No to a British Mass Party of Labour, Yes to Marxism-Leninism
The British Labour Party have taken the historic move of ending the autmoatic affiliation of trade union members to the party. The decision was made by an overwhelming vote in which 86% backed the party leadership's proposal on March 1st, 2014. It is a result which assures change is afoot for the British left.
Historically, the link has misled many on the left as seeing the Labour Party as a vehicle for socialism. But the Labour Party has never been such a party, even in its heyday of 'Old Labour'. It is a party which has existed to secure capitalism and blunt the revolutionary edge among the British workers.
The ageing generation of the left have looked back misty eyed to a time when the party created the National Health Service in 1945, or to the days of trade union militancy and the modest reforms of the 1970's. Of course they forget the 100 years of imperialism and capitalist economics.
For every modest reform at home, there has been support for the Imperialist 'Great War', the Malayan Campaign, the ethnic cleansing of Diego Garcia, troop deployment in Ireland, up to the modern day Afghan and Iraq wars. Every domestic reform of the Atlee's and Wilson's has coincided with the most reactionary policy abroad.
In the cold war they served as faithful lapdogs of Washington, firmly entrenched in the capitalist bloc, where their anti-worker ideology belonged.
Arguments For a Mass Party of Labour
Despite this, some have mistakenly taken to a blame the victim analysis, whereby the workers are criticised for a lack of militancy. It is their failure to hold the LP leaders to account that is responsible. That the height of trade union militancy coincides with many of the LP's great anti-worker crimes, for such arguments deals a death blow.
Regardless, such elements have argued that the trade union-Labour affiliation meant that a certain potential exists to use the LP as a vehicle for socialist change.
The position is summed up by Communist Party of Britain general secretary Robert Griffiths, who writes
"It has long been the party which seeks to reconcile working-class interests with those of British monopoly capitalism and imperialism.
But its trade union, class base has also held the potential to make Labour a party and a government that, alone in British conditions, could enact far-reaching reforms that benefit workers and their families.
We had such reforms from Labour governments in the mid-1940s and 1970s and in the late 1990s, although the social democratic trend in the Labour Party has always steered shy of shaking the foundations of capitalism itself." (Griffiths 2014a)
There also exists a potential that Elvis Presley will turn out to have faked his own death all those years ago, has been happily out of the spotlight living in Hong Kong, only to be struck by lightening tomorrow, where his body will be found by Bruce Lee, who as we all know has been working undercover all along for the Hong Kong police.
Mere potential is not justification, plausibility is. And this is just not plausible.
The suggestion that even the Tony Blair government enacted far-reaching reforms for the benefits of workers, should not escape us either! For this Marxist, Blair and co. only "steered shy of shaking the foundations of capitalism itself".
While he does acknoweldge the Labour Party has hitherto looked to reconcile the workers interests and capitalism. Something even the most begginer of Marxist knows cannot be reconciled. There should be little need to reference Marx or Lenin on this point. Here Labour are being applauding for attempting the impossible.
That the trade union link to the Labour Party has, does or can result in a government which benefits workers in a measurable way has to be shown, not merely asserted. The burden of proof is on the claimant. A cursory glance to the continent suggests this cannot be proven, or shown to be likely.
It is necesseray to also highlight the obfuscation of "alone in British conditions". Within the context of this quote, he is not talking about building socialism but of winning reforms from a Labour Party with a trade union base. But it is also necessary to widen context and make perfectly clear that he does believe that the Labour Party is a vehicle for socialist construction. It may not be what he is saying here, but it is what he believes as is made crystal clear in section 4 'The Labour Party and Progressive Movement', from his party programme Britain's Road to Socialism. The Labour Party in conjunction with the Communist Party can take control of the British state and use it for socialist construction. Apparently a central tenet of Leninism, violent revolution, is not relevant, because of "British conditions". But what are these conditions? The longest running, most-secured bourgeois state with an unparalleled history of imperialism. Resting on top of that is a monarch who must ratify laws and to whom the armed services pledge alliegance. If anything, British conditions serve only to further state the necessity of violent revolution.
Whether in the BRS, or the recent articles quoted, the case is always made that
"the Labour Party in Britain is different from social-democratic parties in other countries in one crucial respect. It was formed as a federal party with mass trade union affiliations”. (BRS 2011: p24)
As there is no evidence for this having made qualitative improvements in the cause of the working class, we can only assume that the whole position rests upon the presmise that because something is the case, that it ought to be the case.
This becomes more clear with the statement that
"the labour movement - and in particular the trade unions - must have its own mass electoral party which is capable of winning general elections, forming a government and enacting reforms in the interests of the working-class majority of the people.
Workers and their families need, want and expect such a party." (Griffiths 2014b)
Basically, if the Labour Party will not be the party of the trade unions, then the trade unions must create a new Labour Party.
Of course he must argue this. As without the link between the trade unions and the LP, the entire revisionist thesis of the CPB falls apart. In order to continue with the concept of a British Road such a link has to exist. If it does not then the CPB must build an entirely new programme. Which would not be a bad thing for the working class movement, given that this 63 year running programme has brought nothing but the split of the communist movement, and has coincided with the steady erosion of working class rights and benefits long ago won.
We must again ask why the working class need a trade union linked party of Labour. Absolute clarity should be given as to how the past 100 years of experience has given rise to such a position. Seemingly no case made that the existence of such a party has benefitted the cause of the British working class, any more so than the existence of any number of social-democratic parties across Western Europe, as regards to their own working class' experiences. There is no case which can be made that the existence of such a party has given rise to more favourable conditions for the British working class than those of their French, German or Scandinavian counterparts.
Perhaps if there was not a split communist movement, a united communist party could be that party which enacts far-reaching reforms, WHILST, also maintaining a consistent Marxist-Leninist line and revolutionary preparation. It is worth noting that the growth of the KKE in Greece coincided with their exposing of social democracy whilst the decline of the communists in Britain has coincided with the adoption of social democracy.
Why apparent Marxist-Leninists would cling to the hope of a Labour trade union link ushering in socialism, when this bears no relation to the work of Lenin, is baffling in the least. In contrast to Griffiths, Lenin tells us
"the dictatorship of the proletariat cannot be exercised through an organisation embracing the whole of that class, because in all capitalist countries (and not only over here, in one of the most backward) the proletariat is still so divided, so degraded, and so corrupted in parts (by imperialism in some countries) that an organisation taking in the whole proletariat cannot directly exercise proletarian dictatorship. It can be exercised only by a vanguard that has absorbed the revolutionary energy of the class." (Lenin 1920b: para5)
While Griffiths speaks the language of reforms and socialism, not of the dictatorship of the proletariat, we can say if we substitute DoP for socialism in the last quote from Lenin, the conclusion would be just as valid. And we would do well to also note that Lenin himself told us that non-subscription to the dictatorship of the proletariat is non-subscription to Marxism.
From those who propagate the British road myth, some questions then ought to be answered
"Was Leninism elaborated only on Russian soil, for Russia alone, and not on the soil of imperialism, and for the imperialist countries generally? Do such works of Lenin as Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, The State and Revolution, The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky, “Left-Wing” Communism, an Infantile Disorder,etc., apply only to Russia, and not to all imperialist countries in general? Is not Leninism the generalisation of the experience of the revolutionary movement of all countries? Are not the fundamentals of the theory and tactics of Leninism suitable, are they not obligatory, for the proletarian parties of all countries? Was not Lenin right when he said that “Bolshevism can serve as a model of tactics for all”? Was not Lenin right when he spoke about the “international significance" of Soviet power and of the fundamentals of Bolshevik theory and tactics”? (Stalin 1926: para8).
Now the case presented will be only ignored, or dismissed as dogmatic adherence to Marxism-Leninism. To that it should be stated that attacking someone as dogmatic for holding firm to the unshakable science of Marxism-Leninism, is but only a display of arrogance. For it is a clear declaration that to study Marx & Engels, Lenin & Stalin, and to be humble in accepting the truth of their analysis is a mistake, the attacker openly declares that he/she knows better than Lenin! We should rather be dogmatic than arrogant. But it is also a sign that such Marxists cannot win the argument in Marxist terms and must resort to other measures. A Marxist fears being labelled dogmatic no more than a mathemetician who holds that Pythagoras therum is true.
“Of course, most of the Labour Party’s members are working men. However, whether or not a party is really a political party of the workers does not depend solely upon a membership of workers but also upon the men that lead it, and the content of its actions and its political tactics. Only that determines whether we really have before us a political party of the proletariat. Regarded from this, the only correct point of view, the Labour Party is a thoroughly bourgeois party, because, although made up of workers, it is led by reactionaries, and the worst kind of reactionaries at that, who act quite in the spirit of the bourgeoisie. It is an organisation of the bourgeoisie, which exists to systematically dupe the workers.” (Lenin 1920a: para2)
CPB., 2011. Britain's Road to Socialism. 8th ed.
Griffiths.R., 2014a. Socialism is the way Forward.
Griffiths. R., 2014b. Stifling all Debate,
Lenin.V.I., 1920a. Speech on Affiliation to the British Labour Party. Available at section 6 of https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1920/jul/x03.htm
Lenin. V.I., 1920b. The Trade Unions, The Present Situation and Trotsky's Mistakes. http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1920/dec/30.htm
Stalin. J.V., 1926. Concerning Questions of Leninism.,