Letters – April 26, 2017

Great things; on communication; it's been one week; on a solid foundation

Great things

I joined this organization three years ago. I was the fourth member and the first outside of Iowa. I was co-opted onto the Central Committee and served a term before stepping down to encourage rotation of CC members. I serve my party and class faithfully, then and now. Many of our comrades know me as evenhanded and I strive for that. I firmly believe there is often more than one answer to the same question but not here with the anti-partyists. I write this letter in the hopes that it will galvanize opposition to this clique.

Let us start with examining the comrades of the anti-partyist faction:

1. The longest membership held by any one of them is roughly six months.

2. In the past six months these comrades have not joined or organized a single branch of our organization. Somewhat excusable if not for the following.

3. Of all these comrades, one article has been written, not counting letters this convention.

4. These comrades spend more time spewing crap out of their mouths on Slack than they do organizing. Evidenced by their demand to conduct all business firmly where they, with their infinite free time, can control the party.

These are but the facts.

Why should we let a bunch of people, who refuse to lift a finger to build our organization, informally dominate through their demand for its dissolution? It is clear to me that they are wreckers, nothing more and nothing less.

I wish I could say we have built a mighty organization, a mass party of our class but I cannot. I can, however, tell you all how we have grown from three people in Iowa to an organization of twenty-five with three branches in three different states. When our paper was published it was read by upwards of 500 each month. Not a mass party but certainly modest growth for a new kind of revolutionary movement, one that looks to the past for inspiration but refuses to be imprisoned by it. An organization filled with sincere comrades who pour their souls into building a movement not hampered by sectarianism or hyperactivism. This party, our party, is owned by those who do the work, who fight for it – not some internet clique. We are capable of great things when we have great organization. Are we great? Debatable, but we are surely greater than an internet chatroom.

  • Miah Simone

 

On Communication

This letter is addressed mostly at the comrades in the “anti-party” faction, though it is applicable to all members of the party. A faction fight was started nearly three months ago. At the time, a group declaring themselves the Foundation Faction made accusations of bureaucratic maneuvering against comrade Susie M for a passing idea she mentioned in a private forum for a new Central Committee. Things have only spiraled out of control from there with much internal bickering in the past week.

All of this – literally all of it – could have been avoided if there had been some degree of common sense in either of the two extreme wings. Had either group taken the time to try to talk about the disputes – in addition to the letters written for placement on the website – perhaps nobody would be talking past each other quite so much. Instead we wind up with grandiose declarations, a widening of the gap in understanding what exactly is being talked about, half baked proposals, and ultimatums.

You should be ashamed of yourselves. This behavior, on all sides, reminds me more of high school drama than that of serious revolutionaries. If this is your idea of either principled programmatic unity or of comradely discussion then you should reevaluate what that means. I hope we can resolve these issues moving forward in a truly comradely fashion, and some of the more recent proposals I think could do just that.

  • Henry Maier

 

It’s been one week

What a week. I, truthfully, don’t know where to start, but I suppose the beginning would be the best place. Prior to this early convention, I knew that there were genuine concerns with two parts of our party documents:

.1)  The maximum size of local branches in our Constitution:“5. The basic unit of the organization is the branch, to be composed of no fewer than two and no more than ten members in the same geographic area, workplace or school.”

.2)  The section on national self-determination in our draft program, specifically this: “as well as all ethnic or national minorities by democratic vote on a community-by-community basis.”
Those two points were, as I understood them, the issues most often brought up

informally by the most adamant advocates of the early convention, particularly those who are now in the anti-party faction. Perhaps I misunderstood the concerns, but I feel quite confident saying those were the two clear and concrete issues being brought up prior to calling the early convention (and I sympathize with both points, particularly the concern with the draft program).

As of now however, going by the anti-party faction manifesto, of whom many were advocates of the early convention, their concerns seem to have nothing to do with either of those points. Now, it seems we need to abolish the CC, change our name, forsake ‘cadre-building’, do ‘anti-political’ work to push the working class into action (which sounds suspiciously Bakuninist to me), and ‘consider’ entryism into the DSA.

Their manifesto’s demands, alongside comrade Katsopolis’ ‘Democratic Republican Party’ proposal which calls for abolishing the Central Committee, is absolutely incoherent.

Now, after all the drama internally following the publication of the ‘anti-party faction’ manifesto, I’ve been told two clear concerns from various anti-party faction members:

.1)  Our national treasurer has been exceptionally difficult to get in touch with regarding dues payment.

.2)  The role of the Central Committee and internal party procedures haven’t been clearly articulated to the membership.
Both of these concerns are easily remedied in my opinion, and I don’t see how either of

those concerns have anything to do with what the ‘anti-party faction’ has put in their manifesto, or motions put up by various ‘anti-party’ members/signatories. If comrades want issues to be dealt with, they have to clearly articulate what those issues are. 

  • Susie Mirtis

 

On a solid foundation

We are putting forward a positive defense of what has been the essential strength of the Red Party so far – its commitment to what’s often called the “Marxist center”, the strategy of principled unity in a Marxist party… and, yes, following the so-called “failed Leninist model” cited by comrade Kay.

Our strategic goal, embodied in the program, is that we seek “principled revolutionary unity in a Communist Party, the highest form of working class self-organization.” Our view is that “the raw material for a party can be found in the already-existing organized left.” The Red Party itself has never claimed to be this party, or the embryo thereof, but a facilitator that organizes small numbers of class-conscious workers and oppressed people to make concrete steps toward that goal. As the RP has explained in various ways, founding a Communist Party is not a panacea – there is no get-rich-quick scheme to conjure up a millions-strong revolutionary party. But a Communist Party uniting even several thousand people around a Marxist program would change the political landscape, transcending the sect form and creating a base for building a genuine systemic opposition and regenerating the organizations of our class.

How would this party operate? The organizing principles we strive to practice are the same we hold for the party of the future, whether small or mass: the old bogeyman of “democratic centralism.” It bears elaboration on what these words mean, as much criticism from the ‘anti-party faction’ has focused on the distorted bureaucratic centralism common to the left rather than the Red Party itself. We are all familiar with the phrase “freedom in discussion, unity in action”, but the picture is more complicated than this. Freedom of discussion, in the best traditions of our movement – for example, the Russian Social Democrats and their Bolshevik faction prior to the Russian Civil War – meant freedom for the free exchange of ideas and association at any point, while unity in action was the unity around concrete action rather than an entire body of theoretical dogma. We do not demand members adhere to any particular “brand” of Marxism, whether ‘Trotskyist’, ‘Kautskyite’ (a term which has found new life among the web-savvy crowd), or otherwise. Foundation has no desire to change that. The political basis for membership is acceptance of the program, and ‘unity in action’ is defined as unity around concrete actions.

For any meaningful democratic internal regime, there must be flexible representative democracy. Administering an organization by plebiscite, or by a vaguely defined ‘general assembly’, is in fact rule by the loudest voices, the most charismatic individuals… or, very likely in our case, rule by those who have the most free time to spend on the Internet! It is a form of clique rule masquerading as the “democratic-republican” alternative.

Contrast this with how the Red Party currently functions: convention determines the size of the Central Committee based on geographic concerns and the number of members. Members are elected to the CC, some of whom are then elected to serve in officer positions. The Central Committee is, and must continue to be, an administrative body that links together the actions of the RP in different areas and coordinates ongoing tasks (such as the paper, website, some financials, or discussing cooperation with other groups.) Its role as political leadership is somewhat limited, and rightfully so. Much of that takes the form of political statements1 consistent with the RP Program – or, in the summer and autumn of 2016, endorsement of candidates for the general election. Any RP member can attend a CC meeting, and its minutes are published for members to view and comment on. The CC’s role is primarily to be a coordinating body and a mechanism for discussion or implementation of member initiatives, not a one-way conduit of the ‘enlightened’ ideas.

This principle extends to all party units. Lower bodies (read: closer to the ground-level branch) can recall and replace members of higher bodies, while the members of any body (the branch, the CC…) may recall officers if that becomes necessary. Branches have broad autonomy in their sphere of operation, and there are constitutional provisions for other forms of organization (by city and district) as the RP’s development requires them.

  • Gabriel Pierre
  • Josh Hollandsworth
  • Mari P-A
  • David Smithers
  • Miah Simone
  • Dametrious Peyton
  • Daniel Dunn

1. For example, http://red-party.com/syria-political-crisis-political-solution/ or http://red-party.com/without-masters-or-slaves/

 

(Editor’s note: See the addendum post for more letters in this column – ‘Stop it, Kat’, ‘Marxist Center Bloc’, and ‘Dear comrades.’)

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