On Saturday 3 July 2004, at the Saklatvala Hall in Southall, the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) was founded. Perhaps it would be truer to say that the natural progression of the CPGB of the 1920s and 30s has finally arrived back on the political scene. Of course, we have had to add Marxist-Leninist to the name as, after the revisionists gained control of the old party wound it up and threw away the name, it was picked up by a group of Trotskyites who run a gossip rag (Weekly Worker) full of anti-communist bile. In spite of this, the name CPGB still has honour for us and we are proud to use it. The foundation of the CPGB in 1920 was the greatest step forward the British proletariat has so far made and we consider it our happy duty to continue that forward march.
Communist work in the SLP
Political parties do not just drop out of the sky. So who are we? Where did we come from? Why was another party necessary when there are already several parties in Britain who refer to themselves as communist? What follows will hopefully answer these questions.
Those of us who met at the Saklatvala Hall to dedicate ourselves to working for the socialist revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat by creating the vanguard party that the proletariat so desperately needs, were all ex members of the Socialist Labour Party (SLP), some of us expelled (by Scargill’s ruling social-democratic faction) on 8 May 2004 and others who resigned in disgust as a result of those expulsions. These comrades, mostly unknown to each other before joining the SLP, all joined that party recognising the massive step forward that had been taken to effect an organisational break with social democracy. However, that organisational break with social democracy (the Labour Party) was as far as many in the SLP leadership were prepared to go. Although Scargill declared the SLP to be a “Marxist Party”, it was not. But it did have the potential to be, and the fact that Scargill declared it to be that gave us hope that he himself would work towards this end. This, however, proved not to be the case. It became clear to all of us who worked closely with him that all he wanted was a fan club, just ‘old’ Labour remade in his image.
Some comrades began organising Marxist schools and, while they didn’t receive any help or encouragement from the leadership as a whole, and Scargill in particular, they didn’t, initially, receive any serious overt criticism either. The popularity of the schools spread throughout the SLP, along with the spread of Marxist-Leninist literature and the increased readership of the SLP Youth journal, Spark (not to be confused with new Spark produced by the petty bourgeois charlatans who deserted socialism for every kind of fashionable banality), Women for Socialism, the journal of the Women’s Section of the SLP and the anti-imperialist journal Lalkar.
2002 congress and its aftermath
As the theoretical understanding of many comrades increased, so too did the level of political activity, discussion and analysis. By the 2002 Congress many members of the SLP were no longer prepared to accept anything just because it was put forward by Arthur Scargill. When he opposed a proposition supporting the DPRK (north Korea) and calling for greater links with the Workers Party of Korea, he was soundly defeated (the terms of this victorious resolution have not been acted upon, or even discussed, by the SLP NEC to this day). He was also defeated when he opposed propositions calling for the defence of council housing, becoming so confused at one point that he used his 3,000 block vote to defeat the one housing proposition that in his own words was “useless because it asked for nothing”.
In the voting for the NEC (constituency section), Marxist Leninists made massive strides forward and Scargill, who had been shaken the previous year by the firm line taken by Marxist Leninists to his yo-yo like vacillations over the 11 September 2001 strike on US imperialism (walking out of one meeting of the International Committee because several comrades disagreed with him), would now have to face a larger number of Marxist-Leninists (with plenty of support within the regions) on the NEC. Scargill and, of course, the social democratic faction that gave him total uncritical support, would now have to either admit that he/they did not want the SLP to develop into a Marxist revolutionary party (which is to admit that they wanted to retain their links with social democracy) or avoid all discussion on ideology and look for excuses to attack Marxist Leninists on other grounds.
Of course, if they were honestly seeking socialism they could always have just admitted their backwardness regarding matters of ideology and asked for help, but honesty is a major problem for all members of this faction whose only plan/hope is to be recognised as the new ‘old’ Labour and thrust electorally into power with the minimum of effort on their part.
The opening shots of the semi-covert war that was waged on us by these heroes of social democracy came at the first NEC meeting following the 2002 Congress (January 2003) when, after once again referring to the SLP as a Marxist party, Scargill informed the NEC that the block vote worked at all levels. This meant, we were told, that the youth representative would have a vote equal to the sum total of youth members, the women‘s section representative would have a vote equal to the sum total of female members (both groups around 50), the trade union section (seven members hand picked by Scargill and Paul Hardman through their ‘trade union organisation’, the North West Cheshire and Cumbria Miners Association) would have in excess of 3,000 votes, while the seven members elected by the constituencies (real members) would have one vote each!
It was also at this meeting that the first attack was launched on both Carlos Rule and the DPRK, the pretext for which was an article Carlos had written in Spark in support of Korea. During the ensuing discussion, as we destroyed his false arguments, Scargill absurdly claimed that the SLP policy of unilateral nuclear disarmament referred not just to Britain but to every state in the world. We demolished his Christian, petty-bourgeois pacifist stance, which equated nuclear weapons possessed by imperialist countries with those possessed by socialist countries; which equated the violence of the oppressed with that of the oppressors; and which demanded that the DPRK unilaterally get rid of its nuclear weapons, if indeed she had any, before he would carry out the resolution of the SLP supreme body, namely the Congress, in 2002. We pointed out that the logic of his demand was that the DPRK disarm itself and thus lay itself open to the same sort of attack to which Iraq has been subjected following the latter’s disarmament. Unanswerable though they were, our arguments did not endear us to Scargill and his cronies. Be that as it may, we pushed ahead with the work of bringing education to members of the party.
Theory vs demagogy
The fact that Marxist education was being taken up so seriously was a source of great bitterness and resentment for the social democratic Scargill faction, who at one NEC meeting berated us for having a public meeting to “celebrate someone’s bloody birthday”! The “someone” was Frederick Engels and the meeting was to discuss his work and role in the communist movement – not blowing out candles and singing Happy Birthday! The Scargill faction, which made up the majority of the NEC, not only had nothing but contempt for theory, but also, for the most part, did very little in the way of any of the ‘practical’ work they so loved to champion. In fact, although we were constantly criticised for concentrating on ‘useless theory’ and told we should be doing more ‘practical work’, when it came to elections, demonstrations, public meetings, selling papers, regular street stalls, campaigns with trade unions and other bodies, we were always to the fore while our ‘practical’ detractors were, for the most part, nowhere to be seen.
In the end, the falling into opportunism of a small group of young charlatans allowed the social-democratic faction to concentrate their fire on Carlos Rule and unconstitutionally attempt to remove him from the NEC. This set in motion a sequence of events that would see 13 members expelled on 8 May in a series of breaches of the constitution by Scargill’s social democratic faction, followed by unsubstantiated last minute charges to which no answer was allowed before the vote was taken in a farce that would make the worst bourgeois kangaroo court look like a bastion of even-handed justice. A fuller account of the facts behind this last battle inside the SLP can be read on this website. To their undying credit, nearly every active and politically aware member resigned from the SLP in protest against the illegal expulsion of five National Executive Committee members and the whole of the Yorkshire regional committee.
While we have to admit that we were unable (because of the expulsions) to develop the organisational split with social democracy that the SLP represented into an ideological split, we can lay claim to enlightening vast numbers of the SLP membership. It is worth noting that not one of us feels our time in the SLP was wasted. On the contrary, through the fire of our struggles inside that party we have come together to form a cadre force steeled and totally committed to combating all forms of opportunism, while those who opposed us with constitutional trickery, deception, lies and bluster now sit amid the rubble and ruins of a party that had great potential but which they destroyed to try and stop the spread of Marxism Leninism. For our part we are now stronger than ever.
It is, however, surely a crime against the proletariat to form a party, which is un-needed, which is only a copy of an existing party, and which can only duplicate the work already being done by that existing party, and so we have to justify our right/duty to form a communist party when there are already several in existence bearing that title.
Why have we, who now find ourselves outside of the SLP because of our openly communist beliefs, not joined one of the existing parties in Britain calling themselves communist?
The answer is very simple: we do not believe a true communist party could, or should, give any support to the imperialist Labour Party – particularly in view of the fact that we have had a number of Labour governments, all of which have revealed the truly impeccable imperialist credentials of this party.
While it is easy to dismiss out of hand the counter-revolutionary Trots, what about the Communist Party of Britain (CPB) and the New Communist Party (NCP)? The CPB was formed in 1988 on the basis of the rules and programme of the CPGB, which was in the process of being liquidated by the ‘euro-communist’ group that had taken control of it. What they re-established was not the CPGB of the 20s, 30s, and early 40s, when Marxist-Leninist theory and practice held sway, but rather the CPGB of the 50s, 60s, and 70s, when the party had immersed itself totally in revisionism. The programme they used as a basis on which to ‘re-establish’ themselves was the infamous British Road to Socialism (BRS), which had allowed the euro-communists to take control in the first place. In fact the euro-communists were only a group of revisionists within what was then a revisionist party that took revisionism to its logical conclusion, ie, liquidation.
The BRS, in a nutshell, says that a peaceful socialist revolution can take place in Britain, through the election of a left Labour and communist majority in parliament, supplemented by trade union pressure and mass democratic (peaceful) action pushing it to the left. Under this fairyland scenario, not only is it assumed that the imperialists will cheerfully accept the will of the majority and hand everything over to popular control, it is also forgotten that the trade unions are run mainly by the same sort of labour aristocratic elite that runs the Labour Party. This labour aristocratic elite has a vested interest in the maintenance of imperialism. The Labour Party is not there to respond to, let alone satisfy, the demands of the majority. For example, 2m people peacefully protested against Britain going to war against Iraq, but were totally ignored by the Labour Government. Besides, if the Labour Party, which has been an imperialist party since its inception can be pushed to the left when in power then, surely, so can all other imperialist parties? Taken to this logical conclusion the whole programme and reasoning of the CPB shows that they are well overdue for liquidation since, to follow their logic, the proletariat needs no party of its own, steeled in Marxist-Leninist theory, for it can just ‘push’ any government to the ‘left’!
The New Communist Party (NCP) was set up in 1977 by ex-CPGB members who disagreed with the BRS and its abandonment of the dictatorship of the proletariat as an aim for a future socialist Britain. However, their own programme and policy are thoroughly bankrupt. Their decision never to stand in elections and their total support for the Labour Party in elections set them only a wafer’s width apart from the revisionists that they had left, as always (and mostly uncritically) calling for working people to vote Labour was in essence sowing the illusion of a parliamentary road to socialism. Further, by inspiring faith in the imperialist Labour Party as the mass party of the British working class, which it does, the NCP is logically on the road to self liquidation, for if the Labour Party is indeed the mass party of the working class, why should anyone join the NCP? Should NCP not liquidate itself and become a part of this allegedly mass party of the working class? In view of the NCP’s cretinous support for the imperialist Labour Party, its apparent support for the dictatorship of the proletariat is entirely meaningless; it is merely paying lip-service to the revolutionary road to socialism – a goal that the NCP can never reach because, like the CPB, it seeks socialism by proxy via a Labour Government!
The NCP have lately taken to supporting other opportunist elements in elections, most notably Ken Livingstone (while he was an ‘independent’), friend of the rich and famous, and supporter of the bombing of Yugoslavia. We now hear from the NCP words of praise for RESPECT, the SWP-led anti-communist electoral alliance fronted by George Galloway, a man who had to be thrown out of the imperialist Labour Party kicking and screaming (although anyone with anti-imperialist principles would have walked out long ago) and who also supported forces dedicated to the violent break up of Yugoslavia as a state.
At this point, the leaders of these two parties will be frothing at the mouth wanting to point out Lenin’s advice on both affiliation to the Labour Party and electoral support for the Labour Party.
Lenin’s advice on affiliation is seen by some as a repudiation of his earlier calls for a decisive break with opportunism, such as in his Imperialism and the Split in Socialism, where he wrote:
“…’bourgeois labour parties’, as a political phenomenon, have already been formed in all the foremost capitalist countries, and unless a determined and ruthless struggle is waged all along the line against these parties – or groups, tendencies, etc, it is all the same – there can be no question of a struggle against imperialism, or of Marxism, or of a socialist labour movement … The only Marxist line in the world labour movement is to explain to the masses the inevitability and necessity of breaking with opportunism, to educate them for revolution by waging a merciless struggle against opportunism, to utilise the experiences of the war for the purpose of exposing all the vileness of national-liberal labour politics, and not of concealing it.”
Of course, those who choose to misunderstand Lenin on this question also choose to ignore the qualification to his advice on affiliation to the Labour Party, namely, that the CPGB must retain the right to criticise the Labour leadership and retain its own party structure and organs for the purpose of doing this. In a speech on the Labour Party at the Second Congress of the Third International Lenin said:
“While remaining in the ranks of the Labour Party the British Socialist Party enjoys sufficient liberty to write that such and such leaders of the Labour Party are traitors, champions of the interests of the bourgeoisie and their agents in the labour movement; this is absolutely true. When communists enjoy such a liberty, then, taking into account the experience of revolution in all countries, and not only in Russia (for we here are not at a Russian, but at an international congress), it is their duty to affiliate to the Labour Party. Comrade Gallacher ironically said that we were under the influence of the British Socialist Party. That is not true; we became convinced of this by the experience of all revolutions in all countries. We think that we must tell this to the masses. The British Communist Party must preserve for itself sufficient liberty to expose and criticise before the workers the traitors who are more powerful in England than in any other country.” (‘The Communist Party and the Labour Party’ by VI Lenin, Collected Works, Vol XXV)
As we know, the affiliation request was rejected and followed by the expulsions and exclusion of individual Communist Party members. There are even some members of the NCP who, to this day, dream of being able to affiliate to the Labour Party.
Another point constantly brought forward by those who choose to ‘misunderstand’ Lenin is his advice to the CPGB to support the Labour Party in a general election. This advice, it is claimed, is for all time and gives them the excuse to carry on their support ad infinitum. But Lenin only advised electoral support for the establishment of the first Labour Government – and only in order to prove to the workers the opportunist and treacherous nature of the Labour Party. Lenin’s advice was to elect Labour in order to show them up for what they were or, in his words, “support the Labour Party like a rope supports the hanging man”. Of course, once you have done this, there is no need to keep repeating the lesson. Lenin had no illusions about the British Labour Party and said: “The Labour Party is not a political worker’s party but a thoroughly bourgeois party, because, although it consists of workers, it is led by reactionaries, and the worst reactionaries at that, who lead it in the spirit of the bourgeoisie and with the aid of the British Noskes and Scheidemanns, they systematically deceive the workers.” (Ibid)
Of course, the present Labour Party does not even consist mainly of workers and is thoroughly rotten from top to bottom, yet the CPB and NCP still fawn all over it in Lenin’s name. He would have been physically sick at the sight!
These, then, are the reasons for our separate existence. We know that there are many more who share our views, some even within the two parties mentioned above. We appeal to those who share our views to get in touch with us, so that together we may make our contribution to the cause of the emancipation of the proletariat.