Mapping a path to a socialist future
the 17th Congress of the New Communist Party

by New Worker correspondent

IT MAY have been cold and frosty outside but it was nice and warm in London’s historic Marx House as delegates and guests gathered for the 17th Congress of the New Communist Party of Britain.

That historic house in Clerkenwell Green, with its memories of Lenin and the Marxist pioneers of the British working class movement, was once again the venue for the NCP’s triennial congress last weekend.

Sadly ill-health prevented some comrades from taking part in the discussions, like NCP President Eric Trevett and National Treasurer Dolly Shaer. But both their voices were heard in messages to Congress that were read out by national chair Alex Kempshall during the opening of the first session on Saturday afternoon.

Eric said: “This Congress is a very important event. It equips our party with a forward strategy that takes into account national and international events...We operate in a major imperialist country where reformism has been the major ideological force in the labour movement from its inception. We find in a more recent period that many communist parties capitulated to the revisionist ideas of social democracy and there was much talk of crisis free capitalism. The present crisis has wiped away the basis the basis for such false ideas”.

“In the present attack on the working class young and old alike are having to face the reality of the class struggle for millions of people”, Eric declared. “Our way forward is to maintain the organisational unity of the working class, combining the struggle for peace and the fight for jobs and social amenities and to merge these struggles to achieve the defeat of the capitalists and their system. Our Party can be proud that it has a developed strategy that is in conformity with the philosophy of Marxism-Leninism and takes into account the concrete realities of our struggle”.

Dolly, who is recovering after a major operation, was also there in spirit, greeting delegates with a message that said: “I wish more than anything that I could be with you all over this weekend to help further the work of our Party”.

Congress stood in silence to remember comrades Albert Williams, Katina Elllis and Otto Cahn who had all sadly passed away since the last congress. And after the formalities of electing tellers, the Congress panels and standing orders committees, general secretary Andy Brooks moved the main resolution in a speech. This covered imperialism, revisionism and the growing resistance to the draconian austerity plans that the ruling class in Britain and throughout Europe are imposing on working people to make them pay for the economic crisis, which has plunged the capitalist world into the biggest slump since the crash of 1929.

As the crisis deepens, so does the danger of even more imperialist aggression. “We meet again at a time of sharpening contradictions and the primary contradiction in the world today is between United States imperialism and the rest of the world it seeks to dominate,” Andy said.

“As the political and economic crisis deepens around the world the struggle for markets and spheres of influence becomes acute, so much so that the aggressor countries, in their need to win the battle for markets and minerals turn to war and crude methods to replace diplomacy and negotiations. The United States is the major imperialist power and is keeping to its aims of provoking war and building up its military machine. The American people and the world peace movement are largely ignored — as was former President Eisenhower when he warned of the danger of the military industrial complex. It is precisely that section of the ruling class that has gained the upper hand and is responsible for the foreign policy of the United States”.

Andy’s speech was followed by a solidarity message from Michael Chant of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (ML). Michael said: “Our two Parties, NCP and RCPB(ML), are dedicated to building a Party of a new type in today's circumstances, a Party composed of professional revolutionaries. Our two Parties are dedicated to the same cause. We do not just co-operate, but take up for solution the problems of contemporary society on a national and global scale, including working together to solve the issue of What Type of Party in today's conditions.

“Our Parties agree that modern definitions are necessary for the success of our work, and we are united in taking up the programmatic slogan: One Class, One Programme! All the efforts in the discussions we have had over many years are focused on finding the way forward based on this programmatic slogan...the outlook of the communist party is a very optimistic one. This is because our parties base ourselves on the most advanced theory, the theory of Marxism-Leninism, which gives us confidence in the sureness of our victory.”

Michael was followed by a number of fraternal delegates from other communist and workers’ parties who brought messages of support from around the world during the sessions over the weekend and joined comrades and friends for a reception in the hall on Saturday evening.

These included Ioli Gouma and George Giannakis from the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and Loukas Papagiannis of the People’s Progressive Party of Cyprus (AKEL). Joe Appard delivered the message from the Communist Party of Malta and Jack Callan brought greetings from the Workers Party of Ireland.

The struggle of the Cuban people against the US blockade and the fight to free the Miami Five was highlighted in the message from the Communist Party of Cuba given by Rafael Sardinas from the Cuban embassy in London, while DPR Korea diplomat Myongsin Mun brought greetings from the Workers Party of Korea and told Congress the good news about the imminent north Korean satellite launch. Messages from old friends of the NCP, like the comrades from the New Communist Party of Yugoslavia, Communist Workers Party of Finland, Communist Party of the Peoples of Spain (PCPE), Communist Party of Mexico and the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) were read out over the weekend along with the greetings from Dermot Hudson of the UK Korean Friendship Association, Left Front Art and the Britain- Vietnam Friendship Association.

Ideological issues and the day-to-day struggle in the peace and trade union movement were taken up by delegates in committee and on the floor of Congress along with the key issue of the future of the New Worker and the need to expand its sales and influence across the labour movement.

Ray Jones, our printer who is also a member of the Central Committee, opened this discussion by announcing that the New Worker would be going tabloid in January. This was forced on us because our existing machines were rapidly coming to the end of the operational lives and no suitable replacement was available on the market.

Though this means abandoning a paper size we had used with little variation since 1977, it will lead to an overall larger paper. The new equipment would enable us to use colour on any page of the planned 12-page New Worker that will hopefully come out in January.

On Sunday delegates voted to endorse the reports of the standing orders and panels committees — thus the new central committee was elected and the main resolution, setting out the NCP’s policy for the next three years, was agreed.

Winding up NCP leader Andy Brooks said the document was an important collective work that began in January on the Central Committee and has now ended with the adoption of the main resolution as amended by Congress. Now the task is to project our analysis into the movement and raise the profile of the communist alternative across the country.

It was a busy and worthwhile two days. It ended, as always, with a rousing rendition of the Internationale.