Bucket loads of hypocrisy

Open Polemic’s Bob Smith, former ‘representative’ member of the CPGB, mounts his charger once again

There’s nothing so terribly wrong with hypocrisy per se - it’s a component part of the current human condition, likely as not to continue well into the socialist millennium and beyond. Jack Conrad’s idealised communist man - “freed from his alienated state” - would no doubt have no need for hypocrisy, but I have never really been convinced by Conrad’s vision, any more that I was by the musings of the young Marx. Idealism is idealism, no matter who serves it up. And what is hypocrisy, if not the simple denial of the everyday contradictory nature of our little lives? We all attempt to one degree or another to smother the endless contradictions before us - to do otherwise would render us philosophical neurotics, condemned to a sterile life of eternal contradiction incapable of any definite line of action. Hypocrisy - we’re all at it. He who is without hypocrisy, cast the first stone. Seen through this perspective, hypocrisy and its bedfellow, mendacity, are not such dirty words.

No, what really sticks in the gullet is not hypocrisy and mendacity, but the denial of them. And that is precisely what we have at present - bucket loads of hypocrisy without so much as a glimmer of recognition, let alone confession.

Take for example Messrs Sikorski, Brar, Majid and Clark for starters. The latter three gentlemen are sworn enemies of all things Trotskyist. That is their raison d’être. For these gentlemen Open Polemic’s cardinal sin is ‘being soft on Trots’. ‘Admit that Trotsky was in the pay of the German imperialists or be damned forever’ is their creed. When they screamed abuse at Open Polemic for its association with the Leninist faction, it all boiled down to Conrad’s perceived ‘Trotskyism’ (never mind that the Leninists were simultaneously being condemned of a lingering ‘Stalinism’ by their left Trotskyite critics). OP was damned by our orthodox high priests, Messrs Brar, Clark and Majid, because of the company we kept - guilt by association. Very scientific stuff!

This fanatical anti-Trotskyism has been an all too familiar farcical ritual designed to show just how revolutionary our pro-Stalin ideologues really are. And of course the farce is enacted in reverse - the Trotskyists play god and the Stalinists become the counterrevolutionaries. It’s all so predictable - everybody knows their lines and everything remains lifeless and inert. But along comes Scargill’s Socialist Labour Party and the game is miraculously changed.

Where previously it was a mortal sin to be in the same room as the Trotskyites, now it is A-OK to be in the same party! Harpal Brar, pillar of Stalinist orthodoxy, now stands shoulder to fraternal shoulder with Pat Sikorski and co - deep-entry Trotskyists. It’s a new ball game, says Conrad. So it would seem.

Now, the scientific term for hypocrisy in Marxist circles, as we all know, is opportunism. So it is for the intelligent reader to decide whether Messrs Brar, Majid, Sikorski and co are to be found guilty of opportunism or praised for their astuteness in adapting to changed circumstances.

The next in the dock facing charges of hypocrisy, and the denial thereof, is Scargill himself (Now, a militant fighter of his pedigree ought to be given some leeway, I hear you say - never mind that socialism is all about upholding the principle of equality before the law). Appealing to a constitution that does not yet exist, Scargill says the CPGB entryists are not welcome. ‘You can’t play for two teams at the same time’ argument. But this flawed logic does not seem to apply to members of the Stalin Society or the Trotskyist Fisc. Does Scargill really believe that these two organisations and all the other deep entryists do not have their own agendas? Of course he doesn’t - he’s just sharp enough not to pick a fight on too many fronts at the same time (I predict in fact that it will be the supporters of the Economic Philosophic Science Review that will be next for the chop, but only after the CPGB has been irrevocably sidelined). Now Scargill is perfectly at liberty to promote the type of constitutional arrangements he thinks best for his left social democratic outfit, but we might at least expect a degree of consistency in its application. Astute politicising or rank opportunism by Arthur Scargill?

And then there’s the champion of democracy, openness and non-ideology - the Leninist faction of the non-existent Communist Party of Great Britain. These comrades have made an art form of hypocrisy and the subsequent denial of same. Let’s produce a quick shopping list.

Hypocrisy 1. Claim you are reforging a multanimous CPGB and when you ensnare an honest (some say gullible) participant then you hit them for six with your own faction’s rules, while claiming to be acting on behalf of the Party (sic) majority. When the honest/gullible participant complains, you then accuse them of reneging on democratic central-ism.

Hypocrisy 2. Announce you are for communist rapprochement, but when a left social democratic split appears on the scene, dump communist rapprochement in favour of a quick manoeuvre for position with the embryonic left social democratic formation.

Hypocrisy 3. Enter the SLP under false pretences and false identities and then complain bitterly about the denial of democracy when you’re given the elbow.

Hypocrisy 4. Denounce all those communists who disdain from entering the SLP on a similar sectarian ticket.

Hypocrisy 5. Denounce the Stalin Society and the International Leninist Workers Party [EPSR - ed] for publicly exposing CPGB/Leninist scam while at the same time publishing named photographs in the Weekly Worker of ILWP comrades.

Hypocrisy 6. Put a candidate up in Brent East claiming to represent the SLP while campaigning on the CPGB platform and then cry bitterly when Scargill won’t wear it.

Hypocrisy 7. Expose hypocrisy in others, but fail to recognise it in yourself.

Well, it’s easy to sit on the sidelines, purer than thou, and criticise others for all manner of things and sins. But what is OP’s way forward? How should communists respond to the SLP? Without being unnecessarily prescriptive, the broad contours of a communist strategy, given our ideological and political fragmentation, should be based on three principles:  honesty, openness and a non-sectarian ticket. Fairly safe platitudes, but what does this mean in practice? 

Firstly, we ought to honestly recognise that Scargill and the trade union militants around him are not Leninists, no matter what revolutionary rhetoric they may choose to use on occasion. They are not won to the idea of a Leninist party any more than they have been won to the belief that reformism is a dead end. They will not allow any competing group to turn the SLP into a Leninist party; they will not even countenance it on the agenda.

If we ever forget the fundamental difference between the communist project and the reformist project we are lost before we have begun. Communists and left social democrats can be and will be allies. We will be betrayed by the social democrats and we will no doubt be allies again sharing common slogans, common campaigns and joint fronts. But we are not identical despite what the appearance may suggest. We are political opposites. They are for the reform of capitalism on a national basis. We are for the overthrow of capitalism on an international basis. This is not a tactical matter - it is the very essence of what divides social democracy from communism. It is because all things are in motion and development that communists should not ignore the SLP. It can be pulled to the left. Individual members can be broken from social democracy. But the appearance of things ought ot to be confused with its essence.

Secondly, communists must be open in their strategic approach to social democracy. Electoral realities will likely pull the SLP to the right and not to the left. It is therefore incumbent on communists, organising independently and with the maximum unity, to act as a counterweight, to present a revolutionary pole of attraction either outside or, if possible, within the SLP. But this has to be done openly. Entryism will not succeed. We must state openly why the social democratic project is useless to the rapidly growing underclass and impoverished proletariat in the industrialised nations, and why it is utterly irrelevant to the now billions of citizens being continually ground down by international imperialism. Making capitalism work better and fairer in Britain will not lesson the barbarity of imperialism globally. In fact it will strengthen it. Everywhere the capitalist will not become more humane, but more authoritarian, more avaricious and more manipulative. It is the ABC of Leninism that capitalism cannot be reformed - it has to be smashed. This is the uncompromising message that communists must deliver to the SLP. If on that basis Scargill and co still do not want communists to affiliate to the SLP, then let it be known openly in front of all the militant workers. We will then work for fraternal relations when and where appropriate.

Thirdly, when communists do interact with left reformist formations, we should do so with the maximum degree of communist unity that is ideologically possible. As it is, any young militant in the SLP would take one glance at the infantile sectarian squabbles of the so-called communist vanguard and opt for the short-term pragmatism so seductive in left social democracy. What Conrad celebrates as healthy workers’ democracy is nothing but a transparent fig leaf for his sectarian manoeuvring.

The bitter truth, as Open Polemic has been underlining for a decade, is we have a highly fragmented ideology with which to counter the still virulent and persuasive ideology of social democracy. Our task remains at the end of this decade precisely that which it was at the beginning: the ideological, political and organisational unity of communists internationally. Our failure may mean that the 21st century will belong to social democracy, and that will be the best scenario. A world run by Clintons, Blairs and Jospins is a sobering thought.

And when their little project collapses ...?