A reply to the bureau comments of 19 September
Dear comrades, you have taken some trouble to deal with the issues we raise. However, the reply is procedural and administrative and also to some extent disingenuous.
You say that the articles on Ireland are mostly written by us. But the dispute goes much further back, before the Internet publication, to the earlier printed magazine.
In the run-up to the Good Friday Agreement we wrote extensive critiques in International Viewpoint of the growing alliance between Irish Republicanism and constitutional nationalism and the counterrevolutionary content of the new settlement with Britain. The editorial board developed a habit of carrying articles opposite ours, by Gerry Adams, lauding the agreement. When we protested we were told that the Bureau had a policy that "was not ours, but neither was it that of Sinn Féin". We travelled to Amsterdam to discuss the bureau's position, only to be fobbed off in a discussion with an eccentric Basque journalist.
To this day we have no idea of the political position of the bureau on the Irish Peace process. We have some hints because our organisation split on the issue and a number of former comrades who joined Sinn Féin or advocated closer collaboration with them clearly continued to have close relationships with members of the Bureau.
You say; “On the status of Socialist Democracy: it was recognised as a sympathising group at the World Congress of 2003".
A more accurate statement would be: Socialist Democracy became a section of the International in the 1970s. Its status was demoted in 2003. The decision was made at the end of the World Congress and communicated to our delegate as he left. It was justified on the procedural grounds of our small membership. We believe it was in retaliation for our critique of the peace process. A number of current sections would fail these procedural tests but they are not challenged. A similar issue applies to individuals. Does Éric Toussaint and his idea of "illegitimate debt" represent the international? How about Gilbert Achcar and his position of "radical anti-imperialism"?
The "Broad left" perspective of the International was strongly opposed by our organisation. Its failure saw a shift to the right towards "really useful parties", but no looking back or an assessment of past mistakes. This history applies today. In Ireland we have the bare bones of a broad left party, in the sense that in the absence of a large social democracy PbP/RISE/Solidarity simply adopted a reformist programme and an electoralist strategy. Now they experiment with the "really useful strategy" by searching for ways to support Sinn Fein in government despite its clearly capitalist nature. We see your discussions with MORE and the invitation to seat RISE at the IEC as within that context. Much was made of the Kazakh solidarity campaign in welcoming RISE to the international meeting.We have heard nothing since - unfortunately, as such a campaign would be a perfect counterpoint to both Russian and NATO actions in Ukraine
From our perspective the most shocking area of your reply relates to gender. We agree that "biological sex and gender identity are two different things, and that biological sex does not determine characteristics” but the characteristic biology does determine is your sex - that's the fundamental Marxist and materialist essentialism that cannot be dodged. You also dodge the methods of boycott and threat by the gender identity camp against opponents - methods that have no place within Marxist debate - and when RISE apply this boycott technique to ourselves you shrug your shoulders.
You say you oppose NATO…
"but that the immediate question is that of the war against the Ukrainian people in which we take the position of support and solidarity for their resistance, armed or unarmed, in the forms they consider effective, while building our relations with the democratic socialist left that combines this with resistance to the Zelenskiy government and denunciation of its anti-worker legislation".
Our view is that, while we oppose the Russian invasion and call for the withdrawal of Russian troops, the dominant element of the war, potentially involving nuclear weapons, is that it is a proxy war with the greatest danger, already impacting European workers, being the resurgence of US assertions of hegemony and the upsurge in European militarism.
You believe that we are members of the opposition tendency. We have discovered that we are not. The tendency does not believe that attendance at a founding conference and acceptance of a programme confers membership. For that reason it seems to function as a rather narrow network. It is also quite close to the Bureau in seeing any questioning of gender ideology as being an attack on trans rights.
In part these positions seem to flow from the belief that they are indeed a tendency and will be able to correct the programme of the International. For a very long time we have seen ourselves as being in a factional position, with no real expectation that there will be a return to revolutionary Marxism within the FI.
Our demotion to a sympathising group seems, over decades, has given us fewer rights than other currents who are the current target of the Bureau's diplomacy. Years of practice by the Bureau has effectively ended our membership and made dialogue within the structures of the FI almost impossible and in any case ineffective. For that reason we are content to discard that status and continue independently of the FI. We are willing to continue to provide analysis and engage in discussion both with the Bureau and with RISE if they decide to end their boycott of us.
We can't assert we will prosper outside a formal relationship with the Bureau. But we are certain that useful parties, identity politics and the failure to target US imperialism will fade into vapour, where they belong and we would rather be on the right side of history.