Rapprochement, refoundation and a new tendency

As revolutionary democratic communists, we aim for world communism by means of the revolutionary struggle for democracy. In this struggle we want to replace parliamentary democracy with workers’ democracy (soviets or workers’ councils), the most advanced form of democracy ever achieved in the world. In the struggle for workers’ democracy, we seek to advance bourgeois democracy and democratic rights in a revolutionary way. We must unite as a single tendency.

Over the past years two important questions debated on the left have been refoundation and rapprochement. Developing a correct view of these issues is a major weapon in the battle against the sectarianism that has dominated the British left. The SLP has been a small step on the road of refoundation. Equally, as we know, the SLP is on the brink of going pair-shaped. That is something that revolutionary democratic communists must fight to prevent.

Discussions about rapprochement have involved the Communist Party of Great Britain, Revolutionary Democratic Group, Open Polemic, International Socialist Group and the Republican Worker Tendency. The high point was probably when Open Polemic took up representative entry into the CPGB and the low point was when that was suspended. Marxists have never lacked the will to succeed and so it is encouraging to note that after all the advances and setbacks the process of rapprochement is still edging forward.

A small step was taken at the beginning of 1998 to set up a revolutionary democratic communist tendency. An Organising Committee will shortly be holding its first meeting with representatives of the CPGB Provisional Central Committee, RDG and Open Polemic. The RWT has also been invited. Discussions have already been taking place with them. We are optimistic that they will formally join the Organising Committee for the joint aggregates we are planning to hold.

A tendency is not a party. It is a pre-party or sub-party formation. It may be unified or fragmented. It is not a faction of another organisation. It is part of the wider communist movement. In the post-war period there have been three main tendencies in the communist movement - Stalinist, Trotskyist and state capitalist. The old CPGB, Militant Tendency and the IS/SWP were the main representatives of these tendencies.

Today the Stalinist tendency has been reduced to a declining existence on the fringes. It includes the New Communist Party, the Stalin Society, the Association of Communist Workers, Partisan and the International Leninist Workers Party, etc. The Trotskyist tendency includes the Socialist Party, Workers Power, Socialist Outlook, the Spartacists and the International Bolshevik Tendency, etc. The state capitalist tendency is the least fragmented. We have the SWP, RDG, International Socialist Group, and the RWT. In this case the vast majority of ‘state caps’ in the UK are in the SWP, which therefore almost coincides with the state cap tendency.

The revolutionary democratic communist tendency is the first new tendency to emerge within the communist movement after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the ending of the USSR. It will begin life as a multi-faction tendency. It is likely to contain elements of ‘the old order’ of Stalinism, Trotskyism and state capitalism within it. It will reflect a certain rapprochement between the least sectarian elements from the old tendencies. The old debates, which will no doubt continue, will not be the raison d’être for the new tendency. It will be our commitment to revolutionary and democratic forms of communism that will fuse eventually into a coherent alternative to the old tendencies which still dominate our movement.

The new tendency begins with independent organisations gathering under one roof. These may in the process of development become factions of the tendency. In the process of development the original differences may disappear and new ones arise. The freedom for factions to express their views will be one aspect of the new tendency. It is one reason why the words ‘democratic communist’ appear in the title. The ideas of democracy and openness cannot be found in the main tendencies or even in the fragmented groups which make them up.

With a new year and the emergence of a long awaited and desperately needed new tendency, we should be cautiously optimistic. We are set to advance. No doubt there will be new setbacks and new problems that we have not yet imagined or confronted. But with patience and determination we will rally the best working class militants and communists to our banner.

Dave Craig

(RDG, faction of the SWP)