Letters – March 18, 2017

Response to Foundation criticism; republican comments

Response to Foundation criticism

On March 4th, 2017 a response to the Foundation Faction’s manifesto was published on the Red Party website. As the initial author of the first draft, I have probably the majority of responsibility for the manifesto’s contents. Therefore I feel it is necessary to post my own personal response to these criticisms. I also expect that many other comrades in the party on each side of the matter will post their own individual responses and I welcome this. I believe it will be helpful to find some way to organize this whole conversation chain and one place and will be petitioning the other members of the central committee to make a page dedicated just for this debate as it progresses, as I do feel it will probably go on for quite a while if not all the way up to the convention itself. For now though, this will be my immediate response to the criticisms.

Between the time in which this article was submitted and when it was posted I had a private conversation with Susie Mirtis, the author of the Central Committee list proposal and who posted an immediate response to the manifesto criticizing certain language that I used. Specifically, she objected to my statement that the list was not analyzed for it’s value to the party but to a political line. Having looked back at the manifesto I realized that this was a very incorrect and presumptuous statement to make. I apologized on my own page for my poor choice of wording but will also do so here so all other comrades both in and out of the party can see it. It was most definitely not my intent to make such an aggressive statement that could rightfully be considered a personal attack, but it certainly came to appear that way and I apologize for that.

At the beginning of my private conversation with Susie she also said that the list was not meant to be taken as a serious proposal and she had in fact changed her mind on much of this . Therefore it would be wrong for me to critique it as a point in creating the manifesto. She said in fact that she had explicitly mentioned it as only her own opinion. With no disrespect intended to comrade Susie, I have not been able to find any such statement on any of our public or private forums. If she finds a comment or post somewhere where this is indicated then I will make note of that, but as the situation was the list was in a very similar form as of a motion as a pdf file and it was titled “Proposal for a New Central Committee”. Therefore I did not and do not consider it unreasonable at all to in fact refer to it as a proposal and respond accordingly. Later on in our conversation Susie reflected upon this and apologized for it. As with my own apology I only state it here to make it known to the rest of the party. It is indeed a relief to myself and surely to the rest of the faction that this slate proposal is not being taken for a serious motion. I do believe it is worth publicly debating the merits of having specific individuals on the CC rather than a whole slate but the response that was posted more or less addresses this.

I do not believe it detracts from the worthiness of our faction to say that some of the points of contention haven’t formally been submitted as motions. If we are going to have a convention, which of course we are at this point, we need to be prepared in advance. All of these points of contention that were mentioned in the manifesto were posted in a thread on the private Red Party facebook page as ideas for theoretical motions. If we were to just sit on our hands and not make an organized, principled response then any of these ideas could be submitted as motions at the last minute and I would not have time to form a response and organize comrades who disagree with it. A good faction isn’t built in a day. Even if that were not the case I do not believe it is wrong to form a faction around a specific line of political agreement in general even absent some immediate threat to its line. The critique of our manifesto also objected to one sentence where I described them as a faction of its own. It may not have organized to the extent that our has but I do rightfully consider it a faction. This is with consideration to a private discussion that I had with two other comrades who asked me about these developments. At first I was even skeptical of if calling them a faction was justified but we came to an agreement that this was based on a general political line and did not have to be a formal arrangement. I choose to help my comrades specifically organize this faction because I want to promote it to the best extent that I possibly can but I do not believe that this is necessary to be a de facto faction at all. Out of respect for my comrades though, I would be happy to use less explicit language in describing anti-Faction lines or tendencies.

It is indeed true that our constitution does not specifically spell out the necessary conditions for an emergency convention and I can understand this. We don’t want to harm ourselves by an overbearing bureaucracy declaring the exact and only conditions in which a special convention can’t be raised. My disagreement with the convention and I imagine the disagreement of the other faction members is simply based on the spirit of it. It is certainly inevitable and even to be welcomed that party opinions on certain issues will change over time. That is why we have a regular convention. Our party has indeed seen some successful growth over this past year and it has possibly reflected on the opinions of one or two matters. But one or two matters are not worth raising a special convention over. If we can practice revolutionary patience for the greater socialist struggle then I think we can wait a year and a half for a proper convention to occur. That this was not done represents to me a major motivator for forming this faction, far more than any simple disagreement on self-determination rights. I would personally say it is this principle that unites us even more than political agreement on that specific issue.

I am in agreement with the statement that we do need to diversify the skill sets of comrades in the party. That is in fact why I advocated for keeping our second secretary position at the last convention. And I do welcome a certain amount of new blood in the CC to help diversify things. In my own opinion I particularly think we need to find a way to disseminate the skillset of the national treasurer because that is one issue that could possibly be reformed to some extent. My opposition was based on the valid concern that a proposal had been made to remove the entire CC. This would be far too radical. But I certainly welcome debates on the matter of one or two new people in the next CC and even have some ideas on who would be a good fit. Fundamentally my issue was with the list which has apparently been resolved at least for the time being. That said given the circumstances of these conditions and the convention in general we are still advocating for responsible promotion of CC candidates leading up to the convention.

The joint response from multiple comrades in the party goes more into the simple ideological differences that fuel the differences between groups and will probably not be so easily resolved before the convention as the issues that Susie raised, which simply needed more explanation. Their response indicates that they feel we are trying to move too slowly and indeed in their eyes slow the debate itself. There is in fact nothing slowing an opportunity for debate and it had already begun on the self-determination issue. Other issues that would be worth raising could certainly be discussed in the same manner as well. If we try to have a special convention every single time a group of members with similar ideological stances joins the party then it is not the type of fast-paced change that we need. Entering 2017 we are indeed facing a very volatile state of capitalism itself. If it all hit the fan and we faced revolution itself then I could one hundred percent rationalize a special convention to immediately steer the party in the direction it feels is necessary. But people run around every year saying that this is the final year of late capitalism! There is still principled procedure to be followed and it ought to be followed no matter how strongly some people may feel about their own beliefs. It is not our job to prophesize when the revolution might take place but simply to build the party that can attract revolutionaries. Exercising special convention rights over one or two minor political differences is not a good representation of this idea. There is a mixed message in the responses: self-determination is not worthy of organizing a faction to help protect and this amounts to trying to “stifle free debate” and yet is also somehow an incredibly important issue that has to be addressed this year because revolution could be imminent and this could be a deciding factor in our success or failure! Those that expressed this belief in consideration of instability of capitalism do not consider that we have had plenty of theoretical flashpoints over the last 40 years in which an organized and mobilized proletariat could have started a revolution. That this has not happened is not because of some matter of how quickly we change policy but simply because we do not engage in meaningful organization. However the Red Party is in my opinion the one most on the right track towards this. That said, it’s still not going to happen overnight. That’s not to be defeatist but simply because I want to know where they are drawing that from.

As a person who attended the previous convention, there is no precedent for some of the things which have been suggested. It is not unreasonable that other people would be drawn to oppose this including others that did not sign the manifesto but who have expressed a general line of agreement.

Regarding the whole Slack matter, it was something which I considered mentioning in the manifesto but honestly left out because I felt it was such a trifling affair that it didn’t even bear bringing up. Centralizing our discussion to one main forum is to me such a ridiculous proposal that I honestly felt even being the one to drag it up would make me look silly for considering that a serious matter! If that is something that critics wish to push for however I think it will solidify the matter of why we have organized the Foundation Faction. As one comrade in the faction said, “Well, file that one under issues I never thought we would have to be discussing!”

The matter of the Draft Program is certainly something for future debate. I personally consider it just fine as it is and think there is not much that you could remove from it without diluting the message and analysis of the party. I will say that I agree with gabe’s proposal and disagree with Susie’s. The latter basically eliminates the purpose of even having a “What We Stand For” for how barebones it is. If that is to be the idea of a minimum program for the party then it is a very, very minimum program! But as I said it will merit further discussion on what the exact nature of our draft program is. I believe it should be more than just a minimum program of its own but must also consider the party’s position within american and global society.
NOTE: Since the first draft of this letter was initially written Susie’s original Draft Program proposal was removed from the site and she has since submitted a new one (Draft Program for the Democratic Republic). I definitely view it as a step forward compared to the previous one in that it retains the Marxist analysis of sections I and II (with only minor changes mostly to agreeable points like removing gendered language). However it does reduce the definition of self-determination to a vague point about “colonies” rather than the explicit right being guaranteed to oppressed peoples. This could exclude the liberation of Native and Black communities as presently exists in our program. At the very least it demands clarification. And while I can agree with certain expanded descriptions of how government could function I’m not sure that it needs to be a party policy to dictate such a thing right now. That, however, is only my personal opinion and does not reflect upon anybody else in or out of the faction. Nit-picking, for example, on the exact number of people at which a workplace should open its books and be audited sounds to me like something that should be saved for after a revolution and doesn’t need to be party policy. That said I do admire comrade Susie’s dedication to having an explicit vision an an individual for the types of policies that could be implemented in a socialist republic.

I do hope that all of my comrades within the party view its internal actions as democratic, especially those who may disagree with my political line and that of the Foundation Faction. We need to be able to have factions while still keeping the party strong. Just as there is no consensus for what exactly necessitates an emergency convention there is also no consensus for what constitutes a faction nor do I believe there needs to be one. I would be open to discussing at the convention means of changing the constitution in a reasonable matter that could preferably be done during regular conventions. This would entail a whole new level of discussion about the nature of the party but I welcome it wholeheartedly if it is to be. I would far rather trust and have my comrades trust the party then be completely satisfied by the national political line.

It is not at all my intent to antagonize any of my comrades in the party. There is no changing that the convention will happen now so I welcome any and all the debate that happens. But I have no reason to believe our minds will be changed regarding the necessity of this faction. You all will advocate for whatever line you may hold and Foundation will advocate for its own. And any and all individuals are welcome to submit their own ideas as well of course. Such is the nature of a truly democratic Red Party.

-Josh Hollandsworth


Comment on Henry M’s proposals

I am in complete support for [Henry M’s proposal on – Ed.] the creation of educational guidelines. My only comment is a few suggestions for inclusion:

Economics: Zombie Capitalism. A fine application of Marxian economics to the 2008 recession and quite accessible (as far as economics are concerned). A PDF is readily available and I might have it in my collection.

History: Marxism in the USA by Alan Woods. 200 pages of revolutionary history in the states. Written by the IMT guru. Its main weakness is little discussion on Native Americans. Its available off the Socialist Appeal website.

Lenin by Lars Lih. ‘Nuff said. PDF available

A&M: Collective Decision Making in Communist Society by Moshe Machover. A little hard to describe and not the easiest read but definitely thought provoking and useful. PDF available

Military strategy: Total Resistance by Hans von Dach. A handbook on guerrilla warfare and urban resistance. The latter aspect being far more immediately useful to us. Widely considered to be a classic of strategy and used by various urban guerrilla movements of the 60s and 70s. PDF available

Uncategorized: Addresses to the Central Committee of the Communist League and the 1879 circular letter by Marx. The addresses lay out basic principles of our movement, notably political independence. They also point to some strategy and tactics that can be used today. The Circular Letter is a scathing attack against the emerging reformist trends in the German Social Democratic Party. Last I checked they were all available on Marxist Internet Archive.

Marx and Engels: Their Contribution to the Democratic Breakthrough By August Nimtz. A masterpiece work that very firmly establishes the democratic basis of communism as envisioned by Marx and Engels. To my knowledge no PDF exists sadly.

On term limits:

We need more rotation and general training in administration for all comrades. At the same time we must ensure continuity and growth in skill. Therefore I support the spirit of this motion but am concerned that setting a hard number is too mechanical for our organization. I remain open to being convinced by either side.

  • Miah Simone