CPGB unity over Campaign for a Marxist Party

Mary Godwin reports from the latest members' aggregate of the CPGB

An aggregate of CPGB members took place in London on July 14. Discussion of our intervention in the Campaign for a Marxist Party was the main item on the agenda, taking up the morning session. After lunch comrade Tina Becker spoke about the timetable for Communist University, which has now been virtually finalised and was presented to comrades at the aggregate. Comrade Mike Macnair then opened a discussion on the Labour Party in the light of Gordon Brown's succession to the premiership and party leadership. In the final hour of the aggregate comrade Peter Manson opened a brief discussion of the Hands off the People of Iran campaign.


Comrade John Bridge introduced his opening on the CMP with a motion setting out the CPGB's approach to the CMP:

"1. The CPGB welcomes any sincere initiative to unite the left on a principled basis.

2. In that light the CPGB welcomes the launch of the Campaign for a Marxist Party.

3. The CPGB will support the building of CMP on a principled basis. The CPGB is itself a campaign for a Marxist party.

4. For the CMP to succeed it will have to campaign for a Marxist party equipped with a Marxist programme and the unity of Marxists on the basis of democratic centralism.

5. Any CMP committee should be politically representative of the membership."

Some comrades had been asking why the CPGB and the Weekly Worker are devoting such a great deal of effort and time to the CMP. The answer is contained in the motion, said comrade Bridge.

The CPGB has consistently welcomed and tried to work with all efforts towards left unity. At the founding conference of the CMP in November 2006 around six CPGB members were present. All our motions and amendments were won, including on the question of fusion.

However, the CMP so far has been marked by general inertia, especially from the committee. There seemed to be a danger that the initiative was floundering - something not helped by the June 23 conference, continued comrade Bridge. We had put forward procedural suggestions aimed at smoothing the way for the running of the day. We had engaged in consultations about the character and composition of a new committee in an effort to produce a more competent body, but to no avail. Chaos ensued and it is hardly surprising that this development reinforced a measure of scepticism on the part of some CPGB members about the viability of the campaign as a whole.

Some comrades seem convinced that the CPGB is trying to "take over" the CMP. This is rubbish. Why should the CPGB want to do that?

Comrades responded at some length to John Bridge's opening. Nick Rogers, for example, thought that the national campaign appeared to be going nowhere at all and that it had perhaps been a tactical mistake to mobilise on June 23, giving some people ammunition.

Comrade Macnair warned of the danger that the CMP developing into yet another bureaucratic centralist Trotskyist sect. Continuing work in the CMP should focus on doing what we can to prevent it becoming a sectarian project and allowing it to educate comrades about what the working class needs: a party of Marxists.

Comrade Patrick Presland said that the main problem with the CMP was that from an outsider's point of view, it seemed to be composed of roughly three elements: sects of one who fear democracy, some more serious comrades who actually want democracy and a party, and finally the CPGB itself.

Comrade Bridge replied to the debate by emphasising the CPGB's concern to educate. It is a mistake, concluded comrade Bridge, to become defensive about the strength of the CPGB, as if we needed somehow to apologise for the fact that we are a disciplined, democratic, organised body of comrades who intervene when and how it is necessary to do so. There is a long and proud history of factional organisation in the communist and workers' movements. To be in a majority on the basis of a principled position is nothing to be ashamed of - just as fighting as a minority on the basis of a similarly principled position when the need arises is a task we undertake with the determination to win people to our ideas through open debate.

The motion itself was passed unanimously.


What does the policy content and direction of the Brown administration represent? Is it true, as some Marxists, notably in the Socialist Party, contend, that Labour is now unambiguously a party of the bourgeoisie? These were the questions on which comrade Macnair concentrated in his address.

He began by saying that Labour's situation mirrors the political situation in general - the old is decaying, but the new has not yet been born. The comrade focused on the contradictions and tensions inherent in Gordon Brown's need, mainly for electoral reasons, to distance himself and the party from aspects of Blairism by signalling a break from the old, while at the same time reassuring British and US capital and administration of Labour's commitment to continuity.

On one side, there has been a good deal of spin about a shift towards consultation and consensus domestically: talk of the possibility of further constitutional reform; housing and social issues like health and education being given prominence on the domestic agenda. Notably, the international development secretary, Douglas Alexander, and some other members of the government have hinted that Britain is keen not to be seen as permanently attached to the coat tails of the US where issues of foreign policy are concerned.

On the other side, however, this attempted repositioning has been linked with reassurances to the city and the US in terms of such things as non-Labour 'experts' in the government, attacks on the supposedly excessive influence of the trade unions at Labour conferences, a firm commitment to the PFI policy (despite the fact that it is a clear disaster), spin on the end of general hospitals - making further private healthcare a fundamental part of the NHS system, more draconian anti-terror laws and so forth.

Britain's success as a financial centre results from its remaining a beneficiary of US financialisation and its being seen by the US as a useful potential Trojan Horse in Europe, continued comrade Macnair. Britain has no option but to remain hooked into this situation.

Iraq is central. Pressure for a withdrawal timetable from this unwinnable war is mounting in the US itself, but withdrawal would send the message across the world that the US cannot deliver. Iraq is an enormous albatross around the neck of the Bush administration and by association that of Gordon Brown. He needs to create political distance on the war, but this can be little more than superficial and cosmetic. Labour has nowhere else to go on this question.

Nowhere is the decline of the old more visible than in the case of the Labour Party left. The McDonnell campaign was a disaster. Cruddas managed to garner only 20% of first-choice votes in his bid for the deputy leadership. The big trade union bureaucracies are revealed as impotent and cowardly. Yet despite the overwhelming ascendancy of the right, concluded comrade Macnair, Labour should still be characterised as a bourgeois workers' party.

Comrade Bridge agreed, emphasising that the profound weakness of the Labour left, which was still living in a past shaped by the ideas of the British road to socialism, had shifted the poles of the contradiction. It is essential to focus on the movement and direction within the category. Other comrades agreed that, while there is still a working class wing in the Labour Party, it is increasingly ineffectual.

CU 2007

Comrade Tina Becker explained that the 22 sessions of Communist University, to be held over eight days, can be divided into three types.

First, talks given by speakers with whom the CPGB has a good working relationship, such as Hillel Ticktin, Chris Knight and Boris Kagarlitsky. Secondly, educational sessions, including those to be introduced by younger CPGB comrades. And thirdly, debates with other groups ranging from the Muslim Association of Britain to Permanent Revolution.

About a third of those who have confirmed that they will attend for the whole week are under 25, many of them relatively new to Marxism, and comrades had asked if introductory sessions could be scheduled. Working lunches were suggested.


Comrade Peter Manson noted that over 200 prominent individuals have now signed up to the campaign's statement, representing many shades of progressive opinion and different sectors of society, quite a few of them household names.

Comrade Manson went on to relate some concerns - about technical difficulties with the Hopi website, about who should be welcomed as signatories and about the extent to which the CPGB is seen to influence the campaign. On this latter point, comrade Manson said it was hardly surprising that the website features a preponderance of articles drawn from the Weekly Worker, even though they are mostly written by non-CPGB Iranian comrades.

That is because it was the CPGB that had been in the forefront of establishing the campaign on a principled basis.

We totally reject the notion that Hopi is some kind of CPGB front - the more individuals and organisations that come on board, the better - but we should certainly not apologise for our role.