- Category: IS History
- Published on Tuesday, 30 July 2013
- Written by Jim Higgins
PRE CONFERENCE DOCUMENT
September 1974 Conference
This document, a contribution to the pre-conference discussion, should be taken seriously in our view. It is not an idle exercise in criticism but the considered, views of comrades with some record of positive and constructive work in the organisation. It is a document which attempts to reflect the experience, at national, district and branch level.
It tries to understand some of the problems which have developed in the past period in I.S. Either we face up to these problems honestly, and put forward solutions that relate to the basic traditions and politics of I.S., or they will be compounded.
We offer in the final part a set of policies which represent the way we see the basic orientation of the organisation. We reject the impressionism that has been a feature of political discussion in the past - for example, the assumptions about the audience for Socialist Worker. We reject also any attempts to divert the organisation from the central task of building the organisation into a workers' party through our work in the factories and trade unions. We refer to the ill-thought out policies presented in the Commission, on white collar and student branches
This document has the support of the following National Committee members:
We welcome the support of other NC members who agree with it as well as members in branches and Districts who also are seriously committed to the building of I.S. in the only way we believe it can be done.
This document is about I.S., about the I.S. tradition and the need to defend it against all comers. This is a critical document because there is a great, deal to criticise but is nevertheless written from, within the I.S. tradition and sees its function as putting right those things that manifestly need rectifying. It is a reform document and has no perspective in splitting.
What then do we see as the I.S. tradition. At one level, and an important one, it is the struggle of the Russian left opposition, its continuation into the Trotskyist movement before the war, and it is the theoretical and political developments made independently when official Trotskyism degenerated in the post war period. That is the pre-history of I.S. and the one thing that we refuse to deny, it was the struggle against Stalinism and Social Democracy, put up'-by Trotsky and his followers that made it possible for I.S to- actually build a more accurate and politically viable theory for today, without that basis it would have been impossible.
Having said all that we are still only describing one level of our tradition. We took from Marx and Lenin and Trotsky the thesis that the centre of analysis, always, for Marxists, is the working class. State capitalism as a theory is an affirmation of that central Marxist concept. The theory of the Permanent Arms Economy made it possible for us to understand the post war reality of capitalist stability, of a low level of class struggle and the changing nature of Social Democracy. Serious analysis and political realism not only gave us a built in advantage, it also gave us an almost equally valuable sense of scale, a modesty, (sometimes perhaps overdone) that allowed us to recognise the immensity of our tasks and the slender resources available to us. That recognition induced an internal tolerance that has been noticeably lacking of late.
One thing is clear. The situation where major disputes within the leadership of I.S. are kept from the membership has got to .stop. We have seen that the membership was confused by the debate on Socialist Worker because it broke over our heads without any warning. Either we are concerned to build a conscious aware worker leadership or we have an elitist notion that some things are too serious for the comrades to discuss and decide upon.
The building, of a revolutionary party involves a process of discussion, debate and mutual learning both by and from our worker comrades. To do this the internal regime must allow the free and open expression of our disagreements. If we are to learn from the total experience of our members there can be no infallible gurus or theoreticians.
I.S. had that tradition of open debate and it has largely lost it. It is up to the members, particularly the worker members, to demand that the right of frank open discussion is restored. I.S. is not a secret society and any attempt to turn it into one will condemn it to irrelevance and sterility.
While organisations such as the SLL produced their messianic theses proving the imminent collapse of the system, constructing illusory models of the world that showed the SLL [Socialist Labour League] always at the centre of things and engaging in continual heresy hunts, I.S was quietly and much more :
modestly building a solid cadre, aware that we were in for a-long haul. A comparison of the membership figures and the less tangible, but nevertheless important, influence in the working class movement makes it easy to see who was right.
In 1968 the so-called 'turn to the class' was not a sudden realisation that the workers were a good thing but that our own modest gains, the developments in the economic and political situation predicted in our own theory made a far more activist interventionist role possible. We had already produced the book on Incomes policy which answered as no other political group had the real nature of reformism. The later Productivity book again answered questions central to the problems facing workers, in particular advanced workers in well organised industries and contained material essential to the understanding of the role of the trade union bureaucracy. The productivity book was not only a militants' handbook it was also an example, and a good one, of transitional politics. It did not face productivity bargaining with straight, simple 'no deals'. An answer that might have been possible had we had a large party rooted in the trade unions. It put forward a sliding scale of demands that made it operational as a handbook for workers with quite different experience, traditions and readiness for struggle.
It was on the basis of such serious, rigorous work that we were able to contemplate building an organisation of advanced workers. An indispensable weapon in that was the Socialist Worker, a paper consciously conceived as different from the general run of sect papers.
Always at a high standard and sometimes brilliantly, Socialist Worker concentrated on the issues that were of interest to that growing layer of militants.
BUILDING THE PARTY
But there is a problem, no matter how sound the theory, no matter how good your press and general propaganda, and no matter how impressive your growth in terms of our exceptionally modest beginnings, even given all that, there is still a very large gap between a group of 3000 plus and the revolutionary party. The dilemma is firmly fixed in how the organisation makes the transition from, a group essentially peripheral to the working class into a party able to take independent initiatives that will find a serious response within the class. The easy way out of the dilemma is to construct a la SLL a thesis that from within our own resources (financial, physical and organisational) we can build by simple addition to I.S. membership. The only problem to this 'easy way' is that it does not work and because it does noir work we find ourselves hunting frantically around for new gimmicks and sensations that will overcome our weakness. We are told that the comrades must work harder, the paper must be reoriented, the organisation revitalised by shake ups and the removal from influence of dissenting opinion. The result is an ill-thought out and fatuous hunt for a new angle and the finding of scapegoats for the last failure. The result is not growth but -the stupid loss of some of the best work of the past. That is one way of party building and one that in the past we rejected.
THE ROLE OF THE RANK AND FILE MOVEMENT
The reason why we studied the history of the early Communist Party and the Minority Movement was not historical nostalgia but, a serious inquiry with practical application into how a small revolutionary organisation can bridge the gap between current weakness and a workers mass party. We understood, but seem to have forgotten, that between the class, the trade union, and the party there is an essential difference. The class is not an undifferentiated mass eagerly waiting for a messiah to lead them to the promised land. It is highly differentiated, containing at the fringes the extremes of politics right and left and in the middle an overwhelming majority-of workers wanting to get by largely indifferent to the issues which motivate the extremes. From purely practical considerations they do, or do not, join trade unions. This is not to deny that workers are the revolutionary class par excellence but it is to say that for the great majority revolutions are not the norm of workers' lives. The trade union attempts to be completely comprehensive within the catchment area (never with 100% success) and the trade union leadership operates not independently but on the basis of a lowest common denominator among the membership whatever, may be the verbal radicalism of their conference oratory.
The party is something quite different: it recruits from and choses its members from among those animated by the desire for revolutionary change. Its emphasis in general cannot be the lowest common denominator but to that section of the class that operates as a shop floor leadership. The route to the mass party is, in Britain, the trade unions. It is in this context that the idea of a rank and file movement has a highly revolutionary content. To bridge the gap between the revolutionary organisation and the much wider layer of militants who actually lead workers on a day to day basis we need to start (as we did with the Incomes Policy and Productivity books.) from the actual problems that face our audience to take the simple trade union notions of solidar¬ity and militancy and build an organisation that, in fighting for a programme of demands, transcends the limitations of the trade unions.
Such a movement almost certainly must be initiated by revolutionaries and must provide most of the early work and enthusiasm but if the organisation of the rank and file remains for any length of time a party front, it will not only not have any real influence within the working class movement it will be a failure that will stand in the' way of future success.
We have had the first rank and file conference and it was in terms of the number of delegates and the number of contributions from non I.S. members a success. Since then there has been very little. A few pronouncements by the Steering Committee (composed entirely of I.S. members) that have, by report, had' no more effect than to dis-orientate our own membership, who thought that now we had a rank and file movement, they were absolved from responsibility. The fact is that the rank and file movement is, not built by one-off conferences and the odd pronouncement. That is to repeat the LCDTU [Liaison Committee for Defence of Trade Unions] without the CPs much larger network of industrial members and contacts. The rank and file movement has to be built, where it is in the localities, at whatever level is possible. It is a great 'shame that our existing factory branches, trade union and industrial fractions and our people on the rank and file papers are not given any serious work to do to build the movement. It is either the case that in at least a few areas we can now start to develop local rank: and file organisation or the six months hard work that went into the Birmingham conference was a mistake that we will pay dearly for in the future.
In the perspectives for industrial work agreed by the July NC the statement is made: “The best way IS branches can help build the National Rank & File Movement is to (l)Build I.S. factory branches (2)Build and strengthen the I.S. trade union and industrial fractions."
This statement is true but inadequate. Yes, we are for the building of the factory branches and trade union and industrial fractions and the serious involvement of our comrades in the class struggle on the factory floor and in the trade unions.
Growth in these areas is the vital precondition of any development of a national rank and file movement. The two elements of building I.S. in the factories' and trade unions on the one hand and the development of a NR & FM are complementary. Our work in both directions has to be carefully developed.
We have to be aware of what influence our comrades have, how to expand that influence and in what context they must carry out their work. We must set realisable targets related to the capacities of the comrades and the possibilities of the situation. This must be cast in the context of our basic orientation on the manual workers and the need for the rank and file movement.
That we believe is the Marxist attitude to the immediate consolidation and future growth of I.S. '
THE RECORD AND LESSONS OF THE LAST 12 MONTHS
In the current period there is something of a lull in the class struggles which is incidentally a significant reflection of the still strong hold of the Labour and the trade union leadership on working class loyalty. During this lull we have an opportunity to start, modestly, to build the skeleton of the rank and file movement. Instead we seem to be continually looking for another different route to the party that at least partially ignores our past work and tradition and certainly ignores the current objective reality and is all too frequently in contradiction with what we were saying only a few months previously.
THE BUYERS INTO SELLERS CAMPAIGN
Just recently we had the "buyers into sellers" stunt, an exercise in wishful thinking, graced by copious quotes from the collected works of' Lenin. Visions of thousands of workers being transformed from simple buyers into dedicated sellers were conjured up for our delectation. The new route to the party was opened with a fanfare of trumpets and the nagging wonder of why didn't we think of this wheeze before. One critical meeting of full-timers in Leeds was sufficient to consign this particular stratagem to the dustbin of best forgotten I.S history. But on the way we managed to induce a turmoil on the staff of Socialist Worker. If only we were told the paper had more pictures, more workers' articles, shorter articles, more simple and less professional exposition, it would be an incalculable aid to the buyers becoming sellers. Visions of 80,000 and 100,000 circulation were held out to impress us with the possible break through. The journalists would have far more time to get out into the country and reflect more accurately the mood of the workers. In the event Protz and Higgins found themselves permanently out of office communing with the unemployed, the paper; had less pictures then for a long time and. more grey type; the journalists seldom got out of the office and the circulation has fallen, to 27,000 print order and 18,000 paid sales (figures for late July), at the same time as technical quality has declined rapidly in tune with an even greater lack of politics with an inevitable increase in price. The brave new departure is less much less than a qualified success, the hunt for scapegoats cannot be long delayed.
Those of us who opposed the changes did so not because we were opposed to more workers writing for the paper, not at all. Indeed the number of workers' contributions had steadily increased. We took the view and maintain it, that the main emphasis of the paper should be to the advanced sections of militants who were the natural audience and the natural-recruiting ground for I.S. if we wanted to become a party. We' argued that far from simplifying issues we should deepen our analysis on the basis of our greater influence and worker membership. This requires a greater involvement of both the EC and the industrial department in setting out the political and industrial strategy that would inform the paper and the readers and really begin a dialogue on the development of the group and the rank and file movement. It has not happened and will not happen so long as we are unclear as to the audience.
THE YOUTH VANGUARD THESIS
Following the abortive "buyers into sellers" campaign we were given to understand, that a new unthought of layer was the great hope for the party: "inexperienced, traditionless but rebellious youth! This apparently was our main area of recruitment. Older workers, convenors etc. had according to the new revelation, best expressed by Cliff at the May NC, were in many cases "bent”, rotted by years of trade union type negotiations and operation in the trade union machine. The very nature of "the shifting locus of reformism" meant that they too were virtually without a tradition of class politics. For us the answer to these points is uncomplicated and decisive. Of course large numbers of convenors and stewards are bent. We knew this long before the blinding insights of the May National Committee. But the essence of the shop stewards movement and its importance for the revolutionary organisation is not the possibility of corruption, which are well known, but that it is a direct form of workers' democracy: election, recall, reporting etc. That often there is no election, no recall or report is beside the point. It is the most immediate form of class leadership, a special day to day relationship with massive potential for revolutionaries. That is why a rank and file movement organising within, this milieu as the transitional form to the party is of vital importance.
It is also the milieu where, unfortunately, the young, inexperienced and traditionless no matter how rebellious, have by age alone, if for no other reason, little opportunity to lead. To elevate them to a pre-eminence they cannot fulfil is not only to make them and ourselves look silly, but in the process we actually alienate many of the experienced militants we should be influencing and perhaps later recruiting. Again the shifting locus of reformism does not indicate an absence of working class tradition (if it did you could kiss the revolution goodbye), but it does illuminate the absence of a specific conscious social democratic tradition, and even that as anyone with half an eye for the current political situation will recognise is not all dead.
Of course the young do join the movement more readily and in greater numbers than their elders .That has always been the case in every revolutionary organisation to date. But what is not on, is to elevate what is a function of weakness into a political principle. To construct the party we will need the militants in the basic industries, the main emphasis must be, as it always was, the manual workers.
WHITE COLLAR AND STUDENT BRANCHES
Perhaps flowing from the mistake implicit and explicit in the youth vanguard thesis, the NC majority has decided to compound their error by another diversion into the white collar field of revolutionary organisation. Conference will be faced with an NC resolution for the creation of white collar branches, teachers branches and student branches. The reservation about restricting the number of branches registered under this new shift will in practise not work. The already well developed tendency to “bend sticks" and the pressure of precedent will ensure that we have large numbers of such branches in a comparatively short period of time, especially among students. The effete suggestion of Comrade. Harman at the NC that perhaps we should give student branches only half a vote as against other branches may have a respectable history in Lenin's weighting of workers' votes to the detriment of peasants, but it basically indicates the stupidity of giving students branches at all.
What in fact we are doing is diverting valuable resources both centrally and in the districts and in the branches from the main emphasis on building among manual workers.
It is all very well talking about riding two horses at one time, but if you are rather small, undernourished and with one leg much shorter than the other, the result is most likely to be an unpleasant fall, to the accompaniment of laughter all round.
What we have seen in all these examples is not a dynamic extension of the Marxist method into the field of contemporary action, BUT IN FACT A RETREAT from the careful work and preparation of the past and in particular, the perspective set out at the 1973 annual conference for the rank and file movement. We are not opposed young workers or in principle to white collar and student branches. But they have to be within the overall context of the main priority. If we had a much larger organisation, specialist branches would be a necessity, for all manner of different groups. We are not large enough nor have we sufficiently rooted ourselves in the manual working class to make these sorts of departures now.
WHAT HAS GONE WRONG?
But, comrades will ask, how did we get to this sorry pass? If there was a golden age of tolerant and careful analysis why has this given way to the mad scramble for new impressionistic gimmicks? The answer to this is not easy, nor particularly clear and it is inclined to be long winded. At the risk of wearying the comrades, it is however, necessary to make some estimation of what has happened, in the way it has happened.
To start with of course there was no golden age. The failures of the current leadership structure have existed for some time. Those of us who participated in the leadership have our full share of responsibility to bear. But what might have, with charity, been called an endearing eccentr¬icity in 1958 or even 1968 becomes a serious drag, in 1974 when our mistakes and errors cannot be confined to a small circle within the group. As our influence increases, resort to intuition and capricious hopping from one sensation to another become grievous faults. In the past when we were ill-served with practical working class experience, intuition and impressions were frequently all we had.
CLIFF'S INFLUENCE WITHIN THE LEADERSHIP
In this situation we were well served by the talents of T.Cliff. In understanding the leadership core of I.S, if not the group as a whole, it is impossible not to come to terms with Cliff's influence throughout I.S.'s entire history, not from personal animosity, which is pointless, but as much as anything .to rescue him from some of his present and erstwhile partisans, and in particular to indicate the sort of problems we have to solve if we are to end the present mood of impasse and frustration so evident in the group today . -
Cliff has great and probably indispensable strengths, a generosity of his time and considerable talents without any thought of personal reward. The theoretical development of the group is almost entirely his work. Most, but not all, major developments in the group have been the result of his intuition and experience. These are all tremendous advantages and have in the past conferred considerable benefit on I.S.
Unfortunately, they are accompanied by a number of less desirable traits. Unlike Trotsky or Lenin, he finds detailed work of organisation and administration boring unless it is immediately directed to his own immediate pre-occupation. His rigid certainties, so long as the passing enthusiasm lasts, brook no contradiction. His self-proclaimed and in itself laudable desire to be informed by the workers, too often becomes the device for selecting those workers who agree with his pre-occupations. Symptomatic of the same fault is his predilection, made possible by his own unique prestige, of taking-up, making much of and then dropping with a sickening thud, comrades who show promise that is not always fulfilled in time with Cliff's schedule. The result is a loss of comrades who in less overheated circumstances might in many cases, but not in all, be turned into valuable leaders of I.S.
What is cynically known as the "star system” in I.S. results in unease, disillusionment and losses, and is additionally a failure as an examination of the now considerable list of fallen "stars" shows.
Cliff is not a disciplined member of a collective and leading committees are good to the extent they agree whole-heartedly with his ideas and bad to impossible to the extent that they don't. Most certainly what has characterised Cliff of late has been impatience, an unwillingness to accept any pace but his own. Those of us less gifted perhaps, or with a dissenting opinion are ignored, circumvented and finally dispensed with. The whole sorry history of the last twelve months has been of a chronic instability in the central leadership, with the alienation of the comrades, in their own way, no less dedicated to the organisation than Comrade Cliff.
Intuition that turns to capricious impatience is not only a cruel waste of talent that we can ill afford to lose, it is also a positive danger. We must have a coherent, united leadership that is capable of taking and carrying through collective decisions. That can mean one of two things either, let Cliff select his own leadership and dispense with conference elections or Cliff has to be submitted to the same collective discipline that applies to us common mortals. Even assuming that we were daft enough to accept the first choice it would in no way ensure either continuity or harmonious central leadership. The only way is to incorporate Cliff's great abilities into a collective leadership that will discipline his excesses and make the most of his talent.
THE NEED TO CONSOLIDATE OUR CADRE
The impatience that we have already spoken of is of course not just a function of Cliff’s personality; in some measure all revolutionaries must be impatient. But impatience without a sense of scale is extremely dangerous. Last year the group made great strides forward, a function both of our own activism and favourable objective circumstances. That success has not been carried forward into the post-election period, for reasons which we have already touched on and was to be expected and to a degree predicted. But lulls are experienced, by all revolutionary groups and it is the function of the organisation to hold together in such periods not to be disoriented by the situation. Certainly the failure to grow cannot basically be attributed to individuals or to organisational failure but to a slower tempo, if a passing one, of class struggle. All the more reason that we should not allow ourselves to be impressionistically diverted; from our traditional area of activity. All the more reason why we should look with great care at every novel departure suggested. We have in the lull the possibility of consolidating our cadre, of preparing the ground for the next round of the class struggle. We can only do that if we actually inform the membership and draw them into the discussion in all areas of the group. To date the pre-conference discussion has been the worst on record, has in fact hardly existed. Central administration is ineffective and inefficient and seemingly incapable of supplying the wherewithal that would make a serious discussion possible. The growing concern about the real financial problems is masked by the sad repetition of tired appeals for cash that are proof of the law of diminishing returns and the almost total ignorance of everyone except the treasurer about what is going one. Full time workers, who if not the best were the best available, are resigning' with monotonous regularity. The only bright feature of the central administration has been in the industrial department where the change in personal has certainly indicated what can be done by comrades with some experience of the working class movement.
The much vaunted leading areas of I973, in Yorkshire, Coventry, Liverpool and Manchester have sunk with new stars flashing across the horizon in Glasgow and Birmingham. We move on and do not seriously explain what we are doing or draw any lessons from our failures as well as our successes. Organisation commissions sit, the latest is apparently in permanent being, and produce reports of which the most recent contained the absurd student branches proposal and little else except repetition of the CP's 1922 'bolshevisation' report and quotes from Cliff's factory branch report of last year. The organisation is going backwards when (if it cannot advance at last year's pace) it cer¬tainly has the capacity to consolidate and make modest but serious advances.
This situation cannot and should not be allowed by the members. The delegates at the conference have the chance to call a halt to the capricious and abrupt changes of direction and to demand an end to their virtual exclusion from any decision making. They can demand that the group gets back on to the long held perspective on the rank and file movement and the serious task of turning I.S. into a revolutionary workers' party.,
In writing this document we have been conscious, perhaps too conscious of the dangers in political division and thorough-going argument for a group like I.S. We are as dedicated as anyone to the well-being of I.S., but-there comes a time when unity at all costs is the unity of the graveyard. . Already there are three distinct groupings within I.S WITH QUITE DIFFERENT POINTS OF VIEW. There are the comrades who support the main line of this document; the group around Cliff and the 'new-reality' they, claim to have found, and finally a more shadowy grouping around Comrade Nagliati, who it is rumoured have something to say about the Trotskyist and I.S. tradition and, if rumour is to be believed, lean heavily on the experience of-the ex-Trotskyist, sub-Maoist, Italian group Avanguardia Operaia. In so far as it is possible, in the absence of any document to -understand the politics of this latter grouping, we will certainly defend Cliff and anyone else the basic tradition of I.S against political irrelevance of this sort. But fundamentally it is not for us for Cliff or Comrade Nagliati, it is up to the members. We believe that the conference should reaffirm the basic positions of I.S.
- That the manual workers are the main emphasis of our politics and organisational effort.
- That the logic of our past, politics and current reality indicate a serious orientation on the trade union activists, the shop stewards and rank and file militants.
- To seriously set about the task .of preparing the ground for the construction of a genuine rank and file, movement as the bridge to the party.
- Our trade union and industrial fractions our factory branches should be -given specific if necessarily modest targets that line up with our main industrial perspectives, not generalised abstractions about fighting for leadership.
- We believe that the conference has to reject the idea of student branches and insist that white collar workers and teacher branches are only formed on the basis of strict criteria:
- A meaningful area of work which can be monitored effectively and that is not possible through ordinary fraction work.
- That the formation of the branch will not adversely affect the healthy growth of existing branches in the district and rob them of experienced comrades'.
- That the existing fraction is healthy and able to control the work of branches.
- That the formation of such branches does not unbalance or make difficult the creation of district committees and structures with a prominently manual worker leadership.
- We believe that the conference has to elect a balanced leadership that stands in the I.S tradition, is a disciplined collective, conscious of its obligations as well as its rights of command.
- The conference must insist that, the Socialist Worker cease to be a creature directed by passing fancy and be given a framework and the political and organisational support that will enable it to carry out and put across group policy and politics.
To conclude this document and to attempt to get things into perspective, in the last five years the group has come a very long way. We have broken out of the half world of sect politics- but we still have a very long way to go before we even consider ourselves a worker's party. Some of our pains are the pains of growth but they become mortal wounds if we do not learn the lessons of our own recent past. The history of our movement is littered with the corpses of once promising organisations that never made it through delusions of grandeur, incorrect politics and impatience that lost them everything. It can be of no satisfaction to everyone to say- 'I told you so' if the worst should befall.
I.S. is the brightest and the best chance that any of us will have been privileged to know in our lifetime. It would be criminal to lose the future in a present unwillingness to set straight that which we can and should, set straight now
A good illustration of the weakness and administrative inefficiency of the leadership core of I. S and the failure of the National Committee to effectively monitor the work of its own specialist committees, as well as the central role played by Comrade Cliff, is the following report, on the working of the Organization Commission. It explains many of the weaknesses of the document. Compare this with the work of the CPGB Commission of 1922 which was in almost continuous session from 29 March until its final report in September 1922.
OBSERVATIONS ON THE ORGANIZATION COMMISSION
by Roger Griffiths (Birmingham District Committee and Lucas Factory Branch)
I was delegated by the Birmingham District Committee to attend the Organization Commission set up by the May N.C. I attended the May NC as an observer and was under the impression that when it was agreed to set up the Commission it was to be a priority. Its terms of reference were to examine the working of I.S over the last 18 months and to recommend changes that were thought to be necessary in the organizational structure to the Annual Conference.
I was of the opinion that things had not been satisfactory in I.S for sometime and that the Commission would be an opportunity for the member¬ship as a whole to air their grievances and put forward constructive proposals to improve the internal structure of the organization and the way in which we operated. To this end I contacted every branch in the Birmingham District through the District Committee and talked to numerous individuals on the ideas for improvement.
The first meeting took place on Sunday 9th June. The members of the Commission with the exception of myself were all FULLTIMERS. The discussion which took place was useful and informative. The main areas covered WERE factory and geographical branches. The meeting ended early on the Sunday afternoon, since certain comrades expressed tiredness since they had to attend the N.C. the previous day. I felt this was intolerable in view of the importance of the work of the Commission and its short time table. However, all the comrades present were asked to write amendments to the minutes of the meeting which would be circulated, comment on other contributions and amend the factory branches document. In addition all N.C. members were sent copies of the minutes and asked for their observations.
The second meeting of the Commission was held on 22nd June and was supposed to last for two days. Only Comrade Cliff and myself turned up. This was no doubt due to a demonstration taking place that day in London. But I would have thought that a Commission that was going to recommend the guidelines for the running of the organisation over the next period should have taken priority, especially considering the small number, of comrades involved.
A meeting was hastily arranged for the next day and five comrades attended and a very loose discussion on the role of the N.C. and E.C. took place. One of the terms of reference for the Commission was that it was supposed to be composed of N.C. members and delegates from the leading districts. This was never fulfilled, because again I was the only worker present. On this basis and at Commission meetings lasting a total of nine hours the Organization Commission was prepared.
In conclusion I think the whole affair farcical, with the majority of comrades not seeing the Commission as a serious business. The attitude seemed to be “leave it to Cliff” and by some divine providence everything will turnout right. As an epitaph on the whole sorry affair, the recommendation of the Commission report for both student and technical college branches was never even discussed by the members of the Commission, as the minutes of the Commission will confirm. To say that this was a report and recommendation of the Commission is nothing but an untruth. It is mainly the ideas and the work of Comrade Cliff and for such a thing to have occurred, when specific guidelines were laid down for the Commission as to its composition etc., is a reversal of the fundamental principle of democratic centralism and is an intolerable situation in an organisation which claims to be building a revolutionary workers party.