Fight against opportunism

The Leninist: First conference makes decision to go monthly

In January 1984 we organised the First Conference of Supporters of The Leninist, where the decision was made to go monthly

Such was our progress that in January 1984 we organised the First Conference of Supporters of The Leninist. It lasted a full two days. The decision was taken here to go from a quarterly journal to a monthly paper. Beginning with eight pages, we promised to advance to 12 within a very short time ... and additionally carry four-page theoretical supplements.

As explained in the April 1984 editorial, this was done in order to boost the struggle against liquidationism. Real forces had to be organised on the ground. A move necessitated by the “Eurocommunist victory at the gerrymandered 38th (Liquidationist) Congress”. As our handful of delegates told us, the 38th Congress was a farce. In the closed session oppositionist speeches were limited to one minute!

For once, however, the Straight Leftists acted with some gusto. They smuggled in a daily bulletin, Congress Truth. Euro goons searched likely suspects. Babies were even lifted out of prams to see what their mothers might be concealing. That happened to Susan Michie, Andrew Murray’s partner.

Crucially, the division between Gordon McLennan, the general secretary of the official apparatus, and the Morning Star loyalists became definitive and explosive. The editors, Tony Chater and David Whitfield, refused point blank to pass control over to the Euro appointees, Chris Myant and Frank Chalmers. A split that would soon result in mass expulsions and set-piece fights at the annual general meetings of the Morning Star’s People’s Press Printing Society co-op. The scene was set for the creation of the Communist Campaign Group and soon after the Communist Party of Britain.

The first edition of The Leninist paper ran with the defiant headline: “Comrades, rebel!” We called for an upping of the struggle against liquidationism. However, we also demanded solidarity with the Straight Leftists. Some oppositionists thought that they got what they deserved with their Congress Truth. We disagreed and issued the slogan: “No expulsions, and no recognition of them”.

Going monthly was not only a response to the white heat of the inner-party struggle. As explained above, we lived in the expectation of a strategic confrontation, an attempt by the Tories to inflict a massive defeat on the scale of 1926. Our hope, our aim, was that such an epic clash of class against class could be channelled into the struggle to reforge the CPGB. Militant workers could, through their mass influx, sweep away the Euros, the Straight Leftists, the McLennanites, the Chaterites, etc.

Our subsequent front-page headlines tell the story: ‘The miners’ fight is a fight for all workers’ (May 1984). ‘Strike back with the miners’ (June 1984). ‘Beat the Tory war of attrition with the united workers’ offensive’ (July 1984). ‘We need workers’ defence corps’ (August 1984). ‘With or without the TUC: general strike’ (September 1984). ‘Organise the militant minority: hit back with the miners’ (October 1984). ‘Rebuff the Tory winter offensive’ (November 1984). ‘Ramsay MacKinnock and Judas Willis: dump them’ (December 1984). ‘Victory to the miners: by any means necessary’ (January 1985). ‘No surrender’ (February 1985). ‘One year of the miners’ strike: fighting to win’ (March 1985). ‘On to the Miners’ Militant Movement’ (April 1985). ‘Miners out of jail’ (May 1985). ‘Free Dean Hancock and Russell Shankland: free the class-war prisoners’ (June 1985).

In March 1985 I delivered a lengthy speech to a day school organised to discuss the lessons of the strike. We published it in May 1985 as a four-page supplement under the title, ‘A defeat: but not a strategic one’. Clearly this was a wrong assessment. Optimism is a requirement of every Marxist, every communist, every class-struggle fighter. But so is looking unpleasant facts square in the face. Not only had the miners been defeated: so had the working class in Britain.

Indeed over 1989-91 the Soviet Union ignominiously collapsed, along with its entire eastern European bloc. The ideologues of capitalism confidently declared: ‘There is no alternative’. For my part I began a thoroughgoing study of the Soviet Union question. Amongst those whom I read was, of course, Hillel Ticktin. The conclusions I came to, which won broad acceptance amongst CPGB members, was that after 1928 what developed was not a ‘degenerate workers’ state’. Rather what came out of the first five-year plan was a freak society, an unsustainable, ectopic social formation. My studies continue ... I am hoping to publish something substantial in a few years time - maybe in 2017, the 100th anniversary of the October revolution.

The period of reaction ushered in by the defeats of the working class and capitalist triumphalism, not only here but across the globe, hardly provides the conditions for substantive advance. Indeed, not surprisingly, we suffered a number of defections, including founding members. That does not mean that nothing can be done. The class struggle has its downs ... but inevitably our class comes back again and again and will do so till final victory.

Jack Conrad