Statement on the expulsion of Maziar Razi and disaffiliation of the IRMT by Alan Woods’s Clique
Today’s extraordinary conference of the Iranian Revolutionary Marxists’ Tendency (IRMT) was called immediately after the events at the March International Executive Committee (IEC) meeting of the International Marxist Tendency (IMT). Once the proceedings of the session on Iran were reported to our members it was clear that a conference would have to be convened for the specific purpose of disaffiliation from the IMT. This is because of Alan Woods’s Clique’s consistently opportunist position of pandering to President Hugo Chavez’s foreign policy towards the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) for the sake of appearances on Venezuelan TV and regular red carpet treatment at Miraflores Palace.
Yesterday’s two resolutions by the IEC of the IMT merely brought forward by a day the final episode of a political relationship that began with patient political discussions and joint solidarity activities in June 2001. This process reached its height on 2 August 2008, when the World Congress voted unanimously in favour of the affiliation of the Iranian Revolutionary Socialists’ League (IRSL) as the official Iranian section of the IMT. Then in September 2008 the IRSL, a group in exile, merged with the editorial board of Militant in Iran and the Workers’ Action Committee to form the IRMT.
The events following the apparently fraudulent ‘presidential election’ in June 2009, which occurred in the midst of the biggest economic slump of the world capitalist economy for over 60 years, brought this relationship under serious strain. What began as a difference of opinion on how to condemn Chavez’s plodding attempts at world diplomacy and solidarity with an ‘anti-imperialist’ regime, developed, in a little over eight months, into a serious rift because of Alan Woods’s Clique’s refusal to publish our material on Chavez’s support for the repression; the Clique’s refusal to circulate our material to other IEC members or the leadership of the IMT’s national sections; and the Clique’s unleashing of a range of organisational measures to silence our criticism and undermine the work of our group – the IMT’s official Iranian section, as recognised by the World Congress.
The Clique and Chavez’s policy towards the IRI
Criticism of Chavez by Iranian labour activists and Marxists is nothing new. Over six years ago, in November 2004, Iranian Workers’ Solidarity Network (IWSN) wrote a polite open letter to President Chavez highlighting Iranian workers’ lack of basic trade union and other rights. This was followed by an open letter by the IRSL in July 2006 contrasting the main policies of the Bolivarian government and the IRI and explaining the regime’s role in the crushing of the 1978-79 revolution. There have been numerous open letters and statements (usually on the occasion of state visits) on Chavez’s close relationship with the Iranian regime since then, including an IMT statement which we drafted but the IS, in its infinite wisdom, watered down before publication.
It is important to point out that this is not merely a hobby-horse of the Iranian left but that Iranian workers are also disgusted by Chavez’s very cosy relationship with the leaders of the Iranian bourgeois state. In July 2006 Chavez visited Iran Khodro, the biggest car and vehicle manufacturing plant in the Middle East. The workers had heard many positive things about Chavez and were excited to meet him in person. To begin with the workers were pleasantly surprised at the President of a country shaking hands with workers and even kissing them on the cheek. They were about read out a statement in his honour, welcoming this revolutionary leader to their factory. But before they could read it Chavez began praising Ahmadinejad, calling him his brother, calling the Iranian regime a revolutionary government and so on. The workers were totally disgusted by him. They tore up the statement and left the hall.
The refusal of Alan Woods’s Clique to condemn Hugo Chavez for his whole-hearted support of the IRI in its suppression of the post-‘election’ street protests, therefore, brought matters to a head. As the regime used increasingly brutal methods to smash the street protests, Mr Chavez became more determined in his support of the repression of what he thought were CIA-sponsored protests.
Alan Woods’s Clique also tried to pretend that our highly critical position did not exist. In particular, the so-called International Secretariat (IS) refused to publish Maziar Razi’s Open letter to the workers of Venezuela on Hugo Chavez’s support for Ahmadinejad and all subsequent material that disagreed with the totally wrong, indefensible and opportunist ‘analysis’ of the official IMT position. This made the IRMT’s work inside Iran almost impossible. This official position was decided by the IS, the hard core of Alan Woods’s bureaucratic clique, without consultation with anyone – including neither the IRMT, the Iranian section as recognised by the 2008 World Congress, nor the IEC! Even video footage of demonstrators denouncing Chavez in the ‘revolution’ that the Clique had predicted did not bring about a change in policy!
In addition to censorship of all our material that disagreed with the ‘official line’ from the websites and publications of the IMT, the IS refused to circulate this material to members of the IEC for around two months – even after repeated requests for its distribution. Some of the material was eventually distributed after more and more of the IEC members were persuaded, cajole or threatened to agree with the IS decision in preparation for an IEC meeting that was postponed by two months (apparently, because of refurbishment at the usual venue!). The result of these manoeuvres and machination by the ossified bureaucracy, which used the resources of the International for its factional fight with the IRMT and all other dissenters, were exactly as we predicted: a medieval inquisition, totally stage-managed by the IS so that the hissing mob (the so-called IEC) gets it request for punishment satisfied by the ‘benevolent nobility’ (the so-called IS)!
That is why the EC of the IRMT instructed our representative on the IEC, Maziar Razi, to boycott the March meeting of this ‘democratic structure’ that is supposed to be the ‘highest decision making body’ of the International between congresses – but is, effectively, an ‘orchestra of sheep’ masquerading as the leadership of a purportedly Marxist international.
The revolution began 11 years ago!
Bizarrely, Alan Woods’s Clique couples this opportunist line that turns a blind eye to Chavez’s legitimisation of the increased repression in Iran with its impressionistic and journalistic ‘analysis’ that the Iranian revolution has begun, that indeed its first shots were fired 11 years ago!
The Clique, if it had been made up of clever opportunists, ought to have changed its orientation after the street protests in June 2009 – events that it believes have signalled the beginning of the revolution! Our dullard opportunists, however, have slid so close to reformism that they cannot see the perspective of the ‘revolution’ – the very same ‘revolution’ that they had predicted 30 years ago – ever being victorious! It is therefore no wonder that they cannot give up today’s red carpet treatment at Miraflores for the red guard of Tehran’s shoras in a few years’ time! They have no perspective for their ‘revolution’ (the revolutionary situation to all real Marxists) being successful in overthrowing capitalism! One bird in the hand is worth two in the bush for all petty bourgeois right centrists.
It’s a two stage revolution!
“What are the immediate tasks of the Iranian revolution? It’s precisely democracy, the fight for revolutionary democratic demands, against the mullahs, for the freedom of speech, freedom of assembly.” […]
“An attack against Mousavi, in the sectarian style of these comrades, who don’t know how to speak to these demonstrators of these people in Iran.” (Alan Woods, IEC session on Iran, 3 March 2010).
It may be a truism to say that the revolution is the ultimate test of all bragger mouth revolutionaries. Yet there is no better way of expressing this. If we look at how our ‘revolutionary leadership’ has behaved since June 2009 then its true character becomes fully exposed.
Although there were many signs of Alan Woods’s total lack of knowledge about the basic facts of Iranian society today, the history of the past 30-35 years and the organisations of the Iranian left in his journalistic and impressionistic articles written since June 2009, the recent IEC meeting was when all these strands came together into a ‘coherent’ whole and laid bare his perspective for the ‘revolution’ that he predicted 30 years ago! For once Alan Woods took off his ‘revolutionary’ mask and made a number of clear statements about his concept of a two-stage revolution: a revolution that begins without the workers on the basis of slogans of “revolutionary democracy”.
Alan Woods and his Clique claim that today’s Iran is “mainly a peasant country but with a powerful proletariat in some centres” like Spain in 1930! They also maintain that the IRMT does not understand that Iran is basically a peasant country and that the Iranian revolution can begin without the workers. It is “an ABC question” that the students start the revolution, not the workers.
Yet our Titan theoretician’s greatest gift is that he does not need to sully himself with the concrete facts and chooses to remain ignorant and spout generalities that would fit many underdeveloped countries – but not, unfortunately for him, Iran! The ‘leader of leaders’ does not know that already in 1981-82 Iran’s population was over half (50.53%) urban and the urbanisation rate reached over two-thirds (67.87%) by 2005-06. So Iran has been mainly an urban country since the early 1980s and over two-thirds urban for about four years! The ‘information’ of Alan Woods’s Clique about Iran, therefore, is about 30 years out of date! The Clique may find it uncomfortable to know that the Iran of the 21st Century is more urban than Japan, Italy or Austria! If we look at this in terms of GDP composition, we see that agriculture makes up just 10.8% of economic output, as opposed to 44.3% for the industrial sector and 44.9% for services (2008 est.).
However anyone looks at it, today’s Iran is nothing like Spain in 1930! But it would be a big mistake to think of this as a mere case of the ignorance and arrogance of the Clique. This totally incorrect information is used to support the Clique’s ‘analysis’ of class forces in Iran and drawing up slogans and tactics for intervention in the ‘revolution’. The logical conclusion of their perspective is encapsulated in Alan Woods’s criticism of the IRMT for having a “sectarian style” toward Mousavi! If criticising blood-soaked bourgeois leaders like Mousavi (who was Prime Minister not only at the time of the slaughter of political prisoners in 1988, but also during most of the Iran-Iraq war, when the shoras, the left and all independent organisations of the workers, women, students and national minorities were smashed!) means that we are ‘sectarian’, then we are proud of that!
The only possible ‘justification’ for not being ‘sectarian’ towards Mousavi and the ‘reformists’ of the regime would be as part of preparations for “orienting towards” them. Instead of staunch criticism of Mousavi the Clique is heading for critical support!
Of course, if the Clique can be that ‘friendly’ with the butchers of the 1978-79 revolution then it is no surprise that it is also thinking of becoming close to “bona fide left organisations”! “We should also seek roads to any bona fide left organisations that have influence within the Iranian workers and youth. Our approach to these should be “friendly but firm”, and we should seek to work with them where possible.” (IEC resolution, On the situation in Iran, March 2010). The IS-IEC deludes itself about the prospects of finding such organisations in Iran and being accepted by them. The best it can achieve is to be given the run-around by one of many right centrist petty bourgeois outfits in exile.
Alan Woods’s two stage theory of revolution is definitely an outstanding theoretical contribution for a Marxist analysis of class forces in developing countries of the 21st century! It is a great achievement of his mendacity, hypocrisy, mediocrity and cowardice that Alan Woods does not say that he is now much closer to the Mensheviks than he has ever been to the Bolsheviks.
In addition to this political regression we have seen what can only be described as a great organisational innovation that will surely make its author immortally infamous in the international working class movement.
While it has unleashed the whole full-time apparatus of the International on a small organisation that dared to differ with the self-appointed leader of Marxism, Alan Woods’s Clique has also taken a number of organisational measures against the IRMT, including trying to ‘parachute in members’ of Iranian origin from other national section of the IMT! How can someone be a member without paying subs or working under the discipline of our leadership?!
Then, when we foiled their ‘kind’ attempt to ‘recruit’ these two individuals for our group, they used the moniker of the IEC to pass two resolutions condemning Maziar Razi as “a vulgar police informer” for “exposing their [the two goons’] identity, thus opening them to identification by the Iranian authorities”, expelling him and disaffiliating our group. This is obviously the act of a clearly desperate bureaucracy that is boldly plumbing the depths of the sewers of capitalist society to come up with a filthy lie of this magnitude so as to buy itself some time and ‘authority’! (We will publish a set of documents about this affair in due course.)
Alan Woods’s Clique has also taken organisational measures against other sections and used the money and resources at its disposal to fight a factional battle against anyone who has political and theoretical differences with it. It has consistently employed a Stalinist interpretation of ‘democratic centralism’ to stifle internal debate and discussion. Its treatment of the China, world economy, democratic centralism and other debates clearly showed up its true nature and led to the formation of the International Bolshevik Faction, which the Clique has refused to recognise (as if the Tsar was supposed to recognise those who struggle against Tsarism!).
Yet Alan Woods’s Clique’s contradictions do not end there: while the Clique is keen to promote the idea that the Iranian ‘revolution’ has begun, it has not held a single picket in support of the street protests in Iran for the whole of the past eight months! The Clique is now trying to sabotage the activities of IWSN later this month under the pretext that the IRMT uses them to promote itself! This comes from a man who habitually ingratiates himself at receptions in Miraflores and uses his TV appearances in Venezuela in his vain and futile pursuit of becoming a great Marxist leader!
Alan Woods’s Clique has now completed a 180 degree turn: it is now looks back to the Menshevik concept of membership and the democratic revolution of 1903 as the way forward! This, at least, is logically consistent as you cannot have a Menshevik strategy without Menshevik membership criteria. We congratulate the Clique for resolving this contradiction between its strategy and its organisational concepts.
Theoretical and political bankruptcy
Alan Woods’s Clique’s hypocrisy and mendacity knows no limits. Absolutely anything can be used to ‘win’ in a discussion, including watering down the Marxist theory of the state to say that “the bourgeoisie has lost control of the state” in Venezuela; that the Israeli Labor Party, the party that built the Zionist state, had become a “classical social democratic” and that Marxists should enter it; falsifying history so that inconvenient facts like the soviets in Russia’s 1905 revolution disappear (!); and a whole host of theoretical triumphs. Half-truths and outright lies are routinely added to this poisonous mix so as to ‘raise the theoretical level’ of comrades.
Just as the 1978-79 revolution exposed the shortcomings of the United Secretariat of the Fourth International, and led to the Socialist Workers’ Party (HKS) disaffiliating from that organisation, the current economic crisis of world capitalism and the revolutionary situation in Iran have opened up many cracks within the IMT. Already the majority of two of its main sections, Spain and Venezuela, together with the minority in Mexico, have split away and formed a separate international tendency (Revolutionary Marxist Current). Alan Woods’s Clique’s betrayal of the international working class, and the most basic principles of revolutionary Marxism, however, has only just begun. There are bound to be more expulsions, disaffiliations and baseless accusations before all that is left in the organisation is Alan Woods’s fan club.
The non-debate about democratic centralism, where their pseudo-Stalinist interpretation of ‘democratic centralism’ was used to suppress and censor minority views; to not recognise the right of a minority to organise itself as a faction within the IMT; and to prevent any reflection of this difference not only in the wider labour movement but not even among the leadership and, especially, to the rank and file of all national sections, has become one of the unquestionable ‘traditions’ of the International. The 37 page reply that Alan Woods, the high priest of the bureaucracy, wrote to Forward to democratic centralism! is a document where a plethora of irrelevant quotes from Marx, Lenin and Trotsky are stitched together with his exceptionally delirious drivel. The comrade must have read somewhere that the first law of dialectics says that a quantitative change leads to a qualitative change. He has then drawn the wrong conclusion that if he were to pile more and more of this rubbish in his document then eventually this stuff would be transformed into a classic work of Marxism!
The IMT’s ranks contain many good and honest comrades who are not even aware of this crisis, let alone know about the recent split and various expulsions, because of the tight control that the ossified and politically bankrupt bureaucracy maintains on communication between sections and members. We appeal to all these comrades, for the sake of staying true to the principles for which they first joined the organisation, to look at the evidence of what has gone on in order to decide their own political future.
The International Bolshevik Faction intends to debate the rank-and-file of the IMT, by-passing the central bureaucracy and the minnows and petty bureaucrats who carry out its orders in the national sections. The IBF will continue its discussions on democratic centralism and other debates that are essential to building a revolutionary international.
For us, as Bolshevik-Leninists trying to build in Iran, the perspective is clear: the developing revolutionary situation will undoubtedly lead to a revolution (in the true Marxist sense) in Iran in the next few years. During that revolution the question of the seizure of state power by the proletariat will be posed. We base every aspect of our work on that perspective and do our best to prepare the workers to seize power and smash the bourgeois state when all the objective conditions have matured.
The expulsion of Maziar Razi and disaffiliation of the IRMT by Alan Woods’s Clique, therefore, are merely two steps in our long struggle against capitalism and its lackeys and agents within the workers’ and Marxist movements. It may appear as if we have lost the current battle. But, to us, being thrown out of a Bolshevik-Leninist international would have constituted a defeat and a great tragedy. Being disaffiliated by the IMT, however, frees us from being connected with Chavez’s support for rape and torture that has made our work inside Iran almost impossible. It will also unshackle us from the bureaucratic restrictions, censorship and suffocation of the Clique that has prevented us from condemning this foreign policy more effectively.
The might of the bureaucracy with all its full-timers, websites and other resources does not make Alan Woods’s Clique’s policies right. The petty bourgeois stall-holder cheating methods of the bureaucracy will not only be unhelpful in winning the best elements of workers and the youth, but will also demoralise many among the ranks and lead to the destruction of what was built over decades by the selfless dedication of hundreds of members. In the next period not only will the forces of revolutionary Marxism win the final battle against the bureaucrats, opportunists, sectarians, centrists and reformists but they will also overthrow capitalism.
For us the IMT is rapidly becoming a Menshevik international and therefore dead as a revolutionary organisation. So our struggle to build a Bolshevik-Leninist international continues outside the IMT!
Long live the Bolshevik-Leninist international!
Long live the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat!
Iranian Revolutionary Marxists’ Tendency
9 March 2010