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Newsletter (in English)


“The entire history of the proletarian youth movement in every country shows that only independent, that is self-governing, youth organisations develop bold and determined revolutionary fighters and astute organisers of the proletarian revolution and soviet power.” (Theses on the Revolutionary Youth Movement, Second Congress of the Communist International, 1920)

In the mass movements against war and neoliberalism in the past few years, young people have played a bearing role. In France and Chile we saw once again how young people make up the mass of demonstrators, but lack their own political voice. The leadership of these movements is made up of established reformist parties; to radicalize the youth and break them from this leadership, we call for the creation of independent, revolutionary youth organizations, united in a youth international.

The question posed around this conference is the question if and how REVOLUTION is capable of advancing this project.

The fact that REVOLUTION is in a crisis is established in the paper from L.. The last conference in Vienna, which was supposed to strengthen our structures, almost totally paralyzed them. Before we begin again from scratch, we need to analyze our experiences.

It is noteworthy that the League for the Fifth International (LFI) – the organization which will likely make up 75% or more of the delegates at the conference – is mentioned only with asides in the 19 pages of conference documents.

We subscribe to many points in the paper from S. (REVO/CZ), but would like to add some points of criticism ourselves.

What structures have existed in REVOLUTION so far?

The first international structure of REVOLUTION was created at an assembly at the REVOCAMP 2003 in Prague. The meeting which created the WRICC (World Revolution International Coordinating Committee) was tedious: we spent half an hour discussing the question if each section should have one or two representatives (in the end we agreed on one representative and one alternate). But this drawn-out procedure had the advantage that every member of Revo knew what they just created.

Thus the WRICC could begin its work – with which none of its members had any experience – right away. There were initial statements, there was coordination on international days of protest, there was an internationally organized campaign for Mario Bango, planning for REVOCAMP 2004, a meeting in London, an educational meeting, etc. etc.

The WRICC certainly could have been better, but it was an important first step for creating democratic international structures. The next step was to be taken at the delegate conference in May 2005 in Vienna, as the RIC (Revolution International Council) was created to make our organization more profound.

But the RIC did not build upon the activity of the WRICC – it did not even maintain it. In the first year of its existence there were no meetings, no international days of action, little exchange of internation and just about zero political discussion. Even the quantity and quality of statements went down significantly. The high point of the RIC’s activity was apparently setting up of an international email address – but up till now there has not even been a single report of the correspondence over this account.

What happened at the last conference?

If we are to understand the structures of Revo dialectically – as contradictions in motion – we need a picture not of the current situation but of the developments. In this spirit we must recognize the fact that our structures suffered a serious setback with the creation of the RIC.

In L.’s paper we our told to “make our democratic centralism real” – then we can all agree that our democratic centralism is, at the moment, unreal. “Our democratic centralism” doesn’t exist, no where except on paper.

Democratic centralism is based on the combination of the most democratic decision-making possible with the most cohesive implementation possible: Freedom in discussion, unity in action.

But in the last year at an international level we had neither discussion nor action. The inactivity can be neither centralist nor federalist, neither democratic nor bureaucratic – it is nothing! When we define inactivity as a “further step to democratic centralism”, we ignore the actual developments, we make the term and the ideas behind it laughable.

In L.’s document it is said that we must attain unity about democratic centralism on the “terrain of ideas”. At the same time “differences about democratic centralism in the RIC” are mentioned, without saying where these differences are. “On the terrain of ideas” there are, as far as we know, hardly any differences.

But there are some differences on the terrain of practice. We can mention one example: as the last international delegate conference decided, with an 80% majority, that REVO/AT should mobilize to REVOCAMP 2005, this decision was ignored and afterwards criticized as a mistake in the RIC. But a decision by REVO/DE about who to invite to their own conference was to be invalidated by a majority of one vote in the RIC. (We will present the details in a separate paper.)

The same comrades who criticized the first decision as a mistake introduced the second one. At least Susi presents both decisions as the same (false, ultra-centralist) method. But for the (LFI-)majority in the RIC, the slogan “international structures cannot dictate the priorities of national sections” changed to “sections must obey the dictates of the RIC” within a few months.

When such a double standard is defended under the name of democratic centralism, we certainly do have differences! But in reality there is not a double, but one single standard: the factional interests of the LFI, regardless of the decisions of Revo, are simply called “democratic centralism”.

For the inactivity of all international structures in the last year there are various explanations: one is the uncannily bad preparation of the last conference. There has also been talk of difficult “objective circumstances” (but it is not clear which circumstances changed precisely in May 2005 to weaken our structures so drastically). These explanations do not, in our opinion, account for twenty young revolutionaries being unable to create structures that would work in some way, or even to maintain existing structures.

The question is posed: how was the constitution passed which has caused us so much trouble?

Where did the constitution of REVOLUTION come from?

A draft constitution, which was decided on by the leadership (International Secretariat – IS) of the LFI, was distributed and discussed in the Revo groups a few months before the conference. But shortly before the conference a totally different constitution, presented in the form of far-reaching amendments, was decided on by the LFI-IS, replacing the first draft. This new constitution was not given to non-members of the LFI before or even during the conference – it was presented to them orally by L. in English. But the LFI members made of 14 of 19 delegates at this conference so the constitution could be approved with an ample majority.

Of course a thorough discussion about structures, like was had for the creation of the WRICC, was completely lacking. This is the only way to explain the fact that comrades who in voting for the constitution voted to abolish the position of RIC alternates named by the sections, continued serving as RIC alternates for the whole year, perhaps not evening noticing.

Naturally it is practical to put the whole blame for the failure of the RIC on the non-existence of an executive bureau, i.e. on a purely organizational problem. But in doing this, one forgets that several delegates at the conference pointed out that a bureau spread across multiple cities would not work. Why could that not be discussed then? Why could that not be corrected during the year? Because such discussions took place not in Revo but in very different frameworks.

But did this really happen in this way? L. responded to this criticism by saying that the constitution had not been decided on beforehand. But M., from the LFI-IS, said just a few days earlier that those of our members who were in the LFI at the time had agreed with exactly this procedure. (M. said at the same time that the LFI should have settled more decisions for the conference beforehand!) R. from Austria said “nothing was decided beforehand” (at the conference of REVO/DE on March 19, 2006), but Mi. could remember that “some ammendments were made by the LFI-Revo-Membership” (in the RIC e-group on March 4, 2006). So what happened?

In a formal democratic sense there is nothing wrong with the whole operation. In a democratic organization the majority can do what the majority wants. But that leaves us with the question why we need an international conference at all. As a comrade from REVO/DE put it: the LFI-IS could have sent us a letter with “our” decision, which would have saved conference participants a lot of time and energy.

The denial by L. and R. shows that they see this practice as a mistake. If it were an acceptable democratic practice, they would have defended it as such. But Lenin and the Bolsheviks didn’t see any purpose in Soviet congresses in which one fraction controlled an absolute majority of delegates either.

The question is how we deal with this and other mistakes. One can resist any kind of criticism by claiming that everyone who points out these mistakes rejects democratic centralism per se and is “unmarxist”. But it is the refusal to discuss mistakes and thereby correct them which has paralyzed our structures for the last year. Without an open discussion, they will remain paralyzed.

How can we get over the lasting crisis?

It is an illusion to believe that a one-hour discussion in Prague will solve the crisis in REVOLUTION, especially since some sections will only be represented weakly (DE), some not at all (CH, IN). A discussion about democratic centralism in general, but especially about its practical implementation and our experience with this, must be carried out by the entire membership.

A purely organizational solution (like creating a bureau with two LFI members who, with a pseudo-mandate, are to rule over all sections) will only further weaken our organization. Democratic centralism will not be achieved by repeating the term 23 times in a paper. It must be developed by all members of all Revo groups being drawn into political discussions in a democratic way, so we can all act in a centralistic way.

A first step would be to make available all information from the RIC. We of REVO/DE and REVO/CH make all correspondence from the RIC available to our members, and we do not understand why other sections do not do this.

Beyond that the RIC must begin political discussions, not just among RIC members but among the entire membership of Revo – a simple exchange of success reports (and the concealment of problems) will not bring us one step further.

But no structural change wil get at the root of the problem: to function as an international organization, we need democracy at all levels – this is the only way we can create political unity and carry out cohesive actions. Openness and transparency is the basic requirement for democracy.

Democracy is incompatible with the existence of a majority faction which works secretly.

Seldom is it discussed, but there are very many signs that decisions, like the one about the constitution, were made befohrehand by te LFI (for example there was a wave of resignations from the GAM/LFI in late 2005 to protest against such dictates). We must say clearly and unmistakably:

The existence of this faction is antidemocratic, blocks the development of Revo as an independent youth organization and is without precedent in the history of the communist youth movement. It means that Revo has no organizational independence from the LFI, let alone political independence. It is an expression of the belief that young people lack the ability to organize themselves. This “Entryism in one’s own youth organization” (to quote the same member of REVO/DE again) must stop.

At least in L.’s paper it is established that the last conference was not prepared well politically. Perhaps because the preparation took place exclusively in the soundtight rooms of the LFI, hidden from (non-LFI-) REVOLUTION? There was in fact a discussion about the consitution of REVOLUTION, but only in the LFI-IS. As independent Revo members tend to say: “we are simply in the wrong e-group.”

The International Left Opposition established in a resolution about its tasks and methods:

“The frequent practical objections, based on the ‘loss of time’ in abiding by democratic methods, amount to short-sighted opportunism. The education and consolidation of the organisation is a most important task. Neither time nor effort should be spared for its fulfilment. Moreover, party democracy, as the only conceivable guarantee against unprincipled conflicts and unmotivated splits, in the last analysis does not increase the overhead costs of development, but reduces them. Only through constant and conscientious adherence to the methods of democracy can the leadership undertake important steps on its own responsibility in truly emergency cases without provoking disorganisation or dissatisfaction.” (1933)

One might believe that the intervention of the LFI would speed up the development of Revo, that decisions would be better and be made more quickly. But the experiences of the RIC in the last year prove that such an intervention kills the internal dynamics of the group and paralyzes it. Conclusions must be drawn.

The League for the Fifth International is faced with the question: what kind of youth organization does it want. Does it want an independent youth organization REVOLUTION, which makes the slogan of political independence of the youth movement credible against reformist workers’ parties and centrist organizations? A youth organization which can collect radical youth and unite them in a self-governing organization? A youth organization which gives young activists the opportunity to make and carry out their own decisions and carry the responsibility for this? A youth organization which can become a tool for the construction of a revolutionary party?

Or does it want its own youth organization REVOLUTION as an actionistic front and a recruitment pool for itself?

We hope that the LFI will make its decision based not on personal, short-term advantage, but in the interest of the working class.

As comrade D. of the ASt presented the positions of the LFI in a presentation at the conference of REVO/CZ in February, he concluded with the summary that REVOLUTION is in the end nothing more than a “school” where young people can learn to be won for the LFI.

If Revo is a school, we do not need to ask ourselves why it’s structures are no more active, democratic or competent that an average students’ council.

REVO/DE (Leadership, Bernau branch, Wolfsburg branch), REVO/CH, June 28, 2006

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