Originally published in The Leninist No.22 July 1985. Available on our archive here
Many members of our Communist Party decry the present open struggle that is taking place in our Party. They declare that we should not wash our dirty linen in public. We Leninists on the other hand welcome open struggle for it allows all Party members to come to a comprehensive understanding of the issues being debated, and what goes for Party members also goes for militant workers outside our ranks.
And what we apply to the Party we also apply to the Leninist tendency in it. Far from seeking to conceal differences that arise in our ranks we seek to give them the fullest possible publicity so that the best elements in our Party and class can first judge the issues being debated and then join us in the struggle to reforge the CPGB, fully conscious of all the arguments, shades and tendencies in the Party.
The third Conference of the Leninists of the CPGB met in June to debate and vote upon four main motions submitted by various comrades. The reader will see from our standing orders that our conference was in terms of democracy far freer than anything even suggested by the so-called revolutionary democrats (i.e. the Eurocommunists) in our Party, let alone the Chaterites with their gerrymandered PPPS AGMs and their stage managed Conferences, where only handpicked speakers are allowed the floor.
True, those at our conference were not democratically elected, but all efforts were made to ensure that the conference was as representative as possible. But despite the incompleteness of our democracy there can be no doubt that we organised a model communist conference, where comrades were given the maximum opportunity to state their case and submit amendments to the motions.
Comrades attending the conference ranged in ages from one comrade still in the teens to another in the 70s. They combined between them decades of experience in the communist movement. Some were amongst those who founded The Leninist tendency while others had joined us within the last year. Comrades were extremely pleased, and indeed honoured, by the presence of a delegation from the Communist Party of Turkey (İşçinin Sesi) which had been appointed by the newly elected Central Committee of that organisation. Out of the delegation of four comrades from the CPT(İS), two had only just recently been released from prison in Turkey. As will be seen from our standing orders, the delegation was given full rights at the conference, except of course voting rights.
- The minutes of the Third Conference will be confirmed by those participating by their signature on the completed record.
- All proposals and motions, apart from those relating to procedure, shall be submitted to the chair in writing.
- Each speaker, except those introducing motions and reports, will be limited to ten (10) minutes. No speaker will be permitted to speak more than three (3) times on the same subject; however this provision may be modified with the consent of the conference.
- On procedural motions there shall be no more than two (2) speakers ‘for’ and ‘against’.
- All decisions shall be by simple majority vote.
- Notwithstanding preparations to conference which may lay down a deadline for amendments to motions in order to expedite matters, participants shall have the right to submit amendments during conference.
- Fraternal delegates to the conference shall have the same rights as all others attending, except the right to vote.
Report of Work
The conference was opened by the conference chair, comrade MT. The first introduction was given by comrade CJ who gave the report of work. This report touched on the development of the Leninist tendency from when we first published a theoretical journal back in November 1981 to the decision to launch a monthly paper taken at our First Conference. But the main thrust of the report was the performance of Leninists during and after the miners’ Great Strike.
In the period of the Great Strike our circulation more than doubled and our subscribers tripled. Even more important our tendency secured some extremely valuable contacts in the mining communities as well as winning wide respect for our activity and political positions from forces in the Miners’ Support Committees.
The other great concern for the Leninists was naturally the profound crisis gripping our CPGB. Comrade CJ reported the impact of the ideas contained in The Leninist on the Party and went into details about our efforts to prevent the crisis shattering the Party completely. A national Bulletin had been launched which circulates to all shades in the Party as well as our own supporters and sympathisers.
The Class struggle debate
The first motion to be debated was submitted by comrade FP. In general it proved an uncontroversial question in the main because it covered ground by and large fully discussed by supporters of The Leninist. Despite this there was some debate caused by the narrowness of the motion. Therefore as well as amendments being submitted to emphasise the dialectical relationship between the rise in class struggle and the need for a reforged CPGB there was also an amendment which attempted to broaden the final resolution by at least touching upon the developments in the bourgeoisie itself. These amendments plus some of perhaps less importance were accepted by the mover and by the conference as a whole.
Differences did emerge however over an amendment submitted by comrade CS which stated that “we must look to groups outside the sphere of trade unionism”. While conference sympathised with the sentiment of this and other similar amendments it was felt that they missed the point. A number of comrades argued that what was central for Leninists was not narrow trade union politics and that the motion before conference with agreed amendments did not fall into this trap.
So while some sympathy was expressed for the amendments submitted by comrade CS it was unanimously agreed to reject them.
Resolution on the class struggle
The miners’ strike was a harbinger of the things to come in the British class struggle. The carefully nurtured image of the state as neutral above class interest has been shattered and its partisan nature exposed in the eyes of many workers. The scenes on the picket lines were reminiscent of the battles in the occupied Six Counties of Northern Ireland and the heat and tempo of the struggle were such that in the course of it the embryos of future working class state power were briefly thrown up:
- In the hit squads we saw fledgling workers’ militias, bodies which will one day defend socialised property forms.
- In Women Against Pit Closures we saw the stirrings of a mass working women’s movement, a movement awakened to the class struggle and which fights on the basis of unity of interest between working class men and women.
- In the Miners’ Supporters Committees and some strike committees we saw the future organs of working class state power: Councils of Action and soviets.
The miners’ strike was thus the first major strategic confrontation between the capitalist class and a section of the working class during the Thatcher administration. Although the working class has been forced to take steps back because of defeat after defeat of the unions, the bourgeoisie hoped with the miners’ strike to inflict a strategic defeat which would have emphatically swung the balance of class forces in Britain to the ruling class.
This, however, has not happened. The miners’ union remains intact and important elements of it are still combative. Also the continuing industrial unrest involving other sections and the stirrings among working class youth illustrate the fact that demoralisation and a puncturing of the willingness to fight has not permeated our class in the way the bourgeoisie wished. The miners stand blooded but unbowed and our class’s fighting capacity on the whole remains intact.
For the ruling class, therefore, the outcome of the miners’ strike was not altogether satisfactory. It has come out of its confrontation with the miners without the decisive victory for which it worked, without ‘seeing the miners off’ as Thatcher proclaimed; and with advanced sections of the class certainly not demoralised but confused and uncertain and searching for means to reopen battle.
The capitalist class is facing an approaching general crisis, and all its sections are attempting to adapt to the changing situation. We see the breakaways from the Thatcherite camp, the increased publicity for the so-called social democrats (traitors even to the reformists), the increasing confidence of the Healey-Hattersley group and of the Kinnock-Hobsbawm new Fabian realists of the Labour Party, and for that matter the developments in the CPGB.
The maintenance of profit levels and wage levels are now diametrically opposed: a rise in one necessitates a decline in the other. The reassertion of the tendency for the rate of profit to fall and British imperialism’s relative vulnerability means that the crisis cannot be solved by expanding abroad. The British ruling class must crack down on and is cracking down on the living standards and conditions of the workers at home. Whatever the outcome of the miners’ strike had been, the bourgeoisie could not have rested on its laurels, but now it still faces a working class that has not had the fight crushed out of it.
Thus, despite the defeat of the miners, the coming period will see an intensification of the class struggle, with one sector after another thrown into conflict. The sharpening of the class struggle, epitomised by the miners’ strike, has put to the test all shades of politics in the workers’ movement. Reformism, even in its most left variety, has been exposed as deception and betrayal of the working class. Objectively what must be fought for in order to give our class victory against the bourgeois onslaught is communist leadership in the trade unions and in workplaces.
The main plank of a communist leadership in the trade unions and in the workplaces must be to break the poisonous identification of workers’ interests with the solvency of British capitalism that the years of social peace and domination of the workers’ movement by reformism has meant. The main slogan for a communist current of the working masses must be: ‘Fight for what the working class needs, not what capitalism can afford!’
In the absence of a communist leadership of the trade unions we must look to the rebirth of a National Minority-type body. Success in building such an organisation would undoubtedly represent a qualitative step forward in the working class movement of Britain and would inevitably create much of the raw material required to reforge our Communist Party. A new National Minority Movement would not only greatly aid the immediate struggle of the working class, giving militancy an organised national expression (across sectional and geographical divides), but lay some of the foundation stones in winning workers to revolutionary politics.
The class struggle in Britain in the coming period will necessarily assume a political character. With the development of state monopoly capitalism workers frequently confront the state as a negotiator and employer. Similarly, the anti-trade union laws introduced by the Tories represent not simply an attempt to curb the bargaining power of the unions as with previous legislation; it represents an attempt of the bourgeois state to effectively cripple trade unionism in Britain. This, combined with the increasingly open deployment of the expanded state apparatus of oppression will lead workers to become more and more aware of the non-neutral, partisan nature of the capitalist state.
However, although the class struggle will be impelled increasingly to take on a political content, subjective factors will determine the character of the political consciousness of the workers. That is, whether workers’ consciousness will become revolutionary or will remain simply militantly reformist and economist, pursuing narrow trade union issues, will be determined by the ability of communists to intervene in the class struggle to give leadership.
During the coming period, revolutionary politics have the chance to go to the heart of the working class movement. In view of this, The Leninist tendency of the Communist Party of Great Britain must strive to go from a proletarian tendency in philosophical terms to one based directly on advanced proletarian elements.
To do this we must, first, deepen and make more profound our theoretical understanding of the character of the present epoch and, second, intervene in a sharp and practical way to give communist leadership to the coming class battles.
* * * *
The Soviet Union Question
Although this motion presented by comrade CJ was deliberately designed to be uncontroversial an interesting discussion took place on the motion.
Comrade CJ dealt with what was not meant by the Soviet Union being the world’s revolutionary centre. “It does not mean that comrades in the Kremlin were ‘directing’ the world revolution as some Trotskyites foolishly believe us to mean. Nor did it mean that everything the Communist Party of the Soviet Union does is automatically correct as most centrists in Britain consider it does. No, for us the world revolutionary centre is an objective fact indicating the country where the class struggle has reached its highest expression.”
Because of this a scientific understanding of the Soviet Union was an essential question for all revolutionaries – a task to be taken on not “simply because the Soviet Union is there” – but “because of the immense impact the importance of the Soviet Union has on world politics.” It was, declared comrade, CJ, “a task the Leninists would be taking on because of developments in the communist movement in Britain”, it would by no means “win us friends” in the short term, but was necessary in order to strengthen the struggle to reforge our CPGB.
“Above all life puts this task in front of us,” said the comrade. The announcement of the CPSU’s 27th Congress demands we prepare our comments for a number of reasons. While the USSR is making tremendous progress compared with the crisis ridden imperialist world it cannot be denied that the country has growing economic and social problems, “these have been extensively dealt with by comrade Gorbachev, and no sophistry by centrists like comrade Andrew Rothstein can conceal them.”
Participants discussed the implications and correct timing of articles on the Soviet Union question; and while comrade CS thought these articles should be very wide ranging, encompassing not only the USSR but the other socialist countries including China along with general developments in the world communist movement, it was agreed that concentrating specifically on the deliberations of the CPSU at its 27th Congress and the new programme would have great advantages.
Comrade TW emphasised that while it was important to analyse the Soviet Union it was vital to pay full attention to the achievements. It was agreed that although the motion presented to our Third Conference did not need this, it was essential in forthcoming articles to present a balanced picture of the achievements of the USSR along with standing full square with unconditional defence of the USSR against imperialism.
Resolution on the Soviet Union
1. The Soviet Union is the world’s revolutionary centre. In other words: the Soviet Union is the country where the class struggle has reached its highest level. This is an objective fact independent of the subjective views and wishes of the working class in that country, and this includes its leadership be it good, bad or indifferent.
2. We Leninists describe the Soviet Union as the world’s revolutionary centre not because of the policies of the CPSU, whatever they may be, or whether it be under the leadership of Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchev, Brezhnev, Andropov, Chernenko or Gorbachev. In the same way, whatever the leadership and our view of it we consider it our sacred duty to defend the USSR against imperialism unconditionally because it is the first and most precious possession of the world’s proletariat.
3. Because the Soviet Union is the world’s revolutionary centre, because it is the world’s first and most important socialist state, it is unquestionably the case that the CPSU enjoys both immense respect and enormous influence from, and over, advanced workers throughout the world.
4. We have seen that this has had outstandingly positive results. We can never forget for one moment the role of our Soviet comrades in the formation of our CPGB, the highest achievement of Britain’s working class to date. We can also never forget the Red Army’s victory over the forces of German imperialism and how this directly opened up the possibility of spreading socialism into Eastern Europe.In the same light we are acutely aware of the tremendous sacrifices of the Soviet people in defending their country and their allies in the Warsaw Pact against the US-led anti-Soviet war drive, a war drive which is aimed at conquering the socialist countries and their colonial subjugation so that they can be opened up to capitalist exploitation.
5. Our unconditional defence of the USSR does not of course mean that we do not have differences with our comrades in the CPSU; indeed we have on several questions had important criticisms and have voiced them openly. This is in our view a Leninist duty and fully within the founding principles of the world communist movement and proletarian internationalism. We have made our concern known therefore over Afghanistan: not the Red Army’s aid in fighting the forces of counterrevolution but branding Hafizullah Amin as a “CIA agent” and justifying his killing along with 97 other leaders of the PDPA. We have, what is more, criticised the role of Joseph Stalin in opening the door for centrism and opportunism in our movement, not least his promotion and effusive approval of the thoroughly reformist BRS. Such actions have been extremely negative, although we accept that they were motivated by an honest desire to defend the USSR. Unfortunately, we believe such actions short sighted indeed; we have stated that they in truth damage the long term interests of the USSR, which we consider can only be advanced by the fight for world revolution.
6. Because of these contradictory features manifested by the USSR, because the CPSU is the most prestigious and leading component of the world communist movement, it is essential that we move towards a fuller understanding of the USSR, both in its internal structures and dynamics as well as its historical role and achievements. In this we will be guided by the teachings of Marxism-Leninism and motivated by an earnest desire to strengthen the USSR and the world socialist system.
7. The CPSU is to have its 27th Congress in February 1986; it is also to decide on its Fourth Programme. This is therefore a major event for both communists in the USSR and the world as a whole. We should take up the CPSU’s numerous and correct invitations for all communists to comment on their deliberations and decisions. We trust that our Soviet comrades will take our observations in the spirit in which they are delivered: the spirit of proletarian internationalism, which considers the world revolutionary process to be indivisible.
* * * *
Debate around the motion on the Party Crisis and the Way Forward Towards a Leninist Communist Party
As the reader will have seen, the first half of our Conference proved to be relatively uneventful. This was not the case with the second half.
At the end of the second session in a private conversation comrade ID announced that he was leaving our organisation because of disagreement with our style of work. The comrade maintained that while thinking it was correct to launch The Leninist as a monthly paper, and while having no political differences with us, our style of work was incorrect.
Because comrade ID was a leading member of our tendency and because another leading comrade, comrade RT, had openly expressed sympathy with comrade ID’s views (although making abundantly clear thorough disapproval of comrade ID’s desertion, and especially the unwillingness to raise criticism which apparently went back to our First Conference) the third session began with a certain foreboding and perhaps a recognition of the need to have a full sorting out of the issue.
The motion was presented by comrade ES. The comrade outlined how it is the crisis of capitalism itself that propels opportunism in all its varieties towards liquidationism. This manifested itself in the miners’ strike in a particularly sharp form. The likes of comrade Pete Carter have openly and unashamedly come out against working class militancy in general and working class violence in particular.
As to the opposition forces around the Morning Star and Straight Left, far from being the “lesser of two evils” they are going towards liquidationism but through different doors. Indeed, the Morning Star grouping is fast moving away from communist politics and towards integration with the trade union and labour bureaucracy.
The comrade examined claims from various centrists that the Morning Star can become Britain’s Iskra. The politics of Lenin’s Iskra and Chater’s Morning Star are like chalk and cheese, ‘they are miles apart’, the difference being between ‘reform and revolution’. There is not a cat in hell’s chance that the reformist Morning Star can usher in a mass revolutionary party.
“Because of this it is essential,” declared comrade ES, “to expose the left pretensions of the Chaterite camp” as well as those of the Straight Leftists “who have not only constantly vacillated between the Chaterites and the forces around McLennan but have employed the most despicable and contemptible tactics”
The comrade went on to outline how it was only the Leninists who had both a scientific understanding of the Party crisis and a strategy of positively resolving it. At the heart of this strategy was the “necessity of open ideological struggle” through which the Leninists could win the “best elements of the working class to our Party”. The main weapon in achieving this is The Leninist itself. “Without the paper,” declared comrade ES, “we’re nothing”.
So the development of the paper, its ideas, its direction, and the expansion of its circulation and influence were among the “most important questions” confronting us. And central to this was “moving towards a professional approach and the overcoming of amateurism.” The comrade emphasised that “revolution was a serious business” and like any serious job of work “revolutionaries need both training and dedication”.
At this point comrades ES turned to the differences that had been expressed and not expressed about our organisational approach. “Passing fine resolutions is all very well,” the comrade said, “but practice decides everything in the end.” The comrade described how a leading member of our organisation had not seen it fit to reveal important differences on the leading committee of our tendency or even at the conference itself. Comrade ES then went on to deal with the points put forward by that comrade privately and similar views defended by comrade RT.
“The suggestion has been made that we have copied too closely the methods of work of the comrades from Turkey in İşçinin Sesi” explained the comrade, “this is untrue”. Yes, the Leninists in Britain have sought to “learn from the experience of Turkey,“because of this” it has been possible, for our relatively small numbers to produce a monthly paper;” but this is not a question of being “un-British” but a question of “taking the revolutionary struggle forward”. “The labour movement in Britain” said comrade ES, “has no idea of how to operate serious revolutionary politics – this is something we must overcome”.
The comrade described how it was that perhaps certain comrades who had been in our organisation for some time had found it the hardest to adapt to the new more demanding ways, how newer comrades had quickly fitted into our style of work. Above all the comrade declared that “if anything serious was to be achieved, if The Leninist was to be more than a footnote in the history of the reforging of the CPGB, then maximum effort was required along with a professional approach.” This concluded the comrade’s opening and then from the floor the first contributor was comrade RT.
Comrade RT declared that comrade ID “should have argued” the case but then went on to “share some of the same doubts” while “agreeing on the basic approach in terms of strategy and aims” of the Leninists. For comrade RT the “key question is how are we to achieve a Leninist Communist Party … despite progress we have had very few recruits, and although The Leninist is a good paper and has respect from militant workers, this is not enough.”
The comrade maintained that the Leninist tendency was only those gathered for the conference and that winning militant miners was the “test” of our work. Comrade RT also maintained that we could not convert sympathisers into supporters simply through a “hothouse atmosphere” as it was suggested the motion presented did. “Militant workers had to be ideologically convinced and to do this they needed guidance in where they worked in the movement.”
Unless amendments to the motion were accepted which deleted the “demand” for hard work and money along with all ideas of a “hothouse” the comrade feared that the Leninist tendency would deviate from the correct direction. The comrade also submitted an amendment to the motion on Turkey outlining a similar position. It read as follows: “we must not mechanically try to imitate every pattern of organisational and political work used by our comrades from Turkey. We recognise an important difference between Turkey and Britain in that the former has recently experienced a revolutionary situation whereas such conditions have not existed here for a very long time and are unlikely to arise again in the near future.”
The first comrade to reply to comrade RT was comrade FP. This comrade stated that certain comrades were not “measuring up to the tasks presented to us”. Comrade CJ agreed and made the point that it was essential to differentiate between “leading comrades and those who have just come towards us”. The comrade also declared that the Leninists were far more than those gathered at the conference; the tendency now had an important layer of sympathisers and a growing readership. Comrade CJ went on to say that what Leninists are after is a Communist Party to carry out a revolution in Britain; to do this “we had to do more than build a better CPGB”, we had to build a “Leninist CPGB along Bolshevik lines.” If leading comrades “can’t take the pace,” the comrade stated, “they should step down;” the motion before the conference was not a blueprint for a Bolshevik Party in Britain but at least it was a step in that direction, which was more than could be said of comrade RT’s amendments.
Comrade RT replied reiterating the point that “we are in Britain, not Turkey” and that what mattered “was practical work” as well as theory. “A member of our leading committee leaving says something serious.” the comrade said, and Leninism in Britain will not grow in a “hothouse atmosphere”; the amendments were not an attempt to gut the motion but point it in the correct direction.
The debate then continued with comrade FP intervening again. Comrade FP described the amendments of comrade RT as “holding back the fight to advance” and suggested the defection of comrade ID was “telling us something about the period we are living through.” While comrade TW agreed that “every demand that needs to be made on comrades must be made,” the “solution to the work problem was more people.” Comrade CS was more forthright “we have to work at the level that corresponds to our aspirations – there must be no steps back organisationally,” and comrade WP also joined in the attack on comrade RT’s position saying the amendments suffered from a “subjective view”. Conference then heard the speech from a member of the CPT (İS) delegation
“Comrades; We are here to convey the greetings of the CPT (İS). We are here as a delegation chosen by our Central Committee.
As you know, comrades, we have recently held our 5th Congress; of course it was also in a sense the first, as it saw the formation of İşçinin Sesi (Worker’s Voice) into a party.
One of the great features of the congress was that it was possible to have the participation of many comrades who were in jail until recently. Two of those were leading members of our Party who are with our delegation today.
I would like to say a few words about your Third Conference. It has been convened under circumstances of deepening crisis in Great Britain. This crisis certainly reflects itself in the intensification of the class struggle in the country as a whole. It also perhaps in one sense reflects itself in the debates you are having at your conference, simply because there is a great need for practical work, work which life itself demands, which the objective developments in the class struggle demand.
Those who put themselves forward to meet these developments must increase their preparedness, their means, and their abilities, if they are to meet the tasks life is demanding.
At this juncture of the class struggle in Great Britain communists who are resolute, dedicated, stubborn, and totally committed can play a great role. There can be no ground given, not even a millimetre, on the question of hard work – whatever you give it will not be enough, life will demand more.
The working class in Great Britain needs a revolutionary organisation. Today the CPGB has great problems stemming from ideological mistakes and its political stance. One would initially think that it would be risky to give support to such a party which is undoubtedly disintegrating.
But assume for one moment that it totally disintegrates tomorrow, if the alternative is not ready to take over, this disintegration will leave the working class without a Communist Party. Therefore despite the risks it must be supported.
This is the position of the CPT (İS) at this juncture. This support is especially necessary when one recognises that one of the most important agents in the disintegration of the CPGB today is the central organ of the Party. This is something totally unacceptable. It is rebelling, fighting for its independence from the Party, using every possible bourgeois legal pretext, using bourgeois political forces like the Labour Party as a cover.
It is a situation therefore where indifference might mean tacit approval of the Morning Star defying the Party centre. This could lead to an incorrect ideological position. The working class needs the authority of a highly centralised party and the centralisation of the work of individual communist. Such a thing cannot be brought about by the present course of the Morning Star.
We attach great importance to the work of The Leninist. Throughout our stay in Great Britain in its various stages and between various comrades relations between our two organisations have been extremely valuable, extremely exemplary. This has the seeds of what proletarian internationalism should look like.
There cannot be any question of mechanical copying of our work of İşçinin Sesiin Turkey. This is not required by life and no one can defend such a suggestion. Certainly there are a lot we have learnt from each other and that is in itself an important aspect of proletarian internationalism.
As to Turkey itself, today it is important to note the changing situation and the retardedness of the other left wing organisations. When we said there was a revolutionary situation they did not accept it. They compounded their mistakes to such an extent that when we had the uprisings in İzmir and Çorum they had to deny that there was a revolutionary situation.
The most pressing task in those days was to show the working class that there was a revolutionary situation. Today it is in many was exactly the same.
Today we must show to the working class that fascism has disintegrated. Just as before when there were uprisings and they said that there was no revolutionary situation, that there was nothing special going on, today we see the same forces engage in the same caricature of politics.
They say there is still fascism. And yet there are strikes, mass demonstrations, and the bourgeois opposition forces are vying with each other for popular support. Such a situation makes it easier to oppose the retardedness of the other left groupings.
There can be no doubt that what is becoming crucial for our working class is the leadership of a communist organisation. So we have a great deal of work to do. In this light we are in great need of the proletarian internationalist stand that has been the cement of our relations to continue in the near future with increased strength, increased closeness in order to meet the tasks confronting us.”
Comrade RT again replied that there was no “disagreement on aims, but on how to get there;” the comrade returned to the desertion of comrade ID, declaring that “when comrades break from us, especially a leading comrade, it tells us something about our organisation.”The comrade also reemphasised the point that there “was not a revolutionary situation in Britain” and that we cannot win people “simply through hard work.”
The Conference gave comrade CJ an extension of time in order to reply fully to the case presented by comrade RT. “The amendments are purely negative,” sated the comrade, and moreover they “indicated a step away from building a Bolshevik type organisation and pointed towards Menshevik looseness.”
Because of this there could be “no compromise” with the amendments. On the desertion of comrade ID, delegates were reminded that the comrade “never raised differences” even though as a leading comrade there was “a duty to do so”. The comrade went on to explain that if it was correct to produce The Leninist as a monthly paper the style of work inevitably followed and served that decision. The suggestion that the Leninist tendency had problems because of the desertion of one comrade, albeit a leading one, was attacked as was the notion that we should be recruiting hand over fist.
As to the idea that the Leninists in Britain were mechanically copying the methods of work employed in Turkey this was “nonsense”. Because of the conditions prevailing in Britain “we don’t work in a way anything like the comrades in Turkey” the comrade maintained. But the comrade went on to say that learning from the most advanced experience available was a different matter. The comrade turned to the formation of the CPGB itself explaining how the inspiration of the Bolsheviks had proved crucial in its formation; yes there were undoubtedly “some mechanical aspects” taken on board by the CPGB and “perhaps this was the case with us but this can only be overcome through us spreading our roots, digging them in the class struggle, not by amendments which in reality only reflect British backwardness.”
Finally the comrade stated that the problems of the Leninists in Britain were ones of growth, the loss of comrade ID “is an indication of that comrade’s problems not ours.” The comrade appealed to the delegates to compare the situation faced by the tendency when it was formed and at the time of the conference:“who can doubt our progress,” the “problems we have we’ve worked extremely hard to get”.
This position was supported by comrades CS and FP, comrade CS declaring having been won by the high level of commitment demanded by the Leninists as well as its correct ideological position. Comrade FP attacked comrade ID for deserting and for not fighting for his position. The comrade described The Leninist as “a monthly miracle” which is “only possible with the level of commitment demanded at present” and in order to “go forward more must be demanded.”
Comrade RT entered the debate again but admitted offering ‘no alternative’ but simply attempting to be practical. But others were not convinced by the comrade’s arguments; comrades FP, TW, ES, WP, MT, BA, NS, and CJ all came in against them. As well as this, another comrade from the CPT (İS) intervened declaring that they too had “similar problems” on the question of work levels. But as well as this debate the comrade, like the first speaker from the CPT (İS), turned to the crisis in the CPGB and argued that given the gathering disintegration of the Party there was “no room for abstentionism.”
In the light of this argument it was agreed to vote on comrade RT’s amendments and then to go on to deal with the whole Morning Star problem. Comrade ES summed up the arguments and called for a vote against the amendments which blunted the organisational cutting edge of the motion.
The resolution on the Party Crisis
Given the nature of the class struggle in Britain today our Party, the Communist Party of Great Britain, in the hands of opportunist leaders, is far removed from fulfilling its leading role. The Eurocommunists are trying to turn the CPGB into an appendage of the bourgeoisie, into a petty bourgeois party of reform. By pursuing a tailist, reformist political line, by trampling underfoot Leninist norms, and by employing bureaucratic methods they are betraying the Party and the working class.
1. The Basis of the Party Crisis
To fully understand the Party crisis it is essential that we go back to its formation and developments from there on.
The CPGB was formed in the wake of the October Revolution and the establishment of the Third International. Its formation was and is the highest achievement of the working class movement in Britain. However, the fact that the CPGB was not formed as a result of rigorous and protracted ideological struggle meant that the Party was heavily dependent on Comintern and in particular the CPSU. This was not a problem while the Soviet Union was under the leadership of Lenin, but with the rise of Stalin the CPSU took steps away from Leninism towards centrism. Given the importance of external influences on the CPGB, it lost its anchorage in Leninism. As the CPSU downgraded its proletarian internationalism the CPGB was increasingly opened up to the pull of reformism.
The watershed in the degeneration of our Party was the seventh and final congress of Comintern in 1935. In pursuit of the Popular Front the CPGB put the idea of the dictatorship of the proletariat under wraps and insteadParty members were encouraged to gain respectability by integrating themselves into the labour bureaucracy and the reformist and largely pacifist ‘anti-war’ movement, and the and the anti-fascist movement. The CPSU, by encouragingthis, by planting the seeds of centrism and then of the class collaboration, also ironically planted the seeds of anti-Sovietism. These seeds were further nurtured by the dissolution of Comintern in 1943, which opened the whole world communist movement to nationalistic centrifugal forces.It was only a matter of time before the CPGB crossed the Rubicon and condemned the Soviet Union: the occasion was Czechoslovakia 1968. It was at this time that the contradiction, between a leadership which firmly based loyalty to Britain above loyalty to the Soviet Union and the centrists who insisted that loyalty to the Soviet Union must come first, came to the surface.
2. The Present Crisis
The crisis in the CPGB has become liquidationist; particularly acute. What has precipitated this crisis is a basic contradiction between reform and revolution, a contradiction which is becoming ever more exacerbated because of the impact of British capitalism’s drift into profound economic crisis and the clear signs that this is being fuelled by the emergence of a new general crisis in capitalism. Thiscrisis has meant an end to the consensus politics of the 1950s and 1960s and consequently a crisis in reformism. The predictable relegation of the Labour Party back to a party of crisis means that the British Road’s step by Labour Party step to socialism stands exposed as an opportunist fantasy.
In response to this situation the Euro/McLennan leadership has moved even further to the right. Against the class war politics of the bourgeoisie epitomised by Thatcher it seeks to employ a Popular Front type ‘anti-Thatcherite’ alliance which will include Liberals, SDPers and anti-‘Thatcherite’ Tories. The logic of these politics is to distance the Party from the traditions of working class militancy and to totally break from the Soviet Union in an attempt to transform the Party into a neo-Fabian ‘think tank of the left’. In other words to liquidate the Party.
These developments have deeply worried a section of the old Party machine as well as many CP trade union functionaries. But recently, with the dramatic organisational decline of the Party which threatens to drastically reduce its influence and throw many out of Party jobs, discontent has turned into open rebellion. The question of the Morning Star has become a central focus of this rebellion.
3. The Opposition
3.1. Straight Leftism
While the Straight Leftists are full of revolutionary rhetoric its actions, not least in the miners’ strike, fly in the face of this rhetoric and expose their Labourite liquidationism. Moreover, in the Party struggle while adhering to a ‘no split’ line their only perspective for winning the Party is through a congress or by the divine intervention of the Soviet Union. This formalism has led them to meekly accept Euro diktat and ‘scab’ on other oppositionists.
3.2. Morning Star
Although this faction is fighting the Eurocommunists the question is on what principles? Comrade Chater, with his countless statements that he fully supports the reformist 1978 BRS, his centrist supporters’‘positive’ interpretations of it, the perspective of saving the Morning Star through handing it over to a combination of ‘entrepreneurial capitalism’ and the trade union and labour bureaucracy, and the course away from communist politics epitomised by the statement that the CPGB was an ‘outside body’ show that the pro-Morning Star grouping is both revisionist and liquidationist.
The orientation of this grouping means that the position increasingly put by some Chater followers, that is that it is important to secure the Morning Star rather than the Party because from the Star they can build a genuine Communist Party, is impossible. A Chater split carries with it the great danger of a split between the Morning Star and communist politics.
So while we defend these oppositionalists against the bureaucratic actions of the Eurocommunists, because of their liquidationism we cannot offer them our critical support over the Morning Star. However, the fact that the Party has been split wide open is all to the good because it means a period of ideological flux. This has been illustrated by the fact that elements on the fringes of the Chater camp have taken steps towards us and even Chater has used terms like bureaucratic centralism, a concept we have fought acceptance for consistently.
4. To Resolve the Crisis
The crisis cannot be positively resolved by decisions of the 39th Congress. This can only be done by a Leninist ideological struggle which draws in the best elements of our class. At the same time we must aim to split the best centrists from their misleaders. This can be done in part by concentrating our ideological ‘firepower’ on the following weak points in their positions.
- The British Road to Socialism
- The Morning Star as a basis of a Party
The comparison that some of those advocating this position have used is that of Iskra. We must counter this on the basis of which principles the Morning Star and Iskra.
- The AES
The Leninist realises that the success of our class relies not on winning a couple of thousand ex‑centrists. What is vital is the ability of The Leninist to grow as a vanguard for the working class itself. This is why in our conditions open ideological struggle must assume a pivotal importance in our strategy. With it workers can come to understand the differences in the CPGB, what factions stand for what, and how their ideology and attitude relate to the class struggle. Thus workers can be won to the Party as fully conscious partisans of Leninism.
Our duty is to reforge the CPGB, our Party, as a Marxist-Leninist organisation able to carry out the revolution.
5. Building the Basis of a Leninist Communist Party
5.1 Today and for the immediate future The Leninist will remain small in numbers, relatively isolated from the working class, and indeed relatively peripheral in inner-Party debates. Part and parcel of building the basis for a Leninist CPGB is overcoming these features. In part this requires the maximisation of our resources as they now exist and their careful realistic development with a firm eye on the long term. Obviously all comrades have different talents, different abilities, but it is clear that we are not developing comrades as we should, nor are we developing comrades with a clear understanding of what is required for the future. This applies both to political education and practical skills; what is needed is a systematic cadre training programme.
5.2.Political education should take the form of:
5.2.1 Organised discussions on the content of The Leninist.
5.2.2 The encouraging of comrades to write for the paper, especially on questions that they are directly concerned with, though this should only be commenced after full discussion.
5.2.3 The holding of regular day schools and weekend schools.
5.3 Practical skills. We need comrades who can: defend themselves; handle basic accounts; type; take photos and develop film; use a duplicator; understand the printing process and do rudimentary layout; drive a car; speak with confidence at public meetings; understand basic security measures; speak foreign languages. To develop these skills we must select comrades who can teach other comrades but we must aim for all comrades to be as rounded as possible.
5.4 While such developments enhance our resources we must also direct them carefully. A Leninist Communist Party means a Party in which each comrade’s work is performed as part of a whole, where the present aims of the CPGB (4. Conditions of membership:“… and work in a Party organisation”) are strictly adhered to, and where the Leninist concept of the revolutionary party is one where its members are members of a basic unit, work actively in it, and under its direction.
5.4.1 Understanding that work for The Leninist should take priority over all other work.
5.4.2 Only taking on ‘broad’ responsibilities after discussion and a specific decision.
5.4.3 Dropping positions if required by the organisation.
5.4.4 Being prepared to live and work where it benefits our work.
5.5 Cadre development must be determined by our overall strategic perspective and main tactics. In short, these can be summed up as conducting an open ideological struggle from inside the CPGB, the most important party for communists in Britain, in order to win the best elements from the working class in our Party on an openly partisan, Leninist basis. This will also enable us to win the most honest and militant individuals from the centrist camp and indeed force this camp as a whole to the left as a prelude to splitting it and taking an important section over to Leninism. It must be emphasised that at present the key to this strategy is The Leninist itself, its circulation, the direction of its articles, and its organisation.
5.6 (Deleted for security reasons)
5.7 Today we can only see the potential of our strategy in embryonic form. Nonetheless, it is undoubtedly the case that in terms of a ratio of readers:influence,compared with supporters; sellers The Leninist must be the most successful publication of any group in the workers’ movement in Britain. We certainly far outstrip Marxism Today and the Morning Star in this respect, as well as the likes of Socialist Worker, TNS, and the News Line. And this is not because our politics are ‘soft’, that is liberalistically or academically acceptable. Far from it; we are a tendency that pulls no punches in polemic and is unashamedly partisan.
5.8 To develop as a tendency in the short term we must slowly but surely transform readers into sympathisers and sympathisers into supporters. The secret to success in this lies in ideological understanding and demanding money, commitment and hard work. This organisation has no room for those who do not work, who are not committed. We want to build a party which will overthrow the bourgeoisie; if we do not do our best we will achieve nothing. We must strive to find out what we can demand, make activity, create a hot-house atmosphere. This has to go hand in hand with ideological debate and training.
5.9 An important task of the moment is therefore developing a well-trained, well-educated cadre force. This is the key to expanding our still small readership, above all physically linking the inner-Party struggle with the best militants in the working class movement, as well as drawing centrist readers towards Leninism. This is easily possible in the short term, given:
5.9.1 The intensification of the class struggle.
5.9.2 The inner-Party crisis.
5.9.3 The ideological superiority of Leninism, the fact that it is based on a scientific understanding of the world and a clear revolutionary perspective.
5.10 Because of this there must be no let-up in our polemic against opportunist tendencies in the CPGB and other tendencies among the left reformists and the petty bourgeois revolutionary groupings; in fact we must make our polemic more wide-ranging and profound. It is also vital for us to develop a close working relationship with (and to gain recruits from) those sections of the working class at the forefront of struggle, such as the miners, and attempt to give communist leadership to them, showing all the time that what is essential for their ultimate victory is the building of a Leninist CPGB, is a dialectical process which demands both the highest level of dedication and polemical (that is, ideological) victory over opportunism (first in the CPGB and then in the movement as a whole), both the steeling of a Leninist cadre force and a broad shift in the working class towards class war consciousness. A Leninist CPGB can only be built when these separate but linked processes are brought together. Without influence over the masses a Leninist CPGB is only a Party in name, without a Leninist CPGB the class war consciousness of the working class will be directionless, its energy and force inevitably dissipated. And without a Leninist CPGB working class victories will always be temporary; it needs a Leninist CPGB if the working class is to guarantee its advances, something only possible through a socialist revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Comrades, let us energetically embrace the work of building a Leninist Communist Party.
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Having overwhelmingly defeated the amendments presented by comrade RT, the conference went on to the Morning Star and the forthcoming PPPS AGM
The ‘Morning Star’
The first comrade into the debate was comrade CJ. The comrade described how some of the best elements of the Party were following Chater but how Chater was “orientating the Morning Star away from communist politics.” We must seek to “break these forces from Chater” and convince them that far from being “the lesser of two evils” he deserves to be defeated. On the other hand the comrade argued the Party leadership’s record means “they don’t deserve to win”. But for Leninists the “place to fight is the CPGB” and our task is to win those good comrades tailing behind Chater “back to the Party”.
Comrade CS stated that it would be “grossly incorrect” to offer any support to the Euros and that if we did we would end up like the Straight Leftists, ‘alienating’ the opposition forces. This was the wrong way to look at things, stated comrade CJ: “we would do a deal with the devil if it advanced our long term aim. After all, did not Lenin do deals with foreign capitalists; did not the Soviet Union align itself with imperialist Great Britain and the United States against imperialist Germany.” The comrade also cited the situation where in Left-wing communism Lenin advocated that the young CPGB support the Labour Party “like a rope supports a hanged man.”“Perhaps one day we may do a deal with the Labour Party, who are certainly far ‘worse’ than any Euros in our Party; after all they have run governments which have broken strikes, armed against the Soviet Union, and defended the interests of British imperialism”. Our politics are not about “purity”but about “fighting to advance the interests of the working class.”
Comrade RT declared a certain “sympathy” with the position of comrade CS simply because a vote for the candidates of the EC would “alienate us from the opposition”. The Party had “created a Frankenstein monster which had now turned against it,” said the comrade.
“For us, which way to vote at the PPPS AGM was not a matter of principle,” stated comrade ES, but “a matter of tactics.” The “key question was our strategy towards the CPGB;” the comrade explained how Chater could soon be in the Labour Party and that the “suggestion that it would be correct to vote for the EC candidates had produced a reaction from the heart not the head”. Comrade CJ agreed and said that comrades who talked of violent revolution on the one hand but could not bring themselves to vote for a Euro were off beam.
Comrade BA declared himself “initially horrified at any suggestion of siding with the EC – but,” asked the comrade, “where will Chater be in a year’s time?” Leninists “could not rule out any tactic.” Comrade RT agreed that there was no principle at stake.
Although at this point it was agreed to maintain the position of abstentionism, following the conference the discussions were continued, which led to a change in our tactics. But before returning to this very important question let us conclude our report of the end of the conference.
The last motion presented to the conference was on Turkey.
The motion on Turkey was presented by comrade CJ. The purpose of the motion was not to break new ground but to unite the theoretical importance the Leninists attach to Turkey and the revolution in Turkey with practice. This not surprisingly did not prove contentious. Despite this there was some continuation of the debate over our style of work which had commenced on the motion on the Party Crisis. As the arguments around this question had already been fully presented there is little point repeating them suffice to say because conference had already voted for an uncompromisingly Bolshevik approach to the question of organisation and because of a certain degree of moral pressure comrade RT, while defending the amendment arguing a mechanical imitation of the “organisational and political work used by our comrades in Turkey”was won to abstain on the vote on the amendment rather than voting for it.
Of course what the conference objected to in this amendment was not the letter of it but the Menshevik organisational spirit behind it. On the principle of not giving any ground whatsoever on this question it was considered vital to reject it.
On the motion itself comrades TW, CS, and FP in particular spoke of the importance of the question of Turkey and the revolution in Turkey. The comrades stressed the duty Leninists in Britain had of building a powerful solidarity movement with the struggle for social progress in Turkey. As well as these comrades, one of the delegation from the CPT(İS) also spoke. The comrade explained the need that there was for a powerful solidarity campaign around Turkey and declared that comrades from Turkey had much to learn from Britain in the way of efficiency. While this produced some laughter, the comrade assured the conference that this was indeed the case and proletarian internationalism was definitely a two way process.
After a brief reply to the discussion by comrade CJ the conference carried the motion on Turkey unanimously as it had all other motions. Conference ended with a spirited rendition of The International and a militant determination to carry out in practice the resolutions of the Third Conference of the Leninists of the CPGB.
The Resolution on Turkey
1. We Leninists of the Communist Party of Great Britain consider the best way to fulfil our duty to the world revolution and to strengthening the existing socialist states is to make revolution in our own country. To do this we must both draw on the rich theoretical and practical heritage of our movement and learn from countries where the class struggle has been and is particularly acute.
2. Since the late 1960s the working class and revolutionary movement in Turkey has gone through a stern school of struggle. It has experienced periods of deep-going revolutionary crisis, fascism, and today a regime with authoritarian tendencies. From this struggle has emerged the Communist Party of Turkey (İşçinin Sesi). It has re-established basic Marxist-Leninist principals and applied this method to the situation in Turkey. As such, the CPT (İS) has taken up the banner of Marx and Lenin which has for so long been discarded by so many in our world communist movement.
3. With our analysis of the emerging new general crisis of capitalism we see the emergence of the CPT (İS) as an event with great lessons for workers throughout the world. There is indeed every reason to believe that the lessons yet to be learnt could have a similar significance and impact to the Russian revolutions from 1905 to October 1917.
4. Turkey, standing at the crossroads between Europe and Asia, a member of NATO, bordering the Soviet Union and Bulgaria, and part of the turbulence of the Middle East is in a strategic position in world capitalism. Turkey could well be a precursor for the next stage in the world revolution. Because of this, because of the already existing rich experience, workers and revolutionaries in Britain should be encouraged to learn from Turkey.
5. In this we Leninists have a great responsibility. We ourselves have already attempted to take on board these lessons. We should seriously consider building a solidarity movement in support of the revolution in Turkey. This would of course in no way contradict our struggle to reforge the CPGB; indeed, if successful it would greatly enhance this work.
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Postscript: Subsequent Decisions
While the Third Conference had agreed to maintain an abstentionist position on the elections to the PPPS Management Committee it had been made abundantly clear that this was purely a tactical question. As a result of this, almost immediately the conference had ended serious deliberations began again on the advisability of applying the abstentionist tactic at the forthcoming PPPS AGM.
Looking at the political direction of the Chater camp, its course away from communist politics, its attempt to hand over the Morning Star to the trade union and labour bureaucracy, and its description of the Communist Party as an “outside body”, meant that there could be no question of calling for a vote for its slate. The question was how best to break the healthy forces from Chater back to the Communist Party, how best to ensure the survival of the Morning star as a Communist Party paper. Abstentionism it was felt had the advantage of presenting a “pox on both houses” position but that was all.
Because of the great danger of liquidationism it was felt that the question of the Party had to be posed in the sharpest possible terms. And after lengthy debate it was decided that in practice what this meant was calling upon all PPPS shareholders to vote for candidates of the Executive Committee and also calling upon all other candidates to step down in their favour.
This tactical shift definitely had the advantage of emphasising our basic strategy of fighting to reforge the CPGB. Of course there was the danger that some would declare that we had joined the Eurocommunist camp but it was recognised that only charlatans and downright idiots would persist in such assertions if we patiently explained our new tactic. Not only would all genuine communists recognise that we have and will continue to have profound ideological differences with Eurocommunism but only we could win comrades back to the CPGB on an uncompromisingly revolutionary platform.
It was agreed that Chater and the logic of events had definitely shifted the whole Morning Star issue from being an inner-Party question to being a question of being for or against the Party itself. Certainly, Chater’s mobilisation of non-CPGB forces such as the NCP, sections of the Labour Party, not least Moss Evans, Arthur Scargill, and Tony Benn, against the Executive Committee proved this and demanded the firmest possible stand on principle from Leninists.
Because Chater has been treating the Morning Star as a piece of personal property, because the EC were standing for the idea of the Party, and because the Chater camp had taken a qualitative step forward in its liquidationism we has to fight for all CPGB members to vote for the candidates of the EC.
Not only was this change in tactic thoroughly discussed by the leading supporters of The Leninist, but all participants at the Third Conference were consulted and they unanimously agreed to the change. We were also pleased that one candidate standing for the management committee followed our call and stood down in favour of the candidates of the EC. Of course we did not expect our call to produce mass desertion from Chater: indeed some sympathisers of The Leninist voted for the Management Committee slate.
The Chaterite victory by a 1,000 vote margin shows the desperate need for a sustained ideological offensive against Chater’s position and political orientation. This is something that the Euros with theirwoolly appeal to liberal opinion and fear of militant working class action cannot possibly successfully carry out. Only Leninism can turn the tables on Chater’s liquidationism and win back the thousands of good communists who are at present following him in the incorrect belief that he is the lesser of two evils.