Spoilt votes

In his report of the May 7 referendum for a London mayor and assembly, Paul Greenaway writes: “Almost two thirds of London’s five million electorate could not even be bothered to express an opinion” (‘Our flag stays red’ Weekly Worker May 14).

Of the 34.6% who did cast a vote, the official figures show a large majority in favour of Blair’s scheme for an elected dictator - 72% voted ‘yes’, while the remaining 28% said ‘no’. But these figures do not take into account the 26,188 spoilt papers, which were included in the turnout percentage, but excluded from the count. The precise result should have been: ‘yes’ - 70.9%; ‘no’ - 27.6%; spoilt - 1.5%.

The proportion of spoilt papers was clearly higher than those normally obtained in elections (around one percent) and also markedly up on the figure for the concurrent council polls. The biggest single category of spoilt papers appears to have been the ‘blank’ vote. Voters were given a ballot paper for the local elections along with their referendum slip, but many thousands cast their council vote and simply returned their referendum paper unmarked. However, in addition there must have been at least a couple of thousand ‘conscious’ spoilt papers, including those who followed the advice of left groups such as the CPGB.

According to my calculations, Blair’s plan received the backing of only 24.54% of all those entitled to vote.

Ted Jaszynski


It was good to see comrade Mark Fischer emphasising the need for education in ‘Party notes’ (Weekly Worker May 21). I wish to voice a couple of concerns I have regarding the subject.

Firstly, despite the strong emphasis from comrade Mark about the necessity for the theoretical development of all comrades, for a long time now the Party leadership has been too formal in its approach to the subject.  Despite the vigour of argument I have heard for many years from the PCC about the importance of political education for all Party members and supporters, I believe there still exists a disjointed approach to the question as well as the existence of an unhealthy theoretical gap not only between the leadership and membership but also within the leadership itself. Serious solutions must be provided to overcome this situation. Unless these are produced I fear the theoretical development of our organisation will continue to be given lip service and not the fullest attention it deserves. During the current political period this will only further exacerbate the general problem of recruitment and Party building.

Secondly, I think it is important to point out that not all comrades who recently resigned from our organisation did so primarily on the question of education, although I believe the issue indirectly played some part in their departure. I have also raised concerns over the question prior to this letter and I am still a member of the organisation. Political education was raised by one former member who did not advocate a significant retreat from practical politics as implicated by comrade Mark. Her philosophy was a commendable one: to ‘take stock’ of Party organisation and redress the balance between theory and practice. I did not agree with her proposal to replace the Weekly Worker with a fortnightly publication, but the comrade did produce other credible suggestions with which to improve Party education. I am glad to say that after debate some have now been accepted. However, I believe we need to go much further before real results are achieved which will benefit not only the current individuals within our organisation but those attracted to the Party due to the increased richness of debate.

Bob Paul
East London

Leaders held

We ask that you make a campaign for the immediate liberation of the factory workers: Graciela Mamani, secretary of the women’s network of the Confederation of Factory Workers of Bolivia, and Freddy Chipana, general secretary of the union. They have been illegally detained for having led a strike and occupation of the MEX factory, in April 1997. The employers sacked 90 workers who participated actively in the conflict and now are looking to severely punish the labour movement, imprisoning its leaders.

Opposition Trotskysta-Bolivia
La Paz

Maoist CPGB?

I am interested in the way you conceptualised the current situation in Indonesia (Weekly Worker May 21). With regards to this I would like the CPGB to give me a better understanding on how the Party analyses the actual situation. Does the Party use Marxist-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought, like the Communist Party of the Philippines, as the main weapon to equip itself in studying the concrete situation?

Furthermore I am interested that someday you will know our cause and work hand in hand with us, in the spirit of internationalism.

Serve the people!


… or Stalinist?

To be honest, I thought you had collapsed along with the Soviet Union, and I thought all that was left was the Democratic Left.

It is good to see you still exist. Just one question - you are not Stalinists are you, or tankies? You do not go in for suppression of the masses, vicious propaganda fed through communication and the education system, censorship of the news, massacring supposed opponents and destroying democracy, I take it? Because, as far as I know, under Stalin the CPGB was very much in his favour.

Ron Ablett

Hunger strike

For decades the Turkish oligarchy has been in crisis politically, economically and socially. As a result of its crisis, the state is trying to make the regime stable by attacking people who are in the opposition front. The existence and functioning of the system are defined by the level of torture done or the number of revolutionaries and patriots killed.

The state wants to silence the people who do not submit by the policy of disappearance. Up until now the corpses of two people have been found and given to their relatives, out of more than 400 disappearances. Between 1991-95 304people have disappeared after being detained by the state security forces.

Another four more people have just been abducted in an attempt to have them disappear by the Susurluk state. Neslihan Uslu, Metin Andac, Hasan Aydogan and Mehmet Ali Mandal were amongst the people less than two months ago. They were tribunes of the people.

Until we know their fate and obtain information on their safety, we will be going on a continuous and alternated hunger strike starting from Sunday May 24.

The state is responsible for the disappearances and massacres - we shall bring them to account!

Stop the Disappearances Committee (UK)

Complicated matters

The Communist Party describes the present situation as a period of reaction in which the working class does not exist politically. It is questionable whether the working class has ever been political in the sense meant by the CP: that is, clearly identifying itself as a class in contradiction to the ruling class on every major political issue.

Throughout the last 50 years it is hard to point to a ‘workers’ movement’. The poll tax rebellion was very much a rebellion of the people, not the class. Its make-up was one of cross-class unity of small capitalists, skilled and unskilled workers as well as the unwashed lumpenproletarians and middle class drop-outs of suburbia. The miners’ strike was just that - a fight by just one section of the skilled working class; the miners united rather than the workers united.

The unrest of the 1970s could possibly be seen as the workers’ golden era, but was not a fully fledged conscious working class alternative. Workers happily returned candidates who promised national unity and an end to the conflicts of the day; the class consciousness of the 1970s was the desire for social peace and an end to national decline; a return to the comfort of the post-war consensus. That had been rocked by the militant actions of socialist intellectuals and the slowing down of the boom as it turned to recession. The consensus which the ruling class had begun to renege on - the consensus that had been born of the conscious working class - the real consciousness of the class is one of cooperation and social cohesion, not of conflict and revolutionary social chaos. This theory of the working class is of a working class that is not revolutionary, never has been and probably never will be unless something extraordinary occurs.

The British working class is much like the Russian bourgeoisie of 1917. It lacks the spine to overpower the class above it. It will not act because it fears the unknown. The British working class is conservative, just like the Russian bourgeoisie.

A symptom of this conservatism is a tendency towards an expression of populism - the people’s demands and desires as opposed to the workers’. Hence the mass political parties make appeals to the people and not the workers when the contests over how many workers they can get to vote for them are held.

That is why the parties exist - to compete over the votes of the plebs, using the language of the plebs. The people, the public, the community - anything but a flat-out admission of what we are - working class.

Something extraordinary must occur. The consciousness of the working class has to be transformed into the Communist Party ideal - in effect reality must be changed. That is, unless a revolution can be made with the existing consciousness; evolving a plan for social revolution that does not involve changing the working class, but being as radical as reality itself and using the existing conditions to transform society.

Or we start to look for a different agent to act as the force which will deliver us into socialism (look forever).

If the consciousness of the working class must be changed then we undoubtedly need to forge a Communist Party which includes every communist, not just orthodox Marxist-Leninist ones. Marxism-Leninism is not true - it is just one of a multitude of ideas which people seek to portray as ‘truth’. The truth is whatever the majority believes. Marxism-Leninism is only true if you convince the majority of people that it is.

I do not see why we should complicate matters by insisting all communists are Marxist-Leninists. The rapprochement process has thus far only involved Leninist communists. Is it not possible to widen the process to non-Leninist communists?

GA Shanks