Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Peter M. Johansen

The ML’s in England Are on the Move

Things are going slowly forward again, says Keith Bennett from the Revolutionary Communist League of Britain to “KlasseKampen”.

First Published: Klassekampen,, daily newspaper of the Workers’ Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist) of Norway, 1982
Unofficial translation: prepared by the Revolutionary Communist League of Britain.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Sam Richards and Paul Saba
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Bologna: One doesn’t have to have studied two hundred pages of Tron Øgrim to realise that the ML movement, Maoism, is at present breathing heavily in Western Europe. One combination of letters after another has disappeared with its brackets and suffixes. But in England things are moving again with the Revolutionary Communist League of Britain. “KlasseKampen” has experienced the exception represented by Keith Bennett, member of the C.C.

* * *

The Revolutionary Communist League of Britain was established in July 1977 by a merge of the Communist Federation of Britain (ML) and the Communist Unity Association (ML). In 1980 the Communist Workers Movement joined it, an organisation of people who were expelled from or left the Communist Party of Britain (ML) led by the trade union boss Reg Birch. Birch’s party is one of the warmest defenders of the Soviet Union in England today and also defends Vietnam and the state of emergency in Poland.

Three Worlds

RCL is still small but has established groups in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Bristol and a few other places. Cardiff in Wales may be next. The party issues the monthly paper “Class Struggle” and the quarterly “October”. As the party is too small to fulfil all the functions of a party the RCL has concentrated in three main areas:

* We make an effort to expand the party among industrial workers. When the RCL was founded we concentrated on that and nothing else. We gained some support among small circles within the ML movement in England. Among students. But we had no flexibility; we were not united with the most revolutionary forces in England that were already involved in struggle, the oppressed coloured population and the Irish. We became economist and chauvinist and also had a wrong attitude to the revolutionary struggle in Ireland. Today we have corrected the line and give unconditional support to the Irish struggle. Thirdly we work among the national minorities, says Keith Bennett. Bennett is a member of the Central Committee and works full-time with “Class Struggle” in London.

Three Movements

* Today there are three important revolutionary movements to build on. There is the Irish republican struggle that has for centuries offered resolute resistance to British imperialism and has deep roots among Irish people in the working class in England, Bennett continues:

Uprising among youth

* Further there is the struggle among the oppressed minorities from Asia, Africa and the West indies. Last summer England experienced the greatest revolutionary uprising since the Chartists fought for democratic rights and the right to have trade unions in the 1840s. That represents something new and positive in British politics led by black youth with support from white unemployed youth. This current brings with it a strong identification with the liberation movements and the revolutionary masses in the Third World.

Asian Communists

* At the forefront stands Asian Communists who are connected with mass organisations, e.g. Indian workers’ organisations led by Indian ML’s in England with connections to the Naxalites. They are important in the fight against the social imperialist traditions in the British working class, according to Bennett.

He emphasises that these questions are central to the debate within the party. The orientation towards the working class, in industry, towards the unemployed, in the local environment.


What is your contribution to the crisis in the ML movement?

* We took a strong stand in support of Marxism-Leninism during the period of the split within the ML movement, in the debate on the Three Worlds Theory, in the polemic between China and Albania and during the events in china after the Gang of Four. But we only understood Marxism-Leninism in words and dogmas. We treated Marxism-Leninism as a ready-made theory after reading a few works of Lenin, ‘Beijing Review’ and the writings of Mao, Bennett “reveals”. That is not unique.

Opposition to liquidationism

* We now try to apply Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought to British conditions, something that requires that we raise our theoretical level and break with dogmatism. But I definitely want to draw a clear line against the liquidationist ideas in the ML movement as they have been expressed in the US and West Germany, and against the social-democratic rightist lines and petty-bourgeois reaction. It is a fundamental weakness of the British left movement throughout this century that it has not had a principled standpoint against nationalism, for anti-imperialism.

National Minorities

Has the RCL had a debate on socialism such as other ML parties have been through or are occupied with?

* Not at the moment. These are important issues, but we have given priority to the other tasks I have mentioned. But the question of democratic rights under socialism has been discussed in connection with the question of national minorities. Other broader questions we have not taken up. I do, in fact, have a sympathetic attitude to the steps and discussions that China has conducted about extending workers’ congresses and the like. We also give support to Solidarity in Poland, says Bennett who, when the conversation turns to China, is anxious to add:

Support for China

* It is obviously not right to uphold China as a bastion in the way we did. China is a poor country with many problems. A socialist developing country. We agree on many points about the building of socialism even if there is a tendency to underestimate the possibility that the bourgeoisie may arise again. But the principal aspect is to defend China’s results and the socialist development as a country in the Third World.

* We are seeing results of the anti-racist and Ireland work. For example, we were the only ones to turn out during the case against the Bradford 12, young revolutionaries accused of making petrol bombs. They were acquitted. We have attached to ourselves revolutionaries from the movements that I mentioned earlier as people see that we are consistent in our support, says the spokesman for the Central Committee of the RCL.