The IBRP

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Intifada1988
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Feb 18 2009 19:03
The IBRP

First off I saw the other discussion on the IBRP and the ICC, but there was so much arguing and barely any concrete information. I have a comrade whom I asked for an opinion of the IBRP from and he responded with 6 main reasons why he would think twice about working closely with them.

I was wondering, could someone who works closely with or is a part of the IBRP give me their opinion on the points? Thanks! Here they are:

1) For the IBRP to be unable to cooperate, let alone merge, with the ICC implies not just sectarianism (from their website I couldn't gauge any identifiable ideological differences from the ICC) but that personalities played a major role in the dispute.

2) In publishing a quarterly journal, the IBRP is extremely small- even from the perspective of the left, meaning that they might have thirty or so members sprinkled so loosely across the U.S. that an insufficient number live in one area to constitute a local chapter. Even in SF, I never saw an ICC table at a demo; only their paper sold at the hip (but now defunct) Cody's bookstore.

3) The smaller the organization, naturally the greater demands (financial, time commitment, etc.) are made upon individual members. Moreover, fewer members inevitably means less turnover in administrative positions and therefore less democracy.

4) Underscoring how they squarely adhere to the Italian brand of council communism, the IBRP considers itself first and foremost a "party" (albeit of an un-elitist vanguard), thereby implying that the party automatically supercedes the role workers councils will play in the revolution.

5) By excoriating all other radical organizations as the left branch of capitalism, it's pretty safe to assume that this forecloses the possibility of any united front tactics. This means, that if you join the IBRP, most likely you'll be tabling a desk all by yourself at a demo.

6) In perusing their interesting article on Kronstadt (again, uncannily similar to the ICC's perspective), the IBRP, like other council communists, is quite hostile to anarchists, even though their analysis of this event is almost identical to them.

Any thoughts?

nastyned
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Feb 18 2009 19:25

The IBRP (and the ICC) are Left Communists not Council Communists. Which is good enough reason not to join them!

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quint
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Feb 19 2009 02:08

I haven't read enough of the IBRP's stuff to have a clear idea of exactly how their theoretical perspective differed from the ICC. I will leave that for someone else to answer. In Montreal they have a small group. The people in it that I have met, always struck me as level-headed, not overly sectarian or unable to talk about anything but decadence theory. I know they cooperate with the group formerly known as NEFAC here, sometimes putting out joint events.

RedHughs
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Feb 19 2009 02:33
Quote:
For the IBRP to be unable to cooperate, let alone merge, with the ICC implies not just sectarianism (from their website I couldn't gauge any identifiable ideological differences from the ICC) but that personalities played a major role in the dispute.

My impression was that IBRP was not a split from the ICC but rather an evolution from some Italian Bordigaist groups. I could be wrong here - I know the IBRP has also incorporated other tendencies into itself over the years so the origins question is difficult.

Also, I don't think the ICC or any left communist group would call on all the left-communists in the world to join them wholesale. Ideally, joining a left-communist organization is not just finding common ideas but a process of mutual education concerning the politics of the group, the scope of action of the group, the discipline of the group etc, etc.

I think that it is good for left-communist groups to grow and merge only when the circumstances warrant it. Having a number of groups with different ideas may be better IF the groups' respective ideas diverge.

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fnbrill
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Feb 19 2009 04:28

The main IBRP grouping - the Internationalist Communist Party in Italy was the majority faction of the just post WW2 split in the Bordigist movement. FWIW Bordiga was in the minority.

The UK member of the IBRP, the Communist Workers Organization arose in the same milieu/time as did the ICC's British section. The groups which eventually formed the CWO refused to join World Revolution/ICC because of differences in perspective over decadence.

Spikymike
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Feb 21 2009 17:14

I have known a number of members of the CWO over the years and found them both individually and collectivelly 'level headed', non-sectarian and less inclined than the ICC to developing home spun theories out of the air.

Personally I thought their joining forces with the PCI was ill conceived at the time and possibly an act motivated as much as anything by a desire to distinguish and compete with the ICC on the international level, but as it turns out having the two organisations able to be critical of each other has been more for the good.

Still it's best to make your own mind up about them so those who are interested should investigate their much improved English section web site:

http://www.ibrp.org

For some, admitedly not up-to-date, criticism of both the CWO and ICC from a sensible left communist perspective try also (under polemics):

http://cbg.110mb.com

and for a good Council Communist archive try:

http://www.kurasje.org

David in Atlanta
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Feb 21 2009 17:36

After quickly scanning some of their articles on American affairs I couldn't find anything I strongly disagreed with. It looks like their principal American correspondent is in the Minneapolis Saint Paul area, I'll ask comrades up there if they know or work with them.

Blackhawk
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Feb 22 2009 03:13

I apologize for not responding sooner and I hope this answers some questions in regards to my comrades in the IBRP.

The IBRP has no membership presence in the US, just the journal that I put out when there is money to do so. I'm located here in the upper mid-west in Madison, WI currently. There is no money even for a quarterly publication because people don't pay for something they can get online, on the internet. We publish a quarterly journal because we are small, we do not deny our smallness. I have no problem manning a table by myself, maybe other leftists only feel like their doing something by joining the nearest group of state-capitalism supporters and working with them while claiming not to be supporting them or their organizations would have a problem with such things. Our quarterly journal, sometimes even as little as three times a year is small, but then theoretical journals only come out on a basis greater than quarterly in very large leftist organizations. Our journal is supplemented by broadsides and leaflets as much as possible. Again we’ve never debated our smallness, particularly here in North America.

Fewer members doesn’t mean less democracy, quite the opposite, it forces militants to become leaders rather than delegating the authority to others in a ready-made organization that is nothing more than a copy of its parent organization, like the ICC’s section in Paris for instance and its clone sections.

There are no posts in the GIO. There is only the General Meeting, which is both the lowest and highest body in the group currently. I know this as a founding member not in the least because I drafted the statutes. If our group was large enough we’d possibly elect (that is revocably elect) members to an executive committee, but that would also be subordinated to the membership, which is in charge of the organization.

The fundamental differences in theory with the ICC can be found outlined in any one of four different articles on the IBRP web page. More importantly are the actual differences in how these theoretical questions are worked out in their respective organizations. Specifically the difference I have found is how they work. It used to be that militants who appeared in an area would be sent to contact the nearest respective left communist organization. That's usually how the ICC and the IBRP actually dealt with each other at one time. This seems to have changed over the years. For me the last straw I had with the ICC was the "freemasonry" accusation they tossed out in their press against one of their former militants. After something like that there's very little anyone can do, short of starting the revolution that would redeem them in my eyes. As a sympathizer, at the time, I found it grossly irresponsible, embarrassing and wrong and it caused me to move towards the IBRP because it confirmed my own thoughts about the ICC and reservations about it, in what I regarded as an idealistic and naïve attitude towards the working class and an organizational culture that I didn’t want to be a part of. My tendency when I hear a denunciation of a group I’ve never heard of before is to go check that other group out. So the ICC’s criticisms of the IBRP really in the end pushed me towards the IBRP.

As to working with others, that would be great, if there were others to work with. Instead I have to find things to do until people are interested like writing and in the meantime I have a life and rent to pay. I support the IBRP because I agree with them and decided to take a side and because I didn’t expect a ready made organization to just appear unless I tried to build it myself and tried to find others willing to do the same. What keeps most sympathizers out of tiny revolutionary organizations is being expected to do work–not a lack of “democracy”.

Bordiga and his groups evolved out of the PCInt (Battaglia comunista). Bordiga started the International communist party(s). Bordiga wanted to go back to the positions of 1921, the PCInt didn't want to and so a split occurred in 1952. Technically Bordiga had never once been a member of the PCInt and had not joined even when he had the opportunity arranged for him to do so. Bordiga wrote in the journal Prometeo, which was open to his writing until about 1952 that is. So the "split" wasn't actually a split rather Bordiga turned around and announced a new party because he never liked the PCInt in the first place and many though not most members went off to join it. I've read the letter in reply to Bordiga's decision and it is one of clear betrayal from the people who least expected it. Another reason not to trust any big personality..

My comrades aren't a branch of Italian council communism. The communist left had an organized existence and the Prometeo group, that is Battaglia comunista (the paper) and the PCInt (the party's official name), was the one organizing the original International Bureau of the Fractions of the Communist Left which was based in Belgium and organized by exiled fraction members. The PCInt is given one chapter in the ICC's history of the communist left. It was the second biggest party next to the KAPD, and the biggest creation numerically of the communist left since the end of World War II. I think there is something worth looking at in that experience. The German and Dutch Communist left corresponded more to the Amsterdam bureau in the early years of the communist international. The Italian communist left grew out of the old socialist party in Italy. They founded and ran the PCd'I until 1926 when Stalinist duo Togliatti and Gramsci were put in charge of the party through a dirty maneuver, because their opponents had all been crushed or exiled by the fascists. The Italian Communist Left struggled both to build the original Communist Party of Italy, and then struggled to keep it falling into the hands of the Stalinists. Like most of the CPs they fell victim to the so-called "Bolshevization" of the parties it just took longer with them because their support ran fairly deep among the rank-and-file of the party. The early Left-Communist run-PC'dI had an estimated number of 40,000 militants. The PCInt had about 5,000 at one point after the war.

The artificial division created between a "Leninist" Italian Communist Left, and the Council Communist traditions largely comes through artificially conflating it with Bordiga and then criticizing Bordiga's failings. Then in turn accusing my comrades of being Bordigists. This is ironic because I have yet to meet someone outside the communist left that even really knows what a Bordigist is or has ever bothered to correspond with them, they have addresses. You can easily write a letter to them. They answer their mail even.

The Italian Communist Left were not all "Bordigist" and were never devoted in a religious sense to the man as a leader, who was from 1926 to 1946-8 under house arrest and retired from political work. The comrades had arranged to smuggle Bordiga out from his state of house arrest with an armed escort and a boat, to join the PCInt when they decided were being founded and he refused to go. Bordigism is a post-1952 phenomenon. The slander term "Bordigist" is something Trotskyists and Stalinists used long before there really was an ideology to match the term. Nor does the party supersede the class in our view. The Bordigist view is that the International Party is THE class, in almost a deification of the party and is in no way our view. There again, we’ve written quite a lot on the subject as can be seen on the website for those who wish to read it.

There are four articles on the IBRP website with ICC in the title. Those articles are really fairly clear about explaining theoretical differences between the ICC and the IBRP. Materialism and Idealism, is one that explains our differences with them. The IBRP feels the ICC’s method is idealistic. The ICC feels that the IBRP is an opportunistic formation, formed by groups that were formed opportunistically. Their forbears in the French Fraction of the Communist Left and the Gauche Communiste de France, said the PCInt was a premature and opportunistic formation. Later they denounced the creation of the IBRP, founded as it was with the original International Bureau of the Fractions in mind, while at the same time maintaining that the time had come to stop being a fraction and start working towards the goal of a revolutionary party. When my comrades in the Groupe Internationaliste Ouvrier (GIO) decided for form their own group up in Montreal the ICC comrades in New York denounced is as opportunistic as well. If we do it it’s opportunist, if they do it its revolutionary, even when it’s the same thing. If we talk to a group it’s a sign of our opportunistic deviation, if we don’t its because we’re sectarian. The IBRP bases its analysis of capitalism on Marxism, starting with Capital, in particular identifying the crisis inherent in capitalism as being related to a falling rate of profit, the ICC has criticized this view and feels that the fact of capitalist decadence is more important. Decadence is for the IBRP a catch phrase employed to avoid an analysis, which is what such phrases generally hide a lack of. The ICC’s position from the start has been that the IBRP should not exist, that the PCInt should not exist and the GIO should not exist. Their official position is that we are opportunistic organizations that shouldn’t have been formed at all. It is a bit hard to find any basis to work with a group that from the start rules out, or seeks to rule out, your very existence.

Our comrades initiated the International Conferences and with them the possibility of joint common work with the ICC back in the late seventies and early eighties. The ICC refused, and will not change their position in that regard. Again this was the ICC’s choice. Two organizations, once a part of the same tendency, but today are grown apart. They are not the same and probably will never work together again. I can only see the two groups growing further and further apart honestly. It isn’t really about sectarianism. Eventually you have your fill of dealing with them and you refuse to deal with them anymore. Individually it is hard to get along with an organization that will do things like accusing a lapsing former member of being associated with “freemasonry. Why would any principled and honest militant make an excuse for that sort of poisonous behavior or wish to be associated with it…ever? If you don’t really have any principles about how a revolutionary militant should act then that sort of thing might not be a problem for you. If you can’t see a difference it is because you either don’t want to read, or don’t really care anyway.

Merge with the ICC or be seen as sectarian? Is that the choice you are giving us here Nasty Ned? If it is, I’ll join them, but only if you join them first. You don’t want to join the ICC, you say? I wonder why? Must be sectarianism.

I will also say that while we do not embrace every organization on the left we certainly do not excoriate every single one. Sometimes militants do have to table events by themselves. Better get used to it, it stinks but that’s the way it is. The left today is composed of supporters of state capitalism, neo-stalinists, neo-trots, and neo-anarchists even. The entire left is pathetic and deserves criticism and even excoriation. All I see are excuses coming from leftists as to why they voted or why they can’t join anyone or work at anything. If you make alliances with Stalinists, you too are a Stalinist. If you make your alliances with Trots then you too are a trot. You can’t work with a group and then claim you aren’t giving it credence or that the objective you fight for overrides all such concerns.

When the CWO and the Battaglia comunista joined together to form the IBRP was the whole purpose of the International Conferences of the Communist Left, in which the ICC participated. The ICC’s position at the Conferences, as was felt by those on the other side, was to use the Conferences as a platform to tell everyone they had to join the ICC because the ICC was the sole “pole of regroupment” of revolutionaries, or so the ICC maintained at the time. Literally, this was their attitude and this was why they decided to participate in the first two and then denounce the third. This is my impression based on the transcripts of the proceedings. The Bordigists of programma communista described it as a meeting between “I fotenti e I fotutti”. That is to say a meeting of the fuckers and the fucked. A listing of the groups that did not participate in the conferences is, with only a few exceptions (the Bordigist groups for one), largely a list of left communist groups that no longer exist.

Council communists ARE left-communists. Only modern day “councilists” are anti-party, not their political antecedents like Otto Ruhle who also supported a revolutionary party but of a new type. “Hard as steel and clear as glass” is how he described it I am told. Left-Communists, however, are not all councilists. Bordists, Russian Left-Communists, and German and Dutch councilists were all a part of the historic communist left that opposed the “Bolshevization” of the parties and organized the first international organizations opposed to Stalinism, when Trotsky was still not making up his mind as to what his next clever maneuver would be. Our group is NOT a type of council communism, we are a distinct group, not a part of the classicly councilist Dutch and German communist lefts.

The division between good “councilists” and bad “Leninists” on the communist left is also an artificial one and the product of our era, not the days of the actual left communists who were a fraction within the 3rd International that did collectively attempt to represent the interests of workers in the face of growing opportunism and counterrevolution emanating from the top ranks of the Bolshevik party. We aren’t fans of Central Committee opportunists and state-capitalists, but we also do not label the entire Bolshevik party as evil or equate the entire party solely with its top eschelons as many critics clearly do. Sapronov, Miasnikov and Shliapnikov were Bolsheviks as well. So were millions of ordinary workers who were every bit as much Bolsheviks as the deified Lenin of the Stalinists, Maoists and Trotskyists.

Maybe, the IBRP and the ICC have said similar things regarding our opinions on Anarchism, especially in its organized expressions. I wouldn’t say the IBRP’s attitude isn’t hostile rather it is critical. We in the IBRP never supported the Bolshevik massacre of workers at Kronstadt and I challenge anyone to prove differently. That’s all I have to say about Kronstadt. Again we have an article on the subject that is not exactly an endorsement of the massacre in any way. Anyone who wants to get into the classic Anarchist/Trotskyite showdown over Kronstadt should first understand that we aren’t Trots, and that they shouldn't try to superimpose someone else's debate on the wrong group.

For David in Atlanta: I don’t get up to the Twin Cities often and I don’t know anyone there, but I’d be glad to hear from any comrades of yours up there. I try to get around as much as I can and am perfectly open to work especially with others in and around the area, or within travelling distance. You can always write to the usa@ibrp.org address to get in touch.

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miles
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Feb 22 2009 09:42

There are so many inaccuracies and straight out lies in blackhawks post I'm not sure where to start, or whether even to bother. However this particular bit stood out :

Quote:
Our comrades initiated the International Conferences and with them the possibility of joint common work with the ICC back in the late seventies and early eighties. The ICC refused, and will not change their position in that regard. Again this was the ICC’s choice.

For the ICC's view on what happened at the 70s conferences you can see this text we wrote to mark their 25th anniversary.

Cleishbotham
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Feb 22 2009 12:51

There are some slight inaccuracies in BlackHawk's account of IBRP history but since we have never dwelt on it and personally (as a founder member of the CWO and the IBRP) I found his take on it interesting. It is also a refutation of the ICC version of what happened at the International Conferences which they regurgitate ad nauseam (this being the truth that Miles refers to).

I don't think BlackHawk is right to suggest that the ICC participated in the conferences just to assert they were the pole of regroupment (at least that was not my impression at the time). However what became clear in the conferences was that the ICC's position on the party and on revolutionary organisation in general was a bit confused. This however did not end the conferences. It was probably the fact that the smaller groups like the CWO and the GCI (an earlier split from the ICC) said they would not be attending any more conferences (as one of the CWO delegates I was mandated to make that statement if the discussion on organisation in the third conference (1981) replicated that of the Second). We therefore announced on the Saturday that we would leave the conferences. This was when the PCInt (Battaglia Comunista) then proposed a new criteria (the famous seventh). The CWO did not even translate this into English (the Italians did it themselves and only asked us to check it). We agreed with this new criteria but the GCI did not and in the meeting the next day we voted for it. The ICC could not vote for it because it was divided (although we did not know this then) between the more councilist types who MC had recruited in the period before this and the core around MC himself. This became clearer when a few months later the ICC had two splits (an activist one led by the shady Chenier - who ironically as the ICC's security man had been one of two ICC comrades who seized the microphone from the GCI to prevent them speaking in the conference!) and a councilist one (which is today Internationalist Perspectives). One of the main ICC speakers in the Third Conference has been Judith Allen and she now departed with the councilists.

The ICC were furious with BC for "breaking up the conferences" because they were quite happy to have a debate only with BC (which Judith Allen had defined as "sclerotic" a few months earlier). BC on the other hand considered the ICC's perspective that revolution was just around the corner and their belief that the working class was already revolutionary but only needed to be "demystified" as idealist and could see no further purpose to remain with them.

The CWO was also not without its problems at this time since the organisation was founded on the basis of an identification with the German Left (it was one of our comrades who translated Ruhle into English in 1973) and had only begun to study the Italian left seriously in 1977. When Black Hawk says nobody knows what a Bordigist is today I can assure him that an even greater degree of ignorance existed in the 70s (BTW Bordiga's dates for house arrest in Black Hawk's comments are longer than he actually did). However this led to a debate on the Communist Left in the CWO (published in our press at the time) and it was only with much soul-searching that we came to find in the Italian left a stronger and more coherent proletarian tradition. We also discovered that the PCint (Battaglia Comunista) was not Bordigist and that its leading thinker Onorato Damen has expounded a five point programme in 1943 which was what all the Communist Left could happily sign up to today. By the end of 1982 the CWO had come to see the PCint as already holding what we had come to accept but we did not see any organisational consequences flowing from this. It was the appearance of another group (the ICO) in Britain claiming to identify totally with BC that forced us all think a bit more. BC urged the new grouping to join the CWO (which after some debate they did) and then in1984 our late comrade Mauro Stefanini proposed the formation of a new international organisation. At this point Mauro clearly thought that we would one day end up in the same organisation as the comrades of the ICC (some of whom he had a particular regard) but not on the ICC's method or perspectives. He only abandoned this idea as many of these same comrades were expelled over the years from the ICC. However this reminds me of the comment someone made above that the CWO did not join the ICC due to personality clashes is not true. Although some members of the ICC behave like "Jehovah's Marxists" the majority are fine. We just don't agree with them.

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Bilan
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Feb 23 2009 08:49

I'm not a member of either, but I sympathize alot with the ICC. They're very coherent and intelligent.
But by the sounds of this, why don't...you just...talk and cut the bullshit?!
It's like the two groups are incapable of a proper discussion to resolve any conflicts.

slothjabber
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Feb 23 2009 11:41

One of the things I found attractive about both the IBRP and ICC when I first came across them was precisely their recognition that, though they had differences, they were in many ways less important than their commonalities. As I was more used to leftist organisations at that point, it was a real eye-openner to see members of different organisations put their points across in a comradely manner, and spell out their areas of agreement and disagreement.

If you are interested in the politics of the IBRP, I would recommend that not let their small size put you off working with them, really. Surely, agreement with an organisation is a more important principle than whether or not you might have to crew a stall on your own?

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Alf
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Feb 24 2009 14:12

Cleishbotham's post is a lot more measured than Blackhawk's and I agree with part of his correction about the Conferences. However there are some elements in his own account which are definitely muddled

"The ICC could not vote for it because it was divided (although we did not know this then) between the more councilist types who MC had recruited in the period before this and the core around MC himself. This became clearer when a few months later the ICC had two splits (an activist one led by the shady Chenier - who ironically as the ICC's security man had been one of two ICC comrades who seized the microphone from the GCI to prevent them speaking in the conference!) and a councilist one (which is today Internationalist Perspectives). One of the main ICC speakers in the Third Conference has been Judith Allen and she now departed with the councilists.

[i]The ICC were furious with BC for "breaking up the conferences" because they were quite happy to have a debate only with BC (which Judith Allen had defined as "sclerotic" a few months earlier). BC on the other hand considered the ICC's perspective that revolution was just around the corner and their belief that the working class was already revolutionary but only needed to be "demystified" as idealist and could see no further purpose to remain with them".[/i]

It's true that the ICC at that point had not really confronted the councilist/libertarian ideas and responses which had been so strong in the whole post-68 movement, but these weren't definitively embodied in particular individuals. It's certainly not true that the 'councilist' tendency (we said it was 'centrist towards councilism' rather than openly councilist) left a few months after the Chenier tendency: the split with the latter took place in 1981 but the tendency that was to become the 'External Fraction of the ICC' (Internationalist Perspective) didn't leave until 1985.

It's positive that Cleishbotham agrees with us that Chenier was indeed a "shady"element" but I think he's mixed him up with someone else over the incident with the GCI. I have no recollection of Chenier intervening in this but I do clearly remember another former member of the ICC (who as it happens is now with the 'Internal Fraction'...) getting involved.

More important is the reason why MC didn't vote for the criterion on the party. He was definitely against it, and this is because it contained a basic ambiguity about whether or not the party takes power on behalf of the class - a position that the CWO in particular was very confused about at the time. We considered it as a deliberate ambiguity making it impossible for us to sign it and therefore a manoeuvre to expel us from the conferences. That is still our view.

1ngram
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Feb 24 2009 14:34

The rewriting of history to suit their own purposes being carried out here by both the ICC and the CWO shouldn't be allowed to stand unquestioned. All the old smears and downright lies are being trotted out again about "shady characters" "councilists". "centrists". If you want to go beyond this rubbish go and have a look at the early issues of Internationalist Perspective to see what the Fraction (as they were) were subjected to within the ICC and to determine whether they were in any way "centrist towards councilism" (whatever that means.) Even better go and have a look as the material we printed in the Communist Bulletin (now available online at http://cbg.110mb.com/) We wrote at length over several issues on the sectarianism of both the CWO and the ICC and much of that critique has stood the test of time, not least because both organisations, particularly the ICC, have yet to make an honest appraisal of their own history.

It is tragic that just as we enter a period rich with possibilities for the development of proletarian consciousness, the two of them are busy sniping at each other about who said and did what to whom 30 years ago without having any intention of trying to come to terms with the elemental sectarianism that has always characterised their relations not merely to one another but to every other fraction within the milieu. Time and again we, and others, asked them to address this cancer at their organisational hearts, only to be largely ignored (on the part of the CWO) or become the object of the same farrago of lies and slanders (in the case of the ICC) Until they can come to terms with and openly address the sectarian practices that have disfigured them in the past it is difficult to see how they can play anything but a negative, sectarian role in the future.

Cleishbotham
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Feb 24 2009 16:43

Ingram has shown his famous capacity for not being able to read, let alone understand. Alf's clarification of my contribution is welcome as it states more clearly and honestly the ICC's view of the end of the conferences than I have ever heard. Obviously we don't agree but at least I think I understand more from his comments than I did before.

As to sectarianism Ingram was instrumental in the split in the CWO in 1977. When the splitters (now the ex-CBG) announced that we should join the ICC (having already been in secret contact with them) the CWO did not reject it but asked for a longer discussion. This was refused and they walked out in a single afternoon. As we predicted they did not last 4 years in the ICC but then went on to make a virtue of being a non-sectarian sect! It is thus utter hypocrisy for him to stand in the name of non-sectarianism, a posture he is so determined to defend that he cannot even see when a genuine exchange is taking place before his eyes.

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Alf
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Feb 24 2009 17:50

Agree with Cleishbotham. Ingram has spent the past thirty years either doing nothing or recycling his view that the ICC is an insane cult, so when it comes to sectarianism no one can get very close to him. Or is he having an 'honest reappraisal' and considering that perhaps we are not so mad after all - otherwise what would be the point of still trying to get us to reconsider our past errors?

If there is to be a serious attempt to overcome past conflicts between revolutionaries, in this case between the ICC and the IBRP, it can't be done by some vague 'let bygones be bygones' but by seriously raising and confronting the differences. It's a purely philistine and ahistorical view to argue that all this stuff from 30 years ago is irrelevant today.

One of the mistakes we made when the Ingram group left the CWO and joined us was not to raise the fact that they had stolen the CWO's address list from them. We learned our lesson about this kind of behaviour the hard way.

1ngram
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Feb 25 2009 11:06

You see what I mean? - a tissue of brazen, blatant lies and reworkings of reality from both the CWO and the ICC. Clearly I touched a nerve there. JM used to say that at times of stress hypocrites exude a kind of moral sweat. Your two contributions simply drip with perspiration.

If indeed a genuine change is taking place within the ICC and CWO then Alf is right when he says "it can't be done by some vague 'let bygones be bygones' but by seriously raising and confronting the differences. It's a purely philistine and ahistorical view to argue that all this stuff from 30 years ago is irrelevant today."

But that doesn't simply mean agreeing on what happened at a meeting 30 years ago but their whole practice towards each other and, more importantly, towards everyone else in the milieu. They will have to stop inventing "thieves", "secret contacts" and all the other desperate bluffs that they hope to delude readers with. Who knows - even the mentally ill recover sometimes. But reading all this lying rubbish can't help but temper the readers' optimism that these two fractions will be able to reassess their own sectarian past. Because without that reappraisal it is difficult to see why they would behave any differently in future.

Spikymike
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Feb 25 2009 17:27

Unfortunately Blackhawk's contribution has inevitably raised to the surface many of the old fights (some actually physical at the time) between the various 'left communist' groups and splits, a large number of which remain, through those that survived the trauma of that period, as almost family feuds.

There are lessons to be learned (and my particular sympathies in that direction are well enough known) but I fear we don't have time to learn them all in advance of the organisational tasks we will face in the comming months and years.

The survivors of the trauma referred to above were badly wounded by it all and are unlikely to find any personal reconciliation. It will almost certainly be up to newer members and sympathisers of the tradition to overcom all this bad blood through some practical co-operation rather than calls to 'let bygones be bygones' or the relaunching of new 'party' type intiatives.

The ICC the CWO (and also Internationalist Perspectives) have shown in at least some small ways, that cooperation in certain joint initiatives beyond their own groups (and even their own narrow tradition) is possible, so best build on that I think.

Those of us who retain our suspicians about the existing groups as a result of our past experiences will inevitably retain them until practice proves them outdated.

Cleishbotham
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Feb 26 2009 22:43

I know of no physical fights between any left communist groups so would be interested if Spikeymike could tells us about them. The nearest thing I saw to one was the incident I referred to earlier in the Third International Conference in Paris when the two ICC comrades responsible for the "service d'ordre" (no, I didn't know why we needed one either!) seized the microphone from the GCI comrade in the after lunch session of the second day.

There is no "bad blood" in that sense between ourselves and the ICC but pace all those who trivialise the matter there are substantial political differences (and I am not sure that the comrade above who considers these have enriched debate is not wrong). We call the ICC "idealist" - this is not a cheap insult but a considered view of all they say (rather than the snide views of nearly all the anti-ICC contributors to this site (which is why we don't appear here more often - we are on this thread because we are fed up with other people slandering us).

Lets just give a few examples which we hope satisfies the comrade who started this thread.
Let's start with the most abstract - the famous so-called "period of transition". The ICC thinks that the state is a body which is not inside society (as we conceive it). For us the semistate of the workes revolution will be run by the armed workers' councils. It is a semi-state so long as the global fight against the old exploiters has to take place. It withers or changes as the first task is won and is superseded by the task of coordinating "a society of freely associated producers". Ths ICC however start from the historically erroneous premise that all states are conservative (ignoring the fact that in revolutions they have always been the means of transformation of society). What makes them become conservative is that in the past these revolutions have been to establish a new form of property - but the proletariat is the negation of all property forms. As long as the mass of the class really determines the course of revolution and as long as the revolution moves forward then we will not erect a new form of domination over society. For us the ICC schema (which is well-intended) is a fantasy - how can you have a state which is separate from the rest of society?).

The ICC have the same idealist view towards the history of the working class and rewrite their own opinions according to their current political preoccupations. The most salient I can remember was over the 1917 July Days, when they were writing about this in 1997 it was at the time of the resistance to the Juppe reforms in France. The ICC advised the workers not to strike to stop these because it was a provocation of the bourgeoisie (to make the workers fight prematurely and thus defeat them for years). This was a mistake (since the workers had passively accepted a decline in living standards for a long time) but when the ICC then wrote about the July Days they then focussed on the fact that this was also a provocation. But in terms of the general history of class war this was not true. The July Days event was more due to the spontaneous decision of some sections of the working class than the overthrow of the bourgeosie was on the agenda right there and then. This may seem academic now but it undemines a lot of the ICC's attempts to udnerstand our history as a class.

A final example is the recent Lindsey Oil Refinery strike. This caused us all much agony (and the thread on it on libcom reflected this very well). However the CWO and the ICC both realised that the superficial way in the BJFBW was the slogan masked a real fight against the effects of the crisis. However at the the end their version the ICC then but together a very rosy scenario based largely on not telling the full truth. The Polish workers on strike seems to have been a folk myth (we would welcome any contradiction of this) but it was manufactured by various Trot groups (and it is true that someone held up a placard at Lindsey to say that Polish workers in lymouth (35 not 600 as the Commune said!) were on strike in sympathy with the LOR. The ICC also mentions that "workers of the World Unite" was promoted at the end of the strike. But they dont' say that it was the last line of Keith Gibson's speech at the acceptance meeting. Keith Gibson being a member of the Socialist Party and a local convenor. It was the same Keith Gibson and chums who chased the BNP away from LOR and presumablly the same Keith Gibson who had gone along with the Unite slogan of "British Jobs for British Workers" at the start of the strike (by then the SP realised what shit they had got themselves into). These "facts" may be wrong (and we welcome corrections) but that is how it appears to us just now. By recyclijg the positive bits without the negative the ICC in its version can conclude with an optimistic account of where class consciousness currently lies amongst the construction workers. But there is a wider issue in that the class consciousness of workers who were not involved in this strike has been negatively affected since Brown,Unite, the GMB and the whole media have now pedalled the message that workers are, and should be, saturated with nationalism. The current crisis is going to push workers in different and contradictory directions but it does not help if we invent scenarios which don't take in the full reality.

These are just three from many examples I could give (the last one is my personal take since the discussion is still ongoing) but what we need to understand is that methodologically and theoretically the differences are not the desire of the the two orgnaisations to remain separate (after all both , in very different ways) have been consistent defenders of the need for a future world proletarian party to emerge and both have maintained through thick and (mainly) thin a consistent revolutionary presence wherever we can. So let us put aside all these ideas about a simple conflict of personalities or "bad blood"and get down to the real issues...

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Django
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Feb 27 2009 10:25
Cleishbotham wrote:
The Polish workers on strike seems to have been a folk myth (we would welcome any contradiction of this) but it was manufactured by various Trot groups (and it is true that someone held up a placard at Lindsey to say that Polish workers in lymouth (35 not 600 as the Commune said!) were on strike in sympathy with the LOR

So were the local press reports on the Polish workers coming out in Plymouth wrong? Genuine question. Because articles like this seem two talk about two groups of foreign workers - 35 or so bussed out after the walkout and those that were among the 600 or so who were out on the morning shift.

baboon
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Feb 27 2009 17:09

I welcome the comments of Cleish and the common ground of both him and Alf regarding the comments of Ingram, etc. I think that looking back there is grounds for saying that the integration of Aberdeen into the ICC was fraught with errors, not least being much too soon. I would hope that we can put these errors (and many on both sides), as well as genuine political disagreement in a more fraternal framework and go forward from here. Cleish at least demonstrates that this possibility exists (I speak as an ex-member and sympathiser of the ICC).

I sympathise and share Cleish's concern about the continuing abuse of Left Communism on these boards. Puerile most of it.

On Lindsey there was, generally, a positive clarification on that thread and a defence of internationalism that overall was very positive from many elements. Of course the unions were involved, as well as leftism, but this is exactly what we would expect. Both on these boards, and in the positions of the ICC, both positive and negative lessons were drawn for the class struggle.
The Polish workers joining the strike in Plymouth was reported in a comprehensive and long report that day (or the day after) in the Plymouth Evening Herald. It was further reported by Seamus Milne, a very well respected industrial journalist, some days later in The Guardian. I think that one of the positive elements of the whole strike was its anti-nationalism, shown in the gradual disappearance of the nationalist slogans and the many comments from individual workers interviewed. The bourgeoisie are still (and will use the weapon of nationalism) using this weapon. But the Lindsey strike, overall, was a positive movement in my opinion.

baboon
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Feb 27 2009 20:58

Cleish, just a couple of more points on Lindsey, because in my opinion, this was a movement had scope, speed and organisation, from workers at Lindsey to workers around the country - albeit mostly in the same industry. I'd say, for what it's worth, that this movement, and it was a movement, is part of the fight back of the working class that's been going on for several years internationally.
The union question and that of leftism's involvement is a difficult one. But as powerful as the union idea is at the moment, it is for the workers to confront the question and for revolutionaries to refine their interventions to confront them. It's not a matter of numbers but clarity.

So, to some extent, I think what took place at Lindsey, etc., took place on a workers' terrain. Big involvement of workers and coordination - yes the unions and leftism, but also workers, numbers of workers. The numbers at meetings, the obvious meetings and communications taking place, resulting in well organised, sharp strikes, mass picket lines well before dawn in atrocious weather.

You make the point that leftists escorted the BNP off the premises. Workers could have kept them there, defended them, supported their, Gordon Brown's and the union's call for "British Jobs for British People" - but they didn't. Their sentiment went in the opposite direction. That's not to underestimate the danger of nationalism, but it's also has some significance that the question of nationalism was posed at this level by the workers. I think that this movevent shook the bourgeoisie to some extent and now we are seeing their virulent response which is to blame the workers for the idea of nationalism when the government, the unions, the media and the BNP has been flogging this line for months.

Cleishbotham
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Feb 27 2009 21:59

On Lindsey I think if you look on the IBRP website we have already agreed that this was a workers struggle on a workers "terrain" (why do we import words that are so alien?). The key is exploitation and the name of the game is that the neo-liberal set up here makes the conditions for casualised construction workers worse than anywhere else in western Europe. I think the IBRP and the ICC agreed on this but we are both quite rightly "edgy" about it (as are so many of the comrades of all kinds of views who contributed on this site). The difference with the ICC starts with the pespective we adopt at the end. Whilst we are happy that all the unions and leftists involved retreated from the British jobs line to a more internationalist position and whilst talking to casualised construction workers and reading their comments on such things as "Bearfacts" makes us realise that the nationalism shit was paperthin (and the rejection of the BNP was very widespread) and understood by most to be such the issue we would raise is that for every other sector of the working class the chaunvinist message running from Brown through Unite to the BNP has been massively stoked by the papers (including the FT but especially (no surprise) the Daily Mail and the TV so that the overall impact on consciousness is likely to be negative. We stated last year that we expected that there would be contradictory responses to the crisis (but we did not see that they might all come at the same time!) so this is no surprise. All we are saying is that we should not artificially invent a positive scenario (which is the gloss I got fromthe ICC version) when the whole issue is in the balance.

On Plymouth Polish workers I too started from the Plymouth local paper but the main evidence for what happens rest on the word of a local Unite official. I spent a whole afternoon chasing the story round on the internet to find I always came back to this same guy. As there were only 35 workers on the site the claim by some (including I think The Commune site) that 600 Polish workers had come out in support of the strike was a misreading as the total number of workers there was around 600. It is possible that some from Plymouth did take the message of support from the Polish workers to Lindsey (as I know some of those workers did make the journey) but were they doing this on the basis of the same union official's comment in the press? I don't know. Please prove me wrong.

On the BNP being escorted off the premises according to Gibson (the SP union offical) he, his mate and their wives arrived before anyone else and told the BNP minibus crew to fuck off before any other workers arrived. The BNP from round here (SW Durham) sent a minibus up to Sellafield but as their "cadre" lacked the sophistication to deal with well-clued construction workers they apparently achieved nothing (but at Lindsey they did get some union jacks hoisted on the edges of the mass meetings). I now suspect I should have asked/commented on all this on the other thread...

On Ingram, can I just say I regret his tone. He was the one who recruited me to revolutionary politics (for which I suppose I should never forgive him!) even if it was only the old Solidarity group. He accuses the CWO of "ignoring the CBG" but this is not factually accurate since we met with them and had fraternal discussions (of total disagreement naturally!) in the early 1990s. They even published two articles in our press in our Open Space column at the time (one of them an attack on the ICC but, to our surprise, the ICC did not ask for a right of reply at the time). What he might be referring to was the series of polemics directed by his group at the CWO in the 1980s but as we regarded these polemics as directed against a CWO which we did not recognise (we too had moved on since he split with us) there seemed little point in replying. When we did answer the criticism that we were "monolithic" by pointing to the published debate on the German and Italian left the CBG responded by saying that this was a sanitised debate published only after it had finished. Inside the CWO it certainly did not feel like that! I think most people would understand why we gave up on them at this point.

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Django
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Feb 27 2009 22:51
Cleishbotham wrote:
On the BNP being escorted off the premises according to Gibson (the SP union offical) he, his mate and their wives arrived before anyone else and told the BNP minibus crew to fuck off before any other workers arrived. The BNP from round here (SW Durham) sent a minibus up to Sellafield but as their "cadre" lacked the sophistication to deal with well-clued construction workers they apparently achieved nothing (but at Lindsey they did get some union jacks hoisted on the edges of the mass meetings). I now suspect I should have asked/commented on all this on the other thread...

Add to this a video of them being kicked off the picket. Could well have been reps (not Gibson) responsible for the booting here but the picket was certainly a manned one: http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid1184614595?bctid=9823457001

Edit - though obviously hostility to the BNP doesn't necessarily mean any questioning of nationalism, with anti-fascism being an important part of postwar British national identity etc.

Cleishbotham
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Feb 28 2009 09:11

Django - thanks for that. I just realised too That I had not read your earlier post about Plymouth having two shifts but I also read the report you refer to and did not read that in to it. I even read all the comments on it but could find no further illumination. The porblem is that the report does not ring quite true either. When it talks of a "steady stream of Polish workers" that would seem to suggest more than the 35 they cite in the next sentence. The 600 figure I took to be the total on that shift (there are 900 I think at Langage). What the Commune report (sorry, I have not yet learned how to do the neat references or blue bits you guys do) seems to suggest is that all 600 were Polish.

On the video I could not get sound (but will try again) and I could not actually follow what was going on. I agree with you edit. The point I was trying to make is that whilst we have to support the strike and the real isue is about the British ruling class laws against British workers we alos have to recognise that the promotion of the " British jobs for British workers agenda" (i.e the divide and rule strategy based on nationalism if not racism WILL have a wider echo in the rest of the working class even if many of the construction workers have much smarter take on it. With Staythorpe ongoing as well as the Isle of Grain and other places we have to keep fighting for an internationalist message with our puny forces. The ICC were trying to do this but I think we need to be careful of not adopting a rosy-tinted view of the situation and only sticking down the facts we are comfortable with (but please make me feel more comfortable!). Not very strike leads to a sponataneous development of class consciousness and it has to be fought for - by us because no-one else will do it. I think I am on the wrong thread again ...

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Rowntree
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Mar 1 2009 10:16

The CWO comrade's recollection of our past history is very incomplete.
After leaving the ICC in 1981, at our initial meeting with comrade DGP of the CWO we were told that their intention behind any discussion was not to clarify any political issues, but rather to break the collectivity of of our group; presumably return the best elements to the CWO and persuade the rump to rejoin the ICC. This seemed like sectarian tactics.
Later we held a conference with the CWO in Edinburgh. It was was a positive meeting, and future regroupment did not seem impossible.. There were no major disagreements and it was very fraternal - unless Cleisbotham remembers otherwise? The CWO seemed to have made progress since our initial contact with them. Did it continue?
Further advances on the "organisation question" can only be welcomed.

Cleishbotham
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Mar 1 2009 12:04

This is my second attempt to reply to Rowntree (as I was timed out by my ISP!). It is difficult to know how to reply. In the first place the "positive meeting" in Edinburgh was followed not long after by the political demise of the CBG. I think this took place (without checking) in 1993. This was some years after DGP had left the CWO [and revolutionary politics] after a sustained campaign lasting 4 years in which he failed to destroy what he saw as his creation. In the second place I do not know what his criteria for "progress" is.

When the wave of working class resistance to the end of the post-war boom led to us all getting involved in revolutionary politics we were young. Many of us had never been in any organisation and it is clear we did not know what we were doing. By the time we began to cotton on to what political organisation meant the wave of struggle was over and we were thus faced with a new situation and advanced for new analyses. I think the CWO faced up to these, and with the help of the more experienced comrades in Italy, evolved in a more serious direction. We have admitted, in various forms, our errors from the past. What I think though is that we should look back to learn from those experiences and not just to be prisoners of the past or to score cheap points. I am not suggesting that Rowntree is doing that but there is inevitably a lot of that about and it is getting in the way of discussion of the real political differences.

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shug
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Mar 1 2009 13:29

Yup, have to agree with Cleishbotham. Problem is ' discussion of real political differences' often obscures the fact of real political agreement. The left communist milieu over the past 30 years has had an unfortunate history of inflating disagreement to validate separate political identity - particularly unfortunate when such disagreement has no obvious implications for political work. (eg Luxemburgism v falling rate of profit is a debate with no prospect of resolution and no practical implications for present political work. Ditto debates such as The State in the Transition Period)

Quote:
When the wave of working class resistance to the end of the post-war boom led to us all getting involved in revolutionary politics we were young. Many of us had never been in any organisation and it is clear we did not know what we were doing. By the time we began to cotton on to what political organisation meant the wave of struggle was over and we were thus faced with a new situation and advanced for new analyses.

When the tide went out various left communist groups were left on separate islands - a Darwinian style evolution might have led to us being finches with slightly different beaks, but we are still fecking finches.

1ngram
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Mar 1 2009 14:31

While we may differ on what was agreed or disagreed at the Portobello meeting I likewise recall it being warm, and comradely. Thereafter we went our separate paths to survive what Cleish calls the "thin" times.

Baboon, I have to disagree with you when you argue that the integration of almost half the membership of the CWO at the time into the ICC was done too soon. Quite the contrary. If the initial discussions which led to the formation of both WR/ICC and CWO had borne fruit and provided us with one single communist organisation then there might have been a numerical, political and moral weight sufficient to arrest and even roll back the decayed 1930s organisational attitudes that MC brought to the ICC and which has poisoned its relationships with everyone else ever since. (This is dealt with to some extent in the obituary of MC which the CBG published here:http://cbg.110mb.com/ChirikOBIT.pdf_15.pdf).

But I have to agree with both Rowntree and Shug. The world crisis has opened up an opportunity for the proletariat and for its political minorities. When and if the class moves we shall be left behind if all we are doing is comparing beak sizes.

Cleishbotham
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Mar 2 2009 11:18

This has become so predictable it's like Ground Hog Day. Ingram as usual manages to write the biggest rubbish. Both WR and the CWO had substantial forces (compared to what they have now) and were growing. It was the end of the wave of struggle that threw them into difficulties and both suffered activist splits ((the activists naturally then dispapearing or doing nothing). This would have happened whatever the course of things in 1975 (and I don't recall Ingram being around when the discussions between RP, WV and WR were taking place)

As to theoretical differences not mattering then I assume the ex-CBG people will be going back to the ICC? For us to be part of an organisation which has a Manichean world view spawning such gems as "the left in opposition" "machiavellianism of the bourgeoisie" "subterranean maturation of consciousness", "the years of truth", "decomposition" "chaos" etc etc would be to abandon what we understand of materialism and Marxism. These novelties come from the ICC view of the crisis (derived from an analysis which was not based on the law of value) and a perspective that said the proletariat only had to be "demystified" and the road to revolution was open. If the ICC were to move on these (and there are signs (albeit confusing [to outsiders] - the debate on the post war boom for example) then that would lay the basis for more fruitful discussions in the Communist Left...

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shug
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Mar 2 2009 17:37

Not too sure about the Groundhog Day allusion (though I seem to recall the protagonist eventually came to see the errors of his ways). But your perjorative use of "activists" is unfortunately close to the ICC's mantra of 'better fewer but better' trotted out after each of its splits. As you say above

Quote:
What I think though is that we should look back to learn from those experiences and not just to be prisoners of the past or to score cheap points.

The ICC positions you list

Quote:
"the left in opposition" "machiavellianism of the bourgeoisie" "subterranean maturation of consciousness", "the years of truth", "decomposition" "chaos" etc etc

are issues that animated many of those who split from the ICC. But they are also issues that could and should have been debated within one organisation, debates that should have had public expression.

The IP's 'Appeal to the Pro Revolutionary Milieu' in the Announcements section of these forums ends with "Theoretical disagreements aren't the obstacle to working together, they are part of the stuff of the revolutionary life of the proletariat; the obstacle is sectarianism." This is welcome. It would be easy to say that even more welcome, given that a number of its members held positions in ICC central organs in the early 80's, would be an acknowledgement that this reflects an element of sea change in their political trajectory, but as you suggest, it's time to move on.