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
Joseph Kishore’s letter to SEP members on Shuvu’s NPR interview: April 2nd
Socialist Equality Party
April 2, 2021
To Members of the SEP
On Thursday morning, ex-member Shuvu Batta appeared on the National Public Radio program, 1A. The topic of the program was the unionization campaign at the Amazon plant in Bessemer, Alabama. The moderator stated that Amazon workers invited on the program had been “contacted and vetted by us.” As it turned out, Batta was the only Amazon employee who was interviewed.
Of the 800,000 Amazon workers in the United States, one cannot help but wonder how Shuva Batta emerged triumphant from NPR’s search and vetting process. He has been an Amazon employee for only a few months; and he is not even working at the Bessemer plant. He works at an Amazon “Fresh” facility in XXX and has been trying to land a job in the company’s human resources department, i.e., in management. Moreover, given the fact that the predominantly African American composition of the targeted facility has been central to the RWDSU’s strategy and the focus of media reporting, NPR’s selection of Batta appears even more peculiar.
Somewhat ludicrously, the moderator stated that she would refer to Batta only by his first name in order to protect his identity. As it is unlikely that there are numerous people with his distinctive first name working at the New Jersey facility, the protection of Batta’s identity was clearly not a serious consideration, either for NPR or Batta himself.
It strains credulity to believe that there is no connection between Batta’s selection and his factional activities and public denunciations of the Socialist Equality Party. What other “qualification” does he have to be presented on NPR as the spokesman of Amazon workers?
The most likely explanation for Batta’s appearance on the program is that he was recommended to NPR by the leadership of the RWDSU bureaucracy. The union, which lacks any significant base among rank-and-file workers, is immensely sensitive to left-wing criticism – above all, that of the SEP and the World Socialist Web Site. In one way or another, Batta’s activities came to the attention of the bureaucracy, which has decided to make use of his services.
RSDWU President Stuart Applebaum can hardly be disappointed with Batta’s performance. Batta spoke as a stooge of the AFL-CIO and RSDWU. He made no criticism whatsoever of the AFL-CIO, let alone call attention to its unbroken 40-year record of betrayals since the
destruction of PATCO in 1981. Batta tactfully failed to mention that the unionization campaign has been an entirely top-down operation, carried out with the support of the Biden administration and the fascistic Senator Marco Rubio.
The word “socialism” never escaped Batta’s lips. His message was precisely tailored to the specifications of the AFL-CIO. Asked what he thought was “the most important thing for senior Amazon leadership to know,” Batta replied: “Just as you have a right under the capitalist system to make profits, we have the right to unionize, and we have the right to actually have a say in the workplace, to make sure that our conditions are a little more livable.”
Batta acknowledges the “right” to make a profit and only hopes to make Amazon “a little more livable.” And this is from the person who denounced the SEP and ICFI, in messages sent all over the world, for having betrayed the principles of Trotskyism.
Batta could not even muster the courage to point out that the founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, has amassed billions of dollars amidst mass death and social misery produced by the ruling class response to the pandemic.
Batta announced his opposition to the party’s position on the trade unions on January 18, in the midst of the intervention of the New York branch in the Hunts Point strike. He then went on a political rampage that blatantly violated the provisions of the party Constitution. Refusing to discuss his positions within his branch, Batta circulated the document of a former provisional member throughout the party and online in a manner deliberately intended to mislead the membership.
Within little more than 10 weeks, Batta turns up on NPR as a craven apologist for the RSDWU bureaucracy.
At the aggregate this past weekend, Comrade North noted that, examined historically, real attacks on party democracy—such as the repression of the Left Opposition by the Stalinist regime—have always been connected to an attempt to alter and break with the revolutionary program of the party. Stalinist repression of the Left Opposition was bound up with the effort to replace the program of permanent revolution with the anti-Marxist program of “socialism in one country.” Later, the Pablo leadership in the Fourth International expelled an entire section because it resisted the revisionists’ efforts to liquidate the organization into the Stalinist movement.
For the petit-bourgeois opponents of Marxism, the fraudulent invocation of “democracy” has always been connected to an effort to provoke a rebellion against the party’s defense of its revolutionary traditions. “When they speak of ‘party democracy’,” Comrade North noted, “they want freedom for revisionist tendencies, they want freedom for those tendencies that are determined, in any way possible, with the support of the state, mobilizing support from outside the party, to overthrow the revolutionary program.” He added:
The invocation of democracy in the abstract is the bargain basement of pseudo-left politics, in the sense that it tries to conceal its political aims by waving a flag of democracy without telling the membership where it really intends to take the organization… They want us to abandon our analysis of the trade union bureaucracy, the role that the trade unions have played over a period of forty years, to abandon any effort to develop a revolutionary movement within the working class.
Only five days after last Saturday’s national aggregate, Batta has demonstrated how correct this analysis is. Batta would not accept the party’s Constitution because its democratic centralist provisions—which are aimed at creating the best conditions for the clarification of political issues underlying disputes that arise within the party—were incompatible with his concealed intention to turn the SEP into a pseudo-left appendage of the trade union apparatus and the Democratic Party.
Batta’s demagogic shouting about violations of party democracy and his self-proclaimed right to attack the party, while he secretly sought to cultivate a relationship with the trade union bureaucracy, confirms once again the warning made by Lenin in What Is To Be Done?: “… ‘freedom of criticism’ means freedom for an opportunist trend in Social-Democracy, freedom to convert Social-Democracy into a democratic party of reform, freedom to introduce bourgeois ideas and bourgeois elements into socialism.” [Lenin Collected Works, Volume 5 (Moscow: Foreign Language Publishing House, 1961), p. 355]
Certain lessons must be drawn from this experience. First, the ruling class is deeply concerned about the emergence of a revolutionary movement in the working class, of which the party is the conscious expression. The work of the SEP and the WSWS is being carefully followed by the trade union bureaucracy, the Democratic Party, and the state. As we have also seen during the past week, the Democratic Party has been deeply unsettled by the articles by Comrade London exposing the role of Democratic Socialists of America member Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. They have attracted a readership in the tens of thousands. The pseudo-left enemies of Marxist can shout about the “sectarianism” of the SEP until they are blue in the face. But it is an undeniable fact that the political and intellectual influence of the SEP and WSWS, and, above all its presence in the struggles of the working class, is steadily growing.
Batta, entertaining delusions of grandeur, imagined that his criticisms would “wreak havoc” in the ICFI and SEP. In reality, the only havoc he wreaked was with his own political and moral credibility. He has exposed himself as a pathetic political fraudster. If the trade union bureaucracy wants to employ the services of Batta, they are welcome to him.