Ninth party congress: We must connect our movement with the masses

Important foundations have already been laid. Now we must expand and build on those in a principled and serious way.

Proletarian writers

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The ninth congress of the CPGB-ML took stock of the political and economic changes over the last three years, emphasised our commitment to bringing Marxism to the masses, and reinforced our ties to the international movement for socialism.

Proletarian writers

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From 8-10 October 2021, full members of the CPGB-ML convened for the party’s ninth congress, assessing the work and events of the last three years and setting priorities for the coming period.

The three years that have passed since our eighth congress have been eventful indeed. When the last congress met, the party was particularly concerned with the developments brought about by the Brexit vote, and with facing the growing threat to our movement posed by identity politics in general and the trans lobby in particular.

Transgender ideology was a particular focus of discussion since it promotes the unfounded and unscientific idea that material reality is whatever the individual thinks it is – an absurd notion patently at odds with the materialism of scientific socialism.

Having adopted an unequivocally Marxist line at that congress, our party went on to produce a variety of materials outlining the reasons for our stance and explaining why it is that divisive identity politics of all kinds are being so heavily pushed by our class enemies. This clear position contrasts starkly with the fudging and capitulation that characterises the majority of the self-identifying ‘left’ in relation to liberalism, individualism, philosophical idealism and the politics of identity.

If Brexit and identity politics were the backdrop and primary points of concern for party members in 2018, this time around the main issues were the Covid-19 pandemic, the collapse of the Corbyn project and the emergence of the Workers party.

Striking the balance on Covid

The congress endorsed the line taken by the central committee in relation to the pandemic, which has steered a careful course between those who have allowed their fear of Covid-19 to lead them to accept all the measures taken by the government at face value, and those whose suspicion of the government’s motivations has led them to dismiss the entire pandemic as a giant hoax.

Our party, by contrast, while accepting the overwhelming evidence that Covid-19 is a real disease and presents a serious danger to the public (albeit one whose effects are very unevenly distributed) against which meaningful measures need to be taken, has used the unfolding events to show how and why the response of Britain’s capitalist ruling class has been very far from what was needed.

Consistently contrasting the profit-driven focus of our government with the people-centred approach of countries like China and Cuba, we have showed how the majority of spending hidden under the title of ‘Covid measures’ has actually been a bail-out and subsidy to big business, which was reeling from the economic crash of March 2020 (conveniently masked by the onset of the first lockdown). Similarly, a large number of the legal measures passed under the so-called ‘Covid act’ have nothing to do with the health emergency and everything to do with containing working-class dissent.

The end of Project Corbyn and the birth of the Workers party

Meanwhile, the collapse of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour party following his betrayal of Brexit and his subsequent defeat in the 2019 general election has led to a crisis in the camp of social democracy.

The congress applauded our party’s role in helping to form the Workers Party of Britain at this moment – a project whose primary aim is to help to bury the Labour party forever, since Labour has been the main obstacle to the struggle for socialism in Britain for over a century. This opportunity must be grasped and every effort made to build the ranks of the WPB and to create deep and meaningful connections between it and the working class.

Congress affirmed that the Workers party has a unique opportunity to exacerbate the crisis in the Labour party and amongst its hangers-on, and endorsed the WPB’s aim of reintroducing the concepts of class and class organisation to Britain’s disorganised and demoralised workers, and of repopularising the understanding that only socialism can save us from crisis, poverty, inequality, insecurity, environmental degradation, war and all the other ills inherent in the capitalist-imperialist world order.

While emphasising the importance of building the Workers party, congress affirmed the importance of continuing to put our communist principles at the heart of everything our own comrades do. Our members must be prioritising their study of scientific socialism alongside practical branch-building activities in order to ensure that our work does not become one-sided and to enable us to create the steeled core of Marxist revolutionaries without which no struggle for socialism can succeed.

While the majority of time at the congress was given to these crucial issues, resolutions were also passed on other topics of great importance to our movement. These included NHS privatisation, the deepening economic crisis, racism, the zionist defeat in Gaza and imperialist rout in Afghanistan, and, crucially, the continuing and accelerating drive to war against Russia and China.

A new 15-member central committee was elected, as were three party officers. Comrade Ella Rule remains as chair of the party and Joti Brar remains as vice-chair, joined by Nina Kosta who replaces Zane Carpenter. Congress expressed its deep appreciation to Comrade Zane, who has served as a leading officer (first general secretary and then vice-chair) since our party’s founding in 2004. He remains a valued member of our central committee.

Our movement has internationalism at its core

The international section of the congress was supplemented by an inspiring meeting on Saturday night on the topic of ‘Covid and Internationalism’. Guests from four fraternal embassies addressed our audience on this topic: Ambassador Rocio del Valle Maneiro González of Bolivarian Venezuela, Ambassador Guisell Morales-Echaverry of Sandinistan Nicaragua, Counsellor Kong Xiangwen of the People’s Republic of China, and Secretary Aymée Alejandra Diaz Negrín of socialist Cuba.

All the speakers brought fraternal greetings to our congress from their respective parties. Counsellor Kong also presented an official letter of congratulation from the international department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and presented it to Comrade Joti Brar, who chaired the meeting. He and his comrades from the embassy also presented the party with a large selection of books and other items commemorating the centenary of the CPC, reinforcing the deepening ties of friendship and cooperation between our two parties.

All our guests spoke movingly of the struggle to protect the health of their peoples during these last 18 months, and of the obstacles placed in their way by imperialist misinformation, aggression and sanctions.

While anti-imperialist and socialist governments have responded to the challenge of the pandemic by working to keep their people safe, the imperialists have used every military and economic tool at their disposal to try to make life unliveable for those same populations, hoping that if they can cause enough death and desperation the masses will feel compelled to remove their governments and replace them with regimes that are more to the liking of the USA.

Alongside sanctions and military aggression, the imperialists’ propaganda, social media and psychological operations have been ramped up to fever pitch, with every opportunity being taken to slander progressive governments’ anti-pandemic efforts as proof that they are either ‘authoritarian’ (where lockdowns have been needed) or ‘negligent’ (where lockdowns have been avoided) or both, and to present their pandemic measures as being unpopular and harmful.

Of course, China, with its huge territory, population, natural resources and scientific and manufacturing base is most able to stand up to these attacks and to offer help to others to do likewise. Not only has its zero-Covid strategy been staggeringly successful, engendering huge confidence amongst the Chinese people, but its people-centred, health-focused internationalism during the pandemic has also been exemplary, holding up a clear mirror to the in-fighting, hoarding and profiteering of our governments in the west.

While the People’s Republic continues to try to engage constructively with the rest of the world, including the western world, in tackling the pandemic and other issues of global concern such as climate change, the imperialists are more interested in doing China down than in working together for the good of humanity.

Meanwhile, the people of Venezuela face terrible difficulties as a result of the vice-like grip of imperialist economic blockade and sabotage. While physical coup attempts against the government have been firmly put down by the people, Comrade Rocio reported that the financial situation had become so bad that it was only by sheer willpower that the Venezuelan masses were able to hold on to their popular revolution.

To illustrate the point, she reminded us how Venezuela’s foreign reserves, including billions in gold bullion held by the Bank of England, have been seized by the imperialists and all normal foreign trade has been blocked. This has been carried to such an extent that when President Nicolás Maduro’s government paid £120m (some of the last reserves left in the Venezuelan treasury) to the United Nations’ Covax vaccine-procurement facility last May for the purchase of 11 million doses of vaccine, the transaction was blocked, with neither vaccines nor the cash being released to Venezuela for several months.

Clearly, Uncle Sam hopes that where other efforts have failed, the virus might prevail in making life unliveable for the masses in Venezuela. It is solely owing to the fraternal assistance of Russia, China and Cuba that vaccines have been available in Venezuela, but inevitably the vaccination programme is far behind where it ought to be as the contagious Delta variant runs rampant across the continent.

Even tiny Cuba, despite the huge difficulties caused to its own people by decades of sanctions and sabotage, has continued to offer significant help to the world, sending medical teams in the earlier stages of the pandemic and shipping its own home-produced vaccines once they had been developed. Nicaragua, China and Venezuela, for their part, are helping to provide essential goods to Cuba that it is unable to produce itself. This is true internationalism at work – the fraternal assistance of independent peoples in times of need.

In the present health crisis, the insistence of Comrade Fidel Castro that Cuba should develop its own biotech sector so as to be able to resist the medical blackmail of the imperialists has never seemed more prescient.

Comrade Guisell’s inspirational report from Nicaragua has already been produced elsewhere. She, too, gave moving insights into the tremendous gains that have been made by the masses in a poor country that has been able to install a socialist-oriented government – even in such dire circumstances as these and despite constant attacks from the imperialists.

Together with Cuba and Venezuela, Nicaragua is acting as a beacon of hope to the people of the Americas, showing how all the problems faced by its people can be solved, from women’s oppression, health, educational and other inequalities, to environmental degradation and climate change.

Comrade Ranjeet Brar spoke on behalf of the party, reflecting the inspiration that was felt by all our members on receiving these reports from the front line of the struggle against imperialism and for socialism. His speech, along with those of the comrades from Cuba and Venezuela, is available on Proletarian TV and all are highly recommended viewing.

The meeting was a visceral reminder that socialists in Britain are not some kind of loony fringe, as our corporate media would have workers believe, but are swimming with the tide of history; a part of the world’s great majority. The masses everywhere are hungry for socialism, and wherever their struggle is advancing, the people’s movement looks and sounds like our own.

We were particularly happy to be able to extend our unshakable friendship, through their embassies, to the people of China, Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, who are at the sharp end of the struggle today and whose example offers so much hope to the people of the world.

Venceremos

Everything about our present situation underlines the need for workers to regroup and begin to fight back against the onslaught of capital, from poverty pay and dire working conditions to the rampant growth of poverty, hunger and inequality (all underlined during the course of the pandemic) and the imperialists’ insatiable drive towards world war.

Despite the many fractures in their weakened and crisis-ridden system (pandemic profiteering, supply lines chaos, glutted markets, stock market and property bubbles, imperialist divisions), our rulers in Britain feel safe to argue with one another, to pass draconian legislation, and to carry out the most blatant raids on the treasury, comfortable in the knowledge that the working class in its present state of disorientation and disorganisation has no ability to counter its arrogance, to push back against its thievery, or to take any advantage of its disarray.

This is the situation that must change. The present period offers great opportunities for working-class advance in both consciousness and organisation. The foundations have already been laid. Our members left the congress determined to do everything in their power to serve the people by extending and building on those foundations.