Social-imperialist misleaders slated
CPGB members tackle the AWL, Communist Students, and the CMP. Mary Godwin reports
A CPGB members’ aggregate has unanimously condemned the social-imperialism of the leadership of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty and endorsed the Weekly Worker’s response to the ‘discussion piece’ from AWL patriarch Sean Matgamna, which excused in advance an Israeli military strike against Iran.
The aggregate, held in London on September 27, discussed a motion - originally penned by John Bridge and incorporating an additional paragraph written by Mike Macnair - which had been adopted by the Provisional Central Committee. After a brief opening by Ben Lewis introducing the motion, a full discussion generated several amendments, which improved and clarified the text ( final version here).
In his article (‘What if Israel bombs Iran?’ Solidarity July 24), Matgamna implied that an attack was inevitable. But recent reports indicate that the US imperialists are denying Israel permission to strike against Iranian nuclear installations on the grounds that such an action would be ineffective and counterproductive. As comrade Macnair said, if the debate is about something that is not likely to happen in the short term, why, given the dramatic developments in the economy and other important questions, does the Weekly Worker, and the CPGB aggregate, devote so much time and space to an “unimportant crypto-Eustonite sect” and the nonsense written by its Zionist leader?
Comrade Macnair’s reply was that, far from this debate being a diversion or a waste of time, as the economists of the British left might think, it is important to counter reactionary ideas. Although, as comrade Lewis pointed out, much of the Labour Party, including the Brownite leader of the National Union of Students, is to the left of the AWL on this issue, the kind of social-imperialism promulgated by the AWL is widespread in Britain. In comrade Macnair’s words, Sean Matgamna’s line, while not the most influential example of social-imperialism, is certainly one of the most egregious.
The only real difference of substance expressed in the debate was over the question of whether it was tactically correct to demand Matgamna’s expulsion from the AWL - Nick Rogers suggested we ought to call instead for a factional battle to defeat its leadership. However, Peter Manson pointed out that there would have to be a factional battle in any case. What is more, Matgamna was responsible for the promotion of overtly reactionary ideas into an organisation containing some good working class partisans. In the end, comrade Rogers said he was “convinced” and the motion, including the unanimously accepted drafting changes, was voted for by all members who were present.
After the lunch break comrade James Turley gave a short report on the current work and future plans of Communist Students.
The student comrades have been running stalls at freshers fairs on campuses across the country and distributing the latest edition of Communist Student, which has proved very popular and has had to be reprinted. Comrade Lewis said around 3,000 copies had been distributed to date.
A large number of students have signed up for CS this year, and it is likely that new communist student societies will be set up. The CS leadership plans to strengthen the London group in particular in the current academic year, with the main priority being the education and development of cadres.
Comrades gave examples of the response at various freshers fairs. Comrade Turley said 50 students had signed up at University College London, while Robbie Folkard reported that 80 people had done so in Manchester. Dave Isaacson reported that comrades had run a Hands Off the People of Iran stall, as well as one for CS, at Kings College in London and over 80 had signed up. The task now is to transform them into active CS members.
A variety of responses to the presence of CS stalls were described. There was a lot of interest from international students and it seems that women tend to be more attracted to our ideas than men. Some rightwingers came looking for an argument, while there were also many genuinely puzzled people who had a misguided idea of what communism is. These included environmentalists and Christians, who often had a confused critique of capitalism. The strong presence at freshers fairs of radical Christians, including Christian Union members, was also noted by other comrades.
Several reported that Socialist Worker Student Society stalls were often staffed by Socialist Workers Party full-timers who had been drafted in. Comrade Lewis said that a good number had bought the September 18 Weekly Worker in order to read about the SWP decision to dump John Rees as its main leader.
Mark Fischer made the criticism that CS stalls at freshers fairs contained little more than the special edition of Communist Student plus badges, and argued that quickly produced topical pamphlets would have been useful. Comrade Tina Becker remarked that the digital print machine the CPGB plans to purchase will help in producing such material. She commented that the SWP, having ditched Respect, seems to want to set up another front organisation in addition to SWSS.
Comrade Bridge commented that Communist Student and also the Weekly Worker itself should contain articles which, while not alienating our existing readership, would appeal to a wider audience, including students new to politics. He thought the latest Communist Student had too much detail about, for example, the AWL, which the overwhelming majority of freshers would not have heard of and may never come across.
He also pointed out that the National Union of Students is important to left bureaucrat careerists, but of little interest to most students. While we should oppose the NUS governance review, such campaigning should not be the main focus of CS, he said. Rather he advised student comrades to hold meetings on the current economic crisis, why capitalism does not work and what we would replace it with.
Comrade Turley agreed with those who said the NUS governance review is of limited interest to most students, but argued that the NUS remains an important site for communist intervention. He also fully agreed about the importance of articles and meetings on the economic crisis and hoped that these could be addressed by CS comrades.
Responding to comrade Turley’s statement that cadre development will be the priority in the current academic year, comrade Isaacson agreed that such education is vital, but said it is also important to carry out agitation and organisation on the campuses. Comrade Macnair argued that campaigning activity on campus should currently focus on the question of Iran. Hopi is our sharpest weapon in projecting the politics of proletarian internationalism.
In the final hour of the aggregate comrade Bridge introduced a brief discussion on the Campaign for a Marxist Party and the work of the CPGB within it. Despite its faults, we support the CMP and share its aims - the CPGB is itself working to build the Marxist party the working class needs.
After the first conference the CMP was effectively being run by the Democratic Socialist Alliance with all its eccentricities, and we had to decide whether to abandon the CMP or intervene more actively within it. We chose to mobilise in order to change the committee because, although the CMP is clearly not pulling in the support its initiators had hoped for, it has attracted a number of valued individuals. Most of these comrades agree with us that it is important to defend the idea of a Marxist party and not to let a campaign for such a party to be brought into disrepute. These comrades appreciate the value of the Weekly Worker and a number are now supporting it financially.
The previous committee regarded the CMP as a proto-party - something that was totally misplaced. The present committee, including its larger CPGB component, decided by contrast that a prime objective was the production of a manifesto, with sections written by comrades Jack Conrad, Mike Macnair and Hillel Ticktin. After numerous delays it now seems that a draft will be produced in good time for the CMP conference, likely to be held on December 6.
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