From the July 1975 issue of the Socialist Standard
Much can be learnt about the aim and method of a political party from a study of its history. A look at the history of the SPGB shows complete adherence to a certain object and declaration of principles over the last seventy one years. The Communist Party of Great Britain has shown from its formation in 1920, by those seeing the Russian Revolution as a new means of achieving Socialism, to the present day, a consistent course of stooping to the demands of Kremlin policy and distortion of Marxism to fit their objective of establishing State Capitalism.
Socialism was not, and could not be, established in Russia in 1917. The only course for the Bolshevik leaders to take was that of capitalism administered by the State. The Communist Party has remained consistently loyal to Russian State Capitalism despite the multitudinous crimes which Russia has committed against its own, and the international, working class. Whilst the Socialist Party of Great Britain has always expounded the theory of Marxian economics: a system of society in which wealth is owned democratically by the whole world community; the Communist Party has persisted in presenting Socialism as a form of capitalism.
Of course, the modern CPer will agree that the CP supported the continual turnabouts in Russian foreign policy during the last war. He will agree that CPers were hailing Stalin as the Russian messiah in the not too distant past. He will even confess that the “Leadership” has been known to mislead its followers on more than one occasion. But now, he will argue, everything has been put to rights. No more are the days of Russian gold financing the CPGB. Today the Communist Party stands on its own two feet. It’s a force to be reckoned with. He will tell you about 1968 when the British Communist Party stood up and actually condemned the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia. Much of what he says would be true. After all, we can’t blame the CP for the mistakes of its forefathers, even if it has been an entire history of error. But has the Communist Party really decided to change course?
The answer to this question is yes and no. Yes, the Communist Party in recent years has taken on a new image to make itself appear more respectable. But no, it is no nearer Socialism today than it was in 1920.
The CP is by no means secretive about its new image. Indeed in March 1973 a new policy statement entitled Time to Change Course — What Britain's Communists Stand For was written by CP Executive Committee member Jack Woddis and has since become the principle source of CP policy.
The pamphlet opens with a chapter telling us about the main problems facing Britain.
. . . an economic crisis manifested in balance of payments problems, inflation, unemployment, monetary difficulties, trade decline and a slow growth of our economy, (emphasis added)
These, we are told are the problems facing the working class in this country. If so, what are the problems facing the capitalist class?
The pamphlet then goes on for a number of pages to complain about the symptoms of capitalism. At no time is the nature of capitalist society explained. Maybe the Communist Party doesn’t think that the working class could manage economic theories. Best give them popular causes like old-age pensioners and the price of beef. It is no mere coincidence that the basis of capitalist society is not explained. For if it was understood by the reader he would be able to see, in the next chapter, “What A Socialist Government Would Do”, that the aim of the Communist Party is not to replace the present system with something else, hitherto unsaid, but to reform capitalism in order to make it work. If the Communist Party were to look clearly at capitalism they would see that it can never be reformed in the interest of the working class.
If the Communist Party is as tame as study shows it to be, why is it disapproved? Surely there must be some revolutionary message somewhere in the pamphlet which has earned the CP its bad name. On page 53 the answer is given. So this is what the CP think Socialism is. Wait for it:
Once private ownership of the economy is ended and private profit abolished, all the values created by people through their labour will be available to be used by them in their own interests. A part will be available in direct cash — in wages, pensions, children’s allowances, student grants and other benefits. A part will come in the form of social services — health education and so on — in cultural and leisure facilities, in various social amenities in town and country, including housing. transport, roads and town planning. Part will go on the further development of industry and agriculture, on research, on building new enterprises and constructing new machines. Finally, there will be the necessary allocation of funds and resources to maintain the new Socialist State, to staff its administration and to provide the necessary forces and equipment to defend the system against its enemies from without and within, (emphasis added )
So that’s what the Communist Party think Socialism is — them giving handouts from the profits of our labour. This is State Capitalism.
And the CP expect us to accept this nonsense! Or do they? Further on in the pamphlet we come to the third and last chapter, “How To Change Course”. Here, we are told that the “carrying through of a revolutionary change” requires, not the understanding of the working class, but
a strong revolutionary party, a party capable of leading the people to challenge and defeat the capitalist class. (P.136)
The object of the Communist Party, therefore, is to “lead” the working class into a system of State capitalism. This was Lenin’s intention in 1917, it is the CP’s today. It may have changed its image from that of the violent revolution which it proposed in the 1920s to one of reformist promises as it does today. The slogans may be different, but the aim is still the same.