Thesis on revolutionary openness
This thesis was discussed at the CPGB’s aggregate last weekend. Comrades from Manchester opposed it and presented an alternative motion. The thesis, itself the result of intense discussion and amendment, had the backing of the Provisional Central Committee and was overwhelmingly carried, but with the Manchester comrades voting against. Their own motion was then carried by a large majority. The Weekly Worker will be discussing this important question over the coming period
1. What matters for communists is unity in action. Beyond those bounds there must be the broadest and freest discussion and the open fight against all harmful decisions and tendencies. Openness is as much a matter of principle as it is a weapon. The working class must be fully informed about every faction, shade and opinion in the Party as well as the working class movement as a whole. That way the class can be educated and won to take sides.
2. Members of the Communist Party of Great Britain accept the principles of the organisation, as outlined presently in the ‘What we fight for’ column, and abide by majority decisions on practical actions. Members are though by no means necessarily united on theoretical questions, including matters of strategy and tactics. Even when it comes to the programme of the reforged Party it is perfectly legitimate to criticise points and formulations.
3. For communists such differences and their open expression are not signs of weakness but strength. The Communist Party strives to organise and contain within itself all partisans of the working class, because that unity can only strengthen and intensify revolutionary practice - which alone provides the ultimate proof about truth or error in theoretical matters.
4. Communist unity, the unity of communists within the CPGB, does not in the least mean members should hide disagreements on strategy and tactics or refrain from fully explaining their views whenever and wherever appropriate. The political struggle for what a communist regards as correct should be carried on openly, straightforwardly and resolutely.
5. In the communist press different ideas contend, criticisms are made and answered. The open battle of ideas is the best assurance of the functioning of democratic centralism, even in circumstances of illegality where formal democracy may not be able to function.
6. The CPGB is not only the most honest organisation on the British revolutionary left: it is the most open in British politics in general. We have never been afraid to honestly discuss our weaknesses and mistakes. We have already enshrined in resolution form - passed unanimously by the sixth conference of the Leninists of the CPGB on September 4 1993 - the right for open factions, even ones highly critical of the majority positions of the Party. Our tolerant and candid treatment of the Open Polemic faction - which was allowed a faultfinding weekly column in the Party press - underlines that this was not simply a formal stance. Both our theory and practice demonstrates our commitment to openness in the workers’ movement.
7. We understand that this approach is not the result of a concern for liberal sensibilities. The Communist Party is a process and like every dialectical process it contains “the seeds, admittedly in a primitive, abstract and underdeveloped form of the determinants appropriate to the goal it is destined to achieve...” (Lukács). Thus, just as Summer Offensive campaigns anticipate - albeit in “primitive, abstract and underdeveloped form” - the nature of work under communism, so too the openness of the Communist Party anticipates communism, a world association characterised by transparency and the conscious regulation of the laws of nature and society.
8. It would be foolish and highly dangerous to make absolutes out of our principles, however. Just like a workers’ state of the future, our Party operates in the field of politics and is thus in a daily relationship of unity and conflict with other political organisations, both on the revolutionary left and beyond it. Our principles are subordinate to the fight for world revolution.
9. Thus, we use openness as a weapon in the class struggle, driving it into the hearts of our opponents and enemies to underline that our organisation is fighting neither to preserve intact some sect-orthodoxy or to defend bourgeois society. Our method both exposes their hypocrisy and exemplifies the type of politics and society we are fighting for. We have wielded this implement of war with deadly effect against others. But precisely because it is a weapon it must be used with great care, precision and with a mature eye on the needs of the broader struggle. As a weapon, it can potentially be used against us.
10. Within the principle of revolutionary openness, in raising differences comrades must be guided by revolutionary morality. Actions which facilitate the fight for world revolution are moral; anything which harms that fight is immoral.
11. Serious criticisms of our organisation should in general be raised firstly with Party comrades and committees. In this way we have the opportunity to either resolve the problem to everyone’s satisfaction, or at least take some of the ‘sharp edges’, bad formulations and false charges out of the debate.
12. The Weekly Worker as the central organ and weapon of the Party as a whole must act as the collective organiser, agitator and educator at the highest possible level. All Party members have a responsibility to contribute to and develop the paper with this aim. This of course includes a responsibility to engage with debates in the paper and to develop criticisms in print. However, we must avoid flip polemics and ensure that debate between comrades in the pages of our paper is as rounded and informed as it possibly can be.
13. Thus there can be no absolute right of publication for any viewpoint in the open Party press. The leadership of the Party or the bodies delegated with editorial functions must have the right to refuse contributions they consider harmful or ill-considered. At certain times for instance, the open discussion of our tactical orientations can constitute a breach of Party security. Disagreements over such decisions should be raised with the relevant Party committee and if necessary at an aggregate of the organisation.
14. Comrades must however have a greater degree of latitude to distribute material internally, though this itself cannot be unbounded. Individual comrades or groups have the right to publish outside the Party to advance the struggle for revolutionary communism.
Revolutionary openness is a principle and practice of the CPGB. The principle of democratic centralism implies universal and full freedom to criticise, so long as this does not disturb the unity of a definite action.
Comrades raising criticism of our organisation should first raise the question with Party comrades and committees. In this way, we have the opportunity to either resolve the problem to everyone’s satisfaction, or at least take some of the ‘sharp edges’, bad formulations and false charges out of the debate before it may spill into the pages of the paper. In this way, we ensure that debate between comrades in the pages of our paper as rounded and informed as it possibly can be.
The leadership of the Party or the bodies delegated with editorial functions must have the right to refuse contributions they consider disrupt a definite action or of low political merit. Disagreements over such decisions should be raised with the relevant Party committees and if necessary at an aggregate of the organisation.