Year 2000 No. 213, December 29, 2000
Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index :
An Important Theme of the National Consultative Conference
Intervening in the Political Life of the Country
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Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist)
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RCPB(ML)s National Consultative Conference 2000 was held on December 9-10. For a report explaining the significance of the Conference, please see [WDIE No. 211].
On the agenda was the task of the Party in intervening in the political life of the country. This focused on the forthcoming election, and how the Party can utilise the opportunity to oppose the depoliticisation of the people and further the work to end their marginalisation. The discussion raised the question also of how to find the correct organisational and social forms to oppose the depoliticisation of the people and facilitate their empowerment.
The logic of the Party's position is that in order to prepare for the coming revolutionary storms and build the Mass Communist Party, the work to build and strengthen the Mass Party Press must be taken up, but so must the issue of intervening in the political life of the country. This has to be done on the basis of the new historical basis, and that means that everyone should participate in politics. The project to participate in the next General Election is closely linked to the other projects of RCPB(ML) to build and strengthen the Mass Party Press, to develop the unity of the communists in one mass communist party, and so on. Specifically, the forthcoming election presents an opportunity for the communists to engage in a trial of strength with the bourgeoisie on the political system in Britain. It presents an opportunity for workers to show that they can become political, that they can become worker politicians, that they have a say and that their independent pro-social programme holds the solutions to the present crisis and the anti-social offensive of the bourgeoisie.
It further presents an opportunity for the workers to break with the conception that a party should be elected to run the country on their behalf, and instead recognise that a communist party is the workers instrument in fighting for their interests, that the workers should participate in the election campaign to advance the workers movement. In particular, the election can be utilised to raise the question that the entire political system in Britain is archaic and marginalises not only the workers but all the people from politics. The implication of this is that steps should be taken to renew the political process and involve all the people in politics and take the decisions in the society.
The logic of this position is that the parliamentary parties are in crisis and unable to occupy the space for change in the political system of the country. They cannot even unite over which type of voting system they want, such as first past the post or proportional representation. The crisis of the political system will therefore intensify. Therefore the working class should occupy this space for change. Only the working class holds the solution to the problem of empowering the people so that they can take part in political decisions of the country.
The central demand of the Draft Programme for the Working Class, adopted by the 3rd Congress, is that a new political system should be brought into being where there is no election without selection of candidates. Candidates should be chosen, for example, in the workplaces, colleges and universities, The choosing of candidates should not be the prerogative of the political parties. Those that elect them should mandate the candidates, and such a system would enable the people to initiate legislation and dictate the business of the parliament and recall candidates that did not carry out their mandate. A modern definition of a political party includes the conceptions that it should politicise the members of the polity, assist citizens to participate in governing society and encourage citizens to become the decision makers and exercise control over their own affairs and the affairs of the polity.
The logic of this position is that at the root of the political crisis in the political system in Britain, the credibility crisis of the parliamentary parties and politicians, is the fact that sovereignty is not vested in the people, and that the working class and other sections of the people are marginalised. The stand of the working class is to facilitate the engagement of all in political affairs, to ensure the broad participation of all citizens in debating all the problems the society is faced with, whether they be economic, political, military, cultural, social or environmental. Furthermore, participation in the decision-making process cannot be limited to casting a vote at election time and then for the rest of the time remaining on the margins of the political process. At election time, the issue also presents itself as to how the elector may make an informed choice. It cannot be democratic that the size of a Party's budget, or the amount that it has available for campaign expenditure, should have any bearing on the electorates ability to make informed judgements on a party's policies and its programme. The entire electoral process should be organised in the open with no privileges going whatever going to political parties. Then in such an electoral process it would not be party machinery that dictates the composition of Parliament, and within Parliament dictates the thought and action of the elected representatives. On the contrary, sovereignty would be vested in the people in the form of the selection of candidates in the workplaces and learning institutions. The electoral law and regulations must facilitate rather than hinder the participation of the people in the electoral process.
For the communist party, the General Election that is to take place presents an excellent opportunity to intervene in the political affairs of the country and fight the bourgeoisie and occupy the space for change. The extent of the unity of the working class around its own political programme will determine how far the communists will be able to do that. It will also be a major factor in whether the bourgeoisie is able either to consolidate existing arrangements, or to put in place new arrangements to extend for the next five years its pay-the-rich system and continue its anti-social offensive. The more the working class and the communist movement is able to put in place its own arrangements based on One Class One Programme, the more favourable the political situation for the progressive forces in fighting for this pro-social programme will be.
According to the monopoly media the campaign for the next General Election has already started. One feature of this election campaign is that the workers are already being encouraged to think of ways to ensure that the Labour Party is going to be elected again. Another feature is how the bourgeoisie is trying to line up the opposition to the policies of New Labour, such as the fuel protest and so on, behind the Conservatives. The labour aristocracy and other forces in the workers movement are going to urge workers to get behind the project to get New Labour elected for a second term, and they are being egged on by a bourgeois media that is already saying that it will be an historic victory for New Labour to gain a second term. They will call for the unity of the "left" with the centre and that the "left" should unite in order to keep the Tories out, and so on. Opposing these dangerous illusions is the nub of where the struggle is in the working-class movement at this time. This struggle is between the communist party, the genuine progressive forces that want the pro-social programme, to occupy this space for change and those that want to create social-democratic illusions so that the bourgeoisie can have New Labour occupy this space.
Bearing all this in mind, solutions must be found to the problems of developing worker politicians and of uniting the various campaigns of progressive people. The election project raises the question of how the Party is going to engage with the bourgeoisie in a trial of strength over the political system in Britain and the pro-social programme of the working class and people and occupy the space for change.
This analysis represents the Partys line on the issue of intervening in the political life of the country and participating in the forthcoming General Election. It represents a starting point for the working out of the solutions to the question, the line around which there must be unity of thinking as a precondition for setting the issue as to how the participation should take place.
It could be said that such participation has a contradictory character. This is because the aim in participating is to end the marginalisation of the Party, of communism, as to do that is a precondition for ending the marginalisation of the working class, of all the collectives of the people and of their issues. In addition, the task in this period is to give a profile to modern communism as opposed to the caricature of communism that is being advanced by the bourgeoisie. However, this all must be done in the political domain, which is the most inimical, because by its very essence it marginalises and dismisses the issues.
The issue presents itself as to how concretely the system depoliticises and disempowers the working class. The bourgeoisie presents that there is model for a democracy a multi-party system. But in fact there are specific mechanisms of the Westminster system which ensure that depoliticisation and disempowerment of the working class and people take place. These problems are objective, as is the need for renewal of the political system.
There is pressure to say that the problem with the system, the reason it is not representative, is because of its method of counting votes, and that if systems based on proportional representation were introduced, it would be more representative. This is true only to the extent that a fairer apportionment of votes translates into a fairer apportionment of seats, but nevertheless the issue of how to make government representative has objectively presented itself. However, even the question of proportional representation is not seriously discussed since the myth is promoted that under proportional representation stable government is not possible, despite examples to the contrary.
But the issue still remains as to who the political power in the country serves. It is presented that party government is the only way to have a clear and coherent expression of the political will. At the same time as promoting the model of the multi-party system, however, the Labour Party strives to convince the voters that it is the only party fit to come to power as representing the "forces of progress". In order to keep their dictate on power, the bourgeoisie increasingly attempts to remove from the electoral process and mechanisms whatever space may exist for change.
As part of this, the electoral law is being consolidated under the signboard of "constitutional reform" to entrench the system based on the conception that parties must come to power and reducing the electorate to voting cattle in order to do so. Furthermore, at election time, the people who have been struggling against all the manifestations of the anti-social offensive on the basis of their own demands, are now expected to take the role of spectator, and vote for a party that is supposed to represent their interests.
The political considerations involved in participating in elections are based on but are not the same thing as the fighting programme of the working class for political renewal. For example, on the electoral front a demand of the programme is that there should be no election without selection. But it cannot be said that first we should fight that this demand be realised, and then we will participate in elections only on this basis. The issue of how to intervene in the political life of the country takes place in the political sphere, and the Party must seriously investigate this issue in order for the political programme to make headway in the real world. These political considerations involve how to lift the pressure off the working class and create space for the workers getting organised and imbue them with the need to become worker politicians.
In other words, there is the work on the theory of government on the one hand, and there are also the considerations of practical politics on the other.
It is also the case that it is not a minor matter to resolve the apparent contradiction between the Partys sticking to its line of march, and at the same time put the full weight of the Party behind the work to intervene in the political life of the country in this way.
The Party cannot ignore the programmes the bourgeoisie is carrying out. At the same time, it should look at this question in the whole context of the line of march that the 3rd Congress set out and what the Partys tasks are. Therefore the question of participating in the election cannot be viewed as some departure from the Partys line of march. It has to be viewed as a question of engaging in a trial of strength with the bourgeoisie on the question of the political system in Britain, in which the Party seeks to make headway and advance its overall programme of bringing about political renewal. The fact that the Party raised the question at the National Consultative Conference was very important, because in doing so it put it on the agenda to be dealt with and appropriate work put in place to ensure that preparations on this new front are begun, and appropriate forms advocated for this participation. Having set the line and posed the issue, the work is then all in how this participation is to take place and on what basis.
The investigation must be deepened into the theory of party government, as well as how the bourgeoisie utilises the elections and the political process to ensure its class rule. Similarly, the investigation must be carried into how the communists can utilise the election to oppose the depoliticisation of the people and organise the working class and people for political renewal.
Furthermore, the political issue presents itself that through the 1997 elections, Tony Blair was brought into power as the champion of the bourgeoisie. Since that time he has carried out this role, continued the work of the broad wrecking of society, while at the same time doing his best to provide justifications for the system. So there is the whole period to review and deepen our exposure of what the "Third Way" entails. The participation in the election must also be utilised therefore to widen the break between the workers movement and the policies of the "Third Way", to begin to put in place the arrangements in the working class that are needed so the workers can make headway in breaking with this whole weight that is put on them by the "Third Way", which is stopping them from making advances in their political programme and overall from going towards socialism.
The question of intervening in the political life of the country and building the Mass Party Press go hand in hand. The full weight of the Mass Party Press gets put behind this intervention, and in doing so the Mass Party Press itself is strengthened. The concerns of the masses of the people are addressed and the task of posing the question, "Who decides?" and involving the masses of the people in working out how to become the decision-makers in society is taken up.
The aim, then, is to make people political. What will politicise the people under the circumstances of the election becomes the question, because the main fight is against the system which depoliticises the people on absolutely everything. In this respect, nothing is a foregone conclusion. The work to analyse the governmental system on the one hand, and analyse what the Party itself and what the working class need to achieve is what will tell the Party how to proceed.
The National Consultative Conference passed a resolution recommending that the work to intervene in the political life of the country should be fully investigated by the Central Committee and a further Consultative Conference be convened in March 2001, to consider and further discuss this work. This resolution was in line with the whole experience of RCPB(ML)s methods of work since the Partys present line of march was set in 1994. The Central Committee has its duty to carry this work as the leadership of the Party between Congresses. At the same time, as in all the work of the Party, the whole Party will have participated, and the further National Consultative Conference, a mechanism to involve everyone in the discussion, will give this full force. Whatever is presented at the Consultative Conference on this new front of work will not have emerged from nowhere. Nor will it be the case that everyone will have stopped what they are doing to change horses in mid-stream. On the contrary, the work which has been carried out since the 3rd Congress, and which the NCC 2000 summed up and approved, will be continued and consolidated. Taken together, the ground for the next Consultative Conference in March 2001 will have been thoroughly prepared.
The new front of work which the Party is taking up is the work of the Party, not of any individual. The work of RCPB(ML) to intervene in the political life of the country will be extremely historic.
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