which way forward for the revolutionary left?

Guest post by Chris Strafford on how communists should relate to mass movements, and his experience of the CPGB

The capitalist crisis has opened up a new period and instigated the intensification of class warfare on every continent. Movements such as Occupy, the uprisings in the Middle East, the student movement in Quebec and the popular protests in the Russian Federation represent an acceleration of the class struggle. After listening to two electricians speak in Manchester about their struggle against BESNA I was struck by how these movements have transcended national boundaries and how the language of Occupy and Los Indignados in Spain have embedded themselves in a layer of working class activists. This is also evident in the affinity many people have with the 99% slogans adopted by Occupy. Continue reading “which way forward for the revolutionary left?”

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ninety years of the communist party

by Chris Ford

This year marks the 90th Anniversary of the foundation of the Communist Part of Great Britain, which existed until its disbandment in 1991.  Without a doubt the foundation of the CPGB in 1920 was an event of great importance in the history of the workers’ movement in the UK.

Arthur McManus, Jack Murphy, Albert Inkpin and Willie Gallacher

Its creation was directly linked to the revolutionary upsurge which followed the First World War, this brought about a recomposition of the communist movement which crystallised in the Third, Communist International centred in Soviet Russia.  This period and the unity process which took place is not only of historical interest but holds many lessons for our own generation in our efforts to bring about a new recomposition of the communist movement.

Continue reading “ninety years of the communist party”

communists and elections

The following article appeared in The Socialist, official organ of the Socialist Labour Party, No.18,  May 6, 1920. The SLP was founded by Scots/Irish revolutionary James Connolly, and was influenced by the American Marxist Daniel De Leon. The SLP however was never as doctrinaire as the American SLP and they developed pioneering ideas of ‘communism from below’ and a strong critique of state-socialism that anticipated many of the problems of the 20th century and today. The following article is a contribution to the discussion on communist attitudes to elections and participation in institutions such as local authorities. The issues addressed in this revolutionary period are very much alive today, not least of all the familiar picture of rotten Labour councillors. This article also helps inform our own discussions on these issues in the 21st century.

Chris Kane
Continue reading “communists and elections”

obituary: jack sprung, 1922-2009

by Dave Spencer

Jack Sprung was one of those militant shop stewards who were a feature in The Commune’s uncaptive minds series of meetings on the 1970s. He was a steward for many years at the Standard Triumph plant in Coventry, part of British Leyland. He was also a political activist, as a member of the Coventry Workers Association, a breakaway from the Communist Party.

Jack always claimed that shop stewards were a step on the way to workers’ control of the workplace. He was a fan of Mike Cooley, the initiator of the “Lucas Workers’ Corporate Plan”. The Lucas workers were threatened with the closure of their factory and worked out a plan where their skills and the machinery at Lucas could be used to build 150 socially useful products like kidney dialysis machines and a road-rail bus. They published their plan in 1976.

Unfortunately the capitalists decided that the shop stewards movement was too strong and decided to destroy it. In 1976 Jack was victimised during a bitter dispute where, according to the local paper, the workers were actually running the factory. He went to College and became a tutor in Industrial Relations throughout the West Midlands.After retiring he became the General Secretary of the British Pensioners and Trade Union Activist Association (BPTUAA). He was a supporter of Coventry Radical Network and attended our meetings right up to his final illness. Continue reading “obituary: jack sprung, 1922-2009”

reminder: january 19th reading group on self-organisation and communism from below

Our series of reading groups kicks off at 6:30pm on Monday January 19th with a discussion on the subject of working class self-organisation and “communism from below”.  Email uncaptiveminds@gmail.com to find out more info on the central London venue. The texts for this first meeting are:

The Communist Manifesto (click here)

Arguing against different conceptions of “socialism” prevalent at the time, such as paternalistic “utopian” projects, Marx and Engels’ 1848 Manifesto argues that it is the working class must take power in order to revolutionise society. Tracing the development of Western society through the ages, Marx argues that we must get rid of capitalist ownership and the repressive social order and create a new, free and collectively organised system based on the development achieved by humanity thus far.

The Civil War in France – Engels’ 1891 introduction (click here) and chapter five (click here)

Marx’s thundering eulogy to the Communards – the Parisian workers who seized power in 1871 in the midst of France’s defeat in a war against Prussia – and the new order they established, casting aside the state bureaucracy and standing army and taking control with their democratic working-class “commune”. Introduction by Engels traces French history in the intervening decades and summarises the work.

Communism and Society (click here)

This section of British communist William Paul’s 1922 work argues against conceptions of introducting socialism through Parliament, and like Marx in The Civil War in France denies that the working class can take over the existing state machinery. Paul’s piece focuses on the self-organisation of the class and the manner in which the organisation of struggles against capitalism prefigures the society which will replace it.

Socialism and self-management (click here)

Yugoslav Marxist Mihailo Markovic’s piece looks at different aspects of workers’ self-management, with particular reference to post-war Yugoslavia where organs expressing elements of workers’ democracy were in conflict with the state bureaucracy under Marshal Tito. He argues that the state and party should be replaced by organs of workers’ self management whereby the mass of the population make economic, political and social decisions for themselves.


hands off the people of iran conference report

by David Broder

On Saturday 13th December I attended the conference of Hands Off the People of Iran, a solidarity campaign not only opposed to military attacks, “surgical strikes” and sanctions against Iran, but also supporting struggles against the régime waged by the workers’ movement, women’s and student organisations.

Just over sixty people attended, which was slightly down on last year, no doubt largely because the threat of a US or Israeli military attack on Iran seems lesser now that the US government and its allies are making deals with Islamist élites in order to extricate themselves from Iraq.

After a report on the last year’s activities, there was a general discussion on the current situation, led by Torab Saleth. This particularly focussed on the seemingly more “pragmatic” attitudes to foreign policy now held by the American ruling class, as symptomised by their majority support for Barack Obama in the recent presidential election and the weakening of the neo-conservative voice on Capitol Hill.  Torab and several speakers from the floor warned that the situation could change suddenly, particularly given the continuity shown by Obama’s appointments, the risk of the US ruling class lashing out under pressure from the recession, and even the possibility of an Israeli “surgical strike” without Obama’s approval. A further consideration is, of course, the weakening of the Iranian economy with the collapse in world oil prices.

In any case the situation is in many ways unpredictable because (i) the Obama administration and the Iranian régime are not utterly irreconcilable and could easily reach accommodation: the latter supports the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and aggressively implements IMF neo-liberal reforms (ii)  nor are their relations purely “rational” or reflective of greater economic or strategic dynamics. Continue reading “hands off the people of iran conference report”

obituary of brian pearce

by Terry Brotherstone, from The Guardian

Brian Pearce, who has died aged 93, was one of the most acute scholars of Russian history and British communism never to have held an academic post. Of the historians who broke with the Communist party of Great Britain (CPGB) after the Khrushchev “secret speech” and the suppression of the Hungarian revolution in 1956, he was the most insistent on the need for historical analysis of the party’s record.

A prodigious translator from both Russian and French, Pearce won the Scott-Moncrieff prize three times – in 1976 for Marcel Liebman’s Leninism Under Lenin, in 1980 for Roland Mousnier’s The Institutions of French Monarchy Under Absolutism, and in 1991 for Paul Veyne’s Bread and Circuses. Literary translation was his main source of income after he stopped working for the CPGB, for which he did various journalistic, cultural relations and translation jobs after leaving the civil service in 1950.

Expelled from the party in 1957, he had continued to work as a teacher of English at the Soviet Embassy, but the next year Harry Pollitt, the CPGB’s former general secretary, saw him there. “Soon my pupils … very embarrassed, made excuses for terminating their lessons,” Pearce recalled. Continue reading “obituary of brian pearce”