Friday, 2 October 2009

Communist Party Split?

Readers will know the Communist Party of Britain has formally withdrawn from the talks around founding a successor organisation to No2EU. As opposed to being part of the coalition, at the next election the party has committed itself to standing its own candidates; supporting communist party members from overseas domiciled in Britain as part of their peace and socialism alliance; backing Respect, son of No2EU and other left challenges; and of course calling for a Labour vote as well.

For anyone reasonably acquainted with the Communist Party's politics the withdrawal come as much of a surprise. Since its foundation in 1988 the CPB have backed Labour at every election. The only exceptions have been the handful of occasions the comrades have stood their own candidates. In recent years it's been no secret a section of the party have been chafing against their historic auto-labourism. A section of the leadership were reportedly impressed with Respect, with an affiliation vote being narrowly defeated in 2007. And of course, the CPB was a core component of No2EU - the first time it had been part of a nationwide left challenge to Labour.

However, since the comrades' withdrawal from talks with the RMT, Socialist Party and Alliance for Green Socialism, unconfirmed rumours have reached me that trying to placate the auto-labourite and pro-left alternative wings have led to a split in the leadership. It would appear no less a figure than Rob Griffiths, the general secretary of the CPB, has resigned from the party over the decision to withdraw from the talks. Other leading figures are reportedly considering their positions also.

As I've said, this is an unconfirmed rumour and I'll post up more information when I've received it.

Also in other left regroupment news, the SWP has written to the core groups of son of No2EU and Respect about electoral cooperation. We may still yet see a viable left challenge emerge.

Saturday edit: A couple of interesting contributions from the Former Communists' forum:

"The official lines are all silent, nobody's talking. It seems Griffiths was rather pissed after the outcome of the EC meeting on sunday (that part's almost certainly true) and rumours are circulating that he's resigned (not impossible). There is certainly a large grouping around Griffiths' position.

In the end we'll know when either the official announcement of a new General Secretary being appointed goes out, or Griffiths and co. issue their call to arms to sympathisers or this whole rumour dies out and turns out to have had no merit."

"Some bits and bobs from the Former Communists\ forum:

"The official lines are all silent, nobody's talking. It seems Griffiths was rather pissed after the outcome of the EC meeting on sunday (that part's almost certainly true) and rumours are circulating that he's resigned (not impossible). There is certainly a large grouping around Griffiths' position.

In the end we'll know when either the official announcement of a new General Secretary being appointed goes out, or Griffiths and co. issue their call to arms to sympathisers or this whole rumour dies out and turns out to have had no merit."

"I've just heard an unconfirmed rumour that Griffiths, Haylett and their supporters intend to leave the CPB and set up a new organisation called the WCPB (which apparently stands for Worker Communist Party of Britain). Their intention is to affiliate with the RMT's new electoral platform and to try and wrest control of the Morning Star from the rump CPB."

41 comments:

Phil said...

As opposed to being part of the coalition, at the next election the party has committed itself to standing its own candidates; supporting communist party members from overseas domiciled in Britain as part of their peace and socialism alliance; backing Respect, son of No2EU and other left challenges; and of course calling for a Labour vote as well.

Red Pepper might be able to commit to "vote for who you like as long as they're left", but surely a party (nay, the Party) should have something a bit more coherent by way of a recommendation. Are you saying the CPB's committed itself to having several different positions in its ranks? That would be novel.

Phil BC said...

Pretty much. I think it was a 'vote left as far as you can' approach - but clearly that was too much for some in what will be a crunch election. And hence the split.

ModernityBlog said...

"We may still yet see a viable left challenge emerge."

Ahh, the triumph of optimism over history.

Could be Phil BC, *if* most of that backward looking Leninism is dropped, along with the big shot leaders and their hangers-on but that won't happen, so expect more of the same.

Neil said...

Robert Griffiths is still the General Secretary of the CPB.

Stal1ngrad said...

wtf are the above comments? is that some sort of joke?

I thought the SP/SWP and RESPECT were already in alliance in Wigan anyway? This SWP letter different in content than the Wigan's Peoples Alliance? cheers

JaySmith said...

How the hell do we end up losing to people who say things like "the good honest decent wasp folk are real angry at your fucking jew faggot lies and your fucking jew faggot games".

By the way bring it on Nazi.

SteveH said...

And there are some on the left who would have no problem with this guy being a policeman or a teacher!

Southpawpunch said...

The guy sounds like he is a cop, Steve.

SteveH said...

If you are taking the comments of that demented idiot away you should take the others away too because now they make no sense.

I would have kept them in, its always nice to have the odd reminder of what we are fighting against.

Phil BC said...

I don't know what it is but every time I lift comment moderation, the trolls and freaks seem to sense it. I get none of this crap when it's enabled. But anyway.

Stal1ngrad, yes all the organisations are in alliance in Wigan. The letter from the SWP is about national cooperation.

That shouldn't be too hard. IMO I think any alliance should concentrate on a small number of seats, and that's what's most likely to emerge. I think it's a waste if we stand in 100 or so seats just for a broadcast.

ModernityBlog said...

yeah Phil, Wordpress is much better with admin tools and moderation control than blogger, you should think about migrating to WP, it is an easy process.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

I've had loads of hits from this page Phil? Has someone been spamming this page pretending to be me and linking to my blog?

Had the same trick over at Lib Con.

Let me know please?

Andrew Coates said...

It doesn't come as mcuh of a surprise. Particularly when Tony Woodley was on telly being gushing about Brown. Insofar as the CPB has any real base it is in UNITE (T & G mainly). Draw conclusions from that.

It will be interesting to hear from the local CPB on this descent into the kind of ineffectual confusion that typifies, say, Red Pepper.

JimPage said...

To get a broadcast you need to fight 1/6th of the seat in England, Scotland or Wales, or Britain as a whole.

And with the greatest will in the world, fighting 100 in England is not tenable i think, base don what i knwo of the true strengths of the left down there.

Youa re right, probably best to fight maybe 20 seats in fair to good areas and build from there- which is what the BNP did in 2001- which was not a bad long term decision by them

Anonymous said...

The far-left in Britain is utterly pathetic. There's no chance of a "viable left challenge" emerging; any hope of that died with the Socialist Alliance years ago.

You simply cannot reconcile the competing egos and aspirations of Trotskyists, Stalinists, trade union bureaucrats and Islamist organisations.

Dominic Smith said...

Sadly I can't say I didn't see this coming, even though at Tolpuddle I met some very good, committed and principled young CPB youth, the sad fact is that the older leading layers are pretty mush fossilised Stalinists/right-reformists politically, some of them were personally involved in fighting Militant and the Left in the Labour party in the 80's while today they support the union bureaucracy in Unison in the Witch Hunt against our members.

What I think is behind this sudden withdraw is that some of the senior officials in the main right-wing unions like Unison, but mostly Unite which as comrade Andrew rightly says is their main base, had a word with them behind the scenes and put pressure on them. The leverage they have over the CPB is the Morning Star and the current support those right-wing unions have for it, they regard it as a safe union paper given the extremely limited, if not practically non-existent, criticism it makes of them. Not to mention of course the more serious issue for them, that of the papers traditional support for Labour in the general election, while given the limited unimportance of the Euro elections I think the likes of Prentice and Woodley were willing to turn a blind eye to their involvement in a new left political alliance, when it comes to a general election, the kid gloves are off and they demanded the CPB fall into line, not be involved with a more serious left challenge to Labour or else they reconsider the bulk orders their unions make of the Morning Star, thus, depriving the CPB of its main influence among the organised working-class.

True, the CPB will be standing candidates of their own, but does anyone really think they have a snowballs chance in Hell of making any political impact whatsoever? I mean, granted no one expects an RMT/SP/CPB/Allience for Green socialism and others in a new formation to actually get any MP's first time out, with the possible exception of Crow in London if they really, really went for it, it could still have a profound political impact and help push the process towards a new workers party forward. The CPB standing paper candidates in a few seats, while calling on votes for Labour and other lefts where they are not, will not have any real impact at all. I'm sure also that the calculating bureaucrats in the right-wing unions are hopping with the withdraw of the CPB the RMT might get cold feet and pull out, I know for a fact that the RMT leadership does contain a fair few individuals who’s political leanings are those of the CBP and Morning Star, if not outright supports or members, they may begin to being pressure to bare on the rest of the leadership.

What can SP and other socialists who look towards this initiative with some enthusiasm do? Well, along with brining our own limited pressure to bare on the RMT leadership to hold firm, far more importantly is for us to engage with the rank and file of the union, visiting branches and workplaces and asking them to add their own voices to that pressure because, as another comrade put it to me bluntly last night when disusing this, "If the RMT pull out, we're fucked."

Leftwing Criminologist said...

I dunno, I think we could stand in a fair few more seats than 20, I'm sure the SP stood in that many by themselves last time around so surely a coalition would be in a position to stand in more than that?

Ideally, we want to stand in places where we have a base and can mount a decent campaign. That said, if we're not far off 100 (dunno if we would be, we'd have to see what happens) then surely standing a few extra paper candidates would be worth it for getting an election broadcast?

Simon said...

Communist Workers Party sounds better than Worker Communist Party. Am I right?

Phil BC said...

If we weren't far off 100 then it does make sense to stand a few more paper candidates. But I am mindful of what happened in 2001. The Socialist Alliance stood in 98 seats, and our campaign was extremely constrained by a lack of bodies. Nor was it built upon for a variety of reasons. I fear spreading us thinly this time would strengthen more conservative hands in the RMT and waste activist energies better spent elsewhere.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Just to clear something up here, an idiot used my name to leave very offensive comments that in no way reflect my attitudes or beliefs and just want to make that clear to all that read here.

May the idiot go fuck themselves.

ModernityBlog said...

Maybe putting up 100 candidates should be an *objective*, with a tally of the problems/solutions kept along that path?

That's the logical way to do it. Set an initial number, say 20, calculate how many people you need per constituency, what resources are required, etc and keep a record.

*Then* next time up the amount, keep records again and see what it is possible, factually speaking.

I can't see why the British Left, *overall*, couldn't put up 100 candidates, assuming 100 people required per constituency, that's 100*100, but you'd need to do it methodically to work out the wheres/why fors, etc

Anonymous said...

Daniel,

I wouldn't worry too much, to be fair to the demented idiot he actually said in his comments you were among the people he'd like to get rid of!

I for one had worked out he was using your name.

YCLer said...

Dominic Smith says he spoke to principled members of the Young Communist League at Tolpuddle, I happen to be one of those principled young comrades and I, along with most of the YCL, happen to have not been entirely supportive of the son of NO2eu project.

My experience of the SP during the NO2Eu campaign was not at all good. I cannot speak for other regions, but in mine the SP was very uncomfortable about engaging in any political activity, where there were not a majority of SP members, a situation i only encountered in the final rally-where SP members (very, very loudly) identified themselves as SP members every time they spoke.
parhaps they had been warned against the nasty 'stalinists'/ or felt geniunely pissed off due to being witch hunted out of the labour party/unions etc.. for whatever reason, i found the SP to be wanting in terms of allies who could be depended on to do serious political work. The members of the SP who allow themselves to chat to members of other poltical parties happen to be very nice people, and great comrades-however, i feel a political party cannot be based upon such a small alliance.

At the end of the day, at this stage, the only real option is a labour or tory government next year. A tory government would be disaster on catastrophic levels, whereas, a labour victory would be at the worst more of the same, at best, in light of the recent conference, not as bad as Blairism.

At the end of the day, a left wing challenge to Labour has to be more than just the communist party, the RMT and the SP. A half-hearted electoral platform will only take votes off Labour and do the Tories work for them.

I am in favour of a brand new workers party, that can challenge New Labour, but I do not think this will magically occur by way of the son of NO2EU.

I recently read a biography of keir hardie and although parallels can be drawn between the Lib-Lab mentality of only voting Liberal to keep the Tories out, i feel that most of the kind of people that Keir hardie would have wanted in his alliance, remain members of the Labour party.


We have a choice between a tory-boy, toff who has no problem pleading our support to the dictator of georgia, when Russia is at war with them. A man who has no problem linking up with anti-gay, racist parties in Poland or with members of his own party stating that the NHS has been a 60 year mistake. The choice is between a man who wants to fully entrench thatcherism and take it to its logical conclusion, or a Brown who has recently allowed greater say for the grassroots in the Labor party, who cannot possibly be as bad as a Cameron government.

i always think that wealthy middle class students, who shout ultra-leftist statements against the Labour government, have nothing to lost from a Cameron government, whereas, ordinary working class people have everything to lose.

At this moment in time, however wonderful the possibility of a british style 'left party' could be, a Labour victory is the only possible progressive outcome of the next election

Cassandra said...

Clearly the fact that Labour is going to loose the next election, and badly, is starting to concentrate people’s minds.

Everyone knows we are now in a phoney war. The real action will not be after the election. Both Labour and the Tories are being cagey about the cuts that will be made. Which look like being massive whoever wins power. Everyone is, quite understandably manoeuvring to position themselves for the new post election fall out.

The Labour party is going to go into crisis after the election. Clearly some feel that Labour is already tilting to the left and rediscovering some kind of social democracy.

This is possible, but if it is the case then it is likely to of a most superficial. The French socialists did this, when back in power, they did introduce the 35-hour week. But the overall trajectory has everywhere where the social democratic party has been defeated, has been to the right.

The question of the LP and any left of labour electoral initiative are two sides of the same coin.

The LP still exerts a massive Jovian like gravitational pull on the left, despite its inner decay. It still has the poser to suck all into its orbit. It will continue to do so until the left can sort out what the point is of a left of labour electoral intervention is for.

If it is just an effort of pre-existing forces to exert pressure on the LP form the left, it is a non starter as it will either be sucked into the LPs gravity well and destruction.

if it is just a front for pre-existing groups to have an “electoral intervention” to be switched on and off at the convenience of its dominant forces, it will fail to develop and grow, and will separate into its original component parts.

If people want a Die Linke type of formation, they need to put their cards on the table and say so and start discussing how we are going to get there. Equally if they want something else, then they should say so.

Everyone to the left realised that with the advent of the Blair government a space opened “to the left of Labour” (though actual events have proved this to be an inadequate formula as the BNP has clearly been along with the Greens, the main beneficiary of those who are discontented with the political consensus)

There being a space, and knowing what to do with it, are not the same.

Neil said...

"I cannot speak for other regions, but in mine the SP was very uncomfortable about engaging in any political activity, where there were not a majority of SP members"

YCLer can you clarify exactly what that means? Are you saying SP members refused to canvass with CP members, do stalls, put up posters etc where they were in a minority?

What initiatives did the CP or YCL put forward that were scuppered or undermined by the SP's refusal to co-operate?

My experience in London was that both sides pretty much got on with what they wanted with no interference from any side, a very positive development given the recent history of left unity projects.

"a situation i only encountered in the final rally-where SP members (very, very loudly) identified themselves as SP members every time they spoke.
parhaps they had been warned against the nasty 'stalinists'/ or felt geniunely pissed off due to being witch hunted out of the labour party/unions etc"

This is just bizzare. This is how the SP has always operated since we were in the Labour Party. It has nothing to do with what is happening in Unison or whether members of the CP are in the room. I find your reasoning very tendentious. We're a distinct political grouping within a broad alliance. What's wrong with identifying yourself?

Arthur Bough said...

Daniel,

I was a bit confused too when I saw a load of moronic stuff appear with your name tagged to it. Then I realised that it was not your ID, and guessed who the real culprit was. I guess that after I exposed the Sentinel as a crank who is as much an IT expert as my dog is, you challenging him to a face to face, and him bottling it has pushed him over the edge from his alredy fragile mental state.


I tracked his posts to my blog a while ago and confirmed that he was also the same person who had been posting under the alias of BCFG, where he assumed the persona of a Mullah loving leftist. That I think shows what Phil was saying here about the problem of trolls ans spammers. They nclearly are very sad individuals. In "Sentinel's" csae its even clear from his posts whatever name he uses that he's so stupid that its unlikely his claim to be a BNPer is true either, because he's too thick even for them.

Anonymous said...

"As opposed to being part of the coalition, at the next election the party has committed itself to standing its own candidates; supporting communist party members from overseas domiciled in Britain as part of their peace and socialism alliance; backing Respect, son of No2EU and other left challenges; and of course calling for a Labour vote as well."

Can I ask what this is based on? I've read elsewhere that the position would simply be a few CPB candidates plus support for Labour. But what you describe, supporting Respect, son-of-No2EU etc from the outside, is sort of the 'tradition position'-plus...

Thanks

Sacha

Phil BC said...

Unfortunately I can't remember where I read it - it must have been a Morning Star article or something. But I do clearly remember saying it would be supporting son of No2EU - but the implication was not actively so.

Anonymous said...

So...has Rob resigned from the Party or not? It appears not as he is still quoted in Monday's Star as GS of the CPB.

Phil BC said...

Still waiting for confirmation or otherwise. We're going to have to sit tight.

Phil BC said...

I see the AWL has regurgitated some of the above here. Thanks for the acknowledgment, guys!

Prinkipo Exile said...

What's the story about the SP not turning up to the left regroupment meeting in Cambridge because it is claimed that local interventions are banned if they haven't been sanctioned by the national leadership?

http://socialistresistance.org/?p=682

Phil BC said...

I find that claim dubious to say the least. SP branches have a very large degree of autonomy from the national and regional leaderships. If Cambridge SP didn't turn up I'm virtually certain it's a decision they made at the local level and you'll have to take it up with them.

Prinkipo Exile said...

Thanks Phil, fair point.

So the SP don't have a general line of supporting left regroupments in each locality, but leave it to the local branch to judge each initiative on its merits?

Prinkipo Exile said...

The AWL may not do acknowledgements but the Weekly Worker are not so shy.

http://www.cpgb.org.uk/worker/788/ending.php

Phil BC said...

If there is a line either way I'm not aware of it. What we do in Stoke is pursue our own local strategy as determined at our AGM and through the course of our local activity. The only time the national organisation has intervened here is in support of some of the local things we've decided to do, and on those occasions that support has been subordinate to local leadership. Generally speaking the SP leadership believes the comrades on the ground are the best positioned to make decisions about what to prioritise.

It does seem rather strange to me that Cambridge branch has stayed out of discussions about a united left initiative. I can speculate about the reasons - perhaps they don't like the rest of the Cambridge left? Perhaps they're waiting to see what's going to happen with son of No2EU? You'd have to ask them for their reasons.

Anonymous said...

I am not entirely sure that the Cambridge SP didn't attend under instruction from the party. This meeting was not very well publicised locally. I did not find out about it other than a text message late on Monday evening which is surprising as I know and am well known by SWP members, SP members and independents alike.

Where did Socialist Resistance get this info from? I didn't even know that they were active in Cambridge.

Prinkipo Exile said...

I suggest Anonymous posts that comment about the lack of publicity and clarification about the SP position on the Cambridge meeting on the SR website as the author will then get a chance to respond.

I understand that as well as the CPB the RMT have now formally withdrawn from the 'son of No2EU' talks, and that therefore Bob Crow is only involved in a personal capacity, not representing the RMT. If true, this means that the talks are now between the SP, AGS (which is a very small group indeed), and Bob Crow as an individual. I cannot see much coming out of this - this is a much weaker basis than that of (say) Respect.

Phil, I find it interesting that branches in the SP seem to have little to guide them on their tactics locally. That seems to me to be a significant change in the approach to building a national organisation, particularly in my experience of Militant in the past where if there was a national initiative such as the setting up of a front or campaign, you could guarantee that members in every locality would be proposing the same resolutions supporting it or setting up meetings whatever the balance of forces at local level.

Trotboy said...

If the RMT formally withdraw from support for any future formation, then it is dead in the water. The only reason we in the SP supported No2EU was the fact it had the backing of a major, and militant, Trade Union. Without their backing it becomes yet another attempt to weld together some sects, and we all know where that leads. If the SWP are now inlvolved, then this SP member will certainly NOT be, leave it to them of the RMT are off!

Neil said...

Looks like the CPB are back in the game.

http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/index.php/news/britain/Time-to-resist-ruling-class-offensive-say-communists

Phil BC said...

Interesting. I would hope so.