Report: International communist seminar in Brussels

The CPGB-ML was represented at this year’s 17th international seminar in Brussels, hosted as usual by the Workers Party of Belgium. The seminar ran from 16-18 May and had as its topic ‘The working class, its role and its mission today. Tasks and concrete experiences of the Communist Party in the working class and the trade union.’

Each party participating was invited to send a 4,500-word contribution in advance of the seminar, so that these could be distributed in advance of our meeting, enabling a higher level of debate to take place. (Read contributions online at

A lengthy General Conclusions document (also available online) was compiled by the WPB with the assistance of representatives of various prestigious communist parties, such as the KKE from Greece and the PCdoB from Brazil.

This document does represent a very high level of unity among the participating organisations, but it evades the question of the labour aristocracy in the imperialist countries. This was apparently done deliberately because not every party in the group drawing up the document agreed that the labour aristocracy exists or, if it does, that it continues to act as the agent of the bourgeoisie in the working-class movement.

The view was also expressed at the seminar that it was not true to say that the industrial working class in the imperialist countries was declining in numbers and percentage of workforce to any significant extent, as was the idea that work in the trade unions was the only important form of activity for communist parties.

While recognising the very high standard of unity represented by the General Conclusions document, our contribution focused on the contentious issues mentioned above.

It was pointed out that it is certainly important for communists to be flexible in tactics (the victories of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) being a current example), but precisely in order to be flexible it is important to be very clear about the class forces against which communists have to operate, both in the unions and in every other type of communist work aimed at arming the working class ideologically for the coming battle to overthrow bourgeois rule.

Therefore, to remain uncertain about the nature and role of the labour aristocracy, the principal channel through which bourgeois ideology is transmitted into the working-class movement, is a recipe for disaster and failure. We urged comrades who had doubts on this point to engage as a matter of urgency in a study of Lenin’s works on the subject, such as Imperialism and the Split in Socialism, with a view to clarifying their ideas in order the better to be able to serve the working class.

The other wrong ideas expressed regarding industrial workers in imperialist countries arose because participant organisations were anxious to refute the claims of certain petty-bourgeois organisations that the working class in imperialist countries no longer exists, as a result of the transfer abroad of traditional productive industries, such as mining, steel, textiles, shipbuilding, etc.

It is obviously a petty-bourgeois absurdity to say that the working class no longer exists – it is, on the contrary, a growing proportion of the population, since capitalism works tirelessly to make the poor poorer and more numerous while the rich grow richer and fewer. It does not, however, help to counter this nonsense if we respond with nonsense of our own, by trying to claim that phenomena such as the loss of jobs in industrial production in imperialist countries do not in fact exist.

These facts no doubt make our job as communists more difficult, but it is our duty to find ways of reaching out to the whole of the working class, both those organised in unions as well as the increasing number – in imperialist countries – who are not.

Our party’s contribution from the floor, which focused on these points, is available on our website.

We gave our sincere thanks to the WPB for the huge effort put in by them to mount such a prestigious and valuable event as the annual international seminar, which is a truly important occasion for parties from all over the world to compare experiences and to learn from each other.

The next international seminar, to be held in Brussels in May 2009, will address a question of concern to all, namely, how to mobilise youth.

> The full text of the speech given by Comrade Ella