Political perspectives 2023
Introduced, debated, amended and agreed at February 12 annual general meeting of CPGB members
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 negative anticipations, pathetic half-measures, combined forms and strange dead ends.
2. One of those combined forms and strange dead ends is the People’s Republic of China. Today, the world’s second largest economy is a proto-imperialist power and the only serious challenger to the US hegemon. Brought about by a peasant-party army revolution, the PRC now has wage-labour, unemployment, its transnationals operate throughout the globe, not least through the Belt and Road Initiative, and 60% of its GDP is accounted for by private local and foreign capitalist concerns. However, the World Trade Organisation officially categorises China as a “non-market economy”, because of the huge, commanding influence of the Communist Party of China.
3. 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 are there Vietnam, Cuba and former ‘socialist-orientated’ regimes in the third world. Various ‘official communist’ parties are kowtowing before China: eg, the Morning Star’s Communist Party of Britain. 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’.
4. Ukraine needs to be seen in the context of the struggle by the United States to reboot its global hegemony. While we oppose the Russian invasion, it is all too clear that the US and Nato are fighting a proxy war. Not only is there the aim to defeat and dismember the Russian Federation: there is the aim of putting a stop to the challenge represented by China, and therefore the danger of wider war, including nuclear war.
5. We must continue to vigorously expose social-imperialism and social-pacifism. Peace and the continuation of capitalism are incompatible. A principled position on the Ukrainian war recognises that the main enemy is at home: ie, our own ruling class. Supporting Nato in the name of Ukrainian ‘self-determination’ is to side with imperialism, not least British imperialism and, in the last analysis, is incompatible with supporting strikes and defending workers’ living standards and rights.
6. Iran remains a major issue in world politics. With the failure of the Vienna talks and the formation of Israel’s far-right government, there most certainly exists the possibility of a ‘surgical’ strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities, yet another round of ethnic cleansing, further annexations of Palestinian lands and a much wider regional conflict. We call for the overthrow of the theocratic regime in Tehran from below. We oppose a US-engineered operation in the name of ‘Women, life, freedom’. We demand an end to sanctions and war threats and a nuclear-free Middle East. During 2023 we should look for opportunities to raise Hopi’s profile beyond Iran and the exile diaspora.
7. Humanity not only faces the threat of regional and global war: there is the probability of runaway climate change. Everything tells us that the target of limiting temperature rises to 1.5℃ above pre-industrial levels by 2030 will be surpassed in the next 10 years or so. The chances are that things will not stop there and the world will experience all manner of tipping points. Capitalism, which is predicated on growth for the sake of growth, is approaching its absolute limits and is threatening to bring about the collapse of civilisation and a new age of barbarism.
8. There is no way market forces and selfish individualism can deal with the climate crisis - the very idea is risible. We must seek to give the climate crisis movement a clear, strategic perspective. Demonstrations, petitions, sit-downs, sabotage, revenge attacks, 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.
9. Our publication of The Little red climate book is a contribution aimed at merging the climate movement with working class socialism and the international transition to communism - the obvious and only rational solution to the climate crisis.
10. Last year we said this: “[T]here 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.”
11. As things turned out, though there has been, in comparative terms, a huge upturn in strike action, this is about defending existing pay and conditions, not making gains. Nato’s proxy war in Ukraine has sent energy prices soaring. Inflation has shot up to 10% and beyond. In the public sector, and sectors where the government is in effective command, wage offers mean in actual fact wage cuts. So it is hardly surprising that large numbers of workers have voted for and taken strike action.
12. Mostly strikes have been token - one day here, another day there. Such economic struggles can, however, be made political by formulating class-wide demands and fighting together for common objectives. Eg, across-the-board, inflation-plus pay increases, reduction in hours, abolition of the anti-trade union laws. We are right to recommend ‘minimum service levels’ in certain areas, not least health, but - and this is vital - under workers’ control. Government moves to impose ‘minimum service’ levels by law, further restrictions on trade unions and allowing employers to sack striking workers are clearly political and need to be answered politically.
13. Once great hopes were placed in so-called parties of recomposition. In practice, as we repeatedly warned, they proved to be merely reformist, they have simply collapsed or easily slotted into the politics of bourgeois coalition government: Respect, Syriza, Podemos, Communist Refoundation, Die Linke, the Workers Party of Brazil, etc. Despite that sorry record, there are still those who hanker after yet another broad left party.
14. If Sir Keir forms a Labour government, we should expect one, two … many broad-left party initiatives. Most will be trivial and essentially diversionary. However, a serious broad-front party initiative could allow us limited openings for making the argument for a Communist Party. But we should not expect anything much before the next general election.
15. Unsurprisingly, so far none of these broad-party initiatives have succeeded. Nor should we expect any success in the future. Vague, indistinct, woolly politics go hand in hand with conferences that are top-table-dominated rallies, with little or no time allotted for meaningful 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 cosy agreement, 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).
16. Constitutional questions remain of crucial importance and continue, as is predictable, to blindside the economistic left. We should expect the Scottish question to continue to foam and froth in 2023, including in the indirect form of the Gender Recognition Reform Bill. We should also expect much of the non-Labour left to echo Scottish National Party demands and in general tail or simply fuse with Scottish nationalism. Given the Westminster government’s stonewalling, there is still the possibility of an unofficial or illegal independence referendum and - especially post-Nicola Sturgeon - even a Catalan scenario.
17. Nor should we discount the possibility of Sinn Féin emerging as the biggest party in Ireland (north and south) and demands for a border poll. That sections of the left want to serve in a Sinn Féin bourgeois government testifies to complete political collapse (eg, the Socialist Workers Party’s co-thinkers in People Before Profit).
18. 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. Despite Brexit we retain our commitment to a United States of Europe and putting it under working class rule. Not that we shall join the delusory efforts of ‘returners’ to reverse Brexit and rejoin the ordo-liberal EU regime.
19. Of course, the Brexit issue has not gone away. In spite of a certain amount of Brexit regret among capitalists and in the polls, the underlying policy of the US is to target the EU’s Franco-German core through forcing them into line over the Ukraine war - a policy which supports, rather than opposes, the continuation of Brexit. Efforts by the Sunak government to ‘cool’ the Northern Ireland protocol issue appear not to be working. The immigration issue, which is central to Tory Brexit campaigning, certainly remains a ‘hot’ issue.
20. Interestingly, Sir Keir Starmer, while promising to “fix the UK’s post-Brexit relationship with the EU” and furiously courting big business, has called for a constitutional convention. Sir Keir wants increased federalism and the House of Lords replaced with an elected (by proportional representation) second chamber - a recipe for a constitutional deadlock. Having effectively seen off the huge, but politically insubstantial, Corbyn movement, Sir Keir is well placed to become prime minister. The Tories are in disarray and face an electoral drubbing. Of course, that is not a hard and fast prediction: things can suddenly change because of the strike wave, a scandal, the Ukraine war, etc, etc.
21. We retain our perspective of transforming the Labour Party into a united front of a special kind. However, with our small forces we were unable to influence the Corbyn movement in any significant way. Indeed, the Labour left has suffered an unprecedented strategic defeat. The main weapon here was the ‘Anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism’ big lie. That the official Labour left went along with the big lie, including Jeremy Corbyn - that or maintained a criminal silence - has resulted in profound demoralisation and disorientation. Whether or not it can ever recover is an open question. Without a Communist Party - even a proto-Communist Party of moderate size - attempts to transform the Labour Party into a united front of a special kind are certainly illusory.
22. We are at present a small propaganda group which presents ‘many ideas to a few people’ - ie, the existing left. However, we single out one key task: the formation and building of a mass Communist Party. If the existing left were to commit to that fight, there is the real chance of explosive growth. Obviously, however, this is alien territory for those trapped in the dead end of the confessional sects and their broad fronts, which cleave either to the liberal wing of the bourgeoisie out of fear of the chauvinist right - that or they ape, seek to give a ‘left’ gloss to, the politics of the chauvinist right over issues such as Europe, protectionism, migration, minority rights, etc.
23. Our principal weapon is the Weekly Worker and its web presence, and secondarily our other publications. Comrades who are not already writing need to develop themselves as writers - if hesitant, initially by writing letters. We need to promote the paper and our other publications in person, primarily at events which mobilise left opinion. We should also promote our ideas using social media, while trying to avoid getting dragged down the rabbit hole of ephemeral social media ‘debates’.
24. We will continue to develop our commitments made in Perspectives 2022 to study working class solutions to the woman question and encourage debate in the Weekly Worker on it. We will also continue to develop and consolidate our international links through the exchange of speakers, articles, joint campaigns, online meetings, schools, etc.