OP still talking

After last Sunday’s conference the search for organisational forms which avoid the discipline of democratic centralism goes on

Last weekend CPGB comrades attended a conference organised by Open Polemic, entitled ‘Communist rapprochement - the next step’.

Since OP ‘suspended’ the ‘representational entry’ into the Communist Party of three of its editorial board on April 30, it has stepped back from rapprochement in practice. Despite calling for discussions, to “allow for possible re-establishment of its representational entry on the basis of a mutually clearer understanding of the process of communist rapprochement under the banner of the CPGB” (‘Advance from vanguardism’ OP Broadsheet No5 1996), OP has refused to discuss the concrete proposals made by the CPGB.

The proposals included the taking up of ‘representational supporter’ status, the right to attend Party aggregates with full speaking rights and the continuation of OP’s regular column in the Weekly Worker.

Instead of this the comrades have proposed the establishment of a Provisional Communist Rapprochement Committee. “At an appropriate time” this provisional body will be replaced by a full-blown Communist Rapprochement Committee, set up “for the purpose of establishing the mechanisms for re-establishing a Communist Party” (Letter, October 1 1996).

Rather than accepting the need for unity and discipline around communist actions which the construction of such a Party will require, the comrades reject the only organisational form able to deliver it - democratic centralism. That must wait until the Party has been reforged - not as a result of a dialectical process arising from a real class movement, but through bureaucratic “mechanisms”.

Open Polemic has retreated from its previous acceptance of democratic centralism in the present, describing rapprochement as “the establishment or renewal of cordial relationships between individuals and groups of comrades” (Letter, October 1 1996).

Despite serious misgivings about OP’s trajectory, the CPGB decided to attend the conference. Also present were representatives of the Trotskyist Unity Group, the Revolutionary Democratic Group, Partisan and a sprinkling of unattached individuals. The main themes dominating the discussions were the ideological nature of the Party and the principle of democratic centralism itself.

Partisan and several individuals thought that the main line of demarcation was the one dividing Stalinists and Trotskyists. In practice they favour the dictatorship over the proletariat and a no-hope Stalinist party - at some time in the future, of course. OP sees the formation of a ‘multanimous’ organisation, through the union of the best elements from all communist traditions, as essential.

The CPGB also has no problem with the unity in action of all revolutionaries, even the Partisan comrades. But that does not mean we are in favour of a ‘non-aggression pact’ within the Party, as implied by the term, ‘multanimity’. One CPGB comrade invited Partisan and others to join: “Come in and we will destroy your ideas.”

Other CPGB comrades pointed out that no other left organisation stands for the right of factions to organise and publish openly with equal rights under the rules. Despite this, other participants insisted that we are “just one of many”. They prefer to remain as unorganised individuals or semi-organised grouplets, rather than face up to the disciplined commitment which democratic centralism concretely represents.

Not surprisingly the conference reached no agreement on how to proceed, not even agreement on the setting up of some impotent, consensus-based Provisional Communist Rapprochement Committee. The participants decided only to reconvene the conference and continue talking.

Under the umbrella of Open Polemic, the same or similar organisations have been involved in such talking shops since 1990. It looks as though they will be still talking in 10 years’ time.

Peter Manson