First Published: Revolution No.2, October 1976
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Sam Richards and Paul Saba
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As a result of the successful ideological struggle against bourgeois and petty-bourgeois errors within the CFB (ML), the organisation has withdrawn all issues of ’Marxist-Leninist Quarterly’ (MLQ), the old-theoretical journal of the CFB (ML) on account of major errors of opportunism and intellectualism. The only exception to this is MLQ 11, the last issue before the name of the journal was changed to ’Revolution’.
It would be intellectualist to spend time criticizing in detail all the incorrect articles in ’MLQ’. This would hold up the work of building the revolutionary Communist Party of the working class, rather than help it forward. But one article must be singled out for criticism, an article in MLQ 3 called ’Revisionism and the British Anti-Revisionist Movement’.
Although signed by an individual, this article has been accurately identified as being in line with ’Origins and Perspectives of the Marxist-Leninist Movement in Britain’, the opportunist founding statement of the CFB (ML). The article in MLQ 3 was written by a leading member of the organization at the time. He rapidly left the CFB (ML) during the recent ideological struggle as soon as the waves of criticism began to lap around his feet.
The article, ’Revisionism and the Anti-Revisionist Movement’, divorces the question of revisionism from the class struggle. It never grasps the essence of the question – that by means of revisionism the bourgeoisie in Britain has robbed the working class of its Party.
Lenin puts the question in very sharp class terms:
“Revisionism, or ’revision’ of Marxism, is today one of the chief, if not the chief, manifestation of bourgeois influence on the proletariat and bourgeois corruption of the workers.” (1914, quoted on the first page of ’Lenin on the Struggle Against Revisionism’, Peking, 1960)
Because of its deep intellectualism the article in MLQ 3 sums up revisionism in vague terms stripped of class struggle:
“Modern Revisionism: is not a mere matter of slogans and incorrect policies. It is a matter of consciousness, of ways of viewing the World”. (p25)
This opportunistic article never presents the fight to rebuild the Party of the working class as a class fight. The working class appears only nine or ten times in an article of 24 pages and six pages of footnotes, and when it does appear it is almost always merely incidental to another point, The article sneers at the ’fetishism of the Party’ (p7), and at the ’subjective motivation’ of comrades who wanted to see the Party of the working class rebuilt (p6). This is a particularly severe example of intellectualism, which denies the leading role of the working class.
Instead, taking the stand not of the working class, but of the petty-bourgeois intellectual, the article talks about revisionism almost exclusively in terms of individuals who are anti-revisionists. It talks about their struggle to ’emancipate themselves’ from revisionism. (p25) This is the bourgeois theory of self-cultivation, not the stand of the working class.
It describes in great detail the twists and turns of the wanderings of these individual antirevisionists and loses sight of the ”principal question: how much any particular step contributed to rebuilding the proletarian Party.
In fact on page 22 the article denies altogether the leading role of the working class: it sneers,
“According to this ’feeling’ (it rarely becomes more explicit than that) an industrial worker was intrinsically somehow or other more valuable than a non-industrial worker or an intellectual.”
Yet ’somehow or other’ Lenin also had just this ’feeling’ which the article criticizes so contemptuously. Writing in 1897, when the Communist movement (then called Social-Democratic) was just developing, Lenin said in ’Tasks of the Russian Social Democrats’,
“Our work is primarily and mainly concentrated on the factory urban workers. The Russian Social-Democrats must not dissipate their forces; they must concentrate their activities among the industrial proletariat, which is most capable of imbibing Social-Democratic ideas, is the most developed class intellectually and politically, and the most important from the point of view of numbers and concentration in the political centres of the country. Hence, the creation of a durable revolutionary organization among the factory, the urban, workers is one of the first and urgent tasks that confronts the Social-Democrats, and it would be very unwise indeed to allow ourselves to be diverted from this task at the present time.”
Instead of pointing out sharply that revisionism is the ideology of the bourgeoisie dressed up as Marxism in order to fool and disarm the working class, the article makes a great deal of fuss about dogmatism and about the danger of following the lead of the socialist countries mechanically. Waving the red flag to oppose the red flag, it calls these errors ’revisionism’ and it slanders as ’revisionist’ comrades and organizations who make these errors.
The article makes no distinction between warmly supporting the line of a great Marxist-Leninist Party and opportunistically supporting the line of an infamous revisionist party. It implies that if comrades attach great importance to and are deeply influenced by the line of a great and tempered Marxist-Leninist Party they are guilty of revisionism. It puts them on the same level as the revisionists in the ’Communist Party of Great Britain’ who promptly and opportunistically supported Khrushchov when he overthrew the Marxist-Leninist line of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. This is indeed waving the red flag to oppose the red flag. It is to go over to the stand of the bourgeoisie.
Sneering at ’fetishism of the Party’ of the working class, the article in MLQ 3 also defends and supports small group mentality. It attacks attempts to form a leadership to unite the anti-revisionists in a single organization and overcome the disintegration into small groups from which the movement suffered.
On page 21 it complains about ’The Provisional Committee of the British Marxist-Leninist Organization’ that:
“Implicitly and explicitly the groups, who in their polemics and organization were revitalizing the Marxist movement in Britain were treated as obstacles”.
Yet small groups, so long as they remain small groups are precisely obstacles in the way of building the united, national Party of the working class. The Party must be built in the course of relentless struggle against small group mentality. By sheltering small group mentality this article objectively opposed the interests of the working class.
The article makes some correct subordinate points about errors made in the attempts to set up anew revolutionary Communist centre. But the essence of its line is to attack the attempt to set up the centre itself, and to insist that small group mentality has to be appeased. According to this line it is essential to compromise with small group mentality. Compromise with small group mentality is the essence of the federal road to Party building, which the CFB (ML) pushed for so long so opportunistically.
The attack on Michael McCreery in this article and in ’Origins and Perspectives’ must be denounced. McCreery was one of the very few strong and tempered Marxist-Leninists to come out of the thoroughly rotten revisionist ’Communist Party of Great Britain’. His death at the age of 36 in April 1965 was a great loss to the British Marxist-Leninist movement. The essence of his decision to leave the ’CPGB’ in 1963 and raise the fallen banner of proletarian, revolutionary Communism, to call on all anti-revisionists and class conscious workers to rally round the essence of this decision was fundamentally correct.
The accusation in MLQ 3 that he ’put organization before politics’ is a slander. McCreery’s writings show a strong grasp of the ideological and political principles needed in reconstructing the genuine revolutionary Communist Party, and the need to concentrate in the early stages on propagating these principles in the fight against revisionism. In particular his article, ’The Way Forward’, which has rightly been reprinted by certain organizations in the Marxist-Leninist movement, is a very powerful anti-revisionist statement which still merits reading today.
There were subordinate-weaknesses in McCreery’s lead. He failed adequately to consolidate a strong leading core to leave behind after his death and the organisation set which he set up, the ’Committee to Defeat Revisionism for Communist unity’ (CDRCU) collapsed. Nevertheless we must recognize that McCreery’s achievements far outweigh his shortcomings.
By attacking McCreery the article in MLQ3 reveals further its own pandering to small group mentality and ultra-democracy. It reveals its opposition to the setting up of a central rallying point for building the proletarian Party and its opposition to the principles of democratic centralism.
The article also makes a sectarian attack on the Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist). It concentrates on questions of personality and organizational details instead of concentrating primarily on ideological and political line. It criticize to destroy instead of criticizing in the spirit of curing the sickness to save the patient. This is sectarianism. As a criticism of the CPB (ML) the article is inferior to the pamphlet published by the Communist Unity Association (Marxist-Leninist) called ’Economism or Revolution?’
Comrades McCreery of the-CDRCU and Birch of the CPB (ML) should not be criticized for attempting to set up a centre for building the new Revolutionary Communist Party of the working class. They should only be criticized to the extent that they made certain errors or mistakes which meant that the new centre was not as strong or correct as it should be.
Taken as a whole, the article in MLQ3 shows serious errors of intellectualism, small-group mentality, ultra-democracy and sectarianism. Its publication harmed the working class by furthering the attempt to side-track the struggle to build the revolutionary Communist Party into the cul-de-sac of federalism.
But through struggle a bad thing can be turned into a good thing. This article is a teacher by, negative example. The working class can learn from errors and put the lessons to good use in the struggle to carry out the central task in Britain today of building the revolutionary Communist Party. We must take a firm class stand, unite genuine Marxist-Leninists on the basis of what is in the interests of the working class, starting from the desire for unity and winning unity through active ideological struggle and criticism and self-criticism. We must combat small group mentality relentlessly and practice, democratic centralism strictly. The future lies with the working class. Because we take the stand of the working class, with perseverance, success is inevitable.