First Published: Scottish Vanguard, Vol. 6, No. 8, Autumn 1976
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Sam Richards and Paul Saba
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For years after the last great war increasing numbers of Communists in Britain became uneasy about the policy and role of the Communist Party of Great Britain. This Party, despite many shortcomings and mistakes, inevitable in human efforts to overcome handicaps of inexperience, coupled with quite unprecedented home and foreign political circumstances, nevertheless played an honourable and very significant part in the diverse and complicated struggles of the workers and the unemployed during the 1920’s and 30’s, and in the effort to overcome the delays arising from the criminal reluctance of Churchill supported by leading Labour Party members of his National Government, to open up a second front against Hitler. During this war period the Communist Party of Great Britain laid great stress on the value of its extensive roots in industry. Soon after the war, however, a decision was taken by the Party to depart from its vital industrial policy and to concentrate its Branches in local government and parliamentary areas. Soon the Party took the fatal decision to launch a so-called programme of “The British Road to Socialism”, which, in effect, rejected the basic concept of the class struggle and the necessity of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. Many dedicated members, deploring the failure to resume the extensive theoretical educational work of pre-war days and frustrated by their failure to impress the Party leadership with the importance of honest internal debate and the dangers of a subservient policy of ingratiating themselves with the so-called “Left” elements amongst Labour and Trades Union leaders, resigned.
The most outstanding theorist of the protest movement was the late Michael McCreery, whose failure to overcome bureaucratic rejection of any opportunity to present his point of view within the Party, induced him to create the ”Committee to Defeat Revisionism for communist Unity”. But for his untimely death from cancer, and under his leadership, the C.D.R.C.U. would probably have developed as a new and Marxist-Leninist Communist Party. At this period numbers of C.P. members, especially in Glasgow and Edinburgh, became increasingly hostile to C.P.G.B. policy and readily accepted Michael McCreery’s point of view. In Edinburgh the C.P. Stockbridge Branch sent me as their delegate to the C.P. Congress in London in 1965 armed with a resolution attacking revision of Marxism-Leninism in the theory underlying “The British Road to Socialism” and directly attacking the leadership on that score and on their failure to appreciate the importance and urgency of Scottish Nationalist development. Out of about four hundred delegates, less than fifty supported our resolution.
I and several other members of our Branch resigned from the C.P. and associated ourselves with the C.D.R.C.U. In the absence of McCreery the C.D.R.C.U. deteriorated in petty squabbles and our Scottish members decided that the circumstances in Scotland justified the creation of a new Party in Scotland, based upon Lenin’s important insistence on the need for the creation everywhere of a “Proletarian Party of a New Type”, not a mere loose association of like-minded comrades, but where democratic centralism would prevail and strict discipline the rule. Coupled with this was our acceptance of the demand by John McLean for a Socialist Republican Party for Scotland.
Inspired by the teaching of John MacLean and recalling in particular such Scottish martyrs as William Wallace, Thomas Muir, James Connolly, John Baird, Andrew Hardie and James Wilson, seven of our group of ex-C.P’ers met in Edinburgh on 15th May 1966, to take a decision in principle to form “The Workers’ Party of Scotland – Marxist-Leninist”.
Note our care to avoid the terms “Scottish Workers” with their possible chauvinist or racialist implications. Our Party makes no distinction on race or colour, between persons residing in Scotland whether born here or abroad. Thus was born the first Marxist-Leninist Party anywhere in Britain to reject out-right the claim of the C.P.G.B. to be any longer a genuine Marxist-Leninist revolutionary Party. It is noteworthy that the absurd rejection of the “Dictatorship of the Proletariat” by the 1976 Congress of the French ’Communist’ Party has been eagerly acclaimed by the C.P.G.B. as an endorsement of the same conclusion embodied in the “British Road to Socialism”. Although May 15th can be regarded as the birthday of the WPS(ML), the important first conference of our Party was held on 25th September, 1966 at 14 Coates Gardens, Edinburgh and when its organ “The Scottish Vanguard” was launched.
Thereafter the Manifesto of our party was widely circulated and the Party constitution declares its objects as follows: “The Workers’ Party of Scotland (Marxist-Leninist) is the VANGUARD REVOLUTIONARY PARTY OF THE WORKERS OF SCOTLAND. Its policy is based fundamentally upon ’The Manifesto of the Communist Party’ of 1848 by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, and the subsequent development of Marxism by Lenin, Stalin, Mao Tsetung, Enver Hoxha and John MacLean, with their special emphasis upon the necessity of creating a revolutionary and disciplined Party and their practical application of the principles of Dialectical and Historical Materialism to the particular circumstances of this revolutionary period of the rapid decline and deepening crisis of imperialism”. Just as our Party entirely rejects national chauvinism in Scotland, it equally rejects ’great nation’ chauvinism which still bedevils and distorts the thinking of far too many people in England.
Until recent events have driven some of such chauvinists to recognise facts, they failed to distinguish the realities of Scotland’s history and sentiment from the puerilities of ’Tartan Army’ propaganda and the fiction of ’splitting the workers’. For years our Party has tried to warn good and well-intentioned revolutionaries in England against ignoring the positive as well as the negative features of Scottish Nationalism and also relating this to the decline of the British Empire.
Like the great Scottish Patriot and Revolutionary; John MacLean, our Party is an internationalist body and which has, over the years, made repeated efforts secure unity with all the elements, of the anti-revisionist Marxist-Leninist movement in Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland as well as in other parts of the world. Our anxiety for the setting up of a centre in these islands, with wider intentional implications, must not be taken to imply willingness on our part to surrender sovereign rights to develop the revolutionary movement in our national area. Any attempt to absorb our Party or to dictate its policy from outside is just not acceptable, but we shall continue to welcome developing fraternal relations with all who generally sympathise with our aims and to co-operate with all revolutionary and progressive forces desirous, of the utmost possible unity.
In our ten years our party has exercised influence far beyond its small membership. We have never made a fetish of the aim of a ’mass’ party, indeed we discourage those who are not prepared to remain Candidate members for a minimal period of six months and who are obliged to continue their fundamental study of our M-L policy. How easy it is for the trotskyite organisations to shout loud so-called ’revolutionary’ slogans to attract superficial thinkers in considerable numbers, but whose membership lasts a brief period generally. We have made it abundantly clear that we reject the futile trotskyite policy of clandestine infiltration to other working-class and petty-bourgeois organisations, their promotion of numerous, and always short-lived special committees with high-sounding titles. Likewise we reject the ’Communist’ Party of Great Britain’s scramble to secure election of its members to key positions, especially the trade unions. All such activities have been proven to be counter-productive. Such policies presumably imply belief in a short-cut road to socialism and certainly a poverty of theoretical understanding based upon a clear analysis of historical experience. This is specially important taking account of the rapid shrinkage and the economic decline of British Imperialism, together with the great loss of prestige by the United States of America from its ignominious defeat by the Vietnamese and retreat from the whole of Indo-China whilst the emergence of fascist and neo-fascist bodies and policies in Britain is a further reflection of the crisis of western capitalism. In the light of the world-wide economic, political and military (especially naval) ramifications of the ’Soviet’ Social-imperialists (socialism in words, imperialism in deeds) it is obvious that they are aiming to take over the world role of declining western imperialism.
The importance of correct tactics based upon correct theory was borne out relative to the anti-fascist events at the Kingston Halls, Glasgow, is now generally admitted. We then warned that failure to take our view that our first step should have been to fill the hall when our first confrontation would have been with the fascists and not, as happened, by blocking the entrance first, with the heavily reinforced police. A somewhat analogous situation arose when a fascist meeting was billed for the Assembly Hall, Edinburgh, and when our members and friends acted by entering the foyer of the hall instead of merely remaining with the crowds outside shouting inconsequential slogans. Despite failure to persuade the others of the correctness of our tactics we threw ourselves into the opposition to the District Councils and the police, at both meetings.
Our Party initiated steps leading to the creation of the “John MacLean Society” and an extraordinary revival of interest at home and abroad in the views and work of our greatest revolutionary. Books, plays, T.V. and Radio programmes on the subject proliferated and, still unabated, the erection of a permanent granite memorial at his birthplace in Pollokshaws, Glasgow. Little did our Party realise when it took a decision to revive the annual commemoration of his death (3Oth November) at his graveside on 3rd December, 1967, what a vast response there would be immediately to our action. Other highlights in our Party’s promotions included commemoration of Thomas Muir and his associates at ceremonies in Glasgow High Street and by the memorial in old Calton Cemetery, Edinburgh. The great National Convention in Falkirk on the affairs of the people of Scotland was also a marked success at a time when there was considerable confusion on the National Question. We have associated with the commemoration of the birth in Cowgate, Edinburgh, of James Connolly the great Scots-Irish martyr; we have persistently upheld the memory and example of our heroic and martyred William Wallace, a highly successful pioneer in guerilla warfare because he was man of and for the people. Our Party members have played no small part on the promotion by the John MacLean Society of a widely representative conference on the need for independent working-class education, and leading to the recreation of “The Scottish Labour College”. Likewise, we have consistently encouraged the Gaelic language and published selections from the writings of Mao Tsetung in that language.
Of course, our Party has had its ups and downs, what human agency hasn’t? Particularly, we were we handicapped by the unauthorised and adventurist conduct of a handful of our members in 1971, in association with undesirable elements who had no connection with the Party. Without condoning the indiscipline of the members concerned, we strongly condemned the scandal of the High Court sentences, in two cases, twenty-four years. We have since urged repeatedly that those concerned should raise with the Secretary of State for Scotland the justice of a drastic reduction of the years of imprisonment. Such a crisis could not fail to be a setback to our Party, which, however, remained true to its revolutionary principles and retained the respect of those who, though outside our ranks, respect our aims.
Many press and other attempts have been made to distort our policy and practices, endeavouring to link the W.P.S. with the romantic adventurism of groups indulging in sabotage and promotion of so-called Tartan Armies. Likewise have the Tory press endeavoured to create the impression that the Scottish National Party is infiltrated, or otherwise ’contaminated’ by the WPS. This was strikingly borne out in an extraordinary campaign some years ago by the Glasgow Herald newspaper, which featured an extensive and prolonged correspondence. We have lived through all this and much more denigration than we have space to enumerate, but it must be said that while opposed to mere adventurism we have no illusions about our future in the context of a capitalist State, which can stoop to any depths, fascist or other-wise to suppress a revolutionary movement. In this connection let me quote from our Party Manifesto, viz.: “Means and methods by which the workers secure socialism must be the unrestricted choice of the working class itself, which is not obliged to accept any form of representation prescribed by the capitalist minority. The transfer of power and the ownership of the means of life from that minority to the working-class majority will be a revolutionary change, which when resisted by force, will have to be imposed by the force of workers’ power, that is, the dictatorship of the proletariat”.
As a propaganda exercise in the special circumstances of a parliamentary by-election in 1969 in John Mac1ean’s old constituency, The Gorbals, our Party promoted a candidate. We expressed our contempt for the Westminster Parliament by declaring against’ taking a seat in that Assembly. Otherwise we have avoided candidatures in any other Parliamentary or local government elections. Our method of direct publicity for our point of view has been mostly confined to publishing a great variety of leaflets, well over a quarter of a million in all, covering a great many different topics, always aimed at relating particular questions, local, national or international, to the necessity of socialist solutions through achievement of workers’ power. Many manifestations of militancy by large sections of the workers, invariably proceeds from the rank and file below rather than from top level leadership, including, surprisingly, on the streets demonstrations by Teachers, Farmers, Fishermen. Nevertheless, we are fully conscious of the fact that our working-class are still saturated with “reformist-economist” illusions, lacking in revolutionary theory and, in the words of Lenin, “without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement”. Consequentially power remains in the hands of the capitalist minority. Even our unemployed and the increasing numbers suffering real poverty are fobbed off with subsistence allowances, redundancy pay, etc., by comparison with the pre-war dire poverty of the 19301s. How long can this last, however, can only meantime be based on speculative hypotheses. Hence our determination to intensify our educational work – based upon the teaching of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, Mao Tsetung and John MacLean, coupled with the example of the astonishing successes in China and Albania, and our own analysis of the situation in our own country.
Believing that the workers in each Nation must evolve the best methods for their own particular circumstances, we welcome the great successes of the Indo-Chinese, the native African States and demand the immediate and complete withdrawal of all British Forces from Ireland to enable the Irish people to settle its own affairs without external interference.
There are no short cuts to essential revolutionary change, to democracy for the workers and their dictatorship over their capitalist exploiters. The stern lesson to be absorbed by all aspirants for change and justice is that capitalism here, as everywhere else, never voluntarily surrenders, it must be completely defeated and destroyed.
As Michael McCreery emphasised we must “Destroy the old to build the new”. However, it is clearly evident that all the trends are moving in a positive direction, more speedily in some parts of the world than in others. Imperialism is on the run and despite the setback in the Soviet Union to social-imperialism, to be combated by the peoples of the world (and ultimately buried by the Soviet people) the overall world picture is good. Despite many twists and turns in international relations, sometimes difficult immediately to analyse correctly there is no room or the slightest justification for the pessimism of the frightened-weaklings, the racialists, certain middle-class ignoramuses and those people who believe that “world over-population” will starve millions despite the fact that under socialism it has been demonstrated that potential food supplies are capable of sustaining, without difficulty, a world population at least ten times greater than the present.
The Workers’ Party of Scotland (M-L) contemplates the future with complete confidence, based upon the unchallengeable scientific analysis of Marxism, that in due course its policy, corresponding with the basic interests of the vast majority, will be taken up and implemented by the working-class. Socialism will then be established as the necessary prelude to Communism.