We're particularly worried that the fifth point (the setting up of an international review, which remains for us a very valuable perspective) might be interpreted as being more important than or even independent from all the other points. This would contradict all that has been stated before. So we think it important to stress what is clearly stated both in this explanatory note and throughout the whole proposition:-
"... a politioal practical agreement that gives a coordinated response to certain attacks by capital, an activity in common, the setting up of real links and orientations, as an answer to the difficult and concrete problems that the world proletariat is facing. To talk about the review, without having in mind all what we just mentioned, would be senseless; so the review is being proposed to all those who practically work together and who support all the different points of the proposition and above all, point 1." (10)
If we completely agree on this, then why have some additional explanatory note on the fifth point and on how it will be implemented in the future? Why not an additional note to all the other points of the proposition? Why insist on this new "free" heading with "no censure" that was never mentioned before in the Proposition? On the contrary, the proposition stated very clearly that we would have "open" debate both on crucial questions related to the tasks of the moment and proposed activities, and also on "open" themes that by common agreement were considered necessary. Why have this explanatory note where the criteria of common agreement is denied and replaced by a heading "the theme of discussion can be chosen freely by each participant"?
We see two reasons for this which have not been made explicit: the first is a tendency (that already existed at the meeting in Montevideo) to make the fifth point independent of is proposition, even if this isn't clearly stated..., i.e. to consider publishing such a review in the short term, without sufficient guarantee that there is a common practice as far as the other points are concerned. This despite a clear denial of such a perspective throughout the whole Proposition. We completely disagree with such a perspective, which as far as we see would go totally against all that we've been developing up till now. The result of this initiative would be a hotch potch review, a kind of tribune of ideas about what the proletariat should do. We know enough historical examples of this kind, to completely reject such a perspective. For instance, this is what happened with the International Conferences organised by the ICC and Battaglia which ended up with the opposing ideas of the participants as expressed in and for the conferences being circulated (in several languages). The whole emphasis was on the circulation of these ideas whilst the participants were never united in any community of action.
Of course we do not identify the positions of WE with this position of setting up a kind of "tribune" review with people who have no common practice. We believe that the explanatory note does sufficiently insist on the necessity of common practice as a condition for producing a review. However this tendency does exist: it showed itself as early as Montevideo when certain comrades concluded that such an internationally review could be set up right away. (11) Today it shows itself again when we read this Note about a specific point which can only take a concrete form when the other points have also been put into practice. It would have been very useful to examine how the whole of the proposition could be put into practice, for instance by adding a note of explanation about the first point, which we think is necessary if not indispensible.
The second reason, which goes deeper and is more serious, is that Workers' Emancipation is finding it difficult to accept the fact that a coordination like the Proposition requires organs for decision making and centralisation and that this is not just one option amongst many others, but is a necessity. This is reflected in the lack of precision as to which activities will be decided upon and how they will be chosen also with regard to which mechanism will be used to "realise shared campaigns and leaflets". This last point we have tried to clarify in the paragraph Where and Where not to Begin. It is also reflected in the fact that Workers' Emancipation has considered it necessary to produce an explanatory note only for the fifth point when the other points need one just as much. Finally it is reflected in the question of anti-censure, of the freedom of expression for each of the participants, and the freedom for each one to decide what theme is important.
We can understand completely the proletarian reasons which have caused Workers' Emancipation to have this gut hatred of editorial committees, sub-editors and so on... because we're suspicious of them ourselves and fear bureacratisation more than anything.
But we feel it would be totally irresponsible not to point out the necessity for editing and centralisation. It would also be a lie, since it's a fact that even in structures where you want to guarantee free or unanimous decision making, in reality there are always those who make decisions and those who don't. Or even worse there are those organisations which insist the most on democratic decision making and on unanimity - on the abscence of leaders and the fact that everyone decides everything - which are actually the most bureacratic and which there clearly exist leaders who decide and others who follow. And don't let Workers' Emancipation turn to us and say that in their organisation everyone does decide everything and that in their publications anything at all is printed from any comrade whoever they are! Democratic discourse and democracy as such, always produce dictatorships in practice.
And also, even if censorship and lack of freedom have been weapons of the brougeoisie against the proletariat, individual freedom (which is nothing but the expression of the freedom of commerce, the freedom to buy and sell in bourgeois society, in which the individual is itself a product of commodity relation) and debates on freedom of expression (or on any subject whatsoever) make up an integral part of the mechanisms of repression which have been used against the proletariat throughout its history. You just have to remember how the Stalinists and the Syndicalists (and the Peronists) used freedom of speech to destroy workers' assemblies, making sixteen hour speeches which couldn't be cut short because of 'freedom of expression':- in this way they succeeded in disheartening the workers and leaving them isolated when the time came to make decision. You just have to remember that throughout the history of the international workers' movement, savage repression has been carried out against fractions of the proletarian vanguard in the name of the great principles of democracy, free elections etc. Once again comrades, we stress the fact that the terrain of the proletariat, its constitution as a class and so as a party, has nothing at all to do with individual freedom and democracy, in which it is always the ideas of the dominant class which hold sway, including among the workers. The terrain of the proletariat is on the contrary organically constituted and based on the collective interests of the class. This breaks away from free choice from the very start and destroys the individual, the citizen of bourgeois society.
In practice for us it doesn't seem important to worry about how the third part of point 5 of the proposition will eventually be applied (the clarifications seems to us out of place - they don't answer the necessities and responsibilities which must first be taken on, and they are based on a false conception) because it will only appear in a concrete form as a consequence of the other points being applied. On the other hand what does seem essential to us is how we can operate so as to make shared activity a reality, and also what mechanisms will be created to enable production of shared texts and campaigns. On this matter we have already proposed certain criteria. What concerns us right now is knowing how the various replies to the proposition will be dealt with. With all this talk about free anti-censorship, free tribunes and the promise to "guarantee that all those who write to us will get a copy of every reply we have received". We're quite rightly concerned whether this applies to trotskyist and peronist groups. Workers Emancipation tell us that they will publish the replies and at some time inform us of any letters they have received from notorious counter-revolutionary groups like, for example, the OCI who "accuse us of neglecting the revolutionary bourgeoisie by simplifying everything to the fundamental contradiction between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat". We are convinced that Workers Emancipations' aversion to censorship will not lead them to publish that kind of groups stimulating replies and so spread the ideas of our historic enemy. If they were to act like that they clearly couldn't count on us. We agree completely with having polemics, and that these must be public within the class and directed towards the the class. We also agree that a review like the one we need would not particularly have a content that was entirely shared by or common to every participant (it would take a vile trick to interpret our positions as saying the opposite). But we cannot agree to play our enemies democratic game, nor will we countenance making propaganda for bourgeois organisations and bourgeois ideas. As far as we are concerned, this is what is always imposed in the name of freedom and anti-censorship and it constitutes a form of repression of proletarian positions.
We await clarification of these points from Workers Emancipation, but we look forward even more keenly to: the elements of the proposition being put in a concrete form; the reply to our proposals for concrete campaigns; the structures which will allow us in the particular situations which will inevitably arise, to reply as a single force.
CM4.1.4 International Proposition:
Some remarks about the explanatory notes (I.C.G.)