Corbyn’s ‘Half Way House’.
Jeremy Corbyn’s move towards a Half Way House project has finally torpedoed the CPGB’s theory of the same name. Of course Labour remains a Broad Church. But if the Labour left is going to win a general election they will have to win the class struggle in the next few years. Then they will have to get rid of the divisive back-stabbing liberal democrats, which Thatcher might have called “the enemy within”.
The CPGB’s error has been to dabble in a kind of Left Communism. Left wing communism sets the maximum programme against the united front of the ‘social democratic-communist’ party. Their argument is that in an era of working class defeat, social democracy, like trade unionism, is a declining or disappearing force. Why make concessions to a defeated social democracy? Communists must stand firm, go it alone and make no compromises.
Applying left-communism to LU leads to the following line. Suppose Left Unity, a relatively new social democratic-communist united front party is made up of 900 Marxists and 100 social democrats. The left-communist line is that Marxists should simply outvote the 100 social democrats and adopt a revolutionary communist maximum programme. The 100 social democrats can then leave LU or convert to true Marxism.
Of course Left Unity rejected the CPGB’s version of a maximum programme. Left-communism sees the problem within the 900 Marxists. The story goes – there are only about 50 true Marxists and the rest are cowardly, compromising Marxists who support a united front programme. So the 50 true Marxists are being thwarted by the 850 who want to keep the 100 social democrats on board.
The irony is that the CPGB were so busy dancing to their own maximalist tune that they did not fight for the minimum republican programme. The dominance of Labourism in LU must be blamed in large part on the CPGB failing to fight for its own republican minimum programme by playing at maximalism.
Now with the victory of the Corbo-Left all this compromising with Half Way Housing must end! This is a logical but bizarre conclusion. It is true that a small party with 900 Marxists and 100 social democrats can only remain united if the Marxists are sufficiently disciplined not to drive them away by imposing a maximum programme on them. But the real problem with leftism is its failure to recognise the real state of class consciousness in a period of defeats.
LU is not a random sample of working class consciousness. It is a biased sample. Marxist ideas may far outweigh social democratic views in Left Unity but in the working class movement it is the other way round. The Corbyn movement settles the question. The two hundred and fifty thousand voting for Corbyn are people moved to support a social democratic programme. These are not Marxists and not even cowardly Marxists scared to say who they are.
Mass consciousness is social democratic and the only way LU could become a mass party would be to have a kind social democratic programme which makes sense to a mass of people. In a wider sense the ratio of social democracy to communism is more like 250,000 to 2000 (or 125:1). We can discuss and change these estimates but a mass party of the working class in current conditions can only be a Broad Church or a Half Way House.
Therefore social-democrats and communists should be uniting against the liberal democrats. That is Half Way House politics not Broad Churchism. What is true is that Left Unity cannot survive as an independent Left Labour party. The choice for Left Unity with the rise of Corbyn is change or die, which takes me back to the point of my Bermondsey election campaign and the points I made during in it.
Left Unity (Republican Socialist and Anti-Unionist)