Re Challenger's pointsSeptember 30 2008 at 11:28 PM
|Kim Philby |
Response to Re: All our yesterdays...
No Challenger I don't agree. The CPB undoubtedly is much bigger than all the rest put together. My "rest", and I did say "four" or "five",would include the CP Scotland, CPB-ML,CPGB-ML, CP Alliance (supporters ofthe late Bill Bland) along with the RCPB(ML) and the NCP.
I could have added those Straight Lefters who did not join the CPB but who still regard themselves as communists. I have not included the SLP though some of Arthur Scargill's supporters would claim to be communists. I could have included the largely overseas students involved in RIM and the ex-pat communist parties that organise in Britain (some but not all loosely associated with the CPB)but this would clearly push the total of communists not in the CPB to well above the numbers in the CPB. You may not be aware of the fact that in the old CPGB most of these party members would have been organised within the CPGB whose numbers I quoted for 1977.
Now none of these parties give any figures for membership. All of them produce material which is one indication of the level of activity. Some have a web presence but this reflects their particular emphasis and it is clearly uneven.
The NCP produces a weekly newspaper. The RCPB ML produces a weekly newsletter. The CPB-ML produces a monthly. The CPGB-ML produces a bimonthly magazine. We could make some estimate of how many members would be needed to finance these operations. In the 1970s we could easily do it though nowadays it's not so simple because of new technology. The CP Scotland used to produce a newsletter but I'm not sure whether that is still the case.
The NCP and the RCPB ML both own and maintain their own premises -- something the CPB does not. I am not counting the Star because that is sustained by a broader movement though I accept that much of that effort is sustained by the CPB.
Where does that leave us with numbers? You Challenger ignore the other groups and can only come up with an estimate of the NCP from a very hostile source -- someone who was expelled from the NCP who would naturally want to put the lowest possible figure on the remaining numbers. Nor can any figure be put on the number of carded members of the New Worker supporters groups which were established following the NCP rule change which introduced percentage dues payments based on income for members.
I could actually point out many ways in which you could assess membership: sales of papers and literature; funds raised; presence on demonstrations but the obvious one, which you do not mention, is Congresses. The CPB and the NCP hold delegate Congresses and the representation is laid down in rules which are in the public domain. I can't comment on the others because there are no detailed reports in their own literature. I suspect some of them are all-member aggregates. But I do know something about the CPB and NCP Congresses. Both have fraternal observers present (apart from the closed session) and any experienced observer would have little problem in estimating the membership.
Now as you know, I have frequently disagreed with the CPB's figures which according to the last returns are 900-plus but we are frequently told is over 1,000. We're talking about a missing 100-odd which I am told is partly due to the fact that some CPB branches were not represented at Congress. That well may be so but it is another point that has to be factored in when assessing other parties numbers.
But the main point is that it's clear that this obsession with numbers reflects the ideological insecurity of those who raise it.
You may not understand this so let me try to explain. Back in the 1970s when Jeremy and I were in the same old Party some of the others on the site were also in we used to deride the Trots (those we called the "57 Varieties") who were obsessive about their numbers and the sales of their papers much like the car fanatics who equate cubic capacity with the size of their pricks. We all knew the size of the membership in our own districts and the Party's "strength" was measured by its influence in the unions (though the Euros and some of the King Street crowd hoped it would be in the size of the vote in local and national elections). We all were encouraged to play the game of "capturing positions" in the broader movement. We all did our best to increase the readership of the Star. But the actual size of the membership didn't feature except when the faction fighting began -- and that was only to check for "phantom" branches and abuse of the rules for Congress representation.
The Trotskyists elevated "size" because they were competing against each other -- trying to feed off each other by scoring obscure debating points and hoping to recruit by provoking splits and dissent within their own left milieu. The Trotskyists addressed themselves not the class. It didn't work for them because the class as a whole isn't interested in their obscure differences or their rants and splits. It doesn't work for communists either.
Coming back to Jeremy's points it would be interesting to speculate on whether the CPGB could have sustained itself during the Cold War without the Soviet gold...
H A R Philby