The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

The Political Situation in Britain

A Victory to Remember!

April 1998 update

The state of the parties

Last year's May Day was certainly one to remember. The Tories  suffered their biggest defeat this century and Labour  returned to office with the biggest majority in its entire history. In the occupied north of Ireland the republican vote  soared returning two Sinn Fein MP's for the first time since the early Fifties.

For the record the state of the parties in parliament now stands at:

Labour & Co-op .....................418 (up 146)
Conservative........................165 (down 178)
Liberal Democrats....................46 (up 30)
Scottish National Party...............6 (up 3)
Plaid Cymru...........................4 (no change)
Independent (anti-sleaze).............1

Ulster Unionist Party................10 (up 1)
Democratic Unionists..................2 (down 2)
UK Unionists..........................1 (up 1)
Social Democratic & Labour Party......3 (down 1)
Sinn Fein.............................2 (up 2)

Speaker...............................1

The Labour majority stands at 179. The swing to Labour was 10.5 per cent. The turn-out was 71 per cent and the total vote was 31,372,549.

The Speaker was, as usual, not opposed by the mainstream parties. The Independent candidate, a BBC journalist who stood on an anti-Tory sleaze platform, was endorsed by the local Labour and Liberal parties, who stood down in his favour.

By-Election Results since the May 1997 General Election

1. UXBRIDGE...31.7.97

Conservative.......... 16,288
Labour..................  12,522
Lib-Dem................   1,792

others
Monster Raving Loony 396, Socialist Party (trotskyite) 259, BNP (fascists) 205, ND (fascists) 157, NF (fascists) 110, OLP 69, UKIP 39, Rainbow 30.
Conservatives hold. No change

2. PAISLEY SOUTH...6.11.97
Labour ..................10,346
Scottish Nat..........   7,615
Lib-Dem................   2,582
Conservative..........   1,643

others
PRo-Life 578, SSF 306, SIL 155, SLP (Scargill's Party) 153, NLP 57.

Labour hold. No change

3.BECKENHAM...20.11.97
Conservative.............13,162
Labour.....................11,935
Lib Dem...................  5,864

others
Lib 330, NF(fascists) 267, NB/Ref 237, SFP 69, NLP 44.

Conservatives hold. No change

4.WINCHESTER

Lib-Dem....................37,006
Conservative...............15,450
Labour.......................    944

others
Ref/UK/All 521, Loony 316, Lit 59, NLP 48, Euro-Con 40.

Liberal Democrats hold. No change.

The NCP position

The party called on the people to vote Labour everywhere in England, Scotland and Wales -- for the biggest possible vote for Labour and for the return of a Labour government with the biggest possible majority.

We were probably the only party which campaigned on that slogan. Blair certainly didn't. We can justifiably be pleased with the result.

NCP General Secretary, in an interview in the New Worker on 6 June, congratulated all the comrades in the NCP, whose hard work contributed to the Labour victory. In some constituencies, like Wimbledon, comrades have said that their independent campaign played a vital part in  boosting the Labour vote.

Now the fight continues to ensure that the new Labour government carries out the modest package of reforms it promised in its manifesto while stepping up the demand within the trade union movement to restore the "welfare state", abolish the anti-trade union laws build more homes and create more jobs through restoring the public sector butchered over the past 18 years of Tory rule.

The Labour victory presents the Party with new challenges and new prospects. We have to fight within the movement for working class policies to end the onslaught against the class and make the rich pay for the economic crisis. The determination of the sacked Liverpool dockers and the stand of the Essex fire-fighters has paved the way for the fight-back.

At the same time we have to argue even more forcibly for the communist alternative within the trade union and peace movement. The only way out of the crisis is through revolutionary change and socialism. The movement demands a strong, mass based communist party. We have to meet the call by getting the biggest possible circulation for the New Worker and the widest possible audience amongst working people for our ideas.

The communist movement

The British communist movement is divided and small. Its influence in the trade union movement has been much reduced.

There are three main communist parties -- The New Communist Party of Britain, the Communist Party of Britain and the Communist Party of Scotland. All three sprang from the old Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) which finally dissolved itself in 1991 Its successor, the "Democratic Left" is an irrelevant debating society which largely supports the right-wing Blair leadership of the Labour Party.

There are two other communist parties. The Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist), which broke-away from the old CPGB in 1968 under the leadership of Reg Birch, a leading engineering union official, in opposition to revisionism and in support of the Communist Party of China's general line. The other is the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) which springs from the movement in the late Sixties inspired by the Chinese Cultural Revolution.

  1. The New Communist Party (NCP) was formed in 1977 as part of the struggle against revisionism with the CPGB and it publishes the weekly New Worker. The Party does not stand in elections at any level. It calls for electoral support for Labour while opposing right-wing social democracy within the trade union movement.

  2. The Communist Party of Britain (CPB) was formed in 1988 by supporters of the Morning Star -- the daily newspaper led by the CPGB --then under attack by the ultra-revisionist and liquidationist leadership. The CPB is a revisionist party committed to the reformist and parliamentary British Road To Socialism programme.

The CPB called on its supporters to vote Labour except where its own candidates were standing. The CPB stood three candidates two in England and one in Wales. All received derisory votes.

Monty Goldman got 298 votes (0.9 per cent of the poll) in the London Hackney South & Shoreditch constituency which was held by Labour's Brian Sedgemore who won 20,048 votes (3 per cent swing to Labour).

Martin Levy got 163 votes in Newcastle East & Wallsend 0.9 per cent of the poll in a seat which was held by Labour's Nick Brown who won 29,607 votes (11.3 per cent swing to Labour).

Rob Griffiths obtained 178 votes in Pontypridd which was held by Labour's Dr Kim Howells who won 29,290 votes (0.9 per cent swing away from Labour to the Liberal Democrats).

In January 1998 Mike Hicks was ousted as general secretary in a 17 -- 13 vote moved by John Haylett at the first meeting of their Executive Committee following Congress . Hick's supporters on the Management Board of the  Morning Star followed by suspending and then dismissing its Editor, John Haylett, which led to a prolonged strike at the Morning Star, ending in victory for Haylett and his re-instatement. The leadership, under new general secretary Rob Griffiths and Haylett, now dominate the CPB, which looks set for even wider division and a continuing struggle for control of the Morning Star. Membership of the CPB is said to be 1,200. It was revealed at their 1997 Congress that half of the membership were pensioners.

  3. The Communist Party of Scotland (CPS) was established in 1992 following the dissolution of the old CPGB. It largely comprises of members of the old Scottish district of the CPGB and its policy is a  variant of the British Road to Socialism with greater emphasis on Scottish independence. It has one elected local councillor in Fife -- a long standing position held for over 25 years. At the general election the CPS did not stand candidates and it urged its supporters to vote Labour.

* The NCP's paper, the New Worker, held a public meeting in London to celebrate the Great October Revolution in 1997, sharing the platform with representatives of the CPS, RCPB(ML) and the Morning Star.

* The NCP works together with the RCPB(ML) on the Korean Friendship and Solidarity Campaign and exchanges of views on other issues take place on a regular basis. Informal discussions have also taken place with the CPS, CPB and the CPB(ML).

Left social democracy

The biggest left social-democratic force outside the Labour Party is Arthur Scargill's Socialist Labour Party (SLP) formed in 1996 with a claimed membership of over 1,000. It has some support within the RMT union (railway and seafarers) and the NUM (miners). But the NUM's membership is now down to some 10,000 members and no longer has the influence and prestige it once held.

Though the SLP was intended to be an alternative to the Labour Party it has become the focus of Trotskyite entryists mainly from fringe Trotskyite groups -- and its campaign in May focused mainly on hostility to Labour.

During the campaign Scargill claimed that the SLP was "the fourth largest political party in Britain". The actual results proved otherwise. Three candidates secured more than 5 per cent of the vote in their constituencies and saved their deposits.

Imran Khan won 2,697 votes (6.76 per cent) in London's East Ham, held by Labour's Stephen Timms with 25,779 votes (13.3 per cent swing to Labour). Terry Burns got 2,230 votes in Cardiff Central, held by Labour & Co-op MP Jon Owen Jones with 18,464 votes (0.9 per cent swing from Labour to Liberal Democrats). Arthur Scargill won 1,951 votes in Newport East which was held by Labour's Alan Howarth with 21,481 votes (Labour swing of 6.3 per cent).

A total of 48,239 votes were cast for the SLP, which amounts to an average of 753 votes per seat contested, or almost 2 per cent. It compares with the CPGB's vote in the February 1974 election when the CPGB stood 44 candidates and each gained an average 1.71 per cent per candidate. This 1974 vote was regarded as derisory by communist activists then, though the CPGB's vote sank even lower throughout the Seventies and Eighties.

The SLP's Second Congress, held in London last December, descended into farce when delegates discovered that one affiliate had a block-vote of 3,000, a number greater than that of all the other delegates put together.

This three-strong delegation, representing a retired miner's association from the North-West was used by President Arthur Scargill to steam-roller every motion as well as the elections of their new NEC. A number Welsh delegates walked out and resigned from the SLP on the spot. A further 70 delegates and observers from Trotskyite groups later held a protest meeting and 57 signed a statement describing the voting procedures as "a complete travesty of democracy".

Some have left for good, but others, supporters of the Trotskyite "Fourth International Supporters Caucus" (FISC) patched up their differences with Scargill and one of their leaders, Pat Sikorski, was re-elected (via the block vote) as Scargill's deputy.

Arthur Scargill's own supporters, largely drawn from the NUM and some other unions, easily outnumbered the combined Trotskyite sects. But Scargill's block includes FISC along with the Trotskyite "International Leninist Workers Party" -- a faction of the old WRP -- and Harpal Brar's "Association of Communists".

The Trotskyite opposition includes sects which style themselves as the "Democratic Platform", "SLP Republicans", "The Marxist Bulletin" and the "CPGB-- Provisional Central Committee".

The Congress rift has seriously damaged the SLP, whose individual membership is now put at well under a thousand. The SLP's journal comes out just once every eight weeks.

The trotskyite campaign

The biggest Trotskyite movement in Britain is the Socialist Workers Party, which did not contest the election. The SWP called on its supporters to vote for "socialist candidates" and "vote Labour but don't trust them".

The second largest Trotskyite movement is Militant Labour -- now renamed as the Socialist Party. Their highest votes exceeded those of the SLP.

In England and Wales they ran 19 candidates and their best vote was for Dave Nellist in Coventry South. Nellist won 3,262 votes in a seat which captured from the Conservatives by Labour's Jim Cunningham with 25,511 votes (Labour swing 13.5 per cent).

In Scotland, Militant, which retains its old name north of the border, campaigned through the Scottish Socialist Alliance (SSA) which ran 16 candidates. Though the SSA's votes in general were derisory Militant's Glasgow local councillor, Tommy Sheridan came third in the Glasgow Pollock constituency with 3,639 votes, which was held by Labour & Co-op's Ian Davidson with 19,653 votes (Labour swing 8.6 per cent).

Three tiny Trotskyite groups, the Socialist Equality Party (SEP), Workers Revolutionary Party and the Communist League also stood and received scant support. The WRP stood 9 candidates, who between them got 1,152 votes and an average of 0.33 per cent of the vote. The SEP stood 4 candidates with a total vote of 505, representing an average of 0.3 per cent of the vote. The Communist League ran 2 candidates who got 272 votes between them or an average of 0.36 per cent of the vote.

The racist and fascist vote

87 candidates on racist and neo-nazi platforms stood in 80 constituencies. Their total vote was 49,750 or an average of 1.23 per cent of the vote.

The highest vote was achieved by Stephen Edwards of the National Democrats who got 4,181 in West Bromwich West when he stood against the Speaker, who was not challenged by the main parliamentary parties in accordance with parliamentary tradition.

The next two highest votes were 3,350 (7.5 per cent) and 2849 (7.26 per cent) for the British National Party (BNP) in Bethnal Green & Bow and Poplar & Canning Town, both in east London.

The BNP did slightly better than the other extreme right parties. Its 56 candidates took 35,393 votes, averaging 632 votes (1.35 per cent). The National Democrats' 21 candidates averaged 1.12 per cent, although this drops to 0.71 per cent if the West Bromwich West result is excluded. The National Front's average was 0.98 per cent and the Third Way's a mere 0.47 per cent.

The far right's 1.23 per cent average vote was the highest since 1979, when candidates in 308 constituencies took an average 1.31 per cent (191,855 votes in tote). The 1997 result was higher than that of the 1992 election. Then 27 candidates contesting 26 seats polled 11,821 votes, an average of 436 votes, or 0.94 per cent. In the 1983 election fascist and racist candidates ran in 115 constituencies and averaged  0.83 per cent of the vote.