First Published: Vanguard, Vol. 2, No. 2, March 1965
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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THE question of the unity of the Left has for decades occupied the thinking of Marxist and other groups working within the Working Class Movement. Today the efforts of Marxist-Leninists are increasingly concerned with the formation of policies leading to correct definitions of unity.
Since the introduction of the journal “Vanguard,” propositions concerning the policies necessary for building the foundations of unity have generated new discussion and thinking within the Left.
Much of this discussion has been directed towards the Communist Party membership. It is apparent, and it must be recognised, that the anti-revisionist groups do not yet propose solutions acceptable to the progressive left as a whole on the vital issues of unity.
There can be no doubt however that the emergence of the new Marxist-Leninist party is an event of major importance, and of particular significance for the C.P.G.B. For the first time in many years there is offered the prospect of discussions and action on the questions of Left unity as a necessary preliminary to the effective establishment of the Marxist-Leninist Party. The question is asked as to how the unity of the Left, which for so long has divided and neutralised active sections of the progressive movement, may be achieved. The answers will not be forthcoming outside the struggles of the working class. When there is talk of unity there must be collective principled decisions on the Marxist-Leninist Policies to be pursued. In terms of the Working Class Movement the sectarian quarrels of individuals and the small political “experiments in Marxism” on the part of certain groups, seeking a special identity, means very little. A reference to any period of our working class history provides evidence of the struggle against revisionist, sectarian and opportunist individuals and groups within the Left. It is common knowledge that grave damage has resulted from such anti-Marxist exchanges within the movement. Unity can never be, for the Marxist-Leninist, the simple arithmetic totals of all progressive forces, all working class groups, all enlightened sections of the people within society. Unity includes all sections of the people opposed to capitalism but with the important qualification as to the ”Leadership” of the movement.
It is clear that a Marxist-Leninist Party, a Communist Party, arising out of the struggles of the oppressed masses must become the focus around which real unity is forged. In the broadest sense the unity of the struggle against capitalism and imperialism on a world scale. But before the Party can bring the issues before the people, antagonisms within the progressive Left must be resolved.
The British working class are not involved in the struggle against revisionism, there is little or no interest in the Revisionist Party as far as the workers are concerned. For such a Party ceases to serve the working class, ceases to have any identity with it, ceases eventually to confront the people with the fighting policies necessary for the advance to socialism. Rather, the Revisionists call upon all sections of society and as a consequence to none.
It goes without saying that in order to establish the anti-revisionist Marxist Party it is necessary to involve the masses at all levels of activity in the common struggle. There can be no Party without the direct involvement of the working class. To establish the Party is to establish the political and ideological arm of the movement or it is nothing.
To attack the leadership of the C.P.G.B. and not understand that the roots of the anti-revisionist Party must be firmly planted within the working class is to waste words and effort. The nature of the struggle against capitalism requires that the revisionists be exposed and especially is this necessary on the industrial front An alternative programme to that of the C.P.G.B., a Marxist-Leninist policy, must be advanced by Marxist-Leninists as an essential pre-requisite for the leading position of the Communist Party amongst workers and progressive organisations. The alternative programme must be a dynamic call to the working class, a call for the unity of the Left around the class issues facing the people. Such policies will emerge only from the correct analysis of the objective class relations within our society and it is this to which Marxist-Leninists must direct their energies and abilities. It is an historical fact that the day to day struggle against capitalism does not wait for the emergence of the Party to lead it, but without the Working Class Party gains are not consolidated, struggle is non-revolutionary, is lost.
Lenin, writing to Sylvia Pankhurst in 1919 made the following observations on the role of the Party at a time when progressive groups, some with massive working class support, were pre-occupied on questions of tactics and principle. “It is essential for the Communist Party that it should be intimately and directed towards the Communist Party continuously associated with the mass membership. It is apparent, and it must of the workers, that it should be able be recognised, that the anti-revisionist to carry on constant agitation among the workers, to take part in every strike, to answer all questions in the minds of the masses. This above all is necessary in a country like England where so far (as indeed in all imperialist countries) the Socialist movement and the Labour movement generally have been exclusively guided by cliques drawn from the aristocracy of Labour, persons most of whom have been utterly and hopelessly corrupted by reformism, who’s minds are enslaved by imperialistic and bourgeois prejudices.”
The question as to whether the C.P.G.B. today fits Lenin’s definition of the Party of the working class must be answered in terms of the objective position of the party in the struggles carried on by the working class at this time, the nature of the class struggle during the final phase of capitalist expansion. It is thus necessary to study the policy of the C.P.G.B. in detail and to formulate the alternative programme of advance.
The Committee for Communist Unity, through the pages of “Vanguard” are attempting such an analysis at a time when the international Communist Movement, led by the Chinese and Albanian parties, underline the fact that unity can only be based upon a principled Marxist-Leninist stand against the enemies of progress both within and outside the parties of the working class. Despite the local successes of the C.P.G.B. leadership on questions of international Communist Unity, (the success that is of the revisionists grip on the Party structure), the issues facing the rank and file of the C.P.G.B., confronting also the revisionists, are precisely the issues of principle upon which courageous, honest and informed decisions are necessary in the establishment of a Marxist-Leninist of the working class. Upon the strength and resolution shown in the fight for the unity of all progressive forces will depend the safe birth of the Marxist Party and its developing position as the vanguard of the British working class.
It is important that the policy document of the C.P.G.B. the British Road to Socialism, is exposed as a collaborationist policy, as the reformist and discredited programme of those who occupy such political and class relations with bourgeoise society that they are incapable of revolutionary thought or desire. The attempt by the C.P.G.B. leadership to undermine understanding of the real nature of the class struggle in Britain, to offer reformist solutions acceptable to all and to none, should not be thought to be acceptable to the membership of the C.P.G.B. because there is no immediate mass defection from revisionism in the light of the sharpening ideological position of the international Communist Parties. There is evidence that the failure of the C.P.G.B. to win mass support amongst the workers has affected the industrial wing of the Party. There can be no Shop Steward within the Party who does not question the present Parts; leadership; who believes that the failure of the Industrial Programme of the Party is related only to the existence of powerful opposition, to the prevalence of social democratic ideas amongst the working masses.
Many such have dramatically exposed the Party and revisionism from the shop floor. Only a Marxist-Leninist Party is capable of the correct analysis of the problems facing the industrial worker, giving the correct leadership, and it is the Party of the working class because it is formed and disciplined within the Industrial Labour Movement. The conscious political development of the class struggle encompasses all revolutionary activity, all mass action. The anti-revisionist movement has made possible the world advance to Communism, has sharpened the issues; the need for unity. Let the unity of progressives then be based upon the fight against imperialism, upon the collective direction of the Marxist-Leninist Parties and let the fight for unity of progressive groups in Britain be principally around the establishment and defence of the Marxist-Leninist Party. The individual interpretation of this struggle should be in favour of the collective development of the Marxist-Leninist Party within the factories, shops, and offices of the people, among the working class in every day conflict with the exploiting minority. In conclusion it would be incorrect to see the C.P.G.B. as the well from which the finest elements of the working class are to be drawn. The appeal made to the Party member does not discount or diminish the tremendous role of the Party’s membership in the past and present struggle. The call for unity does not ask that the Party member buries history, forgets and puts aside the motives which brought him into the ranks of the C.P.G.B., but to consider rationally, in the light of present developments whether the Party now is qualified to claim the leadership of the working class movement. Accepting the Marxist-Leninist imperatives regarding the role of the Communist Party it is only necessary to refer again to the British Road to Socialism to expose the impossibility of the present Communist Party leadership ever taking the Party on a revolutionary road to Socialism.
The position of the Party on such important questions as the present Sino-Soviet dispute, the electoral emphasis of the Party’s home policy and the abysmal lack of activity on the industrial front all serve to illustrate that the Party leadership pays lip service only to the ideas of Marxism, have damaged the image of the “Communist Movement,” and have split the C.P.G.B. irrevocably. The position of the C.P.G.B. in relation to the organised Labour Movement must be examined, and can only be judged by the precedence accorded the struggle of the masses in daily opposition to capitalism, the fundamental struggle of the organised working class in building and defending the interests of workers.
Were the C.P.G.B. prepared to objectively examine and make available to its members the substance and detail of the issues confronting the International Communist Movement, before arriving at premature and undemocratic decisions as to how best to put forward a non-revolutionary line; cease the persecution and ridicule of Communists to whom it owes years of support and at least the democratic rights of examination before the Party membership, by conference or even by resolution; then there would be hope of attacking revisionism within the Party.
The leadership effectively stifles discussion at all levels in the hope that the problems facing them will solve themselves. This sort of thing does not stop in favour of a Marxist approach; therefore it is not possible to say that the C.P.G.B. must be defended.
The impossibility of effecting the necessary change within the Party adds new emphasis to the development of the anti-revisionist movement and comrades should be aware that the facility with which the movement came into existence was primarily because the C.P.G.B. refused to accept the actions and arguments of loyal Communists, refused to allow those arguments expression within the Party at a time when the International Movement errupted into the ideological dispute between revisionist and anti-revisionist positions. The fight for unity within the progressive movement will take on real meaning during the establishment of the Marxist-Leninist Party. At this stage the first victory is needed and it is the victory of collective rather than individual action. Collective rather than individual expression, collective rather than individual unity for the destruction of capitalism and imperialism, for the victories of Marxism-Leninism through the Party of the working class.