Right-Wing Communism in Britain

Much ado has been made in the revisionist camp about the necessity of supporting Labour, which means, in their view, to completely abandon all revolutionary communist slogans and positions, including minor details such as the dictatorship of the proletariat.

To them the most revolutionary act is to tell the working class that Corbyn and Labour are there to solve all our problems, and that all we need to do is to vote Labour on 8 June. To justify this they frantically dredge up quotes from Marx about the situation in 19th century Britain (before the bourgeois state apparatus had been fully developed and deployed in Britain), and very select quotes from Lenin’s “Left-Wing” Communism: an Infantile Disorder.

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Unfortunately all this proves is that they are the most doctrinaire of class traitors. To paraphrase Lenin: “We want to support Corbyn in the same way as the rope supports a hanged man—that the impending establishment of a government of the Corbynites will prove that we are right, will bring the masses over to our side, and will hasten the political death of Labour.”

Let’s look at the context of that chapter. “Left-Wing” Communism in Great Britain was written in 1920, 4 years before the very first Labour government. It was written before a communist party was established in Britain. In their conferences in 1923 and 1924 the Labour Party would vote against CPGB affiliation, and bar communists from Labour Party membership and support.

Some comrades accuse us of not providing enough written or vocal support to the Labour Party. Surely the same charge must be levelled at Lenin then, on the Labour Party of the early ’20s:

“It is true that the Hendersons, the Clyneses, the MacDonalds and the Snowdens are hopelessly reactionary. It is equally true that they want to assume power (though they would prefer a coalition with the bourgeoisie), that they want to “rule” along the old bourgeois lines…”

What about the purpose of parliament, and the attitude of communists towards it?

“The writer of the letter fully realises that only workers’ Soviets, not parliament, can be the instrument enabling the proletariat to achieve its aims; those who have failed to understand this are, of course, out-and-out reactionaries, even if they are most highly educated people, most experienced politicians, most sincere socialists, most erudite Marxists, and most honest citizens and fathers of families. But the writer of the letter does not even ask—it does not occur to him to ask—whether it is possible to bring about the Soviets’ victory over parliament without getting pro-Soviet politicians into parliament, without disintegrating parliamentarianism from within, without working within parliament for the success of the Soviets in their forthcoming task of dispersing parliament.”

So do our revisionst comrades think Corbyn, or anyone else in the Labour Party, is secretly working to expose or disintegrate parliament? Is Corbyn secretly a communist, having worked within bourgeois democracy alone for decades to finally betray the true nature of Parliament and the Labour Party? If so, we must congratulate our comrades on such a convoluted long-term plan finally coming to fruition, although we are not sure they are fully prepared to take advantage of it.

“The British Communists should participate in parliamentary action, that they should, from within parliament, help the masses of the workers see the results of a Henderson and Snowden government in practice”

How many reactionary, imperialist Labour governments will it take to achieve class consciousness? We fully hope that Corbyn and the Labour Party will be able to form a government. We have already been able to use Corbyn as a fantastic example of the corruptness and bourgeois nature of the Labour Party, let’s hope he can do the same for us with parliamentarianism and social-democracy.

“The Communist Party should propose the following “compromise” election agreement to the Hendersons and Snowdens: let us jointly fight against the alliance between Lloyd George and the Conservatives; let us share parliamentary seats in proportion to the number of workers’ votes polled for the Labour Party and for the Communist Party (not in elections, but in a special ballot), and let us retain complete freedom of agitation, propaganda and political activity. Of course, without this latter condition, we cannot agree to a bloc, for that would be treachery; the British Communists must demand and get complete freedom to expose the Hendersons and the Snowdens in the same way as (for fifteen years—1903–17) the Russian Bolsheviks demanded and got it in respect of the Russian Hendersons and Snowdens, i.e., the Mensheviks.”

Of course the Labour party has rejected this, while the doctrinaire communists have fully embraced the idea of supporting the Labour Party without any of the sensible conditions set out by Lenin, and have ignored the past several decades – almost a century – of history since then.

“Let us retain complete freedom of agitation, propaganda and political activity…without this latter condition, we cannot agree to a bloc, for that would be treachery; the British Communists must demand and get complete freedom to expose the Hendersons and the Snowdens”

We treat socialism as a science, we develop theories, test them, and update them based on a dialectical and historical materialist understanding of the world. To repeat an experiment again and again, each time expecting a different result, is madness.

The CPGB worked under the revisionist British Road to Socialism for decades. The CPB and others still put forward the idea to their members and readers that the most important thing for them to do, still, is to support Labour. Perhaps buy the Morning Star on occasion, maybe even join the Communist Party if you really think you want to. But definitely vote Labour, definitely campaign for Labour, and definitely tell everyone else to vote Labour. This is the most sacred duty of a communist according to these wretched class traitors.

And what has it achieved? Anti-communist wars and social welfare sops, and now, thanks to revisionism, a historically weak working class movement with the bourgeoisie running rampant across the world.

Our party views Corbyn as an excellent tool to develop the class consciousness of workers. He has inspired tens of thousands of people, otherwise uninvolved in politics (while the ones involved in politics have been plotting to get rid of him), to start asking “what can we do?” and “what can make a change?” Unfortunately Corbyn and the Labour Party is not that change, and they will realise that, sooner or later.

When they come looking for answers, when conditions at home continue to deteriorate and the imperialists are still waging war on other countries, who will they turn to? The ‘socialists’ that told them Corbyn was the cure? The ‘communists’ who have been printing “Vote Labour!” for the past 60 years?

It is sheer fraud to claim you are educating the masses through class struggle without explaining the reality of the situation and the theory behind it, or, even worse, outright lying to them! Some comrades talk about the class struggle in vague, abstract terms, while maintaining that this concrete situation absolutely demands we work for the Labour Party, a thoroughly bourgeois, imperialist party, while retaining none of the lines or slogans that a revolutionary proletarian party requires at the present time.

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“But the Labour Party represents the British masses, we must work within them!” some cry. Perhaps these comrades may find our publication Class Society in Britain in the 21st Century of interest. “The terrible reality [is] that the well-paid skilled workers who make up the backbone of the trade-union movement and the Labour party are a potent source of opportunism, as their comfortable living conditions undermine the sense that it is necessary to overthrow capitalism.” Besides that, the Labour party consists of some half a million members (for now), or 1.24% of the 41.7 million workers in the UK.

We maintain that capitalist ministers must be forced, as much as is possible, to provide whatever they can to make the condition of the working class, in Britain and internationally, better, and steel the working class in theory and tactics via this struggle. However, under no circumstances should a communist party disguise the truth, that our real aim is revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat, and that only this will deliver respite, and eventually prosperity, to the working class.

“Revolutionaries must always support and encourage struggles for reform, since they are committed to seeking better living conditions for all workers. When the working class is strong, inevitably the bourgeoisie will be forced to make concessions. When these concessions are made, it generally buys the bourgeoisie some time – and may even enable them to regain the upper hand. It is the role of revolutionaries to imbue the working class with the idea that the only way of ensuring these reforms are not withdrawn at the earliest opportunity is to get rid of the exploiting class that constantly seeks to reduce the wages and benefits available to the working class as much as is practicable in the given historical situation.”

  • A class analysis of British society at the start of the 21st century, CPGB-ML

The Labour Party does not need the communists to cheerlead for it – more than that we know that the social democrats do not bargain with communists, they bargain with capitalists. Rather than support those who would just as much have our head, and the entire welfare of the proletariat in Britain and internationally, on the chopping block as any other bourgeois party, we must recognise the present situation and take the correct course.

Build the party! Educate the masses!