Closet polemic

“THE COMMUNISTS disdain to conceal their views and aims,” wrote Marx and Engels in the Manifesto of the Communist Party in 1848. Not so, however, for the naive opportunists of the misnamed ‘Open Polemic’ organisation - or, to give them their full title, Communist Open Polemic for Revolutionary Unity.

These comrades innocently believe they can unite revolutionaries around themselves by concealing their own views on all but a few selected abstract principles and directing discussion away from areas of disagreement. Communist unity in action, however, can only be achieved to the extent that communist consciousness is raised by thrashing out ideological and political differences in the open, in front of the class.

Not wishing to lend credibility to what we consider a reactionary, anti-Party project - because it offers a talking-shop diversion from the disciplined communist work of Party building - the CPGB Provisional Central Committee has hitherto declined to participate in OP’s conferences. On Saturday June 17, however, as a token of comradely goodwill, and in recognition of the earnest, if misconceived, good intentions of the OP editorial board comrades, I attended as a CPGB observer to witness their conference on ‘The Future Party and its Political Organisation’.

I am sorry, but not surprised, to report that OP’s formula of concealment of differences has not drawn round it the three dozen or more would-be ‘vanguard’ organisations to which it makes its appeal.

The only participants displaying a grasp of reality with respect to the history of the international communist movement were two delegates from the Trotskyist Unity Group. They are academics with interesting ideas, but being academics theirs is a theory-without-practice project.

The rest of of the 15 participants, representing little but themselves, accurately matched Jack Conrad’s description of “crackpot Stalinites, sad loners, dilettantes and general political decomposition”, with OP playing ringmaster to “a freak show in which irrelevant hole-in-the-corner grouplets ... parade their grotesque, deformed dogmas” (Weekly Worker 92, ‘Notes on Rapprochement’).

A few examples, I think, will give you a taste of the calibre of the meeting.

One OP editorial board member, who claimed to be Trotskyist, was “not convinced of the need for leaders” (Trotsky certainly was) and was concerned that the Party should serve the needs of its members.

Like Jerry Spring, OP conference chair, Bill Bland of the Communist League saw no evidence that the 1921 banning of factions in the Bolshevik Party was ever intended as temporary.

The International Leninist Workers Party criticised Stalin ... for being “too soft”! “The KGB and the Berlin Wall needed to be bigger and better, not demolished.”

‘Open Polemic’ would be a good title, if it meant what it said. The organisation, and the individuals which constitute it, must come out of the closet and come clean about what they believe in.

Outside the CPGB, OP is an anti-Party pole of attraction. As Party members, arguing their various viewpoints, while carrying out disciplined communist work, the OP comrades can make their greatest contribution towards the multanimous Communist Party they desire.

Stan Kelsey