Initial statement

This blog is for anyone interested in discussing the political content of a programme for a revolutionary worker’ party in Ireland.

An initial statement by the author of this blog which does not pretend to be a fully finished programme – its aim is to stimulate discussion and debate about the key areas a revolutionary socialist programme needs to cover.

Comments welcome.


CPGB playing fast and loose with the real political history of Bolshevism

This weeks issue of Weekly Worker contains an article “The ‘new era of war and revolution’” (http://cpgb.org.uk/home/weekly-worker/1005/the-new-era-of-war-and-revolution) with an introduction by the CPGB of “Did the outbreak of World War I cause Lenin to break with the ‘Marxism of the Second International’? In this extract from his contribution to a book to be published later this year, Lars T Lih argues that the opposite was the case.”

This case is made by referring to Lenin’s use of formal pre-war positions taken by the Second International, and Kautsky in particular, to attack the actual practice of Kautsky and the other leaders of the European socialist movement in response to the war.

However this is also done by completely ignoring one important area of the post-war political activity of the Bolsheviks and indeed one of the core elements that make Leninism a distinct “ism” within the socialist movement.

This is the need for revolutionary Marxists to organise separately from, and in political opposition to, the reformist socialists and centrists who prior to WWI had been seen as all being wings of one unitary socialist (then Social Democratic) organisation.

In the second half of May and the first half of June 1915 Lenin wrote “The Collapse of the Second International” where he laid out the conclusions for revolutionary Marxists from the experience of the historic betrayal of August 1914:

“To sum up.

“The collapse of the Second International has been most strikingly expressed in the flagrant betrayal of their convictions and of the solemn Stuttgart and Basle resolutions by the majority of the official Social-Democratic parties of Europe. This collapse, however, which signifies the complete victory of opportunism, the transformation of the Social Democratic parties into national liberal-labour parties, is merely the result of the entire historical epoch of the Second International—the close of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth. The objective conditions of this epoch—transitional from the consummation of West European bourgeois and national revolutions to the beginning of socialist revolutions—engendered and fostered opportunism. During this period we see a split in the working class and socialist movement in some European countries, which, in the main, was cleavage along the line of opportunism (Britain, Italy, Holland, Bulgaria and Russia); in other countries, we see a long and stubborn struggle of trends along the same line (Germany, France, Belgium, Sweden and Switzerland). The crisis created by the great war has torn away all coverings, swept away conventions, exposed an abscess that has long come to a head, and revealed opportunism in its true role of ally of the bourgeoisie. The complete organisational severance of this element from the workers’ parties has become imperative. The epoch of imperialism cannot permit the existence, in a single party, of the revolutionary proletariat’s vanguard and the semi-petty-bourgeois aristocracy of the working class, who enjoy morsels of the privileges of their “own” nation’s “Great-Power” status. The old theory that opportunism is a “legitimate shade” in a single party that knows no “extremes” has now turned into a tremendous deception of the workers and a tremendous hindrance to the working-class movement. Undisguised opportunism, which immediately repels the working masses, is not so frightful and injurious as this theory of the golden mean, which uses Marxist catchwords to justify opportunist practice, and tries to prove, with a series of sophisms, that revolutionary action is premature, etc. Kautsky, the most outstanding spokesman of this theory, and also the leading authority in the Second International, has shown himself a consummate hypocrite and a past master in the art of prostituting Marxism. All members of the million-strong German party who are at all honest, class-conscious and revolutionary have turned away in indignation from an “authority” of this kind so ardently defended by the Südekums and the Scheidemanns.”
- Chapter IX of “The Collapse of the Second International”

Lenin and the Bolsheviks were attempting to SPLIT the forces of European socialism between those who could be won to a revolutionary Marxist vanguard party and those who held to the “old theory” on the nature of the party required by the working class to overthrow of capitalism and lay the basis for the construction of socialism. In that context the tactic of using the words of the opportunist betrayers, like Kautsky, against themselves to appeal to the better elements of the organisations of the Second International is therefore a sensible one. But that is quite different from arguing that this meant Lenin and the Bolsheviks had not changed any of their fundamental political perspectives. Of course it is no coincidence that doing so serves the purposes of the CPGB leadership who, despite their rhetoric about creating a “Marxist” party, actually have a concrete political perspective that if ever implemented would effectively recreate a Second International style organisation.

Anyone who is influenced by the politics of the CPGB while considering themselves to be “at all honest, class-conscious and revolutionary” would do well to ask why amongst all the very many articles the CPGB has written to supposedly “prove” the complete continuity of pre- and post-WWI Bolshevism’s political persepctives they have never (to my knowledge – feel free to correct me in the comments) directly addressed the historical record of major documents (of which “The Collapse of the Second International” is only one) that draw an open and explicitly different conclusion on the very important issue of the nature of revolutionary Marxist political organisation.


More CPGB confusion on “minimum demands”

In his report on the Left Unity conference (http://cpgb.org.uk/home/weekly-worker/1004/left-unity-moderate-party-takes-shape) Peter Manson has this to say on minimum demands:

“In presenting the document, Pete Green had claimed that some unnamed people did not understand the difference between “basic principles and minimum demands”. Apparently we say that “anything less than socialism is not enough”. No, this “isn’t a full socialist programme,” he said, but “Right now we need to focus on what unites workers”. Obviously comrade Green does not understand the purpose of minimum demands. They are intended to lay out what workers need in the here and now – whether or not capitalism can afford them. In this way they point in themselves to the society of the future.”

For all the apparent critique of the approach of the Left Unity reformists by posing the issue in these terms Peter Manson is actually sharing the same fundamental approach of believing that the concrete programme put forward by communists should only make implicit reference to the question of working class power and the socialist revolution. His gripe with Left Unity being that their demands are too limited and do not “point in themselves” to that socialist future.

Back in the mid-2000′s the CPGB had a period of engagement with a few groups and individuals from the broad Trotskyist tradition, including the IBT, over the question of the difference between minimum-maximum and transitional approaches to programme. One of their most substantive piece in this discussion was Mike Macnair’s “Transitional’ to what?” (Weekly Worker 684, Thursday August 02 2007) in which he argued:

“The minimum part would outline the minimum commitments to transferring political power from the capitalist class to the working class, without which a workers’ party would not participate in a government (whether formed on the basis of an electoral majority or as a provisional government arising from an insurrectionary movement). It would also add some ‘immediate’ economic demands of a, broadly, currently agitational character.”

He then quoted Trotsky:

“It is necessary to help the masses in the process of the daily struggle to find the bridge between present demands and the socialist programme of the revolution. This bridge should include a system of transitional demands, stemming from today’s conditions and from today’s consciousness of wide layers of the working class and unalterably leading to one final conclusion: the conquest of power by the proletariat.

“This is, as Jack Conrad has pointed out, the character of the Communist manifesto, the Programme of the Parti Ouvrier, and the Erfurt programme.  It is also the structural character of the 1919 Russian CP (B) programme.”

As an aside it should be noted that Jack Conrad here finds himself in partial disagreement with someone who knew more than a thing or two about the development of reformism within the mass organisations of the working class. Rosa Luxemburg in her Speech to the Founding Convention of the German Communist Party in December 1918 (http://www.marxists.org/archive/luxemburg/1918/12/31.htm) argues:

“The socialist program was thereby established upon an utterly different foundation, and in Germany the change took a very typical form. Until the collapse of August 4, 1914, German Social Democracy took its stand upon the Erfurt Program, by which the so-called immediate minimal aims were placed in the forefront, while socialism was no more than a distant guiding star, the ultimate goal.”

In rejecting the minimum/maximum programmatic dichotomy of the reformists, Luxemburg called for a return to the original conception of the Manifesto. She forthrightly asserted:

“Our program is deliberately opposed to the standpoint of the Erfurt Program; it is deliberately opposed to the separation of the immediate, so-called minimal demands formulated for the political and economic struggle from the socialist goal regarded as a maximal program.”

But for the purposes of this discussion I will be charitable and just exclude the Erfurt programme from this list as simple mistake by Jack Conrad rather than any deliberate attempt to conflate the politics of revolution and reform.

In his article Macnair goes on to note, in relation to his quote from Trotsky, that:

“The immediate source of this idea is the resolution ‘On tactics’ of the 1921 3rd Congress of the Comintern:

 ‘In place of the minimum programme of the centrists and reformists, the Communist International offers a struggle for the concrete demands of the proletariat, which, in their totality, challenge the power of the bourgeoisie, organise the proletariat and mark out the different stages of the struggle for its dictatorship. Even before the broad masses consciously understand the need for the dictatorship of the proletariat, they can respond to each of the individual demands. As more and more people are drawn into the struggle around these demands and as the needs of the masses come into conflict with the needs of capitalist society, the working class will come to realise that if it wants to live capitalism will have to die.’

“In this sense the programme is ‘transitional’ between present partial class struggles and the struggle for workers’ political power. Since the minimum programme is a programme for the immediate tasks of workers’ political power, the transitional programme would then be transitional from partial struggles and partial demands to the implementation of the minimum programme (in the sense used above).”

Macnair then spends the rest of his piece, and a subsequent one, in trying (and abjectly failing in my opinion) to make the case that Trotsky did not actually have continuity with this revolutionary use of the term “minimum programme” as compared to its later reformist and stagist use by reformist Social Democracy and Stalinism.

I have always thought this was a fake argument by Macnair that put a left-spin on the actual use of “minimum programme” by the CPGB which in my opinion has less in common with that initial revolutionary use of the term as outlined by Macnair and concretely is just a left version of the reformist bastardisation of the term. Peter Manson’s latest explanation of the term would certainly seem in accordance with my understanding.

It is the political method of the Transitional Programme which upholds the revolutionary politics of Marx and the Bolsheviks (in the period of Lenin and Trotsky’s political leadership) against the actual reformist political practice that, for over a century now, has been associated with the minimum-maximum approach to political programme.


Another critique of Mendel-Gleason and O’Brien’s reformism

In response to Mendel-Gleason and O’Brien’s document’s on their “strategy of attrition” I wrote a defence of the revolutionary Marxist view of the transformation of society – http://revolutionaryprogramme.wordpress.com/2014/01/03/a-warning-for-all-class-struggle-militants-interested-in-the-left-forum/

In the wake of that Sráid Marx has produced a more in-depth and substantive six-part critique of the reformist politics being presented by Mendel-Gleason and O’Brien. I would commend them to anyone interested in the revolutionary Marxist strategic perspective for the socialist transformation of society:









Communism and Ecology


Left Forum public meeting – Reconfiguring the European Left: Where do Britain and Ireland come into the picture?





Reconfiguring the European Left: Where do Britain and Ireland come into the picture?

Speakers: Kate Hudson and Andrew Burgin of Left Unity
Chair: Helena Sheehan of Left Forum
Date: Saturday, March 22, 2014, 2:30pm
Location: Mandate Trade Union, 9 Cavendish Row, Dublin 1, Ireland

Reading Kate Hudson’s book “The New European Left: A Socialism for the Twenty-First Century?”, outlining the new political forces occupying the space to the left of social democracy, provokes the question of where are Britain and Ireland in this scenario.

Since it was published in 2012, this current has begun to stir on these islands too. Are these winds strong enough to impact on the politics of our time? This is what we want to explore in this national meeting of Left Forum.

Kate Hudson, who is now national secretary of Left Unity in Britain, will analyse the new and dynamic scenario on the European left. Andrew Burgin, also a founder and leader of Left Unity, will discuss the process, problems and possibilities of Left Unity as a new left party.

As to where Ireland fits into this picture, that is for all of us who attend to explore. A prominent part of the agenda of Left Forum is to explore the possibility of forming such a broad left party here. Why is there no formation in Ireland affiliated to the Party of the European Left? Might there be?


Unfortunately I probably won’t be present at this discussion as Cork Women’s Right to Choose are planning an activist workshop for that same day which is more of a priority for me.

I would however have liked to be at this meeting if only to point out that the suggestion that “A prominent part of the agenda of Left Forum is to explore the possibility of forming such a broad left party here” was not part of the original remit – though it probably was the personal perspective of a number of the key individuals involved in initiating the project. I do of course recognise that this idea probably is the view of a majority of the current participants in the Left Forum and it certainly is the view of a majority of the current organising committee.

It is unfortunate that the Left Forum appears to have consolidated so quickly around this kind of reformist fantasy. It seems the original conception of the Left Forum as being a space for discussion and debate about different political ideas has been subsumed by this more “practical” and “realistic” approach.

As it seems fairly clear what political direction the Left Forum is now taking I will be examining the politics of the “Party of the European Left” in more detail in an upcoming blog post.


Marxism and Anarchism



Dublin march on International Women’s Day




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