CWI statement

In late July and early August, allegations concerning the leadership of the Kiev and Ukrainian organisations of the CWI were brought to our attention. Serious charges of fraud against this leadership in their dealings with many left groups internationally were made and since then CWI representatives have investigated them. Unfortunately, we have found that, in substance, these allegations appear to be true. Indeed, when confronted with these charges, the leadership of the Ukrainian organisation admitted that they had pursued a policy of deception in their dealings with many left groups. This was done, they claim, in order to obtain “information” about these groups, but primarily to gather funds from these organisations.

Up to this time, the leadership of the CWI and the international secretariat (IS), as well as the international executive committee (IEC), were completely unaware that these methods were being used. They are totally at variance with the longstanding methods, both politically and organisationally, practised by our international. As soon as it was confirmed, by these individuals in Kiev, that these dishonest methods had been used, we took the step of suspending the leadership of the Kiev and Ukrainian organisations. Since then, in a visit to Kiev, an investigation has been conducted by the CWI and we are now in possession of a more detailed picture of what the Ukrainian leadership has done over a period of years in their dealings with other political revolutionary groups.

In 1999, there was a discussion in the Kiev organisation about the need to find money. This led to the establishment of a so-called ‘international department’ in February 2000, which the CWI had no knowledge of and which we did not discover until recently. The leaders of the Kiev organisation claim that this was set up for two specific reasons:

(a) to gather information internationally on political organisations, programme, etc;

(b) in order to raise money to finance the activity of the Kiev and Ukrainian organisation.

The Kiev leadership sent out emails to many left organisations, the exact number of which still remains unclear. These secret approaches were designed to elicit support, in the main not from the major international Trotskyist or revolutionary organisations - presumably because this would attract immediate attention and would be drawn to the attention of the CWI.

A number of these organisations responded and some sent representatives to Kiev. It seems that, when one of these groups decided on a visit, the Kiev leadership created, in effect, a dummy organisation, which would make favourable comments to the visiting delegation, which in some cases would lead to financial rewards and support. Some of the Kiev leadership in turn visited a number of countries, without informing the IS or the leaders or members of the CWI sections in the countries which they visited. These visits were undertaken primarily in order to discuss and obtain financial support.

Financial support was forthcoming, in amounts varying from $1,000 to $1,500, to small donations of hundreds of dollars from a number of organisations. Some of this money, claims the Ukrainian leadership, was used to finance an office - not to further the aims of the organisations who supplied the finance, but allegedly to continue with their work as the official section of the CWI in the Ukraine. In addition to this, equipment, including computers and second-hand laptops, was furnished to the Kiev and Ukrainian organisations. At the time that this was done we had no knowledge of these dealings. Recently, however, some suspicions were generated in our Commonwealth of Independent States section because of unspecified rumours about what was happening in the Ukraine, which were taken up by representatives of the CIS leadership and were vehemently denied by the Ukrainian leadership. If any proposals of this character had been made to the CWI, we would have immediately demanded that they cease or else these individuals would no longer have been considered to be members of the CWI.

Precisely because the Ukrainian leadership understood this, they kept these operations completely secret from the international leadership and the membership of the CWI. This involved going to considerable lengths in employing subterfuge in order to hide these fraudulent operations. In seeking to explain why they adopted such shameful methods of deceit and duplicity, the Kiev and Ukrainian leadership have tried to justify this ‘politically’. They insist that it was not purely for personal financial gain that they resorted to these methods. In a completely twisted and amoral distortion of the political opposition that the CWI has to other groups on the left, these individuals believed that any method was justified in order to financially exploit them on what was, in effect, a fake and dishonest political basis.

We totally repudiate these methods and have done so consistently throughout our history. We conduct an honest, open political struggle against the ideas and methods of political organisations on the left opposed to us. We have totally rejected in the past the use of dishonest financial methods within the labour movement. We have a spotless banner and honest method on the issue of raising money. For instance, the right wing in the British Labour Party, together with the capitalist press in the witch-hunt against the CWI section in Britain, Militant (now the Socialist Party), in the 1970s and 1980s, accused us of raising money from all sorts of alleged dubious and ‘foreign’ sources. We answered these slanders clearly at the time and we repeat here: every penny which we raise comes from our members, supporters and from a broad layer of sympathisers within the organised working class movement in each country where we have a presence and internationally.

The CWI has never received any political or financial support from big business, from state organisations, from ‘foreign powers’, etc. In those cases where we have discovered that groups, individuals or sections of the CWI have acted in violation of these revolutionary principles we have not hesitated to separate ourselves from them. In the neo-colonial world, in particular, with the crushing cultural and economic deprivation and poverty of the masses, the issue of finance and how it is raised by the revolutionary movement is a touchstone. Such are the conditions of the masses in these regions that historically the finance to launch and support workers’ organisations, in large parts of Asia, Africa and Latin America, has sometimes not come, initially at least, from the pockets of the masses, the poor and the working class.

There are many examples of where mass workers’ and even revolutionary parties were financed by those leaders who came from a bourgeois background, with considerable resources, who separated themselves from their class and devoted themselves to the building of the workers’ movement. This always carries inherent dangers. It exaggerates the role of ‘great leaders’ and individuals. But conditions in the neo-colonial world mean that if a viable workers’ or revolutionary movement is to be constructed it must receive at least some financial support from outside - in the main from the workers’ movement of the west. However, we have always differentiated between raising money from the workers’ movement on clear political and solidarity grounds and seeking finance from bourgeois sources. The latter are ultimately used to corrupt, to disorientate and to bend the workers’ organisations in the neo-colonial world to reflect the interests of the bourgeois.

Such is the powerful pressure for scarce finance that sometimes the least politically steeled and opportunist elements, even inside the Marxist and revolutionary movement, can succumb to the temptations of receiving finance from unacceptable bourgeois or state sources. Whenever the CWI has been confronted with such a situation, we have not hesitated to act in a principled fashion.

We believe that what the Ukrainian leadership has done is on a par with methods we have unreservedly condemned in the past. These are unacceptable to the CWI. In some ways the actions of the Ukrainian leadership are more reprehensible than situations we have confronted in the past. To set out consciously, as they did, to deliberately defraud and take money on false pretences from other left organisations is shameful. It is true that the economic and cultural conditions of the Ukraine are in many respects analogous to the situation in the neo-colonial world, certainly in terms of the standard of living, which has plunged since the collapse of Stalinism and the return of ‘gangster’ capitalism. For instance, according to the World Bank in 2001, average annual income in the Ukraine was $720, on average the equivalent of $1.90 a day! This is combined with the terrible legacy of the methods of Stalinism, which undoubtedly impinges on the consciousness of some layers, including those who claim to stand on the left.

This can quite easily lend itself to an approach which considers that duplicity and acting under a false flag of convenience are legitimate methods of struggle on a political level. Undoubtedly, these factors played a part in shaping the attitude of the Kiev and Ukrainian leadership. Even in the west, with a much higher standard of living, the terrible legacy of Stalinist methods, politically and organisationally, have had negative effects on some avowedly ‘Trotskyist’ organisations.

However, to describe the objective circumstances is not to excuse the totally unacceptable methods that were used by the Ukrainian leadership. It has come as a profound shock to the leadership and members of the CWI that such methods can be used and, by their own admission, carried out in a “secret nature”. CWI comrades in the neo-colonial who have been consulted with regarding these developments, such as Nigeria, have expressed their anger and indignation at the use of such methods. The CWI has been the main victim of this duplicity. The CIS section of the CWI has also been damaged by the use of such methods by the Kiev organisation.

The Ukrainian leadership has admitted that their actions were “not discussed with other city organisations or with any higher organ in the international”. Up to recently, however, the Ukrainian leadership has gone to elaborate and quite extraordinary lengths in their political duplicity. When some of the CIS leadership did become aware, because of rumours that were circulating amongst the CIS left, and with one of the Kiev leadership breaking ranks, some nine months ago, they confronted the Kiev leadership on the veracity of the allegations that were being made. The leading group of Oleg Vernik and Boris Pastukh, faced with these allegations - which by no means revealed the full scale of their involvement with other organisations internationally at that stage - point blank denied that anything of the kind had transpired. Even the source in Kiev who leaked this information at the time then blatantly denied that he had alerted the CIS leadership to this situation. He, in effect, closed ranks with Oleg Vernik and Boris Pastukh.

On previous occasions the CIS leadership had warned the Kiev leadership against contact with non-socialist, non-revolutionary organisations who had offered financial help. The Kiev leadership gave an undertaking to desist from any such contact but again “in secret” carried on with these contacts and concealed it from the CWI. This is not the first time in the history of the revolutionary movement that malpractices of this kind - although not in this precise way - have been carried out. For instance, Trotsky confronted the unacceptable methods of Raymond Molinier in business dealings, raising cash, etc in the 1930s and took the drastic step, together with the Movement for the Fourth International, of separating himself and his supporters from Molinier. The workers’ movement internationally has been occasionally faced with examples of fraud and deception, sometimes concealed over a considerable period of time, before they are brought to light. Only when the position had then become clear were the appropriate disciplinary procedures adopted.

In the past, the CWI, like others, has on a few occasions been duped into supplying limited resources to groups in the neo-colonial world and even in Europe, who have subsequently turned out to be completely unscrupulous and who did not agree with us politically. The only way to guarantee against this situation is not to make any attempts to build genuine alliances and contacts with viable socialist, Marxist and revolutionary forces internationally. We reject the idea of abandoning attempts to build alliances and establish contacts because of what has transpired in the Ukraine. The CWI receives many letters, emails, etc from different organisations who initially agree with our approach, perspectives, etc. We do not provide resources to any organisation or grouping without first of all working together with them and where possible establishing on the ground that there is a common approach in terms of perspectives, organisation, strategy, tactics, etc. In other words, we reject the idea of building or linking up with groupings which can have a hollow and phantom existence, purely for reasons of international prestige.

Even then, there is a danger, as this incident has revealed, that dishonest and unscrupulous individuals and organisations can carry out a policy of deception. This can occur particularly when access to a country is difficult, language problems are unsolved, etc. However, it is essential that, once the deception has been discovered, prompt and decisive action follows. The example of Kiev and the Ukraine is so shocking to us because it stands out as the only example of this kind of deception being carried out against other left organisation by people purporting to represent the CWI.

In the light of what has been stated here, and after investigation, the international secretariat of the CWI is taking the following steps:

1. Immediately suspend Oleg Vernik, a member of the IEC of the CWI, and to recommend his expulsion to the next meeting of the IEC. To immediately expel Boris Pastukh, Zakhar Popovich, Alexander Zvorskii, Yuri Baranov, Yaroslav Ganzenko, Alexei Aryabinskii. These individuals are primarily responsible for this shameful incident. They will have the right to appeal against their expulsion to the appropriate bodies.

2. To suspend immediately the Kiev and Ukrainian organisations. We recognise that within the ranks of the Ukrainian organisation are some very good comrades, some of whom acquiesced to the dishonest methods that were used and some of whom were ignorant of what was done. We intend to recommend to the CIS section of the CWI that the rebuilding of the Ukrainian organisation is undertaken, in conjunction with the IS of the CWI. This will have to be done in such a way as to completely separate the organisation that comes out of this from the methods of the previous leadership, who will have no influence on the direction, deliberations or actions of any Ukrainian or Kiev organisation which adheres to the CWI. A full political discussion will be necessary in Kiev and the Ukraine on the perspectives of the CIS organisation as a whole and the CWI, in order to ensure that those who wish to remain in the CWI do so on a clear political and organisational basis, in consonance with the ideas of the CWI.

Despite the disappointment that we feel at the deception which has been perpetrated against other left organisations, and even more shamefully against the CWI and its membership - we are confident that we can rebuild a genuine force of Marxism and Trotskyism in the Ukraine and Kiev. We hope in this way a line can be drawn under this shameful episode and we can recommence the task of rebuilding a strong, powerful workers’ movement in this region.

We would also add that if any organisation believes they have been duped by these individuals and requires further information we would be prepared to discuss in complete confidence and supply, where possible, information which would help them to clarify their position in these events.