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Proletarian issue 2 (October 2004)
Why do we need a new party?
In Britain at present, there are close to a dozen parties claiming to be communist or socialist. Why, then, have comrades leaving the SLP opted to form yet another one? Surely the best thing would have been to join one of the existing organisations in order to create a bigger and more influential party? Are we worried about the possibility of becoming small fish in a big pond? Are we putting our circle interests ahead of the interests of the movement?

Here we outline in brief the fundamental differences between ourselves and other left-wing parties - differences that prevent us from joining any of them.
Opposition to the Labour Party

We are intransigently opposed to the Labour Party, which from its inception has been a party of imperialism, ie, a party that supports the enemy against which we are fighting. The Labour Party has always sought to reconcile the working class to its imperialist class enemy. Right from its birth, it has represented the well off sections of the working class, the labour aristocracy, whose class interest it cannot defend without defending British imperialism. Precisely for this reason, the Labour Party has, when in government, conducted (and when not in government supported) all our ruling class’s imperialist adventures, rubbing its hands in glee at the thought of the loot, a part of which goes towards bribing the upper layers of the working class, the labour aristocracy, who act as the purveyors of bourgeois influence among the wider masses of the working class.

Equally, the Labour Party has always striven to keep in check the important struggles of the working class when the latter has sought to extract from our rulers concessions that they were not prepared to make. The British general strike of 1926 and the great miners’ strike of 1984/85 are the most well-known examples, in both of which the Labour Party did everything in its power to inhibit solidarity actions, and generally to secure the defeat of the strikes, while its left-wingers frantically struggled to mask the betrayals by coming out in apparent support of the workers.

For us, a very important part of our everyday activity will have to be to destroy every last trace of illusions that working people might have in the Labour Party – to smash its influence in the working-class and trade-union movements. We are entirely uncompromising on this, as the British proletariat will be quite unable to fight for its emancipation if it is in any way significantly influenced by its class enemies.

The vast majority of the ‘left’ organisations in Britain to a greater or lesser extent support the Labour Party. They are prepared to criticise it, but only in order to maintain the illusion that it is possible – by continuing to support it, of course – to force Labour to abandon its pro-imperialist stance and to adopt and follow a socialist programme. Unlike these ‘left’ organisations, who believe that the Labour Party is the mass party of the working class, we believe that it is a bourgeois party and just as deadly an enemy of the working class as the other two main bourgeois parties – the Tories and Lib Dems.

The Socialist Workers Party (SWP), the main force behind the RESPECT coalition that stood in the last municipal and European elections in June this year, give the appearance of having abandoned their lifelong support of the Labour Party, but their aim is still to force the Labour Party to change by standing against it in elections, rather than to defeat and smash the Labour Party altogether. They are still prepared to treat Labour Party ‘left-wing’ MPs not as the masks for the Labour Party’s imperialist outlook that they are, but as genuinely progressive elements who are channels for Labour Party reform. As with Arthur Scargill’s Socialist Labour Party (SLP) (which is committed to opposing the Labour Party as it stands today), their complaints are all directed against ‘new’ Labour, thereby implying that the ‘old’ class-collaborationist, pro-imperialist Labour Party was quite all right.

We are not in the business either of restoring ‘old’ Labour or creating a new ‘old’ Labour Party and therefore we cannot ally ourselves with those who are in the business of creating illusions among the working class as to the true nature of the ‘old’ Labour Party. The SLP, of course, has recently proved its commitment to forming a new ‘old’ Labour Party, rather than a party designed to lead the proletariat to revolution, by expelling several comrades associated with the latter vision, thereby forcing all other members wanting to serve the interests of the proletariat to resign. It is these comrades, those who have been expelled and those who have resigned, who have taken a leading role in the founding of a new party, the CPGB-ML.

Anti imperialism

This point is, of course, closely linked to the first. Nobody would be uncompromisingly opposed to a pro-imperialist party unless they were also uncompromisingly opposed to imperialism (and vice versa).

Equally, ‘left-wing’ parties that support the Labour Party – old or new – generally prefer to turn a blind eye to imperialism. They prefer to focus on the struggle for wringing concessions from the ruling class in order to make the lives of workers in Britain ‘better’. They infinitely prefer never to ask where the benefits are coming from. They roll their eyes when communists talk about the activities of imperialism across the globe and tell us that we are not interested in the workers at home.

It’s not very nice to think that all over the world, millions of peasants are raising cash crops, from whose sale they can barely survive, instead of food for themselves and their families, in order to enable vast amounts of interests to be paid to imperialist banks; or that millions of workers are toiling under the most brutal conditions in the factories and mines of the third world, earning a pittance on which they can barely sustain themselves and their families in ignorant drudgery, while the wealth that they produce is spirited away by various imperialist concerns, thus ensuring their continued misery while sustaining tolerable conditions of living in the imperialist countries.

It is even more unpleasant to those who see our future as dependants of imperialism to consider that this necessitates being accomplices in imperialism’s wars for markets, resources, avenues of investments and for domination. All the ‘left’ organisations that are soft on imperialism, while in words opposing the wars that have been waged in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq, are notoriously inactive when it comes to trying to mobilise the working class for action to frustrate the war – as opposed to walks round Hyde Park in protest (which are all very well as far as they go, but they go not nearly far enough).

In order to avoid embarrassment, therefore, all supporters of ‘old’ and ‘new’ Labour have tended to put an embargo on any discussion of the activities of imperialism and even on the use of the word! It’s a word nobody understands, say the leaders of the SLP. Its use has to be banned because it makes us unelectable! Other ‘left’ organisations claim it doesn’t exist, or that it’s an outmoded concept, etc, etc.

Our view, however, is that the monumental prevalence of opportunism in the working-class movement can only be explained by the benefits the working class, especially the labour aristocracy, derives from ‘our’ imperialist ruling class’s looting of the oppressed countries of the world. The working class needs to understand this link between imperialism and opportunism, as well as the link between imperialism and war. Further, it needs to understand that imperialism cannot last long; that the incurable contradictions within it are inexorably driving it to its doom. It is the job of the proletariat to act so as to hasten the collapse of imperialism.

In this context, it is of the utmost importance for the proletariat in Britain to whole-heartedly support the national liberation struggles of the oppressed people, especially the people of Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan and Ireland, and to side with the oppressed people against their own ruling class. It is the urgent task of the proletarian parties in the imperialist countries to inculcate among the workers in these countries the consciousness that for them national emancipation of the oppressed people “is no question of abstract justice or humanitarian sentiment, but the first condition for their own social emancipation, to use Marx’s words uttered more than 130 years ago in relation to Ireland, at a time when that country occupied such a pivotal position for sustaining British capitalism and British reaction.

It is the duty of the proletarian parties in the imperialist countries to permeate the working class with the message that the “… revolutionary movement in the advanced countries will actually be a sheer fraud if, in their struggle against capital, the workers of Europe and America were not completely united with hundreds upon hundreds of millions of ‘colonial’ slaves who are oppressed by capital”. (Lenin, Second Congress of the Communist International, 1920)

Very few ‘left’ organisations in this country share our outlook.

Support for socialist countries

We unconditionally support the dictatorship of the proletariat in all countries where it exists. Our supporters will know that the dictatorship of the proletariat involves the broadest democracy for the working people, but exercises ruthless dictatorship over that class of person who formerly owned and/or controlled the big corporations, the billionaires, would-be billionaires and those of their ilk. It strips them of all their power and wealth, reducing them to the status of ordinary workers, devoid of all privileges. It stamps on all their attempts to regain their lost paradise.

This is a far from easy task, as the former ruling class will have all kinds of possibilities open to them – their international connections; the fact that all mass religions have been moulded to their service; the dissatisfaction that can arise as a result of setbacks (be they due to enemy action or mistakes arising from lack of experience); or the habit of servility (‘loyalty’) that has developed over centuries. As Lenin pointed out:

“The dictatorship of the proletariat is a persistent struggle … against the forces and traditions of the old society. The force of habit of millions and tens of millions is a terrible force. Without an iron party tempered in the struggle, without a party enjoying the confidence of all that is honest in the given class, without a party capable of watching and influencing the mood of the masses, it is impossible to … struggle successfully.” (Left-Wing Communism, An Infantile Disorder)

Unfortunately, the dispossessed rulers cannot overnight be dispossessed of all these instruments of their class rule in the same way that they were dispossessed of their property. As a result, everywhere the dictatorship of the proletariat has been established – the USSR, China, the DPRK, Vietnam, Cuba, Eastern Europe, etc – it has had a very rough ride.

The fight back of the old ruling class and its supporters has always had the effect of hindering the progress of the working class in improving its cultural and living standards – despite which, however, the USSR for example was able to turn its war-ravaged territory in just 10 years into a superpower capable of defeating the mighty German imperialist military machine as good as single handed. The viciousness of the bourgeois fight back cannot but hamper the democratic process to a certain extent, and is frequently the cause of loss of life and injury to innocents. It is also inevitable that from time to time there will be mistakes and errors of judgment by people on the proletarian side during the course of this life and death struggle.

All these difficulties lead the majority of ‘left’ organisations, particularly those of a Trotskyite persuasion, to throw in the towel – to proclaim it impossible to have communism except on some unachievable condition such as that it should be introduced simultaneously in every country of the world. These organisations therefore condemn the leaders of the socialist states acting to suppress the powerful attempts of the former ruling class to restore the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, denouncing them for creating tyranny whilst on a quest for mission impossible. Opposition to any real-life manifestation of the dictatorship of the proletariat goes from virulent, in the case of most Trotskyites, to lukewarm and inconsistent in the case of most revisionists, such as the Communist Party of Britain (CPB).

These organisations most often give expression to their opposition to the dictatorship of the proletariat through condemnation of that most vilified but extraordinarily talented proletarian leader, JV Stalin, who continued the work begun by Lenin and led the working class successfully to build socialism for the first time, notwithstanding all the difficulties that stood in its way. Not least, he led the Soviet people in the successful defence of their socialist gains against Hitlerite German imperialism. For proving possible what all Trotskyites and revisionists claim to be impossible, they all really hate him – just as much as the bourgeoisie does, if not more. Hundreds of millions of people around the world respect, love and cherish Stalin’s memory and heritage, because he has helped to give the working class all over the world the confidence that it can not only destroy the old system but also build a new one. What the working class of Britain needs is confidence in its ability to destroy the old, out-moded capitalist system and to build a new socialist future, not panic over the unavoidable difficulties.

It is all very well to be opposed to capitalism and imperialism – indeed, it is essential. However, it is not enough to destroy. One must have something to put in the place of what is destroyed – and what is put in the place of what is destroyed must be superior in every way.

The dictatorship of the proletariat is undoubtedly superior in every way for the working class to the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. It is superior economically, promoting full employment, a constantly rising standard of living and culture and rising production levels. It is superior ecologically as it allows for conservation methods to be introduced that under capitalism tend to be neglected because they eat into profit. It is superior democratically because proletarians participate in politics not simply by voting but by active participation in various organisations of the state. It is superior culturally because even the poorest socialist country put the interests of its working class first and ensures literacy, education, housing and health provision to a far greater extent that even the richest capitalist countries. Above all, it is superior historically because it lays the basis for solving the two major problems facing humanity – and standing between humanity and a higher civilisation – namely, starvation and war.

This superiority shines through, notwithstanding all the difficulties faced by the various socialist countries, and it shines through because of their achievements in practice, in real life, not just in theory.

Hence, we cannot for a moment think of joining those organisations, be they ever so anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist, that mock, deride and denounce the achievements of the working class in power.

The nature of our party

Having explained the three major issues that distinguish us from all other ‘left’ organisations, we would like to say a few words about what kind of party we seek to build.

Our aim is to build a truly proletarian party for the overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat and build socialism and communism. With this aim in mind, our party will endeavour to do the following:

1.    Education, knowledge, understanding

To maintain its rule, the minority bourgeois class thrives on ignorance. The majority of people in Britain today could not even tell you who the bourgeoisie are, much less what they do to us. If that continues to be the case, how will it be possible for the working class to overthrow the bourgeoisie?

There are those who believe that it does not matter if the broad masses remain in ignorance, since all they need is to follow the party. But the masses will not follow the party unless they understand why they should.

Suppose, as is very likely before too long, the British bourgeoisie decides to improve its competitive position in the international markets by offloading the burden it currently bears of paying welfare benefits to the sick and unemployed. Suppose also that under the pressure of crisis it does this rather suddenly, giving rise to widespread unrest.

If the masses are ignorant of who is depriving them and why, and look to the usual bourgeois avenues of ‘enlightenment’, they will be told that because of asylum seekers and/or other immigrants or minorities, including the communists and trade unionists who have been causing so much trouble, there isn’t enough money to pay benefits. Who will the working class turn to for leadership in those conditions – will it be the communists or fascists? It scarcely needs proof that without knowledge or understanding, not just in the party but also among at least the advanced workers, the masses will be turned against imaginary enemies and will exhaust themselves fighting amongst each other, leaving the bourgeoisie unscathed – just at a time when the bourgeoisie was in a crisis of its own making and might otherwise have been in deep trouble.

It is quite possible that in the course of spreading knowledge and understanding we trample from time to time in a quite insensitive manner on prejudices the bourgeoisie has deeply inculcated into its subject people. Maybe here and there this will cause anger and resentment and that for a time some influential angry persons can harm our movement. Maybe telling people truths they are not used to hearing and with which they will not therefore always be comfortable will lose us votes in elections and diminish the numbers we are able on a given occasion to mobilise for demonstrations. Maybe quite a few would-be activists will be put off by our frankness and go to parties which will offer tea and sympathy but no unpleasant truths, and these parties will be strengthened numerically at our expense. All these things are possible and even probable. This does not, however, detract from our duty to give to the working class – the ruling class in waiting – the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Armed with the truth the masses will eventually follow a correct path. Without it they will be led astray by the cunning and ruthless class enemy, which hasn’t survived in power as long as it has without knowing how to handle an ignorant mob.

2.    Organisation

Our cadres will be trained to organise for victory against the bourgeoisie. Without itself being well organised, even the numerical strength of the proletariat will not give it victory over the highly organised and extremely well armed forces of the bourgeoisie. Our cadres must also learn to recognise and counter bourgeois tricks aimed at derailing our movement, to distinguish friend from foe. Our party, itself highly organised and disciplined, will offer itself as the general staff of the working class army in revolt and, like any worthwhile general staff, it will have to make sure its personnel are well grounded in the necessary art and science – in this case the science of Marxism-Leninism and the art of revolutionary leadership – skills learned through diligent study of revolutionary history and theory and through years of skirmishing with the enemy.

It will be appreciated that for our party to be a useful tool for the revolutionary masses, its quality can never be sacrificed in the search for quantity. Of course, it cannot achieve much if it does not grow in quantity sufficiently to be able to provide mass education at all times and to organise a heaving mass revolutionary movement at the appropriate time. If quality is sacrificed, however, our party would be a tool that would break down under strain and which would therefore be utterly useless.

Were we primarily an electoral party then numbers would be everything and we would be looking to recruit everybody and anybody. However, as we are primarily a revolutionary party, our perspective is different. We are seeking to recruit only those who have the desire to learn, work in a disciplined manner, and in turn to educate and lead others, while striving continuously to improve; to make the sacrifices of time and money that will enable us to fulfil our obligations to the masses and build our party; to face the vindictiveness of the bourgeoisie that can cost us our lives, our careers, the well being of our families; to submit at all times to party discipline.

We consider that the working class deserves nothing but the best. We must all strive to be better and we must recruit the best. We must train sympathisers so that they acquire the necessary understanding to be good party members. There are those who consider this ‘elitist’, particularly if their own understanding has not grown sufficiently for them to see the need for a party of this type – the need for party discipline and the need sometimes to do party work at the expense of family duties.

We do not write off people who are not yet ready to join the party as useless, however. Maybe their commitments are too great; maybe they are not yet ready to put at risk their career prospects; maybe they are dubious about some aspects of our policies but still appreciate much of the work we are doing. We would point out that such people are still very important to us. The vast majority of the people who make the revolution and go on to build socialism are not party members, even though the leadership of an effective party is essential for the revolution and the building of socialism to succeed. But to the extent that the proletarian revolution is not for the benefit of the proletarian party but for the benefit of the proletariat as a whole, it will be a measure of our success when non-party people come in large numbers to help us with our work and to support us in every arena of our revolutionary activity. A good start would be to help us in the dissemination of our newspaper and attend our public functions, where our friends will also be encouraged to give voice to their own opinions about matters under discussion so that there is a mutually beneficial dialogue.

Our name

We will close with a few words about our name. It was perhaps inevitable that, with the presence in Britain of a huge array of ‘left’ parties and groups, the choice of a name would present some difficulty. We were, however, determined to be a communist party. It was pointed out that in elections in this country, parties that call themselves communist do not, in the present climate of public opinion, do at all well. Some people might think this would have been a good reason to choose a more acceptable name.

However, we consider that our mission is not so much to rally people to support our party in elections, but to support what we stand for. If they vote for us because they like our name but do not support our policies, we have gained absolutely nothing – less than nothing. If people have been won over to our politics, they will not have the slightest difficulty in voting for people who call themselves communists; indeed, they will vote for nobody else. For us, elections are only useful to the extent that they measure the maturity of the working class, and for this reason we want to be sure that the people who do vote for us genuinely support our policies – that way we won’t miscalculate when it comes to actions that rely on the support of the masses for their success.

Conclusion

By way of summary of what we aim to be, we put forward the following quotation from Stalin’s Foundations of Leninism:

"The party must be, first of all, the vanguard of the working class. The party must absorb all the best elements of the working class, their experience, their revolutionary spirit, their selfless devotion to the cause of the proletariat. But in order that it may really be the vanguard, the party must be armed with revolutionary theory, with a knowledge of the laws of the movement, with a knowledge of the laws of revolution. Without this it will be incapable of directing the struggle of the proletariat, of leading the proletariat. The party cannot be a real party if it limits itself to registering what the masses of the working class feel and think, if it drags at the tail of the spontaneous movement, if it is unable to overcome the inertness and the political indifference of the spontaneous movement, if it is unable to rise above the momentary interests of the proletariat, if it is unable to elevate the masses to the level of the class interests of the proletariat. The party must stand at the head of the working class; it must see farther than the working class; it must lead the proletariat, and not follow in the tail of the spontaneous movement … Only a party which takes the standpoint of the vanguard of the proletariat and is able to elevate the masses to the level of the class interests of the proletariat – only such a party can divert the working class from the path of trade unionism and convert it into an independent political force. The party is the political leader of the working class."
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