Review:  The Leninist ‘Communist Theoretical Journal’

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! no. 16, February 1982

Amidst a stream of 'left' journals all competing to revise Marxism and bury Leninism it is refreshing to come across a journal such as this. Much of its content is a defence of Leninism against its enemies. As the authors are clearly members of, or associated with the CPGB they concentrate on attacking the anti-Leninism of that organisation. And it is a pleasure to read a thorough critique of the reformist Left Alternative Strategy and a restatement of the basic Marxist position on the Irish question. The RCG has already understood and written about many of the questions dealt with by The Leninist.* Nevertheless it is a cause for optimism that others should be treading the same ground and coming to some of the same conclusions.

I emphasise some of the same conclusions because The Leninist has a very worrying feature. Its declared aim is to set the CPGB on to the Marxist road:

‘What is required is an ideological struggle in the Party to purge it of all rotten opportunist elements.'

Too late! To reform a party that has been rotten with the poison of social chauvinism for more years than many of the authors of The Leninist have been alive? This is an impossible task. The Communist Party, its leadership, its apparatus and its programme belongs body and soul to the opportunists. Opportunism in the CP, over the post-war years in particular, has gone from strength to strength. Therefore, whilst many honest workers may remain in its ranks, the CP itself is a thoroughly pro-imperialist party — an insult to the name it bears. Lenin recognised that the parties of the Second International which had succumbed to the disease of social chauvinism had irrevocably gone over to the camp of imperialism and would never return to the working class.

‘... the social chauvinist or (what is the same thing) opportunist trend can neither disappear nor "return" to the revolutionary proletariat.’

The CP has been part of this opportunist trend for decades. And by waging a fruitless struggle to breathe life into the gangrenous body of the CP, The Leninist runs the danger of persuading those honest members in the CP to remain in a party that does not need 'reforming' but needs destroying.

The authors of The Leninist need to recognise the danger of themselves becoming the 'Marxist' excuse for remaining in the CPGB. But how they will recognise this is in question since their fine principles (and they are fine principles) will remain untested as long as they remain in the CPGB. To give but one example: The Leninist argues correctly that communists must support the Irish people's struggle for self-determination, must support the liberation struggle of the Republican movement and must oppose the British imperialist state. That is a rare position in Britain today (outside our own ranks) and it should if it is worth anything, result in those around The Leninist doing real practical work in solidarity with the Irish people's struggle. But if they are in the CP 'waging ideological struggle' they will not, because the CP will not let them, be doing any work to put their principles into practice.

The Leninist has correctly recognised much of what is ideologically wrong with the CPGB. In a fine critique of Aaronovitch's book The Road From Thatcherism the author Frank Grafton correctly attacks Aaronovitch for his total rejection of the Marxist theory of crisis the revolutionary theory that the crisis of capitalism is caused by the falling rate of profit and can be 'solved' within capitalism only by an onslaught on the workers. Correctly Grafton likens Aaronovitch to Kautsky who also believed that the crisis of capitalism was a product of 'wrong' policies and could be corrected by a programme of reform. Correctly he attacks Aaronovitch for the social chauvinism — the programme of 'saving' British capitalist industry through import controls and higher public expenditure — that inevitably flows from these views. But Grafton and The Leninist do not admit for how long —and it is decades — the views of Aaronovitch and similar ones have dominated the CPGB.

Finally The Leninist recognises (and this is the only starting point for a Marxist today) that the strength of opportunism in Britain flows from British imperialism and its ability to create and maintain a privileged labour aristocracy. But The Leninist mechanistically believes that as British imperialism 'declines' in strength so too will opportunism weaken. It is this illusion that is at the root of The Leninist's wrong belief that the CP can ‘return' to the working class. Hence The Leninist fails to recognise the enormous obstacle to revolutionary developments which the CP represents. Unless The Leninist's fine words about fighting opportunism are translated into the practical steps of breaking with the CP and contributing to the struggle to build a real communist movement then — despite its theoretical advances—The Leninist will sink in the sea of opportunism. It will become yet another obstacle to those engaged in the fight against imperialism and its opportunist allies.

*See Revolutionary Communist No7 — 'Critique of the British Road to Socialism'.

Maxine Williams


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