Time to move on
Closure of the Campaign for a Marxist Party is not an end, but a new beginning, writes Mark Fischer
We go into the December 6 AGM of the Campaign for a Marxist Party with a proposal from the outgoing leadership that the organisation be closed down. On the face of it, this may seem like a setback for the struggle for principled Marxist unity. In fact, it represents a determination to get down to some serious work on the core project of fighting for a Marxist party and to put behind us the petty squabbles, thuggish threats and clowning that have discredited the campaign.
The CPGB’s support for the proposal to draw this line under the original initiative requires some explanation, of course. After all, the CPGB gave a guarded welcome to the founding of CMP two years ago. Our support sprang from the recognition that it - uniquely amongst all the other so-called unity projects of the left - called not for yet another halfway house project, but the unity of Marxists as Marxists.
At the same time we were cautious. We disagreed strongly with the notion of some CMP founding members that simply planting a ‘pristine’ red flag would almost instantaneously rally hundreds, if not thousands, to a new organisation. Had much larger numbers been there from the start, the political balance would have been very different. Unfortunately, though, the CMP did not attract sufficient forces for it to be launched as a viable project.
However, the main problem with the CMP was not that of expectation: rather the anarcho-bureaucratism of a majority of those who volunteered to serve on the CMP’s national committee. The main concern of these comrades - members of the Democratic Socialist Alliance - was to pursue a peculiar, ‘anti-sectarian sectarian’ agenda. That included promoting the Socialist Alliance’s People before profit programme and the idea of a halfway house party - ie, not a Marxist party.
The first conference also agreed in effect to build the CMP as a proto-party with individual membership, regional organisers, branches, a journal and ambitions to contest elections and do trade union support work. This posturing discredited the CMP, but gave a field day to the philosophical poseurs, narrow-minded bureaucrats and aspiring petty dictators.
In the lead-up to the 2007 AGM, the CPGB and others such as Hillel Ticktin agreed that the campaign had to be saved for sanity. We tried to reach a workable compromise with the DSA. That failed. They contemptuously rejected an offer whereby the DSA would have three committee members (the same as the CPGB). So we decided that they would have to be cleared out.
The last AGM decisively rejected the DSA and elected a much more representative committee. Meeting for the first time, the new committee decided that posturing had to go and that a more sober, less pretentious, less bureaucratic approach had to be put in place.
We tried to organise a pal talk discussion forum. Quite frankly that failed. True, some useful meetings were held, but they were all in London - numbers in attendance varied from around a dozen to near 80. But we failed to produce the CMP manifesto which the committee agreed to at its first meeting. Instead we had to settle for three contributions towards a manifesto.
In the meantime the DSA tried to generate one petty dispute after another. Now organised as the Trotskyist Tendency of the CMP, they put up an anarchistic defence of those who think they have the right to threaten violence and organised the anarchistic hijacking of the campaign’s journal. The Trotskyist Tendency published its own Marxist Voice without bothering to ask or even inform the elected national committee. This was a unilateral, underhand, unnecessary and thoroughly undemocratic move. Its former editor, Dave Spencer, quite obviously considers it as his private property.
The atmosphere in the campaign has thus been thoroughly poisoned and the CMP ‘brand’ irretrievably tarnished. The CMP has gone from being an opportunity to becoming a barrier.
At its last meeting the national committee of the CMP reviewed our record, future course and structure. It was agreed that fashioning, organising and viewing the CMP as a proto-party formation was wrong to begin with and has failed in practice. It is therefore time to for serious people in the CMP to move on.
The crisis of global capitalism has massively revived an interest in the ideas of Marxism. Yet most groups and sectlets that claim adherence to this inspiring and eminently realistic body of thought actually abandon it in practice when they address the working class. Left populism or warmed over left social democracy are peddled and ‘Marxism’ (or rather, a desiccated caricature of it) is kept simply as the ideological shibboleth of the sect.
The CPGB and others have been discussing the formation of a committee that will promote the study of Marxism and appeal for the unity of Marxists as Marxists. We want to talk to the working class not from within or behind some halfway house, but openly and honestly as Marxists. We are confident that this can start to involve much wider forces. The CPGB is keen to reach out to comrades outside the UK, in particular to draw Marxists in Europe into this work.
The process of bringing Marxists together - and of clarifying what Marxism actually is after the protracted nightmare of Stalinism - needs a certain patience. However, it also needs boldness and a sense of urgency.
There is no point in engaging in pointless disputes with pointless people. The CPGB is committed to taking the idea of organising a Marxist party to class fighters, militant trade unionists, anti-capitalists, revolutionary socialists, environmental campaigners. In other words, to all who want a world fit for human beings.