Penal dustbins

I am writing to all the committed communists who really believe in equal justice for all. We who have been wrongfully convicted and incarcerated against our will are desperately in need of your readers’ pen power.

Please can every member of the Communist Party and friends write letters of protest to their local MPs, the crown prosecution service and to Michael Howard on behalf of the many innocent women and men who are wasting away in despair and frustration in her majesty’s penal dustbins up and down the country.

With your help we can stop this disturbing trend that has been set by the present unjust government.

Clare Barstow, Gary Mills, Raphael Rowe, Oliver Campbell, Kevin O’Neill, Michael Davis, Tony Poole, John Kamara, Satpal Ram

No justice - no peace, no rights.

Winston Silcott
Maidstone Prison

Another Lenin

The starting point for Bob Pitt’s political opinions is the obsessive need to oppose ‘ultra leftism’, which is generally defined as any leftwing political activity not operating as a deep entryist project within the Labour Party. This label of crazy is then subjectively projected onto John Maclean in order to define his personal life circumstances and politics. I would argue that John Maclean was the most intransigent opponent of social democracy, and was aware that the situation of careerists and bureaucrats rushing to join the infant Communist Party represented a process which facilitated opportunist developments. Trotsky was aware of a similar process in the transformation of the French socialist party into the Communist Party of France.

In other words, Maclean was rightly suspicious of the band-wagon effect, and believed it was crucial to oppose trendy sentimental support for the Russian revolution. For this type of spectator, cheer-leading was essentially opportunist and represented an inadequate substitute for principled proletarian internationalist politics upon a world revolutionary perspective. For example, Pitt considers that a transitional united front was initiated around the Hands off Russia campaign. In contrast, Maclean perceptively indicated that for the TUC and Labour Party this activity represented a necessary safety valve to divert the rank and file from the class struggle for proletarian revolution.

It was also in this context that the supposedly ‘nationalist’ Maclean raised the call for the Scottish workers republic, as a possible specific expression of the international development of the world revolution, and in order to counteract the opportunist accommodation by the Independent Labour Party and the infant CPGB to the Labour Party. Maclean’s political greatness consisted in his awareness of the serious possibility for insurrectional struggle at a time when the CPGB was more concerned to consolidate their influence in the Labour Party. This is why Maclean was for a separate Scottish section of the Comintern, not for ‘nationalist’ reasons, but in order to facilitate the political and organisational basis to wage intransigent struggle against social democracy and the centrism of the CPGB and ILP. For without this struggle revolutionary politics would suffer a serious setback. If John Maclean was under severe stress, it was connected to his profound awareness of the complex tasks involved in the class struggle. Truly another Lenin.

Phil Sharpe

Welcome re-evaluation

I’ve heard a little about your reorganised or refounded version of the historic CPGB and I’ve read some of your material available on the Internet, specifically your ‘Draft programme’ and the third instalment of the ‘Genesis of bureaucratic socialism’. Your effort at re-evaluating the history of the communist movement is politically courageous and vitally necessary. I’m also encouraged by the bits and pieces I’ve heard about your party’s internal political life and its openness to critical debate (while maintaining unity in action).

Isn’t Lenin reputed to have said: ‘One can never be radical enough; that is, one must always try to be as radical as reality itself’? This should be the battle-cry of the current period. Too many groups and sects claiming to be revolutionary desperately clutch outdated blueprints or elevate programme to the level of ahistorical metaphysics.

Your diagnosis of the USSR’s bureaucratic degeneration bears a surprising resemblance to Trotsky’s analysis. It is commendable that a formerly ‘Stalinist’ party is reclaiming what is valuable in the Trotskyist heritage - the workers movement won’t go forward without a complete settling of accounts between Stalinism and Trotskyism. But I hope you also reject the worst excesses of Trotskyism: dyed-in-the-wool sectarianism and a tendency to abstract propagandism, or, conversely, craven opportunism, liquidationism, etc.

My own political experience here in the US has been with Trotskyist groups - the Socialist Workers Party (the Barnesites, not the Cliffites), the International Socialist Organisation (the US’s Cliffite franchise), and the Spartacist League/ICL. The US SWP has become reformist, its occasionally revolutionary rhetoric notwithstanding. The ISO’s anti-communism and anti-Sovietism was (and is) disgusting and puts them on the side of imperialism (same for the British SWP). The Spartacist League has at least been consistently Soviet-defencist in their propaganda, but otherwise they are incredibly bureaucratic internally and politically sterile externally (they are unwilling to enter into any united front that they don’t themselves completely control - hence their propensity for screaming from the sidelines of most struggles).

Don’t devolve into another Trot sect. Or at least, subject Trotsky and Trotskyism to the same kind of searching political critique that you’re applying to Stalinism. For example, many Trotskyist groups have transformed Trotsky’s theory of ‘permanent revolution’ into a kind of metaphysical absolute, an excuse to abstain from any kind of support of national liberation struggles. The Spartacist League/ICL is particularly guilty of this. If a struggle is not led by a Trotskyist vanguard party (ie, their party), it is automatically repudiated as ‘popular frontist’ or ‘Stalinist’ or ‘bourgeois-nationalist’.

Another political error of many Trotskyist groupings (such as the Cliffites) is ‘Stalinophobia’, ie, hating Stalinism worse than imperialism, being unwilling to defend the Soviet Union, however bureaucratically degenerated, from imperialism. I’d like to know more about your specific position (however, necessarily retrospective at this point) on the question of defence of the USSR against imperialism.

On the whole, however, I’m in political agreement with much of the little I’ve read of your material, and I’d like to read more.

Edmond Caldwell

Bureaucratic LRCI

February’s Workers Power published the first article on Peru in years. They claim that it was written by a Peruvian cadre. In fact, it is a gross piece of misinformation which shows complete lack of seriousness.

WP’sarticle said that commandos dressed as “waiters” took “Lima’s Japanese embassy” and took “74 - all key Peruvian” - hostages. All is wrong. A group of mainly uniformed guerrillas entered the residence of the ambassador and they are holding since before February 72 VIP hostages: a big percentage of them are foreign diplomats and businessmen.

The article contained a lengthy dissertation on Tupac Amaru’s (MRTA) history, in which it reported that this party “was formed in 1984” and “its first armed actions were in 1987”. The MRTA was created and started its military actions in 1982. WPs red professors have erased one third of the MRTA’s armed struggle.

WP wrote, “Like Sendero Luminoso, the MRTA sought to establish a popular base for its actions in the coca producing Andean highlands”. The MRTA never consolidated any base in the highlands. To affirm that the coca, a tropical crop, is a main product of the Andean highlands is so ridiculous as to suggest that the Scottish highlanders or Alpine farmers mainly produce bananas or mangoes.

They wrote that Fujimori was not a neoliberal in his first two years in power despite the fact that he introduced the most draconian IMF austerity measures in the continent. The fact that the Tupacamaristas are opportunists trying to establish a “national peace agreement” with the church, the army and the dictatorship, is ignored. We can continue to show other inaccuracies. However, it is clear that the irresponsible people who wrote this article only want to show to their European readers that they have something to say, no matter how silly.

Several months ago, the League for a Revolutionary Communist International’s great leader wrote a letter to the Weekly Worker saying that Poder Obrero Peru doesn’t exist and that the only LRCI member in our country re-joined them.

In Peru PO is relatively well known on the far left. We published several pamphlets and we were one of the most prolific groups of the left. Despite the state of emergency and the terrible repressive laws we have our own structures and we are promoting a Socialist Studies Group which meets weekly with around 20 comrades. During the hostage crisis our documents were translated into many languages and published in seven publications.

Despite that they advise the rest of the international left to avoid us “like the plague - people who have proved themselves neither honest nor honourable” (Trotskyist International No7). The LRCI’s leaders are performing acts of piracy and colonialism against us.

After they publicly announced the rupture with us, the LRCI printed only one journal in Spanish. Even that is a photocopy of PO Peru’s theoretical journal (Bases). They didn’t change any of the articles, the layout or even the numbering of the pages. They only changed the cover.

In late 1994 all our printing and computing equipment was vandalised. The LRCI launched an international appeal for POP in their press. They collected $2,500 for POP. However, most of the money was never sent to our group. The LRCI doesn’t have a single militant in any comer of the “third world”. One demoralised Peruvian comrade decided to make peace with the LRCI leaders. They now have a purely commercial relation.

When the LRCI sections received our resolution on the hostage crisis, he received the LRCI’s instructions to write anything about that subject. He approached us because he wanted information and ideas. Of course, we didn’t receive any credit. When we were in the LRCI we were treated like colonies which needed to be constantly punished and persecuted by the British empire.

POP was one of the founders of the LRCI, whose name was proposed by us. However, all the comrades from the third world suffered a terrible witch hunt because they resisted the rightwing turn. When the Latin American comrades created a tendency we were denied our right and in return we were threatened with expulsion. None of our oppositionist documents were translated into English for almost the last three years of our participation in the League. Our comrades on the International Executive Committee were constantly harassed with sanctions or prevented from attending meetings.

Comrades were forbidden to use the electronic mail for discussing with other comrades, suspended because they wanted to attend executive committees which they were part of, or expelled without right of appeal. This is an organisation which wants to give democratic lessons to parties like the British SWP or SLP.

We call upon all honest members of the LRCI to fight against these bureaucratic practices.

P Puka, J Del Zorral and F Parra
Poder Obrero, Peru