5 April 2021

Perspectives 2019-20

Unanimously agreed  by the March 2 2011 meeting of CPGB members. Published in Weekly Worker 1241, available on the WW archive here. Discussed in Weekly Worker 1241 here


1. We live in the epoch of the transition from global capitalism to global communism. However, nowhere is the working class in a position to take power.

2. Overall, politics continues to go to the right. The evidence is all too clear. The election of Donald Trump; reactionary governments in India, the Philippines, Brazil, Poland, Hungary, Italy, etc; the Brexit vote. Such developments have two main, negative, drivers. Firstly, the comprehensive failure of neoliberalism to deliver the prosperity its ideologues promised – this becoming visible in the late 1990s, and blindingly obvious with the 2007-08 global economic crisis. Secondly, the comprehensive failure of both the reformist and revolutionary left to deliver anything meaningful or significant.

3. With a few exceptions, the parties of ‘official’ social democracy and ‘official’ communism have declined in terms of membership and electoral support. That or they have given up any view or pretence of bringing about a socialist transformation of society.

4. In China, Vietnam and Cuba ‘official’ communist regimes preside over capitalist development. North Korea would surely follow this road but for US blockade and sanctions. Then there are the so-called ‘socialist-orientated’ regimes in the third world. Following the collapse of bureaucratic socialism in the USSR and eastern Europe, they have largely made their peace with US imperialism, sold themselves to China and/or evolved into kleptocracies.

5. Meanwhile, parties of so-called recomposition have stagnated, betrayed or to all intents and purposes collapsed: Syriza, Podemos, Workers Party of Brazil, Communist Refoundation, Die Linke, Parti de Gauche, Scottish Socialist Party, etc.

6. However, there are glimmers of hope. The Bernie Sanders movement in the US is of real significance. Amongst registered Democrats some 60% describe themselves as socialists. Of course, what is meant by ‘socialism’ owes more to universal healthcare than the rule of the working class. Nonetheless, this gives Marxists a real chance of finding a mass audience.

7. In Britain there is the Corbyn movement. The election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader and the mass influx into the Labour Party has radically altered politics. True, the level of class-consciousness of Labour’s mass membership is far from high. There are vague notions of the spirit of 1945, Keynesian economics and a Corbyn-led government ushering in equality, prosperity and peace. Nonetheless, once again, Marxists have a real opportunity to gain a wide hearing.

8. For the moment at least, ‘Labour Party mark two’ projects stand exposed as what they always were. Arthur Scargill’s Socialist Labour Party, the Socialist Alliance, Respect, Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, Left Unity – these amount to little more than unlearnt lessons from history. The CPGB resolutely warned of ‘Labour Party mark two’ illusions … from the beginning. The CPGB resolutely posed the necessary alternative: the unity of the revolutionary left in the project of building a mass Communist Party.

9. Objective circumstances cry out for a complete social transformation. It is not only the capitalist downturn, austerity, falling real wages, chronic job insecurity and the subsequent sluggish recovery.

10. The US is attempting to reverse its relative decline. We would be foolish in the extreme to dismiss the possibility of limited success. Firstly, the dollar remains the global reserve currency. Secondly, the US possesses unequalled military power. Thirdly, looking at Japan, the European Union and China, it is clear that there is no viable alternative hegemon in waiting.

11. Japan has been mired in stagnation for well over two decades and possesses a shrinking population of around 125 million, compared to over 325 million in the US. Nor should we forget that strategically Japan remains an integral part of the US military-political system.

12. The EU has a population of around 512 million – four times bigger than Japan – and has a huge GDP. However, it exhibits extreme unevenness, when it comes to economic development. The EU is, moreover, deeply divided politically. Leave aside Brexit. There is no agreed long-term perspective. For example, France and Germany are united on some things, but divided on others (eg, hard money). Meanwhile, Italy, Poland and Hungary have moved to the populist right. The EU is not a state, but a confederation. Hence the most likely outcomes are (a) gridlock, (b) splits or (c) being united through a modern-day version of Bismarck’s blood and iron. More than that, the EU is too, for the moment at least, an integral part of the US military-political system.

13. Talk about the ‘Brics’ becoming a determining force in the global economy was always stupid. Strung together, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa make a neat acronym. Nothing more. There is no meaningful cohesion whatsoever. Nonetheless, there are still those who believe that China is inexorably rising to become “a great global hegemon” (Martin Jacques). But China remains economically dependent on the US. Militarily it is far behind. Current high economic growth figures cannot be projected into the indefinite future. There is, as could easily be predicted, already a marked slowdown. Nor should the unity and stability of China be taken for granted. Put aside the trade war with the US: there are good reasons to expect spontaneous, regionalist revolts and revolts by peasants, workers and students.

14. With the US administration tearing up agreed treaties and increasing the tribute extracted from its friends and foes alike, there comes heightened international tensions and surely the possibility of yet more small and even big wars. Venezuela, Cuba, Iran, Palestine, North Korea – all represent potential flashpoints. So does the South China Sea.

15. At the moment Iran seems to be the immediate target. War against Iran could well happen in the name of saving Israel from an existential threat. The ‘Anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism’ campaign serves as a means of pre-emptively neutering opposition to any such war. In this context, we shall continue to support the work of Hands Off the People of Iran and look for every opportunity to draw in other forces to take their share of the work and to spread the message of Hopi: against imperialist intervention, against the theocracy.

16. When it comes to the necessity of a complete social transformation, surely the most pressing issue is global warming and the threat of sudden and irreversible climate change. The negative consequences are almost unimaginable. Melting polar ice caps and glaciers, rising sea levels, the flooding of low-lying cities, extreme weather conditions, desertification, species extinction, crop failures, millions of climate refugees, etc.

17. Capitalism is incapable of meeting the challenge of global warming. Even before the US withdrawal, Kyoto and Paris were always too little, too late. Capitalism is predicated on expansion for the sake of expansion. Competition, rival states and treating nature as a free resource are intrinsic to the system. With global warming capitalism is reaching its absolute limits. However inadequate our efforts will be, we must seek to give climate change protests, including by school students, a clear anti-capitalist perspective. Only communism can heal the metabolic rift between nature and human society.

18. The ruling ideas are the ideas of the ruling class. Because substantial concessions can no longer be granted to those below, chauvinism, xenophobia and the scapegoating of minorities will be promoted by bourgeois politicians. Eg, Donald Trump and America first, Jacob Rees-Mogg’s European Research Group, Nigel Farage and the Brexit Party, Matteo Salvini and the Lega, Poland’s Law and Justice, Marine Le Pen, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, Alternative for Germany, Narendra Mordi’s Hindutva, and so on.

19. Predictably, this chauvinism, xenophobia and scapegoating of minorities finds its echo on the opportunist left. In Russia the ‘official’ Communist Party espouses red-brown politics; in Germany Sahra Wagenknecht and her Aufstehen (Get Up) urges a ‘tougher’ stand on migration; and in France Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s La France Insoumise (France Unbowed) bangs the nationalist drum.

20. The Labour left has traditionally adhered to national socialism. That is just as true of Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell. Further to their left we have seen the No2EU electoral bloc, which in the name of national sovereignty united the Morning Star’s Communist Party of Britain and the Socialist Party of England and Wales. The Lexit campaign conducted by SPEW, the CPB, Socialist Workers Party and Counterfire amounted to the left nationalism of fools.

21. A similar criticism can be made of the pro-EUism of fools. The AWL, AEIP, Labour for a Socialist Europe, Left Unity and Socialist Resistance constitute the left wing of the thoroughly bourgeois People’s Vote. It should be added that, particularly amongst young people, remaining in the EU serves as a form of distorted internationalism. Nonetheless, for both the Lexiteers and Left Remainers the principle of working class political independence is sadly lacking.

22. Under these circumstances we must firmly uphold the Marxist opposition to referendums under capitalism and insist upon working class independence from both the Brexit and ‘remain’ bourgeois camps. We must make the case for a radical extension of democracy in the EU, which would in its realisation set the stage for the breakthrough into socialism and the rule of the working class. That would involve overthrowing existing EU treaties and the EU constitution. Towards that end we must, even under conditions of Brexit, continue to advocate our perspective of a Communist Party of the EU.

23. We have long held the view that, as a bourgeois workers’ party, Labour constitutes a vital site of struggle for Marxists. With that in mind, we welcomed the public launch of Labour Party Marxists in the autumn of 2011.

24. Since then, LPM has considerably enriched its political positions, built a wider support base and published Labour Party Marxists with increased frequency and in increased numbers. Tom Watson named LPM in his 2016 dirty dossier – surely a badge of honour.

25. Over the last three years Labour Party Marxists has made a real impact on Labour conferences and has widely featured in the bourgeois press. The Brighton 2017 conference saw the launch of Red Papers – a daily LPM bulletin. Delegates and visitors proved to be eager readers. The Liverpool 2018 conference was even more successful for LPM.

26. We welcome LPM committing itself to organising a strong team for the Brighton 2019 conference and urge it to consider putting on its first fringe meeting. LPM has played an important role in Labour Against the Witchhunt. LAW has been run on exemplary democratic lines and has won a healthy membership. It was correct to support the exclusion of both left anti-Semites and left Zionists from LAW.

27. The claim that anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism is a big lie. Both LPM and LAW have fought the witch-hunt with tenacity, intelligence and unyielding militancy. That the Labour Party’s national executive committee adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance ‘definition’ of anti-Semitism, along with all 11 examples, was a big setback for the left. It has only encouraged the witch-hunt. It is correct to reject the IHRA ‘definition’ of anti-Semitism, along with all 11 examples. The ‘left’ on the NEC needs to be differentiated into genuine leftwingers and fake leftwingers.

28. For the first time since the election of Jeremy Corbyn in 2016, a serious rightwing split is on the cards. If CLPs go ahead with trigger ballots, we should expect more rightwing Labour MPs to join Chuka Umunna, Luciana Berger and Chris Leslie. We have warned of the danger of a national government of some kind.

29. The threat of a rightwing split and a national government should not inhibit CLPs from pressing ahead with trigger ballots. Though the leader’s office might well be seeking an accommodation with the right, the left should be encouraged to deselect rightwingers and replace them with proven class fighters. A commitment to only taking a skilled workers’ wage would sort the wheat from the chaff and discourage careerists.

30. Objectively there exists the possibility of transforming the Labour Party into a united front of a special kind – like Russia’s soviets, a united front joining all working class and socialist organisations under its banner.

31. This is not only an organisational question. Politics are vital; so are political symbols.

32. LPM should continue to campaign for a new clause four. Not the 1918 Fabian version, but a Marxist clause four. Downplaying the importance of replacing the 1995 version of clause four with reference to the ‘real movement’ amounts to a modern-day version of Bernsteinism.

33. In relationship to the wider Labour left, Marxists need to develop a friendly, but critical relationship. They must patiently explain the shortcomings, problems and fallacies of reformism, left nationalism and alternative economic strategies, etc. Why this patient approach? Because the mass of class-conscious workers have such views in their heads.

34. Fighting to transform the Labour Party into a united front of a special kind in no way contradicts the fight to organise the Marxist left into a single Communist Party and over time building it into a mass organisation. Communists support the organisation of the working class at every conceivable level: ie, co-ops, trade unions, trades councils, workers’ militias, educational associations, sporting clubs, temporary and permanent united fronts (eg, soviets).

35. The non-Labour left placed high hopes in substantially growing in the aftermath of 2007-08. However, any opportunities that existed were squandered in narrow sect-building projects. The aim was always to build the sect, not the confidence, power and self-activity of the working class. That, plus left activists joining the Labour Party as left Labourites, has resulted in a further degradation of leftwing culture.

36. Our organisation remains very small and we should not expect any dramatic change in that respect in the short term. That despite the dramatic changes in the Labour Party and the ample confirmation of our strategic perspectives. Hence we need to guard against impatience and frustration. At all times we need to maintain a due sense of proportion.

37. Nevertheless, what our organisation does and says carries a weight far beyond its numbers. The Weekly Worker – not least through its web presence – is our main weapon and, in terms of its frequency, presentation, content and impact, is almost a weekly miracle.

38. Only four organisations have proved capable of sustaining a real – not a silly-print – weekly paper: SWP, SPEW, Alliance for Workers’ Liberty … and the CPGB. This is not insignificant. Our strategy remains to go through the existing left, not forgetting the Labour and trade union left. That requires openness and militant polemics. We practise what we preach. In our tradition, being open about differences is both a right and a duty.

39. Communist University remains a highlight of our year. Each party organisation needs to play a role in building the attendance of CU. We shall continue to reach out to new, high-quality speakers, as well as our established stable of comrades

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