- Category: IS History
- Published on Tuesday, 30 July 2013
- Written by Jim Higgins
On the expulsion of signatories of the I.S Opposition Documents
By now, all I.S. branches should have received a circular from the centre with a letter from Jim Nichol announcing the I.S.O.[IS Opposition] Steering Committee, and a C.C Statement on the I.S.O. Faction. We do not feel that the letter, or the Statement or the fact or our expulsion can pass without comment.
Jin Nichol's letter
Jim Nichol’s letter was sent in response to a letter from the I.S.O. Steering Committee saying that we would not disband the faction. He makes, great play of the fact that our letter as 'unsolicited’, the implication being that we have committed some crime because we informed the C.C. of our intentions as soon as possible. We can only say that we felt it our duty to declare our position in relation to the Party Council resolution as soon as possible and not to act as some undercover secret faction until the next pre-conference period.
Jim Nichol does not give the names of those comrades who have been expelled. The following', comrades were expelled because they are on the Steering Committee:
|Granville Williams||Member for 6- years : (Former Birmingham organiser)|
|Mary Pearson||2 years (R&F NUT national organiser)|
|Terry Mandrell||13 years|
|Paul Mackney||6 years|
|Hazel Mandrell||13 years|
In addition Sue Baytell (3 years), who has worked in the SW/ISJ distribution offices since July 1973 was sacked and expelled at the same time. So far three other comrades (Kitty Williams, Birmingham, 6 years; Dave Lovell, Birmingham, 6 years; Mike Dixon, Central London Civil service, 1½ years) have been suspended. Comrades all over the country are being given the ultimatum: disassociate yourself from the I.S.0. or face the consequences and be expelled.
The CC Statement on Factions
The CC Statement on Permanent Factions essentially acts as a justification for the expulsions, and requires detailed comment.
- Its first concern is the general theoretical question of factions. We do agree that permanent factions are harmful in a democratic centralist organisation. The question was discussed fully by the Steering Committee and we decided to continue with the faction because, we feel that l.S is no longer democratic. We find in the C.C.'s statement no mention of the criticisms that we made in the document ‘The Crisis in I.S’, of the internal life in I.S. There is not space here to go over the ground again, suffice it to say that the slate-system of election operates-at all levels of the or organisation and there are no longer any I.S. Committees on which minority tendencies can find a voice; moreover, as evidence of the undemocratic atmosphere, at the Birmingham district aggregate before the Party Council we were not allowed to discuss resolutions to that body. We ask comrades to consider again the state of I.S internal democracy and to read the arguments put for put forward in our original document. The I.S.O have been fighting to win back the democratic rights of members. The C.C. has never answered our criticisms on this, because there is an obvious gap between what they wrote about party democracy some years ago (for example in ‘Party & Class’) and present practice.
- The second part really flows from the first. The C.C. statement says not one of the I.S.O. supporters ‘objected to the clause in the rules limiting factional activity to pre-conference periods’. Unwittingly, the C.C. proves our point that this resolution was passed in excessive haste and with minimal discussion. It is inconceivable that our supporters would have let it pass without comment, had it been seen as an important matter. Yet this resolution, which slipped by on the nod, in a very confined session, is the C.C's reason for the expulsion of I.S.O, supporters.
- The resolution on permanent factions is a nonsense. Had there been a full discussion on it at Conference, it would have been thrown out. Factions arise out of specific situations and not according to a timetable. Do we seriously expect comrades to only 'get factional’ at Christmas time and to postscript their Christmas cards with invitations to form a faction? The notion of Party Councils as democratic expressions of the membership becomes absurd-they can only be rallies without an organised discussion. (One of our objections to the Party Council system was that if they operated as an effective check on the C.C. we would be faced with a permanent conference situation). In effect the resolution restricting factions to pre-Conference periods is yet another factor strengthening the omnipotence of the C.C., who with the help of full-timers appointed by them, should be able to pre-determine the outcome of any Conference. One would be tempted to think that the use of this resolution to expel us is fetishism; however in truth it .is just another example of the C.C.'S refusal to brook any views other than its own in I.S.
- Surely the idea behind the resolution was to stop factionalism for factionalism's sake. Is there any evidence that we have been deliberately disruptive? The C.C. statement says that 'serious difficulties have arisen in certain districts, notably Birmingham and Teesside’, but with the exception of the AUEW issue, no evidence is given to our failure to carry on the work. The truth is that the I..S.O. would probably have disappeared had it not been for the ultra-left turn at the September Party Council and the expulsions of I.S. members. The faction revived itself because of the concrete situation, not out of any desire to become a permanent alternative leadership as is suggested in the C.C. statement.
- The C.C. statement is totally dishonest about l.S.'s public position on the economic situation. The September Party Council did endorse a nose-dive analysis, and the Socialist Worker quote came from the Party Council report (which, one would hope, has at least equal status with an editorial). It appears that the December Party Council has revised this analysis (because of our document), but retained the conclusion that we must 'steer left’. Whereas previously the economic analysis was cobbled up to Justify a change of line (instead of the line flowing from the analysis); now there is no connection between the two. I.S. comrades are still committed to assuming a near-revolutionary consciousness from a substantial section of the working class.. There is no evidence of this; what there is is to the contrary. It follows from this that ultra-left policies actual consciousness of workers and the result of such activity (c.f. Hallas’ article on the SLL entitled ‘Building the leadership’, in ISJ 40) is sectarian irrelevance. We do not need a state-cap WRP!).
- The present Right to Work march is a good example of such irrelevant, ultra-left work. However, contrary to what the C.C. assert we were not, and are not, opposed to a campaign. Their statement does not say that the ISO. Newsletter suggested that I.S.O. supporters should take a critical attitude towards the Durham and Teesside resolutions. 'Elsewhere, in the same newsletter (copies of which can be obtained from: Sue Baytell.) we said the following:
'No no one can argue against the imperative need to mobilise the workers against unemployment. The ISO has argued just that, and rather longer than Cottons Gardens. The lesson of the 1920s and 1930s is clear. The higher the level of unemployment the greater the reduction in living standards for all workers employed and unemployed. Those on the dole may have lost their bargaining power but a united effort with organised, employed Workers could exert the maximum extra parliamentary pressure on local and central government. It is for this reason that the failure to service and maintain the factory branches and their virtual disappearance is little short of criminal. It is for this reason that the failure to build the 'R & F' Movement into anything beyond an ill disguised IS front has had far reaching repercussions. The correct policy for I.S would be transitional politics, politics that relate the vanguard to the actual situation of the class and utilise hard won roots in the class to build, and revolutionise workers and the appropriate organisations for struggle.'We were not opposed to a campaign, in fact we called for one at Conference. We are however opposed to expending a large amount of energy on a march and stunt occupations of labour exchanges. We also argued strongly for united front work within the working class movement rather than downgrading the importance of institutions like Trades Councils and setting up 'Right to Work’ Com¬mittees with little or no foundation in the movement.
- In conclusion, we are not political juveniles. We have found in our campaign for the Special Conference that we are up against a machine. The debate has not been carried on in a comradely manner. The C.C. statement is the only attempt at a reply to the issues we have raised. The answer to our criticisms, given at the Party Council and in the I.S. was on the level of personal slander and character assassination. Our claim that democracy in I.S. has been seriously eroded has nowhere been contested. We feel that we stand in the mainstream of I.S’s political tradition and are confident we will play a role in the founding of a revolutionary democratic centralist party in Britain. Such a party, we feel, will be rigourously democratic in its internal life and will have earned its right to leadership of the working class.