Note from the Editors: Classconscious.org is publishing a series of articles and documents relating to the break of Shuvu Batta and Peter Ross from the SEP. The crux of this break was over the issue of revolutionary work within trade unions.
Based on the writings of Trotsky and Lenin we disagree with the ICFI’s position that workers must break with trade unions and form a network of new “rank and file committees”. (Read our position on Trade Union work here). It is only through and open and robust discussion that scientific socialism, ie Marxism has developed in the past. We invite anyone who disagrees with this position or has something to add to this debate to consider submitting an article to classconscious.org
These documents were first published on Permanent Revolution and have been republished here with permission of the authors.
In the wake of the union defeat at Bessemer an expelled SEP member speaks out – by Shuvu Batta and Peter Ross
Ancillary documents for article ‘In the wake of the union defeat at Bessemer expelled SEP members speak out
Once Again on the Question of Trade Unions and the Tasks of the Party – by Comrade C
Response of the New York SEP Branch to Shuvu Batta : January 28th 2021
The following is an ancillary document for the article In the wake of the union defeat at Bessemer expelled SEP comrades speak out. It relates to the expulsion of Shuvu Batta.
This is to inform you that the New York Branch Committee is formally charging you with violations of party discipline, disloyalty and actions aimed at disrupting the work of the party in the working class. These actions are grounds for disciplinary action, including expulsion.
On January 18, in the course of an exchange of texts arranging for our intervention in the Hunts Point strike, you advocated that the branch be “tactful” in its intervention, and then suddenly announced that you had fundamental differences with the party’s line on the trade unions. This was the very first time you had raised any questions or doubts on the party’s position, which is spelled out in the SEP “Statement of Principles” that is the basis of membership and has been the topic of frequent internal and public discussions ever since you joined the SEP.
You have since demonstrated your own “tact” toward the Teamsters bureaucracy by abstaining entirely from the party’s intervention among the strikers.
On January 19, the branch committee met and decided that a discussion of your differences would be organized within the branch, which is the basic unit of the revolutionary party.
In the course of the discussion, asked about a document written by Carlos B, a former provisional member, opposing the SEP’s position on the unions. Carlos B. came from, a Stalinist background, and – upon realizing that he had fundamental differences – withdrew his application for party membership.
You demanded immediate access to Carlos B’s document. It was explained to you that this document would be circulated, along with other materials, for the discussion within the branch.
You decided that you would not wait for the branch discussion. Instead, you privately contacted Carlos B and obtained from him his document. Within hours of receiving this document, you declared your complete agreement with it. You haven not offered any explanation of what it was you agreed with.
While you have yet to say a word about the contents of this document or articulate in any coherent form your own perspective, you have acted outside of the organizational structure of the party and in clear violation of its political discipline. Making unprincipled use of contact information to which you have had access, you have circulated the document throughout the US SEP and other sections. You are acting, in effect, as the agent and spokesman of an individual who is politically opposed to the party’s perspective and program.
In your email to the branch committee titled “Fundamental disagreements on the Trade Union Principle,” you repeatedly invoke “revolutionary centralism,” but your own method has all the hallmarks of petty-bourgeois anarchism.
You refer to the branch committee, in which you yourself are a member, as the “so-called leadership of the branch” and declare that any attempt to call you to order would be equivalent to “a method utilized by Stalinism” to repress the Trotskyist movement. You further assert that you
refuse to be “frightened or “intimated” (sic) by the “entire party apparatus”. This kind of rhetoric has a long and discredited history, closely associated with anti-communism.
Every member has the right to raise differences and to fight to win support for their views within the party. The leadership has the right and the responsibility to organize discussion within the branch, the basic unit of the party, so that a comrade can present their positions and consider the response of other branch members. You clearly find such genuine forms of democratic centralism intolerable.
You write that while your intention is not to “sow chaos” within the ICFI, if that is the result of your behavior, “so be it.” This is the language not of a loyal party member, but rather of an enemy. You go on to accuse the party of opportunism as well as “sectarianism and dogmatism,” using the words “disgusting betrayal.”
Everything you say recalls the characterization made by Trotsky in 1939 of the petty-bourgeois opposition within the Socialist Workers Party: “a disdainful attitude toward theory and an inclination toward eclecticism; disrespect for the tradition of their own organization; anxiety for personal ‘independence’ at the expense of anxiety for objective truth; nervousness instead of consistency; readiness to jump from one position to another; lack of understanding of revolutionary centralism and hostility towards it; and, finally, inclination to substitute clique ties and personal relationships for party discipline.”
The Constitution of the Socialist Equality Party states in Section XI. Discipline:
a. All decisions of the governing bodies of the party are binding upon the members and subordinate bodies of the party.
b. Any member who violates the decisions of the body of which he/she is a member or of a higher body, or who acts in a manner deemed detrimental to the interests of the SEP and the working class, shall be subject to disciplinary action by the body exercising jurisdiction. Disciplinary action may include censure, suspension of membership for a period not exceeding three months, or expulsion.”
Your violation of the branch committee’s decisions and subsequent undisciplined and disruptive actions make you subject to such discipline. You will have the right to present and defend yourself against these charges before disciplinary action is taken.
Daniel de Vries
New York Branch