On the Formation of a Marxist-Leninist Party

First Published: FORUM for Marxist-Leninist Inner-Party Struggle, No. 5, July 1964
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Sam Richards and Paul Saba
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The letter published in Forum last month from a correspondent from the West of England raises important and fundamental questions, particularly relevant to the class struggle here. These need to be discussed throughout the Marxist-Leninist Movement. He writes, “Of course, it means that we will have to decide which to try for: to change the policy of our present leaders; to replace them with Marxists, or to form a real Marxist-Leninist party.”

Three questions are asked here which need to be examined in turn.

1) Is there any possibility of changing the revisionist policies of the leadership of the Communist Party?

It is this very leadership which formulated and fought for the policies outlined in the British Road to Socialism. On this they stand or fall. Despite criticisms from many comrades based on Marxism-Leninism, they have maintained this line and even boasted of being the first in the field with the idea of a ’peaceful transition to socialism’. Over the years they have gone beyond this line in their blurring of the class issues (e.g. John Gollan in Challenge of Marxism, 1962).

Their total dishonesty both on the international situation and the class struggle in Britain has been demonstrated many times. In fact their very jobs are at stake and they will fight to the bitter end to maintain their revisionist line.

There is certainly no hope at all of changing the leadership of the Communist party. What of the second possibility?

2) Can the C.P.G.B. be transformed into a Marxist-Leninist Party?

Many comrades have struggled hard over the years with this very object in view but the British Road still stands as the key stone of Party policy. Comrades have used up enormous amounts of energy in this attempt and some, unfortunately, have become apathetic and fallen out of the struggle as a result of their failure. Others, even more unfortunately, have fallen prey to the revolutionary sounding phraseology of the Trotskyites, particularly in industry. It is clearly impossible, inside the revisionist framework laid down by the leadership, to carry out the practical tasks demanded of us in all aspects of the class struggle. We have all been frustrated in this and every possible way.

The revisionists have captured the Party machinery and manipulated it over the years in their own interests. Their ’recommended list’ is a blatant example of vote-rigging which ensures the return of further revisionists in all elections to higher Party committees. Democratic centralism is the necessary organisational form of our Party. What is important to be clear about is that a handful of betrayers of Marxism-Leninism have used this organisational structure in order to perpetuate their policies and office holders in key positions in the Party. How have they managed to do this? The Party at its inception was a revolutionary party. Today this is no longer true. Many factors have contributed to this situation but in this article only one, and that a very basic one, will be mentioned. Not only has Marxist education fallen into abeyance over the years but the party members have been, in fact, subject to anti-Marxist indoctrination. In fighting for the conceptions outlined in BRS [The British Road to SocialismMIA Note] the revisionist leadership has been actively ’de-educating’ comrades.

Questions (1) and (2) are closely tied together by the fact that those same dishonest men who will never abandon their revisionist policies are the same men who control the Party machinery and peddle ideas of class collaboration among the rank-and-file of the Party.

Two illustrations will, perhaps, clarify the point. What opportunity has there been for a genuine and through hammering-out of the fundamental disagreements that Comrades have had on the formulations in the British Road and on the international differences? In fact, a democratic Marxist discussion, conducted in a serious manner, and involving the entire Party membership has been impossible precisely because of the manipulation of the Party machinery and the absence of any genuine revolutionary thinking among the membership.

No, we cannot change the minds of the present revisionist leaders and therefore we cannot hope to change the policies of the Party. What follows from this? We are forced into the necessity of forming a genuine Marxist-Leninist Party in Britain. The answer to the third question is the logical result of examining the situation in the Party itself.

Yes, we must form a Marxist-Leninist Party. But how?? Do we make a total break with the old Party in the sense that we abandon the militants inside and leave the battle-field open to the revisionists, treating the Party as outside the International Communist Movement and attacking it openly on all counts and actively at temp to smash it?

Or, on the other hand, do we see the formation of a Marxist-Leninist party as arising only from inside the old Party, and with no attempt to gather revolutionary forces from outside among the working class?

The first would be wrong in principle as well as tactically. For not only is the Party still a part of the I.C.M. [International Communist Movement – MIA Note], which at present has two lines struggling against each other but would consolidate many Comrades behind the revisionists as a result of seeing the organisations as ’anti-Party’ and akin to the Trotskyists. We must clearly distinguish between the rank and file (however revisionist influenced at present) and the leadership – whose guilt is clear. Surely a formulation of smashing the C.P.G.B. is leftist as the party is not and cannot be equated with the bourgeois state machine. Rather, we should consistently and honestly expose all aspects of the revisionist policy. We must realise that while many will never be won over, there are honest comrades, who, however slowly, will begin to see the revisionists for what they are.

The second is wrong both in principle and tactically for it would perpetuate illusions among Comrades of the possibility of transforming the Party from within and, since it would forbid the exposure of the revisionists in terms of practice, would prevent the clear differentiation of Marxism-Leninism from revisionism.

Equally, Comrades fighting inside the Party will be forced, sooner or later, to confront the leadership openly on fundamental questions. By striving to remain inside the Party at all costs and to transform it from within, they will, inevitably, be forced to compromise on principle.

Following from the above, we see that there is an objective necessity for a Marxist-Leninist Party i.e. it, therefore, correct to call for a new Party now, immediately? As yet, unfortunately, the numbers of genuine anti-revisionists have been small and the anti-revisionist struggle has been uncoordinated and diffuse. Not only is the organisational basis for a new Party still lacking, but the long history of revisionism, rooted as it is in the early thirties, has resulted in the absence of an alternative revolutionary line for this country. This differentiates the struggle here from e.g. Brazil, Belgium, where the about-turn of the revisionists was very recent and the anti-revisionist struggle was clear and sharp.

In view of all this, it is clear that the foundations of a new Party do not exist yet and have to be built. These organisations gather the revolutionary forces where ever they are, inside or outside the Party. They attempt to hammer out correct policies on every issue. They struggle against right and left opportunism. We have had much experience in the past of right opportunism and have learned to combat it. Now it is clear that we must learn to steer a straight course between both left and right opportunism in order to formulate the line of struggle which will in due course lead to the dictatorship of the proletariat in Britain.

There is a further important question to be answered. Under what circumstances would such Marxist-Leninist groups be correct in coming together to form a Party? Surely there must be no question of waiting on international events. There are two lines in the I.C.M. and there can be no question of “expelling” the C.P.C. [Communist Party of China – MIA Note] from the I.C.M. The C.P.C is a part of the I.C.M. and no one can expel her from this. And yet, if drastic action were taken by the revisionists internationally, action which produced a qualitative change in the situation then it would be necessary for us to respond, even if the organisational and policy basis for the new Marxist-Leninist Party were not as prepared as we should like.

For many Comrades the realisation of the need for a genuine Marxist-Leninist Party distinct from the C.P.G.B. will be a heart-breaking wrench but if we see its formation as growing out of the old by gathering together all that is good, correct and revolutionary in the old, in the re-formation or re-building of the old, then we can all go forward together to begin on this tremendous but necessarily and inspiring task.