Sunday, April 18, 2010

This insolence will not continue!

Our National Board issued this statement initially in secrecy to protect Keeran and Kenny. Now our statement is being published all over the Internet. If this is not bad enough, Keeran and Kenny have become insolent and disobedient by publishing a response they had no right to publish without getting permission from me. They try to make our most important body out to be fools and liars. I restate our position here and I am providing a copy of the Keeran/Kenny "response;" we simply cannot and will not tolerate this kind of insolence.

I hereby order all discussion of this issue to cease except what the National Board has to say on this matter. I am instructing Keeran and Kenny to cease and desist in their activities of undermining the work of our National Board. I will be setting Bruce Bostic to work on this problem which I designate the Jersey Problem. I am hereby ordering the Communist Party of Canada to end all work with Keeran and Kenny. No more discussion of this book in Canada. I put my foot down here and now. This is it.

The nerve of Keeran and Kenny; they address their letter to "Dear;" I expect letters to me to be addressed "Chairman Sam Webb."

I send letters "Dear Sue" or "Dear Elana;" did I spell her name correctly? Well, If I didn't I will hear about it from Keeran or Kenny. I would never address a letter as "Dear Joe." I insist on respect.

Sam Webb
Chair, National Board, CPUSA

CPUSA National Board Criticizes Authors Keeran, Kenny for Canada Visit:

Recently, Roger Keeran and Thomas Kenny, co-authors of the internationally regarded Socialism Betrayed: Behind the Collapse of the Soviet Union, visited the Communist Party of Canada's convention to discuss their work. The CPUSA National Board calls this a "violation of democratic centralism". Some of us here at WR feel that the Board is applying that principle selectively, particularly since forces we regard as social democratic in the Party are given free reign to say and do what they like, including attend meetings of social democratic organizations.

Read the National Board attack as well as Kenny and Keeran's response below:

Dear National Committee Member,

It has been brought to our attention that Roger Keeran and Thomas Kenny (pen name), both members of our Party, were invited to and participated in the recent convention of the Communist Party of Canada. Neither the Canadian Party nor Keeran and Kenny consulted with us; we only learned about it after the fact.

We discussed this matter in the Board and agreed to send a letter to our Canadian comrades expressing our strong feeling that this was an inappropriate action by a fraternal party. (letter is attached)

As for Keeran and Kenny, their presence at that meeting was a violation of Party procedure and democracy. Keeran even spoke in a plenary session. Ostensibly his subject was the book on the Soviet Union he wrote with Kenny some years ago, but in fact, he used the opportunity to describe his differences with our Party’s policies and program in a very dismissive and sarcastic manner. He justifies this because he wasn't an official spokesperson (just a ‘concerned member’), but that disclaimer doesn't give him or Kenny the right to slander our Party at the convention of another party.

Below is a brief summary of Keeran’s presentation
--Two main issues in the U.S. are the fight for health care and EFCA. We look to Canada for examples of what we need in U.S. just as during Civil War, U.S. abolitionists looked north to Canada as the terminus for the Underground Railroad. And judging by the discussion at this convention, I think American Communists again need to look north for inspiration.
--Since the collapse of the USSR there has been a lot of vacillation and retreat among communist parties on some key issues and theoretical perspectives, including in our party.
--It is true the the CPUSA supported Obama in the election and supports him now. The reasons should be clear, right? With Bush we had a president who started wars in the Middle East and now we have a president who escalates them. With Bush we had a president who started warrant-less wiretaps, extraordinary rendition, and waterboarding. Now we have a president who uses warrant-less wiretaps, extraordinary rendition, but not waterboarding. Before with Bush we had a president whose administration was filled with Wall St. profiteers, Robert Gates, Summers, Bernanke, and Dick Cheney. Now we have a president whose administration is filled with Wall St. profiteers, Robert Gates, Summers, Bernanke, but not Dick Cheney.
--Despite all of this change you can believe in, there are still some Communists south of the border who believe that President Obama is secretly a member of the CPUSA.

He then went on to talk for a few minutes about the main theses of their book, and when he finished, received a standing ovation.

Neither Keeran nor Kenney play a major role in the work of our Party. We are concerned not only about the misrepresentations of our positions at the Canadian convention -- more troubling is that they are in touch a handful of Party members who disagree with the Party’s democratically adopted positions, actively campaign against those positions in a factional way, and thereby, cause disunity and division.

This activity dates back to our last convention, where the same handful of people failed to convince the delegates to oppose the new party program, which was then adopted by an overwhelming majority. And ironically, since this group frequently declares its allegiance to democratic centralism (and criticizes the Party’s leadership for insufficient discipline), they have since continued their campaign against the Party's program and policies.

Specifically, they interfere in the work of districts other than their own; they have their own website whose mission is to attack our Party's policies and leadership; they call members around the country in hopes of peeling them off; they make no effort to recruit or build the press. Many of them are deep underground and write using psuedonyms, while again, criticizing the Party and its leadership for inadequate militancy, public presence, and independent role.

We had some hesitation about sending a letter about this now. We don't want to cast a pall over the preconvention discussion or the convention. Given the complexity of the moment, we need to collectively assess our work and policies and bring everything in line with current realities. Moreover, we have to find better ways to build the Party and press.

So far the discussion is going along well and we should do everything we can to encourage it. No one should hesitate to express their views, but they should do so within our collectives and, as much as possible, do so based on actual experience.
Unfortunately, the incessant criticism and campaign against the Party by this handful can hobble the discussion because comrades who don’t agree on one or another issue don’t want to express that, for fear of giving ammunition to this factional group. That is understandable, but we should all resist letting this happen.

We are not suggesting any immediate action to respond to this provocative action by Keeran and Kenny, or to the other individuals. However, there have to be some limits, but that is for another discussion at a later time.

Over the next few months of the preconvention period, we should continue our involvement in the struggle for jobs, build the Party, YCL, and online press, while organizing a rich give-and-take discussion.

We have much to be proud of and much to do. We can be confident in our Party. Let's have a great convention!


The National Board
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Dear Sam, Jarvis, and National Board Members,

Several members of the National Committee have forwarded a letter sent by the National Board (NB) criticizing us for attending the recent convention of the Communist Party of Canada (CPC). Though the letter singles us out for rebuke and impugns our motives and character, the NB did not send the letter to us. We protest this way of operating. It is both undemocratic and uncomradely. Moreover, the NB letter ignores some facts and distorts others.

1. The letter was the product of a NB meeting that included many non-members of the NB, including C. J. Atkins, an American student in Toronto, who like us was a guest at the convention. We, however, were not invited to participate in the NB meeting.

2. The letter ignores the context of our attendance, namely that the Canadian Communist Party, like other Communist Parties, invited us to speak on our book. The letter does not give the title of the book, SOCIALISM BETRAYED: BEHIND THE COLLAPSE OF THE SOVIET UNION, nor does it mention that International Publishers(IP)published the book in 2004 after the NB voted in favor of its publication over the objections of Sam Webb. It does not mention that Communist Party publications in Ireland, England, Australia, Germany, and Canada have favorably reviewed the book, that Communists have translated and published the book into Bulgarian, Russian, Farsi, Turkish, Portuguese, Greek (in part), and French and Spanish (in process), and that the authors had previously been invited by the Greek CP (2007) and Portuguese CP(2008) to speak on the book, and did so without objection. The NB letter says that our presence at the Canadian convention was a “violation of Party procedure,” but they do not make clear what procedure they are talking about. Before speaking on their books, does every IP author get the NB’s approval?

3. The main distortion of the letter is the portrayal of my (Keeran’s) opening remarks, which were meant to be gracious and humorous, as if they were the whole thing. The letter says that the talk was only “ostensibly” on the book, but that really I (Keeran) spoke as a ”concerned member,” and devoted only “a few minutes” to the book. This is totally misleading. Before speaking, I met with Miguel Figueroa, Chair of the CPC, who indicated the parts of the book the convention would find the most relevant. Figueroa introduced me as the author of the book, and I spoke (as an author not a “concerned member”) for twenty minutes about the book.

4. The letter’s summary of my (Keeran’s) welcoming remarks, apparently comes from C.J. Atkins, who seems to have attended the convention for the sole purpose of taking notes and reporting to the NB. In my opening remarks, I thanked the CPC for the invitation, asked how many delegates had read the book, praised the headway that Canadians have made on two issues of concern to the American working class (health care and employee free choice), and congratulated them on their convention. I said that though we supported Obama’s election, President Obama has not brought much change in which we can believe with regard to wars in the Middle East, violations of
human rights and civil liberties, and the domination of policy by finance capital. The letter mangles (in fact, inverts) my punch line which was “that some of us remain doubtful that Obama is a secret member of the CP.”

5. The letter then makes a series of vague and defamatory statements beginning with: “Neither Keeran nor Kenney [sic] play a major part in the work of our Party.” One of us (Keeran) has been a member of the Party for thirty years, and a member of the Jersey City Club for twenty-five years. He wrote a previous book on Communists and auto workers published by International Publishers, served on the now defunct history commission, and served on the Board of the now defunct Reference Center for Marxist Studies. He has participated in all activity of the Jersey City Club, among other things: distributing the PWW, serving as club chair, participating in the Jersey City Peace Council and its peace demonstrations, and canvassing for our own candidates (Lee Barile and John Rummel) and for the Democrats (Kerry, Obama, and most recently Corzine). Though this Jimmy Higgins work may not make him a “major” player in the party, it does make him as active as most members in the district. The other of us (Kenny), who likewise would not claim a “major” status, has nonetheless been a party member for twenty-three years, has held senior staff positions in the labor movement for twenty years, serves as his club’s education director and a member of the Economic Commission, and writes for the paper, including an article in the current issue of the PW.

6. Finally, the Sunday before the NB issued this attack, I (Keeran) participated in a District discussion of the main convention document, which I sharply criticized for focusing on Democrats and Republicans while marginalizing class struggle. I criticized the way the document fails to make a class analysis of the Obama administration and ignores facts about imperialism abroad and the capitalist crisis at home.Isaiditignores: Obama’s escalation of the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the building of more military bases in Colombia and the Middle East,the expansion of the military budget, the increased exploitation of the working class during the past thirty years of record breaking profits and flat wages, and the increased inequality between workers and capitalists, now greater than at any time since 1927. Moreover, I said the main convention document ignores the way the Obama administration’s response to the crisis favored the bailout of finance capital over help for the working class by a factor of 100 to 1. I said it neglects the fact that finance capital gave more campaign contributions to Obama than to McCain and more to the Democrats than to the Republicans. Whether the NB attack on Kenny and Keeran is the result of my criticism or mere coincidence, it is nonetheless disingenuous for the NB to declare that “we don’t want to cast a pall over the preconvention discussion.” This is precisely what the letter does. Moreover, it is preposterous for the NB to declare that criticism like mine rather than threatening letters like theirs “can hobble the discussion.”

7. For the sake of fairness, we ask the National Committee to reject the NB letter as an inappropriate way to handle political disagreements and an alleged violation of party procedure, and we ask the NB to circulate this response to the same list that received their letter.


Roger Keeran
Thomas Kenny

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