Monty Johnstone


The Moment of Truth

(December 1990)

Source: Marxism Today, December 1990
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2009). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

The events of 1989 plunged Communist Parties throughout the world into a state of crisis. The CPGB is no exception. This month it is holding a special congress to decide on its future. Should it transform itself? Should it find a new name? Should it become an association? Should it wind up? Nina Temple, Monty Johnstone and Beatrix Campbell give their rather different views. [1]

Last year’s events in eastern Europe and the Soviet Union’s deepening problems are widely seen as signifying the failure of communism and entailing effectively the end of the Communist Party. The ongoing international Communist crisis has certainly hit British Communists hard. However, what has failed, in my view, is not the Communist project of a socialist society based on social ownership and democratic control, but a bureaucratic and oppressive Stalinist caricature of it, long criticised by British Communists.

The Communist Party was formed to offer marxist analysis and leadership in struggle against capitalism here. Events in eastern Europe have done nothing to lessen the case for this. Enormous power remains concentrated in the hands of huge, increasingly international, companies which subordinate human beings and the environment to the drive for profit.

Kinnock has secured the removal of more and more socialist elements from Labour’s programme. There is a need for a Communist Party uniting with others on the left to oppose Labour’s drift to the right. The election of a Labour government, for which Communists should be working, will make this even more necessary.

The Left can benefit from a renewed Communist Party, actively participating in day-to-day political, industrial and social struggles, able to project its strategic analysis and socialist perspectives into the broader Labour and trade union movement. The party’s decline means that it can at present only do this on a modest scale (foregoing parliamentary contests) with no guarantee of success. But the effort is worth making.

There are others in and around the Labour and trade union left and organisations like the Socialist Society and the Socialist Movement with whom Communists share many fundamental ideas. They should be discussing common perspectives together, seeking to build the basis ultimately for the creation of a larger socialist party based on nondogmatic marxism with feminist and green dimensions, into which the Communist Party should, I believe, be willing to merge. It would thereby give up its separate Communist name and identity. I can see no advantage in doing so before the realisation of such socialist unity.

Nor do I consider there to be any basis for the proposal put forward by the majority of the Communist Party’s executive committee to involve the party in helping launch in early 1991 a new, vaguely conceived, broader formation to exist alongside itself. There are any number of broad formations already existing, from trades unions to new social movements, in which Communists should be working, without suddenly trying to initiate another one.

Even less do I agree with the proposal of a minority of the party’s executive to dissolve the Communist Party and form an ill-defined political association without any single comprehensive viewpoint, and I strongly reject the minority’s assertion that ‘the existing assets of the Communist Party would be transferred to a Trust Fund’ not controlled by the membership of the new association.

I believe that the Communist congress this month should and will decide in favour of retaining the Communist Party and transforming along more drastic lines.

Monty Johnstone


1. Only Johnstone’s contribution is included. – Transcriber

Last updated on 27 July 2010