Editorial Comment: Back To Square One?

First Published: The Marxist, No. 3, March-April 1967
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Sam Richards and Paul Saba
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AT THE LAST CONGRESS of the London District Committee of the Communist Party, just after our first issue appeared, J. Mahon then District Secretary, said ’I do not like The Marxist’. In view of his record this was not surprising, and some comrades thought he could have said with equal truth that he did not like Marxism.

Nevertheless, when some weeks later the District Committee issued a long statement (some 500 words) attacking The Marxist many members of the Party were startled. No action by imperialism, no vilification of the Soviet people, no atrocity in Vietnam, no attack on the British workers, no threat to the peace of the world, had in recent years received such extended treatment. Why was it? The only answer seems to be that The Marxist threatens something much nearer home – the members and functionaries of the London District Committee itself.

Knowing the very small proportion of members that attends branch meetings, we shall not overestimate the importance of the statement, but we think we owe it to those who are disturbed by Party policy to pay some attention to it.

The Marxist criticised Soviet policies which enabled the U.S. to move troops from Europe to Vietnam. To this the London District Committee replies that any other policy would be provocative and ’would certainly be the means of enabling the U.S to restore the crumbling NATO set-up, lead to a rallying of the reactionary forces in Europe, and encourage the neo-fascist revival in West Germany. At the very moment when the great majority of the people in Western Europe are seeking to loosen the bonds that bind them to the USA, such a move would have actually strengthened the American position and halted this progressive development.’

What a travesty of Marxism this is! We must not oppose imperialism because it is dying of itself! NATO is crumbling; don’t disturb it! People are trying to loosen the U.S bonds; don’t offend them by helping. Leave reviving fascism alone; it won’t last! These ideas are the very essence of the policy of ’peaceful transition’ and the direct opposite of Marxism.

The Chinese have shown, both in the Pakistan-India conflict and in Vietnam, how to oppose the aggressor and tie down his forces without doing anything that the progressive and oppressed people of the world find provocative or unworthy.

Next comes an outright lie, which at least some members of the District Committee must have known to be a lie: ’the Chinese, having agreed to deliver a stated quantity of rice to Cuba in 1966, at the eleventh hour broke the contract’.

The facts, attested by both Cuban and Chinese documents, are that Chinese delegates negotiating the agreement said they had no authority to agree to provide Cuba with as much rice in 1966 as they had in 1965. They suggested that if so much was needed the matter should be taken up at a governmental level. They were perfectly willing to continue to supply rice at what had previously been the normal level, and they have in fact done so. There was no question of breaking a contract because none had been signed.

The longest section of the District Committee’s statement is an attempt to justify the policies of The British Road to Socialism. It criticises the statement in The Marxist that Parliament is simply ’a game of “ins” and “outs”’. This does not, however, seem an unfair paraphrase of Lenin’s statement: ’To decide every few years which member of the ruling class is to repress and crush the people through parliament – such is the real essence of bourgeois parliamentarism’ (The State and Revolution).

Next the CP complains that The Marxist has ’used’ a speech by Lenin ’to bolster up the idea that the right wing elements in the Labour Party are reactionary. ...’ Is this a new development – that we now seek to ally ourselves with those long-misunderstood progressives, the right wing of the Labour Party?

’The Communist Party,’ continues the statement, ’has never regarded the Labour Party as one solid reactionary mass.’ It has ’growing left wing influence’. Old political workers can scarcely remember a time when the Party wasn’t hopefully assessing the growth of left wing influence in the Labour Party. Now, after all these years of ’growing’, it is perhaps less than it has ever been. Neither the Labour Party nor the Tory Party is ’one solid reactionary mass’. Millions of workers, who must be won for Communism, vote for both of them. But The British Road will not win them.

Summing up its case against The Marxist, the statement says:

The Marxist has nothing to do with Marxism and the class struggle. Its policy is seen to be:

1. To claim for this sect the right of leadership of the British workers, while denouncing all other groups in the movement.
2. To propagate the Chinese line justifying the refusal to discuss joint efforts greatly to increase activity on behalf of the National Liberation Front in South Vietnam and of the People’s Republic of North Vietnam; to join with the Chinese in slandering any socialist state which does not agree with their policy.
3. To reject all efforts to build left unity in the movement, particularly in the trade union movement, while refusing to indicate any alternative methods of mass activity.
4. To misrepresent the policy of peaceful co-existence of states with different social systems and speak of the almost virtual certainty of a third world war.
5. To reject the possibility in Britain of a peaceful transition to socialism without armed insurrection and civil war.

In answer to these five points we give the following answers:

1. The Marxist makes no such claim and denounces no-one who tries to apply Marxism in the working-class struggle.
2. This is a distorted view which would be corrected by reading the Current Survey in our last issue.
3. Our attitude towards left unity is quite different and is described in an article in the current issue.
4. The Marxist has nothing in common with those who accept the virtual certainty of a third world war; or with those who put forward a conception of ’peaceful co-existence’ quite different from Lenin’s to supersede the basic principles of proletarian internationalism and unity of the anti-imperialist forces.
5. So far, in fact, we have not dealt with this hypothetical possibility, but concentrated in the pages of The Marxist on the realities of the foreseeable struggle in this country.

We would mention only one further point. Speaking of The Marxist the statement says:

’Like all sectarian groups, they want the movement to go back to square one and start anew under their leadership...This negative approach can only lead to inactivity and demobilisation of the left.’

Unfortunately, mainly owing to the policies of the CPGB, it is necessary to re-learn Marxism and, in this sense, ’to go back to square one’, but in this sense only. ’Inactivity and demobilisation of the left’ already exist as a result of the policy of playing down the class struggle in the interest of ’peaceful transition’. But the working class is capable of learning lessons. New leaders – and no one yet knows who they will be – need not make again the mistakes that the CPGB has made.

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COPIES of the full statement of the London District Committee together with a more detailed rejoinder are available from the office of The Marxist.

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