The RDG programmists

Bob Smith - For a Permanent Party Polemic Committee

For over a year now some comrades from Open Polemic have been in contact with Revolutionary Democratic Group (faction of the SWP) comrades via our joint work under the banner of the CPGB. We have worked with the RDG comrades in the CPGB London seminars, at the annual CPGB cadre school and, most importantly, on the development of the Weekly Worker. In all arenas and in all respects we have found the RDG to be precisely the type of comrades that OP considers necessary to reforge a future communist party.

Why so? Firstly, they have a set of independent theoretical positions that they are prepared to argue calmly but consistently. Secondly, they have a strategic view of the party which allows for divergent views within the theoretical ambit of Marxism-Leninism. Thirdly, they are prepared to engage in communist polemic with those who share sharply different views to their own. Fourthly, they have a pro-party orientation - they see a life beyond their own circle! All this makes them natural partners along with the Leninists and OP in the process of communist rapprochement.

Yet the OP comrades have voluntarily placed themselves under the discipline of the PCC whilst the RDG have not - they remain an independent collective answerable principally to themselves (despite referring to themselves as a faction of the SWP). So what prevents them taking the decisive step in becoming a definite faction of the CPGB organisation? The answer, made perfectly explicit in their article ‘Unity Around Programme’ (Weekly Worker 129), is the question of programme. Point 17 of their statement reads,

“The RDG could decide to become a faction of the new CPGB on the basis of the superiority of the new programme over that of the SWP. It is a programme question, not the relative size of the two organisations that is central.”

Now this seems a perfectly clear position, but in reality it needs a good deal of clarification. Does the RDG require agreement on a programme that deals with domestic issues such as the NHS, education and transport? Does it also seek agreement on international questions such as Bosnia, Ireland and Iraq? Will it insist on agreement with its detailed positions regarding the revolutionary democratic road to socialism? And will it also require agreement on its particular view that the dictatorship of the proletariat in the former Soviet Union collapsed in 1921 and that after that date Russia was state capitalist and under the rule of the bourgeoisie? If that is the basis of the programmatic agreement they seek then the chances of reaching a unity amongst disparate factions will be minimal, if not impossible.

But if on the contrary they are looking for a theoretical consensus or, as OP is describing it, ‘a common theoretical programme for communists’, then progress is more than possible. The sort of questions that face communists around the globe revolve around the type of party we need to build and the ideological parameters of that party. These are not organisational questions, but theoretical programmatic questions of the most central kind. Having united the most advanced workers and revolutionary intelligentsia around such a theoretical programme, the resultant communist collective can then begin to elaborate a revolutionary programme for the class as a whole. To attempt to forge such a programme prior to resolving our theoretical differences will only perpetuate the current fragmentation of the communist movement.

For our part, OP along with the PCC have forwarded a Minimal Platform which we believe can act as an anchor around which Marxist-Leninists can unite, irrespective of their particular programmatic proclivities.

Notwithstanding the above strategy, we would certainly endorse the RDG’s call for the setting up of a programme commission (point 24), whose first task should be to debate exactly what type of programme is now required. On this basis OP can unite with the programmists of the RDG and others of a similar orientation.