Theory: – Building a mass socialist international

Reply by the Peter Taaffe (cwi) to ‘The Ukraine scam, internationals and internationalism’, by John Percy (DSP, Australia)

The following article is a reply, by Peter Taaffe, from the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI), to an article by John Percy, National Secretary of the Australian Democratic Socialist Perspective (DSP – formerly the Democratic Socialist Party), carried in the DSP’s journal, ‘Links’ (Links no. 25, January to June, 2004).

In the article, ‘The Ukraine scam, internationals and internationalism’, John Percy attacks the ideas and practice of the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) and, furthermore, the very idea of building a mass socialist international, which, in the CWI’s view, would be a huge step forward in developing socialist forces needed to overthrow capitalism throughout the world.

During the coming Easter weekend, March 25-28, 2005, the DSP will host its ‘Asia Pacific International Solidarity Conference’, in Sydney, Australia. Representatives of socialist and left parties from Asia, Latin America, and other parts of the world, will attend this event.  Peter’s reply explains the key political and organisational differences between the CWI and the ex-Trotskyist DSP. This includes examining the struggle to build mass workers’ and socialist parties in the neo-colonial world, looking at important lessons from past workers’ revolutions, learning from the failures of previous attempts to build international socialist organisations, like the ‘United Secretariat of the Fourth International’ (to which the DSP was previously aligned), and defending and developing the need for workers, radical youth and the poor to have their own mass, international organisations of solidarity and struggle.

Peter Taaffe’s reply is followed by a link to John Percy’s article.

Building a mass socialist international

The following is a reply by the CWI to comments of the Democratic Socialist Party (now renamed DS ‘Perspective’) of Australia, on building an international, contained in an article by John Percy, National Secretary of the DSP, originally published in their journal ‘Links’.

The Australian Democratic Socialist Party (DSP) is an ex-Trotskyist organisation, which now embraces ideas advanced by Stalinists in the neo-colonial world, such as the discredited “two stages” theory. Its general insignificance in the life of the Australian labour movement is in inverse proportion to the loudness of its voice, particularly in its vituperative attacks on other left organisations. It reserves special venom for those Trotskyist organisations which still adhere to Trotsky’s method and approach, and refuse to follow the DSP along its path away from Trotskyism, both politically and organisationally.

The CWI excites particular animosity from this organisation. The reasons for this are twofold. Firstly, when appropriate, we have never hesitated to criticise their ideas, programme and methods, which we see as a barrier to workers and young people finding a road to genuine Marxism (see the reply to their ideas on Cuba [Cuba: Socialism and Democracy]. Secondly, the CWI, particularly its Australian section the Socialist Party, has been more successful in its ‘practical’ work than the DSP; in the recent council elections in Melbourne, Steve Jolly was elected on a Socialist Party platform as a councillor in Yarra, while the Socialist Alliance (of which the DSP is the largest part) received a small vote in the federal election and got no where near winning a seat in the council elections.

The success of the CWI, modest though it is at this stage when set against the task of building significant mass forces, is both a source of envy and fear for the leaders of the DSP. They have tried consistently in the past, by misinformation and outright lies, to attack and vilify the CWI, particularly in the DSP’s own ‘backyard’ of Australia and what it considers is its ‘sphere of influence’, the Asia-Pacific region. In its journal ‘Links’ [Issue 25, January to June 2004], a scurrilous attack was launched against the CWI by a ‘defector’ from our ranks, Phil Hearse, who had previously defected from the DSP’s ranks, as he had before from the Mandelites (USFI). When we demanded a right to reply to these, the DSP leadership refused, suggesting that any answer to Hearse would be delayed for six months! This so-called “non-sectarian” journal, allegedly open to all international trends, is devoted to “international clarification and discussion”, but this does not extend to the CWI.

We cite this incident not to rake over the coals of past disputes between different left organisations but because the DSP masquerades as a non-sectarian, friendly, open and even ‘inclusive’ type of organisation. Yet, it particularly inveighs against any organisation such as the CWI which argues for the need to construct international organisations in order to begin to combat the centralisation of capitalism and imperialism through capitalist globalisation and neo-liberalism. All “internationals”, particularly those arbitrarily designated by the DSP as “toy” internationals, are to be avoided at all cost. This is the kind of dismissive language used by the DSP towards other organisations on the left. It invariably results in those attacked replying in equally robust language.

‘Anti-international international’

The irony is that the DSP itself is an ‘anti-international international’. In practice, it tries to organise an international force under its control and direction, particularly in Asia, in a ‘non-sectarian fashion’ of course – including the disbursement of funds to its co-thinkers – unlike those profane Trotskyists and Marxists. This, of course, is heavily disguised when they attack others who are attempting openly and honestly to lay the basis for a fighting, combative, revolutionary international, which can lead the worldwide struggle of the working class against the world system of capitalism.

This is illustrated by the main thrust of the above article. Outrageously, Percy refers to “CWI scammers”. The hook on which Percy hangs his case is, ostensibly, the fraud perpetrated by ex-members of the CWI in the Ukraine, which is ‘old news’, as he suggests when he says that this first “surfaced in the Ukraine in mid-2003”. Why wait until now to comment on these events, especially as the CWI had disciplined and expelled those who were responsible for what Percy calls a “scam”, in reality a fraud against us, the CWI, and others on the left. In the best DSP ‘holier than thou’ tradition, Percy seeks to indict the CWI and, to some extent, the International Socialist Tendency (IST) too, because this incident allegedly reveals the sham of trying to create an international organisation per se.

It seems, according to him, that the CWI seeks to “export” its method and approach internationally, thereby creating “clones” of its international leadership and of the Socialist Party in England and Wales (which Percy wrongly calls the “Socialist Party of the UK”). To substantiate this point, he goes further into the past to invoke the example of Pakistan where, allegedly, “excuses” were manufactured for the expulsion of the Labour Party of Pakistan (LPP), led by Farooq Tariq, from the CWI in 1998. We have dealt with this extensively in publicly available written material in the past but, for the record, there were no “excuses”, either manufactured or not. The LPP was expelled for very sound reasons, namely the corruption of the leadership of the LPP, which accepted funds from NGOs, and still does, from the pro-capitalist Swedish social democracy that used this to maintain control. The CWI could quite easily have ignored this fact but acted precisely because we are a principled organisation. We are not prepared to be involved with corrupt methods, which will repel all workers, especially in the neo-colonial world. The fact that we acted in a principled fashion in relation to the LPP and the DSP closed their eyes to the false methods of the LPP led by Farooq Tariq, speaks volumes about our principled approach and their shady methods. The successful launch of the Socialist Movement Pakistan at a congress of Lahore 19/20 March 2005, with a clear organisational and political banner shows the correctness of our decision to separate ourselves from the LPP.

The exploitation by the expelled group of CWI members in the Ukraine of the CWI and others who genuinely wished to see independent Marxist forces in the Ukraine is, in and of itself, a criticism of the CWI and other left organisations, says Percy. He jeeringly declaims: “How many laptops and free trips have they supplied?” We could ask the same question of the DSP. It is a fact, is it not, vindicated from a number of sources, that the DSP finances, for instance, full-time workers for the People’s Democratic Party (PRD) in Indonesia? Is this because the PRD was united together with the DSP in a swamp of theoretical confusion at the time of the overthrow of Suharto in Indonesia? Fully backed by the DSP, the PRD leaders argued for support for Megawati. She subsequently came to power and revealed herself as a stout defender of rotten Indonesian landlordism and capitalism, and of a thinly-veiled military regime which still predominates, as shown by the situation in Aceh. Even after the tsunami, the army has continued to attack the forces of GAM, the Aceh liberation army. Not a peep of criticism of the PRD leadership in this fatal policy has crossed the lips of the DSP. Moreover, the PRD is now divided into four factions, with some of them now proposing a boycott of elections in Indonesia. This is probably an ultra-left reaction to the PRD’s previous opportunism, arising from the ‘advice’ given to them by the DSP that they should support Megawati.

Nor is the PRD’s position of looking towards the “urban poor” ahead of the potentially powerful Indonesian working class a subject of criticism for the DSP. Without question the PRD has lost opportunities because of their wrong theoretical and political position, and one of the factors in this was the baleful role of the DSP. This ‘sect’, the DSP, has a position on the revolution in the neo-colonial world which is a historical regurgitation of the discredited Stalinist/Menshevik position of “stages” in the revolution in the “underdeveloped” world (see Clare Doyle’s pamphlet on Indonesia).

However, these past theoretical conflicts featuring the CWI and the DSP are not the main concern of Percy. These are a hook, particularly the ‘recent’ Ukraine scandal on which he hangs his case against all attempts to create a “democratic centralist international”, which he calls “Cominternism”. The very use of this term in an indiscriminate fashion by alleged Marxists is itself shameful. There is a massive gulf, in fact a river of blood, between the genuine Comintern of Lenin and Trotsky as an instrument of socialist and democratic workers’ world revolution, and the Stalinist caricature of this, which was a weapon against revolution, both on a national and international scale.

In order to justify this false theoretical premise, Percy is involved in a tortuous and fatuous exercise of verbal gymnastics in order to create as much confusion as possible. He is well aware that Marx and Engels proceeded, as did the Bolsheviks of Lenin and Trotsky, from a world point of view. As we have stated elsewhere (see ‘A Socialist World is Possible’), the young Marx and Engels understood capitalism as a world system, which for the first time had made possible “world history” through the development of a world working class. A big part of Marx’s efforts were devoted to creating the International Working Men’s Association – the ‘First International’. This actually got in the way of Marx completing the first volume of Capital. Without his work in the IWMA he would have probably completed it in a much shorter period of time. This is how much Marx considered the importance of the international organisation of the working class.

A “loose federation”?

Percy merely comments that this was just a “very loose federation”, thereby hinting that this was the preferred type of organisation of Marx and Engels. The fact is that this was not the ultimate aim of Marx but it arose from the concrete circumstances facing the working class at that stage, with the diverse consciousness amongst different layers of the working class. It was a great achievement to unite in one organisation English trade unionists, French socialists, German scientific socialists as well as the anarchists, which conducted mass work; for instance, intervention in the immortal Paris Commune of 1871. But this was not the finished article in Marx’s eyes but was a product of the concrete stage through which the working class was passing. But Percy, breezily, writes they “were quite happy to see it dissolved in the 1870s when its usefulness was finished”. Neither Marx nor Engels were “happy” but recognised the specific circumstances of the time and never gave up the attempt to create a new international on more solid foundations (see the History of the CWI). Percy uses a quote of Engels, taken out of context, where he explains that the solidarity of the working class is “able to assert itself even without the bond of a formal international association, which for the moment [our emphasis] had become a fetter”.

This temporary situation, “for the moment”, is recognised by Engels who still strove to build a new international and participated in the organising efforts of the Second International. This has been transformed by Percy into an everlasting principle. Lenin in the hands of Percy also becomes an opponent of building an international. He admits that, “On arriving in Russia in April 1917 after the February revolution, Lenin repeated [the] call in his April Theses.” Percy says “Lenin did call for a new international… But he counterposed ‘internationalism in deed’ to the ‘internationalism in word’ of the Second International.” In other words, Lenin counterposed the fake, reformist, social-patriotic Second International, which he had declared was dead and set about to try and form the basis of a new international on the foundations of the Russian Revolution.

Before this, Lenin did not discount the Second International as Percy argues. He downgrades this by saying that it did not take off until after Engels’s death. This can be compared to Lenin’s view, on so many occasions. For example, in an article “Russian Workers and the International”, (written as late as Dec 8, 1913), Lenin refers to a discussion in the International Socialist Bureau of the International. Lenin writes: “Russian Marxist workers will welcome the fact that the workers’ international has shown a desire to make a serious study of the principled discussions which have such a prominent part in our Russian working-class movement”.

Percy asks “Why is the ‘international party’ form necessary?” New answers to that issue develop all the time. The latest example is the tsunami – and our Sri Lanka campaign. The anti-war movement, only two years ago, showed the need for clear ideas and actions around the world. Thanks to the CWI, school strikes took place in countries across the globe and we argued for workers’ strikes against the war.

While parts of Percy’s five points in his section “Real Internationalism” are acceptable for general solidarity links, they also show the political limits he sets himself. A key to the DSP’s position is the statement later in this section that “It’s not just an argument about the small size of our forces today – i.e., let’s wait until we get real parties with a definite base in the working class before we attempt to build an international party. It’s not just an argument about the stage we’re at, or the period we’re in, whether revolution is on the agenda soon or not. The idea of a centre to give guidelines and directions for national revolutionary struggles is not just unnecessary, but often counterproductive. The one democratic centralist world leadership actually destroys and stunts national leaderships.”

Obviously we are against the Stalinist and sectarian caricatures of a “world leadership”, and we accept that revolutions generally start within the framework of a national state, but the DSP is against the idea of a revolutionary international as an instrument to aid the birth of a socialist world. Why, according to Percy, are discussions between parties in principled agreement a “waste of time”, while discussions with a loose network are “sorely needed”? There is not a single concrete, practical example in Percy’s text of any gain of any kind from such a network. And what about the political activity of refugees, immigrants and exiles? What is their “own country”? Should Marx have focused on Germany or on England? And yet, Percy still wants to “direct” the entire world left. He has very definite ideas on how to work in Europe and Latin America.

Percy makes the profound statement: “For Lenin, as for Marx and Engels, politics rather than organisational form was paramount.” Absolutely, and so it is with us, but not as far as the DSP is concerned. In fact, Percy’s article is devoid or real political content. We seek to organise a principled international of like-minded co-thinkers and not an international “network” like the DSP. In their hands, Lenin’s idea of a fighting international has been transformed into a mutual “non-aggression pact” (which does not apply to the CWI) where it is not polite to criticise theoretical mistakes, even though they could lead to the kind of mistakes we have seen on the part of the PRD leadership in Indonesia and the DSP in Australia.

He categorically states: “There is one, and only one, kind of internationalism and that is working whole-heartedly for the development of the revolutionary movement and the revolutionary struggle in one’s own country, and supporting (by propaganda, sympathy and material aid) this struggle, this, and only this, line in every country without exception. ” Is this not the cry of every reformist and Stalinist organisation?

Seeking to make mild criticisms of Lenin, Percy declares: “Perhaps Lenin’s greatest mistake was that he didn’t realise how perfidious the German social democrats were.” This is true; when, at the beginning of the First World War, he received the issue of Vorwärts, the German SPD’s newspaper, which supported “war credits” and, therefore, the German ruling class in the First World War, he declared that it must be a forgery. This arose from the fact that Lenin did not have sufficient first-hand experience of the internal degeneration of the Social Democratic Party, because he wasn’t present in the country, did not see the day-to-day actions of its leaders, etc. Rosa Luxemburg did and warned forcefully, prior to the betrayal of 4 August 1914, about the internal degeneration of the German SPD leaders. However, if Lenin had agreed with Luxemburg at this stage and criticised the German SPD leaders in advance, the equivalents of the DSP at the time would have roundly condemned Lenin for “theoretical hair splitting”, “acting from outside” and accusing him of an “ultimatist” position of “invoking discipline” against those who differed with him.

Lessons of Scotland

The reason why we can assert this is so is because they behave in exactly this way today. For instance, Percy’s attacks on the CWI includes the following: “In Scotland, it was CWI members who in 1996 were the initiators and leaders of the most successful advance for the socialist movement in decades, the Scottish Socialist Alliance, which became the Scottish Socialist Party in 1998. But it was a course not approved by the London Centre. In spite of their very visible success, the Scottish comrades were dropped from the fold; they threatened the authority of the wise men in London.”

Leave aside the hyperbole, “the most successful advance for the socialist movement in decades”; every word here is a mistake and some are two. Not only did the CWI “wise men” (why not the “wise women” who make up 50 per cent of the Executive Committee of the Socialist Party – an indication, perhaps, of the sexist approach of the DSP leaders) support the Scottish Socialist Alliance, but were the “initiators” of this idea, particularly as it was applied to England and Wales. This arose from our rejection of the Labour Party as still representing a viable vehicle for struggle for working-class people. Therefore, we proposed the formation of the Socialist Alliance as a means of gathering together those lefts who were prepared to struggle to create the conditions of a new mass workers’ party. This idea was not the brainchild of the Scottish CWI comrades but was the product of the leaderships of the Socialist Party and the CWI.

It is also well documented, despite the repeated accusations of the leadership of the SSP, that the CWI and the leadership of the Socialist Party in England and Wales did not oppose the formation of the SSP. What we opposed was the liquidation of the Marxist members of the CWI and their organisation into the SSP. We warned that if this happened, the comrades who took to this road would inevitably face reformist and nationalist degeneration. This is always a danger without the check of a revolutionary organisation and leadership, both in Scotland linked to our movement in Britain, and internationally. At this stage, the DSP rushed eagerly in to embrace the SSP leadership, for the very simple reason that they were opposed to the CWI leadership: “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”.

Not a whiff of criticism has been made of the SSP leadership since, despite their obvious concessions to reformism – again, well documented by the ‘International Socialist’, organ of the CWI members within the SSP – as well as the concessions to nationalism which have been made by this leadership. What has the DSP leadership to say about this? Absolutely nothing. It is more important to picture the CWI leadership, “London based” (a whiff of “national chauvinism”, if not prejudice by the “Sydney-based” DSP here?) rather than seek to explain the situation in Scotland, to discuss and debate in an honest fashion the political differences that led to the split of some CWI comrades in Scotland from our international organisation.

There is not an atom of politics in Percy’s approach, which is revealing about the machine-type politics which his organisation pursues. It is also not true that the “Scottish comrades were dropped from the fold”. The CWI did not expel them but urged them to stay with us so we could debate and discuss their ideas and their subsequent experiences in the SSP, but the supporters of this right turn voted to leave the CWI in January 2001. We were confident that our warnings would be borne out, as unfortunately they have been. This is indicated by the decision of the SSP leadership to appeal to nationalists, amongst them the Scottish National Party (SNP), for a Scottish ‘nationalist’ front for independence. Yet not a peep of criticism drops from the lips of Percy or the DSP.

The fact that its recent internecine strife – to call it by its right name, a jostling for position on a non-political basis – could put in jeopardy the SSP – is of secondary importance for Percy. The CWI leadership must be chastised for warning the SSP leadership of the dangers inherent in their liquidationist position in the run-up to the formation of the party. The very existence of the SSP could be put in jeopardy by this, which would be a big blow, both to the Scottish left, particularly to the trade unions such as the RMT who have broken from the Labour Party and are looking towards the SSP. It would also play into the hands of right-wing trade union leaders who are dragging their feet about breaking from Blair’s pro-imperialist, corrupt Labour Party.

Their uncritical acceptance of the SSP leadership’s position is motivated in part by their sectarian animosity to the CWI and also because it echoes the DSP’s opportunist turn in Australia – the alleged dissolution of their organisation into the force of the ‘Socialist Alliance’, dominated by them and the Australian supporters of the IST. In this sense they bear some responsibility, particularly internationally, for acting as cheerleaders of the SSP rather than seeking, as the CWI does, to help the SSP, with firm but friendly criticism, to embrace a correct programme and perspectives.

DSP oppose Lenin and Trotsky’s approach

The method of Percy amounts to “All the internationals have failed; therefore it is futile to strive to build an international”. This is in place of a serious analysis explaining why and how previous internationals failed, and what is required from the new generation to learn from this and build on firm foundations for the present and future battles of the working class. Percy counterposes to this perspective the building of national organisations, loosely linked together, along the lines of the ‘International Conference of the Anti-Capitalist Left”, or the “Tendency for the New International”. And the reason for not seeking to build an international organisation on the real democratic practices of democratic centralism? Percy’s answer is that a real international leadership, with wrong policies and wrong methods imposing “international discipline” can harm or even wreck real socialist and revolutionary possibilities in different countries.

This is indisputable, and there are many instances of where this has happened. But if we take the argument further and apply it on a national scale, what is to stop the same thing happening with a leadership and an organisation with similar maladies which the DSP ascribes to different internationals? In fact, what is to stop the DSP from making the same blunders on a national scale, despite its claim to understand the situation in Australia, rather than an international leadership? Certainly, the record of the DSP does not engender confidence in its ability to withstand the pressures, which could lead to it making similar mistakes as previous internationals. In fact, in the past they have succumbed. They abandoned Trotsky’s idea of the permanent revolution and they have given uncritical support to the bureaucratic national leadership of Cuba. They welcomed Gorbachev as a harbinger of the coming political revolution in Russia prior to 1989 (he was the gateman of the capitalist counter-revolution). And then there is their position in relation to Indonesia and the PRD mentioned above.

The DSP, in effect, opposes not just Stalin’s ‘Comintern’ and its methods but Lenin and Trotsky’s approach too, as well as the decision of Trotsky to form the Fourth International in 1938. They subscribe – ex post facto – to the approach of the late Isaac Deutscher who believed that the formation of the Fourth International was premature and therefore a mistake. This could only be considered as a “mistake” if one did not take account of Trotsky’s conception of what it represented, including its timing. Trotsky expected a revolutionary wave to come out of the Second World War – which actually took place in Europe during the period from 1943-47 – which would lead to the splintering of the old internationals, thereby laying the basis for the creation of mass parties and a mass Fourth International. It did not turn out like this completely, because social democracy and Stalinism saved capitalism, by entering coalition governments in Western Europe, particularly France and Italy, as well as through the Labour government in Britain of 1945-51. These were the political preconditions for the post-war economic boom which introduced certain stability into world capitalism.

The process of isolation of the Fourth was also compounded by the political mistakes made by its leaders, such as Ernest Mandel and others. Percy even equates, in a sense, the degenerate Comintern to “different Trotskyist internationals”, which he claims are “closer to the monolithic practices of the Comintern under Stalin”. That was undoubtedly the case, for instance, in Gerry Healy’s Workers Revolutionary Party’s attempt to create an “international” in the 1960s and 1970s. There were elements of this in other international attempts as well. But the roots of this lay in politics not in organisation. Organisation is always an inference from politics and not vice versa – organisation flows from politics. The practices of Stalinism, bureaucratic centralism, undoubtedly exercised a baleful effect, sometimes even on organisations and individuals which genuinely strove to be Marxist. The problems of bureaucratism also exist in the workers’ movement everywhere. All this means is, first of all, the politics of an organisation need to be clear, but also democratic control should be exercised on every level in an organisation claiming to be Marxist.

This is certainly not the case in the DSP. For instance, as much as they denounce the lack of democracy in other organisations, their version of “democratic centralism” in Australia is very centralised with factions only allowed in a pre-conference period, which was certainly not the practice of Lenin, Trotsky and the Bolsheviks. This is not the case in the CWI, which has had a number of factions in its ranks, particularly in the 1990s. No “disciplinary action” was taken on the basis of their policies. A number of them just left the organisation, because they were incapable of politically debating and winning a majority for their ideas. A handful, including the Grant split in 1991-92, were separated from our ranks because they were creating an alternative organisation, not paying subs and collecting for their own press within our party. The friends of the DSP who worked within the Socialist Party at one stage, such as Phil Hearse, organised a tendency but left without trying to win over a majority in our ranks. They did not avail themselves of the right to argue their point of view and try and convince a majority because they were not confident of convincing anybody outside of their little circle. Their subsequent political development or degeneration into obscurity is sufficient testimony to this.

Percy attacks what he calls the “Trotskyist tradition”, which he equates to a misunderstanding of internationalism, which involves “substituting the form for the political content”. It is precisely Percy and the DSP who are guilty of the sin he ascribes to others. The organisational forms of an international can be discussed and not all the forms of the Comintern need to be adopted in this era. But the need for an international, as understood by Lenin and Trotsky, as well as Marx and Engels before them, is indisputable, from the standpoint of the CWI and, we also believe, for the world working class. Percy disputes this and argues for a loose organisation which can, in his eyes, “do the job”, at least for the time being.

This is at variance with the DSP on a national scale, which runs a “disciplined”, if not rigid and bureaucratic, form of organisation. This was highlighted in 2003 by a letter of resignation from their party by a longstanding member, Sean Healy. In this he stated: “I have watched over the last decade a steady hardening of the party’s conception of its essential foundations: to the point where I think the central leadership is now convinced that they already know the “true” Leninist line and all that has to be done is continue repeating the categories until history somehow turns our way again. To such a view, even the Socialist Alliance becomes little more than a long detour back to (an enlarged but otherwise identical) ‘New DSP’.” He then continues: “There is simply no space left in the party for principled difference, no space for me to engage in an honest, serious discussion along these lines. The formal space exists (the counter-report you allowed me to give, for example), but the real space does not: the minds of the majority of comrades are firmly closed and there is nothing I can do to reopen them. The Congress was certainly a practical proof of this — the venom was particularly chilling.”

Why have on a national scale this type of organisation and not apply it internationally? Because a national leadership is in closer touch with “reality”. And what is the evidence for this? They say so! Lenin was an internationalist when no real revolutionary international existed. The CWI from its inception was internationalist, without seeking to create “the” international. We do not claim today that we are “the” international. We are prepared to collaborate on an international scale, on a European scale, such as with the international and European anti-capitalist left. But we recognise the limits of such an organisation and strive for the building of a powerful rounded-out workers’ international on clear revolutionary lines. This is our “ultimate aim”.

This is clearly not the approach of the DSP who fetishise “organisational forms” because they do not wish to take up the political ideas of those that oppose them, particularly the CWI. They consequently get themselves into all sorts of muddles. The scandal in the Ukraine allegedly shows the consequences of seeking to financially and organisationally assist what appear to be revolutionary forces or those attempting to adopt a revolutionary position. Yet, Percy also states, “The Bolsheviks had resources for the international – a permanent centre ion Moscow, assistance for travel to conferences – and resources to help some parties in other countries where they thought the possibility of revolution existed.” Does John Percy approve of this? If so, why is it wrong for others, including his organisation, to seek to assist revolutionaries in other countries politically, organisationally and financially if necessary?

Democracy and the International

Percy writes with weasel words in relation to the effects of the Bolsheviks, which pass as a qualification: “Such a forced march to form an international and construct revolutionary parties in the midst of ongoing revolutionary upheavals was possible only with the tremendous political authority of the Bolsheviks. It was a gamble, and not necessarily one that should have been refused.” He then adds: “However, this type of international organisation should not have been taken as a general principle.” Percy then counterposes the traditions of the Comintern: “Discipline was often more theoretical than real.” Precisely that approach exists within the CWI. As stated earlier, we have open democratic structures, which allow the leadership at all levels to be checked, right of recall, etc. But it also allows the CWI to exclude from its ranks those it considers, after debate and discussion, no longer share its aims.

This was precisely how Lenin and Trotsky behaved in the Comintern. Discipline was only used as a last resort, as in the case of the French Socialist Party, which openly disagreed with the policies of the Comintern on the “united front” for a period of years. An open polemic and debate took place between the leadership of the French CP and the Comintern, and only after lengthy debate was “international discipline” exercised, but it was exercised. Percy gives the impression that the Comintern was merely a debating club and little else.

Percy’s document is very little to do with an honest and principled appraisal of the general experience of trying to create an international or of the experience of the CWI today. It is calculated to throw dust in the eyes of emerging left forces, particularly in Asia, by dishonestly distorting the ideas, method and approach of the CWI. It will not succeed. Events, and great events at that, including a brutal centralised capitalism on a national and, above all an international scale, will demonstrate to working people moving into struggle the absolute necessity for them to be organised. Indeed, they need to be as seriously organised as the enemy, the capitalists, in democratic, disciplined parties. This task is not just a national one but must be applied on the international plane as well. In this process, the CWI intends to fully participate, thereby hoping to create the basis for a genuine, democratic and new internationalism, leading to a new international organisation that can mobilise the working class worldwide for the socialist transformation of society.

‘The Ukraine scam, internationals and internationalism by’, John Percy (National Secretary of the Australian Democratic Socialist Perspective), from ‘Links’ no. 25, January to June, 2004:

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March 2005