which way forward for the revolutionary left?

Guest post by Chris Strafford on how communists should relate to mass movements, and his experience of the CPGB

The capitalist crisis has opened up a new period and instigated the intensification of class warfare on every continent. Movements such as Occupy, the uprisings in the Middle East, the student movement in Quebec and the popular protests in the Russian Federation represent an acceleration of the class struggle. After listening to two electricians speak in Manchester about their struggle against BESNA I was struck by how these movements have transcended national boundaries and how the language of Occupy and Los Indignados in Spain have embedded themselves in a layer of working class activists. This is also evident in the affinity many people have with the 99% slogans adopted by Occupy. Continue reading “which way forward for the revolutionary left?”

Advertisements

The Bolshevik faction and the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party.

In a recent debate between, Lars T Lih, Paul Le Blanc, and Pham Binh(1) there is agreement  that, it was not the formal aim of Lenin to proclaim the birth of the Bolshevik Party in 1912 in Prague at  the conference of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party. Nor was it the formal aim of Lenin to create a separate Bolshevik Party. Again the debate clarified, that in 1912 there was not the birth of a party of a new type, free of opportunism, but the birth of a myth of such a party. Yet for all  practical purposes, the RSDLP that emerged from Prague, in 1912, was a Bolshevik Party, in all but name.

312417_4932046492593_1554572914_n

Continue reading “The Bolshevik faction and the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party.”

ninety years of the communist party

by Chris Ford

This year marks the 90th Anniversary of the foundation of the Communist Part of Great Britain, which existed until its disbandment in 1991.  Without a doubt the foundation of the CPGB in 1920 was an event of great importance in the history of the workers’ movement in the UK.

Arthur McManus, Jack Murphy, Albert Inkpin and Willie Gallacher

Its creation was directly linked to the revolutionary upsurge which followed the First World War, this brought about a recomposition of the communist movement which crystallised in the Third, Communist International centred in Soviet Russia.  This period and the unity process which took place is not only of historical interest but holds many lessons for our own generation in our efforts to bring about a new recomposition of the communist movement.

Continue reading “ninety years of the communist party”

the closure of the campaign for a marxist party

Dave Spencer situates the end of the CMP in the context of the British Left – and reflects on some of his experiences of communism from below, and bureaucracy from above, since the early ’60s

New Interventions has published two accounts of the demise of the Campaign for a Marxist Party by two comrades who were centrally involved and were in the minority who opposed the closure – Phil Sharpe and Steve Freeman. Both take an admirably serious look at the political differences within the CMP and how these developed. However, in my opinion they both let the CPGB off the hook. In my view the main reason the CMP was closed down was the sectarian and bureaucratic centralist methods used by the CPGB. There was never any fraternal discussion of political differences. The CPGB deliberately misrepresented the views of those they considered rivals and carried out a policy of gossip and character assassination among their members and contacts and in the Weekly Worker. On the CMP website they encouraged the use of personal abuse — not amongst themselves of course but targeted on minorities or individuals they thought were not winnable to their organisation. Phil Sharpe and Steve Freeman were in particular recipients of this method. Continue reading “the closure of the campaign for a marxist party”

communists and elections

The following article appeared in The Socialist, official organ of the Socialist Labour Party, No.18,  May 6, 1920. The SLP was founded by Scots/Irish revolutionary James Connolly, and was influenced by the American Marxist Daniel De Leon. The SLP however was never as doctrinaire as the American SLP and they developed pioneering ideas of ‘communism from below’ and a strong critique of state-socialism that anticipated many of the problems of the 20th century and today. The following article is a contribution to the discussion on communist attitudes to elections and participation in institutions such as local authorities. The issues addressed in this revolutionary period are very much alive today, not least of all the familiar picture of rotten Labour councillors. This article also helps inform our own discussions on these issues in the 21st century.

Chris Kane
Continue reading “communists and elections”

obituary: jack sprung, 1922-2009

by Dave Spencer

Jack Sprung was one of those militant shop stewards who were a feature in The Commune’s uncaptive minds series of meetings on the 1970s. He was a steward for many years at the Standard Triumph plant in Coventry, part of British Leyland. He was also a political activist, as a member of the Coventry Workers Association, a breakaway from the Communist Party.

Jack always claimed that shop stewards were a step on the way to workers’ control of the workplace. He was a fan of Mike Cooley, the initiator of the “Lucas Workers’ Corporate Plan”. The Lucas workers were threatened with the closure of their factory and worked out a plan where their skills and the machinery at Lucas could be used to build 150 socially useful products like kidney dialysis machines and a road-rail bus. They published their plan in 1976.

Unfortunately the capitalists decided that the shop stewards movement was too strong and decided to destroy it. In 1976 Jack was victimised during a bitter dispute where, according to the local paper, the workers were actually running the factory. He went to College and became a tutor in Industrial Relations throughout the West Midlands.After retiring he became the General Secretary of the British Pensioners and Trade Union Activist Association (BPTUAA). He was a supporter of Coventry Radical Network and attended our meetings right up to his final illness. Continue reading “obituary: jack sprung, 1922-2009”

reminder: january 19th reading group on self-organisation and communism from below

Our series of reading groups kicks off at 6:30pm on Monday January 19th with a discussion on the subject of working class self-organisation and “communism from below”.  Email uncaptiveminds@gmail.com to find out more info on the central London venue. The texts for this first meeting are:

The Communist Manifesto (click here)

Arguing against different conceptions of “socialism” prevalent at the time, such as paternalistic “utopian” projects, Marx and Engels’ 1848 Manifesto argues that it is the working class must take power in order to revolutionise society. Tracing the development of Western society through the ages, Marx argues that we must get rid of capitalist ownership and the repressive social order and create a new, free and collectively organised system based on the development achieved by humanity thus far.

The Civil War in France – Engels’ 1891 introduction (click here) and chapter five (click here)

Marx’s thundering eulogy to the Communards – the Parisian workers who seized power in 1871 in the midst of France’s defeat in a war against Prussia – and the new order they established, casting aside the state bureaucracy and standing army and taking control with their democratic working-class “commune”. Introduction by Engels traces French history in the intervening decades and summarises the work.

Communism and Society (click here)

This section of British communist William Paul’s 1922 work argues against conceptions of introducting socialism through Parliament, and like Marx in The Civil War in France denies that the working class can take over the existing state machinery. Paul’s piece focuses on the self-organisation of the class and the manner in which the organisation of struggles against capitalism prefigures the society which will replace it.

Socialism and self-management (click here)

Yugoslav Marxist Mihailo Markovic’s piece looks at different aspects of workers’ self-management, with particular reference to post-war Yugoslavia where organs expressing elements of workers’ democracy were in conflict with the state bureaucracy under Marshal Tito. He argues that the state and party should be replaced by organs of workers’ self management whereby the mass of the population make economic, political and social decisions for themselves.