WeeklyWorker

17.02.2022
Perspectives: the state of one’s ideas, the facts known to one, etc, in having a meaningful interrelationship

Perspectives 2022

As proposed by the PCC and agreed by the AGM of CPGB members held on February 12

1. We live in the epoch of the transition from global capitalism to global communism. However, nowhere is the working class in a position to take power. That has produced and continues to produce all manner of combined forms, pathetic half-measures, negative anticipations and strange dead-ends. Such is our present-day tragedy.

2. Because of a string of political and economic defeats, because of deindustrialisation and offshoring, class-consciousness - that is, the class-consciousness of the working class - is at a very low ebb in Britain and throughout much of Europe and North America.

3. Working class collectivism has been further weakened by the rise and incorporation of identity politics. Liberal politicians, media commentators and public intellectuals, global corporations, even military chiefs insist on the importance of ‘diversity’ and ‘equity’. However, while official anti-racism and official anti-sexism serve to improve the career opportunities of a minority, the doctrine of equal opportunities is illusory - not least because it is based on individualism and accepts capitalism, class divisions and the market as a given.

4. Tokenism, restrictions on free speech and the moralising condemnation of those deemed to be privileged by reason of race or gender, combined with deindustrialisation and offshoring, have predictably fuelled the growth of a chauvinist right, which is ready and eager to fight so-called ‘culture wars’ to whip up anger and build a mass following.

5. Overall, at this particular juncture politics continues to move to the right. The evidence is all too clear: India, Russia, Ukraine, Iran, Turkey, the Philippines, Poland and Hungary. In the UK there was the ‘Get Brexit done’ general election in December 2019. Boris Johnson’s Tory Party scored a thumping victory, while the Labour Party, under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, went down to a crushing defeat.

6. True, Donald Trump lost - and not only in November 2020. His attempted self-coup ended in failure on January 6 2021. Yet, despite the promises, Joe Biden’s presidency shows all the signs of becoming a lame duck, crucially when it comes to Build Back Better. Not only has this neo-Keynesian package been massively pared down: there is the distinct possibility of it not even getting through Congress. And amid continued talk of coups and counter-coups, the Republican Party looks well placed for the 2022 and 2024 elections.

7. While Democrats and Republicans are bitterly opposed to the point of gridlock in domestic politics, when it comes to foreign policy, especially China and Russia, there exists a broad consensus.

8. The US is attempting to reverse its relative decline and doubtless that will continue to generate war and the threat of war (potentially the outbreak of a big war). We would be foolish in the extreme to declare that the American century is over and done with. Firstly, the dollar remains the global reserve currency. Secondly, the US possesses unequalled economic, military, technological, diplomatic and ideological power. Thirdly, there is the US-dominated system of alliances: Nato, the Five Eyes, the Quad and Aukus. The US has only one serious rival, and that is China: the world’s second largest economy and a proto-imperialist power. The EU is hopelessly divided and militarily weak. Russia is a military, though not an economic, rival. Japan and the UK are little more than useful minions. China alone is a full-spectrum challenger - economic, military, diplomatic, technological and ideological. Hence the propaganda over freedom of navigation opportunities (FONOPs) in the South China sea, Huawei, Taiwan, Tibet, human rights, Hong Kong democracy and the so-called Uyghur genocide. All carefully crafted propaganda, designed to cover the pushback against China. The left must project a clear defeatist line in relation to the aggressive policy being pursued by the US and its allies, without in any way prettifying the regimes in China and Russia.

9. While it is clear that China will not be a viable alternative hegemon any time soon, over the last three decades the country has seen massive, historically unprecedented, economic growth, especially since 2001 and World Trade Organisation membership. Modern China’s revolutionary origins, state-controlled capitalist development, successful integration into the world market and Mao-Deng-Xi ‘official communism’ have made it something of a model. Not only is there Vietnam, Cuba and former ‘socialist-orientated’ regimes in the third world, but various ‘official communist’ parties have started to take their lead from China: eg, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation. There are also former Trotskyite converts. Surely there will be many more leftwing Sinophiles. Marxists - ie, genuine communists - need to develop a concrete analysis of China in all its contradictory complexity, not succumb to the intellectual prostitution of slavishly echoing the official doctrine of ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’.

10. We still live in the shadow of the 2007-08 global economic crisis. It showed in no uncertain terms the failure of neoliberalism, but, contrary to the expectations of many on the left, this fuelled the growth of the nationalist right. That should serve as a warning, when considering the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and the distinct danger of runaway climate change.

11. The Covid-19 pandemic could not be contained through market forces and selfish individualism - that idea is risible. State organisation had to be deployed on a wartime scale. The left needs to use this indisputable fact to strengthen arguments for direct planning, the rule of the working class and socialism.

12. There will almost certainly be a very much welcome Covid-19 wave of workplace militancy - in part a response to the post-Brexit labour shortage, in part a response to the rising cost of living, in part an opportunity to make gains. We must at every opportunity seek to raise the economic struggle to the level of a political struggle. Syndicalism in one form or another will probably revive.

13. There is no way market forces can deal with the climate crisis either. Indeed, with the climate crisis capitalism approaches its absolute limits. We must seek to give the climate crisis movement a clear, strategic perspective. Demonstrations, petitions, sit-downs, sabotage, media stardom - none of that can bring about the fundamental system change that is needed. Indeed we should warn about the danger of ‘beyond politics’ protests feeding into some sort of ‘climate socialism’ - imposed by, or agreed in close collaboration with, the capitalist state.

14. Socialism - that is, the rule of the working class and the transition to communism - is the obvious and only rational solution. But what that poses is not the necessity of reindustrialisation and reshoring production - a delusional nationalist perspective. No, what is posed is independent working class politics and the building of a mass Communist Party. Obviously, however, that is alien territory for an existing left, which - trapped as it is in the broad frontism of the confessional sects - either cleaves to the liberal wing of the bourgeoisie out of fear of the chauvinist right, or it apes, seeks to give a ‘left’ gloss to, the politics of the chauvinist right over issues such as economic protectionism, migration, minority rights, etc. Meanwhile there is the ‘bread and butter’ politics of routine trade unionism.

15. Once great hopes were placed in so-called parties of recomposition. In practice, as we warned, they proved to be merely reformist, easily slotted into the politics of bourgeois coalition government. That or they have simply collapsed: Syriza, Podemos, the Workers Party of Brazil, Communist Refoundation, Die Linke, New Anticapitalist Party, Respect, Left Unity, Scottish Socialist Party, etc. Despite that sorry record there are still those who hanker after yet another broad-left party.

16. We should expect demands for a second Scottish independence referendum to come back to the top of the political agenda in 2022. We should also expect much of the non-Labour left to echo such demands and in general to tail, even fuse with, Scottish nationalism. Given the Westminster government’s stonewalling, there is the prospect of unofficial or illegal referendums and even a Catalan scenario. Nor should we discount the possibility of Sinn Féin emerging as the biggest party in Ireland (north and south) or the effects of the growing popularity of demands for Welsh independence. Communists are clear: we support Scotland’s right to self-determination but oppose calls for the break-up of Britain and an independent Scottish capitalist state. We stand for a federal republic of England, Scotland and Wales and a reunited Ireland.

17. However, there are shafts of light. In Latin America there is the pink tide. Leftish governments in Mexico (2018), Argentina (2019), Bolivia (2020), Peru and Honduras (2021) and Chile (2022) testify to the rejection of neoliberalism. But, though this provides a wide sea for Marxists to swim in, official horizons are limited to getting a better deal for the poor within the existing social order. Revealingly, the US has largely tolerated such developments. The pink tide either poses no threat, will be contained or will be reversed, in no small part due to popular disappointment. That, presumably, is the US calculation. Meanwhile, blockaded Venezuela and Cuba serve as a warning of the poverty, the oppression, that comes with ‘socialism’ - a powerful weapon in US domestic politics, not least because of its 63 million Latinos (18.7% of the population).

18. From the beginning we argued that the Bernie Sanders movement in the US was of real significance. To have stood aloof from it would have been criminal. For the first time in a hundred years masses of Americans have begun to describe themselves as socialists. Of course, what is meant by socialism owes more to universal healthcare than the rule of the working class. Nonetheless, that, and the very considerable growth of the Democratic Socialists of America, give Marxists a real chance of building themselves into a serious force.

19. In Britain there was the Corbyn movement. Once again, to have stood aloof would have been criminal. The election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader and the mass influx into the Labour Party radically altered the political landscape. True, the level of class-consciousness of Labour’s existing and newly acquired mass membership was never high. Indeed there was widespread desperation and therefore a willingness to believe that a Corbyn-led government was just about to usher in an era of equality, prosperity and peace.

20. There were more than a few broad-left initiatives. All of them failed, not least Momentum. Vague, indistinct, woolly politics went hand in hand with conferences that were in fact top-table-dominated rallies, with little or no time allotted for serious debate. The common assumption of all such broad-left initiatives is that political strength derives not from developing a definite programme and firmly upholding principle, but from compromise, from agreementism, from selling out, from marginalising, even silencing, awkward leftwing voices and ideas, in order to be acceptable to the politically naive (and, therefore, to the right, and ultimately the capitalist class).

21. Indeed, that is what the grand strategy of the Corbyn leadership, including the Straight Leftist apparatchiks, amounted to. Hence the tailing of the ‘remain’ wing of the establishment during the 2016 referendum campaign, the never-ending attempts to conciliate with the Parliamentary Labour Party and the willingness to actually participate in, even to urge on, the ‘Anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism’ witch-hunt. Allies, friends, good comrades, were thrown to the wolves in ever-increasing numbers, but, inevitably, Jeremy Corbyn himself became a victim. Deep demoralisation and widespread disorientation had to follow.

22. Nonetheless, because of the hard casing provided by Labour’s organisational structures, there was the outside possibility of channelling mass discontent into transforming the Labour Party.

23. The ‘Anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism’ witch-hunt was the form taken by the countertransformation. Yet, despite the left being investigated, suspended, expelled, cowed and much reduced - not least through mass resignations - the witch-hunt continues apace and should be expected to do so. Not because Sir Keir thinks he has no hope of becoming prime minister and lives in dread of the left - a stupid idea. No, because Sir Keir wants to become prime minister, he feels compelled to prove to the establishment - precisely because of the genuine shock and horror triggered by the few, brief Corbyn years - that Labour is once again a safe alternative party of government and would be a completely reliable ally of the US administration and its imperial foreign policy. In other words, the witch-hunt sends a reassuring ‘Pro-Zionism equals pro-Americanism’ message. Israel, in and of itself, is, of course, merely a side issue. It is the UK alliance with the US hegemon that really matters.

24. We continue to fight for the transformation of the Labour Party into a united front of a special kind. Towards that end, we shall, where appropriate, maintain an engagement with the organisations of the Labour left. Nonetheless, while lessons might well be learnt further down the line, we have to admit that in immediate terms we failed. It was the ruling class, with its state machine, courts, media and bought and paid-for politicians, that won. The Labour Party’s bourgeois pole is very much back in the saddle. As to whether or not Sir Keir is, like Tony Blair, set on a course designed to deLabourise Labour and re-establish the great Liberal Party, that is very much an open question. Meanwhile Labour remains a bourgeois workers’ party.

25. That we had comrades within our ranks who fell in with the Corbynites, who wanted to downplay the importance of the witch-hunt, who joined the witch-hunters or who embraced the politics of broad leftism testifies to our own political fragility. Lessons must be learnt at all levels of the organisation in terms of combating the inevitable rightist pressures within the Labour Party. Clearly, however, neither conciliationism, making excuses for those going to the right, nor opting out of the fight within Labour in the name of revolutionary purity are answers.

26. We have had programmatic differences over the woman question - specifically the collectivity and political economy of the working class versus the illusory goal of obtaining equal opportunities within bourgeois society. Once again this testifies to a certain political fragility. We shall encourage members, supporters and party organisations to study working class solutions to the woman question in the coming year. We shall also encourage debate in the pages of the Weekly Worker.

27. Due to the Corbyn movement, Labour Party mark two projects came to be seen as what they always were: ridiculous. Eg, Arthur Scargill’s Socialist Labour Party, Respect, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, and Left Unity. However, with the ignominious collapse of the Corbyn movement we should expect such projects to be given a new lease of life in one form or another. The CPGB has warned against all Labour Party mark two illusions. The CPGB resolutely posed the necessary alternative: the unity of the revolutionary left in building a mass Communist Party.

28. That said, we do not shun participation, even leadership, in such projects. Obviously we make a judgement based on political weight, importance and potential. At the risk of oversimplification, we seek, if we directly involve ourselves, to expose, to draw sharp lines of demarcation, to bring out latent contradictions - either that or we encourage, where there is the possibility, the development, the logic that exists in the unity of serious left forces (seriousness being defined here less by numbers, more by programme and politics) towards a proto-Communist Party.

29. Our organisation remains very small and we should not expect any dramatic change in the short term - that despite the total collapse of the Corbyn movement, the sterility of the confessional sects and the existential challenge represented by the danger of runaway climate change. Nevertheless, while a proto-Communist Party might well be built through recruiting ones, twos and dozens, our strategic expectation is that the initial breakthrough will come through a series of splits and mergers of the existing left groups (including those inside the Labour Party). In terms of going through the left, there is every reason for optimism. What our organisation does and says matters. The Weekly Worker - not least through its web presence - is read far and wide. As shown by the ready response we get from appeals for financial support, it is also much appreciated and highly valued way beyond our immediate ranks (including by not a few who, at present, consider themselves political opponents).

30. We have no wish to pursue the folly of an ‘oil slick international’. Nonetheless, greater attention will be paid to developing and consolidating our international links through the exchange of speakers, articles, joint campaigns, online meetings, schools, etc.

31. Because of the Covid pandemic we launched the weekly Online Communist Forum. This has proved to be a successful format and is something we shall maintain on a permanent basis and seek to build and improve upon.

32. There is also Hands Off the People of Iran (Hopi). Despite the Vienna talks there still exists the danger of war in the Middle East: eg, an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. While calling for the overthrow of the theocratic regime in Tehran from below, we recognise that US imperialism is the main enemy. We demand an end to sanctions and war threats and a nuclear-free Middle East. During 2022 we should look for opportunities to raise Hopi’s profile.

33. Communist University has for long been a highlight of our year. Once again, because of the Covid pandemic, we were forced to abandon face-to-face events. Instead we held summer, spring and winter online CUs. Again, that is something we should make a permanent feature of our year, except that, as soon as we can, we shall reconstitute a face-to-face Communist University - hopefully in August 2022.

34. We shall, in conjunction with this, also relaunch our Summer Offensive fund drive in 2022, with a target of £30,000.

Proposed amendments

Amendment 1

Proposed by Anne McShane, Ollie Hughes and Sarah Stewart

Insert in paragraph 1 after the first sentence:

“Humanity faces an existential threat from capitalist-produced global warming, which proves that revolution is not only historically overdue, but urgently necessary.”

Amendment 2

Proposed by Jim Nelson

Insert in paragraph 6 after “Congress”: “and Biden’s real actions have done nothing to change this”.

And in paragraph 7 after ‘Republicans’: “give the appearance of being”.

Amendment 3

Proposed by Alex Carnovic

Replace paragraph 10 with:

“We still live in the shadow of the 2007-08 global economic crisis, which has shown in no uncertain terms the failure of neoliberalism. Contrary to the expectations of many, this has not aided the left. Since 2015-16, the crisis has instead found expression in an ongoing ideological war between an ailing (neo) liberalism, on the one hand, and a resurgent conservatism promoting the return to a more ‘organic’ society and stronger social cohesion. Much of the left has since reassembled itself around this front line, tailing either faction of the bourgeoisie instead of developing its own independent analysis and programme.”

Amendment 4

Proposed by Ollie Hughes and Anne McShane

Replace paragraph 26 with:

“We have had programmatic differences over the woman question - specifically the political economy of the working class versus the pursuit of a career within bourgeois society. We resolve to carry out a programme of study on working class solutions to the woman question in the coming year.”

Amendment 5

Proposed by Sarah Stewart

Reject both the current paragraph 26 and the proposed replacement.

Amendment 6

Proposed by Alex Carnovic

In paragraph 29, replace entire text after “runaway climate change” with:

“While a proto-Communist Party might well be built through recruiting ones, twos and dozens, our strategic expectation is that the initial breakthrough will come through a series of splits, mergers and regroupments of the existing left (including the left inside the Labour Party).

“The British Trotskyist organisations that made up much of the existing left in the past few decades look increasingly unlikely to provide the material for such a process in the future. Thirty years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, organised Trotskyism has not only failed to constitute itself as a viable alternative to the ‘official communist’ movement: it has in many respects proved to be an even less attractive option. One consequence is that the Trotskyist groups are now ageing, slowly fading organisations that no longer pick up significant numbers from among their traditional recruitment base (university students) or enjoy any authority on the British left (they were irrelevant throughout the Corbyn period despite some individuals’ Trotskyist backgrounds). Another consequence has been wide-scale political and/or organisational liquidationism (see the IS diaspora). A third consequence has been an upswing of unreconstructed Marxism-Leninism among younger people, including (but not limited to) a recent membership influx into the YCL and CPB.

“On the whole, the British left after Corbyn is disoriented and rudderless, and it is an open question in which direction it will evolve. We will promote our principles and programme under any conditions and warn against errors, but we are aware that these conditions - crucially, the political landscape of the existing left - might change considerably in the medium-term future.

“There are reasons for optimism. What our organisation does and says matters. The Weekly Worker - not least through its web presence - is read far and wide, and our theory has influenced groups of younger comrades outside Britain. As shown by the ready response we get from appeals for financial support, it is also much appreciated and highly valued way beyond our immediate ranks (including by not a few who, at present, consider themselves political opponents).”

Amendment 7

Proposed by Ollie Hughes

In paragraph 29, after “our strategic expectation is that the initial breakthrough will come through a series of splits and mergers of the existing left groups (including those inside the Labour Party)”, add the following:

“However, we recognise that an organisation that fails to recruit new cadre is a dying organisation. We need a renewed emphasis on recruitment, backed up with Marxist education resources and a reading course targeting potential recruits that are available on the website.”

After this, split the paragraph into two and delete “not least through its web presence” from the new split paragraph.

Add a new paragraph after the split one:

“As well as retaining our commitment to the print edition of the paper we recognise the increasing importance of the online edition. However the online archives of the Weekly Worker are incomplete, with large numbers of missing issues and articles in need of repair. Ongoing efforts to restore and expand The Leninist and Weekly Worker archives are to be encouraged. Over the lockdown we have delivered a new website for the party, and this year we will initiate a similar project to improve the Weekly Worker website.”

And add the following as a new stand-alone para:

“We also aim to engage more directly with the left by increasing our interventions both quantitatively and qualitatively. This means organising fringe meetings and hosting stalls at the events of other groups, the production of appropriate material: leaflets, broadsheets and pamphlets, followed by critical reporting in the Weekly Worker.”

Amendment 8

Proposed by Ollie Hughes

Add the following as a new stand-alone paragraph before the current paragraph 30:

“Our organisation creates a lot of new content, and possesses quantities of earlier material. But it is acknowledged that we do not maximise the online availability and visibility of our work. To ensure all material is made available online with maximum exposure requires a significant commitment in terms of effort and skill, and to that end a new role will be instigated to manage our online presence (particularly on social media) and to provide regular status reports. This role should be appointed by and answerable to the PCC.”

Amendment 9

Proposed by Ollie Hughes

Delete paragraph 34.