“CPB extends a hand to the wider left” John Haylett

The article below on the decison of the July EC of the CPB appeared in the Morning Star on Friday 17 July 2009. It is by John Haylett, who is polical editor of the Morning Star. He was editor from 1995 until 2009.

The Communist Party of Britain (CPB) announced earlier this week that it is ready to discuss the possibility of joining other left-wing and labour movement organisations in a united front to build the maximum possible unity to defend working people.

The CPB hammered out its approach at its bimonthly executive committee meeting in Croydon last weekend, basing itself on the decisions of last year’s biennial national congress.

The executive agreed to build upon the “positive experiences” of the No2EU initiative, when the CPB, the RMT union, the Socialist Party, the Indian Workers Association and other left-wing groups intervened in the June 4 EU parliamentary election.

No2EU put forward a full candidate list in every polling region, qualifying for election broadcasts on TV and radio, in English and Welsh. It exposed the big business-backed, continent-wide drive for privatisation and took on the racism and xenophobia of the British National Party.

Despite the extremely late entry by No2EU into the lists and the systematic mass media blanking of its message, it scored a creditable 153,000 votes – around 1 per cent.

And for all the efforts of some on the left to blame its involvement for the election of fascist leader Nick Griffin in north-west England, the fact is that it was the collapse of Labour’s vote by 200,000 in that region that enabled the BNP führer to swan off to Strasbourg.

There is also no way of knowing the extent to which the uncompromising No2EU anti-fascist propaganda may have persuaded voters previously planning to abstain to cast their ballots for No2EU or, for that matter, Labour, the Green Party or UKIP.

Mass abstention by working-class, erstwhile Labour voters continues to be a massive problem, which can be exploited by the racist far-right.

Yet there are many within the labour movement who believe that these disillusioned refugees from Labour will return home at the general election on being told that the Tories will be worse than new Labour or being persuaded that Brown and co might ditch neoliberalism and return to traditional social democratic policies.

One recent correspondent to the Morning Star letters page suggested that “working for a Labour victory alongside ordinary Labour Party members, using slogans such as Make the bankers pay,” could revitalise the movement.

Well, why not add “Soak the rich” and “Bring the troops home?” They too are valid slogans and they are equally doomed to being rejected by the Labour leadership.

The labour movement faces a dilemma of either issuing a blanket call for a Labour vote – to be met by another wave of abstentionism or, worse still, protest votes cast for the BNP – or of making the political case to back anti-war, pro-worker Labour MPs together with representatives from other formations.

In some areas, these may be Green, Respect or left Plaid Cymru or they may be communist or socialist candidates endorsed by a united front, forming the basis of a coherent counterpoint to new Labour’s destructive policies.

The CPB plans to proceed swiftly to the selection of at least 10 candidates standing in the names of the Communist Party and Unity For Peace and Socialism and to seek support for them from other sections of the left and labour movement.

Nothing has been settled over any united front. Nothing is set in stone. The party is open to discussions and will make further decisions arising from those talks. In fact, the main priority in the coming months will be to move out of committee rooms and onto the streets to engage with people.

The CPB leadership identified a number of key campaigning issues for the party in the autumn and future months.

These include action to win backing for the People’s Charter for Change and the Charter for Women, supporting Stop the War Coalition and other peace movement initiatives for immediate withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, raising the issues of monopoly profit, public ownership and the Left-Wing Programme to win new party members and mobilising in the trade unions and local communities to build more effective and united anti-fascist work.

The left and the trade unions are engaged in constant battles at all levels to oppose new Labour’s attempts to make working people pay for the bail-out of the banks and big business.

What sense does it make to criticise new Labour’s neglect of manufacturing, a Civil Service jobs cull, ongoing privatisation, failure to build council houses, imperialist wars, scapegoating of refugees and attacks on democratic rights and then say: “But, despite that, we urge a vote for every last single sticky-fingered, warmongering, privatising one of them?”

The greater the active resistance to new Labour neoliberalism and the more likely a challenge to the most abject apologists of this anti-people agenda, the stronger hand that progressive forces in Labour, including the unions, will hold in demanding a change of political direction.

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