Communist future assured?June 11 2012 at 3:07 PM
|Britain, arise |
The Communist party held its first building school in decades this weekend at the Marx Memorial Library.
The school was professionally run, with delegates receiving a folder filled with study materials but in the spirit of paulo freire, those coming to be educated, educated their tutors and each other bringing detailed reports of what is working in their community to build the party and what is not.
There was a series of sessions run by tutors on communist work in the community, the history of figures such as Phil Piratin and Wilf Page, but also workshops run where experiences were shared by comrades, the general consensus that locally focused campaigns on local issues has seen party branches explode in membership over the past year.
A session on the labour movement evoked the organisational skills of Bert Ramelson-of whom a third of the delegates had not heard of previous to reading the new book, indicating a large section of young people having joined in the last year or so, impressed by the strength of the labour movement in those days and willing to rebuild that power. The forms filled out by delegates revealed the details of young trade unionists, many becoming reps only recently, hoping to help rebuild a coordinated movement of rank and file militancy in Britain.
There were reports from the young communists of Hull, who, out on the streets their stalls attacked by fascists, are determined to rebuild the movement. The young communists of Glasgow whose contingent on the recent May Day march was the biggest (and youngest) communist block in decades.
When I first joined the party, a few years short of a decade ago, I found-especially to a teenager-found that the party had an obviously distorted age profile. While the experience and dedication of those who had spent a lifetime fighting for the class was obviously a great asset, the lack of young people was lamentable. For a while any young person that could be found was thrust into the limelight in order to offset this in a very obvious way.
This slowly improved with more and more new, young members joining. Every now again there were one of two who you didn't know. But recently was amazing, there is finally an organic upsurge of many young people joining. At the school I met for the first time so many young activists who are out there doing the work without being related to prominent party members, or being thrust into activity out of desperation, these were activists who have joined the party.
The professional running of the school was different as well. In comparison to the mid-noughties where meetings and events were often strained by the feeling that people were going through the motions, a sort of last minute, we are 'doing this because we have to' feeling was evident. The school was optimistic, gone was the lofty, nostalgic speeches, now we are looking past to the past for inspiration for current activity and for practical examples of communist work in the community.
Let's be honest, we are not seeing thousands flock to the party's banner, we are not realising a situation where the communist presence in the labour movement is such that every strike from now on is going to involve party members, yet there is real progress being made, for the first time in years.
There is only a small increase in membership, just over a hundred last year. But older, less active comrades are being replaced by younger, active members. It has taken huge effort just to keep party structures going for years but now recruits are not being passed the sword to take over guarding the lonely caves of communist branches and just plugging the gaps left by natural deaths, they are being able to expand activity.
Previous events have, very briefly, touched on the theme of building, been so stuffed with the converted older generation that they seemed bizzare. This building school seemed more relevant to the real world than previously, it was the more practical and professional event with young, forward looking delegates that you would expect from a real organisation.
There are still problems, recruitment has increased, but no where near to amount to rebuild a communist presence in every community. Recruitment of ethnic minorities and women was examined as a problem. With 50 odd delegates, only 15 were women and only 4 or 5 Black and Asian.
Even so, the breath of fresh confident air we took in London this weekend will inspire further work in every part of Britain in the next few weeks with the practical lessons being worked into local campaigning and the rebuilding of an effective communist party.
The the first time the party feels like it has a plan that is working. If this event is repeated as successfully again and again, with the delegates bringing their lessons back into their communities, the party will be a completely different animal in ten years time.