Communist Party of Britain

From Academic Kids

The Communist Party of Britain is the largest Leninist party operating in the United Kingdom, although it chooses not to be active in Northern Ireland where the Communist Party of Ireland works. It traces its formation back to 1920 and the Communist Party of Great Britain and holds the legacy of that party and its most influential member Harry Pollitt as its own.

Contents

History

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The CPB's two official symbols in use

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 party-controlled newspaper, The Morning Star. The founders of the CPB blamed what they saw as a domineering clique in the CPGB's leadership for precipitating a dramatic decline in the party's fortunes by introducing a new party constitution. 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 never been Marxist-Leninists, and abandoned the party's programme "British Road to Socialism". Members of the CPB perceived this as the CPGB turning its back on socialism.

This split within the Communist Party of Great Britain was not the first. Prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union, ideological differences between party members led to the establishment of several tiny Communist Parties including the New Communist Party (formed in 1977), who oppose 'eurocommunism', and have close links to the Workers' Party of Korea, and the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) who also show solidarity with North Korea. The splitting up of the Communist Party of Great Britain into tiny factions resulted in bitter rows and arguements between communists of different parties, and the lack of unity between communists in Britain has had a detrimental effect on the entire communist movement.

At the last general election in 2001 the CPB ran six candidates whose total vote came to 1,003. This went up slightly in the May 2005 election when six CP candidates polled a total of 1,124 votes (average 0.3 per cent a seat).However, the Communist Party of Britain remains the largest Communist party in Britain in terms of both membership numbers and influence.

Since then, the CPB has worked constantly on the fringes of the labour and trade union movement in Britain. It is a major player in the Stop the War Coalition, with the movement's director, Andrew Murray, being a Communist Party of Britain member.

The Party's Stance On Existing Socialist States and the USSR

The CPB's stance on the former Soviet Union is summed up in their manifesto, Britain's Road to Socialism;

The Soviet Union made a tremendous impact on the struggle for freedom against imperialism across the world, rendering invaluable aid to the national liberation and anti-apartheid movements. Nor should it be forgotten that Soviet industrialisation, on the basis of state ownership and planning, made possible the defeat of fascism in the Second World War - thereby saving the whole of humanity from unprecedented tyranny.

The Soviet Union struggled to build it's socialist system in a backward country, surrounded by hostile imperialist forces. The Soviet people were plunged into two devastating wars - the war of intervention immediately following the revolution, and the Second World War which was followed by the defence burden of the Cold War...

The effects of encirclement and invasion by hostile imperialist forces should not be underestimated...The 'siege mentality' provoked by imperialist aggression was a powerful factor giving rise to wrong policies...decisions were made which led to serious violations of socialist and democratic principles. More specifically, there developed an excessive centralisation of political power. State repression was used against people who failed to conform. Bureaucratic commands replaced economic levers as an instrument of planning...Marxism-Leninism was used dogmatically to justify the status quo.

In accordance to what is said above, the general consensus with the CPB members is that the Soviet Union and Stalin did more good for the socialist cause than harm.

The CPB stand in solidarity with existing socialist states and have close ties with the Cuban and Vietnamese Communist Parties. Opinions on North Korea and China differ between members but several articles published by the CPB journal, Communist Review, although being technically against present-day China and North Korea, seem to defend their actions.

Legitimacy

Due to the Registration of Political Parties Act 1998, the Communist Party of Britain is the only political party in Britain legally entitled to use the hammer and sickle as an electoral symbol, although to indicate the party's commitment to peace, the hammer and dove is the most commonly used CPB symbol, whilst the New Communist Party uses the hammer and sickle with the NCP initials underneath as its ordinary symbol. The fact that the CPB is legally entitled to the hammer and sickle adds legitimacy to its claim to be the logical successor of the Communist Party of Great Britain despite the views of the CPGB(PCC) and the NCP who both claim to be the 'true' Communist Party.

The CPB is recognised by the important foreign Communist Parties, such as the French Communist Party, Cuban Communist Party and others of note to be Britain's primary Communist Party.

Organisation

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The Communist Party of Britain describes itself as a "disciplined and democratic organisation" and operates on a model of democratic centralism. A highly simplified diagram for illustrative purposes showing the organisation of the Party appears to the right, with lower bodies electing higher ones.

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 elect District Committees for their areas. Welsh and Scottish branches elect a National Committee each. These committees are elected in biennial congresses which also decide the broad perspectives for Party activity within the district.

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 praesidium-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, pensioners, unemployed workers, education workers and international affairs.

The current general-secretary is Robert Griffiths.

The Party's Ideology and Main Policies

The CPB is a Marxist-Leninist organisation, whose main policies are set out in the Alternative Economic and Political Strategy, the third 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.
  • 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.

Publications

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Although pejoratively described as "the Morning Star's Communist Party" by the CPGB (PCC), the CPB and the Morning Star (one of the only daily English-language socialist newspapers in the world) are not structurally linked, as the paper is owned by a co-operative of its readers and writers and other interested individuals, many of whom are members of the CPB. A few years ago an internal dispute within the CPB spilled over into the Morning Star where journalists went on strike against "management". The editorial board of the Morning Star, must, however, abide by Britain's Road to Socialism, the CPB's programme, although considerable leniency is often given, in particular to the Morning Star's support of parties other than the Communist Party and the Labour Party. In return, members of the CPB must abide by one of its own rules that says that Party members must read and do all they can to increase the circulation of the newspaper.

The CPB also publishes the free "Communist News", a regular newsletter for its members and "Communist Review", a theoretical and discussion journal for members and non-members, costing 2. 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 the issues of 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

Size

The CPB has approximately one thousand members. Despite claims, often stemming from long-time rival the Socialist Workers Party and other groups on the left fringes of British politics that it consists singularly of elderly Stalinists, at a recent Party congress, half of the seventy delegates were aged under thirty-five years. The CPB's small size is disproportionate to much of its influence - something that was true throughout the history of the CPGB - particularly in the Stop the War Coalition and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

Headquarters

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Ruskin House: "Home to Croydon's Trade Union and Labour Movement"
At the beginning of November, 2004, the CPB and its youth organisation, the YCL, moved out of its temporary headquarters in Camden, North London. The building was owned by AKEL, the Cypriot communist party, and was deemed too small for the CPB's ever increasing operations. 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 two rooms at Ruskin House which also allows it plenty of room to hold its congresses and other important meetings, although the prospect of having a bar in the Party's headquarters would also have been an attraction.

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