By the late 1990s, the Party had also rebuilt international links and recommenced electoral work. But the feeling was growing that the Party should be more vigorous in asserting its independent identity and role, alongside its work in broader alliances. Differences over the succession to Tony Chater as Morning Star editor led to violations of democratic-centralism.
Early in 1998, therefore, the new executive committee elected trade union lecturer Robert Griffiths as general secretary. When Morning Star editor John Haylett was dismissed in retaliation, the paper's journalists struck in solidarity to get him reinstated. Once political relations between the Party and paper were restored, following an overwhelming vote at the PPPS AGM, plans could be laid for expanding the influence of both.
In June 1998, Communists played a major role in organising the 'No to a Big Business Europe—Yes to Jobs, Public Services and Democracy' demonstration during the European Union heads of government summit in Cardiff. A meeting of Communist and Workers’ parties in Europe was held there at the same time.
From spring 1999, NATO forces led by the US and Britain waged a brutal bombing campaign against Yugoslavia to break the Milosevic regime and detach the province of Kosovo. Left Labour MPs Alice Mahon, Tony Benn and Diane Abbott, together with playwright Harold Pinter and journalist John Pilger, worked with the CP and others in the Committee for Peace in the Balkans. A demonstration drew 25,000 people onto the streets of London in May.
On December 30, 2000, the Morning Star revealed the widespread dangers and use of depleted uranium munitions used by US, British and NATO forces in Iraq and Yugoslavia. It quoted ex-soldiers and NATO politicians to illustrate the thousands of deaths of civilian and military personnel from cancer, leukaemia. Despite subsequent attempts to deny and cover up the consequences, a series of medical studies and reports have confirmed the upsurge of cancers and congenital abnormalities in contaminated areas.
At the General Election that year, the CP contested six seats—an advance on previous occasions, although the votes remained few. Yet the Party's growing involvement in elections at every level—European, Scottish, Welsh, Greater London and local—reflected a more general revival in local campaigning, propaganda and agitation.
The Party's 46th congress in 2002 launched the Charter for Women, setting out the policies for equality in the economy, the labour movement and in society generally. It has since been endorsed by more than a dozen trade unions, laying the basis for broad-based campaigning. The incoming Executive Committee elected the first woman chair of the CP, Anita Halpin, who later became one of two women Communists on the TUC general council.
Further initiatives included re-establishing the Party's annual Highgate oration at the grave of Karl Marx; founding the annual Communist University of Britain together with regional and national Communist Universities; establishing an annual trade union and political cadre school; and publishing Unity! bulletins at trade union conferences including a daily edition at the Annual Congress of the TUC.
Following discussions between the CP, Colombian Communists and British trade union representatives, Justice for Colombia was established as an independent body to campaign for peace and social justice in that country. Its work to publicise the assassination of trade union and peasant leaders in Colombia, and to expose the links between local reaction and the British and US governments, has won widespread support in the Westminster parliament and the trade union movement.
Britain's Communists also continued to play a major role in the Cuba Solidarity Campaign, helping to maintain the broad basis of its work in support of Cuba's right to national self-determination, publicise the country's outstanding social achievements, campaign for the release of the 'Miami Five' and change the stance of the Trades Union Congress.
The Party's 46th congress characterised New Labour as an 'openly bourgeois, anti-working class trend' which had hijacked the Labour Party in order to make it a 'wholly reliable instrument governing instrument for capitalism'. It pointed out that this trend represented the interests of British state-monopoly capitalism in an emerging new phase of imperialism (called 'globalisation' by its supporters), as a junior ally of the US. On the pretext of a 'war on terror', the aim was to expand imperialism's political, military and economic presence in energy-rich Central Asia and the Middle East, in line with US geo-political strategy.
With CND, the Muslim Association of Britain and the Socialist Workers Party, the Communist Party helped form the Stop the War Coalition out of the campaign against the invasion of Afghanistan. The CP and the Morning Star played a crucial role in securing significant trade union support for the coalition, with ASLEF (and later TGWU) official Andrew Murray taking the post of chair. At the Trades Union Congress in September 2002, a proposal from Andy Bain, a delegate for the transport staff union TSSA, to oppose any attack on Iraq, even with a second UN resolution, was only narrowly defeated.
This unique alliance of anti-war forces was able to bring more than one million people onto the streets of London and Glasgow in February 2003. When Blair and US President Bush launched their murderous, illegal assault on Iraq a few weeks later, thousands of students walked out of school to take part in mass protests. Young Communists were particularly prominent in leading the walkouts in Birmingham and Glasgow. At the TUC in September, possibly for the first time ever, the British trade union movement condemned an imperialist war whilst British troops were still in action.
The election of Kate Hudson as chair of CND in September prompted anti-Communist outbursts in the Daily Telegraph and elsewhere. Whilst Communists have always played a leading and unifying role in the movement for peace and against nuclear weapons, the war mongers have usually tried to divide the movement with anti-Communism, ultra-leftism or, most recently, Islamophobia.
According to the 48th CP congress in 2004, New Labour represented a 'qualitative break' with classic social democracy. Whereas the Labour Party had traditionally sought to advance—however partially and inadequately—working class interests while also upholding the capitalist system, New Labour brazenly promoted privatisation, monopoly profit and imperialist war.
Britain's Communists proposed a Left Wing Programme of policies to unite and mobilise socialists, social democrats and the labour movement around an alternative to New Labour neo-liberalism. The Party and the Morning Star began to raise the need for the labour movement to fight to reclaim the Labour Party from the Blair-Brown clique.
These perspectives gained currency in some affiliated trade unions. Communists participated in conferences to establish the Labour Representation Committee, which put forward similar positions.
When the European Social Forum was held in London in October 2004, the CP participated fully while also hosting another seminar for Communist and workers parties in Europe. The following year, the Party organised a full programme of meetings at the 'alternative' summit to that of the G8 capitalist powers in Edinburgh, one of them jointly with the Scottish Labour 'Campaign for Socialism'.
At these events, Britain's Communists projected the concept of 'popular sovereignty', which embodies the struggle of the working class and its allies in each country to challenge neo-liberal policies emanating from the European Union, the IMF, the World Trade Organisation or the World Bank, using industrial action, popular mobilisation and representative democracy to enforce the interests of the vast majority of the nation against those of transnational capital.
The Party's international work within Britain took a step forward with the formation of the Coordinating Committee of Communist Parties in Britain, bringing together the CP, YCL and representatives of overseas parties domiciled in Britain (including those from Bangladesh, Chile, Cyprus, Greece, India, Iran, Iraq and Sudan). Since then the CCCPiB has organised a series of rallies and seminars on International Women's Day, the October Socialist Revolution, US strategy for the 'Greater Middle East', religious fundamentalism and Victory over Fascism in Europe.
Some of these domiciled parties have also participated in an electoral front led by the CP, namely, Unity for Peace and Socialism, in London and the Midlands.
A CP and Morning Star delegation to China in 2006 deepened a Marxist understanding of economic, social and political trends and developments there. The delegation's report, China's Line of March, has since proved influential in counteracting pro-capitalist and ultra-leftist misrepresentations back in Britain, particularly in the trade union and peace movements.
In order to lend shape and direction to popular and labour movement opposition to New Labour's neo-liberal policies, the executive committee in July 2008 proposed a People's Charter. The idea was taken up by left trade union leaders and Labour MPs and, after a battle the following year, the People's Charter for Change was endorsed by the Trades Union Congress.
Communists and left-led trade unions such as the Rail, Maritime and Transport workers union have also continued the struggle to win the TUC away from a pro-EU, pro-'social partnership' position.
The strike wave sparked by construction workers at Lindsey power station early in 2009 exposed the super-exploitation behind the European Union's 'free movement of capital and labour' mantra—and showed how united and militant action can overwhelm the anti-trade union laws. Strike leaders joined Communists and socialists in contesting that year's European parliamentary election on a Britain-wide 'No2EU—Yes to Democracy' platform.
By this time, too, the Morning Star had expanded in size and circulation, enjoying unprecedented levels of support in the trade union movement. A growing number of trade union activists and officials were coming to understand the valuable role of a daily paper which supports workers in dispute and acts as an educator and mobiliser across the labour and progressive movements.
The battle of ideas has also been joined by a new publishing house, Manifesto Press, aligned politically with the Communist Party but also producing books in association with trade unions such as the RMT and the National Union of Teachers.
At the annual TUC-sponsored Tolpuddle Martyrs festival in 2010, Communists and allies relaunched the Country Standard as a journal fighting for the interests of workers and their communities in the countryside.
hus the present confirms one lesson from the past. The working class and peoples of Britain need a strong, bold Communist Party and Young Communist League as much as ever, to fight capitalist crisis and imperialist war—and to put us on the road to socialism.