Hicks clique survives challenge

ALAN Fox’s report (Weekly Worker 122) of a split looming in the Morning Star’s Communist Party of Britain was reinforced at the first meeting of its new executive committee on January 14-15. Mike Hicks only succeeded in hanging on to his general secretary post by 13 votes to 12, against a challenge from party chairman Richard Maybin. A few phone calls to old friends, I thought, might throw some light on the “sharp differences” (Morning Star November 27) becoming crystallised behind the closed doors of CPB meetings, away from the view of the naively loyal readers of the Star.

Retired executive committee member Tom Durkin baldly asserted that he had not noticed differences of opinion at the November 25-26 CPB congress, and that some comrades probably felt that Maybin, having recently retired from work, could give more time to the party than Hicks, a full-time print industry trade union official. Not being satisfied with such self-deception, I turned to Richard Maybin himself, a comrade with whom I shared many a local government advisory committee meeting in the 1970s. However, his response was:

“I’m not going to beat about the bush. I don’t really want to talk to you. I view you as a rather hostile force. I’m going to hang up now. OK? Goodbye.”

Fortunately, other comrades were a little more forthcoming. One problem is the need to revise the British Road to Socialism programme, which subordinates the organisation to the rightward-moving Labour Party. This question has been sharpened by the launch of Scargill’s Socialist Labour Party. The Star has dismissed the SLP as “divisive”, against the better judgement of many CPBers, particularly those in the reviving industrial advisory committees. Already executive member Bob Crow of the RMT has resigned to join the SLP.

The other, connected, problem - and the opposition’s rallying cry - is democracy, which of course you would need in order to rewrite the party programme! Hence, the commission on inner-party demo-cracy, which oppositionist Derek “Red Robbo” Robinson hopes will combat “a general drift towards old practices”.

Evidently a power struggle is under way between party activists, mainly industrial, on the one hand, and the clique which controls the Peoples Press Printing Society (the cooperative society which owns the Morning Star) on the other. Unfortunately for the activists, their party sold its soul to the Star before it was even born.

The Morning Star split from the official CPGB in the mid 1980s when editor Tony Chater and PPPS chief Mary Rosser declared independence from Party control. The Star became anti-Party. Then the Communist Campaign Group, and in 1988 the ‘re-established Communist Party’, the CPB, were formed to support, not to control, the Star. The CPB was born as the Morning Star’s party. This is the fix in which the CPB militant workers and activists find themselves. Their ‘party’ is dependent. This problem is now asserting itself with a vengeance.

When Chater retired as editor early in 1995, Mary Rosser unsuccessfully obstructed the promotion of deputy editor John Haylett, nepotistically trying to instate her son-in-law Paul Corry. Then, at the June 1995 PPPS AGM, editor Haylett was unprecedentedly excluded from the management committee by an unholy alliance of the Hicks-Rosser-Chater clique with the behind-the-scenes fixers of Labour-loyal Socialist Action.

The CPB’s various industrial advisory committees have experienced something of a revival over the past two years. This, together with the influx of some 200 or so recruits, including those in Communist Liaison (ex-Straight Left), has strengthened the activist and militant pressure for change in the organisation, against the increasingly isolated and blindly pro-Labour Rosser clique. Indeed, attempts by the clique to impose ‘oath of allegiance’ type conditions before former CPGB members such as Ken Gill and Communist Liaison could ‘rejoin’ the CPB were thrown out by an increasingly impatient executive committee.

The November congress began to break the grip of the PPPS clique. With Mary Rosser chairing the election preparations committee, five names on the clique’s sectarian recommended list failed to get themselves elected to the new executive - including disgruntled ‘alternative economic strategy’ guru Ron Bellamy. Hence the charge of factionalism - but levelled by the Rosser clique, not against it! Control of the CPB hangs in the balance. The new executive refused to rerun the congress elections, but consented to a committee to investigate the factional-ism displayed during the elections.

As the clique loses control of the helm, the chances are that it will sink the CPB ship, while, with the aid of Socialist Action, clinging to control of the Star.

Stan Kelsey