Communist University ‘96

Party notes

The draft agenda for the Communist University ’96 has now been produced.

This draft will go to a number of organisations for their comments and criticisms and the final version will be produced closer to the school itself. The implicit theme of this year’s school is the question of Party - the key problem facing the advanced section of our class during this period. As the subsequent, more finalised versions appear, I will discuss them in greater detail in this column.

We urge all comrades to attend this year’s school. Places are limited, so let us know as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.

And missing the school would be a disappointment. Comrades who have attended these types of educational events in previous years will tell you that they are not simply ‘educational’ in a narrow sense. The debate and disagreements overspill the formal sessions and run on, sometimes late into the night. Sometimes very late into the night, as the bleary expressions the next day testify.

These schools are highpoints of communist learning, communist work and communist unity. This year’s takes place in South Wales, near the Gower coast. The costs are yet to be finalised, but are likely to be well under £100 for the week for early bookers. Let us know as soon as possible.

Programme Commission

We are pleased to announce the first meeting of the programme commission, a joint body convened by the Revolutionary Democratic Group (faction of the SWP) and the Provisional Central Committee of the CPGB.

We are confident that the work of this commission will greatly help the process of communist rapprochement between the two organisations. Furthermore, it will send an important message to the rest of the revolutionary left in this country. At best, these elements are cavalier in their approach to programme; at worst, they regard it as an actual impediment to their growth as particular organisations.

The work of the programme commission will illustrate how organisations from different traditions can be united within the parameters of a programme, a document that should “formulate our basic views; precisely establish our immediate political tasks” (Lenin, Collected Works, Vol 4, p229 - my emphasis). It is thus a powerful blow for communist unity, for the rapprochement of revolutionaries within a single combat party of our class.

The commission began debate on a number of areas of general disagreement. First, on the structure of the programme.

For the RDG, a comrade expressed the opinion that the programme should start with general definitions of concepts such as ‘capitalism’, ‘socialism’ and ‘communism’. This, it was argued, would bring more of a logical structure to the ‘flow’ of the document. To support this, it was pointed out the draft - produced by Jack Conrad of the CPGB - introduced these concepts without explanation in the very first section of the document - in ‘Our epoch’. This would be confusing to workers approaching the party programme for the first time, it was suggested.

Comrades from the Communist Party responded that this smacked of turning the programme into a “textbook”. In contrast, they suggested that the understanding of the concepts of ‘socialism’, ‘communism’ or ‘revolution’ should flow from the logic of the work itself. In other words, a worker reading the programme should be taken from a description of the world as it is and shown how socialism and communism were the logical consequence of what presently existed. This would teach them the real content of these concepts.

This approach corresponds with Lenin’s (which does not necessarily prove its validity, of course). He underlined that “the cardinal point of the programme should be the characterisation of the basic features of the present-day economic system of Russia and its development” (Collected Works, Vol 4, p233 - my emphasis).

The structure of the programme therefore reflects the experience of the fighting proletariat itself. Communism is the result of the movement of this historically constituted class, not of the ideas in the heads of Marxist theoreticians. The working class learns what capitalism is and what should replace it “not from academic definitions (as one learns from textbooks), but from practical acquaintance with the contradictions of capitalism, with the development of society and its consequences” (Collected Works, Vol 6, p37).

The other issue of contention explored was that of our differing understanding of ‘socialism’. I believe this difference has more of a ‘definitional’ character than that around the structure of programme. Little actually separates the RDG and PCC on the content of the tasks of the proletarian dictatorship: there seems to be a disagreement on when we can define a working class state as ‘socialism’, however. This difference can be explored in subsequent meetings and will be reported in the Weekly Worker.

Mark Fischer
national organiser