Dogmatism and sectarianism

ONE SIDE EFFECT of the huge swing to the left in politics in this country brought about by Jeremy Corbyn winning the Labour Party leadership last year, has been the resurgence of tiny splinter ultra-left groups — Trotskyism, Maoism and other factions. For those of us who are getting on it is a bit like being plunged back into the 1960s — only this time the polemics and critiques are flying about on the social media websites rather than badly produced “Gestetnered” journals.

In the ‘60s these groups served to divide and disarm working class solidarity and unity. But there were mistakes on all sides — and if we do not analyse these objectively and honestly there is a danger that they will be repeated.

The traditional labour movement and the old Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) had become bureaucratic and reformist. Workers’ living standards had been rising steadily through the pressure of the trade unions and revolutionism had been more or less abandoned. Nobody wants a war when they think they can achieve their ends through the illusion of bourgeois democracy. Marxist-Leninists were marginalised and pushed out of the party.

On the global scene a mighty battle was taking place between the pro-Soviets, who had gone along with the revisionist Kruschov’s denunciation of Stalinism, and the Maoists, who were justifiably criticising Moscow revisionism and launching the first stage of the Cultural Revolution.

There were big mistakes on both sides but the biggest mistake of all was that communist and workers’ parties throughout the world divided themselves between these two positions — even though the two giant party positions had little or no relevance to their own struggles in their own local conditions. Instead of fighting imperialism they wasted time, money and lives in fighting each other. And this in-fighting drove thousands of workers and peasants away from communism and socialism.

There was one notable exception in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) where they adopted the Juche approach: the country refused to attach itself either to Moscow revisionism or to Maoism but insisted on working out its own way forward in its own conditions, and still maintained good relations with Moscow and Beijing.

Now that country [the DPRK] is reaping the rewards as the people go forward with steadily rising living standards but not having bowed down to any pressure to make concessions on their socialist principles. The people are united and not deterred from involvement in politics by endless irrelevant and vituperative arguments.

We must learn from them. In Britain inevitably in broader struggles on trade union rights, peace, anti-fascism, anti-austerity and so on we find ourselves amongst thousands of people — and increasing numbers of young people — who have slightly different views to us.

We do ourselves no favour by dismissing them as “ultra-lefts” or lecturing them about what Trotsky or Kautsky or Martov said at an obscure meeting over a century ago. This approach will drive them out of politics altogether. We lose none of our integrity by respecting them and working with them where possible around common issues whilst expressing clearly our own, communist views on the current struggle, the underlying forces involved and the best tactics. If they do not get it at once, so be it. History has a way of showing up which analyses are correct and which are not — and history is moving quite fast now.

This is the way to sow the seeds of future friendship and solidarity with these people who need guidance — but not forced on them. When they grow disillusioned with the splitters who spend more time attacking the organised working class than attacking the ruling class, they will remember that we showed them friendship and respect — as well as the correct way forward.

This is the way to prepare the new “Corbynistas” for the coming head-on battles with the ruling class, which may be bloody and ruthless. We need to build confidence and courage, not to crush new enthusiasm with nit-picking criticisms.