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DEA (Greece) Statement on IST/SEK Split

[Letter to IST sections about the split in the Greek SEK]
25 March 2001

Dear comrades,

After the split in SEK end the creation of DEA (Internationalist Workers Left) we have been informed that the IS Tendency "has ceased relations with the ISO", or as cadres of SEK put it in Greece, the IST has "expelled" the ISO. The relevant texts, with the signatures of comrades Alex Callinicos and Panos Garganas are full of inaccuracies and repeated lies. This forces us to reopen this discussion, giving details that we would not have chosen:

1) Alex Callinicos and Panos Garganas accuse the ISO that it inspired or led the split in SEK. This conspiracy theory has nothing to do with reality. The only ones responsible for the split in the Greek section of the IST is C.C. of SEK that plunged the party into a deep crisis, refused the calls from the comrades for reorganization in last year's congress and when this year it had to face the now organized opposition it chose consciously the split in the party. We had our first contact with the ISO comrades after Prague, just 2 months before the split in SEK when the course of events was already determined.

2) Alex Callinicos and Panos Garganas talk about the "split of a small group" trying to minimize the significance of the split in SEK. SEK, just before the split, had according to the most generous calculations about 400 members. The party split almost 50%-50%, and if the C.C. had accepted to organize a democratic congress, it is not at all certain that it would have had even a simple majority in the party.

The "small group" as they contemptuously called the opposition, organized in minimum time the founding congress of DEA, with greater participation than in the congress of SEK which preceded it. It published the bi-weekly newspaper "Workers Left". We are quite prepared to show to anyone who is interested full data about the copies sold, hoping that SEK would dare at some point to inform its members about how many copies of its newspapers it sells every week.

In the week that followed our congress, there took place in Athens two important antiracist demonstrations against the new anti-immigrant law. In the first there were more members from DEA than from SEK, while in the second SEK did not even manage to participate, showing plainly the problems of size and demoralization that after the split determine its true situation. The IST should realize that its Greek section is split.

3) Alex Callinicos and Panos Garganas talk about DEA, accusing us of "sectarian attitudes". In our congress appeared and spoke 10 organizations of the left: amongst them the Coalition of the Left, the youth Organization of the Coalition, the most important "movementist" organizations (Network for Social and Political Rights, Network for the support of immigrants), all of the trotskyist organizations, etc. All of them addressed us with warm proposals for cooperation, while the youth of the Coalition invited us to an electoral bloc in the student elections. A rather strange attitude addressed to "sectarians" it is true.

When it begun organizing for Genoa, SEK declared that "it would not allow the presence of DEA in any committee for Genoa, or in any committee for the legalization of immigrants" (SEK Internal Bulletin 5 March). This sectarian policy is already in tatters, the Greek participation to Genoa will be organized on a mass basis, collectively, far from any manipulative practices.

The organized presence of DEA has already affected the scene in the revolutionary left in Greece; we underline that we will never demand the exclusion of the comrades from SEK from any mass campaign, but naturally we will not permit our exclusion.

4) Panos Garganas accuses the opposition of "thuggery" and "violence" in the SEK pre-conference in Athens. This accusation is self-evidently ridiculous; how is it that the "historic leadership" became the victim of "violence" in the pre-conference of the biggest organization of the party, in front of the crushing majority of its members?

It is true that in the Athens pre-conference there was a massive protest of comrades ending with the withdrawal of the great majority from the discussion. Panos Garganas artfully is silent about the reasons: the comrades demanded a mutually acceptable Chair in the discussion, the right of the opposition to present its opinions in the party organizations outside Athens, the publication of all the opposition texts before the election of representatives. With those measures, as well as the use of grossly inflated membership lists in the far away branches that it controlled exclusively the C.C. organized an antidemocratic conference aiming to secure a majority at any cost. Those tactics, that do not belong to the traditions of our tendency, led to the split.

We have deliberately avoided to use the organizational machinations and the issues of democracy as a weapon of public criticism of SEK. We declare that we will not refer again to those issues. But it is too much to have the C.C. of SEK masquerading as the victim of oppression in its own party.

The opposition of SEK was based on two central political issues:

I) Party building during the 90's

The overoptimistic analysis of the period (decade of wars and revolutions, the 30's in slow motion), led to organizational adventurism ("opening" without any foundations, very small branches, indifference to the formation of members and local leaderships etc.), to political confusion ("wide" agitation, underestimation of political tactics) and finally to apathy and disintegration. From the mid-90's onwards, political leadership in SEK acquired administrative characteristics, the C.C. isolated itself while attempting to control an organization whose policy led away from the real tasks that the comrades had to face.

This is the history of SEK, that really begun with the 150 members in 1989, grew rapidly until 1993 and then entered a continuous crisis, until today where it has arrived at a condition of a small and semi-paralyzed organization. We found out that all the organizations of the Tendency followed the same trajectory. Until recently this was something that all the members of SEK ignored, even most of the members of the C.C. The demand for political and organizational reconstruction, for the reorientation of all our organizations, is we believe of the utmost importance.

II) The problem of how to link with the anticapitalist movement

On this comrades Panos Garganas and Alex Callinicos attempt a sleight of hand. They try to draw the dividing line on the question of which comrades support the growth of the anticapitalist movement, who are the "friends of Seattle and of Prague" and who aren't.

This dilemma is false. All of us were overjoyed by the great anticapitalist demonstrations, all of us wish for the creation of a broad movement against the system, we will strain every muscle to achieve its growth and as regards SEK we will count our forces at Genoa.

The differences can be found elsewhere, in the relationship that the revolutionary socialist organizations form with the anticapitalist movement and their tactics inside it. The problem can be found in 3 key points:

a. The general estimate of the situation in which the anticapitalist movement appears.

SEK's estimates (supposed parallels with 1848, 1917, May 1968) are nothing but a revival of the "things will automatically turn to the left" outlook, they underestimate the real needs of the movement in a superficial revolutionary "mood".

b. The link with the existing movement of the working class. SEK was forced to return to face the duties that the revival of workers' struggles put this autumn only under the pressure of the opposition. Putting the best possible light upon it, its position is "first we will gain members form the anticapitalist demonstrations and then we will turn to the workers", while in the worst case it can be considered to underestimate the centrality of the working-class movement.

c. The transformation of out organizations into "activist branches" and the diffusion into the "movement" (the formula 90% the same, 10% different) lead to organizational dissolution, in a period of great opportunities but also great political and organizational difficulties for revolutionary socialists.

On out part, we consider that United Front tactics (inside the organized working-class movement but also in the anticapitalist demonstrations), the insistence on building revolutionary socialist organizations and the systematic facing of the situation created by the crisis of the reformist left, is the answer to the problems put by an extremely important and interesting but complex political period.

We would like to note that we agree to a great extent with the observations of comrade Chris Harman about the tactical problems posed by the intervals between the great demonstrations, his criticism of those intellectuals that attempt to express the new movement on the level of ideas (differences rather broader than 10%) and his reminder that Joscka Fisher etc begun as "activists" and ended as "ministers".

In any case we underline that the split in the Tendency is not an isolated phenomenon. A look at the Internet shows that amongst many comrades from all the organizations the discussion is open. We consider the split as a unnecessary and harmful development for the entire Tendency. We demand that the decision to expel the ISO be rescinded. We declare that we continue in the tradition of ideas of our Tendency, we try to rid ourselves of the rust accumulated by the mistakes of the 90's, so as to be able to enter again the road of building a revolutionary socialist organization.

We are at your disposal for any further discussion you judge necessary, for any possible cooperation and the necessary reconstruction of the I.S. Tendency.

DEA (Internationalist Workers Left) Steering Committee

March 25, 2001