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Notes for a Platform for the Opposition (II)

2. For an End of the SWP-Controlled IST

It is not a secret among us that the SWP controls the IST through controlling all the strings of communications; by discussing one-on-one with the leaderships of the different sections (using its 600-pound gorilla tactics) and by erecting themselves unto the super-critics and ultimate judges of every and all disputes in the Tendency.

Only when the SWP decides, documents and discussions are shared with the rest of the sections:

“The importance of these differences, the ISO’s leadership refusal to discuss them seriously, and the efforts it is making to turn the group’s members against the SWP leave us no alternative but to circulate the correspondence within the ISO and in the Tendency as a whole. We hope this will lead to a debate than can resolve the differences productively and strengthen all our organizations.

“Any group that has queries is welcome to contact me for clarification.”

Alex Callinicos, March 20, 2000

Notice the style. Translation: since we could not bully the ISO leadership completely, we are going to add some more pressure on them by launching a unilateral campaign against its leadership. If we were able to convince the ISO leadership of its errors and made them retreat, you would not even hear about this. You are ordered by us to only ask for clarification at our London’s Centre.

For the SWP’s leadership, the IST only exists as a mechanism of pressure to use only as needed for its own purposes. Were comrades ever told who elected Gallinicos Supreme General Secretary of the IST? No? Do you know why? Because nobody did. We had not delegated International conferences, no formal selection of leadership, no formal voting by delegates of the Tendency.

In its defense, the ISO leadership complained about not hearing about the SWP’s criticisms at the last Marxism meeting in London nor, they argued, were these differences so acute in the various bilateral discussions between the ISO-SWP leaderships. The ISO leadership complained about Gallinicos not calling Chicago for over a year – which in their opinion is the duty of the International Organizer – but it never object to the very existence of this un-elected supra-leader.

The ISO’s leadership also complained bitterly about “An utterly personalistic and irresponsible faction fight conducted by leading members of the SWP leadership…” and declared that “ … since we have reasons to believe that the SWP leadership has shared its assessment of the ISO with other groups in the Tendency, we are making this document available to those groups as well as to the memberships of the ISO and the SWP.” (March 20, 2000)

This revealing statement shows that the practice of the ISO’s leadership is NOT different than that of the SWP leadership. Both of them see the IST sections – and even its own memberships – as pressure tools to pressure the other side on a dispute, not as integral parts of a movement with equal rights and responsibilities. Only when both of them cannot agree, they appeal to a non-organized extension of their factional fight to the other sections of the IST by unilaterally contacting them and making them aware of their respective opinions about their opponent in the fight.

The root cause of this factional and anti-democratic and, we would assert, anti-democratic centralist behavior is the absence of any elected international body that can act as the conduit for discussions, distribution of information and organizers of the discussions. Gallinicos does not act as the IST organizer but as part of the SWP faction attacking an opponent. The ISO response is to try to setup an independent center in Chicago to “inform” the IST of what is going on. If this caricature of an organization at the world scale was not a tragedy, would be laughable.

However, the ISO’s leadership goes further to explain the “informal,” anti-Leninist ways of functioning as the natural offspring of a bureaucratic regime of which they were part. They wrote: “ … we believed this ludicrous accusations had been put to rest at a leadership-to-leadership meeting held at Marxism 99 … no criticisms – they continued – were raised at the informal “Tendency meeting in November”. Of course not, that is the whole idea, to resort to the back door strategy to resolve differences. However, did the ISO leadership raise those differences at Marxism 99 or the unofficial and informal meeting of the IST in November 99? No. They remained silent, like the SWP leadership, in the hopes of either resolving the differences in secret meetings or by some backroom deals here and there.

In another section of their March 20, 2000 the ISO leadership states that “In the interest of putting the dispute over the war to rest, we have not previously circulated this document.” They further explained that they asked for the fate of thousands of dollars raised by the ISO membership that went to organizations that either disappeared or is gone from the IST. They were told in not uncertain terms by Gallinicos and Cliff to get lost. The ISO’s leadership had no right to ask questions about anything because “the Tendency is no really an international” and leave the details of its operations in the hands of the “London Bureau.”

Now we are the “collateral damage” of this “carpet bombing.” We only found out about these things when it is convenient for the ISO leadership to score a point. Of course, the SWP’s leadership need to give a full report on these issues as well as what they do with thousands upon thousands of pounds delivered to their doorsteps every month by sections of the IST. But the ISO leadership needs to explain why they never disclosed these events and discussions to the membership of its own organization and to other sections of the IST. If it looks as if the ISO is just using these events as a self-defense mechanism, is because it is one.

But does the ISO leadership propose a radical change? Does the ISO leadership favor a distribution of all documents regularly from all sections? Does the ISO propose a delegate conference to resolve the differences and got an answer to the question: where is the money? Not at all. And that is because the foreign policy of both the SWP and ISO leaderships is an extension of their domestic policies. Both leaderships APPOINT leaders, SQUASH oppositionists, slander dissidents, and expel tendencies and factions. Why ISO members have to find out about the factional struggle in the National Committee that occurred last January through a passing comment in a letter from the Steering Committee to the SWP leadership?

The ISO leadership now writes that “When ISO representatives raised these points about the boom at past international meetings we were accused of having a ‘pessimistic’ outlook” and further that “the SWP also needs to be held accountable for its actions – its mistakes as well as successes.” But when and how was the membership were ever informed of these accusations and that the ISO leadership was in favor to hold the SWP accountable? Never.

The ISO leadership informs us that the SWP demanded the removal of a leading comrade of the organization. The SWP denies the charge. The SWP charges the ISO leadership of having discussed a secret document criticizing the policies of the SWP. The ISO leadership denies the charges. There is now emerging evidence that both charges are correct. The SWP DID demand the removal of a leading comrade and that was the basis of the factional discussion at the January’s National Committee meeting. In addition, the ISO leadership DID discuss a document highly critical of the activities and positions of the SWP, particularly on its newfound electoralist line.

The question remains: Why the membership of BOTH organizations and the IST sections were kept in the dark? Because both the SWP leadership and the ISO leadership have the same approach to the question of discussions. Both are allergic to the intervention of the membership – unless they need them at the moment of mobilizing them for PR reasons – and both are in favor of “resolving” differences through “leadership-to-leadership” meetings never reported to the IST.

The ISO leadership now discloses the shameful and embarrassing incidents related to Democratic Party hack and Jerry Brown’s chief of staff Dave Hilliard – introduced in Britain by the SWP as a Black revolutionary without consulting with the American section – and that of one Christopher Hitchens who was promoted by the SWP at the time when this renegade was supporting the bombing by NATO in the Balkans. Not a word or discussion to the membership. Not a hint that this was going on. Why?

Why are now rank and file members of the IST informed that the Greek section has a “neutral position” during the war in the Balkans? Why we have to find that information in a factional exchange with the SWP instead than from regular international bulletins? Why we have to find out about the problems with a policy on the war from the Irish, German and French sections in a passing reference in a leadership’s letter? In addition, why we have to find out that the SWP used the same method of bilateral secret negotiations with those groups to force them to correct their policies in a letter during a factional struggle?

We welcome the ISO leadership call that the Tendency “should have some means to assess our international work. As it stands now, international work is completely cavalier and haphazard.” Do they propose an alternative, democratic and representative way to do it? Well, they wrote that “Some groups get frequent phone calls with an official liaison from the SWP, we get none.” Is that the solution to the menshevik, undemocratic functioning of the IST? To receive telephone calls from London more often? This sounds more as the whining of a neglected child than a proposal for structural change.

“This is no way – wrote the ISO leadership – to build an international Tendency with self-confident leaderships trained to think for themselves.” This sounds pro-active, but since we know the ISO leadership well, amounts to a call for federative relations and a diminishing of the SWP power. That is not a call for a centralization of the organization based on the democratization of its structures.

At the end of their document, the ISO leadership makes four proposals.

Number one: that the SWP will “rescind in writing the unsubstantiated charges.” We do not understand this one. Charges were made and the demand should be to substantiate them.

Number 2: The ISO leadership ask that the “SWP stop all factionalism in relation to the ISO.” The ISO have to give more details of the factional work of the SWP in the US and should propose a democratic method to resolve differences in order to avoid factionalism.

Number 3: the ISO demands that a discussion will take place with the SWP leadership “of all issues raised” during Marxism 2000 in London. Why? Why not propose a full discussion in the IST through a delegated conference from all sections? Why to insist in the nefarious bilateral agreements and blackmail operations?

And Number 4 is the most distressing: the ISO leadership proposes a “reorganization of International work on a more collaborative basis.” They add “Specifics are to be worked out in discussion among members groups of the Tendency and decided at the next International Tendency meeting.” This statement means exactly nothing. It is not a proposal, is just a maneuver to buy time. The ISO leadership if it is serious about its charges should propose concrete reforms as to how the Tendency works.

Otherwise, we are afraid, this is just a declaration and a set of demands to prepare the terrain for a split. The ISO leadership knows very well that the SWP will reject points one and two and that three and four do not represent a change of the situation as it was reflected in this discussion.

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