Education, education, education

Communist education is not simply about dry-as-dust names and dates, but about the history of our class and movement - its traditions of resistance and sacrifice. They are the resources of hope, out of which the struggles of the future can take lessons. Historical practice is a political practice in which the Communist Party can act, in Trotsky's phrase, as the workers' memory of past struggles across the world. This is why education in struggle is so urgent and so necessary. To begin to uncover the truth of the 20th century out of the slanders and falsifications of capital and 'official communism' is to grasp one substantial victory from the hands of those who have opposed or betrayed the working class movement. A proper communist education seeks to understand the relationship of the individual to the party, the class and history, but fundamentally it can be expressed in the following manner. A correct understanding of our own historical position entails the understanding of the relationship between the past, present and future. We have to understand what is dying and what is coming to birth; we have to understand how societies and movements can be progressive and regressive; we have to understand how classes are formed and destroyed; we have to shift our sight from the individual worker and family to the epochal and global and back again in order to uncover the dialectic between the individual and social circumstance. There are, I think, three processes we need to study. Firstly, perhaps our immediate task is to understand, without flinching or looking away, the nature of our profound defeat in the 20th century. If the October revolution was one of the most significant events in human history, then its defeat was equally significant. We have to understand, as Marxists, how the revolution degenerated and collapsed into barbarism. That defeat was, of course, a defeat for the working class across the globe and it was a defeat that has lasted for a century. Struggles have continued and revolutions occurred, but all have gone astray - not because of a problem in the logic of Marxism, but because we did not clearly understand the social forces at work during this period. Secondly, we need to understand the nature of capital and how it has managed to sustain itself during this period. The power of its ideology - diminished at times and challenged and resisted always - has still persisted. The forces standing against it will historically win through. The alternatives are unthinkable, but we do need to think them - barbarism, civilisational collapse, the common ruin of the contending classes. We need to extend the gains we have made under capitalalism by fighting for extreme democracy in order to leap from necessity into freedom. Thirdly, we need to understand the relationship between the healthy aspects of our revolutionary movement and the working class from which it emerges. Organised revolutionaries are in a minority and we need to win the battle for political ideas and democracy by relentlessly subjecting our tradition to critique. Openness, democracy and the struggle for truth rather than falsification are at the heart of our communist project. And it is in that spirit that the CPGB's ongoing programme of education is organised - from branch and area seminars and day schools to the annual, week-long Communist University. Martyn Hudson