Communism did not start with Karl Marx, or with the Russian Revolution of 1917. In Britain, a rich historical seam of communist ideas dates back to the Middle Ages and beyond. The desire for a future based on peace, cooperation, community and common, wealth has long inspired the peoples of England, Scotland and Wales.
At times of great crisis, such as the Peasants' Revolt (1381), the English Revolution (1640), and the Chartist uprisings of the 1830s and 1840s, communist ideas have come to the fore, voicing the hopes of working people.
The Communist Party continues that living, revolutionary tradition. It is a product, first and foremost, of the British labour movement. Its roots lie deep in Britain's trade unions, socialist societies and in other working class organisations.
When founded in 1920, the Party brought together militant socialists and trade unionists who understood the need for a revolutionary change in society. They were inspired by the world's first workers' state, Soviet Russia, led by VI Lenin. But they were also repelled by the mass slaughter of the 1914-1918 Great War. Britain needed a party that would fight capitalism and imperialism, unlike the labour leaders who preferred collaboration and surrender.
Since then, the Communist Party has been in the frontline fighting for the interests of the working class. Despite its small size and the imprisonment of its leadership, it played an outstanding role in the 1926 General Strike.
Throughout the 1930s, it led the unemployed workers movement and the fight against racism and fascism. During the Second World War, it campaigned tirelessly for the opening of a 'second front' to confront Hitler in the west.
In 1951 the first edition of the Party's programme, the British Road to Socialism, was published. This stated that Britain must achieve socialism by its own path, using mass struggle to transform Parliament into a democratic instrument of the will of the vast majority of the people.
The importance of democracy was further underlined by the revelation, at the 20th Congress of the Soviet Communist Party in 1956, of many crimes and injustices committed during the Stalin era. The Communist Party recognised that, in popularising the achievements of socialism and in combating anti-Soviet hysteria, it had in some cases tried to defend the indefensible.
In the post-war period, the Communist Party took the lead in opposing the Cold War and nuclear weapons. Almost alone in the labour movement, it called for parliaments for the people of Wales and Scotland. Based in the working class movement, it led the light against anti-trade union laws. The Liaison Committee for the Defence of Trade Unions, united communist and non-communist militants in mass one-day stoppages in 1968, 1970 and 1971. The last of these moved the TUC to call a one-day General Strike, thereby defeating the legislation. Alongside other left-wingers, communists also gave the lead in the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders' work-in, and in the 1972 and 1974 miners' strikes.
These very successes of the Communist Party made it a particular target of the capitalist class. Having failed by 'red scare' techniques to isolate the Party from its roots, the ruling class worked to undermine it from within. Their strategy was clear: destroy the Communist Party, and the working class movement will be rudderless and disarmed.
Unfortunately, the old Communist Party leadership failed to recognise and withstand this attack. It succumbed to reformist ideas, drifting away from its class basis, even attacking the leadership of the 1984-85 miners' strike and expelling many of the Party's finest militants.
Before this final tragedy could run its full course, the communist core of the Party had recognised the danger. In 1988, these comrades came together to re-establish the Party as the Communist Party of Britain (CPB), on the basis of the rules, principles and programme that the previous leadership had abandoned. Since then, the CPB has worked tirelessly to rebuild membership and industrial organisation, carrying on the finest traditions of the Party.
A LIVING THEORY
According to its rules, the Communist Party is 'guided by the theory and practice of Marxism-Leninism'. But this is far from being a fossilised set of ideas. Marxism-Leninism is a science, starting from the understanding that: 'The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.' In their Manifesto of the Communist Party (1848), Marx and Engels analysed the development of capitalist society. They showed that the dominant structures and ideas of society reflect the ownership, by a minority class, of the means of production (the machines, tools, materials, plant etc) and that social revolutions take place when that system of property ownership prevents the full development of society's productive forces.
Such a situation exists today with the contradiction between the narrow private ownership of industry and commerce by the capitalist class, and the vast and inter-related social process of production carried out by the working class.
In competition with each other, the capitalists squeeze as much surplus value (the source of profit) out of the workforce as they can, raising productivity, holding down wages and therefore worker's purchasing power, investing in ever greater capacity - and producing commodities which periodically cannot be sold above their cost i.e. at a profit. The result is over-production, cutbacks, redundancies and the destruction of productive forces.
This contradiction between capitalist profit and greed on one side, and public consumption and need on the other, ensures that capitalism is a system built on insecurity, poverty, misery and crisis. It is a contradiction which can only be resolved by abolishing capitalism, and building a socialist society based on social ownership and planned production.
Lenin creatively applied Marxism to the conditions of his time, when he analysed imperialism as the parasitic and moribund 'highest stage of capitalism', with economic and political power in the hands of enormous monopolies and cartels, whose struggle for the re-division of the world led to conflict and war. He emphasised the need for the working class and its allies to take political power, guided by a revolutionary party and creating their own form of popular working class rule.
As the world has developed, so also has the science of Marxism-Leninism. And, as with other sciences, its theory is put to the test every day, Life continually throws up new issues to be addressed, and new questions to be answered, Such a relationship between theory and practice ensures that obsolete ideas are discarded and new insights and approaches developed.
fit the start of the 21st century, the capitalist world-is dominated by transnational corporations (TNCs or multinational companies), whose interests are promoted by their respective states. The rich get richer as billions of people go without adequate food, shelter, clean water or health and education services. The capitalist monopolies and their political representatives put profit before people and belore the earths environment. Capitalist exploitation and imperialism intensify inequalities of race and gender.
The need for popular resistance and class struggle, for the working class to take state power in fact, is as great as ever.
OUR ROAD TO SOCIALISM/ INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY
The Communist Party's programme applies a Marxist-Leninist analysis to conditions in Britain. It calls for mass activity and campaigning in favour of policies which challenge the capitalist monopolies and which extend democratic rights.
In the course of struggle, a democratic anti-monopoly alliance can be built up which draws together a wide range of social forces (including pensioners, students, the unemployed, ethnic minorities, women, peace and environmental campaigners) around the organised working class.
Such a militant mass movement can help produce and sustain a left government based on a Labour, socialist and communist majority, committed to the policies of the Alternative Economic and Political Strategy (AEPS) developed by communists and socialists. At local, national and all-Britain levels, this combination of parliamentary and extra-parliamentary struggle can put Britain on the road to socialist revolution. This would have to be a democratic and popular transfer of political power transforming the state apparatus, utilising the strength and creativity of the working class and its allies.
For Britain to take the road to Socialism, a strong and influential Communist Party is vital - a party based in the Labour movement and which is Marxist and internationalist.
When the Communist Manifesto stated "Workers of all lands, unite!", it recognised two important principles: firstly, that working people have different national identities, languages and traditions; and, secondly, that they have a common interest in supporting each other against exploitation and oppression. A victory for one section of the international working class movement is a victory for all. This internationalism characterises the communist outlook. From its foundation, the Communist Party campaigned against British imperialism in Ireland, India and elsewhere, demanding the liberation of all oppressed colonial peoples. In the 1930s, it rallied to the cause of the Spanish Republican government, recruiting volunteers to light in the International Brigades against Franco's fascists. At the height of the Cold War, it stood out against the US-led invasion of People's Korea. It campaigned against apartheid and the US war against Vietnam.
The CPB supports the right of self-determination of the Irish people and campaigns lor Britain to renounce all claims on Ireland.
Despite all the efforts of hostile US administrations, the Cuban Communist Party still commands the support of its people. The CPB declares its solidarity with Cuba, and campaigns against the illegal US imposed blockade.
In recent years Communist Parties have been in government in India, France and South Africa. Communists enjoy the support of millions more people in Italy, Spain, Greece, Portugal, Japan, Cyprus and elsewhere.
Despite the efforts of US imperialism, Communist and workers' parties are still in power in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Korea. China's economy, most of which is still planned and in public ownership has been the fastest growing in the world throughout the 1990s.
Socialism as it existed in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe suffered a dramatic setback. But it will return, reinvigorated and without the 'bureaucratic command' distortions of the previous- period. The people of Russia and eastern Europe are already learning that capitalism creates more problems than it solves. That is why tens of millions of people vote Communist in Russia, the Czech Republic and eastern Europe today.
The Communist Party of Britain enjoys comradely relations with communist and workers' parties, and national liberation movements, in many countries throughout the world.
Membership of the Communist Party is open to all people aged 16 and above, who accept the aims, rules and policy of the Party, pay their dues regularly and work in a Party organisation.
The basic organisation of the Party is the branch. All members are allocated to the most appropriate branch for them. They are encouraged to participate fully in the branch's work, in order to pool experience, to deepen their own understanding of political affairs and of Marxist theory, and to develop to their full potential as communists. Branch meetings are generally open to interested non-members.
Through collective discussion and activity in branches, the Party intervenes in the political life of the workplace and community, projecting the Alternative Economic and Political
Strategy, giving support in day-to-day struggles, and working to build a broad democratic anti-monopoly alliance in order to secure fundamental political and economic change.
Each branch holds an annual genera! meeting at which a branch committee is elected, to give leadership to activities for the forthcoming year. Branches are grouped within Natrons and Districts, established on the basis of coherent geographical areas. Workplace branches also exist. In each district/nation, a congress is held every two years, composed of delegates elected from the various Branches. The district congress decides the broad perspectives for Party activity within the district for the next two years, and elects a District Committee to carry that work forward. The Welsh and Scottish Congresses elect their own leading committees and formulate policies for their respective countries in accordance with the general lines of the Party's programme and approach.
The all-Britain National Congress, composed of delegates from branches and national and district committees, is held every two years. This decides policy for the Party as a whole, and elects an Executive Committee to carry that policy forward and direct the Party's work between national congresses. In turn, tfie EC elects a Political Committee to provide leadership in between EC meetings. A number of advisory committees, incorporating delegates from nations and districts, also exist to help develop policy and assist the Party's work in particular industries or areas of activity (for example among women, pensioners, the unemployed and in the peace, anti-racist movements).
Democracy underpins the decision-making process throughout the Party. But, without discipline, that democracy would be completely undermined. Decisions of higher organisations are therefore binding on lower bodies - although this is not a simple one-way process. The EC and national and district committees have a duty to explain their decisions to lower Party organisations, who in turn have the right to make their views known to the higher committees. These procedures are set out and explained in more detail in the latest edition (1997) of the document Inner Party Democracy.
An essential element of Party discipline is that members pay their dues regularly. Membership dues are currently £5 per month waged, 6Op unwaged, and in addition members may pay a regular voluntary contribution.
The Party's programme, Britain's Road to Socialism, is available in pamphlet form. This document sets out, from a Marxist-Leninist perspective, the essential steps for achieving socialism in Britain. All members are encouraged to road and understand it, and to apply it creatively to the changing political situation.
The theoretical and discussion journal of the Party is the Communist Review. This normally appears three times a year, and carries articles Irom Party members, fraternal overseas parties and invited non-Party contributors, as well as publishing letters and book reviews. Articles from the Communist Review often provide the basis for branch discussions.
Key reports from Executive Committee meetings are disseminated via the bimonthly Communist News. Branches, districts and nations are encouraged to send in reports of their activities for inclusion in this bulletin.
The EC, national and district committees and many individual branches produce pamphlets and leaflets on topical issues. Write, phone or check www.communist-party.org.uk for latest publications and links to other Communist Party sites
YOUNG COMMUNIST LEAGUE
The Communist Party's youth organisation is the Young Communist League (YCL). Its age limits are 12 to 28. Although the YCL supports the Party's programme, Britain's Road to Socialism, it is organisationally independent, deciding its own policy and activities, controlling its own finances and electing its own leadership. The YCL has relaunched its paper, Challenge.
The capitalist press barons produce 10 million newspaper copies every day. The Morning Star alone provides an alternative daily viewpoint.
The Morning Star is not the property of the Communist Party. The People's Press Printing Society (PPPS), the co- operative which owns the paper, was established by the Communist Party in 1945 to enable the Daily Worker (as the paper was then known) to broaden its base ol ownership and support. Today, thousands of supporters -individuals and labour movement organisations - own shares. However, a special relationship remains between the Party and the ^Morning Star, based not only on history, but also on the fact that successive Annual General Meetings of the PPPS have agreed that the editorial policy of the paper is guided by the British Road to Socialism.
Party Rule 15(b) states that members have the duty "to read the Morning Star and to help in every way the circulation of the paper." This is our number one priority, as increased circulation is crucial in the battle of ideas and in organising resistance to attacks on living standards, jobs and democratic rights.