Correspondence with a member of the CPGB

Printer-friendly version


I recently had a letter published in the CPGB Weekly Worker. It appears that there are some ‘Communists’ that consider such views as Ultra Left (I am quite happy with being Ultra Left) what would the ICC consider such views?

Below is a copy of my letter.

“In recent weeks there has been some debate as to whether believers can be members of the party or not. That is for CPGB members to decide. However, the CPGB is not the only group involved in revolution.

As a revolutionary socialist, I think that people who believe in god should be forewarned that all religious buildings after the revolution will be bulldozed and replaced with hospitals and decent housing for the working class.

The problem with god and religion is that it goes hand in hand with capitalism (in god we trust - and the US dollar) and monarchy, thus making god an enemy of the people. Even the Vicar of Rome does not really believe in god’s existence, as is proved by his lack of faith as he travels around in his bulletproof vehicle.

Religions create division even within the same religion, let alone between Christians, Muslims and Jews and others. Let’s leave this superstition where it should be - in the distant past. Let’s get on with the job in hand and get rid of this rotten system.

Now, if you can excuse me, I am off to start my present list ready to send to Father Christmas.”

From the ICC

Thank you for your letter, and our apologies for the delay in replying. But that doesn’t mean we haven’t discussed it. After some consideration, we decided to focus on the fact that you seem to have written to us as an expression of the ‘ultra-left’, since this poses some very basic questions about what we mean by the ‘left’ in general.

While we do refer to ourselves as left communists, we don’t call ourselves ‘ultra left’, since the latter has so often been used as a term of abuse hurled either by opportunists or outright bourgeois apologists at those who are seeking to defend and develop authentic communist politics. The term ‘communist left’ arose during the 1920s when the Communist Parties were entering into a phase of opportunist degeneration; and those like the tendencies around Bordiga, Pannekoek, Pankhurst and others who opposed this trajectory were frequently labelled ultra-leftists or infantile leftists[1] by those most caught up in the opportunist course. Since that time the Communist Parties haven’t stayed in a kind of opportunist half-way house: during the 1930s they became direct agents of the capitalist counter-revolution and of imperialist war. They were absolutely central in the mobilisation of the working class for the slaughter of 1939-45, and in the defence of the imperialist Russian state.

In our view, once an organisation has crossed the class line which separates the bourgeoisie from the working class, there is no going back. In general, crucial historical moments like war or revolution provide us with the criteria for judging whether this definitive passage has taken place. This was certainly the case with the ‘social chauvinists’ when they supported the war in 1914 and helped to crush the revolution (especially in Germany) in 1918-19, and history repeated itself with the Communist Parties originally formed to fight against this betrayal.

The organisation which you belong to, the CPGB, is an offshoot of the Stalinist CP in the UK and has never called into question its origins in a bourgeois party. The fact that it has subsequently veered first towards a kind of Trotskyism and then towards a strange attempt to revive pre-First World War social democracy certainly does not mean that such a fundamental self-critique has taken place. On the contrary: both social democracy and Trotskyism have also proved themselves to be part of what we call the left wing of capital – social democracy in 1914-18, Trotskyism with its participation in the second world war, its defence of the USSR and of wars of ‘national liberation’, and its critical support for the Labour and Stalinist parties. So moving from one variety of bourgeois politics to another does not mean that the essential question has been posed.

The characterisation of social democracy, Stalinism and Trotskyism as capitalist political tendencies is of course the ultimate in ‘ultra-leftism’ as far as any of these tendencies are concerned, but for us it is simply the necessary defence of class principles – the same path as that taken by Lenin and the Bolsheviks, or Luxemburg and Liebknecht, when they denounced those who had abandoned internationalism in 1914, and by the left communists in the 30s who understand that the Communist Parties had become the mortal enemy of the revolutionary movement. For these revolutionaries this was in no sense an academic or semantic dispute; it was the social democracy who directed the hunting down and murder of Luxemburg and Liebknecht in 1919, and it was the Stalinists who carried out the assassination of thousands of revolutionaries in the 30s and 40s.

One of the main functions of the organisations of the capitalist left is to recruit people who are beginning to question capitalism and then turn this questioning into dead-end forms of thought and activity. This is why we have never rejected discussion with individual members of such organisations even though we reject any form of cooperation with the organisations as such. But equally we have always stressed that any political progress by such individuals cannot avoid a radical break with the organisations of the capitalist left and their whole world outlook.

We will not enter here into the questions about religion that you pose, except to make it clear to you that the policies you advocate – such as the destruction of cathedrals and, apparently, the forcible suppression of religion by the proletarian dictatorship – may be called ‘ultra-left’ by your fellow CPGB members, but they certainly have nothing to do with the real traditions of the communist left and of Marxism in general. In fact the state repression of religion has always been a feature of the Stalinist regimes and proof that they were incapable of addressing the problem of religion at its roots: the alienated social relations which are equally the source of capitalism, whether in its democratic or Stalinist forms. […]

For the ICC, A

[1]. Our views on this are explained at greater length here: