I note in the Weekly Worker (March 26) and in The Workers’ Morning Star that the CPGB supports the strike and calls for the reinstatement of John Haylett.
Were this simply a trade union issue, I would be prepared to go along with you. Yet, as you yourselves state, the strikers are “limiting their arguments to the industrial relations question … and blocking their ears to the political conflict of which their dispute is only the manifestation”.
There is the rub. The Star, despite its legal separation from the CPB has been the political expression of the Communist Party, or in this case, the majority of the shareholders of the Peoples Press Printing Society. The political line of the paper and its editorship have to reflect this. The right to hire and fire the editor in the case of a newspaper of a political organisation of the labour movement must be based on a decision of that political organisation, acting through its properly constituted channels.
Rosser and Hicks may well have violated their powers in sacking Haylett, but the strike is not an industrial dispute, but a political campaign waged by a tendency in the CPB. The question of salaries and working conditions is neither here nor there for two reasons.
Firstly, political full-timers who work for labour movement organisations do not do it for the money or working conditions. The decision to become a political full-timer is a commitment based on dedication to the organisation. Quite a lot of time and effort is donated free by members of such organisations. Or perhaps paper sellers earn a commission? The same arguments apply to full-time journalists.
Secondly, while it would be the ideal situation if union rates applied, this is not always possible. Political organisations do not operate according to the laws of the market place, they carry hardly any paid advertising and have no major investors behind them. The political success or failure of such organisations is a reflection of their policies and activities in the class struggle. The present CPB is an organisation which has signally failed in this respect. The poor salaries and working conditions of its full-time staff are a reflection of the fact that it continues to produce a daily paper without having its previously guaranteed sales in Eastern Europe.
Thus it is somewhat opportunistic to portray the Star dispute as though it were simply another industrial relations issue. Indeed, it seems to me that to take sides in this dispute is incorrect. If the ‘broad labour movement’ wanted to have a newspaper, it would be perfectly possible to set one up. It is not as though the Star is endowed with unique resources and talent.
As a political tendency the CPB has the right to publish a newspaper reflecting their political line. The fact that they have divorced the management of the paper from the political leadership of the CPB is their problem. It may have created an opening for a range of political forces (including yourselves) to take over the Star, but that does not negate the right of the CPB to have a newspaper promoting the line they decide.
For my part I am hostile to both wings of the CPB, which I regard as an organisation which has proven to have been incapable of breaking decisively from Stalinism. I am not prepared to support either side. This contrasts with your opportunist latching onto the dispute and advertisement in The Workers’ Morning Star. This is merely to tail-end a political faction in the CPB.
Finally, I find your comments on Socialist Action ill-informed and slanderous. In the first place. You are developing an irritating Spart-like habit of referring to organisations by their leaders - eg, Peter Taaffe’s Socialist Party, Tariq Ali’s International Marxist Group, etc. This habit should be curtailed immediately as it is thoroughly petty bourgeois.
Tariq Ali was an increasingly marginal figure in the IMG by the early 1980s. I have little contact with the SA people, but to describe them as a “sect manoeuvring deep in the Labour Party” is a distortion. In fact they have an open publication. They also campaign in the NUS and anti-racist movements. In addition, they have worked closely with the Socialist Campaign Group and in Morning Star forums.
My criticisms of SA are that their policies are soft on Stalinism and left social democracy and that they downplay the need to build an independent revolutionary organisation. They often appear to be the closest thing to Pabloites operating on the British left today. However, to describe these comrades as “political leeches” is, frankly, plumbing the depths of verbal abuse.
With regards to the letter of Andrew McGarity in the Weekly Worker (March 19), expressing his support for the Morning Star.
I feel his soft socialist tendency has confused his sense of reality. He should remember that capitalism is our enemy and that is why we do not support the CPB, as they have obviously sold out. I am afraid their current problems are self-inflicted. Their continued support for the Labour Party and kiss-arse approach to the unions make them a weak and feeble party. Their supporters should choose between either joining the Labour Party or working with true communists in the CPGB.
A daily paper is a way forward but if its views are liberal like the Morning Star we might just as well read The Guardian or The Mirror. Communist unification is essential but it must keep to its scientific Marxist basis. It is our right to fight for change through revolution and not by the ballot box - CPB take note.
In its polemic with the Weekly Worker the League for a Revolutionary Communist International is not doing itself any favours with its arrogance. If it wants to gain some credibility it has to recognise that it has undergone radical political changes and that these are creating important organisational problems.
Brenner boasts about the LRCI’s growing youth membership. In fact, the largest LRCI youth group was in Austria, until it split in 1994 - creating the Marxist Group which has since published more than ten books. During the early 1990s, the LRCI’s Austrian section - the Ast - was the largest far left group in that country. In 1994 half of Ast’s Vienna branch broke away. In Salzburg the branch almost disappeared. Today all of the founding Ast members are out of the LRCI or its broader leadership. Many Austrian comrades who served on the International Executive Committee have left their leading positions or the organisation.
The German group lost all its members in Frankfurt and the Rhine, which used to be its centre. Today it survives on the basis of ‘imported’ comrades. The situation in the British Isles is no better. The Irish Workers Group is nearly extinct and has lost most of its cadres.
Since the foundation of the LRCI in 1989, Workers Power lost four or five members for each new recruit gained. It has nobody in Scotland or the Six Counties. It is shrinking to the point where it is almost entirely an English group.
The LRCI was launched in 1989 as a product of the integration of European groups around Workers Power and the Peruvian and Bolivian comrades who had strong traditions in leading workers’ strikes and mass actions. Today all of the Latin American comrades have left or been expelled. These comrades who proposed the name to the LRCI did not have the right to appeal against exclusion from the LRCI.
In New Zealand, the small Workers Power group that remains after the 1995 split has only produced three or four papers a year, including their youth bulletin. LRCI publications are becoming less frequent. Permanent Revolution has gone. Trotskyist International, which used to appear three times a year, is now being published bi-yearly. Most of it is written by a single person who uses different pseudonyms. Trotskyist Bulletin, which used to be published every six months, has had only two issues in three years. The Spanish language journal has also ceased to appear.
Instead of trying to deny this reality, the LRCI comrades should recognise their retreat, try honest self-criticism and be open-minded in discussions with other currents.
On March 7 the first editorial discussions on the proposed Cutting Edge magazine took place in Conway Hall. The meeting had been widely advertised throughout the left. The attendance itself did contain a reasonable cross-section which included tenants representatives, unaligned anarchists, militant anti-fascists, etc.
At the end of the four hour meeting, while there was agreement on the general thrust of the proposal, it was concluded that a further effort should be made to broaden the base. It was felt that the broader the participation in Cutting Edge at an editorial level, the greater its appeal, and the less likely of it being still-born as a result of sectarianism.
The caution is not unwarranted. With Cutting Edge still in the womb, genuine confusion mixed with malicious speculation is already rife in certain circles. Dismissing the declared objectives, Open Polemic launched a slashing attack on the entire project and in particular Red Action’s support for it. On a similar vein some have added to the confusion by assuming it has something to do with the International Working Class Association.
According to Open Polemic, “addressing the contemporary problems of the working class” or even attempting “to provide progressive working class thinking with a strategically and theoretical cutting edge” is certainly counter-productive if not counterrevlutionary. Have you ever heard such errant nonsense? OP argues that the working class “offers a home to all sorts of bourgeois prejudices, sectional one-sidedness and outright bigotry”. Of course when the far right dominates the politics of many countries in Europe it would be hard to argue otherwise. But in contrast to this “stultifying backwardness” of the mass of the working class, the most advanced sections internationally still “shines as a beacon for all humanity”.
Nothing wrong with socialism then. Or indeed, Soviet communism. It is the working class that has got to change. And until they come to their senses they should be ignored.
Cutting Edge is the product of profound and ignominious defeat. But the defeat is not restricted to the sponsors but is, as the Weekly Worker has acknowledged, a political defeat currently being endured by the working class as a whole.