Next year, the communist party is 100 years young, and you are likely to see and hear a lot about the ‘Reds’ in those twelve months.
How do we even begin to mark the selfless contribution of many tens of thousands of working class, often self-educated, party members, who sought to bring socialism nearer, for all? Their militancy has spanned decades, arched across generations and the achievements are very real indeed. ‘A centenary for socialism’ will be as much about looking forward as it is commemorating the past.
The CP was formed on 31 July 1920 out of the militant factories and carnage of the trenches of World War One. Over the weekend starting on the same date, next year, central London will witness a celebration of socialism and internationalism, that hasn’t been seen for 50 years.
Cyclists are due set off from Engel’s statue in Manchester and maybe also from Wupertal, his birthplace in Germany, whilst poets and musicians including a Cuban band set off, to join some of the best known names in the revolutionary movement world-wide, from China, India and South Africa, at an internationalist rally in the fantastic 1000-seater, ‘Light’ venue in Euston. This follows a culture and club evening at the Rich Mix in London’s Bethnal Green, an area where communists and supporters once drove Mosley’s fascists into history.
On the morning of 1 August, wreaths are to be laid simultaneously at the headstones of historic general secretary Harry Pollitt and legendary worker’s leader Tom Mann, in north London and the tomb of its first party secretary Albert Inkpin in the Kremlin wall, in Moscow. Later that evening after the internationalist rally, there will be an internationalist music evening. It’s going to be quite a weekend and all readers of the Morning Star are invited to attend.
The Communist Party Organising Committee for the Centenary (OCC) has been working on a programme that is set to enthuse supporters, win new members and silence detractors in the capitalist media. It’s a participatory programme for members, made by them and the aim is to make the voice for socialism louder and the case more persuasive. The draft programme, which is circulating through the party over coming weeks, will be made public on 1 November.
There are plans for national events and local ones, throughout England, Scotland and Wales. Films, travelling exhibitions, apps, social media campaigns, theatre performance, music and publications are planned, with many already in preparation.
We are looking forward to the north to south cyclathon. The east of England will host a men’s and women’s boxing and mixed martial arts competition for anti fascist sports clubs and in October, there’s an amazing residential school for young organisers (you don’t have to be in the Communist Party to take part), named after Midlands communist Jesse Eden and engineer and popular party industrial organiser Kevin Halpin. A six-city speaking tour by leading British and Indian communists will honour our first black member of parliament, Shapurji Saklatvala.
Professor Mary Davis will edit a new Communist Party history ‘Red past, red future’, richly illustrated with many photos never seen before. Another book, ‘Red Lives’ contains the biographies of 100 communists, submitted for inclusion by local party branches, districts and nations.
Expect to read about historian Noreen Branson, Isabel Brown who faced great danger to organise relief for anti fascist prisoners in Germany and Spain, international brigade volunteers novelist and historian Ralph Fox, poet John Cornford - the great, great grandson of Darwin, both of whom paid the ultimate price for freedom, peace campaigner Angela Gradwell Tuckett, black boxing European champion and six-time parliamentary candidate Len Johnston, Portishead artist Doris Hatt, Miner’s leader Arthur Horner, president of the world International union of rural, food and agricultural workers Wilf Page - the ‘Norfolk Red’, the first woman general secretary of the nurse’s union, Thora Silverthorne and the great scientists JD Bernal and JBS Haldane. Editor Rob Wilkinson will have his work cut out, selecting from the names and biographies being sent in.
In November 2020, Manifesto Press is to publish a new biography of Tom Mann, written by Phil Katz co-funded by Australian unions, where Mann is considered a father figure of the labour and socialist movement and an amazing bumper souvenir special supplement, in the Morning Star, over the centenary weekend. Look out for ‘100 things about the Reds’ edited by Kenny Coyle, which goes nose to nose with the distortions of communism and the communist party, commonly promoted in capitalist media. This will be delivered through social media and accompanied by rare film footage.
And if that doesn’t spook the capitalist class enough (yes we will even talk about Kim Philby!), for the first time, the Communist Party is working on publishing an edition of the Communist Manifesto in the indigenous languages of English, Welsh, Cornish and Scots Gaelic. No one will have an excuse not to have read it!
As an investment in the future, the party plans to work with Marx Library and Worker’s School to hold a series of education classes on Marxism and the British labour movement. A conference on a ‘Red future for work’, aimed at workers and trades unionists, brings together Marxism, the nature of work and the impact of technology, including artificial intelligence, in the context of the recent major ILO report on the future of work.
Communists will be everywhere at: International Women’s Day events, the Marx Oration in March, popular festivals in the Summer - Tolpuddle, Burston, Chainmaker’s festival in Dudley and the Durham Miner’s gala, as well as holding special events during Women’s TUC week, LGBT+ and Black history month. Solidarity with the revolution in Sudan and opposition to USA imperialism in the Middle East and Iran, are high on our agenda.
The OCC design team will be working with young communist fashion designers and artists on a range of commemorative merchandise such as T shirts, flags, badges and postcards, sets of commemorative posters and pop-up banners.
New members are to receive a centenary membership card. Don’t be seen without one! (Don’t worry, existing members will receive one too.).
2020 is a special year as it includes the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Daily Worker, predecessor of the Morning Star. It marks the bicentenary of the birth of Frederick Engels and the 75th anniversary of the victory over fascism. And 2021 is the centenary of the Young Communist League. One of the main aims of the communists in their centenary year is to boost circulation of the people’s paper.
We won’t just focus on the big names, as many of the most committed communists were only known to workmates, family and fellow union, women’s, peace or anti racist activists.
They may not be so well known, but could have organised the ‘Hands Off Russia’ movement, been one of 5000 communists arrested during the 1926 general strike, volunteered to fight fascism and Franco in Spain, or campaigned against apartheid, kept a local nursery, hospital or library open, organised against racism in Bristol and Birmingham, supported the struggle for freedom from colonialism in India and Ireland and marched against imperialist war in Iraq. There will be some who built unions, broke sports records, helped found CND or the modern women’s movement, collected food and money for striking miners, wrote best-selling books, made films or composed music. They may have made a contribution to science, educated pupils, fought at El Alamein and landed on D-Day, sailed on arctic convoys, hid Jews and Russian prisoners, as did the brave communists on nazi-occupied, Channel Islands, or collected blood plasma for Vietnam.
The aim of ‘A centenary for socialism’ is to capture the enthusiasm for socialism that has been the hallmark of the Communist Party over ten decades, illustrate the tenacity that characterises many communists along with their love of culture, understanding of Marxism, and present it for a new and younger generation.
The centenary weekend, indeed all of the events, will be open to all Star readers, workers and their families and activists in the labour movement. They are not just for communists. Mark the weekend on 31 July - 2nd August in your diary, you won’t want to miss out.
by Phil Katz and Liz Payne.