Walking away

Party notes

The letter from Herts supporters branch of the Communist Party announcing its intention to sever links because of the CPGB’s continued support for the struggle of the IRA is disappointing (Weekly Worker 132). Apart from the immediate issue of contention - the tasks of communists in relation to a national liberation struggle - the move of the Herts comrades displays precisely the type of frivolous attitude to revolutionary unity and Party building that has been the bane of the British left.

Other comrades will take them to task on the merit of their argument in itself. Personally, I regard their position as typical British left social chauvinism. A violent liberation struggle a thousand miles away is fine. Bring it to ‘our’ backyard, or on to the streets of ‘our’ country and just watch those ‘revolutionaries’ scramble to join the bourgeoisie in the condemnation of “terrorism”. Not a very edifying sight, I’m afraid.

But this column will make a different point. It is about Party unity, polemic and the decision to split from an organisation.

Lenin tells us that “in its struggle for power the proletariat has no other weapon but organisation” (Collected Works, Vol 7, p415) and that consequently we “value our organisation, embryonic though it is, and will defend it tooth and nail” (CW, Vol 34, p346).

Thus, our attitude to those who play games with the unity of working class organisations - who split light-mindedly or without serious struggle - should be a harsh one. In this spirit, we have always advocated that sympathisers or supporters of ours in the ranks of other organisations do not simply flounce out. We insist that they conduct a principled struggle, that they attempt to win their organisation - or at least substantial sections of it - to communism. This applies even to groups which have restricted democratic opportunities, which have little chance for debate and clarification.

In contrast, the CPGB is characterised by its openness and its democratic culture. Our letters page is the liveliest on the left and factions in our organisation are given provision for open publication and dissent in the Party’s paper.

Where has been the open struggle of the Herts comrades on the question of Ireland? The comrades were well aware of the stance of the Party majority - indeed we have clashed over the question in the past in a few party forums. Yet instead of conducting an open factional battle on this question, they have simply left.

This is to behave with childish petulance. The business of Party unity and the fight to build a viable alternative to the parties of capitalism cannot be conducted in the manner of the schoolyard. The comrades from Herts must re-assess their dilettante position, enter the Party as full members and form a faction to fight for their views. We cannot assure them much sympathy for a position that the majority of Party members find frankly pro-imperialist. However, they will certainly have respect from comrades for their pro-Partyism, they will have the opportunity to fully expound their opinions and seek to win others to them. Crucially, they will be able to continue the vital work of building a credible communist pole of attraction, the fight for the Party.

If they are not interested in such communist work of course, then the best place for them is indeed outside our ranks. We shall see.

National Organiser