Bureaucratic control-freakery

The leadership of the Socialist Party is determined to enter a coalition with bourgeois parties and gain well rewarded ministerial portfolios for a few tops. Those who oppose this disastrous line are being expelled, but not silenced. Emil Jacobs reports

On Wednesday October 28 five members of the Socialist Party (Netherlands), myself included, received without warning a short letter telling us that we had been expelled. The reason given was the allegation that we were members of the Communist Platform and/or the recently founded Marxist Forum, both existing within the SP. These kinds of measures are symptomatic of a wider strategy of bureaucratic suffocation of critical elements. This witch-hunt must be stopped before it wrecks the party altogether.

To give some context, we need to go back to June 28 and the AGM of the SP’s youth organisation, ROOD. A number of positive resolutions were agreed, among them a pledge to openly denounce any participation in government coalitions by the SP; another was on the necessity for the leadership to publish minutes of its meetings; then there was the call for small financial subsidies to enable working class youth to take up internal posts. The party leadership responded with outrage, threatening to shut down the ROOD website and freeze its bank account if any of these democratically agreed resolutions were made public.

Unfortunately things escalated from there. In the run-up to the AGM, the Communist Platform had circulated its voting advice to sympathisers in a newsletter and, following our unexpected success, the SP leadership responded by branding the Communist Platform a “political party”. This was first communicated to SP staff at its Amersfoort headquarters in an internal email, which stated that Communist Platform members must choose between their participation in that organisation and their membership of the SP itself. This is because the SP constitution has a rule against membership of other political parties, which is used to ban factions disapproved of by the leadership.

This was all part of an ongoing process. In several branches those raising criticisms have been put under huge pressure and, when that did not bring about the desired result, a policy was adopted whereby all members who support democratisation of the party are automatically branded members of the Communist Platform.

On October 27 the first expulsions took place. They included branch officers and a leadership candidate for the upcoming ROOD AGM on November 22.

Without even a hearing the comrades were expelled on the basis of their alleged membership of the Communist Platform and/or Marxist Forum. No evidence to support these allegations was provided nor were the comrades offered the ‘SP or Communist Platform’ choice. Later there was a sixth victim: another candidate for the ROOD leadership - this time for chair - was suspended. As an aside, I have been told that supporters of the Communist Platform, founded in 2014, use pseudonyms precisely for the reason that the SP leadership is renowned for targeting critics suspected of seeking out co-thinkers in opposition groupings.

It is absurd to declare that either the Communist Platform or the Marxist Forum is a ‘political party’ - their aim is to transform the Socialist Party itself. This is immediately made clear to anyone who reads what is published on their websites. Neither group maintains an official list of members, so the leadership seems to be simply going after those who express dangerous thoughts. The aim is obvious: to drive out anyone who dares oppose its central strategy of joining a coalition with bourgeois parties, whereby various tops get well rewarded ministerial portfolios in a governmental deal with parties to the SP’s right - a goal which the leadership has been steadily inching towards over the course of the last few decades. Any organised, politically coherent questioning of this disastrous strategy is seen as a threat that needs to be silenced.

This is not the first witch-hunt. In the process of putting together the European election programme last year, a number of comrades known collectively as the ‘Group’ came together around a position on migration that was well to the left of the official line. The Group was obstructed and undermined in an attempt to prevent them conducting a proper discussion across the party. Previously too, a number of comrades had indeed been given the ‘choice’ between membership of the SP and an internal group of co-thinkers.

Instead of democratically debating out different platforms, ideas and approaches as the best way to progress, the leadership has committed itself to using bureaucratic measures to further its own narrow interests. But now things have escalated to the point where the leadership is endangering the very existence of the party. Claiming that factions, ie, groupings of co-thinkers, are ‘parties’ is a bureaucratic sledgehammer - a ridiculous overreaction which means that any critical party member can be targeted. Every set of proposals, every thought, that does not accord with the official line can be branded as a heresy.

Members forming themselves into groups of co-thinkers is both inevitable and heathy. It is the way people develop their ideas. Allowing members space to engage in genuine and informed debate on the party’s strategy would strengthen, not weaken, us. Such an exchange needs to be facilitated by granting members the formal right to organise with co-thinkers in discussion groups, platforms and factions, which, naturally, should be free to openly declare and publish what they believe. Only in this way can members be fully equipped to meaningfully contribute to political decision-making within the party. But instead we are suffocated by a leadership clique which takes all political decisions unchallenged and muzzles any opposition.

We, the expelled, demand that this bureaucratic regime must be ended once and for all. A party which does not allow open, critical debate can never be a vehicle for the great socialist project which it claims to stand for. We call on every member to rebel: