people that were willing to listen and make a serious response to our text were the ICC! It was from seeing the ICC 'in action' at these meetings, from reading their press, by discussing with them at their public meetings etc. that I was convinced that they were an organisation to be taken seriously. Bugger Corrie, I wanted more of this!

Second, one of the other things that was increasingly concerning me was the extremely low level of security within CW. I don't want to go into details but it was clear that CW was wide open to infiltration by adventurers and provocateurs. There were some very strange goings on that were never clearly dealt with or explained. I refused to do certain things that I was asked to do that were decidedly shady, and regretted the times I didn’t refuse! Now, the ICC has had its fair share of splits and crises, just as all workers’ organisations have attracted elements who are after the glory and excitement and self-aggrandisement. The case of Roman Malinovsky in the Bolshevik Party is highly instructive! In fact during the time I was a sympathiser of the ICC in the mid to late '90s it was going through one of its deepest crises. But what impressed me about the ICC was the way it dealt with them:

- First, there was the firm defence of proletarian principles of organisation. That the ICC had acted to recuperate its materials in 1981 was a stunning example of how serious it took its self defence, something that will be increasingly important as the revolution nears. Far from intimidating me this gave me confidence that I would be safer and could be more open in an organisation that took security and self-defence so seriously. That the ICC initiates ‘Commissions of Investigations’ into the causes and lessons of internal crises shows how loyal it is to the classic methods of dealing with such events within the workers' movement and determined that the mistakes of the past are not repeated.

- Second, far from hiding its crises behind closed curtains and pretending that everything's alright it exposed its struggles and combats in its press, it became its own fiercest critic in front of the working class. How often do you find other organisations doing this? And by going to the very roots of its own weaknesses it strengthened itself for the future combats.

Third, this spirit of self-criticism is clear from Alf's posts. Yes, some of the behaviour of ICC members may seem a little odd - but then people are people. As the saying goes, it takes different strokes. Also, years of isolation and retreat can certainly reinforce a 'fortress mentality' within an organisation that can appear a little 'cranky' at times. In fact, far from finding a concern for discretion, modesty and the minimum of security ‘bizarre’ I myself am amazed at the naivety and lack of discretion shown sometimes on these internet forums. Fancy having a thread where you can publish pictures of yourself, of having a map where you can plot where you live! What’s that all about? Talk about delivering yourselves up to the state…

Also, it’s good that some here have intervened to say that the find the ICC’s politics good, but the way they’re put forward is off-putting. We’re genuinely taking these points onboard because our primary concern is to get ideas across. It’s important for us to know what people think. Perhaps, though, our critics should try looking at things from “the other side” themselves. Try imagining that you are sitting in a meeting, convinced that what you have to say is important and determined to explain your point of view as clearly as possible, but knowing also that what you say will “go against the grain” for most of the audience, that the chair of the meeting will be ferociously opposed to you (and you just need to look at some of the threads on this site to see that we are not exaggerating here!), that you are liable to have no more than 5 or 10 minutes to speak at best, and that the chair and the local clique may then spend an hour trying to insult and ridicule you without beginning to address the arguments you put forward… then imagine that you are not a great public speaker anyway… and ask yourself: is it any wonder if force of conviction combined with a natural nervousness in such a situation should not come across as looking a little “strange”?

It's easy to underestimate the amount of courage, conviction and determination required to remain loyal to the communist left and its organisations in capitalist society. Some of the comrades in the ICC have been militants for over 30 years, under the hardest conditions. Others - under the weight of bourgeois ideology, of a loss of conviction in the working class - such as Ingram, have turned against the communist left and become its bitterest enemies. I have nothing but admiration for the older generations who have remained loyal to the communist left and those who defend internationalism. But this doesn’t mean they are above criticism nor need to learn from the younger generations. From my experience the ICC is far from closed and un-critical of itself. Alf referred to the orientation text on Confidence and Solidarity, which was the centre of a deep and ongoing discussion within the organisation on these questions. It'll be up on our site soon. I'll give the URL later...

The ICC's openness to principled debate and discussion with the existing and new groups and elements that are emerging around the world is a testimony to its health and vibrancy as the only serious pole of regroupment. As Alf and Ernie have stressed before – come to our meetings and find out for yourselves!

Just to finish on the question of solidarity, I have been part of the WR delegation to several of the ICC's international congresses and it never fails to impress me how warm and generous the comrades are to each other. Comrades literally travel from the four corners of the globe and manage to have the most heated debates in a spirit of fraternity and solidarity. It clearly hasn't always been like this, and there is still a long way to go, but the ICC alone has the right method and framework in which to advance.

Talking of internal bulletins, in its 30 years the ICC has now had several hundred international internal bulletins, with the recent ones regularly being over 100 pages long. The level and richness of the internal debate is an million miles away from the poverty of the debate within the anarchist circles of the likes of CW. You get a real feeling that this is the cauldron where marxism is living and developing: not in the hands of academics and their followers, not in the minds of 'great men' (or women!), but in a collective and international framework. The idea that the ICC is 'dogmatic' is plain wrong. The ICC has developed its positions throughout its history in the light of historic events and the class struggle. It made an amendment to its Platform in the mid-80s following a discussion on the nature of the degenerating parties of the CI in the ‘30s. The conception of Decomposition - the final phase of capitalism's decadence - has been deepened since the collapse of the Eastern bloc post '89. There are other examples.

I’ve got another post lined up, so I’ll leave it at this for now…

Beltov.

alibadani
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Apr 24 2006 21:22
Quote:
For that they experienced a raid by ICC members from more than one country and as I recall the raids took place simultaneously around Europe in the houses of those who had left the ICC.

That's the coolest shit I've read today.

Beltov
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Apr 24 2006 21:30

Hi again,

I'd like to take up the whole concept of 'Backstabbing' and the widely held view that all political organisations are a racket, which FelixFrost has just kindly demonstrated!

Felix Frost wrote:
The question that we should ask ourselves is why are we not able to resolve such conflicts in a comradly manner, instead of behaving like rival street gangs. Why is it that it that we spend so much of our time fighting with the people who are closest to us politically, and who we often only recently considered to be our close comrades. I find myself agreeing more and more with Camatte in his description of political groups as rackets, each peddling their particular brand of revolutionary ideology, but identical in their essence. For the political racket, the main enemy becomes not the capitalists, but the rival gang who are trying to recruit the same menbers

First, it's important to clarify that there are TWO political spectrums which reflect the existence of the TWO 'historic' classes or 'camps' as we like to say: the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. So the spectrum of the bourgeois camp goes from the far-right to the far-left, and the proletarian camp likewise. The groups and parties of the bourgeois camp share the same ideology - of power relationships, fierce competition, skulduggery and backstabbing, Machiavellianism, manoeuvring, using the general membership as cannon-fodder, mindless activism etc. etc. And the groups of the far-left (Trotskyists, Stalinists, Maoists and - sorry but it must be said - the 'Official' anarchists) are often the worst caricatures of such methods of functioning.

Workers and well-meaning people from other classes who want to change the world for the better are rightly sickened and repulsed by their experiences in leftism. Many of them leave, burnt out and scarred for life, some never to return to active politics, some to repeat the behaviour they have acquired in one organisation in another. But this is precisely the role of the far-left of capitalism's political apparatus: to poison and sterilise the healthy elements the class throws forth.

But not all political organisations are rackets run by gangsters. As the dominant ideology is that of the dominant class, the groups and organisations in the proletarian camp certainly have to wage a constant, conscious struggle to fend off the penetration of bourgeois ideology and the accompanying modes of functioning within their ranks. This is a permanent struggle until the overthrow of the bourgeoisie. But such proletarian organisations do exist, and the ICC isn't the only one, but of course I'm convinced that the ICC is the only one in which the healthiest and clearest people from the new generations can best flourish and prosper.

Beltov.

Beltov
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Apr 24 2006 21:39
John. wrote:
Ernie - I agree with you re: physical materials. Internal bulletins though is just silly, because if the person intended to be disruptive deliberately they'd just photocopy them.

John, Ernie gave quite a clear explanation of why internal bulletins are the property of the organisation. Did you read it? Do you think it's still 'silly'?

OK, let's widen this out to other 'non-physical' information, such as a list of subscribers? Would it be OK to take a copy of that? And then use that to mail out your own publications to these unsuspecting people? And then continue to do so when asked repeatedly to stop doing this? I'm not building a straw man here, because this is exactly what the the so-called 'internal fraction' of the ICC did a few years ago!

A collection of articles on the activity of the 'Infraction' as they were know (because they broke so many rules!) can be found here:

http://en.internationalism.org/taxonomy/term/265/9

Beltov.

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madashell
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Apr 24 2006 22:28
Beltov wrote:
John. wrote:
Ernie - I agree with you re: physical materials. Internal bulletins though is just silly, because if the person intended to be disruptive deliberately they'd just photocopy them.

John, Ernie gave quite a clear explanation of why internal bulletins are the property of the organisation. Did you read it? Do you think it's still 'silly'?

OK, let's widen this out to other 'non-physical' information...

Or how about we stick to the point?

Is it acceptable to physically attack people to take back documents which they could easily have photocopied anyway and probably wouldn't bother doing anything with anyway?

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PaulMarsh
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Apr 24 2006 22:33
Beltov wrote:

Before I joined the ICC I was a member of the Class War Federation (as it then was) in the early to mid '90s and was present at some of those meetings. .Beltov.

Beltov - I know full well who you are, and am curious as to why you say you were at the two public meetings I referred to - you were not.

ernie
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Apr 24 2006 22:50

Jack, thank you for asking about the context and nature of the split, alf has taken this up alrady but we will come back on this.

It is not a question of financial worth, we are not buisnessmen, shopkeepers or gangsters, but principle: no stealing within or between orgainsation, or between comrades. Surely such a principle is something everyone would agree on? Without it, it is the law of the stongest and everyman for himself. Or do you think that is how we should relate to each other! Undoubtedly not, but what is the outcome if we do not defend this principle. A principle that has been at the heart of the workers' movement since the beginning.

On the links, this is a difficult questions, we want to explain our position, but we also do not want to produce long posts so the answer is to make links: you do not have to link if you do want to. You also have to admit we do not do as many as we used to.

ernie
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Apr 24 2006 23:01

Madashell, as alf has explained, we did not physically attack anyone. We did stop someone trying to phone the police and pulled the phone out. Should we have allowed the state to be called or may be we should have called the cops ourselves: given it was our materials we were getting back: after all they had refused to give it back? A strange attitude to defend on a libertarian communist forum: the calling of the state.

Mike Harman
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Apr 24 2006 23:14

I think part of the issue with this is it isn't a one-off split - the ICC seems to have a very odd way of dealing with organisations that split from it.

i.e. http://en.internationalism.org/wr/254_intexconf.html

Also from this article http://en.internationalism.org/ir/109_functioning it was

Quote:

A reflection of this type took place in 81-82 after the crisis that had gripped the ICC (loss of half the section in GB, haemorrhage of 40 members of the organisation)

Half the GB section, 40 members internationally. That's a significant split and therefore one has to ask to what extent the organisation that split and the organisation that remained called the ICC both had claims to resources they'd shared beforehand.

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georgestapleton
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Apr 25 2006 00:25
PaulMarsh wrote:
Beltov wrote:

Before I joined the ICC I was a member of the Class War Federation (as it then was) in the early to mid '90s and was present at some of those meetings. .Beltov.

Beltov - I know full well who you are, and am curious as to why you say you were at the two public meetings I referred to - you were not.

smile

Were you or were you not at a meeting of the CWF 14 years ago

smile

Brilliant.

P.S. Felix I got a copy of your mag 'The Nihilist' every bar the name was deadly. Fair play.