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Speech in support of Irom Sharmila's epic Struggle


(This speech was delivered by the Radical Socialist representative at the meeting in solidarity with Irom Sharmila organised by the Nari Nirjatan Pratirodh Mancha on 7 December 2009 at Hazra Park, Calcutta)

Irom_Sharmila_Protest_Meeting_7_Dec_09_025

Sushovan Dhar


Irom Sharmila Chanu civil rights activist, political activist, journalist and poet from Manipur, is on a hunger-strike since November 4, 2000, demanding the Government of India to withdraw the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, also otherwise known as AFSPA; from Manipur and other areas of India’s north east. This unparallel political protest started after the Assam Rifles gunned down ten innocent people who were waiting for their buses at a bus stand in Malom, Manipur on November 1, 2000. The incident, which is also known as the Malom Massacre, was a sequel to endless killings by the Indian armed forces in Manipur and also in many other parts of the North-East.
On November 4, Sharmila launched a political fast against the widespread repression unleashed against the people of Manipur by the Indian state. She had initially started the hunger-strike demanding the repeal of this draconian act in Manipur and has later extended the scope of her demand to all regions of India's north east where AFSPA has been imposed.
Three days after she started the hunger-strike, on 6 November 2000, she was arrested by the police and charged with “attempt to commit suicide”, which is illegitimate under section 309 of the Indian Penal Code. She was later transferred to judicial custody. With her determination not to take food nor water, her health deteriorated tremendously and the police forcibly used nasogastric intubation in order to keep her alive while under arrest. Since then Irom Sharmila has been under a ritual of release and arrest every year because under IPC section 309, a person who "attempt to commit suicide" is punishable ““with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year [or with fine, or with both]".
Sharmila’s hunger strike has inspired a lot of protests from Manipur, North-East and other parts of India against the AFSPA and the military highhandedness. Irom Sharmila’s legendary struggle for human rights has become an important symbol of the resistance of the Manipuri people who are fighting against their present day suffering at the hands of the Indian State. This has also meant extreme militarisation of the region and the promulgations of many a black law like AFSPA at the cost of the life and liberty of the people of this region.
It is stunning to see the silence of the mainstream Indian media about these issues of atrocities by the Indian state. Perhaps, they don’t find objects of ‘sensation’ in the pain and the distress of the people of Manipur as well as of North-East in the hands of Indian military and other security forces. It is in stark contrast to the coverage received by “terrorist acts”, in the mainstream media.  Possibly another consideration could be the questions of ‘national security’ and ‘sovereignty’, both of which are covert & user-friendly terms for Indian expansionism of which the Indian media is a powerful advocate and a vociferous proponent. The conspiracy of silence which had surrounded Iron Sharmila's struggle is not an exception. It is part of a general silence which surrounds developments in North-East which for all practical purposes exists beyond the ‘borders of our consciousnesses’.
The parliament of the “world's largest democracy” decided to enact the most draconian law, the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act in 1958. Ever since, it has been an unending story of massacres, rapes, torture and extra-judicial killings resorted to by the Indian Armed Forces against the people of the North-East in the name of counter-insurgency operations. This act is a naked imitation of the inhuman Armed Forces Special Ordinance in 1942 to crush the Indian freedom movement by the British imperialists. It is indeed a shame that the constitution of India, the “largest democracy” has been violated by AFSPA. The military budget has been increased every year and the government is keen to keep military-political apparatus over civilian rule in North-East denying all basic human rights. It is indeed a shameful truth for all of us calling ourselves citizens of the world’s largest democracy.
Section 4 of the AFSPA says “Special powers of the armed forces – any commissioned officer, warrant officer, non-commissioned officer or any other person of equivalent rank in the armed forces may, in a disturbed area – (a) If he is of opinion that it is necessary so to do for the maintenance of public order, after giving such due warning as he may consider necessary fire upon or otherwise use force, even to the causing of death, against any person who is acting in contravention of any law or order for the time being in force in the disturbed area prohibiting the assembly of five or more persons or the carrying of weapons or of things capable of being used as weapons or of firearms, ammunition or explosive substances.” This section can be termed as a “statutory obscenity”. It occurs in no statute anywhere in any democracy and has been aptly called a “license to kill”. Not only does it not enjoin restraint explicitly, but says that the powers may be used “even to the causing of death”. It ignores the officer’s duty to respect the life of the citizen, omits this vital injunction and contains instead a carte blanche unheard of in any other statute in any other democracy – “even to the causing of death”.
AFSPA is such a dreadful creation that it makes an ordinary sepoy or a havildar of CRPF an all powerful demon. All rights, liberties, and constitutional safeguards given to all the citizens of India without any discrimination on the basis of caste, race, and place of birth, language and religion are severely violated and negated by the sections given in the AFSA, 1958. The existence of this law on the statue books has thus meant disallowing the people the right to protest, the right to legal redress or right of any lawful democratic activity. Ordinary people, who want to live a life of peace and tranquility, can thus easily be framed as ‘terrorists’ and ‘suspects’ linking them to banned organisations. Democratic and human rights activists who merely document the excesses by the Army or demand an end to army rule have also been picked up, tortured and killed. The continuation of this law in the last 51 years has effectively meant that under a formal democratic set up 39 million people residing in north east are forced to live under an undeclared emergency or a military rule to all intents and purposes.
It is therefore, not surprising that the people of Manipur summarily rejected the proposals by Justice Jeevan Reddy committee - appointed by the Prime Minister in 2004 in the aftermath of the militant protests in Manipur – as they feel that the Jeevan Reddy panel merely wanted the prerogatives of the armed forces transferred across-the-board onto another law, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. If this holds true, then we will have a situation where the dreaded black law AFPSA which is basically applicable to North East and Jammu-Kashmir may be scrapped forthwith while the revised ULP act 1967 which incorporates all the necessary provisions of AFPSA would come into force. It would mean the whole of India may come under the ambit of a substitute of AFPSA.
I would like to conclude in support of the valiant struggle by the people of Manipur and North-East epitomized by none other than Irom Sharmila. Her grit and determination makes our struggle stronger and the demand to repeal Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958. In expressing our solidarity with her, we demand the immediate repeal of the AFSPA without its reintroduction under any other name, the removal of the military from playing a governing role in the area and the prosecution of army personnel for all cases of murder, rape, sexual violence and torture, and the punishment of all the guilty.
Long live the struggle of the people of Manipur!

Contribution from Argentina


Eduardo Lucita / Guillermo Almeyra
Sergio M y Pablo( Coordinadora Barrial Moreno) / Sergio, Damian y Gustavo (Puma Merlo) / Santiago y Mirian (Univ lujan) / Carlos ( CPSRC ) (on behalf of the sections).

The documents Report on the International Situation and Role and Tasks (we still haven’t been able to deal with Climate Change) have, from our point of view, a strong European content, something understandable given the weight of the sections and that the crisis is much stronger there than in other regions, but at the same time the documents point out that Latin America “is the region of greatest social conflict” and that “there are countries which are developing processes of partial breaks with imperialism.”

We share these characterizations, and we add that Latin America has been the center of resistances to neoliberalism, but we believe it appropriate to take into account in the final version of the documents that, under the pressure of the systematic world crisis, if there were to be an advance in anticapitalism in some region of the world, it would probably be in Latin America, and more precisely in the countries of the South.

So, for this reason we think it is necessary that the documents dedicate more space to Latin America, that they reflect a little more the situation in the region, not only because of the high level of conflict that exists, but also because of the orientation which it is taking.

Resolution Project Role and Tasks

Amendments and additions that we propose:

Point 1. paragraph “In conclusion…” replace with:

“In conclusion the crisis expresses the failure of the neoliberal phase of capital to reactivate the development of the productive forces at a world level, nor has it been able to impose a relationship of forces favorable to capital. As an ideology, it shows itself incapable of offering a socluation, which is why the G-20 proposals are a return to the past that blew up with the crisis, wrote an end to the Washington Consensus, but placed the IMF in the decision-making center with its clearly neoliberal priorities.” “All of the contradictions inherent in this social system are going to explode” should be replaced with “are going to come under stress.”

Point 2: paragraph “Latin America” replace with:

“Latin America has been the center of resitances to neoliberalism and cointinues being the continent with the most explosive social situations, eventhough among the countries these are unevn. There is a bloc of countrie that brings together processes of greater radicalization and patrial reputures with imperialism, which in their development can advance to decidedly anti-capitalist positions, such as Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, and others still hard to predict such as Paraguay and El Salvador, all of which find a reference point in Cuba. Other countries maintain post-neoliberal politices such as Chile, or the neo-developmentalist variante such as Argentina, or the social-liberals such as Uruguay and Brasil. This latter, despite its strong differences with the United States—above all in its defense policies, in its membership in UNASUR and in its agreements with Venezuela—still collaborates in fundamental policies of Washington and hopes to achieve regional leadership with the its help. While Colombia, Peru and Mexico remain decidedly neoliberal.

“The declaration of the Assembly of Social Movements which took place in the FSM-Belem and the recent Assembly of ALBA-TCP, which in its final declaration condemned capitalism calling for going beyond it, as well as the First Multinational Summit of Social Movements, are a sample of the radical potential of the southern region of Latin America.”

“The new situation presented by the renewed imperialist aggresivity in the region—Fourth Fleet, coup in Honduras, new military bases in Colombia, direct intervention of the American embassy in themost important union conflict in years in Argentina—indicate an intention to break with the current policies of equilibrium and [show] the necessity of elaborating an international response.”

“The activity of the sections and group of the Fourth International in Latin America shoud take these tendencies into account and define a tactic of intervention in a process which is characterized by the sometimes converging and sometimes contradictory interrelations between the governments that make up ALBA and the social movements with important experiences of self-organization and self-management.”

Continuing: “In a series of emerging capitalist countries…” It may be that in Europe this characterization has been assimilated and forms part of common usage, but in Latin America it is closely linked to neoliberalism, we propose that it be replaced with “…dependent capitalist countries of greater industrial development” as the expression that best characterizes the situation but dest not use terminology quite linked to the neoliberal ideology.

Point 4.

Subpoint 4: “A left which is conscious…..and that therefore cannot govern…” add “with the political representations” of that with which it desires to break.

Subpoint 7 “A left that integrates new social movements……..and above all new generations.” This may be a translation problem but it would be good to eliminate “…because they cannot do new things with old material.” Take into account that this is referring to people.

Add a subpoint: “A left that promotes all forms of empowerment by workers and by the popular classes that encourages thinking, deciding, and doing things for itself and on the basis of its own decisions.”

Point 5. then the paragraph that ends “…in Africa and Asia things are heading in the same direction” add “Nevertheless in the countries of the South of Latin America the construction of broad anti-capitalist parties should integrate from its beginnings a clear stand for socialism.” It is by way of this process, add “…complex and diverse…” that we can make new advances. This is the question…

Punto 10. at the end of the first paragraphy and before “The Youth Camp” add:

“The Fourth Internatinoal should make efforts to have a greater presence in Latin America. To look for the forms and means to help groups which in various countries sympathizes with our positions but for the moment don’t have the organizational capacity, nor the finance nor the training and whose weakness is clear when compared to other organized left forces that exist in the different countries.”

Buenos Aires, November 12, 2009.

Contribution to the debate on the Role and Tasks of the FI in the form of amendments



Yvan (France)

These amendments aim to clarify certain points about the role of the Fourth International around the complicated issue of the relationship between our work which necessarily aims at strengthening our influence and our goal to help build new anti-capitalist and revolutionary parties and new regroupings both at European and international levels.

This question cannot be stated in the same terms as in 1992 for two reasons. First, the overall economic, social and political situation is not the same, we must take the measure of the "tipping of the world" to rediscuss our perspectives and our tasks. Then experiences have been made, the results of which oblige us to stress the need for independence from the politics of the old reformist parties and the importance of formulating, advocating and implementing programmatic and strategic orientations in keeping with revolutionary Marxism.

From this perspective, it seems to me that the text does not include the contribution of the battle for the foundation and construction of the NPA enough.

These amendments have no other ambition than to point those questions whose answers can only be written as a collective work, that of the FI through its collaborations, discussions and confrontations as well as with other anti-capitalist and revolutionary currents.

In bold, what is added, italic what is deleted

Part 1. Last paragraph.

In conclusion, the crisis makes obvious the failure of the bourgeois classes, of their neoliberal ideology, incapable of offering a solution. All the contradictions inherent to this social system are going to explode without social democracy and the centre left being able to offer an adequate response. Even neo-Keynesian measures, which have not been adopted anyway, would not be enough to resolve the crisis. Thus, the gap between the rhetoric and pretensions of the ruling classes and the reality of the suffering and tragedies that they impose upon the peoples and workers, the intensification of their pressure on them, create the conditions of exacerbated social tensions and political crisis. Our primary concern is to work for unity to defend the workers’ and peoples’ rights, to build parties acting in that perspective independently from the institutions.

Part 3. Last paragraph.

In the context of the chronic crisis of capitalism, the combination of social resistances and this evolution of the apparatuses of the traditional neoliberal or reformist left open a new space for the radical left make necessary and possible for the revolutionaries to carry out a policy combining the research of unity of the anti-neoliberal and anticapitalist forces and our own perspective of a revolutionary transformation of society. This puts on the agenda the reorganisation and rebuilding of the workers’ movement on a new basis that of anti-capitalism and eco-socialism of class independence around the social, democratic, environmental demands of the workers and the lower classes confronted with the global crisis of capitalism.

Part 5.

This is the aspiration perspective in which the problems of building the question of the place of the Fourth International and in building new anti-capitalist parties and new international currents are is posed. We expressed it in our own way, from 1992 onwards, so in the last two world congresses, with the triptych “New period, new programme, new party”, developed in documents of the International. We confirm the essential of our choices at the last World Congress in 2003 concerning the building of broad anticapitalist parties. The content given to this formula must be enriched by a critical assessment of the different experiences (especially Brazil and Italy) of building broad anti-capitalist parties since our last World Congress in 2003.

The Fourth International is confronted, in an overall way, with a new phase. This implies clarifying and redefining its tasks. Revolutionary Marxist militants, nuclei, currents and organizations must pose the problem of the construction of anti-capitalist, revolutionary political formations, with the perspective of establishing a new independent political representation of the working class in a context where the global crisis of capitalism gives all its relevance to the project of revolutionary transformation of society. That is true on the level of each country scale and at an international level. On the basis of the experience of the class struggle, the development of the global justice movement, defensive struggles and anti-war mobilizations over the last ten years, and in particular the lessons drawn from the evolution of the Brazilian PT and of Communist Refoundation in Italy and from the debates of the French anti-liberal left, revolutionary Marxists have engaged in recent years in the building of the PSOL in Brazil, of Sinistra Critica in Italy, of the new anti-capitalist party in France, Respect in England. In this perspective we have continued to build the experiences of the Bloco de Esquerda in Portugal and the Red Green Alliance in Denmark. The common goal, via different paths, is that of broad anti-capitalist parties. These various attempts to address the crisis of the labor movement can only be successful if we learn the lessons of past failures. Certainly it is not a question of taking up the old formulas of regroupment or revolutionary currents alone. The ambition is to bring together forces beyond simply revolutionary ones. These can be a support in the process of brining forces together as long as they are clearly for building anti-capitalist parties. Although The objective is to give ourselves the means to contribute to the building of mass parties, tools for the workers’ struggles in the perspective of socialism. There is no model, since each process of coming together takes account of national specificities and relationships of forces, our goal must thus be to seek to build broad anti-capitalist political forces, independent of social democracy and the centre left, formations which reject any policy of participation or support to class-collaborationist governments, today government with social-democracy and the centre left. It is on the basis of such a perspective that we must be oriented. What we know of the experiences of differentiation and reorganization in Africa and Asia point in the same direction. It is through this process that we can make new advances. It is this question which must form the framework of the next congress of the FI. but the political and programmatic content of our work and involvement in the various processes must be clearly defined: independence from the Social Democrats and the center-left, rejection of any political involvement or support to governments of class collaboration, independence from bourgeois institutions, defence of a policy to respond to the crisis of capitalism challenging capitalist private property and putting forward the nationalization of the financial system under the control of the workers and the population. The reconstruction of the labor movement can only be done by breaking with the policy of class collaboration and compromise of the old reformist parties, the Social Democrats and Stalinists. By participating fully in the various current processes, the sections and activists of the FI give themselves the objective of formulating, both in their daily militant practice and in their political work, the political basis of regrouping in the perspective of building broad parties for the revolutionary transformation of society. It is this question that should be at the heart of the next congress of the Fourth International.

Part 6. End of paragraph:

These few elements show the type of orientation that we want to implement: to seize every opportunity to carry out the debate, to defend an independent perspective from that of the old left politics, a perspective built on the development of class struggle. The different conferences this year such as those in Paris or Belem show the necessity and the possibility of joint action and discussion by a large number of organizations and currents of the anti-capitalist left in Europe. It is now necessary to continue a policy of open meetings and conferences on topics of strategic and programmatic thinking and joint action through campaigns and initiatives of international mobilization.

Part 7. Paragraph 1.

The Fourth International and its sections have played and still play a vital road in defending, promoting and implementing an anticapitalist programme combining a social, democratic and environmental plan to meet the needs of the working class confronted with the crisis, a programme that raises the question of power in a socialist perspective, of demands that are both immediate and transitional towards socialism; a united-front policy that aims for mass mobilization of workers and their organizations; a policy of working-class unity and independence against any type of strategic alliance with the national bourgeoisie; opposition to any participation in governments in the advanced-capitalist countries that merely manage the State and the capitalist economy having abandoned all internationalism.

Part 7. End of paragraph 2.

Let us note, nevertheless, a major difference between the FI and all these tendencies, over and above political positions, and which is the credit of the International is that it is based on a democratic coordination of sections and militants, whereas the other international tendencies are “international-factions” or coordinations based on “party-factions” which do not respect rules of democratic functioning, in particular the right of tendency. The historical limits of these international “Trotskyist” currents “, like other ex-Maoist or ex-Communist currents, are as many difficulties we must try to overcome to advance prevent us today from advancing in the crystallization of new international convergences. Their conceptions do not meet the needs of the new revolutionary movement; they are inevitably confronted with their own limitations and experience a crisis. One of our concerns must be to help surpass the old Trotskyist movement by fighting against the sectarianism engendered by past struggles.

Part 7. End of part.

In the present relationship of forces, the policy for advancing towards a mass International must rather take the road of open and periodic conferences on central political questions – activity, specific themes or discussions - which make possible the convergence and the emergence of anti-capitalist and revolutionary poles. Through these joint activities, we have the desire to build links that can only be fruitful if, step by step, political, strategic and programmatic agreements emerge. In the new anti-capitalist parties which may be formed in the years to come, and which express the current stage of combativeness, experience and consciousness of the sectors that are the most committed to the search for an anti-capitalist alternative, the question of international links or even a new International is and will be posed today. We act and we will continue to act so that it is not posed in terms of ideological or historical choices, which are likely to lead to divisions and splits. The emergence of a new International will necessarily stand in the continuation of the attempts to regroup on an international level that are at the heart of the labor movement. This does not mean that references to the past may suffice to provide the political and programmatic foundations of a new International. It must be posed on a double level, on the one hand Conversely, the search for real political convergence on tasks of international intervention, on the other the pluralism of the new formations, which must bring together currents of various origins: Trotskyists of different kinds, libertarians, revolutionary syndicalists, revolutionary nationalists, left reformists, does not spare us the defence of Marxism. Quite the contrary, it stresses its necessity, its urgency because we are convinced that to be able to reappropriate the best in the history of the struggles for emancipation, we require the theoretical framework of critical and revolutionary Marxism.

The practical and concrete forms of this work must be defined according to each situation. So in general, when there have been concrete steps towards new parties, we have proposed that the new broad anti-capitalist party functions with the right of tendency or currents, and that the supporters of the Fourth International in these new parties organize themselves in ways to be decided, according to the specific situation of each party. Our Portuguese comrades in the Left Bloc, our Danish comrades in the Red-Green Alliance, our Brazilian comrades in the PSOL, are organized, in particular forms, as a Fourth International current or in class struggle currents with other political tendencies.

But this is not necessarily the rule. Thus, within the NPA the members of the FI did not consider it necessary to organize as a current. The fertility and the contribution of Marxism in the construction of new workers’ parties can be demonstrated through achieving the tasks of the party at all levels of responsibility and activity.

Part 9.

We have, in fact, a particular role that is recognized by a series of political currents: We may be the only ones who can to be able to make political forces of various origins converge. This is for example, what in Latin America the Venezuelans comrades of left currents of the Bolivarian process say to us. It is also the case in Europe, in the framework of the relations of the EACL and of other currents. So, the next world congress must be an important step for the meeting of all these forces. This Congress will be a congress of the FI and there will be no organisational growing over at this stage. But we want the FI to play the role of a “facilitator” of convergences in the perspective of new international groupings.

Reject the draft “Role and Tasks of the FI”


Brown (USA), Jette (Denmark), Andreas (Greece), Konstanitin (Germany)

[Introductory note: The authors of this call are asking all delegates at the 2010 world congress, no matter what position they might take on the document titled “Role and Tasks of the Fourth International,” to vote in favor of the specific motion below. Developing the discussion projected in that motion should be a common task for our entire world movement. And it should be accepted as such by supporters of the RTFI document as well as those of us who disagree with this text. We are also, however, hoping that others who, like ourselves, consider the resolution presented by the IC to be irreparably flawed will join us in voting against it. Ordinarily, under such circumstances, a minority current would submit a counter-draft. We choose not to do so. We do not believe that a counterposed text, drafted by a small minority representing comrades in only a handful of countries, can possibly treat this subject adequately. For that we need a much greater base of experience and collaboration. In addition, we need a counterposed framework within which a new RTFI text can be constructed. We submit the following text to the International Discussion Bulletin, therefore, in an attempt to explain what that alternative framework might be and why it is needed. We hope that a vote rejecting the present draft will then lay the basis for moving forward in order to develop an alternative document that can meet our collective needs.]

* Draft Motion (for the agenda item “Role and Tasks of the Fourth International”): “The World Congress establishes a commission to draft a document outlining the ‘shared strategic vision’ of the Fourth International, plus the impact of this vision on any broader process of building revolutionary organizations on a national and international level today. The IC meeting in 2011 will hold an initial discussion, putting in place a process that encourages section leaderships to contribute comments based on circulation of the relevant texts plus discussions within their organizations.”

* * * * *

We will vote against the text “Role and Tasks of the Fourth International” and urge others to reject it as well. The document fails to pose the critical questions facing the FI today in a manner that will allow us to really resolve them. It reflects an incorrect understanding of what the FI is and what it ought to be, thereby opening the door to building a second-and-a-half international instead of the revolutionary world movement we so desperately need. In this way, the text before us calls into question the very existence of the FI itself.

The motion we have submitted (see above) attempts to address what is, perhaps, the most glaring flaw in this document which declares: “We expressed it in our own way, from 1992 onwards, in other words in the last two world congresses, with the triptych ‘new period, new program, new party.’ ” There is, however, no discussion in the text, nor in the general discourse of the FI and its leadership in recent years, about what the limits and contradictions are of this “new” process. Nor is there any consideration about what the implications might be, for all that is new, of that which is not so new, what is described in point 6 of the document as our “shared strategic vision.” What is that vision? How do we work toward and apply it today?

If we cannot formulate a set of ideas, and put them down on paper, explaining what we mean by “our shared strategic vision,” then any reference to such a vision in a document like RTFI is meaningless. In our judgment, serious reference to our “shared strategic vision” requires that we collectively affirm a set of core principles, including at least:

1) We stand for the continued possibility of world socialist revolution and the centrality of the working class in that revolutionary process, along with the need for active alliances between the working class, the specially oppressed, and other groups that are victimized by capitalist society.

2) We affirm the need for the working class and oppressed to maintain their political independence from the exploiting classes.

3) We advocate and organize to bring about a revolutionary government in which the self-organization of the oppressed can exercise hegemony, with a goal of breaking definitively with the old bourgeois state and constructing a new state based on working-class power. This is counterposed to the idea of a “broad front” of “progressive” forces in which other class interests are allowed to dominate, leaning on the old bourgeois state rather than breaking with it (what the term “Popular Front” correctly refers to).

4) We recognize the absolute necessity of cohering a revolutionary cadre with sufficient understanding of the essential programmatic elements (using this as part of an active political toolbox) and with a sufficient social weight so that when revolution does become an objective possibility the mass energy that is unleashed in society at large can break out of safe channels, leading to the necessary overthrow of the old state power.

5) We attempt to work out an anti-capitalist strategy based on transitional demands and the transitional method.

In addition to these essential programmatic elements that are not discussed in the RTFI document (what is their relationship to the “new program”?), other points need to be included in any text which attempts to develop a serious appreciation of the FI’s role and tasks today:

* There is no discussion in the IC draft of the difference between revolutionary organizations and “anti-capitalist” formations understood more broadly, not to mention blocs or parties that we might characterize as “centrist” or “left-reformist.” All these quite different kinds of parties or fronts are treated as if the problems posed for revolutionaries are essentially the same when working within them.

* Even if this resolution developed an orientation toward involvement in some kind of regroupment or recomposition process that was appropriately nuanced, taking into account the programmatic elements posed above and other problems that we note here, such an orientation remains an active possibility for only a minority of FI sections today. Most organizations affiliated to the FI are engaged in building independent organizations, and this is, in the overwhelming majority of cases, the appropriate orientation for revolutionary Marxists in these specific countries. RTFI has nothing to say, however, about the importance of this task or how we orient to it.

* Even in cases where we are actually participating in a broader formation of some kind, or have the potential to do so, the uniform evolution of such an organization toward a genuinely revolutionary perspective is hardly guaranteed (and that is an understatement). The political independence of our cadre—and, to the extent required in order to maintain that political independence, some kind of separate organizational formation as well—must be maintained. How else do we prepare for the possibility, even the likelihood judging from recent experiences in Italy and Brazil, of a crisis that results from reformist or centrist elements choosing to support, join, or form a capitalist government? Even in the event of a crisis that is less severe, the existence of a programmatic/organizational pole within the broader anti-capitalist formation, actively organizing around the “shared strategic vision” of the FI is likely to prove decisive. FI sections in country after country have stumbled in recent decades because of a lack of attention to this question. And yet the RTFI text has nothing whatsoever to say about it. We recognize that the answers are rarely simple or easy in such situations, but precisely for that reason the question must be posed and alternative possibilities seriously considered.

* Today we confront the problem of how to maintain our political/organizational independence once again as a result of the formation of the NPA in France. As in other cases, we do not pretend that the answer is simple or easy here. But some answer has to be consciously developed. The authors of these lines are open to hearing a discussion where a range of perspectives might be considered. But we find ourselves unable to conceive of an alternative that fails to include some kind of current or structure, actively seeking to maintain and develop that cadre, within the NPA, that is committed to the politics of the Fourth international and therefore to the political identity of the French section.

* Generally speaking, then, whether engaged in building our own sections as independent organizations or in some kind of broader formation, the first and most important duty of the FI and its sections is to maintain and expand a revolutionary cadre based on our “shared strategic vision.” This means paying attention to building actual sections of the FI. We are in favor of participating in broader anti-capitalist poles, parties and/or alliances. But this is not a goal in and of itself. It has to be understood as a means toward a far more fundamental goal: building genuinely revolutionary mass parties that can, in turn, be part of a revolutionary mass international. There is no substitute for this as our broad strategic objective. We will never ride the coattails of other forces to the kind of influence within the movements of the oppressed that we hope to achieve. We must work toward that goal based on our own political strength, as a specific current of revolutionaries with our own unique, and essential, contribution to make.

* The same kinds of problems that we note above in terms of national parties also haunts this text in relation to its vision of a “new International,” presumably to replace the FI. Here, too, the distinction between revolutionary, anti-capitalist, centrist, and reformist formations is ignored, as are question related to building a revolutionary-Marxist programmatic pole in the context of such a formation. We are in favor of a vision that is broader than simply the FI as it now stands. We are not, however, in favor of a vision that negates the FI as it now stands, or the programmatic continuity which the FI represents. RTFI is simply open to too many diverse possibilities from this point of view. It is, therefore, totally inadequate as a guide for action.

* There is, finally, no consideration of the role FI groups can and should play in helping to resolve the acute crisis of leadership that confronts partial struggles today—in the labor movement, around questions of racism and national oppression, gender oppression, equality for women, and/or the rise of overtly fascist movements—as well as in building the cadres of the FI and the critical mass of its sections. No other political tendency has given any indication that it can become a substitute for the crucial programmatic role revolutionary Marxism has consistently attempted to play, working thereby to solve the crisis of leadership that has plagued the working class and its allies over the last eight decades. This crisis continues to be a key obstacle in the struggles for social change, up to and including the struggle for socialist revolution in today’s world.

All of these deficiencies, taken together, compel us to cast a vote against this text and call on the incoming leadership of the FI to launch a broad discussion that can involve our entire world movement in order to generate a better document. Such a conversation on the real role and tasks of the Fourth International will have to take into account the multiple errors and mistakes that have occurred since 1985 and led, for example, to the disasters of the Mexican section in the 1990s and the Brazilian after 2000. On the basis of such a broad conversation within our ranks, a new document should be developed over the next several years which can chart a road forward for our international and its sections.

Towards a broad International at any price?


RSB political secretariat, 12 November 2009.

Why we reject the "Role and Tasks of the FI" draft resolution

 

As we have explained during different International committee meetings, we have at least six major differences with this text:

1. We think there cannot be a single tactics for building a revolutionary organisation. Yet the text in discussion suggests that there can be a universal building line, although situations in countries may be very different and although most of the sections cannot apply the tactic of regroupment with other forces and still less apply the line of building a broad organisation. Thus “broad parties” cannot be the universal goal in building our organisations.

2. We insist on emphasising that in our opinion there is no reason to play down the difference between reformism and revolutionary Marxism. Moreover: with the current, very grave crisis of capitalism the term “anticapitalist” has come into fashion in the vocabulary of very diverse forces. However, this term is losing its concrete relevance and is no longer sufficient as a guideposts. The tasks before us have not become smaller and there is no objective common ground between reformism and revolutionary communism; on the contrary. With the loss of leeway for reformism, almost all reformist parties are becoming further and further integrated into the capitalist system. As a result, on this level our tasks have become more difficult and complicated, if we do not want to merely cling to the skirts of reformism.

3. The draft resolution fosters the illusion that in the near future we will be able to create a new international or at least a new international framework (“dans la perspective d’un nouveau regroupement international / in the perspective of a new international grouping”). To achieve this goal and facilitate this task, the text proposes to build the 4th International based on “our vision of the future”. But nowhere is this described or is what it involves laid out. Yet what are the programmatic bases we want to struggle for? Without this absolutely necessary clarification, any policy tending to force this course of regroupment and broadening can be a slippery slope towards an adventure with unforeseeable consequences. What do we mean by “21st-century socialism”? This calls for an intense debate within the International in order to learn from our sections’ different experiences and theoretical and programmatic contributions.

4. What is a “pluralistic left”? If it is an inherent value, it calls for more concrete characterisation, because in the absolute, a pluralistic organisation can be anything whatsoever. Just note: the fusion of two reformist currents, claiming to be “open” does not make this into a broad party as some of the authors of the draft resolution are imagining.

5. In the near future, there is no question of us being in a position to rebuild the international workers’ movement. We can make some slight contribution, but setting this reconstruction as a task can lead us to lose sight of what is actually possible, thereby “forgetting” the crucial lessons of the history of the workers’ movement (and our own history).

6. Finally, we need a thorough debate on the evolution of reformist parties (in our opinion, some are former reformists), in particular social-democratic parties. Indeed, it is totally unsuitable to apply a general characterization to all of these parties, as the differences are too major according to the stage of concrete evolution of their shift to the right and their integration to the capitalist order. A collective debate on the criteria to be retained would be very useful as overly rough appreciations (or those that are only orthodox at first glance) can lead us to make huge errors, or paralyse us politically (by holding us prisoner to ritualistic formulas). We have to ask the sections concerned to conduct a recent analysis of the state and evolution of social-democratic and ex-Stalinist parties in their countries. Ascribing a supposedly unchanging class nature, or a function in the current course of the class struggle that is also unchanging is in no way Marxist and can lead us to fail to take real changes into account and to pointlessly chase after reality out of ignorance. Just one example: if the adjective “reformist” is so common in analyses where it is used with no further specification, then it becomes evident that any new social-democratic formation that develops to the left of an existing social-democratic party is automatically “left reformist”. The problem with this is that if we proceed thusly, the descriptors (reformist and left reformist) lose any content. In certain cases, this can lead to profound errors in estimating concrete political evolutions.

This said, we also want to submit some of the explanatory comments we had already made to the International Committee to the Congress preparatory discussion and to the delegates:

Despite wishful thinking and repeated calls we must observe that the left is not joining together in “broad parties”. The question “what party to we want to build”, “what should be the nature of a broad party, if the participation of revolutionary Marxists is to be meaningful or “what processes of unification should we participate in” is truly the decisive question. But this very question is often forgotten.

As long as we do not debate these key questions collectively we won’t make progress. We don’t entirely share Tariq Ali’s observation that “the Left and social movements in Europe (Italy is the most recent example) are in an advanced state of decomposition” but we cannot share in the euphoria, in particular about EACL (European Anticapitalist Left) harboured by some comrades. The EACL project is the most obvious expression of a vague perspective and divergent concepts.

In our opinion the International has the best analyses and a programme that has best passed the test of history, but it is really disoriented in terms of building the revolutionary organisation.

In order to avoid any misunderstanding we insist on making the following comments:

No doubt must arise about our unshakeable orientation favouring an offensive common action policy (united front). The heart of this orientation is and must remain our work in the extraparliamentary opposition and the trade union left.

We are ardent partisans of candidacies in elections. There is no activity that has contributed as much to the dissemination/propagation of our ideas as Olivier’s candidacy.

The current debate must concentrate on the question: how can we take part in truly anticapitalist forces, coalitions or fronts? And secondly: what do we want to achieve in these? Because the process of differentiation between forces that merely fight neoliberalism and those that view themselves as anticapitalist or more precisely “revolutionary” is nowadays the most important differentiation in a good number of countries (probably most European countries).

And when matters are to be dealt with in very concrete terms, in many cases even this distinction will not be sufficient, as very diverse forces claim to be anticapitalist.

The mechanical transposition of a specific model to other countries has led many comrades in the International to speak out for an almost unspecified “broad party”, even in regions and cases where we could not really expect the creation of an anticapitalist force.

We have to draw up a frank balance sheet of our work in “broad parties” because in various countries the formation of “broad parties” has met with failure. In Italy PRC has taken a steady rightward course. In Brazil, the “broad party” project, PT, which even seemed anticapitalist at its beginnings has evolved towards a neoliberal project.

Behind the anti-neoliberal party/anticapitalist party debate, we can discern the older debate opposing reformist party and revolutionary party. One of the key points is the attitude towards the bourgeois state apparatus.

Anti-neoliberal parties and government participation

The debate on “broad parties” has developed in two discussions: about building anti-neoliberal parties and building anticapitalist parties. The project for left renewal through building broad parties is the outcome of several erroneous conclusions:

* Is it really important or even primordial to build (perhaps even above all on the electoral level) an alternative to the social-democratic governments as so many texts of the International and EACL state? Isn’t it much more important and finally, more decisive, to build an alternative to ruling-class policies? Thus, doesn’t this mean building resistance from below and not fostering the illusion that we can present a governmental alternative?

This has several implications. It is true and undeniable that good electoral campaigns, and in consequence good electoral outcomes can provide an encouragement and important boost to spreading revolutionary ideas. But this must not be overestimated or become the only goal. Finally, it is primordial to support work among workers, to do organizing work, to build links with other components of the existing extraparliamentary movement while building this movement. The International must clearly reject shortcut or breakthrough strategies. IST’s strategy for example is closely linked to a programmatic shift.

By calling for the building of an alternative to social-democratic governments, aren’t we fostering illusions in terms of the actual relationship of forces in the real possibilities coming out of a vote for ... a broad party? Given the actual relationship of forces (at least in Europe) we must recognise that we are very far from a context in which the vote for a left party could considerably change the relationship of forces by providing this alternative a victory. Either this alternative is not truly representative of the class struggle, or else it is a substantial force in the class struggle, in which case it won’t win the elections and will remain a minority; in most cases a very small minority.

In no way does this mean our ideas and proposals will remain in the minority. Not at all! But under the conditions of parliamentary politics, the bourgeois order and the relationship of forces, in the middle term other majorities will only surface during great struggles and mobilisations.

Given the decline of left forces and the stagnation in most countries in recent years, some comrades have drawn the conclusion that more than ever before we must obtain electoral successes in order to find a means of emerging from the working class’s defensive situations through changes in the electoral party panorama. Another erroneous idea, the outcome of the search for a shortcut, is combined with this. It is no longer really important to strengthen the “class struggle” forces within the class itself and strengthen the revolutionary organisation (or organisations). What has become most important for the comrades is the size of the organisation; independent of the force behind the political and programmatic bases of a possible regroupment or fusion. For years now we have become overcome with joy at the first inklings of an ongoing regroupement. Then we are taken aback when after a very short time, this experience proves unviable and a poor political response to the demands of the class struggle.

Here we must question above all the prized concept of “plurality”. What is so positive in plurality per se, at first sight? If the term puts the emphasis on the plurality of sources and origins and if we can put forth a concordance as to central class struggle question, we will be able to doubtless observe that it has a considerable political success as an effect.

But usually this term refers to or suggests something else, that is ongoing political differences whose impact is played down – via compromises on formulas or setting aside certain questions. At an extreme, we can get the impression that we must not only produce this plurality but also have the task of keeping it going, making it permanent.

Why is the emphasis so often put on plurality? Is a less pluralist party necessarily less effective or less democratic? But representativity is not necessarily linked to the pluralisticc nature of a party. Is it harmful to the success or historical justification for a party if this party is less pluralistic than for example the Brazilian PT or PRC in Italy? Was the Spartakusbund split from SPD an error? In our tradition we have always considered that they should have left SPD at least 10 years earlier, to form a combative, class struggle party as Lenin did. As we know Trotsky rallied Lenin’s positions. Do we no longer share these convictions?

Anticapitalist party and broad party

Too often the International’s statements and articles centre on electoral successes, hoped for, achieved or not. In our press there are countless articles giving us the impression that electoral politics and winning parliamentary mandates are the supreme goal of our work.

Another grave error in the orientation of the International and its sections flows from this. If winning parliamentary mandates (or more broadly, good electoral results) has become the supreme goal, then comrades will soon be ready to make political concessions in order to achieve good results by forming coalitions with other forces. This does not imply that it isn’t allowed to have electoral agreements among revolutionary forces. Moreover common candidacies – as long as these are based on a revolutionary and class struggle programme – can be useful. It doesn’t seem to us that this is necessarily the best choice in each specific case, but a common candidacy cannot and must not be ruled out straight off.

Here it is necessary to recall one of the principles of revolutionary propaganda. Revolutionary Marxists have always remained faithful to the conviction that unity of action (“all together”) is something very precious. The best example of the application of this principle is the Bolsheviks’ line in 1917 when they struggled (“all together”) with other forces for the slogan “land, bread and peace”, mobilising broad sectors of the oppressed classes, culminating in the revolutionary struggle in autumn 1917 and the fall of the old regime. But Bolsheviks and revolutionaries always propagandised for another society (for socialism) under their own banners. What can only be done for a very limited time is joint propaganda alongside another organisation. Such propaganda must start out from the class struggle and implacable antagonism to the capitalist system and the bourgeois parliamentary order.

We do not consider it useful to apply a universal tactics for the building of “broad” parties, “anti-neoliberal” parties or “anticapitalist” parties. Often such tactics get blown up into strategies, which – in the best of cases – prove to be mere chimeras when confronted with the reality of concrete traditions, evolutions and perspectives of the actual workers’ movement in different countries. In the worst cases, schemas are imposed on sections, causing them quite a few problems. We are not opposed in principle to similar tactics or those of the same kind on the international level, but we see them as useful only in the context of an international upturn in workers’ struggles, for example as in the years 1917- 23, 1934-37, 1968-1974/75). During defensive periods, the differences between workers’ movements in their respective countries are much starker, so it is much harder to apply a common tactics. And it goes without saying that this cannot be resolved via Zinovievist methods. Independent of such considerations, we insist on maintaining strategic principles on an international level, such as non-participation in bourgeois governments, the struggle against war, for building social movements, to build class struggle tendencies in trade unions, for women’s liberation etc.

A contribution to the pre-World Congress discussion

Socialist Action/USA Political Committee

 

We have read with great interest the draft resolution produced to open a critical discussion on the Role and Tasks of the FI and we have read the responses, amendments and critiques. We find ourselves in agreement with a number of important points raised in some of these latter contributions.

We begin by stating our general agreement with a report authored by Comrade Sabado for the February 2009 meeting of the International Committee entitled, “The Crisis Overdetermines all of World Politics.” This document is in general accord with and strikingly parallels the resolutions approved on the worldwide economic crisis by recent Socialist Action plenums and by our National Convention (See socialistaction.org). [We are also in general agreement with the texts on ecology and women’s liberation.]

The long period of relative capitalist prosperity that emerged in the post WW II era, based on the slaughter of 80 million people in the second imperialist conflagration and the associated destruction of the infrastructure of both the “enemies” and “allies” of U.S. imperialism, has come to an end. We have traced this evolution for several decades, regularly noting the repeated boom and bust cycles – all in the context of what Ernest Mandel accurately described as “oscillations around a declining curve.” Today’s crisis has had devastating effects on the world’s people as never before in our time.

Yet we have also noted that with few exceptions there exists a giant gap between the repeated blows struck by world capitalism and a concerted response on the part of the working masses. The unprecedented layoffs, foreclosures, union-busting, social cutbacks, environmental destruction, degradation of poor nations, seemingly endless imperialist wars and more, have largely been unanswered. There have been important struggles, partial victories and massive mobilizations, none which have yet opened the door to the emergence of formations capable of changing the present relationship of forces. This, in our view, is the music of the future, the near future, we estimate. While we do not agree with the general line of The Role and Tasks of the FI text, we appreciate its being alert to the importance and inevitable emergence of such forces.

It has been world capitalism’s long-term relative prosperity, accompanied by the steady atrophying of the traditional mass parties of the working class – now followed by a ferocious capitalist offensive – that explains in large part why the FI and virtually every other current in the revolutionary socialist movement have often been disoriented in the search for effective strategies and tactics to rebuild the fighting social movements that are a prerequisite for increasing political clarification [testing ideas in practice] and FI growth. The pressure of difficult times has always weighed heavily on revolutionary movements. As we saw in the relatively submissive but angry years following the 1929 Great Depression, it took a while, some 4-5 years, until the U.S. working class began to shake off the blows delivered against it. But when it did the new organizations it discovered proved capable of shaking the foundations of the American capitalist order. The same can be said of many other nations.

Today a central focus of the deliberations of the World Congress is the nature and purpose of the International itself as well as its associated national sections.

The strategic orientation of the FI from its founding in 1938 has been the construction of mass revolutionary socialist, that is, Leninist parties – internationalist to the core – armed with the method embodied in the Transitional Program, deeply integrated into the struggles of masses, programmatically based on the achievements of the first four congresses of the Communist International and the Trotskyist Left Opposition and aimed at the organization of the working class and its allies among the oppressed for the seizure of power. We have always understood that capitalism will never yield to a blunt instrument – to a loose association of disparate and undisciplined forces lacking the perspective of the independent mobilization of the vast majority to abolish the system once and for all and embark on the socialist reconstruction of society.

Our movement has often reviewed the basic elements that constitute the periodic revolutionary crises that are inevitable in the evolution of capitalism. The Russian model still largely embodies what we can expect and what kind of party is required for success.

There are no magic party-building formulas. Each country presents its peculiarities as the Tasks draft properly notes. There will be splits, fusions, regroupments, united front fightbacks, principled joint electoral campaigns, parliamentary maneuvers, “new anti-capitalist parties,” new mass reformist workers’ parties, centrist formations moving to the left and right as well as more advanced formations like soviets and armed defense bodies. All of these can present opportunities for revolutionaries to build Leninist parties for the conquest of power, provided only that this is their reason for being.

By definition, Marxists seek to learn from their mistakes and benefit from their successes. We appreciate the reference in the Role and Tasks draft to “… the lessons drawn from the evolution of the Brazilian PT and of Communist Refoundation in Italy.” Unfortunately, the text neglects to explain what these lessons are. This is always helpful not from the vantage point of self-criticism but rather, in the spirit of scientific socialism – to learn from our experiences and pass on the knowledge gained to the next generation.

Comrades participating in the present discussion have noted “disasters” we suffered in Mexico and Brazil. In Brazil comrades subordinated Leninist party building to participation in a rapidly degenerating workers’ party that, in alliance with bourgeois forces, became the austerity-imposing government of Brazil. A DS (Socialist Democracy) comrade was rewarded with a key ministerial position in a coalition capitalist government.

In Mexico, the FI’s largest section of 5,000, has almost disappeared, in part due to its electoral illusions that it’s parliamentary gains were matched by real influence in the class struggle and later to the PRT’s support to the presidential campaign of Cuauhtemoc Cardenez and his capitalist PRD. In Italy our participation in Communist Refoundation (RC) has been a demonstrated failure, with RC’s continued rightward and unprincipled direction essentially compelling our comrades to leave. The RC experience included a major error of political principle when a leading FI comrade cast the decisive vote (in a formal vote of confidence) in the Italian Parliament that kept the coalition capitalist government in power. We do not intend to dwell on these negative experiences other than to observe that the reference to them, as such, in the majority text is a modest but important step forward.

We do not object to the construction of “anti-capitalist parties” provided only that our objective is the simultaneous construction of our own revolutionary socialist party. How this is to be accomplished is a tactical question. We are not ones for imposing tactics from on high or from afar. The latter are subordinate to our strategic orientation. If the majority comrades believe that a “new anti-capitalist party” is a substitute for a Leninist party, however, we are talking about a horse of a different color.

Comrades appear to appreciate the “triptych:” “New epoch, new program, new party.” We can certainly agree that we are entering a new epoch. World capitalism faces a crisis from which it can find no way out except at the expense of the earth’s people, not to mention at the expense of an environment capable of sustaining human life itself. The present crisis goes to the core of the system and exhibits virtually all the elements that Marx described. But recover it will, over time, in grotesque forms and at humanity’s expense, provided only that it is not challenged by mass Leninist parties organized internationally and armed with our historic revolutionary socialist program.

We are concerned that while a number of pages of the Tasks draft are devoted to the concept of the new-anti-capitalist party, the term remains vague or subjected to multiple and counterposed explanations.

The text states in Point 7:

“In the new anti-capitalist parties which may be formed in the years to come, and which express the current stage of combativeness, experience and consciousness of the sectors that are the most committed to the search for an anti-capitalist alternative, the question of a new International is and will be posed. We act and we will continue to act so that it is not posed in terms of ideological or historical choices, which are likely to lead to divisions and splits. It must be posed on a double level, on the one hand real political convergence on tasks of international intervention, on the other pluralism of the new formations, which must bring together currents of various origins: Trotskyists of different kinds, libertarians, revolutionary syndicalists, revolutionary nationalists, left reformists. So in general, when there have been concrete steps toward new parties, we have proposed that the new broad anti-capitalist party function with the right of tendency or currents, and that the supporters of the Fourth International in these new parties organize themselves in ways to be decided, according to the specific situation of each party.” [Emphasis added].

It appears that the new International, proposed along with new anti-capitalist parties, will be a political reversion wherein “ideological and historical choices… will not be posed.” Since “anarchists, revolutionary nationalists, left reformists and revolutionary syndicalists” will be welcome, one can only guess whether the “ideological issues” of class independence, or building a working class party or fighting for a working class government and/or socialism will be a pre-requisite for membership since such issues, according to the draft, “will not be posed.”

However, this contradictory text appears to have an answer to our question. Point 4 states, “We want to get involved in this reorganization to create a new left that is capable of meeting the challenge of this century and rebuilding the workers’ movement, its structures, its class consciousness, its independence from the bourgeoisies at the political and cultural level.” Minus the fact that the term “socialism” is absent from descriptions of what the new International and new anti-capitalist parties are to be based on, this sounds more like the FI’s historical and ideological wellspring and quite different from the lengthy formulation from Point 7 that we quote above. We can only wonder which description is to be operative.

We are informed that a “convergence on tasks of international intervention” will be a central criteria for membership. It is necessary to ask if these “tasks” are more in the realm of the tactics of a mass action united front than a political framework of a “new anti-capitalist party.”

We want to learn how the inclusion of “left reformists,” not to mention other enumerated categories, squares with “anti-capitalism” and class independence. Is the term employed to designate radicalizing and politically independent individuals or important reformist currents whose tradition and history center on the search for a “kinder gentler capitalism?”

We are informed that posing ideological and historical questions is “… likely to lead to divisions and splits.” But it is fair to note that most of the FI’s past regroupments that ignored critical ideological and historical differences led to debilitating splits and major loses.

We are informed in the Role and Tasks draft that there are to be divergent ideological components of the new anti-capitalist parties that necessitate the “right of tendencies or currents” to be established as an acceptable form of internal organization. We see this as an assurance that FI comrades would retain some form of identity, perhaps a current, tendency or faction, that functions to promote the FI’s perspectives. Are we participating in these new formations to promote membership in a Leninist party and socialist revolution? This appears to be key, and especially so since questions of ideology and history are not to be posed.

We are to build these parties, according to the text, not on the basis of ideology or the lessons of history but based on agreement on tasks, on actions! Of course, such agreements are always an essential part of a healthy and principled unification process. But in a party that has been consciously constructed to be based on diffuse and disparate currents, immediate tasks or actions have a strong tendency to become subordinated to the larger questions of class independence and the very purpose of the party in the first place.

Finally, we must express our concern regarding the repeated references to parliamentary activity – ranging from pledges to never support in parliamentary elections Social Democrats who are the now designated as “social liberals in power to manage the capitalist state…” to the improved electoral results of our comrades who are participants in anti-capitalist parties of one variety or another in other countries (Portugal, Denmark, etc.).

Here again, we are assured that the FI majority seeks to promote the independent organization and mobilization of the masses through the vehicle of a “new left” party. But we can’t help but hear, at least faintly, another side of this new venture, that is, that we seek to become the new electoral alternative, perhaps a mass electoral alternative, to a disintegrating Stalinism and Social Democracy. This objective is certainly not without merit. But like our FI comrades in Mexico, Brazil, and perhaps Italy and elsewhere, preferencing the tactic of electoral activity can become the proverbial spoonful of tar that destroys the barrel of honey. Parliamentary activity has always been subordinate to the construction of a mass Leninist party for socialist revolution.

The survey conducted by the European Bureau indicates that in those countries where our comrades have participated in some form of new anti-capitalist party, some measure of electoral “success” has been achieved. To our knowledge, however, this not been associated with a growth of our section’s cadre. We should add that the great “electoral successes” of our comrades in Mexico, and Brazil led to their undoing as revolutionary socialist parties.

We are hopeful that the World Congress debates will clarify our questions and observations.

Report on Recent ROK Government Repression of Public Sector Workers and Call for International Solidarity

Report on Recent ROK Government Repression of Public Sector Workers and

Call for International Solidarity



Korean Confederation of Trade Unions

2nd Fl. Daeyoung Bld., 139 Youngdeungpo-2-ga, Youngdeungpo-ku, Seoul 150-032 Korea

Tel.: +82-2-2670-9118 Fax: +82-2-2635-1134 E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. http://kctu.org

 [KCTU newsletter, 2009]


 1. Public Sector Workers' Struggle and Government Repression

 

1) The Korean Federation of Public Services and Transportation Workers’ Unions (KPTU), an affiliate of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), recently began a struggle against the government plan for privatization of public enterprises and so called 'business rationalization' of public institutions—in other words, the merging of public enterprises and utilities, layoffs and the imposition of productivity and efficiency on public services. Three affiliates of KPTU, the Korean Railway Workers' Union, the Korean Public & Social Service Workers' Union (KPSU)-KoGas Branch, and the Korean Powerplant Workers Union set up a headquarters for coordinated struggle. On October 10th, November 6 and November 28th they held mass rallies denouncing the government’s repression of the public sector.

 

2) In particular, the management of Korail’s unilaterally cancelled the current Collective Bargaining Agreement with the Korean Railway Workers’ Union as they prepared for a strike against restructuring on November 26. This was the first time the CBA has been cancelled in 60 years. Unilateral cancellation of CBAs is the worst of unjust labor practices, which has been used with increasing frequency by vicious enterprises in order to incapacitate trade unions. Recently, in many workplaces CBAs have become useless pieces of paper due to the repression of trade union activities by the government. Facing this situation, the Korean Railway Workers Union came out on strike to defend democratic trade unions.

 

3) The Korea Labor Institute, the head of which is an associate of the President, recently sparked public uproar when he commented that the 3 basic labor rights guaranteed in the Constitution should be abolished. These remarks aroused a massive response from the institute’s trade union, which carried out a struggle for more that 100 days. The Instituted then locked its employees out on December 1st for the first time in history.

 

4) The repression of the Korean Government Employees' Union (KGEU) is also beyond comprehension. The government dismissed the newly elected president of KGEU on disciplinary grounds and closed union offices down. However, the three separate government employees unions have come together to form one union and have joined the KCTU.

 

5) The police conducted a raid on the KGEU office in the Yeongdeungpo area of Seoul, and the two offices of KRWU in the Yongsan area. Arrest warrants have been issued against Kim Ki-tae, the president of KRWU and 15 other leaders of the union. 884 union members have been dismissed. Among other unions, 197 union leaders have been charged with "obstruction of business". The Korail management is about to sue the union and its leaders for compensation for damages, insisting that the strike meant $ 7.8 million worth of financial losses to Korail. The KRWU already have $10 billion to pay in damages from previous struggles.

 

6) On December 3rd, KRWU suspended its 8 days strike and went back to work. "I'm asking members to go back to their workplaces for a while and to prepare for our next fight. We have won only half of what we want. We responded to their illegal and senseless act with a reasonable and peaceful strike. However, we will resume our struggle after getting reorganizing and gathering more power,” the president of KRWU declared. This means that the union will continue its struggle.

 

2. Backdrop the Governments Repression

 

1) The KRWU’s strike was "lawful". Previously, it was impossible for unions to conduct a lawful strike under the "compulsory arbitration system." From January 1, 2008, a new evil system, “maintenance of essential services" replaced the "compulsory arbitration system." The ILO gives a strict interpretation to "essential services”, in which the right to strike can be restricted from "minimum services" which should be maintained during a labor action. However, the "maintenance of essential services" system was designed with the actual goal of restricting the right to collective action.

 

2) Nevertheless, the KRWU was conducting its strike abiding by this evil law. In other words, it is clear that this was a legal strike in which 15,000 workers, excluding 10,000 workers in essential services, joined.

 

3) President Lee Myung-Bak however, is taking the lead in obstructing any discussion between labor and management and incapacitating the union. "The principle must be upheld under all condition. If an exception is made at this time, it could be repeated in the future. No compromise should be made with this union,” said President Lee on December 2nd.

 

4) On December 1st, lawyers and certified public labor attorneys held a press conference and made clear that the strike conducted by the KRWU is a lawful collective action guaranteed under the Constitution and other laws. They stressed that this strike is lawful in terms of both procedure and aim and the right to collective action including the right strike is a basic right guaranteed in the Constitution. In a nutshell, this strike was the result of the Lee government's blatant disregard of the constitutional value of the 3 basic labor rights and its policy of incapacitating trade unions in public sector. This attitude of the government is also the reason the strike went on for so long.

 

5) The industrial unrest in the Korail, the Korea Labor Institute and other administrative organs was aggravated by the fact that the government had pushed ahead with restructuring of public institutions unilaterally. The relentless crackdown on trade unions is clear indication of the government's intention to tame the unions.

 

3. Call for International Solidarity and Support

 

We are asking for your continued attention to the relentless government crackdown on trade union rights in the South Korean public sector. Any solidarity action is welcome including sending protest letters to the Korean government or visiting the Korean embassy in your own country.

 

The demands of KCTU and its affiliates are as following;

 

-Arrest warrants against Kim Ki-tae, the president of KRWU, and 15 other leaders of the union, and all other charges, legal actions and dismissals should be withdrawn. Yoon Jeung-Hyun, the Mister of Strategy and Finance and Yim Tae-hee, the Minister of Labor, who made a special statement calling the lawful strike illegal, should make public apologies. President Lee Myung-Bak must respect the 3 basic labor rights guaranteed by the Korean Constitution and as international labor standards.

 

- The disciplinary dismissal of Yang Seong-Yoon, the newly elected president of the Korean Government Employees Union should be withdrawn. The government should recognize the KGEU's lawfulness. The government should refrain from any attempt to infringe of the right to association of government employees.

 

- The unilateral cancellation, suspension or amendment of public sector Collective Bargaining Agreements should be stopped.

 

 

Protest letters should be sent to the address below:

 

Lee Myung-Bak

President of the Republic of Korea

Chengwadae: 1 Cheongwadae-ro, Jongno-gu

Seoul, 110-820

KOREA

 

E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Fax: +82_2_2110_3079/+82-2-770-4735

 

For further information, please contact Bro. Young-Bae Chang, International Secretary of the KPTU, Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , Jinwon Yoon, Spokesperson of the KGEU, Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , or Sis Mikyung Ryu, International Director of the KCTU, Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

 

 

Ryu, Mikyung

International Director

Korean Confederation of Trade Unions

Tel.: +82-2-2670-9118  Fax: +82-2-2635-1134

E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Web-site : http://kctu.org

2nd Fl. Daeyoung Bld., 139 Youngdeungpo-2-ga, Youngdeungpo-ku, Seoul 150-032 Korea

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