Debate continues after aggregate
CPGB aggregate meeting passes Perspectives for 1996
AFTER much discussion continuing from last month an aggregate of the Communist Party of Great Britain passed its Perspectives document for 1996 and three resolutions related to that work.
Central to our perspectives for next year is the process of rapprochement and how to take forward the struggle to reforge the Party.
Therefore discussions around the question of the Socialist Labour Party are seen as a potentially major political focus which our organisation should throw itself into vigorously, taking part in and initiating debates. A fuller report of our perspectives will appear in the special Christmas issue of this paper.
As part of the rapprochement process a resolution on programme (printed below) was passed with significant opposition from the ‘For a permanent Party polemic committee’ faction. It felt that producing a draft programme and using it for discussions next year created a barrier to rapprochement with other groups. Instead it put forward a ‘minimalist statement of intent’ and ‘Provisional Party rules’ for our organisation. The faction felt rules have been lacking and hoped the minimalist statement could take us to a closer understanding of our areas of agreement.
Others expressed the feeling that the documents produced by this faction were for an organisation fundamentally different to the Party we are fighting for and were based on a lack of understanding of the history and struggle of our organisation. Therefore it was proposed that this document could not be fully discussed in one or even two meetings but should form part of the year-long discussions around programme. This was agreed by the majority, which felt the production of the draft programme, far from being a barrier to rapprochement, had been welcomed by many organisations.
It was agreed that our existing rules from the Fourth Conference and subsequent resolutions should be collated.
Comrades from the ‘For a permanent Party polemic committee’ faction abstained on the perspectives vote, since they disagreed with the orientation to the Socialist Labour Party, although they had proposed no amendments nor raised other objections. Otherwise the Perspectives document was unanimously passed. The resolution on programme was agreed by a 4:1 majority, and the ‘minimalist statement of intent’ and ‘Provisional Party rules’ were subsequently withdrawn.
It was raised that although all members should implement the perspectives in intervening in the work towards a Socialist Labour Party, the question should continue to be debated. Many felt that the attitude towards such an organisation distinguished communists from sectarians.
This being the substantial part of the meeting, it then moved on to pass the resolution on our call for a federal republic (printed below) with a 75% majority.
A minority raised the objection that, although the federalism question had been debated verbally, the main debate in the Weekly Worker had taken place between the minority and Dave Craig of the Revolutionary Democratic Group, without other Party members - and particularly members of the Provisional Central Committee - putting forward their views.
However it was emphasised that the resolution was not meant to stop debate but to facilitate work. Comrades from Scotland were particularly concerned, given the Socialist Forum debates, that they should have a positive working class agenda to put forward. It was felt that the practical experience of arguing for a federal republic and opening up debate around it on the left and amongst workers as a whole would take the understanding of the organisation as a whole forward. It is comrades’ duty to continue arguing against the proposal in the paper and in meetings if they are still not convinced, unless of course we are in an election campaign where it is in our manifesto, or on a particular action where it is raised as a slogan.
A joint statement on the Socialist Workers Party, written with the Revolutionary Democratic Group (faction of the SWP) in order to carry forward joint work, was agreed with a four to one majority. It was felt that these initiatives solidified the process of rapprochement as well as the quality of practical work of the two organisations. Discussions towards rapprochement with the RDG were thought a priority since, after the representational entry of the Open Polemic comrades, it is the main group so far to seize the idea with enthusiasm. We have invited the RDG to join us and hope joint statements will be replaced by joint organisation as soon as possible.
Resolution on programme
Our organisation has always recognised the central importance of programme for the working class. In many ways, our fight as a political organisation can be characterised as one to equip the advanced elements of the class with a truly revolutionary programme. Thus, while we have looked at this question specifically many times in the past, in general much of our work practically and theoretically could be described as preparatory to the programme.
A draft programme has now been produced. While it is the work of one leading comrade, this draft was commissioned by a Party conference and drew on a year of seminars presented by other comrades.
This draft is intended to facilitate broader and deeper debate, not to finish it.
To this end, our organisation will make programme its central topic of study for the 1996 seminar series. Structurally, this series will start by examining the issue generally, from the point of view of the need for programme, its relationship to Party work, the history of programme in our movement. We will then move on to discuss the draft programme specifically.
To facilitate debate and the drawing together of communists at the highest possible level, we will also invite other organisations to present their views, in the seminars and in the paper.
This process will be an important element of the fight for communist rapprochement.
Resolution on the federal republic
Our organisation has always defended the right of self-determination for oppressed nations and nationalities.
In its concrete application in Britain, the most urgent duty this principle imposed on us was the need to raise the demand for Irish freedom, for the unconditional support for the struggle for national liberation.
This did not exhaust the national question in the British Isles, however. Communists must address the national aspirations of the Scottish and Welsh peoples. It is incumbent on us to come forward with a progressive solution to the national demands of these historically constituted peoples, to make the proletariat the champion of these growing democratic struggles.
Therefore, as a development of our position of self-determination, our organisation now will adopt the slogan for a federal republic of Scotland, England and Wales.
This has two inter-connected elements:
- The demand for the abolition of the monarchy.
- The demand for the voluntary union of the peoples of England, Scotland and Wales, freely exercised through their own representative bodies. Such a representative structure will give genuine content to the right to self-determination - that is, the right to secede, or the right to unite.
The precise nature of such representative bodies cannot be decided in advance: their form, remit and content will be decided by struggle.