What is the Communist Organisation in the British Isles?

First Published: Proletarian, No. 1, n.d. [1974?]
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The Communist Organisation in the British Isles was formed on 1 January 1974, in secession from the British and Irish Communist Organisation, now become revisionist.

The Communist Organisation

The Communist Organisation in the British Isles is a Marxist-Leninist collective. Its purpose is to think communist and to act communist, to create communists and to elaborate communist practice in the working class of the British Isles. The Communist Organisation affirms its total commitment to the science of Marxism Leninism, the unity of communist theory and practice, the dictatorship of the proletariat and the hegemony of the proletarian world-outlook.

The working class is not only held prisoner by the capitalist mode of production. It is shackled by the unperceived but overwhelming intellectual, social, political and moral hegemony of the bourgeoisie, which anchors it in capitalism. In the continuing crises of capitalism and with the disintegration of the world communist movement, that bourgeois hegemony, in a myriad deceptive forms, grips the minds even of militants who profess themselves Marxist and try to build revolutionary movements. The working class, particularly in the British Isles, lives in a chaos of ideologies and remains a prisoner.

It is necessary personally to re-experience that total rupture with bourgeois society and all its ideologies, that first creation of the essentials of a scientific and proletarian world-outlook, that first attempt at the unity of theory and practice which Marx and Engels effected. It is necessary personally and critically to re-possess the historical experience of successive generations of communists who struggled to advance the science of Marxism and to translate it into proletarian action. It is necessary, in daily struggle and to the best of our abilities, ourselves to advance the science of Marxism-Leninism in every sphere of human thought and action, to achieve the unity of theory and practice in commitment to proletarian struggle, to begin on that enterprise which leads to the communist revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat.

This comrades of the Communist Organisation in the British Isles, to the best of their abilities, pledge themselves to do.

In our critical revaluation, we take as patrimony the historical experience of the world communist movement. In our own sector, the British Isles, its history has been largely one of failure, but we recognise in the Socialist Labour Parties of America and Britain in the early years of this century organisations of kindred character. We adopt the emblem of the Socialist Labour Party of Britain, symbolically linked to that of the world communist movement, as our own.


1. The Communist Organisation in the British Isles, in recognising and working to promote the primacy of theory, is taking up that perspective reneged upon by the British and Irish Communist Organisation and the journal Theoretical Practice. Not only do we agree whole-heartedly with Lenin that ’without a revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement’, but we say emphatically with Engels that we will ’...constantly keep in mind that socialism, since it has become a science, demands that it be pursued as a science, i.e. that it be studied.’

2. We identify the failure of the British and Irish Communist Organisation to be a degeneration into liberal constitutionalist politics. This has been clearly marked by the adoption of a series of Fabian positions, the latest of which is the policy on Workers’ Control – a policy which, instead of promoting the power of the proletariat over their place of work, promotes power over the proletariat at their place of work. This can only be in the interests of the bourgeoisie and reduces the working class to a plastic object of bourgeois history. The B+ICO policy on Workers’ Control is fundamentally anti-Marxist and must be rejected. It is symptomatic of the bourgeois degeneration of the B+ICO.

Formerly, the B+ICO, using Marxism correctly, was able to uncover and elucidate the realities of the existence of two nations in conflict in Ireland; it correctly demonstrated that this was the substance of all the confusion and mystification in and about Ireland, that British Imperialism was in no wise promoting such conflict, but on the contrary was and had been doing everything in its power, in its own interest, to remove the basis for such negative conflict. The role and position of the British bourgeoisie was therefore correctly identified as being the most progressive of the real social forces then active in an Ireland swamped by national conflict; only when the national struggle had been undermined would it be possible to bring class struggle to the fore.

Since the B+ICO had made a breakthrough in describing scientifically the real material basis of the conflict in Ireland, it made most of its recruits in Ireland on the basis of straightforward realism. But, due to that very swamping of class politics in Ireland by the national struggle, the development of class politics and class consciousness in Ireland remains at a seminal level. And since the formative influence in the development of the B+ICO to date has been the Irish situation, it was easy for the membership as a whole to be led by a clique of petty-bourgeois ideologues, peddling bourgeois rationality and disguising themselves as Marxists, to permeate with, and commit the organisation to, the line that not merely in the specific Irish situation but in relation to all the classes which it exploits, was the British bourgeoisie the most progressive force. It follows then that only when the proletariat have managed to out-bourgeoisify the bourgeoisie themselves (in law, order, responsibility and the development of the productive forces under the status quo) are they fit to become the ruling class.

We cannot, therefore, remain members of an organisation whose over-riding interests, despite Marxist verbiage and lip-service to proletarian interests, are those of the bourgeoisie.

But we shall build upon, and in so doing subsume, such positive advances as the B+ICO has hitherto made. These are: the analyses of the problems of Ireland and Wales, the economics of revisionism, the Stalin-Trotsky confrontation, and the E.E.C. We regard the theory of the Irish national question as more than adequately dealt with and therefore settled. The other positions, though substantially correct, have been inadequately dealt with; so these we will develop.

3. We identify the failure of Theoretical Practice to be scholasticism – a sterile and a political academicism; the cause and effect of divorce from concrete proletarian struggle. We regard their proclaimed technique, however, to be the correct one, viz., the necessity for painstakingly thorough and detailed research and theoretical rigour; but it must be organically related to the needs of a proletarian fighting organisation.

4. Recognising that the experience of the communist movement in the British Isles is largely one of negative example, and having both participated in and studied that experience, we believe that the lessons to be drawn by dialectical and historical materialists are incorporated in the approach we propose to adopt.


1. The Communist Organisation in the British Isles will be constituted as a Marxist-Leninist organisation for committed revolutionaries of, and only of, advanced cadres. Its principal task will be the comprehensive development of operational theory for the working class to become sufficiently conscious to seize and maintain power as the ruling class by crushing the bourgeoisie. It will use the works of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao as bases. Where sufficient scientific data show any of their formulations to be inadequate or erroneous, we shall clearly say so: for example, the position of Marx and Lenin on Ireland was quite incorrect. Only by holding fast to classic premises and formulations, while developing them comprehensively in a scientific manner, can the world outlook of the proletariat really be developed in breadth and depth. The Communist Organisation in the British Isles therefore will develop into the vanguard thinker and organiser of the proletariat to the extent that it fulfills its role of class educator and co-ordinator of advanced elements. In so doing, its intention is tc engender the formation of the fully-fledged communist party (which alone can realise the proletarian revolution) when programmatic work has been sufficiently advanced to make this a meaningful step in qualitative development under the conditions prevailing in the course of its work.

2. The Communist Organisation in the British Isles is therefore a core organisation of communists, not a mass organisation. Neither is it even a political movement in the orthodox sense of one that, containing a spread of members of varying levels of consciousness and activism, therefore addresses itself to a fairly diffuse and changing number of tasks. We shall strive for maximum homogeneity in level of consciousness and activism so that negatively, we shall to a large degree avoid the political-philosophical-personal eclecticism which is the dominant feature of advanced bourgeois society; and positively, allow our collective attention to be focussed on a specified range of key tasks.

3. The Communist Organisation in the British Isles therefore assigns itself the following initial priorities in the execution of this perspective:

(a) the political economy of contemporary British capitalism, the EEC and the world market.
(b) the study of the ramifications of this, particularly within the USA, USSR, China and India.
(c) the elucidation of the political superstructure of the above, especially of the EEC states and their development into a European state.
(d) problems in the promotion of the proletariat’s own agencies of power within capitalism and for its replacement.
(e) problems in the development of the dominance of the proletarian world-view (scientific socialism) in all cultural/ideological thinking of the working class and of the winning thereto of progressive members of other classes.
(f) as the predicate of all, the deep and sustained study of Marxist sources and method, as well as of natural science, as the fundamental source for knowledge of objective reality.

4. Our method of working towards these goals shall be:

(a) by encouraging as wide a group of associates as possible to undertake as much systematic research as possible to supplement that of the (necessarily limited) membership of the Communist Organisation in the British Isles. The Organisation shall undertake the overall political formulations for programmatic purposes. But for developmental purposes of individuals and of political positions, we shall encourage the establishment of Marxist study groups throughout the country.
(b) by admitting to membership of the Organisation only those who have contributed to this effort work of a sufficient standard.
(c) by insisting that there shall be no passengers whatever in the Organisation that all members shall be constantly engaged in work determined by the Organisation, to develop their own understanding, that of the Organisation and that of the class in a truly dialectical relationship.
(d) by aiming to work as closely as possible with all genuinely progressive movements and persons. However we shall be constantly on our guard against the corrosive effects of united-frontism, as it has brought communist parties so often to grief and to revisionism.
(e) by constantly practising criticism and self-criticism.

5. We shall on occasion work for democratic reformist advances but never ’in general’ or for their own sake – as simply a ’good thing’ in themselves. We shall support only such measures as will advance the ideological autonomy of the working class by enabling it, or sections of it, to act in their own right.

6. We are acutely aware of being situated in an international context. Consequently we shall strive to develop a thoroughgoing international perspective and to concretise this in international links towards full transnational co-ordination and indeed integration, should this prove to be called for by developments in bourgeois co-ordination. To this end, and to facilitate research, members (as opposed to associates) will be required to become competent in at least one foreign language.

7. In the continuing effort to think Marxist, it is essential not to be divorced from proletarian struggle. The organisation will, therefore, devote some of its members’ energies to involvement in concrete working-class movements, for example trade unions and tenants’ associations. But these will be seen as conducive to the correct enunciation of proletarian theory, not as ends in themselves.

8. We take our commitment and standpoint so seriously that we expect in the not too distant future that repressive measures will have to be taken by the bourgeoisie against communists. We therefore now put it on record that the Communist Organisation in the British Isles recognises the overwhelming necessity for workers, as soon as possessed of the elements of political organisation, to begin to prepare their physical means of defence. But further, they must also prepare the means of attack, for if these are not forthcoming at the moment of upsurge, the initiative and the momentum will be lost and the bourgeoisie will be able to retain their hold. The concept of a peaceful revolution is a contradiction in terms, flying in the face of all historical data. Without armed force, the workers have nothing to translate consciousness into the objective reality of a class power that can remake society. The bourgeoisie, even in the most unlikely situation of their not seeing any profit in resorting to force themselves, cannot be budged from their stranglehold on the nodal points of society, except by the deliberate and systematic use of whatever force may be necessary. During and after the revolution, capitalists must be liquidated as a class by force. Before it, their hegemony – ideological, organisational and physical – must be broken by a mental and physical aggressiveness.

9. The Communist Organisation in the British Isles publishes Proletarian as its theoretical journal. It shall (at least initially) be an occasional publication, appearing only when we have something substantive to say. Therefore no issue shall appear with ’fillers’ or potentially worthwhile material that has been rushed out raw to meet a deadline. Neither, therefore, will we engage in run-of-the-mill, non-theoretical polemic. We will be adjudged solely by our long-term contribution to proletarian consciousness; we eschew the scoring of debating points off other organisations and will ignore those who try to score such points against us.

10. To all this the Communist Organisation in the British Isles commits itself. We call upon all those who consider themselves Marxist-Leninists to work with us and to join the Communist Organisation in the British Isles, if they agree with what we have said above. We call upon all those who regard themselves as revolutionary socialists, whether organised or not, to work with us as associates.

11. An associate of the Communist Organisation in the British Isles becomes a member of the Communist Organisation in the British Isles when he/she has fulfilled the following conditions:

(a) when he/she has demonstrated a command of the essentials of Marxism-Leninism to the satisfaction of the Organisation (a specific programme of reading will be required).
(b) when he/she has produced theoretical work to a standard regarded as satisfactory by the Organisation (while the development of theory remains the primary task).
(c) when he/she has been in contact with the Organisation for sufficient time for his/her style of work to be known to the Organisation.
(d) when he/she undertakes a continuing programme of study and research satisfactory to the Organisation.
(e) when he/she has learned or undertakes to learn at least one foreign language and undertakes to familiarise himself/herself with one branch of natural science.
(f) when he/she undertakes to master the skills necessary to the physical functioning of the Organisation (e.g. typing, duplicating, etc.).
(g) when he/she undertakes to maintain himself/herself in a state of mental and physical fitness and preparedness.

Together we can further genuinely proletarian revolution, sooner rather than later, and lasting.

Paul Cockshott
C.K. Maisels
Tony McCulloch
Jenny Nussey
Neil McKeown
Gwyn A. Williams

1 January 1974.