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The following letter to our blog was written by a young comrade from the Midlands who recently left the YCL to join Red Youth. His reflections are those born from the frustrations of working in a party castrated by revisionism. We will stress now, before you read his observations, that Red Youth certainly doesn’t have all the answers and we’re up against it trying to build a revolutionary youth organisation in a country where no revolutionary mood prevails amongst the masses, for the time being. These are the same objective conditions which both the YCL and CPB have to contend with. Our strength (and their weakness) lies in our correct analysis of these conditions; a thorough and rigorous critique of social democracy, its root causes and it’s influence on the British labour movement. We are pleased with the enthusiasm with which this comrade joins us in our work, but we must emphasise that ours is a long, arduous struggle which requires much patience as well as persistence. For this reason it is absolutely critical that Red Youth comrades make every effort to study Marxist-Leninist theory, to develop their political understanding and be able to take part in the work to build up the revolutionary class conscious. That struggle is a marathon, there are no quick fixes, easy avenues or cheats. Its long, hard struggle, and we welcome all those who are prepared to make that journey.
That said, despite a thoroughly positive and glowing appraisal of our party’s work to date (!) the letter highlights some of the aspects of our culture and work which set us apart, stemming from our analysis of present and past. We do not shy away from openly admitting the need for revolution and actively work towards it. Our correct understanding of the specific historical conditions that led to the ‘golden’ post-WW2 boom – as a result of the devastation of the war and continued imperialist exploitation of the Third World means that we do not shed a tear for the death of social democracy. We recognise that no amount of tinkering and reform can put an and to capitalist crisis and the drive towards imperialist wars. We recognise the inalienable right of people to fight imperialism and we stand firmly with them and openly call for the defeat of our “own” government in these wars of aggression and plunder. Capitalism cannot provide a decent and secure life to the masses of working people, it can only offer temporary concessions to a few. This is where we differ from the CPB and YCL, who have all but abandoned any talk of revolution and dream of a return to the heyday of social democracy. We agree with and participate as far as we are able in the fight for reforms and concessions under the present conditions – but we will not lose sight of our end goal, the socialist revolution. – RY
“Almost nine months ago, I joined the Communist Party of Britain in Shropshire – three weeks ago I left for the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist).
I’d describe my former self as the kind of communist that clung to the insole of the labour party. But why did I change my mind? What went ‘wrong’ along the way? Keen to serve a movement I was then happy and honoured to be a part of, enthused to draft new ways to create a big communist student movement in my local area; I was elevated quickly. First, to Young Communist League organiser for Shropshire, then the West Midlands, then the whole Midlands – all this over the course of 3 months, partly because I was the only YCL secretary in the Midlands. It was this elevation, that made me realise how useless and inactive the party was. Later, the real CPB would be revealed to me as the badly organised, anti-youth, anti-DPRK, anti-communist organisation it is.
The organisational inactivity of the CPB
Two months after becoming Shropshire students organiser I drew up a small plan and discussed it with my branch secretary, who seemed as usual relatively pleased to accept my ideas. We had 3 comrades of eligible age for the YCL in Shropshire; a 12 year old school girl who was the daughter of a branch member, a 22 year old man, and myself. I outlined the following items:
- The convening of our three young communists in a place suitable for students to hold a meeting, to debate what we stood for and what we want to achieve
- The leafleting of the sixth-form college in town about the event
- The setting up of a YCL Shropshire Facebook page
- The ordering of copies of challenge and other youth campaigning materials to support setting up a communist youth movement in Shropshire
This was in September 2013. In February, almost five months later (and a month and a half before I joined CPGB-ML), I was still waiting for support in terms of literature, party education materials, help to find a meeting place. Until December I was still expecting this fictitious support.
But it was my promotion to Midlands district officer that was the real turning point for me. I was charged with creating the Midlands district of the YCL, organising a regional movement of youth in their late teens and early 20s for the mobilisation of Marxism-Leninism within the labour movement. This is a big task to give an enthusiastic 16 year old campaigner – nevertheless, as I put it at the time to queries of “was I sure”, I was well up for it.
I knew that we only had 175 active and non-active members in the whole of the Midlands, so I was trying to be realistic, not stretching too far to branches that may lack any bulk in membership under 30. The plan was to get together three people (aged between 11 and 29 as is within the party rulings regarding age), in each the Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Shropshire branches together, and encourage them to have bi-monthly branch meetings and a monthly study group. If this proved successful over a year we would collectivise everyone within the age bracket across the Midlands and hold a YCL district launch in Birmingham. Another part of the planned strategy was to leaflet colleges in order to create education branches.
Things were looking good at first – we had in the Shropshire branch 3 eligible YCL members. In Birmingham we had one young contact who was caught up in border disputes with other branches and consequently not doing anything, and someone who was nearly 25 – this was fine at first.
In Wolverhampton there was nothing: not only was I to find at the 15th February district congress that they were one of the most inactive branches as part of our deflated Black Country initiative, but I found out a week before hand they had no members under 30.
Four months before that fateful meeting, I received a 15 year old contact in Nottingham. I thought this was excellent at the time, I thought if he could work with the largely mature Nottingham branch on youth for me I could then focus more on the further West Midlands stuff. However, I was to find that due to disorganisation this was apparently impossible. I found that the Nottingham branch, another gem of inactivity, was made up of two men in their 60s and one in their 50s, who were all apparently “to afraid to talk to him” and that the only one in four months who had made any effort to contact him other than a couple of times electronically was me.
And then they had the gall to ask me to help build the YCL in Wales from Shropshire. I was furious with the total lack of anything, but particularly after this erroneous request. I was just about ready to explode because of all this – but then there were the ideological holes to boot.
The ideological hollowness of the CPB
My ideological suspicions began around December but they had nothing to do with the labour party at first. It started with the pro-capitalist coverage of the DPRK. Nothing in the Morning Star is ever really pro-capitalist no matter how wrong or counter-revolutionary, but this really was. It quoted UN statistics without checking the sources and alleged that the north ‘wasn’t socialism’ and highly ‘undemocratic’. It even contradicted their position on the country in Britain’s Road to Socialism, going far enough to publish headlines like “UN pledges to bring North Korean leaders to justice”. I thought in Britain’s Road to Socialism our message on the DPRK was quite clear, that we supported its ‘right to popular sovereignty’, that we supported it against American imperialism!
When I was approached over twitter about the contradiction between my open support for the DPRK and the Morning Star’s stance, I explained that the Morning Star was the paper of the movement. As such it couldn’t marginalise itself down to pure communist viewpoints and had to please a great deal of it’s bulked readership; including CND, Stop the War and the TUC. For a CPB member this was an adequate, well thought-out answer, but I was to find out that even this was wrong.
I e-mailed Zoe Hennessy, the YCL’s general secretary; I felt that the recent anti-DPRK bombardment in all media left or right wing was demoralising our member’s in their support for the country (particularly our young members), so I offered to write an article in support of it to put people’s minds at rest. It was the reply that was to enrage me almost as much as the organisational problems I had encountered: The Communist Party of Britain dose not endorse the DPRK. It never has done and it never will. Apparently the Morning Star is the embodiment of the CPB’s collective views on North Korea and many other things which I thought was merely content added for “the movement”.
While all this was happening an article was published around Christmas on comrade Mao Zedong to celebrate his birthday. It described someone who would “probably have been remembered as a great revolutionary if he’d died in 1952” but who’s final two political campaigns were “an utter failure”, later accusing him of harbouring a personality cult and being an unstable leader. Very celebratory…
Incidentally the paper also refused to publish anything celebrating the birthday of comrade Stalin, utterly spitting in the eye of one of the greatest contributors to Marxist theory aside from Engels or Lenin.
So what did I decide to do next? Well I saw a rather impressive group of communists in late September at the Tory party conference demo, who seemed to sidle up to the communist party red block, and chant with us. The two groups looked fabulous together, 60 or 70 red flags were made 90 or more in a block. I saw they had a paper called Proletarian. I wanted work experience in political journalism – so I contacted the editor’s e-mail.
I secured a meeting at the office of the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) in Birmingham. I wasn’t wooed at first by their opposition to the people’s assembly or the Labour Party in any measure, as things were still working for me at the point I had this meeting in October, but I saw something in them then that brought me back, and made them indelibly my new and fine comrades, people who I am proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with.
From about the February 15th district meeting, when I began to see just how pointless it was, I started looking for a new party either similar to my own thoughts or robust enough to accept my robust opinions.
I trawled through things like the Socialist Labour Party, the Socialist Party of Great Britain, the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) and the Marxist Student Federation – all of these organisations to me either appeared totally revisionist or ineffective in political strategy to the point of laughability. It was then I realised the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) was the only effective left party in Britain; the only one still growing and equipped with practical, applicable campaigning methods for the 21st century.
A party that stood for all the right things – defending the democratic legitimacy of Zimbabwe and it’s legitimate popular leader Robert Mugabe, telling the truth about the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, true anti-imperialism; rather than just what seems to be more acceptable to public opinion. They don’t allow their ideological strength to make them dogmatic.
Under the CPB I was given no equipment, no literature and no support. I join the CPGB-ML and almost immediately I’m given seven newspapers, a wad of our youth programme and a wad of leaflets. I am also sold books at £2 a throw – unlike the ones the CPB sold at their district committees for between £5-£20, which were all far out of my price range on top of train fairs. I have a permanent link to my nearest branch organiser, I’m told if there’s anything I need in terms of equipment or help it’s mine providing I’ve got a good reason, we’ve already got Shropshire based members and supporters around too – so we’re all set.
Coupled with this we have a stunning two-part programme, including the mind blowing Red Youth programme “we want freedom” – which envisions a diplomatically non-volatile Great Britain, universally free education and the deployment of capital allocated to youth by youth and for youth. That’s a revolutionary youth programme, not BRS’s “lowering the voting age to 16 would be reflective of how some people think but let’s make everything else up along the way while also making nothing up and doing nothing”.
I can see the ship sinking for the “Communist Party” already. CPB membership isn’t just under 1,000 as it claims – it’s 700. They did an internal survey recently that said 200 of their members had either died or gone missing. The CPGB-ML in Birmingham alone gets several requests for membership a month. The CPB’s complete refusal of self criticism, unwillingness to reform outdated party structures, the anti-youth mentality all leads one way – decay. The CPB is dying. Every general election it loses members on the same programme, every time labour or whoever else they support are elected they fail to do anything of meaning. My old party only misleads a few students here and there (most notably in the North West where they’ve recruited about 20ish white university students) – but it’s propaganda and negation on the radical student movement reaches far further than even it knows.
For instance everything it says about almost everything apart from capitalism as a system and the British bourgeoisie back up the imperialist argument unwittingly. A British democrat, and I’ve met a few, may say that you have to vote your way out of trouble, that if you don’t like a government you have to vote for the opposition to oust them, namely; the Labour Party. According to British social democracy this is the only way to achieve change. The CPB will say that you have to vote labour to get the Tories or the Lib-Dems out and you can’t have a revolution because a) it will “alienate” people and b) we live in a western “democracy”. So revolution is an absolute last resort and therefore not appropriate or possible unless people all over the country starve on the streets and worker’s have lost all their gains.
I spent 8 months in the labour movement, trying to attract young people with the time to join the labour movement’s communist youth section – but everyone who wanted to do that just did the natural thing and joined the largely middle-class led Labour Students long before I was on the streets. We have the advantage in that all the true communist students are with Red Youth. We’re better organised, ideologically stronger, growing at a much faster rate and regularly active. My message to all in the labour movement who consider themselves Marxists, is to join our party – the true party of Lenin.”