Why Publish the Political platform of the RCL?

First Published: Liberation, 1994
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Sam Richards and Paul Saba
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MIA Introduction: This text is a series of articles that first appeared throughout 1994 in Liberation, the newsletter of the RCL’s London Branch.

To rebuild the fighting capacity of the working class, we need a critical analysis of the domestic and international situation. Crushing the mine workers’ strike was a precondition for restructuring the capitalist system, and for more than a decade workers have been subjected to vicious assault by the ruling bourgeoisie.

Weakened and fragmented, the left is unable to mobilise the working class in defence of its interests. ’Instead the left looks to the capitalist Labour Party as an alternative to the Tories.

In response to this confusion, the Revolutionary Communist League has produced a Programmatic Platform, as its contribution to an understanding of the way forward. In it, we link the class question to a number of crucial issues: the national question (including Ireland), women’s struggles, the environmental question etc.

This Platorm is seen not as something definitive, but as a basis for discussion. The RCL hopes that this will initiate a wider discussion among the left, so that greater unity can be forged. The pivotal task that confronts us is the building of a revolutionary workers’ party.

We strongly urge the progressive forces to take up this challenge so that we can begin now the process of ridding humanity of the scourge of capitalism and imperialism.

Why publish the political platform of the R.C.L.?

Obviously we want you to read and study the Platform: it distils the arguments and analyses that have taken place within the RCL and introduces the Maoist viewpoint.

The RCL has published its political Platform to consolidate its developments in political line and provide a stringboard for future progress. It provides an initial introduction to our understanding of imperialism, how it works and what undermines imperialism’s grasp.

The Platform’s opening sentence lays the foundation for the Maoist analysis: ’Capitalism – the Enemy of Humanity’. We need a new social system, a radical restructuring of society from the bottom up.

The aim of the Platform is to demonstrate our ideas wherein the interrelationship of different forms of exploitation, different struggles and different components of the overall movement for a new social system can be understood.

There have been unsuccessful attempts to build socialism. We need to respect and learn from this hard-won experience. The RCL places great emphasis on being honest about errors. Our section on the historical experience of socialism points to the negative aspects and how they might by avoided.

As Lenin observed, to take part in a revolution is more rewarding than theorising, and revolutionaries have a duty to make revolution where they are. We face an imperialist oppressor state, and the RCL recognises that issues of class, gender and national oppression need to be addressed by revolutionaries. Specifically, the need is to break with the white male definition of class struggle. The Platform sketches out these concerns as a contribution to an understanding of the way forward.

Although a small organisation, the RCL constitutes a definite political trend, with a fairly coherent identity that does differ sharply from other Left forces in Britain. The Political Platform is a base for discussions on the pivotal task that faces revolutionaries – the building of a multi-national communist party.

Read the Platform and consider why the RCL:

* argues that communists in this country must lead the majority working class to form a strategic alliance with the national minorities and struggle against the influence of imperialist ideas within the working class
* supports the Republican Movement in the unfinished national liberation struggle in Ireland
* promotes the concept of Free National Development, which empowers oppressed national minorities within Britain
* foresees that even under socialism it will be necessary for independent black organisations to exist
* thinks it is necessary that women not only lead the struggle against gender oppression but take the lead in the whole revolutionary struggle
* believes that anti-imperialist solidarity remains a cornerstone for communists.

Retreat – Not the End of Revolution

Just consider a contemporary statistic – in each year since 1986 at least US$43 billon has flowed from the South to the North in a forced contribution from the world’s poor to the world’s wealthy countries.

Imperialist exploitation is very much part of the global economy. Whether one studies the domestic economy or its international dimension, the essential mechanisms described by Karl Marx in his book CAPITAL are still operative. The Marxist method has stood the test of time, as have his core judgements. The relationship of the various classes to each other is expressed through their relationship to the means of production.

The revolutionary heart of Marx’s critique lies in the refusal to accept that what is will always be. Marx showed that change was inherent in the very fabric of society. Yet too often Left activists judge the imminent potential for revolution regardless of the concrete social and political conjuncture. The League does not believe that Britain is on the verge of revolution. We have long acted in the recognition that the revolutionary tide is in ebb, but being in a period of global retreat, does not mean the end of revolution or the end of taking a revolutionary stand.

There have been similar periods: look back to the year 1909 when the Bolshevik Party in Russia was isolated and disintegrating. As Stalin then said, “It is not difficult to understand that the cause of all this crisis is the revolution itself, the temporary victory of counter-revolution.”

These words are fully applicable to the crisis which faces us today. The bourgeois onslaught against the very idea of communism cannot change the facts which Marx exposed, namely the contradictions inherent in capitalism’s very existence: A handful of capitalists still get rich at the expense of the masses – those who work in the waged economy, in the household sector, those who bear the misery of unemployment caused by capitalism’s carving up of industry in its constant search for profits.

So let’s not be misled by surface appearances -the nature of the system has not changed. Consider another fact: the Department of Social Security paid out more than £100 million in management fees to the City in 1993 – while only giving £97 million in grants to the needy. Is there no revolutionary work to do? Look around at the impoverishment of our society, the racist oppression, the empty lives and oppressed peoples and nations. Ask who bears the cost. Does the situation today really mean we can no longer be communist revolutionaries? The possibilities for the situation to change dramatically are ever-present ...witness the Zapatista Uprising in Mexico.

Communists need to prepare themselves before the opportunities emerge.

Historically, the communist movement has been guided by writings of Marx and others, but there has always been the responsibility to work out lines based on the particularities of one’s own situation. The present period is one of preparation, and communist theory, building upon Mao Zedong Thought, must meet the demands of revolutionary practice during such a period. The Political Platform of the R.C.L. is a beginning point in undertaking this task.

Section One of the Platform clearly states that Capitalism remains the enemy of humanity, it cannot be reformed and the only solution is to build a new social system. There is still a lot to do in terms of elaborating a line based on the circumstances and trends which prevail at present, and what we must not do is seek answers which simply hanker after the past. What the Platform does is to face up to some of the outstanding contemporary issues, and analyse them from the standpoint of a tried and tested method, that of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought.

Understanding the Poetry of the Past

Some on the Left can give you a view about everything. Trotskyites are well known for putting the world to rights while downing a pint. They will recite the history of their beginnings as an opposition against “Socialism in One Country” way back in the 1920s, and then explain what happened in Russia by reference to the Eighteenth Century French revolution, as if it was a simple repeat. Most Trotskyites suffer a Eurocentric contempt for any communist advance after Lenin died in 1924 and mistakenly regard such revolutions as Stalinist clones.

We, on the other hand, critically examine the historical experience of the attempt to build socialism both in the Soviet Union and China. Clearly, from the time of Khrushchev, Soviet politics has been discredited. But Marxists do not look to any particular golden age to compare everything against. Some on the left see the fall from grace as associated with the death of individuals: if only Stalin, Ho Chi Minh or Mao had not inconveniently died. But that was never Marx’s approach, nor is it ours. Marxism is a critical philosophy; it has no icons, and seeks to understand the rich historical experience created by the masses in struggle.

The Russian experience is indeed important. The October road is still to be trod in this country. But revolutionary struggle never simply takes on the form of previous struggles. Communists learn and absorb the lessons of the past. We cannot advance by making the past a mythical country. Truth must prevail, and we must live in history.

Stalin made some fundamental errors, not least in failing to consider seriously that class struggle remains a basic feature of any society aspiring to socialism. To treat state ownership and control over everything as a criterion of socialism led to centralist authoritarian rule, the denial of democratic rights and the subjugation of minority nationalities.

We would not want to repeat these errors. In China under Mao there were attempts to understand the problems in the historical experience of socialism. There were flawed experiments, like the Cultural Revolution, in an attempt to address these problems, but these only highlighted the need for effective 4emocratic control from below. Only thus would it be possible to combat the emerging ruling class within China, which consolidated its power in the wake of Deng Xiaoping’s reform programme.

Lessons drawn from analysing the Soviet and Chinese experience resound throughout the League’s Political Platform. We can be critical of our own international legacy. However, “We are convinced that the application of historical materialism is still the way forward, including as a method of dealing with the movement’s own errors”.

Think Globally, Act Locally

Can it happen here? You’re up against 800 years of tradition, Richard the Lion heart, the Thin Red Line, World Cup Willie, the Land of Hope and Glory and the Queen Mum, God bless ’em all! With a generation growing up under one-party rule in this country, and the Labour opposition increasingly indistinguishable in its acceptance of the established agenda, capitalism may give the impression of a triumphant system.

But there is a different tradition of dissent and defiance, of voices raised in protest, of rights won and defended, of thrones overthrown. To find people in revolt, you don’t have to go back to the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381, to the ideas of the Levellers and Diggers, to the agitation of Chartism and the Suffragettes, the revolutionary years of 1919 or the General Strike of 1926.

Within living memory there have been historic clashes of interest between the ruled and the rulers. There have been the set-piece class battles of the miners, steel workers, car workers and dockers, which encouraged ruling circles to debate the idea of a coup d’etat in 1974. There have been the rumbling guerrilla struggles of public sector workers, the lightning raids against bourgeois susceptibilities in the inner-city Uprisings, the Poll Tax riots; and at an everyday level there are individual acts of resistance, the sabotage of work-quotas, the slow-downs which happen when grievances reach a certain point.

And surrounding this domestic battlefield there have been the attacks upon citadels of capitalism launched by the national liberation movements: Empire is no more, in Ireland the British were fought to a stalemate and the simmering resentment in Scotland and Wales bubbles up to confront London’s domination.

Mao Zedong said it simply: where there’s oppression there is resistance.

In this country, class struggle in all its forms is fragmentary; the different struggles need to become mutually supporting and to be given coherent form. Our Political Platform expresses this understanding when it raises the question, “Who are the forces for revolution?”

Britain is a divided society. There is massive cynicism and distrust of the system, its inability to provide basic services, its determination to charge us for the necessities of life and to impose unaccountable bureaucracies to rule our lives. The problem is, what course of action can offer a solution? There may be an issue which gives rise to a collective campaign, but after a successful anti-deportation campaign we are faced with the need for another. All these limited victories are welcomed, but a solution lies in the class acting for itself in a manner which encompasses elements of class, gender and nationality.

Things never stay the same: opportunities will arise to assert the working class’ interests – peacefully if possible, by force if necessary. The important thing is to seize these opportunities. It is a task which the RCL is seeking to promote through its Political Platform. We are still a long way from bringing that day nearer, but only through the educational and preparatory politics of today, through an ideological assault on the system, can we add to the glorious tradition of revolt, rebellion and revolution.

A Woman’s Work is Never Done

We do not want the kind of socialism which concentrates power in the hands of working class men and allows them to continue to oppress women. Nor do we a socialism that celebrates International Women’s Day – March 8th – by remembering past industrial strikes led by women. If you want women’s liberation you have to face the reality of women’s exploitation and oppression, There are complicated issues which cannot be reduced to a stark choice of “Who comes first: white sister or black brother?” Every struggle in which women are involved demomstrates the complex nature of their exploitation and oppression. Some women have been incorporated on a small scale into areas of power and privilege but without making any basic changes in the structures of political, economic or social life. For the vast majority of women, the demand for equal pay still needs to be met, but it is not enough.

Socially-constricting gender roles, patriarchal structures and attitudes, economic dependency, racism and imperialist oppression all play their part in the complicated nature of what women endure. When Dolly Parton sang “It’s hard to be a woman” she only touched upon the burden: women are oppressed because of their role in the family, domestic labour and childcare, because of discrimination in employment, sexual violence, and social sanctions. Women face a common oppression as women which affect all women to a different degree. Women’s oppression, national oppression and class oppression each have their own specific characteristics. They will interact in different ways and reinforce each other.

While women’s oppression affects all classes, in this country, the heaviest burden falls on working class women. They are less likely to have the education and opportunities to gain well paid jobs which enables some women to “buy themselves out” of some aspects of oppression such as childcare and domestic labour. Most women in waged jobs bear the responsibility for the household and suffer discrimination both in earnings and job opportunities.

The nature of women’s oppression cannot be fully covered here, but the struggle for Women’s Liberation is central to the politics of the RCL. Our political platform states: “While struggles against the three forms of oppression are linked, the specific characteristics of each will inevitably lead at times to conflict between them and we must learn from the experience of past attempts at socialism and not allow the women’s struggle to be subordinated to the demands of class and national struggle.”

The autonomous struggle of women has led some specific campaign like the right to control reproduction which is part and parcel of the struggle for a better society. A greater understanding of the operation of the capitalist mode of production has emerged from the debate on women’s subordination in the home and the contribution of tile (previously excluded) domestic labour. The vast majority of women have an: interest in overthrowing imperialist rule, but not simply to replace it with a male dominated rule which bears the characteristics of the old sexist and racist society. In the struggle for socialism, at every stage sexism and male chauvinism must be challenged. There must be a fundamental change in men’s ideology and behaviour, which must begin now.