Below appears the political platform of The Commune, as agreed at our December 2011 aggregate meeting. Membership of The Commune is open to all those who agree with this platform.
We are communists. We fight for a new self-managed society based on collective ownership of the means of production and distribution and an economy organised not for profit but for the well-being of humanity, in harmony with our natural environment. Communism will abolish the system of wage-labour so that our ability to work will cease to be a commodity to be sold to an employer; it will be a truly classless society; there will be no state, no managers or organisations superior to those of workers’ self-management. This will entail a form of democracy which will not coexist with economic exploitation as in capitalism. Communism is about replacing both the international state system and the increasingly interlinked network of capitalist corporations with global, regional and local networks of democratic self-managed workers’ councils and cooperatives.
We stand for the self-organisation of the working class. The working class, broadly defined as those who rely overwhelmingly on waged work, debt, or ‘social security’ payments to get by, has, in its greatest moments as a self-conscious independent class for itself, given glimpses both of the principles on which such a society will be founded, and of itself as an agency capable of founding it.
Beyond the legacy of state ‘communism’
We know that communism can only come from below, through mass organisations of the working class. This conception of communism has nothing in common with the fake “socialisms” of the Stalinist state planning of the former USSR, of the sweatshops of China, and social-democratic “humane” capitalism. No place in the world today is communist, nowhere is the economy managed by those who produce and reproduce society. These models of “socialism” and “communism” have all proven to be complete failures, maintaining and in many cases aggravating the working class’s lack of self- determination. There is no particular connection between socialism and nationalisation by the state, which merely replaces one set of managers with another. Alongside fighting day-to-day battles we advocate a struggle for control of the workplace in the here and now as preparatory steps towards real workers’ self-management and collective ownership. However, while we recognise the limitation of workers’ self-management within capitalism, the struggle to wrest control of the production process from the employer is a step towards workers’ autonomy.
A global movement and solidarity
We seek the greatest possible collaboration with communists in other countries; we build solidarity with workers’ movements around the world. The uneven geographical development of capitalism and the imbalance of political power between regions and states have compounded the exploitation of class through state oppression, sometimes through the creation and mobilisation of ethnic and national identities, which should not be left uncontested but instead opposed from a class perspective.
Despite the claims of so many on the left, in order to oppose imperialism it is not necessary to support the official anti-imperialist leaderships: the states and militias whose agendas are so often capitalistic, misogynistic, murderous, and authoritarian. On the contrary, this false ‘solidarity’ is a barrier to the recognition of the real agency which can defeat imperialism: the international working class together with other exploited classes. A successful struggle against imperialism, vital for communists in the present day, is possible only on a class basis, and it is such an approach we advocate.
We believe that capitalism is not compatible with the sustainability of the natural environment. The unceasing search for profit and the accumulation of capital creates vast amount of waste at the same time as depleting natural resources, polluting the environment and diminishing biodiversity. It creates health problems, sickness and death, as well as leaving many without clean water and adequate food. It threatens to render the planet uninhabitable through climate change. We believe that only breaking this cycle of profit and capital accumulation can we live in a sustainable manner and with environmental justice for all.
We oppose patriarchy, the domination of women by men. Patriarchy predates class society and capitalism in particular, although it may take a specific form under capitalism, most notably unpaid domestic labour. The fight against women’s subordination cannot be confined to the revolutionary struggle to overthrow capitalism, but must be considered as a primary arena of struggle in itself. We advocate the freedom of sexual expression which is compatible with the autonomy of the individual.
Competition in the labour market divides us from one another, divisions which are exacerbated through occupational, racial, national, ethnic and religious identities. Fascism is an attempt to use these divisions to break the potential power of the working class to ensure our continuing subordination to capital and the state. We champion anti-racist and anti-fascist struggles, while opposing all limits to the freedom of speech.
Workers’ struggle and the unions
A continuous defence of the value of labour power is the foundation or nature of trade unions. Trade union officialdom or bureaucracy is rooted in negotiating the terms of exploitation.
Because we do not believe that the fundamental problem with trade unionism is a “crisis of leadership”, or is even restricted to a lack of formal democracy, our fundamental interest is in the development of a communist workers’ movement, able to agitate and organise on its own basis, and for industrial struggle controlled directly by its participants. While we may participate in the trade union structures this cannot be seen as a substitute for developing workers’ autonomous organisation.
The traditions of the dead generations
We have no gods, not even revolutionary ones. We reject the practice of using the works of this or that socialist of decades past as sacred texts from which “revealed truths” can be read off as gospel. While we acknowledge the value of the movements and ideas of the past, the “traditions” to which the traditional left groups appeal are universally ahistorical and anachronistic, used for the sake of feigning historical legitimacy rather than to critically examine and draw lessons from the past. We believe that the defeats of the workers’ movement in the last three decades; the decay of the left and the absolute poverty of its ideas and slogans; its abandonment of class politics; and the sectarianism of the groups vying for supremacy with their own front campaigns and so-called unity projects; are all evidence of the need for ground-up rethinking of the left’s project and the re-composition of the workers’ movement.
From this, it also follows, while recognising that anarchism and Marxism represent distinct traditions, neither represents the best boundary for communist organisation in the present. Without submerging real differences which exist between various branches of both traditions (and without seeking to incorporate every tendency of either), we welcome activists who identify personally with both.
We organise as revolutionaries because we believe in the need for a revolutionary movement. However, a revolution will be undertaken by the working class and not a revolutionary organisation on behalf of that class. Its legitimacy can only be validated by workers in struggle to overthrow capital, not through some political tradition. The working class in struggle is primary, the organisation secondary.
The organisation must be a forum for the development of revolutionary activists, theoretically and practically, and for their mutual support. All representatives of the organisation will be accountable and recallable and receive no special privileges. We reject top down centralism in which leaders think for the membership and issue instructions down to the smallest detail. This mechanical subordination is a product of capitalist society.
We demand respectful behaviour of each other, within the organisation and outside it. The revolutionary milieu has need of the highest standards of debate, for which venom is most often a substitute, not an aid. In its democracy, in its spirit of camaraderie, in the attention given to relations of solidarity and personal growth, the relations within our organisation must, as far as possible, mirror the society we want to create.
We are not the final organisation the class needs, and remain open to the regrouping of revolutionaries, and learning from others as part of that process. We also acknowledge that organisational forms maybe advanced by workers in struggle which could supersede other forms.
A moment of openness
We live at a time at which two fundamental questions – the best means of working class and revolutionary self-organisation – lack clear answers situated in the present. We do not refuse to learn from the past, on the contrary: but neither do we pretend that the answers are given from history, as if all that was needed to convince enough people of an existing formula. Because there is no worthwhile revolutionary theory without revolutionary practice, we commit ourselves to the practical investigation of these questions, through our activity as militants. As part of this process, we seek to pay genuine attention to the diverse reality of working class experience, so much maligned and ignored – even by those who claim to be its privileged interpreters.