counter
Y BLAID GOMIWNYDDOL
Y BLAID GOMIWNYDDOL Contact Us and Get Involved, Communist Activities, Meetings and Events Online Reading. Newsletter of the Communist Party in Wales Debate The Issues Llyfrau Rebecca Books Young Communist Wales Morning Star    The ONLY Daily Paper of the Left Marxism and Leninism Education Campaign Grounps, Communist and Worker Parties Help Finance the Struggle Against Capitalism Y BLAID GOMIWNYDDOL

LATEST EVENTS

The British
Suffragette Movement

The Communist Party Election Site

'Putting People before Profit'

Index


The Communist Party is standing two candidates, in Wales, at the forthcoming General Election

  • Glyn Davies in Alun & Deeside.
    Glyn Davies is a former contruction worker and local government officer. A well-known local campaigner for the Welfare state and higher pensions, and against facism. He is a UCATT branch secretary and member of Deeside Trades Council and the North Wales regional committee of the Wales TUC.
    Cymro cadarn sy'n uniaethu gweithwyr Cymraeg a di-Gymraeg, ac sy'n brywdro'n ddi-flin o blaid Senedd i Gwmru, swyddi a chyflogau uwch.
  • Robert Griffiths in Newport East.
    Robert Griffiths is General Secretary of the Communist Party. A tutor in economic and trade union studies, he is a former Welsh President of AEUW-TASS (now MSF). Author, broadcaster and long-time campaigner for a Welsh parliament and leasehold reform, and against racism and fascism at home and abroad.
    Cymro Cymraeg sydd wedi ymgyrchu dros addysg Gymraeg a Senedd i Gymru er 25 mlynedd.

    Both candidates stood in the National Assembly elections when the Communist Party stood the largest number of candidates in Wales, since the re-establishment of the Party in 1988, contesting two regions and two constituencies and collecting thousands of votes.

Vote for the Communists/Pleidleisiwch o blaid y Comiwnyddion

return to index


Red Raid on Caerphilly

The Communist Party entered its first parliamentary battle 80 years ago in the Caerphilly by-election of August 1921. The death of Alfred Onions, a right wing Labour MP and official of the South Wales Miners' Federation led to a three-cornered fight between Communist, Labour and Coalition (the Tory-Liberal government) candidates.

The campaign was not without incident. The Communist Party's agent was refused election documents and a copy of the electoral register by the local council clerk. Bob Stewart, our candidate, was still in prison for his part in a miners' demonstration, and was only released part way through the campaign. A welcome boost came when the whole local Labour Party committee in Bedlinog resigned and pledged themselves to work for the Communist Party.

Labour held the seat with 13,699 voles, the Coalition polled 8,958, and the Communist Party got off the mark with 2,592. In the general election a year later the Party scored much bigger successes, with the election of two communist MPs taking the class struggle to the heart of the bourgeois parliament.

The Communist Party's weekly paper The Communist carried the following account of the battle, penned by TA Jackson.

To write the story of the Caerphilly by-election is not easy. The stage is too crowded, the issues too vast, and the upshot too complex to permit a description in a few cold or flaming words. Those who viewed it from a distance will see in it nothing but an arithmetical proportion of voters, and a majority for the official Labour candidate. Those who were in it and through it will remember it for long as the 'Red Raid on Caerphilly' - the raid which made the valleys of East Glamorgan ring with the shouts of 'Up the rebels!' and which taught the children in the streets to sing at their play, 'We'll keep the Red Flag flying here!'

Having no machinery, we had to take to the streets. When there was a place to hold a meeting we held one - and when the 'Boys of the Bolshie Breed' hold a meeting in a proletarian quarter the result is a foregone conclusion. Before the election campaign we had some 20 communist voters in the division. At the 'showdown' - after the Coalition had carted up in their 80 cars every reactionary whom the fear of the red flag had terrified into unwanted exertion and after the Labour Party had bullied, cajoled, whined and wheedled, finishing with the frenzied SOS, "Don't let the Coalition in!'' - we had roused and rallied 2,592 votes for communism and the slogan 'All power to the Workers'.

With a month to work in and a straight fight against either of them, the Communist Party would have swept the deck clean of everything opposed to it. When I say that we triumphed in the streets I state what is obvious in the result. The Coalition had their press, the Labour Party, the chapels and Coop halls to make propaganda in. Except for the two Sundays over which the campaign extended - on each of which we held indoor meetings - the whole of our work was done in the open. A little canvassing was done - necessarily very little from the size of the area to be covered and the want of the requisite number of canvassers. Those we had worked like cart-horses with splendid effect; but they were swamped in the flood the Labour crowds were able to mobilise. The Coalition meanwhile conserved their strength in the bourgeois quarters.

So enthusiastic and apparently unanimous were the cheers that greeted our speakers that quite a number of proletarians conceived the notion that Bob Stewart was as good as elected. Their enthusiasm carried into the pit was contagious and our audiences swelled to enormous dimensions. And however big might be the great gun on the Labour platform when our boys had to speak in competition with them it was the rarest of rare things for our audience to be the smaller. As for the Coalition, they abandoned the streets altogether so furious was the storm of proletarian contempt roused by their efforts.

While it was wrong to interpret this oratorical success as a portent of electoral triumph, it would be absurd to write it off as of no importance. In point of fact it was the outstanding fact of the election. That 'Bolshevik' speakers would venture into the open at all was sensation enough. That they should without waiting to be accused boldly adopt the title as a badge of honour and go on to hold their own with anything and everything in the nature of argument, opposition and interruption was, to many, simply astounding. Crowds came, first of all out of sheer curiosity; they remained from interest and returned night after night with intensifying enthusiasm. The official Labour speakers, and in a lesser degree those of the Coalition, were well known by repute. Those of the Communist Party were unknown men - except in a few cases, and those known only to a few of the ILP. Before the election closed the Communist Party speakers had earned on all sides the repute of the finest team of speakers ever sent into an election. And those who knew all of them intimately agreed that each one of them excelled himself - and when a team that includes, to name only a few of the better known, William Paul, William Gallacher, Helen Crawford, Joe Vaughan, Bert Joy, Walter Newbold, Harry Webb, Arthur MacManus and the candidate Bob Stewart himself - when these and others like them excel themselves, only those who know them at their best can imagine the sort of meetings to which Caerphilly was treated.

I record for what it is worth the opinion of a not unfriendly journalist with whom I fraternised during a thirst spell: "Your members are too good; and they are doing their work too well. They are smashing up whatever chance the Coalition crowd had of working the patriotic stunt, and at the same time these are creating a real fear that the Coalition will slip on a split vote. You are frightening the Labour crowd into working as they had never worked before, and at the same time you are making voters whose class consciousness is just far enough roused to make the name (Labour) attractive but not enough to make them whole hog communists." The result certainly lends plausibility to that view.

Ramsey MacDonald in the spleen of his mean soul has asserted that we conspicuously avoided any attack on the Coalition. No lie could be grosser or meaner. Harry Webb challenged a Coalition speaker who interrupted him to debate and a meeting was arranged for Abertrider. The hour arrived but the Coalition speaker was missing. William Paul taunted a Coalition MP on his platform in Caerphilly and played with him before one of the largest crowds I have ever seen in the open. Gallacher's massacre of a group of Coalition speakers headed by Captain Gee VC, was a thing to dream about for a lifetime, and the happiest hour Bob Stewart has spent for a long time was the one during which a Coalition MP who had challenged him had to sit listening to his reply.

It is a lie to say, as MacDonald says, that we avoided tackling the Coalition; but there is a reason for his utterance. The only communist speech he listened to was driven into him by Sandy Ritchie, the Lanarkshire miner, whom fate had pitched alongside of him at Taff's Well. That speech was, as it had to be, about the Labour Party in general and Ramsey MacDonald in particular - it will be a long time before Mac forgets it; he will never forgive it.

Apart from open-air meetings and a little canvassing, we employed the weapon of literature. First of all was The Communist, on sale at the regular price. Then two issues of an election supplement to The Communist: the first sold at a penny, and the second distributed gratis. For these latter, chief credit is due to the indefatigable AE Cook. Then there was the election address consisting of an abbreviated version of the address to the workers of Caerphilly from The Communist of August 13. The great practical problem was the folding of addresses and enveloping of this address in time for one to be posted to each elector and this was made possible by a team of as fine a band of real workers as could possibly have been gathered together. There were not many of them but they came from all the surrounding districts - from the Rhondda, from the Western Valley of Monmouthshire, from Cardiff, from Bristol, Sheffield and London and under the command of comrades Brown (of Shipley), Dai Davies (of Bargoed), Hawkins and Shaw they worked wonders. They were of all ages, all proletarians and (if truth must be told) mostly unemployed and therefore broke. They messed together in the committee rooms and a goodly number of them slept at night on the floor. To come home late, weary and hoarse from a round of meetings to find this proletarian bunch getting ready their 'shake-downs' for the night was like walking into a picture from John Reed's Ten days that shook the world. They were a great bunch of the real fighting staff. Communism has reason to be proud of its rank and file.

Then there was the difficulty of transportation. To get from village to village in the Caerphilly division means climbing three mountains and crossing two bridges, except when you cross three bridges and climb two mountains. And they are real mountains - no "home made mountains", as Ernie Brown christened the coal-tips! Our speaking campaign would have been physically impossible but for the transport available in the form of two cars latterly supplemented by a motorcycle and sidecar. These were put at the disposal of the Party by that most enthusiastic of Bolsheviks, Jim Shand of Salford. At least half of the votes we gained were made possible by Jim Shand.

You will perhaps have seen references in the press to "Bolshevik emissaries rushing through the lanes of the Caerphilly division in expensive cars" - and in a way they told the truth. They were perhaps not specially expensive cars to start, but by the time they had bumped and thumped over some of the vilest roads ever discovered with eight or 10 crowded into what the maker fondly thought was space for six - the whole team keeping themselves cheerful with the 'Red Flag', the 'Internationale' and shouts of "All power to the workers" or "Up the Bolshies!" - they will be expensive to mend. The only thing on our side that equalled Bob Stewart on the platform was Jim Shand's driving through the dark back into Caerphilly.

And now that it is all over and the result declared, what can we offer as our excuse for raiding in? We lost our deposits, we spent all the money there was, and all we had as individuals on top of it. What did we get in return?

We gained this. We went into an area in which the reaction and despair following upon the failure of the miners' struggle had left the workers hopeless and broken. We found the best men in the district loaded with debts, their jobs refused them, their homes threatened by the landlord greedy for arrears of rent (in the middle of the campaign our sub-agent Dai Davies had a judgement given against him in the county court, so that his work had to be done under the strain of fear of a distraint upon his home!).

Into this psychology of gloom and despair we carried our revolutionary slogans just when the miserable pigeon-livered 'Labour' crew were beginning to chant their chorus of "Leave it to parliament - direct action is never any good". We raided in. First we routed the gang of whiners and then we roused the enthusiasm of those who had lost heart and hope.

We put the light back into the eyes of men who were leaden with despair, and a spring into the walk of young men. We brought a resurrection of the fighting spirit. We shamed even the Labour crew into making a show of fighting and we left behind us not only a spirit and a will but the beginnings of an organisation which will make the boss class remember with fury our Red Raid on Caerphilly.

When the poll closed at 8pm we held our meetings in aid of the Russian famine victims. After these had closed we waited in the streets or in the rooms for the figures - passing the time at a singsong presided over by the inimitable Gallacher. And on the morrow we departed in Jim Shand's car to catch the train at Newport.

And as we went through streets and lanes over the hills and down the valleys, at every sixth door man, woman, or child or altogether cheered at sight of the red flag flying and answered our slogan with shouts of "Up the Red!" and "Bravo Bob Stewart!"

If we can do what we did in Caerphilly with the odds there were against us, the triumph of the rebel workers is in sight.

The Communist, September 3 1921

return to index


COMMUNIST MANIFESTO

2001 GENERAL ELECTION

click below for manifesto page

To be launched on Friday 18th May at a press conference in Cardiff

return to index


An analysis of the Communist Party's electoral strategy

This article appears in the current issue of Challenge, journal of the Young Communist League.

Britain is sliding towards the next general election amid the drizzle of depressing and right-wing pronouncements we have grown used to from New Labour. Attitudes to the government among workers and young people range from a grim 'better than the other lot' to open hostility: it's rare to find someone who'll passionately defend Tony Blair's record in office without at least one eye fixed on a Millbank job. True, William Hague's Tories are offering a programme that would bring a flush of excitement to the cheek of Enoch Powell, if not Oswald Mosley. But the widely-touted recovery of Tory electoral fortunes has failed to materialize: even large sections of the bourgeoisie seem to think their privileges more secure in the euro with Blair than out of it with Hague. The temptation either to boycott the poll entirely ('a plague on both your houses') or to cast a protest vote for one of the multitude of far-left groupings is palpable. But communists still advise their supporters and sympathizers to resist this temptation. Lucky voters in a handful of constituencies will have the chance to back a candidate nominated by the Communist Party of Britain; everywhere else, the CPB is calling for a Labour vote. At first glance, the policy seems a strange one: the Blair government is pro-business and anti-worker, but you should vote for it, but you should vote Communist if you get the chance, but you shouldn't support any of the other outfits to the left of Labour. It's easy to see why this policy was the object of intense debate at last year's CPB Congress, and why it gets attacked in some left-wing circles. To see why it's the right policy requires an investigation of the way capitalist democracy works, and what coherent strategies for socialism can be used within it.

Not many people believe any longer that what either of the mainstream parties does in government depends on its stated policies and manifesto commitments. The fiction is wearing thin even in the official discourse of election campaigns, as party manifestos shrivel to a few easy benchmarks and a torrent of largely meaningless rhetoric. But the idea that the actions of governing parties depend in some decisive way on the actual (rather than public) opinions of the people leading them is still quite widespread. It is this belief which gives rise to a million 'what if' speculations of the kind which are so popular in some parts of the Labour Party (what if John Smith had lived? what if Margaret Thatcher hadn't?). And it's the same belief which leads to a personalized vision of history in which the 1945-1951 Labour government introduced serious reform (sweeping nationalization, the foundation of the NHS) because Clement Attlee was a decent sort of a man, while the present Labour government does nothing of the kind because Tony Blair's a nasty little sell-out. As a matter of fact, there may be a grain of truth to some of these character assessments (i.e. the last one). But as a way of understanding politics, let alone changing it, it falls far short. The reality is that the views of party leaders have only a marginal impact on the way parties govern within the confines of capitalist (bourgeois) democracy.

This appears very strikingly from British history since the end of the Second World War. Simplifying, but not distorting too badly, we can divide the period into two distinct sections on the basis of government behaviour: social democracy from 1945 to 1976, and neoliberalism (sometimes misleadingly called 'Thatcherism') from 1976 to the present. In the first period, the welfare state was built up and the empire dismantled. Of course, it would be madness to paint this as any kind of 'golden age' (as Eric Hobsbawm has tried to do in The Age of Extremes): decolonization paved the way for neocolonialism, and public welfare did not prevent widespread poverty. But the interesting point is that Tory governments largely failed to reverse the social-democratic measures put through by Labour ones: sometimes, as in the case of Edward Heath's attempt to enact anti-union laws, they were defeated by protest and industrial action; sometimes they didn't even seriously try. They even on occasion brought in 'left' policies themselves - it was Sir Alec Douglas-Home's Tory administration which introduced student grants in 1963. This led to a common belief in a 'ratchet' by which politics could only move to the left, while large-scale and sustained reversion to the right was impossible whichever party was in office. One reason 'new left' and 'euro-Communist' literature from this period seems so dated today is that it never really entertains the possibility of the kind of serious reaction we have seen since.

The period from 1976, however, saw the 'ratchet' change direction. Interestingly, the change appears to take place in the middle of a government, rather than co-inciding with an election. It was a Labour government, elected in 1974 with the rhetoric of 'a profound and irreversible redistribution of wealth and power in the interests of working people and their families' and the substance of continued social democracy, which in 1976 accepted an economic package from the neoliberal International Monetary Fund. This led to unemployment topping one million (believe it or not, that had been unheard-of in the social-democratic period) and involved the government in all-out battle with the unions. Thatcher was to continue the same direction with increased vigour after 1979 (just as Labour governments between 1945 and 1976 had been more vigorous than Tory ones in implementing the social-democratic consensus), and John Major and now Blair have remained firmly within the ideological and political orbit of neoliberalism.

Any residual belief in the central importance of what the people at the top think was exploded in 1990, when Major replaced the combative and (bizarrely) charismatic Thatcher. Hopes that a milder (or at least weaker) personality in Number Ten would mean a softening of the government's reactionary policies were rudely shattered over the next seven years, which saw rail privatization, the Criminal Justice Act and a host of attacks on pensioners, asylum-seekers, single mothers and other vulnerable groups. It's worth pointing out, incidentally, that Thatcher's robust manner did not mean she was in fact following her own course: despite her evident personal suspicion of any foreigners who did not swear allegiance to the Stars and Stripes and carry assault rifles to school, it was her government which passed the Single European Act.

The reason for these facts is that the real room for manoeuvre enjoyed by governments in a bourgeois democracy is starkly limited. The broad sweep of their policy is decided not by the convictions of the Prime Minister but by the objective balance of forces acting on them. It is no co-incidence that the reform measures of the post-War Labour government came at a time when the Communist Party's size (nearly 60,000 members) and influence were greater than at any time before or since (so far). The Soviet Union's key involvement in defeating the nazis had weakened anti-communist sentiment, and had meant a temporary break from government and media 'Red scare' tactics. Mutinies in the armed forces were symptomatic of a widespread feeling that people had not been fighting for a return to the 1930s status quo. If capitalism was to survive, it could only do so at the price of substantial concessions - the choice for the British bourgeoisie was between sacrificing some of their wealth through higher taxes to improve the workers' living conditions, and risking losing it all in a socialist revolution. The basic formula for social democracy was set: yield as much as necessary to the demands of the left, in return for being able to keep as much as possible back. Shifts in welfare provision, taxation and workers' rights ever since have broadly reflected the bourgeoisie's collective estimate of what is necessary and what is possible. A number of factors allowed the neoliberal reaction after 1976: the decline in the world influence of the USSR, the restructuring of capitalist economies in the wake of the 1974 oil crisis, the failure of the left to keep pace with changes brought about by new technology, the 'euro-Communist' deterioration of the Communist Party. The Common Market (now the European Union), which Britain joined in 1973 and which strengthened capital against labour, also played a significant role. The hard-right policies of the Major government must be understood in terms of an internal and external balance of forces which was heavily stacked against the left - the disintegration of the Soviet Union and other socialist states, combined with the payoff from Thatcher's vicious attacks on the trade union movement, weakened any resistance to the bourgeoisie's agenda.

This might sound like an argument against voting at all, on the grounds that the direction of government policy is unlikely to be changed in any fundamental way by the result. But this would be to misunderstand the processes at work. Although both parties have substantially pro-bourgeois leaderships, the social positions of their support bases are significantly different. Labour still relies on the votes, activists and money of the trade union movement and the left. The Tories, by contrast, draw their funding from big business and their activist base chiefly from the small and middle bourgeoisie (not forgetting the role played by the dominant position of the right-wing press). This makes a Tory government freer to adopt blatantly anti-worker measures than a Labour one would be; a fact borne out by history, which shows the Tories enacting (for instance) anti-union laws and Labour under Blair essentially marking time, neither repealing the laws nor extending them. Any reasoned strategy for socialism in Britain must recognize that the failure of New Labour to serve the interests of the workers is the failure of the mass labour movement to make it do so. An analysis which focuses on the parliamentary side of politics and ignores the day-to-day battle outside parliament must be woefully inadequate.

Communists should therefore decide their stance in immediate political clashes (including elections) from the perspective of how the left's influence can be strengthened and consolidated until the point where it can exercise decisive pressure and bring about the overthrow of capitalism. A vote is not a sacred opportunity once every five years or so to visit a polling station and commune with your political convictions; nor is it a chance to read through a pile of manifestos and choose which one appeals to you most. It is just one of many weapons which can be used to forge political influence. If the strength and cohesion of the left and labour movement remains constant, it will be able to exert greater influence on a Labour administration than on a Tory one. And, in fact, there is a feedback effect as well - the Tories in office would use their relative freedom from left-wing pressure to attack working-class organizations and thus reduce their potential clout. Thatcher's anti-union laws are a textbook example of this. The mere fact of a Labour election victory also helps to build confidence in the labour movement, which is a crucial subjective factor in putting together a movement capable of fighting for socialism.

For that remains the goal: to overthrow capitalism and replace it by a socialist society. This can never be achieved simply through winning a parliamentary majority - without a strong and militant non-parliamentary movement behind it, a 'socialist' government would be forced to play by the same rules as any other. Last year's corporate protests over oil pricing are a tiny foretaste of what a government committed to the abolition of capitalism would face from day one.

Those on the left who dream about setting up a mass electoral rival to Labour in the immediate future, therefore, are fooling themselves. It is highly unlikely that any such grouping could win significant support; and if it did, the result of hiving off a portion of Labour's socialist and union backing would be to reduce the left's influence over Labour without actually increasing the strength of the left in the country as opposed to in parliament. Whether the election was ultimately won by Labour or the Tories, the probable result of this kind of electoral intervention would be to produce a more right-wing and more anti-worker government than we have at the moment. The Communist Party, by contrast, focuses its energies on putting together an effective and militant left. That's why the CPB, unlike some ultra-left groups, supports the unions' keeping their link with Labour. That's why the CPB prefers patient work in unions and communities to standing headline-grabbing numbers of election candidates. When there is a communist candidate, this is part of an ongoing programme of work to build the left and strengthen the labour movement in the area, rather than being a purely parliamentary attempt to split the Labour vote. New Labour's pro-business policies must be defeated within the labour movement itself - and this means the left must defend its position at the heart of that movement. The temptation to treat Blair's government as one Labour betrayal too far is a real one; but yielding to it would only make the battle for socialism in Britain that much harder.

return to index

Campaign Diary

Newport East

Fri. May 11 6.30 Leafletting Maindee

Sat. May 12 1.00 Leafletting Maindee

Mon. May 14 6.30 Leafletting Maindee

Tues. May 15 6.30 Leafetting Maindee

Wed. 16 7.30 Maindee Public Meeting / Maindee Primary School

Fri. May 18 6.30 Leafletting Underwood / meet Underwood Leisure Centre

Sat. May 19 11.00 People's Referendum on Corus / Pill market, Commercial St.

Mon. May 21 6.30 Leafletting Underwood / meet Underwood Leisure Centre

Tues. May 22 6.30 ditto

Wed. May 23 6.30 ditto

Thurs. May 24 7.30 Underwood public meeting / Underwood Leisure Centre

Fri. May 25 6.30 Leafleting Ringland / Ringland Community Centre

Sat. May 26 11.00 People's Referendum on the Railways / Pill market, Commercial St.

Mon. May 28 12 noon Leafletting Ringland / Ringland Community Centre

Tues. May 29 6.30 ditto

Wed. May 30 Ringland public meeting / Ringland Community Centre

Fri. June 1 6.30 Leafletting / to be arranged

Sat. June 2 11.00 People's Referendum on the Euro / outside the Westgate, town centre

Sun. June 3 11.00 Leafletting / to be arranged

Mon. June 4 7.30 Eve of Poll Rally / Old Rising Sun, Shaftesbury St

speakers: Avtar Sadiq (Sec. Assoc. of Indian Communists), Robert Griffiths (Newport east Communist candidate), Dominic MacAskill (Welsh secretary, Communist Party) and a Communist Party of Ireland representative PLUS music and poetry featuring Dave Brown.

Campaign Committees (Sundays, 7.00 pm at Carol's)

May 13, 20, 27 & June 3

 

Alun & Deeside

Contact Glyn Davies 07751052608 for campaign details which will be posted on this site soon.

return to index

Communist Party election results

Glyn Davies - Alun & Deeside

211 votes

Robert Griffiths - Newport east

173 votes

Ivan Beavis - Hackney south and Shoreditch

259 votes

John Foster - Glasgow Govan

174 votes

Martin Levy - Newcastle east

126 votes

Andy Chaffer - Birmingham Northfield

60 votes

return to index


Designed and Maintained by
Barry & Dominic
©FREE