Three self-delusions

Bob Smith - For a Permanent Party Polemic Committee

It is probably fair to say that relations between the majority ‘Leninist’ faction of the CPGB and the minority Open Polemic faction have reached a low ebb, and this despite our successful collaboration on the production of the eminently readable Weekly Worker. Perhaps crisis point is a little too dramatic, but the relationship is definitely fraught with tension.

Now some comrades may argue that this is purely an ‘internal’ matter for the two factions to sort out - dirty linen should not be aired publicly in the pages of the Weekly Worker. On balance OP would disagree. The relationship between the Leninists and OP, being bound up as it is with the whole embryonic process of communist rapprochement, is of concern to all communists and, as such, it must be in the public arena. Rapprochement initiatives may succeed or fail, but to know the ingredients of the process is more important than to simply note the outcome.

From our point of view the tensions between the two factions rest on three interrelated self-delusions on the part of the Leninists. (No doubt OP has a few delusions of its own). Firstly the Leninists, despite their protestations to the contrary, insist on imagining they are a party. Worse still, that they are the continuation of the Communist Party of Great Britain. You can see this self-delusion in their many pronouncements on the SLP. They really seem to imagine that their tiny Marxist circle can win the half-formed left social democratic SLP to that of a Bolshevik party. This would be a difficult enough task for a united front of communists to achieve, but for one tiny fragment of the communist movement to unilaterally embark on this task, however laudable, is stupidity borne of sectarian arrogance.

This self-delusion of ‘party’ is also reflected in their whole attitude to communist rapprochement. Instead of seeking forms of rapprochement that take cognisance of the current state of communist fragmentation, they stubbornly insist that all should join the CPGB. Others have put forward various ideas, bur these ideas have been summarily dismissed. ‘Why bother with such nonsense when we already have the communist party!’ say the Leninists.

The second self-delusion concerns the so-called Provisional Central Committee of the CPGB. This has always been a purely ‘Leninist’ forum - an undeclared faction. Yet the Leninists persist in the self-delusion that the PCC has some higher authority. It cannot be an oversight that the OP faction has never been invited or coopted onto the PCC despite some earlier cant by Jack Conrad about proportional representation on leading committees. To do so would begin to see the PCC evolve into something more than a factional body. Whether OP would take up such an offer is debatable, given our commitment to winning the concept of a Permanent Polemic Committee. But the point is clear enough - the Leninist faction knows all too well that the OP comrades would not automatically agree with every twist and turn of their politics.

The third self-delusion stems directly from the first and second. It is simply this - the PCC believes that incoming participants of the rapprochement process will happily acquiesce to every whim and diktat of the self-proclaimed PCC. Imagining that the party already exists and that the PCC is the highest body of that party, the Leninist faction regularly engage in this kidology. That’s up to them, but they shouldn’t be surprised when others don’t play along.

The whole concept of representational entry, as pioneered by OP, requires the utmost flexibility and sensitivity on the part of all participants. Ultimatums from on high are likely to yield very little. In fact they are almost certain to be counterproductive.

To move things forward I suspect a total restructuring of the PCC is now necessary.