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Submitted by Jason on Sat, 04/10/2008 - 18:04

for the overall reasonableness of your reply. These things are important I think.

On your questions- PR is democratic centralist but we have a somewhat different view of this than we previously had.
Mark Hoskisson sets this out clearly I think in this article from Permanent Revolution 7

"Lenin did not invent, or make a special fetish of, democratic centralism. For him it was merely an effective means of organising in the workers’ movement. Put simply it means this: you collectively discuss an issue; everyone involved has both the right and duty to put their point of view and shape the outcome; you take a vote and make a decision; everyone sticks to that decision and carries it out loyally.
As Buffy might say, “No biggie”. After all they are the basic rules of the labour movement. And those who breach them are, rightly, labelled scabs.
This form of democratic centralism operated throughout the history of the Bolshevik Party – until Stalin’s counter-revolution. Democratic decision making, unified action to implement the decision, directed by the party (the centralist bit). And within this framework provision was made in the party for factions and tendencies to organise and fight for their views."

On the issue of whether my view is a minority one (on whether PR members support Iran's right to nuclear weapons) it is not I'd suggest risible to say I don't know- we haven't had a vote on it. So how could I or anyone else know? Sorry if that's inconvenient but your attempt to suggest I'm somehow dishonest is really a little over the top, surely?

Mark also in his article cites the Taliban issue. Some of us in Workers Power thought the declared position ridiculous- that was minority position- I suspect it would be a majority position in PR (though no doubt annoyingly for you we haven't voted on this either). Mark writes:
"To give one illustration, if you thought it ridiculous to argue in favour of a united front with the Taliban to secure the defence of Afghanistan from imperialism you were not allowed to say so openly. Why on earth not?
This was not a practical action upon which lives, or at the very least the success of the operation, depended. It was an ideological line. And on such issues there are inevitably different shades of opinion, different emphases. Within the broad framework of agreement (in this case standing firmly for the defence of Afghanistan against imperialism) there should be plenty of scope for public debate over different ways of achieving this.
An organisation that is firmly united in its programme can well afford to demonstrate the fact that its members are living and thinking class fighters and not automatons by allowing differences to be aired publicly. This is not because we favour discord for its own sake but because where the success of a practical action is not at stake, open debate can help clarify thinking, help correct mistakes and pave the way for a dialogue with the class rather than offering it rote learned recitals of line in the form of tedious monologues.

After all, how often do you get annoyed when you hear SWP members make the same speech five times in a meeting? Well just imagine what that sounds like to a non-aligned class conscious militant. Once again, favouring open dialogue is something we inherit from Bolshevism. The Leninists were actually quite good at open and comradely debates over differences, contrary to what Galloway thinks and to what the SWP practices. As Lenin himself put it, “criticism within the limits of the principles of the party programme must be quite free not only at party meetings, but also at public meetings.”

Of course whether to undertake a united front with the Taliban would be a life and death position in Afghanistan- leading to pretty swift death in my opinion f anyone was foolish enough to try to implement it! But here having alternative views expressed does not sabotage the mission or compromise comrades' safety.

On the AIUF in general It is ably explained here
I think.
"5. The united front by its very nature is a temporary agreement. Nine times out of ten, where there exists no especially favourable relation of forces or political situation, the reformist or nationalist leaders will refuse it and do their utmost to prevent their rank and file from participating. Where it is struck it will be around clear, precise and limited objects of real struggle. Its primary aim is not to produce joint propaganda (if it did it would be a propaganda bloc not a united front) but agitation around the action goals of the united front.
6. The CI made clear that the united front was not just an 'appeal to leaders'; even less was it a proposal for a purely parliamentary combination or bloc:
The united front means the association of all workers, whether communist, anarchist, social democrat, independent or non-party, or even Christian workers, against the bourgeoisie. With the leaders if they want it so, without the leaders if they remain indifferently aside, and in defiance of the leaders and against the leaders if they sabotage the workers united front.' (BCCI April 1922)
Thus the appeal for the united front was both from 'above and below'. But, 'the real success of the united front depends on a movement "from below", from the rank and file of the working masses' (Theses on Tactics 4th Congress).
7. The striking of the united front does not for one moment mean agreeing to end criticism. For the CI there were to be no diplomatic silences or glossing over of past or present vacillation and betrayals by the reformist leaders. Communists within the united front;
‘While accepting a basis for action must retain the unconditional right and possibility of expressing their opinion of the policy of all working class organisations without exception, not only before and after the action is taken but also if necessary during its course. In no circumstances can these rights be surrendered.' (BCCI Dee 1921) Further more to maintain the united front in a bloc with reformist leaders during or after a betrayal in action, would be to become complicit in it. If it is important to know when to make a united front, it is equally important to know when to break it and thus issue an immediate warning to the rank and file workers that treachery is afoot.
8. The type of organisation appropriate to the united front is an organ of struggle not of propaganda for a programme. As such, a trade union is in one sense a united front. More correctly a united front creates ad hoc fighting bodies commensurate to the task in hand. These may be strike committees, councils of action and at the highest level soviets. Such bodies, vital for the struggle, strengthen the pressure on the reformist leaders to 'break with the bourgeoisie'. A united front can therefore take many forms, it can be extremely episodic-for a single demonstration, rally, strike---or it can be of a 'higher' form, involving a series of actions and agreements-a military bloc, a rank and file opposition in the trade unions like the British 'Minority Movement' of the 1920's. Whatever form it takes, it is a block for action in defence of working class interests, in which the communists neither boycott nor submerge their own programme, and they 'march separately, strike together'.
9. The united front is not limited to defensive trade union or extra-parliamentary struggles. It is taken on to the electoral arena where reformist parties dominate the working class. It also takes up the question of government and governmental demands. The resolution on tactics at the Fourth Congress makes clear that the slogan for a workers' government 'is an inevitable consequence of the united front tactic'. The partial struggles of the working class inevitably run up against the structures of the capitalist state, against the government of the day and its policies. The communists have to provide society wide answers to the problems facing workers, they place demands on the workers' leaders, put forward a programme for a workers' government. But these are not just left as demands; they are fought for within the rank and file of the working class belonging to all workers' parties and none, in a united front struggle to implement them via workers' control in the factories, through the fight for soviets, via the general strike etc.
10. The basis of the anti-imperialist united front rests on the clash of interests between the peoples of the imperialised countries and the imperialist bourgeoisie. Imperialism promotes industrial development in the imperialised countries but in a stunted and lopsided form. The imperialist banks and monopolies dominate their economies, extracting super-profits in the form of repatriated profits and usurious interest payments on loans. They impose their constrictions on the economies through the imperialist agencies such as the IMP, World Bank, etc, and inevitably because of the impossibility of imposing such exactions democratically over any period, in alliance with the most reactionary elements tied to imper­ialism-the military hierarchy and landed oligarchy. The demand for 'independent economic development', for alleviation from debt, for state capitalist industrialisation, protectionism, land reform, and constitutional democracy, reflects the needs of those sections of the bourgeoisie and petit-bourgeoisie which suffer most from the straight jacket of imperialist domination. These demands can lead to episodic clashes between the bourgeoisie of the semi­ colony and the imperialist bourgeoisie (or its agents within the country) as in the case of the struggle against Somoza in Nicaragua.
11. However, because of the weakness of the bourgeoisie in the semi-colonial world, the degree to which important sections of it are tied economically to imperialist capital itself, and most importantly, because of its fear of the revolutionary mobilisation of the masses, which threatens its own rule as well as that of the imperialists, the national bourgeoisie only exceptionally leads or throws its weight behind serious struggles against imperialism. As a result in many countries in the twentieth century the leadership of the anti-imperialist movements has fallen to the petit­ bourgeoisie. But in the vast majority of cases its programme has remained faithful to that of the bourgeoisie despite the attempt to delude the workers by cloaking itself in socialist or communist colours-Nyrere's 'African Socialism', Mugabe and the Ethiopian Derg's 'Marxism-Leninism', the FSLN's Sandinism, etc.
12. Where the bourgeoisie or sections of it, or the petit­ bourgeoisie, enters into a struggle with imperialism it is obliged to draw and lean on the mass of workers and peasants. In such cases it is the duty of communists to enter such a struggle alongside these forces. The anti ­imperialist united front aims to break the hold of the bourgeois and petit-bourgeois nationalists over the masses, in struggle. The communists neither stand aside in a sectarian fashion nor do they hide their criticisms of these leaderships or the goals for which they struggle. Unlike the popular front which is a cross class coalition subordinating the interests of the working class to the programme of the bourgeoisie, the AIUF confines itself to concrete joint actions, specific agreements which take forward the struggle against the imperialists, within which the communists retain both freedom of criticism and propaganda. Such united fronts, given the compromising role of the bourgeois and petit-bourgeois nationalist, are likely to be extremely episodic and temporary. There is no question of tailoring the slogans of struggle to those considered acceptable to the bourgeoisie, let alone 'reserving a seat' in the united front."

I suspect you hold a different conception of it- we are very clear that we are for the independence of the working class. Nine times out of ten if not many more times it cannot actually operate at all- it is a tactic to break workers from bourgeois or petit-bourgeois misleaders. E.g. Iraqi workers in Iraq who have illusions in Sadr- we would say, "If you think Sadr is fighting imperialism you are entirely deluded. He plays into their hands. Only the working class can defeat imperialism. if you think he is genuine why not ask him for arms to fight imperialism? But we tell you now he will not only not give you arms but you will need to defend yourself against his vicious thugs. Do not trust him or his Islamist militias for one second- that way lies death and ruin!Instead arm yourselves and break from Sadr and all other bourgeois misleaders!"

This in no sense “implies alliances with non and anti-worker forces against imperialism” It is in contrast a tactic to precisely break workers from boureois or petit-bourgeois misleadership.

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