Dull and dreary

Peter Manson found little to inspire at the Saturday evening rally of the 'official communist' Communist Party of Britain's Communist University

There was very little to inspire in the Saturday evening rally - although at times it had the 100-strong audience on their feet, giving the customary standing ovations.

The best and most interesting speaker was the star turn, Blade Nzimande, general secretary of the South African Communist Party. However, by the time he was called, the mostly dreary contributions from the others had begun to take their toll on the older CPBers. Comrade Nzimande commended them for being “patient” and promised he would not “abuse” them any longer than was necessary.

His speech was brief, but it was clear nevertheless that he had read the article on the SACP in the current Weekly Worker very carefully (‘Politically correct Thatcherites’, June 12). “Some of our friends around here write of a ‘pure’ class struggle”, without grasping “the need for alliances”, he said. They do not understand that, as a result of the cross-class ‘national democratic revolution’, the “white counterrevolutionary forces have been seriously weakened”.

Although the CPB comrades seemed happy enough with this line, the fact of the matter is that the African National Congress government enjoys the wholehearted support of both imperialism and South African capital - the “same class forces are in power” as under apartheid, as comrade Nzimande readily admitted. To continue in these circumstances to use the non-existent possibility of an apartheid comeback to excuse the ANC’s neoliberal policies (fronted by SACP cabinet ministers) is the height of disingenuousness.

Interestingly, he noted a global trend towards the “rolling back of the welfare state through privatisation and casualisation” and the fact that “some of the most radical liberation movements have also been rolled back in terms of implementing a progressive agenda”. I could not have phrased it better myself.

Nzimande was not the only speaker who needs to learn how to relate a general tendency to his own particular case. For example, Oscar de los Reyes, the Cuban embassy’s political counsellor, tried to justify Havana’s current bureaucratic clampdown against oppositionists by claiming they were all US agents. The following speaker, a member of the Tudeh Party’s politburo, stated that US threats against Iran were damaging to the struggle, since the regime used them “as an excuse to suppress progressive forces” (in Iran, not Cuba).

The hyperactive Afif Safieh, The Palestine Liberation Organisation’s London representative, made his usual competent contribution, but the speeches read out by leading members of the Iraqi and Greek communist parties had to be translated, which made them seem even more interminable.

However, if there is a grain of truth in the comments of the Communist Party of Iraq speaker, the party still has substantial roots amongst the working class. He claimed the CPI had managed to publish and distribute 35,000 copies of its newspaper within two weeks of the fall of Saddam Hussein, and that “at least 500” people were now visiting its Baghdad office every day.

It was clear that the CPB comrades are unused to organising rallies of any size - poor amplification meant that those at the back had the greatest difficulty in hearing the speeches. General secretary Rob Griffiths appealed to non-members to “join the Communist Party”, but nobody was handing out application forms, SWP-style, as people left the hall. Nor was there any appeal for cash or any collection taken. Bring back Solly Kaye.