Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Marxist-Leninist Party of the USA

On the history of the nationalist deviations of the RCP of Britain (ML):

The Struggle against the theory of “three worlds” must not be forgotten

Published: The Workers’ Advocate, Vol. 12, No. 8, September 5, 1982.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The recent war over the Falkland Islands brought out in striking relief a number of serious short comings in the tactics and agitation of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (ML). These short comings centered on deviations in the direction of adapting to petty-bourgeois nationalism. As discussed in depth in our article beginning on page 10 of this issue, the leadership of the RCPB(ML) made the serious mistake of trying to oppose the British imperialist aggression in the South Atlantic with a national program, with a struggle for British “national rights” and British “sovereignty.” As well, the RCPB(ML) made the serious error of supporting the Argentine fascist generals and came out in solidarity with their ultra-reactionary nationalist cause.

In our opinion, these were not isolated mistakes of, the moment. Quite the contrary. Nationalist deviations have plagued the RCPB{ML) and its predecessor organizations for more than a decade. Even on in 1967. It was organized by two organizations called the fundamental question of whether or not the revolution in capitalist Britain is a proletarian socialist revolution or some kind of national anti-imperialist revolution, the British party has vacillated from one position to the other over the years. The particular ideological source of these vacillations has been the influence of Maoist “three worlds-ism” which as gravely affected the British Party. That is why today, when we see the leadership of the RCPB(ML) again setting forth a program of struggle for British sovereignty and British national rights, and when we see them arguing the cause of the “third world” Argentine fascists, we cannot but be concerned.

In this article e review some of these historical weaknesses. The purpose of this review is not to present the static viewpoint that shortcomings of the past cannot be overcome. Rather, in our opinion lessons from the weaknesses of the past shed a beam of light that can only assist the British Parry to see the gravity of the shortcomings of the present and assist the British comrades to overcome these shortcomings.

A National “Anti-imperialist” Revolution for Capitalist Britain

In the early days of their formation the predecessor organizations of the RCPB(ML) – the English Internationalists, the English Communist Movement (ML), and then the Communist Party of England(ML) – were heavily influenced by the petty-bourgeois nationalism of Mao Zedong Thought. This even went to the extent of denouncing the “left adventurist stand” that in bourgeois-imperialist Britain the principal contradiction in society is between the working class and the capitalist exploiting class; and it went to the extent of denying that the revolution in Britain was a socialist one.

For example, in 1971 the Workers’ England Weekly News, the newspaper of the English Communist Movement (ML), the predecessor of today’s Workers’ Weekly, carried a major article on the fourth anniversary of the “Necessity for Change Conference.” (This conference was held in London in 1967. It was organized by two organizations the Canadian Internationalists and the Irish Internationalists. Among other things, this meeting took the decision to form the English Internationalists.) This article sets forth and confirms the strategic line of the British revolution as follows:

With respect to the question ’What is the stage of the revolution?,’ there were those who took a left adventurist stand; i.e. ’left’ in form but right in essence. For them there were no stages leading to the proletarian revolution. Gesticulating wildly, they talked of the working class’ versus the capitalists....

A right capitulationist line appeared in the conference which also stood for ’no stage in the revolution.’...

The stage of revolution in England can be characterized as MASS DEMOCRATIC in form, and ANTI-IMPERIALIST AND ANTI-FASCIST in content. Serving this stage will lead to the development of PROLETARIAN SOCIALIST REVOLUTION. (August 25, 1971. pp. 1. 8, capitals as in original)

Support for British Imperialism in the “World United Front” Against the Two Superpowers

This “democratic” and “anti-imperialist”’ “stage of the revolution” was directly linked to the Maoist and “three worldist” strategy of a “world united front,” including the imperialist and reactionary forces, allegedly directed against the two superpowers. In line with this strategy, Workers’ England Weekly News considered capitalist Britain to be pan of the “powerful World United Front against U.S. imperialism and its accomplice Soviet social-imperialism.” (December 31. 1971) It waxed enthusiastic about how “the growing unity of capitalist countries in opposing U.S. domination” is “a powerful factor contributing to the defeat of U.S. imperialism.”’ (Ibid.)

Moreover, it directly declared its support for the Conservative Heath government as a supporter, albeit a vacillating one. of the interests of the people of the world. “We the English Communist Movement (Marxist-Leninist) support the action of the Heath Government in voting for China’s entry [to the UN]. Insofar as the Heath Government supports the interests of the People’s Republic of China and the people of the world we support it, insofar as it opposes these interests we oppose it. It is, in fact, an indication of the irresistible trend in the world that the Heath Government – its hands daily stained with the blood of the heroic Irish people – should be forced to support a just cause.” (December 7, 1971, emphasis added) Thus, as far back as 1971, the predecessor organization of the RCPB(ML) had already been adversely affected by the class collaborationist and social-chauvinist poison of Maoist “three worlds-ism.”

A Big “Three Worldist” Campaign in Support of the EEC

From its national “anti-imperialist” revolution and its qualified support for the Heath government, the British Party slid deep into the quagmire of the “three worldist” marsh. For example, in the summer of 1975, the CP of England (ML) ran a big campaign to vote “yes” to keep British imperialism in the European Common Market (EEC). Let us examine the arguments that were used at that time because they bear a great deal of contemporary relevance.

In May, 1975 the National Executive of CPE(ML) issued a major statement on the forthcoming EEC referendum. (Workers’ Weekly, Vol. 3, No. 4, May 11975) This statement declared:

The National Executive of the Communist Party of England (Marxist-Leninist) holds that it is the proletarian internationalist duty of the British working class to support the continued membership of Britain in the EEC. The necessity of doing so stems solely from the necessity of opposing the two superpowers, U.S. imperialism and Soviet social-imperialism, their contention for hegemony in Europe, and their plans to launch a third world war to redivide Europe between them. Accordingly, the National Executive is putting forward the slogans: Vote for Britain’s continued membership in the EEC in order to oppose the two superpowers and their plans for a third world war!,’ Oppose British monopoly capitalism’s propaganda for great-nation chauvinism!’” The statement goes on to point out that the “European monopoly capitalists have more and more attempted to unite to form a bloc against the two superpowers” and that it is the duty of the proletariat to support such a bloc because the two superpowers “seriously threaten smaller imperialist and capitalist powers such as those of western Europe.”

As to the slogan against “great-nation chauvinism,” this was simply “internationalism” of the “three worlds” variety. It was directed against the British reactionaries who opposed membership in the EEC. And it was also directed against the revisionists and “left” social-democrats, who were against the EEC. The CPE(ML) denounced “the whole legion of opportunist trends” for the “shameful” stand of putting the “short term” class and revolutionary interests of the working class before the sacred unity of the European imperialist bourgeoisie.

The statement declared:

It was essential for the British working class to objectively ally with the British monopoly-capitalist class (during World War II).... Similarly today, not to support the unity of the European capitalists against the two superpowers... amounts in practice to aiding and abetting the two superpowers under the pretext of ’opposing’ British monopoly capitalism. (emphasis added)

After the referendum, Workers’ Weekly hailed “yes” vote as “an important victory for the struggle of the world’s people.” (“Workers’ Weekly Commentary: The EEC Referendum.” June 21-28, 1975) It explained this victory as follows:

The vote is in line with the trend growing throughout the world, of the people, nations and countries uniting to oppose the two superpowers, their hegemony and preparations for a third world war. This contention between the two superpowers is more and more centering on Europe and seriously threatening the smaller imperialist and monopoly capitalist powers there. In order to oppose this threat, a number of European monopoly capitalist countries have increasingly united to form a bloc to oppose the two superpowers which itself has more recently been forced, because of the growing trend in the world today, to unite with the third world countries to a certain extent, to further oppose U.S. ”imperialism and Soviet social-imperialism.”

While recognizing that the “no” vote was strongest among the industrial workers, Workers’ Weekly claims that among the workers “large numbers realized that there was basically no choice but to stay in the EEC if Britain was not to become a colony of one or both of the two superpowers.” (Ibid., emphasis added)

Workers’Weekly reserved its most virulent language for the “great-nation chauvinist” stand of the opportunists, who “tell the workers to vote ’No’ because [EEC membership) will hold back the struggle for socialism in this country, never pointing to the international duties of the British working class...” And it also attacked the opportunists for refusing to “raise in the working class the importance of putting the short-term considerations of revolution secondary to the overall task of uniting with the world’s people to oppose the two superpowers and the serious danger of another world war....” (emphasis added)

From this campaign in support of the EEC, it is clear that the British Party had gone a long way-down the road of Maoist “three worlds-ism.” It had gone a long way in support of British and European “second world” imperialism and in support of “second” and “third world” unity. It had gone a long way in placing the national struggle against the “threat of the superpowers and the danger of war” before the “secondary” and “short-term consideration of revolution” and socialism.

Renunciation of the Idea of a Struggle for British National Interests

After the 7th Congress of the Party of Labor of Albania, held in November 1976, the open clash between revolutionary Marxism-Leninism and Chinese revisionist “three worlds-ism” burst out on a world scale. Gradually, over a period of time, the British Party also came to see the light about the counterrevolutionary nature of the “three worlds” theory. It also began criticism of the social-chauvinist theses which the British Party had itself been campaigning for up to that time. These were positive steps.

Of particular significance, the British Party began to reject the idea of a national struggle for Britain. Indeed, the idea of a national struggle in the imperialist powers such as Britain was the cornerstone of the ”three worldist’ denial of revolution and socialism for these countries. This bourgeois nationalism was the springboard from which the Maoist “three worlders” leaped into an alliance with their own imperialist bourgeoisie in the name of fighting the superpowers. And it was this collaborationist treachery which later led to open support for U.S. imperialism in its rivalry with Soviet social-imperialism. Therefore it was of considerable importance that the British Party took steps to renounce this nationalist idea.

In June 1977 Workers’ Weekly wrote: “The British monopoly capitalist class is firmly in the camp of western’ imperialism headed and subservient to the U.S. imperialists... This does not mean that there is a form of ’national’ struggle against U.S. imperialism in Britain. Britain is still an imperialist power in its own right....” (Workers’ Weekly, June 4, 1977, p. 4, emphasis added)

In a May Day speech that same year, a spokesman of the CPE(ML) declared that: “...in all the capitalist countries, and of particular importance to us in those countries which are oppressor countries, whether they are superpowers or smaller imperialist countries such as Britain, the task of the Marxist-Leninists is to overthrow their own bourgeoisie. The erroneous line, inside a capitalist country, of a united front against the two superpowers...is revisionism and undermines the revolutionary struggle of the masses to defeat their own bourgeoisie. This line is in fact no different to the line of the second international.” (Workers’ Weekly, May 14, 1977, p. 5, emphasis added)

In 1979 the CPE(ML) produced a document entitled Presenting the Ideas of the First Congress of the CPE(ML). This document states that: ”The Party totally opposes and repudiates the modern revisionist thesis...[which raises] such reactionary and social-chauvinist slogans in a major imperialist country such as Britain of ’liberating the country from U.S. or Soviet control’ and ’fighting for the independence of Britain.” (p. 17)

Subsequently, in the summer of 1979, Workers’Weekly carried an article entitled “The Followers of ’Mao Zedong Thought’ in Britain Promote Straightforward National and Social-Chauvinism,” as part of its series “’Mao Zedong Thought’ – A Profoundly Anti-Marxist Theory.” This article points out that, to “call upon the working class to fight for its national’ interests” is “a most dangerous line in the working class movement,” and that this is “the same chauvinism of the trade union aristocrats, of the open social-chauvinists.” With awkward formulations but with spirit, this article declared that: “The BRITISH NATION IS AN OPPRESSOR NATION. To raise, in whatever form, with whatever justification, the question of ’saving Britain,’ of saving this oppressor nation, objectively serves the open social chauvinists, objectively serves to create the same reactionary illusions about this ’great’ British ’nation’ in the working class movement, objectively serves to divert the working class to supporting the imperialist and exploitative aims of the British bourgeoisie.” (See Marxist-Leninist Journal, Theoretical Journal of the RCPB(ML), Vol. 1, No. 3, p. 26, capitals as in original)

Why Did the Leadership of the RCPB(ML) Oppose the Straggle Against Social-Chauvinism in the U.S.?

But while the leadership of the RCPB(ML) had criticized some of the main theses of “three worlds-ism” and social-chauvinism, it was not firm in its positions and lacked the necessary enthusiasm to carryforward this struggle. This was clearly reflected in the January 10, 1980 letter which the Central Committee of the RCPB(ML) addressed to our organization.

In September 1976, our organization denounced the social-chauvinist theses being put forward at that time by the “three worldist” groups in the U.S. according to which the American proletariat should “strike the main blow at the Soviet Union.” For years our organization had been fighting the neo-revisionist followers of Chinese revisionism. Now a new stage of this struggle opened up with the struggle against their despicable social-chauvinism. This struggle was of immense importance for the exposure of the opportunist groups in the U.S. and for preparing the conditions for founding the Marxist-Leninist Party, an historic task which was successfully accomplished on January 1, 1980. But the Letter of the CC of the RCPB(ML) bitterly attacked this struggle.

Indeed, the leadership of the British Party cursed the principled fight that we were waging against our “own” domestic social-chauvinists in the crudest terms. It resorted to demagogy about how this struggle “tends to make social-chauvinism and not the American monopoly capitalist class the main enemy.” The letter from the British Party condemned our militant struggle against social-chauvinism and for the Party on the grounds that “To raise in 1979 that the Party should be built without and against the social-chauvinists was minimally a truism.” It was a “truism” because allegedly the question of social-chauvinism “was settled” in Lenin’s day! Thus, the letter of the RCPB(ML) resorted to contemptuous mocking of the very idea of the contemporary relevance of the Leninist principles on the fight against social-chauvinism.

As it turns out, there was more involved in this letter than just the leadership of the RCPB(ML) disapproving of the fight our Party was conducting against Maoist “three worlds-ism” and social-chauvinism. It is now clear that the leadership of the British Party had lost enthusiasm for carrying through this struggle in its own country.

On What Grounds Did the RCPB(ML) Support the Argentine Junta?

Today, the leadership of the British Party has again lapsed into nationalist deviations. And from the ideological standpoint these deviations are identical to the outlook of Maoist “three worlds-ism.” This was clearly borne out by the stands which it adopted during the war over the Falkland Islands. The Workers Weekly did not adhere to the perspective of the proletarian class interests, the perspective of socialism and the revolutionary struggle of the toilers. On the contrary, it saw events only in the light of the national interests and sovereignty of states. It saw events from an aclass and national viewpoint all too reminiscent of infamous “three worlds-ism.”

It was from this nationalist angle that the leadership of the RCPB(ML) made its about-face and came out in support of the fascist Argentine junta. For the first two months of the war, on generally correct grounds. Workers’ Weekly condemned the reactionary aims of the Argentine generals in seizing the Falklands. Then, out of the blue, without a word of explanation, Workers’ Weekly made a spectacular reversal and came out foursquare in support of the junta. Overnight, the fascists became glorious anti-imperialist fighters.

Overnight the miserable adventure which the junta had launched to rescue its tottering dictatorship was transformed into “the Argentinian people are fighting a just struggle.” This “just struggle” was even compared to the liberation wars against the fascist aggressors in the 1930’s. (Workers’ Weekly, June 12, 1982)

Why did Workers’Weekly have such a dramatic change of heart? It reconsidered because it discovered the “national interests” involved, namely, Argentine sovereignty over the Malvinas. It reconsidered because in the final analysis Workers’ Weekly was loyal to the aclass national principle: sovereignty above all – the cause of the proletariat and peoples be damned.

This is precisely what is meant when Workers’ Weekly justifies hailing the adventure of the Argentine fascists on the grounds that “the character of the regime has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Argentina has completely just and rightful claim for the return of its territory.” (Workers’ Weekly, June 26, 1982) In other words, who cares if the purpose of the seizure of the Malvinas was only to strengthen the hand of a pro-imperialist and nazi-like dictatorship? Who cares if it had the objective of diverting the storm of popular struggle against the fascist, imperialist and capitalist yoke? Who cares about the emancipation of the multi-million strong Argentine proletariat anyway?

After all, such a trifle as “the character of the regime and system in Argentina has absolutely nothing to do with “the matter, because there is a far higher and more sacred ideal at stake – the “completely just and rightful claim” over a cluster of windswept and barren islands lying hundreds of miles off Argentine shores. So let us sacrifice the workers and revolutionaries to the tender mercies of fascism: let us sit and applaud the “just and rightful” and totally miserable military adventure of the Argentine hangmen.

No, this is not Marxism-Leninism. This is simply crude apologetics for the ultra-reactionary nationalism for which the Argentine fascists are so well known. This is simply “three worldist” dogma which tries to line up the workers and the oppressed peoples behind the “anti-imperialist” and “nationalist” pretensions of the reactionary, capitalist-landlord, and pro-imperialist regimes of the so-called “third world.” In fact, the “three worlders” have been arguing for years that “the character of the regime and system...has absolutely nothing to do” with their support for the “just and rightful claims” of the likes of the late Shah of Iran, Marcos of the Philippines, Pinochet of Chile, or the Argentine generals.

The RCPB(ML) Resurrects the Struggle for British National Interests

But the errors in the direction of nationalism did not stop with support for the “third world” heroes of the Argentine junta. The Falklands war also brought out, in all of its patriotic glory, the struggle for the British national interests. Incredible as it may seem, Workers Weekly attempted to oppose the British imperialist aggression from a patriotic and nationalist standpoint: that the war is a manifestation of the “betrayal of the national interests” to U.S: imperialism; that the British bourgeoisie “sell(s) out the sovereignty of the nation...to the U.S. imperialists and other foreign imperialist powers”; that “the British bourgeoisie is not patriotic, it is a... traitorous class”: and so forth and so on.

On the basis of such “national” tactics, in the midst of the Falklands war Workers’ Weekly vehemently condemned the “sectarian” slogan “The Main Enemy Is at Home.” It did so on the grounds of “fighting all imperialism...headed by the two superpowers...and opposing the growing and grave danger of inter-imperialist war.” It did so despite the fact that this slogan is a fundamental Leninist concept dividing the proletarian revolutionaries from the social-chauvinists, “three-worldist” and other revisionists and opportunists. It did so despite the fact that renouncing this slogan is tantamount to returning to the old arguments for “putting the short-term considerations of revolution secondary to the overall task...to oppose the two superpowers and the serious danger of another world war.”

Meanwhile, the so-called “national question” of “British sovereignty” began to be ballyhooed in the pages of Workers’ Weekly as though someone had rediscovered the wheel. The struggle for British “national rights” and “sovereignty” began to be placed in the center of the agitation as though it were the miracle cure for the danger of imperialist war and many other of life’s ills.

Indeed, this line of a national struggle was a central part of the “Report on the General Line of the Party.” which was adopted by the Tenth Plenum of the Central Committee of the RCPB(ML). According to the June 2, 1982 communique from this plenum, the adopted “Report on the General Line of the Party” discussed the “national question in Britain” – that is the struggle for “sovereignty rights” – and declared that this is “an extremely important democratic question to take up for solution.” (Workers’ Weekly, June 5. 1982)

The Struggle Against Maoism Must Be Carried Through to the End!

The shortcomings which have become so evident in the agitation and tactics of the RCPB(ML) during the Falklands war cannot fail to be a cause for concern. As we have seen, the petty-bourgeois and Maoist nationalism had a major impact on the British Party from the time of its formation. This Maoist deviation brought the British comrades a series of fiascos and threatened the elimination of any revolutionary character of their Party. However, the British comrades eventually saw the danger of the “three worldist” and social-chauvinist positions that they had adopted and, for a time, pulled back.

The RCPB(ML) should have learned a profound lesson from this experience. It should have placed before itself the task of waging an uncompromising ideological and political struggle against Maoism and Maoist nationalism and “three worlds-ism.” It should have carried the struggle against social-chauvinism through to the end.

But instead, by January 10. 1980, when the struggle was anything but over, the leadership of the RCPB(ML) was lecturing to our Party that the struggle against social-chauvinism was a “settled” question since Lenin’s time. But instead by the spring of 1982, the leadership of the RCPB(ML) has lapsed into nationalist deviations that are ideologically identical to Maoist “three worlds-ism.” But instead, today it is deviating in the direction of the very same nationalist program that only two short years ago the most important documents of the RCPB(ML) itself were condemning as nothing less than social-chauvinist and revisionist treachery to the working class.

From this it can only be concluded that the Maoist and nationalist deviations of the leadership of the RCPB(ML) are serious and deep-rooted. They cannot be overcome by looking the other way and allowing them to fester. No, the RCPB(ML) should squarely face these shortcomings. It should examine closely its own historical struggle and the lessons that must be drawn from the grave errors of the past. This is the Marxist-Leninist and militant road of overcoming the shortcomings of the present.