The following 4 internal bulletins/documents were all found in the Richardson Collection (Box 93 File 3) at London University Library. For their background and the flavour of the organisation and times see Upham History of British Trotskyism Ch.10 in ETOL .
Document 3 is cited by Upham Chapter 10, note 122. There may be a good many more IBs by Harber in that and other collections.
Of the individuals mentioned S is “Stuart”, that is Sam Gordon JL is John Lawrence, JEG is John Goffe, MJ is Margaret Johns, JLR is John Robinson of the “Left Faction”, ESJ is Starkey Jackson, CvG is Charlie van Gelderen TM is Tom Mercer. Others I have not yet been able to identify. Upham is incorrect that Starkey Jackson was a submariner. An RAMC private, he died when his troopship went down 28 November 1942.
Ted Crawford transcriber
1. Internal Bulletin RSL, August 1940 pp.1-5, by Denzil Dean Harber, 3 pages, (3,208 words).
Notice: In order to conserve paper supplies, the number of internal bulletins sent to branches are being cut down. Branches should make arrangements to pass them round.
1. Our organisation and its immediate tasks
2. A note from East London and a reply by ESJ.
3. Defeatism and Defencism R.M. (Cardiff).
4. Origin of the Present Situation T.M. (Glasgow)
Attached. What is Wrong with the Organisation? E. London.
Our Organisation and its Immediate Tasks
Our organisation is at present facing a situation of tremendous difficulty a situation created by the fact that so far as Britain is concerned the present imperialist war only effectively began a few weeks ago with the German invasion of the low countries. Hence that wave of chauvinism among the masses, which we always foretold would take place at the beginning of an imperialist war, but which has been postponed in the present conflict by the hanging fire of actual hostilities, is now at last upon us. Our international organisation in the thesis, “War and the Fourth International” drawn up in 1934, stated with true revolutionary candour that under the conditions created by the mass chauvinism inevitably existing at the outbreak of imperialist war, no party, however revolutionary it might be, no matter how well-trained its cadres might be, could resist in its entirety the influence of chauvinism. The same document points out that even the Bolshevik Party could not escape this influence in the first imperialist war.
In the case therefore of our own tiny organisation, far too small even to play the role of a revolutionary party, we would expect to find under present conditions very definite signs of chauvinist influence. Some of us in the past have even doubted whether such a weak organisation could hope to survive the storms and stress of imperialist war, and even now if a correct policy is not pursued, the possibility of our being able to maintain our organisation is a very small one. Fortunately the influence of chauvinism upon our ranks was not so great as might have been expected and now appears to have been almost entirely liquidated. Moreover the policy adopted by our organisation and embodied in the resolution passed by the Enlarged E.C. on 25/5/40 should, if correctly carried out by the membership, enable us to whether the present difficulties successfully and to maintain our organisation and cadres until the not very distant future when the present chauvinism of the masses will be replaced by disillusionment in the war and the readiness to struggle for class demands.
The policy of our organisation for the immediate future, however, must be based not only on the mood of the masses at this future period but also upon their present mood. And without any doubt whatsoever their present mood is one of chauvinism based very largely upon the fear of invasion. While this mood lasts not only will the workers not listen to us but they will in many cases denounce us to the police as Fifth Columnists if we carry out an open propaganda against the war. If we had a revolutionary party with a membership of some thousands we could afford to sacrifice some comrades to carry on such open propaganda. Despite the loss of some dozens or even hundreds of members the party could still retain sufficient cadres to be able to function as an organisation. Our case is very different. As cannot be too often repeated we are not a party but merely a group. Of our small membership, a number are already in the armed forces, others will be there very shortly. If of the few active members that are left, a mere handful are arrested for open propaganda, the organisation will undoubtedly collapse. If this were to occur, the workers when they begin to turn away from support of the war, will not find even the nucleus of a revolutionary party in existence. No organised revolutionary movement will exist inside the L.P. to fight for the leadership of the leftward movement which must arise there and all the work of the past few years will have to begin again.
Consequently we cannot afford to smash our whole organisation now precisely when it is about to have the opportunity of playing a decisive role in the probable near future for the sake of those who wish us at all costs to ape the role of a revolutionary party. This does not mean that we must do nothing now. What we can do and how we can do it is stated in the resolution of the Enlarged EC. But it does not mean that we do not at this stage start mass distribution of anti-war leaflets or organise street sales of literature. Even before the war those forms of activity were secondary in importance to our work in the LPs and TUs, for the very good reason that the results obtained were very small. Under present circumstances not only would no results be obtained but expulsion from the L.P. would be certain and arrest either now or a little later highly probable. We cannot, of course, be certain that we will not be molested by the authorities even if we carry on along the lines of the EC resolution. In fact it is probable that arrests will take place, but that is no reason why we should provoke them or make them more widespread than necessary. The same applies to expulsions from the L.P.
The “Oppositions” in the Group
So far as the bulk of our membership is concerned we feel that most of the above remarks are unnecessary. After all the whole question was discussed as long ago as the post-fusion National Conference early in 1939 and the resolution on this subject adopted there forms the basis for the resolution of the enlarged EC. Not a single provincial group has raised objection to this resolution of the Enlarged EC, in fact some provincial, groups, left without direction for some time due to technical difficulties at the centre, had arrived at almost precisely similar conclusions themselves before receipt of the document. But so far as some of the London groups are concerned the situation is rather different and opposition has been shown to the policy of the EC from two main sources. One of these need not be dealt with here at any length. Certain elements centred round the Camberwell Group have for years shown adventurist and sectarian tendencies; it was hardly to be expected that they would deny themselves the pleasure of attacking the EC for its “opportunism”. The other source of opposition is the East London Group which has produced the curious document attached hereto. Quite apart from its political errors, the document contains many gross mistatements of fact (or lies as they may be less politely termed) which are not going to pass unchallenged.
1. “Since the banning of the MLL there has been no leadership of any kind from the CC”. What of the resolution passed by the EC of 25/5/40, an attack up on which occupies almost the whole of the East Group document? By “no leadership” the comrades appear to mean “no leadership acceptable to them”. It might also incidentally be mentioned that since the banning of the MLL there has also been a National Conference of the organisation which laid down in essence the very line which the East Group are endeavouring to attack. But it is always easier to attack a CC than a National Conference.
2. “During this period there has been no paper, no pamphlet issued” There have been in actual fact two issues of the “Militant”!
3 “There has been no contact between the CC and the membership”. Only repeated meetings of the Organising committee to which all London groups should send their delegates and at which members of the EC are present. Only the visiting of all provincial groups by the organiser!
4. The EC resolution “when presented to the enlarged Organising Committee meeting was …. unanimously condemned”! On what grounds, comrades, and what did you and your associates attempt to put in its place? Let us quote from the report given to the recent CC, “They maintained that we should be publishing leaflets to be distributed broadcast, explaining the collapse of the French Empire and calling for arms for the workers. They insisted upon appointing a committee to draft such a leaflet.” We understand that most of those who supported the chauvinist slogan “Arm the workers” at this meeting of the CC, now not only do not support but deny that they ever did! So far has the retreat gone that when at the CC the chauvinist leaflet drafted by the sub-committee of the OC was presented, it was quite impossible to find out who was responsible for it although all three members of the drafting committee were present! We are glad that those members of the East Group who supported the slogan do so no longer, but the fact that they did support it marks them out as those who proved most susceptible to the chauvinist mood of the masses after the collapse of French Imperialism.
5. The (EC) resolution states ‘our slogans and activities must be cautious in character’ What is a slogan “cautious in character?” Our comrades in the East if they had read a little more carefully (or a little more honestly?) would have seen that the EC statement in referring to “caution” is quoting the resolution of our 1939 National Conference on work in wartime. The East Group comrades were nearly all present at that conference but did not attack the resolution - in fact they voted for it. Now they attack the EC for putting it into operation!
There follows much discussion of “caution and adventurism”, “Economism as a substitute for revolutionary policies”, etc, out of which come the following remarkable facts.
a. “To call for an immediate armed uprising is incautious (politically) because it would lead the workers to inevitable failure and bloody repression”!! Our comrades in the East Group appear to have no doubt whatever that the workers would rise if they called on them to do so; they only refrain from issuing the slogan because they do not think the rising would be successful!
b. “Every organisation or individual who has forsaken the revolutionary road for reformism has always begun by concentrating on the social and economic grievances of the masses” and therefore apparently “concentration on the social and economic grievances of the masses” always leads to reformism. If our comrades consult an elementary textbook of logic they will find stated in one form or another a common fallacy of logic, “All Chinamen are yellow, therefore all yellow men are Chinamen”.
c. No slogan based on the economic and social grievances of the masses can, apparently, ever be really revolutionary, as it cannot be sufficiently “political.” The East Group comrades are apparently unaware that even the slogan “bread!” may, under certain circumstances have great revolutionary significance. The statement in the EC resolution that “revolutionary slogans must always take into account the degree of class consciousness of the masses” has apparently no meaning for them. It is not sufficiently “revolutionary” for them. We must help the masses to learn through their economic and social struggles the correctness of our political line, which they will otherwise never accept no matter how often or well explain it to them, It should not be necessary to point this out to those who style themselves “Marxists”!
7. With regard to the title of the “Discussion Bulletin” let us hasten to assure the comrades that it is not intended as an open forum. We do not think it advisable to go into the reasons for the title here. The comrades can learn them privately if they are really ignorant of them.
8. Discussion on the Finnish question. Shortly after the outbreak of the Russo-Finnish War, the EC published a resolution on the question and called a special GMM with a member of the EC leading the discussion. It is noteworthy that the East Group and Camberwell members did not then wish to discuss this question at all but desired to concentrate on the “organisation question”. Only later when there was delay, largely owing to insufficient material in publishing details of the American discussion, did the East Group suddenly develop a yearning to discuss the issue!
9. M.’s statement on the youth question was presented to the EC (after a very long delay) at the EC’s own request. The statement had very little to do with the issue under discussion (the nature of our work in the LLOY). The attitude of the statement (opposition to the existence of a separate youth organisation) was not new and had been rejected by our international organisation and it was taken into consideration when the EC drew up its own document.
10. Is it not a fact that the East group is in very close contact with a member of the Molinier Group who was even present at the meeting of the sub-committee to draw up a leaflet on “arming the workers”. Is not this “disloyalty”?
11. The “conclusions” of the East Group. “The banning of the MLL from the LP makes a change in policy essential. We are unable to continue our work in the LP…”
“The only way to continue our political work is the issuing of an open Fourth Internationalist paper”. But these questions were discussed at our recent national conference and a decision taken by an overwhelming majority against the point of view forward by the East Group. Must we go on discussing them endlessly for the benefit of a few sectarians? And what alternative has the East Group to LP work … merely the publishing of a paper. That, of course, would solve everything! And a very strange paper is proposed “Our question must answer and clarify every question posed by society (????) not merely confining ourselves to the problems raised by the workers” “It must appeal to all the advanced sections of society” (?!)
On the question of a paper, may we quote a passage from the EC resolution so much attacked by the East Group: “In the place of the present ‘Militant’ we must produce a theoretical-propaganda journal along the lines of ‘Class Struggle’ which can deal with the fundamental problems of the international working class struggle and thus assist our work of individual recruitment and education”.
12. With regard to the inevitable quotation from Lenin, let us hasten to add that we have no differences with it. We suggest that the East Group bring it to the attention of their friends of the Molinier Group who at one time based their whole tactic upon their “mass popular organ” “La Commune”.
13. The Demands of the East Group . Their first - circulation of their document - is already satisfied. Their second, a membership meeting (by which no doubt they mean a meeting of the London Group) was rejected at the recent meeting of the CC for reasons which will be obvious to everyone except those who think that now is the time to start publication of a “fighting Fourth International paper”. We are not now living in a peacetime capitalist democracy. A new EC in violation of the constitu-tion and of the rights of the provincial groups is out of the question. Only a National Conference can elect a new EC and not the London membership meeting. “A responsible EC”, but where would the comrades find an EC more “responsible”? than the present one? with all its admitted weaknesses? We await a list with some interest.
A few remarks about the weaknesses of our organisation and its leadership. Yes, comrades, we have an EC which has made many mistakes, has shown many weaknesses and we have no doubt that it will go on making mistakes. But the weaknesses of the EC have not sprung from nowhere, nor are they the result of the private vices of its members, they are the reflection of the weaknesses of the whole organisation, which are nowhere more apparent than in the East Group itself. Here are a few extracts from the report of the work of the East Group presented to the EC by the organiser a short time back:
“Militant sales - practically non-existent. Stated to be due to black-out (!!) As days get longer door to door canvassing will be resumed (what revolutionary enthusiasm!) Four dozen have been ordered of the next issue which they hope to increase to six very soon.
Study Group - steps are being taken (!) to set up a study class. I have been asked to pass on a request for a lecturer although I recommended that one of the local comrades should be appointed”.
And this is the group which is now clamouring for a paper to sell!
The EC has made many mistakes and shown weaknesses - but these have almost always been of an organisational and technical character, e,g. when the first issue of the “Discussion Bulletin” appeared its contents were already largely out of date; the resolution of the Enlarged EC was sent out after much delay. On the political side the EC has pursued a correct policy—when chauvinism showed itself in the organisation in the form of the slogan “Arm the workers”, a CC was immediately called and decisively reaffirmed the Bolshevik line. The attitude of some, at least, of the East group members has been mentioned above. And on this question of policy: it is remarkable that in its demands the East group does not include the reversal of the LP perspective although it attacks it in its statement. Why is this? Is it because they would have to replace it by an alternative political analysis, which they are quite incapable of doing, or do they think a paper solves everything?
The political leadership of the EC has assured that today we are the only organisation in this country standing firmly on the policy of revolutionary defeatism. But for the firm manner in which the EC corrected the deviations of the Camberwell and East Group members, we would have lined up with the C.P., the I.L.P., the W.I.L. and the other opportunist groups now clamouring to defend their country against the Nazis.
In conclusion we trust that the comrades of the East Group will not think that we have dealt with them with undue harshness, One can and must make allowances for active comrades who, finding that the present situation condemns them to relative if temporary inactivity, try to forgot this situation and seek to act as if they were in a very different one. But the East Group comrades were not active in the way they now wish their organisation to be before the present circumstances arose. They were in the early months of the war one of the least active groups in the organisation, although then they had a fortnightly paper at their disposal. What could be excused as revolutionary impatience in others can in their case only be condemned as political irresponsibility.
Internal Bulletin RSL, August 1940 p.5, by East London and Starkey Jackson, 1 page, (459 words)
On Errors and Half-truths
by East London
In his polemic “On the slogan ‘arm the workers’” directed against CvG, ESJ is trying to identify “some of the East Group members” with the panicky defencism and opportunism of CvG.
ESJ states “He (CvG) has constituted himself as the theoretician of the Camberwell sectarians who have been joined by some of the East Group members.” On what basis does ESJ state this? Where are the facts which point to any single one of the East Group members supporting CvG’s defencism?
At the recent enlarged O.C. meeting in East London, CO stated his position as follows:
(a) We remain revolutionary defeatists as always, irrespective of the progress of the war.
(b) The question of arming the workers remains the same in war as in peace. When the workers understand the necessity for an independent revolutionary struggle the problem of arming the worker’s will solve itself.
Every East Group member accepted this position. CvG expressed his opposition to this viewpoint at the meeting, The position of the Camberwell comrades approximated to that of CvG. However, subsequent discussion with members of the East Group has shown them the error of their position.
Further, ESJ states “It is not accidental that their policy is shared by WIL and the French Molinierists”. Why is it not accidental, ESJ? What facts suggest that any members of the East Group have supported or contemplated supporting the defencism of those organisations. Will ESJ please take steps to rectify those statements.
On Bad Consciences
When I first received the above statement I was prepared to make apologies for my statement that the East group members, or some of them, had supported the line of “Arm the workers”. I was not present at the enlarged CC meeting owing to the fact that I was out of London and therefore had to rely upon reports from members who were. I have subsequently checked up on my information and find it to be correct. The East Group comrades may have made statements in a heated meeting which they now regret, but they can hardly expect me to apologise for reporting them!
The last paragraph of their statement is very amusing. My references to the Molinierists and the WIL were political appraisals, designed to point out that these opportunist organisations necessarily adopted an opportunist policy. I was not aware when I wrote this that a member of the Molinier group had assisted in the drafting of the now famous “Arm the workers” leaflet. It appears from the extreme sensitivity of the East Group on this point, that my salvo fired for a different purpose has reached an unexpected mark!
2. “On the Documents of the opposition”, RSL, May 1942 pp.1-3, by Denzil Dean Harber, 3 pages, (2,138 words)
ON THE DOCUMENTS OF THE OPPOSITION
1. We have had within our ranks, ever since just before the last National Conference, a very vocal and dissatisfied opposition, consisting of a small group of comrades, most of whom were formerly members of the W.I.L. or else expelled members of our own group. These comrades, in speeches and conversations, have continually attacked the policy our organisation and its leadership, but have produced very few documents for the organisation to discuss. One written statement, “On the Military Policy” (signed, North London Group) appeared before our National Conference of last September. Considered as a reply to the C.C. statement on the same subject which was submitted to the same Confer-ence, this “North London” document must be regarded as totally inadequate, as it avoids all the real issues of the discussion. But the Conference, although it accepted the C.C. document, did not close the discussion. On the contrary, it was decided that this should continue for a further period, after which another National Conference should be called to take a final decision. This special national conference will meet in a very few weeks; discussion has continued, but we are still awaiting a fresh statement from the “North London” comrades on the Military Policy.
The history or this statement, which has not appeared is an interesting one. At a meeting of the E.C. held shortly after the National Conference, it was agreed that both sides should draw up documents for presentation to the C.C. JL was to draw up the opposition document, and DDH was to draw up that expressing the viewpoint of the majority. They met, and DDH's statement was presented, but theirs was no statement from JL. The C.C. was told that the opposition considered that their statement presented to the September National Conference was sufficient. But, during the discussion on the C.C. on the DDH statement, both members of the opposition present, JL and EL, agreed that they should and could draw up a statement in answer to it. JL, we must presume, started work on this counter-statement. But at the next meeting of the C.C. JL, instead of producing this counter-statement, announced his conversion to the viewpoint of the majority. And, we may note in passing, he might have stayed “converted”, had not the majority of the C.C. a little later incautiously entrusted to him the task of producing a document expressing their viewpoint. The next meeting of the C.C. found JL with no document, but with a verbal announcement that he had again changed his position and now supported the opposition once more! It appears that this comrade prefers changing his political position to setting it down on paper.
Since that time, some months have passed, and discussion has continued, but we still have no answer from the opposition to the statement on the Military Policy passed by the C.C. at its meeting shortly after the September National Conference. But we have now a short statement entitled ‘On production’, signed JL. Actually, a very casual inspection of the document is sufficient to reveal that the main author is W. Du.
We take it that this statement “On Production” is intended to justify the adoption by our movement of the slogan “workers’ control of production”, as a transitional slogan suitable to the present circumstances. Actually, the statement consists of two parts; the first and longest, gives a general, very general, outline of the present crisis of capitalism as a whole and of British capitalism in particular; it attempts to give, in other words, the objective conditions which face the workers and our movement today. The second part merely states that the slogan “workers’ control of production” has been put forward by certain sections of the working class and that it is the correct transitional slogan for us to put forward today.
This method of presentation is no doubt intended as a logical argument; the second part of the statement is, presumably, intended to flow from the first. Actually, of course, nothing of the sort follows. Cde. W. Du (JL) has mere1y succeeded in begging the question under discussion. Let us, for the moment, assume that his entire analysis of the present position of British capitalism is correct in every detail and see where this leads us.
He starts, “Imperialist War signifies a revolt of the forces of production against the existing social relationships, a revolt against capitalist private property, anarchy in production and the restrictive State frontiers”. And he finished what we have termed the first part of his statement, the general analysis, with the following conclusion, “If the crisis of production cannot be overcome by capitalist measures, if, despite all palliatives it must progressively deepen, then there can be no possible solution which serves the interest of both workers and capitalists. There can be no middle course. It is the revolutionary solution or none at all.”
But this is nothing more than a restatement of something that we knew long ago. In the “Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International” of 1938, we read, “The economic prerequisite for the proletarian revolution has already in general achieved the highest, point of fruition that can be reached under capitalism. Mankind’s productive forces stagnate …. The objective prerequisites for the proletarian revolution have not only “ripened”; they have begun to get somewhat rotten. Without a socialist revolution, in the next historical period at that,—a catastrophe threatens the whole culture of mankind.
In other words, the objective conditions of capitalism are, and have been for some time, ripe for the proletarian revolution. But does this mean that a revolutionary situation exists today and has existed for years, unnoticed by us? Cde W. Du (JL) can hardly maintain this. Then he must recognise that the objective conditions of capitalism are not the only factor he must take into consideration; he must also consider the subjective factor— the consciousness of the proletariat. In fact, he says himself, “The Fourth International, by its transitional demands must hasten the translation of these favorable objective circumstances into the consciousness of the revo1utionary class.” Quite so, Cmde W. Du (JL)—but, why in this case do you quit all analysis of the present status of working-class consciousness, why do you confine yourself to describing the objective circumstances? For, without analysing existing working-class consciousness, ????? it is impossible to determine what are the correct transitional demands for the present period . To quote once again from our Transitional Programme: “It is necessary to help the masses in the process of the daily struggle ” (our emphasis) to find the bridge between pre-sent demands and the socialist programme of the revolution. This bridge should include a system of transitional demands , stemming from today’s conditions and from today’s consciousness of wide layers of the working-class and unalterably leading, to one conclusion, the conquest of power by the proletariat”.
That is what the whole discussion in our organisation is about, the present consciousness of the masses and the transitional demands suited to it. It is taken for granted by everyone that the only solution to the crisis of capitalism is socialism. But it has been left to Cmde W. Du. (JL) to state this as a profound discovery and to “deduce” from it that the particular transitional demands which he favours, centring around workers’ control of production are “therefore” correct at the present time. One might equally well, “deduce” from the same premises that we should at once call for the seizure of power. Cde. W. Du (JL) has assumed the very thing that he had to prove, that the transitional slogan he advocates is the one which “stems from today’s conditions and from today’s consciousness of wide layers of the working class”.
Incidentally we would observe that it appears that Cde. W Du (JL) does not fall into the error of believing that every demand in the programme of transitional demands was immediately applicable from the day it was drawn up. He does not, for instance, suggest that we should now issue the slogan of soviets, which, as our programme puts it, “crowns the program of transitional demands” and “can arise only at the time when the mass movement enters into an openly revolutionary stage”, though why he does not do so upon the basis of his method of “analysis” it is difficult to see. But at the same time he utterly ignores as presumably too elementary to be worthy of his notice, those demands concerning wages and hours with which the transitional programme opens. Does the comrade seriously believe that the present level of working-class consciousness is already so high that these demands are out of date?
As Cmde Du W (JL) does not touch upon any of the real issues under discussion, we are relieved of the task of re-stating and defending our own position. This is clearly stated in the recent C.C. document on the subject and we refer comrades to this document.
But there are a few other points in the statement “On Production”, which need clarification.
(1) The Crisis of production: It is correct to say that “the specific weight of British industry is entirely incapable of balancing her world interests”. It is for this reason that British imperialism has been obliged to lean increasingly upon the. U.S.A. with its huge productive capacity and to become increasingly subordinate to it. In this sense, we may speak of a crisis of production particular to British Imperialism, that it cannot produce enough to defend its colonial plunder. But this crisis of production is of no concern to the British working class, or rather it is of concern only in as much as it weakens British Imperialism and facilitates its overthrow. But there is also a general crisis of production common to capitalism as a whole and of which the war is an expression—the forces of production have outgrown their capitalist framework. This crisis of production is of a different nature from that facing British Imperialism; it can hardly be argued that all imperialist countries have industries whose specific weights are incapable of balancing their world interests, for the war is being fought precisely in order to re-adjust the spheres of world interests of the respective imperialist powers to their industrial strengths. It is this general crisis of world capitalist production which manifests itself through the war, which concerns the workers,—for without its revolutionary solution, they are condemned to endless slaughter and misery. Thus demands for workers’ control of production, in order to increase production so as to help British Imperialism out of its impasse, are reactionary, while demands for workers’ control of production in order to safeguard their own conditions are progressive. It is not accidental that W. Du (JL) does not distinguish be the two different crises of production for he does not distinguish between the two different types of demand for workers’ control.
2) Cde W. Du (JL)’s examples of working-class demands for control of production. Three examples are given, presumably in order to attempt to prove that this is a demand which is obtaining widespread support. We would note in passing that we were well aware that such a demand is supported by certain advanced workers, and for class reasons. We of course, support such a demand and carry on propaganda for it, in the same way as we carry on propaganda for the seizure of power, which also finds support among certain advanced workers. But this does not mean that either of these demands is at present a transitional demand, i.e. one which will draw broad masses of workers into struggle now, before widespread and large-scale class-struggles on more elementary issues have developed, and while the class-truce continues to exist. Certain class-struggles have already taken place in the mining industry, and the whole past traditions of the workers in this industry tend to make the slogan of workers’ control more easily accepted among them than is the case with any other section of the working-class. It is probable that with the development of strike action over questions of hours, wages etc., the demand for workers’ control will rally mass support in the mining industry earlier than in any other. Meanwhile, we must today certainly carry on propaganda for it. The Shop Assistants’ Union can hardly be taken as typifying broad masses of industrial workers; in any case, its resolution goes no farther than the official policy of the Labour Party.
As for the movement in the London A.E.U., which calls for workers’ contro1, this has been initiated by certain political co-thinkers of Cde. W. Du (JL), i.e., the Socialist Workers Group. We wonder that the comrade did not quote the movement for workers control initiated by the W.I.L.!
3. “Report of Conversations with Comrade S of the IS”, RSL, July 1942, pp.1-3, by Denzil Dean Harber, 3 pages, (1,766 words)
Report of Conversations with Comrade S of the IS
As is probably generally known this comrade was available for a couple of weeks recently. He visited London on the 18th July 1942, and saw the W.I.L., certain members of the Right Wing and me. Hearing it rumoured that he would again be in London the following week-end, I wrote to JL demanding to meet him. As a result of this, we met, together with JL on the 26th July. As our conversations were sandwiched in between a meeting between him and the Right Wing and another between him and the W.I.L., and further, took place either in the street or in cafes, they were necessarily of a somewhat desultory nature.
All that I wish to do is to summarise the most important points dealt with:-
(i) Comrade S’s main pre-occupation with me was to attempt to persuade me of the importance of keeping the Right Wing in the organisation and of fusing with the W.I.L. We, naturally enough, in view of the limited time etc., did not attempt to discuss the basic political issues, e.g. A.M.P., Production, etc
(ii) On the subject of the W.I.L., he made it quite clear that the I.S. did not intend to recognise them as the British Section, in view of their whole past history. He considered their leaders and members valuable, but politically somewhat backward. He said that they are as much opposed to fusion as I am. He agreed that the W.I.L. is not run on the basis of democratic centralism.
I was informed later by JL and other members of the Right that the I.S. is willing to recognise the W.I.L. as “sympathetically affiliated”, if the W.I.L. agree to state this on the sub-title of their paper. I was not informed of this by S. I need hardly state that my own attitude towards fusion with the W.I.L., which should be too well-know to need restating, was in no way modified as a result of the discussions. No new arguments were put forward by S. in this connection.
(iii) S. stated that in the view of the I.S. the differences that the centre had with it, on the question of the A.M.P. etc., are fully compatible with the membership of the Fourth by the centre, and that the I.S. wishes to convince us of the correctness of the A.M.P. but would not coerce us into carrying it out while we remain unconvinced. While expressing my pleasure at this statement, I nevertheless made it clear, that in my opinion, the differences involved questions of fundamental principle. This was questioned by S. who obviously wished to take as conciliatory an attitude as possible.
(iv) S. also expressed the view that the great majority of the Left, if not all, would be retained in the Fourth. He did not, in my presence, characterise them as “crazy Oehlerites”, though, JL had informed me, this was his characterisation of them. On JL using the term in my presence, I made it clear that, though I sometimes thought of them a little crazy, I considered it quite incorrect to term them Oehlerites, but valuable comrades with whom we were in essential agreement on the main questions confronting our movement.
(v) Some discussion took place on the ILP tactic, in which S. revealed an ignorance both of the issues involved and of the past history of the movement which surprised and alarmed me. As he had read none of our documents, no fruitful discussion was possible under the circumstances.
(vi) S. had not read the last I.S. letter to us, nor did he seem to have read any of our documents, though he could have obtained them, while he was here, had he wished.
(vii) The Right Wing (which, incidentally, S. has re-christened the “Fourth Internationalist Fraction”, being no doubt perturbed that the political naivety of these comrades allowed them to accept without question the title of ‘Right Wing’ (!)—though I informed him that for us they would remain the Right Wing until he could supply them with some new arguments as well as a new name); in my initial discussions, I made it plain that I stood for the elimination of the Right Wing on the grounds that adequate discussion has taken place and that now the time has come for turning our attention outwards instead of inwards—an impossibility so long as the Right continue to direct all their energies inwards. He asked me whether I would be in favour of his expulsion if he were to transfer from the US to the British section and become a member of the Right. I replied in the affirmative, which did not seem to please him.
Later, I pointed out that I had not taken part in a last minute attempt to save the situation, when, together with JEG and W. Du, I had suggested a six months’ truce, and that, as I had anticipated, the right had rejected this proposal and had instead circulated the ell-known letter calling upon members to break discipline. Only after this, I stated, had I decided to do all in my power to remove the Right from the organisation.
An interesting discussion then took place, in which the following facts were revealed:-
(a) That JEG had acted with the utmost weakness and dishonesty instead of doing as he had promised and presenting the Right with a written statement on the proposed truce (which, incidentally, was his own idea), he had given a much garbled verbal presentation, which was at once rejected by the Right. He had then completely withdrawn from his position, and told them that the idea was mine and not his. At least, so JL informed us.
(b) That S. was wholeheartedly in favour of the proposed truce.
(c) I therefore proceeded to outline roughly the basis on which I would support it.
1. No National Conference to he held for a specified period—e.g. six months.
2. During this period all comrades to pledge themselves to observe and carry out the decisions of the last conference.
3. No expulsions during this period except for violation of this last clause.
4. Our practical work to proceed on the basis of the conference decisions, plus certain other slogans generally agreed by all three fractions e.g. expropriation of the mines by a Labour government and their operation under the control of Pit Committees
formation of workers’ defence corps at the factories as a defence against strike-breakers.
5. During this period, internal discussions should not cease, but should take a secondary place.
6. A National Conference should be held at the end of the period to sum up the results attained and to ascertain how they had affected the political standpoints of the three fractions.
So far as the question of the W.I.L. was concerned, I stated that I considered the attainment of internal unity amongst ourselves to be an essential prerequisite for any unity with the W.I.L. With this S. agreed. Discussions could go on with the W.I.L., meanwhile, upon the basis of the conference resolution. Further, as a gesture of conciliation, I agreed, that, if all the above were accepted by the Right, I would, personally, be prepared to support the inclusion of a clause giving them permission to be silent in the discussions with the W.I.L. While S. thought the whole idea excellent, and JL gave it a somewhat grudging assent (stating that, though he supported it at that moment, he might well change his mind very soon), I made it clear that, in the first place, I would only support such a scheme if it were agreed upon not only by the Right but by the Left—I said I was not prepared to support any agreement excluding the Left. Secondly, I said that I did not believe that the Right would accept it, or operate it if they did accept it. I put it forward as a last chance for the Right to stay in the organisation.
Later having parted from S., I went to Trafalgar Square with JL in search of the Right. I met most of them there. Though JL had assured me that they would be selling the “Militant” I found that this was not the case. They deliberately abstained from selling because the headline was “too provocative” and they feared physical assault by the Stalinists. (W.I.L. members were selling their paper.) Later, I outlined the above proposals to them, pointing out that they had international sanction! (a fact which, though confirmed by JL, did not appear to impress then greatly in this instance.) A few questions were asked and answered, and I left them to thrash the matter out among themselves. As JL aptly puts it, so far as practical activity is concerned, the proposals merely outline the activity that faces the right wing in any case if it stays inside the organisation. Acceptance would merely mean that it carried out such activity willingly and not under duress.
Up to today, 7th August, I have heard nothing from them.
(viii) GENERAL REMARKS. It is interesting and perturbing to note that the only people S. made any effort to meet were W.I.L. and the Right Wing—MJ is the only exception, and he hoped to convert her. I only saw him as a result f contact through the Right, and, as far as I know, no member of the Left saw him at all.
As a general result of my conversations, I was more than ever left with my previous conviction that the I.S. desires to solve the questions in dispute not so much by political discussion as by organisational means. (It is significant that S. was unwilling to commit the I.S. enter into a thorough political discussion with us.) The I.S. seeks, in my opinion, to push us into a fusion with the W.I.L., which they know would automatically give the supporters of the A.M.P. a majority. Such a tactic is typical of Cannonism, and is to be expected from a Cannon controlled I.S. Meanwhile, they are endeavouring at all costs to keep the Right Wing (much against the will of most of its members) inside the R.S.L,, as a lever with which to push us towards the W.I.L. Their relations with that body are, fortunately for us, hampered by the decisions of the Fourth, taken at the Founding Conference, and hence their attitude towards that body has proved disappointing both to it and to our own Right Wing.
Endorsed for circulation by E.C.8.8.42
4. “On Infallibility Based on Dishonesty – JLR and Democratic Centralism”, RSL, Jan-March 1943, pp.1-7, by Denzil Dean Harber, 3 pages, (6,147 words).
On Infallibility Based on Dishonesty—JLR and Democratic Centralism
Another number of the publication mis-called the “Leninist” has just revealed some more of JLR’s wisdom to an astonished world. Contained in it is an article entitled “Democratic Centralism - a Reply to the CC”, unsigned but without doubt issuing from the hand of the master himself. Before dealing with it, there are a few mis-statements from the “Left” which it is as well to dispose of. It is not true that TM informed the CC of the existence of this article before the resolution suspending the “Left” had been passed. He merely mentioned it during the brief interval which passed between the suspension of himself and fraction and his withdrawal from the meeting. It would even appear that he deliberately refrained from mentioning it before the suspension resolution was passed, so that the majority of the CC should pass a resolution which stated that no defence of the “Left” position on fusion had appeared, whereas he, TM, know that such a defence would be issued shortly. Not that this latter fact makes any essential difference to the content of the CC resolution of suspension. It is also untrue that ELD, SSG, and DDH were informed after the meeting when they were at TM’s place that JLR’s reply to the CC was already duplicated and could be obtained by them. On the contrary, they were all left with the impression that the document in question had not yet been run off from the stencils. However, before the evening had passed, one of three comrades in question had noticed the loose sheets containing the reply of JLR and had possessed himself of a copy. This was duly read by the three comrades in the train and helped to relieve the monotony of the return journey. All of which one hopes, will indicate to the “Left” that those comrades were quite prepared to treat works of “the Lenin of Britain” with due respect.
Now to the “Reply” itself. But before we; can get down to the essence of the question, there are, as is customary in the writings of JLR, a few preliminary mis-statements and falsifications which have to be refuted.
a) The CC meeting or 15.2.42 at which, says JLR, an attempt was made (happily frustrated by himself) by members of the CC to change policy adopted at the preceding national conference. It is quite true, that at the meeting in question, JLR, by one of those acts of sabotage or so typical of his “work” on the CC, created a deadlock by refusing to vote for a resolution which he had drawn up himself and the basis of which he had already voted for at the preceding CC. It is also quite true that he motivated his refusal to vote by stating that the resolution in question would mean a reversal of the decision of the last conference. It may even be true that no one at the time contradicted this statement - by that time the members of the CC had become a little dazed by JLR’s behaviour, and in any case, they had learned already the folly of wasting time endeavouring to convince JLR of the incorrectness of any statement which he felt inspired to make. But in actual fact, of course, there was no resolution passed by the l941 conference to which JLR’s document, presented to the CC of 14.11.42 could possibly be taken to be in conflict. This fact can easily be confirmed by reading the Report of the Decisions of the 1941 Conference.
b) JLR, with the phraseology so typical of him, accuses the CC of “dishonesty and bureaucratic manoeuvring” because, he writes, we and the Right Wing ruled out of order the “Left” resolution on fusion, “because it dealt with Democratic Centralism, which was not on the agenda”. Whereas now, in their paper for the forthcoming conference, we ourselves include the question of fusion in that of Democratic Centralism. Here we have a typical JLR falsification, which will at once be obvious to any non-member of the “Left” who attended the last conference, but which, we fear, no amount of explanation will ever make understandable to any loyal follower of JLR. However, we will try. The simple truth is of course, is that the “Left” resolution was ruled out of order because it attempted to smuggle in a matter which was not in order to discuss at that special conference … the question of the powers of the CC . It was obviously quite in order to discuss fusion in relation to democratic centralism, but only insofar as aspects of this latter were dealt with which bore any relation to fusion. The question of the powers of the CC had nothing whatever to do with the question of fusion.
Let us now, having disposed of JLR’s two preliminary falsifications, deal with the issues raised by him in his document. The first and most important is the attitude adopted by JLR towards fusion. Perhaps the easiest way to expose the utter dishonesty of JLR’s attitude is by showing how this issue first arose. The facts are indisputable and known to all. Some time ago pressure was put upon the RSL by the IS to open fusion negotiations with the W.I.L. The I.S. was, in fact, acting according to the right given it in the statutes of the Fourth International, ie. “fusion between an organisation developing towards the Fourth International and a national section may be arranged by the International Secretariat and submitted to the decision of the International Executive Committee”. Now before this, since the recognition of the RSL as the British Section, we had offered fusion negotiations to the WIL and these had been rejected by the latter. A notable example was our offer of fusion to the W.I.L. in the spring of 1939, when we offered, among other things immediate fusion between the R.S.L. and the W.I.L., both bodies to have equal representation on the leadership of the fused organisation. This offer was made in the presence of Comrade Phelan of the American Section. At the time no opposition to our proposals on “principled grounds” was made by JLR or anyone else in our organisation. But, in the Winter of 1941, when pressure for fusion began to come from the I.S., the majority of the CC. were opposed to the opening of such fusion negotiations. Most of the comrades concerned motivated their opposition by the fact that, in their opinion, the W.I.L. instead of moving towards us was moving away and developing increasingly centrist tendencies. Thus the opposition of those comrades was based on purely tactical grounds. Had they considered the circumstances favourable they would have supported fusion negotiations as they had done in the past. JLR who was also on the CC was likewise in opposition to fusion negotiations with the W.I.L. As he did not then embody his attitude in a document, it cannot be defined by us with complete accuracy, but he certainly did not express on the C.C. any principled opposition to fusion as such.
Such a “principled” attitude towards fusion was only expressed by JLR and his followers on the eve of the 1942 Special Conference in a resolution which stated that “the recognition of the possibility of fusion implies the existence of an organ-isation of parallel status to the Revolutionary Party - but the existence or a recogn-ised section precludes the possibility of such. Hence fusion constitutes a denial of the organisational principle of Leninism that there can be only one revolutionary party”. The practical expression so far as the W.I.L. was concerned was stated thus, “that any of its members (i.e. the W.I.L.’s) desirous of building the Fourth Inter-national must apply as individuals for membership of the R.S.L. - B.S.F.I.” Further the CC majority was attacked as follows: “Fusion with the W.I.L. constitutes the culmination of a long period of departure from the principles of Leninism …. Its (the CC’s) excuses for not fusing with the W.I.L. are entirely irrelevant and reflect the fundamentally anti-Bolshevik position of the CC. They aim to give the impression that were it not for their differences there would exist a basis for fusion. The question of fusion is entirely independent of the two organisations, and were there no difference, there would still be no grounds for fusion”.
It should be obvious that if the position of the CC majority, who opposed fusion with the W.I.L. on the grounds of growing political differences, was “fundamentally anti-Bolshevik”, then the position of the IS. who urged such fusion was equally so, in the eyes of JLR and Co. With customary dishonesty, however, the “left” made no mention of the attitude of the I.S. on this question in their documents. But when, in the presence of the Leeds group, DDH asked Wdi whether the “left” characterisation of the CC’s attitude on fusion did not also apply to that of the I.S., he replied without hesitation that such was the case.
Thus JLR and Co were accusing the I.S. of adopting a “fundamentally anti-Bolshevik position” for attempting to use the powers given them in the statutes of the Fourth International! And likewise, JLR was accusing the CC majority of the same offence, for not rejecting the action of the I.S. on principled grounds!! At the 1942 Confer-ence the entire “left” fraction voted against the opening of fusion negotiations with the W.I.L. on the “principled” grounds outlined above, in other words, by this vote the whole “left” fraction was, in practice, breaking the discipline of the Fourth International, for it was voting against the practical operation of one of the Statutes of the Fourth International, which its “principled” position forced it to reject. It could have preserved the discipline of the international by stating that it was oppos-ed to the statute in question and would fight for its reversal, but that meanwhile it could not vote against the practical application of the statute, on such grounds, as expressed in the proposal for fusion negotiations, because, under the existing statutes, such a proposal was quite in order. It should be noted that certain members of the “Centre” likewise voted against the opening of fusion negotiations at the conference in question, but did so purely on the tactical grounds already given. Thus they in no way broke the discipline of the International by their vote - it should be noted that only proposals, not instructions, had come from the I.S. Their vote can in no way be taken as practical opposition to the clause of the Statutes under which the I.S. made its proposals, for they made it quite clear that had the political differences with the WIL been less, they would have supported fusion.
It is quite possible that at the 1942 Conference, the members of the “Left” were unaware of the Statute in question and were thus unaware that they were violating international discipline by their vote. Certainly the members of the Centre, although they realised that the “Left” had adopted a fundamentally incorrect attitude on fusion, were not then aware that a contrary attitude had been specifically stated in the Statutes of the Fourth. For this oversight they crave the indulgence of the membership (which, incidentally, seems to have been guilty of a similar oversight) and of the I.S.. But they were not long in becoming aware of the real position and in the CC statement on Democratic Centralism adopted on l4.11.42 they quote the statute in question, expose the political attitude of the “Left” and request them to admit their mistake. Instead of this, however, the “Left”, after the issue of the CC document, put forward for the forthcoming conference a resolution on the subject of fusion substantially the same as that submitted by them to the pre-ceding conference, i.e. calling upon conference to reject the fusion negotiations proposed by the I.S. on principled grounds.
Thus, by re-issuing this resolution, the “Left” have deliberately and consciously violated the Statutes of the Fourth. They are urging the RSL to disregard the Statute of the Fourth concerning fusion. This is the justification for the suspension and expulsion of the “Left” carried out by the CC.
Let us now examine the defence of JLR to the CC document on Democratic Centralism. We must state, to begin with, that we did not expect JLR to admit his mistake. JLR has never been known to admit a political mistake. He claims infallibility except on minor questions of inner group tactics. In order to maintain this claim, in the face of obvious errors, he has recourse to dishonesty. He attempts to conceal and twist his original attitude; he tries to confuse the issue; he strives to erect a smoke-screen of meaningless phraseology; he makes slanderous attacks upon his opponents By these methods he strives to impress and deceive his unfortunate disciples and may even succeeded in hiding his mistakes from himself.
We are not in the habit of making charges of this kind without justifying them. Here are the proofs of JLR’s dishonesty in his statement on Democratic Centralism: JLR has been unfortunate enough to state, before the 1942 Conference, that fusion between section of the Fourth and an organisation outside the Fourth such a the W.I.L. constitutes a denial of the organisational principles of Leninism. But JLR learns, to his undoubted horror, that such a fusion is recognised as permissable by the Statutes of the Fourth International. What is the unfortunate JLR to do? For he has made a mistake and though ordinary mortals like ourselves can and do admit our mistakes, JLR cannot admit his, for to do so would be to destroy his carefully built up prestige both in the eyes of his followers and of himself. But all is not lost! perhaps JLR can use the same defence as he used to cover up his “sole enemy” -blunder - perhaps he can so twist and distort the issue, that it will appear that he is really in complete agreement with the Fourth on the subject of fusion?
JLR quotes a passage from the CC document on Democratic Centralism which is concerned with fusion between a section of the Fourth and a centrist body evolving towards us, and which runs as follows: “If, as a result of these discussions, we convince the majority (or possibly even the whole) of the centrist organisation of the correctness of our line, we would naturally fuse with it. “Of course such fusion with the consent of the appropriate organ of the international ”.—JLR points out (quite correctly) that the passage underlined was added to the original draft at the CC meeting, and adds triumphantly, “Seemingly he (DDH) also now considers that such centrist bodies must liquidate and their members join the Fourth individually, it he does not, we do not know what he means. As we see it, he now intends to offer a fusion that it no fusion, only he intends to call it fusion so as not to offend the centrists. Then, once their confidence in us has been established we will them that what we mean by fusion is that they liquidate into the F.I. Because to hand the final arrangements over to the parent body of one of the parties to the negotiations is the equivalent of liquidation by the other. Let us hasten to note here, before we go any further, a most valuable admission on the part of JLR—he unambiguously states that “liquidation into the FI” by a centrist body “is no fusion”. A little later, we shall have occas-ion to use this admission of JLR’s. Meanwhile, let us examine the truly remarkable “reasoning” contained in this passage. According to JLR, if as a result of discuss-ions between a section of the Fourth and a centrist body, agreement is reached to fuse the two organisations, and the section of the Fourth then asks the consent of the leading organs of the Fourth for it to be allowed to carry out such fusion, this latter stop signifies the “handing over of the final arrangements” to the Fourth International. And this, in turn, signifies, “the liquidation” of the centrist body. But how can this be so? Asking the consent of the Fourth can in no sense mean, “handing over the final arrangements” to the Fourth, in the sense that the latter dictates the terms of fusion to the centrist body. For the centrist body has already freely agreed on terms of fusion, and should the F.I. wish to modify these terms, the centrist body is at full liberty to withdraw from the fusion if it wishes. The bringing-in of the leading bodies of the F.I. into the discussion in no way destroys the independence of the centrist body, national though it may be. And even if the centrist body were to agree “to hand over the final arrangements” for fusion to the Fourth International, why should this mean “liquidation into the FI.” on the part of the centrist body? It would only mean this if the F.I. stated that the centrist body must be liquidated and its members apply to join the section as individuals, in other words, if the F.I. did not agree to fusion at all!
And after thus displaying his own confusion, JLR has the audacity to state “that DDH is not at all clear as to what he means is of course obvious(!)”.
JLR goes on, “The discussion last June showed clearly that what the Right Wing and the Centre meant by fusion what we, the Left, took them to mean. Namely that, if agreement with the W.I.L. or any other centrist body on a future occasion, were reached, then both organisations, the BSFI and the centrist body, would liquidate into the new body, which would then become the B.S.F.I. In other words, two bodies of equal status will meet, discuss and decide eventually whether to fuse or not, and whether the now body will take a new name, will retain one of the old names, the R.S.L. or the W.IL.; the com-position of the C.C or whether a conference of the organisation will decide on all such questions …. We, the Left, threw a bomb into the discussion, by our principled objections. That bomb has already had the effect of forcing Cde. DDH to agree that the final arrangements of the fusion will be the business of the I.E.C. of the F.I., not of the two national bodies as originally intended.” It would be hard to find a passage of more flagrant and deliberate dishonesty than this. JLR pretends to be unaware that the whole question of fusion with the W.I.L. arose at the last conference as a result of the request of the I.S .! Thus there could never have been any question of the final arrangements for fusion being confined to the two national bodies, as JLR says was intended. (by whom, JLR?) Apart from this deliberate omission the remarks of JLR with regard to the way in which members of the Right Wing and centre considered that fusion could take place are substantially correct, i.e. that both bodies, R.S.L. and W.I.L, would “liquidate” into a new body which would become the B.S F.I. But what were the “principled objections” of the “left”? This had nothing to do with the “final arrangements for the fusion being the business of the I.E.C. of the F.I”. They consisted of a rejection of fusion and in a demand that “any of its (the W.I.L.’s) members desirous of building the Fourth International must apply as individuals for membership of the R.S.L. B.S.F.I.”!_ The whole question of fusion having to be first approved by the International has been dragged in subsequently by JLR, in an attempt to cover up his mistake by confusing the issue.
How does JLR justify his position in the light of the passage in the Statutes of the Fourth International? “This quotation, states JLR, “except for the use of the word fusion, bears out the contention of the “Left, not the “centre”. But unfortunately for JLR, it is just this word “fusion” which expresses the whole difference between himself on the one hand and ourselves and the I.S. on the other. So far as we are aware “fusion” can only have one significance and it is precisely because of this significance that JLR rejects it as a “denial of the national principles of Leninism”, in his resolution for this conference and for the last. The fact that the statute uses the term is a conclusive proof that JLR’s attitude amounts to direct opposition to the statute. But is JLR honest enough to admit this? Naturally not: “It was what was meant by fusion”, he declares, with almost childlike faith in his own powers of deception, “with the W.I.L., that we took exception to last June, and still do, not to the word itself”. In other words, JLR does not object to the word, only to its significance!! And in order to reconcile his position with that of the statutes of the F.I., JLR proposes a simple solution. “However,” he continues, “as the use of the term has led to such a confusion on the part of members of the B.S.F.I.” (so far as we are aware, the only confusion existing is that which JLR himself is doing his best to sow in his present statements) …. it would be better if we dropped the term, and used the term ‘unity’, or some other word that more exactly expresses our meaning”(!!) In other words, JLR proposes that the term fusion, which cannot possibly be interpreted in the way in which he would like it to be interpreted, be replaced by another term, unity, which can be so interpreted! By re-writing, on his own authority and before our very eyes the statutes of the Fourth International, he hopes to be able to conceal his opposition to them.
To make matters plain to even the most ignorant member of the “Left”, even at the risk, of other comrades, let us repeat:-
i ) that fusion has always been taken to mean the organisational merging of two or more bodies to form a new entity, i.e. concretely that the name of the new body is decided by the fusing bodies and that the various governing organs of the new body are constituted according to the terms agreed upon by the parties to the fusion.
ii) That no one has ever suggested in our movement that such fusion between a National section and an outside body should take place without the agreement of the International, in particular, in the present instance of the proposed fusion with the W.I.L., it was im-possible that anyone should take that attitude because the fusion in question has been sponsored from the outset by the International.
iii) That the meaning of fusion given in (i) above has been recognised by JLR and the “Left” in their resolution to the last conference and to the forthcoming one, and is rejected by them precisely on the grounds of such an interpretation. Even in his present document he states that, “liquidation into the FI”, “their members joining indivi-dually” “is no fusion”. It is this, “their members joining individually” which JLR supports and he admits that this is not fusion.
iv) That twist and wriggle as he may, with all the dishonesty so characteristic of him, JLR cannot reconcile this position with that clearly stated in the statute of the Fourth which gives the I.S. power to arrange fusion.
JLR continues his argument with an attempt to pile confusion upon confusion. He supposes a case in which negotiations have taken place between a section and a centrist body, without the participation of the I.S., and goes on; “When agreement was reached at the negotiations the I.S. would report to the I.E.C., either that the centrists had liquidated their organisation and joined the F.I. or, if some unforeseeable difficulty had arisen preventing such a course being followed, (unforeseeable by the writer, - sic) yet the membership of the ex-centrists was considered desirable, the I.E.C. could reduce the section to the status of a sympathetic body(!) recognising the other organisation as a sympathetic body also, and then fuse them, subject to the ratification of the next congress of the International”. Perhaps JLR could gave us some reason for the reduction of the section “to the status of a sympathetic body”? Some reason that is, other than a projection of his own, formalistic dishonesty upon our International. Wherein in the statutes does he find the faintest justification for such an interpretation? If the I.E:C. were to act such a manner, how could it hope to escape being charged by JLR with attempting to cover up what he considers a “denial of the organisational principles of Leninism” by means of a dishonest evasion worthy of JLR himself?
And, to cap it all, JLR goes on to state that, “it is not clear what is exactly meant by the quotation” (ie. the passage already quoted from the statutes of the Fourth!) Do we really have to inform JLR that the quotation means exactly what it says, i,e. that fusion between an organisation developing towards the Fourth International and a national section (not a national section reduced to the status of a sympathetic body, JLR) may be arranged by the International. Secretariat and submitted to the decision of the International Executive Committee, and that the only reason why he pretends to find it “not clear” is because he hasn’t the guts to admit that he has made a mistake?
JLR’s attitude on fusion is an example of a typical ultra left mistake. It finds a close parallel with the attitude adopted by the C.I. in its Third Period towards the United Front. JLR, in some passages in his document, pretends that he is not opposed to fusion; he merely “interprets” it as meaning the liquidation of the centrist organisation, and the application of its members as individuals to the revolutionary organisation. Thus the C.I. was not opposed to the United Front; it merely “interpreted” it as meaning the united front of the members of the reformist party as individuals with the C.P. JLR howls with horror at the suggestion that the section of the F.I. should fuse with the ex-centrist body, organisation with organisation. So the C.I. howled with equal horror at the suggestion that it should have a united front, organisation to organisation with Socia1-Democracy. The C.I. called the Bolshevik-Leninists, who advocated a correct policy, “Left Social-Fascists”; JLR calls us … “National Socialists”.
In the CO paper on Democratic Centralism we challenged JLR to quote us any authority in the past history of our movement for the attitude which he adopts on this question of fusion. In reply, JLR states that he has been unable to discover a case which was shown to W. Di by PJB (not DDH, as, JLR suggests) and which proves that the C.I. acted in relat-ion to the Belgian section in a manner utterly contrary to the attitude of JLR (in 1921). We suggest that JLR did not find this case because he did not want to find it. He pretends to believer however, that he has discovered a case in Italy which bears out his point of view Fortunately, by a pure accident, we are in possession of the relevant material an this subject, and are thus able to expose JLR’s dishonesty in this instance also.
It is obvious even from JLR’s own quotations that Bordiga in his article in the Communist Review of November 1922 did not adopt JLR’s line. For Bordiga starts off with the words, “It is the case here of a practical question with which our party is confronted”. For JLR it is a question of principle ”. There is only one body”, says Bordiga, “competent to solve this question - the Congress of the C.P. of Italy”—once again an attitude opposed to JLR’s. Bordiga then described as “ludicrous” a proposal that the C.P. of Italy should dissolve and return to the Italian Socialist Party, in just the same way as we should describe as ludicrous a proposal that the R.S.L. should dissolve and its members join the W.I.L. as individuals (inverted JLRism). And after all this which does not help JLR’s case in the least degree, we come to the passage which he quotes with such high praise (it “might have been written by JLR” – sic!) “For the present moment we will not discuss the admissibility of fusion which would bring with it a complete change in the party organism”. But why, JLR, will not Bordiga “for the present moment” discuss the “admissibility of fusion” - is it because he is opposed to it on grounds of principle, like yourself? - or, is it because, as he has just stated a few 1ines before, fusion (“the structure of the party and perhaps also its name”) is to “stand upon the agenda” of the forthcoming congress of the C.P. of Italy? It is in view of this fact that Bordiga does not “for the present moment” discuss “the admissibility of fusion”, but professes to devote the rest of his article to a political criticism of the Maximalists (the other party to the possible fusion). But even divorced from its context, the sentence so highly praised by JLR might have been written not only by him but by any one of us—for anyone might have stated in a document devoted mainly to a political criticism, that “for the present moment, we will not discuss, etc. etc.”
But there is more to it than this. For a few lines later on comes a passage that JLR most carefully does not quote, in which Bordiga states that the question has been and will be discussed by the C.I. itself and that “it goes without saying that no Italian Communist would take up an attitude of opposition towards the proposals of the International regarding this question .” It is precisely such opposition, and, on grounds of principle) towards the proposals of our International on the part of JLR that is the basis of our whole polemic with him.
Thus JLR has been quite unable to bring an historical example in support of his unique viewpoint on fusion.
To conclude this question, let us make just a few remarks on the question of the “status” of a section of the. Fourth as compared with the “status” of a national centrist or ex-centrist body. What we still deny, is that even if a centrist body does arrive at a revolutionary point of view, its status is not equal to that of the F.I. states JLR. (We assume that the word “not” is included in error here) what exactly does JLR mean? Does he merely wish to state that there is a fundamental difference between an international body and a national one? Let him consider this difference to be as “fundamental” as he wishes, but let him at the same time explain how this difference prevents the following process from taking place:-
(1) discussions taking place between the national section and the exclusively national body with the participation of the International leadership of the section.
(ii) political unity being attained as a result of these discussions.
(iii) the national section and the national ex-centrist body agreeing to fuse their organ1sations with the consent of the international leadership of the national section.
(iv) out of this fusion coming the emergence of a new national section, with perhaps a different name and a new leadership, both national and local, drawn from both the old section and the ex-centrist body.
As a result of this process, the ex-centrist body will have fused, not only with the national section but also with the International. It will have fused on terms of organisational equality with the section. It may even have got a member or members on the leadership of the International. This is what we mean by fusion, This is what the Fourth International means by it. But, JLR insists that the ex-centrist body should dissolve and its members apply for membership of the section as individuals! And he asks why we term this ultimatism! In the same way, the C.I. in its Third Period could not understand why we termed the ‘United Front from Below’ ultimatism. JLR’s attitude is ultimatist because although we may be able to convince the centrist body of the correctness of our principles, they are not thereby convinced that the leadership of our national section is better than their own leadership, and quite naturally, they will demand that organisational unity should be accompanied by a joint leadership, drawn from both organisations. A leadership can only earn the confidence of the rank and file by close contact over a prolonged period. In the necessary absence of such close con-tact between the leadership of the section and the members of the ex-centrist body there is no reason whatever why the latter should be prepared to accept the former. To demand that they should do so is typical ultimatism.
Just a few words on the other question dealt with by JLR, that of minorities and representation on the C.C. JLR now states that, “We don’t disagree that minorities should be allowed representation on the C.C. We never said that the C.C. should at all times be homogeneous. It would be absurd to do so”. This is a blatant lie. Until confronted by the quotation from the Third Congress of. the C.I., JLR and Co. maintained that if they obtained a majority at a National Conference, only they the “Left” would be elected to the C.C. TM stated this on several occasions to the members of the C.C. since the last conference. Moreover the fact that the members of the “Left” at the last conference at first wished to abstain from voting at all, and then voted exclusively for their own members for the C.C. is clear proof of this. As usual JLR is now trying to withdraw from an untenable position without admitting his mistake. And, in order to be able to conduct this difficult manoeuvre he is “rewriting” his original position.
In a resolution submitted by the “Left” for the forthcoming conference, we read that the quotation from the Third Congress “specifically limits the matter to ‘divergent tactical opinions’, incidentally thereby implying that principled differences are not to be considered in this light”. This is yet another dishonest distortion—for the quotation refers to “differences of opinion regarding tactics …. if they are of a serious nature .” (our emphasis) It is obvious that such a serious difference on tactics may easily have behind it a “principled difference” for in our organisation most of our “principled differences” have arisen out of the way in which principles are interpreted in action, i.e. precisely over questions of tactics.
It is true that the Third Congress resolution makes no mention of minorities being compelled to serve on the C.C and this for a very good reason. It has always been understood in our movement that for a minority to disclaim all responsibility for the organisation, by refusing to serve on its leadership is the sign of a minority being about to split from the organisation. Let JLR find us some historical examples where a minority refused election at a party congress without this being the prelude to a split. The only example they have given, that of Martov at the Second Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. establishes our point—Martov’s refusal to serve was the prelude to his “disloyalty with regard to the Congress decisions”.
We have, we believe, now sufficiently exposed the dishonesty of JLR with regard to his position on Democratic Centralism. Had we been able to confine this exposure to shorter limits, we would have added to it an exposure of the similar dis-honest defence put up by JLR on the question of the “sole enemy” in the April “Leninist”.(1942) However, we intend writing a separate statement on this issue also, when time allows, in order that no instance of JLR’s dishonesty remains unchallenged. We hope that JLR, despite his expu1sion from the R.S.L., will reply to the present document. He may be confident that his reply will be circulated amongst our membership. We do not believe that JLR himself will ever again be a member of the Fourth—except in the unlikely event of the treatment at the hands of a psychologist which he is known to have been receiving bearing unexpected fruits. But he has under his influence young comrades whom we hope to see again in our ranks. It is for them that this statement is written.
written on 31.1.43
received and duplicated 2.2.43
Last updated: 5 March 2009