The Labour party’s rout in the 1 May local elections in England, followed by its crushing defeat in the Crewe by-election, which saw a Labour majority of 7,000 turned into a Tory majority of 8,000, have served to hasten further still the crisis within the revisionist and reformist sections of the communist movement in Britain and caused deep divisions within its ranks.
Not surprisingly, then, the Communist Party of Britain (CPB) is split down the middle between the followers of General Secretary Robert Griffiths, who can no longer go along with automatic support for Labour, and others, for whom auto-Labourism continues to be a shibboleth.
In the run up to the 50th Congress of the CPB in May, Robert Griffiths had a pretty good go at his opponents. Writing in the Morning Star of 16 April, he said: “Georgi Dimitrov described fascism as the ‘open, terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinist and most imperialist elements of finance capital’. New Labour in office is the client regime of the most reactionary, most aggressive and imperialist elements of British state monopoly capitalism.” In plain language, the Labour government is largely indistinguishable from a fascist regime.
At the congress itself, Griffiths repeated that New Labour were “open representatives of monopoly capital in the labour movement” and marked a “break from traditional social democracy, with its concern to negotiate better terms for workers and their families within the confines of capitalism”.
This being the case, he went on to argue that the congress must “restate the fundamental need for a mass party of labour in Britain”. For good measure, in the fine traditions of opportunism, he added that the CPB “even now does not write off the possibility that the Labour party can be restored to such a role, provided that affiliated unions use their political and financial power to force a change in the polices and direction of the party”.
In an attempt to maintain the delicate truce between the two factions (Griffithsites and auto-Labourites), the congress adopted a resolution prescribing a twin-track approach to the question. Under it, while not writing off the policy of reclaiming Labour as an instrument for socialism through parliament, as prescribed by the British Road to Socialism, the CPB also committed itself to the creation of an alternative “mass party of labour” to lead the British working class to socialism.
What Griffiths and his opponents are seeking to create is a party in the mould of the old Labour Party “with its concern to negotiate better terms for workers … within the confines of capitalism”. Whereas Griffiths and his followers believe that this can no longer be achieved within the confines of the present-day Labour party, their opponents believe that such an outcome is possible through struggle within it.
This is all that their wretched differences amount to. Neither faction is seeking socialism through the overthrow of British imperialism; neither is fighting for a genuine vanguard party of the working class. Being defeatist representatives of the labour aristocracy, both factions dare not go beyond the parameters of capitalism.
And to add to the bankruptcy of it all, both factions believe that to achieve the miserable aims they set themselves, they must help maintain, or create, a mass party – different from the communist party.
It would be difficult for liquidationism to plummet any further. It is time this gentry passed a resolution for voluntary dissolution and joined either the imperialist Labour party or some newer version of the same.
Meanwhile, for those individuals currently in the CPB who wish to put social democracy behind them, the doors of the CPGB-ML remain open.