First Published: The Marxist, Vol. 1, No. 1, November-December 1966.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Sam Richards and Paul Saba
Copyright: This work is in the Public Domain under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.
Vast changes are taking place in the world, sweeping away old political landmarks. Among those most affected are the people of Britain. The United States no longer occupies the unchallenged position it held at the end of the second world war. NATO is no longer a cohesive alliance, and the divisions in the West grow more marked as France strengthens her leadership of the forces resisting the subordination of European capitalism to American.
Divisions within the socialist world raise issues which go to the very root of socialist principles and practice. Soviet policy increasingly emphasises the finding of common ground with the United States. Yet Vietnam demonstrates how over-extended and vulnerable the Americans have become in the face of the challenge of the national liberation movements.
The temporary successes of the counter-revolution in parts of Africa and Asia are a harsh reminder that imperialism has been able to maintain its hold over these countries. Meanwhile in China a quarter of the world’s population has proved that a former semi-colonial people can carry through a social revolution and by their own efforts build a socialist society.
Britain, whose successive governments, Labour or Conservative, cling ever more closely to the United States, faces the certainty of abrupt changes with the accelerating decline of her world position.
Those who try to probe into what is going on around them are fobbed off by politicians with trivialities and meaningless phrases. Too often the reaction is to turn away from politics altogether. Those who avoid becoming completely cynical frequently feel powerless to affect the course of events and drift into passivity.
But there is no escape from the problems of our time. We cannot remain inactive about issues which affect our daily lives. British imperialism, notwithstanding all its changes in form, is increasingly under attack from those it oppresses. And the conditions within Britain inherited by our generation will disappear with the privileges British capitalism itself is in the process of losing.
The bastion of power which the British capitalists are most determined to retain is the lucrative financial role of the City of London. They fight obstinately to preserve the position of sterling as an international currency and the commercial empire which rests upon it. British forces are deployed at great cost on four continents to safeguard the overseas investments and special rights of British capitalists abroad. The ’East of Suez’ policy makes sense only in the light of this.
The direct political links of Britain’s empire have always been relaxed once they have ceased to serve their purpose and become an irritant. In any event the plundered areas cannot escape economic vassaldom unless they take the road of revolution.
It is against revolution that Britain has sought the backing of the chief imperialist power, the United States. With every further decline in strength the British imperialists find themselves more dependent on American support. If the Labour Government is more servile to the United States than its Conservative predecessor it is because Britain’s ability to carry out an imperialist role has further diminished and the need for American reinforcement correspondingly increased.
While there are differences among the British capitalists on the tactics to be employed, they are united in their central aim of maintaining Britain’s imperialist role. The political parties through which their policy is expressed – Conservative, Liberal and Labour – accordingly follow a common line on the central issues.
The Labour Party is committed to an all-out effort to make capitalism work indefinitely and prevent the collapse of British imperialism. As a result all those on the left who seek their objective through a relationship with the Labour Party drift into tacit acceptance of imperialism.
This is shown in the British Communist Party’s preoccupation with the Khruschevian version of ’peaceful co-existence’ that is the renunciation of real struggle against imperialism headed by the United States. It is seen also in its slogan ’unity of the left’. What is glossed over is the vital question: unity of what forces and for what purpose? If the greatest threat to the interests of the working class as a whole comes from the collaboration between British and American imperialism, the workers cannot find true allies among those who think it necessary to maintain a special relationship with America.
Certainly there is a left inside the Labour Party. It has differences with the Government over timing, methods and tactics. But this left does not by any means wholly reject the maintenance of British imperialism and political ties with America. It does not see a revolutionary transformation of society as the way to solve the problems capitalism has shown itself incapable of solving. It does not want power to pass from the existing state to a revolutionary state set up by the workers to dispossess the capitalist class and create a classless society.
Calls for unity of the left which ignore the fundamental conflict between social democracy and Marxism obscure the difference between reformist politics and class struggle. The quest by the Communist Party for a ’British Road’ to socialism which avoids revolutionary struggle has led to abandonment of a Marxist standpoint as the price of winning recognition from the Labour left and becoming’ respectable.
Of course in the struggles on all manner of individual issues – ’East of Suez’, wages, housing – Marxists want the widest unity consistent with effective struggle. On this basis we seek common action with the Labour left. But unity in agreed actions against capitalism and imperialist policies must be accompanied by struggle against ideas which weaken the fight and limit its effectiveness. Without such struggle unity becomes a path to capitulation.
In fighting increasingly against ideas which gloss over the class struggle the workers increase their own understanding and become conscious that their class has the power to carry through the necessary revolutionary transformation of society.
This journal has come into being because of the urgent need to bring Marxist thought and analysis back into the British political struggle. Little that is being published about the problems of Britain is based on a Marxist viewpoint, though a fair amount which claims to be appears in the left-wing press. The effectiveness of the contributions to The Marxist will be determined by how those writing in it apply Marxist principles in laying bare the facts, analysing their significance and drawing the correct conclusions for action. The success of this new journal will depend on the extent to which it can be useful to those who are politically active, particularly industrial workers.
In each issue there will be a survey of current politics. This will take some important features of the British and international situation and bring out their significance in relation to the main trends of development. There will also be articles on subjects of immediate and long-term interest. In this issue, for example, we take the Labour Government’s record and policies and reach conclusions about social democracy. Our plans for future issues include articles on such subjects as the class structure in Britain; the new economic trends and theories in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe; the Labour Government’s unemployment policy; British Imperialism and Malaya. We shall also review significant books. We hope to receive a lively correspondence from our readers.
We shall not be satisfied if you simply read this journal. The aim we have set ourselves can be realised only with your active participation. We need your comment and criticism so that your experience may be reflected in our pages. We want articles and items of interest for publication. We want The Marxist to be a medium for the exchange of views among those engaged in the struggle for socialism.
We also need your support in other ways. Our main method of distribution is by post to subscribers. We ask you to recommend the journal to others and make them subscribers. We urge you to put its articles to practical use by discussing them collectively. This means forming discussion groups, using the articles in a planned way and letting us know your reactions and conclusions. Doing this will help to gather together the forces for advancing Marxist understanding in Britain.
The journal needs money for its maintenance and development. Apart from subscriptions, we ask for donations. Everything you give will add to the resources for carrying the work forward.
By strengthening the political content of the journal and building up its circulation and the organisation around it, your activity can enable The Marxist to play a more ambitious role than is within its present capacity.
How many people do you know who might become regular readers of this journal?
Will you let us have their names and addresses so that we can send them a specimen copy?
The Marxist cannot afford expensive promotion campaigns but must rely on its readers to help increase circulation.
Getting The Marxist known among those who are searching for a way to advance the struggle for socialism is an important task.
Please help by sending in the names of potential readers to The Manager, Flat 4, 53, Shepherds Hill, London, N.6.