Prepared: February 1974.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Sam Richards and Paul Saba
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EROL Note: This is an unpublished internal report of the CFB (ML).
1. The Committee’s Report to the SGM and the debate that it has initiated is a positive step forward in its assessment of our ideological and political orientation towards the international and national situation.
2. This meeting recognises that while every attempt must be made to reach political unanimity on both the general line and on specific policies, this frequently will not be possible, and if the minority is not prepared to implement the majority line, stalemate and political degeneration can follow. The JCC [Joint Committee of Communists – EROL] statement on party building stresses the necessity both of developing a political analysis and programme (b & c) and acting in a unified way in accordance with democratic centralist principles (d & e), before a Marxist-Leninist party can be founded. While the groups themselves have always operated on the basis of democratic centralism, the lack of this within the CFB as a whole has been an important reason for the growing number of unresolved issues. There is at the moment no method of breaking out of the stalemate position and applying the only thorough scientific test of a line: collective practice.
3. Real differences exist in the CFB as to how to overcome this contradiction which prevents the growth of a general line and the development of the CFB.
4. It is agreed that our main tasks in formulating our line of advance are:
i) to deepen our analysis of the present international and national situation, concentrating on the main contradictions in Britain itself, (see especially para. 115), and
a) to decide and implement policies on working lines and test them in practice, (see especially para.113 and from “Thirdly.... in para. 115).
5. It is agreed that to achieve these priorities an enlarged National Committee is necessary in order to strengthen both group representation and collective leadership.
This SGM of the CFB (M-L) pledges itself to build the unity of the CFB in carrying through the SCM decisions. It therefore agrees that:
A. All members of the CFB should urge all groups and individual members to actively implement the decisions of this SGM.
B. An SGM (Conference) shall be called by the National Committee within twelve months, to assess our progress in achieving the priorities as defined under 4 above.
C. Until that time the National Committee shall have the responsibility for interpreting the decisions of the SGM under its powers as defined in the Constitutional proposals 4c, but shall not operate such powers in relation to policy issues not decided by the SGM.
D. Not withstand in g the above temporary limitations on the powers of the National Committee it shall give leadership on all issues facing the CFB including the direction of the policy of our publications.
E. A General meeting should be called in 9 months to discuss group autonomy proposals.
1. The Communist Federation of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) (CFB) was founded by the member groups of the Joint Committee of Communists (JCC) in September 1969, on the basis of statements of aims and methods entitled ’The Marxist-Leninist Movement in Britain: Origins and Perspectives’, and the ’Statement on Party Building’ arrived at by the JCC. ’The Marxist-Leninist Movement in Britain: Origins and Perspectives’ contained an analysis of the development of the anti-revisionist movement in Britain, and outlined our anti-revisionist political platform as it existed at that time. It correctly stressed the weakness of the British anti-revisionist movement and the great lead that had been given in the international struggle against revisionism by the Communist Party of China and other parties such as the Albanian Party of Labour. The statement called for the establishment of a genuine Marxist-Leninist revolutionary party in Britain, and stated that this must be the over-riding task of all Marxist-Leninists. The correct approach to the work necessary for the establishment of the Party was outlined, and a line was drawn between this and the incorrect methods of certain other groupings. We stressed in our statement the necessary inter-relation of ideology, politics, organisation and tactics. Continually relating theory to practice and developing theory through practice is at once an objective and a distinguishing characteristic of the CFB in the British context. Our position is sharply different from those who advocate an ’instant party’ on the one hand and the ’purists’, constantly pursuing their chimera of definitive political analysis as a precondition to practice. These other positions can lead only to opportunism or despair.
2. It was on the basis of this clear perspective, which proceeded from an analysis of the history of the anti-revisionist movement to a statement of intent, that the groups comprising the JCC, together founded the CFB. While it would be untrue to say that we were unaware of the many obstacles ahead of us, it is true, nonetheless that our knowledge of those obstacles was sketchy. Before engaging in practice, in the work to change conditions, the under-standing of problems will always be restricted to a theoretical knowledge that obstacles exist. Thus our first SGM was guided not only by our founding objectives but also by the experience which we had gained in the first two years of our existence. An SGM is held to summarise experiences, draw lessons, criticise mistakes and to lay down tasks for the new stage of development. An SGM also functions to provide the broad mechanism whereby resources will be mobilised to attain the set tasks and to renew and increase the greatest of all our resources - the commitment and enthusiasm of members. The SGM is the most important meeting of our organisation, requiring maximum effort and participation from all comrades if it is to begin to measure up to its formidable function and fulfil its considerable potential. In its final form this report will be a measure of our success in confronting our collective tasks, as will be the statements and organisational changes to which we agree. As in our other political actions, but perhaps with even greater care and greater deliberation, at our SGM we shape our political future. We realise that that future is inextricably bound up with the future of the working-class movement in Britain and throughout the world, The SGM calls for maximum awareness and perspective; it is both an opportunity and a demand.
3. Without a correct world view of revolutionary development no organisation can pursue correct policies in its own country. In this as in all other spheres of work: “the correctness or incorrectness of the ideological and political line decides everything”. Our own general line on the present international situation is based on recognition of the four main contradictions in the world today. These are:
1. between the oppressed nations on the one hand and imperialism and Soviet revisionism on the other.
2. between the proletariat and bourgeoisie in the capitalist and between the proletariat and new ruling forces in the revisionist countries.
3. between the imperialist and Soviet revisionist and among the imperialist countries.
4. between socialist countries on the one hand and imperialism and Soviet revisionism on the other.
4. The key feature of a real understanding of the world today is that since the beginning of the imperialist era, imperialism has been the main enemy of the world’s peoples. Towards the end of the 19th century, capitalism due to the development of its productive forces and the surplus value at its disposal turned to the export of capital in its inherent drive for maximum profit. This introduced the era of super profit and imperialism to the world.
5. Throughout the 20th century collusion and contention have characterised the relations between different imperialist powers in the continual striving of each to extend its own sphere of domination. The early domination of British imperialism began to decline rapidly following the 1914-18 War and by 1945 it had given place to the domination of U.S. imperialism. The Russian Revolution of 1917 challenged the imperialist domination of power in the world and created a base for the extension of the democratic and proletarian revolutions.
6. During recent years imperialism has further concentrated its finances and power through the development of the multi-national corporations. Also, it is rapidly changing its form from colonialism to neo-colonialism. Another new and complex development in economic relations between the countries is resulting from the economic changes that are taking place as the revisionist Soviet Union continually degenerates.
7. In terms of military strength the U.S. remains the most powerful enemy of the peoples of the world. REFERRED. Its developed resources, its overseas financial assets are still many times greater than any other state. Its active counter- revolutionary role in the world is as naked as ever. Its huge subversive organisations are daily busy planning and organising aggressions, interference or control in small or militarily weak nations. U.S. intervention, covert and overt, has been responsible for the overthrow of governments like those of Iran (’53), Guatemala (’54), Indonesia (’65), Greece (’67), Cambodia (’70) and Chile (’73). U.S. imperialism remains determined to export counter-revolution.
8. The next most powerful state in the world is the U.S.S.R. The Russian Revolution of 1917 brought in the era of Socialist revolutions. Today the policies of the Soviet leaders are directed against the oppressed nations and the world’s revolutionary forces. The foreign policies of the Soviet Union today closely approach these of an imperialist country. The pre-existing economic and political agreements with the E. European countries have changed into unequal relations as indicated by the doctrine of ’limited sovereignty’ which followed the invasion of Czechoslovakia and the’ socialist international division of labour’. The Comecon, from being an organisation of mutual assistance and co-operation has become an exploitative instrument in the hands of the Soviet Union, characterised by its aid and trade policies. These policies include tieing aid to the purchase of Soviet goods, often of inferior quality, and insistence on fixed period interest-bearing loans. In these and in the tricontinental countries the Soviet leaders have conducted policies that fit them to Lenin’s description of the Second International leaders as ’Social Imperialists’. The reluctance of the Soviet Union to supply arms to the Palestinians to re-establish their national rights, accompanied by vacillations and manoeuvres in Middle East politics, refusal to recognise the legitimate Government of Cambodia led by Sihanouk until the latter’s victory became certain are clear indications of the Soviet backing of the national liberation struggles only to the extent that they can control and divert them. The relative increase in supplies of arms to N. Vietnam after the mid-sixties was thus to check the fast deterioration in Soviet- N. Vietnam relationship and was meant to exert pressure on the latter. The 20-year Indo-Soviet treaty is a military pact, the nature and extent of which has hardly any parallel in the tricontinent. While realising this basic change in the Soviet foreign policy we must recognise that we are theoretically inadequate in this area until we have a fuller understanding of how this happened and until we have developed a class analysis of the present Soviet state and have examined closely the specific structure of its political economy.
9. Politically, the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. play the same role. Militarily, the U.S. have undoubtedly much greater abilities to export counter-revolution, the U.S.S.R. being at the moment restricted to certain areas of the world only. REFERRED. Thus strategically, the two combined are the main enemies of the world’s peoples. Tactically, one or the other will be the dominant hostile force depending on the specific situation in different countries and areas of the world. It will be adventurism not to take note of the specific strength that the U.S. possesses and it will be opportunism if we choose to depict the Soviet Union as merely a country ’betraying’ the world’s revolutionary forces.
10. The objective weaknesses of imperialism in general, and the U.S. in particular are today more pronounced than ever. Following the ’39-’45 War increasing areas of the world were removed from the imperialist orbit. National liberation struggles have dealt great blows to imperialism. Rivalries between imperialist powers are intense and trade and currency wars are increasingly featuring in their relations. The ’dollar empire’ received a considerable blow with the ending of dollar-gold convertibility, in August ’71, while such pacts as SEATO and CENTO have become considerably weak. This decline has been reflected in the inability of the U.S. to control fully the U.N. over the past few years. In this situation the crisis-ridden U.S. administration has been increasingly unable to cope with the rising struggles of its own people who plays an important part in the anti-Vietnam war movement. In the immediate sense the U.S. is still a real tiger, but it’s essentially paper nature becomes clearer year by year.
11. In the epoch of the collapse of imperialism the fate of the Soviet revisionism cannot be any better than that of the U.S. The treacherous role that Soviet revisionism plays is being increasingly recognised by the peoples of the world.
12. Since the last war the main revolutionary struggles in the world have developed in Asia, Africa and Latin America. In China, N. Korea and N. Vietnam socialism is being constructed after victorious people’s wars against foreign and domestic reaction. National liberation struggles continue in the southern part of Vietnam, in Laos and in Cambodia. The heroic fight of the Indochinese peoples to expel the U.S. aggressors and smash domestic reactions had a great influence on revolutionary developments all over the world. These successes have yet again proved that it is not economic or military might that always succeeds but the poor or small nations can defeat aggression when their cause is just.
13. Similar struggles are developing against British, Portuguese and white South African colonialism in the continent of Africa. Recently people’s wars in Guinea-Bissau reached an important new stage with the defeat of the Portuguese army and the declaration of a sovereign and independent republic. In a number of countries in different parts of the world armed struggle is developing against local reactionary ruling classes. These experiences continually illustrate the correctness of Mao Tsetung’s dictum that ’political power grows out of the barrel of a gun’.
14. The growth of democratic and revolutionary forces has assumed a significant’ level in South Asia. The fight of the Bengali people against the West Pakistani military dictatorship was welcomed in our resolution in October ’71. The struggle has not succeeded in achieving national self-determination due to the comprador bourgeois leadership of the struggle as we pointed out in the resolution. However, the revolutionary forces who carried a parallel struggle for democracy and advance to socialism have continued their fight with opposition to Indian expansionism and Soviet revisionism.
15. The struggles in the tricontinent are going through different stages, led by different developing leaderships, ranging from Marxist-Leninist revolutionaries to bourgeois nationalists. Insofar as all these struggles demonstrate a growing awareness of the nature of imperialism and a desire by the masses to improve their conditions we support them. This support will encourage the working class in its fight for hegemony in the anti-imperialism movement.
16. The national liberation struggles, with enormous success, have had a few defeats as well. REFERRED. The tragic events of East Bengal (now Bangladesh), Sri Lanka, and Chile teach many lessons by negative examples. As part of the international communist movement we have the right and duty to criticise and condemn the Leaderships responsible. We wholeheartedIy extend our support to the people in their struggle against repressive regimes in their countries. Such events necessitate the furthering of our understanding of the variable roles of the bourgeoisie through the studies of the policies of revolutionary organisations within these countries.
17. Studies on the role of the ’national bourgeoisie’ will help to understand why many tricontinental countries today proclaim neutrality and claim to tread the path of non-alignment. Though the final defeat of imperialism in these countries is decided by the victory of the working class and its strategic allies, nevertheless the progressive or vacillating roles of sections of the bourgeoisie, which creates problems for the U. S. and the Soviet power blocs in their attempts to control policies of these semi-colonial countries, are of tactical importance. We must remember in this respect that in the semi-feudal and semi-capitalist countries the social stratification is more complex than that of advanced countries like Britain. Unlike Britain, where the principal contradiction is that between capital and labour, in the tricontinental countries the conflict of these two most antagonistic classes has not yet come to the fore. In these countries there are a number of contradictions with different class alignments and while all contradictions, in the long run, are reduced to that between capital and labour, due attentions are to be paid to other contradictions so as to bring about the major class-conflict onto the surface.
18. So we welcome the opposition of many tricontinental countries, temporarily away from alignment with either of the superpowers weakening the latter’s supremacy in the U.N., in such regional bodies as the OAS, and the general moves to strengthen state sovereignty as illustrated in the campaigns to protect fishing and mineral rights of the medium and small maritime nations. Imperialism is to be defeated by the broadest possible united front of all progressive people. In this united front, the vacillating sections of the bourgeoisie have a temporary and limited role to play as distinguished from the role of the workers, peasants and patriotic middle classes which have a long-term, strategic aspect. The U.N. today provides a useful forum for anti- imperialist propaganda though it cannot be used as an instrument for the objective expression of the will of the peoples of the world.
19. National liberation struggles are rapidly exacerbating the inherent contradictions of monopoly capitalism and imperialism. The repeated currency crisis, trade wars, accelerating export of capital are manifestations of these contradictions. An important by product of capitalist rivalry and crisis is the weakening of the post-war agreements which resulted in the formation of NATO. Britain, the one time prime imperialist power, finds itself more and more under attack. It has joined the EEC in an attempt to increase the rate of profit on its investments at home and abroad. Membership of the Common Market goes hand in hand with the intensified attack upon the rights and conditions of the British working-class and as such we have and we will continue to oppose Britain’s entry.
20. British membership of the EEC and the weakening of the ’special relationship’ with the US illustrates the nature of the new contradictions developing between the US and West European states. The evolution of the independent foreign policy of French governments follows the end of the Fourth Republic, demonstrated by their pressures to reject ’dollar imperialism’ and US nuclear hegemony has been a positive factor in lessoning US dominance over West European capitalist powers. The plan of the EEC countries to form their own super-state in an attempt to become a third superpower creates difficult problems for the US and USSR. The working class in Britain can take advantage of these rivalries between the imperialists and capitalists as such developments will not only weaken the main enemies of the world’s peoples but also these create contradictions amongst the bourgeoisie groups in Britain.
21. The world crisis of capitalism represented as clearly within the EEC as elsewhere by commodity overproduction and monetary instability makes international capitalist co-operation imperative but unstable. The paternalistic and counter-revolutionary notion that British workers need ruling class internationalism in order to develop working class internationalism must be rejected.
22. The invasion of Czechoslovakia by Soviet revisionism marked a new phase in the political developments of Eastern Europe. The dictatorship of the proletariat had never been consolidated in Eastern Europe, the process of degeneration here is much faster than that of the Soviet Union. The new ruling forces are divided among themselves differing in their attitude towards Moscow, with an increasingly strong tendency for independence from it. Stresses can be observed operating upon the Warsaw Pact, but as yet Soviet control is still considerable. However, the independent policies of countries like Romania have aided similar pressures for change in other east European countries as evidenced in the recent Helsinki preparatory talks for the planned ’European Security Conference’. These divisions among the east European revisionists are to be encouraged to the extent they create problems for themselves and for the Soviet leaders but we should not confuse these developments with working class advance.
23. In the fight against imperialism the revolutionary people of the socialist countries nave a vital role to play. By consolidating the dictatorship of the proletariat they are able to best oppose the class-enemies. In the forefront of tile socialist camp are China and Albania. Both are consolidating the dictatorship of the proletariat through continuing the class-struggle. In China this has taken the exemplary form of the Cultural Revolution.
24. It is the duty of the socialist camp to extend moral and material support, as appropriate, to the people fighting for national liberation and socialism. Strategically, the internal contradictions are prime and therefore tactical attitudes towards bourgeois states must serve the interests of the internal progressive forces. The state-ownership of the working classes in the socialist countries allows additional opportunities to fight world reaction on a diplomatic level. But at all times aid and diplomacy are an auxiliary form of struggle. The Vietnamese comrades have amply demonstrated how to combine political, military and diplomatic struggles. The vacillating bourgeois states join the united front with the socialist countries to exploit the contradictions between the superpowers, in their own class interests. The socialist states must use these diplomatic gains, however temporary, for revolutionary advance forcing the ruling class to retreat further from their class positions. Aid and diplomacy help to heighten internal class contradictions if the benefits of these are experienced by the masses. REFERRED.
25. The contradictions which may appear from time to time between the diplomatic struggles of the socialist states and the political struggles of the proletariat outside such states are non-antagonistic.
26. The aggressive and counter-revolutionary policies of US imperialism and Soviet revisionism are bound to fail. The national democratic and socialist revolutionary movements, the two great historical currents of our time, complement each other and together with all-round support from the socialist countries constitute the main elements of the international strategy against Imperialism.
27. Certain positive, lessons can be learnt from the break-up of the international communist movement in the ’50’s and’60’s. One feature of these has been to underline the primary responsibility each communist organisation has for making its own analysis and developing suitable forms of struggle against its immediate ruling class. But because the communist movement cannot be but internationalist the policies and political records of all Marxist-Leninist organisations must be open to questioning and criticism while developing closer and closer links between them. Such development requires full equality of the organisations irrespective of their size and frank exchange of views in a fraternal manner.
28. In recent years some aspects of Chinese foreign policy have caused concern within the CFB. We raised with the CPC questions relating to Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and more, particularly the British Marxist-Leninist movement. Unfortunately we have, had no reply from the CPC, nor has there been any analysis published by the Chinese comrades on the recent developments in their foreign policy.
29. The world Marxist- Leninist forces have not developed as rapidly as seemed probably in the 1960’s. Splits and divisions have occurred where opportunities seemed to exist for the creation of national Marxist-Leninist parties.
30. However, these events have demonstrated that revolutionary parties cannot be successfully formed on a basis of anti-revisionism alone, but they require the conscious assimilation and application of the living science of Marxism-Leninism. Where these lessons have been learnt, the last decade has provided invaluable experience for the completion of the world’s revolution.
31. Britain’s decline to a second class imperialist force after World War 2 has led her to seek a form of parity with the two superpowers through the EEC. see para.20. Though this develops a contradiction with them, Britain still requires the help of U.S. imperialism to neutralise any future challenge from the U.S.S.R. and Comecon.
32. A complex pattern of conflict and collusion between Britain and the superpowers is seen in the redistributed spheres of influence in the tricontinental countries. While the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. contend to take over the colonies and the neo-colonies of Britain, she co-operates with the U.S. against the U.S.S.R. on national liberation struggles.
33. The main enemy of the working-class and its allies is British imperialism. Our present stage therefore is one of building the forces and leadership for the Socialist revolution, to overthrow and smash the present State machine, and institute the dictatorship of the proletariat led by a Marxist-Leninist party with the correct political policies for working-class advance. In the present situation, with Communist forces still weak and inexperienced our first priority is to draw clear lines of demarcation between correct and incorrect political tendencies, develop our mass work and above all build the CFB as a prerequisite for forming a Communist Party. (see sections D and E).
34. The decreasing strength of the British ruling class is now to a large extent masked by the weakness of the revolutionary movement in Britain. Economically and politically the British ruling class is in a crisis which is not only part of the general world crisis of capitalism and imperialism. Since I945 Britain’s force as an imperialist power has drastically declined and there have been many important changes in the economy, until today, Britain stands as a second class imperialist power in the world. The British ruling class owns some of the most out-dated and least profitable means of production; a situation that is exacerbated by its dependence on international trade. However it still has considerable foreign investment and international financial- power which partly disguises its decline. Britain’s crumbling traditional heavy industry base is unable to withstand foreign competition, and the rise of new industries necessitates rapid restructuring if profits are to be maintained, let alone increased. The British ruling class is thus faced with the problem of capital necessary fop the new industrial sector being still mainly concentrated in the older heavy industrial sector. REFERRED.
35. In this crisis the ruling class is increasingly forced to mount attacks on workers’ living standards and democratic rights. Instead of wages being determined in localised struggles between each employer and those he employs, the State is now playing a growing part in attempting to control this process. As a result of both so-called ’industrial relations’ laws and prices and incomes policies the working- class is facing a combined and direct attack from the individual employers and the State machine. Such developments of state monopoly capitalism again raise the threat of fascism. At the same time it causes increasing contradictions within t he ruling class, teaches important lessons to the people about state power and helps destroy illusions about the potential of reforming capitalism. At times however, the British ruling class still uses its other tactic, that of ’liberalism’ of reforms and concessions, to confuse and disarm the people. This deceives a section of the workers and is an important cause of reformism and revisionism within the working class movement.
36. A growing number of workers are seeing through the facade of bourgeois parliamentary democracy and are seeking an alternative although as yet not on a politically conscious level. Workers’ struggles for the protection and improvement of living standards and working conditions against t the encroachments of capitalism are predominant, despite the TUC’s class collaboration and concern for the capitalist economy, the open acquiescence of most trade union leaderships to anti-union legislation, and the policies of deliberate conciliation proposed by labour politicians. These apparently economic struggles necessarily become a political struggle against the wealthy minority of land-lords, industrialists and financiers and their tail of administrators, lawyers etc. who own and control industry in Britain today. Miners, hospital workers, building workers, and others have resisted wage freeze restraints, suffered arrest and imprisonment in defiance of ruling class law. As state institutions and the media, backed up by the judiciary and police, attack workers ’ rights and organisations there is developing awareness that “political power is the organised use of force by one class in order to keep another class in subjection.”
37. Its history as the first capitalist ruling class and the first imperialist power largely determines its present position. Similarly the ideology and politics produced during this period of world dominance had a considerable effect in weakening the working class and its allies in Britain. This is demonstrated in a tendency towards chauvinism, and racism which is being used increasingly in ruling class propaganda and legislation, such as the Immigration Act, to oppress racial minorities and attempt to develop dangerous divisions in the working class. A fragmented trade union movement together with reformist social-democratic politics still forms a major obstacle to revolutionary change.’ It is also important to combat the sexist attitude deeply rooted at all Levels in considering any revolutionary advance of the British working class. Although sexism (i.e. discrimination, oppression and exploitation of women based on their sex) is not a direct product of imperialist ideology, the latter strengthens women’s oppression and exploitation through all its institutions and uses the myth of women’s inferiority to divide the working class. REFERRED.
38. The main political representation of this social-democratic tradition is the Labour Party. Formed by certain trade unions to negotiate for them in Parliament, this relationship between the two main reformist forces has not changed since then in any qualitative way. This organisation, which has mass working class membership, has a bourgeois leadership. The constitution of the Party claims control from below but it has amply been proved that the rank and file have virtually no control over the decision-making process. Undoubtedly, the Labour Party is just another executor of capitalism, duping the workers with its “socialist” phraseology. Our tactics and strategy towards it should be worked out in this light and bearing in mind the recent exacerbations of the contradiction between the Labour rank and file and trade unionists on the one hand, caused by the Industrial Relations Act, Housing Finance Act, Wages Freezes, and the Labour Party’s leadership’s openly opportunist stance on such issues – i.e. opposing them in words but supporting the ruling class in the name of upholding the constitution. These are the same issues which have forced the T.U. leadership, under pressure from the rank and file to voice the contradictions within the Labour Party in order to maintain their own facade of solidarity with working class interests. We must not allow workers to be taken in by the forced face-saving ’shift to the left’ of the Labour Party. We must point out that the nationalisation proposed by the Labour Party is no real shift to the left as the industries come under the control of the bourgeois state. This does not mean control by the people, but more effective control by the bourgeoisie. REFERRED.
39. The revolutionary tendency that was demonstrated by the formation of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) was never fully realised in the creation of a revolutionary strategy for the British working class. The final authority of the Communist International had certain attractions for the immediate post-war period when a European Soviet Republic was expected to be won within months or at the most a very few years. But when this failed to materialise the British Party, like many others, was left high and dry, dependant for its strategy and at times even its times, on the decisions of international meetings. Self-reliance, the objective corollary of building Socialism in one country, was never practised because of a false view of internationalism. ’Self-reliance’ in this context means creating an ideologically mature and expert cadre-force capable of applying Marxism-Leninism to British conditions and an effective leadership to give optimum support for decided policy. By the end of the Second World War the CPGB had degenerated to the state where it tailed behind the mass social-democratic movement: an unwelcome, militant, but essentially reformist junior partner to the Labour Party. REFERRED. The CPGB is characterised by dogmatism in the political defence of its ’programme’ and bureaucracy in its style of work both towards people within the Party who disagree with the Party and those outside the Party. The programme itself – ’British Road to Socialism’ revises the Marxist-Leninist teachings that the bourgeois state must be smashed and cannot be used in the construction of Socialism under a dictatorship of the Proletariat. REFERRED.
Another variant of social democracy is the Communist Party of Great Britain. Although this organisation holds the hopes of most people in Britain calling themselves communist, it is a thoroughly revisionist party which has, since the 2nd World War explicitly tailed behind the Labour Party. The CPGB is characterised by dogmatism in the political defence of its ’programme’ and bureaucracy in its style of work both towards people within the Party who disagree with the Party and those outside the Party. The programme itself - ’British Road to Socialism’ revises the Marxist-Leninist teachings that the bourgeois state must be smashed and cannot be used in the construction of Socialism under a dictatorship of the Proletariat. It is only a hypothetical blueprint for what might happen when a ’ left’ Labour/CPGB government comes into being. The CPGB in effect blames its reformist policies on the working class arguing with almost classical revisionist opportunism that workers have to be won to vote ’left’ as a precondition to further advance. At the same time, these politics of gradualist advance lead to the economist belief that industrial struggles provide the experience which will lead to revolutionary political change.
While the CPGB is a relatively powerful paper organisation we should bear in mind that some members are active communists engaged in day to day struggles and are at times extremely critical of the ’British Road’. It is to these comrades, perhaps long made cynical by revisionist politics and methods of work, that we should direct part of our attention. REFERRED.
40. The present political situation is a direct product of this experience. The CPGB in effect blames its reformist politics on the working-class, arguing with almost classical revisionist opportunism that workers have to be won to vote ’left’ as a precondition to further advance. At the same time these politics of gradualist advance lead to the economist belief that industrial struggles provide the experience which will lead to revolutionary political change.
41. A section of the anti-revisionist movement has, in a distorted form produced its own variant of revisionism. The Communist Party of Britain (Marxist- Leninist) (CPB (M-L)) appears to believe that political theory can only be developed when the masses are ready. Whatever their differences with the CPGB, their methods of manipulation, their attempt to mechanically impose a leadership on the movement and a thoroughgoing economism, are all hallmarks of British revisionism. Especially evident in their approach is the incorrect equation of economic and political struggle, notably in their comparisons between the inevitable, continuous and disconnected wage battles in factories and the conscious political strategy of guerrilla war developed by the Chinese and Vietnamese comrades.
42. In contrast with both the revisionist CPGB and the distorted anti-revisionism of the CPB (M-L) are the various Trotskyist tendencies. These groups have an incorrect understanding of the role of a revolutionary vanguard party, believing that such a vanguard will in itself transform a crisis of capitalism into a revolutionary situation and the seizure of state power, The International Marxist Group and International Socialism move rapidly from one struggle to another in search for a slogan or a new form of movement which will convince the masses that the time for ’revolutionary leadership’ is ripe. The IS have recently been concentrating efforts into economist work in factory and shop-floor organisations, and have therefore submerged the overall political and cultural struggle into a desperate search for decisive strike action. The Socialist Labour League, similar to IS in its industrial orientation has adopted a political and organisational form which mirror the bureaucracy and commandism they simultaneously attack in the revisionist CP. In relation to the principle conflicts in the world today – the national liberation struggles in the tricontinent – the Trotskyists find themselves in a dilemma as they follow Trotsky’s “Permanent Revolution” which rejects the concept of the democratic stage of revolutionary development in the semi-feudal countries. Thus, they cannot explain the nature of the revolutionary movements in these countries and when they attempt to analyse these movements, the ’Stalinist ’ leadership has to be made to be seen selling out the movement. The growth of the various Trotskyist groups indicates an increasing acceptance by some advanced elements of the working class and their allies of the need for revolutionary politics: but the inevitably self-defeating nature of the Trotskyist analysis results in discouragement and apathy amongst militants who have seen their tactics and policies fail. There is an urgent need to recruit such cadres into the discipline of a Marxist-Leninist approach to militant action. In order to aid such a recruitment it will be necessary to undertake a thorough analysis of the Trotskyist movement.
43. We for our part must draw demarcation lines between ourselves and these ’left’ and right opportunist trends. We recognise that the creation of a revolutionary strategy and the building of a Communist party is a protracted struggle. It demands an understanding that while the creation of revolutionary theory is ’an essential and present t as whatever the state of the movement, the development of a mass revolutionary movement itself can only come from the testing of this theory in mass struggles. Working class revolutionary consciousness and the Party can only develop dialectically as the experience of the Russian and Chinese revolutions demonstrates as consciousness and correct leadership cannot be posed one against the other as if they are independent factors.
44. More specifically, social democracy can only be effectively combatted and destroyed by consistently posing alternative policies which start from a realistic class assessment of the present stage. We do not and must not condone or accept present illusions but our political organisational and tactical’ policies must be effective in mobilising workers and their allies, and must not be geared to some desirable future state of affairs.
45. Only by grasping this dialectic between freedom and necessity, between policy and objective reality, can we both avoid the error of tailism on the one hand, and on the other, “the Left-sectarian error of the ’revolutionary phrase’, which however superb and intoxicating will only condemn us to irrelevance. This section demonstrates that our understanding of the British situation is extremely vague. There has been no discussion on the changes in the structure and economic base of British industry since the war. Nor has there b e en any discussion on the changing class structure of British society. Despite a developing, crisis within capitalism and movement towards corporatism, we have not discussed the changing nature of the British state. In the absence of such discussions this document is of (little) limited guidance to the activists and militants of the, Labour movement. Indeed, the document reflects the weaknesses of the revolutionary movement and shows the vital theoretical and practical tasks that have to be carried out in the coming period. REFERRED.
46. The decisions of the last SGM must be placed in the context of the origins and early developments of the CFB. Arising in the course of a keen struggle with the revisionist CPGB, the constituent groups were particularly concerned to redress the incorrect political line and organisational methods pursued by the British revisionists. Centralism to the exclusion of democracy, and manipulation to the exclusion of political struggle, were and still are hallmarks of the CPGB. To change the anti-revisionist movement into the necessary Marxist-Leninist Party, the key element was the creation of a communist theory and practice to lead the working class here in the struggle towards the Socialist revolution. Correct policies could not be constructed’ merely by the transfer of policy formulations, however correct, decided in a previous era or in another country. It needed a protracted struggle in which the basic Marxist method and precepts had to be applied to the actual conditions existing today, and a rejection of both instant political and organisational answers. Consequently the JCC concentrated on providing democracy and an organisational structure which made manipulation impossible. That concentration was both inevitable and correct for the time if the JCC was to develop. The weaknesses of this approach and the elements of it which still persist in our thinking and work are outlined more fully in our analysis of the work of the CFB Committee. For the moment it is sufficient to say that the last SGM took certain steps with ’a view to adjusting organisational structure to serve current political needs.
47. The SGM decided to replace, the largely ad hoc committee with a more permanent structure, and to begin to reduce the contradictions arising from uneven political developments between the groups. The new form given to the committee was designed to ensure that it functioned “as a collective leadership ... the highest executive body of the organisation”.
The committee was given the duty of engaging in the political struggle necessary to ensure adherence of the groups to its majority decisions. In addition to representatives from the groups three officers we’re elected by direct ballot at the SGM. The committee thus combined representative functions with general political and leadership responsibility. It would be correct to say, however, that both in intent and in actuality the representative functions pre- dominated. The SGM adopted a common group constitution and made certain financial arrangements that helped to clarify the relationship of the groups to one another and to the Committee, and provided sufficient funds for the latter to discharge its immediate responsibilities to the Federation.
An important element in the group constitution was the provision of common admission procedures and membership criteria. These changes were intended to provide the form in which, by common political education and struggle, the membership of the Federation would cease to be based on politically disparate autonomous groups and would increasingly become a politically united fighting force.
48. The foregoing changes can be understood as the skeleton of a developing organisation: the flesh has to be provided in our work. To develop and unite our common struggle it was recognised’ that constitutional changes, while necessary, were not sufficient. A central weakness in our work at that time was the lack of a theoretical journal. Such a journal was necessary to enable us properly to tackle the task confronting the Marxist-Leninist movement in the struggle for a revolutionary party. The unity and political clarity necessary for such a development would not be attained without a programme. The task of the journal therefore was to be continually centred on the production of a programme, and was to concern itself with the relevant ideological and political issues. (Refer to Section J – MLQ).
49. By comparison with the founding of a theoretical journal – a matter in which the Federation as an organisation had little experience – considerable experience had been accumulated in the production of our monthly journal STRUGGLE, which at the time of the SGM was in its seventeenth issue. STRUGGLE has played an invaluable part in welding the Federation more closely together (as can be seen from a comparison with the JCC). It had projected our political views to a section of the working class movement, and had enabled us to gain political and organisational experience and technical skills obtainable by no other means. Its value had been greatly restricted by failure to involve the Federation to a greater extent. The changes involving STRUGGLE were designed to increase the part it played in the work of the Federation, to increase its political effectiveness, and to educate the Federation in the necessary organisational and technical skills. (Refer to Section I – Struggle).
50. The innovations in the structure and responsibility of the committee, and in the relationship of the groups to the Federation; the foundation of a theoretical journal; the changes in the organisation of STRUGGLE – all of these must be seen as the response of the Federation to the problems it confronted at the time as an attempt to meet the requirements of the JCC statement on party building which, together with ’The Marxist-Leninist Movement in Britain: Origins and Perspectives’ is a fundamental statement of intent for our movement. The JCC statement argued that there were certain indispensable preliminaries for the formation of a revolutionary party. It directed us to secure the following objectives and conditions:
(a) A politically advanced cadre-force, with a good grasp of the ideology of Marxism-Leninism gained from a combination of theory and practice.
(b) A full analysis of the national and international political situation, including the historical experience of the British anti-revisionist movement to date.
(c) A draft programme that would need to be fully discussed to ensure that it was understood by all the constituent parts of the organisation and would stand the test of time; furthermore, in the production of such a draft programme it would be necessary for a number of publications, statements, etc. to be brought out.
(d) To have carried out as an organisation practical work upon which concrete evaluation could be made and practical conclusions, drawn.
(e) To have proceeded in accordance with democratic centralism, utilising fully the methods of criticism and self-criticism.
51. It is against the background of these agreed tasks that the decisions of the last SGM, our implementation of these decisions, and the decisions of this, our second SGM, should be understood and assessed.
52. At the outset it must be said that in structure and in work performed the Committee as it emerged from the last SGM represented a definite advance of considerable proportions in our political work. Nonetheless, as the Committee and Federation have developed, certain serious weaknesses have emerged. It is proper that they should be fully exposed and essential that they be rectified.
53. The predominant weaknesses of the Committee have been liberalism and an amateur approach to work. The latter weakness has become less prominent. Some of the symptoms of amateurism are trivial: lack of punctuality and, attention at meetings - but they very quickly shade into the more serious. There has been a lack of preparation for meetings which has resulted in prolonged and inconclusive discussions. There has been consistent failure to meet deadlines, and on some occasions total failure to carry out decisions. These shortcomings have resulted in a devaluation of Committee decisions; members cannot easily criticise a defaulter if they themselves have consistently defaulted. As a consequence, a collusive mentality has from time to time been predominant on the Committee, and decisions and obligations have been flouted with impunity. Bearing in mind the example that the Committee should set for the Federation as a whole, and the impact that this inadequacy has on overall efficiency, this is a serious criticism of the Committee for which it must be called to account.
54. In another direction there has been an unrealistic willingness to take decisions, without ensuring that resources exist for their implementation. For numerous consecutive Committee meetings items have been on the agenda and have been allocated to individuals for solution, in the certain knowledge that little or no action would follow. Or, if such decisions were carried out, the Committee has been prepared to accept half-hearted, slipshod and totally inadequate work, when it should have insisted on a high standard and exposed short-comings. It cannot be too strongly emphasised that a critical attitude to work is indispensable. We should never, acquiesce to the mentality that because political work is a voluntary activity any effort is better than none, and any level of commitment is praiseworthy because it contrasts favourably with the inactivity of the population at large. Unfortunately this amateur view lurks in all of us and must be replaced by a thoroughgoing professionalism.
55. Having outlined these weaknesses, it is now necessary to look at the quality of decisions which were made and which the Committee was able to implement. In general, it should be said that while the Committee’s work has had and important stabilising effect on the Federation – membership has been maintained and has increased slightly, noticeable movement has been made towards increasing coordination, efficiency in various routine activities has markedly improved – the Committee as a body has failed to give decisive political leadership. Indeed, at times the Committee has given every sign of being totally overwhelmed by the political issues confronting the Federation. Political issues have been identified – more or less by accident – by having our noses rubbed in them, so to speak. A Committee member has agreed to produce a draft statement; reactions to the statement have revealed differences in the Committee and in the groups. At this point a general meeting or school has been planned, and preparation is urged upon the groups. Reading lists are circulated, and study supposedly begins. But even assuming that all of these steps are carried out within a reasonable space of time, there next occurs what can only be described as an “academic regression’”. That ’s to say, more and more, terms and issues upon which there is disagreement are uncovered within the original point of contention. Instead of differences crystalising, the discussion has become even broader and less defined. More will be said about this later. What can be said is that throughout, the Committee has not seen its policy-making obligations clearly.
56. The school on Social-Imperialism was inconclusive, and the issue has not been developed by the Committee, whilst the January 1972 General Meeting, although conclusive failed to contribute to the political cohesion of the Federation as it should. In relation to the journal, whose, role in policy making was so stressed at the last SGM, the Committee seems to have been thankful that it appeared at all. True, officers and members of the Committee have been heavily involved in production and writing, but at no point has there been a serious attempt to provide a mechanism whereby the journal would serve the policy-making needs of the Federation. Instead, there has been a failure to direct the Journal Committee to certain tasks, within an overall statement of Federation priorities, and a vague, even mystical, belief on the part of the Committee that mere publication of individual articles would in some undefined way rub off on the Federation and assist in policy formation. Ritualism – carrying out tasks for the sake of form, is a well known characteristic of British revisionism: It has obviously left its mark on the Federation Committee.
57. In relation to education, General Meetings and the Journal – the policy-making apparatus of the Federation – the Committee has failed to find a role for itself, and has excused its culpability on the grounds that the defect was in the Federation. In the context of its own failure to fight for its responsibilities to give leadership to the Federation, the Committee has had the happy ’collusion of the groups – some of whom seemed anxious only to see that form was adhered to, others of whom were, at times, concerned near to, obsession with their rights, but not their duties. What has been the result? We have consolidated in a largely organisational sense, since the last SGM, but we have resolved only a single major political problem at Federation level: our January 1972 resolution “Concerning Certain Aspects of the Foreign Policy of Socialist Countries”. With our present structure, our present Committee responsibility and attitudes, the Irish struggle would need to last out another, several years before Federation policy is enunciated and other issues can shuffle up the queue for our attention. By no stretch of the imagination can this be said to be an acceptable attitude for a revolutionary organisation. Our approach to the work of policy making has been inadequate and must be change, whilst our policy making apparatus has proved next to useless in securing our progress and must be altered forthwith. In accepting these and other criticism of the Committee, the groups must apply equally rigorous criteria to their own performance.
58. In the struggle against amateurism it, must be realised that there is a non-antagonistic contradiction between the work of the Committee members within their groups and their national responsibilities. The present stage of the Federation must be recognised as one of developing cadres and creating a correct and coherent programme. Only on that basis will it be possible to build a powerful vanguard party with wide mass support, capable of utilising the leadership potential of the most advanced sections from among the masses, thus facilitating the development of a correct dialectical relationship between the party and the masses. The mass work of the groups is the main way of developing cadres.
The Federation Committee must be the body primarily responsible for creating a programme. The Federation Committee must be made up from the most advanced cadres in the Federation. Thus the contradiction between group and Federation Committee responsibilities cannot he avoided but has to be resolved through its recognition at all levels of the Federation and by a planned re-allocation of responsibilities within the groups. The decision of our last SGM that the group representatives on the Committee should also be the group secretaries can now be seen to have been incorrect in form, although it pointed the correct direction towards creating a Committee with the capacity and experience to provide leadership. The responsibilities for the day-to-day leadership in the groups cannot be effectively combined with carrying out the Federation Committee’s national tasks. Some of the failures of the Committee’s work stem from that decision. The key to real advance in the Federation is for the Committee to develop an all-round style of Leadership – ideologically, politically, organisationally and tactically. Committee members’ involvement in the mass work of groups must principally be judged on the criterion of whether this key responsibility is being developed or not.
59. Communists are not ultra-democrats. We must practice the Leninist principle of professionalism and division of labour in our political work. If this is not done then the immediate dominates the long-term and tactics determines strategy. In practice we often surrender to spontaneism and activism and this tendency must be vigorously fought.
60. This section reports on the problems, and on the lessons learned, in building the CFB. Firstly, we assess group resignations, and then we refer to the more positive experiences gained in developing contacts with other groups.
61. In the five months following the last SGM three groups left the CFB: Manchester in June, Birmingham in July and Humberside in August. At a formal level it could be said that Manchester left because they considered that the SGM represented a ’rush’ towards a Party, Birmingham collapsed because of internal weaknesses and Humberside resigned because their primary loyalty was to other individuals in London who prove d themselves unable to work in the CFB. While it is true that there were, of course, specific reasons for such actions, the important factor for us to realise is the general weakness these events illustrated.
62. All three groups had only recently joined the CFB at the time of the first SGM and found great difficulty in becoming active within it , either at the level of involvement in policy discussions and decisions, or in building the CFB through Struggle sales, public meetings and expanding politically directed mass work. Previous to their entry, the (pre-SGM) then loose and ill-defined Committee made little effort to closely investigate the groups’ work, political stage of development and orientation. As problems arose the Committee was not informed of them but at the same time was prepared to continue its previous passive role. Thus no attempt was made to identify the main strengths and weaknesses of each group which could then have served to guide the Committee – in carrying out its leadership tasks. After the event it became clear that Manchester was dominated by small group sectarianism, that Birmingham relied completely on two persons who were relatively inexperienced and had no local base, while Grimsby with no ideological training and little political experience, completely lacked a self-reliant approach to solving problems. What had been incorrect, was allowing members from groups with those weaknesses and, at the same time, giving no specific leadership to these groups, to help them overcome their problems.
63. Since that time a political relationship has been developed with a group in Leeds and a group has been started in Manchester with the help of one of our single members. Some of the lessons of the past have already been learned. A number of meetings have taken place between the Leeds group and members of the Committee, and the group has produced reports which have been discussed by the Committee and proposals made. The Committee considered that as a result of this process and the positive relationship that was developing,” that it would be correct to involve the group in the preparation for the SGM to the extent of allowing the group to have copies of this report with the aim of inviting its representatives as observers to the SGM itself. In the event of any application for CFB membership the Committee is confident that a correct decision and more adequate leadership will be able to be given. Similarly a meeting has been held with the Manchester group and regular contact is being maintained both through single members and by the Committee.
64. Since the last SGM the CFB has taken part in what was planned by us as an Industrial Conference with the CPB (M-L), the Brent Industrial Group and a number of individuals in the ’Marxist-Leninist’ movement. Because of inadequate preparation and a failure to clearly de fine the aims of the Conference, the CPB (M-L) were able to impose their own sectarian approach on the meeting, stifle any real discussion on the possibilities of developing united action against the Government’s anti-trade union legislation and substitute for a series of recruitment speeches. Apart from certain obvious organisational lessons we must also learn from this that we should not consider it either more likely, or beneficial, to unite in broad front activity with those describing themselves as Marxist-Leninist, than with any other ’left’ organisation.
65. Again to a considerable extent the lessons of this meeting and that with the ICO (before the last SGM) have been learned. A meeting held with representatives of the M.L.W.A. was prepared for by correspondence and a planning meeting. Our delegates were able to demonstrate that the M.L.W.A.’s criticisms were not founded either on study of the CFB or on a correct understanding of the development of other Communist parties. Unsurprisingly therefore they were unable to offer an alternative to the CFB’s line on party-building.
66. One of the primary aims of the CFB must be to initiate and continue serious and fruitful discussions with all M-L groups on the important questions facing the M-L movement. We believe that with the experience and the clear perspective proposed in this report we must continue our policy of meeting with other groups sharing a similar ideological position so as to maximise the opportunities for winning others to our political line of advance.
67. The Committee does not accept the revisionist view that membership should be built purely by organisational means, for example by membership campaigns which are seen in generally autonomous terms, as though membership were an end in itself. Nonetheless, an opposite error can arise, that is in paying no specific attention to membership building , and setting it rather as the automatic outcome of correct policies. The report as a whole stresses the Committee’s attitude to the crucial importance of policy, but within this concept it accepts that too few specific measures have been taken to increase the number of groups and the total number of members in the Federation.
68. Conscious of the need to increase Federation resources, and to win more and more advanced workers and others to an active role in revolutionary politics, the Committee will devote early attention to measures aimed at a substantial increase in Federation membership. This will be done while maintaining and, if possible, improving upon present criteria for acceptance of members and groups. Using the experience gained during the operation our speakers’ panel, bilateral meetings and so forth, groups will be presented with the Committee proposals in the early Autumn. The need urgently to improve this aspect of our work should be recognised by all groups.
69. The Coventry Workers’ Association (CFB) is a founder group of the Federation and has a longer history of collective political work than any other member group. Its main mass work is within trade unions and despite the limitations of a predominantly ’white-collar’ membership has won great respect for its industrial work, both in Coventry and elsewhere.
70. Partly because of this experience and also because of the leading role that it plays in the industrial work of the CFB, it has a stronger sense of group, as compared with Federation, identity.
71. These are the main factors which lead to both the strengths and weaknesses of the group. This important and continuous nature of the industrial struggle has trained the most effective group of militants within the CFB, and this has also created the potential for a worker-based political cadre force for the CFB as a whole.
72. However we consider that there are certain weaknesses which need to be overcome if the group and the Federation are to be strengthened.
i) There is a great reluctance to generalise its experience, explicitly assess the effects of its political practice and integrate such an assessment with the lessons of Marxism-Leninism. Until this is done other groups will not be able to learn from the group’s experience, and the group itself will be to a large extent working in a ’blind’ way, in the absence of an explicit line to guide its mass work.
73. Here we particularly urge the completion of the group working-line for trade unions.
ii) The group appears to underestimate the role of political theory and the need for its application to the tasks facing the Federation. For example, the study course on Ireland, decided by the Federation Committee, was started very late and has not even now received the attention it deserves.
74. Again we would stress the importance of putting group and individual lines in writing, both to aid precision of discussion within the group and to enable other groups to learn from and contribute to, the group’s study.
iii) Within the group there is still a tendency towards ’small group’ attitudes despite a positive development in relationship to ’Struggle’. This is partly illustrated in some of the criticisms already made, but can also be more generally observed in not giving Federation tasks the priority they deserve, and what can be termed a ’consumer’ attitude. Thus in its statement on ̶Group Autonomy and the Federation” (October 1972) the group made no proposals for deciding and carrying out policies on contentious issues, and it rarely if ever contributes to the criticism of ’Struggle’: itself one way of clarifying areas of policy agreement and disagreement. In general, we believe that there is a need for the group leadership, the group committee, to formulate proposals to enable the group to overcome these problems of ideological and political development and to integrate its work more closely with that of the Federation.
75. There is one other question that is of considerable importance. The group is placed on the periphery of one of the largest industrial and population centres in Britain: the Birmingham conurbation. We propose that the group puts forward plans to the Federation Committee as to how the Federation can best be built in the Birmingham area. We suggest that these plans should include the holding of public meetings, ’Struggle’ and ’MLQ’ sales, and perhaps existing contacts. It would be the responsibility of the CFB Committee to give active help in this process.
76. The Glasgow CPB group (formerly the Glasgow Communist Movement M-L) has existed for six years, participating in the foundation of the Federation and our forerunner, the JCC. Throughout its existence the group has been predominately student-based. At times there have been industrial workers in the group, but there has never been any industrial base. This activity remained at an individual level although for a time the group devoted a great deal of effort towards developing tenants work in the Springburn area together with attempts at establishing a workers association. At the same time the group has consistently worked in local and national anti-imperialist struggles alongside local student orientated issues.
77. Involvement in the Springburn tenants and also the Glasgow Workers Association was based on the comrades pre-occupation with the group’s student composition. The approach behind what remains d semi-romantic outlook which placed class composition above political understanding and revolutionary commitment led to a temporary decline in the group’s political and numerical strength, almost destroying group discipline. During the crisis created by factors evolving around this central theme, the Glasgow comrades assessed group work, recognising the need for a strategy rather than continuing the drift towards ’activism’ without perspective.
78. Student work, its possibilities and limitation were also re-evaluated. Subsequently healthy gains have been achieved both in broad front activities through socialist societies and in independent work, largely devoted to theoretical study, essential to the development of a cadre force maturing ’through the strategy of the student/Worker alliance. There are still weaknesses harping back to earlier difficulties. The problems faced in correctly evaluating student issues without at once either writing them off, or falling for a student power line are by no means simple although developing an alliance with working class struggles must continue to be the basis on which each issue is assessed. An outstanding example of this approach was the Glasgow comrades involvement with the U.C.S. struggle which was reflected through articles appearing in ’Struggle’, local solidarity work, in short, the maturity of the group’s contribution. It was correctly understood by the group that given its predominantly student membership organised mass work should be first developed within the college which their members attended. Until its present draft working line is improved and clarified the Committee is not clear as to the group’s strategy on this question.
But from group reports to the Committee it does seem that there is a tendency to stand for Official positions in student unions and broad front organisations before an adequate mass base has been built. At the same time a sectarian style is apparent in the material published by the group which must hinder its development. This is particularly so with Indochina activities in Scotland. In formulating a working line for the CFB in this field, Glasgow must explicitly detail its line in relation to the existing draft.
79. The composition of the group is also reflected in considerable organisational weakness. Frequent changes o f address, financial instability and periodic problems arising from pressure of academic work have all been negative factors. Although there are no easy or short-term answers it is clear that unless longer-term realistic planning of work is more firmly stressed the group will not build itself politically or organisationally and will not win respect from working-class potential members.
80. Relations with the Federation Committee could be much improved. Glasgow is the only group who have changed their representation on the committee, this has been done three times since the SGM. Special difficulties exist in travelling and exceptional demands met during exams, nonetheless in future every effort should be made to ensure continuity since the delegates from Glasgow have been unable to work effectively for some, time after each change. Generally Glasgow have generated considerable enthusiasm but this has, been accompanied by a degree of impetuosity. The group have taken a firm and generally considered position in relation to debates, within the CFB, yet they have not always appreciated the concrete implications or their position on particular questions, such as East Pakistan and Struggle, when these have been raised above our party building strategy by the use of ultimatums. The group should draw lessons from misunderstandings arising from its tendency to assert a position rather than using considered argument and polemic.
81. Despite these errors in terms of its relationship to the CFB Committee., the proposals made by the group regarding working lines and the need for a programme to guide our next stage had positive features. Although they were raised in the discussion on the issue of group autonomy and wrongly proposed that such programmatic work could and should precede the ending of group autonomy, the positive feature was that in re-introducing proposals for a programme it helped the Committee to relate the issue of group autonomy and the development of a programme which id the main aspect of this Report.
82. The Liverpool group is unique among groups in the CFB in that it joined after the publication of “Origins and Perspectives” and was not a member of the JCC. Nor have the members of the group had significant experience within the anti-revisionist movement. Its membership is predominantly working-class but lacks cadres with political experience and self-confidence. While its class, character helps to make it a stable group it does not have the experience of organised struggle in trade unions or other mass organisations nor the contribution from Marxist intellectuals which could help the group integrate the process of organised mass struggle with the polemics that have arisen round the main policy questions facing the CFB.
82. In general the group’s stability and the serious commitment of the Liverpool comrades means that vital organisational tasks are carried out energetically and well. Its weakness in mass work and in the process of policy formation has been the other aspect of the group’s work.
83. We believe therefore that its key tasks are, firstly to develop one or two areas of mass- work in a professional and consistent manner guided by the working-lines at present under discussion. Secondly, it must engage in a more disciplined way in the study of Marxist-Leninist theory.
84. To facilitate these two proposals we suggest that the group agrees the best way to set up a trades union and a tenants’ caucus and sets modest and realistic targets for early achievement. In developing a greater understanding of Marxist-Leninist theory and its application to actual conditions we regard the formulation of contributions and policy-lines in writing as an essential part of the group’s development.
85. At the same time the group must develop a consistent public presence in Liverpool. This should not only develop through its mass work but also through regular public meetings carefully prepared and widely advertised on key issues facing the British people, nationally and internationally. In this the CFB will give all necessary support to help the group develop the experience and skill of speaking to public meetings.
86. Since joining the CFB the group has consolidated its position and its membership and has shown itself as having considerable potential in building the CFB. If this is to be realised the group must be prepared to boldly and qualitatively expand its ideological and political work and learn to give a lead in the developing struggles in the Merseyside area.
87. The London group, as then constituted, took part in founding the CFB (M-L) and before that were active on the JCC, having collectively taken an anti-revisionist stance. Contradictions within the group, which were not apparent at the time, quickly became antagonistic after the first (CFB) SGM. Political differences about programmatic development emerged at this meeting, for which there was inadequate preparation by the CFB (see [EROL note: left blank in the original]). The disagreements had not been discussed in the group and were never clearly defined.
88. Although these differences were confused by the general subjectivism in the group, the dominant feature can now be seen to have been the sectarian attacks by the minority faction against the rest of the group and the CFB Committee. A split resulted which the CFB Committee was unable to prevent despite protracted mediation. Inability to engage in collective mass work was a major group weakness, largely because of individualism and the failure to tackle the objective problems of organising such activity in London. The antagonism extended to the CFB Committee, whose attempts to build unity were ineffective, leaving an unsatisfactory situation resolved only by members leaving the, group to publicise and extend their sectarian and largely incorrect criticisms of the CFB.
89. In the period since the split the group has more than made up the number lost. Membership is diverse – teachers, students, office and factory workers, and although this presents problems it ’nonetheless provides a good basis for further advance. Most of the members do not work at the point of production and some are not working in areas where there is trade union organisation. Regular’ public meetings with a wide range of contacts are held to counter this shortcoming and gain recognition in the London area.
90. Much more important the group is consciously attempting to develop a mass line for practical work based upon the caucus where theoretical study has been combined with practice. The most successful of these is the Indochina caucus where relatively few comrades have had considerable influence on the Indochina Solidarity Front, seeking to defeat bourgeois trends and develop a style of work that will broaden the range of contacts. The Women’s Liberation caucus, though recently having suffered setbacks due to the development of sharp disagreements, appears to be overcoming difficulties. It has played a positive role in relation to the second “Women’ Liberation and Socialism” conference in terms of both the conference itself and its planning, to which the caucus presented a paper and proposals, and its members engaged in formal debate and informal discussion.
91. Study has been carried out systematically in the group with an exemplary productivity, for example the syllabus on Ireland, in preparation for meetings to establish CFB policy. The professionalism of this approach with positive objectives must be encouraged, taking care to avoid creating elite ’experts’. Documents circulated have contributed the developing polemic on a number of issues in a stimulating and responsive fashion. However, certain individual traits in polemical style have caused contradictions to become unnecessarily antagonistic.
92. The appointment of the group secretary to manage New Era Books coupled with the increasing demands from the CFB on the Federation secretary, also a member of the London group, has effectively ’robbed’ the group of two leading comrades. The loss of leading cadre will cause difficulties for the group, but when New Era Books is established in London the long term benefits to the group should be considerable.
93. Generally the contribution from the group to the work of the Federation has been excellent and genuine efforts have been made to overcome previous weakness. With a fifth of the population of Britain living in London there is the basis and the incentive to build a really strong group in this area and we must regard the future with optimism.
Proposal: A continual re-appraisal of the involvement of individual comrades in political activities is necessary to establish proper organisational control and to integrate such activity with CFB objectives.
94. The CFB (West of England) was as the ’Communist Workers League’ a founder group of the CFB (M-L) and had in fact been formed five years before that. Despite its largely working-class membership its Bristol section was affected by a liberal style of work and was not soundly enough based to survive the departure of its two leading members from the area. However a number of sympathetic contacts remain in Bristol who, for example, still actively sell ’Struggle’. Since before the last SGM the only active section has been located in Yeovil – a small industrial town.
95. In Yeovil, though the group there is smaller than in the past, it has influence locally far beyond its size – largely as a result of consistent hard work within the Yeovil Workers Association. This local left grouping has members drawn from a wide variety of political organisations as well as a majority of uncommitted members, and is very active in the Yeovil area, being the only political grouping with widespread influence. One measure of the Yeovil group’s consistent work in the area is the comparatively high sale of Struggle and MLQ. Nevertheless certain empirical errors have prevented the consolidation and growth of the group, its role in the Y.W.A. has been dominated spontaneity.
96. The Yeovil group has played an important positive role in the CPB nationally through their group delegate. However the quantity of group and CFB work resting on the secretary/delegate’s shoulders has meant that some efficiency and quality of work has been sacrificed. Whilst this problem effects all groups to a greater or lesser extent it is exacerbated in Yeovil by the small number in the group and it is particularly important that the national Committee agree with the Yeovil comrades how to overcome this problem.
97 To some extent therefore the Wes t of England group has got into a rut, working conscientiously within the broad YWA but not identifying itself clearly as an active group of communists with clearly recognised objectives. Internal meetings have been irregular, have lacked planning and have been informal and liberal in character. The group secretary has been unable to effectively delegate much of the group’s work and the other members have accepted this position. It will be necessary for the National Committee to pay particular attention to how the group should overcome these problems in applying the tasks arising from this SGM.
We suggest that the group gives a high priority to a written plan for growth and development to be discussed with the National Committee. This should include public and invitation meetings, and other means whereby a more distinctive identity is given to the group in the context of Yeovil politics. The internal needs of the group must be met by disciplined study classes, and a greater involvement of all members in the production of written material for the Federation.
98. The work of several years by the Communist Workers’ League in the Bristol area built up a useful, network of contacts and political experience. Further delay in attempting to revive the Bristol will allow these resources to be wasted – which would be politically irresponsible. The National Committee accepts the main responsibility for rebuilding the Bristol group and will call upon the Yeovil group for help. It will endeavour to generate confidence in the Bristol comrades in their own political and organisationally resources, and will ask those who are most active to become single members of the Federation in the first instance. By mean of public meetings and study classes supported by the National Committee substantial progress con he made towards a properly functioning group in the coming months.
99. Left-wing political organisations in this country have all too often been characterised by an incorrect attitude towards finance and this applies also to the Marxist-Leninist movement.
100. On the one hand there have been those organisations whose financial position has been far in advance of their political development, perhaps as a result of very wealthy supporters (e.g. CDRCU), and on the other, those organisations that have failed to treat finances seriously as part of their political work. Both these errors have had serious effects on political development, the first leading to a false sense of political security with organisation far in advance of politics, and the second , through inability to finance organisational steps necessary to a lack of political development, It is obvious that a correct balance must b e maintained, that politics must remain in command, but that sufficient stress must be made on finance so that organisational and political development is not hindered, finance must be planned in accordance with planned political development.
101. CFB’s attitude to finance.
From its inception to the last SGM in April 1971 the CFB’s attitude was characterised by a lack of planning and foresight. At the last SGM with the introduction of the group and CFB constitution finance at both group and CFB level was placed on a more regular basis, members contributing to their group at one of several fixed rates, and the groups raying one third of this income into the central CFB fund. However in spite, of, this more regular formal attitude to finance it must still be stated that finance in the CFB has largely been unplanned for the last two years, and has consequently held back political development at CFB Committee level with consequences, of course, for the CFB as a whole. A most noticeable example was the first issue of MLQ: until MLQ 1 had actually gone to press no one had considered where the money to, pay for it was coming from! A further example of attitude to finance was the typesetter appeal for which it was agreed that each group should contribute £30.. Most groups waited until the last minute before paying, showing that the importance of the appeal fund was not thoroughly understood, and one group (Coventry) never paid up, despite several requests from the CFB Committee.
102. Current financial position; separate information was issued.
103. The Way Forward
From the above outline of CFB finance it can be seen that our financial method of work is rather haphazard. It is more by good luck than planned management that, we have managed to keep the accounts in the black. Shortages of finance has hindered work in several ways: MLQ, as outlined above; Struggle – poor attendance at editorial meetings and layout; bilateral meetings and weekend schools could be more frequent, if more cash were available; pamphlets etc. – if cash were readily available for printing leaflets and pamphlets more could be produced without timewasting discussions at CFB committee meetings on the mechanics of production.
If we are to run an effective national organisation we must have effective resources to back it up.
104. The CFB has now reached the stage where it is taking over New Era Books, and that should provide many opportunities for political and organisational development. We must ensure that these opportunities can be fully utilised and are not hampered through lack of cash. Other parts of this, report will point the way forward for political development. Again, adequate resources are a prerequisite for success. The aspects that must be developed are:
1. The establishment of New Era Books on a sound commercial footing.
2. Increased turnover in the general fund to provide the basis for increased political activity and the political and, organisational changes are outlined in the proposed constitutional amendments.
3. Print shop. Much time and money has been spent by the CFB in using expensive, inefficient printers. Investment in the future in a press at least big enough to print MLQ, pamphlets etc. Would mean considerable saving in the long run.
Constitutional and other proposals will follow.
105. In Origins and Perspective’ the need was recognised for an ’educational and agitational paper....aiming to attain a wider circulation (than the planned theoretical journal) especially among industrial workers.’
106. Shortly after the publication of ’Origins and Perspectives’ the first issue of ’Struggle’ was published, in December 1969. By the autumn of 1971 the Federation Committee summarised the experience and passing a “Policy Resolution on ’Struggle’”. Two years later we still consider that the policy agreed at the time is correct. It stated:
107. i) ’Struggle’ is an agitational and educational monthly paper. Its aim is to convey and deepen the experience of the masses engaged in fighting oppression both in Britain and throughout the world. It publicises victories, draw lessons from mass struggle and constantly seeks to demonstrate the politics of class struggle present in all social movement. It is primarily aimed at those sections of the working class in Britain that have some direct experience of mass struggle through it also seeks to widen this experience and to spread understanding of Marxism-Leninism to all workers by hand and brain.
108. We believe that we have much to learn from workers’ experience and that only by Communists deeply involving themselves within mass struggles that the revolutionary consciousness can be developed which is the prerequisite for the inevitable Socialist revolution.
109. This aim determines in general both the form and the content of the paper. Each article must be written in a direct style conveying its purpose as straightforwardly as is possible. The paper must not, however, in any way ”talk down” to its readers nor will complicated ideas and events be ignored or oversimplified. Contradictions are at the root of all change – the application of the Marxist method, dialectical materialism, is not to be left to specialised discussion amongst an elite. It has to be applied in the day to day approach to all phenomena and experiences faced by the masses.
110. To develop the understanding of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung’s Thought is a constant concern and thus in part ’ Struggle’ is seen as an encouragement to the study and use of the CFB Journal and to the classical works of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao-Tsetung.
111. ii) It is a necessary part of the development of all CFB members to constantly analyse their own political experience. To convey this through the medium of ’Struggle’ to other workers is as necessary for the writer as for the readers. It is a prime function of each constituent group of the CFB to make certain that such work is regularly carried out and discussed. Without it, our engagement in mass struggle is so much shallow and repetitive “activism”; with such study, discussion and writing, Marxists can truly interpret their political practice and then improve that practice.
112. “Once the correct ideas characteristic of the advanced class are grasped by the masses, these ideas turn into a material force which change society and change the world.” (’Where do Correct Ideas Come From? ’Mao Tsetung).
113. In producing ’Struggle’ we have the possibility of developing these “correct ideas” and making certain they are “grasped by the masses”. In doing this the paper will be serving one of its main tasks – that of being a “collective organiser”, welding together more closely the work of the CFB and giving crucial assistance towards the formation of a genuine Marxist-Leninist Party in Britain.
THIS DEVELOPMENT DEPENDS ON THE ORGANISED AND DISCIPLINED INVOLVEMENT OF EACH GROUP AND INDIVIDUAL MEMBER IN THE WRITING, PRODUCTION AND SALES OF “STRUGGLE”.
114. The resolution also instructed the Federation Committee to introduce certain organisational reforms in the production of “Struggle”. Firstly an Editorial Committee with certain duties mainly related to improving involvement of the whole membership in the writing, production, criticism and selling of the paper. The extent to which these reforms have been achieved is assessed in the report of the Editorial Committee, appended to this SGM. In that appendix certain criticisms are made of the groups and the continuing failure to carry nut many agreed decisions. It is vital that each group examines its own record self-critically if lessons are to be learned and errors corrected.
115. The main test that must be applied to “Struggle” as to all of our work is whether it helps to build the CFB. Has it helped develop policy, train and equip cadres and deepen our roots in the working class? We believe that in quantitative terms the answer is that it has. The very need to write on the major issues facing progressive forces has necessitated the process of producing policy interpretations and proposals. From a situation where only a handful of our members contributed in the early issues, we now have reached a point where a large proportion of the Federation members have written for the paper. The range of the paper is much wider and “Struggle” is now established as an important weapon in the hands of the membership. The circulation, though modest, has improved and the paper has won respect t among a wider readership.
116. But we are still far from achieving the aims which we set ourseIves in the 1971 resolution quoted above. In essence the problems of “Struggle” can be reduced to two main questions – policy and tactics.
117. The question of policy is key to the whole report and need not in general be elaborated in this section. The proposals elsewhere in our view give a perspective which will allow “Struggle” to be qualitatively strengthened along with the rest of the CFB’s work. However it is necessary to pay specific attention to the January 1973 resolution on “Correct Methods of Work:’ (see appendix). That resolution agreed with certain provisos that “no topic of political importance is debarred from submission to the editorial committees.”
Immediately following this General Meeting the “Struggle” Editorial Committee proposed certain standing orders to act as guidelines in its interpretation of this resolution (see Editorial Committee report). Despite the importance of the G.M. and therefore of the application of its decision in practice no comments were received. We believe that the proposed standing order correctly interpret the G.M. decision and the Editorial Committee in the absence of direct dissent has been right in acting according to them where they have been applicable.
118. Nevertheless the responsibility of that Committee to carry out “the important task of political leadership and education” has not yet been firmly grasped. By this we mean that the Editorial Committee has not yet arrived at a clearly defined method which realises its particular leadership potential with respect to the CFB as a whole. Unless within this context the policy for the articles proposed by that Committee is defined clearly, members will continue to have little guidance beyond the general titles listed in its monthly report to the Federation Committee. This policy definition should include, the main contradiction round which the agitational, and educational conclusions of each article should be focussed, the issues to be developed and, where a line exists, the general conclusions to be reached. Sources should be suggested for evidence and attention drawn to previous CFB articles. It is also vital for that Committee to develop expertise and professionalism in our main areas of work and to ensure by its own detailed and responsible criticism that the quality of articles submitted continues to improve.
119. Our general weakness in proposing and criticising tactics adopted in different struggles stems from the lack, or at best implicit status, of policy on many questions. The problem in specific mass struggles of when to advance and when to retreat, have been explained very rarely in our paper. Too often we have been content to blame the social-democratic nature of the leadership of trade union, tenant and student struggles without putting forward clear alternative policies. To write well, and correctly sum up mass experience, we must practice more thoroughly “the concrete study of concrete conditions”. In general one of the CFB’s strengths is that our members are directly involved in mass struggles and are not mere onlookers. But this is not always the impression we convey in our paper. The art of formulating correct demands and slogans arising from the actual stage of particular struggles will not only make “struggle” a more powerful weapon in the hands of our members and readers but will strengthen all of our mass work. In line with the “Policy Resolution on Struggle” (see above para.III) there must be systematic and regular analysis of the work and experience of the constituent groups of the CFB in the pages of Struggle. It will be the responsibility of the Editorial Committee to leadership in this matter and to integrate such analyses the overall development of our paper. REFERRED.
120. We believe that “Struggle” should improve the educational work which has always been an ’important feature of our paper. We need to introduce a carefully planned series of educational articles which, in a popular way explain the ideological basis of Marxism-Leninism and demonstrate how the Marxist method is necessary, to understand the main political issues facing the people. Lastly in terms of the structure of the paper we need a more processional approach with the contents more clearly divided up among a number of regular and well-laid out features, and with a clearer distinction between news stories, policy articles and analytical articles. This will simplify the last minute work of editing and help to provide a selection of articles that are varied and interesting in themselves and a paper which is suitably balanced when considered as a whole.
121. In carrying out these proposals and overcoming the weaknesses explained in the report of the Editorial Committee will need to display more positive leadership and the National Committee must give the overall guidance that has hitherto been lacking.
122. The JCC Statement on Party-Building sets certain pre-conditions for the formation of a Marxist-Leninist Party. These five pre-conditions are:
a. A politically advanced cadre force, with a good grasp of the ideology of Marxism-Leninism gained from a combination of theory and practice.
b. A full analysis of the national and international political situation including the historical experience of the British anti-revisionist movement to date.
c. A draft programme that would need to be fully discussed to ensure that it was fully understood by all the constituent parts of the organisation and would stand the test of time; furthermore in the production of such a draft programme it would be necessary for a number of publications, statements, etc. to be brought out.
d. To have carried out as an organisation practical work upon which concrete evaluation could be made and practical conclusions drawn.
e. To have proceeded in accordance with democratic centralism utilising fully the methods of criticism and self-criticism. (Origins and Perspectives p.12)
The fulfilment of these tasks must be our basic priority at this stage, the perspective from which all our work is assessed. While at a general level this is recognised and was when we decided to publish MLQ over two years ago, nevertheless it remains for us to specifically define NLQ’s function within this overall framework now.
“The main aim of MLQ, the theoretical journal of the CFB, is to provide a platform for the analysis and argument for all aspects of our work, a vital and urgent necessity for the development of the political programme of the CFD, complementary to the creation of a Marxist-Leninist party” – extract from Jan. 1973 General Meeting resolution –“On Correct Methods of Work”.
123. The decision publish a CFB theoretical journal, taken at our first SGM, was the result of a lengthy debate throughout the Federation. This initially centred around the function of MLQ, should it have an exclusive internal circulation or, as we eventually agreed, a role which envisaged the debate of major issues in a frank and democratic way drawing in other sections of the anti-revisionist movement t always with the aim of formulating and developing g policy in a disciplined way.
124. The full implications of this decision were not widely enough understood. The first issue of MLQ took over a year to produce. Despite considerable individual political experience, the editorial committee failed to handle its tasks firmly. Attention was paid to long term planning, yet this remained in the air with little progress in selecting priority areas and commissioning articles. The general low level of militancy often apparent in other work flourished owing to the absence of any vigorous check-up both within the editorial committee and from the Federation committee, responsible for the appointment and overall supervision of the MLQ committee. Only two o f the original five editorial committee members remain. Yet these and various other difficulties flowed from our inadequate appreciation of the role MLQ has to play in party building, particularly at our present stage.
125. MLQ’s immediate tasks
The JCC Statement on Party Building sets certain pre-conditions for the formation of a Marxist-Leninist party. Its three key points are the development of a politically advanced cadre force, the production of a draft programme fully analysing the national and international situation through the development of democratic centralism utilising the method of criticism and self-criticism.
The fulfilment of these tasks must be our basic priority at this stage, the perspective from which all our work is assessed. While at a general level this is recognised and was when we decided to publish MLQ over two years ago, nevertheless it remains for us to specifically define MLQ’s function within this overall framework now.
“The main aim of MLQ, the theoretical journal of the CFB, is to provide a platform for the analysis and argument for all aspects of our work, a vital and urgent necessity for the development of the political programme of the CFD, complementary to the creation of a Marxist-Leninist party” – extract from January 1973 General Meeting resolution –“On Correct Methods of Work”.
126. The debate that lead up to the General meeting “On correct methods of work” was in reality only an extension of our earlier struggles against the mechanical and dogmatic concept of presenting only CFB policy statements and articles expressing agreed lines within the pages of MLQ, while confining debate to within our ranks. Based on our experience since the last SGM it is our view that the CFB has the key role to play in the formation of a Marxist-Leninist party. (See Section J – Towards a Programme). At the same time we recognise that we are only a part of the Marxist-Leninist movement, in doing so we commit ourselves to developing, and in many cases initiating debate on the major questions facing us with other tendencies within the movement. This is the approach outlined in ’Origins and Perspectives’. We refer comrades to an extremely instructive period in the history of the Russian Bolsheviks when the Leninists begun publication of their newspaper ’Iskra’ and a scientific political journal, ’Zarya’, during period (1900) when groups and study circles, and a generally amateur approach prevailed. Publication was undertaken to prepare for the party’s consolidation at the second congress. In the declaration of the two publications Lenin stated:
“Although we carry out our literary work from the standpoint of a definite tendency, we do not in the least intend to present all our views on partial questions as those of all Russian Social-democrats; we do not deny that differences exist, nor shall we attempt to conceal or obliterate them. On the contrary, discussion of all questions by all Russian Social-Democrats of the most diverse shades of opinion.... Open polemics, conducted in full view of all Russian Social-Democrats and class conscious workers, are necessary and desirable in order to clarify the depth of existing differences, in order to afford discussion of disputed questions from all angles, in order to combat the extremes into which representatives of various views, various localities, or various ’specialities’ of the revolutionary movement inevitably fall.” C.W. Vol.4, 328.
127. The role of the editorial committees of both MLQ and Struggle is to initiate and lead this process within the framework of drafting a programme and fulfilling tasks outlined in our ’Statement on Party Building’ insofar as they are affected by our publications, and within the authority and overall guidance given by the CFB committee.
Secondly, the distribution of themes and questions between MLQ and Struggle will be determined by the character and size of the two publications, although the function of MLQ and ’Struggle’ are primarily propagandist and agitational respectively, at the same time all aspects of the movement should be reflected in both, in this respect all questions must be analysed in relation to developing our propaganda and tactical lines through polemic.
128. Central to the development of MLQ into a collective, working theoretical journal of the CFB is the selecting of the most urgent questions facing the movement within the context of our party building strategy, and the commissioning and selection of articles fulfilling these needs. Although several articles have appeared measuring up to the themes tackled most have been rendered only partially effective. The party, nationalisation, the labour aristocracy, proletarian internationalism and women’s liberation are themes that are yet to be followed up after the publication of opening articles. Thoughtful political planning with realistic commitments from contributors would help resolve such difficulties.
129. The six major themes into which a whole series of questions are gathered are obviously inter-related. The nature of the capitalist crisis covers a field embracing problems peculiar to British imperialism while at the same time examining the basic laws common to all capitalist economies. The British working class, its practice and potential. The penetration of bourgeois ideology within the working class as represented by the problems of economism, racism, chauvinism and women’s oppression. Contradictions in building socialism embraces its transitional nature, the role of the proletarian dictatorship. The national question, how it relates to advanced capitalist countries and the colonial and neo-colonial countries. Lastly, the development of a Marxist-Leninist party in Britain, that is our strategy in relation to other trends within the working class and developments in bourgeois society. The expansion of these questions through polemic evolving around definite policy proposals will be the main feature o f the editorial committees’ future planning.
130. In our criticisms of the MLQ committee at the beginning of this section we criticised their initial methods while pointing to the Federation’s overall error in our not understanding MLQ’s role in party building. In addition it must be realised by both- groups and individual editorial committee members that membership of the MLQ committee is a prime and continuous political task, similarly comrades working on articles must appreciate their responsibility by meeting specified deadlines with the agreed material. The editor must be fully involved with the work of the CFB committee in order that the necessary knowledge is available of developments throughout the CFB, facilitating ideas and proposals for future issues of MLQ guided by the developing line of the CFB at national level. With regard to the groups’ approach to MLQ; there is an attitude which was and is apparent in the production of Struggle, an expectation of ’good service’, few comrades volunteer to write articles in a general air of false modesty and irresponsibility as to our mutual obligations and aims. Shortcomings in the journal are treated in the same way, no group has produced criticisms of any issue, the appearance of the journal is often been as a success in itself. What is this but political inertia? The production and circulation of MLQ is vital to our development, facilitating discussion and criticism both in the CFB and throughout the movement. REFERRED.
131. In conclusion we urge the adoption of the following proposals:
1. That the editor of MLQ be a co-opted member of the National Committee. The Editor is also responsible for commissioning articles both within the CFB and from other comrades within the context of the editorial committee’s overall plans.
2. The overall authority of the as agreed at our first SGM. The committee has a duty to regularly review the work of MLQ, the editor and the editorial committee members. When necessary the committee will explain the duties of an editorial committee membership to groups when commitments clash. Membership of the Editorial Committee is a prime and continuous task, suitable arrangements arc to be made in the groups.
3. Regular criticisms and sales reports are to he sent on each issue to the MLQ committee from groups.
4. The major inter-related themes to be given priority in MLQ are the following:
A) The nature of the capitalist crisis.
ii) The political economy of the UK.
iii) The state.
B) The British working class.
i) What is the working class?
ii) Why is the working class the revolutionary class?
iii) Reformism and the working class movement.
C) Obstacles to advance in the working class and revolutionary movements.
ii) Racism and Chauvinism.
iii) Women’s Oppression.
D) Contradiction in building socialism.
i) Internal contradictions and the development of the productive forces.
ii) Political methods of the dictatorship of the proletariat.
iii) Proletarian internationalism and peaceful co- existence.
E) The national question.
i) In advanced capitalist countries and the EEC in particular.
ii) In Ireland.
iii) In the colonial and neo-colonial countries.
F) The development of a Marxist-Leninist party in Britain.
i) What kind of party?
ii) Methods of work, ideology.
Special care is to be given by the editorial committee when commissioning articles, ensuring the provision of adequate guidelines to the author. Polemic is the key to considered policy proposals.
5. The process of formulating policy is bound up in “the analysis and argument of all aspects of our work, a vital and urgent necessity for the development of the political programme of the CFB, complementary to the creation of a Marxist-Leninist party.” (January 1972 General Meeting resolution). Channelling and encouraging debates towards specific policy conclusions requires active intervention from the editorial committee in relation to the commissioning and selection of articles.
132. “Policy is the starting point of all the practical actions of a revolutionary party and it manifests itself in the process and the end-result of that party’s actions. A revolutionary party is carrying out a policy whenever it takes any action. If it is not carrying not a correct policy, it is carrying out a wrong policy; if it is not carrying out a given policy consciously, it is doing so blindly. What we call experience is the process and end-result of carrying out a policy. Only through the practice of the people, that is, through experience, can we verify whether a policy is correct or wrong and determine to what extent it is correct or wrong. But people’s practice, especially the practice of a revolutionary party and the revolutionary masses, cannot but be bound up with one policy or another. Therefore, before any action is taken, we must explain the policy, which we have formulated in the Light of given circumstances, to Party members and to the masses.” (Mao Tsetung “Quotations” p.5-6)
133. In this section we summarise the conclusions of our analysis of the CFB’s development and propose the main line of advance for the coming period.
134. Since the last SGM the CFB has only advanced in a quantitative way. There has been a considerable exchange of experience between groups especially through the Committee. ”Struggle” has been used more effectively to assess the current political situation. Through MLQ we have started the process of analysing some of the key problems for revolutionaries in Britain. The Committee with all its weaknesses, as analysed above, has given a lead in developing an understanding that political unity will only be won in the political struggle between different lines.
135. However the key problem remains our near-paralysis in the creation of policy, without which we can be a Communist organisation in name only. The need for a programme to guide our work was recognised in ’Origins and Perspectives’, but the way in which this could be produced has until now, not been clearly seen. The reaction against instant programmes and instant parties produced a liberal reaction that programmes that will only result from ideological and political unity on a large number of separate issues. Different lines have developed within the CFB on such subjects as the national question in Ireland, and peaceful co-existence and proletarian internationalism. (See. E 55 above)
136. Should our differences on such important issues prevent us from proceeding towards the construction of a programme? We believe that it is in fact, only by resolving these questions within a programmatic context that we can successfully develop political clarity and unity. Lenin, writing in I899, four years before the foundation of the R.S.D.L.P. argued that, “The objection may be raised ..... that the present moment is inopportune for the elaboration of a programme because there are differences of opinion which give rise to polemics among the Social-Democrats themselves. I believe the contrary is true - this is another argument in favour of the necessity of a programme.” (’A Draft Programme of our Party’, 4, 230).
137 This report is the first step towards a programme. It centres round an assessment of the present political situation and our current stage of development and identifies the main obstacle to our further advance as our inability to decide policy to guide our work. We must on the basis of this assessment, amended as necessary as a result of wide discussion throughout the CFB, agree to a new method of deciding policy, carrying it out collectively and testing it in practice. It must be recognised that in general, political conviction on a given line follows political unity: only by uniting in practice round majority positions will we achieve political conviction as to the correctness or otherwise of a given policy. The previous approach which was, at least implicitly, accepted by most of the CFB, resulted in the view that unity of action could only follow total ideological and political unity. (See also E 55 above). This belief was incorrect and must be thoroughly exposed as such.
138. The next step for the CFB is to agree policies on ’working-lines’: in essence what Marx called ’programme for action’. Polemic in the production of these lines must not be based on the expectation that they will provide an all round and completely thorough assessment of the contradictions which present in the different fields of work in which we are engaged. They must, as the term ’working-lines’ suggests, define the principal contradiction as we see it in each area of struggle, and be directed primarily to make explicit the main purpose of the practice that is already being carried out. Groups producing draft working lines will, therefore, for the first time, be forced to define their present practice and explain its relationship to the overall development of the CFB. These lines will then be subject to the criticism of the other groups and the National Committee, before being adopted as policy by the CFB. A fuller and more profound analysis can then follow the experience of conducting theoretical and practical work round these policies. They will be publicised in ’Struggle’ and MLQ, and we must encourage activists outside the CFB to both work with us and contribute towards criticism and development of our work.
If these lines have really been drawn up not only from our present theoretical understanding, but also from the experience of mass struggles of the people, they will be the first time we have consciously and explicitly practiced the key thesis of mass work: ’from the masses, to the masses’; which points the way to the production of a correct policy for the working class.
139. Only by the continuous practice of this style of work will we relate our overall revolutionary objectives to specific tactics. The need for revolution is an objective necessity independent of the particular stage of development of mass consciousness. But policy and tactics on the other hand must be directly related to the demands of the masses at any given time. The demands which we formulate in our working-lines must develop from the masses”. Unless they are conscious and willing and determined to change and will participate in this change, then demands which are in advance of this situation will not only fail, but will isolate us from the people with whom we work. Similarly, if we do not take account of the people’s demands to go forward we will tail behind and holdback the revolutionary movement.
140. Thus the production of a programme is a more profound and extensive task it can no longer be seen as a long-term future aim, but as the central and present focus for all of our development, that then should be the main features of a revolutionary programme? If we are to learn from the experiences of previous programmes, notably the Communist Manifesto, the Erfurt Programme, and the first programme of the R.S.D.L.P., we must recognise that any revolutionary programme must contain three main elements. Firstly, we must explain the aims of communists in working to overthrow the present state machine, destroy capitalist economic relations and build socialism under the dictatorship of the proletariat. Secondly, we need an analysis of the present international and national situation, define the main contradictions and especially the precise nature of the conflict between the working class and its allies on the one hand, and the ruling class on the other. Thirdly, we have to demonstrate how the strategic aims can be realised, setting out a series of demands which will help mobilise the working class and its allies, not only in their immediate interests, but also in the struggle for the overthrow of the present system. The production of this last section will depend greatly on the development of the practice of our working lines.
141. It must be made clear that such a programme will not in itself resolve the differences within the Marxist-Leninist movement, nor will it immediately form the basis for the creation of a Marxist-Leninist Party. Only in the formulation of this programme and in the polemics following its publication, will the real policy differences be clarified. Only with a programme will the CFB be fully able to implement Lenin’s slogan “Unity of Action, Freedom of Discussion and criticism”, without separating one part from either part, one from the other, of this vital dialectical relationship. With such a programme real unity can be won within the Marxist-Leninist movement, for it will, for the first time, allow a clear polemic on revolutionary policy and for objective demarcation lines to be drawn between those whose first priority is the creation of a genuine Marxist-Leninist Party, and those whose paramount aim is the protection of their own organisation and their own subjective positions.
142. It is also necessary to understand that a programme will not attempt to determine the tactics by which policies are implemented. These will be decided and adapted in relationship to the changing situations and problems, will be explained in the publications of the CFB and will be open to public debate and discussion. But a programme will enable tactics to be related to strategy in an explicit way.
143. We therefore propose that immediately following the SGM, the Executive Committee he instructed to draft such a programme, concentrating on the first two elements defined in 140 above. Every effort should be made to produce this within six months. The draft will be presented to the National Committee for their consideration. The National Committee will consult with the groups and amend or refer back the programme as appropriate. When the National Committee agrees the draft, it will then be published for full discussion, not only within the CFB, but also as widely as possible throughout the working class movement. The National Committee shall have the responsibility to organise this discussion, to ensure that all criticisms are carefully considered, and to call a General Meeting which shall either adopt it as the CFB programme, or make such other decisions as will enable it to be further developed and improved before agreement is reached. The aim of the programme will be, not only to give a correct direction to the overall political work of the CFB, but also in so doing to call a Conference or Conferences which shall achieve the demise of the CFB and of the other participating organisations, and the ’foundation of a Marxist-Leninist party. The distinguishing feature of a Communist Party must be unity in action round a correct programme. With the foundation of the Party a new leadership will be elected and new and more appropriate organisational forms will be instituted in order to implement the programme. Throughout this process we will not be bound by any dogmatic deadlines, but only our achievement of the criteria for party-building as summarised in the five-point JCC statement on party-building.
144. It should be clear from this Report and from our overall experience since the last SGM that the CFB has the prime responsibility of leadership in the elaboration of a programme and in the founding of a Marxist-Leninist party. However in saying this we claim no rights in this process other than those which may be won in the political line which we develop. Other groups and individuals will be encouraged to contribute fully. Unless we learn from them and involve them in this work we will be failing in our duty.
145. The need then is for the CFB to immediately develop working- lines for our main fields of mass work, which, once agreed will be actively practised by all members. The experience of this practice will be continually reassessed amended and improved under the leadership of the National Committee. This will be integrated with the production of a ’programme of principles’ in the development of which, not only the CFB, but also the greatest possible number of revolutionary elements will be actively involved. We will stress the need to consistently learn from the experience of working class struggles and to apply the mass line in developing correct and creative style of work. This line of advance will necessitate a process of continuous struggle throughout the CFB to reach a higher stage of unity. The unity of the CFB will only be ensured if we grasp firmly the need to learn the method of criticism and self-criticism, for which the leading Committees will have prime responsibility. In this report we have rightly criticised our prevalent liberalism and amateurism in developing a professional cadre force in the fight for policy the other main danger which may arise is that of relying on organisational discipline and of handing down orders.
146. Federalism is a stage not a principle. We believe that only by implementing the line of advance that we have proposed, will we prevent it developing into an obstacle to progress, towards the main priority of our work – founding and building a Communist Party which will lead the working class and its allies to end forever the present capitalist system of exploitation and oppression.
147 For the first element, we must primarily rely on the last hundred years’ experience of the international communist movement. We must particularly concentrate on the experience of the dictatorship of the proletariat in the Soviet Union and in China. For the second element, this SGM is the first step. The SGM begins the discussion on the present international and national situation, an assessment of which is the central task. The discussion and adoptions of working lines on immediate issues, after SGM, will be the initial step towards the third element.
148. The immediate steps for the CFB are to continue the discussions on the international and the national situation not only amongst the component groups and single members but also with those outside the CFB. So the results of our preliminary discussions on the subject are to be published.
149. Simultaneously with this, we must begin the adoption of “working lines” for the fields of struggle in which we are involved at present. We must grasp the significance of ’working lines’. A ’working line’ as the term suggests, is an interim policy subject to further investigations which it guides and which has not yet been related to an overall socialist strategy. Thus while such a policy is not a direct component of the programme, nevertheless, without such a policy our programmatic work cannot begin.
150. Let us now examine how the ’working lines’ will help in developing the components of the programme. It is from the practice of ’working lines’ that we shall derive the art of explaining to the masses the nature of the present society and the aims of communists (first element). Our existing knowledge of the present epoch can be confirmed and extended only through our systematic involvement in immediate struggles. Together with this, the process of inter-connecting and integrating cur experiences of all our work will bring us a more profound understanding of the British state, class structure and imperialism today (second element). The demands for the present epoch, which will bridge this epoch with the future can only be conceived from our present involvement without the practice of ’working lines’ the concrete strategy will not be in sight, it will only be a hypothetical blueprint for an inconceivable future.
151. The not necessarily connected practice of ’working lines’ in separate fields will be unscientific. The construction of a strategy is not dependent on the understanding of the principal contradiction only, nor on the understanding of just any series of contradictions but on that of all contradictions. At present, our fields of work are not parts of any plan. These reflect the spontaneous development of the CFB, and its tailism in class struggle. However, the adoption of a draft statement clarifying the basic trends in the present international and national situation will give direction to our work. Such a statement can be adopted as our basic ’POLICY STATEMENT’ for the time being.
152. The next step will be to concentration the main areas of class conflicts. To do so, we must begin a class analysis of Britain following the SGM. The discussion on Labour aristocracy has been a very useful beginning in this respect. The work needs to be continued.
153. Following a general class analysis and adoption of working lines our work will be able to receive a perspective for the, first time. It will then be possible to adopt a “Working Programme for Immediate Tasks” (’Programme for Action’).
154. From the “Policy Statement” and the “Working Programme for Immediate Tasks”, the second and third elements of the programme can be drafted. The first element can be drafted mostly from our existing knowledge.
155. The SGM instructs the Federation Committee to publish the statement on the international and national situation, after their adoptions, with suitable editorial notes.
The next steps will be adoption of ’working lines’ and the beginning of the class analysis.
The F.C. will ask the P.C. to suggest a detailed plan with probable timetables for the drafting of the programme.
156. The aim of the following proposed amendments to our National an d Group Constitution is to enable the CFB to implement the political proposals which we have agreed in this Report as vital for our progress towards a revolutionary party.
157. The present Committee has been preoccupied with discussing relatively narrow political and organisational questions – ’narrow’ because in fact it has no creative policy function. We therefore propose an Executive of six, to deal with the continuous organisational problems and also to prepare policy proposals for the much larger and representative National Committee. The Executive Committee will only be responsible to the national committee.
158. Any tendency towards bureaucracy or ’commandism’ will be countered by the National committee, which we propose should retain the dual responsibility of the present CFB Committee with the important change that the dominant aspect will not be as at present just “to attempt to convince his/her group of the decisions of the Executive Committee”, but to formulate and decide policy. The other aspect is to continue to represent group views to the National Committee in the process of deciding policy.
159. We envisage the National Committee meeting for two days every two or three months and working to a carefully prepared agenda. It will concentrate on the major issues facing the CFB as well as supervising the work of the Executive Committee. While it will be necessary for each group to recognise the need for its National Executive members to give priority to their national duties it is clear that meetings four or five times a year should give rise to less acute contradictions than those described in paragraph E 58. The Executive Committee on the other hand will have even more considerable responsibilities than those of the present CFB Committee and will have to be released from any specific leadership functions that they at present carry out within their groups.
160. There will be occasions when “the widest possible involvement of the membership is necessary” (National Constitution proposal 6 (b) in the creation of policy and then a General Meeting will be called. The Committee has recognised that any group must have the right to request a general meeting when it considers it to be necessary.
161. Finally we propose that in our view the lack of co-ordinated policy for our publications and for our educational programmes that two officers should be appointed to have special responsibilities for each of these important areas of work.