Attack of the Clones

Philip Ferguson PLF13 at
Thu Aug 28 20:21:59 MDT 2003

The following article appears in this week's issue of the 'Weekly
Worker' in Britain.  I've a lot of time for the CPGB, which puts out the
paper, and their attitudes to serious party-building and internationalism.

I found this article, and the 'sting' it deals with, most amusing.  

Most of the moronic left groups who got stung by the Ukrainian
fraudsters don't have affiliates in NZ, the exception being the IBT,
whose leading light is a NZer.  It's a hoot to see these idiots exposed
again - they are five harmless middle class white folk in Wellington,
down from about 20 in their heyday, who have never recruited a single
industrial worker or Maori or Pacific Island member, but make out they
are experts on how to conduct a revolution everywhere else in the world.
 They were so proud of their Ukrainian recruits as well.  I'm going to
be laughing at them, and their pretensions, so acutely exposed in this
case, for a long time. . .   


Weekly Worker 493 Thursday August 28 2003

Attack of the clones

The revolutionary left plays at ‘internationalism’. Events in the
Ukraine prove that beyond doubt.  A bizarre collection of organisations
on the revolutionary left have been on the receiving end of a petty, but
nonetheless politically quite sophisticated, fraud dating back to at
least the late 1900s. Five young Ukrainian conspirators - seemingly with
a background in the ‘official communist’ Komsomol and well able to pick
up the vital factional nuances of left politics in the Anglo-Saxon world
- managed to pass themselves off as ‘sections’ of anything up to 12
different organisations. A feat which might be explained by the claim
that they first met each other in an “amateur acting troupe”.

Those stung include Peter Taaffe’s Committee for a Workers’
International, the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty, Sheila Torrance’s
Workers Revolutionary Party and its ‘Fourth International’, the US-based
League for a Revolutionary Party, the Committees of Correspondence
(publishers of News and Letters), the International Bolshevik Tendency,
the Socialist Party of Great Britain and Workers Power, along with its
burlesque League for the Fifth International. Plans were also being
hatched to establish links with colonel Gaddafi and his regime in Libya
- that at least might have proved to be a real money-spinner.

Using a whole string of aliases - Alexander, Ivor, Ivan, Jukuv, Kyril,
Marsha, Alyosha, Ihor, Pugachov, Mikhail, Oleksity, Sergey Kozubenkow,
Vadym Yevtoshok, Vassily, Viktor, Vitality, Yakov - Boris Pastukh, Oleg
Vernik (assistant lecturer at a Kiev law school and mastermind of the
fraud), Oleksander Zvorsky (born 1972), Yuri Baronov (born 1984) and
Zakhar Popovich (born 1976) recreated in fictional microcosm the
factional struggles and rivalries that plague the left in Britain and
the US. Negotiations, polemics, splits and all. This doubtlessly pleased
their ‘masters’ in London and New York no end.

In a spirit of internationalism, but presumably with an eye to outdoing
their rivals on the left, various groups channelled money and material
resources to aid those whom they believed to be their co-thinkers. For
example, it seems that at least three organisations were supplying cash
for the upkeep of an ‘office’ in Kiev. Besides that there were trips to
Germany, Britain and elsewhere.

Now the whole scam has been exposed. Apparently the executive committee
of the SPGB got the feeling that all was not well with their World
Socialist Party Ukraine in July. Their minutes put the worries on
record. The penny dropped for the IBT and Workers Power on August 14. A
leading WP comrade was boastfully displaying a photograph of the
organisation’s recent world congress to an IBT member. Standing on
either side of the said WPer were two Ukrainian comrades - they were
instantly recognisable. They were the IBT’s key comrades in their own
Ukrainian section. Photos and information were quickly exchanged between
factional centres - everyone had been conned.

With exposure the various Ukrainian ‘sections’ have simply winked out of
existence and the CWI - said to be the original host organism - has
suspended its whole Ukrainian membership pending a full investigation.

The fiasco is not without its funny side, of course. The Sting meets
Life of Brian. For instance, we also received an approach from these
people (see below). A little later, we got a furious email from a
leading AWLer, demanding to know what ‘our group’ in the Ukraine was
doing putting out leaflets attacking their group, the Ukrainian Workers
Tendency.  They were - of course - the same people. Even better, I have
often been teased by a leading member of the minuscule IBT in Britain
that at least his group in the Ukraine was bigger than ours. As it turns
out, they were exactly the same size, comrade. Whatever else can be said
about this mob, you cannot criticise them for not working for the money 

Perhaps tempted by what they saw as our relatively successful
fundraising efforts, these con-artists contacted us in June of last
year. Complimenting us on our role in the Socialist Alliance, the
self-styled “Communist Struggle Group (Ukraine)” told us that the main
thrust of its work was “the call to establish of a wide socialist
anti-Stalinist alliance like the SA in the UK”, with the perspective of
this bloc developing in the direction of a “real mass socialist party”.

Some discussions were mentioned with the Ukrainian Workers Tendency -
the “organisation of supporters of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty”.
While the CSG(U) agreed with “some of their programme documents”, the
UWT still needed to “overcome a lot of dogmatic, authoritarian and
sectarian Trotskyist” baggage (Weekly Worker June 13 2002). A carefully
 crafted ‘teaser’ of a letter, in other words, designed to get us
reaching for our cheque book. However, I don’t think the ‘comrades’ were
that encouraged by our reply 

We publicly answered the letter in the following issue of our paper
(this open exchange caused some consternation back in Kiev at the time -
now we understand why). We agreed that the SA represented a potential
route out of the sectarian impasse in which the UK left found itself. At
the same time, we noted that “abroad, the sects still seem to behave in
the old way 
 the various splinters of the British revolutionary left
have attempted to build Ukrainian replicas of themselves. This is sad to
watch, frankly.

“Groups that can barely reproduce themselves in this country expend
gargantuan amounts of time, resources and energy attempting to construct
‘Potemkin village’ versions of themselves in other parts of the globe.
Entertainingly, members of these sects will castigate our organisation
for not being interested in this sterile and pointless work - ‘You’re
not internationalists,’ they taunt us. In fact, their understanding of
‘internationalism’ is thoroughly degenerate. 

“Our comrade Marcus Ström has cuttingly dubbed their efforts as
constructing ‘oil-slick internationals’. Given time and tide (and the
internet), it is possible to spread yourself over a wide geographical
area and pick up small knots of (supposed) co-thinkers across the world.
There is no depth to the phenomenon, however. It is all on the surface
and, given the
 non-permeable nature of the material, it can never go any deeper. A
sect internationalising itself is not ‘internationalism’” (Weekly Worker
June 20 2002).

Concretely, we offered our ‘comrades’ in the Ukraine access to the
Weekly Worker to develop their ideas and openly engage with other
trends, including our own; technical help with the construction of
websites or publishing projects; joint work at the Florence European
Social Forum that year; an invite to Communist University and assistance
and advice on launching their own Summer Offensive-style fund drive.

Now, we are not claiming to be staggeringly more clever than any of the
groups who were stung. It is quite feasible that this Ukrainian mob
might have been able to con some cash out of us eventually - if they had
not so busy with trends who were an easier touch, perhaps. We do believe
the incident has highlighted two very different approaches to the key
question of ‘internationalism’, however.

First, our organisation is not interested in creating identikit clones
of itself across the globe. We emphasised independent fundraising tasks
to the Ukrainian ‘comrades’, because we have learned from our own
experience in the ‘official’ world communist movement an important
truth. One prerequisite of independent politics is independent finances,
the ability to have the wherewithal to say what you want, about whom you
want, when you want.

A genuine communist international will - like the Third International -
represent the coming together of different revolutionary trends and
traditions, fusing on the basis of historic victories of our class. The
criterion for joining this world party of revolution will not be bland
‘agreement’ with this or that shibboleth, to employ a currently loaded
term. It will be a living political entity. Sects which seek to
‘internationalise’ their own arid impotence via a forlorn, massively
time-consuming global quest for co-thinkers are unlikely to have much
positive to contribute to any world party of the future.

Second, we agree with Lenin: “There is one, and only one, kind of
internationalism,” he pointedly states. “And that is working
wholeheartedly for the development of the revolutionary movement and the
revolutionary struggle in one’s own country, and supporting (by
propaganda, sympathy and material aid) this struggle and only this line
in every country
 without exception” (VI Lenin CW Vol 24, Moscow 1977, p24).

The “development of the revolutionary movement” in this country would be
greatly enhanced by the principled unity of the revolutionary left, a
step forward tantalisingly glimpsed in the best moments of the SA. The
fight for this is the concrete, genuinely Leninist application of
internationalism in today’s UK.

Mark Fischer

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