What sort of party?

On Sunday April 28 Party members and supporters met in Newcastle to debate the kind of party the CPGB has as its central aim. National organiser Mark Fischer addressed the meeting and outlined the emergence, nature and prospects of the organisation. One particularly interesting feature of the debate was the relationship of revolutionary communists to the respective traditions of 'official' communism and Trotskyism. Most of the comrades present had experienced a culture of sectarianism in the past through their involvement in a range of groups including the Socialist Workers Party, Communist Party of Britain and Militant, and there was some serious argument about these traditions and those of the 'old' and 'new' CPGB. Mark argued that even under 'official' communism the place for revolutionaries was in the Communist Party and, although he stressed the degeneration of that tradition, he argued that the party of the past exemplified some of the best traditions of the working class movement. Martyn Hudson and Lawrie Coombs, originally politicised within a different tradition, disagreed with Mark's analysis. The former argued that, although organisationally catastrophic, the place for revolutionaries before 1991 was to work within small Trotskyist groups in order to ideologically survive the generalised defeat of the workers' movement in the 20th century. Only after the profound rethinking of the post-1991 CPGB was it possible for revolutionaries to re-enter the organisation. Lawrie argued that fractional work in the Labour Party had once been a possibility, but both agreed with Mark that the current struggle for partyism was qualitatively superior to the politics of the other left groups. Two younger comrades, fortunately having no experience of the sectarian left, criticised both Mark and a comrade from the Alliance for Workers' Liberty for focusing too much on an idea of tradition rather than orienting to an independent working class politics of the 21st century. The AWL comrade correctly insisted on a rich and informed notion of workers as a class in and for itself and argued that both the AWL and the CPGB had to engage in rethinking and activity in contemporary workers' struggles. The meeting concluded by confirming the central position of dissent to a united and vibrant communist tradition. Afterwards the comrades present continued the discussion by debating the nature of the Soviet Union and aspects of working class culture. As a result of the high level of political debate, some newer supporters have gravitated further towards our analysis of the necessity of a revolutionary party. Martyn Hudson