What sort of programme?

Members of the Campaign for a Marxist Party in the Midlands area met last Saturday (January 22) in Birmingham. Dave Spencer reports

The main discussion focussed on the development of a programme for the CMP and was introduced by Phil Sharpe.

Phil argued that the CMP programme needed to appeal to a new generation of workers and should not be a programme just written by the left for the left. We need a propaganda element to make the arguments for communism. We cannot assume a vanguard of workers with socialist consciousness, as, for example, Lenin could in 1917 or Trotsky in 1938.

Social democracy and Stalinism have failed and the left groups are turning to reformism. Underlying our propaganda must be a Marxist understanding of global capitalism - it is fairly clear that Lenin's analysis of imperialism has been superseded by events, he argued.

The CMP programme must also be an action plan. The Weekly Worker has featured the debate between, on the one hand, the notion of a minimum-maximum programme and, on the other, a transitional programme. This debate is crucial and central to it is the question of workers' control. Is the CPGB's idea of extreme democracy part of a transitional prelude to communism?

We have to recognise there are different and opposing views among Marxists. Therefore the programme should be polemical - arguing against crucial strategic errors in opposing programmes. For example, we need now to have a credible alternative to the various forms of opportunism supported by the Socialist Workers Party and Socialist Party. Also we need to discuss whether the Labour Party can still be described as a 'bourgeois workers' party'. And can the present trade unions revive class struggle?

A fourth aspect of the programme, according to Phil, is one of theoretical discovery. There are questions on which Marxists need to do some investigation. As examples he suggested ecology, crime from the standpoint of the victim, immigration, the family and sexual relations, racism and fascism, and religion.

In discussion one comrade raised the issue of party and class and the question of Leninist vanguardism. The CMP needs to take a position on that. We need to oppose directly the bureaucratic centralism and undemocratic regimes of the left groups. Linked to that are the questions of whether we are in favour of a one-party state and what exactly the dictatorship of the proletariat meant. This led to a lively debate.

Another comrade raised the whole matter of the transition to communism. Would there be a role for the market and what about encouraging the role of communes or cooperatives within capitalism as a part of the transition? Also how do we overcome the problem of the 'artificial needs' created by capitalism?