MARXIST-LENINIST REVOLUTIONARY ORGANISATION IN BRITAIN
== FROM THE PAST TO THE FUTURE
In a period of reaction, the past dominates and determines the present; it is the principal aspect of the contradiction between the past and the present. "The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living." So it is with the Marxist-Leninist revolutionaries in Britain, and in most of the world, today. In order to overcome their fixation with the past, so as to be orientated towards the future, the Marxist-Leninists have to critically evaluate and sum-up the past of the international communist movement. Paradoxically this is part of the process of objectively evaluting the present, particularly in terms of the objective possibilities it offers for revolutionary struggle. Only when we have made a decisive, qualitative transition from the past of our movement to the present can the contradiction between the present and the future become principal. We must cease to endlessly reenact, (in pantomime form), the struggles of the past and focus upon developing political activity in the present which has the goal of achieving revolutionary transformation in the future. Forward to the future!
At all times it is the task of Marxist-Leninists to strive to organise themselves as an effective revolutionary political force. The organisational goal of Marxist-Leninists under conditions of capitalism and imperialism is to build a revolutionary vanguard party of the Leninist type. Historical experience in many countries during the twentieth century has shown that without such a party the forces of reaction cannot be defeated and the socialist transformation of society undertaken. This is not to claim that the organisational form of the Bolshevik and other Third International parties should be slavishly copied. On the contrary the strengths and weaknesses of the Leninist model in practice should be critically evaluated and the model developed accordingly. Nonetheless it is a matter of historical experience that other models of revolutionary organisation - such as the "spontaneism" of anarchists and council communists or the "mass party" approach of the PCF and PCI - have never brought about the achievement of proletarian power. Revolutionary practice has shown the Leninist model of the revolutionary party to be essentially correct.
The experience of revolutionary struggle has shown that there is a dialectical relationship between the type and level of revolutionary political organisation possible and the prevailing objective material conditions. Attempts to inaugurate vanguard Leninist parties in the imperialist countries during the last thirty years or so have not been a success. Such organisations have either disappeared or continue to exist as small groups whose real existence bears little real resemblance to the Leninist model, especially with respect to their revisionist politics.
At the end of the twentieth century we are in a period of turmoil and confusion among revolutionaries following on from the defeat of socialism in the Soviet Union and China. Many sincere socialists of a revolutionary inclination do want to find ways of renewing and carrying on the revolutionary struggle and their desire to do so in a disciplined, organised way is correct. However there is the danger in Britain at the present time of simply repeating the errors of the past. In particular there is the temptation to create yet more instant parties and organisations without making the necessary preparations and seizing the right historical moment. In Britain the lesson that forming and building a revolutionary party is not to be lightly approached does not seem to have been learnt. The founding of "revolutionary" parties on insubstantial ideological, political and organisational bases continues as is evidenced by the 'Communist Party of Great Britain' and the Socialist Labour Party.
Whether we like it or not, the truth of the matter is that the objective conditions do not yet exist in Britain which would permit the formation of a party of the Leninist type. In terms of potential cadres there are very few people around who are suitable. Certainly there are a number of people who are anxious to hang on to the beliefs of a lifetime. One does not want to disparage these people, many of whom are people who have made genuine personal sacrifices for the struggle. However most of them are more concerned to try to sustain their illusions than they are to build a real revolutionary movement. Such persons are particularly concentrated in small circles based in London. They spend their time in small meetings where they endlessly unite and split with each other, very often on the basis of little more than personal rivalry and animosity. These people are not going to provide any effective Marxist-Leninist leadership and should be rigorously excluded from any serious revolutionary organisation.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
So what can be done? One thing is for sure and that it is that we must avoid mechanically repeating the errors of the past. We have to find a new and different way forward.
One proposal is that a self-selected nucleus of committed Marxist-Leninists is formed. At first the existence of this group might not be publicly revealed or acknowledged, at least under its true identity. Its task would be to carry out the theoretical and practical preparations necessary for the establishment of a revolutionary organisation which would have a public face when the objective conditions are judged to be favourable for such a step forward. This group would necessarily be inaugurated by a very small number of comrades precisely because there are so few people in Britain at present who do in fact have the necessary experience and knowledge to carry out this task. The members of the group would have to be in agreement on a number of basic principles. The 'wiping the slate clean' and 'open to all comers' approach of Open Polemic is completely idealist and incorrect. The historical experience of revolutionary struggle during the last one hundred and fifty years has in actual practice thrown up certain minimum lines of demarcation upon which any genuine revolutionary organisation must be based. These are:
1. Adherence to the general outlook of the international communist movement
which developed under the leadership of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao.
The only revolutionary movement in the modern era which has even temporarily overthrown the bourgeoisie and established proletarian state power is the Marxist-Leninist one which is generally identified by the names of its five outstanding leaders as listed above. Although the first wave of socialism in the world has now been defeated its achievements nonetheless were a qualitative advance for oppressed and exploited people. The Great October Revolution of 1917 and the other revolutionary breakthroughs it inspired, especially in China, demonstrate in the most concrete way the fundamental correctness of MarxismLeninism as a guide to revolutionary practice.
Other approachs to defeating capitalism and transforming society such as anarchism, social democracy and Trotskyism have been shown by the harsh test of actual practice to be dismal failures. Thus there is no place for the adherents of these ideologies in a Marxist-Leninist revolutionary organisation. To allow such elements to participate, as Open Polemic has done, is sheer liberalism which simply breeds confusion and leads nowhere. Certainly, the Marxist-Leninists should engage in ideological and political struggle with these people and, when appropriate, form tactical alliances with them in the course of engaging in particular practical struggles. But under no circumstance should anti-Leninists be admitted to an organisation of revolutionaries at any stage, high or low, of its development.
Another error to be assiduously combatted is the tendency to regard the outstanding leaders of the international communist movement as demi-gods completely free from any human failings. At one time it was Mao who was placed on a pedastal and now it is Stalin who attracts acolytes feverishly trying to outdo each other with their paeons of totally uncritical praise. This attitude towards revolutionary leadership is quite at odds with the Marxist approach which sees the thoughts and actions of leaders as expressions of the interests of parties and classes rather than the divine inspirations of individuals. The fact of the matter is that as well as a very positive aspect our movement has its negative side and this is reflected in some of the policies of our leaders. To pretend otherwise is completely undialectical and leaves one stranded in the past, completely unable to come to terms with the present. This sort of hero worshipping is a form of religious hysteria which has nothing in common with materialist dialectics.
2. Upholding the achievements of the dictatorship of the proletariat in those
countries where it was established.
With the triumph of counter-revolution in the Soviet Union and China the bourgeoisie and their apologists have launched an all-out ideological assault on the memory of the periods of revolutionary transformation in these countries. They try to distort the historical record in such a way as to suggest that the Russian and Chinese revolutions were quite unnecessary historical accidents which brought about unmitigated disaster for the masses in those countries. After all, these reactionaries point out, the Russian and Chinese revolutions were not defeated from without but were actually undermined and abandoned by some of the leaders of their own communist parties. Part of the task of reconstituting and rebuilding the Marxist-Leninist movement is to combat this reactionary propaganda by publicising at every available opportunity the extraordinary achievements of the first wave of socialism. We must emphasise that these revolutions showed that it is possible for the oppressed and exploited masses to rise up and overthrow their masters. We must draw attention to the extraordinary economic, social and cultural advances the masses achieved under communist leadership. This is a vital task because unless we succeed in communicating the very positive practical achievements of socialism we will not win a new generation of adherents to the cause.
3. Recognition that the dictatorship of the proletariat no longer exists in any country.
There are some revolutionaries who are reluctant to admit that the first wave of socialism in the world has been defeated. Some go on trying to pretend that China is still on the socialist road despite the open restoration of capitalism in that country while others proclaim the regimes in Cuba and North Korea as socialist. All of this smacks of desperation. Both of the latter regimes have been established for a considerable period of time and yet there seems to be little, if any, evidence to suggest that the dictatorship of the proletariat really exists in these societies. The precise meaning of this term in MarxismLeninism is a state of affairs where the proletariat and its allies actually exercise power over society as a whole. Certainly, during the period of revolutionary civil war and the establishment of state power by the revolutionary movement it is only a minority of the masses who have developed a high level of political consciousness and play an active role in the affairs of the proletarian state. However an urgent task of the revolutionary regime and the communist party which leads it is to encourage and facilitate the ever wider participation in and exercise of power in state affairs by the masses. If this process is not continuously pressed forward then, as Mao pointed out, the communist party and the state apparatus will turn into their opposites; become the instruments of power for a new, emergent state bourgeoisie.
In North Korea there is the first "socialist" regime in the world which has a hereditary leader! Even the most convoluted sophistry fails to convince anyone with a serious grasp of Marxism that this is really socialism. Economically, the DRK has been going backwards, unable to feed its own people, as compared with thirty years ago when its economy compared favourably with that of South Korea. As for Cuba, the Castro regime undoubtedly has considerable popular support. It is also true that under conditions of great difficulty brought about by the US orchestrated economic blockade there have been considerable improvements in the lives of the people such as high standard health services and education. Even so it is clear that after forty years the masses have no real power. The Castro regime is a populist, caudillo type of regime vigorously encouraging the development of the free market and unlikely to survive the demise of its leader.
The fact that North Korea and Cuba, (and Vietnam for that matter), are not socialist does not mean that Marxist-Leninists should not try to defend these countries against imperialist attacks. Presumably no Marxist-Leninist would proclaim Libya as "socialist" but we would all agree that it should be defended against imperialism. Simply because a regime is in conflict with imperialist powers does not automatically make it socialist.
It is hardly surprising that the first wave of socialism in the world should eventually have been defeated. As Mao pointed out, the early attempts by the bourgeoisie to establish state power met with defeat and it has taken several hundred years for this class to become hegemonic on a world scale. It is likely that the same sort of timescale will be necessary for the achievement of communism. There will be many twists, turns and setbacks on the road to socialism. Even so, one thing is for sure and that is that the necessity to abolish capitalism is as great as ever. There are more poor people in the world than ever before and their numbers are growing, including those in the imperialist countries.
4. Recognition of the necessity of violent revolution to overthrow the capitalist state
in order to establish the dictatorship of the proletariat.
All Marxist-Leninists agree in principle that the bourgeoisie can only be overthrown by armed force but their practice suggests that most of them have only a formal adherence to this principle. No communist party has ever overthrown the old regime and established state power without military struggle having a central role. There have been communist parties, as in the case of Germany and Indonesia, which have had large memberships and mass support but because of their failure to prepare for and take armed struggle seriously they proved impotent in the face of the capitalist state machine and were ruthlessly crushed. Any communist organisation worthy of its name must make military preparations from the moment of its inception. It is no use saying that this will be done when the time is ripe because revolutionary conjunctures appear very suddenly and by that time it is too late to start building a people's army. Neither is it acceptable to say that conditions in an imperialist country make armed struggle impossible. Sinn Fein/IRA, although not a communist organisation, have demonstrated that it is possible to wage a protracted military campaign against a major imperialist power on its home territory and not be defeated. From its inception any new communist organisation must have both a public, legal face and an underground, illegal wing operating clandestinely.
5. Commitment to proletarian internationalism in the sense that the struggle to
overthrow capitalism and imperialism in any particular country is but part of one
world revolutionary process.
The capitalist world market is more developed than ever before. While the big bourgeoisie are still based in particular nation states it is also the case that the international scale of their operations force them to transcend national boundaries setting up supra-national organisations such as the UN, IMF, NATO, etc. and creating new multi-national states and economic unions such as the EU and NAFTA. Marxists have always held that the objective mode of existence of the proletariat is as an international class but have not always put this into practice at political and organisational levels. It is ironic that during a period when the objective conditions for the practical development of proletarian internationalism are more favourable than ever before that some "communists" try to organise on a "national" level as in Scotland and Wales while others oppose the membership of the British state in the EU on a chauvinistic, "little Englander" basis. Of course, one important line of demarcation between MarxistLeninists and Trotskyites has been radically different positions on the national question but this should not be confused with the error of falling into nationalist deviations.
From the moment of its inception any new communist organisation should strive to form solid and enduring links, on a principled basis, with communist parties and groups in other countries throughout the world. A communist organisation in an imperialist country, such as Britain, should make particular efforts to link up and work with communists in countries where British imperialism is particularly active. Also it is most important that attempts should be made to seek out like-minded comrades throughout the European countries with the aim of forming a European-wide communist party at the earliest possible opportunity. The bourgeoisies of the European countries have been bringing into being a European capitalist state for the last forty years. Any revolutionary upsurge in this part of the world will have to confront and destroy the EU state machine and the sooner our organisational form is appropriate for this, the better. Overall, the long-term aim should be the formation of a new communist international.
6. Unequivocal opposition to all reactionary and reformist political parties and
Presumably, with its transformation from a mildly social democratic to an openly New Right political party, it should no longer be necessary to argue that trying to influence the Labour Party is not only incorrect but totally ineffectual anyway. Also urging people to support New Labour in elections is simply doing the bourgeoisie's dirty work for them.
More disturbing is the recent electoral buffoonery of the Association of Communist Workers and the new 'CPGB'. To support Arthur Scargill's Socialist Labour Party is the most blatant revisionism. Scargill's organisation espouses a programme remarkably similar to the old CPGB's British Road to Socialism, advocating the parliamentary route to socialism. For Marxist-Leninists, there is really no point in commenting any further on the blatant opportunism of getting in bed with Old King Arthur. Indeed the whole tactic of standing in elections in Britain at present is quite incorrect. To dredge up quotations from Lenin dating from the early 1920s to try to justify this parliamentary cretinism simply will not do. Circumstances in Britain nearly eighty years later are entirely different and no convincing case has been made for communists to stand in elections. The correct position for communists to take up is to expose the fraudulant character of bourgeois democracy and urge abstention from voting.
7. Acknowledgment that the appropriate form of revolutionary organisation is a
vanguard political party of the Leninist type.
The essential correctness of the Leninist model of the revolutionary party has already been asserted. What does need further investigation is the specific form such a party should take in contemporary circumstances. Particularly important is to further elaborate the principles of democratic centralism. In MarxistLeninist organisations in the past in Britain we have seen much centralism and little democracy. In the present period we have the opposite with an excess of ultra-democracy, e.g. Open Polemic, and little centralism. Both errors are a recipe for failure.
The Leninist party consists of cadres whose first commitment in life is to the revolutionary struggle. Some of the cadres need to be full-time professional revolutionaries and the party should make the necessary financial and organisational arrangements to sustain these comrades on a long-term basis so that their energies are focused on their revolutionary work rather than struggling to live on a pittance. This does not mean that the party has no time for people who are not yet fully committed communists but who have some sympathy for its aims. On the contrary the revolutionary party should form and develop various mass organisations in which such supporters and sympathisers play an active role.
TASKS OF THE MARXIST-LENINIST PRE-PARTY ORGANISATION
After its formation further recruitment to the group would be on the basis of selecting, developing and approaching particular individuals rather than on the basis of a general appeal for participation.
The tasks of the group would be:
1. To promote the political education and development of selected individuals.
The fact of the matter is that in large parts of the world, especially the imperialist countries, the continued existence of Marxism as a living intellectual current, let alone as a political force, is in serious doubt. An urgent task is to preserve and propagate a knowledge of dialectical and historical materialism. Established methods of political propaganda and education should be used but in addition the newer media of communication should be utility.
2. To address and engage with the major questions facing Marxist-Leninist
revolutionaries today. These are:
(a) A critical appraisal of the history of the international communist
movement including an objective assessment of its successes and failures,
especially the triumph of revisionism and the defeat of socialism in the
Soviet Union and China.
Such an appraisal would focus on major issues to do with the history of the ICM, e.g. counter-revolution in the Soviet Union, and not include detailed consideration of secondary matters. While absolutely necessary, it is nonetheless true that for some inividuals and groups this task is in reality the only activity in which they engage. Unless approached in a disciplined manner, a summative evaluation of the history of the ICM could drag on forever and prevent any real settling of accounts with past and the commencement of serious revolutionary work. A new M-L organisation should set a definite time-scale for the accomplishment of this task.
(b) On the basis of such an appraisal to ascertain how the struggle for socialist
transformation can be more successfully implemented after future
We now have considerable experience of sustained socialist construction and its degeneration. Thus it is incumbent upon the Marxist-Leninists to specify fairly concretely just how revolutionary transformation can be brought about in the future so as to avoid counter-revolution. Failure to carry out this task would hinder us winning over fresh adherents to our cause. It simply will not do to proclaim that it is "impossible to draw up blueprints for utopia". After the experience of the first wave of socialism we are in a position, unlike before 1917, to be much more concrete about the specific features of a society undergoing socialist transformation. In particular it is necessary to elaborate how the dictatorship of the proletariat can be developed further than was so in the past so as to more successfully combat the danger of capitalist restoration, both from within and from without.
(c) To analyse and assess the current international situation and its possible
courses of development. Part of this process would be establishing links
and exchanges with individuals and organisations throughout the world.
While modern imperialism is alive and well, the form it takes has changed considerably in recent decades. Questions about the relationships between the different imperialist bourgeoisies, e.g. the emergence of new state formations such as the EU, and whether or not Russia and China will eventually emerge as new imperialist powers or remain subordinate to Western imperialism, need to be addressed. Part of the process of producing an objective analysis of the international situation consists of forming links with and drawing upon the experiences of comrades in other parts of the world. It simply will not do to reiterate Lenin's analysis in an abstract way. The most concrete analysis of concrete conditions is essential.
(d) To analyse and assess the current state of capitalism in Britain with a view
to ascertaining possible future revolutionary political developments.
It is quite impossible to develop any long-term revolutionary strategy and, flowing from that, day-to-day tactics without a very concrete assessment of the nature of the society in which we live. In the past the Marxist-Leninists in Britain have been plagued by the twin errors of dogmatism in theory and empiricism in practice. On the one hand no real analysis of contemporary British capitalism in the world was carried out. Instead theory has consisted of little more than chunks from the Marxist classics crudely stuck together and it could not provide any real guide to action. On the other hand actual political practice consisted of impulsive and ritualised reactions to the events of the day which bore little if any relation to clear theoretical positions. Consequently such activity was often indistinguishable from the tactics adopted by various revisionists and reformists. There was no unity of theory and practice.
The main topics which need to be addressed are the economic contradictions, the class contradictions, the political contradictions, the national contradictions and the sexual contradictions of contemporary British capitalism as well as its relationship to the rest of the world. Some of the past errors to be overcome are "catastrophism" in economic analysis whereby revolutionaries look forward to some spontaneous implosion in the capitalist economy which will miraculously create a revolutionary situation out of thin air; out-of-date class analyses whereby much attention is paid to declining sections of the working class such as miners and dockers while newer, growing sections are largely overlooked; a failure to analyse the capitalist state apparatus in its contemporary particularity which results in errors such as parliamentary cretinism, etc., etc..
Only on the basis of such concrete analysis is it possible to develop a long-term strategy for making revolution. It is quite impossible to predict the point in time when a potentially revolutionary situation might arise but what is possible is to foresee the type of developments and circumstances which could, with correct handling by the revolutionary party, provide opportunities for revolutionary upsurges. Without such a far-sighted strategic perspective, the party is likely to overlook the development of objective conditions favourable for the development of a crisis and then, when it arises, be unprepared to seize the opportunity presented and thus miss it altogether. Also without such developed theory the party would be unable to evaluate and respond to the different aspects of continuing, day-to-day class struggles. For example, if we consider the miners' strike of 1984-5 then practically all leftists, including those who called themselves Marxist-Leninist, threw just about all their energies into supporting the miners and came to delude themselves that the rule of the British state was seriously threatened. In reality, the capitalist class and their state machine both manufactured and used this dispute as a way of delivering a crushing blow to traditional industrial trade unionism. Far from the bourgeoisie facing any serious challenge, it was a case of a section of the working class in decline, as a result of changes in the forces of production, desperately trying to defend their livelihoods. Certainly it is always the duty of revolutionaries to encourage and help any group of workers resisting oppression and exploitation but this should not deflect them from their long-term aims. First and foremost, we have to identify, as Lenin and Stalin urged us to do, the new, growing elements in society and direct our main efforts towards them. Failure to do so means that objectively, whatever comrades may think they are doing, they are rooted in the past, resisting change, instead of looking to the future, anticipating and facilitating changes in society which can lead on to revolutionary possibilities.
(e) To determine the organisational character and form of any future party in
Britain of the Leninist type.
This question has already been discussed above but there is a further point to be made. Any revolutionary organisation worth the name must determinedly orientate itself towards the working class with the aim of recruiting most of its cadres from among such people. Hitherto, with the exception of the CPGB in its early days, the membership of Marxist-Leninist organisations in Britain has been largely middle strata in its composition. What is more, the modus operandi of such organisations has not been primarily orientated towards making contact with and influencing working class people. More typically such groups have been more concerned with each other, with only occasional actions directed towards workers which help sustain the illusion that any serious working class political activity is occurring. Any revolutionary organisation or party which does not succeed in building its main membership within the working class is not worthy of the name.
3. To engage in selected political activities of three broad types:
(a) Popular struggles, especially those likely to have an appeal to the working
class such as campaigns against racism, unemployment and cuts in
benefits and social services.
In the past some Marxist-Leninists have dismissed involvement in various essentially defensive struggles by workers and middle strata elements as "economist" and thus incorrect. This view is quite mistaken. These types of activities are certainly not revolutionary in themselves but this does not mean that they should not be supported and even inaugurated by the revolutionaries. For a start, a defeated and demoralised working class is not likely to be able to positively respond to a revolutionary challenge when it arises and, indeed, such an opening is less likely to come about if the working class is essentially passified. Furthermore, it is in the course of struggles to defend themselves that people's political consciousness can develop and undergo qualitative transformations. However this is less likely to happen if these everyday struggles are being led by reformists of various hues. Thus it is essential that the Marxist-Leninists play prominent roles in selected struggles.
Left-wing political activity in Britain is highly ritualised with people somewhat mechanically carrying out long-established activities such as producing and distributing newspapers and pamphlets, holding public meetings, petitioning and organising marches and demonstrations. The fact of the matter is that most of this activity is pretty ineffective. A century ago this style of political activity may have been appropriate but the enormous transformations in the forces of production which have occurred since then mean that the old methods are totally inadequate. The means of ideological control available to the bourgeoisie, especially the mass media, are very powerful and the revolutionaries need to seriously address this problem.
We need to be more imaginative in the ways we approach channels of communication. As experience has shown, there is no way any revolutionary organisation can produce a national daily newspaper to compete with the capitalist ones. Even so, there are ways in which the distribution of capitalist newspapers could be disrupted and this should be done when they launch attacks on sections of the working class. Already pop music has been used to disseminate rebellious and even revolutionary ideas and a revolutionary organisation could further promote such creative activity. Film and video also have been used for revolutionary propaganda and further developments should be encouraged. As for radio and television, pirate broadcasting for political purposes should be used as appropriate. Also cable and satellite television are fairly vulnerable to outside interference and the revolutionary organisation should develop the technical capacity to make such interventions.
Contemporary capitalism is increasingly dependent on the new information technology both for its economic functioning and for political and ideological control. This development in the forces of production makes capitalism more vulnerable to disruption at the same time as it actually enhances the power of the system in some respects. This was illustrated one weekend when the central clearing house computer for the banks malfunctioned and ten million people did not receive their pay! The revolutionary organisation needs to develop the expertise to both use and be able to subvert IT systems in ways which advance the class struggle.
In general new, imaginative and bold methods of political work need to be developed. We must break out from the straightjacket of legality and adopt a much more combative approach to confronting the system. In this respect the Marxist-Leninists trail miserably behind environmental protesters who have developed methods of struggle, many of them extra-legal, which both pose significant challenges for the bourgeoisie and attract much attention throughout society.
(b) Solidarity with struggles against imperialism, especially those being
carried on in countries where British imperialism has significant interests.
Nationalism and chauvinism are still very prevalent among people in Britain and are an important aspect of the false consciousness which helps sustain bourgeois ideological hegemony. Not only is it in the objective interests of the working class in Britain to make common cause with people in other parts of the world being oppressed by the British capitalist class but also the raising of such issues forces people to confront and struggle with their own chauvinism and racism. This is especially the case with the Irish national liberation struggle. There have been many people who are quite happy to support national liberation struggles not engaged in direct confrontation with British imperialism, as was the case with Nicaragua and El Salvador, but who back off from supporting the Irish struggle because to do so would conflict with their underlying nationalist attitudes. The Marxist-Leninists have quite a good record on this issue and any new M-L organisation should carry forward this work.
(c) Stimulating discussion and debate about Marxism-Leninism. This is
essentially intellectual activity and is necessary to keep the proletarian
revolutionary outlook alive during the present period.
From the early nineteenth century onwards in Britain a small but significant radical and revolutionary cultural milieu was in existence. It consisted of the publication of newspapers, magazines, pamphlets and books which both propagated and stimulated the development of revolutionary ideas. There were educational activities separate from the state system such as socialist Sunday schools and the National Council of Labour Colleges. There were socialist cultural and recreational organised activities, e.g. the Workers' Music Association and the Clarion Cycle Club. This nexus of cultural activity provided an alternative to the dominant bourgeois cultural milieu and both influenced people to move in a revolutionary direction and helped sustain their commitment on a long-term basis. These activities provided people with an alternative life-style and framework of meaning to that of the dominant bourgeois ethos. However in the second half of the twentieth century this cultural phenomenon has largely disappeared.
A revolutionary organisation should seek to stimulate the creation of a new revolutionary cultural milieu. This is necessary as part of the process of making new revolutionaries and maintaining their morale and commitment for an indefinite period of time. We cannot avoid living under capitalism while at the same time trying to oppose it. One of the strengths of bourgeois society is its capacity to neutralise and incorporate dissident elements. Without a living, vigorous revolutionary culture we are not likely to be able to build an enduring revolutionary movement, one that may have to struggle for decades or even several generations to succeed in making revolution.
FORWARD TO A REVOLUTIONARY FUTURE!
The nineteen nineties have been a period of confusion and disillusion for Marxist-Leninists, not just in Britain but around the world. The petering out in the nineteen eighties of the new M-L organisations which arose in the nineteen sixties in the Western countries, the failure of many national liberation movements in the imperialistically dominated countries and the final abandonment of socialism in China and the Soviet Union all contributed to this political disarray. However the triumphalism of the bourgeoisie and their apologists is looking pretty thin in a world where the number of poor people is greater than ever before. In the imperialist countries class contradictions are sharpening as the intensity of exploitation in work becomes greater and material inequalities widen with large sections of the working class suffering a real decrease in their standard of living. At the same time the main manifestation of reformism in the working class, social democracy, has run its course and the final abandonment by parties such as New Labour of any pretence to progressive aims both creates an ideological vacuum within the working class and an opportunity for the favourable reception of revolutionary ideas. The objective conditions are increasingly favourable for reconstituting and rebuilding the M-L movement and this opportunity should be eagerly seized upon.
The theoretical issues mentioned above certainly do need to be addressed because there can be no renewal and development of revolutionary struggle unless convincing answers to these questions are produced. However these issues should be approached not in an academic, scholastic way but rather as practical political questions to which answers are urgently required. Concrete analysis certainly is necessary to properly deal with these issues but we must be careful not to get bogged down in obscure details and side issues. Similarly participation in contemporary political struggles is necessary as at all times there should be a unity of theory and practice. Even so it is also the case that if we become wholly consumed by the affairs of the moment we will lose sight of and be unable to carry out our revolutionary tasks.
In Britain today there are really only a handful of comrades who are capable - have the experience, knowledge and will - to do what is necessary to establish a Marxist-Leninist revolutionary organisation of the pre-party type. It is the duty of these comrades to come together and proceed with this task in a determined, disciplined manner.
Any correspondence should be addressed to:
CASO, Box 2, 118 Mansfield Road, Nottingham, NG1 3HL.