Lenin said in One Step Forward Two Steps Back (Selected Works, Vol. 2, page 433); “When speaking of fighting opportunism, there is a characteristic feature of present day opportunism in every sphere that must never be overlooked: this is its vagueness, its diffuseness, its elusiveness.” And this observation still holds true today. Many fine examples of this opportunist “vagueness” can be found in The Line of March, monthly publication of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain Marxist-Leninist (RCPBML).
One of the problems of exposing opportunism (and expose it we must if we are to go on and create the necessary unity and political understanding to overthrow the present system and replace it with socialism) in these articles is that you have to include so much of the original article to explain your argument and protect yourself from the accusations of taking quotes out of context. This being the case, we apologise to the reader in advance for dragging him/her through most of two articles in the April 2011 edition of Line of March. The first appears on page four of that journal and is entitled “RCPB(ML) Call to the Workers’ Movement”.
The article begins; “On March 26, over half a million people demonstrated under the banner, ‘March for the Alternative’. The question on everyone’s minds is how to build on this magnificent manifestation of the mass unity in action of the working class.
“The major striking feature of the demonstration was that very consciousness that there is an alternative, and that it is the broad working class and its allies who represent this alternative. It was their voice that was heard on March 26, a voice that affirms that there is a different way of running society, and that it is not just a question of dealing with tax dodgers and fat cats. The March for the Alternative was a manifestation in its own right, a demonstration of the pro-social, pro-human, spirit of the working class, half-a-million who represent the majority of society taking a stand against the ruling elite.”
So, what do the above two paragraphs mean? The march/rally “for the alternative” on 26 March to oppose Government spending cuts in services etc. was called by a less than enthusiastic TUC who certainly do not oppose all the cuts and who would welcome any genuine struggle for socialism with the same zeal as any vampire would face a plate of garlic bread and a steak! As for the march being a “magnificent manifestation of the mass unity in action of the working class”, there were many different views, slogans and agendas on display on the day, all of which proved that there was indeed “that very consciousness that there is an alternative” but certainly not on what that “alternative” is? The only real alternative, and the one that is implied in the slogan ‘March for the Alternative’, is socialism. Socialism is the only ‘alternative’ to the capitalism which is spreading all the misery that the demonstration sought to oppose. But how many of those on the march were promoting that alternative? Even the Rrrrevolutionary Communist Party of Britain (ML) were not making it at all clear what the alternative needed to be. Predominantly, the “alternatives” remained within the confines of capitalism and these basically came down to two groups, those who opposed all cuts and those who only thought the cuts were ‘too fast and too deep (the Labour Party/TUC position). The CPB and the SWP, while being a little too embarrassed to openly and clearly profess support for the second position, have by their ‘cheer-leading’ for the Labour Party put themselves into that group.
Of those who took the correct position of opposition to all cuts there were those who saw this as an end in itself, something that could be achieved within capitalism while others saw it as a major step on the road to educating our class on the need for socialism and how that is best achieved.
To praise the demonstration as something it clearly was not is not very helpful to the struggle for socialism. It is one thing to struggle for a high level of proletarian unity, recognising that this is essential for achieving anything in the struggle against capitalism, it is quite another to claim that this unity has already been achieved, or indeed that in Britain we are anywhere near achieving it. To deny the reality, to subscribe to the RCPBML’s pretty picture of a class already united around an understood and thought out socialist alternative, is to duck the real tasks of the moment, to avoid the necessary battle of ideas within the working class movement that is needed to win it for socialism – a battle which is still largely unfought.
Compare the above uncritical assertion of “this magnificent manifestation of the mass unity” with these two short quotes from the editorial written in Proletarian (CPGB-ML) issue 41, April 2011; “Despite the class treachery of the union leaderships, those who marched on the 26th will have learnt important lessons. The sheer size of the march (which took four hours just to enter the park) will have confirmed in the minds and hearts of those in attendance that a genuine fight-back is possible. The material conditions exist for resistance, as does the will to oppose the cuts; all that is lacking is the necessary leadership.”
And further “If we really want to build a movement that can fight the cuts, we have to understand that capitalist overproduction crisis lies at the heart of the recurring economic meltdowns. To bury this outmoded system once and for all will require a bitter struggle against capitalism, and against the influence of capital in the labour movement, and this begins with a struggle to break organised labour from the vice-like grip of the Labour party and all those who wish to organise an ‘alternative’ programme of cuts, privatisations, lay-offs and wars!” This position is both honest and positive; recognising that class unity will not be achieved without addressing the very real differences that divide us.
Before moving on we ask the reader to ponder the meaning of the words “a demonstration of the pro-social, pro-human, spirit of the working class”!!! All classes are human and humans are social animals which makes the above assertion as meaningless as it is true. It is like saying ‘all workers on the march had a head on their shoulders and the ability to think’! Of course, whether or not they choose to use their head for that purpose or just as a place to leave their hat is another matter but this assertion of the RCPBML is meaningless and applies to the vast majority of people of all classes.
“It is this voice of the working class and its allies fighting for the alternative which is being excluded from government.” As the article drones it goes from bad to worse. Again we have “this voice” suggesting a unity which does not yet exist, being “excluded from government” when in fact, the voice of the trade union and labour leaders, and their hangers on, is not only not excluded from government but has just spent 15 years acting as the official state mouthpiece of the ruling class. This poisonous voice was wooing the gathered workers at the rally that followed the march and which was head-lined by Ed Miliband, and this voice is whispering from many opportunist quarters, some of which we have already mentioned, telling us that we must vote Labour back into office. If this isn’t going to be challenged, if those who are spreading this poison are not going to be named and battled against in the public arena and instead the fairy-tale of “magnificent” unblemished “unity” is to be lauded to the skies, then just what exactly are the RCPBML calling on workers to do in this article?
They continue, huffing and puffing themselves up into a full-blown zephyr: “Just imagine if the half-a-million who marched for the alternative were to put into effect their thinking on the direction of the economy, apply their collective wisdom to the social and political problems of society. Just imagine if they were able to bring into being some new mechanism whereby the organised workers’ movement were able to decide on the direction of society. Their viewpoints would be brought to bear, they would be able to sum up their experience, and resolve the affairs of society in their favour. They would be the decision makers. The cuts to social programmes and public services are a manifestation of the ideology of the rich in practice. This much is common knowledge. It follows that to oppose this antisocial programme of the rich effectively, the workers must have their own independent programme which reflects their interests and ideology. This is what is meant by the alternative.”
In the entirety of this article calling for “the alternative” these communists, nay revolutionary communists, have managed to avoid the use of the words socialism and revolution totally. They have totally avoided the very concepts of socialism and revolution., In fact reading the last quote reminds us of the old vaudeville fan dancers who always promised to reveal themselves to their audience only to move a feather fan into position at the last minute. Every sentence takes you nearly there only to be hidden in a flurry of meaninglessness. The point seems to be to appear as all things to all men; many reading this quote who themselves understand the necessity for socialism and that it can only be achieved through revolution may find little that they can disagree with, just as most social-democratic renegades would find little to disagree with, it leaves itself open to almost any interpretation. This avoidance of disagreement, this fear of taking a side in the battle of ideas within our class does not build unity in our ranks, it merely allows the pro-imperialist clique, the labour lieutenants of capitalism, to continue misleading our class without question or fear of being removed from their comfy lifestyle.
But wait! What is this?: “It is this debate as to what is this alternative that must be engaged in by working people in the course of their developing practical politics to defend the rights of all, to defend public services, to defend pensions, to safeguard the future of the health service and the education system, to ensure peace and security for all.”
Didn’t the quote before this purport to tell us what they thought the alternative was? Now we are to have a debate as to what it is! So are the RCPBML going to step into the battle of ideas, take a position and fight for it? They may be of some use to working-class education after all, let us see:
“Fight the cuts, yes! Defend public services of course! But release the initiative of the workers throughout society to consciously participate in summing up their experience, to discuss what the rich do not want them to discuss, to dare to envision the alternative. This is what the times are calling for!” Right, we need to release our initiative, consciously participate in summing up our experiences, discuss whatever the rich don’t want us to discuss and envision the alternative but what was the alternative? That feather fan is in the way again! As we recall Lenin held the view that the class would be led by a vanguard party that served its interests, listened to it but which would also disseminate the necessary ideology into it and explain and give a lead on questions of the day. These revolutionary communists, however, seem to have the idea that they only need to tell us to discuss things, while they stand aloof presumably, and somehow we will then have a programme and things will change. After a little more of the above drivel they wind the article up with these stirring words:
“The working class and people are fed up with the establishment saying that there is no alternative. There is an alternative! It is the very opposite of what the establishment is doing. Let us discuss how to change the situation and turn things around, let us unite not just to fight the cuts but to make the voice of the working class and its allies heard. This voice is demanding the pro-social alternative. Let us discuss this alternative and the solutions it proposes.”
Again no attempt to explain that it is the capitalist system itself which is the cause of the problems facing the working class and oppressed people not only in this country but all over the world. It is essential for the working class to understand that if it is going to act to remedy the situation effectively in the only way possible, i.e., by proletarian revolution. What stands between the working class and the necessary class consciousness are a thousand and one purveyors of class collaborationist ideology in the working-class movement. These are the ones responsible for the lack of unity in the movement. How about we fight the wrong ideas within our class to better arm it for revolution? This includes explaining and defending historical figures, the ideology of Marxism-Leninism, the need for social revolution and a party steeled in that science and experienced in struggle to lead it? How about explaining the need for the proletarian dictatorship and how the revolution would be doomed to failure without it? How about, as a very necessary first step, exposing the Labour Party as enemies of socialist revolution and unmasking all those so-called socialists/communists who support the Labour Party as traitors to the class?
But, some readers may assert, the RCPBML does attack the Labour Party if not its supporters. To look at this we go to another article in the featured edition of Line of March. This one is to be found on page 9 and is entitled “The Need is for a Real Alternative Based on No Election without Selection.”
This article deals with the recent referendum on the voting system which asked the electorate to decide between AV and first past the post. Typically RCPB-ML do not commit themselves to asking people to vote either in favour or against, their reason being that it makes no difference “because the need is for all-sided democratic renewal of the political process”. CPGB-ML, on the other hand, advocated a vote in favour of AV, but only because it would have given progressive parties a better chance of securing votes and given a slightly more accurate picture of the state of mind of the electorate. But that is not our main concern here, we have chosen to refer to this article because it goes beyond exposing the “vagueness, diffuseness”, and “elusiveness” of the RCPB-ML to give some insight into the policies they really stand for – which turn out to be rotten revisionist policies for which all that elusiveness was a typical smokescreen. But let our revolutionary communists speak for themselves:
“That the party-dominated political system is in a profound crisis of legitimacy has become increasingly apparent over recent years. Political parties provide the link between the electorate and the government, so says the theory of representative democracy. However, the situation has become so dysfunctional, practice so out of line with theory, that political parties no longer express the political will of the people at election time. In reality, the big three Westminster parties no longer even hold that theory in practice. The conversion of the big parties into a political cartel, which has grown like a cancer in the heart of the political system, means that even the arrangement of party-in-power versus party-in-opposition no longer carries any meaning”.
In other words, what is wrong in politics today, is not that it is set up to defend capitalism for the benefit of a tiny minority of billionaires, but that its electoral system is flawed. The unavoidable conclusion is that it is possible and desirable to set up, within capitalism, an electoral system that allows the electorate to have real and direct influence on government policy. The reason that the present electoral system is “dysfunctional” is not that it is designed to serve the interests of the minority bourgeoisie, oh no, it is because large parties have hijacked it. It follows that if small parties (including the BNP?) were to dominate the electoral system then it would cease to be “dysfunctional” and would perhaps even start to serve the interests of the masses rather than the minority bourgeoisie. Furthermore, there is not even a word from the RCPBML to explain why the parties do not express the will of the people at election time (or indeed at any other time). The only idea that emerges is that they are “dysfunctional” because they are big and monopolistic. What needs to be said is that these parties do not “express the will of the people” because they represent the interests of the bourgeois class. What needs to be said is that the system is not at all “dysfunctional” because bourgeois democracy is set up to serve the interests of the bourgeois class, and the system is in fact doing this very well. Rather than explaining that bourgeois democracy is a system that is not designed to serve the interests of the working class, but exclusively the interests of the exploiting class, the RCPBML implies that there is nothing wrong with bourgeois democracy that would not be put right if small parties rather than large parties were returned to parliament. Curiously enough, if this is what they really believe, they should have been supporting the AV system – but then ordinary logic is not their strong suit.
Such political ineptitude leaves us practically speechless. It is hard to believe that people who call themselves not only Marxist-Leninists, but even Revolutionary Marxist-Leninists, would even for a moment contemplate allowing such an anti-Leninist concoction to go out in their name.
To remind comrades of the ABC of Marxism Leninism on the question of the state, and in particular the role of bourgeois democracy, we will now offer some quotations from Lenin’s pamphlet The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky which readers are invited to compare to the offerings of our ‘Revolutionaries’.
Criticising Kautsky for his treacherous blurring and distortion of the questions of state power and class dictatorship Lenin wrote:
“Take the bourgeois parliament. Can it be that the learned Kautsky has never heard that the more highly democracy is developed, the more the bourgeois parliaments are subjected by the stock exchange and the bankers? This does not mean that we must not make use of bourgeois parliament (the Bolsheviks made better use of it than probably any other party in the world, for in 1912-15 we won the entire workers’ curia in the Fourth Duma). But it does mean that only a liberal can forget the historical limitations and conventional nature of the bourgeois parliamentary system as Kautsky does. Even in the most democratic bourgeois state the oppressed people at every step encounter the crying contradiction between the formal equality proclaimed by the ‘democracy’ of the capitalists and the thousands of real limitations and subterfuges which turn the proletarians into wage-slaves. It is precisely this contradiction that is opening the eyes of the people to the rottenness, mendacity and hypocrisy of capitalism. It is this contradiction that the agitators and propagandists of socialism are constantly exposing to the people, in order to prepare them for revolution! And now that the era of revolution has begun, Kautsky turns his back upon it and begins to extol the charms of moribund bourgeois democracy.
“Bourgeois democracy, although a great historical advance in comparison with medievalism, always remains, and under capitalism is bound to remain, restricted, truncated, false and hypocritical, a paradise for the rich and a snare and deception for the exploited, for the poor.”
“Take the fundamental laws of modern states, take their administration, take freedom of assembly, freedom of the press, or ‘equality of all citizens before the law’, and you will see at every turn evidence of the hypocrisy of bourgeois democracy with which every honest and class-conscious worker is familiar. There is not a single state, however democratic, which has no loopholes or reservations in its constitution guaranteeing the bourgeoisie the possibility of dispatching troops against the workers, of proclaiming martial law, and so forth, in case of a ‘violation of public order’, and actually in case the exploited class ‘violates’ its position of slavery and tries to behave in a non-slavish manner. Kautsky shamelessly embellishes bourgeois democracy and omits to mention, for instance, how the most democratic and republican bourgeoisie in America or Switzerland deal with workers on strike.”
“There can be no equality between the exploiters – who for many generations have enjoyed education and the advantages and habits of wealth – and the exploited, the majority of whom even in the most advanced and most democratic bourgeois republics are downtrodden, backward, ignorant, intimidated and disunited.”
“Hence, so long as there are exploiters who rule the majority, the exploited, the democratic state must inevitably be a democracy for the exploiters”.
The quotes from this pamphlet should not need to be explained but we would recommend that the pamphlet, or, equally as good on the subject and also by Lenin, State and Revolution should be studied by all wishing to understand the nature of the bourgeois state, its ‘democracy’ and what it would take to overthrow it. Clearly these works are avoided and ignored by our heroes of the RCPBML, who, from the first sentence onward are trying to convince us that the political problem that exists is one created by political parties becoming a self-serving “political cartel,” but the nature of class society means that political parties in Britain do not represent or “express the political will of the people at election time” nor have they ever. The ‘people’ are divided along economic lines into classes and political parties represent a class within society. The three main parties do all represent the same (ruling) class and that is no recent development. The Labour Party, despite early claims to represent the working class has since its birth been a fully-fledged party of imperialism. This means of course that the ‘theory’ of political representation in bourgeois society was never anything but a subterfuge, an elaborate hoax to cloak the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie from workers and this is the truth that needs exposing – not setting up and knocking down an ‘Aunt Sally’ about how the main three political parties are no longer fulfilling their electoral duty to “the people”!
Before finishing this article we would just like to point out one quote from an article that the RRRevolutionary comrades of the RCPBML printed in the following (May) edition of Line of March. On page three, titled “The Need for an Anti-War Government” the article contains the following sentence; “The call for an Anti-War Government and its consolidation can focus the energy and spirit of the anti-war movement towards establishing a government that opposes war and refuses to participate in wars of aggression, upholds the principle of the sovereignty and independence of all states and nations, withdraws from warmongering alliances such as NATO and defends and adheres to the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries and absolutely rejects the use of force in settling political disputes within and between nations, states and countries.” (our emphasis)
What is this except a rejection of revolution? If you are against the use of force “within” nations how are revolutionaries to take power?
As far as we are concerned the role of communist parties is to both teach and learn from the working class, helping it to understand the necessary ideology of Marxism-Leninism, to act as the general staff of our class and lead it into revolution and on through to the building and protection of socialist society which would be guaranteed by a strong Party enjoying the support of the masses, an end to private ownership of the means of production and the dictatorship of the proletariat over the bourgeoisie.
At the moment the RCPBML seems sadly lacking in all departments.