Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Nottingham Communist Group

Build the Party!

First Published: Red Star, No. 8, October 1981
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Sam Richards and Paul Saba
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To the Marxist-Leninists in Britain


The international crisis of imperialism is intensifying. Throughout the world the capitalist countries of both the US and Soviet blocs are in the midst of major economic depression and, directly related to this, the contradictions making for a major inter-imperialist war are becoming sharper every day. Here in Britain, the economic depression is particularly severe, the class struggle is beginning to take the form of physical confrontation, the bourgeois political parties are in disarray, the national liberation struggle in Northern Ireland is intensifying and there is growing mass awareness that major war is a very real possibility in the near future. Yet despite these objectively favourable conditions, a genuine proletarian revolutionary movement and party does not exist in Britain today.

The fledgling Marxist-Leninist organisations which emerged during the nineteen sixties have been thrown into complete disarray by the world wide political developments of the last few years. The triumph of revisionism in China following the death of Comrade Mao Tse-Tung and the confusion caused by the reactionary ’Three Worlds’ international line have wreaked havoc among Marxist-Leninist parties and organisations around the world. Yet, while the counterrevolution in China and its international repercussions are undoubtedly an enormous setback for the world revolution, there is a positive side to these developments as well.

This consists of the clear lines of demarcation which have been and are being drawn between the revolutionaries and revisionists among those who call themselves Marxist-Leninists. The upsurge of revisionism in China has not been the cause of the outright reaction propagated by such organisations as the Revolutionary Communist League of Britain and the Workers Party of Scotland (ML) but rather the occasion which made it manifestly clear that most of the Marxist-Leninists had never made a decisive break with revisionism in the first place. During the last few years it has become clear in Britain, as well as in other countries, who upholds the proletarian revolutionary outlook and who does not. The former are lamentably few in number, although, as a result of recent struggles, ideologically strengthened.

The Nottingham Communist Group and the Stockport Communist Group hold to the view that the main task of Marxist-Leninists in Britain is to build the communist party and that the key to achieving this objective is to develop a proper revolutionary programme elaborating a strategy for the conduct of revolutionary struggle in Britain, Earlier attempts to win support for this correct view found little response from most of the other so-called Marxist-Leninists who, in one way or another, adhered to the revisionist ’snowball’ theory of the RCLB which essentially saw unity among the Marxist-Leninists and the formation of the party as an organisational rather than a political problem. As a result of a protracted two-line struggle in their ranks, the SCG, who until recently had an opportunist line on party-building, supported the ’Theory of the Three Worlds’ and gave implicit support to the Chinese revisionists, have overthrown these serious errors and are now able to wholeheartedly support the proposals contained in this document. More recently the NCG, together with the into Marxist-Leninist Collective, participated in the international conference of Marxist-Leninists held last autumn. The Joint Communique issued at this conference drew clear lines of demarcation between Marxism-Leninism and revisionism and was the first step towards the reconstitution of the Communist International.

Here in Britain the period of struggle to clearly separate the revolutionaries from the reactionaries is drawing to the close of its present phase. Some of the new revisionist organisations seem to have simply disappeared, while others, especially the RCLB, are in great disorder as a direct result of their reactionary political line. Comrades, the time has come for a conscious, concerted drive to rebuild the revolutionary movement and the party. Not only do the aforementioned objective conditions make this a matter of extreme urgency but subjective conditions are favourable at last for us to begin to win significant numbers of class conscious workers and other people to the communist movement and to begin to win a communist leadership of the class struggle. In particular we are referring to the ideological crisis of social democracy in both its Labour Party and Trotskyist forms, The hegemony of social democratic ideology over the working class in Britain is fast collapsing. Working class support for the Labour Party has steadily declined during the last three decades and one important consequence of this is the growing antagonisms within and the resultant disintegration of this bourgeois political party.

At the same time, during the last decade, it has been the various Trotskyist organisations which have had the opportunity, thanks to the opportunism of the Marxist-Leninists, to take advantage of this substantial change in political conditions. The fact that they have failed to do so, which is hardly surprising given their inherent tendency to tail after the Labour Party, is part of the reason for their noticeable decline during the last few years. This growing ideological vacuum within the working class constitutes both a great opportunity and a great danger. It is a great opportunity in the sense that the weakening hold of social democracy means that workers are potentially more receptive to revolutionary ideas than in the past. It also constitutes a great danger in the sense that if we fail to stimulate the development of revolutionary class consciousness the way is left open, for the most extreme type of reaction, fascism, to fill this ideological vacuum.

Given these considerations, it is the duty of all genuine Marxist-Leninists to unite in the task of rebuilding the revolutionary movement and party without further delay.


In 1976, in Hey! It’s Up To Us, the Communist Workers’ League in Britain (ML) put forward the view that the key to building a genuine revolutionary communist party is to develop a proper revolutionary programme by means of setting up a programme tic commission. Despite some errors of idealism and metaphysics in Hey! It’s Up To Us, this basic proposal for a commission was correct and should be upheld,, despite the CWLB’s subsequent capitulation to the new revisionism.

Accordingly, the MCG and the SCG propose that the remaining Marxist-Leninist organisations should establish a programmatic commission, the sole task of which is to develop a revolutionary programme embodying a thorough, scientific analysis of the character of contemporary British capitalism and on the basis of this scientific knowledge to elaborate a strategy for the conduct of revolutionary struggle in Britain. The Programmatic commission would carry out this work in a highly disciplined manner and according to a definite time scale. Here, we must emphasise most strongly that the programmatic commission would not be another loose federation of local groups or an ad hoc committee to organise joint meetings and demonstrations. The work of the commission would be entirely confined to the thorough, detailed study, investigation and analysis necessary to produce a proper revolutionary programme specific to the particular conditions prevailing in British capitalism. If this aim is achieved then the political basis would exist for the formation of a national organisation, of a pre-party kind which would be guided by the programme. Such an organisation would then engage in the class struggle with the primary aim of winning a real base of support within the working class. Only then, in the light of this higher level of knowledge gained from the practise of the revolutionary struggle, would the appropriate conditions exist for the further development of the programme and the formation of the proletarian party.

The exact nature of the schedule of work of the programmatic commission could only be collectively determined by its participants. However, the NCG and the SCG have a definite view on the tasks which need to be carried out and we briefly indicate those for the consideration of comrades. There are four main tasks of the programmatic commission:

1. To carry out a thorough, scientific analysis of the particular, concrete character of the contradictions of modern British capitalism and its relationship to the rest of the world.

2. To systematically sum up the experience of the International Communist Movement in the struggle to promote proletarian revolution and socialist transformation.

3. On the basis of the above scientific knowledge to elaborate a definite strategy for the conduct of the revolutionary struggle, the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the socialist transformation of society in Britain.

4. To take the resulting revolutionary programme as the political basis for the formation of a national Marxist-Leninist revolutionary organisation of the democratic centralist kind.

In order to make clear the general character of the sort of work which needs to be done, we present some short comments on each of the above tasks. However, we again emphasise that the precise scheme of work of the commission could only be collectively determined by the participants:

1. It is not possible to conduct systematic revolutionary struggle to overthrow British capitalism unless one has thoroughly grasped its concrete particularity. In the view of the NCG and SCG it is at least necessary to carry out a thorough analysis of contemporary monopoly capitalism, the existing classes and strata, the state together with the bourgeois parties, the national question within the British state and the contemporary international situation particularly with respect to the position of British imperialism. Although various organisations and individuals have from time to time outlined positions on these matters, none have ever carried out the systematic, scientific analysis necessary for the formulation of an overall revolutionary strategy.

2. Both of the major proletarian revolutions have now succumbed to bourgeois counterrevolution. It is the duty of all Marxist-Leninists to closely study the rise of revisionism and the triumph of reaction in the USSR and the PRC in order to learn from past mistakes and thus be prepared to struggle against revisionism in all its various forms.

3. The revolutionary strategy would consist of a delineation of the hey areas of the class struggle and provide general guidance for the conduct of this struggle as a unified whole. It would also specify in general terms the appropriate form the dictatorship of the proletariat would take in Britain and outline the steps to be taken as the first stage of socialist transformation. In the struggle to facilitate the growth of revolutionary consciousness it is not sufficient simply to expose the oppression and exploitation of capitalism but it is also necessary to put forward a vision of the socialist future as a definite, concrete goal worth fighting for.

4. A revolutionary programme combining the above elements can only be developed in the course of disciplined scientific investigation and political struggle to seek the truth to serve the people. The most severe criticism and self-criticism will be necessary to achieve this breakthrough. It is likely that in the course of its work a programme tic commission will reveal irreconcilable differences amongst its participants resulting in the parting of the ways. This is not a bad thing but a good thing because the effective aim of the commission is to bring about a decisive split in very concrete terms between the camps of revisionism and revolution amongst the Marxist-Leninist in Britain. While the work of the commission should be made public as it proceeds, so as to act as a rallying point for people of a revolutionary inclination, it is nonetheless likely that on the completion of its work the number of conscious, committed revolutionaries will still be very small. In fact it is only when we have the proper programme which will provide the necessary guidance for us to engage in the class struggle at an altogether higher level that we will begin to make a significant impact on some sections of the working class. This is why it would be incorrect to form a party solely on the basis of the programme. The programme must be tested and developed in the course of the day to day class struggle and only then in the light of some actual advances in the struggle and the establishment of a real base in the working class would appropriate conditions exist for the formation of a Marxist-Leninist revolutionary party. This is why initially the programme would only provide the political basis for the formation of a pre-party type of organisation.


The aim of the programmatic commission would be to unite the genuine Marxist-Leninists in Britain by the method of studied, detailed investigations and ideological struggle resulting in a qualitatively higher level of revolutionary consciousness as expressed in the revolutionary programme. All participants in such an exercise must approach it in the self-critical spirit of admitting that our political accomplishments to date, both in theory and in practice, are slight and that our primary task is not to dwell on each others past errors, although those should certainly not be overlooked, but to bring together our combined knowledge end experience in the struggle to achieve the political clarity we have hitherto all too obviously lacked. However, if the Commission is to have any chance at all of achieving its objectives there must be a certain minimal agreement on political principles at the outset. In the view of the NCG and the SCG the course of the international class struggle during the last twenty years has given rise to a number of very definite, clear lines of demarcation between the camp of revisionism and the camp of revolution. These are as follows:

1, Upholding the achievements of the international proletarian revolutionary movement under the general leadership of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao.

2, Acknowledgment of the fact that the USSR has now a social imperialist character and that, together with its satellite states, including Cuba and Vietnam, it is engaged in aggressive, expansionist policies.

3, Open opposition to the new revisionist regime in China and complete repudiation of the reactionary Theory of the Three Worlds propagated by this state bourgeoisie and their followers elsewhere.

4, Opposition to the incorrect assessment of Comrade Mao Tse-Tung and the Chinese revolution put forward by the Party of Labour of Albania and rejection of the erroneous international line propagated by them.

5, Recognition of the fact that Britain is an imperialist state and that in the event of a new inter-imperialist war Marxist-Leninists must uphold Lenin’s line of revolutionary defeatism and reject any defence of the fatherland.

6, Clear and unwavering commitment to the goal of proletarian revolution and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat in Britain by means of protracted revolutionary struggle under the leadership of a revolutionary party of the Leninist type.

7, Recognition that at present the principal task for the Marxist-Leninists in Britain is to develop a revolutionary political programme as the basis for political practice which can lead to the formation of an authentic proletarian revolutionary party.

We are only prepared to work in a programmatic commission together with organisations and individuals who uncompromisingly accept these lines of demarcation. In our assessment there has to be a minimum ideological and political level of agreement if the commission is to effectively carry out its vital work. Certainly, we are prepared to engage in ideological struggle with any organisation and individual who are genuinely unsure and confused on these matters. It is our duty as communists to do so. Nonetheless, we insist that it is of cardinal importance that only those who unreservedly uphold these basic lines of demarcation should be admitted to the programmatic commission.


We know, form past experience, that there are various objections raised by comrades to the proposal to set up a programmatic commission.

Perhaps the most common objection is that the necessary level of ideological clarity needed for the development of a proper programme will not come about until such times as the various local groups and circles have, as a result of the involvement in the day-to-day class struggle, established some real base in the working class by winning over some workers to the revolutionary outlook. In fact, past practice has shown, that however protracted and dedicated the work of comrades is in the economic struggle, the anti-racist struggle, etc., this results in few workers being won over to the revolutionary outlook. On the contrary, it is precisely our lack of developed theory that limits our involvement in the class struggle such that it is conducted in a somewhat piecemeal and empirical manner and is thus not very effective. Only when we have raised our theoretical development by developing an all-round strategy for the conduct or revolutionary work will our practice become more effective and thus result in more people being won over to the revolutionary cause. Oddly enough, it is our impression that those who adhere to this erroneous position are often comrades who are the least involved in the day-to-day class struggle.

Closely related to this erroneous position on party-building is the one that holds that a necessary precondition fop any serious joint theoretical work is joint work of a practical kind. This approach has been tried a number of times during the last twenty years, the last occasion being the best forgotten Joint Action Committee formed around the time of a large scale defection from the Communist Party of Britain (ML) in 1976. In actual practice these enterprises tend to be short-lived precisely because of the theoretical errors and confusion of their participants. Even when, as rarely happens, these set-ups manage to agree on a joint course of action these tend to simply repeat the empiricist and dogmatist errors of their constituents but on a larger scale. Yes, correct theory does arise out of practice but only as a result of deliberate, conscious effort. Moreover, this approach ignores the importance of indirect experience, summed up in revolutionary theory. To ignore this hard and bitterly won experience is to condemn the revolutionary movement to repeat the mistakes of the past. Theoretical clarity does not miraculously appear simply because comrades decide “to do something together”. Joint action can only proceed from a clear, agreed and correct theoretical perspective on the matter at hand and thus on the revolutionary struggle as a whole.

Yet another incorrect approach to party-building is the snowball method of the RCLB which advocates that Marxist-Leninist organisations should engage in bilateral struggle so as to resolve their political differences and then unite. This approach gives primary place to organisational fusion over theoretical clarity. Simply because two or more organisations have reached the point where they have no political differences is no guarantee that their common position is a correct one. On the contrary, this approach of putting organisation above politics tends to result in increasing political error – as is very evident in the case of the RCLB itself. Indeed, the illusory attraction of being part of a larger organisation has resulted in at least one group, The Birmingham Communist Association, abandoning an essentially correct position on party-building in order to become absorbed into the RCLB’s melting snowball. Organisational structure are the means for the implementation of political policies and not vice versa. Real, enduring political unity can only arise on the basis of a proper programme and not through the opportunistic formation of larger organizations.

There arc some other comrades who claim that the Marxist-Leninists in Britain are not yet developed enough to be able to produce a proper revolutionary programme. They try to support this contention by pointing to the lack of solid theoretical analysis so far produced by the Marxist-Leninists in Britain. This is a. criticism which has been levelled at the NCG. In fact the NCG has carried out a certain amount of analysis of some of what they consider to be important theoretical questions and they have published material on the class structure and the international situation. The SGG have also published work on the latter question. however, we also know, as a result of our own experience and that of others, that small groups lack the resources in terms of experience, knowledge and personnel to carry out the comprehensive programme of theoretical work necessary for the elaboration of an overall strategy. Inevitably the members of small, isolated local groups tend to develop a common position on many matters, very often incorrect and inadequate positions, but because of their isolation from other comrades with different experiences and knowledge they are limited in their ability to overcome these errors and develop further. Direct, sincere and concerted investigation and struggle with other comrades can quickly result in the discarding of incorrect ideas and the arrival of new insights which might not otherwise be achieved even over many years. The level of political development of communists is to a considerable extent dependent on whether or not they are willing to do what is necessary to improve their grasp of theory and practice.

Lastly, there are those rather pessimistic comrades who point out that an attempt to form a programmatic commission was made before, back in 1976, by the CWLB(M-L) and failed to get off the ground. Why, these comrades ask, should a commission be successfully established now? Conditions in the world as a whole and among Marxist-Leninists in Britain have changed enormously during the last five years. The confusion and chaos precipitated, but not fundamentally caused by, the Chinese and Albanian, revisionists, have resulted in most of those in Britain who used to call themselves Marxist-Leninists simply dropping out of political life, some others sinking into the quagmire of the most open, blatant revisionism and a few others battling against all this pessimism and reaction with the result that we are now better tempered to take on our revolutionary party-building mission.

Comrades, we remind you of the great responsibility that the remaining Marxist-Leninists bear at the present time. We now find ourselves in the position where the objective conditions favouring an upsurge of revolutionary consciousness and action are becoming more favourable while, at the same time, the continued existence of Marxism-Leninism in this country as a conscious, organised political force is in serious doubt. Already the hour is late and if we do not seize the initiative to formulate a proper programme and build the party, then the opportunity to make socialist revolution in Britain may well be lost for a generation or two.

Comrades, we appeal to you to join with us in the task of developing the revolutionary communist programme. If you really do uphold the revolutionary outlook of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse-Tung Thought then it is your duty to do so.

We urge all genuine Marxist-Leninist organisations to contact us immediately with a view to participating in the work of the commission.

We urge those members, who still adhere to Marxism-Leninism, of the now revisionist organisations such as the CPB(M-L) and the RCLB to work to quickly split those organisations or to leave them, depending on the concrete condition and to join us in the work of the commission. How much longer will you support the social-chauvinism of those organisations and their support for the attacks on Mao Tse-Tung?

We urge all individual Marxist-Leninists to come forward and take part in the work of the Commission, While the Marxist-Leninist movement has been tempered in the struggle against the new wave of revisionism it is still very small and it is urgently necessary that all the available forces take part in the work of the commission.