Build on solid foundations

David Welch welch at
Sat Jun 16 18:29:29 MDT 2001

Weekly Worker 388 Thursday June 14 2001

Building upon solid foundations

After the June 7 general election the next step for the Socialist
Alliance and the Scottish Socialist Party is is self-evident. Form an
all-Britain party solidly grounded upon a clear-sighted and principled
programme. Only from such foundations can we build a party - in the
scientific sense of being the advanced part of a class - and pursue
the correct strategy and tactics.

Our inability to boldly take the lead in high politics and adopt a
serious orientation towards the Labour Party dissipated much of the
enormous energy on display during the campaign. A weakness which stems
entirely from the fact that we still inhabit not only a pre-party
situation, but also a pre-programme situation. This article is
therefore submitted in the spirit of comradeship and in the hope of
stimulating further, mutually beneficial, exchanges and, in time,
arriving at programmatic clarification.

There is a vital interrelationship between the working class party and
its programme. The programme is not some afterthought - mere
window-dressing, nor an eclectic list of election pledges. Our
programme has a twofold function. On the one side it represents our
armoury of chosen demands and principles. On the other side it
provides a dynamic road map which through constant debate allows the
working class to navigate the shortest, least costly, route from
today's cramped and squalid socio-political conditions to the far
horizons of a truly human world. Real civilisation begins when
humanity finally leaves behind the last vestiges of alienation, state
repression and exploitation of one by another.

The programme owes nothing to holy script. Fixed, timeless and
inviolate. On the contrary, given a major political rupture - eg,
overthrow of the monarchy constitution, partition of Britain and its
workers movement by nationalists, establishment of an EU superstate,
etc - various passages of the programme ought to be suitably reformulated
in preparation for the final assault.

The party - being the advanced part of the working class - animates,
empowers and verifies the programme. But in many ways the party is
itself a superstructure growing from the programme. Recruits are
motivated by its inspiring and theoretically proven goals. They are
trained and encadred by the ongoing mass struggle to realise its
immediate demands. Methods and day-to-day tactics flow from the
strategy and aims systematically unfolded in the programme. In that
sense the programme is responsible for actively generating the party.
The main determination runs from the programme and its principles to
the party and its organisation and membership.

Without an accurate and constantly tested programme, dangers threaten
at every turn. Adventurism. Ditching or downgrading principles. Opinion
poll-chasing. Careerism. Blithely walking into a counterrevolutionary

Confirmation of the above warnings comes from none other than Lindsay
German of the Socialist Workers Party. Somewhat ironic. Her organisation
has, after all, an ingrained and heavy-handed antithesis towards any kind
of programme. Furthermore, despite a five year too late entry into the
SSP, the comrades still manifest an unwillingness to countenance the
speedy transformation of the Socialist Alliance into a party. Nevertheless
comrade German forthrightly explained in the article, The future of the
Socialist Alliance, what negative consequences might follow if a full
revolutionary programme is not adopted.

Under the testing circumstances of crisis - not even a war, but just a
racist backlash - a party that had been built on minimal demands could
fudge or divide down the middle. A recipe, says the comrade, either
for paralysis or for splits (Socialist Worker May 5). Quite right.

The Socialist Alliance should take comrade German at her word. Spurn
all attempts to fudge principles. Uniting on the 80% where we agree is
good politics. But ignoring the 20% where we disagree is simply to
follow the minimalist line of least resistance. Instead, search out
the truth. Gain strength from honestly admitting mistakes and
shortcomings. Take the greatest care in painstakingly developing a
full revolutionary programme and ensuring that it is comprehensively
informed by the most advanced theory available. In a word - Marxism.

That will not prove as easy as it might appear at first glance. Within
the Socialist Alliance many of our allies are prone to defend
programmatic positions significantly to the right of what they
formally adhere to in their own press and other such factional
publications. Apart from showing that the ideas of revolution are
habitually viewed by such comrades as part of a private - confessional
- belief system, rather than as vitally necessary for the working
class, how else can one explain such seemingly perverse behaviour?

There are two main determinants. The first is the unfavourable balance
of class forces and the nature of the period. The second, and most
important, is theoretical weakness.

Let us begin our discussion by briefly examining the period.
Neo-liberal capitalisms temporary triumph and the tragic defeats
suffered by the working class since the 1980s mean huge conservative
pressures bear down upon the principal socialist and communist
organisations supporting the Socialist Alliance - SWP, CPGB, Socialist
Party in England and Wales, Alliance for Workers Liberty, International
Socialist Group and Workers Power. What goes for the six applies no less
to the smaller groups and the freelancers in the Socialist Alliance too.

The official workers movement is still exhibiting a tectonic drift to
the right and occasionally erupts into violent witch-hunting. An
inhospitable climate for revolutionaries, not made any more tolerable
by the self-deluding nonsense about the crisis of expectations and
fructification of hope that greeted the election of the first Blair
government in May 1997. Class struggle has in fact remained mired at
historically low levels. Moreover, democracy in the Labour Party has
been systematically degraded into stage-managed rallies and focus
groups. What Kinnock began, Blair completed. The TUC general council
and the grandees of the big trade union battalions nowadays function
as a docile lobby group. Hot air occasionally comes forth in a gaseous
echo of the past. Practically, however, general secretaries rely on
governmental crumbs. Calling strikes is terribly old-fashioned.
Calling them off is à la mode. In textbook fashion the trade union
bureaucracy act as a calming - privileged - intermediary between boss
and worker, capital and labour.

Simultaneously there is the burgeoning growth of anarchist and
semi-anarchist ideas. As always during periods of reaction, quacks and
charlatans suddenly emerge and are promptly given platforms by all and
sundry. Countless new ways are on offer. Eg, George Monbiot, Naomi
Klein, José Bové. Instead of learning from the past they reject it.
Marxism failed. Bolshevism inevitably sired Stalin and the gulag
system. On closer examination, unsurprisingly, the panaceas offered by
these original thinkers - fair exchange, ignore state power, reform
the WTO, Zapatistaism, localist self-sufficiency - turn out to be
little more than warmed over pre-Marxist fancies. Useful, albeit
partial, critiques of existing capitalism. Useless as a practical
course forward.

Reaction blurs vision and lowers sights. Every week Socialist Worker
routinely declares that to achieve socialism the most militant
sections of the working class have to be organised into a
revolutionary socialist party (What we stand for). Our SWP allies
nevertheless employed their weight in the Socialist Alliance to ensure
that we went into the general election standing on minimal demands. A
manifesto which fails to make any propaganda arguments for revolution
and refuses to bring to the fore agitation for extreme democracy. In
essence our manifesto occupied ground deserted by old Labour.

Originally, of course, social democracy - of almost all varieties -
purported to be committed to a socialist transformation. Only using
non-Marxist - statist and technocratic, peaceful and parliamentary -
means. Ends determine means. However, means also determine ends. There
exists, in other words, an inescapable reciprocal relationship between
the two.

In Britain 100 years of Labourism amply proves that reformism
logically and actually resolves into an active promotion of capitalist
social relationships, not least wage slavery (European social
democracy and the mass official communist parties in Italy and France
could be cited with equal effect). Beginning as a defence of the
working class within capitalism, the high point of Labourism proved to
be state capitalism with mass welfarist provision. Something which
curbed the law of value in service of the law of value.

During the long post-World War II boom capitalist reproduction could
benefit from conceding, or promoting, the social democratic state. No
longer. New Labour marks the final close of that particular secular
phase of post-World War II capitalism. Nowadays a second-term Tony
Blair trumpets the virtues of private finance, partnership with big
business and privatisation. Of course the state - and its role in
propping up capitalist accumulation through intervention, subsidies
and the governments swollen budget - has not gone away. Nonetheless
all pretence of representing any kind of alternative social system has
been abandoned. The redrafting of Labour's clause four was of huge
symbolic importance.

The attempt to make the Socialist Alliance a home for Labourites as
Labourites by disguising ourselves in its threadbare programme is not
only dishonest, but, as comrade German explains, dangerous. Labourites
can and need to be won to Marxism. Clause four-type claims that
capitalism can be peaceably reformed into its opposite are doomed to
abject failure. Inevitably the social base attached to such a
perspective has withered since the halcyon days of the late 1940s. Social
democracy demoralises and demobilises.

The notion that the Socialist Alliance had before it a ready-made
constituency was fallacious. Blair, Hague and Kennedy vied before the
electorate on June 7 as managers of the national capitalist economy.
Between them they accounted for virtually the entire poll. The modest
fringe votes gained by the Socialist Alliance, the Scottish Socialist
Party and Scargills Socialist Labour Party reflect our reality.
Defensive recourse to 40% of the electorate who abstained is as silly
as it is desperate. The truth must be squarely faced, no matter how

Under these circumstances the Socialist Alliance should seek to
patiently educate and organise the advanced part of the working class
around its authentic programme. No more attempts to give the kiss of
life to the anti-socialist tradition of Labourism.


What the working class requires for its own self-liberation is the
sort of party and the sort of programme which enabled the working
class to successfully reach the commanding heights of state power in
Russia. A Bolshevik party and a Bolshevik minimum-maximum programme.

Unfortunately a whole generation of leftwing activists have been
miseducated into believing that the Bolsheviks discarded their
programme after February 1917 and the abdication of tsar Nicholas II.
In fact the end of tsarism and the emergence of a protracted dual
power situation - a bourgeois provisional government (class content
being determined by politics, not personnel) alongside which stood the
workers and peasants soviets - caused Lenin to modify - not, as the
whole school of modern-day Trotskyism contends, break with - his
minimum programme.

The revolutionary dictatorship (rule) of the workers and peasants was
concretised in the slogan, All power to the workers, soldiers and
peasants soviets. Trotsky's latter-day disciples have woefully
misrepresented the history of Bolshevism and Leninism. In so doing
they stupidly reject as a matter of supposed principle the concept of
a minimum section of the party programme. This logically arranged
series of immediate demands and perspectives - immediate because they
are put forward under the socio-economic conditions of capitalism -
transform the workers into a class that is ready to seize state power
in their orchestrated fulfilment.

As an aside, that miseducation explains why Martin Thomas of the AWL
mocks our minimum programme. According to our wit, it is the brightest
red on the cover, but pale pink inside (Weekly Worker May 10). He goes
on to illustrate his contention by criticising our minimum demand -
ie, one which we raise today under the conditions of capitalism - for
a federal republic. It is without class definition, he tut-tuts.
Instead the AWL wants to highlight spontaneous issues such as the NHS,
wages, etc. Banal economism passes for profundity in such circles.
Needless to say, in eschewing the minimum programme the AWL hopelessly
entangles itself in all manner of barbed contradictions. After all,
the AWL has recently undergone a conversion to a federal republic in
Britain - helped along in no small measure by Dave Craig of the
Revolutionary Democratic Group.

Does the AWL's call only apply to the future? After the revolution? If
so it lacks all concreteness. The CPGB raises the federal republic
slogan because it answers the current - legitimate - aspirations of
the peoples of Scotland and Wales to self-determination. At the same
time it embodies the principle of working class unity.

Socialist revolution is almost by definition the act of a united
working class. Communists certainly have a preference for centralised
states today and under socialism. Only the existence of a living
national question in Scotland and Wales prevents us from immediately
advocating a democratic centralist state - yes, under capitalism - in
opposition to the present monarchical unity of the kingdom of England,
the kingdom of Scotland, the principality of Wales and the province of
Northern Ireland.

Might comrade Thomas's implied insistence upon a socialist or a working
class content to a federal republic also apply to the AWLs call for a
federal Ireland? What about abortion rights, equality for homosexuals,
etc? Or are these demands too only put forward under the condition
that they are realised by a workers government? For its part the CPGB
is quite clear. The working class must take the lead in the struggle
for democracy under capitalism on all fronts. Without that no
political self-movement is possible. Certainly not a socialist

Comrade Thomas gets worked up into a right lather by our supposed
party-fetishism. He cannot grasp why we should want to reforge - ie,
remake through revolutionary means - the Communist Party of Great
Britain. Eighty percent of its history is for him completely rotten.
Let us explain to him once again our ABCs.

There are CPGB members, but no real CPGB - as a party - to point out
the obvious. Our central aim as CPGB members is to reforge the CPGB.
Why? Because the working class in Britain, and elsewhere, requires the
highest form of organisation if it is to fight capitalism and win. Its
scientific name, for Marx, and Engels, and after them Lenin, was
Communist Party. A Communist Party that has a revolutionary programme
and is based on the principles and practice of democratic centralism
is a precondition for a successful socialist revolution. Necromancy
holds no attraction for us. The CPGB of 1920, 1926, 1935 or 1977 can
safely rest in its grave. The CPGB we desire is of the future, not the

Comrade Thomas likewise ridicules our contention that without a
Communist Party the working class is nothing, but with it everything.
For him nothing simply means nullity. How can a nullity, the comrade
chuckles patronisingly, become anything?

Of course this formulation of ours is adapted from Lenin. He spoke of
the working class being nothing without organisation; with
organisation everything. Far from using the term nothing in comrade
Thomas's prosaic, everyday sense, Lenin, and ourselves, philosophically
recognise that every nothing must by definition be a something and as
such is in the process of becoming. The beginning of any process
therefore contains both being and nothing: the unity of being and
nothing, or being which is at the same time non-being.

The same can be said specifically of the working class. Without a
Communist Party the working class is a slave class. As a class in
itself it is nothing. But with a Communist Party the working class can
become a class for itself: ie, a class that knows itself and its
historic task of fighting for universal freedom. Between nothing and
everything there is a process of becoming. We do not start with a
finished Communist Party as something outside the working class. The
Communist Party is the leading, vanguard, part of the working class
and comes into being through the class and the class struggle - not,
as comrade Thomas suggests in his criticism of us, from the outside. A
working class that has formed itself into a Communist Party is
everything, but again in the process of ceasing to be and becoming
something else. As the working class liberates humanity and in the
process itself, workers cease to be workers and simply become
associated producers and, more to the point, rounded human beings.

But let us return to the thread of our argument. We were talking about
an incorrect reading of the history of Bolshevism and the rejection of
the minimum programme as such. An unexceptional, but representative, example
of doing this is to be found in International Socialism No81,
here Alex Callinicos innocently quotes the Comintern's Theses on tactics,
simultaneously claiming it as a repudiation of the minimum programme
per se and as a pretext for the SWPs Action programme - which is in
actual fact no more than a minimalist set of demands of the type
recently denounced by his comrade, Lindsay German. The SWP's Action
programme could easily be met within capitalism and within the
existing constitution to boot. The pivotal question of the state is
entirely absent.

Anyway, let us quote Callinicoss quote:

     The communist parties do not put forward minimum programmes which
     could serve to strengthen and improve the tottering foundations of
     capitalism. The communists main aim is to destroy the capitalist
     system. But in order to achieve their aim the communist parties
     must put forward demands expressing the immediate needs of the
     working class. The communists must organise mass campaigns to fight
     for these demands regardless of whether they are compatible with
     the continuation of the capitalist system. The communist parties
     should be concerned not with the viability and competitive capacity
     of capitalist industry or the stability of the capitalist economy,
     but with proletarian poverty, which cannot and must not be endured
     any longer ...

     In place of the minimum programme of centrism and reformists, the
     Communist International offers a struggle for the concrete demands
     of the proletariat which, in their totality, challenge the power of
     the bourgeoisie, organise the proletariat and mark out the
     different stages of the struggle for its dictatorship (A Alder [ed]
     Theses, resolutions and manifestos of the first four congresses of
     the Third International London 1980, pp285-6).

Clearly the target of Comintern is not the minimum programme as such.
Rather it is the minimum programme of socialisation or nationalisation
put forward by the centrists and reformists - which was to be achieved
peacefully in an attempt to ameliorate the conditions of the workers,
boost demand and thereby stabilise society (ibid p285). As the
resolution explicitly states, the understanding that capitalism cannot
bring about the long-term improvement of the proletariat does not
imply that the workers have to renounce the fight for immediate
practical demands until after it has established its dictatorship
(ibid p285). Not at all.

Comrades like Alex Callinicos forget, or consign to the dump, the
Bolshevik minimum-maximum programme. All that is remembered is the
minimum-maximum programme propounded by the German social democracy of
Bebel, Kautsky, Bernstein, Noske, David and Scheidemann. Like the
Bolsheviks it arranged its programme - drafted by Karl Kautsky - in
two sections. The minimum programme limited itself to reforms within
the framework of bourgeois society - furthermore, it must be
emphasised, these reforms were within the framework of kaiserdom.

The approaches of Bolshevism and German social democracy were
therefore superficially similar in that they both had minimum sections
of their programmes. However, in their attitude towards the state and
world revolution one finds a qualitative difference.

True, the maximum programme of German social democracy promised
socialism. But between the minimum and maximum programme there was no
bridge provided by the mass struggle to extend democracy up to the
point of dual power. Moreover, apart from holiday speechifying, the
rightist leaders of German social democracy - especially the trade
union officials - had no time for the maximum programme. Indeed they
eyed the maximum programme with greater and greater degrees of
embarrassment. It had nothing to do with their daily practice and
ought therefore to be buried. Blair and his arguments against Labours
old clause four come to mind.

The chief theorist of rightist German social democracy and would-be
grave-digger of the maximum programme was Eduard Bernstein. The
so-called father of revisionism. In a cocksure diatribe against the
maximum programme, he famously proposed that the ultimate aim of
socialism is nothing, but the movement is everything (E Bernstein
Evolutionary socialism New York 1961, p202). By the way, is this line
of reasoning unconsciously repeated by those comrades who want the
Socialist Alliance to be a home for Labourites as Labourites? Let us
hope not. Trimming or hiding our principles in the search for
popularity has, as we have outlined above, a terrible logic.

Bernstein and others of a similar ilk articulated the interests of a
counterrevolutionary labour bureaucracy which, after the repeal of
Bismarck's anti-socialist laws, flourished at the top of German social
democracy. For them the huge party apparatus, its big parliamentary
fraction and the powerful trade unions were ends in themselves.

With their encouragement the minimum programme metamorphosed into the
new maximum. Effectively German social democracy degenerated into a
party which sought little more than petty, trade union-type reforms.
An aged Fredrick Engels and later Rosa Luxemburg bemoaned the cowardly
failure of German social democracy to immediately bring to the fore
the demand for the abolition of the monarchy and the imperial
constitution. Incidentally Engels insisted that the working class can
only come to power under the form of the democratic republic (F Engels
CW Vol 27, London 1990, p228). And, much to her credit, Luxemburg not
only lambasted the right, but their centrist critics too - most
notably Kautsky.

In the hallowed name of preserving party unity the centrists refused
to risk a split with revisionism and the right. The awful consequence
for the working class was the collapse of social democracy into a
stinking corpse with the outbreak of inter-imperialist war in August
1914. An overwhelming majority of leaders and officials rushed to
defend the imperialist fatherland.

To reject the bifurcated programme of German social democracy,
especially its truncated and purely reformist minimum programme, is
one thing. Rejecting the minimum-maximum programme of Bolshevism is,
though, altogether wrong. To do so is to throw out the proverbial baby
along with the bathwater. The Bolshevik programme must on the contrary
be carefully studied and its essential logic and structure emulated -
of course, taking into account specific national and historical

The Bolshevik minimum programme dealt with the existing classes in
Russia and the necessity of overthrowing tsarism through a working
class-led peasant revolution that would simultaneously seek to spark
off a European-wide socialist revolution. No faith should be placed in
the liberal bourgeoisie. That class was thoroughly

Economically the minimum programme did not envisage Russia instantly
going beyond the norms of capitalist commodity production.
Nevertheless at the level of regime Russia was to be ruled over by the
working class in alliance with the peasant masses. State power in the
form of the revolutionary democratic dictatorship (rule) of the
proletariat and peasantry was the lynchpin which joined the minimum
and maximum sections of the programme. The Bolsheviks were committed
to using the salient of state power to help spark the socialist
revolution in the countries of advanced capitalism.

With the aid of the socialist west Russia could then embark on the
transition to socialism (the first stage of communism) without the
necessity of a second, specifically socialist, revolution. The workers
and peasants revolution against tsarism would thereby - given the
right internal and external conditions and circumstances - be made
permanent, or, to use a more precise English adjective, uninterrupted.
One phase of the revolutionary struggle overlaps with and carries over
into the next revolutionary phase. So, although the minimum programme
is technically compatible with commodity production and bourgeois
property forms, it is in its fulfilment already reaching for an
imminent future far beyond capitalism.

The maximum programme describes the socialist transition period to
communism and universal human freedom. The maximum programme advances
practically according to the spread and momentum of the world
revolution. Neither full socialism nor communism is possible within
the borders of any single country.

Obviously both sections of the programme are internally connected.
They form an integral whole. To separate one from the other - for
example, to lop off or leave aside the maximum programme - robs the
minimum programme of its proletarian and internationalist
revolutionary content and reduces it to no more than a version of
bourgeois democratic radicalism of the 1776 or 1789 kind.

The 21st century was ushered in with the slogans of anti-capitalism
coming from a tiny, but growing minority. There now exists within
society a definite anti-capitalist mood. Capitalist triumphalism of
the 1990s has produced its opposite.

That mood must be consolidated into an organised movement around a
clear programme. Without the maximum programme the Socialist Alliance
cannot hope to get a hearing from this new audience. Without a minimum
programme the anti-capitalist movement will fall into a declining
routine of trailing meetings of the IMF, World Bank, etc. In other
words the minimum-maximum programme connects the struggles of today
with the vistas of general freedom.

Transitional programme

Behind the programmatic timidity of our Socialist Alliance partners is
their commitment to what they grandly call the transitional method -
derived from Leon Trotsky's 1938 programme The death agony of
capitalism and the tasks of the Fourth International, otherwise simply
known as the Transitional programme.

Trotsky was a great revolutionary, but he was badly mistaken in 1938.
He believed that capitalism was in absolute terminal decline.
Capitalism was in its death agony (L Trotsky The transitional
programme New York 1997, p111). It could no longer develop the
productive forces or grant meaningful reforms. The introduction of new
machines and technology provided no answer to chronic stagnation. Nor
in general can there be in the epoch of decaying capitalism systematic
social reforms or raising the masses' living standards. Therefore,
Trotsky concluded, defence of existing economic gains through
demanding a sliding scale of wages and hours would almost by itself
trigger a final and apocalyptic collision with capitalism. The
question of democracy was likewise reduced to merely defence of the
existing rights and social conquests of workers (ibid p115).

In outlining his programme of transitional demands Trotsky takes to
task the minimum-maximum programmes of classical social democracy.
Most doctrinaire Trotskyites' interpret this religiously, as a final
judgement from on high, damning the minimum-maximum programme per se.
Actually Trotsky warned his little band of followers, organised under
the umbrella of the so-called Fourth International, that it would be a
terrible mistake to discard the programme of old minimal demands to
the degree to which these have preserved at least part of their vital
forcefulness (ibid pp114-115).

Nonetheless simply because capitalism was viewed as being in absolute
and terminal decline, every serious economic demand of the workers
inevitably reaches beyond the limits of capitalist property relations
and the bourgeois state (ibid p114). In effect Trotsky was reduced by
extreme organisational weakness into advocacy of a particular version
of economism: ie, the workers would through strikes and other such
elementary struggles find their bridge to revolutionary demands and
revolutionary consciousness. With him eschatology was combined with
revolutionary economism.

What our Socialist Alliance allies have taken from his programme is
many of its weaknesses and precious few strengths. In their hands the
transitional method becomes a commandment to prioritise trade
union-type demands - still excused as in 1938 by holding fast to the
theory that somehow such struggles, if conducted militantly enough,
will spontaneously lead, stage by stage, directly to the conquest of

A couple of examples will suffice to show how revolutionary economism
is in fact hardly distinguishable from the strikist economism which
was the butt of Lenin's fearsome polemic in What is to be done?

Our first example is the AWL's Duncan Morrison on the minimum wage
(Weekly Worker May 24). The second is the International Socialist
Group's Veronica Fagan on the police and army (Socialist Outlook May).

Comrade Morrison counterposes the approaches of the CPGB and the
Socialist Alliance majority on the minimum wage. The AWL and the
Socialist Alliance majority have plumped for a £7.39 per hour minimum
wage, the EU decency threshold. A sum arrived at by an obscure
committee of state-sponsored experts. A year ago the SWP, amongst
others, were touting £4.61 - Unison's figure, which does have the
virtue of emanating from the real labour movement and has been
reluctantly fought for by the leadership in a Grand Old Duke of York

Presumably both the £7.39 and £4.61 figures conform to the
transitional method. Either way, comrade Morrison now wants the
Socialist Alliance to use the EUs - higher - decency threshold as a
lever to help the mass of workers - ie, those not inclined to take our
word for what is needed - to enter the struggle to level up wages and
benefit across Europe and thus rise to their feet and no doubt in the
course of time to the heavens of state power.

In contrast the CPGB proposes a £8.57-per-hour - or £300 for a 35-hour
week - minimum wage. That corresponds in our view to the actual needs
of the working class, a calculation based on the minimum needed to
reproduce simple labour power under today's cultural conditions.

We advocate the creation of workers commissions to produce the exact
level to be fought for in dialogue with the broad mass of the working
class. A two-way process of education and agitation. The minimum wage
therefore emerges as a struggle for the political economy of the
working class as against the political economy of the bourgeoisie. By
putting human needs before the needs of profit the working class is
beginning to challenge the right of the capitalist class to control
production. The whole system of wages is also beginning to be brought
into question.

In the name of the Transitional programme comrade Morrison derides our
method. It is nothing but a special communist calculation. Without a
blush of shame he also says our figure remains within the bourgeois
definition of need.

This is strange. Remember, comrade Morrisson champions a minimum wage
sanctioned by the EU bureaucracy whose remit most certainly remains
within the bourgeois definition of need. Moreover the comrade proudly
describes himself as a Trotskyite. Yet one of the distinctive features
of the Transitional programme is establishing working class
committees, aided by statistical and other such specialists, in order
to draw up plans for the entire economy.

Trotsky rejects the muddleheaded reformist slogan of nationalisation.
Instead he calls for the working class to set about the reorganisation
of the whole of production onto a more dignified and workable basis -
not meekly submitting to what the capitalists say they can afford (L
Trotsky The transitional programme for socialist revolution New York
1977, p121). That reorganisation includes fixing wages. Any suggestion
of allowing an office-holder of the bourgeois state - eg, an EU
bureaucrat - to carry out this work is explicitly and indignantly
ruled out by Trotsky. Here the CPGB cannot but agree.

Comrade Fagan of the ISG goes even more awry. She slams proposals from
the CPGB and Workers Power on the army and the police presented to the
Socialist Alliances policy conference in Birmingham. Workers Power
flatly stated that the police force is irreformable and we should
therefore fight to disband this whole institution. The CPGB in its
turn wanted the Socialist Alliance to defend the basic principle of
the armed people and oppose the standing army.

Comrade Fagan is livid: If this isn't a maximum programme, then I dont
know what is, she ignorantly declares. There is no way that this
reflects the consciousness of the majority of people breaking from
Labour, the comrade concludes.

Firstly, the maximum programme, as we have explained, deals with the
situation after the revolution. Without the workers having already
disarmed the bourgeoisie and arming themselves, that would be
impossible. Secondly, the programme is certainly not designed to
reflect the opinion of exiled Labourites. It should rather serve to
break them from the mental prison of Labourism.

Opposition to the standing army was, we note, characteristic of
bourgeois revolutionaries in the 18th and 19th century. Likewise the
principle of the armed people. The American revolution of 1776
embodied this democratic principle ... a principle taken up and
consistently advocated by Marx, Engels, Lenin and, yes, Leon Trotsky.
The only disarmament which can avert or end war is disarmament of the
bourgeoisie by the workers. And for that to happen they must first arm
themselves (ibid p129).

Whereas the Socialist Alliance manifesto disgracefully committed us to
backing reduced arms spending by the bourgeois state, Trotsky put
forward exactly the same formulation as proposed by the CPGB and
dismissed by comrade Fagan. Not one man and not one penny for the
bourgeois government!; Not an armaments programme, but a programme of
useful public works! we read. Trotsky insists upon military training
and the arming of the workers and the substitution for the standing
army of a peoples militia, indissolubly linked with factories, mines,
etc (ibid p131).

Interestingly in an exchange with Max Shachtman - who argued that the
sentiment for a workers militia did not yet exist - Trotsky replied
that the real question was not existing opinion, but preparing the
minds of the masses through propaganda (ibid p85). Again we can only
but agree with Trotsky .

Jack Conrad

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