Ben Stevenson gave the solidarity greeting to the Wales CP congress from the party executive. Read the speech in full.
Dear comrades, I bring fraternal and sororal greetings from the Executive Committee of our Party to this Congress of Welsh Communists.
This is a vital part of our Party’s democracy and of putting our strategic priorities into action. The last few months have provided us with a visible demonstration of just how quickly the political situation in Britain can turn. Whilst as a Party we’re not given to triumphalist pronouncements that provide us with a sense of self justification like other on the left. Nevertheless we have to recognise that this heightened period of struggle we’re entering demonstrates the strength of our strategic analysis.
In many ways and in many areas we have surpassed even the most tentative formulations contained within our last Party congresses resolutions. Marxism provides us with the tools to analyse the current phase of struggle, understand the particular historical conditions, but it doesn’t make us clairvoyant. On the surface, the question of whether or not the Labour Party was reclaimable for the left, a question which has preoccupied most sections of the organised labour movement for the last two decades, has been resolved.
It would seem to signal the need for us to radically change our strategic direction as a Party. Indeed, I don’t think any of us will have been to a single party meeting at any level in the last few months where comrades haven’t been grappling with the question of what our role is under this new set of political conditions. Whether we should suspend our electoral interventions; what the character is of initiatives like Momentum and what our relationship as Communists should be; how we develop and build alliances and connections to the massive number of young people that make up the vast bulk of people who've flocked to the labour party; how do we support the labour leadership without resorting to tailism; what does this mean for those members and unions that have left or been forced out of the labour party in revulsion of the actions of the New Labour leadership over the last decade.
This is a debate which we should continue to encourage without resorting to the application of tired formulations, whilst recognising that there is still a clear need for a distinct revolutionary Marxist Party of the Labour movement. These are all questions which are being widely, collectively and democratically discussed and will no doubt shape the run up to our next Party Congress next year but as with the resolution of the reclaim Vs re-establish debate the answers to these questions can ultimately only be found in struggle.
The success and impact of Jeremy Corbyn’s election as labour leader certainly hasn’t been underestimated by our ruling class and our responsibility as Communists is not to resort to the kind of sideline sniping and criticisms of every setback that the ultra left are already poised to do. Without dismissing the significance of this breakthrough we have to understand the context in which this takes place. Since Jeremy’s victory the EC has been half-jokingly speculating which page this places us on Britain’s Road to Socialism.
Of course our strategic programme isn’t a precise road map for revolutionary advance but we have to acknowledge that despite the strength of our analysis and the sense that the mood existed within the class for precisely this kind of breakthrough to occur, no one – including our allies in the Labour party who have been thrust into positions of leadership – could’ve predicted this. Whilst the left has successfully captured the leadership of the labour movement, the absence of an accompanying protracted battle for the future direction nay existence of Britain’s mass party of labour has left a great many contradictions unresolved.
The Corbyn leadership campaign certainly demonstrated the receptiveness to socialist ideas as well as the power of combining the use of modern organisational and communications techniques and tools with more traditional forms of political campaigning but much more than that alongside the success of the people's assembly it's been one the most visible examples – arguably since the anti-war movement that has successfully tapped into and channelled a largely spontaneous expression of working class anger and desire for an alternative. Indeed the conditions are infinitely more favourable now that we have a leading force in parliament that is not apart from the labour movement. This can start to tackle the slow and steady, difficult job of rebuilding of class struggle, militancy, and consciousness to produce and popularise the kind of policies and strategies that provide an alternative to the neoliberal consensus.
The contradictions within the Labour Party however remain despite the surge of Corbynistas into membership and are most visibly and daily demonstrated within the Parliamentary Labour Party. The PLP remains dominated by Progress orientated new Labourites and their heirs.
On Syria (where there's now to be a free vote in Parliament despite Labour Party policy which opposes any further bombing without a UN mandate), Trident, the response to the Autumn statement, the left wing Labour Party leadership is regularly denounced and undermined both within the shadow cabinet and outside by Labour MPs ready to line up alongside the Tories and to make use of the mass media to do so. And yet this continual display of opportunism is not something that we should merely observe and criticise. As with the Trade Union bill, mass extra-parliamentary action and pressure by the organized labour movement remains critical to countering it, something which by the way is clearly recognised by our allies in the Labour Party.
The pervasive and pernicious power of the bourgeois mass media as a key section of the state for enforcing consent remains largely undimmed. For those who were looking for a vivid demonstration of the role of the state and how it works to reinforce and defend the interests of monopoly capital have been given a crash course over the last few months. Army generals are allowed to appear on national news and come within a hairs breadth of promising mutiny should Jeremy Corbyn become prime minister and yet the debate within the bourgeois media is dominated by discussions of whether or not the leader of the opposition bowed properly.
How many left-wing back bench MPs or former MPs were regularly invited onto television news or to write op ed pieces in the so called liberal press to present the alternative position to the leadership during the Blair and Brown years? The increased profile and growing strength of the Morning Star has been critical to countering this, as the only source of analysis that counters the daily propaganda barrage and narrative of the bourgeois media. But we're far from securing the place of our paper as the daily paper of the movement and in most parts of the country the responsibility for building local sales, readership and support for the Star falls on the shoulders of Communists.
The setbacks at the Labour party conference in Brighton where despite it’s significance given the Scottish Parliamentary elections next year – sections of trade union delegations worked to ensure Trident renewal wasn't on the agenda. Despite the election of left leaderships across most major unions, many within our movement remain wedded to ideas rooted in trade union or even sectional consciousness. The Labour Party remains a deeply undemocratic shadow of its former self after the steady and systematic stripping away of it’s democratic and federal character over the last two decades.
The contradictions between the balance of forces and character of struggle in the nations of Britain continue to abound. In contrast to what happened down in Brighton at the Scottish Labour Conference comrades from those same unions led the charge to oppose Trident renewal. Exploiting these contradictions where we can and building upon the discussions at our Party Congress last year we must develop and embed within the movement the need for a progressive, democratic, federal solution to these questions that recognises the distinctive character and conditions in each nation of Britain. We cannot predict exactly how these contradictions will be resolved and whether they will do so in our favour or in those of the ruling class but whatever the outcome it will be a reflection of the contradictions, consciousness and capabilities of our class and movement.
Of course as your Congress meets today, comrades in localities will be taking to the streets to protest at the increasing moves to use the horrific events in Paris a few weeks ago to intensify the imperialist offensive in the Middle East. The threat that terrorist violence poses cannot be solved by buying more aircraft carriers, Tomahawk missiles or funding the mass surveillance of people’s emails and internet browsing history.
Of course we recognise that tackling the threat posed by sectarian violence and terrorism in the region and internationally is far from the primary goal of imperialism but this is far from widely understood within the labour movement. The establishment of a permanent military presence in key strategic locations across the Middle East is a vital component of NATO’s plans for the greater middle east. The opening of a new UK permanent naval base in Bahrain - to go alongside the permanent RAF bases in Cyprus - provides a Launchpad for a permanent state of intervention and warfare across the region.
The battle against a renewed drive to imperialist war must go hand in hand with the struggle against austerity. Of course in all this we have to recognise that the CP’s membership, resources, cadreship and activity is not yet what it needs to be to play the role demanded of us by the conditions and times we live in.
This is the motivation behind the EC’s decision to launch a process of Communist Renewal. This is not intended nor can it be allowed to be a bureaucratic exercise handed down from on high that only results in an extended period of procrastination and naval gazing at local levels. It is the Executive Committee laying down the challenge to ourselves and every other level and member of the Party to sharpen our analysis, extend our influence and raise the quality and level of our work to a whole new level.
Whilst this will involve continuing to evolve and develop our central operations, organisation and work – our plans and work over the next few months include: the production of more recruitment materials; redeveloping the members area of the website; working with others to establish a progressive online hub for working class culture; streamlining our membership recruitment and renewals processes; developing more interactive tools and resources for Marxist education and cadre development; developing a model of providing central support for planned strategic intervention to support the work of building the Party and the Star in Scotland. But the EC has recognised that this process will fail before its started unless it is rooted and embedded into the lifeblood of local Party organisations.
This will have to involve building our influence, profile and intervention as Communists at work and in the trade unions in concert with local campaigning against cuts, imperialist war, against racism that builds and roots these broad mass social and political movements within the labour movement. Depending on the precise balance of forces and an analysis that can only be undertaken locally, this may involve prioritising Party work through a local People’s Assembly group, Trades Council, CND, Stop the War, Unite Community, Momentum group or another local formation or combination.
Too often the creation of these bodies at the local level often ends up being captured by one group of left or right opportunists of one stripe or another to serve their own narrow set of objectives, so the intervention of Communists is always critical. Nor can these bodies be allowed to be created or exist merely as a yet another local campaigning body that does little other than add another meeting to the schedule for a small number of dedicated local labour movement activists. Building alliances with the rest of the non-sectarian left and getting involved in campaigns and genuine expressions of working class organisation - which are primarily aimed outwards – is and remains the main role of local Party organisations.
Whatever the case and circumstances building that connection between the class at work and in communities with the national/regional and all-Britain labour movement has to exist in villages, towns, cities and communities across Britain to make the renewal of our Party and movement more than just an aim. The necessity for renewing our Party is borne out of a recognition that whilst we remain a relatively small party that is held together by an incredibly small number of dedicated cadres we need to take a more selective, planned, collective and strategic approach to everything that we do. It’s borne out of a recognition that our Marxist analysis mustn’t end at the borders of the Party, we are as much a product and reflection of the state of our class – albeit of some of the more advanced sections – and are no more separate from it than any other section of the labour movement.
It’s borne out of a recognition that being the Marxist party of the labour movement does not just require us to be merely students of Marxist theory. It requires us to be experts in it’s application to the concrete conditions and realities of the arenas of struggle we are engaged in individually and collectively. So that, as Lenin put it our “thought must be understood not lifelessly but in the eternal process of movement, the arising of contradictions and their solution.” It’s borne out of a recognition that we need to popularise our conception of working class leadership and democracy. Not one that vests power and authority in individuals or prizes the accumulation of positions of authority or titles for titles sake but where the full talents and expertise of every individual is harnessed through a democratic and collective process to reach decisions which individuals are tasked with carrying out.
But what's more it's borne out of a recognition of the historic strength of our class during periods of heightened class conflict where Communists occupy a leading role in struggle alongside a broad range of allies who recognise and respect our capabilities. It is not a case of satisfying the demands of the moment but is essential to the creation of the embryonic anti-monopoly alliance envisaged in our strategic programme that has the capability to bring this government down – something which millions of pensioners, young people, disabled people, women and others in our class cannot wait five years before it occurs – elect a labour government headed by the left wing socialist leadership we have; continue the the mass struggle inside and outside of Parliament against our ruling class that will reshape the political and economic conditions in Britain and lay the basis for a struggle for the establishment of socialism.
These are not only ambitions. They are necessities if we are to overcome the ruling class offensive, seize the opportunities, build the CP and offer a real lead in the working class and progressive movements.