Line struggle over the ILPS: How to build a broad interanational united front against imperialism?

In the past two weeks, a line struggle that has been internal to the International League of Peoples’ Struggles almost since its foundation has come out into the open, after a minority of past ICC members boycotted the 4th International Assembly of ILPS in Manila, Philippines.
 
Most of the charges published by the former ICC members deal with matters of process, and downplay the essence of the line struggle: the question of how to build a broad international united front against imperialism.
 
Not withstanding the boycott of the former ICC members, the ILPS convened the largest and most successful International Assembly yet.
 
The line struggle that played out bears important lessons for anti-imperialist struggle in the world today.  Further, given the recent launching of a large chapter of the ILPS in Canada, and the advance of the anti-imperialist movement in Canada that such an occasion marks, revolutionary communist forces in Canada should understand the line struggle and take a position on these latest developments.
 
For our part, a document clarifying our position on Proletarian Internationalism in light of the most recent developments is forthcoming. -R.I.
 
 

Statements from the ILPS:

Communique of the ILPS Fourth International Assembly and Resolution In Defense of the ILPS Against Sectarianism and Sabotage by the ILPS International Coordinating Committee

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Celebrate the achievements of the League, resolve to further advance the struggle by Prof. Jose Maria Sison, Chairperson, International Coordinating Committee, International League of Peoples’ Struggle (keynote address in video and text)

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Letter of former ICC Members:

On the Occasion of the 10th Anniversary of the founding of the ILPS

3 July 2011, London

Let us join together to consistently uphold democratic, anti-imperialist and internationalist principles, serve the masses in their struggles and build up organised resistance against imperialism and all reactionaries!

On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the founding of the International League of Peoples’ Struggles (ILPS) on May 25-27, 2001, we the undersigned founding members of the ILPS, announce to all democratic and anti-imperialist forces across the world that  20 months ago, on  21 Nov, 2009, during a meeting of the ICC (International Coordinating Committee), the highest decision making body of the ILPS between International Assemblies, Prof. Jose Maria Sison, chairperson of the ICC, using the pretext of problems that arose during an IMAR (International Alliance of Migrants and Refugees) event in Athens, claiming that there was a threat of “no confidence” in his chairpersonship, proceeded to dissolve the ICG (International Coordinating Group). Giving no heed to protests by other members of ICC and ILPS office-bearers, chairing the meeting he rejected the right of the ICC to hear or discuss any issues, and negated its authority to hear reports and take the opportunity to resolve any problems. In violation of the fundamental spirit of solidarity which has been the basis of our collaboration, Prof. Sison pronounced a series of measures that are tantamount to the liquidation of the ICC and hence ILPS all together.

After 20 months of patient attempts to reverse and repair the consequences of this undemocratic and abusive behaviour, not being allowed to resolve problems internally, we are now compelled to debate the issues openly. During this period, we have not used the name of ILPS, or used the media channels at our disposal in order not to aggravate matters and allow space to resolve these problems. However, this self-proclaimed group, having issued a communiqué under the name of the ICC to the public on Nov 24, 2009, pretending that all is well, has continued to issue statements. We regard all decisions, statements and memos, since Nov 21, 2009 to be invalid as they are not directed by the ICC that was directly elected by the Third International Assembly of the ILPS in June 2008. Further, we do not regard the events planned for July 2011 in Manila as the “4th International Assembly” of the ILPS and as such will not join these events which are only designed to rubber stamp the unilateral destructive decisions staged by Prof. Sison and his associates at the failed ICC meeting in Nov 2009.

In the communiqué issued under name of ICC by the same group, there is a reference to re-election of the Prof. Sison as chairperson and others and that “some” ICC members were not elected and that this meeting put an end to a “sectarian” tendency.

In fact, quite beside the negation of the spirit of consensus and collaboration that had been developed within the ILPS, the said communiqué attacks and undermines the historic legacy of the ILPS, belittling its main founding organisations and their initiatives and tireless endeavours to advance the ILPS, labelling them as “sectarian”.  Since most of the activities under the banner of ILPS consist of these achievements, it must be clear that these attacks are in fact directed against the achievements of the ILPS and indicate a decided rupture from its historic legacy. Events such as Thessaloniki Resistance 2003, Mumbai Resistance 2004, Resistabul 2004, Anti-Imperialist Anti-Capitalist Forum in Athens in 2006, mobilisations during the Anti-G8 and Anti-NATO summits in Glen Eagle, Scotland and Rostock, Germany, on-going campaigns to close down US military bases, No 2 Displacement 2008, International Campaign Against War on People in India 2009 and countless conferences, symposia and mobilisations are some of the major projects that were led by the very organisations under attack.

Today, this authoritarian and bureaucratic group, organising an event in Manila, hopes to consolidate these undemocratic actions and cover them up by branding them as the “4th International Assembly of the ILPS”, without explaining what has happened in the ICC, while members of the ILPS remain largely unaware of this affair.

At this juncture, after a decade of collective efforts, on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of founding of the ILPS, we wish to publicly defend the spirit of the unity that was nurtured and fostered in the ILPS and uphold the achievement of our collective work in struggle against imperialism and reaction that is now being vilified in such unprincipled manner.

ILPS was founded with the full knowledge of the existence of ideological and political differences within the people’s movement in general and most importantly recognised the urgent necessity of unity to fight against imperialism and all reaction. From the outset, mechanisms for discussion and dialogues were put in place to facilitate collaboration and also address differences maintaining consensus and unity.  But from the beginning a hegemonist, bureaucratic and a sectarian line was visible. However, we believed that so long as dialogue and mutual respect was held in place any adverse effects of such a tendency could be contained.

From the First International Assembly (FIA – May 25-27, 2001) till the Second International Assembly (SIA – November 11-14, 2004) this dialogue was maintained in a healthy way and consensus was maintained. At the SIA, held in the Netherlands, there were disruptive attempts to impose views that were supportive of China (a restored capitalist and emerging imperialist power) and other reactionary states. Such a line negating the ILPS charter was rejected by the gathering. Although this line was rejected during the Assembly nevertheless it continued to persist.

At this Assembly, the newly elected ICC meeting, elected Prof. JM Sison as the chairperson of the ICC. From the 2nd International Assembly (SIA) till the 3rd International Assembly (TIA) held in Hong Kong, in June 2008, while dialogue and discussion continued to exist and many actions and projects were undertaken, increasingly, there was reference to the ILPS chair as “chief spokesperson” of the ILPS as charter of the ILPS recognises – but more and more the role of the chairperson was being interpreted as the “sole spokesperson” of the ILPS by his associates. This became a problem as increasingly the other officers of the ILPS were effectively demobilised. However, believing that the ILPS is still in a stage of evolving into a mature organisation, we assumed that so long as the line expressed by the ILPS chair was representative of the collective, this issue could be resolved. However, soon after taking up his post, the first signs of departure occurred when Prof. Sison imposed “his method of leadership”. The chairperson establishing his office began to issue statements and directives without consulting with other elected officers representing different member organisations, a trend and practice that continued till Nov 2009. This practice was against Prof. Sison’s own earlier memos and recommendations (issued during 2001-2004 acting as the ILPS General Consultant) that suggested wider consultation and inclusivity of ICC members in preparation of drafts and statements by the ICG and the general secretariat.

In April 2005, on the 50th anniversary of the Bandung conference (1955), the office of the chairperson without any consultation with other office-bearers or members of the ICC issued a statement signed by the chairperson of the ICC that openly declared that the ILPS was “guided by the spirit of Bandung”. In fact up to that moment, the name Bandung, let alone it spirit had never entered our minds or discussion in public, during meetings or in any private meeting. No doubt such views do exist and continue to exist within the ranks of the people movements inside and outside the ILPS. However, many believe that the Bandung Conference was a departure from and alien to the spirit of internationalism, as it confused the front of the workers and other oppressed in each country with the reactionaries and comprador states that took advantage of the anti-colonial and anti-imperialist sentiments of the masses of people to legitimise and consolidate their own domination and privileged position in each country. As such, the “spirit of Bandung” cannot be regarded as a guide or foundation for an initiative that is based on an alliance of democratic and anti-imperialist mass formations. Beside the undemocratic nature of making such claims as an officer of the ILPS, it simply is not true that ILPS was founded with such a guiding spirit. The very idea of ILPS being part of a “non-aligned” movement that followed the principles of “non interference” and respect for UN charters was in fact alien to the charter of the ILPS. The ILPS charter defines the organisation as an alliance of democratic and anti-imperialist mass formations and as an organisation that is not attached to or extension of any state, party or religious establishment. ILPS was founded on the spirit of tireless internationalism which necessarily meant that peoples’ movements would unite on the basis of “Your enemy is my enemy! Your fight is my fight!” This implies by its very nature that we must engage in active solidarity struggles with each other and other people’s just struggles.

The ILPS was founded on clear principles.  Its charter dictates that it is an independent organisation—independent of imperialism and all reactionary governments.  ILPS took efforts to distinguish itself from the World Social Forum.  Interestingly, propagandists and leading members of social democracy, civil society groups and funded NGOs too, express their pride in the fact that the World Social Forum (WSF) was actually built on the “spirit of Bandung”. Clearly, the WSF was a movement that was built for the purpose humanising imperialism, designed to help contain the rising tide of popular resistance, promote reform, undermine movements for social liberation and blur or mystify the need to smash the imperialist system before a new and a better world could be built. In contrast, the ILPS was built on the concept of the need to unite to provide international support for national and social liberation struggle of peoples of the world against imperialism and all reaction. This was reaffirmed through attaching prime importance to its first topical concern.

Increasingly, the office of the chair continued to issue contentious statements expressing opinions that perhaps accommodated the views of a section of the ILPS but not the views of the whole organisation.  This continued till after the Third International Assembly where relations were becoming more difficult. Increasingly, the office of the chairperson rather than acting as representative of the collective views of the ILPS was acting unilaterally as the sole authority that expected and demanded that others follow without criticism.

In January 2009, the ILPS chairperson without consulting any member of ICG and against the advice of the general secretary and particularly, without consulting the vice chair for external affairs dispatched a member of his staff to participate in the “Beirut conference” (called the “International Forum for Resistance, Anti-Imperialism, Solidarity between Peoples and Alternatives”). This was to be a representative of an organisation in the Philippines who would also double up as a representative of the ILPS at this conference. Without a doubt, this conference, which was hosted by an affiliate of Hezbollah (Party of God) in Lebanon, was designed as a public relations exercise of the Iranian foreign ministry. A representative from Hezbollah opened the meeting and amongst the list of participants are the representatives of Ministry of Information from Iran.

In February 2009, this issue was cause for heated discussions at the annual meeting of the ICC where vice chair for external affairs and other members of the ICC opposed and rejected the report of representative from the office of the chair that had attended this conference, forestalling the intended ICC endorsement of this surprising and unauthorized engagement with the Beirut Conference by Prof. Sison.

Quite beside the undemocratic attitude adopted by the chair in lack of consultation and taking advice, this was another sign of his imposing a line that was alien to ILPS, a line that blurred the boundaries between people and their enemies.

Barely six months before Beirut Conference, in June 2008, during its plenary session, the Third International Assembly of the ILPS, approved a resolution marking the 20th anniversary of the massacre of 18,000 political prisoners in Iran, in the summer 1988, by the reactionary regime of Islamic republic. The resolution also pledged ILPS’s full support for the rising tide of struggle amongst workers, students, women and national minorities in Iran. Yet the ILPS chair was sending his representative to an event to portray this reactionary regime in good light for the international public opinion.

The Communiqué issued by Prof. Sison and his associates in the name of the ICC on Nov 24, in order to cover up their undemocratic behaviour and justify their actions, accuses the members of the ICC who are demanding thorough discussion of political issues and the general line, the development of policies with consensus, adherence to the democratic process and the accountability of ILPS officers, of “confuse(ing) ideological building of parties with the ILPS as a broad united front of mass organizations along the anti-imperialist and democratic line and misconstrue(ing) united front policy and work as opportunism.” These accusations are clearly false, when viewed in the light of the exemplary mass initiatives, over many years, led by the ICC members and organizations which have come under attack.

The undemocratic and autocratic behaviour of Prof. Sison and associates is unjustifiable and is condemnable, whether one is engaged in building a party or an alliance of mass formations in any one country, let alone an international alliance and coordination body of mass formations such as the ILPS.

Thus, the events in Athens and the role that the ILPS Chairperson played in aggravating differences and using his position to vilify others rather than act as an overseer and an arbiter must be seen in the light of such a backdrop of a growing tendency alien to the spirit of ILPS that ended up in the bureaucratic behaviour culminating in the undemocratic and liquidationist decisions at the ICC in Nov 2009.

We are living through one of the worst economic crises of the world capitalist system, which during the last 3 years alone has brought untold havoc to the lives of workers and the oppressed peoples around the world. The all-round ongoing offensives of the imperialist powers and reactionaries against the peoples of the world are unable to contain the rising tide of widespread protests and resistance struggles. The current upheavals and mass mobilisations in the Middle East, as in other places around the world, are a direct product of this crisis and the worsening condition of life for the vast majority of the people of the world.

Regional uprisings of the widest sections of the masses of peoples has led to the toppling of some long-time puppets but has not led to a decided rupture and break from the imperialist system. While various imperialist powers unite to contain the spontaneous mass uprisings and suppress the revolutionary struggles of the peoples of the world – resorting to violence, aggression and war – they continue to contend with one another to expand their spheres of influence, domination, and re-division of the world.

It is under such conditions that reactionaries everywhere attempt to utilise the just struggles of the masses of people to consolidate their position. US imperialism, the worst violator of democracy and people’s rights at home and abroad portrays itself as the champion of democracy. Reactionaries of all sorts tied with thousand strings to the imperialist system portray themselves as “anti-imperialist” and anti-American hegemony. Without a doubt the victory for the cause of national and social liberation of the people everywhere lies in unwavering opposition and consistent struggle against all imperialist powers and all reactionaries. Clearly, the struggle for democracy is inseparable from the struggle against imperialism and reaction.

Only a clear and consistent line, following democratic and anti-imperialist principles, is capable of providing the firm basis for the unity of the people’s movement. In May 2001, the ILPS was founded on these very principles and values. Today, more than at any time in the past there is an urgent need for dialogue, discussion and collaboration, to realise the principled internationalist unity of democratic and anti-imperialist forces across the world.  Only in this way will we be able to bring much needed support and solidarity with the front line of the peoples struggle across the globe, and facilitate an effective framework for unity in struggle in the more difficult conditions.

As founding members of ILPS representing mass organisations in our countries in different global regions and as directly elected officers of the ILPS we reaffirm our commitment to serve these high objectives, build on the achievements of the ILPS, its charter and founding spirit. We take full responsibility for our own short comings and weaknesses for allowing such deprecating, divisive attitudes and lines to take hold against the interests of the ILPS and the global peoples’ struggles.

We pledge our commitment to take steps reaching out to all people’s mass formations to rebuild the unity of the democratic and anti-imperialist forces based on the positive experiences and achievements of the ILPS underpinned by the unwavering spirit of internationalism and active solidarity in our struggles against imperialism and reaction everywhere. On this occasion, drawing lessons from this experience, we also collectively resolve to fight to end undemocratic, bureaucratic and authoritarian ways of functioning in people’s organisations.  We invite all democratic and anti-imperialist forces to join us in this endeavour!

In solidarity,

GN Saibaba – Revolutionary Democratic Front (RDF) – India
Deputy Chairperson of ILPS ICC (TIA), Regional Coordinator for South Asia

M Arkolakis – Committee Against Military Bases and Dependency of Greece – Greece
Vice Chairperson for External Affairs (FIA, SIA and TIA), Regional coordinator for Europe

A Riazi – Democratic Anti-imperialist Organisation of Iranians in Britain – Iran
General Secretary (IIC, FIA, SIA and TIA)

E Brunner – Umut Publications – Austria
Deputy General Secretary (TIA)

R Scarlatelli – Brazilian Centre for Peoples Solidarity, CEBRASPO – Brazil
Member ICC (FIA, SIA and TIA), Regional Coordinator for Latin America

H GulumBelidiye Is 2 Nolu Subesi (Civil Servants Union) – Turkey
Member ICC (FIA, SIA and TIA)

D Norberg – Collision Course Media, US
Member ICC (alternate SIA, TIA)

Kali Akuno – Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM) – US Member ICC (SIA, TIA)

Y Gunes Federation of Workers from Turkey in Holland (HTIF, Member of ATIK) – Netherlands
Member ICC (TIA)

A GencFederation of Workers from Turkey in Germany (ATIF, Member of ATIK) – Germany
Member ICC (SIA, TIA)

Prof K R Chowdry – Vistapan Virodhi Jan Vikas Andolan – India

Member ICC (TIA)

C Perperidou – Class March – Greece
Alternate member of ICC (SIA, TIA)

8 thoughts on “Line struggle over the ILPS: How to build a broad interanational united front against imperialism?

  1. In your introduction to this post, revintcan says:

    “Most of the charges published by the former ICC members deal with matters of process, and downplay the essence of the line struggle: the question of how to build a broad international united front against imperialism.”

    It appears that you have drawn this conclusion from a quick read of the first two letters issued by the disempowered ICC members. These letters addressed the demise of democratic consultation and decision-making within the leadership of ILPS, and the removal from the democratic process of the representatives from India, Turkey, Brazil, Greece, Iran, as well as representatives from the US and from migrant organizations located in the UK, Germany, and elsewhere. As a result, there does not appear to be significant involvement of mass anti-imperialist forces from these countries in the 4th assembly, unlike in previous years.

    The third document issued by the group–the public statement–focuses on critical line questions which the Sison leadership had downplayed and refused to debate or discuss. These line questions involve the confusion within anti-imperialist circles of the critical difference between grassroots and activist revolutionary internationalism, on the one hand, and nationalist independence appeals of Bandung (non-interference and non-intervention as state-to-state policies) and more current varieties. Other line questions, regarding the stance anti-imperialists take toward oppressive and repressive states which exist within the capitalist and imperialist systems, but which oppose some or many policies of the US, are also raised in the public statement. These are not indications of downplaying line struggle, but in fact are evidence of pressing line issues which are commonly ignored in anti-imperialist and revolutionary circles.

    The public statement referred to here can be viewed in its entirety at http://navigatingthestorm.blogspot.com/2011/07/on-occasion-of-10th-anniversary-of.html.

    Your characterization of “downplaying” is mistaken. We should all look forward to unfolding debates on these and other questions raised in this critical public statement.

    1. Perhaps turnout from those regions would have been better had those former ICC members not chosen to boycott the assembly? Were their concerns genuine the assembly was the place to air them.

  2. Please, send the comment you will write to this e-mail address as soon as you write it. Thanks.

    PB
    CARC Party – Italy

  3. “simonsaysmakerevolution” said, “Perhaps turnout from those regions would have been better had those former ICC members not chosen to boycott the assembly? Were their concerns genuine the assembly was the place to air them.”

    I have looked into the assumptions you make in your comment. In looking into these aspects, the following can be said:
    1. The letters were signed by then-current members (not former members) of the ICC, and were raising the questions of dis-activation of the ICC as a leadership body, and of the dis-empowerment of ILPS leadership from so many countries, since the time of the internal coup executed in November, 2009. And the questions they raised (to, apparently, Mr. Sison and others) of the dis-empowerment of November, 2009, were rebuffed and returned, unanswered, on repeated occasions since November ’09.
    2. The letters did not call for a boycott of the assembly, and did not urge others not to attend. They simply indicated that the method of deciding time and place of an assembly, and what preparations were necessary, had always been done by the ICC in the past, but now the decisions did not involve the ICC. Therefore, the announcement of the 4th assembly, and the Manila assembly itself, were not legitimate expressions of ILPS and its elected leadership body, the ICC which was elected at the 3rd Assembly. So the letters stated that the signers would not attend nor would they recognise the assembly as legitimate. They never suggested that others should not attend.
    3. The letters brought out the details of the demise of a democratic, inclusive, mutually-consultative ILPS process. It makes little sense to condemn the bearers or messengers of the news of this, and to urge them to appeal to the wall that has been placed in front of them. To say, as you do, that “their concerns are not genuine” if they do not appeal, once again, to the very ones who have cast them aside, is ridiculous.
    4. Hopefully, this will put an end to the claims of “non-membership” or of “boycott calls” by the letter writers.. Perhaps we can now discuss the line questions which the letters have brought to the surface?

    1. Did the former members of the ICC actively promote the 4th Assembly amongst the masses and encourage members of their mass organizations to attend? The Assembly is the highest body of the ILPS, is it not? That’s hardly appealing to a wall.

  4. The letters show that the leaders and representatives of the anti-imperialist people’s movements in many countries have a different view of the openness and viability of the “4th assembly” after the experiences they have encountered and have given witness to. Their depiction of these events in the three letters has been posted by the Maoist Revolution lists and elsewhere. GN Saibaba of the Revolutionary Democratic Front of India, posted all three letters on the Maoist Revolution list # 1923, on July 8, 2011. Readers and participants in the revintcan blog may wish to see this documentation for themselves, and draw their own conclusions–or pose their own questions to the parties involved:

    From Maoist Revolution #1923, July 8, 2011.
    Posted by: “Saibaba G N” gnsaibaba@gmail.com

    Dear friends,
    Please see all the three letters attached here.

    G N SAIBABA

    Attachment(s) from Saibaba G N

    3 of 3 File(s)
    Letter 2 – All ILPS Member Organisations 30-06-2011 (1).doc
    Letter 1 – All ILPS Member Organisations 30-06-2011.doc
    ILPS -10 years on 02-07-2011.doc
    – – – –
    The 3 letters are also posted here:
    http://navigatingthestorm.blogspot.com/2011/07/to-all-ilps-member-organisations-june.html
    http://navigatingthestorm.blogspot.com/2011/07/to-all-ilps-member-organisations-june_10.html
    http://navigatingthestorm.blogspot.com/2011/07/on-occasion-of-10th-anniversary-of.html

    1. Obviously the 4th assembly was “viable” since it was successful and was very well attended by activists from all over the world. As for the level of openness to discussion, it seem that your concerns were not shared by the people that actually attended the assembly. The report backs have all spoken of many interesting discussions.

  5. I was in the meeting of the ICC celebrated in Utrecht, November 2009, representing one of our mass organization in Indonesia. I would have thought twice before expressing my disagreement by leaving the meeting. I’m of the opinion that whenever we have a disagreement we should stay in the meeting and talk and discuss it there. But, instead of staying in the meeting, they chose to leave. Of course,the rest of the members of ICC have to continue the meeting without them. By not coming to the 4th Assembly, they lost the opportunity to raise their differences to the highest body of the organization.
    I have attended almost all ICC meetings. and I have noticed the existence of line struggle in how to build a broad united front against imperialism. One should remember that we are talking about a broad international united front against imperialism, not an international communist movement. We can not bring ideological discussion among political /communist parties into a forum of mass organizations.

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