Iris at the memorial meeting for Godfrey in 2012, and in Shackleton Hall, Birmingham with Godfrey and Katt in 1984.
Always there, always inspiring others – an unflappable leader, and a humble servant of the working class.
It is with great sadness that the CPGB-ML has to announce the death of one of its key founder members, Comrade Iris Cremer. She died peacefully on the evening of Wednesday 2 April, just five weeks after she had been diagnosed with an aggressive and already far-advanced lung cancer. Comrades and family were at her side.
Iris leaves behind a daughter, Katt, and a grandson, Fred – along with a host of honorary sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, grandsons and granddaughters to whom she was a mother, sister, aunt and grandmother in all the ways that really count.
Iris’s contribution to the British working-class movement was incalculable. For 45 years she worked tirelessly and without ego, thinking only of what needed to be done and what would bring British workers closer to socialism. To her own convenience or preference, she was utterly oblivious.
Despite the heartbreak of losing her lifelong partner, husband and comrade-in-arms Godfrey Cremer two years ago, Iris never flagged in her commitment or her activity. Quite the reverse in fact – after his death, Iris not only carried on determinedly with her own work but also did everything she could to fill the huge gap that Godfrey had left in our ranks.
As a couple, Iris and Godfrey set the bar high. With a common purpose in life, the strength of their union was reinforced daily, and their shared priority was always to get the work done, come what may. On the morning of their wedding, they were writing a leaflet for a Palestine demo. And on the morning of the day she died, Iris instructed her daughter Katt to hold off calling the ambulance for 40 minutes while acetates for printing the latest issue of Proletarian were printed out. She left home for the last time content in the knowledge that the printing workers could carry on and that the paper would be published by nightfall.
It was Iris and Godfrey’s great sadness to live in a country and at a time when the communist movement was temporarily retreating. Nevertheless, Iris was the stuff that revolutions are made of – dogged, determined, completely single-minded and utterly uninterested in herself. She would have been as at home on the Long March as she was mailing papers and manning literature stalls – no sacrifice or difficulty was too much for her, and nothing made her hesitate in her commitment.
Iris was a hard taskmaster – but because she drove herself far harder than she drove anyone else, and because she never criticised or scolded, she was able to encourage people to work without them realising she had done so – usually with a smile or a kind word, and always with an understanding tone to her voice that made those she spoke to feel special and valued.
Together with Comrade Godfrey, she lived a life that, just as much as anything they read at study classes hosted in the Cremers’ living room, taught a whole generation just what it meant to really be a communist. Their selfless, work-focused home was as warm and welcoming a place as any of us have ever known, and their example lives on in all who had the good fortune to experience their generous hospitality and gentle guidance.
Indeed, in this world of alienation and stress, where so many people are searching fruitlessly to find individual paths to personal fulfilment, Iris and Godfrey had found a formula for true happiness. A shared purpose and a life dedicated solely to that goal and lived entirely for others kept them calm despite the mountains of work that constantly confronted them, and kept them positive and determined despite the apparent enormity of the task they had set themselves.
Iris’s many political contributions are too numerous to be listed here. Having met her close comrades the Brars in the women’s movement in the late 1960s, she went on with them and Comrade Ella Rule to form the Union of Women for Liberation and then the Association of Communist Workers in the early 1970s.
A committed proletarian internationalist, she opposed British imperial policy in all its forms. In her younger years, she was especially active in the anti-Vietnam war movement, and in her solidarity with the Irish and Zimbabwean armed struggles. Later on, she gave the same dedication to opposing the British imperialist wars against Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria – never giving an inch to the imperialist propaganda that threw so many in the anti-war movement off their course.
Her hatred of imperialism and its divide-and-rule policy meant that she was equally active in opposing racism at home on the streets of Britain. In fact, she gave many years of her life to working for a progressive organisation of which she was not even a member – the Indian Workers Association (IWA-GB) – since she believed that it gave opportunities to bring revolutionary theory to at least some of the masses in Britain at a time when the revisionist CPGB (and later the CPB) and others who called themselves communist were abandoning that task.
Through the ACW, and through her practical support for Comrade Harpal Brar’s work as editor of the IWA’s journal Lalkar, Comrade Iris was part of a small but vital movement to keep Marxist-Leninist science alive in Britain. To this end, she spent a small legacy when her uncle died in 1979 on buying a printing press, to which she and Godfrey were chained from that moment forwards.
From the time of her involvement with those organisations there is hardly a single ACW or IWA leaflet, nor a single issue of Lalkar or of our own party’s paper Proletarian, that Iris did not have a hand in producing. Understanding the vital importance of theoretical understanding as a guide for the working-class movement, she gladly took on any and every practical task to facilitate bringing the knowledge and the masses together – whether writing, laying out, printing, collating, posting or selling on the streets.
No meeting was too small for her to attend, and no potential comrade too marginal to be worthy of her full attention. If she thought it might further the cause of humanity’s liberation, Iris, like Godfrey, was totally unstinting of her time.
She was also a great organiser upon whom a whole host of practical responsibilities rested. Almost every party stall, demo contingent and public meeting in London was run under Iris’s watchful eye – delegating where possible or simply doing herself what needed to be done to make sure that every event was as successful as possible.
For many years she was also one of the main driving forces behind the Stalin Society. The society was formed in 1991 when a group of anti-revisionist communists that included many of our own leading comrades came together in response to the collapse of the USSR, and in opposition to the deluge of anti-Soviet and anti-Stalin propaganda that followed the collapse. Understanding that the attacks on Stalin were in fact attacks on Leninism and on the building of socialism, the society set itself the unfashionable task of defending the world’s first and mightiest socialist state, and of countering the plethora of lies about its achievements and its leadership.
As secretary of the Stalin Society, Comrade Iris for years coordinated its programme, managed the practical aspects of meetings and communicated with the society’s members. She was greatly cheered in her last months to see the establishment of a host of new Stalin Societies around the world. Many of these have been directly inspired by the work of the British society, and all of them are a recognition of the fact that the question of Soviet socialism and Stalin’s leadership of socialist construction is becoming more, not less relevant as time goes by and as the crisis of the capitalist system deepens.
It was the great joy of both Iris and Godfrey’s life to see their long years of struggle come to fruition in the founding of our own party 10 years ago. They had put huge efforts over seven years in the attempt to build Arthur Scargill’s Socialist Labour Party (SLP) into a real alternative to the social-democratic left in Britain, and into bringing a Marxist understanding to the party. However, having been eventually expelled by Scargill and his acolytes for this activity, our founding comrades decided that the time was ripe to found a new, truly revolutionary party in Britain.
Long years of even harder work followed, as our small band had to establish a presence on the ground, to develop a consistent policy and analysis that could demonstrate our worth and seriousness to British workers, and to break through the barriers of hostility and suspicion that greeted our arrival on the political scene.
Iris and Godfrey threw themselves into this work. They never doubted that it was the right thing to do, or that it would eventually succeed. In the last weeks of both their lives, the subject to which their conversation turned again and again was the great encouragement they felt when looking at the direction and growth of our party, and at the seriousness and commitment of its new young cadres.
Comrade Iris lived her life for the struggle – she was truly the stuff that revolutions are made of. As we bid a last farewell to one who was a mother, an aunt, a sister and a comrade to so many, we make the only tribute our fallen comrade would ask of us – we promise that the example she set us will strengthen our resolve and that we will continue to struggle until the final victory of socialism in Britain.
Red salute to Comrade Iris Cremer, soldier of the revolution.
Iris Cremer, a founding comrade of the CPGB-ML, speaks at the memorial meeting for her husband Godfrey Cremer in Saklatvala Hall, Southall on 12 May 2012
The following tribute was delivered by Comrade Iris Cremer to the memorial meeting for Godfrey Cremer held on 12 May 2012.
Once again I thank every one of you for the comfort and strength your words have given to all of Godfrey’s extended family, friends and comrades. So many of you here, as well as in messages from across the world from Havana to South Africa to Pyongyang, have expressed respect and thanks for the warm-hearted and articulate way that Godfrey supported their causes.
I have been very privileged to spend over 40 years with a husband, friend and comrade who has worked tirelessly to build a world free from racism and imperialist wars, and for a society in which all peoples could live in peace.
I still want to highlight the three Cs that I dealt with at the funeral – his compassion, his creativity and his communist principles. They are such significant aspects of Godfrey’s world outlook.
He looked after everyone he met – family, friends and passers by – he treated all with respect and kindness – becoming ‘uncle’ to so many young friends. But his compassion extended way beyond individual acts of concern.
He started to look for other ways to solve the problem facing people in the UK, as well as across the world. This became a driving force that saw Godfrey campaign for racial equality – working with the IWA(GB) as well as professionally; and an ardent anti-imperialist.
Right up to the days before his death he was exhorting us to protest against the attempts of imperialism to overthrow the legitimate government of Syria – it is entirely appropriate that on the front page of the latest Lalkar, his picture appears just beside the article on Syria.
He not only grew to have a well-formed political outlook, but he was a proper teacher. With images, analogies, poetry, music and photography he found ways to describe the most complex of historical and scientific ideas.
In studying Marxism, his careful use of words helped so many youngsters, and those not so young, to grasp the meaning of a new world outlook.
It was his experiences in the ’60s and his concern for people that brought him to espouse the ideals of communism. During events in the early ’70s we met Harpal and a few others and began to build an alternative to the existing political parties – a genuine communist party in Britain.
However, to implement this work Godfrey also saw the need for two other Cs – Craftsmanship and Courage
I came to see the need for an alternative to capitalism through an emotional response to the experiences I found in Africa in the 1960s – as a volunteer teacher in Tanzania I, fortunately, learnt both of the devastation that imperialism had caused to the peoples of southern Africa and learnt about the spirit of resistance that Julius Nyerere’s Ujamaa gave a voice to, and saw the support that the Chinese were giving, for instance in building railways, etc.
On the other hand, Godfrey was far more rational. His experiences in the anti-Vietnam war days also drew him to find out about ‘alternatives’ and he pursued it in a thoroughly logical manner – studying Marxism as a science.
He would be first to admit that he did not study sufficiently, but I know for sure that even with him in hospital in those final days was a copy of Fundamental Problems of Marxism by Plekhanov. He studied and thought through all the problems he faced, be it:
mastering the printing press – this May (issue 212) was the first Lalkar we have done without his guidance since 1979 – and it was hard – particularly wanting to keep up to his standard, and with his face smiling back at us on the front cover [Katt and I used all our strength to achieve what we knew he expected of us],
sorting out how to build literature stalls (transforming a children’s buggy into a mobile stall – using one that he found discarded near a skip! – and then revising it to increase its mobility, cos it was not quite right!), or
organising the communist movement – endlessly meeting comrades, discussing with comrades both to organise national and London regional activities.
He was a true craftsman who fine-tuned his knowledge and approach according to the prevailing circumstances and would turn his hand to anything.
His contributions to Marxist study schools and circles will be sorely missed. From study circles in the 1970s in Tottenham with Harpal and Ella and others, to curry and communist study in Southall, to CPGB-ML party schools, Godfrey has been a stalwart who carefully analysed and honestly answered questions with clarity and relevance, along with his jokes and analogies.
It was with immense pride that Godfrey became a founding member of the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) in 2004 and could see his hopes and desires of his life’s work beginning to really bear fruit. And he would thus encourage party members to study and be optimistic, adhering to the words of Kim Il Sung, who said in 1962:
“In order to make our party members indomitable fighters who are always optimistic about the future of the revolution, it is necessary to intensify their Marxist-Leninist education. Without a clear understanding of the laws of social development and the inevitability of the triumph of socialism and communism, one can neither have faith in victory nor have the high-toned spirit and combativeness to withstand any difficulty.”
Which bring me to my last C.
To have spent four decades with Godfrey, and shared a common world outlook, has indeed been a privilege and a joy. His firm adherence to principles gave him a great confidence and courage, which may seem at variance with his gentle warmth.
In fact, his thorough scientific understanding of dialectics and materialism gave him enormous strength in his convictions. He has not only stood up for many who faced racial discrimination – both in his professional work and in conjunction with the Indian Workers Association GB, but he has always been at the forefront of those challenging the rule of British imperialism at home or abroad – particularly in relation to Ireland in the Troops Out Movement, in the Zimbabwe Solidarity Front, and most recently in the Stop the War Coalition. His work has been exemplary both in terms of arguments won and lessons learnt.
Having worked so closely, pretty much as a double-act, for so long I feel that now, in this difficult period, I have a strength built from my life with Godfrey. I often say to people that I feel like part of his spine is holding me up to ensure that his work goes on.
Katt too has learnt how to be strong from Godfrey’s example – so I feel confident that our political work will continue. We have an expanding party that is mobilising the next generation to carry on the struggle.
However, we will all sorely miss his expertise in science, particularly the biological sciences. From Darwin through to the Soviet biologist Lysenko, Godfrey was at the forefront of a Marxist scientific analysis based on his own scientific training and a Marxist analysis. He controversially defended Darwin’s materialism and the Soviet agronomist Lysenko by making detailed presentations on their work – which few others have done.
But the essence of that biological work is that only the new Soviet state could truly enable resources to be used for the benefit of the vast masses of the people. Godfrey’s research dealt with developments in agriculture, but the lesson is similar for other areas of life.
One hundred years ago, Michurin, a Russian biologist, was struggling to improve fruit plants in pre-revolutionary Russia. Twenty years later he said that the Soviet system “had given me everything I need – everything an experimenter can desire for his work. The dream of my whole life is coming true: the valuable new fruit-plant varieties which I have bred have gone from the experimental plots, not into the possession of a few kulak money-bags [rich farmers], but into the far-flung orchards of the collective and state farms.”
He wrote to Stalin thanking him for building a new world in which “the creative energy surging among the millions of workers and peasants of the Soviet Union fills me too, old man that I am, with eagerness to live and work under your leadership for the good of the socialist development of our proletarian state”.
The ‘eagerness’ of this Soviet agronomist reminds me so much of Godfrey’s enthusiasm for building a new society.
Our tribute to Godfrey must be to use the strength that Godfrey has given us to build a powerful communist movement that can lead to a bright future for all humanity.
A Red Salute to Godfrey – my comrade, my friend and my husband.
Joti Brar of the CPGB-ML speaks at Godfrey Cremer's memorial meeting in Saklatvala Hall, Southall on 12 May 2012
The following tribute was delivered by Comrade Joti Brar to the memorial meeting for Godfrey Cremer held on 12 May 2012.
Words I would say to Godfrey if he was still here
I would say thank you for being such a rock in my life. For showing that it is possible to be true to your principles in small as well as big ways.
For offering such a shining example of a life well lived. For showing such warmth, generosity and loyalty in your relationships with friends, family and comrades. For demonstrating such selflessness and humility despite your obvious talents in so many spheres. For setting such a shining example of persistence and of devotion to everything that is most important in this world.
Thank you for magic tricks and shoulder rides. For infant school pick-ups and trips to the zoo. For study classes, spare beds and safe havens. For eternal patience and good humour. For taking me completely into your heart and your family. For giving me the best sister anyone could ask for. For coming to the hospital when our Josef was born, for putting away the cot we couldn’t bear to see, and for remembering our littlest comrade at the last.
I haven’t words to express what your presence has meant in my life. A visit to your house was always an adventure. Just the knowledge that you and Iris were in my world gave so much childhood reassurance.
It was in your home and under your gentle guidance that I took my first steps into the movement. Where I read Lenin and Stalin and learned to take a scientific view of the world. In your home I attended political meetings and took part in my first practical activities. In your home I learned that it was possible to overcome all barriers to political commitment. In your home I learned that no detail is too small to pay attention to in the service of the working class.
In your home I felt loved and secure and free to develop. You and Iris had the knack of treating everyone as special and it made your home the most welcoming I have ever known.
What else would I say?
Only that I hope to do better in following your example. Only that I will not forget the promise I made to you in the hospital: we will finish what you and your comrades have started.
We will build the party that you worked so hard to bring into existence. We will turn it into a real fighting force for revolution. We will do everything we can to bring about the society that you longed for so ardently all your life.
And finally, paraphrasing Bobby Sands, I would say that our final tribute to your inspiring example will be the laughter of our children’s children’s children.
We miss you Godfrey. We wish you hadn’t left us so soon. But we are so glad we had you and we are determined that you will live on in us. We are determined to make you proud.
With love, with respect, and with the reddest of red salutes, I would say what you said to me when we talked about your prognosis: no regrets.
The article below is the text of a speech given by Comrade Khwezi Kadalie, Chairperson of the Marxist Workers School of South Africa, to CPGB-ML meetings in London, Bristol, Birmingham and Leeds during his speaking tour in February.
Or you can watch Comrade Khwezi’s inspiring speech on this video, which includes more detailed discussion on many of the points he raised following questions from the audience.
I would like to thank the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) for the opportunity to address this gathering. I would like to take the opportunity to extend to you, and to all the comrades, friends and fellow workers here, the most sincere, heartfelt and revolutionary greeting of the members of the Marxist Workers School of South Africa and, indeed, greetings from the proletariat of South Africa.
The policies of imperialism and our reactionary ruling capitalist classes have always been to divide people, to divide the working class, to set local workers against immigrant workers, to set full-time workers against part-time workers … and, of course, they set workers in the imperialist countries against workers in the so-called ‘third-world’ countries.
Our position is clear: the objective interest of the South African working class and the interest of the British working class are identical. We have a common enemy; we are united in a common struggle against capitalism and imperialism. And therefore we say: together, the working class in South Africa and Britain, and, indeed, all over the world, will struggle for a better world; a world in which there is no exploitation and oppression, a world in which hunger and ignorance are a thing of the past, a world in which those who produce the wealth in society, namely the working class, shall govern and benefit.
Together we shall struggle and together we shall be victorious in this struggle. It is for this reason that we are here to forge a bond of friendship and solidarity between the South African and British working classes; a lasting bond born out of the revolutionary struggle against capitalist exploitation and imperialist domination.
South Africa during and after Apartheid
Comrades, many working-class organisations, revolutionary parties and comrades and friends who joined us internationally in our struggle against Apartheid had very high expectations of the African National Congress. Millions of people knew the political programme of our national-liberation struggle – the Freedom Charter.
The Freedom Charter laid the basis for a free and democratic South Africa, in which black and white, coloureds and Indians would live as equals. The Freedom Charter demanded that the land should be given back to the people, and that the mines and the banks should be nationalised.
Clearly, neither the land issue has been solved nor have the mines and the banks been nationalised.
Instead, the international community are given conflicting information about the economic progress of South Africa, while at the same time being fed with rather sensational information about the president of the ANC, Jacob Zuma, and the president of the ANC Youth organisation, Julius Malema. Reported issues around Aids and crime have also tarnished the image of South Africa internationally.
To understand the present situation, we need to step back and recall our historical struggle against Apartheid, and we need to look at how the economic and social situation has changed under the ANC government.
During the anti-Apartheid struggle, the main contradiction was between the racist apartheid system and the black people of South Africa, namely Africans, Indians and coloureds. Therefore, the anti-Apartheid struggle was led by the national-liberation movement the African National Congress in alliance with the South African Communist Party and Sactu, the South African Congress of Trade Unions.
This alliance, under the leadership of the ANC, fought the apartheid system politically, through armed struggle, and by organising an international movement to isolate and boycott the apartheid system.
This heroic struggle of our people, fought over many decades and with untold sacrifices, cumulated in the 1990 release of all political prisoners, some of whom, like our leaders Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu, had been incarcerated for 27 years. The apartheid regime had to legalise all banned political organisations like the ANC, SACP, PAC, AZAPO and others. Within four years of this change, the apartheid system collapsed and a democratically-elected ANC government was ushered in.
This new government took over the old state machinery, with all its structures, complete with the old civil servants who had served the apartheid system. In addition, the new dispensation was based on a bourgeois constitution, which had been negotiated between the rising ANC and the then ruling National Party in 1992/3.
Since 1994, therefore, South Africa has been a bourgeois democracy, in which the property rights of the ruling capitalist class are enshrined in the constitution and upheld through the laws of the country, as enforced by the police and the judiciary. It is precisely for this reason that, since 1994, the main contradiction in South Africa has been between the ruling capitalist class and the working class.
Yet all political parties in South Africa deny this fundamental fact.
From revolutionaries to reformists
During the years of Apartheid, the capitalist class that owned the means of production in South Africa ruled through the racist and fascist apartheid state; it ruled through brute force. Open and direct oppression, torture and killings, arbitrary arrests and mass intimidation of the entire black population was the order of the day in order to exploit cheap black labour, not only for the enrichment of the white capitalist class but for the social and financial benefit of the entire white population.
After 1994, when Apartheid was defeated by the national-liberation struggle, the main contradiction in South Africa became the contradiction between the ruling capitalist class and the working class. The ruling capitalist class started to rule through bourgeois democracy, the same kind of rule that Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto described as the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.
Hand in hand with this transition, the African National Congress, our former liberation movement, has step by step over the years been ideologically transformed into a social-democratic party.
Opportunism has become a material force within the leadership. Indeed, the entire leadership of the African National Congress and the revisionist South African Communist Party has been socially corrupted. It has been bought into the middle class to such an extent that these leaders cannot see their own future and their own interest as being separate from the future and interest of the white bourgeoisie and of the of the emerging black middle class.
To this extent, neither the leadership of the ANC nor that of the SACP are any longer able to represent the objective interest of the rank-and-file members of their organisations. Nor do they represent the basic aspirations of their memberships any more.
The social base of both organisations is made up of ordinary working-class people and their families, who increasingly revolt against the opportunistic leadership. This finds its expression in the increasingly violent infighting at congresses and meetings, and in the emergence of factionalism within these organisations.
All political parties in South Africa deny the fact that the main contradiction in our country today is between labour and capital. It is for this reason that social democracy is flourishing.
The working class is told by its leaders that we all sit in the same boat – together with capital – and that we must all behave ‘patriotically’ to ‘strengthen South Africa together’. Meanwhile, the capitalists are retrenching and shedding millions of jobs. Unemployment has reached 46 percent, and poverty and hunger are spreading like wildfire. Yet the working class is told that the only answer is to hold out for better times and be more patriotic.
As the class contradictions between labour and capital sharpen, millions of workers are expressing their anger and frustration through militant strikes and protest. With falling numbers of workers registering to vote, and falling numbers of those registered bothering to turn out, more than forty percent of the voting-age population are now expressing their disillusionment by staying away from the polls.
All political parties, including the ANC and the SACP, in various ways and with various levels of intensity, are engaged in what Karl Marx described as perfecting the existing capitalist state.
The working class is told that the present stage of the revolution is the national-democratic revolution. In reality, this line is nothing but a call for open class collaboration with the ruling capitalist class, and therefore all policies and programmes, all campaigns that have been developed in South Africa over the past 17 years, are nothing but attempts to perfect the machinery of the capitalist state and increase the efficiency of the capitalist system of exploitation.
Of course, this is sold to the working class and the population at large as: ‘making South Africa internationally competitive’!
Key goals of the Freedom Charter
During Apartheid, 87 percent of the land was allocated to whites. This systematic and barbaric land robbery was the hallmark of colonialism and Apartheid in South Africa. But instead of carrying out a land reform to give land to the landless masses as the Freedom Charter demands, the government passes legislation to regulate the relationship between the white landlords and commercial farms and the farm workers.
South Africa has a race- and class-based education system: government schools for the working class, Model C schools for the middle class, and private schools for the bourgeoisie. Instead of scrapping the race- and class-based education system, which was developed under De Klerk, the last Apartheid President, the new government introduces one education reform after another in order to ‘improve’ the three-tier education system and make it more ‘efficient’.
In the industrial and economical sphere, the Freedom Charter states that the mines and banks should be nationalised. But here too, the government has instead passed legislation to increase the shareholding of black capitalists within the mining industry. And instead of nationalising the banks, the government negotiates with the monopoly capitalists to increase credit to black middle-class people.
In other words: reformism is the order of the day. Despite all the revolutionary rhetoric, which is sometimes voiced at Sunday speeches, reformism has become a material force within the political circles of the ruling ANC-SACP alliance.
Problems for reformists
However, the bourgeois system in South Africa faces one fundamental problem: it does not have the financial or economic potential, nor a coherent political national will, to bribe significant sections of the black working class into collaboration.
During the Apartheid years, the ruling class successfully created an all-white labour aristocracy, which has survived to the present day and is still nourished by the system. The system has failed, however, and indeed it never had any intentions, to create a black labour aristocracy.
Reformism therefore is a material force within state structures; it is the ideology of the middle class, including the emerging black middle class.
But reformism has failed to use its bribed black middle-class placemen to dominate the hearts and minds of the militant working class in South Africa, whose consciousness is being determined by the prevailing conditions of poverty, exploitation and alienation. In other words: the revolutionary spirit of the South African working class has not been broken!
This revolutionary class is struggling daily against capitalist exploitation; this class wants freedom from wage slavery; this class sees socialism as the fulfilment of its aspirations!
Over the years, so-called ‘neo-liberal’ policies have been introduced, such as the privatisation of state assets throughout our country in adherence to IMF and World Bank demands.
As a result, a few people have become filthy rich, and the profits of corporations and international monopoly capitalists have increased significantly. Alongside these gains for the exploiters come the usual burdens on the working classes: unemployment has skyrocketed, and poverty and desperation amongst urban workers and the landless rural masses have reached unprecedented levels.
The social situation of the working class and the landless masses has deteriorated to such an extent that the government has been forced to introduce social benefits in an attempt to take the edge off the people’s anger and desperation. Twelve million people in South Africa have become recipients of these benefits, without which there would be outbreaks of hunger and starvation in South Africa, although it is one of the richest countries on earth. Such are the realities of the so-called ‘free-market economy’!
South African revolutionaries and Marxist Leninists founded the Marxist Workers School of South Africa in order to educate workers about the historical responsibility of the working class, as the most revolutionary class in our society, to organise itself and take up the struggle for a socialist future. We have realised that wage slavery, poverty, crime, ignorance and underdevelopment can only be overcome when the working class has established a socialist system under the dictatorship of the proletariat.
The unfolding class struggle of the South African working class is a struggle against the ruling capitalist class in South Africa. And it is at the same time part and parcel of the struggle of the international proletariat, of which we are a part.
Our struggle is part of the struggle of the international working class and oppressed people against capitalist exploitation and imperialist domination.
- It is for this reason that we support the land redistribution in Zimbabwe and the struggle of the Zimbabwean people under the leadership of ZANU-PF to defend its national sovereignty against British imperialism.
- It is for this reason that we call for the victory of the national-liberation struggle in Iraq and Afghanistan
- It is for this reason that we support the anti-imperialist national-liberation struggle of the Green revolution against the internal counter-revolution and the barbaric bombardment and re-colonisation of Libya by Nato.
- It is for this reason that we support the anti-imperialist Syrian Baath party and the coalition government in Syria, which includes the Syrian Communist Party, in its struggle against internal counter-revolution, destabilisation by reactionary Arab regimes and imperialist aggression.
- It is for this reason that we support the Palestinian national-liberation struggle for a united and democratic Palestine, in which muslims, jews and christians can live side by side in peace, free and liberated from the reactionary and racist ideology of Zionism
- It is for this reason that we support all socialist countries like the Peoples Republic of China, the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, the Republic of Cuba and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
Each of these socialist countries is at a different stage of development, but nevertheless they are all upholding socialism and developing their countries under extremely difficult conditions of world imperialist domination. Each of these countries is living proof that the working class can be the master of its own destiny.
We fully support the socialist countries in the defence of their hard-won victories and in the defence of their national sovereignty and territorial integrity.
- It is for this reason that we build international relations with revolutionary working-class organisations and parties: parties that are based on Marxism Leninism; parties which understand that without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement; parties which have consciously broken all ties with opportunism, revisionism, social democracy and Trotskyism.
The Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) is one such party that tirelessly exposes these petty-bourgeois trends within the working-class leadership; that supports the anti-imperialist struggles of the oppressed people, and that fights for the establishment of a truly revolutionary proletarian party of the British working class.
We would once more like to thank the leadership of the CPGB-ML for the invitation and the opportunity to address this meeting.
Long live the solidarity between the British and South African working classes!
Long live proletarian internationalism!
Workers and oppressed people of the world unite against imperialism!
Talks between the delegations of the Workers’ Party of Korea and the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) were held in Pyongyang on Thursday.
Present at the talks from the WPK side were Department Director Kim Yong Il and officials of the Central Committee of the WPK and the CPGB-ML side members of the delegation of the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) led by General Secretary Zane Carpenter.
At the talks, both sides informed each other of the activities of their parties and exchanged views on further developing the relations between the two parties and matters of mutual concern.
Gift from CPGB-ML Delegation
Pyongyang, 23 September 23 (KCNA)
General Secretary Kim Jong Il was presented with a gift by the visiting delegation of the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist).
The gift was handed to Department Director of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea Kim Yong Il by General Secretary of the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) Zane Carpenter who is heading the delegation on Thursday.
It is with the deepest grief that the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) announces that our beloved Comrade Jack Shapiro, Honorary President of our party and of Hands off China!, passed away from illness in the early morning of Friday 29 January 2010 at the age of 93.
Comrade Jack was a staunch Marxist Leninist, a proletarian revolutionary, a long-tested communist fighter and an implacable foe of revisionism and opportunism.
Born into the working-class jewish community in east London, he served a full eight decades in the communist movement; decades that took him from a young teenage militant in the ranks of the Young Communist League to Britain’s most cherished veteran communist fighter.
From the moment he took his place in the ranks of the proletarian army, he stood in his place, fighting for the liberation of mankind. He never once looked back, but always forward to humanity’s brilliant communist future. He never once regretted the choice he made. Whilst every victory inspired him, no difficulty or setback could ever daunt him.
To paraphrase the words of Ostrovsky in <em>How the Steel Was Tempered</em>, our Comrade Jack can have no regrets for a cowardly and trivial past. In dying, he can truly say that all his life and all his strength were given to the finest cause on earth, the liberation of mankind.
Comrade Jack’s early political life was marked by intense class struggle against rapacious sweatshop employers, slum landlords, bigotry, antisemitism and the rise of fascism; in defence of the Soviet Union, of Joseph Stalin, of the Spanish Republic and of the Chinese people’s war of resistance against Japanese aggression.
Throughout his eight decades of political life, Comrade Jack was as firm as a rock in his defence of the principles of Marxism Leninism. He defended the Marxist-Leninist theory of the state and the dictatorship of the proletariat. He knew that without revolutionary theory there could be no revolutionary movement and he studied hard throughout his life up to his final days. He knew that labour in the white skin could never be free if in the black it was branded, and that the movement of the proletariat in the advanced nations would be a fraud and a humbug if it was not most closely united with the struggle of hundreds of millions of colonial and neo-colonial slaves for their national liberation.
The struggle against zionism was no exception. The Palestinian, Lebanese and other Arab peoples had no better friend and comrade-in-arms than Jack. One of his very last political acts was to generously donate to the Viva Palestina! convoy that has just returned from carrying much needed relief to the people of Gaza.
He knew that “women hold up half the sky” and his own long marriage, friendship and comradeship with Comrade Marie was a true example of how human beings should live.
To Comrade Jack, the socialist countries, especially the Soviet Union of Lenin and Stalin, the first country in which his own jewish people knew freedom, and the People’s Republic of China, were the apple of his eye, and no task was greater than their unyielding defence. For him, every step taken by the socialist countries in the building of a free, prosperous and happy life was but a harbinger of the future new world where every child would know oppression and exploitation only as a topic taught in history classes.
With such bedrock principles, from the first, Comrade Jack opposed the revisionist <em>British Road to Socialism</em>, both for its parliamentary cretinism and abandonment of the dictatorship of the proletariat as well as its betrayal of the peoples fighting British imperialism for their complete freedom. He strongly supported the leadership of the Communist Party of China, and its great leader Comrade Mao Zedong, in the international fight against modern revisionism.
Comrade Jack’s relationship with the Chinese revolution was a special one indeed, ever since his much loved brother and comrade Michael Shapiro took up work with the Xinhua News Agency in Beijing in 1949 at the request of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, and stayed in China till he breathed his last.
Comrades Jack and Michael and their wives Comrade Marie and Comrade Liu Jinghe formed a single proletarian fighting unit, uniting the communists of Britain and China across continents and oceans. Senior Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping described Michael Shapiro, who accompanied the Chinese People’s Volunteers in Korea during the most bitter days of war, as a “staunch international soldier and sincere friend of the Chinese people”. These fitting words equally describe his dear brother Jack. It is indeed appropriate that his final speech should have been given from his wheelchair on 3 October 2009 at our party’s celebration of the 60th anniversary of the victory of the Chinese revolution.
Having staunchly fought against revisionism for more than half a century, going through many twists and turns, Comrade Jack greeted the foundation of our party with almost youthful enthusiasm. He joined our ranks, accepted the post of Honorary President, gave us wise advice and counsel, and generously supported us in every way. To us, he was truly a star shining in our sky, a living link to the October Revolution and to the Third Communist International. He was also a friend and a man whose impish sense of humour made light of every difficulty, whether political or personal.
Jack’s passing is a sad and irreparable loss to our young party. But we take courage from, and will never forget, the rich legacy he has left us.
Comrade Jack, with our heads bowed but our fists raised, we offer you our reddest of red salutes. You have earned the right to take rest. You will live forever in our hearts.
ETERNAL GLORY TO COMRADE JACK SHAPIRO!
Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist)
The Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) resolutely condemns Israel’s despicable and cowardly military onslaught against the people of Gaza, and it reaffirms its unreserved solidarity with the Palestinian people.
Israeli brutality and arrogance
Since the start of Israel’s bombing campaign, on 23 December 2008, several hundred Palestinians – including many children – have been killed, and thousands more have sustained critical injuries. Israel claims that its targets have been exclusively military, but this is manifestly false. For example, more than 50 people (including an entire family of seven young children) were killed when, on 7 January, Israel bombed a UN school being used as a refugee centre.
In the past few weeks, Israel has clamped down even further on supplies of medicines, food and electricity, further exacerbating the already vast humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. This is not ‘targeted action’; it is collective punishment. Israel has rejected international calls for a truce, and refuses even to let foreign journalists into Gaza. It wants to hide its brutal Nazi aggression from the rest of the world. Having for so long painted itself as a little jewish David in a sea of Arab Goliaths, Israel does not want the world to see the true nature of its “struggle for existence” – that is, murder and criminal occupation.
Israel to blame for breakdown of the ceasefire
Predictably, Israel has claimed that its actions are a legitimate response to Palestinian rocket attacks since the collapse of the ceasefire in late December. This sentiment has been implicitly (and in some cases explicitly) backed by the self-appointed ‘international community’, which has long relied on Israel as its policeman in the Middle East. As hi-tech bombs were raining down on Palestinian civilians, George Bush thought it appropriate to say: “I understand Israel’s desire to protect itself and that the situation now taking place in Gaza was caused by Hamas”. His successor, Barack Obama, stated on a recent visit to Sderot (an Israeli town near Gaza): “If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I’m going to do everything in my power to stop that, and I would expect Israelis to do the same thing.”
As we have said before, one cannot equate the violence of the oppressed with the violence of the oppressors. Israel is not under siege; it is not an occupied country; its citizens (at least its jewish citizens) are not denied their basic human rights; its water, electricity and medical supplies have not been cut off; it is not in the midst of a humanitarian crisis. Meanwhile, Gaza has over the last two years been effectively turned into a giant concentration camp. Gazans cannot move in or out of their country; the supply of food, electricity, water and medicines has been cut off; frequent Israeli bombing raids take place; the unemployment rate exceeds 80 percent and the people are living a miserable existence well below the poverty line. Are the Palestinian people expected to simply give up their right to existence? The right to resist occupation is enshrined in international law, and the Palestinian military resistance to Israeli occupation is legitimate and laudable.
Still, one does not need to accept the legitimacy of the Palestinian rocket attacks in order to condemn the massacre that is taking place in Gaza. According to detailed information released by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a grand total of 15 Israelis have died as a result of Qassam rocket attacks since these were first fired over seven years ago (in October 2001). Meanwhile, over 500 Gazans have been killed by the Israeli military in the last two weeks alone. These lopsided figures alone are enough to give lie to Israel’s claim that it is simply protecting its citizens from rocket attacks.
If Israel genuinely wanted to stop the Qassam rocket attacks, it could have done so very easily by complying with the terms of the ceasefire, under which it was supposed to lift the blockade against Gaza in order to end the humanitarian crisis there. However, deliveries from aid agencies have been all but completely blocked for several months. Observers from the Red Cross have noted the spread malnutrition across Gaza. Israel completely failed to respect the ceasefire terms, and therefore should not be surprised that the ceasefire has collapsed. As has happened many times before, Israel has violated the terms of a ceasefire and used the Palestinian response to ‘justify’ the unjustifiable.
Israel’s real agenda is clear enough: not happy with the democratic choice of the Palestinian people, it is seeking regime change in Gaza (having already effected regime change in the West Bank). Recently, Foreign Minister Livni stated: “The state of Israel, and a government under me, will make it a strategic objective to topple the Hamas regime in Gaza. The means for doing this should be military, economic and diplomatic.” It would be difficult to be clearer than that. Israel and its imperialist backers (including Britain) want to see a Palestinian administration that is willing to squash the struggle for an independent Palestine and that will accept a Palestinian ‘state’ composed of multiple disconnected Bantustans whose borders are controlled by Israel.
From the river to the sea, Palestine shall be free
With its military attacks and its continued settlement activity in the West Bank, Israel has made the two-state solution unachievable. In so doing, it has created the conditions for a one-state solution, and with it the end to the whole racist idea of an ethnically cleansed jewish state.
We reiterate the call of Khaled Meshaal, leader of Hamas, for a renewed intifada against Israel. Only through the intensification of the Palestinian resistance will Israel be forced to recognise the right of the Palestinians to freedom from colonial occupation. We have full confidence in the ability of the Palestinian resistance to deal a heavy blow to the Israeli military. As the armed wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine put it in a recent statement: “We will get out from underneath the rubble and fight until the last breath.” As Marx once wrote, “the nation that oppresses another nation forges its own chains”. The British working class must do everything within its power to support the cause of Palestinian liberation.
Esteemed Comrade Fidel Castro Ruz
Esteemed Comrade Raul Castro Ruz
The Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba
It is with the greatest joy and the warmest and most militant feelings of solidarity that we wholeheartedly offer you our congratulations and best wishes on the 50th anniversary of the historic triumph of the Cuban revolution.
The victory of the Cuban revolution half a century ago, and its triumphant subsequent consolidation and development, is a matter of the utmost importance not only for the Cuban people, but for the whole of the Caribbean, the whole of Latin America, Africa and Asia, the whole of the international working class, the global socialist cause and the international communist movement.
In advancing to nationwide victory, the heroic revolutionaries, led by Fidel and Che, not only liberated the Cuban people – for the first time the Great October Socialist Revolution had been extended to the western hemisphere. As the great Korean revolutionary leader Comrade Kim Il Sung observed in 1968:
“The Cuban revolution is the first socialist revolutionary victory in Latin America, and it is a continuation, in Latin America, of the Great October Revolution. With the triumph of the Cuban revolution, the red banner of socialism now flies high over Latin America, which was regarded until quite recently as the hereditary estate of US imperialism; thus the socialist camp has been extended to the western hemisphere and has grown much stronger. Today the Republic of Cuba, marching firmly at the forefront of the Latin American revolution, is the beacon of hope for the fighting people of Latin America and it casts its victorious beam along the road of struggle. The triumph of the Cuban revolution shook the US imperialist colonial system to its very foundations in the western hemisphere and has thrown the whole of Latin America into revolutionary turbulence, dramatically arousing the people to join in the dedicated struggle for independence and freedom. Indeed, the triumph of the Cuban revolution marked the beginning of the disintegration of the system of US imperialist colonial rule in Latin America; it sternly judged and sentenced to destruction that imperialism which had exploited and oppressed the people in this area for so long.”
Over five decades of socialist revolution and construction, the Cuban working class and people, under the leadership of the Communist Party and Comrade Fidel, have overcome one difficulty after another, including the decades-long, illegal US embargo and blockade, the Special Period occasioned by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the European socialist countries due to revisionist betrayal, repeated armed aggression by US imperialism and its lackeys, and repeated natural disasters, to build a genuine socialist homeland. Today, despite all adverse circumstances and challenges, Socialist Cuba provides all her people with food, clothing and shelter. Cuba’s achievements in healthcare and education, in particular, are not only a precious gain of your working class, but also are rightly the envy of the people of the whole world, including, not least, the working people in the United States of America and elsewhere in the imperialist heartlands.
Socialist Cuba has from its very inception been synonymous with internationalism. From Ireland in the North Atlantic to Timor Leste in the South Pacific, no theatre of anti-imperialist struggle has been too small or too far away to be separated from the care and concern of the Cuban revolution. The bequest that the immortal revolutionary Che Guevara left his children not to be indifferent to the plight of a single oppressed person anywhere on earth has truly become an article of faith for your entire people. How fitting, therefore, that your Young Pioneers take as their motto: “Let us be like Che!”
In Africa, from virtually the first day that the patriots of Algeria and Guinea Bissau raised the banner of armed revolution, Cuban internationalists were at their side. Today, thousands of Cuban doctors and medical workers are to be found in nearly every African country, often attending to the needs of the poorest and most marginalised communities. Above all, we can never forget how your intervention in Angola, one of the most glorious pages in the glorious history of proletarian internationalism, not only saved that newly liberated country from apartheid slavery, but also played a decisive role in the ensuing liberation of Namibia and South Africa and the extirpation of that crime against humanity, racist apartheid.
Above all, as Comrade Kim Il Sung observed:
“Consolidation of the triumph of the Cuban revolution is not only an important question on which the life or death, the rise or fall, of the Cuban people depends. It is also a key factor in influencing the general development of the Latin American revolution.”
Today, thanks not least to the example and inspiration of the Cuban revolution, the US imperialist schemes to maintain Latin America as its “backyard” have imploded and lie in tatters. It is not Socialist Cuba but US imperialism that is isolated. Most importantly, with Cuba as the socialist fortress, today you are joined by Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua as countries that are aspiring to socialism and which are taking the first steps towards the socialist transformation of the state and society and the building of a new life for working people. All this is a priceless gain and the greatest defence of your revolution.
Our party attaches the greatest importance to our work to support and defend Socialist Cuba, which we see as an integral part of our own revolutionary work. We highly value our fraternal relations with your party, which have been developing on very good terms during this last year in particular and it is our firm desire and steadfast determination to consolidate them further in this jubilee year of your revolution.
We take this opportunity to extend our special good wishes to Comrade Fidel and to express our ardent hope that he continues to make a full recovery from illness.
Please be assured of our full support and solidarity at all times.
LONG LIVE THE CUBAN REVOLUTION!
Harpal Brar, Chairman
Zane Carpenter, General Secretary
Ella Rule, International Secretary
Comrades and friends, since we are all here tonight to celebrate the Bolshevik revolution of October 1917, it seems like a good moment to look back at the roots of Bolshevism, and the organisational principles which Comrade Lenin and the Bolsheviks espoused.
1898 Founding of the party – Economism – What Is To Be Done
The Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP) was founded officially in 1898, but its first stumbling steps were dogged by police suppression, ideological muddle and poor organisation. Things were made worse by the influence of the Russian opportunist trend known as ‘Economism’.
In the name of standing up for the interests of the working class, the Economists insisted on limiting the class struggle to purely ‘bread-and-butter’ industrial issues. They saw Lenin’s plans for a united and centralised political party of the working class as an unnecessary and artificial intrusion upon workers’ spontaneous industrial skirmishes. Their influence helped to perpetuate ideological muddle and lax organisation.
Under these circumstances, Lenin and his comrades – we cannot yet call them Bolsheviks – used the columns of the party paper, Iskra (Spark) to wage a relentless struggle against the disorganising ideas of Economism. By this means, the ground was prepared for the ideological and organisational consolidation of the party.
A key moment in this struggle came in March 1902, with the publication of Lenin’s What Is To Be Done? This work not only delivered a great blow against Economism, it also laid the foundations for the whole future Bolshevik approach to ideology and organisation.
Against the blind worship of spontaneity which characterised the Economists, Lenin asserted the vanguard role of the proletarian party. The party’s role was not to follow but to lead. And key to the development of this leadership role was the central, all-Russian party newspaper.
The purpose of the paper was not simply to comment and analyse but to organise. It was the paper’s job not only to weld the party ideologically, but also to unite local bodies within the party organisationally, as Lenin wrote that such a paper “is not only a collective propagandist and collective agitator, but also a collective organiser”.
These were not just very clever ideas on how to run a political newspaper, but an assertion of the indissoluble bond between the ideological and organisational make-up of the party – the unity of its theory and its practice. And the battle was not just against the Russian Economists, with their exclusive fixation on narrow trade-union struggles. Lenin makes it clear that these gentry were no more than a pale local variant of a virulent strain of opportunism which was international in scope.
There can be no better proof of the continued relevance of the organisational principles advocated by Lenin than the fact that they continue to provoke today’s opportunists just as badly as they did 100 years ago!
Lenin was clear that for the revolutionary movement to hold out, it needed a stable organisation of leaders to maintain continuity; and the bigger the movement grew, the more crucial would such an organisation be. The vanguard organisation would need to consist first and foremost of professional revolutionaries, trained in the art of outfoxing the political police. Far from limiting the scope of the movement, argued Lenin, such an approach to leadership would offer the best prospect of drawing the masses in ever greater numbers into working for the revolution.
It is legitimate for us to ask how much relevance these organisational tactics have for communists today. After all, we are not living in an autocratic state, we do not live under Tsarism, and perhaps we do not require a party leadership that has professional training in the art of combating the political police – yet.
However, as degenerate British imperialist society moves deeper into crisis, the retreat from bourgeois democratic forms is becoming daily more pronounced. Wars of national oppression abroad, erosion of civil liberties at home, cuts in public services, attacks on the pay and pensions of workers, the dismantling of the ‘welfare state’ and the spread of anti-immigrant propaganda – all these combine to create a harsher political climate for dissent of any kind.
The plunge into financial crisis and slump can be expected to intensify this process, precisely in the degree to which the bourgeoisie feel it more urgent to safeguard the exploited workers from the growth of communist influence.
This period of renewed crisis presents the proletariat with an immense historical responsibility, which it cannot hope to shoulder without the guidance and leadership of a party that has learnt to match ideological with organisational strength.
The working class may not yet require a party ‘professionally trained in the art of combating the political police’ – but we certainly do need a party that is no less professional in its approach to organisation than it is in its approach to ideology.
Second Congress of the RSDLP
In 1902, Lenin explained these organisational principles in his work, What Is To Be Done? In July 1903, the ideas advanced were tested out in political struggle at the Second Congress of the RSDLP.
Lenin and his comrades at Iskra submitted a maximum and a minimum programme for the party. The maximum programme dealt with the ultimate goal: socialist revolution and proletarian dictatorship. The minimum programme dealt with the bourgeois democratic phase of the revolution: getting rid of the Tsar, securing a democratic republic, limiting the working day and giving land to the tiller.
Mention of proletarian dictatorship ruffled some opportunist feathers, as did the prospect of an alliance with the peasantry and recognition of the right of nations to self-determination. But on all these issues, the Iskra view prevailed.
However, having failed in a direct assault on the Leninist programme, opportunism now turned its attention to the rules. Having failed to undermine the party’s ideology, opportunism now set its sights on the party’s organisation.
The opportunity for this mischief-making arose around the very basic question: what determines who is a member of the party? Martov could hardly disagree with the common-sense stipulations that party members had to stick to the party line and pay their subs. Where he got cold feet was over Lenin’s insistence that every member should submit to party discipline by working within one of the party’s organisations. The Short History of the CPSU(B) puts it in a nutshell.
“Martov regarded the party as something organisationally amorphous, whose members enrol themselves in the party and are therefore not obliged to submit to party discipline, inasmuch as they do not belong to a party organisation.” (Short History, p36)
To the untutored ear, the Martov approach to party building could sound very bold and revolutionary. Why not have done with it and say that every worker who downs tools and goes on strike demonstrates by his actions that he has the right to be in the party? But such phoney rank-and-file fervour conveniently forgets that it takes all sorts to make a strike, including non-socialists and anarchists.
And in any case, the real intended beneficiaries of Martov’s ‘come all ye’ approach to party membership were not workers at all, but unreliable bourgeois intellectuals eager to parade as progressive leaders but not prepared to “join an organisation, submit to party discipline, carry out party tasks and run the accompanying risks”. (Short History, pp36-37)
Even on the Iskra side of the argument, not all were wholeheartedly behind Lenin. Thanks to some of these wavering elements, Martov’s views on party rules were for the moment tolerated, and this was a temporary setback for the party. What was established at the Second Congress, however, was a clear distinction between the Menshevik and the Bolshevik positions on both ideological and organisational questions, a distinction which proved to be of great political value to the Bolshevik cause in the struggles to come.
It was in the elections at the conclusion of this Second Congress, in which Lenin and his followers secured a majority of the votes, that the two trends within the RSDLP started to be identified as Bolshevik (majority) and Menshevik (minority).
One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
In May 1904, the essence of this key struggle over organisational principles was crystallised in Lenin’s work, One Step Forward, Two Steps Back.
1. Lenin insisted that what was required was a vanguard party, arguing that “To forget the distinction between the vanguard and the whole of the masses which gravitate towards it, to forget the constant duty of the vanguard to raise ever wider strata to this most advanced level, means merely to deceive oneself, to shut one’s eyes to the immensity of our tasks, and to narrow down these tasks.” (Short History, p41)
The very word ‘vanguard’ has become anathema within the reformist left, drawing knee-jerk accusations of elitism and arrogance. Yet such accusations are no more than a smokescreen to cover the left’s abdication of responsibility towards the class they purport to champion.
2. Every member had to be working for a specific organisation of the party. “If the party were not an organised detachment of the class, not a system of organisation, but a mere agglomeration of persons who declare themselves to be party members but do not belong to any party organisation and therefore are not organised, hence not obliged to obey party decisions, the party would never have a united will, it could never achieve the united action of its members, and, consequently, it would be unable to direct the struggle of the working class.” (Short History, p41)
3. The party must struggle to guide all other organisations of the working class, not hiding behind a cloak of false modesty like the Mensheviks. To belittle the leading role of the party is, in fact, to weaken and disarm the proletariat.
Comrades here present know from experience that it is not always easy to combat Labour party influence in the unions. It is tempting to declare the struggle unnecessary (because ‘eventually the crisis will in any case loosen the ties that bind organised labour to social democracy’). It is tempting to declare the struggle impossible (because ‘social democracy is so ingrained in the trade unions – why waste the effort?’). It is not so unusual even to hear both optimistic and pessimistic versions expressed in one and the same breath!
But however the issue may be fudged, the fact remains: no matter how weak we may judge communist influence to be at present within the unions, the task remains to build a party that can guide all the other organisations of the working class.
4. The party must multiply and strengthen connections with the non-party masses.
For example, this is the light in which communists should see work with the anti-war and international solidarity movements, as well as with organised labour, however grandiose the term ‘masses’ may sound at this early stage of development.
5. The party will be a party of democratic centralism, with election from below and leadership from the centre. As Lenin puts it, “Now we have become an organised party, and this implies the establishment of authority, the transformation of the power of ideas into the power of authority, the subordination of lower party bodies to higher party bodies.” (Short History, p43)
The working class is not best served by a loose association of study and agitation groups, but by a party of democratic centralism, with a central committee, regions and branches.
6. All the comrades in the party must share a common proletarian discipline, binding upon all. And it is the duty of everyone to make sure this happens. The “class-conscious worker”, says Lenin, “must learn to demand that the duties of a party member be fulfilled not only by the rank-and-filers, but by the ‘people at the top’ as well.” (Short History, p44)
In short, the Mensheviks of yesterday and today want a party as a kind of club for ‘great thinkers’, unburdened with a lot of tiresome rules binding upon all without exception.
The Bolsheviks of yesterday and today demand a party that not only seeks ideological unity but also learns to consolidate that ideological unity by the material unity of organisation of the proletariat.
Lenin rubs this home in the final paragraph of One Step Forward.
“In its struggle for power, the proletariat has no other weapon but organisation. Disunited by the rule of anarchic competition in the bourgeois world, ground down by forced labour for capital … the proletariat can become, and inevitably will become, an invincible force only when its ideological unification by the principles of Marxism is consolidated by the material unity of an organisation which will weld millions of toilers into an army of the working class.”
1905 and the Third Congress
The eruption of revolution in 1905 created a new situation for the party. The divisions over organisational questions were now supplemented by open splits over questions of political tactics.
Where the Bolsheviks insisted that the bourgeois democratic struggle against Tsarist autocracy must not be left to the gutless bourgeoisie to lead, but must be conducted in a revolutionary manner under the leadership of the advanced proletariat and its party, the Mensheviks took the position that workers should leave leadership in the hands of the liberal bourgeoisie. The revolution was not socialist, so why should the workers get involved in leading it? This left-sounding posture merely served as a cover for the Mensheviks’ own inaction.
If the party was not to betray the trust of the masses, it had to resolve these differences without delay. This required the convening of a Third Congress, but when the Bolsheviks proposed this, the Mensheviks declined, preferring to sit on their hands.
The Bolsheviks then convened the Third Congress unilaterally, in April 1905. Sooner than attend, the Mensheviks responded by calling a congress of their own. The splitters’ congress duly committed the Mensheviks to the tactics of tucking in behind the liberal bourgeoisie, whilst the Third Congress of the RSDLP took on the burden of leadership which the Mensheviks insisted upon shirking.
When the Moscow proletariat began the armed uprising of December 1905, it was no accident that, out of a fighting organisation of about 1,000 combatants, over half were Bolsheviks.
It was not until 1912 that Menshevism was finally so discredited within the party that the Bolsheviks could finally release the party from the sapping influence of their opportunism and indiscipline. However, the lessons learned in those struggles proved invaluable to Bolshevism in the trials that lay ahead, both in making revolution and in defending proletarian dictatorship.
In that crucial year of 1905, when what some had belittled as ‘just’ organisational disagreements erupted into fundamental disagreement as to the whole character of the revolutionary development and the role to be played in it by the proletariat, another influential figure on the revolutionary left was to be found energetically taking the wrong side.
Insofar as he consented to being organised by anybody between 1903 and 1917 (the year which saw him jump ship into the Bolshevik ranks), Leon Trotsky was identified with the Mensheviks. So it was that, whilst the Bolsheviks were leading the Moscow proletariat in revolt in 1905, Trotsky and his fellow-Mensheviks, Khrustalev and Parvus, were using their ascendancy within the St Petersburg Soviet to obstruct plans for the uprising, refusing to arm the workers or bring them into contact with the soldiers of the St Petersburg garrison.
Trotsky and 1917
In fact, one way to gauge the organisational maturity of Bolshevism in finally leading the masses to seize the power in October 1917 is by negative reference to the shallowness of Trotsky’s ‘Lessons of October’. Such is the very revealing approach adopted by Comrade Stalin in his 1924 work, ‘The October Revolution and the tactics of the Russian Bolsheviks’.
Though Trotsky finally joined the Bolsheviks in 1917, it is clear from his analysis of the events of that world-shaking year (in his ‘Lessons of October’) just how poorly he grasped the complex character of Bolshevik leadership.
Having himself, for all those years, resisted being organised within the discipline of a communist party – feeling more at home in the world of cabals, factions and conspiracies – he now proved incapable of understanding how such a party could take on the task of organising the vast revolutionary masses of mother Russia.
Leadership, for Trotsky, was either a question of dazzling an audience with brilliant words, or of issuing military-style orders to the obedient ranks.
Comrade Stalin poured scorn on Trotsky’s ‘explanation’ of Bolshevik tactics as they evolved between April and October 1917. Trotsky talked as if, right from the word go, the Bolsheviks had a ready-made political army – as if it were only a question of conducting a few reconnaissance missions before sending in the masses to bring home the revolutionary victory.
“If one were to listen to Trotsky, one would think that there were only two periods in the history of the preparation for October: the period of reconnaissance and the period of uprising, and that all else comes from the evil one. What was the April demonstration of 1917? ‘The April demonstration, which went more to the ‘Left’ than it should have, was a reconnoitring sortie for the purpose of probing the disposition of the masses and the relations between them and the majority in the Soviets.’ And what was the July demonstration of 1917? In Trotsky’s opinion, ‘this, too, was in fact another, more extensive, reconnaissance at a new and higher phase of the movement.’ Needless to say, the June demonstration of 1917, which was organised at the demand of our party, should, according to Trotsky’s idea, all the more be termed a ‘reconnaissance’.
“This would seem to imply that as early as March 1917 the Bolsheviks had ready a political army of workers and peasants, and that if they did not bring this army into action for an uprising in April, or in June, or in July, but engaged merely in ‘reconnaissance’, it was because, and only because, ‘the information obtained from the reconnaissance’ at the time was unfavourable.
“Needless to say, this oversimplified notion of the political tactics of our party is nothing but a confusion of ordinary military tactics with the revolutionary tactics of the Bolsheviks.
“Actually, all these demonstrations were primarily the result of the spontaneous pressure of the masses, the result of the fact that the indignation of the masses against the war had boiled over and sought an outlet in the streets.
“Actually, the task of the party at that time was to shape and to guide the spontaneously arising demonstrations of the masses along the line of the revolutionary slogans of the Bolsheviks.
“Actually, the Bolsheviks had no political army ready in March 1917, nor could they have had one. The Bolsheviks built up such an army (and had finally built it up by October 1917) only in the course of the struggle and conflicts of the classes between April and October 1917, through the April demonstration, the June and July demonstrations, the elections to the district and city Dumas, the struggle against the Kornilov revolt, and the winning over of the Soviets. A political army is not like a military army. A military command begins a war with an army ready to hand, whereas the party has to create its army in the course of the struggle itself, in the course of class conflicts, as the masses themselves become convinced through their own experience of the correctness of the party’s slogans and policy.”
Comrades and friends, how much less is that ‘political army’ of the revolution ‘ready to hand’ in Britain today – to the dismay of all the would-be drill-sergeants of the revisionist and Trotskyite ‘left’? Where is it to be found?
Let us leave it up to these gentry to search for their ready-made army in the dwindling ranks of the imperialist Labour party. We will do better to recall those prophetic words of Lenin, way back in 1904, in One Step Forward.
“In its struggle for power, the proletariat has no other weapon but organisation. Disunited by the rule of anarchic competition in the bourgeois world, ground down by forced labour for capital … the proletariat can become, and inevitably will become, an invincible force only when its ideological unification by the principles of Marxism is consolidated by the material unity of an organisation which will weld millions of toilers into an army of the working class.”
There can be no better way to celebrate the proletarian revolution of October 1917 than to study for ourselves the real lessons of October, the heroism of the revolutionary masses and the revolutionary maturity of the Bolshevik party that led them.
The firmer these lessons are grasped, the surer can we be that our celebration of Bolshevik history tonight is but a foretaste of the communist future for which we struggle.
Thank you very much. This is the third time I was invited here and the second time to celebrate and be with you on this special day of the October Revolution. I am honoured and am very happy.
The first time, I was a bit depressed. But for the third time, the second time of the October Revolution, I’m very happy. Happy for the simple reason that capitalism, imperialism, is in a serious general crisis. [Laughter and applause]
I live in a very small country, a small imperialist country. It’s called Belgium. I do remember, and I was watching, the day the Soviet Union was overthrown and the counter-revolution over the Soviet Union [took place]. The news: chancellor of Germany Helmut Kohl comes with two books. One, in the left hand, the book of Lenin – Imperialism – and in the right hand, Das Kapital, and then he was laughing and he said ‘The day of Karl Marx and Lenin is finished!’
I knew he was attacking me, he was trying to make me depressed, to take some medicine or whatever [Laughter], but I knew that capitalism cannot survive.
But a lot of people believed it. It is very difficult to teach and to explain to young workers – every worker – women and men in the imperialist countries, about the Soviet Union.
I would like to share with you one aspect which was not mentioned: the achievements of the Soviet Union that were realised after the October Revolution, particularly under the leadership of Lenin and specifically comrade Stalin.
Stalin came from a very small, minute, nationality – Georgia. Is it possible for me to be a prime minister of this country? [Chair interjects: I don’t know, after Obama! Laughter]
The Soviet Union had a huge number of different nationalities. The Tsar, Russian imperialism and colonialism had abused and colonised, killed, eliminated, destroyed a lot of colonised nationalities within the Russian empire. But the Soviet Union could build and solve, for the first time in the history of humanity, the equality, the fraternity of all nationalities to live under one home with a new civilisation which is called the Soviet Union. [Applause] It never had been achieved [before].
We know that nationalism is a creation of the bourgeoisie and the bourgeoisie looks for the market and it fights for the money. That great home, that great civilisation [the Soviet Union] was not right [to the bourgeoisie]. The enemy is not only the one who is outside standing with a gun. The enemy also plays a lot of ideological enemies, infiltrators.
The Soviet Union, after the Bolshevik revolution, the October Revolution, everybody ganged up on the Soviet Union. Fifteen countries, including the United States, invaded the Soviet Union, destroyed everything that had existed there, and killed 10 million Soviet people, which later on, even, they used that killing and famine as if it was Comrade Stalin that had destroyed Ukraine in 1932.
Lenin says in his marvellous work, One Step Forward, Two Steps Back, ‘This happens to an individual: you make in life one step forward, you get drunk and you gamble, lose all your money, you divorce, you think too much, then you take two steps backward in order to come back. It happens to a nation, it does happen also to the class.’
The Soviets were invaded. All modern things were destroyed by the counter-revolution. Lenin says: ‘If there is no industry, there is no proletariat, let us concede.’ And that is Leninism, is Marxism, in the era of imperialism.
The tactic of Lenin, by introducing the New Economic Policy, NEP, was a temporary strategic withdrawal. But some crazy ones who are not really correct communists and Bolshevised in the party, believed that the NEP, the New Economic Policy, was in fact the policy forever.
Once Italian fascism took over in 1923/24, German Nazism was menacing, imperialism was in a crisis already by 1929, Comrade Stalin, he said: ‘If we don’t catch up, the gap between us and them is one hundred years, this beast will destroy us. Collectivisation and industrialisation [are what we need].’
When you just take one work of Lenin and you compare in his work, ‘Shame on America for the plight of the negroes’, in that wonderful work of comrade Lenin, the Afro-Americans today, the ex-slaves in the south, their literacy grade was higher than the Russian peasantry in 1918. When you compare Russia, the Soviet Union, in 1918, there was a 400-year gap between Great Britain and the Soviet Union. Have you ever seen a civilisation who closed the gap in eight years’ time? [Applause]
The Soviet people, they don’t exist anymore. Now they have become Chechens, Georgians, fighting one another one – tribes.
The richest man in Belgium is not a Belgian today; he’s a thief from Kazakhstan. [Laughter] Somalis, who speak one language, have one psychological make-up, one geographical territory, one religion, Islam, and even from Islam, sunni, and from sunni, one line, Maliki – they are now, today, clans and warlords, according to the imperialist media.
My country, Ethiopia, a poor country, or a country with a poor people but rich resources, sent troops when I was a young boy going to school. There was an Ethiopian musician who was singing about Ethiopian soldiers who were being brought in a train to go and fight on the American side in Korea. They died for nothing.
The nationality issues, the equality of people, it can only be solved under the Soviet type of system.
We know that most of our countries are multinational. Today, when you look in Africa, the imperialist media will tell you tribe X against Z, Z against W, W against this, while inciting and creating a proxy war. But one thing: they [the Africans] like a resistance that can shatter the American imperialist dream.
Afghani people resisting the unity of Nato provided the Pakistani people with the correct anti-imperialist leadership against these puppets who are trying to drag 140 million people of Pakistan into a serious problem.
Imperialism is seriously wounded. Comrade Harpal Brar is one of my teachers in one of his eloquent, wonderful works on ‘Capitalism and immigration’ in imperialist countries.
They don’t have children. In the city where I live, 100,000 people live, 30 percent of the population are pensioners. There are no children. In Spain, Italy [the same], by 2040, Russia’s [population] will be 30 percent reduced, Ukraine 40 percent. Not because people don’t won’t to have children, but because it has become impossible for young people to have a job, to have a decent shelter, they have to work flexible hours, they have temporary contracts.
I think that it’s not difficult; I wish I knew Russian to study. They have already now 18 years, the imperialist bourgeoisie, they have all the finest Soviet history, [but] they couldn’t even publish where are the 30 million gulags; they couldn’t produce even a film about it.
They used to inculcate us day and night that there was a famine in Ukraine, a deliberate famine and 10 million Ukrainians dead. There is no [evidence] today [of] that.
Young people in the imperialist countries have to be educated. I am happy for the young one, when she spoke, honest and decent. We, the older ones, we have to have the patience and we have to do all the maximum to win our young generation to realise our defeat and bring, as the Arabs say, for every oppressor class there is a day, and that day is the October Revolution. [Applause]