Platform of the Communist Organisation in the British Isles


First Published: September 1976
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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CLASS, PARTY AND PROGRAMME

The complex dialectical relationship between the class, its party and its programme is seldom rigorously studied by revolutionaries. Either they are content with simplistic phrases about the party leading the masses as a (physiological) head ’guides’ the body as a whole; or b) the party is seen as the class in concrete, producing the teleological notion that the class really only exists to produce ’its highest expression’, the Party; or c) because of the intrinsic difficulties of producing a real vanguard party and having produced it, of consolidating it, falling to the easy libertarian option of ’doing without’ such a party, ostensibly to give the masses ’free reign for their creative abilities’. All three lines are profoundly mistaken and have been historically demonstrated as such. The contemporary proof of this lies in the fact that no revolutionary organisation in the West is able to show that it knows how to produce the strategic guidance for the class up to, and into, its seizure of state power, i.e., the party’s programme. This is not an appendage to be gotten when the party has been formed, or to be written up by a preparatory committee to be adopted at the founding congress. On the contrary the struggle for the Programme is the same process of struggle as that for the Party – the one is the condition of the other. Marx made this fundamental point in no less fundamental a document than ’The Communist Manifesto’:

Whereas “The proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority...

”The Communists, therefore, are on the one hand, practically, the most advanced and resolute section of the working class parties in every country, that section which pushes forward all others; on the other hand, theoretically, they have over the great mass of the proletariat the advantage of clearly understanding the line of march, the conditions, and the ultimate general results of the proletarian movement.”

This understanding, when put in concrete and disseminable form, is nothing other than the party’s programme. It is of course a condition of such a function that there be a Party of Communists.

THE PARTY FORM

It is an intrinsic part of old libertarian and new left ideology, that the communist organisation has no determinate party form according to Marx’s conception, and that its advent is the peculiar product of Lenin’s struggle against the diffuse ’open party’ of the Mensheviks. It is thus held that what was required for the illegal struggle of revolutionaries against the Czarist autocracy is at best redundant and at worst obstructive and restrictive in ’modern’ bourgeois democracies. This is a fatal fallacy that the waxing and waning of bourgeois democracy in modern times, and with it the existence of revolutionaries, should have disabused all but the wilfully blind. Greece, Chile and Argentina are but a few reminders, as also is the fate of Luxemburg and Liebknecht.

Such stupidity has no basis whatever in Marx’s conceptions or practice. Describing the relationship of Proletarians and Communists in Section 2 of ’The Manifesto’, Marx and Engels state that “The Communists do not form a separate party opposed to other working class parties” (emphasis added). For, “They have no interests separate and apart from those of the proletariat as a whole.”

“They do not set up any sectarian principles of their own, by which to shape and mould the proletarian movement”. Meaning of course “That the emancipation of the working classes must be conquered by the working classes themselves”; as the general rules of nothing other than an organisation to lead such a movement – The International Working Men’s Association or First International made clear in its opening lines. For there to be a real social revolution, a thorough upheaval, and not merely a transfer of power from one ruling minority to another, the proletariat must take the field constituted as a class uncompromisingly acting in its own historic interests. But it cannot do this spontaneously, just being left to something as obscurantist and ahistorical as ’its own class instinct’. For, “The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas”, as Marx and Engels emphasised in ’The German Ideology’; “i.e., the class which is the ruling material force of society is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it.” “In a political struggle of class against class”, writes Engels, “organisation is the most important weapon.” But as Marx elucidates in the Inaugural Address of the W.M.I.A.: “One element of success (workers) possess – numbers; but numbers weigh only in the balance, if united by combination and led by knowledge.”

So there must be both organisation and knowledge in the workers’ hands if they are to emancipate themselves. Whence is this knowledge to come, and why is it much more – indeed qualitatively different from – the day to day immediate experience of workers, enshrined in their spontaneous organisations as Trades Unions?

PUSHING FROM WITHOUT

Any qualitative and conscious change in society has two prerequisites –

1) A comprehensive view of society and its history, with especial reference to its mode(s) of production.
2) The derivation from that and other societies of laws governing the succession of social forms.

Characteristic of all class societies is a high degree of division of labour. Indeed Engels says in ’Socialism Scientific and Utopian’: “It is, therefore the law of division of labour that lies at the basis of the division into classes”.

Particularly pronounced and pernicious is the division between mental and manual labour, between thinking and doing. Always the development of knowledge and systematic reflection on social affairs is the preserve of the ruling class and its ’experts’ or ’professionals’. Only rarely and partially do the toiling masses have sufficient time, leisure and scope to autonomously develop their own world-view. Hence historically and contemporaneously, powerful proletarian movements conscious’ of themselves as such could only arise to the extent that those with the necessary knowledge – disaffected bourgeois intellectuals – brought to the workers’ movement the breadth and depth of knowledge from which as toilers they had been alienated. Such were of course Marx and Engels; and it is no coincidence that where bourgeois society was able to develop smoothly on a broad front (Britain and the U.S.) few intellectuals threw in their lot with the workers’ movement, whereas when the reverse held (Germany, Russia) strong socialist movements arose with the wholesale defection of intellectuals from the bourgeoisie. This is what caused Marx to write (in ’The Poverty of Philosophy’) a year before the ’Manifesto’ was published: “Just as the economists are the scientific representatives of the bourgeois class, so the Socialists and the Communists are the theoreticians of the proletarian class”. (Original emphasis)

This does not mean that disaffected bourgeois intellectuals are the theoreticians of the proletariat. It does mean, as Lenin correctly emphasised in ’What Is To Be Done?’, that the requisite knowledge comes to the class from without. In this sense a worker who has managed to tap the sacred preserves of social knowledge and seeks to integrate it with the, direct experience of the working class, is himself an outsider in ’normal’ times; i.e. when the proletariat under the sway of the ruling ideas and grinding labour is thus ’content’ to leave the ’thinking and philosophising’ to others; i.e. to the classes above them, into which indeed, educated members of the working class are expected to naturally ’graduate’.

Communists therefore function to catalyse the class into acting in its own historic interests by reuniting knowing with doing, science with productive labour. This they cannot do as a random collection of individuals, more or less autonomous, but only as an organised body – just such a body as the Communist League, for which Marx and Engels wrote the ’Communist Manifesto’ itself.

The Communist ’Party then is not the incarnation of the perfect trade union, striving ’to lead’ each and every spontaneous struggle. Neither is the communist cadre acting as such when he resembles a militant trade union secretary, rather than a scientific socialist political leader; then he functions as a tribune of the whole class, not for a particularistic category of trade.

Communists are scientific socialists acting according to Engels’ dictum, that “Socialism, having become a science (under Marx) demands the same treatment as every other science – it must be studied”. But not studied, alone in splendid isolation, as ’independent’ Marxists.

First of all, Marxism is a method of understanding the world for the express purpose of changing it. This means that Marxism can only be studied by attempting interventions on the basis of Marxist theory, and in turn enriching the theory on the basis of the experience learned. Learned of course means ’critically reflected upon’. Contrary to the illusions of the ”mass-workers”, experience itself, in its raw state, cannot be integrated into knowledge, for it does not yet exist on that plane. Still less do ’interventions’, no matter how militant, themselves generate theory – only hysteria and then disillusion. First the theory is carefully studied; then, and only then, can controlled, and thus meaningful, political practices take place. Practices in the plural that is – and over time; those of an individual can never themselves have sufficient scope and history. And this process demands the groupment of Marxists. Only when thus associated can the learning process rise above the transient particularism of the individual, to the breadth, continuity and thus overview of the collective. In this association, the Party is not the sum of its parts, but a new sui-generis entity acting on a higher plane – that of the historic interests of the working class, which only a new collective entity – the Party – can foreshadow.

Thus the Party is not the association of militant trade unionists, with, middle-class ’leaders’ and ’theoreticians’ urging them on to do what corners naturally. On the contrary, it is the collective into which workers, intellectuals, salarians, etc. have entered for the explicit purpose of fighting against the roles imposed by class society – e.g. that of being ’a trade unionist’, ’an intellectual’, etc. Instead we have new men and women – communists – fighting for the future by studying the past and present on a world scale. The immensity of this task is only made possible by the existence of a unitary party that is collective organiser and thinker. It absorbs individuals stamped by the capitalist division of labour, and remoulds them according to the holistic consciousness and division of labour requirement of itself as a qualitatively different organism.

THE PARTY TYPE

We have now said enough to know that for communist action there must be the party organisation. And we have also said enough to establish the characteristics of this party. Indeed these have been published several times by us without challenge; so we firmly take the characteristics of the Communist Party to be these:

1) It is the party of the strategic-historic goals of the proletariat.
2) It is the party therefore of theoretical insight and overview.
3) It is an internationalist party, combatting nationalism.
4) It is a party out for proletarian dictatorship through the seizure of state power.
5) It is a disciplined centralised party without room in its ranks for amateurism and liberalism.

It is our contention that this is specifically the Marxist-Leninist type of Party. Though this should already be clear from what has gone before in the words of Marx and Engels themselves, none are so blind as those who do not wish to see. However the pressure of bourgeois individualistic and democratic ideology is so overwhelming in Britain that many otherwise useful comrades cannot readily strip these blindfolds from their eyes.

To try to dispose of these pernicious prejudices once and for all, we are adopting the following procedure, no matter how laborious. For each of the five fundamental characteristics cited above we shall give Marx/Engels’ own words on the subject, and directly compare this with Lenin’s. That these are fundamental propositions, and not chance remarks or lines torn from context, will be seen from their locking together to form an integral worldview.

1) Marx and Engels in the ’Communist Manifesto’:

“The Communists fight for the attainment of the immediate aims, for the enforcement of the momentary interests of the working class; but in the movement of the present, they also represent and take care of the future of that movement”.

Lenin in ’Political Sophisms’ (1905):

“That is why it is quite natural that (Bolshevism) as the party of the revolutionary proletariat is so solicitous of its programme, so meticulously defines its final aim long beforehand – the aim of complete liberation of working people – and looks so jealously at any attempt to trim down this final aim; for this same reason (Bolshevism) is so dogmatically strict and doctrinally unbending in separating small, immediate, economic aims from the final aim. Whoever is fighting for all, for complete victory, cannot but be on the lookout lest small gains should bind one’s hands, divert one from the path, forget that which is relatively far off and without which all small gains are but the vanity of vanities. On the contrary this care for programmes, this eternally critical attitude to small gradual improvements cannot be understood by and is foreign to bourgeois parties, even those that are the most freedom-loving and people-loving.”

2) Engels in ’Socialism – Utopian and Scientific’:

“To accomplish this act of universal emancipation is the historical mission of the modern proletariat. To thoroughly comprehend the historical conditions and thus the very nature of this act, to impart to the now oppressed proletarian class a full knowledge of the conditions and of the meaning of the momentous act it is called upon to accomplish, this is the task of the theoretical expression of the proletarian movement, scientific socialism.”

Marx addressing a sitting of the Brussels Communist Correspondents’ Committee:

“To address the working man without a strictly scientific idea and a positive doctrine is to engage in an empty and dishonest preaching game, which assumes an inspired prophet, on the one hand, and nothing but asses listening to him with gaping mouths, on the other... Ignorance has never yet helped anyone.”

Lenin in ’What Is To Be Done?’:

“Without revolutionary theory, there can be no revolutionary movement... the role of vanguard fighter can be fulfilled only by a party that is guided by the most advanced theory.”

3) Marx/Engels in the ’Communist Manifesto’:

“The Communists are distinguished from the other working class parties by this only: 1. In the national struggles of the proletarians of the different countries, they point out and bring to the front the common interests of the entire proletariat, independently of all nationality. 2. In the various stages of development which the struggle of the working class against the bourgeoisie has to pass through, they always and everywhere represent the interests of the movement as a whole.

“The working men have no country. We cannot take from them what they have not got.

“United action, of the leading civilised countries at least, is one of the first conditions for the emancipation of the proletariat.”

Lenin in ’Preliminary Draft of Theses on the National and Colonial Questions:

“The recognition of internationalism in word, and the substitution of petit bourgeois nationalism and pacificism for it in deed, in all propaganda, agitation and practical work, is a very common thing not only among parties of the Second (’Socialist’) International, but also among those which have withdrawn from the International, and often even among those which now call themselves Communist Parties...

“Petit-bourgeois nationalism proclaims as internationalism the bare recognition of the equality of nations, and nothing more, while (quite forgetting that this recognition is purely verbal) preserving national egoism intact; whereas proletarian internationalism demands, firstly, that the interests of the proletarian struggle in one country be subordinated to the interests of the struggle on a world scale, and secondly, that a nation which is achieving victory over the bourgeoisie be able and willing to make the greatest national sacrifices for the sake of overthrowing international capital.

“Thus in states which are already fully capitalistic, and which have workers’ parties that really act as the vanguard of the proletariat, the struggle against the opportunist and petit-bourgeois pacifist distortions of the concept and policy of internationalism is a primary and most important task”.

4) Marx in ’The Gotha Programme’:

“Between capitalist and communist society lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. There corresponds to this also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.” (original emphasis)

Engels in ’On Authority’:

“A revolution is certainly the most authoritarian thing there is: it is the act whereby one part of the population imposes its will upon the other part by means of rifles, bayonnets and cannon – authoritarian means if such there be at all; and if the victorious party does not want to have fought in vain, it must maintain this rule by means of the terror which its arms inspire in the reactionaries. Would the Paris Commune have lasted a single day if it had not made use of this authority of the armed people against the bourgeois? Should we not, on the contrary, reproach it for not having used it freely enough?”

Lenin in ’The State and Revolution’:

“Only he is a Marxist who extends the recognition of the class struggle to the recognition of the Dictatorship of the proletariat. This is what constitutes the most profound difference between the Marxist and the ordinary petit (as well as big) bourgeois.”

Lenin in ’Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky’:

“Dictatorship is power based directly upon force and unrestricted by any laws.

“The revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat is power won and maintained by the violence of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie, power that is unrestricted by any laws.”

5) Marx to P. Lafargue in Madrid:

“Above all one must bear in mind that our Association is the militant organisation of the proletariat, and by no means a society for the advancement of doctrinaire amateurs”.

Engels on The Congress of Sonvillier and the International:

“And above all (according to anarchism) there should be no disciplined sections! Indeed, no party discipline, no centralisation of forces at a particular point, no weapons of struggle! For what, then, would happen to the model of the future (anarchist) society? In short, where would this new organisation get us? To the cowardly, servile organisation of the early Christians, those slaves who gratefully accepted every kick and whose grovelling did indeed after 300 years win them the victory of their religion - a method of revolution which the proletariat will surely not imitate!”

Lenin in ’Collapse of the Second International’:

”(Bolshevik) parties are not debating clubs, but organisations of the fighting proletariat.”

Lenin: ’Materials on the Question of the Struggle Within the Social-Democrat Fraction in the Duma’:

“(Bolshevism) is a certain organised entity, and those people who do not abide by the discipline of this organisation, who scorn it and violate its decisions, do not belong to it. This is a fundamental rule.”

On all the five fundamental characteristics of communist organisation Lenin firmly upholds the propositions of Marx and Engels. Q.E.D. The Communist Party is the Leninist party, or rather, the Marxist-Leninist party.

So what has all the fuss been about these sixty years? What it comes down to is that Lenin had the temerity to point out that these criteria for communist militants could, under capitalism, only be attained by a small minority; and that to practice revolutionary politics consistently these vanguard elements would have to regard themselves as professional revolutionaries – i.e. would have to put politics in command of their whole lives:

“A political party can comprise only a minority of the class, just as the really class conscious workers in any capitalist society constitute only a minority of all the workers. That is why we have to admit that only this class conscious minority can guide and take the lead of the broad masses of the workers.” (’The Role of the Communist Party’, 1920).

Can it be said that this final and crucial formulation is at all at variance with those of the founders of Scientific Socialism? Well, Engels wrote in the ’Housing Question’:

“Moreover, every real proletarian party, from the English Chartists forward, has put forward a class policy, the organisation of the proletariat as an independent political party as the primary condition of its struggle, and the dictatorship of the proletariat as the immediate aim of the struggle”. (Last two emphases added).

From this it is crystal clear that the party, which strives to put forward class politics and so consolidate the class, IS IN FACT A MINORITY; precisely and solely of the class conscious; who were they a majority, would already have put an end to capitalism.

So an end to the liberal-consensus prejudices of our Libertarians, Luxemburgists and Labourites, (whose positions have been de facto adopted by the C.P.G.B.). The only informed and honest alternative to the scientific, trained, disciplined vanguard party of the class-conscious minority that strives to lead the class it has consolidated – i.e. the Marxist-Leninist Party – is to avoid Marxism altogether. Alone the Cardanists in France and Solidarity in Britain have the courage of their (mistaken) convictions. And these alone are honest mistakes. They are however obvious ones that no historical materialists should make in the light of 20th century events, even if the 19th century writings of the founders of scientific socialism were not clear enough for them.

One last whimper we will allow the egalitarian chatterers before moving on to the interesting and as yet unresolved problem of just how the proletariat is actually constituted as a class. It is the remark that Leninist parties are difficult to build, cannot guarantee success in revolution and socialist construction, and are subject to degeneration, even as Lenin’s party has been. To all this we agree. But where in scientific socialism is it said that class struggle is easy, advance smooth and progress certain? All we say, following Marx and Engels and the century of struggles that have proved them right, is that the Marxist-Leninist party is just the best and sharpest tool the proletariat has for its historic tasks – not a magic wand.

Precisely because the vanguard party is the sharpest instrument of proletarian struggle, so the struggles around its formation, consolidation and class leadership are themselves the sharpest of class struggles.

CONSTITUTING THE PROLETARIAT AS A POLITICAL CLASS

Already in the ’Communist Manifesto’, section 1, we find reference to the “formation of the proletariat into a class”, and “this organisation of the proletarians into a class, and consequently into a political party”. The General Rules of the International Working Men’s Association, drawn up by Marx, gives a fuller formulation:

“In its struggle against the collective power of the possessing classes the proletariat can act as a class only by constituting itself a distinct political party, opposed to all the old parties formed by the possessing classes.

“This constitution of the proletariat into a political party is indispensable to ensure the triumph of the social Revolution and of its ultimate goal: the abolition of classes.”

The constitution of the proletariat as a class is the critical moment in the historical development of the proletariat. The very possibility of building the revolutionary party is determined by this moment. It consists of nothing less than the qualitative change of the proletariat from a position of subordinate class, an object of capitalism, to the condition of self-assertive independent struggle against its exploitation and oppression.

Without a firm grasp of what is meant by the ’formation of the proletariat into a class’, and the ability to understand, master and operate with the processes involved, no revolutionary practice is possible.

The necessity for the constitution of class the class is the site of the greatest confusion and obscurantism amongst left groups. Nowhere is this more true than in Britain, where ’Empiricism’ has been the unrivalled, dominant ideological mode since the dawn of capitalism.

The empiricist considers the question in terms of, ’either the class exists or it does not exist’. Since the proletariat is an inherent element in capitalism, then all talk of constituting the class is paradoxical or contradictory. This paradox or contradiction is the result of the ’empirical’ concept of ’existing reality’, which holds that there exists ’out there’, in nature and society, ’objective facts’ that can be apprehended to the extent that they are approached with open eyes and common sense. Empiricism holds that reality is transparent to the ’unprejudiced mind’; i.e. one cleared of all misconceptions, thus allowing nature or ’the facts’ to impress themselves on the mind (through the senses) as a clear impression on smooth wax. If this were a true description of the learning process, the proletariat in Britain, which prides itself on its ’down to earth common sense’ and has long been organised, would long ago have seen through the nature of the system which oppresses, and swept it away.

As the quotation from ’The German Ideology’, given earlier, emphatically states, the ideational process is not like empiricism imagines. No child or adult has or can obtain a mind like a blank sheet on which ’reality’ can write characters. On the contrary we approach the world full of preconceptions that are instilled by the society in which we have been brought up. And the general cast of these ideas, especially the socio-political component, is heavily influenced b3’ the ideas necessary to justify the existence of the ruling class; hence ’the ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas’.

For ’Empiricism’ knowledge is a relatively passive process, with the observer as recipient of sense data. In contrast, the sciences are not reflective, pure or tranquil, they are practices of active intervention. Concepts and theories are as much part of their material reality – the conditions of existence of these interventions – as the material objects/processes being studied, or the technical equipment used to investigate them. Scientific theories are propositions about the real, the material, the concrete, and the sciences win knowledge by submitting theories to experiment and testing in concrete terms.

Since for ’Empiricism’ knowledge is a function of reality itself, the essentially social character of all knowledge is obscured. More particularly the vitally collective partisan nature of science is denied. From their development out of pre-scientific modes of thought, and throughout their entire histories, the sciences have had continually to fight to defend themselves against the attempts of ruling classes to subordinate them to expedient and pragmatic demands. Collective action by scientists is essential, not only in this defence against anti-science, but equally for the advance of scientific knowledge.

So much is this the case that Lenin commenced his (1908) article ’Marxism and Revisionism’ with the pointed observation that:

“There is a well known saying that if geometrical axioms affected human interests (i.e. class interests) attempts would certainly be made to refute them. Theories of the natural sciences which conflict with the old prejudices of theology provoked, and still provoke, the most rabid opposition. No wonder, therefore, that the Marxian doctrine, which directly serves to enlighten and organise the advanced class in modern society, indicates the tasks of this class and proves the inevitable (by virtue of economic development) replacement of the present system by a new order - no wonder that this doctrine had to fight at every step in its course.”

In opposition to ideologies and other non-scientific practices, the results of scientific research are not presented as self-evident or eternal truths, but are subject to constant self-criticism and reformulation, in the struggle to understand the world so that it can be changed.

Marxism is a science which has as its object revolutionary class struggle. Taking the strivings of an oppressed class – strivings which had already been given ideological expression as socialism by Saint Simon, Owen, etc. – Marxism shows how ’liberation’ can be won, not in the mind, in fantasy, by piety and moral suasion, but objectively, historically; by mastering the inner dynamic of class society through scientific analysis. All that common sense and ’empiricism’ can grasp is the surface appearance, the effects, of processes that remain hidden to them. Empiricism is thus historically and practically challenged by scientific socialism in the ideological and political struggles of the proletariat.

But, of course, empiricism/common sense does not simply disappear from the realm of revolutionary struggle. We have already observed that the sciences are constantly subject to attempts by the ruling class to appropriate them, to exploit their authority and to deflect, contain or destroy their social effects by ideological closure. For no science is this more true than Marxism, and in no case is it more pernicious and reactionary in its effects than in its manifestations amongst the left. ’Left empiricists’, with their ’practical struggles’ obsession, rehearse all the prevalent forms of bourgeois ideology, and treat Marxist theory as a prescriptive set to be ’applied’, rather as an engineer would use stress tables. (Except no engineer is likely to confuse technical tables with scientific theories).

On the left also there is a non-scientific/ideological practice which is the dialectical opposite of ’empiricism’ but which inhabits the same terrain. This practice is ’theoreticism’ and its characteristic error is to pretend to defend the theoretical/scientific from outside science itself, on a cloudy terrain that is and is not philosophy, i.e. ideology. In the last analysis, there can be no external defence of a science. There is no independent legislature that determines the scientificity of science or can guarantee its interests. (Just as there is no ’independent’ state guarding the interests of society as a whole). The only effective defence of science is the energetic practice of that science. Marxism is a science and must be practiced, the practice being that of revolutionary political intervention into the class struggle. This is the only effective weapon that can defeat the effects of ideologies that hold the proletariat in thrall and prevent it constituting itself as a class.

What Marx/Engels are saying is that a class does not exist until it is conscious of itself as such (and thus proceeds to act in its own clear interests). Until then what exists is the economic/material basis for the subsequent formation of a class; no more. A potential class exists where distinct categories of economic agents exist; i.e. where people are constrained to enter into common means for obtaining their livelihood, specifying that they share a common relationship to the means of production. For proletarians, of course, this shared relationship is the sale of their labour power to capital for the process of material production.

But this of itself cannot constitute the proletarians as a class; on the contrary at first workers are atomised as individuals in competitive sale of the labour power that each is forced to throw onto the market. “At this stage”, says ’The Manifesto’, ”the labourers still form an incoherent mass scattered over the whole country and broken up by their mutual competition.” This is the pre-trades union stage and corresponds to the situation in Britain up to about the middle 19th century (despite earlier attempts at both, Trades and ’Grand’ Unionism).

The next and inevitable stage was the elimination of competition between proletarians engaged in the same trade, occupation or skill; when organisations were formed to protect the sale of a particular category of labour power, these being literally Trade Unions. Not surprisingly, first and strongest of these were combinations of those with the most valuable labour power to sell – the skilled workers. Only towards the end of the 19th century, with the drying-up of the latent reserve population in the countryside, were the semi and unskilled able to supply them -selves with similar corporate structures, in the movement known as New Unionism (dating from the late 1880s).

The 20th century has seen the growth of general unions, large scale amalgamations of unions, and, particularly in recent years, an outbreak of white-collar unionism. None of these developments constitute any qualitative advance in the forms of working class economic organisational-ready established in the 19th century.

It can be seen from these stages in the organisation of the sale of labour power, that the qualitatively distinct ”organisation of the proletariat into a class and therefore into a political party” has still to be achieved. In other words the proletariat constituted as a political class does not yet exist in Britain, and neither therefore can the proletarian party yet exist. At the turn of this century a nominally proletarian party, in the form of the Labour Party did come into existence, but it was formed by, and as an arm of, the trades unions in their fight against the encroachments upon free collective bargaining resulting from the Taff Vale decision of 1901. As the T.U.C.’s own Centenary Survey of 1968 put it:

“It now became clear to the TUC and the Parliamentary Committee, that, if the right to strike was ever to be preserved as an essential instrument of trade union policy, then the new principle (of paying heavy damages to strikebound employers – C.O.B.I.) embodied in the Taff Vale Decision must be reversed by Parliament. If this was to be done, the trade unions must secure greater and more influential representation in Parliament.” (p.51)

This quintessentially defensist act by defensist organisations could obviously not provide the proletariat with its class party, inseparable as that is from class assertion, which in turn presupposes class consolidation. The class party is the product of awakened class consciousness and autonomy, or such a party – even if professing Marxism – remains a mere middle-class and/or propagandist sect, as Engels called the Social Democratic Federation. It is clear that class consciousness is the prerequisite for the class party, but just what is meant by class consciousness, still less how it is fostered, is never scientifically dealt with by professed scientific socialists.

Marx is explicit: “it is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness”. (’Preface to the Critique of Political Economy’, 1859).

Men’s consciousness of the world, awareness of their place in it, and cognition of their social reality, is always structured by a system of ideology. This is not something imposed upon an otherwise ’factual’ view of the world: ideology is their view of the world – how they see it in toto – and ideology itself embodies definitions of what are to be regarded as ’facts’. Only the advent of science permits ideology to be displaced (slowly and unevenly) by objective knowledge.

For Marxists, consciousness, whether ideological or scientific, is an order of material reality. Consciousness has no existence apart from the concrete social institutions and practices within which it is constituted. By ideology we mean that body of ideas arising from, and continuously maintained by, social practice, in turn providing meaning for that social practice, and hence constituting part of the conditions of existence of that practice.

We can therefore see the bankruptcy of the practice that attempts to displace bourgeois ideology and develop proletarian class consciousness, by the force of argument, ’logic’, or moral suasion.

On the contrary, proletarian class consciousness can only develop to the extent that bourgeois and reformist practices within the working class are driven out by proletarian ones. The problem therefore is to identify the stages through which proletarian organisation and practices must pass in order to allow the development of revolutionary class consciousness on a mass scale.

The forms of organisation within which a struggle is waged tends to determine the possible practices of the struggle and accordingly the opportunities for the generalisation of proletarian ideology.

Until now the dominant form of struggle in Britain has been that of Trade Union bargaining for the sale of individual categories of labour power. This made possible only a corporatist, defensist ideology amongst workers, preventing them from forming into a cohesive class with a specific class worldview.

Under capitalist production, bargaining over the sale of labour – power (the labour struggle) is both inevitable and spontaneous. The labour struggle is an absolute precondition for the subsequent development of proletarian class struggle - but it is not of itself class struggle, and cannot even engender it so long as remaining in the trades union stage. Bargaining as they do within the limits set by capitalist production, unions are forced constantly to compromise with capital, and are entities not constituted to go for working class power. On the contrary, the trade unions become an essential structural element in the system of the production and reproduction of the relations of production.

Since the labour struggle is both inevitable and spontaneous under capitalism, to call either for revolutionary trades unionism, or contrariwise for the dissolution of trades unionism, is totally unscientific. The first, revolutionary trades unionism, is a structural impossibility; the second, precludes any substantive intervention into the arena of the workers most generalised form of struggle.

What is required is a form of organisation of the labour struggle that recognises the necessity for bargaining and compromises on the economic terrain, but which provides the opportunity for the labour struggle to develop into an economic and then political class struggle. The most advanced historical form of such organisation yet seen was that of ’One Big Industrial Union’ as developed by the Industrial Workers of the World.

However the nearest approach possible to that under British conditions, where trades unionism predominates, is that of a Confederation of Industrial Unions) each union organising all the workers within a major branch of production, regardless of trade-, skill or grade. This form of organisation is the one which alone permits the labour struggle to develop into a conflict of one economic class against another; rather than of particular groups of workers against their own employers.

Changes in working class organisation cannot be brought about simply by ’seeing’ relative advantages and disadvantages, but only when the historical conditions are ripe for change, and when the conditions which have sustained previous forms of organisation have been undermined. Now that the free working of the market is no longer able of itself to ensure the profitability of capitalist production, and the state is forced to step in to regulate directly the price of labour power, the basis of trades unionism as it has hitherto existed – that of selling particular categories of labour power to individual employers – is undermined. Obsolete, they divide the working class and prevent the constitution of the labour struggle at the newer higher level as class struggle. At the same time they also constitute an impediment to the advance of the interests of capital, and from being necessary to it they face mounting pressure from the State, acting to promote capital, to reform or be reformed. A reconstruction in the full interests of the workers can only be achieved through the centralisation of the labour struggle within industrial unions to confront the centralised representative of the bourgeoisie – the state. Failure to go onto the attack, to seize the initiative, will leave the way open for the bourgeoisie to institute a refurbished, more intensively corporatist unionism structured in the interests of capital; a new more sophisticated obstacle to the constitution of the class. The qualitative change in the labour struggle thus induced by industrial unionism, involving masses of workers in unified conflict – albeit over economic objectives – provides the real basis in this concentrated attack upon the state for the mass politicisation of the class. It is only this movement which will constitute the class into a political party (in the traditional sense), and therefore provide opportunity for the party in the formal sense (communist party) to arise as the leader of a mass social movement toward social revolution.

So we reintroduce our original premiss from Marx: “this organisation of the proletariat into a class, and therefore into a political party”. This is obviously a dialectical process and not a simple linear one. The proletariat will be constituted as a political class, when and only when, it can crystallise its class consciousness in a political party. And the party will only come into existence as a real workers’ party, to the extent that the class is able to consolidate itself.

But how to break this seemingly closed circuit? The answer lies ’on the outside’ initially; in the dynamic created by an organisation of communists – the proto-party corresponding to the proto-class – by its combativity and theoretical adroitness showing the class the means of advancing from class recognition (trades union stage), through class identity (industrial union stage) to class consciousness. And this is the communistsí programme; or rather that part of it we call the Mobilisation Programme, centred around advocacy of Industrial Unions lo wage economic struggle at the all industry and national levels, with factory and residential councils to wage shopfloor and localised struggles for control.

The communists’ intervention to break the closed circuit is a programmatic one. The Party does not exist without its programme.

THE PROGRAMME OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY

The ultimate aim of the Mobilisation Programme is to produce Soviets, through an interlocking structure and coordinated strategy. Soviets are the only method by which the class can go decisively onto the offensive for state power as a class; i.e. ushering in a real social revolution.

The means of implementing the Mobilisation Programme is class assertion: progressively taking all it needs (control in factories, housing estates, schools, hospitals, etc.) until the class has enough initiative and experience to wrest outright control of the whole state power, smashing up the old. The prerequisite of that is an ideological offensive. This commences with wholesale rupture with the bourgeois worldview; a rupture that necessarily demands abstention from electoral activity and the pursuit of reforms. So the Mobilisation Programme – here only outlined – cannot consist of an amalgam of social-democratic reforms and impossibilist demands addressed to the sovereign state thereby confirmed as such: “through these demands that it puts to the state, expresses its full consciousness that it neither rules nor is ripe for ruling.” (Marx ’Gotha Programme’). Just such an amalgam is the Transitional Programme of Trotskyite hallucination, which is supposed to make the functioning of the bourgeois state impossible, and so propel the masses stumbling into socialism. Instead, and directly counter to the constitutional passivism of the revisionists, our programme shall develop proletarian assertiveness and the initiative without which no class can rule; the form of this rule being the proletarian dictatorship operated through the soviet territorial power:

“The proletariat becomes revolutionary only in so far as it takes part in all activities and all spheres of public life as leader of all the working and exploited masses...

“Only when the Soviets have become the sole machinery of State can there be real participation in government by the entire mass of the exploited , who even under the most enlightened and free bourgeois democracy, have in reality always been 99% excluded from participation in government. Only in the Soviets do the exploited masses begin to learn, not from books but from their own practical experience, how to set about the work of socialist construction, of the creation of a new social discipline, a free union of free workers”. (’Theses on the Basic Tasks of the C.I. Adopted by the Second Comintern Congress’, 19.7.20).

This then is the aim and means of the Mobilisation Programme: its content consists of measures that set the proletariat into coordinated motion, and their achievement supplies both more room for manoeuvre and self-confidence. Elements we have already established, like the fight for the average industrial wage, the 35 hour week (for ALL and not just skilled or white collar workers) and the attack on overtime; but its full development will come only as a result of work done toward the delineation of the Socialist Programme.

This situates the Mobilisation Programme, by a thorough analysis of the capitalist mode of production; how it has arisen, its contemporary functioning, and its possible lines of development. Without the Socialist Programme the dynamics of bourgeois society cannot be really grasped – a necessity with a double aspect:

1) for understanding the conjuncture that enables state power to be seized;
2) for indicating how commodity production is displaced when the state power is in proletarian hands; and thus what path class struggle will continue to take.

A communist party must therefore be armed with both a Mobilisation and a Socialist Programme (how we work toward the latter is given under What Is C.O.B.I.?) Without the Mobilisation Programme there is no agency, no class force that can effect the social revolution; without the Socialist Programme proletarian power cannot be consolidated and commodity production supplanted.

The existence of the Communist Party is both produced by, and producer of, this historic transformation. Hence the struggle to create the Party Programme is simultaneously the struggle whereby the Party itself comes into existence, and both are predicated on their efficacy in constituting the proletarians a political class.

WHAT IS C.O.B.I.?

The Communist Organisation in the British Isles is a Marxist-Leninist collective. Its purpose is to think communist, to create communists and to elaborate communist practice in the working class in the British Isles. The Communist Organisation affirms its total commitment to the science of Marxism-Leninism, the unity of communist theory and practice, the dictatorship of the proletariat and the hegemony of the proletarian world-outlook.

The working class is not only held prisoner by the capitalist mode of production. It is shackled by the unperceived but overwhelming intellectual, social, political and moral hegemony of the bourgeoisie, which anchors it in capitalism. In the continuing crises of capitalism and with the disintegration of the world communist movement, that bourgeois hegemony, in a myriad deceptive forms, grips the minds even of militants who profess themselves Marxist and try to build revolutionary movements. The working class, particularly in the British Isles, lives in a chaos of ideologies and remains a prisoner.

It is necessary personally to re-experience that total rupture with bourgeois society and all its ideologies, that first creation of the essentials of a scientific and proletarian world-outlook, that first attempt at the unity of theory and practice which Marx and Engels effected. It is necessary personally and critically to repossess the historical experience of successive generations of communists who struggled to advance the science of Marxism and to translate it into proletarian action. It is necessary, in daily struggle and to the best of our abilities, ourselves to advance the science of Marxism-Leninism in every sphere of human thought and action, to achieve the unity of theory and practice in commitment to proletarian struggle, to begin on that enterprise which leads to the communist revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat.

This Comrades of the Communist Organisation in the British Isles, to the best of their abilities, pledge themselves to do.

In our critical revaluation, we take as patrimony the historical experience of the world communist movement. In our own sector, the British Isles, its history has been largely one of failure, but we recognise in the Socialist Labour Parties of America and Britain in the early years of this century organisation of kindred character. We adopt the emblem of the Socialist Labour Party of Great Britain, symbolically linked to that of the world communist movement, as our own.

Recognising that the experience of the communist movement in the British Isles is largely one of negative example, and having both participated in and studied that experience, we believe that the lessons to be drawn by dialectical and historical materialists are incorporated in the approach we propose to adopt.

The Communist Organisation in the British Isles is constituted as a Marxist-Leninist organisation for committed and adroit revolutionaries. Necessarily C.O.B.I. can therefore consist only of advanced cadres. Its principal task will be the comprehensive development of operational theory for the working class to become sufficiently conscious to seize and maintain power as the ruling class by crushing the bourgeoisie. It will use the works of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao as bases. Where sufficient scientific data show any of their formulations to be inadequate or erroneous, we shall clearly say so: for example, the position of Marx and Lenin on Ireland was quite incorrect. Only by holding fast to classic premisses and formulations, while developing them comprehensively in a scientific manner, can the world outlook of the proletariat really be developed in breadth and depth. The Communist Organisation in the British Isles therefore will develop into the vanguard thinker and organiser of the proletariat to the extent that it fulfills its role of class educator and co-ordinator of advanced elements. In so doing, its intention is to engender the formation of the fully-fledged communist party (which alone can realise the proletarian revolution) when programmatic work has been sufficiently advanced to make this a meaningful step in qualitative development under the conditions prevailing in the course of its work.

The Communist Organisation in the British Isles is therefore a core organisation of communists, not a mass organisation. Neither is it even a political movement in the orthodox sense of one that, containing a spread of members of varying levels of consciousness and activism, therefore addresses itself to a fairly diffuse and changing number of tasks. We shall strive for maximum homogeneity in level of consciousness and activism so that negatively, we shall to a large degree avoid the political-philosophical-personal eclecticism which is the dominant feature of advanced bourgeois society; and positively, allow our collective attention to be focussed on a specified range of key tasks.

This is our aim and purpose. But as we are not Utopians, we recognise in history the law of uneven development as an absolute fact. Therefore, while striving to attain maximum homogeneity at the highest level of expertise and experience, we recognise that as a developmental fighting organisation C.O.B.I. must contain within its ranks members at somewhat differing levels, engaged thereby in the process of collectively struggling to attain homogeneity at a high level of consciousness and combativity (compared, for example, to that prevailing amongst the British Left). Thus, it is the latter two characteristics that will weigh most heavily in admission criteria.

In no respect does this mean that any self-selected, self-professed ’revolutionary’ will be admitted to membership. On the contrary, C.O.B.I. insists, upon setting goals that the individual is expected – and will be assisted – to meet, plus a framework of limits within which he/she will be expected to operate (i.e., develop a communist workstyle).

C.O.B.I. will therefore accept, within clearly demarcated limits, a certain range of variation in skills and experience within its ranks – but only to the extent that all are moving on convergent lines in a disciplined way. The attainment of Communism as a goal – a classless global society of comradeship – was taken over by scientific from Utopian socialism. What demarcates scientific socialism (Marxism) from Utopian, is that it can show the oppressed just how to get from here to there, willing the means as well as the ends.

Unlike the ultra-left, therefore, scientific socialists cannot confine themselves merely to pious and pure statements of the final goal – all sorts of Utopians do that already. What distinguishes Marxists qualitatively, is that with this end always in view, they can see and chart (at least in outline) the road to be followed for its attainment. And this can only be a scientific process, not one of faith and magic.

This scientific insight is crystallised in the Programme of the Communist Party at each period. No programme, no Party; no Party, no compass for the proletariat through the chaos of uneven development. For a (genuine) communist party’s programme is the concise statement of its doctrine, and provides the base upon which the political unity of the party is founded. It expresses the principles to which all members subscribe, and for which they are willing to co-operate in political struggle. Agreement on the programme is the indispensable condition of a united, disciplined, and hence effective fighting organisation of the proletariat. The programme must explain the here and now, and demonstrate to proletarians both the necessity for revolution and the means to achieve it. It does this by transcending the here and now, to express: the historical destiny of the working class, the ultimate objectives and means of struggle of generations of communists and other proletarian fighters – past, present and future – and the common interests of all proletarians, regardless of nation, race or sex. This transcendence is what both opposes the Party to reformism, and serves as the best guarantee against its insidious influence.

Thus C.O.B.I. has as its immediate task the launching of a Mobilisation Programme for the proletariat in Britain, designed to constitute the proletariat as a political class under capitalism, for its overthrow. This Programme will not be the Transitional Programme of Trotskyite hallucination, under which an amalgam of social-democratic reforms and impossibilist demands addressed to the sovereign state (thus confirmed as such) is supposed to make the existence and functioning of the bourgeois state impossible and so propel the masses willy-nilly into socialism. Instead, and directly opposed to the constitutional passivism of the revisionists, our Programme shall develop proletarian assertiveness and initiative vital for ruling. We proclaim the dictatorship of the proletariat as our goal. We commence the movement for building proletarian organs of power (soviets) by advocating abstention from the legitimating process of bourgeois power (elections).

In parallel we pursue research toward the Socialist Programme through thorough analysis of the capitalist mode of production at national and international levels, under these main heads:

CAPITALIST PRODUCTION

a) Capitalist production; what it is. Whilst it is easy to define this in general as a system of universalised commodity production, in which the individual producers do not possess any of the means of production (political issues of fundamental importance arise when this definition is concretised. The political problem here is how to define capitalism in such a way as to give an adequate account of forms of commodity production, other than the traditional private firm. In particular, the state-socialist, and syndicalist deviations must be countered by showing the capitalist character of workers’ co-operatives and nationalised industries.
b) What are the main contradictions of contemporary capitalist production, market anarchy, falling profits, exchange rate crises, inflation, etc.
c) To what extent can capital still develop the forces of production, and what effect are new technologies having upon the production and property relations?
d) Capitalist production internationally – capital, labour, technology and surplus value flows – what is meant by imperialism?

BRITISH SOCIETY

a) What forms of capitalist production exist in Britain (e.g. private capital, joint-stock, state, co-operative), and which of these represent rising tendencies?
b) What non-Capitalist elements exist in the British economy; e.g. small-scale commodity production, small-trading, remnants of family economy (housework), and are there any incipient forms of socialist economy?
c) What strata and classes exist in British society; what are their places in the economy; which are productive and which parasitic; what contradictions exist between these classes and what should be the attitude of the proletariat towards them?
d) The national question in the British Isles; what nations exist; what state structure allows for the most thorough displacement of national struggle by class struggle?
e) Tendency toward a European state; advantages/disadvantages in this for the working class; ability/inability of the bourgeoisie to attain this, particularly in the light of the historic nationalisms of the nation states?
f) Historical explanation of patriotism, racism and sexism; unity of interests of proletarians of all races and nations, and the need to combat all forms of patriotism, nationalism, racism and sexism. Contemporary analysis of the operation of such ideologies.
g) Britain and the world economy; what is meant by British Imperialism contemporaneously? What are the effects of the accelerating largeness of capitals required for productive investment, and what is the impact of the internationalisation of technological development? Pressure tending towards and against the integration of British capital into the EEC, and for/against the integration of the EEC into an Atlantic economic bloc?

PROLETARIAN DICTATORSHIP

a) The origin, function, and present development of the state and its various organs – overt, like the police, and covert, like social-workers and ’educators’ – must be explained, with particular reference to the state’s historical tendency under capitalism.
b) What are the differences between the organs of proletarian state -power, and those of the bourgeoisie? In particular, how do the forms of representation/modes of operation differ? Does the proletariat require a standing army as opposed to a workers’ militia; are these mutually exclusive? If modern technology does necessitate a standing army as opposed to a workers’ militia, how is proletarian control over it to be ensured?
c) How is the proletarian dictatorship in the cultural field to be established and how are the multivarious forms of bourgeois ideology to be extirpated from society? What is socialist education policy?
d) What is the economic programme of the proletarian revolution; the interrelation between workers’ control, commodity exchange and centralised state planning has to be explained. Likewise the effects of trade with the capitalist world.
e) A point of cardinal importance is the nature of class struggle under workers’ state power; i.e. under what conditions can the old, exploiting class survive or reconstitute itself as a social group and thus pose the threat of a return to capitalism? Secondly, what circumstances (economic, political, cultural) allow the formation of a new bourgeoisie capable of usurping the workers’ power?
f) What is a genuine policy of proletarian internationalism as practiced by a proletarian state?

COMMUNIST ORGANISATION

a) What is a mass-line, and how does the communist organisation apply it without falling into spontaneism, tailism or ouvrierism? Balance between the mass line and the inverse danger of elitism, hence just what is meant by ’vanguard party’?
b) Forms of organisation: democratic-centralism or organic-centralism, etc. Membership criteria for a vanguard organisation based upon advanced workers?
c) What is the continuing, organic practice of proletarian internationalism, in contrast to declamatory phrases? The necessity for international communist organisation – a unitary Comintern, a federative one, or none?

Our method of working towards these goals shall be:

a) by encouraging as wide a group of associates as possible to undertake as much systematic research as possible to supplement that of the (necessarily limited) membership of the Communist Organisation in the British Isles. The Organisation shall undertake the overall political formulations for programmatic purposes. But for developmental purposes of individuals and of political positions, we shall encourage the establishment of Marxist study groups throughout the country.
b) by admitting to membership of the Organisation only those who have contributed to this effort work of a sufficient standard.
c) by insisting that there shall be no passengers whatever in the Organisation, that all members shall be constantly engaged in work determined by the Organisation, to develop their own understanding, that cf the Organisation and that of the class in a truly dialectical relationship.
d) by aiming to work as closely as possible with all genuinely progressive movements and persons. However we shall be constantly on our guard against the corrosive effects of united-frontism, as it has brought communist parties so often to grief and revisionism.
e) by constantly practising criticism and self-criticism.

We shall on exceptional occasions work for democratic reformist advances – but never ’in general’ or for their own sake – as simply a ’good thing’ in themselves. We shall support only such measures as will advance the ideological autonomy of the working class by enabling it, or sections of it, to act in their own right.

We are acutely aware of being situated in an international context. Consequently we shall strive to develop a thoroughgoing international perspective and to concretise this in international links towards full transnational co-ordination and indeed integration, should this prove to be called for by developments in bourgeois co-ordination. To this end, and to facilitate research, members (as opposed to associates) will be required to become competent in at least one foreign language.

In the continuing effort to think and act Marxist, it is essential not to be divorced from proletarian struggle. The organisation will, therefore, devote some of its members’ energies to involvement in concrete working-class movements, for example trade unions and tenants’ associations. But these will be seen as conducive to the correct enunciation of proletarian theory and practice – not as ends in themselves.

We take our commitment and standpoint so seriously that we expect in the not too distant future that repressive measures will have to be taken by the bourgeoisie against communists. We therefore now put it on record that the Communist Organisation in the British Isles recognises the overwhelming necessity for workers, as soon as possessed of the elements of political organisation, to begin to prepare their physical means of defence. But further, they must also prepare the means of attack, for if these are not forthcoming at the moment of upsurge, the initiative and the momentum will be lost and the bourgeoisie will be able to retain their hold.

The concept of a peaceful revolution is a contradiction in terms, flying in the face of historical data. Without armed force, the workers have nothing to translate consciousness into the objective reality of a class power that can remake society. The bourgeoisie, even in the most unlikely situation of their not seeing any profit in resorting to force themselves, cannot be budged from their stranglehold on the nodal points of society, except by the deliberate and systematic use of whatever force may be necessary. During and after the revolution, capitalists must be liquidated as a class by force. Before it, if there is ever to be a revolution, their hegemony – ideological, organisational and physical – must be broken by a mental and physical aggressiveness.

The Communist Organisation in the British Isles publishes Proletarian as its theoretical journal. It shall (at least initially) be an occasional publication, appearing only when we have something substantive to say: specifically, it is the place where the results of our vital homework get their first public airing to be criticised before incorporation. Therefore no issue shall appear with ’fillers’ or potentially worthwhile material that has been rushed out raw to meet a deadline. Neither, therefore, will we engage in run-of-the-mill, non-theoretical polemic. We will be adjudged solely by our long-term contribution to proletarian consciousness; we eschew the scoring of debating points off other organisations and will ignore those who try to score such points against us.

To all this the Communist Organisation in the British Isles commits itself. We call upon all those who consider themselves Marxist-Leninists to work with us and to join C.O.B.I. if they agree with what we have said above. We call upon all those who regard themselves as revolutionary socialists, whether organised or not, to work with us as associates. An associate of Communist Organisation can be any revolutionary socialist who accepts Marxism as his worldview, and is ready to work under the guidance of the Organisation (at a lower level of responsibility than full-members). Not all associates will necessarily become full-members, but no one can become a full-member who has not first been an associate.

An associate of the Communist Organisation in the British Isles becomes a member of C.O.B.I. when he/she has fulfilled the following conditions:

a) when he/she has demonstrated a command of the essentials of Marxism-Leninism to the satisfaction of the Organisation (a specific programme of reading will be required).
b) when he/she has produced theoretical work to a standard regarded as satisfactory by the Organisation (while the development of theory remains the primary task).
c) when he/she has been in contact with the Organisation for sufficient time for his/her style of work to be known to the Organisation.
d) when he/she undertakes a continuing programme of study and research satisfactory to the Organisation.
e) when he/she has learned or undertakes to learn at least one foreign language and undertakes to familiarise himself/herself with one branch of natural science.
f) when he/she undertakes to master the skills necessary to the physical functioning of the Organisation (e.g. typing, duplicating, etc.).
g) when he/she undertakes to maintain himself/herself in a state of mental and physical fitness and preparedness.