Programme debate continues
CPGB comrades in London are continuing our discussions on the redrafting of our Draft programme and we are now coming towards the end of section three of the current version, 'Immediate demands'. Peter Manson reports
The session on peace was introduced by comrade Phil Kent, who noted that the section had clearly been written in the 80s with the 'official communists' (main slogan: 'For peace and socialism') in mind.
While this is true, there was disagreement with comrade Kent that the section is therefore largely dated. True, there is no mention of the Stop the War Coalition and the anti-war upsurge beginning in 2002, but today the Socialist Workers Party has taken over from the 'official' CPGB in promoting the likes of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament - not to mention the politics of pacifism - within the anti-war movement. The warnings against social chauvinism and social pacifism are still very relevant.
Comrade Peter Manson said that, while the sentence, "Communists do not call for this or that percentage cut in military spending", may originally have been directed against the 'official communists', such slogans are still liable to be raised by Arthur Scargill, the Morning Star's Communist Party of Britain and George Galloway.
Comrade Kent argued that the section was too much centred on British imperialism, whereas the UK is very much a junior partner of US imperialism. He thought the paragraph on British imperialism's role should be cut right down. Others said that this was to miss the point - we need to combat the anti-Americanism that substitutes for anti-imperialism in some sections of the movement and dispel any notions concerning the relatively progressive nature of British or European imperialism vis-à -vis the US.
Comrade Kent also took issue with the following: "Communists are not pacifists. Everywhere we support just wars, above all revolutionary civil wars for socialism." He said that "revolutionary civil wars for socialism" might imply a series of separate national revolutions and could be read as a concession to the notion of socialism in one country.
This was hotly contested. Comrade Manson said that we are for "revolutionary civil wars for socialism" being waged simultaneously across the globe as part of a single international movement. The point, however, was to stress class, as opposed to nation.
The discussion on this section was led by comrade Mary Godwin, who was at pains to stress that it was purely by chance that it fell to a female comrade to do so.
Comrade Godwin stated that many of the demands carried in the current draft should be posed in relation to both women and men - ie, high-quality canteens, cheap childcare and laundry facilities, housework services provided by the state, better paternity as well as maternity leave. Other comrades agreed, but did not go along with comrade Godwin's contention that therefore they should be carried in a section that did not relate solely to women.
Comrade John Bridge pointed to the basic assertion contained in the section - that women have always been oppressed since the beginning of class society and that our task was to make the formal equality gained by women in many spheres real equality. Women still suffer a double oppression - as workers as well as women - and we cannot wish away the fact that their role as mothers and child-rearers will always disadvantage them in class society. This manifests itself not only in worse pay and conditions in the workplace, but in the reality of women having to perform most of the routine domestic tasks, especially housework. That is why the demands listed in the current draft belong in this section - it would be women who would benefit the most and these demands are directly aimed at removing their double oppression.
A discussion ensued on the use of the word "equality" throughout the section. Comrade Kent pointed out that people can never be genuinely equal and that we should instead stress 'freedom'. In response comrade Manson said that it is correct for us to pose demands for the state and authorities to provide equal treatment and make formal equality real equality. Comrade Bridge stated that it is impossible to talk of freedom in relation to wage-slavery, for example, and we must certainly insist that women are no worse off than men in every sphere. For communists, of course, the long-term goal is to go "beyond equality" - and beyond the need for special provisions for women.
In relation to prostitutes, comrade Godwin said that we should fight for their work to be regarded as respectable. Comrade Jim Moody disagreed - it was hardly desirable that women are forced, or sometimes choose, to sell their bodies and it must be our aim to leave such alienated social relations behind. That is why we correctly stress the need for sex workers to be organised in the here and now, and for the working class to fight for their rights as part of the movement for universal emancipation.
Comrade Manson emphasised that child-rearing should most definitely not be included amongst the list of "dull, demoralising" work that is usually carried out by women. Laundry, cleaning, housework - this is drudgery, yes, and always will be. But childcare should be regarded as one of those social relations which ought to aid the full development of both adult and child.
As always, there were suggestions for rewording certain passages to aid clarification, but there were no great differences over the content of our demands relating to women.