Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Interview with National Secretary of the CWM

Published: New Age, No. 18, January-February 1980
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Sam Richards and Paul Saba
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The following interview was conducted shortly after the CWM’s Third National Conference.

New Age: Comrade Secretary, could you make some general comments summing up the history of the CWM up to the Third Conference?

National secretary: In its early days ’ CWM was very weak, in all ways. Its political line went little beyond a general commitment to Marxism-Leninism; it was not organised in a communist way as a democratic-centralist body, and our ideas were quite confuse This was largely because of our origins in Reg Birch’s ultra­centralist, revisionist organisation (“Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist)”) and as individuals who had gone their own ways for some time. We threw ourselves into quite a bit of practical work, but found that it didn’t achieve much, because it wasn’t guided by any overall plan and political line.

This made us search with determination for a way forward, and we realised that we needed to give a lot of attention to uniting properly on the basis of a sound political line if we were to make any progress. Internal struggle on questions of politics, ideology and organization, learning from the experience of overseas and British Marxist-Leninists (especially the Revolutionary Communist League of Britain–RCLB) and work around our paper have helped us to consolidate the CWM in an all-round way. If anyone compares our work of today with that of several years back, or our present programme with our first one, I think that they will have to admit that we’ve made a fair bit of progress.

New Age: All comrades seem to agree that the Third National Conference was a success. Would it be right to say that its most important decision was that of uniting with the RCLB in Spring 1980?

National Secretary: Yes, definitely. One good feature of our organization right from the start was that it took a non-sectarian stand for the unity of genuine British Marxist-Leninists in a single party-building organization. We’ve had some problems in the past because we haven’t known just how or on what basis to unite with others, but we always stuck to our views on the necessity of Marxist-Leninist unity.

For about two year, we have conducted unity talks with the RCLB, the biggest and soundest Communist organization in Britain, and we’ve overcome our main differences one by one. We’ve co-opera ted more and more closely in practical work too. We have now got to the point where there are no major disagreements on political line between us and we’re ready to unite. Uniting with the RCLB is the biggest contribution we can make at the moment to the process of building a genuine revolutionary communist party of the working class in Britain. The working class really needs its own party: it’s our duty to do all we can towards building that party. That’s why our conference’s decision on unity was its most important one.

New Age: What practical advantages will unity bring?

National Secretary: The united organization will have quite a bit of experience to draw on and it will be able to test its line in practice more thoroughly.

This will help us to integrate Marxism-Leninism with the conditions of the British revolution more readily. The united organization will have greater resources to concentrate on specific areas of work; such as industrial and anti-racist work; it will also be able to take on work that neither the RCLB nor the CWM have been able to undertake properly, such as Southern Africa or Ireland solidarity activities.

At the moment, we duplicate much of our work; each organization brings out a paper, which takes a lot of effort – the united organization will produce one, improved paper, releasing some comrades for other work. The same goes for meetings and leaflets. Some members of leading bodies of our two organizations will not be on those bodies in the united organization; they will be able to play more of a role at branch and cell level.

All these factors should help us to build up a really solid organization in the next couple of years.

New Age: Will unity between the RCLB and the CWM mean that the revolutionary communist party can be established fairly soon?

National Secretary: No, not in the immediate future. It’s true that a big step forward in party building will occur when we unite; apart from several Marxist-Leninist organizations exclusively based in national minority communities, there will be no other major genuine British Marxist­Leninist organizations of any size then. However, there will still be a number of small groups, mainly local, as well as individuals, including some who are still members of opportunist groups like Reg Birch’s, outside the united organization. Several of the local groups will certainly join the organization soon after our unity conference, but the process of winning Marxist-Leninist unity still has a little way to go.

Then there are a number of things that have to be achieved before a party can be established. We need to strengthen our political line much more; we must root ourselves firmly in the working class, and secure strong bases in all three nations in Britain – Welsh, Scottish and English, and among the national minorities. When these things have been done, a British revolutionary party will exist in fact, and we can then declare it established.

New Age: The united organization is to have the name Revolutionary Communist League of Britain, and its paper will be “Class struggle.” Would you explain why this is so?

National Secretary: Yes; the RCLB and “Class Struggle” are better known than the names “CWM” and “New Age.” Neither of the present organizations has much of a base in the working class as yet, but the RCLB’ s is bigger and in certain places, it and its paper are familiar to workers. It is therefore appropriate that we should accept these names for use by the united organization.

The series of “October Books” will continue, and it has been tentatively agreed that the united organization will publish a new theoretical journal called “October.” These names are elements of continuity from the CWM which the united organization will have. But the new organization will be a qualitative step forward on its predecessors, so, while certain elements in it may be traced back to one or other component part, I think we’re going to find more and more of its characteristics rising either from a synthesis between features of the old CWM and RCLB or as new things created in the course of our future revolutionary work as members of one organization.

New Age: Comrade Secretary, thank you.