Left unity — progress and pitfalls

THERE has been some discussion recently on the role of communists working with other left and progressive forces — even with people who profess to be anti-communist, and keep our Marxist-Leninist principles without becoming sectarian and dogmatic.

It’s a tricky issue and debate will probably continue until we finally achieve a full communist “paradise”.

The major battles that are being fought now — around Gaza, the Ukraine, against austerity, to defend the NHS, to restore wage levels, to restore trade union rights, for peace, against fascism — these are all issues which bring a very wide spectrum of people together — including many middle class intelligentsia, most of whom are well-meaning but who do not have the working class basic grounding in first-hand experience of the greediness, deviousness and perfidy of capitalist employers.

They have not learned to hate the capitalist system as we have and still entertain delusions that “true democracy” — of the bourgeois kind — would bring about paradise on earth if only it were done properly.

In the course of struggle on these issues it is easy to work with a wide spectrum of genuine people who will stand together against police or fascist intimidation. There are many members of Trotskyist organisations who, with age, have mellowed and dropped their former sectarianism and are doing sterling work — in the trade unions, in anti-fascism and so on and they are an asset to the working class struggle.

They have faced disillusion in the failure of electoral alliances such as the Socialist Alliance, Respect, the Socialist Labour Party and so on.

But we communists must also acknowledge that we too have made mistakes. In 1957 the revisionist traitor and liar Khrushchov split the communist world in two as the anti-revisionist Maoists responded. There were mistakes on both sides of this split. The revisionist path led the Soviet Union to collapse within 33 years and the Communist Party of China now admits that big errors were made in the Cultural Revolution.

Perhaps the greatest damage was done in the “Third World” as communist parties there divided and fought each other more than they fought their imperialist oppressors, trying dogmatically to apply either the Moscow or the Beijing model to their own circumstances that were quite different.

That divide led to the Indonesian holocaust passing shamefully without protest from western communist parties, hidebound by sectarianism.

One party in that dark time set a shining example — the Workers’ Party of Korea with its policy of Juché — letting each party chart its own way forward according to its own circumstances. Time will soon show up those making serious mistakes but the party that can admit and learn from mistakes will come out stronger and wiser.

What does this mean for Marxist-Leninist in Britain? We must be ready to work actively with a broad range of fellow left-wingers on all the important single issues but we must be the ones injecting an understanding that these issues can never really be resolved under capitalism — that we need to completely overthrow the capitalist state machine, smash it, and replace it with a state created by workers for workers. That is the essence and the core of all roads to socialism.

Furthermore constructing a workers’ state will not be easy and simple as the forces of defeated capitalism will be continually trying to divide, weaken and bring down the workers’ state.

And we must understand that within the broad spectrum of people we are working with there are some who, when the struggle reaches a tipping point, will be on the other side. These are the ones who are most firmly anti-communist, who spend more time attacking efforts to build socialism than they spend attacking capitalism. And often it is the naïve middle-class people who have not yet learned to really hate capitalism through personal bitter experience who are most easily influenced by the anti-communists.

But they usually show themselves up — by attacking us and refusing to work with us. Let them isolate themselves and don’t let them set the debate agenda. And as fascism rises now in Ukraine and Europe generally it is communists that people are turning to, to lead the fight against fascism.