The Commune day school: Support for 'national liberation' is a dividing line
The people who came to The Commune day school, "Beyond Resistance", were all keen to discuss revolutionary politics, and many interesting points were made, both in the presentations and the discussions. However, the points were often dispersed. In the discussion on the crisis, one of the three discussions during the first session, the very important point that the present crisis is the result of the developments from the crisis in the 1960s and 70s was made in one of the presentations, together with points on the way that class antagonism in capitalism has become more impersonal and on the defence of Marx against academic ‘marxism' amongst others. State capitalism was one of the themes of the discussion, with a range of views expressed, from the idea that it is a step towards socialism, to the position that it is a tendency expressing the growing barbarity of capitalism since the First World War. Someone from the "Wine and cheese appreciation society" criticised this as not a real discussion, since we first of all needed to clarify what we mean by various terms. And in fact the discussion showed just how difficult it is and just how far we have to go in order to have a real meeting of minds.
The discussion on "imperialism and the national question" later in the afternoon showed the difference in positions even more sharply. This was a very well attended meeting, with people standing and listening from the doorway, perhaps because one of the speakers, Tom, was from the Anarchist Federation which has written a pamphlet taking a clear position against national liberation, which is so dear to all the leftist groups. He began his presentation posing the question of whether, since we are discussing as communists, it progresses or impedes the development of class-consciousness. He went on to defend Rosa Luxemburg's position that imperialism is not the policy of this or that government but results from the relationships among them, something no nation can stand apart from. And he showed the way nationalism, even in conditions of occupation or colonialism, is a weakness that can only undermine the class struggle. Quite so.
The other presentations took the opposing view. Andy from the Columbia Solidarity Campaign denounced not only the superprofits of British corporations but also the labour aristocracy. This is a theory that tends to make workers here feel guilty for their wages because other workers earn less. And in Columbia he tells us they say "we are poor because you've taken our natural resources", encouraging the workers there to see the nation's resources as their own, and to identify workers over here with the British ruling class. A very clear example of Tom's point about the negative effect of nationalism on class-consciousness.
From The Commune, David Broder began by emphasising the question of hierarchies within the world working class, which seemed to be supporting Andy's points on the labour aristocracy. In the discussion, despite the fact that everyone wanted to oppose imperialism, diametrically opposed views were expressed. On the one hand there were the views that Luxemburg was reactionary to oppose Polish nationalism and that if Hezbollah are fighting Israel, however reactionary they are in other ways, they are objectively fighting imperialism and so must be supported. On the other hand, the ICC, for example, said you can't oppose imperialism by taking sides in imperialist war.
In the closing plenary session that followed, we were asked to think about "where next for communists?" The proposal was for a pluralist organisation, a new Communist League, to unite us for activity. Given the totally incompatible views that had just been expressed this was totally unrealistic. Internationalists can never unite with supporters of Hezbollah or any other nationalist organisation, because it is a fundamental principle of the working class. What we can do is continue the debate, as in the Midlands discussion forum or the class struggle forum in Manchester, where internationalists and those who want to discuss internationalist positions come together. Continuing the discussion doesn't prevent groups and individuals getting together for particular activities, in fact it is the only way to create the level of agreement and the level of trust needed.