Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Revolutionary Internationalist Contingent in Britain

Break the Chains! Manifesto of the Revolutionary Internationalist Contingent in Britain


In countries where no Marxist-Leninist party exists the immediate task facing the revolutionary communists there is to form such a party with the aid of the international communist movement. The key to the establishment of the party is the development of a correct political line and programme, both as regards the particularities of a given country and the overall world situation. The Marxist-Leninist party must be built in close relationship with carrying out revolutionary work among the masses, implementing a revolutionary mass line, and in particular, addressing and resolving the pressing political questions which must be resolved in order for the revolutionary movement to advance. – Declaration of the RIM

5.1 In Britain the Marxist-Leninist revolutionary movement has never been strong. This is partly to be explained in terms of Britain’s position in the world as a major imperialist power and the consequent attraction of reformist politics that such material conditions make available to the working class. It is also partly to be explained in terms of the strong revisionist influences that communist organisations in Britain have been exposed to within the international communist movement at various times. But the main reason why the Marxist-Leninists in Britain have failed to build an enduring, truly revolutionary communist party and movement can be put down to their own shortcomings of an ideological and political kind. These can generally be characterised as a failure to take Marxism-Leninism really seriously, really to struggle to achieve a true unity of proletarian revolutionary theory and practice specific to British conditions.

5.2 The new anti-revisionist movement which arose in Britain during the 1960s consisted of a number of small organisations and groups, some of them claiming to be parties. However, none of them ever developed into proper communist parties of the Leninist type. By a ’proper communist party’ we mean a highly organised, tightly disciplined body of committed Marxist-Leninists who are firmly based within the working class and are intimately involved in the struggles of that class, who are clearly and openly committed to the goal of violent proletarian revolution, establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat and struggling for socialist transformation and who have a clear political programme, a definite revolutionary strategy to achieve these goals in the specific conditions of Britain in the world during the present period. While some of the Marxist-Leninist organisations declared themselves to be struggling to build such a party, there were, by the mid-1970s, no signs of such an authentic communist party emerging in Britain. Instead, the new Marxist-Leninist movement, despite the onset of a new world-wide economic crisis, was floundering and falling into all manner of revisionist errors.

5.3 Some of the comrades in the movement engaged in ideological and political struggle to try to illuminate our fundamental failings so that struggles could be inaugurated to rectify these errors. We eventually concluded that the fundamental error of the Marxist-Leninist movement during the 1960s and 1970s was the failure to achieve any sort of true unity of Marxist-Leninist revolutionary theory and practice. Instead there was a massive gap between the professed theory and the actual practice of the movement. There was dogmatist theorising and empiricist practical action. While the movement expressed adherence to the theoretical conclusions drawn from the experiences of the international class struggle, as expressed in the works of the great leaders, they were not actually used to guide day-to-day political work around various aspects of the class struggle. Instead, such practical political activities were usually conducted in a somewhat impulsive, unreflective way, no different from that of the reformist practice of various revisionists and Trotskyists. An obvious example is the economist attitude to trade union work that was taken by most of the Marxist-Leninists. Similarly no real attempt was made to apply materialist dialectics to analysing the experience of practical struggle so as to draw theoretical conclusions and in turn use these as a guide for improving and making practical struggles more effective. Theory was theory and practice was practice and never did they meet. ’Theorising’ consisted of dredging up a few quotations from the Marxist-Leninist classics to justify all manner of revisionist practice. The dialectical unity of revolutionary theory and practice demanded by the ’world outlook of Marxism-Leninism was not achieved and instead the Marxist-Leninists in Britain were groping in the dark, easy prey for all manner of revisionist monstrosities such as the ’Three Worlds Theory’.

5.4 Nonetheless, many comrades had committed themselves to the working class revolutionary cause and had devoted much time and energy to the struggle. What was necessary was to draw some theoretical conclusions from this experience so as to begin to develop an integrated revolutionary strategy, to develop an all-round programme for making revolution in Britain in relation to the rest of the world. Only in this way could the movement develop some long-term perspectives and plans, begin to win a base in the working class and establish a party. Basing themselves on this assessment of the Marxist-Leninist movement the Nottingham Communist Group and the Stockport Communist Group issued an appeal, ’Build the Party!’, in 1981. This called upon the existing Marxist-Leninist organisations in Britain to set up a programme Commission whose sole task would be ’to develop a revolutionary programme embodying a though scientific analysis of the character of contemporary British capitalism and on the basis of this scientific knowledge to elaborate a strategy for the conduct of revolutionary struggle in Britain’. The revolutionary programme was to form the political basis for a national organisation of a pre-Party kind which would use the programme as a guide for participation in the class struggle with the aim of establishing a base within the working class and, through experience, deepening and developing the revolutionary programme. Only then would the conditions have been created for the formation of an authentic Marxist-Leninist Party.

5.5 For nearly a year the two Marxist-Leninist groups struggled with various other Marxist-Leninists, both organisations and individuals, to gain their participation in setting up the proposed programme commission. However, the confusion and chaos attendant upon the revisionist seizure of power in China meant that some of those who showed interest in the project were not prepared to wholeheartedly uphold the achievements of the international communist movement under the leadership of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao and to reject the new revisionist regime in China and their reactionary ’Three Worlds Theory’. The initiators of the ’Build the Party!’ appeal had underestimated the degree to which the fledgling Marxist-Leninist movement in Britain had undergone political and organisational decay and degeneration. Even so, the Nottingham Communist Group and Stockport Communist Group were determined not to give up the struggle to develop a revolutionary programme and in the summer of 1982 they established the Marxist-Leninist Programme Commission with this objective in view.

5.6 The members of the Marxist-Leninist Programme Commission were not completely isolated because they had the support of various Marxist-Leninist organisations in other countries, the ones who adhered to the Joint Communiqué of the 1980 International Conference. Furthermore, as the programmatic work proceeded and was publicised it was hoped to win further support for the Commission and participation in its work, something which did happen on a small scale. The Nottingham Communist Group and the Stockport Communist Group intended, in addition to their Programme Commission work, to continue with their participation in various aspects of the class struggle, such as the anti-war movement and Irish solidarity movement. However, two related problems arose in the work of the Commission. One was that given the limited experience, knowledge, resources and time available from the limited membership of the Commission it was difficult to make more than a limited amount of progress in developing clear and correct positions on the programmatic questions which were addressed. The other problem was that the burden of Commission work on the two small local Marxist-Leninist groups meant that continuous participation in the day-to-day class struggle was increasingly neglected and the precious, vital unity of theory and practice was being lost. It was becoming clear that the weakness of the conscious Marxist-Leninist forces in Britain, together with the limitations imposed by the objective political situation meant that it would not be possible immediately to develop a revolutionary political programme at the high level originally envisaged. These difficulties in carrying through the programmatic task gave rise to a number of intense ideological and political struggles within the Marxist-Leninist Programme Commission which eventually resulted in a minority repudiating the struggle to develop the revolutionary programme and deserting to the ranks of the pro-Peking revisionists. This brought the work of the Commission to a crisis point and the remaining majority of members had to consider in a very searching manner the position of the Marxist-Leninist Programme Commission in relation to the general political situation.

5.7 It was concluded that while the Commission had made a certain amount of progress with its programmatic work it was not likely in the circumstances to be able to proceed much further. Indeed attempting to do so would probably result in serious errors in the political position put forward.

5.8 At the same time, a number of very positive developments were taking place in the overall political situation. A new wave of intensification in the national liberation struggles in many parts of the world was occurring, as for example in Peru and the Philippines. The inter-imperialist contradictions between the USA and the Soviet Union have been intensifying with the consequence of a growing awareness in the imperialist countries of the possibility of a major inter-imperialist war in the foreseeable future. In the imperialist countries, including Britain, the contradiction between the working class and the monopoly capitalist class has been sharpening as a result of the deepening world economic crisis of capitalism. Within Britain, as in many other countries, these developments have had two significant political consequences for proletarian revolutionaries. On the one hand there has been a growing awareness among some workers and other people that only the most radical of solutions will resolve the problems with which they are faced. On the other hand it has been precisely within these conditions of growing political crisis that roost of those elements who previously made some claim to being ’revolutionary,’ i.e. various revisionists and Trotskyists have dropped all pretence of taking a stance of revolutionary Marxism-Leninism and have run for cover with one or another ’big brother’ – the Labour Party, Soviet social imperialism, Chinese revisionism, etc. Just at the moment when there is a crying need for a truly revolutionary organisation in Britain, ’no such body exists.

5.9 A most important and timely response to the tightening knot of contradictions on, world scale was the convening of the second international conference of Marxist-Leninists in 1984, its drafting of a political line for the international communist movement and, on this political basis, its formation of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, the first step towards the reconstitution of a proper communist international. This meant that the Marxist-Leninists in Britain were no longer largely isolated but through their participation in RIM could draw upon the ideological, political and organisational support of comrades around the world. A qualitative step forward had been taken in the international communist movement and the Declaration of RIM constituted a powerful new political weapon for Marxist-Leninists everywhere, including Britain.

5.10 Given these increasingly favourable international circumstances, the members of the Marxist-Leninist Programme Commission considered that it was urgently necessary to establish a nationally based Marxist-Leninist organisation in Britain which would adhere to the political line of the Declaration of the RIM. While neither the basis of support within the working class nor a fully developed revolutionary programme yet existed which would justify the formation of a proper Marxist-Leninist revolutionary party it was appropriate to establish a pre-party organisation on the basis of the programmatic work which had been done by the Marxist-Leninist Programme Commission and also on the basis of the Declaration of the RIM. To hesitate to establish such an organisation would be to ignore the developing objective situation and to neglect those elements in Britain who were striving towards revolutionary action. The Revolutionary Internationalist Contingent in Britain is based upon a political line, expressed in the manifesto, and upon a basis of proletarian internationalism in the form of RIM, far in advance of those previous Marxist-Leninist organisations established within Britain during the last quarter of a century. The whole international nexus of the contradictions of capitalism and imperialism is intensifying. If the working class in Britain are to have the opportunity of making revolutionary breakthroughs in the upheavals which will occur in the coming period then they need to build a communist party and movement with great speed. It is the duty of all genuine Marxist-Leninist communists to engage in this task by rallying round and working as part of the Revolutionary Internationalist Contingent in Britain.