Debating draft programme
Jim Moody reports the discussion so far on three new sections of the CPGB's Draft Programme
Regular readers will know that CPGB members and others who have come to our London Communist Forums have been thoroughly re-examining the organisation’s Draft programme for some time now. The most recent meetings devoted to this have concentrated on three important new sections.
First is the section on ‘Democracy’. Broadly speaking, this is based on our oft-reiterated argument that the working class can only come to socialism in a mass, democratic way. Stan Keable introduced the discussion, beginning by juxtaposing one example of the state’s approach, controls such as fingerprinting by the police, to ours: that of the armed people operating through its militias. Two clearly different visions, which he then expanded upon.
In the subsequent discussion, Phil Kent underlined the different interpretation that others put on the struggle for socialism, often simply equating it with nationalisation of the means of production. In contrast, we talk of a democratic class that can only express itself democratically.
In his introduction to the new section on Europe, comrade Kent felt that this section should be expressed more positively; we are competing with the ruling class for power. He considered that, as the EU is made up of different states, it is much less coherent than the USA or Japan. Our core, real reason for wanting a united Europe was to wage more effectively the struggle against capital.
Peter Manson found a lack of clarity in this section as drafted: what exactly is ‘evenness’? Does it mean that Europe is all on one scale or that the USA is more advanced? He also thought that there was a contradiction in saying that a united Europe would be ‘indivisible’, meaning ‘you cannot leave’, which does not fit with the question of national self-determination. But comrade Kent contended that there was no contradiction in fact, since it was a voluntary indivisibility that was being suggested.
Comrade Bridge referred comrades to the CPGB book, Remaking Europe (2004), and to Trotsky’s writings with respect to the question of unevenness. While Britain and Greece, for example, do have disparities, Europe as a whole compared to other capitalist powers (Japan, USA) does have a significant degree of evenness. If revolution were to break out in France, it would affect other countries in the EU; were it to break out in Japan or Brazil, say, revolution would not have the same effect in propagating itself. Europe is interlinked to a great degree and its commonality means that we would expect European countries to move together. Anyone expecting the USA to go first, by the way, is somewhat naive.
In terms of indivisibility, comrade Bridge continued, we favour centralised states, after all. That was the basis on which the US civil war was fought: you can join, but you cannot leave. We must not forget that the right of nations to self-determination is a negativity: we want to overcome national divisions.
Europe is a political entity, as well as an economic and historical one; geographical delineation is secondary. Thus Ottoman Turkey was always considered a European power. Trotsky’s idea was for Europe to join with Russia, then Asia, etc. It is not an imperial project for some greater Europe that we have in mind, however.
Questions of the environment and ecology constitute the last of the new sections to be incorporated. Comrade Kent’s introduction led off with the fact that there is over-exploitation of nature under class society, especially under capitalism. He suggested that humans are linked organically to living nature, of which they are a part.
Comrade Bridge maintained that the beginning of the section was intentionally polemical, though not in a direct manner. It thus refers to the Gotha programme and the Socialist Worker ‘What we stand for’ column, which still states quite wrongly that the workers produce all wealth. Why have they not changed it? This is an important error on the part of the SWP; indeed, historically a lot of the left had this view.
Comrade Moody took a tilt at the idea of ‘little farms’ as sounding whimsical, when what we should prioritise is improving the conditions of those who live and work in the countryside, through improving transport and social and cultural activities in villages and small towns.
Taking comrade Kent to task on one question, comrade Bridge contended that the ‘political economy of the working class’ refers to the interests of the working class in the here and now, countering the interests of capitalism. The Tory government had been reluctant to introduce the Clean Air Act in 1956, for example; such measures come from the working class, the fundamentally democratic movement from below. They are forced on a reluctant ruling class, which suffers a reduction in its profits as a result.
Comrade Bridge took issue with Jim Moody on the rainforests, emphasising that the great rainforests were about much more than CO2 emissions. Hacking them down was an act of barbarism regardless; they belong to all of humanity. Similarly, the ecology of the seas was not just about these emissions; outrageously, they have become the world’s dustbin. He wanted a bare minimum of CO2 outputs, not just a reduction.
On cities, London was used as an example. Not only do we want most of the present jobs in the City of London to go: we want to populate the place again, possibly taking over office blocks for accommodation. There needs to be a redistribution of work and population, spreading outwards. We should no longer give so much weight to Marx’s talk of ‘rural idiocy’, when in fact rural livers have often a much higher cultural level than whole swathes of cities and towns. We also need to produce food locally, including in specialised ways, which is why medium and small farms are a good idea and not at all whimsical.
The three sections are provisional and the discussions on them so far only a part of what has to be done. We hope that comrades outside the present ranks of the CPGB will also contribute their ideas for these parts of the Draft programme as for all its sections.
Three proposed new sections
Under capitalism democracy exhibits two sides. There is mystification, whereby the masses are reconciled to their exploitation and fooled into imagining themselves to be the sovereign power in society.
On the other hand, there is the struggle to give democratic forms a new, substantive, content. This can only be achieved by the working class taking the lead in the fight to ensure popular control over all aspects of society.
Hence, communists do not counterpose democracy with socialism. Democracy is much more than voting every four or five years. Democracy is the rule of the people, for the people, by the people. To make that aspiration real necessarily means removing all judicial, structural and socio-economic restraints on, or distortions of, popular control from below.
Winning the battle for democracy in Britain
Communists stand for republican democracy. In Britain that means demanding:
- Abolish the monarchy and the House of Lords. For a single-chamber parliament with proportional representation and annual elections.
- No to the presidential prime minister. End prime ministerial appointment of ministers and all other forms of prime ministerial patronage.
- Disband MI5, MI6, special branch and the entire secret state apparatus.
- For local democracy. Service provision, planning, tax raising, policing and funding allocation to be radically devolved downwards as far as possible and appropriate, to ward, borough, city and county levels.
Communists oppose all programmes and demands for a British withdrawal from the European Union. By the same measure we oppose the EU of commissioners, corruption and capital. However, as the political, bureaucratic and economic elite has created the reality of a confederal EU, the working class should take it, not the narrow limits of the nation-state, as its decisive point of departure.
Taken together, EU countries exhibit a definite evenness due to geography, culture, history, economics and politics. Put another way, Europe exists on one scale of unevenness. The US, Japan, and other capitalist countries on another.
Practically, that necessitates organising at an EU level: campaigns, trade unions, cooperatives, a united EU Communist Party, etc, and fighting for extreme democracy and working class rule. Communists want not a quasi-democratic, confederal EU, but a united Europe under the rule of the working class.
- Abolish the EU commission. Abolish the council of ministers. Power to the EU parliament.
- For a democratically controlled European Central Bank.
- Towards indivisible European unity.
Naturally, to the degree the working class extends its power over the EU it will exercise attraction for the oppressed peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America. Such a bloc would be able to face down all threats and quickly spread the flame of universal liberation.
Communists reject the claim that workers create all wealth under capitalism. There is also the wealth that comes from the labour of peasants, petty bourgeois and middle class strata. Above that there is nature too. If labour is the father of wealth, nurture is its mother.
Sunshine and rain, the air and seas, the soil and the winds are all gifts from nature. Without them our life on this planet would be impossible. Hence the source of wealth lies in both labour and nature. The two forms conjoin.
However, at present nature is accorded no value. Capital has but one interest: self-expansion. Capital has no intrinsic concern either for the worker or nature. Nature and the human being are nothing for capital except objects of exploitation.
Especially over the last 100 years, and increasingly so, capitalist exploitation of nature has resulted in unprecedented destruction. Deforestation, the erosion of top soil, the spread of deserts, and air and water pollution are growing apace. Much of the world’s population has no ready access to clean drinking water. Countless species of plants and animals have meanwhile been driven to the edge of extinction.
Instead of cherishing the resources of nature there is plunder. Oil is criminally wasted through the car economy, air travel booms while railway prices are hiked, nuclear power is presented as the only solution to global warming and the danger of runaway climate change.
Working class power presents the only viable alternative to the destructive reproduction of capital. First as a countervailing force within capitalism that pulls against the logic of capital. The political economy of the working class brings with it not only higher wages and shorter hours. It brings health services, social security systems, pensions, universal primary and secondary education ... and measures that protect the environment.
As well as being of capitalism, the working class is uniquely opposed to capitalism. The political economy of the working class more than challenges capital. It points beyond - to the total reorganisation of society and with that ending humanity’s strained, brutalised and crisis-ridden relationship with nature.
The great rain forests of Congo, Indonesia, Peru, Columbia and Brazil must be safeguarded. So must the much depleted life in the oceans and seas. But much more can be done. Our aim is not only to put a stop to destruction and preserve what remains. For example, Britain is one of the most denaturised countries in the world. For the sake of future generations we aim to restore and where possible enhance the riches of nature.
Immediately that means:
- Free urban public transport. Nationalise the land. Tax polluters. Minimise carbon dioxide, methane and other such global warming gas outputs.
- Sustainable development. For the re-establishment of an intimate connection between town and country, agriculture and industry, and a rational distribution of the population.
- Concrete jungles, urban sprawl, huge farms and uninterrupted industrialised agriculture are profoundly alienating and inhuman.
- Work and living should be brought closer together. Towns and cities should be full of trees, public gardens, wild parks and little farms. In the countryside extensive wilderness areas should be created along with the reintroduction of the full array of native plants and animal species.