Weapon, not notice board

The Weekly Worker is not a sounding board for jaded leftists, writes Jack Conrad

On occasion the editors of the Weekly Worker have been accused of rank hypocrisy. Why? Apparently we do not practise what we preach.

Let me be more specific. Some critics seriously seem to believe that the Weekly Worker is the self-declared open “notice board of the left”. A paper which exists solely to publish what they are prone to call “gossip”. Not that that stops them avidly reading it. And, of course, when they deign to submit a 1,500-word letter or an 8,000-word article, that is not gossip, is it? No, it is an invaluable contribution to the font of human knowledge.

Hence, if our editors dare decide, after due consideration, to cut or reject, we almost immediately hear squeals of indignant protest. You hypocrites! You falsely claim to be committed to openness! You are censoring me! You must publish me! This is roughly how the ‘argument’ runs.

We shall begin with the apolitical nonsense about “gossip”. What is gossip? I have no particular problem on this occasion in turning to a dictionary for an answer - though all dictionaries should in my opinion carry a big health warning on the cover. Virtually every word and concept in standard English is thoroughly soaked in bourgeois and patriarchal ideology. Eg, my Concise Oxford says of gossip - “esp of women”. Besides that sexist crap it also has the following more acceptable definitions: “idle talker”, “tatler”, “groundless rumours”, “tittle-tattle”, etc.

The last issue of the Weekly Worker can be taken as generally representative. Did it consist of “idle talk” or “tittle-tattle”? Hardly. Amongst other subjects, the paper carried articles on the euro and national socialism, the ‘Thatcherism’ of the South African Communist Party, the website of the Morning Star’s Communist Party of Britain, two contributions from pro-party independents to an ongoing debate about the future of the Socialist Alliance, a detailed report of the last SA executive meeting, a heartfelt plea against the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty’s sectarian turn, an exposure of David Blunkett’s Sexual Offences Bill, Unison’s annual conference and the disputes between New Labour and the Tories over funding the national health service.

Only a dyed-in-the-wool economist - ie, one who ignores or downplays the vital role of democracy and high politics to the struggle for socialism - could possibly describe such contents as “gossip”. After all, our take on the SACP did not concern itself with speculation about who on the central committee is sleeping with whom. Nor did we feature a glossy colour spread of general secretary Blade Nzimande’s home or a fashion commentary on his wife’s taste in clothes. No, our approach is unashamedly analytical, polemical and factual.

Doubtless that mix explains why the Weekly Worker is so widely read in Britain and internationally. For example, compared with other leftwing websites ours shows a consistent and healthy lead. Alexa.com’s ratings for this week put us 29,117 places ahead of the Socialist Party in England and Wales, 42,243 places ahead of the Scottish Socialist Party, 177,894 places ahead of the Socialist Workers Party, 343,420 places ahead of Workers Power, 349,949 places ahead of the Morning Star’s Communist of Britain and 1,798,112 places ahead of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty. Poor old International Socialist Group does not even get a placing for its new site (see www.alexa.com or click on to the various organisations initials on our website).

What about the Weekly Worker serving as the “notice board” of the left? This is not a designation that originates with ourselves. Nowhere have any of our authoritative writers claimed such a title or anything like it. Each week we tell readers exactly who we are on the masthead. The Weekly Worker is the “paper of the Communist Party of Great Britain” - or, to be more exact, the CPGB’s Provisional Central Committee.

The “notice board” of the left is a silly invention of people who on the one hand would denigrate the Weekly Worker and yet on the other hand consider that they have a god-given right to get published, whatever rubbish they submit. Comrades, you have no such right. If you are turned down, what we say is - publish yourself. The hard earned finances that our CPGB members and supporters heroically raise for the production of this paper is not for the promotion of your ego, moans or peccadilloes. Ours is the cause of communism and the project of building a mass Communist Party - in which all communists, revolutionary socialists, anti-capitalists and advanced workers can find a place and organise for the overthrow of the capitalist state.

True, unlike the turgid sheets of so much of the left, we publish a whole range of views. Indeed we do not impose a majority line upon CPGB writers. Yes, we politically edit journalistic/reportage articles. But members with important differences over this nuance, that historical event or some intervention are free to express themselves. That is why in our tradition articles are signed. It shows exactly who is speaking and over a whole period readers come to know who deserves trust and who does not. However, as a collective we publish as CPGB partisans. Partisans who are committed to hunting down, exposing and destroying any and every manifestation of bourgeois ideology - which inhabits, divides and misdirects the workers’ movement - especially when it hides behind revolutionary or radical-sounding catchphrases.

We do this openly. In fact this is a principle for us. Wrong ideas are best combated in the full glare of publicity. Therefore we do not treat our differences with other comrades on the left, nor our internal differences, as private matters. Not that there is fairness in the Weekly Worker. Well spotted. But we have never promoted the paper on this basis or claimed it as one of our principles. Those who demand equal treatment of all viewpoints adhere to anarcho-bureaucratism, not communism. And, far from aiding the self-liberation movement of the working class, anarcho-bureaucratism helps, albeit unconsciously, the capitalist class.

We are acutely aware of the fact that we live in a capitalist society where capitalist ideas are the dominant ideas. Every one of us is surrounded and constantly influenced by bourgeois values - through work, consumption, advertising, the news and entertainment industry, the family, etc. The ideological struggle is therefore highly unequal. The working class has the overwhelming numbers. We are many; they are few. Yet despite that the bourgeoisie possesses unimaginable wealth, countless paid persuaders, wide circles of influential personal connections, armed state bodies and a whole history of being the ruling class.

Equality is a fine slogan and a worthy aim for communists and revolutionary socialists. Our goal is substantive equality. But in conditions of inequality the demand that all viewpoints should be treated equally in the Weekly Worker is akin to abject surrender before the enemy.

The Weekly Worker is our most important weapon in the ideological battle. With it we fight for centralism, revolutionary democracy, pro-partyism and internationalism. With it we fight against reformism, anarchism, individualism, selfishness and national socialisms.

Ideas are not equal in terms of accumulated knowledge, insight or experience. That is self-evident. Nor are ideas class-neutral. Hence we have not and will not provide equal space for all viewpoints. On the contrary our intention is to constantly strengthen our understanding of Marxism and pursue a war of extermination against even the germ of a reactionary idea.