Organising for things to come
The amended perspectives document, as agreed by the March 2011 CPGB aggregate
World politics will be coloured, driven and shaped by the ongoing crisis of capitalism, and for many years to come at that. This crisis is the deepest since the 1930s economically. The focus has shifted from subprime mortgages and banks to sovereign debt. However, the crisis is conjoined with:
- The continued decline of capitalism as a system.
- The visible decline of the US as the hegemon of the capitalist world.
- An ongoing and ever worsening ecological crisis.
We should not be surprised that the decline of capitalism goes hand in hand with a decline of its hegemon and what appears as the absolute limits of capitalism as a system.
The US is attempting, and will further attempt, to offload its crisis onto other countries. It can do that for two main reasons:
- The dollar remains the global reserve currency.
- This is backed by unequalled military power and an elaborate system of military and political alliances.
Nevertheless, the US can no longer automatically impose its will on other countries. This can be seen in repeated US failures at G8 and G20 meetings. It can also, albeit as a footnote, be seen in the nationalist, radical and reformist political developments in South America (once considered the US backyard).
There is no viable replacement to the US hegemon in waiting.
Japan has been mired in stagnation for well over a decade and possesses a population of around 125 million, compared to over 300 million in the US. Nor should we forget that strategically Japan remains an integral part of the US military-political system.
The European Union has a population of around 500 million - four times bigger than Japan - and a huge GDP. However, it exhibits extreme unevenness when it comes to economic development. The EU is, moreover, deeply divided politically. This is reflected in the euro crisis and the lack of an agreed long-term perspective. Eg, France and Germany want one thing; Britain another. The EU is not a state, but a confederation with an inbuilt tendency/possibility of shattering, shedding members, splitting down the middle or being united through a modern-day version of blood and iron. More than that, it too is an integral part of the US military-political system.
China and India: Talk about other so-called emerging economic powers is much exaggerated. Current economic growth figures cannot be projected into the indefinite future. Nor should the present political unity of countries such as China and India be taken for granted. Leave aside US subversion: there is every reason to expect spontaneous regionalist and class revolts in such countries from peasants and workers.
While the ruling ideas are the ideas of the ruling class, the structural crisis of capitalism is producing ever more shallowness and one fad giving way to another in rapid succession. The ruling class and its political elite tend to be ever more short-termist and irrational.
To the extent that substantial concessions can no longer be granted or offered to those below, chauvinism and xenophobia will be promoted by sections of the ruling class. Eg, David Cameron’s British national identity speech.
Sadly, this is echoed on the left with demands for a withdrawal from the EU, calls for ‘non-racist’ immigration controls and the restoration of ‘national sovereignty’. Organisationally expressed in the No2EU electoral bloc, which united the Morning Star’s Communist Party of Britain and the Socialist Party in England and Wales.
War and instability
We should certainly expect the unexpected. New wars, especially proxy wars, should be ruled in, not out: eg, Korea, Venezuela and Iran (an Israeli attack). The continuation of North African/Middle Eastern revolutions would certainly mean more wars - both revolutionary and counterrevolutionary.
The anti-dictatorial protests in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Oman, Bahrain, Iran, etc express the aspirations of the peoples of the Middle East and North Africa for genuine democracy. These struggles are also related to the worsening economic situation in these countries. Foreign investment in third-world countries based on high rates of profit already relied on very high levels of unemployment and under-employment; however, the situation has worsened considerably as a result of the global downturn. The speculative nature of surplus capital flowing to ‘emergent’ economies has raised exchange rates, damaging exports from these countries. This, together with market speculation on the rise in the price of food and raw materials, has made starvation a reality for millions of Arabs, Iranians, Turks, etc.
The forthcoming period promises acute instability. China, India, Russia, Brazil, etc are not immune from the economic crisis. War, capital withdrawal, imperial protectionism, a sudden outburst of class struggles would trigger the most profound turmoil.
Ongoing debt crises, such as in Ireland and Greece, could certainly spread to other euro zone countries and threaten the existence of the euro itself. That would force a Franco-German political response and provoke national conflict within the EU of the most acute kind.
Inevitably, in face of the ongoing crisis of capitalism there has been an upsurge of popular resistance. We have certainly seen the future in the protest general strikes in Greece, Spain, France, etc. There is a crying need for coordination across the EU. The EU, or so the evidence points to, is the world revolutionary centre of the 21st century.
Meanwhile, it is the working class which bears the main burden of the crisis everywhere: lower living standards, long hours, higher taxes, cuts in wages and pensions, cuts in social services, education provision, unemployment, etc.
Hands Off the People of Iran
Hands Off the People of Iran is a principled solidarity campaign. Hopi was established at the joint initiative of CPGB and Iranian comrades. We took a particular responsibility when it comes to Iran. In part this is due to long-established personal relations, in part due to the particular importance of Iran in terms of global politics.
It is clear that an imperialist war is already being prepared for/conducted: eg, sanctions, Stuxnet, etc. It is also clear that the theocratic regime is extremely weak internally and relies in no small measure on the imperialist threat to maintain itself in power.
Articles in the Weekly Worker have exposed the sham anti-imperialism of Ahmadinejad and co, and stressed the need for a working class alternative in Iran. The true nature of the green movement was made clear from the first.
We need to continue to support the work of Hopi and look for every opportunity to draw other forces in to take their share of the work and spread its message: against imperialist intervention, against the theocracy.
The need for a socialist alternative has surely never been greater. Despite that the forces of the left are organisationally pathetically weak, often ideologically at sea or/and mired in the dead-endism of the sects. In part this is because of the virtual collapse of ‘official communism’ and social democracy - crucially as forces offering an alternative to capitalism.
Disappointingly, but not surprisingly, many of the remaining groups on the left seem determined to reinvent, or revive, either ‘official communism’ or social democracy (often in their most conservative, least ambitious forms).
Mass strikes, revolts and uprisings can be expected. Despite that, if there is no clear working class lead, no mass Marxist parties, other forces will fill the vacuum: eg, reactionary anti-capitalism. Meanwhile, without a correct programme being agreed and spread to the masses, all kinds of false starts, abject failures and costly diversions should be expected on the left. Social forums, movementism, halfway house parties, class-collaboration, left nationalisms, reformism which does not even claim to aim for socialism, etc.
Under these circumstances we must:
- Keep arguing against illusions - peddled by many on the left - in reactionary anti-capitalisms. Not only Islamic anti-capitalism, of course, but Christian, nationalist, military, green, etc, anti-capitalisms too.
- Keep arguing against Keynesian and neo-Keynesian illusions and instead make the case for a radical extension of democracy that in time breaks through into socialism and the rule of the working class.
- Keep hammering home the fact that Marxism and Marxism alone is the only viable politics that can organise the working class into a party and into a future ruling class.
- Keep pushing our idea of a EU Communist Party and an EU won by the working class.
- Keep arguing for a pan-Arab revolution led by the working class.
- With all the above in mind, our international contacts need widening. As things stand, we should expect that this will in the first place be more on the level of particular individuals rather than organisations. Eg, our regular correspondents in the US, France, Ireland and Turkey. With a little effort and application that list can be expanded.
- Continue to provide intelligent and politically principled coverage of events and developments internationally. Given limited resources in terms of competent journalists, that will be a hopping exercise. Eg, from Zimbabwe to Greece, to Tunisia, etc.
British politics will be shaped to a considerable degree by the debt crisis and the savage cuts imposed by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government. There is, meanwhile, the distinct possibility that those cuts will trigger/contribute to a double-dip recession. Even without that, the ongoing instability of the world capitalist economy contains within it the distinct possibility of another steep downturn. Hence yet more attacks on our class.
The ‘phoney war’ over cuts came to an end with the student movement in late 2010. That movement will surely revive and reach new heights, as cuts bite and have more and more damaging effects. Eg, the closure of departments and courses, staff lay-offs. Under these circumstances we need to argue for:
- The student movement to be widened and deepened. The vanguard must mobilise the mass.
- Student assemblies on every campus. Once that is achieved, elect recallable delegates to city-wide and national assemblies.
- The student movement to be organised and educated. The existence and competition of the sects disorganise and miseducate. For a single Marxist organisation of students on a pro-partyist basis.
- More resources to be put into building Communist Students. However modest, we must organise weekly seminars in at least one central London college location.
It is clear that the organised working class will enter the struggle in 2011. The TUC March 26 demonstration needs to be used as a springboard. Eg, occupations, protest strikes, etc. Cuts affect the entire working class and this requires a united working class response. Not just the unity of public sector workers.
We need to argue against illusions in general strikism and anarchistic stuntism. That, of course, is not to oppose protest general strikes or particular, well aimed stunts.
But there can be no substitute for mass communist consciousness. The working class can only come to power if it has been organised and understands that it needs to come to power and how. It cannot be tricked into overthrowing capitalism and ushering in socialism.
While it is right to recognise that the Liberal Democrats constitute the weak link in the coalition government, it is vital not to dismiss the coalition government as weak and ready to be swept away with the first rush of mass protests.
The Lib Dems have been enslaved by the Tory Party. They will stand as coalition candidates at the next general election, face wipe-out or/and split. Nevertheless, a further realignment of British politics cannot be ruled out.
A twofold combination of being in opposition and the class struggle will push the Labour Party to the left. Given Blairism, New Labour, being in government for 13 years, etc, that is not saying much. But the tendency will be to the left. We can, with this or that proviso, predict that much. The signs, albeit tiny and incremental at the moment, and not in themselves of any great importance, are nevertheless there to see. Eg, the influx into the Labour Party, the increased membership of the Labour Representation Committee, the appointment of Ed Balls as shadow chancellor and the choking off of big capitalist finance. Against this must be set Ed Miliband’s questioning of the trade union link. So the class character of the Labour Party still exhibits considerable instability.
Under such circumstances, and perhaps given another sharp economic downturn, there is the outside possibility of the Blairites - ie, the most openly pro-capitalist, anti-working class wing of the Labour Party - breaking away from Labour and entering government alongside the Tories and coalition Lib Dems.
Speculation aside, the Labour Party remains a bourgeois workers’ party and therefore a vital site of struggle for Marxists. Those who dismiss Labour make an elementary mistake. Ditto those who counterpose fighting the coalition’s cuts and fighting inside the Labour Party.
Marxists in the Labour Party need to be organised on the basis of Marxism. That means a perspective of winning the Labour Party - and the trade unions - to Marxism. Bans and proscriptions must be removed and the Labour Party transformed into a permanent united front of the working class. Towards that end the pro-capitalist right must be driven out and the trade unions thoroughly democratised.
With this perspective in mind Marxists in the Labour Party need to look for an opportunity, a cause, to organise around. Timing is everything in politics.
Towards that end we will encourage Labour Party Marxists to:
- Report and analyse developments in the Labour Party using the pages of the Weekly Worker.
- Regularly caucus and exchange experiences and ideas.
- Intervene and take initiatives in the Labour left and seek out allies.
- Look to publishing on the internet.
In relationship to the wider Labour left, Marxists need to develop a friendly but critical relationship. They must patiently explain the shortcomings, problems and fallacies of reformism, left nationalism and alternative economic strategies, etc. Why this patient approach? Because the mass of class-conscious workers have such views in their minds.
Fighting to transform the Labour Party in no way contradicts the fight to organise the Marxist left into a single Communist Party and over time build that organisation into a mass party. Communists support the organisation of the working class at every conceivable level: ie, co-ops, trade unions, trades councils, workers’ militias, educational associations, sporting clubs, temporary and permanent united fronts (eg, soviets).
The non-Labour left is hoping to grow substantially in the forthcoming period. However, the opportunities that undoubtedly exist are being squandered in narrow sect-building projects. The aim is to build the sect, not the confidence, power and self-activity of the working class.
Hence, there are at least three national anti-cuts campaigns. Right to Work and the National Shop Stewards Network exist so that the Socialist Workers Party and SPEW can recruit. There is no other reason for their existence. The Coalition of Resistance is better only because the Counterfire group around John Rees and Lindsey German cannot dominate it in the way the SWP and SPEW regimes can. We need to argue for a single anti-cuts campaign.
Paradoxical though it might seem, the conditions of capitalist crisis have hardened the sectarian divisions of the left. What goes for SPEW, SWP and the Morning Star’s CPB goes for their smaller rivals and mimics: eg, Alliance for Workers’ Liberty, Workers Power, Socialist Resistance, etc.
While there might well be new unity initiatives, at present they lack self-belief, perspective, principles, etc. Eg, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition is thoroughly opportunist, tightly controlled from above, a mere lash-up, etc.
In local, regional and national elections we should in general prefer to support anti-cuts Labour Party members/candidates. However, we can give critical support to organisations such as Tusc, Respect, etc, because: (a) they will say they will oppose all cuts; and (b) say they would not implement them. That said, we should not expect anything much to come from such outfits: eg, they are quite capable of promoting middle class, localist candidates. Above all, none of them have a serious socialist or partyist perspective.
Unity of the left is vital. But in the short term the chances of unity, via an appeal to the tops - ie, to the leaderships of SPEW, SWP, etc - is likely to fall on stony ground. Therefore such appeals must be kept abstract, at the level of propaganda for the moment. The powder of unity needs to be kept dry.
Of course, we must keep arguing for the unity of Marxists as Marxists and seize any real opportunity that can be created or presents itself in order to bring forward that goal.
However, as a direct concomitant, we must argue against Labour Party mark twos and ruthlessly expose the inadequacies, illusions of grandeur and fundamentally mistaken premise of such misconceived projects.
The fact of the matter is that the Labour Party still exists and Marxists must have a correct orientation to it and thus the mass of organised workers.
Our organisation remains very small and we should not expect any dramatic change in that respect in the short term. That despite the period and the upturn in class struggles. Hence we need to guard against impatience, frustration and childish leftism, as well as reformism and conformist class-collaboration. Inevitable amongst those with a low level of theory and little understanding of Marxism. At all times we need a due sense of proportion.
Nevertheless, what our organisation does and says carries a weight far beyond its numbers. The Weekly Worker - not least through its web presence - is our main weapon and is in terms of its frequency, presentation, content and impact almost a weekly miracle.
Only four organisations have proved capable of producing a real - not a silly-print - weekly paper: SWP, SPEW, AWL (just recently) … and the CPGB.
In 2011 our online presence will be considerably boosted by a new, much improved website. This will obviously require constant attention. Besides a loose team of workers that means an online editor. Needless to say, the vast bulk of web content will continue to be generated by the Weekly Worker … and thus politically guided, chosen, cut, expanded and introduced by its editorial staff.
The attraction/strength of the Weekly Worker has widely been seen in reporting/analysing the politics of the left. That must be continued and where possible deepened. Our strategy is based on going through the existing left, not forgetting the Labour and trade union left. That requires openness and militant polemics.
We practise what we preach. In our tradition being open about differences is both a right and a duty. Those in our ranks who say they disagree with this or that aspect of our politics and strategy internally need to take that on board.
The Weekly Worker rightly looks far beyond mere reportage. The paper is informed by/advocates the most advanced programme on the left and champions/presents the most advanced theory. Obviously we shall be publishing the new Draft programme of the CPGB in 2011. That needs promoting and, to the extent we can, popularised.
We must continue to strive to develop theory and, alongside that, cultivate a deep sense of history. Obviously that takes time and effort, and that needs to be appreciated. In 2011 we shall publish second, expanded editions of Fantastic reality and Revolutionary strategy.
Besides theory being generated internally - ie, in the ranks of the CPGB’s membership - the paper and its staff have quite rightly cultivated relations of friendship, cooperation and comradeship with those who might be called fellow-travellers or allies. It is of some considerable political importance that we publish articles by the likes of Chris Gray, Dave Douglass, Gerry Downing and Tony Greenstein. Though they are only individuals, their contributions - valuable in and of themselves - are also a pointer to the kind of mass CPGB we aspire to.
We have certainly gathered around the paper some of the best leftwing intellectuals: eg, Hillel Ticktin, Lars T Lih, Moshé Machover and Chris Knight. In their respective fields they are outstanding thinkers and we should continue to cherish their involvement with our project. Their contributions certainly add to the high quality of our weekly paper and annual school, the Communist University.