Fwd: M-TH: The fall of the CPGB

Macdonald Stainsby mstainsby at SPAMdojo.tao.ca
Wed Nov 24 23:09:57 MST 1999

> 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:
> http://www.eGroups.com/group/marxist-leninist-list/4119.html
> The original document can also be found at:
> http://www.raisio.se/igeldard/LA/political/moscom.txt
> and was originally published by Britain's right-wing
> Libertarian Alliance.
> 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.
> Thanks,
> John
> 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
> truly up.
> 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
> agenda.
> 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,
> ibid).
> 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,
> 1995).
>      --- from list marxism-thaxis at lists.econ.utah.edu ---
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Macdonald Stainsby

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