Michael Kidron

We Are Not Peasants

(October 1968)

IS internal document, submitted by Hull IS, 10/10/1968 – written by Michael Kidron.
Published as part of Appendix 3 in Jim Higgins, More Years for the Locust. [1]
Marked up by by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

If our half yearly delegate meeting showed anything at all, it is that we are not yet a political organisation. The “Centre” appealed to our sense of good, truth and beauty, but did not reveal which aspects of the capitalist system they thought most vulnerable to attack at the moment, how we are to mobilize for it and how approach our potential allies. They failed to do for IS as a whole what Roger Cox and Steve Jefferys were doing so well for our engineering workers.

There are real problems in doing so. The world is not an open book. False consciousness abounds. In addition, and this is probably the most important factor for us, we have been growing so fast that many of our members have not had time or opportunity to assimilate 1S experience and IS theory, or to get to know what different groups and individuals amongst are doing.

As a consequence, the more experienced members feel it necessary to colonize within the group for tradition and to repeat and then repeat again the fundamentals of socialist theory. They find themselves neglecting the necessary processes of monitoring the world with a view to affecting it, and of keeping their eyes and ears open to what new members are doing and thinking.

On the other hand, many new members plunge into activity without understanding its broader meaning, or being shown the relevance of the socialist political tradition to whatever they are doing.

The result is often a confused dialogue of the deaf, with the older comrades on the Political Committee trying to ram unargued proposals down our throats and some of the throats reacting at full blast but without proposals.

It would be tragic to allow the issues to be confused in this sort of dialogue: we need operational political analysis; that is, a view of the world in the here and now which links our activities to our basic assumptions. And we need constant internal justification of that analysis and its assumptions. Only the Political Committee can do the job, and only a Political Committee which concentrates as much of our political experience in one place – that is, one elected nationally. Such a political committee must be allowed every facility to do its work: full control over the political content of our press, the right to appoint editors and spokesmen, the right to disengage from administrative detail.

At the same time, we need to have a very clear idea of our own strengths and weaknesses in a rapidly changing situation, or else our political prescriptions will never find practical expression. A body like the Political Committee which reflects neither our unevenness in experience nor our dispersal in function and space has not got, and cannot have, this clear view. (So much, at least, we have learned from the way they presented – and then withdrew – their organisational proposals). To have such a view, to be able to decide on the practicability of the Political Committee’s proposals, on what is possible for IS as a whole to undertake, the body must be more representative of the branches as they exist – a delegate EC.

Since such a body should always be trying to adopt a national view and so overcome the unevenness and parochialism which make it necessary at this moment, its members should be elected by the branches for the period spanning the half yearly delegate conferences (subject always to recall). To help it in its day to day operations, it should select a secretariat or Administrative Committee (not necessarily from its own number).

The result would be a clear division of functions between the political and educational centre of IS (the Political Committee) and the decision taking and organizational centre (the EC). It is a division of functions that would prevent “the Centre,” to use the Political Committee’s current phrase, from throwing out organizational instructions when we want political advice, or fundamentalist iconography when we want organizational guidance. They would know what they were supposed to be doing, so would we. And they would soon find themselves appealing to reason, not loyalty or faith.

We therefore propose:

  1. A Political Committee elected by the half yearly delegate conference of about 12 members to formulate and publish IS perspectives, goals, policies and activities; to exercise control over the political content of our press; to promote our internal educational programme; to appoint editors and spokesmen; and to promote and harmonize in conjunction with the EC sectional and regional policy making in terms of our general goals and policies.

  2. A delegate EC elected by the branches between half-yearly conferences to decide IS’s activities in the light of the Political Committee’s recommendations, such an EC to appoint an Administrative Committee to help in its day to day administration. Branch delegates to reflect the “structure” of opinions in the branch.

Footnote by MIA

1. In Chapter 9 of More Years for the Locust Jim Higgins discusses the 1968 debate on democratic centralism in IS and has this to say on Kidron’s contribution:

From the Hull branch came two brief but apposite documents that bore all the hallmarks of being written by one of that branches’ members, Michael Kidron. The first and most significant was called We Are Not Peasants ... Arguing forcefully for the retention of the branch delegate EC, he claimed that because there had been a large growth in membership, those new members had not had the time or the opportunity to assimilate IS theory or experience. This then resulted in the leadership attempting to find answers to the problems from the revolutionary tradition and neglecting their most important task of monitoring the world about us, so that they could direct the membership in meaningful activity. Not only should they be exercising political leadership but also, “keeping their eyes and ears open to what the new members are saying and doing.” The necessary interchange between the PC and the members could best be ensured by retaining the branch delegate structure for the EC. Paradoxically, and despite its opposition to the “Leninist” forms, this was the most Leninist of the contributions to the debate, it started from an appreciation of the importance of looking outward, it assessed the forces available to us, their strengths and weaknesses, and then formulated a plan to get the best from everyone. It was serious politics and it was totally unsuccessful, because nobody was really paying attention.

Last updated on 18 February 2017