Theory and practice

The anti-war movement drew many hundreds of thousands into direct political activity for the first time. That movement has momentarily faded from public view. But it has not disappeared. The 2003 anti-war generation is evaluating its experiences, weighing-up the lessons, looking at the various groups and factions and thinking about the big questions. * And there are plenty of big questions. * If a two million-strong demonstration failed to halt war against Iraq what can? Why did the Stop the War Coalition doggedly pursue a numbers strategy? * Why, when the majority of the population opposed the war, did Tony Blair and his government command such an overwhelming parliamentary majority? Can Britain really be described as fully democratic? * What lies behind US attacks on rogue states? Is it oil? * What causes war? Are all wars the same? * Is there an alternative to capitalism? * Has socialism failed? Were the Soviet Union and similar type societies the antithesis of socialism? * How should anti-war activists organise after Gulf War II? * Do we need a Communist Party? Under democratic centralism, should minorities be gagged in public? Should differences be kept secret? * Etc, etc. Undoubtedly Marxism alone provides satisfactory answers to these and the countless other such questions which are on the lips of the 2003 anti-war generation. Marxism - not its 'official communist' or 'official Trotskyite' perversions - but the authentic Marxism which shuns all dogmatism and is renewed and expanded through constant testing and investigation - is powerful for one simple reason. It is true. That is why our organisation will be putting a particular emphasis, in the forthcoming period, on educating our ranks in Marxism and providing communist forums for the wider movement. All geographically based Communist Party organisations are being asked to put on at least one public forum every month. Topics can, of course, vary considerably given local conditions and sudden and unexpected developments. A useful starting point would be taking a particular keynote article in the Weekly Worker as the basis for a short opening and a general discussion and debate. Any comrade worth their salt can easily do that. Reaching out to the new generation is the main thing. Undoubtedly it will not be easy or quick. Patience is required. So is imagination. But the rewards for the whole communist and anti-war movement will be enormous and enduring. The ongoing process of Marxist education and debate finds a particularly intense expression at this year's Communist University over August 2-9. The intention is not to preach. Every educator needs education and re-education. There must be an honest dialogue and the enlightening clash of different viewpoints. Our aim is to promote and generalise a mature, civilised, Marxist culture in which no serious leftwing viewpoint is shunned, silenced or dismissed as unworthy of proper consideration. That impoverished approach - epitomised by the Socialist Workers Party, the Socialist Party in England and Wales, the Morning Star's Communist Party of Britain, etc - has damaged, discredited and disgraced the left for too long. These comrades ritualistically debate ... but only with forces safely to their right. Communist University 2003, by contrast, features not only well known CPGB names but a whole range of other leftwing voices too. We earnestly desire the unity of the left. Fragmentation does no good, except for the enemies of socialism. Not diplomatic unity though. Unity that lasts, unity that is not merely a lowest common denominator marriage of convenience, cannot be built on suppressing, ignoring or belittling differences. Argument and hard polemics are vital to any serious rapprochement between communists and revolutionary socialists. Indeed argument and hard polemics are essential if we are to achieve and sustain unity that is revolutionary. For anyone who might doubt, take a look at Bolshevism. The history of Bolshevism was of endless argument, the clash of differing opinions, schisms and unifications. Any 'party' which routinely projects an unquestioned leadership and seamless unanimity is not worthy of the title 'party'. Such an organisation is nothing more than a bureaucratic sect. A primitive form of political low-life which is neither capable of absorbing nor sustaining the vibrant, questioning and self-activating mass produced by the anti-war movement. While it is correct to strive for theoretical clarity, that is done with a straightforward aim - the unity of communists in practice. That for us is primary. Communists do not offer platonic answers, explanation for its own sake. Far more worthwhile than any speculation is actually struggling to carry through practical changes in the real world. That is the only way to advance theory that is revolutionary and reveal what is useful and what is useless. Practice not only steels individuals. It highlights the true significance of theoretical differences. What is secondary, what is fundamental can only be properly judged in the light of joint work in which all energies are pooled and all talents valued. Pundits, academics and religious gurus offer various, competing, interpretations of events. Marxists, by contrast, organise to actually bring about the complete overturn of all existing social conditions. Marxism unites profound theoretical insights into the nature of reality with a boundlessly energetic drive to bring about a profoundly better, thoroughly human, world. Communists therefore fully involved themselves in the anti-war movement. We had no time for those who loftily abstained from the living struggle of millions using 'sophisticated' excuses - SWP domination, Morning Star promotion of popular front politics, the Muslim Association of Britain, etc. By the same measure, faced by the ugly reality of Britain's quasi-democracy, communists are duty bound to come out with a programmatic answer - eg, a federal republic and extreme democracy. But they also do all in their power to bring about that aim. Equally we might second guess which country US imperialism will attack next. However our main, overriding, task is to build a powerful party, a Communist Party, which unites all advanced workers, all revolutionary socialists, all anti-war activists, including those in the Labour Party, on the basis of freedom of debate and unity in action. Without such a party nothing permanent can be achieved. Such a party fights not simply to stop this or that war. Communists dedicate themselves to finally ending the capitalist system which engenders modern war and threatens to engulf the whole planet in an orgy of perpetual destruction. Jack Conrad