Communist unity

LAST SUNDAY Steve Freeman from the Revolutionary Democratic Group (faction of the SWP) led the debate at a Communist Party meeting in London, attended also by representatives of the Republican Worker Tendency and Open Polemic.

Under the heading Communist Unity, Democratic Centralism and the RDG Steve began by explaining the history of the RDG and outlining the very different traditions from which the RDG and the Provisional Central Committee of the CPGB have emerged. Steve emphasised how a coming together of these two different traditions would have significance on the whole of the left.

In discussion a comrade from the RWT stated his organisation’s belief that it was vital to break with the old fake communist traditions of the ‘official’ pro-Soviet Communist Party. For comrades in the CPGB reforging the Party is important because that Party was part of the class. This has nothing to do with claiming its politics, which must be ruthlessly criticised from day one.

The RDG agrees that in principle all communists should be united in one Party around its revolutionary programme. In order to unite our groups from their different ideological traditions and in order for it to become genuinely part of the class, it must be a democratic centralist Party.

From here Steve attempted to identify our points of agreement and, more importantly, disagreement and how these would affect a coming together. Our main points of agreement concern the importance of combatting the Labour Party and Labourism; the Socialist Workers Party as a main opponent; the necessity to push bourgeois democracy to its limits, and then to crisis through the minimum programme; and centrally the necessity of a democratic centralist Communist Party.

Two of the major points of difference would be the nature of the Soviet Union and the question of republicanism. The discussion on these aspects could only be aired at the meeting, but will of necessity continue through future discussions on unity.

In the view of the RDG, state capitalism was never abolished in Russia: it was state capitalist pre-1917, post-1991 and throughout the time in between. The important question is political - ie, who controlled society, in whose interests - which is why for the RDG Kronstadt and the 10th congress in 1921 marked an important turning point.

It was pointed out that in the CPGB there are a number of differing views, but certainly many could agree that 1921 was a significant date, when Bolshevism was in crisis.

This is not to declare agnosticism on the question, but to recognise these questions need to be thrashed out and studied in much greater detail than any of the left has done to date, in order to come to the truth. Joining together in one organisation will aid that process and, more importantly, facilitate correct practice in unity.

The question of the revolutionary minimum programme was established by both the RDG and the CPGB as being central to unity. In reply to Open Polemic’s concern for a detailed written constitution before any coming together is possible, it was agreed that Party rules had to go hand in hand with the programme, but that both of these would develop in struggle and through communist work. The programme is part of the struggle for the Party.

Making the programme and rules real requires comradeship and communist work. Steve pointed out that the culture of the SWP, not the rules, was the main problem. When comrades were expelled from that organisation by a bureaucratic leadership the biggest problem was that the membership did not do anything about it. There was no culture of democracy, no communist morality. These cannot be legislated: they have to be fought for in struggle.

In this period of reaction the organisation of revolutionaries in one Communist Party is urgent. Nobody is suggesting instant unity, or a glitzing over of differences. But discussions amongst communists must be part of the fight to fill the vacuum in society from the left, before it is filled from the right.

Lee-Anne Bates