The CWI is an international socialist organization. It has sections in 45 countries in the world, including Russia. We were members of that organization, but now we went out in order to build our own group.
We already explained in another article what is wrong in the CWI Russian section. To say it shortly: its leadership does not know and does not learn how to use the methods of marxism. Because of this, mistakes appear in its programme, tactics and party-building. And it is difficult to correct those mistakes, because there is not enough discipline and democracy inside this organization.
You could ask us: «If you have disagreements with with the local leadership, what prevents you from changing that leadership and rebuild the section?» Well, in the beginning we tried to do this. But then it became clear that the leadership of the whole International follows the same principles than the local leadership. And the rank-and-file activists of the different national sections are OK with that. So we decided to go out of the International.
This article is about the way we see the mistakes committed by the International and its leadership. The abbreviations in this text «IS» and «IEC» stand for the ruling organs of the International. The IS is the executive International Secretariat, whereas the IEC is a broader direction committee that meets rarely, since it is made up of delegates from the 45 countries.
N.B. Our knowledge of the situation in the various CWI sections and even more, of the mood and actions of the rank-and-file activists is very fragmentary. In order to write this article, we used only official reports such as the CWI international website, a few letters and discussions with the IS or IEC members, the various interventions on two international schools, and a few informal discussions with comrades from various countries. Our section always had very limited relations towards the rest of the International – this is an additional problem that we were not able to solve. So please forgive us if we distorted this or that fact : we didn’t do it on purpose, but because of a lack of information.
The CWI doesn’t have a well-rounded programme
We thought that only our own local section had such a weak analyzis and stereotyped programme, but that the International itself is led by strong analysts. But it appeared that it was not the case. This is what we saw at the International school.
The analysis is rather superficial. The CWI does not conduct any real political and economic analyzes. They take analyzes from other lefts, social-democrats and liberals.
At the last summer school, a comrade from Greece came to address the audience. Instead of providing us with his own analyzis, he only quoted Varufakis. And then added that Varufakis is not a marxist and is not able to propose a programme for struggle. We didn’t see wthat the CWI added to Varufakis’s analyzis.
In the same contribution, the comrade called the other lefts «idiots». Everyone applauded. But we did not hear any substantial critique of the mistakes committed by these stupid lefts.
On the CWI website, we haven’t seen since a long time any deep analyzis of the situation. The CWI members fill this gap with pompous declarations. They talk about the approaching victory of the revolution and about the power of the working class. Such contributions can inspire us once, but on the third time already, it leaves us longing for something more substantial.
The CWI does not have a programme of action. They repeat slogans about nationalization under democratic working class control. In the countries where such nationalizations seem far away, this slogan is effective as a good propagandist one. By reading it, people can understand that the CWI is against the private ownership of the means of production and for a democratic management of the economy. But this is only propaganda.
Comrades hope that when we will come to real business, the leadership will explain in more details how to effectively achieve nationalization. But this does not happen: the CWI does not know how to go from the propagandist slogans to agitation.
In Greece, the question was posed of how the Left should act once it comes to power. The CWI argues for a refusal to pay the debt, for the nationalization of banks and industry under workers control, for a State monopoly on foreign trade, for a socialist reconstruction of society, for a call to the European working class to struggle for a socialist federation.
However, once we want to implement this programme, we come face to face with the problem of how exactly to conduct nationalizations and to organize workers control? These slogans are now not propagandist anymore, but concern actual economic questions. And how to protect the Greek workers when, after we refused to pay the debt, the UE will organize an economic blockade? How to reconstruct the State structures in the country? How to stimulate the struggle in the other European countries? How to prevent a right-wing coup? The CWI does not give any answer to these questions.
It flows from that that, if a revolutionary situation came into being in our country, the International will only provide us with propagandist slogans, but not with a programme of action.
The CWI tactics are not linked to a revolutionary perspective. Comrades think that any activity will strengthen the fighting mood of the workers, will teach them how to organize, and this will somehow lead us to revolution. How exactly, this is not clear. Comrades do not discuss how their actions will bring us any closer from revolution; they do not plan anything on a long term basis.
For many years, our small Irish section has participated in the parliamentary elections. On the Summer School, we asked those comrades what are the results of this work. They answered that the elections are a good tribune for agitation. But they could not tell us what their section obtained from its interventions on this tribune. They said: «It is a difficult question, we need to take into consideration all the circumstances, and of course, this requires a thorough analyzis», but we did not hear this analyzis from them. It seems that elections, from a means, became a purpose.
Protest campaigns without any understanding of the revolutionary perspective – this is action for the sake of action. After such campaigns, the workers are not more organized, the CWI does not get new activists. We got from this the feeling that the CWI is not used to develop a strategy and to conduct a critical evaluation the results of its own work.
The rank-and-file activists do not understand the meaning of analyzis and programme. The mistakes committed by the CWI leadership is the least of the problems. These mistakes could be corrected if the rank-and-file were willing to participate in their correction. However, as it seemed to us, they are OK with it.
The bravado used to conceal the lack of analyzis always receives applauses. Activism for the sake of activism does not bring any questions in the mind of the Irish comrades. The Greek comrades also seem happy with everything: it seems that they want to remain critiques of the left, but not to take the power for themselves. Indeed, for such a purpose, propagandist slogans are enough.
The CWI leadership, talking from the podium, says that soon the revolution will start. We asked rank-and-file comrades their opinion: «How soon? In which country? How are you preparing for this?» But in vain. They know that all the phrases about the revolution are only there to raise their spirits. They got used not to take too seriously what their leaders say.
If some comrades are not happy with the analyzis or the programme of the CWI, they will discuss it in their kitchen or at the bar with others, or will keep on building their organization in their own city as they see it fit. They don’t get involved in the policies of the International and do not try to change its course.
Lack of democracy
Our principles are not opposed to the ones that the CWI declares. This is why we could stay in the International: build our own section as we see it fit (since we represented the majority of this section), while at the same time proposing the International some changes in its programme and tactics. But this appeared impossible to us, because there is a problem of democracy in the International.
The IS ignores political mistakes in exchange for loyalty. Let’s take for example Aynur Kurmanov, an IEC member and leader of the Kazakh section. In his work, he held on to the stalinist theory of «two stages» and built the section around himself in a very individual way. The IS members supported Aynur and closed their eyes on his mistakes, and in return, got his loyalty.
It is almost impossible to remove those leaders who got the support of the IS in exchange of their loyalty. Some sections do not have any access to the elections on an international level. In the Russian section, comrades, who joined 6-7 years ago were never organized to elect the delegates at the International congress. The leadership just put us before the fact.
The IS does not try to penetrate the problems. The IS resolutly excludes all the discontent, without trying to have a better look at what the critics are about.
In 2008, several malcontents were excluded from the Russian section, and half ща the section were excluded with them. These dissatisfied ones did not share many programmatic points with the CWI, so they could hardly remain in that organization. But in addition, they criticized actual problems which affect the CWI: lack of discipline and democracy. This is the reason why they were supported by many comrades who left with them. The IS did not try to conduct a discussion with these other comrades, to understand which problems led to the fact that the majority of the organization supported the malcontents. Instead, Peter Taaffe, as an IS member, took 12 minutes to exclude half of the section.
Five years later, a new fraction appeared in the Russian section: without the political mistakes made by its predecessors, but again with the same critics about the organization’s internal regime. Peter Taaffe could not explain what was the nature of the fraction’s political mistakes, but this did not prevent him to remind us how he took only 12 minutes to exclude the previous troublemakers. We understood that he is very proud of this high deed.
The rest of the comrades do not get the necessary information. It is difficult for them to form an opinion that will be different from the position of the IS, because they get only the information that the IS provides them with.
In the official reports, the CWI’s work is described as a victory train. The leadership never talks about its own mistakes. In some extreme cases, they will admit that «Some mistakes were made», but will not explain what mistakes and what were their consequences. The leadership boasts even when work is objectively failed.
Two years ago, the campaign to support the Kazakhstan Socialist Movement was an international priority. On the various summer schools, comrades were told how we were expanding our influence among the workers, how we were building a mass socialist party in Kazakhstan. Today, the campaign’s banner still hangs on the website, and Kazakhstan is still included in the list of the countries where the CWI is present. But in reality, all the comrades know that there is no more section in Kazakhstan. But there is absolutely no discussion on how we lost the section (or on whether that section ever belonged truly to the CWI), nor on the international level, nor in the various sections.
If we start to criticize the IS’s actions, our critics just never come down to the rank-and-file comrades. Several times during our fraction struggle, we tried to reach to other comrades – not to the whole organization of course, but at least to inform the IEC of what was happening and get those people involved in the discussion. But then, the IS members told us about discipline, that a discussion with the IEC can be conducted only through the IS. So the IS acts as a filter for all the uncomfortable information. And no critic ever make it across through that filter.
It is impossible to organize a discussion. If the comrades are not happy with the position taken by the CWI or the way the IS works, they cannot organize a discussion on an international level. All the discussion is organized through the IS, who decides themselves which information they let across their filter. So the comrades are left to discuss with each other in an informal way. And actually even this type of discussion can be forbidden by the IS in some cases.
Three years ago, the Kazakhstan section was forbidden to participate at the summer school. The IS explained that the Kazakhstan comrades would certainly try to discuss their section’s problems with the other comrades, and the summer school is not made for that, but for the political development of the CWI new comrades. The Russian comrades were allowed to participate at the summer school only on the condition that they would not talk about Kazakhstan.
The comrades who were not happy with the position of the regional leadership or of the IS are isolated. They cannot discuss the problem on an international level so as to draw support from other comrades.
The rank-and-file activists do not demand democracy. Comrades from various countries heard Aynur Kurmanov’s contributions, and knew about his political mistakes. Many people knew that half the comrades were excluded from the Russian section, and that five years later, a new fraction appeared again. Comrades saw how the Campaign Kazakhstan suddenly ceased. They saw that the Kazakhstan comrades did not come to the summer school anymore. They surely saw many other attempts to prevent any discussion on the programme and tactics in the organization. But they put up with it. The comrades who are unhappy lead their own discussions in the café or in their kitchens. But such discussions cannot change the CWI leadership’s approach.
Bad organizational culture
The CWI declares to uphold values such as equality and comradely relations between its members. But in the practice, it is not exactly like that.
Comrades are expected to obey the leadership. Not because of authority or discipline, founded on the electivity of these leaders. What is expected from the rank-and-file and the regional leaders is obedience.
Two years ago, IS member Tony Saunois came to the Russian section’s congress. At that time, our factional struggle had reached its highest point. One of our comrades said that before that, we were judging the IS’s policies only through its official reports, so we should consider our congress with the Russian section as a kind of test, by Tony’s behaviour we will understand what are the principles upheld by the IS in the practice. Tony was indignated by such a way to put the question. He thought inappropriate that the regional leadership could have the impudence to evaluate his own work.
At that time, we decided that maybe the problem was that we hadn’t been sensitive enough in our formulation. But six months later, we talked with Peter Taaffe at the international summer school. He could not explain what were the causes of our disagreements in our section; his speech was not very substantial. But it was very expressive. He constantly interrupted other comrades, did not follow the time limit, shouted at comrades. He just lectured us, like a boss in front of his subordinates.
When the leaders consider themselves as bosses, do not respect and do not listen to other comrades, it is impossible to organize any fruitful discussion.
There is discrimination inside the CWI. The CWI fights against discrimination, rather successfully, but it is not enough. There is in the leadership a smaller percentage of women than in the overal membership. The European comrades seem privileged in comparison to the comrades from poor countries.
Several years ago, we learnt that a French comrade was raped by an another comrade. As we understand it, the rapist was not excluded from the CWI, not even from its leadership. We tried our best to better understand the situation, wrote to the IS. But until today, we still don’t know exactly what happened, because the IS did not want to discuss this topic. So we had the impression that they were just trying to hush up this issue.
It seems that the man plays an important role in the French section, and that the young girl was just another activist. We got the impression that the CWI leadership is ready to discuss the issue of sexism only when it suits them. But when a scandal happens and they don’t want to lose useful people, the leadership prefers to forget about its own principles.
In the same year at the summer school, a fundraising was organized. On this occasion, special thanks were given to the comrades who had given the most money. But this was done without taking into account whether these comrades got or not a nice wage and whether they came from «rich» countries or not. So comrades from poorer countries do not get the same thankfulness from the organization than comrades from richer countries.
We are talking here about small things of course, but that’s the kind of things that makes up the culture of an organization. How does a poor worker from Nigeria, Kazakhstan or Russia feel, when the whole audience is applauding someone who gave in one day more money that this worker earns in one year? It seems that the CWI leadership does not give any attention to such small details.
There are intrigues inside the leadership. Personal relations play a big role in the CWI. To be friends with someone can help you get a place in the leadership ; arguments can make you get out. During discussions, the leaders do not think about how to elaborate a right position, but how the result will influence the balance of forces inside the leadership.
We did not get to come to grips with the full picture, but we understood that there are opposed groupes inside the leadership of the International. They do not discuss openly their disagreements, but use secret methods. For example, they tend to hide their own mistakes and to exagerate mistakes committed by their opponents. Even our fraction struggle in Russia was considered by them as a card to play in their own game.
One IEC member told us about a struggle inside the leadership and asked us to keep silent about several facts, so that this would not play in the hands of his opponents. An IS member at the school called us on the side, so that other IS members could not see him with us.
Intrigues are dangerous: they became a tradition and corrupt the organization. If our policies are not discussed openly during debates, but whispering in the corridors, the organization cannot choose a right strategy and win.
The rank-and-file do not change the culture. And again: the mistakes committed by leadership is only a half of problem. The main thing is that the rank-and-file activists adapted themselves to that culture.
While the leaders talk to them in a disrespectful way, the rank-and-file activists, in return, insult them behind their backs. While the leaders are busy spinning intrigues, the rank-and-file activists learn to become friends with the right people, and not to raise any discussion.
We could try to change the situation inside the CWI, but we want first to develop ourselves politically, to organize the struggle among the workers’ movement, to build organization. And not to waste efforts on diplomatic games and vain negociations.
We still agree with the CWI on its programme. For this reason we are still ready to work together in the protests and in solidarity campaigns. Just call us.