Global party, not international fraud

Peter Manson looks at the fallout from the Ukrainian scam to defraud the left and the statement from Peter Taaffe's Committee for a Workers' International, host organism for the group

Last week we revealed details of a sophisticated con against a dozen or so mainly British and United States-based groups, hatched by a handful of fraudsters in the Ukraine (Weekly Worker August 28).

Operating as members of the Socialist Party’s “international”, the Committee for a Workers’ International, the same people, using a string of aliases, posed as ‘sections’ or sympathisers of other revolutionary organisations - Workers Power, the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty, Sheila Torrence’s Workers Revolutionary Party, the US-based League for a Revolutionary Party, the Committees of Correspondence (publishers of News and Letters), the International Bolshevik Tendency, Socialist Party of Great Britain, etc - which in total were stung for thousands of pounds - cash that was channelled into the Ukrainian section of the CWI via its shadowy ‘international department’.

Besides money the fraudsters got their hands on free air flights to all manner of different destinations and a whole array of office and other such equipment.

The CWI international secretariat has now issued a statement, dated August 29, which we publish below.

The CWI condemnation of the “shameful” actions of its ‘comrades’ in the Ukraine is of course welcome. But several key questions remain unanswered. For example, how could it happen? Did the whole of the CWI’s ‘section’ in the Ukraine take part in a conspiracy to defraud other sections of the left? Only a criminal gang or a closed sect could prevent what was going on instantly becoming public knowledge. Then there is the question of how far the defrauding of other groups went. Were British and US-based groups the only ones conned? And to what extent did the CWI’s organisation in the Commonwealth of Independent States turn a blind eye to the operation of their comrades in Kiev?

Clearly the CWI is not saying everything it knows about the various money-making schemes. The statement talks of warnings previously given to the leadership of the Ukrainian section “against contact with non-socialist, non-revolutionary organisations who had offered financial help. The Kiev leadership … carried on with these contacts and concealed it from the CWI.” Who exactly were these “contacts” and why did they not arouse suspicion as to the real nature of the Ukrainian affiliates in Peter Taaffe’s leadership circle? Rumours persist that it was the Libyan regime of colonel Gaddafi which was being courted as a source of funding.

What is more, it seems to me that the list of those involved in the scandal is not restricted to the Ukraine. One of the ringleaders appears to be a certain Ilya Budraitskis, a Moscow-based CWI member, whom I met late last year at the Paris preparatory assembly of the European Social Forum. Comrade Budraitskis told me that Attac France paid his expenses to attend the ESF meeting - he and his comrades helped to establish Attac Russia. I conducted an interview with him, which - not wanting his full name to be used - he gave as ‘Ilya B’ (see Weekly Worker December 12 2002).

The statement admits that in the past the CWI has “on a few occasions” itself been “duped into supplying limited resources” to groups who have “subsequently turned out to be completely unscrupulous and who did not agree with us politically”. This admission is a telling one. For all its claimed rejection of “the idea of building or linking up with groupings which can have a hollow and phantom existence, purely for reasons of international prestige”, it is evident that the CWI behaves in exactly that way.

While of course it is entirely praiseworthy to “build alliances and establish contacts” across borders, that is rather different from trying to set up clones of one’s own organisation in different parts of the world with people who “agree with us politically” - or claim to. There is something absurd about the notion that “the task of rebuilding a strong, powerful workers’ movement in this region” depends upon Taaffe’s international sect - the upholders of the one true faith - rather than the Ukrainian working class itself. Only those “in consonance with the ideas of the CWI” are up to that task, it seems.

In reality the job of revolutionaries in every country is to unite into a single party that allows the open expression of differences - not to remain apart while seeking like-minded international ‘sponsors’ of one’s own tiny grouplet. Only on the basis of such parties of the working class can a genuine international be built.