The CPGB has been one of the leading practitioners of ‘Half Way House’ (HWH) parties and Left Unity, for all its limitations, the best we have achieved so far. By HWH party we mean a social democratic-communist (or Marxist) united front party with some form of social democratic programme. The CPGB was one of the groups at the founding conference helping to launch LU. It set up a Communist Tendency, essential in a HWH. Members of the CPGB were elected to the national leadership.
If CPGB practice can be commended in some respects, the CPGB’s HWH theory is a piece of left sectarianism. So now with Corbyn we can look forward to the CPGB being hoist by its own petard. The CPGB resolution to Left Unity conference says in the light of Corbyn victory “All halfway house projects, ………….., have been exposed, wrecked or left high and dry”. It goes on to urge that “Left Unity commits itself to the project of transforming the Labour Party into an instrument for working class advance and international socialism”.
This is a misreading of the situation. It is true that Corbyn poses a serious challenge to all Labourite Half Way House parties, such as TUSC and Left Unity. But if Labourite LU is holed below the water line, Republican LU is not. Corbyn Labour is no threat to republicanism. So the CPGB is right to pronounce the death of Labourite LU but wrong to see this as the end of HWH as such rather than a new beginning or new stage in its advance. The theory of a social democratic-communist united front party is alive and well. In practice the example of Left Unity will only survive if it embraces republicanism in a serious way. It has yet to do so.
The Labour Party is not a Half Way House party. It is a Broad Church, or popular front, party of liberal democrats, social democrats and a few communists/Marxists. (I am using this term ‘social democracy’ not for the right wing of the Labour Party who, as liberal democrats, are not socialists of any kind.). It is a capitalist workers party, loyal to the constitutional monarchy. Jeremy Corbyn declares himself a republican but assures the Labour bureaucracy and the Crown he will do nothing about it.
This brings me back to my election campaign in Bermondsey where I openly attacked Unionism. It is impossible to be a serious militant republican if you are wedded to the British Union. This is just as true of Glasgow South LU as the CPGB. We only have to see the Weekly Worker line in the general election to prove my point – not an inch of republicanism nor an ounce of anti-Unionist internationalism.