Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Communist Workers Movement

The “Absolute Decline” of the Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist)

The Trade Unions

The Fourth Congress was a turning point in the party’s line on the Trade Unions. Before, they were defensive weapons of the working class (as in the party Program); now they are the ’collaborators’ or policemen to the bourgeois state”. Instead of comrades being “tribunes of the people” (Lenin), Chairman Birch calls upon them to “seize the assets” and explains “the chairman and secretary of the branch are vital. Think about it!”

What for this turnabout?

It is a basic, undialectical analysis of the trade unions by the party, which has led

1) to concentrating party work on the Trade Unions to the exclusion of all other fields.
2) to, first, an uncritical adulation of all union work and secondly, as now, to a complete damnation of the Trade Unions.

There was a wrong understanding of Trade Union work on the shop floor as being all good. Guerilla Struggle was elevated from a tactic to a strategy. But the tactic of Guerrilla Struggle can only be revolutionary if the party organises it in a revolutionary way – this was not helped by the confusion at Congress over whether it was redundant or not. Now that the working class is hesitating to struggle on the shop floor, the party is forced to demand that we “seize the assets”, that it is of vital importance to get party members into official union positions.

... This reveals how the party, just like the revisionist party before it, has become subject to the influence of the trade-unionist thinking. Lenin describes it as:

There is a lot of talk about spontaneity, but the spontaneous development of the working class movement leads to it becoming subordinated to bourgeois ideology... for the spontaneous working class movement is trade-unionism and trade-unionism means the ideological enslavement of the workers by the bourgeoisie.

Such thinking has led the party to take up opportunist positions – the party feels it necessary to justify positions adopted by Reg Birch as AEU executive member, on trade union questions as revolutionary, e.g. his vote in favour of the Cowley workers being sent back to work, because they were against the Social Contract; the about turn on the TUC since he was elected to it (previously it was considered a ruling class tool’; the latest dictum that there is one area that the party comrades must lay emphasis on in their work – even though before it was considered “peripheral” – unemployment, because the TUC passed a composite resolution on unemployment, in which Birch had a hand.

The most horrifying example of the result of the influence of narrow craft trade unionist thinking on the party is the statement made by a branch in a leaflet on immigration: immigration is “something that dilutes our skills and weakens our unions.”

This stems...directly from a statement in CC by John Heywood that “we are in favour of immigration controls just as we are in favour of import controls”.

A dereliction of Proletarian Internationalism which stems directly from the party’s chauvinist attitude.