From the September 1949 issue of the Socialist Standard
Exit the Revolutionary Communist Party
The Russian Bolshevik movement as such really began with Lenin's scheme for control of the working-class movement by a band of trusted "leaders." After the Bolsheviks came to power they and their supporters deluged the world with literature; one of the main burdens of this literature was the necessity of correct leadership in the working-class movement. It was claimed that the main trouble with the Social Democratic Parties was "bad leaders," not lack of understanding on the part of the workers. From that time onwards understanding took a back seat and passionate controversies over the merits and demerits of leaders became the fashion, accompanied by bitter personal attacks. In the East and in the West what had claimed to be a movement for Socialism degenerated into a sordid and acrimonious struggle between "leaders" with the watchword "Woe to the vanquished."
From its beginning the Bolshevik movement was a struggle of new "leaders" against old, carried through with cunning and intrigue, and its principal exponent, Lenin, contended that the workers were incapable of developing from their own ranks the type of leaders that could establish the "Dictatorship of the Proletariat"; these leaders had to come from outside, as Lenin himself had done, from the ranks of the well-to-do. Lenin's ideas were the offspring of political conditions in Russia at the time which reflected the conditions of Europe at an earlier epoch. Even before the Bolshevik uprising the leaders within the party were at loggerheads, bitterly attacking each other for alleged "Rightism" and incapacity. After the Bolsheviks had captured power acrimony and recriminations became even fiercer, interfering with the conduct of affairs, and the uneasy co-operation of those at the head of the dictatorship was only held together by the personality of Lenin. After his death the struggle between the leaders for control of the government broke out into open warfare and the first important loser and casualty was Leon Trotzky, up yo Lenin's death the most popular leader next to him and one of the idols of the blind worshippers of Bolshevism in the Western world.
A partnership between Stalin, Zinoviev and Kamenev, which made better use of the Party machine and of dirty linen washing, drove Trotzky out of the Party and finally into exile. He was a victim of his own wrong conceptions and of the machine he had helped to strengthen. In the course of time a new partnership between Stalin, Bukharin and Radek disposed of Zinoviev and Kamenev; then Bukharin and Radek were jettisoned, and so it went on until almost all the old Bolsheviks had either been executed, imprisoned or driven into exile, leaving the more cunning and ruthless Stalin the supreme victor with a network of secret police, henchmen and bodyguards to protect him from further aspirants to his throne. The economic circumstances that were the basis of these struggles and intrigues, and the cold brutality that went with them, have been described in these columns over the years; they are outside the subject of this particular article.
When Trotzky went into exile he carried on the struggle against Stalin from abroad and was the theoretical exponent of a new group, the Fourth International, more familiar as the "Trotzkyists." In England the Trotzkyists formed the "Revolutionary Communist Party." Between the Trotzkyists and the Stalin group there was no fundamental distinction; the former alleged that when Stalin changed his policy to "Socialism in One Country" he had "betrayed the Revolution," gone over to the reformist camp and deserted the World Revolution. This was just fantasy. The Bolshevik movement had never been anything but reformist as far as the Socialist Revolution was concerned. It was only revolutionary in the sense that it was helping capitalist production to replace a backward and semi-feudal production. It had turned back to borrow from the Jacobins of the French Revolution and from the Blanquist movement of the middle of last century. There is at least this to be said for Stalin: his present policy us the logical outcome of ideas that held sway in the minds of those who built up the early Bolshevik movement, whereas Trotzky was trying to side-step the inevitable result of the practical working out of those ideas in the Bolshevik state that he had so passionately supported.
In July of this year the English Trotzkyists, the Revolutionary Communist Party, brought out a Special Number of their paper, the Socialist Appeal, consisting of a small four-page leaflet. If there were ever any doubts about the reformist character of the R.C.P., this four-page leaflet disposes of them for ever!
The front page of the leaflet contains nothing but the following, in large type:—
"DECLARATION."On the Dissolution of the Revolutionary Communist Party and the entry of its members into the Labour Party."
The second page informs us that after several months of discussion a Special National Conference was held in London, June 4th, 5th and 6th. and that the only items on the Agenda for this Conference were:—
"The current political situation in Britain: what forms the class struggle would take in the next period, and how best the energies and activities of its members could be utilised to further the cause of Socialism."
We are told that:—
"After a two-days debate, this fully representative Conference decided, by a substantial majority, to dissolve the organisation and call upon the members of the Party to enter the Labour Party—to which the majority already pay the Trade Union political levy—as individual members. Within the Labour Party they would carry on the fight for the overthrow of the capitalist system and for a Socialist Britain."
The last sentence is an exposure of mental bankruptcy; after originating as a challenge to the nationalism of the Stalinites the R.C.P. falls for the "Socialism in One Country" idea. We also like the touching phrase "to which the majority already pay the trade union political levy." If they had thought of the "Socialist Britain" and the political levy ideas beforehand they would have saved themselves the trouble and disappointment of forming a party. The R.C.P. is only one more of those impotent groups that have worked themselves into a perspiration ranting against the Labour Party and then, when their excitement has subsided, gone back where they really belong, to sleep peacefully in its fold along with the other sheep.
The reformist character of the R.C.P. is simply evident in this four-page leaflet which considers that the proper policy to be followed is further steps in the direction of nationalisation and only criticizes the Labour Government because it believes the Labour Government has not gone far enough. Again on the second page we read:—
"While the Labour Government has introduced a series of economic and political reforms, we do not believe that these reforms have gone far enough, or that they have basically undermined the capitalist structure of the country. The experience of two years of nationalisation has brought to the forefront the problem of workers' control and management of the nationalised industries; of further nationalisations and inroads into capitalist enterprise—key questions for a future Socialist development of the country."
In what way nationalisation has made inroads into capitalist enterprise we are not told, but it is interesting to notice that it has not basically undermined the capitalist structure of society—so they are going inside to carry on the same policy! In fact there is not a glimmer anywhere in the leaflet that the members of the R.C.P. have any idea of what Socialism is; instead they confuse it with nationalisation and defend the basic economic structure of Russia from the same point of view.
The immediate impetus for dissolving the Party appears to be contained in a paragraph on the third page:—
"An offensive against Capitalism is above all necessary to secure a decisive victory for Labour at the forthcoming General Election and to effectively combat Tory reaction."
So the offensive against Capitalism, according to them, consists in supporting a government that resists wage increases, breaks strike, prepares for war and generally carries on the fundamental traditions of Capitalism by ensuring that capitalist investors hold on to their privileged position of living on the backs of the workers!
One mystery the leaflet does not solve; why the members of the R.C.P. ever thought of wasting time and energy forming the R.C.P. when the Labour Party so adequately expresses their lack of understanding.
The R.C.P. was a fake revolutionary party, battening on the impetuosity and genuine enthusiasm of misguided workers who were perplexed by the antics of Russia. It demonstrates once again that Communist Parties, Left, Right or Centre, along with the fellow-grovellers, help to mobilise the workers for the familiar route march along the reformer's road in the bosom of futility.
So ends, ingloriously, a brief and uneasy span of spurious Marxism.