Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Revolutionary Communist League of Britain

“Fight on to Unite the Marxist-Leninist Movement”

First Published: Revolution, Vol. 3, No. 2, June 1978.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Sam Richards and Paul Saba
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A year ago, just before the founding Congress of the Revolutionary Communist League, ’Revolution’ published an important article: “Call to the British Marxist-Leninist Movement”.

The article sharpened the criticism of the fast growing errors of the leadership of the Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist). It criticised small group mentality, which has fragmented the British Marxist-Leninist movement so damagingly. It severely warned of the danger of setting up a new federation as a cosy half-way house for the Marxist-Leninist groups and it called for all genuine Marxist-Leninists step by step to struggle for principled unity in a single Marxist-Leninist organisation.

Extracts from the “Call to the British Marxist-Leninist Movement” were published by comrades in several other countries, including China. As the article pointed out:

The British Marxist-Leninist movement now has 14 years’ experience. Most of that experience is negative, but one of the strengths of Marxism-Leninism is that it enables us to learn from negative experience.

But we can also learn from positive experience. There have been some important developments in the British Marxist-Leninist movement in the past year. It is necessary to sum them up and in the light of the new situation to reformulate our fighting tasks in building the Party of the working class.

In the last year the Revolutionary Communist League was been founded on the basis of the successful struggle for unity between the Communist Federation of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) and the Communist Unity Association (Marxist-Leninist). A little later the East London Marxist-Leninist Association dissolved itself and some of its leading members also joined the RCL. This was yet another victory for building the single Party of the working class. Meanwhile the revisionism of the Birch clique heading the Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) has become even more apparent. Birch has fully exposed himself as a trade union bureaucrat lieutenant of capitalism, an enemy of the great People’s Republic of China, and as a toady of the Soviet social imperialists!


Since the founding of the Revolutionary Communist League in July 1977 increasing numbers of advanced workers and other revolutionary people have recognised that the Manifesto of the RCL is the best thing we yet have in Britain in hammering out the programme of the future revolutionary Party of the working class. They recognise that the RCL has a militant and serious attitude in integrating the universal revolutionary truths of Marxism-Leninism with the concrete struggles of the British working class. They recognise that the RCL has a militant and scientific style of criticism and self-criticism and that it practices firm democratic centralism. They also see that the RCL is determined to struggle for principled unity in a single organisation with all honest Marxist-Leninists in Britain, and that it knows how to increase the chances of achieving this to the maximum!

In the autumn of 1977 the central committee set itself a target of increasing the membership of the RCL by one third over the following year. On the basis of careful and principled assessment of applicants for candidate membership that target was achieved within only six months. This is an excellent situation for Party building!

In order to achieve the full potential of the excellent situation all comrades in the RCL must remain personally modest and guard against arrogance and conceit. Otherwise they will start going backwards. It is essential for all comrades to understand how much energetic work we have to do to build the real revolutionary Party of the working class, and to tackle this vigorously. But events of the past year are showing that advanced workers and revolutionary people in Britain are increasingly seeing the RCL as the best centre leading the way forward in Party building. It would be liberal and a form of false petty bourgeois modesty to deny this. It would be treason to the urgent task of rebuilding the Communist Party of the working class and a betrayal of thousands of British Communists and workers who fought their whole lives for the socialist revolution.

But although the RCL may be the best leading centre in Britain (despite having much work to do) it is not in itself the single leading centre. The majority of genuine Marxist-Leninists are still outside its ranks and in other organisations.

Establishing a single leading centre is our specific and immediate organisational task in Party building.

As the “History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union” explains, a single leading centre is an essential precondition for forging a true revolutionary Party:

although the First Congress had been held, in reality no Marxist (revolutionary) party was as yet formed in Russia. The congress did not succeed in uniting the separate Marxist circles and organisations and welding them together or organisationally. There was still no common line of action in the work of the local organisations, nor was there a party programme, rules or a single leading centre. (Chapter 1, section 4).

Whether or not to form a single leading centre is a major question for the British Marxist-Leninist movement today. Over the next two or three years it is likely to be the subject of a fierce two-line struggle. Increasingly all genuine Bolsheviks, all genuine Marxist-Leninists, will gravitate towards and struggle to establish a single leading centre for the Party of the working class. But just as increasingly the minority of Mensheviks, of opportunists who are soaked in petty-bourgeois individualism and who do not put the interests of the working class first, will look for one reason after another as an excuse to keep away from the leading centre that is emerging. This process is historically inevitable. All those who earnestly want to see the revolutionary Communist Party of the working class rebuilt must study these facts militantly and soberly, and do all they can to unite the greatest possible number of revolutionary Communists in a single leading centre.

It is always better to have more people for revolution! The central committee of the RCL has firmly pledged itself to struggle for unity with all genuine Marxist-Leninists outside its ranks.

In particular the RCL believes it is very much in the interests of Party-building to devote a lot of energy to winning principled unity with the comrades of the Communist Workers Movement.

The Communist Workers Movement is an organisation of comrades who firmly and correctly split from the opportunist Birch leadership of the CPB (M-L) in the autumn of 1976. Over the last year they have made substantial progress in combating opportunism, in consolidating the CWM on a clear political basis and in grasping the essential organisational principle of democratic centralism.

The RCL and the CWM must unite.

Starting from the desire for unity they must seek common ground on major questions. Already there is a lot of common ground between the two organisations. It is only natural that at present there are also some differences on major questions. These will undoubtedly be resolved if both sides persevere in thrashing matters out in terms of what is in the interests of the working class.

Struggle is the means to unity and unity is the aim of struggle!

In struggling for unity between the RCL and the CWM there will be no horse-trading of vital principles for the socialist revolution. Nor will we win unity on the basis of the lowest common denominator.

Each side will and must argue firmly for what it believes is in the interests of the working class. But is must also be ready to listen to criticism and to make self-criticism when necessary. For example, comrades in the RCL must understand that some of the criticisms by the CWM of the Manifesto of the RCL may turn out to be correct, and at an appropriate time the central committee of the RCL will make any necessary statements on the subject. Providing we persist in a correct spirit the common struggle for unity between the RCL and the CWM will not only win unity within a single democratic centralist organisation: it will win it on a political basis that will further clarify the policies and tactics of the socialist revolution in Britain. It will undoubtedly take us nearer to the Programme of the future revolutionary Communist Party of the working class.

The other differences between the RCL and the CWM will be minor. These should be reserved and resolved under democratic centralism within the future single organisation. Democratic centralism is not a unity of the grave. It presupposes democratic debate under centralised guidance, criticism and self-criticism. Continual summing up of experience and two-line struggles about the correct way to assess the work of the past and go forward with future tasks are an indispensable part of a democratic centralist Communist Party. Minor differences will best be resolved in this manner within a united, single and much larger organisation that is vigorously getting on with the major tasks on which principled unity has already been reached.

The main way of winning unity between Marxist-Leninist organisations is by seeking common ground and struggling for unity on major political principles. But as a subordinate aspect, in order to strengthen the desire for unity and increase the opportunity for comrades at all levels to learn from each others strong points, it is also useful for the two organisations to engage in joint activities on an agreed political basis.

Although the RCL’s resources for struggling for unity with other organisations are limited it very much wants to promote the possibilities of winning unity with other Marxist-Leninist organisations in Britain in addition to the CWM. It appreciates receiving the publications of other organisations and receipts of comradely letters including those which make serious and militant criticisms, even if we consider the criticisms to be incorrect, so long as the letters start from the desire for unity. We call on all other genuine Marxist-Leninist organisations in Britain to unite with the RCL!

The RCL is determined to work tirelessly to unite all who can be united in the vital task of establishing a single leading centre to build the revolutionary Communist Party of the working class in Britain. We call on all comrades and friends to do whatever they can to speed this glorious task. A single leading centre will be built! No tricks of the bourgeoisie, and no manoeuvres by the opportunists can prevent it!


Birch, the leader of what was once the most respected Marxist-Leninist organisation in Britain, the Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist), has now fully exposed himself as a thoroughgoing revisionist. As the article in the last issue of “Revolution” clearly and militantly showed, Birch is no longer part of the Marxist-Leninist movement.

He is a trade union bureaucrat, a labour lieutenant of capital. As a long-standing full time official of the engineering union, the AUEW, he was promoted to the General Council of the TUC, which is now effectively an extra arm of the bourgeois state. He was promoted purely on the grounds of seniority as a trade union bureaucrat. There was a vacancy and he was the oldest candidate: therefore he was automatically appointed. In no way was he elected with the support of the mass of the workers. In no way did he enter the General Council of the TUC as a revolutionary Communist in order to expose it as a tool of the bourgeoisie. The most revolutionary thing he does is to mutter cynically into the next pint of beer!

In recognition of his services the British imperialist bourgeoisie have now finally entered his name in the pages of “Who’s Who” the roll call of monopoly capitalists and their political, economic and cultural servants:

As Lenin wrote:

Practice has shown that the active people in the working class movement who adhere to the opportunist trend are better defenders of the bourgeoisie, than the bourgeoisie itself. (Report to the Second Congress of the Communist International 1920).

To take one example, in the Spring of 1977 a wave of strikes by workers against the wage cuts imposed by the “Social Contract” broke out of the straight jacket in which the opportunist leaders had confined the working class. One of these was a strike of maintenance men at Heathrow airport. On Wednesday April 6th, Birch appeared on television as a faithful lieutenant of capital, instructing these maintenance men who had been firmly holding out against a notorious “blacklegs’ charter” cooked up by the Government and TUC to continue flights from the airport, to return to work.

What no member of the bourgeoisie could do. Birch did for them and he dressed this treachery up as Marxism-Leninism. The April 25th issue of ’The Worker’, the paper of the CPB (M-L), brazenly declared in the title of its main article “No advance without Marxism-Leninism”. And beside a picture of Birch addressing the courageous strikers, the opening sentence of the article declared with thundering hypocrisy.

What has been demonstrated by the maintenance engineers at Heathrow, as by the tool room engineers at Leyland, is that there is no substitute for straight forward rejection of the social contact as an attack on trade unionism and hostile to the interests of the working class.

The article was a brazen and most “straightforward” justification of out and out treachery by Birch.

How invaluable it is for the bourgeoisie to have such servants can be seen when we recall the crying need for the British working class to have its own revolutionary Communist Party once again to lead it. The value to the bourgeoisie of having such a traitor at the head of the largest Marxist-Leninist organisation in Britain is incalculable.

By his own deeds Birch has made himself an obstacle to Party building which must be ruthlessly thrown to one side. It is far from enough to dismiss him sneeringly. It is absolutely essential for Party-building that Birch is completely exposed and discredited by a militant and protracted campaign until there is not a single honest Marxist-Leninist left in Britain who can have any doubt about Birch’s true revisionist nature. No one must stand on the fence.

Birch’s contempt for the working class is matched by his hatred of socialist China and his love for the Soviet social imperialists. At a time when the two superpowers are the two main enemies of the peoples of the world and the Soviet Union is the more dangerous, Birch raises a haughty hand and forbids us to use the word “superpower” because it is “school-boy slang”! (see CPB (M-L) pamphlet “Britain in the World 1977”).

“The Worker” hardly ever attacks Soviet social imperialism.

But Birch’s true feelings have come out. An article in the March issue of the AUEW journal by him and a fellow engineering union bureaucrat praise the Soviet Union following a visit as guests of the Soviet authorities. The Soviet bureaucrat capitalist class is systematically cultivating trade union bureaucrats in the West as part of their policy of global domination. And, true to his class nature, Birch swallowed the bait whole! There in the article he roundly praises the Soviet Union as one of the two biggest “Industrial Powers” in the world (with a capital ’I’ and a capital ’P’)! This from the man who forbids us to use the term “superpower”. His true class nature as a servant of the British monopoly capitalist bourgeoisie at home and of Soviet social imperialism abroad must be fully exposed.

It is now evident that Birch never made a clear-cut break with the revisionism of the old “Communist” Party of Great Britain. He left the Party late, only in 1967, up to four years after many other Communists had left it following the great struggle in the international Communist movement.

He quickly founded his own Party without drawing a firm line of demarcation with revisionism. He has always shown contempt for the revolutionary theory of the working class - and thereby has surrendered helplessly to bourgeois ideas within the working class movement. He has always bowed before the spontaneous trade union economic struggle. Within the CPB (M-L) he has imposed the dictatorial style of things being decided on the nod of one man. Hundreds of honest and hardworking revolutionaries who joined the CPB (M-L) have been lost, at least temporarily, from the revolutionary ranks as a result of the revisionism of Birch.

On his own he couldn’t run the CPB (M-L). Around him he has a small mafia-like clique which relies on his dubious prestige. In order to split and disintegrate this ruthless and extremely damaging group of misleaders we must step up the ideological and political struggle against the revisionist Birch clique. The contradiction between the working class and the revisionist Birch clique is one between the people and the enemy. All leading members of the CPB (M-L) must quickly decide whether they are going to support the revisionist Birch or whether they are going to split with him.

At the same time we solemnly declare we will never give up the struggle to win over the great majority of honest comrades of the CPB (M-L) who have been so ruthlessly manipulated by the Birch clique with such serious harm to the task of building the true revolutionary Party of the working class.


Despite the destruction of the Communist Federation of Britain, the Communist Unity Association and the East London Marxist-Leninist Association and the corresponding building of the Revolutionary Communist League, the Marxist-Leninist movement is still deeply divided by small group mentality. The conditions of capitalism themselves constantly give rise to the emergence of small groups. It is therefore essential in a spirit of revolutionary optimism that we wage a militant and persistent struggle against small group mentality.

It is only natural that with the sharpening contradictions of capitalism and in the absence of a true revolutionary Communist Party small circles will come together. These are small circles of friends and associates reaching revolutionary consciousness and earnestly wishing to help the working class forward and to study Marxism more deeply for this purpose.

It is a good thing that such circles come together. It is a sign of the revolutionary period we live in.

But in the tempering and development of each individual comrade as a revolutionary fighter there comes a time when he or she must ask if they are to remain only with a circle of friends or whether they will step forward to join the growing army of the working class. In the final analysis it boils down to a question of whether you are serving yourself or are serving the working class.

As Mao Tsetung penetratingly observed about small group mentality:

Although on the surface this does not seem to be the pursuit of personal interests, in reality it exemplifies the narrowest individualism. (“On Correcting Mistaken Ideas in the Party”. Selected Works Vol I. p112).

The history of the international Communist movement seems to show that a stage of fighting small groups is historically necessary in building the true revolutionary movement. Marx wrote to Bolte the following highly applicable words over 100 years ago:

The development of the system of socialists sects and that of the real workers’ movement are always inversely proportional to each other. So long as the sects are (historically) justified, the working class is not yet ripe for an independent historic movement. As soon as it has attained this naturally all sects are essentially reactionary. (23 November 1871)

Lenin in “What Is To Be Done” and in “One Step Forward, Two Steps Back” repeatedly exposes the narrowness and selfishness of small groups. He writes of the “primitive democracy of a primitive circle in which everybody does everything”, so opposed to the division of labour necessary in a fighting vanguard of the working class. He writes of the family circles, the friendship circles and of “circle domesticity”. Consistent with this the friendship circles subscribe to “the worldly wisdom of yielding and ’living in harmony with everyone”, Accordingly they manifest extreme elusiveness and vagueness on the principles that must be practised if we are to lead the struggle of the working class to real victory. Instead policy, tactics and priorities are decided by the “wilfulness and caprices characteristic of circles”. When a struggle breaks out it is on the basis that so and so is not a nice enough person to be trustworthy in the circle of friends: “free-for-all scrapping” breaks out instead of thrashing questions out militantly and systematically in terms of what is truly in the interests of the working class. Accordingly the logic of the friendship circle inevitably is “either a punch in the jaw or let’s have your hand”. There is no systematic struggle to hammer out a scientific fighting Programme for the working class. There is no deep desire to build a single fighting Party of the working class.

Instead, in the name of spontaneist activism the circle-mentality bows hopelessly to the selfishness and subjectivism of petty bourgeois individualism.

All these features can be seen in the British Marxist-Leninist movement today, undoubtedly some opportunist elements in the movement will be mortally offended by a declaration of war on the small groups, a declaration which seems to them to be very arrogant and aggressive. At the same time we must fully grasp that the great majority of comrades are good, even those who have been severely misled by the influence of revisionists and opportunists. They need militant patient and protracted education. There are several genuine Marxist-Leninist organisations which can be united only by principled and protracted work. And in addition there are a number of organisations calling themselves Marxist-Leninist which, although an opportunist line prevails in them, are basically good.

It will only be over a period of time that it will become clear who are the handful of opportunists irretrievably committed to the historical stage of small groups and implacably opposed to building the revolutionary Communist Party of the working class.

For this reason we must persist in helping more comrades by militant and patient education, as we continue the protracted historical task of criticising small group mentality.

All the heroism of the British working class in their fight back against the everyday encroachments of capitalism – such as the heroism of the firemen at the end of 1977 – only underlines more boldly that the central task in Britain today is to rebuild the revolutionary Communist Party.

The three concrete slogans we must firmly grasp to be sure of fulfilling this exceptionally important and glorious task are: