M-TH: The fall of the CPGB
farmelantj at SPAMjuno.com
Wed Nov 24 11:30:18 MST 1999
--------- Begin forwarded message ----------
From: "J.WALKER" <jwalker at fs1.li.man.ac.uk>
To: marxism-thaxis at buo319b.econ.utah.edu
Subject: M-TH: The fall of the CPGB
Date: Wed, 24 Nov 1999 16:30:58 GMT
Message-ID: <5D05C003B24 at fs1.li.man.ac.uk>
References: <00b301bf362f$c0f97540$7448d0d8 at computer>
I found a couple of links for the article on the history of the CPGB
and its various divisions since the winding up of the official
organisation in 1991.
The link to the Marxist Leninist List is:
The original document can also be found at:
and was originally published by Britain's right-wing
It is entitled "THE BRITISH COMMUNIST MOVEMENT AND
MOSCOW: HOW THE DEMISE OF THE SOVIET UNION AFFECTED
THE COMMUNIST PARTY AND ITS SUCCESSOR ORGANISATIONS".
There is a long selection (the original being 30 odd pages) below. If
anyone know of another history which is also relatively (for a
right-wing organisation) un-biased on the Communist parties in
Britain please let me know.
8 The Party's Dissolution - Democratic Left
On the 22nd of November 1991 the Party was finally dissolved, at its
43rd Congress (Mercer, 1994). All the crucial votes here were won by
the reformers with two-to-one majorities. Nina Temple believes that
she managed to get majorities of this size for her proposals partly
due to the Moscow Gold disclosures. As mentioned above, many of her
natural supporters had left the Party already. This meant the internal
balance within the Party had shifted to those members - generally the
older ones - who were not necessarily against reform, but who were
emotionally more strongly tied to the Party's traditions. Moscow Gold
had nevertheless shown to this type of member that the game was now
The Congress which dissolved the Communist Party also launched its
official successor organisation, the Democratic Left. This
organisation is still run by Nina Temple. It is not a political party
and does not put up candidates for election. Nina Temple believes
that, with the British electoral system, a group such as theirs could
be more effective building political alliances and campaigning on
issues rather than operating as a fully fledged political party. It
has had some success in building political alliances around the issues
of anti-Tory tactical voting, with their GROT - "Get Rid Of Them" -
campaign and their electoral reform campaign, which has gained the
support even of the Conservative MP John Biffen.
The political outlook of the Democratic Left is very much the open
radical one envisaged by the modernisers within the old Communist
Party. Issues surrounding feminism, ethnic minorities and gay rights
are very important to the organisation. It is also very keen on the
idea of European federalism, so long as it has a socially aware
One can see the extent to which the modernisers have tried to
distance themselves from the other currents within the old Party by
the fact that the Democratic Left's constitution does not even mention
Marxism. There is a `Marxist-Leninist Forum' within the Democratic
Left - it is not clear to me if this is a splinter of the old
`Straight Left' faction, but this does seem likely - which is,
however, very much marginalised within and in no way represents the
mainstream of the Democratic Left. Even an attempt to put a commitment
in the organisation's constitution to public ownership was defeated;
this occurred nearly four years before a similar commitment was
ditched by the Labour Party. Democratic Left talks much today about
its commitment to `radical democracy' both within its internal
structures and also within society at large. All in all these are
extraordinary changes for a group with its origins (interview with
Nina Temple, 1995).
Democratic Left is a far smaller organisation than the Communist
Party ever was. It has 1,370 members according to its own figures,
while the Communist Party had 4,600 members at its very end.
Organisationally it has also declined. Democratic Left has a permanent
staff of three and small modern offices near King's Cross station;
when Nina Temple took over as general secretary in 1990, the party had
fifty full-time staff and large offices in Covent Garden (Temple,
Financially the organisation survives on the income from the assets it
inherited from the old party. The value of these assets have been put
to me at variously £2,500,000 by Nina Temple and £4,000,000 by Brian
Denny, the national organiser of the Communist Party of Britain.
Indeed many of the detractors of the Democratic Left argue that the
only reason for its continued existence is to keep its hands on these
assets. It is even felt that the modernisers only stayed within the
Party in order to control the Party's money and kept it out of the
hands of the traditionalists (interviews with John Haylett, Brian
Denny and Andy Brooks, 1995).
The modernising faction of the old Communist Party thus responded to
the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe by
abandoning their remaining commitment to Marxism. The only vestige of
the old days which is still their is the involvement of some of the
leading members of the Democratic Left in pro-Cuba campaigns.
As noted before the `Straight Left' faction had stayed within the main
Communist Party to the bitter end. After that they formed themselves
into various local holding organisations, grouped around something
called `Communist Liaison'. This is currently being dissolved, and its
members are now joining the Communist Party of Britain (interview with
Brian Denny, 1995). To some degree joining up with this Party is a
defeat for the `Straight Left' supporters, as they had always opposed
The British Road to Socialism, while this is the programme of the
Communist Party of Britain.
Before moving on to the other successor organisations, it is worth
looking at the career of Martin Jacques since leaving the Communist
Party in 1991. Marxism Today ceased publication in December 1991,
arguing that it had outlived its usefulness. In 1993 Jacques
established a new non-partisan think tank, called Demos, committed to
modernising Britain's government structures as well as the structures
of society at large. This think tank is funded by many large city
firms, including British Gas and ICI (Demos Prospectus, 1993). In
September 1994 Martin Jacques became deputy editor of The Independent.
It has been said of Martin Jacques that he is the only person for whom
joining the British Communist Party was a good career move (Beckett,
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