The Ukraine scam, internationals and internationalism
By John Percy
January 2004 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Embarrassing details of an extensive scam being operated against left-wing organisations surfaced in the Ukraine in mid-2003. At least twelve, possibly up to twenty, small left groups, mainly in England and the United States, were conned by an enterprising group of Ukrainian politicos pretending to be supporters of each of these parties or their "internationals" setting up their Ukrainian "sections".
The same group, as members of Workers Resistance (Robitnichi Sprotiv—RS) ran the lot. Workers Resistance was the Ukraine section of the Committee for a Workers' International (CWI), led by Peter Taaffe's Socialist Party from London. The same individuals travelled to international conferences of the different groups under different names. The same individuals orchestrated meetings or conferences for each of the different international groups when they visited Kiev. Up to twenty people were involved in the scam. They received money for offices, printing, translations and computers.
These fake Ukrainian left organisations are an ironic echo of the elaborate village facades built in the Ukraine and Crimea for Catherine the Great's tours in 1787, designed to give the illusion of prosperity. These modern-day "Potemkin villages" operating for the last year or two have given quite a few "internationals" the illusion of growth.
Among those scammed were:
- Workers Power (League for a Revolutionary Communist International, now League for the Fifth International (LFI));
- The Alliance for Workers Liberty (AWL);
- The Workers Revolutionary Party (one of the fragments of Gerry Healy's party, led by Sheila Torrance);
- The League for the Revolutionary Party of the US (Schactmanite, Communist Organisation for the Fourth International);
- The Socialist Party of Great Britain (World Socialist Movement);
- The Socialist Studies group [of SPGB dissidents];
- The US group that publishes News and Letters, followers of Raya Dunayevskaya;
- The DeLeonist Socialist Labor Party in the US;
- The International Trotskyist Opposition group inside the Fourth International;
- The International Bureau for the Revolutionary Party, a Bordigist group.
- The Groupe Communiste Internationaliste from Belgium;
- The Partido de Trabajadores por el Socialismo from Argentina;
- The Internationalist Group/League for the Fourth International, a split from the Spartacist League;
- The International Bolshevik Tendency (IBT), another split from the Spartacists.1
All fell for the scam to one extent or another, and there are probably some others who have yet to own up to being conned. A total figure of US$40,000 has been mentioned, but only the Ukrainian masterminds would know the full extent of the swindle.
Some of the victims excused themselves by saying it was easy to be misled by clones in cyberspace. They pointed out the Ukrainian scammers hid behind the claimed difficulties of repression, the different language, the very different and difficult political situation. Nevertheless, these "internationals" quickly welcomed a new flag on the world map for their particular sect.
The LFI carried out a "fusion" with their Ukrainian group in 2001, now declared "null and void". They claimed they "had had suspicions for the last nine months that something was amiss" with their phoney section.
The IBT had also trumpeted a "fusion" with their Ukrainian group in 2001. "It is little consolation that we are not the only people to have been duped", they conceded.
The AWL's consolation was that they were only "relatively minor" victims. They parted with only £300!
The Spartacist League gloated because one of the groups that split from them, the IBT, fell for the Ukrainian scam hook, line and sinker. Why weren't the Spartacists stung? As the international sect par excellence, they pride themselves on their much more rigorous political standards—the absolute detail of their doctrine and 200% agreement with James Robertson-thought is hard to imitate, even for the versatile Ukrainian scammers. But a more likely reason is the fact that the Spartacist international takes an even more extreme form than other sects: it operates on the export method, sending US Spartacists to build little groups in other countries. It would be hard to con a proconsul stationed permanently in Kiev. Potemkin villages succeed only with empresses making fleeting inspections from the capital.
The Ukrainian CWI scammers had their scam down to a fine art. Running a con via cyberspace is very easy: just echo back what the "international" would like to hear. Make sure to say something positive about the main shibboleths of the group. A nice refinement is to be slightly awry or sceptical on a secondary point of doctrine, allowing the mother group the satisfaction of putting the new chums right and bringing them into the fold. It would have taken more skills to entertain politically the visitors from abroad face-to-face, and represent the new "section" at the international conferences of the "international", requiring considerable acting talent to juggle the increasing number of roles.
The victims have mainly reacted with cries of "fraud against the workers' movement". (Perhaps they have faint hopes of the CWI paying compensation for their lost investments?) Maybe fraud is an issue, but that's not the main problem that the Ukrainian scam exposes.
It lays bare some of the errors of the whole conception of an "international party".
The CWI has been extremely embarrassed by the exposure of the enterprise, and not completely forthcoming about it. It subsequently emerged that a prominent CWI member from Russia, Ilya Budraitskis, was also actively involved in the scam.
A CWI statement (not available on their web site) railed against the shameful fraud of its "section" in the Ukraine and Kiev. "The CWI has been the main victim of this duplicity", they claimed. Yes, perhaps more than they realise. How many laptops and free trips have they supplied?
The Ukraine scam is not at all original, only the most audacious and extensive implementation of it. As the CWI statement admitted: "In the past, the CWI, like others, has on a few occasions been duped into supplying limited resources to groups in the neo-colonial world and even in Europe, who have subsequently turned out to be completely unscrupulous and who did not agree with us politically".
Some of the victims attempted to preempt the obvious criticisms.
"No doubt cynics and gossips", wrote the League for the Fourth International "will seize upon this episode to disparage the struggle to reforge an authentically Trotskyist Fourth International".
Similarly, the League for the Fifth International (Workers Power) suggested in its statement that one motive for the deception could be "a conscious attempt to discredit revolutionary internationalism", and declared: "Doubtless those tendencies that have always opposed attempting to build a common international organisation in general or claimed it was necessary to `postpone' it until large and stable mass organisations are built on a national basis, will claim to be vindicated by such incidents".
Certainly. And why not? All these groups should face up to the fact that the conception of such "internationals" is totally wrong.
The CWI and the UK Socialist Party do take their "international" most seriously, priding themselves on each new CWI flag on the world map, even if it's just five individuals with absolutely no connection with the political life of the country. They implement an international discipline.
It seems that when the leadership of one of the CWI`s sections consistently starts thinking for itself, and demonstrates a connection with the real class struggle in its country, that's incompatible with this model of international relations between parties. Even if initially there's not a huge political difference between the mother party and the "offspring", the act of independent thinking is the problem. Given the diversity of political conditions parties face from country to country, such developments will be frequent.
For example, the Labour Party Pakistan was originally part of the CWI. But a number of successes and a period of growth were threatening to London, so excuses were manufactured for expulsion. (They're better off now, of course, and continue to grow.) Now the CWI keeps its loyal little group alive with a cash injection of £200 a month, a lot in Pakistan.
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.
The British Socialist Workers Party has for years claimed that it's different, that it doesn't have a perspective of constructing another "toy international". It has tried to pretend that its International Socialist Tendency (IST) wasn't trying to be an international, but just an international political tendency.
However, its discipline was just as rigorous as any of the other "internationals", and its desperation to get new flags on the map was just as intense.
When its US section, the International Socialist Organisation, showed that it was thinking more for itself, was growing and had developed a self-confident leadership, it was inevitable that a rift would occur. It came in 2000, with the spurious charge that the ISO "didn't respond to Seattle". The SWP excommunicated it.
The SWP's new group in the US was Left Turn, initiated by a few members who had been expelled from the ISO for being a faction directed from London. Now Left Turn has embarrassed the SWP by requesting that it not be listed as a section of the IST. They'd differentiated themselves from the ISO's Leninist party perspective, and had related to the autonomist milieu in the anti-globalisation movement. They have taken their autonomist leanings further—no party, and no IST.2
None of the Trotskyist currents have really escaped from the problems posed by the "international party" perspective.
Bill Jones, a defender of this conception of building a "world party" elaborated the argument crudely, shorn of some of the usual disguise, in a polemical letter to the British Weekly Worker:3
Only a common decision-making process at the international level, at international conferences and meetings, and a common international discipline based on political (not bureaucratic) methods—remonstration, political argument, moral pressure and dialogue—can avoid a nationally distorted view of the world and a consequent national chauvinist degeneration.
Why? Did Lenin's Bolsheviks have a "nationally distorted view of the world"? Did the Cuban revolutionaries have a "national chauvinist degeneration"? In fact, often these fake "internationals"—frequently with their centre in London—have an actual whiff of national chauvinism about them.
Jones argues: "In Britain the main pressures acting on the revolutionary left are left Labourism, left liberalism, narrow syndicalism, `Guardianism', pacifism and NGOism … " and "the British academic milieu".
Only by discussing and deciding positions in relation to key world events at international conferences and meetings can these national distorted views be synthesised into balanced fully rounded assessments and positions. That is why international democratic centralism is so important.
That doesn't follow at all. The actual effect of being part of a fake international is not to raise barriers against such pressures, but often to transmit them to their clones. Most of these "internationals" have limited contact with other forces that are outside their narrow "international", so their synthesis at their international conferences is far from balanced and rounded.
Bill Jones' remedy? "All monies available for international work" to be equally parcelled out to sections in poorer countries. (The Ukrainian scammers would have certainly loved that!)
How did this bizarre form of "international" become such an article of faith for all these Trotskyist groups?
Internationalism is at the very core of the communist program—the Communist Manifesto ends with the rallying call "Workers of all countries, unite!" But the writings and actions of the founders of our movement make it very clear that this essential internationalism doesn't imply any particular international form.
What was the actual Marxist tradition, the reality of the first three internationals?
The International Working Men's Association—the First International—was a very loose federation of diverse groups, parties, cooperatives and associations. (Some think we're at that stage today, and liken the World Social Forum to that broad, all-encompassing association.) Marx and Engels inspired its formation in 1864, but were quite happy to see it dissolved in the 1870s when its usefulness was finished. As Engels wrote in 1877:
… the continuing close intercourse between the socialist workers' parties of the various countries proved that the consciousness of the identity of interests and of the solidarity of the proletariat of all countries evoked by the International is able to assert itself even without the bond of a formal international association, which for the moment had become a fetter."4
Internationalism for them did not depend on a structure, but on program and action, as Marx stressed in attacking the narrow national perspective of Lassalle:
It is altogether self-evident that, to be able to fight at all, the working class must organise itself at home as a class and that its own country is the immediate arena of its struggle. In so far its class struggle is national, not in substance, but, as the Communist Manifesto says, "in form". But the "framework of the present-day national state", for instance, the German Empire, is itself in its turn economically "within the framework" of the world market, politically "within the framework" of the system of states.
The task of the German working class was not to issue pious phrases about "the international brotherhood of peoples", Marx wrote, but to challenge its own bourgeoisie, at home and internationally. "The international activity of the working classes does not in any way depend on the existence of the International Working Men's Association."5
Marx and Engels were against any new international that was not related to action. In the early 1880s they weren't in favour of founding a new international. Marx wrote in 1881:
It is my conviction that the critical juncture for a new international workingmen's association has not yet arrived and for this reason I regard all workers' congresses or socialist congresses, in so far as they are not directly related to the conditions existing in this or that particular nation, as not merely useless but harmful. They will always fade away in innumerable stale, generalised banalities.6
Although the first congress of what became known as the Second International was held in 1889, it was a one-off congress, and the Second International wasn't really established until after Engels died in 1895. In 1900 an International Socialist Bureau, with a technical and coordinating rather than a directive function, was established in Brussels.
The political hollowness of the internationalism of the Second International was exposed in August 1914, when nearly all parties voted to back their own bourgeoisies, and marched off to war. After these betrayals, Lenin did call for a new international, but his emphasis was on the new politics needed, calling for a break with the betrayers.
On arriving in Russia in April 1917 after the February Revolution, Lenin repeated that call in his April Theses. But he counterposed "internationalism in deed" to the "internationalism in word" of the Second International, "empty assurances of devotion to internationalism".
There is one, and only one, kind of real 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.
The "internationalists in deed" were those who continued the perspective of making the revolution against their own bourgeoisie, even in time of war. "Our chief enemy is at home." He wrote that we
… must found, and right now, without delay, a new, revolutionary proletarian International, or rather, we must not fear to acknowledge publicly that this new International is already established and operating. This is the International of those "internationalists in deed" … The thing is not to "proclaim" internationalism but to be able to be an internationalist in deed, even when times were most trying.7
For Lenin, as for Marx and Engels, politics rather than organisational form was paramount.
Outside of Russia, however, this internationalist trend was small. The Bolsheviks were able to carry through the October 1917 revolution, but they did not expect to be alone—they thought the revolution would continue in the rest of Europe, and the isolation of the weakened, invaded, Soviet state would be broken. The revolutionaries' hold on power was precarious. They had nominal control in a devastated country, with a decimated working class. They hoped that real Marxist parties could be built rapidly out of the revolutionary ferment in Europe following World War I. There were real revolutionary possibilities, especially in Germany. Workers were rising up, seizing factories, establishing local soviets. The ruling classes were in absolute disarray, with the treacherous social democrats their only hope.
Lenin explained that "Europe's greatest misfortune and danger is that it has no revolutionary party. It has parties of traitors like the Scheidemanns, Renaudels, Hendersons, Webbs and Co, and servile souls like Kautsky", although conditions were ripe for revolution.8 (Perhaps Lenin's greatest mistake was that he didn't realise how perfidious the German social democrats were.)
Thus the Communist International was formed in very particular circumstances, for a very specific purpose. The Bolsheviks saw an urgent need to force splits in the social democratic parties and construct revolutionary parties strong enough and capable enough to follow the Bolshevik example, especially in Germany. The manifesto of the founding congress stated:
Our task is to generalise the revolutionary experience of the working class, to purge the movement of the corroding admixtures of opportunism and social-patriotism, to unify the efforts of all genuinely revolutionary parties of the world proletariat and thereby facilitate and hasten the victory of the Communist revolution throughout the world.9
It was a real and immediate task, reinforced by the Bolsheviks' unanimous belief (Stalin included) that only through this course would their revolution be saved.
Although the state they controlled was devastated, with limited resources, going through tremendous difficulties, with people dying of hunger, it was still a state. The Bolsheviks had resources for the international—a permanent centre in Moscow, assistance for travel to conferences—and resources to help some other parties in countries where they thought the possibility of revolution existed.
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.
However, this type of international organisation should not have been taken as a general principle (certainly not after all the political experiences and lessons of the last century). Even with the emergency tasks of the Comintern, and the actual revolutionary situations faced by some of the sections, democratic debate and discussion flourished in both the Comintern and in the parties. As Marcel Liebman noted, "discipline was often more theoretical than real … Nothing had been finally settled so long as the depth of internationalist feelings helped to slow down the march of Russification, and so long as Lenin still stood at the head of the movement."10 Again, real internationalism was more important than structure.
With the degeneration of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union under Stalin, the Comintern was converted into its opposite, not an emergency booster for revolution, but a permanent stabiliser of counter-revolution. It served as an instrument to make the Communist parties around the world reliable tools of the Stalinist bureaucracy in Moscow. Having been broken and tamed to Stalin's will, the Communist parties adopted the same relationship to Moscow that the Ukrainian "groups" maintained with their "centres". But in the Stalinist practice of Cominternism, the relationship of rewards for political toadyism was out in the open, and the largesse flowing to the loyal followers in other countries, in the form of subsidies and free international trips, was immeasurably greater.
The conceptions of internationalism of the multiple "internationals" splitting off from the Trotskyist tradition are all influenced by the particular circumstances of the Stalinist degeneration of the CPSU and the heroic efforts by Leon Trotsky to counter it.
All the Trotskyist internationals have persisted in a misunderstanding of internationalism, substituting the form for the political content, and making an unjustified theoretical leap to defend the "one world party" concept. Most will quote Trotsky's important criticism of the 1928 draft program of Stalin's Communist International as justification for their existence. Trotsky was valiantly fighting against the bureaucratisation and degeneration of the Bolshevik revolution, and correctly polemicising against Stalin's perspective of "socialism in one country". (He was also arguing against the dropping of the slogan for a Soviet United States of Europe, which could be more debatable.)
In our epoch, which is the epoch of imperialism, i.e., of world economy and world politics under the hegemony of finance capital, not a single communist party can establish its program by proceeding solely or mainly from conditions and tendencies of development in its own country … The international program must proceed directly from an analysis of the conditions and tendencies of world economy and of the world political system taken as a whole in all its connections and contradictions, that is, with the mutually antagonistic interdependence of its separate parts. In the present epoch, to a much larger extent than in the past, the national orientation of the proletariat must and can flow only from a world orientation and not vice versa.11
Yes, an understanding of imperialism is absolutely essential for a party to "establish its program". But Trotskyists have followed this with a non sequitur. Why is the "international party" form necessary? Why embrace the "general staff of the world revolution" model, copying the form and structure taken up by the Comintern to cope with the specific revolutionary circumstances in Europe following World War I and the successful but isolated Russian Revolution?
"The World Party of Socialist Revolution" is the ambitious but presumptuous name adopted by the founding congress of the Fourth International in 1938. It was a small gathering of twenty, able to meet in secret only for a day. The formation was opposed by the Polish Trotskyist group, whose leading figure was Isaac Deutscher, writer of the authoritative three-volume biography of Trotsky. The Poles' opposition probably related more to the premature nature, and the weakness of the organisation, rather than understanding the problems with the "international party" concept.
Perhaps there was some rationale for an international current, as a faction trying to expose and counter the crimes of Stalinism in that very distorted situation. Murray Smith argues thus in Links 19: "The epoch of small, competing, ideologically defined internationals is over. In many ways they played a useful role in defending, against the dominant forces of reformism and Stalinism …"12 Once they are splintered into dozens of different sects, this rationale disappears, and further loses point when Stalinism collapses. Stalinism is increasingly a relic of the past. Its legacy still impacts on and harms the revolutionary movement, but our tasks today are very different.
Stalin was certainly quite happy with his international party; the Comintern served its purpose. The cps had been so thoroughly tamed by 1943 that he could just ditch it as a "concession" to Roosevelt and Churchill. Unfortunately, the practice of so many of the different Trotskyist internationals has been closer to the monolithic practices of the Comintern under Stalin. Any new political difference, and sometimes just a personality clash between leaders, leads to a new split and yet another "international party".
Yet many revolutionary Marxists still idealise and fetishise the Comintern form, some perhaps conceding that it had to be big enough (not a "toy"), or it would be appropriate if "the time is ripe".
But the whole conception is wrong. Certainly the toy internationals are misdirected; even if their proponents are sometimes idealistic, they are a sad waste of energy. Moreover, even if these toy internationals were a lot bigger, and not so thoroughly disunited, the verdict would be the same—they're even harmful. The latest farce in the Ukraine could be the final blow to the pretensions of some of them.
It's not a question of denigrating or downplaying the necessity of internationalism. An internationalist perspective, and real internationalist action, is essential:
- being implacably opposed to your own ruling class, and fighting to overthrow it, and building a strong, united revolutionary party in your own country as the means to reach that goal;
- organising and expressing solidarity with workers and other oppressed people struggling in other countries;
- collaborating with other parties and movements in coordinating anti-war or anti-imperialist or trade union struggles and actions internationally;
- benefiting from the diverse experiences and class struggles in other countries; organising exchanges and helping where possible, without creating an external centre or distorting newer parties and groups;
- learning from and discussing with socialists from other countries and other traditions, through exchanging publications, participating in a wide range of international conferences and real international collaboration.
But all this can be done and better achieved without being part of an international, certainly not the toy internationals, certainly not an international modelled on the Comintern of Stalin's rule, but also not even an international that might be bigger and with real authority and led by genuine, serious revolutionaries.
Revolution is international in content, but national in form—the ruling class we have to overthrow is "our own" national ruling class, with its own state power.
And practice tells us something. The revolutions that have succeeded all took place without an "international" to organise the world revolution. The Russian revolutionaries, the Chinese, the Cuban and the Vietnamese weren't in an international when they made their revolutions. (In the latter three cases, you can be confident that if they had been in an international, and submitted to Moscow's directions, they wouldn't have made their revolutions.)
The experience of internationals has been almost totally negative for building what is actually needed—self-confident revolutionary parties capable of making an impact in the class struggle in their countries. This was certainly the case in the Stalinised Comintern and in the various offshoots of this tradition following the Sino-Soviet split in the international communist movement. It has also been the case with the many "internationals" flowing from the Trotskyist tradition.
This doesn't imply at all that parties have to develop in national isolation, and can never make use of experiences abroad. But it's a question of genuinely learning from other experiences in other countries, in order to apply that experience creatively to local conditions, rather than just copying blueprints blindly. It's a question of learning from abroad versus taking orders.
How do new groups learn and develop a leadership? We know the lessons we in the Democratic Socialist Party were able to learn from our early history in the 1960s and 1970s. We made our own decisions and tested them in practice, and also looked abroad for ideas and ways of doing things that we could adopt as well. But we tested these as well and increasingly became more confident in testing and thinking things through for ourselves, so that by the 1980s we made some breaks with some of those inherited traditions. On some questions, we found it useful to go back and study the experiences of Lenin and the Bolsheviks more thoroughly.
One lesson reaffirmed from our own experience, as well as from the experience of more successful revolutionaries, is the need for a revolutionary Marxist party, organised on a democratic centralist basis, on a national level. Some have concluded, from the terrible experience of Stalinism, or from the sectarian experiences of various attempts at revolutionary parties or revolutionary "internationals", that the whole idea of a party is faulty. But on examination of many of the complaints and arguments, we find that often it's not an argument against a party, but against "Cominternism".
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.
Do recent developments with the increasing "globalisation" of capitalism, the heightened imperialist offensive and the worldwide anti-capitalist resistance of recent years change this?
Certainly there's an upsurge, an increased mobilisation among young radicals and older activists, willing to struggle for a different world. Certainly there's need for continuing, or more extensive, coordination of anti-war and anti-capitalist action. And there's certainly the need for greater political clarity to counter the confusion and false theories so rampant in the movement. But what sort of international collaboration and regroupment are needed?
Is the solution a more formal establishment of the "new movements" into a new international framework, a "movement of movements" that is going to replace the old style internationals, as well as the old-style parties? A framework in which the new leaders are from the movements, the ngos and the new gurus who have made themselves a name in the bourgeois media?
Certainly we don't need a new "international" dominated by NGOs. A big problem here is the political distortions flowing from NGO money, which allows considerable control and even power of veto from those with money, the foundations and governments! We've witnessed the hypocritical exclusion of the open participation of revolutionary parties in the World Social Forum by the dominating NGOs, only to see the social democratic and right-wing parties welcomed on board with their special status of parliamentarians, or holders of the purse strings.
Is the solution a new attempt at an international of socialist parties, based upon the radicalising struggles of recent years, and avoiding the political mistakes of past internationals?
Some in the Fourth International are considering the possibility of an expansion, a regroupment, to a "Fifth" International (although several tiny international groups have already tried to stake out the claim to that number). Michael Löwy puts this argument forcefully in an article reprinted in the Fourth International's magazine International Viewpoint, "Towards a new International?":
This movement for another world is broad and, necessarily, heterogeneous. But it emerged with an immediately worldwide, international and internationalist character …
The Movement of Global Resistance, or at least its most organized expression, the World Social Forum (WSF), already has a certain degree of international organization …
Does this amount to a "Fifth International"? No, for two obvious reasons: 1) we are talking about social movements and not political organizations and a project of global social transformation; 2) the Movement of Global Resistance and its bodies are very heterogeneous—as they should be—including sectors who still believe in the possibility of a regulated, humanized, national and democratic capitalism. The same heterogeneity is found also inside the International Parliamentary Forum.
What is lacking is a network of political organizations—parties, fronts, movements—that can propose an alternative project inside the Movement, going beyond capitalism, and the perspective of a new society, with neither oppressor nor oppressed. Something of the sort exists already in Europe—the Conference of the European Anti-Capitalist Left.
If this experience could be extended to other continents, to constitute a network that included, in a broad manner, the most radical political positions in the great Movement of Global Resistance, we would have a "New International" which need not necessarily be called the "Fifth" because not all the currents would necessarily identify with the history of the workers' and socialist Internationals of the past. It could be called the "International Conference of the Anti-Capitalist Left", or the "Tendency for the New International" or any other name that could be invented by the creative imagination of its participants.13
In Europe there's a strong rationale for closer collaboration between parties in the European Anti-Capitalist Left. Apart from the close geographical proximity of parties, there's now the common framework of the capitalist European Union to organise against, and participation in the European Parliament as an important arena of political struggle and propaganda.
In Latin America there's also a logic for closer coordination of the struggles, in addition to the broad annual gathering of left parties that takes place within the Sao Paulo Forum framework.
Contact, exchanges, collaboration and support for common international actions, yes. If that's a "network", fine. A party, or groups of parties, can organise international conferences for education and discussion. It can be a network, or as Murray Smith argues in his article in Links 21, an international alliance of socialist parties that are "clearly anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist … and work out their policies through democratic debate" and "that have roots in their national reality, that are not just branch offices of an international centre".14
But not a new "international". Certainly not a politically narrow international regroupment (although perhaps any reversal of the fragmentation of the left should be seen as positive). If it's in the form of a new "international", whatever it's called, it would be harmful and reinforce the sectarian tendencies. It could set back the task of building strong, united revolutionary parties in each country, which would foster the international collaboration of real forces in each country. We should recognise the fact that persistence in such forms, or hankering after them, lessens the chance of actual collaboration, actual networks and actual internationalism.
The key task is to concentrate on building the strongest possible revolutionary Marxist parties in our own countries, uniting all possible forces and guaranteeing a democratic structure to have the productive discussion that can develop and test our program to take the struggle forward. Internationalism will be enhanced by developing collaboration with similar parties in other countries on the basis of solidarity and mutual non-interference.
The socialist alliances and multi-tendency parties that have developed and had some initial successes in recent years are an important step in the right direction.
An important article [reprinted in this issue] by José Ramón Balaguer Cabrera, a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of Cuba, makes a strong case for such alliances, based on their own experiences and the "analysis of the victories and setbacks that make up the history of the popular struggles".
Perhaps the Ukrainian fraudsters have in the end done the revolutionary cause a service. Let's hope the reductio ad absurdum of the Ukrainian multiple scam provokes genuine revolutionaries in the multiple efforts at "internationals" to reflect on the contradiction increasingly posed today between real internationalism and the mistaken attempts to construct "the International Party". Without all those toy internationals and the myth of the need for an "international", the revolutionaries might actually start cooperating in building revolutionary parties in their own countries.
Our numbers are small, our tasks are so immense, and our capitalist enemies are so strong that such collaboration and cooperation are sorely needed. The steps of building socialist alliances and developing those socialist alliances into stronger revolutionary parties would be greatly assisted by the final demise of a few more of those fake internationals.
They make a mockery of the real internationalism of Marx and Lenin. They not only hinder genuine international solidarity, but in fact can substitute for, and divert attention and resources from, the central, real and difficult task of building a party with a mass base that can make a revolution against your own ruling class. Even worse, the antics of toy internationals, exposed so starkly by this Ukraine scam, can miseducate and repel radicalising workers and youth from committing themselves to that task of building a revolutionary party.
[At the time of writing John Percy was the national secretary of the Australian Democratic Socialist Perspective.]
1. The IBT web site <http://www.bolshevik.org> has posted many of the statements by the scammed organisations.
2. See <http://archives.econ.utah.edu/archives/marxism/2003w37/msg00223.htm>.
3. Weekly Worker 496, September 18, 2003. (This is the paper of the Communist Party of Great Britain, a new small group, not the old cpgb.)
4. Karl Marx, by Frederick Engels, MESW Vol. 3, p. 83.
5. Marx, Critique of the Gotha Program, MESW Vol. 3, pp. 21-22.
6. Letter to Dutch revolutionist F. Domela-Nieuenhuis, February 22, 1881, Marx-Engels Selected Correspondence, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1965, p. 339.
7. In "Tasks of the Proletariat in our Revolution", written April 10. Collected Works, Vol. 24, Moscow, 1977, pp. 74, 75, 82.
8. Collected Works, Vol. 28, p. 113.
9. Manifesto of First Congress of the Third International, 1919, drafted by Trotsky. Theses, Resolutions and Manifestoes of the First Four Congresses of the Third International, Ink Links, London, 1980, p. 27.
10. Marcel Liebman, Leninism Under Lenin, Jonathan Cape, London, 1975, p. 416.
11. Leon Trotsky, The Third International After Lenin, Pathfinder, New York, 1970, p. 4.
12. Murray Smith,"Internationalism and international links", Frontline 2; Links 19, September to December, 2001, p. 119.
13. International Viewpoint 348, March 2003. The article was originally written for the Mexican magazine Revista Rebeldia, see <http://www.revistarebeldia.org>.
14. Murray Smith, "Axes of Marxist internationalism", Links 21, p. 100.