Coletivo Lenin/Brazil breaks relations with the International Bolshevik Tendency
Coletivo Lenin/Brazil breaks relations with the International Bolshevik Tendency
With the following statement, the Coletivo Lenin/Brazil publically breaks off relations with the International Bolshevik Tendency (IBT) and establishes fraternal relations with Revolutionary Regroupment, an IBT split from 2008.
I – The origins of our contact with the IBT
The Coletivo Comunista Internacionalista – CCI (forerunner of the Coletivo Lenin) was set up in October 2006 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. We were a Trotskyist group of a few militants who were sure of one thing: we could never remain a national organization. For Trotskyists, it is necessary that a revolutionary organization to belong to a world party or strive to build one. We therefore, from the very beginning, we made a serious attempt to study the different political currents which claimed the legacy of Trotskyism. We conducted research into 27 organizations that had their origins in the Fourth International, studying their documents on the internet having meetings with those organizations that had sections in Brazil. We looked to join an organization whose political understanding was closest to our own. At that time our three main criteria were:
1) That the current considered the destruction of USSR and the deformed workers’ states in East Europe as counterrevolutionary defeats. That consequently, it would have been necessary to have temporarily entered into military blocs with those sections of the Stalinist bureaucracy opposed to capitalist restoration whenever they showed any resistance.
2) That the current should recognize the politically strategic importance of fighting against all forms of special oppression (such as sexism, racism and homophobia) for a successful socialist revolution. That the current therefore prioritize recruiting workers who suffer those forms of oppression, who are also usually the most exploited workers under capitalism.
3) That the current should reject the notion that the productive forces had ceased developing in the imperialist epoch, since only through such a rejection was it possible to make a coherent analysis of contemporary capitalism.
We discovered that those currents which traced their political origins to the early Spartacist League/USA (SL/USA) most closely fit that criterion. They were the Spartacist League (and its international co-thinkers in the International Communist League) itself and two splits – the International Bolshevik Tendency (IBT) and the Internationalist Group (IG). In the course of studying their documents, the issues they were arguing over appeared small, but they were also over many questions and issues that were completely new to us.
We learned that the SL had taken up a variety of strange positions by the end of the 1970’s. In 1979, while correctly siding with the Soviet Army against CIA backed Islamic fundamentalists, their response to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan was to also raise the uncritical slogan “Hail Red Army!” Similar pro-Stalinist adaptations followed, such as organizing a contingent at a protest named the “Yuri Andropov Brigade” after the leader of the USSR at the time, and responding to criticisms by then printing a poem in his honor on the front page of their newspaper following his death. Adaptations to US national chauvinist pressures were also expressed such as the 1983 failure to militarily side with forces in Lebanon struggling to drive out the US Marines occupying their country. When a bomb then exploded at the Marine barracks the SL raised the call “Marines Out of Lebanon, Now, Alive.” These criticisms were raised by the IBT. A criticism raised by both of the split groups was the bureaucratic organizational degeneration the SL had gone through by that point. The SL was transformed into an organization with little internal life; the leadership was in the hands of a bureaucratic clique which suppressed its internal critics and stifled debates through threats, intimidation and repression. Through such methods all critics were effectively driven out or, when that failed, expelled.
That was why we were repulsed by the SL and felt closer to the IG and IBT from the very start. At this point we established discussions with both groups with the objective of studying the degeneration of the Spartacist League, whose earlier politics we were in close agreement with and believed (and still believe) provided an important programmatic foundation for rebuilding a revolutionary Fourth International.
We engaged in personal meetings and online chats with Bill Logan and a few other IBT members and had personal meetings with the Liga Quarta-Internacionalista do Brasil (LQB), the IG’s Brazilian comrades in the League for the Fourth International. We also had some personal meetings with IG’s main international leader, Jan Norden. After a period, we realized that the IBT’s analysis of the SL’s degeneration was more coherent than the IG’s. For example, the IBT argued that the SL’s deliberate destructions of their trade union caucuses in early 80’s was a clear demonstration that the organization’s leaders main priority was keeping the ranks under tight control rather than building a base in the working class. The IG on the other hand argued the SL’s degeneration only began from the point they were pushed out in 1996. The very similar organizational measures through which several future members of IBT were driven out or expelled in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s were ignored, denied or defended in their analysis. The IG also defended all the SL’s positions (including the mentioned positions on Afghanistan, Yuri Andropov and Lebanon) before the period of their expulsion as well.
One question that the IG sought to use against the IBT was the scandal surrounding Bill Logan. Bill Logan (who had been a prominent leader of the Spartacists in New Zealand and Australia during the 1970’s) was expelled from the International Spartacist Tendency on grounds of being a “sexual psychopath” who suppressed his internal critics and psychologically manipulated his ranks. We were aware that Logan, like most other SL leader, was guilty of bureaucratic abuses and organizational crimes. But we also knew that the IG was looking to exploit the scandal surrounding Logan to deflect from responding to the IBT’s criticisms of their politics. Unfortunately, at that time we also took the IBT at their word that they had not inherited any of the SL’s bureaucratic organizational methods and that Logan personally had profoundly changed his ways.
In the aftermath of Bill Logan’s visit to Brazil in October 2007, we decided amongst ourselves on a perspective of fusing with the IBT. We believed our few outstanding differences and questions were insufficient for continuing to remain a separate group for too long. We hoped in time many of these differences would be resolved through discussions and were willing to co-exist in a common group as disciplined comrades. What actually occurred during the entire subsequent period though was the consistent frustration of attempts at discussions by the IBT’s leadership, whose ultimatums and stalling tactics towards discussing our differences were very apparently geared towards wearing us out and demoralizing us into complete submission as the price for fusion. It gradually became obvious that the IBT’s leadership was not looking for political fusions with militants who, while sharing their political analysis, also had secondary political and tactical differences to debate internally, but rather looking to transform us into docile pliant hacks who could then be organizationally absorbed into a group where their absolute control was fully safeguarded from future challenges.
Our relations with the IBT in many ways paralleled early Spartacist relations with Gerry Healy’s International Committee during the 1960’s. Healy similarly feigned interest in a loyal fusion while in reality engaging in a variety of unscrupulous tactics designed to psychologically break a young group of revolutionaries. Like us, along with substantial political agreement, the Spartacists also had their own analytical appreciations of different questions and expressed an apparent capacity to stand up to and challenge Healy’s authority. Following the final breaking of relations in 1966, the Spartacists commented:
“The reason for the behavior of the SLL leadership toward the Spartacist delegation is not hard to find. You obviously wish to create a Trotskyist movement in the U.S. which would be completely subservient to the SLL leadership… You were not interested in creating a movement united on the basis of democratic centralism with strong sections capable of making theoretical contributions to the movement as a whole and of applying Marxist theory creatively to their own national arenas. You wanted an international after the manner of Stalin’s Comintern, permeated with servility at one pole and authoritarianism at the other.”
II – Three years of stalling and stagnation
We ended our engagements with the IG in January 2008. In our last discussions with them, we were appalled to hear from Jan Norden himself that the IG/LFI not only defended the SL’s adaptations to the Stalinists and failure to advance a revolutionary program during fall of the Soviet bloc, but was also intent on repeating their political behavior if the opportunity arose in the future. We also recognized the bureaucratic nature of IG’s League for the Fourth International. The IG in the US was the leadership responsible for formulating all the political decisions and the Brazilian and other sections would simply execute them. This did not correlate with our understanding of Leninist democratic centralism. Our contact with the LQB and the IG’s Jan Norden reinforced our decision to seek a fusion with the IBT.
In the course of further relations with the IBT, we were able to identify and correct many of our previous political and organizational misconceptions. From reading their literature we were able to establish a more precise understanding of the nature of the united front tactic (see our document “Leninism, United Fronts and Propaganda Blocs”, available on our web site in Portuguese), develop a more coherent analysis of political developments in Brazil, and learn how to apply the Transitional Program in our daily political work. Studying the history of the Trotskyist movement we expanded our appreciation of the historic significance of the early SL, which sought to uphold the Trotskyist program after the political destruction of the Fourth International and the US Socialist Workers Party by Pabloite revisionism. We started to understand the nature of a propaganda perspective for a small revolutionary organization of our size which, along with engaging in exemplary mass work, would initially need to grow by focusing on winning the politically conscious vanguard to our programmatic conceptions through polemically engaging with other ostensibly revolutionary currents. Most of our political and theoretical direction since early 2008 had been informed by the IBT’s historic writings and perspectives, making us believe we were very methodologically and programmatically close.
At the same time, we also had our own unique theoretical understanding of certain questions that we potentially differed with the IBT on. We sought to discuss these with them as (we thought) we were making progress towards becoming their Brazilian section. Our differences were the following: [*]
1) We shared with Rosa Luxemburg her theory of capital accumulation, with its conclusion that capitalism is leading society to barbarism. This position didn’t lead to any practical differences, but simply called attention to our intent to discuss the Leninist understanding of imperialism.
2) We were influenced by the theories of Brazilian Marxist Rui Mauro Marini. We regarded countries such as Brazil, India, Israel, Russia and South Africa as sub-imperialist countries rather than dominated neo-colonies. In these countries, the fusion of national and foreign capital establishes a base for them to control and exploit other countries within their region of influence. That would be the case with Brazil and its relationship to other South American countries for example. Therefore, in a hypothetical war between Brazil and Bolivia, we would militarily side with Bolivia against its regional oppressor. We also recognize that sub-imperialist countries are at the same time also dependent countries and would therefore, in turn, defend them against imperialist military attacks. We know that ultimately any real freedom from imperialist oppression, for either the neo-colonies or sub-imperialist countries such as Brazil, can only be achieved through world socialist revolution.
3) Like most Latin American organizations, but unlike the IBT and possibly other smaller propaganda groups based in the more economically developed capitalist countries, we have traditionally accepted comrades with religious beliefs into our membership. Since a requirement of membership is agreement with the organizations political positions (including the defense of science, separation of church and state, defending the rights of women, gays and lesbians and other similar questions), we believe this represents the religious comrades’ personal contradiction as long as they maintain the organizations collective discipline. As Marxists we remain materialists and defenders of science, recognize the historic role that organized religion has played in serving the interests of the ruling class and struggle to educate all our militants in that spirit.
4) While we argue that the Chinese state is still a deformed workers’ state, we also recognize that large sections of China’s economy have been allowed by its Stalinist rulers to become privatized. These measures have in turn strongly undermined and placed in question the dominance of its traditional (bureaucratic) planned character. We believe these measures initiated by the bureaucrats currently ruling China create large openings and dangers for the victory of capitalist counterrevolution. We also see strong historic parallels with the NEP period of the Soviet Union during the 1920s. There the lack of a developed planned economy combined with a temporary reintroduction of capitalist measures placed in strong question the nature of the dominant economy, but, similarly, was also not decisive in determining the class character of the state.
5) We believed that the IBT was overly focused on continuing to organizationally pursue its historic differences with the SL to the detriment of what should be the main responsibility of a Trotskyist propaganda group, looking to engage with the more dynamic groups that were either in leftward motion or had an active animated rank and file. While we recognized the historic significance of the early Spartacist League and the importance of educating militants about its history and were not arguing for completely ignoring them, the truth is the contemporary Spartacist League (and its co-thinkers in the International Communist League) has for many years now been a shrinking stagnating organization that along with being in rightward political motion had a largely depoliticized rank and file. For what appeared to be similar reasons of continuing to pursue historic differences from their personal pasts, the IBT’s leadership planned for us to mainly focus on organizationally pursuing Jan Norden’s followers, who, at least in Brazil, have also visibly shrunk and aged over the years. At the same time it seemed to us the IBT had shown far less interest in pursuing groups whose membership can actually play a role in rebuilding the revolutionary movement. We saw this as a tactical difference perhaps arising from the IBT leadership being stuck in a political time warp, without yet fully understanding the reasons for such passivity and routinism.
The IBT’s leadership continued to postpone clarifying these issues with us through written discussions over the next two years. They would only, at our insistence, agree to briefly touch on these questions in the course of our online chats dealing with other issues. At the same time they argued for resolving these differences as a precondition for merger. We believed these minor theoretical and tactical differences should not be a bar to unity, since they paled in significance next to our areas of important agreement.
On Luxemburg’s accumulation theory and Marini’s sub-imperialism, the IBT leadership expressed a total lack of interest in understanding our concerns. We tried summarizing our views on these complex theories and referred them to documents for a deeper study, but they never followed up. On the tactical question involving their focus on the SL/IG and our view on China, the IBT acknowledged that in principle they should not necessarily prevent a fusion, while at the same time they made “resolving” these issues a precondition for organizationally moving forward. On the question of our religious members, the IBT seemed uncertain as they never argued for excluding religious members as a principle, while continuing to use this issue as a barrier to further progress. They seemed uninterested in investigating the experience of the different political culture in Latin America, where members of ostensibly revolutionary organizations have historically been permitted to hold private religious views.
It is important to reiterate that during this entire period we were willing to accept the position of being a disciplined minority on these questions inside the IBT’s ranks, since we seemed to have reached agreement on the major issues. By demanding these issues previously be resolved, while barring their resolution for either side by stalling for years on engaging in written discussions, the IBT made moving forward, in practice, impossible. At the same time we were kept in limbo through constant assurances they took the prospect of fusion with us seriously.
For almost three years, we used an adaptation of the IBT document “For Trotskyism!” as our main programmatic statement. We regarded and publically argued (until two months ago) that the IBT represented the programmatic continuity of Trotskyism on our website and in our activities in the workers’ and students’ movement. We translated all of the documents they used for the Portuguese language section of their web site. Despite this, the IBT refused to publically acknowledge having any relations with us or even our existence. We considered their behavior strange since public recognition of fraternal relations is usually a first step for a future fusion perspective with another organization.
In December 2008 we wrote a letter to IBT demanding a discussion of our outstanding differences and asking them to take practical measures to facilitate the possibility for a future fusion. At that point we began suspecting that perhaps the IBT, despite its claims, had no interest in fusing with us. That they would only fuse with groups who would previously renounce all differences and independent opinions. Such a monolithic “fusion” would require that we first be psychologically broken, thereby ceasing to be revolutionaries.
In early 2009, the CCI became the Coletivo Lenin (CL) following a fusion with a group of comrades who had resigned from the Brazilian PSTU, associated with the late Nahuel Moreno. This represented a qualitative leap in our group’s capacities. With some organizational advice from the IBT, we established more intelligent organizational priorities, improved our finances, and established a regular press. We elected a National Leadership, since we were now present in two cities. We also saw the need for the comrades in the newly fused group to start engaging in common work. One way of doing this was to choose to center our work in Rio de Janeiro with a homeless organization, the Internationalist Homeless Front (FIST). It was an opportunity to work with radicalized militants from one of the most exploited and oppressed sectors of Brazilian society
The IBT responded in a harshly sectarian manner towards our tactical choice. They appeared to believe a propaganda group should completely focus their entire work on other left groups, particularly the Brazilian Nordenites in our case, to the total exclusion of all other possible arenas. We were falsely accused of being movementists who were looking to recruit politically raw people.
In response, some of our comrades began considering the possibility that our differences with the IBT could be more significant than appeared on the surface. The IBT seemed to be extremely passive and conservative, not only in moving forward towards fusing with us but also to trying to do any broader mass work. Because of this we wrote a formal letter to the IBT in October 2009 discussing the recent reorganization of our work and demanding they state more forthrightly their views on the prospects of a fusion and how to proceed towards it. Another letter from February 2010 explained our work in FIST and responded to their criticisms and misconceptions about it.
That letter for the first time elicited a written formal response from the IBT since it stated our refusal to continue engaging in online chats until we receive a document responding to our concerns. Though their answer only strengthened our suspicions that they had a passive/organizationally conservative attitude towards party building, we agreed to have their representative visit us and attend our first conference to be held on August 2010. Up to this time we still believed they were open towards fusing with us.
III – The IBT’s conduct at our conference: bureaucratic maneuvers
As part of the process of further consolidating our organization, we organized our first conference with the goal of mapping out the Coletivo Lenin’s perspective for the following two years. As is common in any healthy democratic organization in a pre-conference period, three different internal factions arose inside CL. On our relations with IBT, the decisive majority supported continuing to work for a fusion, while a minority, concluding that the IBT was sectarian and passive/ conservative, was opposed. As was already our established custom, we shared all our internal documents and opened our internal life to the IBT, (a practice which the IBT never reciprocated on during the entire time). As a result, the IBT became very close to one of the three internal factions.
During the conference (which the IBT’s representative participated in) two of the internal factions and the majority of CLers supported fusing with the IBT. The Coletivo Lenin decided to continue pursuing a fusion and requested that the IBT finally start responding to our differences (whose resolution they had always insisted was a precondition for further progress in relations) within the next month since we were also all frustrated and anxious to move forward after three years of stagnating relations. The newly elected leadership was an expression of this decision: it was composed of those comrades who were supporters of fusing with the IBT. At the same time, the CL also decided to take a firmer attitude on ending the 3 years of IBT inaction in further developing relations with us. We asked for concrete proof of the IBT’s sincerity in wanting relations to move forward – a statement publically acknowledging our relationship (which the IBT subsequently decided to not do).
The IBT’s immediate response stunned us all greatly. After phoning in a report to his leadership, the IBT representative informed us their evaluation was that the CL was organizationally unstable and that the CL was politically moving away from the IBT (after we had just voted for a direct fusion proposal!). It was true that a minority consisting of one comrade was moving away from the IBT, but the majority’s commitment was firm. As for the CL being unstable, our organization had (and still has) an internal life where differences arise and are therefore debated, as we believe every Bolshevik organization should have. That doesn’t mean we are organizationally unstable or undisciplined. We now know that for the IBT (which had its last organized faction in late 1997), any serious internal differences with the leadership is a sign of dangerous “instability”. Fusing with us represented a danger for a bureaucratic leadership whose primary objective is absolute control over their organization, rather than building a group that can grow, develop and be capable of acting as a vehicle for advancing working class revolution.
The worst, however, was still to come. The day after the conference, while still claiming to desire moving towards a fusion, the IBT secretly “invited” a couple of comrades from the faction closer to it to resign from CL and become the IBT’s representatives in Brazil. It is important to look at their decision more closely. First, this indicated to us that all of the differences that the IBT pretended to feel so strongly about (our willingness to accept religious members, sub-imperialism, their SL centered focus) during this entire time was actually meaningless to them, since the comrades they tried to split had the same positions as the rest of the group on these issues. Secondly, it indicated the organizationally unscrupulous character of the IBT’s leadership. While claiming to have close comradely fraternal relations with us, they were secretly maneuvering to split us, treating us in reality as a hostile enemy. Thirdly, it displayed a great lack of confidence in their politics and organization which also no doubt reflected a deeper demoralization. While a majority of the CL was not only willing but actively supporting a fusion they preferred to attempt to split our group instead of moving further with us. Fortunately, the comrades turned down their offer and reported it to the rest of Coletivo Lenin.
The impact of the IBT leadership’s bureaucratic and disloyal cowardice increased with the passage of time, as our comrades sought to process the recent turn of events and make sense of it in light of all their previous dealing with them. That action on their part made clear to us that the IBT was not willing to fuse with our organization, despite their disingenuous claims to the contrary, but only maneuvering us to try to win a minority of our youngest and least inexperienced militants. They assumed it would then be easy to absorb and assimilate these comrades into their bureaucratized internal culture and convince them to abandon their differences. We were still puzzled though as to why the IBT would behave in a manner so at odds with their professed politics and their past criticisms of their parent organizations bureaucratism.
IV – Revolutionary Regroupment
A few weeks before our conference, we had our first contact with Revolutionary Regroupment’s Sam Trachtenberg who split from the IBT in the fall of 2008. The IBT had chosen to never inform us of his resignation and decision to set up a competing organization. Trachtenberg gave a Marxist explanation for the IBT’s behavior in his resignation letter entitled “The Road Out of Rileyville”. He also developed some of that explanation in the course of a brief correspondence we had before our conference. At that point we unfortunately did not give his analysis the sufficient attention it deserved, since we were very eager to carry out a fusion with a group whose positions, on paper, seemed so close to ours and in whom we had already invested three years of work. One of the topics discussed in the conference was a proposal to establish relations with Revolutionary Regroupment. The proposal was rejected, but no doubt also impacted the panicked attempt to wreck our organization by the IBT’s leadership. But the analysis (and future predictions) we received from Revolutionary Regroupment fit our experience with the IBT like a glove.
As explained by RR, the IBT over the years had become transformed into a bureaucratized organization controlled and manipulated by a clique of “permanent leaders”. Those leaders place their ability to control their organization above their professed claims to want to see the group grow and develop into an instrument for socialist revolution. The IBT was at this stage narrowly dominated by a leadership clique consisting of those who previously also had corrupt histories as SL leaders before being purged by their fellow bureaucrats. With the passage of time, the other senior members (without such corrupt previous histories) who helped found the group either left or were driven out, while the remaining leadership was never replenished by younger comrades, becoming smaller in composition and acting as a tight self-protective unit in all their dealings with the rank and file.
Meanwhile, after almost 30 years of existence, much of the ranks also aged and grew increasingly tired and passive in reaction to the lack of any significant organizational breakthroughs. This allowed the remaining leadership to feel fewer and fewer constraints in their ability to use the corrupt unscrupulous methods they had previously wielded in their careers as SL leaders. These methods, along with some newly developed ones, were used on the IBT’s membership, sympathizing groups and peripheries for the purpose of maintaining their absolute control. Abandoning any hopes for growth and breakthroughs in the class struggle, the IBT (like its parents inside the SL) has instead opted to preserve internal order and allow itself to “die with dignity.
The IBT’s main role is to protect and preserve the personal legacies of its aging leadership (now all well into their 60’s) rather than seek to use their group as a vehicle for building a revolutionary party. Under such circumstances, any serious expression of differences inside the organization is seen as a threat to the stability of the organization and its new unstated purpose, rather than as an opportunity to correct errors and theoretically develop its membership. Fusion with our organization therefore, which roughly equals a third of the IBT’s current membership and which would eventually be included within the leadership of the fused organization, posed a threat to the IBT’s leaders’ current unchallengeable status. Our ability to differ with them may have also have re-politicized and set an example for others inside the IBT’s ranks to begin to speak up their minds. That is why the IBT chose to attempt to wreck our group rather than fuse with it.
In his resignation letter Sam Trachtenberg argued: “However formally correct its paper program may be for the moment, history has shown that the sort of organization which the IBT has developed into, a static, stagnating group dominated by a Machiavellian deeply entrenched permanent leadership, can never have younger comrades grow, develop, and therefore play little role in that process [of rebuilding the Fourth International].” Defense (or rather “preservation”) of the IBT’s history and program has thus become divorced from being an organic expression of the groups revolutionary aspirations and is instead used as a mechanism to transform the group into an authoritarian sect. The sects leaders become “guardians” of the “program” (or rather their own personal historic legacies). Along with the IBT, this has previously happened to the Spartacists and others. In the previously cited 1966 document on their split with Gerry Healy’s International Committee, the Spartacists explained;
“Under conditions of pronounced isolation of the world movement from the working class, the revisionists abandoned a working-class revolutionary perspective for an orientation toward petit-bourgeois formations such as Stalinist bureaucrats, social-democratic labor bureaucrats, and the nationalist leaderships of the colonial countries… The British leaders seem to have responded to the “theoretical, political, and organizational crisis” of Trotskyism by retreating into “orthodoxy,” Their reaction to revisionism seems to have been that of high priests entrusted with the protection of holy writ; thus the emergence of an iron-fisted, authoritarian leadership.”
V – Final Attempt
In September, the CL’s newly elected leadership, that is those comrades inside our group who had previously been the most ardent in their desire to fuse with the IBT, reacted to the turn of events by convincing others of the need to re-establish contact and engage in discussions with RR. We had not, however, fully decided to close the door to the IBT yet. We wanted to be absolutely sure of any decision we were going to make. So we continued discussing with the IBT and communicated our reactions to their underhanded dealings with us in the hope they may be pressured to acknowledge wrongdoing and change their methods. The IBT’s response was to rationalize their behavior, disingenuously deny any wrongdoing, and attempt to convince us we were reacting in a paranoid manner. That was received by our members as an insult to our intelligence.
In a desperate attempt to deflect our course towards RR, the IBT sent us a limited selection of internal documents involving the departure of Trachtenberg from its ranks. Remarkably, the IBT leadership seemed deluded enough about their practices to think the documents put them in a good light. However, even the selection of documents they chose to send us showed a generalized pattern of the criminal bureaucratism that we experienced in our own relationship with them. In these documents, the leadership simultaneously denied and explicitly defended the use their use of bureaucratic procedures against past internal critics. They defended (secretly) withholding internal organizational information from their internal critics (including those who formally held positions of leadership before exiting), and attempts to prevent internal debates by putting the rest of the organization under informal discipline not to discuss their differences. This in effect transformed those comrades membership into a fiction. The IBT leadership argued that it was correct to use the same kinds of dishonest methods on members of their organization who they decide are in “rapid political motion” and sympathizing groups (not to mention others on the left) that they would use with opponent or enemy organizations.
The internal documents showed the leadership defending their right to use both “formal and informal sanctions” against members who present “opportunist politics”. Outside the fact that “opportunist politics” implies simple disagreement with the leadership rather than any actual organizational wrongdoing, the use of “informal sanctions” is an implicit defense of the bureaucratic leaderships right to pursue such “sanctions” informally, that is without ever formally pressing any charges or even informing the comrade as part of their effort to either break them or drive them out without, at the same time, leaving any record of bureaucratic wrongdoing on their part.
The document also showed similar methods used to drive out Trachtenberg, one of the few remaining IBT comrades with a record of opposing the leadership on many questions (which included their initial attempt to have the IBT support voting for Hugo Chavez to stay in in office during the 2004 recall referendum in Venezuela). Even the partial record they sent us showed a pattern of attempts to demoralize him and, as with others, transform his membership into a fiction. The leadership also attempted to exploit his history of depression by frequently alluding to the possibility that his criticisms of their organizational methods were due to a “mental disorder.”
The IBT’s leadership tells their members that groups, such as ours, who decide to end contact due to such bureaucratic methods in reality do so due to hidden opportunist disagreement. The IBT has attempted to publically rewrite history by making similar claims about a fraternal Argentine group which translated most of the documents currently on the Spanish section of their sites.
“A less public, but more significant, setback was our failure to successfully regroup with a small circle of Argentine comrades who appeared to be rather close to us programmatically. This is partly attributable to language difficulties, but a more important factor was a gap in political culture manifested in differences over the tasks and priorities of a micro-propaganda group.”
But the documents they sent us indicate the Argentine group broke contact due to the sort of dishonest behind the scenes manipulations we ourselves have experienced and their own selection of documents verify they’ve used with so many others. We have little reason to not assume that similar false explanations will be given about our decision. While we have been informed by recent ex-IBT members that most of the IBT’s ranks have been given very little information by their leaders about us for the past 3 years, it is their responsibility to face the painful reality and recognize that our experience with their organization follows a long pattern that will continue to be repeated.
VI – Conclusion
We have not abandoned our revolutionary program! We continue to defend the political legacy of the Spartacist League and the political legacy of the International Bolshevik Tendency until their respective bureaucratic degenerations. We will not be demoralized by this experience! We will not draw false conclusions on the impossibility of re-building a revolutionary Fourth International, or rationalize the situation publically by changing our politics as the IBT’s bureaucratic leadership hopes. We have only concluded that the contemporary IBT can no longer contribute to rebuilding a revolutionary workers movement.
We will continue to critically analyze the IBT’s history to better understand the reasons for its degeneration, as well as the degeneration of its predecessors. We will continue seek out comrades and groups interested in rescuing the important contributions of organizations which once represented Trotskyist continuity, rather than looking to defend the histories of leaders who themselves played a role in their degeneration. Our objective is to build a party capable of leading a revolution – which means being unafraid of taking organizational risks when necessary and maintaining a healthy internal life where critics are treated in an honest loyal manner, and are able to challenge long held orthodoxies without persecution. A party that can swim against the stream in defending temporarily unpopular ideological conquests as well as be capable of reviewing previously held positions if they have been shown to be wrong.
Therefore, we declare our fraternal relations with Revolutionary Regroupment. We invite those IBT militants and ex-militants who remain uncorrupted by their experience, as well as others who may agree with our political objectives, to discuss with Revolutionary Regroupment and with the Coletivo Lenin on how to go forward.
[*] Note from Revolutionary Regroupment: Although we maintain what we see as the central elements of the Lenin Collective program, from the first moment after our separation we abandoned most of the positions described in the first four points (except for the characterization of China as a deformed workers state, but without the undue comparison with the Soviet NEP). Even within CL, these were unconsolidated positions among most members, reflecting a certain programmatic looseness.