The International Bureau for the Revolutionary Party becomes the Internationalist Communist Tendency

Report on the Milan Meeting of the IBRP 26-27 September 2009

When the Bureau was founded in 1983-4 we set out some clear guidelines to which we have adhered to this day.

  1. We were not the party, nor even a prefiguration of that party, but an organisation to which those wishing to be part of the fight for a future international and centralised party of the working class could adhere in order to struggle, discuss and work together towards that goal. We expected that wider movements of the working class would bring new class organisations into existence with new contributions and issues not to mention that they would inevitably have many confusions and challenges. It was one of our major tasks to bring the experience of previous workers struggles as encapsulated in the evolution of the internationalist communist left to any new generation of workers who were ready to take up the class fight.
  2. We also did not want to create postboxes or warehouses which simply repeated the orthodoxy of the most dominant and experienced organisation. We recognised that only by having a real experience in each area/state where they lived could the present nuclei develop into real communist organisations which would be able to bring their experiences to enrich the practices of the future party.
  3. Our orientation has always been towards the working class as a whole rather than to the existing political groups however near to us we felt there positions to be. Although we have from time to time engaged in polemical exchanges with other groups our aim was not simply to unite groups of intellectuals or the educated but build real organisations which sought to find ways to link to workers struggles on the ground in order to maintain a continuity of consciousness from one struggle and one area to the next. This is why we continue to advocate the need for bodies of the party organised in the class such as the factory or workplace groups and territorial groups which regroup militant workers in the same neighbourhood.

We have not deviated from these basic premises throughout the quarter century of our existence and the groups in France, Canada and USA, and Germany which have entered the Bureau have operated within this framework. What we have asked affiliating groups to do is to have a basic document defining the organisation, regular publication, a definite orientation towards the working class, and a continuous practice to reflect this. This was among the reasons why we had to refuse the entry of the RKP, formerly GIK (Austria) into the Bureau in 2005.

In the text “25 Years of the Bureau - Balance Sheet and Perspectives” (see Revolutionary Pespectives 47 or at ) we analysed the reasons why we had not been more successful. First and foremost amongst them was the fact that revolutionary minorities reflect the actual condition of working class consciousness at any given time. We do not stand outside the working class or the real movement of history. At the very time of the Bureau’s foundation the great struggles of the class (the Polish strikes, the Spanish dockworkers’ strikes and the British miners strike), isolated as each was to one country were either defeated or on course for defeat. These defeats opened up the path for capitalist restructuring and have set back the workers resistance for a generation. Even today, in the face of the greatest global crisis since the Second World War, the working class has resisted only when under direct attack and the manner of workers’ acceptance of wage cuts, speed ups and redundancies in the central capitalist countries has been, until now, a great relief to the capitalist class. Basically the huge injection of state finance (to be paid for by workers exploitation in the future) and the usual mystifications of the propaganda machines (with Obama as global messiah being one key message) have prevented both a total meltdown and a consequent massive rejection of the system. However the measures taken so far have only postponed yet again the day of reckoning for a crisis which first burst in 1971 and which has still not yet been resolved nearly forty years later. This is unprecedented in human history but the Bureau has never deviated from an analysis based on the law of value. We have thus always recognised that whatever individual policy capitalism pursued, right up to the speculative bubble of the last fifteen or so years, these were only the latest consequences of the failure of capitalism to restore a sufficient level of profitability to start a new cycle of accumulation. We therefore predicted the financial meltdown even if it took longer to come about than we expected. This is to our credit but being right is not enough. Clearly there are some things outside our control and as our earliest comrades in the Committee of Intesa stated back in 1926

It is a mistake to think that in every situation expedients and tactical manoeuvres can widen the party base since relations between the party and the masses depends on the objective situation.

What we can do though is to act upon some of the analyses we have made and to improve the functioning of our own organisation. This was the main task which this full meeting of the Bureau, with delegates from all our affiliated organisations, set itself.

We expect the crisis not only to continue but to deepen (in one way or another). We expect that the world working class will be made to pay for any policy of so-called recovery. We also expect that the current acceptance of austerity etc. by the working class to give way to increasing resistance and anger. We also expect inter-imperialist rivalries to become more acute and for many to become the innocent victims of intensified war. In this circumstance revolutionaries need to be as prepared and organised as possible and this is why the Bureau decided to build on the steps taken after the Parma meeting in May 2008 (see “A New Development for the International Bureau” in Revolutionary Perspectives 47 or at ). In the Parma meeting we decided to take one step in the centralisation of our activity. This was not a break with our previous positions. Our founding documents always foresaw a time when the expansion of the Bureau would necessitate at the same time a greater centralisation of its activities. We took the first step on this road at the Parma meeting in 2008 as the document cited above indicated.

The Bureau was conceived to deal with a problem which was that we wanted to participate in the process of forming a politically centralised world party of the working class but we did not want, by our very existence, to prematurely close that process. We have thus hitherto hesitated to create any central organs and relied rather on a common bond of trust and discussion. This still exists, and has become even stronger in the last three years, as we have made the effort to fill the gap left by the untimely death of our inspirational comrade, Mauro. However such a process is a little clumsy when dealing with immediate emergencies for which statements are required, or for dealing with enquiries from individuals and groups about our work. In the light of this the meeting agreed to set up what was referred to in the document as a sort of “secretariat”. In the event the meeting rejected the name (partly on its unhappy precedents, partly because it does not correspond to our purpose) but instead set up a liaison committee between the various affiliated organisations. Its purpose will be to respond swiftly to international issues on behalf of the Bureau. It will have responsibility for correspondence and discussion with other groups, organising delegations to places where we have been invited, coordinating the preparation of international statements, as well as preparing and organising international conferences.

The liaison committee functioned well but it was not fully representative of the entire organisation nor was it clear what its relations to individual members were. The meeting thus began by discussing the work of this committee and ended by recognising the need for institutional change in the Bureau to meet the challenge of the coming period. After (mostly encouraging) reports on the work of the various affiliates of the IBRP the following decisions were taken.

Resume of the Decisions Taken (not in the order they were taken)

  1. The basic framework and approach defined in our original documents remains unchanged. We have however to recognise that the Bureau has gone beyond its original membership and that in this event, as our original documents foresaw, we would gradually move towards a more centralised activity as the Bureau expanded. In view of this we decided that the Bureau should become the centralised coordinating body of our international organisation. It will be the link not only with the affiliated organisations in each country but with individuals in different countries. It will conduct all affairs relating to the functioning of the organisation as a whole (such as relations with other groups, correspondence, international statements and policies etc). In order to give clearer expression to our existence as a united international organisation we decided to change the name of the organisation to The Internationalist Communist Tendency (ICT) (and we will attach the subtitle “for the revolutionary party” on the website). This does not express any alteration in the relationship between our groups nor does it mean that individual groups will abandon their responsibilities for deepening their presence inside the working class in the geographical areas where they are present. All the groups will retain their distinct methods of operation to suit the conditions where they work and will retain their individual names. Thus, for example, the CWO is still the CWO, but “British affiliate of the ICT”. Individuals in countries are directly members of the ICT and are the responsibility of the International Bureau.
  2. The committee of liaison becomes the International Bureau.
  3. Its membership will include one representative for each country where we are truly present which currently means Italy, Canada, UK, and Germany.
  4. The new IB was immediately given a number of tasks. First it has to draft common statutes for all members both in affiliated organisations and individuals. These will be based on democratic centralist principles.
  5. Second it has to edit an internal bulletin or newsletter.
  6. It was agreed that the comrades responsible for the website would seek to find ways to improve its multilingual appearance and international effectiveness. It was recognised that this would also depend on the assistance and active help of all sections of the ICT.
  7. The IB was further charged with drafting or delegating to comrades the writing of a number of basic documents that it was felt we needed to address the class in the current century.
  8. We had a long discussion on the so-called “milieu” or proletarian political camp and the general sense of the meeting was that we had no need to amend the rather depressing conclusions we had reached about this camp in our documents “Towards a New International” and “The New International Will be the International Party”. Indeed it was also agreed that we can feel proud of the fact that the documents of the VIth congress of the PCInt, Battaglia Comunista, remain valid some 12 years after they were written. We have already demonstrated our theoretical preparation and the latest phase of the crisis has not yet thrown up new working class groups which might have changed our perspectives. It was thus agreed that it would be premature to hold any international conferences in the foreseeable future. Instead our focus has to continue to be towards the working class as a whole since it is only by working in this direction that we will learn ourselves how to contribute to the future party of the proletariat.
  9. After reading the latest publication from the Austrian GPR (formerly GIK) it was recognised that it is no different from the previous publications claiming that all the various left communist traditions are equally valid (and publishing Bordigist and ICC texts as well as ours). We therefore decided to issue a clear public demarcation from the Austrian group since there was mounting evidence that their claim to be part of the Bureau (a claim we rejected 4 years ago) was causing confusion in the German-speaking world.
  10. It was agreed that we need to announce our new identity by communiqué and this will be drafted by the new IB as its first task.
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