Communist Party of Britain
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Not to be confused with Communist Party of Great Britain.
For other British Communist organizations, see Communist Party of Great Britain (disambiguation).
|Communist Party of Britain|
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|General Secretary||Robert Griffiths|
|Headquarters||Ruskin House, Croydon|
Numerous pamphlets and booklets,
|Youth wing||Young Communist League|
|International affiliation||International Conference of Communist and Workers' Parties|
|European Parliament Group||None|
|Official colours||Red and Gold|
The Communist Party of Britain is a communist political party in the United Kingdom. Although founded in 1988 it traces its origins back to 1920 and the Communist Party of Great Britain, and claims the legacy of that party and its most influential members Harry Pollitt and John Gollan as its own.
The Communist Party of Britain (CPB) was formed in 1988 by a disaffected segment of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB), including the editorship of the Morning Star, largely supporters of the "Communist Campaign Group" (CCG). 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 next year, the leaders of CPGB formally declared that they had abandoned the party's programme British Road to Socialism. Members of the CPB perceived this as the CPGB turning its back on socialism.
Membership of the CPB was boosted after the dissolution of the CPGB in 1991 and its reformation 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.
This split within the Communist Party of Great Britain was not the first. The Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) was established in 1968 by a leading engineering union official, Reg Birch, who had been a prominent member of the CPGB and at that time a supporter of the Beijing line in the Sino-Soviet dispute. Prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union, ideological differences between party members led to the establishment of the New Communist Party (formed in 1977), who also opposed 'eurocommunism'. The splitting up of the Communist Party of Great Britain resulted in bitter divisions. The CPB's account of its history claims "the ruling class worked to undermine it from within" which "the old Communist Party leadership failed to recognise and withstand ... It succumbed to reformist ideas, drifting away from its class basis, even attacking the leadership of the 1984-85 miners’ strike and expelling many of the Party’s finest militants".
The CPB 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 CPB 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 CPB'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 CPB has always been actively engaged in the labour and trade union movement in Britain. It is part of the Stop the War Coalition; the movement's chair, Andrew Murray is a Communist Party of Britain member. Prior to the formation of the Respect - The Unity Coalition, headed by George Galloway and supported by the Socialist Workers Party, the CPB engaged in a major debate about whether to join an electoral alliance with 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.
The Party's ideology and summary of main policies
The CPB 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 manifesto, 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's stance on the USSR
The CPB's stance on the former Soviet Union is summed up in their programme, 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.
In accordance to what is said above, the general consensus throughout the CPB is that the positive features of the Soviet Union and what the party continues to call the 'former socialist countries' outweighed the negative ones.
The CPB supports what it regards as existing socialist states and has fraternal relationships with the Cuban, Chinese and Vietnamese Communist Parties.
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 CPB 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 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 CPB claimed that it had some 830 members at its Congress in 2004, at its congress in May 2006 said this number had risen to 902 and by the end of the year (in its annual statement of accounts) it had 923. At November 2007, membership had risen to 1026 but at its Congress in 2008 it reported that its UK membership was 941.
According to the party's accounts for the year 2005, it had income and expenditure around the £100,000 mark, of which £34,000 is spent on staff salaries.
The most recent figures available are from 2010. The Statement of Accounts submitted to the Electoral Commission following the party congress in 2010 reports a party membership of 931 and annual income of £112,660.
At the 2001 general election, the CPB ran six candidates whose total vote came to 1,003. This went up slightly in the May 2005 election when six CPB candidates polled a total of 1,124 votes (average 0.3 per cent a seat). In the 2004 local elections, however, on one occasion a CPB candidate, Glyn Davies (Shotton, Flintshire), polled just over 21 per cent though his total vote was only 99. In the London Assembly election, 2008, it stood as part of Unity for Peace and Socialism, an electoral alliance with the British domiciled sections of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Communist Party of Bangladesh and the Communist Party of Greece (KKE). UPS won 0.26 percent of the vote in the election. The party did enjoy an electoral success in 2008 when Clive Griffiths, a former Labour councillor who joined the party, was re-elected unopposed to Hirwaun and Penderyn Community Council as a Communist. In the 2009 European Parliament elections it was part of the No to EU – Yes to Democracy platform led by the RMT union.
PublicationsMorning Star newspaper is owned by a co-operative, its editorial line reflects Britain's Road to Socialism, the CPB's programme endorsed by the co-operative's annual general meetings. CPB rules state that Party members must read and do all they can to increase the circulation of the newspaper.
The CPB publishes the free Communist News and Views, a regular newsletter for its members and Communist Review, a theoretical and discussion journal for members and non-members, costing £2.50. The International Department of the CPB also publishes Solidarity..
In addition to this, it has also published numerous pamphlets and booklets, including but not limited to:
- A World to Save - the Party's response to environmental issues
- Defeat New Labour - the Party's aims at defeating New Labour policies within the labour movement
- No to the Euro - the Party's reasoning against the introduction of the single European currency in Britain
- Women & Class - the Party's attitudes towards female issues
- Britain's Road to Socialism - the Party's complete programme (see above)
- What We Stand For - the Party's basic introduction to its principles
- Wages, Price & Profit - one of Karl Marx's works, published by the party's Economic Committee
- Halting the Decline of Britain's Manufacturing Industry by the Morning Star's economic expert, Jerry Jones, published by the party's Economic Committee
- Manifesto of the Communist Party - one of Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels works, published by the party's Political Committee
- Case for Communism - by the Party's International Secretary John Foster, covering the rise of Anti-Communism and the record of socialist countries
- Education for the People - the Party's attitudes towards developments in the Education system
- The Future of Pensions - How we can ensure a decent retirement for all by the Morning Star's economic expert, Jerry Jones, published by the party's Economic Committee
At the beginning of November 2004, the CPB 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 CPB 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.
The CPB's Communist University movement has developed since the Welsh and British communist university events in 2004. The Communist University of Britain has become an annual three-day event from 2005, joined by weekend universities in Scotland and Wales in 2006 and with plans for a Communist University of the Midlands - to be organised jointly with the Association of Indian Communists (Marxist) - in 2007. 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.
- The crisis at the Morning Star (1998) 
- Why the new unity coalition must be considered – John Haylett
- Why the communists won't join Respect
- CPB decides against Respect
- "About Us", Communist Party [of Britain] website
- "An Alternative Economic and Political Strategy", Communist Party [of Britain] website
- "An Alternative Economic and Political Strategy" - summary on the South West CPB website
- "Socialism - the lessons so far" Communist Part [of Britain] website
- The Electoral Commission : Document summary.
- Statement oa Accounts 2010.
- Wales gets its first Communist councillor since 1970s. Western Mail. URL accessed on 2009-09-21.
- The Crisis at the Morning Star
- Why the New "Unity" Coalition Must Be Considered
- Why the Communists Won’t Join in Respect
- Communist Party of Britain Main Homepage
- Communist Party of Britain Midlands Homepage
- Communist Party of Britain Northern Homepage
- Communist Party of Britain Scotland Homepage
- Communist Party of Britain South West and Cornwall Homepage
- Communist Party of Britain Wales Homepage
- Young Communist League
- Communist Party of Britain on Facebook
- Party Programme - Britain's Road to Socialism
- Morning Star
- Ruskin House
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