Spartacist English edition No. 66
ICL Expels Members of Polish Section
The following statement was issued on 31 March 2019 by the International Executive Committee of the International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist).
Earlier this month, two members of the Spartakusowska Grupa Polski were expelled from the International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist) for violations of democratic-centralism. One member had raised internal political grievances with a non-member and both members subsequently defended this violation of basic Leninism. These acts were in direct violation of the ICL’s Organizational Rules and Guidelines, which specify that “political collaboration with non-members of the ICL must be formally authorized by the party organization having jurisdiction” (Spartacist [English edition] No. 54, Spring 1998). Our tiny Polish group, which had been a sympathizing section of the ICL, no longer exists.
The letter of expulsion by the ICL’s International Secretariat (I.S.) notes that the rejection of Leninist democratic-centralism was the culminating expression of these now ex-comrades’ opposition to our Trotskyist program:
“For a long time there have been political differences between the comrades in the SGP and the International leadership: you have consistently bent towards Stalinophobia, you have not defended our program on the woman question and the Jewish question, and more generally you have bent to the pressures of anti-Communist Polish nationalism. For the last few years, the International leadership has carried out a diligent struggle to win you over to the views of the ICL, but your recent acts in violation of democratic-centralism fully bring your political actions in line with your political consciousness.”
An I.S. motion expelling the SGPers was subsequently endorsed unanimously by the International Executive Committee (IEC).
Originating in 1990 as a fusion between the Young Left Movement of Poland and the ICL, the SGP was founded on hard opposition to Polish Catholic nationalist reaction spearheaded by counterrevolutionary Solidarność. The SGP was dissolved by the IEC in 2001 and then refounded as a sympathizing section at the ICL’s Fifth International Conference in 2007. The refounded SGP proved largely incapable of expressing Trotskyist politics and propaganda on its own. It thus remained a sympathizing section, requiring I.S. approval of its published material. The ICL had hoped that internal education and discussion would turn professed political agreement into real understanding and agreement. But the SGP’s differences sharpened qualitatively in the last few years under the social pressure of intensified political reaction in Poland under the overtly chauvinist and clericalist Law and Justice party (PiS), which took office in 2015.
The document adopted by our Seventh International Conference in 2017, “The Struggle Against the Chauvinist Hydra,” described the continuous fights being waged with the SGP against its accommodation to Polish nationalism. It listed several manifestations of this backwardness, including initially refusing to expel an individual when, in resigning from the organization, he announced that he was an anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim racist; the International had to insist that he be expelled. It also recounted a fight against one member who had not seen anything wrong with wearing a Polish flag patch on his shirt.
The conference document cited a 2015 motion passed at an SGP meeting attended by members of the IEC condemning the SGP’s trajectory of adaptation to anti-Communism:
“As reflected in several recent incidents, there has been an alarming political degeneration in the SGP in the direction of Stalinophobic Polish nationalism. This is expressed in the recent draft article titled ‘Imprint of Stalinism in Poland,’ whose lines on the 1940 Katyń massacre and the 1944 Warsaw Uprising run counter to the stated positions of the ICL.”
The SGP members were echoing the anti-Communist propaganda of the Polish nationalists against the Soviet Red Army that liberated Poland from the Nazis and their collaborators. It was in the aftermath of the Red Army’s victory that capitalism was overturned and a bureaucratically deformed workers state was created in Poland.
The SGPers had also repeatedly argued to drop expressions such as “capitalist class,” “great Bolshevik leader Lenin,” “deformed/degenerated workers state” and “bloody U.S. imperialism” from translations of ICL articles in their newspaper, Platforma Spartakusowców. They became openly hostile when ICL comrades argued against their wanting to drop Marxist terms and cater to anti-Communist sensibilities. They were likewise hostile when criticized for their dismissive attitude toward the October 2016 Black Monday demonstrations for abortion rights, an explosive issue in Catholic Poland.
During 2017 international pre-conference discussion, one of the now-expelled members, Wartecki, said that Hebrew is “the stupidest language ever.” After he was castigated for echoing the notorious anti-Jewish bigotry of Polish capitalist society, he tried to cover up the issue by claiming that this was all a misunderstanding. However, both SGP members went on to launch a barrage of slanders, perversely charging the ICL with anti-Polish bigotry for pointing out the prevalence of anti-Jewish poison in Poland!
Our international conference document concluded about the SGP: “This conduct and the accompanying politics are alien to the ICL. The continued existence of the SGP as a section of the ICL is in question.” The SGP delegate to the conference, Jedniak, voted in favor of the document. But this formal agreement did not result in any substantive change, a pattern all too familiar to comrades who had been fighting with the Polish section.
In early 2018, the PiS government enacted a law banning references to Polish complicity in the Holocaust. It was glaringly necessary for the ICL group in Poland—a country at the heart of the Holocaust—to produce a statement condemning the anti-Jewish law and telling the truth about the Polish rulers’ complicity with the massacres of Jews and others under Nazi occupation. A few months and three drafts later, the SGP continued to reduce opposition to the law to a defense of “historical debate,” cast Polish complicity in classless terms of collective guilt and minimized the role of the Polish nationalists and the bourgeoisie’s anti-Communist, anti-Jewish Home Army in aiding the Nazi extermination of the Jews.
Trotskyists worthy of the name proudly hail the Soviet Red Army’s liberation of East and Central Europe from the fascist scourge. But the SGP drafts all but buried the role of the Red Army and omitted our Trotskyist program of unconditional military defense of the then-existing Soviet degenerated workers state and the deformed workers states—including the Polish People’s Republic!—against imperialist attack and internal counterrevolution. The historic crime of Polish Stalinism was, over time, to drive the historically socialist Polish proletariat into the arms of Catholic reaction. Trotskyists called for political revolution to oust the parasitic Stalinist bureaucracy. It was indicative of the SGP’s Stalinophobia that one draft raised this call as a prelude to falsely implying that the Polish Stalinists were responsible for anti-Jewish pogroms in the immediate post-World War II period—pogroms that were in fact committed by anti-Communist Polish nationalist forces.
We were forced to rely on comrades outside Poland to finally write the article (“Poland: Capitalist Rulers Glorify Anti-Jewish Pogromists,” WV No. 1145, 30 November 2018). There we wrote: “The International Communist League is committed to the forging of a revolutionary internationalist party of the Polish proletariat. As a necessary task in this struggle, the SGP seeks to sear into the consciousness of the working class the record of the Polish bourgeoisie’s complicity in the Nazi extermination of the Jews.” The latter sentence was the one that the SGP most vehemently objected to, after the article was published with their agreement.
We had within the ICL an increasingly hardened Stalinophobic opposition that bowed to Polish nationalism and conciliated its corollaries—anti-Communist, anti-Jewish, anti-woman, anti-immigrant bigotry. We were prepared to continue to fight it out over their politics. But the former members rendered moot any continued struggle inside the ICL by taking internal political matters outside the ICL, and then defending that action.
We have a democratic-centralist international. One of the purposes of democratic-centralism is to protect the party as a whole from the influence of lower-consciousness elements outside of the party. International democratic-centralism also allows comrades outside a section, who are not under the same social pressures, to counter the parochialism of national sections and correct political adaptations. We reject a federated international, in which each section is allowed to capitulate to the pressures of its own society. We have lost a small window into an important country in Central Europe, which is unfortunate. But better that than conciliating the anti-Leninist program and practice of those who made up our former Polish section.