28 November 2020

Fourth Conference of the Leninists of the CPGB

Originally published in The Leninist No.85 December 23 1989. Available on our archive here

Our conference came together to find solutions to the profound crisis that affects our Party and working class. Our conference concluded that the ‘official’ party rules, which are anyway profoundly flawed, have long ago been rendered completely obsolete by the gross infringements against them by the Euros.

In order that the CPGB’s Leninist forces may wage a more coherent and more disciplined struggle against the Euros, liquidators and centrists, our conference unanimously agreed to form a distinct, revolutionary, wing of the CPGB – the CPGB (The Leninist) – and established a National Committee. The NC is the binding central authority over all Leninist forces.

Our conference also unanimously agreed a set of basic political and organisational principles which were debated in a spirit of openness and comradeship. There was no unity for unity’s sake, but frank serious discussion conducted in the spirit of criticism with the aim of cementing the iron unity of Leninist forces.

We call upon all communists to study our resolutions carefully. Compare them with the ultra revisionism coming from the Euro’s congress and the head-in-the-sand platitudes voted through the NCP and CPB congresses. Genuine communists accept the lead and the discipline of the only revolutionary wing of our movement, the CPGB (The Leninist).

Conference of the CPGB (The Leninist)
December 16, 1989

Conference Agenda

  1. Opening ceremony
  2. Election of session chairpersons
  3. Adoption of conference agenda
  4. Adoption of conference standing orders
  5. Resolutions
  6. Election of National Committee
  7. The Internationale; (Close)

Conference standing orders

  1. The conference will be conducted in two sessions from 10:00am to 1:00pm and from 2:00pm to 7:00pm.
  2. The names of all comrades will be changed in conference reports for security reasons.
  3. All proposals and motions, apart from those relating to procedure, shall be submitted to the chair in writing.
  4. Each speaker, except those introducing motions and reports, will be limited to ten minutes. No speaker is entitled to speak more than three times on the same subject. Extensions and extra interventions can be granted with the consent of the conference.
  5. On procedural motions there shall be no more than two speakers ‘for’ and two ‘against’.
  6. All decisions shall be by simple majority vote.
  7. Participants have the right to submit (in writing) amendments to motions during conference.

Resolutions

The Resolutions were all carried unanimously, after discussion and amendment. Of the 29 amendments submitted, five were withdrawn, one was lost by 4 votes to 6, one was carried by 6 votes to 3 with 1 abstention and 22 were carried unanimously.

1 – Appeal to communists

2 – The British Road to Socialism

3 – The central organ

4- On our principles

5 – Organisational questions

5.1 – Democratic centralism

5.2 – Criticism and self criticism

5.3 – Structure

5.4. – Cell meetings

5.5. – Cell secretary

5.6. – Carrying out decisions

5.7. – The Leninist

5.8. – Initiative

5.9. – Recruitment and membership

5.10 – Discipline

6 – Publication of proceedings

1. Appeal to communists

After experiencing ten years of defeats at the hand of Thatcherite reaction our class is beginning to successfully fight back. The class struggle is rising and becoming more sharp and open. Thatcher and the Tories look vulnerable. The task of taking advantage of this situation and ensuring that Thatcher is defeated in a revolutionary, not reformist manner rests first and foremost with the Communist Party.

In the hands of the Euros, the CPGB is no longer a united party. The Euros have turned their wing of the party into a neo-Fabian rump. They have betrayed the working class and willingly operate as a bourgeois fifth column in the communist movement. The NCP and CPB splits are dominated by centrist and opportunist ideas. They both look to the Labour Party as a vehicle for socialism. Both of these splits survive through political prostitution and avoiding open ideological struggle. In short, the working class in Britain does not have a vanguard party.

This conference therefore resolves, in order to overcome this situation, to form a distinct, revolutionary, wing of the CPGB – the CPGB (The Leninist) – and to elect a National Committee and instruct the rump Euro organisation to hand over all Party files and records. The CPGB (The Leninist) is not a Party, nor is its National Committee a Central Committee. The prime task of the CPGB (The Leninist) is to defeat opportunism and to reforge the Party our class so desperately needs. All genuine communists have a duty to join the ranks of CPGB (The Leninist). This conference urges all genuine communists to enter into discussions with the CPGB (The Leninist).

2. The British Road to Socialism

Neither the 1978 edition of the British Road to Socialism, nor the CPB’s updated version, nor the Euros’ Manifesto For New Times represent any sort of communist programme. All are thoroughly imbued with opportunism and revisionism. Hence none of them can serve as any sort of guide to revolutionary practice.

The essence of the struggle being conducted by the CPGB (The Leninist) is to equip our party with a Marxist-Leninist programme. The provision of the CPGB with a Marxist-Leninist programme depends on reforging the Party and then convening a congress.

Taking this into consideration our conference resolves that the Leninist wing of the Party must:

  1. Prepare a draft programme.
  2. Establish a commission for this purpose.
  3. Present the draft programme for discussion in Party organisations and in our working class.
  4. Present the draft programme in the form of a proposal to the congress of the reforged CPGB.

3. The central organ

7 Days is an eclectic mishmash of petty bourgeois fads and dull reformism. It has won no respect in the ranks of the Euro CPGB, let alone with working class militants. It provides neither theoretical clarity nor a means of organising the masses for revolutionary action. However, 7 Days does provide a platform for attacks on the ideas of Marxism-Leninism. It is a factional weapon in the hands of the Euros and hence it constitutes an obstacle in the way of the struggle for communism.

Since The Leninist was launched in November 1981 it has established a well earned reputation for ideological clarity, defence of Marxism-Leninism, openness and the ability to organise genuine communists.

The conference of the CPGB (The Leninist) declares that The Leninist is the true central organ of our Party.

4. On our principles

The Leninists of the CPGB stand on the following main principles:

  1. Our central overriding aim is reforging the Communist Party of Great Britain. Without this Party the working class is nothing; with it, it is everything. The CPGB will not be reforged through the unity of revolutionaries and opportunists but through the victory of the revolutionary wing of the CPGB, the Leninist wing.
  2. Marxism-Leninism is powerful because it is true. We oppose all forms of opportunism and revisionism in the workers’ movement. This is best done through open ideological struggle. Theory must be related to practice.
  3. Communists are internationalists. Hence we favour the highest level of coordination and unity of workers. The struggle in Britain must be subordinated to the world revolution. The liberation of the working class can only be achieved through world communism, following the worldwide victory of socialism by adding new socialist states to the existing ones.
  4. Objective conditions demand the organisation of communist in Britain into a single party. We oppose separatism. Communists support the unity of workers in the largest and most centralised units.
  5. Socialism will not come peacefully via a Labour government. Socialism will only triumph through working class revolution and replacement of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie by a dictatorship of the proletariat.
  6. We support the right of nations to self determination. In Britain this concretely demands support for the struggle for Irish freedom. This is an acid test of internationalism.
  7. The liberation of women, the ending of racism and all other forms of chauvinism are bound up with and dependent on the workers’ struggle for communism. We oppose all forms of racism and sexism. Chauvinism undermines the unity of the working class.
  8. War and peace, pollution and the environment are class questions. Mankind’s future depends on the triumph of communism. Pacifists and green politics are a diversion and objectively play a reactionary role.

5.  Organisational questions

The struggle to reforge the CPGB took open form in November 1981, when The Leninist was first published. It has given both theoretical and organisational coherence to those fighting against opportunism in all forms its forms. The Leninist was and remains committed to the principle of open ideological struggle. Opportunism cannot be fought in the dark.

The key to success in the struggle to reforge the CPGB is the creation of a powerful all-Britain network of Leninists based on the advanced (politically thinking, class conscious) section of the working class. This section will in the main be won by propaganda which is increasingly linked to political practice.

To carry out this task it is vital that Leninists are organised.

5.1. Democratic centralism

Communist parties are organised in such a way as to facilitate first, complete inner unity of outlook, and second, a combination of the highest level of discipline with the widest initiative and independent activity of comrades. This form of organisation is democratic centralism.

Democratic centralism means that all leading bodies are elected and there is full freedom of discussion. It also means the subordination of the whole organisation to a single centre. With us the two sides of democratic centralism will only be fully realised when the Communist Party is reforged. Till then the Leninists of the CPGB operate democratic centralism emphasising centralism based on consent. A Communist Party is built top down and in the struggle to reforge our Party the same approach applies.

What this means is that all members must carry out the decisions of the organisation and that lower bodies subordinate themselves to higher ones and that higher bodies may appoint the secretaries of lower bodies.

This does not mean that there are no elections, discussions or debates. Far from it. The Leninists have now had four conferences which have not only elected comrades to positions of leadership but have been characterised by the widest ranging debate. What is more our paper, The Leninist, has a record second to none of openness.

The free discussion of questions of policy in our organisation and in front of the whole working class is a fundamental right of every member. Only on this basis is it possible to develop communist self criticism and strengthen discipline, which must be conscious, not mechanical.

Discussion must, of course, be carried out responsibly; members must be won to put the interests of the struggle for socialism above everything. This is the essence of communist discipline. The extent that this happens depends on our collective consciousness.

5.2. Criticism and self criticism

Communist discipline is founded on class consciousness of comrades: upon the conviction that without the minority accepting and carrying out the decisions of the majority , without the subordination of lower bodies to higher ones, there can be no unity of will and unity of action. An army that does not act as one will be a defeated army. Our unity is precious and has to be fought for.

Criticism and self criticism are the most important methods of developing comrades’ consciousness and hence communist discipline. Self criticism enables us to correct mistakes and overcome shortcomings. Marx said that the proletarian revolution differs from other revolutions in that it criticises itself and through this is able to carry on until all its tasks are completed. In other words, for communists there is no room for self satisfaction. Criticism and self criticism should be constantly applied at all levels of our organisation.

5.3. Structure

Our basic form of organisation is the cell. Cells are established on the basis of locality, workplace or task. Normally consisting of between three and five comrades, cells carry out the work assigned to them by the National Committee and work to train professional revolutionaries who dedicate their lives to the struggle of communism.

Cells are led by an appointed secretary who is responsible for any changes in date and time of meetings and will act as the chair. Any other officers should be elected.

The National Committee of the Leninists of the CPGB consists of the organisation’s most authoritative comrades. It elects the secretary of the organisation. The secretary chairs the meetings of the NC and is responsible for selecting all other officers and for every sphere of work. The NC establishes and can dissolve all Leninist organisations and organs. The NC may establish special commissions and regional committees. New members may be co-opted onto full membership of the committee or given the status of candidate member (with speaking but not voting rights) by a three-fifths majority of those present.

At particularly important turning points either the NC or the Secretary may convene a conference and determine its subject matter. The NC determines which comrades are appointed as delegates, taking into consideration the subject matter of the conference. The NC may decide to give a conference the right to elect a new National Committee or to elect additional members to the NC or to remove individual members.

At conferences all voting and non-voting comrades have the right to speak and submit motions and amendments. All votes are by a simple majority.

5.4. Cell meetings

Cells should meet at least weekly and should start on time (even if members are late). The first item the agenda should always be a well prepared opening on, for example, a key article in The Leninist and using other publications. The reporter should present concrete proposals for action.

A well organised and presented opening and discussion should not last more than one and a half hours.

The next point on the agenda should be to check up on the assignments of individual members. The cell collectively should always know not only whether a comrade has fully carried out a task but also discuss the experiences of the comrade carrying it out.

The next point should be the plan of activity for the next week with full consideration of the work of the previous week. This includes problems with the mass organisations or campaigns for which the cell is responsible. At this point comrades’ individual assignments will be decided. Related to this the question of recruitment should be raised. Who can be recruited, who should be worked on.

The next point is The Leninist: sales, distribution, correspondence and fund.

The last item after any other business should be the time and date of the next meeting.

Dues payments should take place before the meeting opens as comrades come to the meeting. Any problems here should be raised in the meeting.

Where appropriate every effort should be made to involve sympathisers in the tasks of the cell, not least selling the Party’s central organ, The Leninist. It is also important that all comrades are given tasks. In these ways members are not overburdened with work and the work itself becomes more effective.

5.5. Cell secretary

The cell secretary’s task consists of keeping the cell in contact with the NC and ensuring the cell functions properly. The secretary collects dues and sees to it that every member attends the meeting and takes part in its and the organisation’s activities.

5.6. Carrying out decisions

All important decisions should only be arrived at after a thorough discussion in the cell. If comrades understand why certain steps are being taken, what changes demand a shift in line, what the perspectives are, then the carrying out of decisions will be much easier.

In assigning members to certain work, due account should be taken of the comrade’s strengths and weaknesses. The member has the right to express an opinion about their ability to carry out a particular task. But after the meeting has decided on an assignment it must be fully carried out.

The decisions and assignments should be noted. At every meeting their fulfilment should be discussed. If there are problems, open criticism should be made of members who have shirked responsibility. This will help the member take tasks more seriously. The cell must learn that it is collectively responsible for all its members.

5.7. ‘The Leninist

The most important weapon in the hands of the cell is The Leninist, the central organ of our Party. It is our collective propagandist and agitator. It is also our collective organiser. Organisation around the distribution of The Leninist and education on the basis of its articles constitutes the basis for the continuous joint action of our organisation.

The best leaders of our organisation speak to the working class through the columns of the paper. It has set an unparalleled standard of clarity, militancy and firm commitment to Marxism-Leninism. Selling The Leninist and getting subscribers is one of the central tasks of cells.

Cells should be responsible for:

  1. Organising regular pitches.
  2. Looking out for strikes and demonstrations in order to distribute the paper.
  3. Canvassing selected individuals to take out a sub.
  4. Regularly collating and submitting information for the paper.
  5. Supporting the Fighting Fund.

5.8. Initiative

The basic link between our NC and the working class is the cell. Cells are the organisations through which we interact with the masses. On the efficiency, independence and initiative of the cells depends the ability of the CPGB (The Leninist) to lay the basis for reforging our Communist Party and providing a lead to the working class.

Insofar as their decisions do not conflict with those of higher bodies, cells must decide on questions that fall within their sphere of work. This is very important. Decisive moments are lost through lack of initiative. Cells must not simply wait round to be told what to do – that is a recipe for inaction.

Cells are in contact with the workplaces, the locality or mass organisations. Because of this they must strive to give leadership and take the initiative.

In cells where there is real initiative there will be a constant development of individual comrades. They will continually discuss problems and study the line of the organisation in order to apply it in a given situation.

The independence and initiative of the cells must not be taken to mean that they have no relationship to the NC or a regional committee. Centralism must not be violated. The NC has the right to veto initiatives if it thinks this is necessary.

The initiatives of cells develop precisely because of the proper leadership given by the NC. This is done first and foremost through publications but also through the assignment of representatives from the NC or the regional committee, who participate in discussions and actions. This hastens the process of developing initiative and independence.

5.9. Recruitment and membership

In their day-to-day work cell members will come into regular contact with the best fighters of our class. Recruiting these fighters is the basic task of every cell.

The best method of getting new members is to place individual responsibility for recruiting. There must be a one-to-one approach which draws contacts into activity and enables them to grasp our basic theoretical positions and world outlook. This cannot be over emphasised.

Membership of the CPGB (The Leninist) is open to anyone who accepts its principles and discipline. This means being active in a cell, regular payment of dues and adherence to all the decisions of the organisation.

Application for membership is submitted to the NC with the proposal of one member and the view of the cell submitting the application. Acceptance of applications will be decided by the NC. New members will be assigned to an area of work by the NC. Dues consist of a minimum of 10% of a member’s income. Members have a duty to do their utmost to raise funds for the organisation and use its resources responsibly and carefully.

No member has the right to move job or district without permission. Members can secure leave of absence in case of sickness or necessary travel because of job or other commitments.

One of the main conditions for developing the initiative and independence of cells is the systematic development of cadres. These comrades are the backbone of our organisation.

These comrades are trained over a long period. They are our future. We must do our utmost to help them develop, steel them in action and get them to study the classics of Marxism-Leninism.

This can be facilitated through seminars, weekend and national schools. In parallel to this, promising individuals should be assigned to more developed comrades in order to help and encourage study.

The aim of this is to develop professional revolutionaries. These comrades are highly developed, trained in revolutionary theory and practice, tested in struggle and give their all to the interests of the working class. A professional revolutionary is ready to go wherever the organisation sends them, do whatever the organisation asks – family considerations are taken into account but are not decisive.

5.10. Dicipline

The organisation’s discipline would remain an empty phrase if we did not provide for measures against those who break it. Breaches of discipline by individual members such as financial irregularities, actions harmful to the prestige and influence of the organisation, failure to carry out decisions, revealing organisational secrets, rubbishing comrades, may be punished by:

  1. censure.
  2. public censure.
  3. removal from a position or transfer to other work.
  4. suspension
  5. expulsion

Charges against an individual may be made either in the cells or by a higher body. Only a cell, a regional committee or the National Committee has the right to decide on disciplinary action. This should be done taking into account a member’s consciousness and motives. All disciplinary action, except censure, must be confirmed by the NC before implementation.

A member who is suspended has no rights, but continues to be bound by the organisation’s discipline and requirements.

In the case of suspension or expulsion, if a member disputes the charges laid against them the NC is bound to convene a disciplinary committee to investigate the matter, collate evidence and call witnesses. The disciplinary committee reports back to the NC. After each case the committee is dissolved.

6. Publication of proceedings 

We Leninists have always placed great emphasis on the need for openness; this applies in particular to our own organisation. In light of this principled and correct position the Fourth Conference of the CPGB (The Leninist) resolves that a full account of its proceedings and resolutions be published as soon as possible in the central organ.

Return to the ‘Reforging the CPGB (1981-present)’ series