Those interested in the miniscule grouplets of the British far left will be happy to learn that two publications relating to the pro-Soviet/anti-revisionist factions that emerged within the Communist Party of Great Britain are now (or will be soon) available. Firstly, all issues of the factional journal The Leninist are now online as PDFs, available through the Weekly Worker’s CPGB. The group that formed around The Leninist existed within the CPGB from the early 1980s and when the Party dissolved itself in 1991, this group took over the name and since the mid-1990s have published the Weekly Worker. It is a very eccentric mix of Marxism and their weekly paper is known for lengthy exchanges of correspondence on its letters page and promoting the work of Marxist scholars, such as Hillel Ticktin and Lars T. Lih. Not much has been written about The Leninist in the scholarship on the CPGB and I have collated the little bits of information gleaned from the literature:
From the fountain of all knowledge known as Wikipedia:
The paper [Weekly Worker]was first published in 1993, having developed out of The Leninist, the eponymous underground publication of the hard-left group opposed to the Euro-communist leadership of the old Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB). The group was defined by their adherence to orthodox Soviet Marxism and their strong opposition to Euro-communism within the CPGB. This found primary expression in their stance towards the Soviet Union, where they denounced Gorbachev’s reforms and the developments within the Warsaw Pact. The party’s position was as rigorous to lead the group to publish denouncements of the Solidarność trade union for agitation against the workers regime. Such positioning was charactured by the nickname ‘Tankies.’
The Leninist had a convoluted path to publication. After a factional confrontation with the then Euro-communist leaning leadership, a group called the New Communist Party (NCP) split from the CPGB in 1977. An event later regretted as premature and having been a move away from the real site of class struggle, the CPGB. A part of the NCP engaged close alliance with the Communist Party of Turkey (CPT), which left a lasting influence on the groups philosophy. A result of this contact with an active and intellectually lively communist organisation was disillusionment with the inadequacies of the NCP. Another split followed, leading to six joining the CPT and becoming active members. After a period of years this small grouplet, headed by John Chamberlain, decided that they should refocus on Britain’s political situation. The group now numbering four members, began a two year period of Marxist study with the aiming to “reforge the CPGB”. These two years of study finally culminated in the publication of the first edition of the Leninist.
After the collapse of the old CPGB, the group around The Leninist declared their intention to reforge the party on what they declared to be “firm Leninist principles”. They organised an “emergency conference”, at which they claimed the CPGB name, but not its assets. The group are technically named the CPGB-PCC but commonly known as just the CPGB. They are distinct from the Communist Party of Britain (CPB), which has the electoral rights to the name ‘Communist Party’ and the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist). After having made this transition the group began the first publication of the Weekly Worker shortly after in 1993 and began its attempts to ‘reforge the CPGB’.
The 1990s marked a period of introspection for the group. The nature of the Soviet Union was reappraised as being Stalinist, however the group reaffirmed their Leninist heritage (as opposed to the Trotskyist heritage of many other left groups). Having decided on the central importance of re-evaluating theory, this debate was primarily conducted through the Weekly Worker.
From Willie Thompson, The Good Old Cause: British Communism 1920-1991 (Pluto Press, 1992) p. 182:
Less patience was shown towards another factional group and publication entitled The Leninist, a splinter from the NCP youth organisation, which, having re-entered the CP, operated secretly inside it as a group of political Don Quixotes to promote notions of ultra-bolshevism and denunciation of The British Road to Socialism in all its versions… Being in violation of nearly every item of the party rules, The Leninist was promptly banned.
From Geoff Andrews, Endgames and New Times: The Final Years of British Communism 1964-1991 (Lawrence & Wishart, 2004) p. 220:
A coup in August 1990 removed Gorbachev from power and on his release the decline of the Soviet Union began to accelerate. In a bizarre mini replica of this episode the offices of the British Communist Party were also occupied in August of the same year, by a group called ‘The Leninist’, who accused the party leadership of selling off the party’s archives and thus its historical legacy…
From Francis Beckett, Enemy Within: Rise and Fall of the British Communist Party (Merlin press, 1998) pp. 238-239:
The NCP, inevitably, split quickly. The older communist, Soviet Union loyalists who were tired of trench warfare against the eurocommunist advance, fell out with the younger ones, who cared little about the Soviet Union and more about the revolution. After a brief faction fight, many of the younger members were expelled, and in 1981 four of them published a theoretical journal called The Leninist. The first issue had a plain, rather striking blood red cover with a small picture of Lenin, and underneath the title the words ‘Communist Theoretical Journal – Without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement.’
It was one of those dense, unreadable publications that tiny socialist sects often produce. There were nine pages of a founding statement explaining why the NCP was no longer at the revolutionary vanguard… The next 17 pages were taken up with the authors’ denunciation of views recently put forward by a communist economist called Sam Aaronovitch…
It was they who picketed the last Congress of what was now Nina Temples’ CP… It was they who announced to the press that the baton so recklessly dropped by Nina Temple and her friends was, after all, in safe hands. The next year they briefly relaunched the Daily Worker, a name not used since George Matthews renamed it the Morning Star in 1967. Believing that communism had been betrayed by Mikhail Gorbachev, they ran four candidates in the 1992 general election, ‘with one aim – to smash capitalism.’
Today they claim no more than 500 members, but point out that you are either an active member, or you are not a member at all.
From John Sullivan’s As Soon as this Pub Closes (via Marxist Internet Archive):
The divisions among the ‘Tankies’ are even more complex. Straight Left, once the largest such faction, resolutely declares itself to be party loyalist and hostile to the Morning Star, although once the split is finalised, the party leadership will no longer need their services and will give them the bum’s rush. The new pro-Moscow party cannot possibly attain a membership of 2,000 unless Straight Left and the NCP sign up, and negotiations are currently at a delicate stage. The Leninist, which split from the NCP to re-enter the CPGB in the early 1980s, is not being offered a seat at the negotiating table as it has criticised both Stalin and Gorbachev. The group is the British affiliate of a split from the Turkish Communist Party, an interesting reversal of the pattern where agencies from the advanced countries set up shop in the undeveloped world. Alone among the ‘Tankie’ factions, it opposes the Popular Front, except in Turkey, where, apparently, special conditions apply. I fear this dish will prove too spicy for the British palate.
The copies of the journal that are now online make for very interesting reading, but the files are quite large, so be patient!
The second publication is the second and expanded pressing of Lawrence Parker’s The Kick Inside: Revolutionary Opposition in the CPGB, 1945-1991. Parker’s book was originally self-published and looked at the various ‘left’ or anti-revisionist groups within the Communist Party in the post-war period. Most were pro-Soviet or pro-Chinese groups, but all were opposed to The British Road to Socialism in some form. It is quite well-researched and a very interesting discussion on an unexplored section of the British left, although it does somewhat reflect the politics of Weekly Worker CPGB. I received this email about the new version that will be available in December, so I reproduce it here:
Book launch — The Kick Inside – revolutionary opposition in the CPGB, 1945-1991
December’s London Communist Forum, hosted by the CPGB, will see the launch of the second, expanded, edition of Lawrence Parker’s ‘The Kick Inside — revolutionary opposition in the CPGB, 1945-1991’.
Parker provides a fascinating account of the inner-party struggles in the old ‘official’ CPGB — a topic that has rarely been given the attention it deserves. As he writes in the book’s blurb.
“When historians have stumbled upon the fractures of the party’s latter years, such events have often been boiled down to misleading stereotypes, such as ‘Tankies versus Euros’.
The reality was considerably more varied. The CPGB consistently gave birth to revolutionary activists and factions, with two broad-based rank-and-file rebellions in 1945 and 1977 acting as significant feeders for later struggles.
However, such factions were hampered by the extreme slow motion of their maturation; this not being enough to offset the rapid decay of the CPGB’s so-called ‘mainstream’ into nationalism, Labourism and trade unionism.”
This book sheds new light on these factional struggles and is vital for an understanding of the party’s political crisis as it moved towards dissolution in 1991.
New sections include a full analysis of the CPGB’s inner-party opposition to Browderism in the immediate post-war period; and a in-depth exploration of the inner-party rebellion of 1977, which led to the split of the New Communist Party.
The book will be available to buy at a special reduced rate and to be signed by the author. After the launch there will be a festive social.
For more information about November Publications, or to pre-order your copy, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.lulu.com/cpgb to find out about other publications.
Facebook event — http://www.facebook.com/events/488987004456519/
The book can be bought from here now.
So left-wing trainspotters rejoice! More obscure left-wing history for the masses!