Communist Party of Britain

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Communist Party of Britain
Chairperson Bill Greenshields[1]
General Secretary Robert Griffiths[1]
International Secretary John Foster[1]
Founded 1988
Split from Communist Party of Great Britain
Headquarters Ruskin House, Croydon
Newspaper Morning Star
Youth wing Young Communist League
Ideology Communism,
Marxism–Leninism
Political position Far-left
International affiliation International Conference of Communist and Workers' Parties
Colours Red and Gold
Website
www.communist-party.org.uk
Party flag
Flag of the Communist Party of Britain.png
Politics of United Kingdom
Political parties
Elections

The Communist Party of Britain (CPB) is a communist political party in the United Kingdom. Although founded in 1988 it traces its origins back to the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) which was founded in 1920. The party also claims the most influential members of the CPGB such as Harry Pollitt or John Gollan as part of its legacy. The party includes veterans of the CPGB in its membership, some of whom joined during the Second World War and were active in the Anti-Apartheid Movement[2][3][4] and trade union disputes such as the Upper Clyde Work-in or the Great Miners' Strike.[5]

History[edit]

The party was formed in 1988 by a disaffected segment of the CPGB, including the editorship of the Morning Star newspaper, largely supporters of the "Communist Campaign Group". The founders of the CPB attacked the leadership of the CPGB for allegedly abandoning 'class politics' and the leading role of the working class in the revolutionary process in Britain. The youth wing of the CPGB, the Young Communist League, had collapsed, and the Morning Star was losing circulation.

The following year, the leaders of CPGB formally declared that they had abandoned the party's programme, the British Road to Socialism. Members of the party perceived this as the CPGB turning its back on socialism. The CPGB dissolved itself in 1991 and reformed as the Democratic Left. Many members of the Straight Left faction who had stayed in the CPGB formed a group called "Communist Liaison" which later opted to join the CPB. Others remained in the Democratic Left or joined the Labour Party.

The party was largely the creation of the "Communist Campaign Group" and one of its prominent leaders, Mike Hicks, was elected to the post of General Secretary when the party was founded in 1988. In January 1998 Hicks was ousted as general secretary in a 17 - 13 vote moved by John Haylett (who was also editor of the Morning Star) at a meeting of the party's Executive Committee. Hicks' supporters on the Management Committee of the Morning Star followed by suspending and then sacking Haylett, which led to a prolonged strike at the Morning Star, ending in victory for Haylett and his reinstatement.[6] Some of Hicks' supporters were expelled and others resigned in protest. They formed a discussion group called Marxist Forum and continue to hold prominent positions at the Marx Memorial Library in London.

The party is part of the Stop the War Coalition; the movement's former chair, Andrew Murray is a Communist Party of Britain member. Prior to the formation of the Respect - The Unity Coalition, with the support of the Socialist Workers Party, the party engaged in a major debate about whether to join an electoral alliance with George Galloway and the SWP.[7] Those in favour, including General Secretary Robert Griffiths, Andrew Murray and Morning Star editor John Haylett, were however defeated at a Special Congress in 2004.[8]

The Party's ideology and summary of main policies[edit]

The party is a Marxist-Leninist organisation, whose main policies are set out in the Alternative Economic and Political Strategy, the fifth section in the party's programme, Britain's Road to Socialism.[9]

Within this document the party calls for:

  • An economy based on a combination of workers' co-operatives and state-owned enterprises run on behalf of the people.
  • The nationalisation of industry in order to boost the economy and raise general standard of living.
  • Massive investment by the state into key areas of the economy with the aim of ending unemployment and increasing production.
  • A substantial increase in social welfare spending in education, healthcare and recreational facilities.
  • A planned economy, designed to increase the standard of living of working people.
  • The tax burden to be shifted onto the rich, with direct taxes on working people's incomes reduced.
  • The confiscation of wealth from the rich and windfall taxes on company profits.
  • The eventual withering away of the socialist state, and the complete emancipation of the working class through to the higher phase of communism.
  • The importance of democracy and freedom in everyday life, and the placement of particular emphasis on the freedom of the press and freedom of speech.
  • The full separation of church and state, with religion treated as an entirely private matter.[10][11]

The Party's stance on the socialist countries[edit]

The party supports what it regards as existing socialist states and has fraternal relationships with the Cuban, Chinese, Lao and Vietnamese Communist Parties, as well as with other ruling Communist Parties around the world. It is affiliated nationally to the Cuba Solidarity Campaign[12] and the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign.

The party's stance on the former Soviet Union is summed up in Britain's Road to Socialism;

Russia and the other countries of the Soviet Union were transformed from semi-feudal, semi-capitalist monarchist dictatorships into modern societies with near-full employment, universally free education and healthcare, affordable housing for all, extensive and cheap public transport, impressive scientific and cultural facilities, rights for women and degrees of self-government for formerly oppressed nationalities.

But the struggle to survive and to build socialism in the face of powerful external as well as internal enemies also led to distortions in society that might otherwise have been avoided. In particular, a bureaucratic-command system of economic and political rule became entrenched. The Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the trade unions became integrated into the apparatus of the state, eroding working class and popular democracy. Marxism-Leninism was used dogmatically to justify the status quo rather than make objective assessments of it.

At times, and in the late 1930s in particular, severe violations of socialist democracy and law occurred. Large numbers of people innocent of subversion or sabotage were persecuted, imprisoned and executed. This aided the world-wide campaign of lies and distortions aimed at the Soviet Union, the international communist movement and the concept of socialism.

— Socialism - the lessons so far[13]

In accordance to what is said above, the general consensus throughout the party is that the positive features of the Soviet Union and other 'former socialist countries' outweighed the negative ones. It also tries to counter some of the anti-communist assertions made about these countries.[14][15]

Symbology[edit]

Under the Registration of Political Parties Act 1998, which regulated the use of symbols on ballot slips and electoral material, the Communist Party of Britain is the only British political party entitled to use a stand-alone hammer and sickle in such cases. The party tends to use the hammer and dove (adopted when the party was established in 1988) in conjunction with the hammer and sickle in publications and on other material, with the hammer and dove normally taking primacy.

The Party's official flag consists of a golden-outlined, five-pointed red star above and slightly to the left of a hammer and sickle design in red with a golden outline in the flag's canton. The words "Communist Party" appear in gold along the bottom of the flag.

Organisation[edit]

The Communist Party of Britain describes itself as a "disciplined and democratic organisation" and operates on a model of democratic centralism.

The basic party body is the branch. These are normally localities (towns or counties, for example), although workplace branches also exist. In England, branches are grouped into coherent geographical areas and send delegates to a biennial District Congress which elects a District Committee for its area. Similarly, the Welsh and Scottish branches send delegates to their own national congresses where each elects an Executive Committee. These congresses also decide the broad perspectives for Party activity within their districts and nations.

The all-Britain national congress is also held biennially. Delegates from districts, nations and branches themselves decide the Party's policy as a whole and elect an Executive Committee (EC) that carries out a presidium-like function, including decision-making and policy-formation whilst congress is not in session.[16]

The EC also elects a Political Committee (PC) to provide leadership when the EC is not meeting. Advisory Committees also exist to provide in-depth information on an array of subjects, including committees dedicated to women, industrial workers, pensions, public services, education workers, economics, housing, rails, science technology and the environment, transport, Marxist-Leninist education, LGBT rights, anti-racism, anti-fascism, civil service and international affairs.

The current general-secretary is Robert Griffiths, who was also a leading member of the Welsh Republican Socialist Movement (WRSM) in the 1970s.

Size and electoral information[edit]

The party retains a core of around 900 members and has branches in most major cities.

Party membership over time
Year 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Membership 811 852 916 930 967[17] 955[17] 931[18] 915[19] 922[1]

The statement of accounts submitted to the Electoral Commission following the party congress in 2012 reports a total annual income of GB£122,869.[1]

General election results[edit]

In 2010 the party ran 6 candidates; it also supported John Metcalfe and Avtar Sadiq who stood as part of electoral alliances. Metcalfe stood on behalf of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition in Carlisle[20] and won 365 votes, or 0.9% of the total vote.[21] Sadiq stood on behalf of Unity for Peace and Socialism in Leicester East[22] and won 494 votes, or 1% of the total vote.[23] Unity for Peace and Socialism is an alliance between British domiciled sections of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) of which Sadiq is a member, the Communist Party of Bangladesh and the Communist Party of Greece.

Summary of 2010 General Election results for the Communist Party of Britain
Candidate Constituency Votes %
Robert Griffiths Cardiff South and Penarth 196[24] 0.4
Martin Levy Newcastle upon Tyne East 177[25] 0.5
Ben Stevenson Croydon North 160[26] 0.3
Marc Livingstone Glasgow North West 179[27] 0.5
Steve Andrew[28] Sheffield South East 139[29] 0.3
Gerry Sables Devon North 96[30] 0.2

In 2005 the party ran 6 candidates whose combined vote came to 1,124.[31][32]

Summary of 2005 General Election results for the Communist Party of Britain
Candidate Constituency Votes %
Elinor McKenzie Glasgow Central 80[33] 0.3
Glyn Davies Alyn & Deeside 207[34] 0.6
Robert Griffiths Pontypridd 233[35] 0.6
Geoffrey Bottoms Crosby 199[36] 0.5
Monty Goldman Hackney South & Shoreditch 200[37] 0.6
Martin Levy Newcastle upon Tyne East & Wallsend 205[38] 0.6

At the 2001 general election the party ran 6 candidates whose combined vote came to 1,003.[39] At the 1997 general election the party ran 5 candidates whose combined vote came to 911.[40]

Other election results[edit]

The party runs candidates in elections on the local, national and European level.

For the London Assembly the party ran on its own[41] and won 536 votes in 2000[42] and 1,378 votes in 2004.[42] In 2008 the party supported the Unity for Peace and Socialism alliance, which won 6,394 votes.[43] In local elections in 2008 the party gained one councillor, Clive Griffiths, a former Labour councillor who joined the party and was re-elected unopposed to Hirwaun and Penderyn Community Council as a communist.[44]

In the 2009 European Parliament elections the party supported the NO2EU alliance led by the RMT union. The party also ran in the Welsh Assembly elections in 2007[45] and 2011.[46] In the 2011 Scottish Parliament election the party stood Marc Livingstone as a candidate.[47]

Publications[edit]

The party publishes a wide variety of literature and material.

Communist Review[edit]

Cover of Communist Review 60 - Summer 2011

This is a theoretical and discussion journal published on a quarterly basis.[48] It takes its name from the old journal published by the CPGB[49] and current issues cost GB£2.50. The content of the journal covers book reviews, feature articles, letters and sometimes poetry.

Challenge[edit]

This is a magazine published by the Young Communist League. It mainly covers news, feature articles and political reports. It runs a Back 2 Basics series which explains the basic foundations of Marxism-Leninism in an accessible way. Occasionally it publishes music, film or video game reviews alongside other light content such as comic strips. It's aimed at young people and tends to be less academic than Communist Review.

Unity! and Solidarity[edit]

Unity! is a short booklet focused around labour issues and often distributed for free at trade union events. Solidarity is a bulletin published by the international department of the party, it covers the party's foreign policy and the activities of the Co-ordinating Committee of Communist Parties in Britain.[50]

Communist News & Views[edit]

This is an email bulletin which summarises the party's recent statements, resolutions, reports and policies.[51] It also brings attention to campaigns and events being promoted by the party. It is open to the public and can be subscribed to on the party website, if someone makes an enquiry to join the party they can choose to be subscribed to the email list.

The Morning Star[edit]

While the Morning Star newspaper is owned by a co-operative, its editorial line reflects Britain's Road to Socialism, and this is endorsed by the co-operative's annual general meetings. The party rules recommend that party members read the paper and try to increase its circulation. The party has a branch organisation for members working at the paper called the William Rust branch, named after William Rust who was an editor of the Daily Worker. The Morning Star itself also publishes and sells pamphlets and books through its online shop and on its stalls at events.

Manifesto Press[edit]

The party publishes books under the Manifesto Press imprint.[52][53] It has a total catalogue of 8 titles and also sells 2 titles which are published separately by Hetherington Press. The books cover historical, political and social topics and are edited by Nick Wright.[54]

In addition to this the party publishes many miscellaneous pamphlets under its own name.[55] The Classics of Communism series are reprints of classic works such as the Communist Manifesto or "Left-Wing" Communism: An Infantile Disorder. The Our History series aims to re-tell 'history from below' and covers historical events from a working class perspective. The party also publishes congress reports, the party programme, briefing notes and other documents.[56]

Headquarters[edit]

At the beginning of November 2004, the party and its youth organisation, the YCL, moved out of its temporary headquarters in Camden, North London after receiving notice to quit because of redevelopment. The building was owned by AKEL, the Cypriot communist party. Ruskin House in Croydon was chosen as the new Party headquarters, with its long history in the progressive movement as centre of the Anti-Apartheid Movement and also local Labour Party and co-operative groups. The party rents the top floor of four offices at Ruskin House which also allows it plenty of room to hold its congresses and other important meetings, including an annual industrial cadre school and the Communist University of Britain.

Conferences and festivals[edit]

In November 2004 the party organised Communist University events in Wales and England, these were further developed to form a national three-day event which ran annually from 2005 to 2010. This was accompanied by regional weekend universities in Wales,[57] Scotland and the Midlands. Among the speakers at the Communist University of Britain at Ruskin House in November 2006 were Labour MP John McDonnell, National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers general secretary Bob Crow, CND chair Kate Hudson, Communist Party USA vice-president Jarvis Tyner, French Communist Party economist Paul Boccara and Palestine Liberation Organization ambassador Dr Noha Khalef. In 2011 the national Communist University event was renamed to '21st Century Marxism' and the format was changed slightly from a festival to a conference.

The first 21st Century Marxism conference was held on the weekend of 26 & 27 November 2011 at the Bishopsgate Institute.[58] The second 21st Century Marxism conference was held on the weekend of 21 & 22 July 2012 at the Bishopsgate Institute. The third 21st Century Marxism conference will be held on the weekend of 2 & 3 November 2013 at the Marx Memorial Library.

The party's political education strategy also includes Trade Union & Political Cadre Schools, Party Building Schools, and Day Schools.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Martin Graham (18 April 2013). Report and Accounts for the year ended 31 December 2012 (Report). Communist Party of Britain. p. 4.
  2. ^ Ken Keable, ed. (February 2012). London recruits: the secret war against apartheid. London: Merlin Press. ASIN 0850366550. ISBN 978-0-85036-655-6. Archived from the original on 1 April 2012. Retrieved 23 February 2013. 
  3. ^ Ken Keable (2012). London Recruits: the secret war against apartheid (video). Communist Party of Scotland. Event occurs at 1:37. Retrieved 23 February 2013. "the main body of the London recruits were members of the British Young Communist League... a few of them in the Communist Party as well" 
  4. ^ Chamberlain, Mary (13 February 2013). "the ANC’s London Recruits: a Personal Story". History Workshop Journal (Oxford University Press) 75 (1): 149. doi:10.1093/hwj/dbs050. ISSN 1363-3554. 
  5. ^ Robert Griffiths and Ben Stevenson (2010). 90 years of struggle, for the Working Class and Humanity (video). London: Platform Films. 
  6. ^ Sullivan, Martin (1997). "the Crisis at the Morning Star". What Next?. London. Archived from the original on 27 September 2011. 
  7. ^ Haylett, John (20 December 2003). "We Can’t Just Wish and Hope: Why the New "Unity" Coalition Must Be Considered". Morning Star. p. 9. Archived from the original on 28 July 2012. 
  8. ^ "Why the Communists Won’t Join in Respect". Morning Star. 22 January 2004. p. 8. Archived from the original on 28 July 2012. 
  9. ^ "an alternative economic and political strategy". Britain's Road to Socialism (8 ed.). Communist Party of Britain. 31 October 2011. pp. 24–30. ASIN 1908315059. ISBN 978-1908315052. OCLC 793083894. 
  10. ^ "an Alternative Economic & Political Strategy". Communist Party of Britain. 
  11. ^ "an Alternative Economic and Political Strategy". South West Communists. Communist Party of Britain. Archived from the original on 25 April 2012. 
  12. ^ "Solidarity". Communist Party of Britain Scottish Congress 2004. Scotland: Communist Party of Britain. 2004. Archived from the original on 1 February 2013. Retrieved 19 March 2013. "The Communist Party of Britain remains the only political party affiliated to the Scottish Cuba Solidarity Campaign" 
  13. ^ "socialism - the lessons so far". Britain's Road to Socialism (8 ed.). Communist Party of Britain. 31 October 2011. pp. 16–17. ASIN 1908315059. ISBN 978-1908315052. OCLC 793083894. 
  14. ^ "Bodycount Politics". Communist Review 32. 2000. 
  15. ^ Coyle, Kenny (June 2007). Lies, damned lies and anti-communism. London: Communist Review. 
  16. ^ Katz, Phil (18 August 2009). "a Disciplined & Democratic Organisation" (pdf). What We Stand For. Communist Party of Britain. pp. 10–11. 
  17. ^ a b Martin Graham (20 April 2010). Report and Accounts for the year ended 31 December 2009 (Report). Communist Party of Britain. p. 5.
  18. ^ Martin Graham (22 April 2011). Report and Accounts for the year ended 31 December 2010 (Report). Communist Party of Britain. p. 4.
  19. ^ Martin Graham (24 April 2012). Report and Accounts for the year ended 31 December 2011 (Report). Communist Party of Britain. p. 5.
  20. ^ Julian Whittle (23 February 2010). "Radical General Election policies of Carlisle's former mayor". News & Star. Retrieved 28 March 2013. 
  21. ^ "Results for Carlisle". the Electoral Commission. Archived from the original on 28 December 2010. Retrieved 28 March 2013. 
  22. ^ Haylett, John (23 April 2010). "Advocating the socialist project". Morning Star. Archived from the original on 14 November 2010. Retrieved 28 March 2013. 
  23. ^ "Results for Leicester East". the Electoral Commission. Archived from the original on 28 December 2010. Retrieved 28 March 2013. 
  24. ^ "Results for Cardiff South and Penarth". the Electoral Commission. Archived from the original on 28 December 2010. Retrieved 28 March 2013. 
  25. ^ "Results for Newcastle upon Tyne East". the Electoral Commission. Archived from the original on 28 December 2010. Retrieved 28 March 2013. 
  26. ^ "Results for Croydon North". the Electoral Commission. Archived from the original on 28 December 2010. Retrieved 28 March 2013. 
  27. ^ "Results for Glasgow North West". the Electoral Commission. Archived from the original on 28 December 2010. Retrieved 28 March 2013. 
  28. ^ "Sheffield gets first Communist candidate since 1979". BBC News. Sheffield. 7 April 2010. Archived from the original on 12 April 2010. Retrieved 28 March 2013. 
  29. ^ "Results for Sheffield South East". the Electoral Commission. Archived from the original on 28 December 2010. Retrieved 28 March 2013. 
  30. ^ "Results for Devon North". the Electoral Commission. Archived from the original on 28 December 2010. Retrieved 28 March 2013. 
  31. ^ Kimber, Richard. "UK General Election, May 2005". Archived from the original on 8 March 2012. Retrieved 4 April 2013. 
  32. ^ "the left alternatives". Socialist Unity network. Archived from the original on 12 May 2008. 
  33. ^ "Results for Glasgow Central". the Electoral Commission. Archived from the original on 14 May 2010. Retrieved 28 March 2013. 
  34. ^ "Results for Alyn & Deeside". the Electoral Commission. Archived from the original on 14 May 2010. Retrieved 28 March 2013. 
  35. ^ "Results for Pontypridd". the Electoral Commission. Archived from the original on 14 May 2010. Retrieved 28 March 2013. 
  36. ^ "Results for Crosby". the Electoral Commission. Archived from the original on 14 May 2010. Retrieved 28 March 2013. 
  37. ^ "Results for Hackney South & Shoreditch". the Electoral Commission. Retrieved 28 March 2013. 
  38. ^ "Results for Newcastle upon Tyne East & Wallsend". the Electoral Commission. Retrieved 28 March 2013. 
  39. ^ Kimber, Richard (13 February 2010). "UK General Election, 2001". Archived from the original on 11 August 2011. Retrieved 3 April 2013. 
  40. ^ Kimber, Richard. "UK General Election, 1997". Archived from the original on 21 September 2011. Retrieved 3 April 2013. 
  41. ^ Wright, Nick. "Communists to stand for the Greater London Authority". Archived from the original on 14 December 2002. Retrieved 4 April 2013. 
  42. ^ a b Minors, Michael (2006). the London elections. London: Greater London Authority. p. 104. ISBN 9781852619169. Retrieved 4 April 2013. 
  43. ^ Minors, Michael (2008). the London elections (pdf). Greater London Authority. p. 112. ISBN 978-1-84781-185-1. Retrieved 4 April 2013. 
  44. ^ "Wales gets its first Communist councillor since 1970s". Western Mail. Retrieved 2009-09-21. 
  45. ^ Welsh Communist Party 2007 election broadcast (Motion picture). Wales: YouTube. 22 April 2007. 
  46. ^ Welsh Communist Party 2011 election broadcast (Motion picture). Wales: BBC. 14 April 2011. 
  47. ^ Scottish election: Communist Party of Britain (Motion picture). Scotland: BBC. 26 April 2011. 
  48. ^ "Communist Review website". Archived from the original on 19 July 2012. Retrieved 23 February 2013. 
  49. ^ "Communist Review". Communist Party of Great Britain. Retrieved 15 April 2013. 
  50. ^ "Solidarity". Archived from the original on 2006-07-23. 
  51. ^ "Email Campaign Archive". Communist News & Views. MailChimp. Retrieved 23 February 2013. 
  52. ^ "Manifesto Press cagegory in the Communist Party publications section". Archived from the original on 21 January 2013. Retrieved 23 February 2013. 
  53. ^ "Manifesto Press website". Archived from the original on 29 June 2012. Retrieved 23 February 2013. 
  54. ^ Wright, Nick (1 November 2009). "a chance for left books to press ahead". Morning Star (London). Archived from the original on 16 April 2013. 
  55. ^ "pamphlets sold by the Communist Party". Archived from the original on 24 June 2012. 
  56. ^ "Communist Party documents on Issu". Retrieved 23 February 2013. 
  57. ^ "Communist university of Wales: A programme of debate, discussion and entertainment". 6 December 2012. Retrieved 25 February 2013. 
  58. ^ "21st Century Marxism programme" (PDF). Communist Party of Britain. November 2011. 

External links[edit]