Communists are gearing up for 2020 when they celebrate 100 years of struggle for socialism in Britain and international solidarity around the globe.
The CP was formed in the crucible years of intense struggle that followed World War One, which included giant stoppages in coal, rail and engineering and culminated in the General Strike, when its 12 key leaders were arrested and imprisoned as a ‘preventative measure’.
Its founder members included giants of the labour movement such as Tom Mann and Tom Quelch, Shapurji Saklatvala, Jesse Eden, Charlotte Despard and Ellen Wilkinson. Drawn from the shipyards of London, the anthracite coal mines of south Wales and the engineers of Red Clydeside, its members defied the government to fight for peace and saw immediately, the massive breakthrough signified by the Russian Revolution.
The CP is entirely a voluntary labour. Its contribution to the building of the modern labour movement and uplifting of working class communities, is acknowledged by friend and foe alike.
The party history is a veritable catalogue of the trials, tribulations and advance of the workers movement. As such there are ups and downs, and these will not be ignored.
In the 1920s its leadership was arrested (5,000 communists were arrested and mostly imprisoned during the general strike). In the 1930s it fought unwaveringly for the independence of India and against imperialism, and at home, led the defeat of Mosley fascism and the unemployed hunger marches. It also found time to create the Daily Worker newspaper, known by many on the left as the ‘Daily Miracle’ because of the odds it fought against, which is still printing and still holding the capitalist system and its governments to account, as the Morning Star.
In the 1940s, with tens of thousands of members serving in uniform in the armed forces and many more on the home front, in factories, mines and mills, it helped to force Churchill to open a Second Front in Europe.
In the 1950s it fought against the Cold War, which led to members being banned from employment and harassed. It opposed colonial wars in Malaya and Korea and imperialist intervention in Egypt. During this period it developed a unique programme – Britain’s Road to Socialism – that took the framework of revolutionary struggle to overcome capitalism and make it a realistic option for an advanced capitalist and imperialist country such as Britain.
In the 1960s the party led the foundation of a peace movement and in the 1970s it played a pioneering role in the building of a powerful shop stewards movement in engineering, docks and mining, as well as in the burgeoning feminist and gay liberation movements.
In the 1980s the party continued to lead large-scale movements against the Thatcher government including the People’s March for Jobs. The implosion of socialism in the USSR and people’s democracies put the arguments for socialism on the back foot. It is a tribute to the communists that they held true to the core elements of Marxism, including a recognition of the exploitative essence of capitalism, the reality that Britain was based on social class and that the movement away from capitalism and to socialism, would be based on class struggle. This struggle required the most class conscious to maintain a revolutionary party and that’s what the CP set out to do.
So, in the 1990s, recovering from an internal schism, it played a significant role in confronting the betrayal of Tony Blair and New Labour. At the turn of the millennium, to date, the party has been essential to the rebuilding of a labour movement that confronts neo liberalism and austerity, and unites as many as possible to oppose a strategic attack on national sovereignty. The CP today, is marked by its assertion that the future lies in a federated and socialist republic, which recognises local cultures and aspirations whilst emphasising the unity of the working class in Britain.
Members have and continue to play pioneering roles in fields as diverse as medicine and education pedagogy, sciences, sport and trade union struggles. It has never lowered the banner of international solidarity and has relations with over 100 communist and workers parties around the world, including in Russia, China, Vietnam and Cuba.
In recent years the party has campaigned to focus attention on the role of neo liberalism as a finance led and warlike phase of imperialism. In particular it has campaigned against membership of the European Union and is the only political party on the Left, which advocates a break with the EU, based on popular sovereignty, and the election of a radical Left and Labour government.
The CPs trademarks are internal unity, non-sectarian alliance building and an unwavering commitment to putting workers first. It is no surprise that the party, with its resolute stand and determination to present well-researched and strategic answers is beginning to grow in size and influence.
Communists, allies and supporters have formed an all-Britain organising committee to plan the centenary celebration programme, which will include politics, culture, struggle and internationalism. There will be major events including, rallies, a school for young trade union organisers, local commemorations of significant strikes and party characters. Expect a celebration of the Volunteers for Liberty, members who gave their lives as International Brigaders in the fight against fascism and of the London Recruits, those who worked clandestinely against the apartheid regime in South Africa, which included many young communists. There will be seminars to study the contribution of black and minority ethnic members, women members and plenty of publishing, including reprints of historical documents and even a national boxing competition of Red Sports clubs.
The centenary gets into gear early in October 2019, and will be launched to coincide with the commemorations of the Russian Revolution, with the simultaneous convening of new and prospective members schools in London, Midlands and Scotland. Soon after, the party will collaborate with Manifesto Press to produce, for the first time, a single volume of the Manifesto of the Communist Party, written by Marx and Engels, in all the indigenous languages of Britain: English, Welsh, Cornish and Scots Gaelic.
Local party branches, district and nation committees are organising their own events and the programme is being added to each week. Look on facebook for news of events in your area. If your parents, grandparents or great grandparents were party members and you have memories to share, let us know. If you are new to politics, just contact us to get involved. We look forward to hearing from you.
by Phil Katz.