Communist Party of Britain
|Communist Party of Britain|
|General Secretary||Robert Griffiths|
|International Secretary||John Foster|
|Split from||Communist Party of Great Britain|
|Headquarters||Ruskin House, Croydon|
|Youth wing||Young Communist League|
|International affiliation||International Meeting of Communist and Workers' Parties|
|Colours||Red and Gold|
|Politics of United Kingdom
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 and trade union disputes such as the Upper Clyde Work-in or the Great Miners' Strike.
- 1 History
- 2 The Party's ideology and summary of main policies
- 3 The Party's stance on the socialist countries
- 4 Symbology
- 5 Organisation
- 6 Size and electoral information
- 7 Publications
- 8 Headquarters
- 9 Conferences and festivals
- 10 References
- 11 External links
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. 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. 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.
In 2013 the party was a founder of the People's Assembly Against Austerity along with a number of other political and campaign groups to create a broad organisation in opposition to Austerity policies of the major political parties of Britain and of the European Union. The People's Charter that the Communist Party had helped create several years earlier subsequently was voted to be incorporated into the People's Assembly.
The Party's ideology and summary of main policies
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.
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.
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 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
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.
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.
The YCL is the autonomous youth group of the Communist Party, with its own internal organisation. It is a growing organisation, having reorganised several districts with growing branches and has also increased its autonomous activity and events, as well as playing more of an active role in the Communist Party and political campaigns such as the People's Assembly Against Austerity.
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.
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
The party retains a core of around 900 members and has branches in most major cities.
General election results
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 and won 365 votes, or 0.9% of the total vote. Sadiq stood on behalf of Unity for Peace and Socialism in Leicester East and won 494 votes, or 1% of the total vote. 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.
|Robert Griffiths||Cardiff South and Penarth||196||0.4|
|Martin Levy||Newcastle upon Tyne East||177||0.5|
|Ben Stevenson||Croydon North||160||0.3|
|Marc Livingstone||Glasgow North West||179||0.5|
|Steve Andrew||Sheffield South East||139||0.3|
|Gerry Sables||Devon North||96||0.2|
|Elinor McKenzie||Glasgow Central||80||0.3|
|Glyn Davies||Alyn & Deeside||207||0.6|
|Monty Goldman||Hackney South & Shoreditch||200||0.6|
|Martin Levy||Newcastle upon Tyne East & Wallsend||205||0.6|
Other election results
The party runs candidates in elections on the local, national and European level.
For the London Assembly the party ran on its own and won 536 votes in 2000 and 1,378 votes in 2004. In 2008 the party supported the Unity for Peace and Socialism alliance, which won 6,394 votes. 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.
In the 2009 and 2014 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 and 2011. In the 2011 Scottish Parliament election the party stood Marc Livingstone as a candidate.
The party publishes a wide variety of literature and material.
This is a theoretical and discussion journal published on a quarterly basis. It takes its name from the old journal published by the CPGB and current issues cost GB£2.50. The content of the journal covers book reviews, feature articles, letters and sometimes poetry.
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
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.
Communist News & Views
This is an email bulletin which summarises the party's recent statements, resolutions, reports and policies. 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
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.
The party publishes books under the Manifesto Press imprint. 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.
In addition to this the party publishes many miscellaneous pamphlets under its own name. 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.
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
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, Scotland and the Midlands. Among the speakers at the Communist University at Ruskin House in November 2006 were Labour MP John McDonnell, RMT 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.
21st Century Marxism
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 style of the event has changed widely over the years as the organisers experiment with different venues and speakers.
|26 to 27 November 2011||Bishopsgate Institute|
|21 to 22 July 2012||Bishopsgate Institute|
|2 to 3 November 2013||Marx Memorial Library|
|26 to 27 July 2014||Marx Memorial Library|
The party's political education strategy also includes Trade Union & Political Cadre Schools, Party Building Schools, and Day Schools.
- Martin Graham (20 April 2014). Report and Accounts for the year ended 31 December 2013 (Report). Communist Party of Britain. p. 3.
- Ken Keable, ed. (February 2012). London recruits: the secret war against apartheid. London: Merlin Press. ISBN 978-0-85036-655-6. Archived from the original on 1 April 2012. Retrieved 23 February 2013.
- 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"
- 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.
- Robert Griffiths and Ben Stevenson (2010). 90 years of struggle, for the Working Class and Humanity (video). London: Platform Films.
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- Martin Graham (24 April 2012). Report and Accounts for the year ended 31 December 2011 (Report). Communist Party of Britain. p. 5.
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