Year 2001 No. 65, April 13, 2001
Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index :
The Partys Stand on Participating in the Election
Job Losses Show Need for Alternative
Daily On Line Newspaper of the
Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist)
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WDIE is carrying below a summary of the main points made in a paper by a representative of the Central Committee of RCPB(ML) on its proposal for the Partys stand in participating in the forthcoming general election, a position which was adopted in the final resolution of the 6th National Consultative Conference.
It can be said that it is a contradictory situation which faces the Party in that we have our line that the elections are a means for keeping the working class and people depoliticised. At the same time we are taking a stand to participate. And so the question is how? The "how" of the question is: is this participation going to be inimical to our work, is it going to be detrimental to our work? If so, how should our work be adapted, or how should this participation be carried out and at the same time advance our work.
There is another contradictory aspect to it, which is that the participation is to advance our work, the line of the march the Party has set, and the work it has carried out so far. Yet it also has the aspect that it is opening up a new front of work.
It is not that the Party has not participated before in intervening in the political life of the country or even participating in elections by standing candidates. It is a while since it did participate in the sense of standing candidates. It has done so on the basis of standing as Party, as Marxist-Leninist candidates, and it has also done so on the basis of standing as Peoples Front. Therefore even the question of standing, it looks at it both ways, as it were. First, from the point of view of standing purely as Marxist-Leninists, that this is what the Marxist-Leninists stand for. That is no bad thing. And it was certainly no bad thing in the 70s when it did so because it was a declaration that here are Marxist-Leninists who have their position, who are not appendages of the Labour Party or any other party, who represent the interests of the whole movement. And these are the Marxist-Leninists. Nor is it a bad thing to participate from the point of view of Peoples Fronts. That here were candidates that represented the rights of the various sections of the people. We are talking about the 1970s, so it was presented in that context, in that language of the 70s, in that language that is clearly revolutionary, and without the development of modern definitions which we are now so much based on.
So it is not a new front of work in the sense that there is no experience of the Party doing it. But it is a new front of work in that we are participating in the election campaign that was the decision in this period which is a period of retreat of revolution, in this new period when on the agenda is the question of the Mass Communist Party, the whole issue of workers becoming political, becoming worker politicians, and so on. The point is that we want to participate, not in a manner that harms our work so far, but also with a character that advances this work with a new quality, that it is not simply just the old work either.
Then the question becomes this issue of "how" to participate what is our stand? So one has to look at it from the angle of various needs: the needs of our Party, the needs of the movement and the needs of the objective situation. So, for example, in recent elections that is to say back in 97, 92 and throughout the 80s the Partys decision was always not to stand and not to participate in the sense we are now talking about participating. And the main reason was, not that we thought it was wrong in principle to stand, but looking at it from the whole point of view of whether it would advance or not advance our work. So, the question of our forces, the question of our political maturity, the question of the level of our development and so on, these were all considerations which were taken into account in deciding not to participate. Of course we have participated, especially in the 97 election, simply from the old perspective. In other words, one takes a stand and upholds it as widely as possible and through our on-going organising work, through our work with Improving the Content, Extending the Readership of Workers Weekly and so on. And so the 97 election was very crucial in that respect in that, as we said in our Congress Report, the Party learnt some important lessons through actually grappling, in this new situation, in this period of retreat of revolution, with the necessity of going into questions and not simply taking a position. In other words, saying this is our position, take it or leave it. Which is fine. But when we went into the issues of our stand on the calls to give during the 1997 election campaign, we learnt that in the present period, this is not enough, and we learnt to distinguish between ideological considerations and political considerations. So building on those insights and having gained experience of formulating political slogans, we now address the question of how to participate in this general election.
The question of tactics, or a tactical line, is one of the most important questions in deciding how to participate. In other words, one assesses what is the stage of the movement, the stage of our work, the stage of the objective situation, and formulates an appropriate tactical line for this participation.
Then the participation has a political objective, has an aim, that you can say, "this is our aim". Then you have the question of workers becoming politicised, seeing though the nature of the political system. But it is through the experience of candidates embodying this, or work which takes a stand on how to behave during the election, that the advance is made.
So it has the political objective and then one has to look at the tactical line or the tactical slogans, that is to say, the tactical line and hence what the call to the class should be. So there is a whole action programme, as it were, put into operation when we participate.
These are the political and tactical considerations that have to be taken up. So when we look at the question of tactics in this respect, again it is important not to vulgarise what we mean by tactics, but by tactics is meant the whole of the Partys political conduct in participating. What is its political activity during the time of the election? What are its methods, its character, its overall direction? So this is the question of tactics that presents itself, and as far as the objective situation is concerned, the Party has to participate taking that into account. What are the characteristics of the political situation right at this time?
The question was raised of the direction the objective conditions are pointing towards. So this is an overall consideration. But when you look at these tactical considerations, which is engaging in practical politics, then it is a question of giving a criticism of the objective political situation as it exists. As Marxist-Leninists, we know that there is criticism and criticism. So it is not criticism from the sidelines or on an intellectual basis, it is not a war of words, nor is it a situation where there is this phrase, "criticism of arms", this is certainly not a consideration. But it is criticism from the point of view of waging an all-out struggle, waging the ideological struggle against the "Third Way" full on, this is really the tactical direction of our participation in the election. But it will not be done simply from the sidelines.
There is a logic to our participation. As well as what serves us and as well as the question of participating and putting the full weight of the collective and of Workers Weekly and of the Internet Edition behind this participation so it is bringing the question of building the Mass Party Press into the equation the actual content of the participation is that of implanting the alternative to this manifesto of the bourgeoisie on the soil of Britain. This is the crux of the matter in our participation: that we say that we represent this alternative. We have declared that there is a way out of the crisis, we have given our analysis of the political situation, of the parliamentary system, how it is blocking the people from coming to power. But this is not just a complaint, it is actually participating in order to implant, beginning to implant, this way forward on the soil of Britain, to organise this way forward. So this is the direction of the participation.
Within this whole orientation of implanting the alternative on the soil of Britain, we can work out the precise tactics in the nitty gritty sense of who should be candidates, how should they conduct themselves, what kind of campaign should we wage on a day to day basis. So this provides the framework.
We have already dealt in the first paper today with the question of what is the New Historical Basis, what do we mean by building this alternative, building the organisation on the New Historical Basis and participating in the election in this context. Our plan is that we will give an overall review of the need to build unity on the New Historical Basis in a paper in tomorrows sessions. But there is the question of "how", what calls shall we give so this new historical basis is given effect to within this orientation of implanting the alternative on the soil of Britain.
The answer to this is that it is important that we do stand candidates. The logic of standing is not that we want candidates to stand who say, "We are Party, we stand for this, therefore this is why you should support us." The logic of the situation is to put the full weight of the Party behind the struggle of the class against the "Third Way" to make sure that Tony Blairs programme is not successful, does not take root, that opposition is developed. In that sense it is like a trial of strength with the bourgeoisie. It is not that we think this is a decisive battle or that we will be successful in putting the bourgeoisie on the defensive on this occasion. But we want candidates to embody that line, that here is the class fighting for its own interests and here are candidates who are known for this, that here is the embodiment of the best characteristics of the people in struggle, the embodiment of the struggle in defence of rights, the embodiment of workers forming the opposition, the embodiment of the fight against the anti-social offensive, for the future of health service, education, for the future of society in that respect. So it is a trial of strength with the bourgeoisie in that sense, but its tailored to the stage of our own forces and to the needs of the movement and to tackling the objective situation at this stage.
So in a sense, it is building up the peoples forces and even more the workers opposition to the "Third Way" programme of the bourgeoisie. And we would say that RCPB(ML), the Party, is participating in the election on this basis, that it is accountable to the class to vigorously oppose all-out the anti-social offensive, all the anti-communism of the bourgeoisie, all the medievalism, the attack on enlightenment that the bourgeoisie is carrying out. And so the Party is participating by putting its full weight into supporting such candidates who embody this programme.
I think that gives an outline of what the Central Committee is putting forward as the "how" of how the Party proposes to participate in the coming election campaign. In the discussion around this, it is necessary to try and elaborate, go into the logic of it, what is this character of the Partys participation at this stage. In discussing tactics, it is this tactical position, this conduct of the Partys political activity that we are talking about as tactics within this discussion. And then, having explored the question, the final session of the conference can explore the practical implications of this tactical position. This is the character of this presentation.
In the past few days, job losses have been threatened at Marconi, Motorola and Cammell Laird.
Trade union leaders have commented that it will take more than a phone call from Tony Blair to save the workers jobs. The worsening world economic crisis and the programme of neo-liberalism are hitting even those sectors of the "new economy" that were supposedly to be the saviour for the economy and workers livelihoods. This situation emphasises that the working class and people must fight for an alternative to the neo-liberal agenda of the rich.
In this situation, TUC General Secretary John Monks, has only this to say on the solution:
"Despite the overall strength of the economy, these job losses show just how fragile the manufacturing sector is. Even those high tech sectors that seemed to escape some of the pressure caused by the overvalued pound, now seem vulnerable to fall out from US economic difficulties. This weeks threatened job losses add up to a hammer blow for local communities and the manufacturing sector.
"We need lower interest rates to try and provide some immunity from difficult global trade conditions, a more determined industrial strategy from the government and measures to improve rights for people facing redundancy. It is too easy to make people redundant in the UK, as the recent ruling against Marks and Spencer in the French courts show. That is why we should sign up to the European proposals for information and consultation."
This is not the alternative that is needed to find the way out of the crisis. The "fragility" of the manufacturing sector comes not in a period of "strength" of the economy, but in a period where the pursuit of a strong national economy servicing the needs of the working class and people has been completely abandoned by the rich. It is a measure of the parasitism of finance capital whereby in this period of neo-liberal globalisation, every fibre of production and of society as a whole is to be made subservient to the enrichment of international finance capital. In these circumstances, to suggest that the European Union of the monopolies is where to look for the solution is to suggest that the workers shut their eyes to reality and abandon all initiative.
Nor is the answer one of "more consultation" rather than less. It is an insult to suggest that the workers only want to be consulted on the best way to be given the sack. The workers want a change in the direction of the economy, so that the peoples needs are put at the centre of consideration. The situation emphasises the need for an alternative to the agenda of neo-liberal globalisation, and the need to put a halt to this agenda which is causing such devastation for the workers and for the economy.
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