TV Review: Watching big brother

On three consecutive Tuesdays in October (one of them ironically the wedding day of millionairess Onassis to a top Soviet official) Granada TV presented Decision: British Communism, a study of the Communist Party of Great Britain as it prepared for and carried on its 1977 Congress. Permission for the filming of branch and committee meetings was doubtless intended to confirm the Party’s new found enthusiasm for the democratic process; the result did no such thing, however. The programmes showed well the CP’s authoritarian structure. The seven member Political Committee dominates the Party, pushing through its policies against opposition from ‘liberals’ (Eurocommunists) and hardliners. At one branch meeting a ‘liberal’ stated that a recent suggestion to the London District Committee for a greater degree of internal democracy was quashed by two groups — one considering the existing level too great because it had led to division, and another which regarded everything fine as it was. When the ‘liberals’ on the committee pressed the matter, ‘‘all the old talk of CIA infiltration was dragged up”.

At a time when the USSR is busy prosecuting dissidents, sight of the CP’s Executive giving a standing ovation to a representative from the Soviet party confirmed a commitment to pluralism. A major cause of friction between the leadership and the liberals concerns the relationship of the CPSU to the European parties. When the leadership stated that Brezhnev had publicly declared each CP to be sovereign, it was pointed out year before the Czechoslovak invasion.

The last, and most interesting, programme focussed on congress itself, and in particular a dispute over the wording a place on the agenda of a pro-Soviet resolution. The Party’s Arrangements Committee (responsible for vetting resolutions and ensuring that nothing too anti-leadership gets a good hearing) scored a tactical victory in moving the motion to the last day, thus avoiding a display of disunity in the presence of the man from Moscow. McGahey, the wily Congress chairman, denied the right of discussion or opposition from the floor, roused the faithful with a few words on the “great and historic” events of 1917 and moved swiftly to the vote.

The clearest thing to emerge from the series was that the Communist Party has no conception of Socialism at all. Their aim is a state dominated economy (“an alternative to the power of the big monopolies”), not a society in which the state, together with money buying and selling will have ceased to exist. Their idea of the socialist revolution is still the elitist one of a vanguard party dragging the workers to socialism, entering into pacts with other political parties and “classes” (!) along the way.


Leave a Reply