Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

The RCL and CWM Have United!

First Published: Class Struggle, Vol. 4, No. 12, June 12th-25th 1980
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Sam Richards and Paul Saba
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On June 1st, the Revolutionary Communist League of Britain (RCLB) and the Communist Workers’ Movement (CWM) united. At the Unity Conference there was a unanimous vote to unify the two organisations. This decision came as the culmination of a long and often exacting process of struggle over a wide range of political and ideological issues. The two organisations have now merged into one, under the name of the RCLB.

A lively spirit of democratic discussion prevailed at the conference, and there was full, free and frank discussion on the way forward for revolutionary work in this country today. The agenda ranged over questions of our organisations’ history and organisational structure, and helped to lay groundwork for the development of a programme for revolution in Britain.

Also attending the conference were fraternal delegates from other progressive organisations including the Birmingham Communist Association, the Bangladesh Workers’ Association, the Youth Forces for National Liberation (Jamaica), and Indian comrades. Also in attendance were correspondents from China’s Xinhua News Agency.

Messages of support were sent to the conference, among them messages from the Proletarian Party of Iran and the Communist Party of Kampuchea.

Although our unified organisation, the RCLB, is still small, this Unity Conference is a significant step on the road to uniting the genuine revolutionary forces in Britain and we believe that the RCLB will soon become a force to be reckoned with on the left.

For an account of how the RCLB and CWM, came into being, and how they came to unite, see pages below.

* * *

How we united

There is no way that the RCLB and the CWM could have united without one fundamental factor. We both understood that it was essential for revolutionary communists to unite and to work together, and we strongly wanted to unite. Without that basic and real desire – not just empty words about unity – it would have been impossible.


But that desire was not enough in itself. Our two organisations had different backgrounds, different methods of organisation, different styles of work, and most importantly different political positions on some questions. We also had important differences over what mass work we should be doing. If we had united without solving these differences, we should soon have split again. So what did we do? We struggled over the important ones. Often that struggle was quite sharp, but it was always based on our desire for unity and carried out with the aim of learning from each other.

In April 1977 a unity committee had been established between the Communist Federation of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) and the CWM. When the RCLB was founded after the CFB(ML) united with the Communist Unity Association (Marxist-Leninist), the Unity Committee continued with representatives of the RCLB and the CWM.

At the same time the RCLB and the CMM co-operated in some practical struggles.


By the second half of 1979 both organisations had developed through learning from their own experience and through the struggle for unity. At that time we were able to isolate just three main questions where important differences still existed between us, and we decided to concentrate just on these. They were on Ireland, Democratic Centralism and style of work. At the same time joint practical work was developing further. We were working together, organising or taking part in a joint contingent on demonstrations; we organised public meetings and produced joint leaflets. This was very useful in getting us all thinking on the same wavelength about things.

As we thrashed out the three main issues that still divided us, we learnt a great deal from each other and reached a common understanding of these questions that was better than either organisation had managed on its own.


By January 1st 1980 we were able to publicly state that no fundamental differences existed between the two organisations that should keep us apart. We still did not agree on absolutely everything, but the differences between us as organisations were smaller than the differences which inevitably exist within each organisation anyway. Further progress in our understanding of various issues could be much better resolved within a single lively Democratic Centralist organisation where every member of both organisations would be able to learn from the other.

From January 1st a process of uniting the organisations began – establishing joint committees and gradually integrating the RCLB and the CWM. Finally on June 1st 1980 the membership of both organisations met in the Unity Conference and voted unanimously to unite.


The RCLB was founded in July 1977 when the Communist Federation of Britain(Marxist-Leninist) united with the Communist Unity Association (Marxist-Leninist). At the same time the RCLB Manifesto was published as a first step in the struggle to produce a revolutionary communist programme in Britain.

The Communist Workers’ Movement was founded in Autumn 1976 after some of the best sections of the Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) split away because of the degeneration of the CPB (ML) which they had found impossible to prevent due to the CPB (ML)’s thoroughly bureaucratic structure.


The RCLB from its inception was a democratic-centralist organisation but in reaction to the loose liberal federalism of the old CFB(ML) in which most of its members had been, it had important errors of over-centralism, lacked a lively inner party life and had tendencies towards dogmatism and sectarianism. The CWM members, after their experience in the CPB (ML), tended towards opposite errors, and organised themselves in a very loose way. This created some problems as it moved towards a more effective democratic-centralist form of organisation. But it succeeded in doing this over a period of time, while keeping hold of a good down-to-earth, lively and straight-forward way of doing things. This lively democracy in turn will be a contribution to the unified organisation as the RCLB has gradually been over-coming its over centralism, during a campaign against ultra-left idealism and. dogmatism. Unification will take all of us further forward.


At the beginning the CWM sought to involve itself very broadly in mass work, taking part in a variety of anti-imperialist and anti-racist struggles and in the trade union movement. This strong desire for extensive mass work was excellent, but the CWM learnt through time the need to be more systematic about establishing deeper political analysis and leadership, and to set realistic priorities in its work.

Many members of the RCLB had had previous experience of undirected work in a variety of broad front committees. So when the RCLB was founded it concentrated exclusively on building communist bases in industry.

The RCLB’s industrial work was its main strength, but its exclusive concentration on it isolated it from broader mass struggles that were taking place. Over a long period of time the RCLB and the CWM have both come to a better understanding by learning from their own and each other’s experience. The RCLB will now, as the unified organisation, continue with- its industrial work, but also be involved in anti-racist work, and in solidarity struggles against superpower domination and against British Imperialism.


In the struggle against British Imperialism the RCLB has also criticised itself for its error in aiming to build a single communist Party which would be based in northern Ireland as well as in England, Scotland and Wales. This line had shown a failure to grasp that the Irish struggle was a unified struggle of a single nation against British Imperialism, and that therefore the Irish people need their own all-Ireland Party. This was a social-chauvinist error. The unity conference stressed the importance of building solidarity with the Irish peoples’ struggle against British Imperialism and for national independence and reunification.


The RCLB and the CWM have both gone forward in the last three to four years. The unified organisation is stronger in all respects than either of them. It will take e forward the work of developing a programme, while clearly recognising that a genuine Communist Party can only be rebuilt in the midst of the class struggle itself.


The unity between the RCLB and the CWM is an important step forward in rebuilding a Communist Party of the working class in Britain. But there is still much to do.

In the next period the unified organisation will work with the aim of producing a deeper programmatic document at its second congress, which will be stronger than both the RCLB Manifesto and the CWM Programme. We will study and struggle to deepen our grasp of certain important questions. There are a number of questions, including those of British imperialism in Ireland and the liberation struggle, of deepening a class analysis of British imperialist society, of world developments towards war, of racism etc. that we must understand better. That work is essential for giving conscious direction to our struggle. But it cannot be done in ivory towers in isolation from the struggle. The RCLB will be involved a in mass work building communist bases in industry and actively fighting for working class politics in the Trade Unions. It will be involved in the struggle against racism and fascism, in anti-imperialist work in solidarity with the struggle in southern Africa and in Ireland. The RCLB will actively support the people of Kampuchea, and expose superpower hegemonism and Soviet aggression.

The Party must be built in the struggle by uniting the masses against the open class enemy, but in the course of that struggle it is essential to fight opportunism. Marxist-Leninist theory must be integrated with the concrete reality of the class struggle in Britain.

At the same time the RCLB will continue to seek unity on a principled basis with other communist groups, including communist organisations that are presently based entirely in particular national minorities. All these aspects are part of Party-building in Britain today. There is still a long way to go. But the 1980s will see the rebirth of a genuine Communist Party in Britain.


Comrades took time out from the busy conference agenda to relax and enjoy themselves at a social on the Saturday night. Celebrating together with them were a large number of supporters and friends from many countries.

The entertainment was kicked off with songs by the New Era Singers (one of the first joint activities in which both the CWM and RCLB participated) and by the Red Flag Singers from Liverpool.

Comrades and friends from other countries gave a richly internationalist flavour to the cultural events with revolutionary songs and poems in Urdu, Bengali and Punjabi. Members of the Confederation of Iranian Students sang a revolutionary Iranian song on the importance of unity and a comrade from the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania sang songs of the African freedom struggle in Zulu and English.

A woman worker from Camden Town, in North London, gave a fine rendering of “Solidarity Forever” and in a short talk told the audience of how she remembered thousands of workers singing this during the St Pancras Rent Strike of 1960. The renowned Scouse Male Proletarian Voice Choir more than compensated for any lack of professional training with their enthusiasm and evident class feeling when they treated the audience to their versions of ’Union Maid’ and ’Docker’s Tanner’.