Various organisations have born set up at different times declaring themselves to be the Marxist-Leninist party for Britain, Some came to nothing, others resulted in a fraudulent party whose very existence is a diversion from the party-building task. Two organisations which style themselves the ’party’ today are the Communist Party of England(Marxist-Leninist) (CFE(M-L)) and the Communist Party of Britain(Marxist-Leninist) (CPB(M-L)).
These two organisations are very different in their approach and political line: the CPB(M-L) takes an economist, right-opportunist line in general whereas the CPE(M-L) is in general style totally sectarian and a most extreme example of childish ’leftism’.
However, in their basic underlying departure from Marxist ideology and in some other characteristics these organisations are very similar. Both organisations are extremely arrogant in their dealings with other Marxist-Leninist groups and individuals. Presumably the reasoning is that since they are the ’party’, anyone organised separately as a Marxist-Leninist is, for that very reason, a counter-revolutionary. Neither ’party’ ever cooperates with other groups in any activity, deigns to reply to correspondence or troubles to point out directly the ’error of their ways’ to other comrades. Apparently it is wrong to acknowledge the existence of other organisations. This attitude extends evem to individual informal discussion of political issues by ’party’ members with members of other groups.
This point is in itself very telling about the nature of those organizations; a party with a clear and developing revolutionary lead to give would welcome all contacts and discussions which helped to build unity around the party, expose the weaknesses of other lines and strengthen the ideological level of party cadres by struggle against all incorrect ideas and by learning from all correct outside ideas, from whatever source. However, organisations without a clear developing line and with a bureaucratic and dogmatic internal life will obviously avoid such contacts.
But the basic flaw in the approach of both organisations is the failure to really comprehend and make effective the Marxist unity of theory and practice. This applies to the building of these ’parties’ prior to their formation and to their development since. There are many specific criticisms which should be made of the political lines of these groups, but space does not permit here. Therefore our discussion of their different approaches will centre on this main point.
The CPE(M-L) grew out of a student group, the Internationalists, which has set up ’parties’ in Britain, Ireland and Canada. This group was founded by its ’great leader’ Hardial Bains, who has worked as a lecturer in these three countries. The Internationalists began with a confused, individualistically-oriented philosophy which had no relation to Marxism, nor made any reference to it. (Anyone doubting this statement should read the “historic” ’Necessity for Change’ document published by this group.)
Shortly after this, the Internationalists adopted ’Maoism’ as a source of slogans, ritual chants and the focus for a student cult. They had no use, however, for the essence of Mao Tsetung Thought, which is that revolutionary theory becomes a living reality only in its application to the concrete problems of making revolution.
Their ’Marxism-Leninism’ was an abstract, sterile dogma distorted by their petty bourgeois student preoccupations and outlook. They elevated the ’cultural’ struggle in universities to the primary role in; class struggle, showing no concern about their total isolation from the working class and its struggles. This feature has remained the essential element of their approach. They concentrate totally on propaganda work, principally to promote anti-imperialist solidarity with the national liberation movements, but make no effort to make their propaganda effective to a working class audience.
Over the past year, the CPE(M-L) has begun to make some effort to orient itself towards events in Britain, commenting on various strikes and political events. This is a step forward although their comments remain dogmatic and mechanical. They have also put up several candidates for Parliament, presumably as a method of obtaining a platform for their propaganda work. This tactic has only succeeded in making them look ridiculous. Unfortunately, this may have the effect of convincing workers that Marxism-Leninism is ridiculous.
In the February, 1974 election campaign, the CPE(M-L) put forward several candidates and released an election manifesto. This document outlined what the CPE(M-L) would do if it became * the government, presumably if elected. There is no specific analysis of the imperialist society of Britain, nor any class analysis. The term monopoly capitalism is used with no explanation of what it means.
The most significant thing is that this document gives no hint of how “communist government” could come to power. The basic fraud of bourgeois democracy and parliament is not exposed in this document. The manifesto points out the bourgeois nature of all parliamentary parties but leaves the distinct impression that a communist government will come about by voting, through parliament.
The ultra-’left’ posturing of the CPE(M-L) is doubly ridiculous when contrasted with its right opportunist line on this basic point. They do not attempt to expose parliamentarism itself, but instead promote bourgeois illusions by their actions. With no Marxist analysis, with no connections with the working class, they stand as representatives of the working class in bourgeois elections. This allows the bourgeoisie to pose as really democratic, allowing even, ’revolutionary’ crackpots like the CPE(M-L) to stand in elections, lose their deposits and give everyone a good chuckle.
No social democrat or other bourgeois politician of even the slightest experience would have any difficulty in manipulating such ’revolutionaries’; on the one hand, they themselves seek, by their style of work and adventurist posing, to isolate themselves from the workers, and on the other, they are at best vague and unclear, at worst completely opportunistic, on any precise political issue.
The correct lines they sometimes repeat from Chinese publications are presented in such a way as to remain completely isolated from, and unintelligible to, British workers. They present really no line for revolution in Britain at all, ’left’ or right, correct or incorrect. They regard participation in any practical agitational work, either on economic or political issues, as incorrect yet they have taken no part in discussions on applying Marxist-Leninist theory to British conditions.
Where they take up a line, as can be seen in their actions they are almost always un-Marxist. For example, the CPE(M-L), organised as an English party, shows a completely anti-Leninist approach to the national question in its relation to the party. Where the proletariat of several nations is oppressed and exploited by one state representing a united bourgeoisie, one vanguard, multi-national party to lead the struggle is essential. This is a principle for which Lenin, Stalin and Chairman Mao have consistently fought.
While we respect the motivation and enthusiasm of comrades in the CPE(M-L), as a Marxist-Leninist party this organisation is a very poor joke.
The basic root of their errors lies in treating Marxist-Leninist theory as a sterile dogma; they make no attempt to engage in the practical struggles of workers, utilising revolutionary theory as a guide to action. Further, they make no effort to concretely analyse specific British conditions in order to create a revolutionary strategy for the British working class. Without developing the capacity to give a revolutionary lead to working class struggle, the ’party’ was formed. On such a basis the ’party’ neither had the ability nor the capacity to fulfill the leading role of a communist party.
Since the Internationalists had no understanding of the party-building task, it was for them simply a question of building their numbers to a certain point and then declaring themselves the party. That is to say that without having developed leading lines or proven themselves in any way they felt qualified to appoint themselves the revolutionary leadership of the working class.
This provides a further point of similarity between the CPB(M-L) and the CPB(M-L). This latter organisation came into being on the initiative of its chairman, Reg Birch. Since Birch was a leading trades union official and had been a member of the CPGB’s Central Committee, he had prestige as an ’important personage’ and could appear to provide a link between revolutionary politics and the trades union movement.
Under his leadership, a party organising committee was formed which proceeded to declare the party without showing any political line or application of Marxism-Leninism to British conditions which were distinguished from, or stood above, the general, unspecific ’anti-revisionist’ movement. In fact, Birch and Co. displayed all the features of having broken with revisionism only superficially, in form but not in essence.
Since the formation of the party, the CPB(M-L) has steadily degenerated in its political line. We in the CUA(M-L) have published a pamphlet on the CPB(M-L) called ’Economism or Revolution a Critique of the CPB(M-L)’, which details our criticisms of this organisation. There, proven by quotations from its publications, we show that the CPB(M-L) has substituted economic, trade union activity for any political struggle to develop a revolutionary working class movement. They have justified this by a theory of spontaneous working class consciousness, a theory defeated by Lenin years ago. They are extremely opportunistic on questions of proletarian internationalism and racism. They generally show in all their work a rejection of the leading role of Marxist—Leninist theory, and make no attempt at a concrete analysis of British society.
Since the publication of our criticism of the CPB(M-L), the political line of this organisation has degenerated further. Still the only form of struggle advocated is trade union struggle, and here the great advances are to be won by “guerrilla struggle”. This ’theory’, pushed with such fervour by the ’party’, promotes small, sectional trade union struggles as being superior to large, united struggles. The CPB(M-L) also evades any responsibility for struggling against the sell-out trades union leaders by claiming that these leaders simply reflect the consciousness of the workers.
In fact, the CPB(M-L), after restricting the struggle to the trades Unions, promotes a sell-out line in trade union struggles themselves. Obviously conditions often demand limited action, and it is incorrect to court massive defeats in ill-prepared or premature mass strikes. But the CPB(M-L) trade unionists glorify such defensive, unfortunately weak, actions as offensives, and consistently adopt an opportunist policy of tailing behind spontaneous actions. They have no communist policy of leading struggles, particularly the struggle against the labour aristocrat bureaucracy in the trade unions and their social-democratic or revisionist influence.
The big theoretical ’development’ of the CPB(M-L) is the promotion of its ’two classes only’ theory. All who do not own the means of production, including the technical, managerial and professional elite, students and civil servants, are proletarians, says the CPB(M-L). The role of such strata in the relations of production (usually as direct capitalist agents), their style of life, the non-productive nature of their work, all such considerations are ignored by these ’Marxists.’ This is a thoroughly revisionist theory leading to the most complete opportunism in any imperialist society, where the use of this stratum by the monopoly capitalist class in maintaining its rule is very important. (9) The CUA(M-L) regards the thorough analysis of these petty bourgeois sections and of the labour aristocracy as one of the most central party-building tasks.
Understanding such tasks, attempting to understand imperialist society, cannot be done by such as the CPB (M-L), which denies the imperialist nature of British society. The only difference between Britain and the oppressed colonial countries is that the former is “highly industrialized,” says the CPB(M-L). Lenin’s analysis of imperialism, particularly the material basis of opportunism in working class movements brought about by imperialism, is greeted with derision or anger by these opportunists of the CPB(M-L).
In general, this organization can be most correctly characterized as a right opportunist diversion, organizationally separate from, but not in essence different to, the revisionist party.
Where then lies their basic similarity with the childish ’leftism’ of the CPE(M-L)? In the separation of theory and practice. The CPE(M-L) has its completely sterile ’theory’ and sees no need for practice and the CPB (M-L) tails after the spontaneous trade union activity of workers and sees no need for theory. Equally, they fail both in not introducing revolutionary leadership to specific workers’ practical struggles and in not developing a general revolutionary strategy for Britain. This failure to grasp the essential Marxist-Leninist concept of the Party’s role of leadership was implicit in the way both parties were set up, and is implicit in their development since.
The principal points we wish to re-emphasize are that neither the CPB(M-L) nor the CPE(M-L) are what they claim to be, the revolutionary party of the working class. These attempts to set up the party could not succeed because of their failure to integrate Marxist theory with practice, to develop a revolutionary leading line and to struggle on this basis to build unity.
These ’parties’ were declared organizationally without the necessary conditions, ideological unity, the development of a revolutionary strategy and the development of links with working class practical struggles, being present or recognized. Therefore, from their inception there was no possibility of the development of these organizations into revolutionary parties.
We must learn the important lessons from these failures in the present struggle to build a revolutionary party. With regard to the membership of these ’parties,’ we must attempt to win them to this struggle, but we must categorically state that the attempt to pass these organizations off as the necessary party is a complete diversion from the basic party-building task of Marxist-Leninists.