Communist Party Election Site
People before Profit'
Communist Party is standing two candidates, in Wales, at the forthcoming
- 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
- 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
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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
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
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
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
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
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2001 GENERAL ELECTION
click below for manifesto
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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
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 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.
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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
Fri. May 18 6.30 Leafletting Underwood / meet Underwood Leisure
Sat. May 19 11.00 People's Referendum on
Corus / Pill market, Commercial St.
Mon. May 21 6.30 Leafletting Underwood / meet Underwood Leisure
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
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
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.
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Communist Party election
Glyn Davies - Alun & Deeside
Robert Griffiths - Newport east
Ivan Beavis - Hackney south and Shoreditch
John Foster - Glasgow Govan
Martin Levy - Newcastle east
Andy Chaffer - Birmingham Northfield
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