Building an active party

Capitalism creates its own gravediggers. We must organise them into a mighty liberating army.

Proletarian writersParty statement

This text is an excerpt from the cadre development committee report given to the party’s eighth congress in September.

The growth and development of the CPGB-ML is noticed by all the small political groups that exist in Britain and collectively refer to themselves as ‘the left’. In this small pond, overpopulated by an exotic array of politically toxic specimens, we are the ‘left group’ that causes the most anxiety and fear amongst the others.

Whilst the blind remnants of the revisionist and Trotskyite movement of the 20th century continue to tie their fortunes ever more closely to social democracy, the conditions for the seeding of the roots of a Marxist-Leninist party present themselves in abundance in Britain.

On Brexit, on imperialist war, on the causes of terrorism, on the question of immigration, on the basic question of how the working class needs to wage economic struggle unshackled from the disastrous influence of social democracy, we are the only political party in the country to have answers to the most pressing issues facing British workers.

Whilst our ideas are certainly not immediately popular with vast swathes of politically ignorant workers, they do have increasing currency amongst those workers who find themselves in struggle, and are causing mounting anxiety, revulsion and annoyance amongst our political opponents.

The divide between us sharpens and we can expect greater hostility and opposition to our work in all fields, whether it be on the picket lines, at anti-war meetings, or on May Day and other labour movement events and rallies.

Our organisational challenges are acute. We must reassess the viability of our present methods of work, reflect on the political activity we carry out and its usefulness in a concrete historical context. Making a critique of our work and then assessing our capacity for new forms of work is a difficult task for a small party of volunteers with limited resources, both physical and financial.

A basic principle of dialectics is that there is no such thing as abstract truth; truth is always concrete. Forms of organisation, alongside forms of political work, must be suited to concrete reality.

As the party grows, no matter how small that growth is, new opportunities for work present themselves – work which ten years ago would have seemed an impossibility.

An important factor contributing towards our growth since 2014 has been that we are building an active party and have not allowed a situation to develop where significant sections of the party have become inactive.

It is inevitable in any party there will be churn – that some bad people will join and some good people will leave. What destroys a party is allowing the vitality of the healthy part to be polluted by the unhealthy.

Developing strong cadres

The party that purges itself strengthens itself. Our party is a voluntary union – those who cannot stay the course, even if we wish that they could, must not be allowed to sow division, despondency and negativity, but must be assisted in leaving the party in an orderly and respectful manner.

Those who demand that the majority must follow the desires of the minority; those who cannot learn to work in a collective manner, must understand that we welcome all support but will not be held to ransom over any single issue.

In an organised party, a split is inevitable if the minority cannot subordinate itself to the majority. Scandalmongering must be resisted and overcome; it is essential to create a political situation in which there is both centralism and democracy, both discipline and freedom, both unity of will and personal ease of mind and liveliness. We do not need, nor can we accommodate individualism or pessimism.

Our congress is a place where the active members of the party make decisions about the future direction of the organisation; it is not a place for all and sundry; it is not a mass political rally to which we invite everyone.

Similarly, the desire to grow and to be big must not develop into a trend where politically and socially unstable individuals are allowed to join our ranks without the necessary training, supervision and oversight. Not everybody who wanted to be at this congress is here today, and that is a sign of our strength and our growth.

Collective and individual study is paramount to ensure members are able to understand and communicate the party’s positions on various issues, especially in these politically confusing times, and furthermore to develop into worker-theoreticians capable of producing analysis and propaganda for the party.

Study classes and individual members should ensure that they are following the party’s educational programme and that they are in this way acquiring a sound and broad fundamental knowledge of Marxism Leninism.

Building a revolutionary party

Lenin observed that “the character of any organisation is naturally and inevitably determined by the content of its activity”. Our party, despite its relatively small size, carries out important political work. (VI Lenin, What is To Be Done?, 1901, Chapter 4)

What form does this take? Are we able to lead strikes or to organise demonstrations that challenge state power? At the present moment, clearly not. But it is our duty to develop a strategy capable of moving our organisation from its current level of development to that point.

Our scope of work has until now been largely restricted to theoretical and propaganda work. This represents one of our greatest strengths. An all-round understanding of Marxism Leninism and its application to the contemporary political problems faced by British workers and the wider toiling masses worldwide, languishing as humanity is under the wage-slavery imposed by monopoly capitalism, is what marks us out from so many groups, larger in size but impotent in the face of their pressing tasks.

But we cannot allow this great strength – which has made our small organisation a bastion of the revolutionary movement today – to blind us to our own significant shortcomings. We must not be content with resting on our ‘laurels’. We must relentlessly pursue the path that will lead to higher and broader development of working-class consciousness and set the British workers on the path to an understanding of their true task: to take power.

Our propaganda seeks to explain a multitude of ideas to our audience, and the best method for this has been our newspapers, our excellent new website (rightly regarded as the ‘best on the left’) and, increasingly, our YouTube channel and other social media.

Agitational work differs from propaganda work in that it attempts to communicate our ideas creatively and powerfully, but centred around a single issue that is of great significance to the masses at that particular moment, so winning support and sympathy for the party from a broad group of workers.

Any comrade who has attempted to give a message of greeting to striking workers at the gates or expose the crimes of imperialism in an anti-war meeting will understand the pitfalls of trying to say too much. Agitational work, like agitational slogans, must be pithy, accessible, and clear.

Our output of agitational material has greatly increased in recent years and this can be observed in our huge increase in production and distribution of leaflets, and the accompanying frustrations of branches that have too few and the growing task of our print workers, who have been run ragged by an increasingly hungry party machine.

The topic, the subject, the matter at hand in these materials varies greatly, but increasingly the practical work of most of our groups boils down to distribution of socialist literature amongst as broad a section of British society as we are able to reach. The trend is that our branches demand leaflets. It is influenced by many factors but it in no way diminishes the role of the newspapers; they each play vastly different roles.

How could any party member or advanced worker hope to be politically educated on the basis of party leaflets alone? How could the party hope to provide ample literature, giving the widest possible political exposures for the broadest sections of British society through the production of Proletarian and Lalkar alone?

Because of our commitment to Marxist-Leninist analysis, we have inherited, and continue to develop, our press and publications work. This work is now capable of unfolding on a greater scale on its present basis, and should comrades step forward who are determined to learn and master the print technique, there is no reason that we cannot double our output.

With the correct attitude and leadership, every party group is capable of contributing towards a mighty distribution of socialist literature – outside schools and workplaces, shops and transport hubs, on picket lines and during elections.

Of course, we understand the limitations of leafleting and aspire to much greater work, but taken in the context of the current political climate and soberly assessing the forces at our disposal, we should aim to carry out such work on the largest possible scale.

It is inconceivable that without this mass agitational activity British workers, currently dominated by bourgeois ideology and lacking even the rudiments of class consciousness in many instances, would be capable of raising themselves to participating in a revolutionary movement against the bourgeois state.

Our agitational work has been most successful when it has focused on issues that affect the broad masses. Highlighting the ongoing NHS privatisation, campaigning around the EU referendum, and creating support leaflets for striking workers that also expose social-democratic treachery during industrial disputes have all been political exposures carried out on a broad basis.

The continuing improvement of such targeted leaflets and political exposures gives our party the opportunity to communicate to huge numbers of people.

The coming period, with the possibility of a Corbyn government, the ever-present threat of war and mutual annihilation, the continuing deterioration (no matter how slowly) of living standards in the imperialist countries, present avenues of huge opportunity for a Marxist-Leninist political party.

The global financial crisis rolls on, and if it is the contention of the Thatcherite libertarians that “the rising tide (of capitalist economy) raises all boats”, benefiting rich and poor alike, then it is our duty to point out to the masses that the tsunami of monopoly capitalist crisis of overproduction will in fact sink rich and poor alike – bringing billions of our fellow workers poverty, insecurity, starvation, disease, misery, environmental catastrophe and death.

Wealthy nations like Britain cannot escape this crisis, any more than can wealthy individuals (much as they delude themselves) or any other nation, except through collective solutions – and that means putting power in the hands of working people, whose interest it is to solve them.

Mobilising disenfranchised youth

Britain’s youth face a future in which jobs are scarce, insecure and underpaid.

The Blairite mantra ‘Education, education, education’ and universal university education has been shown up as a hollow phrase under capitalist economic conditions, with £27,000-£54,000 the cost of fees for three to six-year university courses. Add on living expenses, and university students now walk away with £100,000 of debt – money that, given the depressed state of wages – they will have great difficulty recouping in the workplace.

Unemployment, rising house prices and rents mean even the children of formerly reasonably well-off so-called ‘middle-class’ workers are unable to reproduce the lifestyle of their parents’ generation. There is an increasingly large pool of disenfranchised and angry working-class youth who have no stake in the system.

Our capitalist masters wish to promote the idea that the system’s failings are in fact the individual failings of each worker who is struggling. It is our duty to enlighten and recruit these working-class youth, rather than letting them fall prey to depression, despondency and despair, or be led down the right-wing blind alley of sectarian or supremacist ideology.

Our young comrades must organise effectively and contribute to the production of material that brings this message home to their fellow working-class youth. Our unmatched Marxist analysis must continue, and cannot be dependent upon older comrades for its production.

Marxist dialectics subjects all phenomena to the power of human reason, including the realms of human history and contemporary society. No problem is insoluble to the rising class armed with Marxist understanding and organised by a Leninist party.

All comrades must take responsibility for advancing their education and bringing on their family, friends, comrades and contacts. Young comrades should aim to organise, to lead, to speak, to recruit, to write and to teach. There is no better way of learning than applying your knowledge.

We have increasingly seen that workers who take our literature and study our message return to the party as supporters and can progress to become members and cadres. A great mass of agitational material will therefore supplement this process, ensuring that which we all desire – a professional, organised, disciplined party, trusted by the broadest possible section of the working class, and ready to use the inevitable unfolding crisis of capitalism to fuel the development of a militant working-class movement.

We must position ourselves to be the trusted voice of workers in struggle, wherever that struggle is taking place.

Capitalism creates its own gravediggers. We must organise them into a mighty liberating army.