Communist pole of attraction

Bob Smith - For a Permanent Party Polemic Committee

In what now appears to be the beginning of an orchestrated campaign, the PCC is endeavouring to refute Open Polemic’s theory of ‘leader centralism’. One by one, members of the PCC are being trotted out to play their part. And a good thing too. Because if OP’s formulation cannot stand up to the most sustained criticism and the most withering ridicule, then we have not got much in the way of theory.

OP has argued from the outset that communist open polemic is ‘the most necessary expression of the revolutionary interest’, but for this to be true the polemic must, above all, be sharp. Half-baked and ill-conceived theories that do not stand up in the cold light of day are of little value to anyone.

In a backhanded way the PCC are doing OP a good turn. Each criticism, whatever the intent, forces us to return to our formulations, consider the criticisms made, adjust our formulations accordingly and return them to the arena of public scrutiny. At the end of the day OP may be nothing but an obscure footnote in the history of a reforged communist party - that is neither here nor there. The important thing is to get the party back on its feet and to do so at a qualitatively higher level than has hitherto been possible.

A multanimous, historically non-specific ideological party; organised on democratic centralist as opposed to leader centralist structures. These are the broad contours of OP’s ‘future party of a new type’. Via our general strategy of an inclusive open polemic we are continuing to collectively develop these concepts in front of the whole movement.

The PCC for its part should stop all its huff and puff and itself get down to some serious work instead of contenting itself with such hollow phrases as Stalinism, Trotskyism and ‘official communism’. Indeed we took up your call for all communists to work together under the banner of the CPGB precisely in order to enhance this work - so let’s get on with it.

What I really wanted to deal with this week was the PCC’s continuing preoccupation with the SLP. Mark Fischer’s article ‘No SLP witch-hunts’ (Weekly Worker, April 4) should surprise nobody. The much heralded ‘movement of the class’ is turning out to be more a movement of the disorientated left. I would hazard a guess that the majority of SLP members are not in fact militant workers breaking from rightwing social democracy but rather disenfranchised and isolated left elements seeking a substitute for the work of constructing a communist party.

Fischer is right to expose the hypocrisy of Sikorski and Co, but what did he expect? Politics is not fought out in a void, it manifests itself in a host of competing trends and tendencies. What the SLP is in danger of becoming is a giant forum for these tendencies to slug it out. While it is absolutely necessary for the fragmented communist movement to engage with each other, whether the SLP is the appropriate place is very doubtful. Scargill, who is not a Marxist-Leninist, probably anticipated this scenario and formulated his draft constitution accordingly.

Whatever the subjective intentions of communist groups entering the SLP, the objective result is most likely to be a perpetuation of our ideological and organisational fragmentation made worse by counteraccusations of witch-hunting, manoeuvring and factionalising. Fischer’s article, despite being a plea that this should not happen is indicative that this is precisely what is happening. The communist movement is highly fragmented and we are simply introducing this fragmentation into the ranks of left social democracy. Before we can establish an effective communist pole of attraction within the SLP, we must first establish a unified communist pole independent of and external to it. There are no short cuts to communist rapprochement.