Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Communist Unity Association (Marxist-Leninist)

Imperialism and the Struggle for a Revolutionary Party

The Committee to Defeat Revisionism for Communist Unity

The first anti-revisionist attempt at party-building after the irreversible revisionism of the! CPGB became apparent was that of the Committee to Defeat Revisionism for Communist Unity (CDRCU).

As the split in the world communist movement became more open, with the revisionism of the Soviet party opposing the revolutionary line of the Chinese and Albanian parties, growing numbers of CPGB members came to oppose the revisionism of the leader- ship. Many were expelled and others struggled hopelessly against the opportunists’ bureaucratic control.

These anti-revisionists were not a homogeneous group. Scattered, many of them isolated, the extent of their understanding varied greatly. The main point at issue between them was whether the CPGB could be transformed from within, or whether a new organisation would have to be built.

Late in 1963, a meeting was held in London of anti-revisionists. Michael McCreery and his supporters presented a document entitled ’An Appeal to all Communists from Members of the CPGB’ which exposed the revisionist line of the CPSU and the CPGB and concluded by calling on all communists to condemn “the revisionist faction which controls the CPGB”, and to work for their defeat and for “the establishment of a genuine Communist Party, based on the principles of Marxism-Leninism”. McCreery failed to carry the meeting with this document, but he and his supporters signed it and were subsequently expelled from the CPGB. In November, 1963 they formed the CDRCU.

This new organisation generated a great deal of energy. Two pamphlets were published that same November: ’Against the Enemy’ by Arthur Evans (a brief look at some of the differences between the CPC and the CPSU); and ’Destroy the Old to Build the New’ by McCreery (a critique of ’The British Road to Socialism’, reaffirming the need to smash the capitalist state and establish the dictatorship of the proletariat).

In January, 1964 six more pamphlets were published: ’The Patriots’, ’Organise at the Place of Work’, ’Notes on the Lower Middle Class and the Semi-Proletariat’ and ’The Way Forward’, all by McCreery; and ’Truth will out against Modern Revisionism’ and ’On Khruschev, Fertiliser and the Future of Soviet Agriculture’ by Arthur Evans.

In addition, preparatory work was done for the publication of a journal, ’Vanguard’, the first issue of which appeared in February, 1964. This was no small task. ’Vanguard’ consisted of sixteen pages of type, photos and cartoons, well-printed on good quality paper. As well as the work, the money involved was considerable. Members of the CDRCU put their savings into Vanguard, but most of the finance came from McCreery who had inherited considerable private means.

A series of lectures was announced dealing with a strange, to say the least, mixture of topics: on February 9th, ’War and Peace’, February l6th, ’Brecht, Proletarian or Bourgeois?’, February 23rd, ’Neo-Colonialism, the End of Imperialism?’, March 1st, ’Music and Society,’ March 8th, ’Illusion and Reality in Poetry,’ March l5th, ’The British Labour Movement Today.’

So we must ask, how useful was all this activity? From what the CDBCU wrote and did in its first few weeks, how did it seem to be shaping up to its avowed task of building a new party? In attempting to answer these questions, and looking at the early material, it becomes clear that no-where is there an explicit formulation of the immediate tasks facing the CDRCU or a strategy for accomplishing them. So another question has to be asked: Did the CDRCU know how to build a new party?

Of the eight pamphlets, six were written prior to the formation of the CDRCU and did not address themselves to the tasks facing: they exposed different aspects of revisionism in the CPGB or the CPSU, and some simply stated, in a forward or appendix, the need to build a new party. The Way Forward, and Notes on the Lower Middle Class and the Semi-proletariat, written by McCreery after the CDRCU’s foundation, are more important.

The Way Forward attempts to look at revisionism and its growth in the CPGB as a whole. If the CDRCU was to succeed, this sort of approach was vital so that revisionism could be understood and not merely recognised. This pamphlet succeeded partially in looking at revisionism historically, at its development, but it failed to analyse it from a materialist standpoint, McCreery saw the Third International as a great force holding back revisionism in the CPGB[5] but he failed to analyse the forces pushing revisionism forward, and the objective basis for these forces. He failed to recognise the relation between imperialism and right opportunism in the working class.

Despite its title, this pamphlet did not analyse the concrete tasks then facing the CDRCU, nor produce any sort of strategy for party-building. On concrete tasks, it had just one unconcrete sentence, “This Committee is now organising a public campaign to expose revisionism, and win the militant industrial workers and intellectuals to understand that a genuine Communist Party must be established before advance can be made against monopoly capital in Britain.”

Here a tactic, one tactic, masquerades as a strategy, for McCreery goes straight on to restate certain Leninist principles in order to show how the ’new’ party will differ from the old.

A further telling point emerges from this pamphlet. It was subtitled ’The Need to Establish a Communist Party in England, Scotland and Wales’ .This wording, and it is repeated time and time again in ’Vanguard’, is vague, and perhaps deliberately so. It allows for different interpretations on the question of whether separate parties are needed for the different nationalities in Great Britain. The CDRCU was never able to arrive at a conclusion on this question. (On Ireland, we can find no attempt at a serious analysis whatsoever.) It appears that McCreery held the view that separate parties were needed for England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. The July, 1964 issue of ’Vanguard’ contained an article by McCreery on’ The National Question in Britain’. He quoted extensively from Stalin to prove the existence of three nations and part of a fourth in the British state, and stated that revolutionaries must take account of national differences, but he did not explicitly state that parties should be organised along national lines. The question was left unclear both here and in other CDRCU publications. If the anti-Leninist principle of party formation on national lines, which exists in part of the Marxist-Leninist movement today, can be traced to McCreery’s influence, this is certainly a very backward legacy.

’Notes on the Lower Middle Class and the Semi-Proletariat’ was an attempt at a class analysis of Britain, prompted by the CPGB’s tendency to see British society simply in terms of ’workers and capitalists’ or ’the people and the monopolists’. McCreery defined the lower middle class as the traditional petty bourgeoisie, foremen, most management personnel, most architects, surveyors, teachers and other professionals, most; civil servants and most army and police officers. These, McCreery said, could not be won for lasting alliance against capitalism, but we must work to influence and neutralise them. The semi-proletariat was mainly nurses, clerical workers, salesmen and shop assistants. “The semi-proletariat can be won to accept the leadership of the industrial working class in the struggle against capitalism. They can be won for firm alliance”.

McCreery also asked why the revisionists denied the existence of intermediate strata, and decided that it was because precisely those intermediate strata generate revisionist ideas within the working class movement. This is true, but McCreery failed to understand the crucial role played by the labour aristocracy, (in fact, he failed to recognise its existence), which is far more able to influence and mislead the working class than is the petty bourgeoisie. Neither is this error simply academic, for it is only imperialism and imperialist super-profits that can explain the deep-rooted right-opportunist Outlook held, and actively propagated, by a bought-off section of the working class in imperialist countries. An outlook characterised by class collaboration, national chauvinism and racism, ’workerism’ and economism; reformism and syndicalism. In order to struggle against this outlook, to expose and destroy it, it is necessary to see its intimate relation to imperialism, to see its ’source as being within the working class, as being, to a very large extent, the so-called labour movement itself. McCreery’s view was in advance of those who failed to recognise the existence of the middle strata, but he failed to analyse these strata in relation to imperialism.

The first issue of ’Vanguard’ contained a reprint of ’The Way Forward’, some industrial news, some international news, letters and several long feature articles principally attacking aspects of CPGB revisionism. This pattern was to continue. The need for a new party was talked about and exposures were made of revisionist theory and practice. The need to develop a new line to apply Marxism-Leninism to British conditions, was not dealt with although sometimes the recognition of this task, the most important one facing Marxist-Leninists then and now, would slip into an article in disguise, as it were, preventing both writer and reader from recognising it.[6]

The CDRCU developed no links with the working class – no mass work was undertaken (except for putting up the odd candidate in elections). ’Vanguard’ was not popular and agitational and neither were the lectures mentioned above.

We can see then that the CDRCU was never able to grasp how to go about building a new party. It never understood the tasks involved. It never understood the essence of revisionism and the importance of developing a proletarian ideology. It never succeeded in applying Marxism-Leninism to Britain, developing a leading line, a strategy for revolution. It never made real attempts to forge links with the working class, to put into practice the style of work it criticised the CPGB for not having. It orientated itself too much towards the revisionists and was unable to rise above simple anti-revisionism.

In April, 1965 McCreery died. From then on, ’Vanguard’ and the CDRCU went downhill. ’Vanguard’ decreased in size and quality. Some articles seemed to reflect more the need to develop an application of Marxism-Leninism to Britain, but the ability was not there to carry it out. The CDRCU was increasingly split by arguments, arguments that sometimes finished in physical violence. The CDRCU was still reported existing in 1969, but it had ceased to have any importance several years earlier.

We have dealt at some length with the CDRCU because, as the first anti-revisionist organisation in Britain, aiming explicitly at party-building, it has considerable historical significance for us. The general errors of failing to unify theory with practice and to understand basic party-building tasks continued, after its collapse, to be characteristic of the Marxist-Leninist movement in Britain. In fact, McCreery’s attempts to grapple with basic problems was unfortunately not a general feature of the movement for some time after his death.

One recent attempt to analyse the failure of the CDRCU appeared in the Communist Federation of Britain’s journal, ’MLQ’[7] above the initials T.M. T.M. correctly says that the CDRCU was unable to completely free itself from revisionist ideology. However, he goes on to a more ’profound’ conclusion, that the CDRCU’s principal error lay in “putting organisation above politics”. But this is an attempt to justify the CFB(M-L)’s own federalist approach[8], a thoroughly organisational approach to party-building. The reliance of the CDRCU on a Leninist form of organisation, however weakly it could put it into application, was correct. T.M. stands truth on its head when he says that it was because of an incorrect organisational approach, because of a “fetish for the party”, that the CDRCU failed. Its errors, as we have seen, were political. It failed in its attempt to give a lead to the movement, but it was correct then, and is now, to make this attempt.


[5] To back up this point he quoted extensively from the 1932 Comintern report, ’The Bolshevisation of the Communist Parties by Eradicating Social-Democratic Traditions’, by O.Piatnitsky. In view of the subsequent devotion of the major part of the CDRCU’s energies to ’Vanguard’, it is interesting that, although he quoted from, the immediately preceding and following sections, MoCreery made no mention of the section of the report entitled ’The Press’, which criticised the sort of long-winded format, “filled with thesis-like articles”, which ’Vanguard’ was to have.

[6] See, for example, ’On Learning to Talk with People’, a confused article on ’taking Marxism to the working class’, March, 1964.

[7] ’MLQ’, No.3, Winter, 1972/1973.

[8] The CFB(M-L)’s line of federalism is dealt with in another section of this pamphlet.