Last year saw a split in and the re-foundation of the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI), as outlined in ‘Rebuilding the CWI, Lessons and tasks‘. Since the July 2019 re-foundation conference, the debate which led to the split continued for varying times in some countries. In Nigeria, after debates at all levels, a special enlarged meeting of the Democratic Socialist Movement National Committee voted, last October, to remain affiliated with the CWI and not join the group which has become the ISA.
A minority within the DSM opposed this and, given the scale of the differences, soon began to make preparations to launch a new organisation.
This pro-ISA grouping was quite heterogeneous. One of its main leaders is politically close to the Venezuelan regime, and last November he travelled to Venezuela to attend events there. Significantly, no political report was given of this visit despite the fact that, at that time, this opposition leader was still working full time for the DSM.
Although this opposition grouping rapidly became organised they produced no political documents explaining their positions. As the below statement points out, this was despite the fact that the DSM NEC repeatedly asked the opposition to produce a political platform, which could serve as a basis for their faction’s political ideas in a pre-National Congress discussion. Their political silence is perhaps typical of the ISA which, to date, has not published the political documents presumably agreed at their world congress, held last January.
Given both the scale of the differences and increasing withdrawal of ISA supporters from DSM activities, a split was inevitable. On 6 June, two ISA supporters wrote to the DSM leadership stating that they and an undeclared number of others were leaving the DSM. Below is the response of the National Executive Committee of the Democratic Socialist Movement.
Faction leaves over political differences but DSM remains committed to fundamental ideas of Marxism
A previously undeclared minority faction, operating clandestinely, has broken away from the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) over fundamental political questions, arising from irreconcilable differences on what should be the correct ideological orientation of a working class-oriented socialist organisation.
They have now gone ahead to form a new organisation called the Movement for Socialist Alternative (MSA) and affiliated with the International Socialist Alternative (ISA) – a group of ex-comrades who separated from the Committee for a Workers International (CWI) last year.
This has brought to a close over one year of intense debate within the DSM over ideas and programmes especially the question of how Marxists intervene in the class struggle, identity politics and how to build a revolutionary organisation. This debate itself originated in November and December 2018 within the CWI – the revolutionary international to which the DSM is affiliated.
It is not a surprise that an ideological dispute broke out on the eve of what has turned out to be an unprecedented historical crisis of capitalism. A new historical turning point sometimes leads to difficult questions on the ideas and programmes by which a revolutionary organisation had hitherto steered its course. This was the substance of the debate that occurred in the CWI and thereafter in the DSM.
Unfortunately during the course of the debate, a minority layer of our members supported the ISA, which justifies and covers up pandering towards identity politics, inconsistent work in the trade unions and lowering of the banner of socialism when we intervene in cross-class movements. This opportunistic character of the ISA threatened the proletarian character of the DSM and its essence as a Trotskyist organisation. This is because right from its inception, the DSM had been built on the recognition of the working class as the only class capable of leading other oppressed masses in a revolutionary movement to overthrow capitalism and transform society along socialist lines. For this to happen, Marxists need to carry out consistent and systematic work in the mass organisations of the working class, principally the trade unions. In this work just as during interventions in other movements including women’s struggles, the socialist programme need to be boldly posed and explained in a transitional way, not softened or lowered for so-called tactical expedience.
Indeed, some of this grouping’s leading supporters saw the ISA as a natural habitat having also been on similar opportunist trajectory, favouring building DSM as a loose, federalist organisation, and not a democratic centralist revolutionary organisation. As a group, they also aped the political opportunism of the ISA by providing a shield for a full-time worker of the organisation who persistently breached our democratic centralist principles and moved away from the programme and principles of the CWI with an uncritical opportunistic intervention in the international campaigns on Venezuela and Cuba. This included making the DSM branch he led to pass a resolution that such an intervention was an exclusive activity of the branch, meaning that the DSM NEC did not have power or control over how they intervened.
Significantly, they did not produce a platform putting forward the political basis for their grouping, something which the DSM NEC repeatedly asked them to do since the beginning of this year.
This was the background to the parting of ways with the supporters of ISA in Nigeria after a year-long democratic debate wherein a majority of membership rejected their approach and resolved to continue to build the DSM as a principled Trotskyist revolutionary organisation.
Obviously, a number of supporters and activists are likely to find this development sad. It is always regrettable when revolutionary organisations split. This is because given the enormity of the task of defeating capitalism and transforming society along socialist lines, a revolutionary organisation with mass membership and influence is what we aim to build. However ideas and programmes, and commitment to them, are the starting point and basis for any revolutionary activity. Without agreement on the fundamental principles of Marxism and methods of intervention, a revolutionary organisation cannot be built, let alone become a mass force.
The COVID-19 pandemic has become a trigger for a new world economic recession in every country. This new stage of capitalist crisis presents opportunities for the forces of Marxism to grow. But events will not move in a straight line. Revolutionary and counter-revolutionary currents are likely to criss-cross. As class struggle will grow, so also would imperialist rivalry, nationalism, racism and movements dominated by variants of identity politics and other ideas.
In the complex situation posed by the new period opening up, the success of a revolutionary organisation will depend on how firm it stands by its programmes while being sensitive to moods but without pandering to opportunistic pressure. Unfortunately on the eve of this colossal development, our ex-comrades took a wrong turn by embracing an international that justifies pandering to identity politics, inconsistent work in the trade unions and a softening of programme that lowers the socialist banner at the very moment when it needs to be held boldly aloft.
Undeterred, we shall continue to march forward with those who are ready to continue the building of a proletarian and Trotskyist DSM. At the same time, the DSM does not rule out collaboration, where necessary, in a principled united front manner with the MSA as we always do with all left and workers’ organisations in joint campaigns, broad left platforms and struggles. We hope that the class struggle will help the best of our ex-comrades to overcome their present shortcomings and reconnect with their political roots.
A political split means that both sides are put to the test of the class struggle while building support for their programme and their organisations. We are confident that the DSM, with its clear programme and the experience of nearly 35 years of distinct activities, will meet the opportunities and challenges which this new period will offer to create the socialist movement necessary to end the miseries of capitalism and oppression.