]Open Letter from Greece:"about the crisis in the IST"

Colin colin at SPAMcogg.demon.co.uk
Fri Mar 30 14:52:53 MST 2001


I got the following from a list in New Zealand.

Colin

Here is a letter from the Greeks who recently left
Socialist Worker/International Socialist Tenedency.
Some of their complaints are familar - about a lack of
democracy, failure to grasp the nature of the
anticapitalist movement, and the absurdity of the '90s
were the thirites in slow motion' theory of the
leadership - but there are other, additional
criticisms which suggest they have moved in a positive
direction, away from the worst authoritarian excesses
of Leninism.

One interesting feature of the letter is the way it
names IST membership in Greece before the split as
400.
When we consider that the Greek section was considered
the strongest part of the IST outside the UK and the
USA, and that all but six of the Americans split away
recently with the Greeks, it becomes clear that,
despite some of its rhetoric about growth and riding
the anticapitalist wave, the IST is composed outside
of the UK today of very small organisations. This of
course is not surprising, when you consider the splits
of the last few years, and the  trend towards
implosion amongst Trotskyist groups over the past 10
yeas.

Greece: about the crisis in the IS Tendency

[Letter to IST sections about the split in the Greek
SEK]
25 March 2001
Dear comrades,

After the split in SEK and the creation of DEA
(Internationalist Workers Left) we have been informed
that the IS Tendency "has ceased relations with the
ISO", or as cadres of SEK put it in Greece, the IST
has "expelled" the ISO. The relevant texts, with the
signatures of comrades Alex Callinicos and Panos
Garganas are full of inaccuracies and repeated lies.
This forces us to reopen this discussion, giving
details that we would not have chosen:

1) Alex Callinicos and Panos Garganas accuse the ISO
that it inspired or led the split in SEK. This
conspiracy theory has nothing to do with reality. The
only ones responsible for the split in the Greek
section of the IST is C.C. of SEK that plunged the
party into a deep crisis, refused the calls from the
comrades for reorganization in last year's congress
and when this year it had to face the now organized
opposition it chose consciously the split in the
party. We had our first contact with the ISO comrades
after Prague, just 2 months before the split in SEK
when the course of events was already determined.

2) Alex Callinicos and Panos Garganas talk about the
"split of a small group" trying to minimize the
significance of the split in SEK. SEK, just before the
split, had according to the most generous calculations
about 400 members. The party split almost 50%-50%, and
if the C.C. had accepted to organize a democratic
congress, it is not at all certain that it would have
had even a simple majority in the party.

The "small group" as they contemptuously called the
opposition, organized in minimum time the founding
congress of DEA, with greater participation than in
the congress of SEK which preceded it. It published
the bi-weekly newspaper "Workers Left". We are quite
prepared to show to anyone who is interested full data
about the copies sold, hoping that SEK would dare at
some point to inform its members about how many copies
of its newspapers it sells every week.

In the week that followed our congress, there took
place in Athens two important antiracist
demonstrations against the new anti-immigrant law. In
the first there were more members from DEA than from
SEK, while in the second SEK did not even manage to
participate, showing plainly the problems of size and
demoralization that after the split determine its true
situation. The IST should realize that its Greek
section is split.

3) Alex Callinicos and Panos Garganas talk about DEA,
accusing us of "sectarian attitudes". In our congress
appeared and spoke 10 organizations of the left:
amongst them the Coalition of the Left, the youth
Organization of the Coalition, the most important
"movementist" organizations (Network for Social and
Political Rights, Network for the support of
immigrants), all of the trotskyist organizations, etc.
All of them addressed us with warm proposals for
cooperation, while the youth of the Coalition invited
us to an electoral bloc in the student elections. A
rather strange attitude addressed to "sectarians" it
is true.

When it begun organizing for Genoa, SEK declared that
"it would not allow the presence of DEA in any
committee for Genoa, or in any committee for the
legalization of immigrants" (SEK Internal Bulletin 5
March). This sectarian policy is already in tatters,
the Greek participation to Genoa will be organized on
a mass basis, collectively, far from any manipulative
practices.

The organized presence of DEA has already affected the
scene in the revolutionary left in Greece; we
underline that we will never demand the exclusion of
the comrades from SEK from any mass campaign, but
naturally we will not permit our exclusion.

4) Panos Garganas accuses the opposition of "thuggery"
and "violence" in the SEK pre-conference in Athens.
This accusation is self-evidently ridiculous; how is
it that the "historic leadership" became the victim of
"violence" in the pre-conference of the biggest
organization of the party, in front of the crushing
majority of its members?

It is true that in the Athens pre-conference there was
a massive protest of comrades ending with the
withdrawal of the great majority from the discussion.
Panos Garganas artfully is silent about the reasons:
the comrades demanded a mutually acceptable Chair in
the discussion, the right of the opposition to present
its opinions in the party organizations outside
Athens, the publication of all the opposition texts
before the election of representatives. With those
measures, as well as the use of grossly inflated
membership lists in the far away branches that it
controlled exclusively the C.C. organized an
antidemocratic conference aiming to secure a majority
at any cost. Those tactics, that do not belong to the
traditions of our tendency, led to the split.

We have deliberately avoided to use the organizational
machinations and the issues of democracy as a weapon
of public criticism of SEK. We declare that we will
not refer again to those issues. But it is too much to
have the C.C. of SEK masquerading as the victim of
oppression in its own party.



The opposition of SEK was based on two central
political issues:

I) Party building during the 90's

The overoptimistic analysis of the period (decade of
wars and revolutions, the 30's in slow motion), led to
organizational adventurism ("opening" without any
foundations, very small branches, indifference to the
formation of members and local leaderships etc.), to
political confusion ("wide" agitation, underestimation
of political tactics) and finally to apathy and
disintegration. From the mid-90's onwards, political
leadership in SEK acquired administrative
characteristics, the C.C. isolated itself while
attempting to control an organization whose policy led
away from the real tasks that the comrades had to
face.

This is the history of SEK, that really begun with the
150 members in 1989, grew rapidly until 1993 and then
entered a continuous crisis, until today where it has
arrived at a condition of a small and semi-paralyzed
organization. We found out that all the organizations
of the Tendency followed the same trajectory. Until
recently this was something that all the members of
SEK ignored, even most of the members of the C.C. The
demand for political and organizational
reconstruction, for the reorientation of all our
organizations, is we believe of the utmost importance.

II) The problem of how to link with the anticapitalist
movement

On this comrades Panos Garganas and Alex Callinicos
attempt a sleight of hand. They try to draw the
dividing line on the question of which comrades
support the growth of the anticapitalist movement, who
are the "friends of Seattle and of Prague" and who
aren't.

This dilemma is false. All of us were overjoyed by the
great anticapitalist demonstrations, all of us wish
for the creation of a broad movement against the
system, we will strain every muscle to achieve its
growth and as regards SEK we will count our forces at
Genoa.

The differences can be found elsewhere, in the
relationship that the revolutionary socialist
organizations form with the anticapitalist movement
and their tactics inside it. The problem can be found
in 3 key points:

a. The general estimate of the situation in which the
anticapitalist movement appears.

SEK's estimates (supposed parallels with 1848, 1917,
May 1968) are nothing but a revival of the "things
will automatically turn to the left" outlook, they
underestimate the real needs of the movement in a
superficial revolutionary "mood".

b. The link with the existing movement of the working
class. SEK was forced to return to face the duties
that the revival of workers' struggles put this autumn
only under the pressure of the opposition. Putting the
best possible light upon it, its position is "first we
will gain members form the anticapitalist
demonstrations and then we will turn to the workers",
while in the worst case it can be considered to
underestimate the centrality of the working-class
movement.

c. The transformation of out organizations into
"activist branches" and the diffusion into the
"movement" (the formula 90% the same, 10% different)
lead to organizational dissolution, in a period of
great opportunities but also great political and
organizational difficulties for revolutionary
socialists.



On out part, we consider that United Front tactics
(inside the organized working-class movement but also
in the anticapitalist demonstrations), the insistence
on building revolutionary socialist organizations and
the systematic facing of the situation created by the
crisis of the reformist left, is the answer to the
problems put by an extremely important and interesting
but complex political period.

We would like to note that we agree to a great extent
with the observations of comrade Chris Harman about
the tactical problems posed by the intervals between
the great demonstrations, his criticism of those
intellectuals that attempt to express the new movement
on the level of ideas (differences rather broader than
10%) and his reminder that Joscka Fisher etc begun as
"activists" and ended as "ministers".

In any case we underline that the split in the
Tendency is not an isolated phenomenon. A look at the
Internet shows that amongst many comrades from all the
organizations the discussion is open. We consider the
split as a unnecessary and harmful development for the
entire Tendency. We demand that the decision to expel
the ISO be rescinded. We declare that we continue in
the tradition of ideas of our Tendency, we try to rid
ourselves of the rust accumulated by the mistakes of
the 90's, so as to be able to enter again the road of
building a revolutionary socialist organization.

We are at your disposal for any further discussion you
judge necessary, for any possible cooperation and the
necessary reconstruction of the I.S. Tendency.

DEA (Internationalist Workers Left) Steering Committee

March 25, 2001





=====
For "a ruthless criticism of every existing idea":
THR at LL, NZ's class struggle anarchist paper
http://www.freespeech.org/thrall/
THIRD EYE, a Kiwi lib left project, at
http://www.geocities.com/the_third_eye_website/
and 'REVOLUTION' magazine, a Frankfurt-Christchurch production,
http://cantua.canterbury.ac.nz/%7Ejho32/
Here is a letter from the Greeks who recently left
Socialist Worker/International Socialist Tenedency.
Some of their complaints are familar - about a lack of
democracy, failure to grasp the nature of the
anticapitalist movement, and the absurdity of the '90s
were the thirites in slow motion' theory of the
leadership - but there are other, additional
criticisms which suggest they have moved in a positive
direction, away from the worst authoritarian excesses
of Leninism.

One interesting feature of the letter is the way it
names IST membership in Greece before the split as
400.
When we consider that the Greek section was considered
the strongest part of the IST outside the UK and the
USA, and that all but six of the Americans split away
recently with the Greeks, it becomes clear that,
despite some of its rhetoric about growth and riding
the anticapitalist wave, the IST is composed outside
of the UK today of very small organisations. This of
course is not surprising, when you consider the splits
of the last few years, and the  trend towards
implosion amongst Trotskyist groups over the past 10
yeas.

Greece: about the crisis in the IS Tendency

[Letter to IST sections about the split in the Greek
SEK]
25 March 2001
Dear comrades,

After the split in SEK and the creation of DEA
(Internationalist Workers Left) we have been informed
that the IS Tendency "has ceased relations with the
ISO", or as cadres of SEK put it in Greece, the IST
has "expelled" the ISO. The relevant texts, with the
signatures of comrades Alex Callinicos and Panos
Garganas are full of inaccuracies and repeated lies.
This forces us to reopen this discussion, giving
details that we would not have chosen:

1) Alex Callinicos and Panos Garganas accuse the ISO
that it inspired or led the split in SEK. This
conspiracy theory has nothing to do with reality. The
only ones responsible for the split in the Greek
section of the IST is C.C. of SEK that plunged the
party into a deep crisis, refused the calls from the
comrades for reorganization in last year's congress
and when this year it had to face the now organized
opposition it chose consciously the split in the
party. We had our first contact with the ISO comrades
after Prague, just 2 months before the split in SEK
when the course of events was already determined.

2) Alex Callinicos and Panos Garganas talk about the
"split of a small group" trying to minimize the
significance of the split in SEK. SEK, just before the
split, had according to the most generous calculations
about 400 members. The party split almost 50%-50%, and
if the C.C. had accepted to organize a democratic
congress, it is not at all certain that it would have
had even a simple majority in the party.

The "small group" as they contemptuously called the
opposition, organized in minimum time the founding
congress of DEA, with greater participation than in
the congress of SEK which preceded it. It published
the bi-weekly newspaper "Workers Left". We are quite
prepared to show to anyone who is interested full data
about the copies sold, hoping that SEK would dare at
some point to inform its members about how many copies
of its newspapers it sells every week.

In the week that followed our congress, there took
place in Athens two important antiracist
demonstrations against the new anti-immigrant law. In
the first there were more members from DEA than from
SEK, while in the second SEK did not even manage to
participate, showing plainly the problems of size and
demoralization that after the split determine its true
situation. The IST should realize that its Greek
section is split.

3) Alex Callinicos and Panos Garganas talk about DEA,
accusing us of "sectarian attitudes". In our congress
appeared and spoke 10 organizations of the left:
amongst them the Coalition of the Left, the youth
Organization of the Coalition, the most important
"movementist" organizations (Network for Social and
Political Rights, Network for the support of
immigrants), all of the trotskyist organizations, etc.
All of them addressed us with warm proposals for
cooperation, while the youth of the Coalition invited
us to an electoral bloc in the student elections. A
rather strange attitude addressed to "sectarians" it
is true.

When it begun organizing for Genoa, SEK declared that
"it would not allow the presence of DEA in any
committee for Genoa, or in any committee for the
legalization of immigrants" (SEK Internal Bulletin 5
March). This sectarian policy is already in tatters,
the Greek participation to Genoa will be organized on
a mass basis, collectively, far from any manipulative
practices.

The organized presence of DEA has already affected the
scene in the revolutionary left in Greece; we
underline that we will never demand the exclusion of
the comrades from SEK from any mass campaign, but
naturally we will not permit our exclusion.

4) Panos Garganas accuses the opposition of "thuggery"
and "violence" in the SEK pre-conference in Athens.
This accusation is self-evidently ridiculous; how is
it that the "historic leadership" became the victim of
"violence" in the pre-conference of the biggest
organization of the party, in front of the crushing
majority of its members?

It is true that in the Athens pre-conference there was
a massive protest of comrades ending with the
withdrawal of the great majority from the discussion.
Panos Garganas artfully is silent about the reasons:
the comrades demanded a mutually acceptable Chair in
the discussion, the right of the opposition to present
its opinions in the party organizations outside
Athens, the publication of all the opposition texts
before the election of representatives. With those
measures, as well as the use of grossly inflated
membership lists in the far away branches that it
controlled exclusively the C.C. organized an
antidemocratic conference aiming to secure a majority
at any cost. Those tactics, that do not belong to the
traditions of our tendency, led to the split.

We have deliberately avoided to use the organizational
machinations and the issues of democracy as a weapon
of public criticism of SEK. We declare that we will
not refer again to those issues. But it is too much to
have the C.C. of SEK masquerading as the victim of
oppression in its own party.



The opposition of SEK was based on two central
political issues:

I) Party building during the 90's

The overoptimistic analysis of the period (decade of
wars and revolutions, the 30's in slow motion), led to
organizational adventurism ("opening" without any
foundations, very small branches, indifference to the
formation of members and local leaderships etc.), to
political confusion ("wide" agitation, underestimation
of political tactics) and finally to apathy and
disintegration. From the mid-90's onwards, political
leadership in SEK acquired administrative
characteristics, the C.C. isolated itself while
attempting to control an organization whose policy led
away from the real tasks that the comrades had to
face.

This is the history of SEK, that really begun with the
150 members in 1989, grew rapidly until 1993 and then
entered a continuous crisis, until today where it has
arrived at a condition of a small and semi-paralyzed
organization. We found out that all the organizations
of the Tendency followed the same trajectory. Until
recently this was something that all the members of
SEK ignored, even most of the members of the C.C. The
demand for political and organizational
reconstruction, for the reorientation of all our
organizations, is we believe of the utmost importance.

II) The problem of how to link with the anticapitalist
movement

On this comrades Panos Garganas and Alex Callinicos
attempt a sleight of hand. They try to draw the
dividing line on the question of which comrades
support the growth of the anticapitalist movement, who
are the "friends of Seattle and of Prague" and who
aren't.

This dilemma is false. All of us were overjoyed by the
great anticapitalist demonstrations, all of us wish
for the creation of a broad movement against the
system, we will strain every muscle to achieve its
growth and as regards SEK we will count our forces at
Genoa.

The differences can be found elsewhere, in the
relationship that the revolutionary socialist
organizations form with the anticapitalist movement
and their tactics inside it. The problem can be found
in 3 key points:

a. The general estimate of the situation in which the
anticapitalist movement appears.

SEK's estimates (supposed parallels with 1848, 1917,
May 1968) are nothing but a revival of the "things
will automatically turn to the left" outlook, they
underestimate the real needs of the movement in a
superficial revolutionary "mood".

b. The link with the existing movement of the working
class. SEK was forced to return to face the duties
that the revival of workers' struggles put this autumn
only under the pressure of the opposition. Putting the
best possible light upon it, its position is "first we
will gain members form the anticapitalist
demonstrations and then we will turn to the workers",
while in the worst case it can be considered to
underestimate the centrality of the working-class
movement.

c. The transformation of out organizations into
"activist branches" and the diffusion into the
"movement" (the formula 90% the same, 10% different)
lead to organizational dissolution, in a period of
great opportunities but also great political and
organizational difficulties for revolutionary
socialists.



On out part, we consider that United Front tactics
(inside the organized working-class movement but also
in the anticapitalist demonstrations), the insistence
on building revolutionary socialist organizations and
the systematic facing of the situation created by the
crisis of the reformist left, is the answer to the
problems put by an extremely important and interesting
but complex political period.

We would like to note that we agree to a great extent
with the observations of comrade Chris Harman about
the tactical problems posed by the intervals between
the great demonstrations, his criticism of those
intellectuals that attempt to express the new movement
on the level of ideas (differences rather broader than
10%) and his reminder that Joscka Fisher etc begun as
"activists" and ended as "ministers".

In any case we underline that the split in the
Tendency is not an isolated phenomenon. A look at the
Internet shows that amongst many comrades from all the
organizations the discussion is open. We consider the
split as a unnecessary and harmful development for the
entire Tendency. We demand that the decision to expel
the ISO be rescinded. We declare that we continue in
the tradition of ideas of our Tendency, we try to rid
ourselves of the rust accumulated by the mistakes of
the 90's, so as to be able to enter again the road of
building a revolutionary socialist organization.

We are at your disposal for any further discussion you
judge necessary, for any possible cooperation and the
necessary reconstruction of the I.S. Tendency.

DEA (Internationalist Workers Left) Steering Committee

March 25, 2001





=====
For "a ruthless criticism of every existing idea":
THR at LL, NZ's class struggle anarchist paper
http://www.freespeech.org/thrall/
THIRD EYE, a Kiwi lib left project, at
http://www.geocities.com/the_third_eye_website/
and 'REVOLUTION' magazine, a Frankfurt-Christchurch production,
http://cantua.canterbury.ac.nz/%7Ejho32/






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