ISG collapse

Party notes

The International Socialist Group is in crisis. A meeting this weekend could see the dissolution of the organisation from the top as the majority of its leadership resign from politics and slip away to private reflection on the world’s horrors.

In this issue of the Weekly Worker, we feature a letter from two of these leading members that illustrates neatly the method of wobbly despair that underpins this shame-faced retreat (see letters; ‘Voluntary fetish’). In the Weekly Worker of September 12, I wrote that the question of democratic centralism and disciplined communist work was one we would “return to many times over the coming period”. I did not anticipate that we would be chewing it over again quite so quickly, but clearly it is a touchy subject for some people. I will not take up the general argument on democratic centralism or the CPGB’s semi-religious “voluntarism” this week. The more urgent question is the fate of the ISG itself.

Comrades Alford and Land are now the effective leaders of the group since the recent resignation of Andy Wilson. Yet they offer no perspectives to the people they have led out of the Socialist Workers Party and who are now organised ISG supporters around the country. They assure us that the process of communist rapprochement - something they recently appeared to attach some importance to - “does resonate more widely than the debate in the pages of the Weekly Worker”. Yet they do not tell us exactly where else it can be heard. In effect, they appear to be dumping their organisation and the comrades in it.

Andy Wilson’s resignation letter - posted on the Internet site for dissidents from the SWP tradition, the IS List - does not simply announce his own political collapse. The IS List itself - which he has run till now - could face closure and thus one of the few points of effective political contact for many ISG co-thinkers could be shut off.

This is absolutely shameful. From the standpoint of the duties of leaders of a revolutionary organisation, it is immoral.

The remaining members of the ISG should draw parallel conclusions about the quality of their comments on democratic centralism and the Communist Party. Comrades Land and Alford are ostensibly answering my column in Weekly Worker of September 12 - yet they conspicuously fail to address the key questions I pose to those like Open Polemic and the ISG that tell us that democratic centralism is an ‘inappropriate’ form for the present stage of communist rapprochement.

Concretely, I wondered how the effective dissolution of the Communist Party as currently constituted, the cessation of the Weekly Worker or the abandonment of communist work around the Socialist Labour Party would aid communist rapprochement. Unquestionably, all of this would be the inevitable product of the levels of discipline, activity and commitment advocated by our critics. Furthermore, comrades, how precisely will the dissolution of your organisation facilitate your “genuine engagement” with rapprochement? This is posture politics of the worst sort.

Rapprochement is not taking place in a void: it is happening around particular political forms. It is a concrete process, not one of distant ‘resonances’ with unnamed organisations.

If democratic centralism is no more than a ‘fetishistic’ pose during this primitive stage, what is the appropriate form? Is it loose federal structures based on consensual democracy, as advocated by Open Polemic? Or is it perhaps an individual flop into the world of the Internet and cynical resignation, as it seems the leaders of the ISG now in practice advocate?

The remaining members of the ISG should reject this dismal perspective. These comrades presumably first joined the SWP then the ISG because they saw the world needed changing and wanted to do something about it. The people who purported to be leading these comrades have sold them short. The meeting this weekend should reject any suggestion of the dissolution of the group. Comrades should move towards exploring more fully the option of principled revolutionary unity held out by the Communist Party. This initially held a certain intellectual attraction for those who claimed to be the ISG’s leadership, but who in practice have shown themselves to be flighty-minded dilettantes, playing at revolutionary politics.

Mark Fischer