A minority of the CWI has bureaucratically forced through an unfortunate and damaging split in the worlds largest and most influential revolutionary socialist organisation, the Committee for a Workers’ International
Those who follow the CWI, in its publications and activities, will be aware of the important debates that have taken place in our revolutionary socialist international during the last 7 months or so. These debates have arisen from a complex world situation, with capitalism economically, socially and ecologically exposed as parasitic and its institutions largely discredited, while simultaneously most workers’ and Left organisations and their leaders internationally have not been up to the challenge. As a result, the workers’ movement in general has not as yet decisively put its imprint on events.
Bold initiatives or conservatism in thought and action
On the other hand, the conditions suffered by large numbers of workers, youth, women, migrants and other layers in society have brought many into action. In the case of mass movements against specific forms of oppression, these have often been marked by ideological confusion, and varying degrees of bourgeois and petit bourgeois influence. The majority of the CWI and its ranks believe the best way to help overcome this confusion is by participating as the most dynamic and programmatically clearest component in those movements, clearly drawing a line between our working class approach and that of our opponents.
The former day-to-day leadership of the CWI which has carried out a bureaucratic coup in the organisation, (the majority of the International Secretariat and the minority fraction it gathered around it), showed a lack of confidence about intervening in these movements. They emphasised the fear that our membership would be intoxicated by petit-bourgeois Identity politics and other “alien ideas” in these movements and preferred, in their own words, to “dig in” and await events within the official labour movement.
They attacked our sections in Ireland and the USA, which successfully led mass struggles of workers, women and youth, achieving victories while raising the banner of revolutionary socialism in a principled and flexible manner, for “capitulating to petit bourgeois identity politics”. The majority believes that, far from protecting working class socialist principled, such an attitude would leave our membership unprepared, and petty-bourgeois influences unchallenged in some of the most important mass mobilisations of our epoch. Moreover, these movements have often also been characterised by a strong participation by the working class, and are increasingly being expressed in working class strike action, for example with industrial action against sexism taking place around the world from the USA to South Africa.
With mass movements taking on new and innovative forms around the world, often but not always outside of the formal structures of the official labour movement, Marxists energetically intervening in these movements with a socialist and class perspective were denounced by the CWI minority faction around the IS majority as “turning their backs on the trade unions”. On the contrary, the forces of the CWI majority retain a strategic, but flexible orientation towards the trade unions, where we have won crucial victories in struggle, sometimes reflected in winning leadership positions in unions in many countries.
Having debates in a democratic manner has always been part of the CWI’s rich traditions. In the past we had important debates on Europe and the introduction of the Euro, the character of some of the populist right wing parties, the class nature of the Chinese regime and many other issues. We believe those debates and exchanges strengthened the political understanding of all participants.
Based on the traditions of the revolutionary workers’ movement and its organisations, the CWI has in its constitution and those of its member parties a number of inbuilt guarantees protecting its membership against the possible undemocratic behavior of its leadership. All leading positions are elected and subject to recall, no elected position provides any material gain, and every three years a World Congress composed of elected delegations from the national sections elect an IEC. The IEC leads the CWI in between these congresses and elects an International secretariat that takes functions as a day to day leadership. No one national section or combination of few sections on their own can be sufficiently represented to dominate a world congress. If one third of the IEC members demand the organization of an IEC, the IS has the constitutional obligation to do so. Financial auditors are elected at the World Congress are double checking the finances etc.
But however democratic the rules might be, in a Marxist organization we believe the main guarantee of healthy democracy are not rules, but the existence of a critically thinking membership of workers and youth prepared to hold leaders to account, and with a political understanding and education which allows for full meaningful participation in all key discussions.
The CWI, just like any other organization, is not immune from any phenomena present in society, including the growth of conservative strata and bureaucratism. In our 45 years of existence we have had to fight this phenomena at various levels, and mostly we were able to correct them without too much damage. However, at times it has required the intervention of a politically conscious membership against a degenerated central leadership to safeguard the CWI’s programme. This was the case when the big majority of the CWI rose up against the leadership around Ted Grant in 1992, and has unfortunately had to be the case with the leadership around Peter Taaffe this year. Bureucratic violations of our democratic statutes have never sufficed to stop the CWI’s membership from continuing to build its sections and its international.
The CWI Majority, united and intact in 35 countries around the globe, will continue to fight for a socialist world. We will provide further information and analysis of our internal debate and crisis, including through the publishing of the key internal documents of the dispute, in the near future.
A bureaucratic coup
About half way through an agreed period of democratic political discussion and debate, a minority grouping, based around the majority of the CWI’s International Secretariat and the leadership of the Socialist Party of England & Wales, have declared in an article on socialistworld.net (a valuable resource stolen from the majority of CWI members) on 25 July to have taken at a conference the “decision to refound the Committee for a Workers’ International” and “convene a world congress in 2020 of CWI sections and groups that defend the programme of the CWI”.
What this really means is that they are founding a new organisation open only to the minority who support their leadership. It is a step taken with no reference whatsoever to any of the CWI’s existing democratic structures. In reality, it amounts to a bureaucratic move with no political or organisational legitimacy.
In the process, this grouping has also illegitimately appropriated the collective material, financial and political resources of the CWI (including its international website and most of its social media accounts), against the clear will of the majority of its sections and members. Out of 45 countries in which the CWI is organised in national organisations, this grouping holds a majority in only seven.
The bureaucratic coup which their actions represent amount to a clear break with entire national sections and members of the CWI in Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Greece, Hong Kong, Israel/Palestine, Ireland, Italy, Ivory Coast, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Quebec, Romania, Russia, the Spanish state, Sudan, Sweden, Taiwan, Turkey, Tunisia, and the USA from the CWI, as well as a majority of members in Germany and South Africa who oppose their plans.
In addition, in England & Wales, over 100 members, representing a majority of activists in over a dozen key cities, have been expelled from the Socialist Party for supporting the majority of the CWI, and have been forced to begin the rebuilding of the CWI’s forces there. An SP special congress on 21 July passed a resolution stating that supporters of the CWI would have to act outside the Socialist Party, and were told “goodbye and good ridddance” by the party leadership from the platform.
An accelerated bureaucratic degeneration
In November 2018, the International Secretariat majority (IS – a leading body elected by the CWI’s International Executive Committee), finding itself in a minority on the body which elected it, launched a factional rampage. Beginning with a campaign of distorted and sectarian denunciations of the Socialist Party of Ireland, a political narrative was built accusing the big majority of CWI of having broken with the fundamental principles of socialism and Marxism – in particular, with an orientation towards the working class as the force destined to lead the transformation of society.
At a meeting of the IEC in November 2018 in which the IS majority lost the vote, they launched a minority faction in the CWI (called ‘In defense of a working class, Trotskyist CWI). Immediately afterwards, the IS majority began to disregard the democratic and political legitimacy of the body which elected it. The IEC had unanimously agreed to initiate a year-long political debate on the fundamental political issues which the minority faction placed on the table, during which the IEC would meet again in August 2019 and a World Congress – the highest decision making body of the composed of delegates from national sections – would be organised in January 2020.
The IS majority immediately sought to torpedo this agreement, boycotting the Congress Organising Committee which was elected to oversee the debate. They then declared that the CWI’s democratic structures to be illegitimate, due to the existence of “fundamental political differences”. This amounted to the open rejection of any accountability to those who elected them.
The democratic procedures of a working class organisation, which are especially important at times of debate and disagreement, were completely jettisoned. The IS majority explicitly stated that they could not participate in any meeting where they might face de-selection (which they termed “regime change”) in a democratic vote. The overwhelming majority of the CWI, who defended the fundamental principle of working class democracy, were dismissed as “constitutional fetishists”.
The IS majority, in technical possession of hundreds of thousands of dollars of CWI members’ money, also obstructed the access of an elected auditor of the CWI’s accounts to the books of the organisation, in obvious preparation to run away with this money, which they now appear to have done.
The Orwellian decision taken to “refound” an organisation, against the will of its only existing democratic structures, amounts to a bureaucratic coup. The seizure of the collective assets of an organisation on this basis is especially heinous. While any group of members has the right to separate from the CWI and set up a separate entity, any organisation born on the basis of such methods will be marked by opprobium in the workers’ movement.
This bureaucratic approach represents a complete break from the democratic culture of discussion and debate which has hitherto existed in the CWI, which has seen countless internal debates and discussions conducted in a democratic manner, with a leadership confident to argue its ideas without resorting to bureaucratic measures.
The CWI continues
This bureaucratic sectarian split from the CWI, which has succeeded in disorienting and derailing many honest working class fighters, is a serious setback for the CWI. But as the saying goes: don’t mourn, organise!
As well as the criminal actions of an unaccountable degenerated bureaucratic leadership, this crisis for our organisation has shown its opposite: that the CWI is a healthy and living organisation in which a majority has been able to rise up against bureaucratic degeneration and maintain the unity of the vast majority of our international, despite having to stand up to some of its most authoritative founding leaders in the process.
The CWI majority is united, intact and retains significant fighting capacity in over 30 countries around the globe! We are determined to discuss and debate to draw all the lessons from the crisis we have been through, for how to build a youthful, democratic and powerful world party dedicated to the fight for a socialist revolution. At this very moment, we are intervening in the explosive events of Puerto Rico, Hong Kong, Sudan and elsewhere.
We will soon launch an international website and other publications.
We call on all CWI members, and workers and youth of all countries to discuss with and join us!
Provisional committee of the CWI IEC Majority: