Collapsing democratic centralism

The following statement was issued by John Pearson before his expulsion. Despite his fulsome apologies he makes clear his intention to continue voting against CPGB positions. He would do so either when he claimed not to have received "prior notice" or under cover of a mandate from Stockport Socialist Alliance

I hold the view, which I have made known within the Party and the SA discussion e-list, that the CPGB should offer a lead to all of the partner organisations of the Socialist Alliance, in driving forward a process of transforming the SA into a party. This should include our eschewment of whipped voting in Socialist Alliance meetings as a demonstration of the need for the development of a single democratic centralist culture. There has not yet been an expression of a majority support within the Party for such a view.

I also hold the view, which I have made known within the Party and in the columns of the Weekly Worker, that democratic centralism in the CPGB has collapsed and that a ‘managerial’ mode of organisation has replaced it. Again, for the time being, there has not yet been an expression of a majority support within the Party for such a view.

Because I hold those views, the processes which usually prevail, in the context of Party interventions in the Socialist Alliance, are ones that cause me particular difficulties. I have called these processes “string-pulled hand-raising”.

Nevertheless, because there has not yet been a majority agreement with my views, I recognise that it would be inconsistent with my continued membership of the CPGB that I should, at this time, adopt an approach of consistently applying my views with respect to how I vote in Socialist Alliance meetings.

At the Birmingham meeting of the Democracy Platform of the Socialist Alliance, on November 8, I voted against the CPGB whipped vote on three occasions. These were: on a CPGB amendment to a Stockport Socialist Alliance motion opposing the Monbiot-Yaqoob electoral coalition; on a Birmingham SA motion opposing the Monbiot-Yaqoob electoral coalition; on a CPGB amendment to an Alliance for Workers’ Liberty motion which sought to replace the AWL’s proposal that the main principles of the SA programme, People before profit, should be preconditions for the SA’s involvement in any broader electoral coalition, with a statement that they should be merely “a guide”. Of these three questions, just one - the amendment to the AWL motion - was the subject of discussion at a lunchtime caucus of CPGB members.

The caucus meeting took place in a corner of the main meeting room and lasted no more than 10 minutes. Several non-CPGB comrades were present in the room, either resting, talking or eating their lunch. I raised no objection at the caucus meeting when Marcus described his amendment to the AWL motion and when - at the initiation, I think, of comrade Mike Macnair - it was suggested that the CPGB would withdraw from participation in the Democracy Platform if the amendment was not carried.

I recognise that I was wrong, particularly as I had raised no objection at the caucus meeting, to vote against the Party’s amendment to the AWL motion. I regret that I did so and I apologise to all comrades of the Party for so doing.

Furthermore, when Marcus challenged me, in a sustained manner, to change my vote on the latter amendment, I responded by asking the chair of the meeting to intervene and order Marcus to desist. I went on to use abusive language against Marcus. I regret my actions and I apologise to Marcus and to all other Party comrades.

I do not recognise that I was wrong in the way I voted on the Stockport SA motion, where I was mandated by that body. Neither do I recognise that I was wrong to vote for the Birmingham motion, where I had been given no prior notice of the way Marcus was going to lead us in voting and only became aware of this out of the corner of my eye as the vote was being called.

The Birmingham motion was substantially similar to the Stockport motion in effect, but in content it was posed as a matter of solidarity with the Birmingham comrades who had been the victims of SWP/Salma Yaqoob purges and anti-democratic attacks in that city. The motion was carried by 18 votes to nine. I do not even know if all other Party comrades voted against Birmingham, as - with the exception of Marcus and Steve Cooke - they were sitting behind me.

Although I made a mistake, I consider that the Party made a far greater mistake, in elevating tactics above programme and above communist principle. I accept, however, that the correct way for me to challenge the mistake made by the Party is by seeking to reverse the incorrect approach by way of discussion at Party aggregate and by exercising my right to publicly criticise that mistaken approach. I was wrong to individually defy the incorrect action by the Party.