In 1997, on the 20th anniversary year of the founding of the New Communist Party of Britain, New Worker Editor Ann Rogers interviewed Eric Trevett, former general secretary and current president of the NCP.
ANN ROGERS: Why was the NCP formed in 1977 -- what were the circumstances that led to its formation?
ERIC TREVETT: The New Communist Party was formed to re-equip the working class and labour movement with a revolutionary party based unequivocally on the principles of Marxism-Leninism and proletarian internationalism.
Under the leadership of John Gollan, the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) abandoned those principles. It embarked on a course which inevitably led to the liquidation of the CPGB itself, as it betrayed its trust ever more blatently.
In forming the NCP we rejected the CPGB's programme The British Road To Socialism. And what came to be called "Eurocommunism" -- a form of revisionism that had infected a number of communist parties. This was characterised by Eurocentrism, narrow nationalism and denied the leading role of the working class and the class struggle itself.
Although we did not realise it at the time, "Euro-communism" had the tacit support of counter revolutionary elements that had actually penetrated the leading bodies df the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU).
Prior to 1977 in Britain, a 12 year inner party struggle to defeat revisionism in the CPGB had failed. The leadership was effectively purged of sound elements. Rajani Palme Dutt was manoeuvred off the CPGB's executive committee, and the crucial post of international secretary was secured for the revisionist and anti-Soviet leadership.
That became clear In 1968 when the CPGB opposed the Soviet intervention In Czechoslovakia. But that intervention enabled the working class in Czechoslovakia to avert counter revolution and maintained globally a cohesive socialist camp that ensured world peace and helped progressive humanity everywhere as it confronted imperialism.
We rejected The British Road to Socialism because it was totally flawed. It bred illusions that there could be a constitutional, parliamentary road to socialism.
But our party reaffirmed the teachings of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin. Revolution, in which the capitalist state is smashed and a working class state is established, is the fundamental pre-requisite to building a socialist society.
We have always stressed that the working class has to take state power and retain its hold throughout the period of socialism. We never endorsed the CPSU's declaration by Leonid Brezhnev that under socialism the working class state machine gives way to being the state of the whole people.
Socialism is a political and economic system in its own right. It is also a transitional period between capitalism and communism, between class divided and classless society. The socialist revolution, in one or several countries, does not signify the end of the class struggle. Such revolutions positively change the national and international balance of forces in favour of the working class.
But following such revolutions, and certainly while imperialists command great economic, political and military power and ideological influence, the class struggle eventually intensifies and takes on a multitude of forms.
In those circumstances, in the countries that have experienced socialist revolutions, throughout the period of global transition to communism, the working class has to retain state power. And, at the same time, the revolutionary party of the working class has to be consistent and strict in maintaining discipline.
The collective will of the party is expressed through its congresses and this arises from its under standing of the laws of economic and social development. Its integral relationship with the working class thus enables the party to fulfil the aspirations of the working class it is duty bound to serve.
Our party operates under a major capitalist power and oppressor where there is wide acceptance of class collaboration in the labour movement. It operates in conditions where all the main political parties seek to perpetuate capitalism, share common policies regarding both the upgrading of nuclear weapons and in many areas of foreign policy.
In spite of the imposition of a massive array of anti-trade union legislation, many trade union and labour movement leaders spout their commitment to partnership with the exploiters.
Surely it is evident that a strong ideological position is essential if the party is to survive and win the allegiance of the labour movement as it serves the interests of the working class.
AR: Building a new party and launching a weekly newspaper must have been very hard. What are your memories of that time?
ET: I have never regretted being involved in the struggle for Marxist-leninist principles that led to the decision to form the New Communist Party in July 1977. And it was only when the party was established did we get down to working out and adopting fully comprehensive policies and strategies.
For instance, inside the CPGB we had either accepted or not made an issue of the party's position on Ireland, or a number of questions relating to political economy and working class unity. To be frank, the NCP's inaugural congress, held a few months after our formation, was a bit of a shambles. It reflected divergent opinions and demonstrated a shallow analysis of many issues.
We also had personnel problems. On the eve of launching our newspaper, the comrade who was to be editor got cold feet and resigned.
Nevertheless, the paper was launched under the editorship of a comrade with no journalistic experience. He set a high standard which has been enhanced by the four editors who succeeded him.
Of course, the quality of the New Worker is due to the party's strong ideological position, the dedication of the team of comrades responsible for producing the paper and the camaraderie in the party as a whole arising from its unity.
So the development of our party has been rewarding even though it has also given us more than a few headaches. We are strong in upholding vital principles and that is as it should be. We are also very clear that there should be no compromise on questions of ideology. This is of crucial importance.
AR: Unlike many larger and older parties, the NCP has survived the effects of the counter-revolution in the former Soviet Union and eastern Europe. Does this surprise you?
ET: Not altogether. Our policy was formed out of the struggle against revisionism. The parties that succumbed to counter revolution and liquidation had already, and at leadership level, been undermined by revisionist and counter revolutionary elements. Those revisionist elements had been gathering strength nationally and internationally over a period of decades.
From time to time our party expelled revisionist elements we had good reason to suspect were working in the service of the enemy and striving to destroy our party. Many of the parties that succumbed to liquidation pressures had weakened themselves ideologically.
Some of them consciously beguiled their members by presenting revisionist ideas and policies as "new thinking" and a creative" development of Marxism. In turn, that helped the revisionists, agents and liquidators to strengthen their position organisationally at every level of the party.
The lack of a consistent and sustained attack on "Eurocommunism" by the CPSU leadership should have alerted the sound elements in the international communist movement to the pending danger emanating from the revisionist factions in the CPSU.
Instead, the emergence of the traitor Mikhail Gorbachov's administration, with its slogans of glasnost (openess) and perestroika (new thinking), meant a counter revolutionary offensive was unleashed. It was a coordinated offensive masterminded by imperialists.
The bitter lesson of that defeat for communists, working class and progressive humanity has to be taken to heart. Revisionism, if it is not defeated and rooted out, will inevitably give rise to the eventual liquidation of the party.
AR: The working class and its organisations face many difficulties today -- what do you think is the party's task and role, and do you look forward with confidence to the future?
ET: The capitalist crisis today is profound. New technology plus intensifying competition for market share is promoting action by the employers (including state intervention) to downsize the labour force.
That tendency is being marginally offset by promoting a low wage economy, cutting the provisions of the "welfare state" and generally lowering the standard of living of the majority whilst enhancing the wealth of the few.
But these actions don't resolve the crisis, they actually exacerbate it. Moreover, job insecurity has engulfed large swathes of administrative, technical and professional workers who, up until recently, were quite satisfied with their lot under capitalism. Not only did they feel their own jobs were secure, they also felt certain that their children would be assured of a good job and a high standard of living.
They, and most others in 1997, considered the problem merely to be one of administration and Tory greed. The general election reflected a massive rejection of the Tory party which has been replaced by a Labour government under pressure from the working class, but with the clear intent of working to perpetuate capitalism and complying with the dictates of the dominant section of the capitalist class.
Hence, the crisis deepens, and experience shows that social democracy -- while to some extent mitigating sleaze and responding to working class pressure with a few concessions -- continues with the same basic policies as the previous Tory government.
Labour is seen as an alternative to a Tory government, but it cannot further the fundamental interests of the working class or take measures to resolve the crisis because it will not challenge capitalism.
The reality of capitalist crisis and its profoundly new features arising from new technology, provide an increased necessity for socialism. Social democracy and reformism is not the answer to this crisis. Marxism-Leninism, revolution and socialism is the only alternative to capitalism in crisis that is practically attainable and serve the interests of the working class.
There is no other solution that can unleash the creative energy of the working class and protect the environment. So our first job is to preach socialism as we help promote cohesive struggle around urgent, immediate demands. These range from higher wages, cuts in military spending, trade union rights, public ownership of basic services, defence of health and education, and so on. It is not easy to accomplish this, of course, but we must try and make the link between the immediate demands and the revolutionary aim of establishing working class state power.
We must also build our party. A key role in that respect must be to increase the readership of our paper the New Worker, which carries and develops communist analysis.
The way ahead is difficult and complex but it will not daunt us.
We face the future. Equipped with the revolutionary ideology and party of Marxism-Leninism, we are confident that through the struggle the working class will win its full emancipation with the triumph of socialism over the reactionary forces of capitalism and imperialism, which breed exploitation, war and poverty.