1980s >> 1983 >> no-949-september-1983

Editorial: End of the hammer and sickle?

Skilled commercial artists who also have political knowledge and (most important) an active memory might like to submit their suggested design for a new symbol for the Communist Party of Great Britain, to replace the traditional, and once much revered, hammer and sickle. According to a recent report in the Guardian, the CP are discarding the old symbol because the hammer and sickle, representing a unity between peasants and workers, is out of date. There aren’t that many peasants now. Hardened cynics will not be alone if they question whether this is the authentic reason, whether the CP is not also worried about its falling membership, the desperate financial straits of the Morning Star and the fact that they have been outsmarted and overtaken by the trotskyist fringe in the long-running farce of trying to be what is called the vanguard of the working class. Beside the dramatic and exciting activities of the Socialist Workers Party and the rest, the CP appears to he faded and stale If the CP are now looking for a new logo it could well be that, like any commercial firm in trouble, they are hoping to recast their entire image.

Any artist thinking of entering a design faces some formidable problems. It would be difficult enough to symbolise any political party but for one like the CP it becomes almost impossible. To begin with, there are the embarrassments of the party’s history, including so many twists and turns, so much compromise and backtracking. How could the slavish adherence to the policies and the interests of the Russian ruling class, involving those infamous overnight changes in policy over the 1939-45 war and the cynical justification of the Stalinist terror which wiped out tens of millions of Russian people, be encompassed in a mere badge?

Then what about the splits opened up in the CP by events like the Russian invasions of Czechoslovakia in 1968 and Hungary in 1956? These were classic examples of a ruthless imperialist power crushing a threat to its dominance in its sphere of influence — although in these cases the suppression was called Saving Socialism. Such acts are normal in world capitalism but many members of the CP were shocked and outraged because they lacked an understanding of the realities of this system and so were blind to the fact that Russia is another capitalist state, competing against the rest in the deadly business of international conflict.

One example of these conflicts, which again caused much agonv and confusion in the CP, was the antagonism between Russia and China. Communist mythology at one time had it that both these stales were “socialist” and stood in ideological unity against the powers of western capitalism. This fallacy bolstered many delusions among CP members, who preferred romance to knowledge. When the conflict between Russia and China, over the usual issues of economic and political dominance, came into the open, it provoked much questioning and reassessment among CP members. The result was that many of them, unable to reconcile the irreconcilable, left the CP in despair.

Any new badge for the CP must obviously make reference to the unsavoury tactics of reformist compromise, of which they have always been such enthusiastic exponents. No issue has been too big or too small, too lasting or too temporary, for them to have considered it unworthy of their shrill advice. They have flown banner headlines, organised indignant campaigns, long marches, heated protests . . . In these campaigns the CP plumbed the depths of dishonesty in the hope of winning the support of workers who did not understand the futility of reformism. They have advised workers to vote for the Labour Party although they were aware that a Labour government would be in continual conflict with the very people who had voted for them. During the war the CP backed Conservative candidates in by-elections, provided they stood as supporters of the Churchill coalition, which oversaw the war effort of British capitalism in alliance with that of Russia. These characteristics are common in the political parties of capitalism so in the end any logo successfully designed for the CP would probably do equally well for the rest. It would need to symbolise ignorance, confusion, despair, cynicism and repression — the entire spectrum of misery which capitalism imposes on the majority of its people.

The alternative to this mess of cynicism and futility lies in political consciousness. The Socialist Party of Great Britain has no time for compromise; we stand entirely and singly for the establishment of a new social order. This order can be brought into being only through a social revolution which must be the outcome of a democratic act by the world working class. And the essential of that act is that it will he the work of politically aware socialists — of people throughout the world who understand that capitalism cannot operate in their interests and who have therefore resolved to sweep it away and replace it with socialism.

But conscious political action cannot result from confusion and deceit. A party which aims, as the SPGB aims, at the development and expansion of political awareness cannot achieve its object by spreading confusion and by wavering in its principles. Such a party must be based on its object of socialism; nothing else will do and nothing else will therefore be considered. From this basis the events of capitalism, and the actions of the parties which support capitalism, can be analysed and exposed.

Socialism will be a society based on the communal ownership of the means of production and distribution. It will be a democratically controlled society. Its wealth will be turned out to meet human needs and will therefore be freely available to everyone. It will be a system without classes and therefore without class conflict. Socialism’s harmony of interests will remove war and poverty from human experience. That will be a very different social order from that which dominates us today and which is supported by parties like the CP. They may give themselves a smart new symbol but their tawdry reality remains.