New Communist Party of Britain
by Caroline Colebrook
THE FIFTEENTH Congress of the New Communist Party of Britain took place at the Marx Memorial Library in London on the weekend of 2nd and 3rd of December this year. It was chaired by Alex Kempshall and attended by party delegates, fraternal delegates from other parties in Britain and around the world and by friends, supporters and observers.
It was an enjoyable experience for all who took part and the benefit of the changes to the Party constitution and rules made in the previous congress in 2003 were evident. The Party’s financial situation has improved and the extra year between congresses allowed the party to spend more time preparing this one.
This was reflected in the main resolution, prepared by the Central Committee, and other resolutions submitted by Party cells that went far deeper into various political and economic issues than ever before. The period of pre-congress discussion had been longer. More topics were covered in greater depth, including energy policy and nuclear power, education, housing, landownership, and advancing fascism in the shape of a more oppressive and controlling state machinery.
There were many amendments and resolutions from Party cells and districts on matters ranging from the environment to mental health and support for the recent nuclear test by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).
We were able to dig deeper into the contradictions and contending interests within the global ruling class as well as the main contradiction between capital and labour. Policy agreed at one Congress stands unless it is withdrawn or contradicted at a later congress. So every time we prepare a main resolution some comrades suggest we do not need to go deeply into what has already been agreed and is not controversial – and thus produce a shorter document. But it never works out like that.
If any topic is left out, someone will raise it. This means that at any congress every aspect of our policy is debated again and fine tuned in the light of recent events. Thus the policy is deepened, along with our understanding of the way the world works and what we need to do to achieve peace and socialism.
Congress is also an opportunity for comrades from all over the country to meet, to put faces to names and to meet and discuss with comrades from other communist parties in struggle all around the world. And the overwhelming message the fraternal comrades brought us this year was very positive. The most reactionary and dangerous elements within global imperialism – the American neo-cons – are being defeated in their attempts to impose world hegemony after the fall of the Soviet Union. Their armies are being defeated in Iraq and Afghanistan. Latin America is turning leftwards, led by Cuba and Venezuela and Washington can do nothing because its armies are bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan. The economic hegemony of the US is broken by China’s rising economic strength, by Venezuela’s use of its oil for progressive purposes and by dissent from the European Union and Russia. Communist Parties around the world are advancing again and revisionist weaknesses and delusions are disappearing. The future is not certain but it is looking a lot better than it did three years ago. Congress opened with a speech from NCP President Eric Trevett, in which he spoke of the coming 30th anniversary of the party’s foundation in July 1977, and the tremendous changes that have taken place in Britain and the world since then. He also spoke of the need to build the party and recruit new members. This is not easy in the current political climate when so many people are disillusioned and alienated from the political process and most political parties are losing members. Furthermore, membership of the NCP calls for a higher level of commitment and sacrifice than most people who are new to the struggle are ready to give.
“Our party has made significant progress but has only modest influence in the Labour movement at present,” said Eric. “Among its successes are the establishment of its own premises, its own printing house and a weekly communist newspaper, the New Worker.
“Our members have been in action on many national and local demonstrations but we have a problem. We are not big enough to play a decisive part in the struggles of the working class.
“For this our recruiting efforts have not been sufficient to offset the natural wastage that arises from the deaths and incapacity of some of our members.
“This is a problem that has to be addressed. The deteriorating living standards of the people and the growing alienation arising from the privatisation process provide the basis for more success to recruit members into our party.
“A start has been made towards this in the foundation of the New Worker Supporters’ Groups, which involve non-party people at present who are becoming conversant with Marxist Leninist ideas and inspired by the ideas of socialism and communism.
“They are also becoming conversant with our strategy for uniting the working class around revolutionary concepts.
“We will be discussing these ideas in the course of this congress and I won’t anticipate them by discussing them in this brief address. But central to our work from this congress must be a conscious recruiting drive. It can’t just be left to exhortation but must be carried through in an organised way and with élan and political conviction.
“That is in some ways the main task facing the party at the present time.” This was followed by a speech from our general secretary, Andy Brooks. He spoke of the primary contradiction in the world today between the Unites States and the rest of the world it seeks to dominate.
“The Bush administration represents the most reactionary and aggressive sections of the American ruling class bent on world domination. Supported by the most venal and craven sections of the British ruling class they have invaded and occupied part of Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq and their guns threaten Democratic Korea, Cuba, Syria, Iran, Venezuela and anyone else who dares to stand in their way,” he said.
Andy went on to speak of the resistance to oppression: “The Iraqi people have defied the might of imperialism for over a decade and the heroic Iraqi resistance has moved from defence to attack effectively destroying Anglo-American imperialism’s dream of colonising Iraq and establishing an imperialist ‘Greater Middle East’. The Palestinians continue to defy the Zionist state and its imperialist masters. Throughout Latin America democratic forces have come to power with mass support. The Nepalese people have ended the autocracy of a hated monarch and the Lebanese resistance inflicted a heavy political and military defeat on the Israelis last summer.”
Andy talked of the record of the NCP in support of those resisting imperialist aggression: “Our party supported the Iraqi government when it intervened in Kuwait in 1990 and opposed the imperialist attack in 1991 that had been rubber-stamped at the UN Security Council. We supported the Iraqi government and people when they suffered under a decade of blockade and imperialist attack. We were in the minority, a tiny minority, arguing this case in the forums of the world communist movement at that time.
“We supported the Iraqi national resistance from the start when this opinion was also in the minority in the world communist movement. Now the overwhelming mass of communist and workers parties have closed ranks behind the resistance and we can take some comfort from the fact that the NCP has played a part in winning the argument for the correct line.” Andy also spoke of the struggle for socialism in Britain: “We believe that the working class can never come to power through bourgeois elections but that doesn’t mean that we turn our back on working class demands for social justice and state welfare. We believe that social democracy can never lead to people’s democracy but that doesn’t mean that we turn our back on social democratic movements that represent millions upon millions of working people in Britain in the unions and in the Labour Party.
“We believe that the class collaborationist ideas of social democracy must be defeated within the working class but not by imitating it in the countless variations of the British Road to Socialism upheld by the revisionist and Trotskyist movements in Britain today. The fact that these platforms do not work; that they are rejected time and time again by the same working class these programmes claim to advance never deters these pseudo-revolutionaries who believe they can change the consciousness of the masses through rhetoric and wild promises.
“Now we can all play that game and call upon imaginary legions beyond the British working class to advance along the revolutionary road. We can all invent a class that is seething with anger and mobilised for revolutionary change that is just waiting for the correct party with the correct formula to lead them to victory. Unfortunately as communists we have to work with the working class that exists and not the phantom of romantic leftism.
“Running left candidates without mass support against Labour divides the movement and the class and ignores the obvious fact that the only realistic alternate governments are those of the Tories and the Liberal Democrats that would be much worse than any Labour government.”
He concluded: “Socialism is essential to eliminate exploitation, unemployment, poverty, economic crisis and war. Socialism is the only solution to climate change, pollution and global warming. Let us work together to build the movement that will ensure that this century becomes the era of socialism.” Delegates then warmly welcomed Comrade Jong In Song from the DPRK embassy in London who conveyed the greetings of Workers Party of Korea to the Congress and wished it well. The financial crisis gripping the NHS sparked many contributions to debate in the Congress. Peter Hendy from the North West District of the NCP, who is a psychiatric nurse, told the Congress: “The NHS is suffering a financial crisis that can only get worse, despite record levels of expenditure.
“It is estimated that the NHS is £900 million in debt with no sign of the crisis abating. Health trust deficits are causing cuts in patient care and staff jobs. More beds, jobs and even whole hospitals face the axe to meet cash shortfalls. “To cut costs and slash budgets has meant sacking workers, freezing pay and slashing services to the bone. Nurses and other health workers are being offered a pathetic 1.5 per cent pay increase – which at half the rate of inflation is effectively a pay cut.
“Twenty thousand workers are set to lose their jobs, 30 community hospitals are threatened with closure and 50 per cent of emergency departments could be axed.” He also spoke on the crisis in mental health care: “High rates of suicide and of psychosis in prisons – estimated to be ten times higher than in the general population, demonstrate a complete failure to provide and develop appropriate services to meet prisoners’ mental health care needs.
“An unprecedented growth in the prison population demonstrates that prisons have now become the new psychiatric hospitals, warehousing society’s most vulnerable and stigmatised sections of the population.” He went on to explain the reasons behind the crisis: the internal NHS market, in which “patients become no more than units of exchange in which managers conduct purchasing agreements”, the private finance initiative and the introduction of foundation status hospitals.
“Speak to anyone in the health service and they will describe a collective mood of demoralisation created by overwork and underpay,” Peter said. And he quoted a leftwing colleague: “When Margaret Thatcher left Downing Street, she shed a tear. I don’t want Tony Blair to shed a tear when he leaves Downing Street. I want him to be led away in handcuffs!”
Ann Rogers from the Southall NCP spoke against the Government’s plans to replace Trident with a new submarine-based nuclear weapons programme. “This is not a simple replacement,” she said, “this is an upgrade costing up to £75 billion.” Ann pointed out that this was in breach of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and also a threat to the environment. “War and weapons damage the environment worse than anything else,” she said.
Alex Kempshall spoke of the NCP delegation to People’s China and that country’s rapid economic growth and drive to eliminate poverty.
Stefan Eggerdinger, representing the Workers’ League for the Restoration of the German Communist Party (AWfKPD) told the Congress about his party’s efforts to expose and combat German and European Union imperialism.
Severino Menendez from the Communist Party of the Peoples of Spain (PCPE) also spoke of European Union imperialism, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organisation. He pointed out that when Israel attacked and invaded Lebanon Bush and Blair delayed any response from the international community. Only when the Lebanese resistance was winning, were international peace-keeping forces sent, and then to the invaded country, not the aggressor.
He also spoke about the recent conference of communist and workers’ parties in Lisbon – continuing the annual international conferences initiated by the Greek Communist Party (KKE) and held in Athens in previous years.
Papagiotis Rentzelas of the KKE told the Congress that the US and EU were the leading imperialist aggressors in the world. He spoke of the EU assault on the hard-won social gains of European workers and the need to broaden the fronts of struggle.
Comrade Christodoulos Stylianou from the Progressive Party of Working People of Cyprus (Akel) paid tribute to the work of the KKE in initiating the international conference and spoke of Akel’s 80th anniversary earlier this year. He called for a just settlement to reunite his divided island and restore its full sovereignty.
Two comrades from the Marxist-Leninist Party of Turkey and Northern Kurdistan (MLTKP) spoke of their struggles to operate in conditions of illegality after raids and arrests on their party and other left parties in Turkey earlier this year.
They and many of their comrades are now in exile and they spoke of the desire to make links with communist parties in those countries where they find themselves.
In response to their appeal, the NCP Congress drafted an emergency motion of support, condemning the suppression of the left Turkish parties and calling for the release of all political prisoners.
Hanne Rosenvald from the newly-united Communist Party of Denmark spoke of the process of unification which had brought the party into existence a few months ago. She also spoke of international solidarity against the war in Iraq, the fight against racism and against attacks of fundamental rights. And she concluded with an account of her party’s struggle for democracy and sovereignty against the EU.
Michael Chant from the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) spoke about the ruling class offensive against civil liberties and the targeting of Islam and revolutionary communism.
Explo Nani Kofi of the African Liberation Solidarity Committee spoke on the struggle in Africa for national liberation and how winning this was not the same thing as winning socialism. After national liberation the struggle continues to free the working class from bourgeois capitalist exploitation.
Neil Harris of Southall NCP spoke on mental health and civil liberties and proposals to imprison people on “behaviour orders”, in spite of having committed no crimes.
Stella Moutafis spoke, paying tribute to the work and dedication of NHS mental health staff in the face of huge cuts and shortages of resources.
Daphne Liddle spoke on the Identity Card Act and the huge database that would go with it, carrying detailed personal information on all of us. She pointed out that this sort of information would be invaluable to bosses, bank managers and to people who want to sell us stuff, so they could try to micro-manage our working, borrowing and spending to extract the maximum amount of profit from each of us.
Richard Bos of West Surrey NCP spoke on the opportunities presented by new technology for communists around the world to communicate and act in solidarity together.
There were many more contributions, on health, especially mental health care, the environment, the struggle for freedom and reunification in Ireland, on political work in factories and many other topics.
After two days of debate the amended main resolution and the other proposed amendments were all agreed. After the voting, comrades sang the Internationale, said their goodbyes and departed to their homes to prepare to implement the policies they had just agreed. As the Irish folk song October Winds says: “A little rest and then the world is full of work to do”.