J. T. Murphy

Do Communists Want Reforms?

An Answer to a Familiar Misunderstanding

Fight for Power

Source: Workers’ Life, March 1, 1929
Publisher: Communist Party of Great Britain
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2008). 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.

THERE are many people, especially Labour Party supporters, who propagate the view that the Communist Party is so concerned with the revolution that we do nothing to secure immediate reforms.

At a Trade Union branch the other night one Labour Party supporter accused us of “selfish” and inconsiderate of the needs of the workers. He said that by opposing the Labour Party we were preventing the workers from getting the immediate benefits which would accrue from a Labour Government.

A Revolutionary Workers’ Government, he contended is a long way off, the workers don’t want it, and consequently we were playing the rôle of disruption.

It is necessary to answer these accusations in no uncertain fashion. If it were true that we were unconcerned about the workers’ immediate needs and were propagating the demand for a Revolutionary Workers’ Government without regard to them, we would deserve all the adverse comments that we get.

Only by Consent

But it is simply not true. Nor is it true that the Labour Party is the custodian and leader of the struggle for reforms.

The fact is that the Labour Party and the T.U. bureaucracy have abandoned the struggle against the capitalists, and have become more and more the agents of capitalism to prevent the struggle even for the most elementary needs of the workers.

What other interpretation can we place upon the acceptance of “Mondism” as the policy of the Labour movement? What other interpretation can we place upon their resistance to all wage struggles, their acceptance of Blanesburgh, their repudiation of the Hunger Marchers, their endorsement of anti-Sovietism, their cooperation with Imperialism?

The General Strike settled the question of the struggle against capitalism, so far as the Labour Party and Trades Union bureaucracy were concerned. The struggle on this occasion, starting not upon demands for improvements of wages but the maintenance of existing standards, raised the question of class power, and they promptly betrayed the struggle.

Henceforth they settled themselves down to the policy that what could not be obtained from the capitalists by their consent could not be secured.

So much for Labourism. What of ourselves?

Question of Power

The Communist Party does not reject the policy of struggle for reforms in the immediate condition of the workers. On the contrary, it is the leader of these struggles, but not as ends in themselves.

It regards the struggle for the immediate demands of the workers for higher wages, shorter hours, improvement of conditions, all of which are reforms, as part of the class struggle which leads to the conquest of power by the working class and the establishment of the Revolutionary Workers’ Government.

The reforms or improvements which the working class can secure at any time depend upon the power it possesses. The working class can have just what it has the power to take.

The struggle for power is therefore the consummation or the multitudes of minor struggles for immediate demands, improvements, reforms, call them what you will.

Reforms Are Bye-Products

The reformists, when they were associated with any of these minor struggles, always tried to keep them within the narrow limits of the demands, as ends in themselves. The Communist Party, on the contrary, always relates them to the greater struggle of class against class to prepare our class for the struggle for power.

Reforms are the bye-products of the struggle of the working class for power. The Communist Party, therefore, supports every wage struggle, every fight for improvement of conditions here and now, not only because they express the needs of the workers, but also because they afford the opportunity to explain to the workers the fundamental lessons of the war of the classes, because they teach the lessons of the Communist Party by experience, because they afford the means of development which lead to the Revolutionary Workers’ Government.

It is the struggle itself which is all important. The Labour Party and the T.U. bureaucrats oppose the struggle. The Communist Party leads it, for it is along this path that we get to Socialism.