War in Gaza will continue, and so will the mass demonstrations

Focusing our commitment

As the Tories stumble and tumble, and the country prepares to go to the polls, we discussed both who to support and the prospects for after July 4. If there is going to be a ‘crisis of expectations’, it is likely to be on the left. Ian Spencer reports

Comrade Jack Conrad opened the June 9 aggregate of CPGB members and supporters with the highly uncontroversial assertion that Sir Keir Starmer is very likely to be prime minister after July 4. This at a time, though, when the left is in disarray - in part due to its inability to do anything worthwhile, given the open goal represented by the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader.

Another feature of the present, which is likely to persist well into the Labour term of office, are the Palestine solidarity demonstrations. The war is likely to continue, ‘Genocide Joe’ Biden is likely to lose the US election to an authoritarian populist Trump presidency - which Benjamin Netanyahu is probably counting on.

The Tory election campaign has been risible. The latest example is the decision of Rishi Sunak to leave the D-Day commemoration early, which presented a golden opportunity for a Reform Party reinvigorated by the candidacy of Nigel Farage (who has assumed the leadership of what is, after all, not a party at all, but a limited company, in which he is the major shareholder). The direction of the Tory Party after the election is difficult to predict, but a move to the right seems likely, given the political stripe of those jockeying for Sunak’s job.

Comrade Conrad’s assessment of the post-election Labour Party was similarly forthright. For the auto-Labourite left, there is likely to be a crisis of expectations. The Labour front bench is already playing down any significant increase in public spending or support for workers’ demands. A contrast was drawn between France in May-June 1936 when the working class sought to carry out, through strikes, through occupations, what was imagined to be the programme of the Léon Blum Socialist Party-Radical Socialist Party government (a government supported by the French Communist Party). That was a real ‘crisis of expectations’. The 40-hour week and paid holidays had to be conceded along with greatly strengthened trade union rights.

The CPGB continues to characterise the Labour Party as a ‘bourgeois workers’ party’ and therefore recommends: ‘Vote for the left where you can, vote Labour if you must’. While it is imperative to get the Tories out, a good vote for the left may aid a process of consolidation after the election, as well as provide the possibility of at least some in parliament who will continue to fight British support for genocide in Palestine. It seems likely that the ‘Corbyn movement’ will see some development, probably along the lines of ‘Momentum’ and, however flawed such an outcome is, communists should at least consider some sort of organised intervention.

Our critical support for some Labour and independent candidates means taking every opportunity to question those such as John McDonnell on their position regarding the arming of and support for Israel. Clearly, Starmer would rather not have had Diane Abbott as a Labour candidate, but was forced to back down by the furore around her candidacy. In Hackney North and Stoke Newington, communists should support Abbott. We should similarly offer critical support to Faiza Shaheen in Chingford and George Galloway in Rochdale. Comrade Conrad also noted the sudden personality cult around the Revolutionary Communist Party’s Fiona Lali, following her confrontation with Suella Braverman. This seems to be a feature of some left sects, such as the way Derek Hatton or Tommy Sheridan were lionised by the old Militant Tendency. By contrast, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition appears to be sticking to largely economistic demands and is in some disarray.

Discontent can take many forms and comrade Conrad moved to a consideration of two recent currents: Communist Future and The Partyist. It is not as if there had not been similar manifestations in the past, where there is an attempt to reduce or jettison the programme of a Communist Party in favour of an accommodation with reformist or opportunist elements. It was reiterated that the CPGB has no difficulty accommodating differences of opinion, but it is the duty of communists to argue their position openly rather than walk away for fear of being in a minority.


Comrade Stan Keable advanced a critique of The Partyist, focusing on the fact that, while the comrades retain a significant part of the CPGB perspective, their critique of our supposed ‘fetishisation’ of the print media is facile. The aim of The Partyist seems to be to reproduce the success of The Cosmonaut online publication in the US in a quest for followers. Comrade Keable pointed out that we do have a significant online presence and are justifiably proud of producing one of the most influential weekly print publications on the left. The aim of the CPGB is not to simply recruit numbers, but concentrate on the quality of our cadre and intervention in the wider Marxist milieu.

Comrade Carla Roberts offered a perspective of the way some on the left have had an uncritical approval of the number of ‘independent’ parliamentary candidates. She pointed to the naivety of thinking that they would constitute a bloc in parliament. ‘Independent’ representatives are not accountable to any democratic recall or the discipline of an organisation. Moreover, the fact that many are standing against other left candidates does not bode well for future cooperation.

In her view, Corbyn and Galloway are unlikely to work together in the same organisation after the election, while Tusc is unlikely to have any impact at all. Comrade Roberts reported that Chris Williamson has agreed to take part in a pre-election debate with Communist Future, but that Tusc had not even replied to the invitation.

While critical of The Partyist, other comrades pointed out that young people need to feel that they had a space to organise in and learn the necessary skills for political organisation. Comrade Farzad Kamangar stressed the importance of the Weekly Worker as a Marxist paper, contrasting it with the poor-quality output of Socialist Worker. In her view the students currently engaged in Palestine solidarity university encampments have a better understanding of contemporary events in Palestine than the Socialist Workers Party.

The characterisation of the Labour Party as a bourgeois workers’ party was robustly defended by comrade Mike Macnair, who argued that the Labour Party constitutes the ‘bourgeois politics of the working class’ - and he castigated the left for tail-ending Labourism. Comrade Macnair went on to point out the fallacy of The Partyist in assuming that the conditions that are propitious for Cosmonaut in the US pertain to the UK. For example, the Democratic Socialists of America constitute a “coalition of shifting caucuses”, which offer a space for Cosmonaut in a way that UK left sects do not.

I intervened to point out that, while few in the working class, let alone the left, have any expectations of the incoming Labour government, that administration will still have to contend with the objective problems faced by the Tory government. Using the example of the health sector, I pointed out that the NHS will still face a staffing crisis, social care will continue to be a crucial political issue and the private sector cannot bridge the gap, despite the absurd assertions of Wes Streeting. Moreover, I argued that we need to think beyond July 4 to the local elections afterwards in order to build a left that can offer credible alternative in the future. The problem with a very small group is not only that it has fewer opportunities to intervene, but that it lacks a strong sense of community. The importance of community was supported by comrade Paul Cooper. He also emphasised that different generations sometimes use different media and that they are by no means incompatible.


Comrade Keable pointed out that, given the similarity of The Partyist to the CPGB, we may find that we have tangible gains in terms of potential influence. However, it is important to stress that the CPGB does not aim for a ‘halfway house’ version of a party - a pale reflection of a broad front. Our interest is in serious, committed comrades. Comrade Keable was critical of those who just talk the talk, but are unwilling to turn that talk into any kind of disciplined work to promote the idea of building a mass Communist Party.

I replied that there does not have to be a conflict between different media and cited the example of comrade Michael Roberts, who has a successful blog and also contributes frequently to the Weekly Worker. Comrade Ryan Frost, who has signed up as one of the six editors of The Partyist and is a CPGB member, defended The Partyist project as complementary to the work of the Weekly Worker. Concerned that the rightwing nature of the Labour Party may lead to demoralisation on the left, comrade Frost pointed out that The Partyist can be an important vehicle for young comrades to develop their writing and other skills.

Comrade Macnair acknowledged that the CPGB is keen to recruit more and younger members and welcomed local and diverse interventions to put forward a communist perspective. He agreed that things are hardly likely to improve under a Labour government and maintained that there will be a “tipping point”, in which the UK government will face difficulty in borrowing, which could well produce a crisis, if not collapse. Despite all this, it is difficult to predict the direction of politics, given the high level of demoralisation.

Comrade Roberts welcomed the commitment to recruiting and discussed the crisis of expectation that workers face. Her assessment was that, while things in the short term are likely to get worse, the future crisis will inevitably challenge the trade unions and it is then that a serious Communist Party will be able to have a significant impact. We will have to fight for democracy in whatever political formations are thrown up in the post-election period. She went on to support the intervention of comrade Cooper, pointing out that Why Marx? and the Communist Culture Club have had recent additional success thanks to the use of short discussion videos which have been aired using TikTok and other platforms. She went on to make a series of suggestions as to how the CPGB’s weekly Online Communist Forum could be enhanced.

In summary, comrade Conrad stressed the importance of democratic centralism. Members have the right to openly air their differences, but they also have definite duties. He went on to stress the importance of the CPGB’s Draft programme: members are expected to accept it, they are also expected to defend its general scope and perspectives.

Comrade Conrad was frank in acknowledging that in the short term the post-election landscape is unlikely to be better. The much-vaunted growth of the RCP and the Young Communist League are most certainly exaggerated. The RCP has grown, but not by that much. It is a Potemkin village, not a budding mass party. Heady talk of revolution being just round the corner is bound to bring bitter disappointment and various splits and breakaways. As for the YCL, it already seems to have winked away.

In the concluding part of the meeting, comrade Kamangar provided details about Communist University, which will be held this year in central London from August 3-10. We have invited a range of speakers, most of whom have accepted, and she confirmed that the timetable would be available soon.

Kicking off the Summer Offensive, she emphasised the importance of raising funds to support the CPGB’s political activities. The target is £20,000, to be raised by the end of CU 2024. Those at the meeting themselves pledged a total of just over £12,000 - a very promising start, surpassing the equivalent early pledges of previous years.

In summary, despite the parlous state of the left, the aggregate made a significant commitment to continuing the fight for a mass Communist Party.