Convening at a critical time amid the maelstrom of worldwide aggressive imperialist threats and the increasingly authoritarian capitalist crisis in Britain, Congress agreed a sharpened, comprehensive Marxist-Leninist strategy. Its primary concern is the struggle to eliminate the capitalist order and establish working class state power which, in turn, would create, build and defend socialism.
The basis of Congress's work lay in the vital recognition that the capitalist crisis actually presents us with a serious opportunity to press our case. It therefore made it all the more important that social, political and economic issues were examined in a manner pointing the way to organisational development.
Addressing delegates, Eric Trevett, President of the NCP, hit the mark squarely: "This crisis is proving to be a cauldron of capitalist instability. The objective factors necessitating revolution are maturing. The subjective factor -- the working class equiped with revolutionary leadership -- has still to be established. And that is the challenge we face and prepare for."
It's an expression that neatly summed up the basis of so much that was contributed to Congress over the two busy days, and which was highlighted by Andy Brooks, General Secretary of the NCP, who, while moving the Main Political Resolution, lanced a number of "left" illusions.
Criticising those who opt to imitate social democracy and others who think there is "some comprehensive correct line on everything", he said they were "fundamentally wrong and life and practice demonstrates this." Only the working class winning state power, by overthrowing the capitalist class, would achieve its genuine emancipation. But "that can never come about through parliamentary roads, 'British roads', or all the other formulations of social democracy."
Preparation for what lies ahead, requires that we present our strategy through dialogue, over and over again, "to get the widest possible audience for our ideas and win people to our cause." So there has to be a lead given, he said, "by a working class, revolutionary communist party which comprises the best elements of the class and its allies."
History has demonstrated this. Andy Brooks said that a great deal was achieved by communists in the 30s, 40s and 50s in the labour and peace movements. And today our focus must be: "Amongst the workers, blue and white collar, amongst the students and amongst the intelligentsia -- in the factories, offices, universities, schools and housing estates, amongst the people."
It isn't Parties, it's working people and mass action which brings change, "and change -- revolutionary change, is the demand of the day." While acknowledging that it "may seem a tall order for a Party as small as ours," he said, "if we don't do it, who will? If we can't do it -- who can?" The prevailing mood of inner confidence from delegates, as they voiced their views and proposals, was evidence enough that "we can".
This two-yearly high-point of the Party's activity demonstrated its purposeful and candid attitude to all matters under review. Two broad themes reflecting fundamental concerns emerged.
Firstly, there was an assessment of the destructive impact the capitalist crisis is having on the social, economic, and cultural wellbeing of working people - and what to do about it. Secondly, analysis of socialism looking at its history, the role of revisionism in the setbacks, and the recognition that socialist countries -- People's China, Vietnam, Laos, Cuba and Democratic Korea -- continue to hold high the banner of a new civilisation.
Uppermost on delegates' minds -- at the podium, on the floor, in committees, and through resolutions and amendments -- were a wide variety of issues, covering the home and international front.
This ranged over: Party organisation and the New Worker, trade union struggles, Labour Party, pensions, education, culture, women, diversification and arms conversion, European Union, Nato and the United States, the state of the economy, jobs and benefits, housing, National Health Service and Private Finance Initiative (PFI), environment, Co-ops, the Internet (14,000 visitors so far), youth, music -- and fun.
And from a more specifically international perspective the key issues were: China, imperialism, socialism and revisionism -- the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, South East Asia and the capitalist crisis. An important continuity factor of internationalism in the Congress was brought to bear through the contributions of fraternal guests and received messages. Not much, in fact, was left untouched.
Fraternal messages were a feature spread over the entire Congress. And they had much to contribute. Presenting all the messages and contributions would require an entire issue of the paper. The point that emerges from them is important for Party activists: is that we are not alone, perhaps even especially in the most difficult times. And communists internationalism demonstrates that socialism knows no boundaries in an ever shrinking world.
In this sense there is a shared appreciation in all the messages that come from all corners of the world. All the messages carried the essence of this.
Some views from Parties abroad were directly about struggles in Britain: The Central Committee of the Communist Parcy of Grccce (KKE) expressed their "feelings of solidarity with the struggle of English students for free education, with the dockers of Liverpool and with the Magnet strikers.
The New Communist Party of the Netherlands (NCPN) were "strongly interested in the struggle of the British working class, especially in the "era of Tony Blair'." They said "We in Holland also have to fight against "modern social democracy" and "revisionist trade union leadership."
Again, on the track of social democracy, the Workers' Party of Belgium (PTB), in their message, emphasised that "In Britain as well as in Belgium, social democracy is showing its complete political and ideological rottenness, as it is currently favoured and used by hig capital to carry out the latter's anti-worker policies."
Teresita Trujillo, member of the International Relations Committee of the Cuban Communist Party, had travelled directly from Havana to attend the Congress. She said the NCP's solidarity against the US blockade of Cuba was much appreciated. And she made it clear that Cuban resolve and vigilance in defending their Revolution was at its staunchest, but it was also at "dangerous crossroads" because of US pressure.
Only socialism, the Cuban leader said, is capable of solving human problems; and that they adhered to the principles which Che Guevara and his comrades died for. She said "we know the value of solidarity. We have always counted on this."
And Han Tae Song of the Workers Party of Korea thanked Congress for our efforts in support of Democratic Korea. In particular, he recognised the role of the NCP in assisting this work through the recently established Korean Friendship and Solidarity Campaign (KFSC).
As Brenda Lee, Chairperson of the NCP pointed out, their need in the light of the floods and food shortages. In Democratic Korea "if one is hungry, then we are all hungry". So support for the committee was urgent.
Coordination Communiste of France pointed out the vital need to build Marxist-Leninist organisations which, with vanguard influence among working people, would once again establish communist international co-operation, The message stressed the need for "united action by communist organisations"
The Central Committee of the All Union Communist Party of Bolsheviks (AUCPB) expressed solidarity with the NCP who are "standing firmly for liberating working people from under the yoke of capitalism-imperialism". International Secretary A Barychev hoped the NCP "will contribute to strengthening unity of British communists on the basis of revolutionary Marxism-Leninism."
And while many messages expressed concern at the role of the European Union and Nato, the message from the Workers League for the Restoration of the Communist Party of Germany was stark. They brought a "warning to the people of Europe and to the people of Britain -- a warning of German imperialism and a German dominated Europe.
Southern Asia figured prominently at Congress, with messages and fraternal speeches from four communist organisations, including the General Secretary of Communist Party of Bangladesh (Marxist-Leninist) Dilip Barua addressed delegates.
The fraternal delegates therefore provided a backdrop to proceedings. The specific resolutions that were agreed -- on US-Nato-EU expansionism, pensions, the environment, arms conversion and culture -- added a significant dimension to the Party's analysis and campaigning.
Putting forward a strong case on pensions, Alan Rogers told delegates that while an active pensioners' movement is growing in Britain, it in fact organises only a fraction of the 10 or so million pensioners -- a measure of the task in hand.
The demands specified in the resolution on pensions were not "whistling in the dark", he said. "The pensioners' movement believes and advances arguments which show they see no reason for the Blair government not to deliver the goods." And gains can be achieved, as is clear from the Greater London Pensioners' Association which negotiated a free Travel Permit that's "probably the best in the country".
The resolution, noting that "Congress expresses its satisfaction that the Party submitted its views to the Review Team", explained that "Pensions and all social welfare are part of the social wage." It went on: "These have always been under attack and never more so than now. This is due to the maximum profits sought by capitalist transnationals and policies against social spending enforced by the IMF and World Bank throughout the world."
And it was clear what the "welfare state" was all about: "One can see now that the so-called welfare state and all the assurances about full employment, and so on, played a useful role in keeping the working class and its labour movement quiet, ensuring the defeat of socialist ideas."
The resolution pressed home the fact that "class realities of social spending have been ignored," and was critical of the trade union movements' concentration on occupational pensions, "rather than for adequate levels of State Pensions." It said that "profit, market mechanisms and capitalism cannot ensure proper social provision."
To break this it is essential that pensioners make the links, Alan Rogers said. "It is the job of communists to do this", namely to recognise the connection with "Maastricht, European Union membership, IMF, World Bank, capitalist crisis, unemployment, casualisation, job insecurity and attacks on social spending." All of this and more has led to a staggering one billion people being unemployed and under-employed worldwide, he said.
On arms conversion the call was made for the Party to: "take the initiative in campaigning for a radical shift in government policy towards diversification; such a shift would gain the support of peace, environmental groups and the Labour left." Dave Saunders explained that it was time to reduce the country's "dependence on the Military Industrial Complex and to find alternative ways of rebuilding our industrial base."
Citing the fact that we are second only to the US with 22.1 per cent of the $5 billion worldwide arms trade, he said that arms diversification would not lead to unemployment because "the essential core" of the industry -- electronics, computers, metallurgy and electro-mechanical engineering -- has a direct application for non-military commodities.
Discussion around culture ranged far and wide and highlighted the need for a fuller Communist cultural debate. Delegates were urged to be their own film and theatre critics. Culture should unify. Despite the blockade Cuban culture continues to do just that.
Renee Sams, with her experience of the Unity Theatre days, observed that culture is a vital matter in many nations. She pointed out the way in which British rule in Ireland suppressed music, their language and dress. In Britain culture is ever about resources -- something that the old GLC had with some creative understanding -- but which now is more likely to be in the hands of the National Lottery.
Points were raised over the weekend about civil service pay bargaining, workfare plans, the iniquitous nature of lone parent benefit. It was explained that investing £200,000,000 in 500,000 people to get them off lone parent benefit and into a job, works out at about £1.92 a week. This represents another move to cut social spending.
And this is clearly an issue -- as it obviously affects women -- that Linda Clair said needed to be addressed in the broad work of the Party on women's issues. But equally, the cutbacks are hitting students hard.
Simon Watson was confident that, given the degree of ideological unity in the Party, it should be possible to connect with young people who, while under increasing pressure, nevertheless are receptive to our views. And, as is often not realised of such views they will invariably have no knowledge from communists themselves.
And this objectively linked to Barbara Wiseman's concern that we should have the "front", as it were, to be "up front" despite the difficult circumstances. The Soviet Union has gone, its loss has benefited no one, but we live on. The Liverpool dockers are evidence of living on in struggle. And the Party's involvement has led to recognition of work done -- and appreciation of the New Worker's window on that battle.
So, in effect, all the ingredients are there to move forward, however difficult the conditions. The changing conditions are opportunities, not brick walls. Forces of action against these conditions spring up and reveal themselves in a new and militant light -and that is where we should be too.
Certain areas gained particular attention, either in direct floor contributions or through amendments to the main political resolution, and also where issues continue to be thrashed out, as delegates knew from views most recently aired in the New Worker and in pre-Congress discussion documents.
Some discussion centred on economic developments and reforms in China. And the key economic imperatives of the socialist market economy were put forward by Mick James. But there was considerable debate on revisionism and the 20th Soviet Party Congress. In particular, two motions calling for the deletion of the entire section in the main political resolution on the 20th Congress of the Soviet Communist Party and Khruschov's so-called secret speech, were overwhelmingly rejected.
Central to this is the following formulation on the 20th Congress, adopted in the main political resolution: "The basis of post-war revisionism was laid at the 20th Congress of the CPSU. The vicious personal attack on Stalin by Nikita Khruschov had two main effects within the world communist movement."
The document goes on to explain that this led to an open door for Trotskyism in western Europe, encouraging a retreat from socialist standards in the socialist camp, signalled a lack of confidence in working people, in practice rejected the leading role of the working class and created a climate of compromise and defeat. This, it states, paved the way for counter-revolution.
The destructive effects in the international communist movement were far-reaching and ultimately reinforced the role of social democracy in the working class movement.
In the debate on the draft political resolution's position, Julian Holt said the issue was clear: "Khruschov's speech had a profoundly negative effect on the prospects for communism worldwide and left the international forces of reaction much stronger." He also challenged the view that the draft suggests revisionism did not begin before the Second World War.
Revisionism did exist before, he said, and the draft does not claim that "Khruschov's speech was the only factor in the post-war development of revisionism." He said it identifies the 20th Congress speech as "a watershed in the development of post-war revisionism and hence anti-communism."
In a wide-ranging defence of the draft, he suggested that far from a secret speech -- that actually lacked real analysis of the Stalin period, what Khruschov said had all the hallmarks of tailoring for the capitalist mass media. It gave a green light to Western subversion and war and strengthened ultra-leftism.
The draft highlights that "pivotal" speech, not because it is unique -- it is one contribution among many to revisionism -- but because it came "at a time of escalating Cold War and when the world communist movement needed to he strong and united," he said. That was "guaranteed to cause disunity. The very reverse of what was required."
Julian Holt said "adopting a policy on Khruschov's speech now, does not preclude further consideration at the seminar." And this, of course, is not the "final word on revisionism." In fact, to take that analysis forward, delegates endorsed the call for a seminar on revisionism to he organised.
In his summing up, Andy Brooks drew out some key points to emphasise factors which are significantly new positions.
He said it was right that some time was devoted to economic developments in China, not least because they represent a quarter of the: world's population. But it was important to recognise that People's China is also a force for peace. There was no doubt, he said, that the Chinese Communist Party will be playing a crucial role in the future of the world communist movement.
But there were also some new elements to Congress affairs. Although the Party had always supported the liberation struggle of Sinn Fein in northern Ireland -- for the withdrawal of British occupation troops, and so on -- it is the first time that Congress formally restated it's support, not only for British withdrawal and an end to partition, but also for the re-unification of Ireland.
There have been some positive developments over the last two years. The Party's new formulation of progressive co-operation has enhanced relations between the NCP and the Morning Star, Communist Party of Britain, Communist Party of Scotland and the Revolutionaty Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist). It is based on mutual respect for each others positions and recognition of the differences between us.
Andy Brooks made it clear that there was only one direction in which we were going to grow -- and that was with the working class and in struggle. "We're not a club, debating society or charity," he said, "we are a revolutionary party." The way forward for communists was "with the certainty that socialism is enevitable and the days of capitalism are numbered."
Congress collection raised in excess of £1,500.
Fraternal delegates to Congress included comrades from...
Communist Party of Cuba
Workers Party of Korea
Communist Party of Bangladesh
Communist Party of Bangladesh (Marxist-Leninist)
Communist Party of Denmark (Marxist-Leninist)
Communist Party of Germany (KPD)
Workers League for the Restoration of the Communist Party of Germany
Communist Party of Greece (KKE)
Communist Party of India (Marxist)
Portuguese Communist Party
Communist Party of the Peoples of Spain
Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist)
Communist Party of Britain
Communist Party of Scotland
Messages were received from...
Communist Party of China
All-Union Communist Party of Bolsheviks
Communist Party of Australia
Belgian Workers Party
Belgian Communist Movement
Workers Party of Bangladesh
Communist Party of Brazil
Communist Party in Denmark
Communist Workers Party of Finland
Co-ordination Communiste of France
New Communist Party of the Netherlands
Hungarian Workers Party
Communist Party of India
Socialist Unity Centre of India
Movement for Peace and Socialism of Italy
Socialist Party of Aotearoa (New Zealand)
League of Polish Communists (Proletariat)
Communist Party of the Valencian Country (Communist Party of Spain)
Syrian Communist Party
Communist Party of Sweden Marxist-Leninist (revolutionary)