Tick, tick, tick?

Is there a time bomb ticking away under the complacent rump of 'official communism', asks Ian Mahoney

Informal conversations confirmed that there was little or no enthusiasm amongst ordinary CPBers for any lash-up with the Socialist Alliance in some electoral challenge to Labour. But what about its leadership?

Writing in the Morning Star, Andrew Murray - leading CPBer and chair of the Stop the War Coalition - wrote that the STWC itself “will be careful not to adopt any line of activity - in elections above all - which could lead to its fragmentation” (June 11). A characteristic construction. But one which carries an unmistakably negative message for the Socialist Workers Party’s attempt to inveigle the CPB into a ‘broad’ electoral alliance alongside Birmingham imams and others who seem at present only to inhabit John Rees’s imagination.

Yet life eventually imposes itself - even on the most doctrinaire. During the last session, ‘The forward march of labour resumed’, comrade Murray came out with a garbled formulation which shows how Blairism and New Labour have undermined auto-Labourism. He warned against illusions in “old Labour” even while we fight “New Labour”. He stressed that Blair’s party cannot be “ignored”, but then he posed a question - “Can we build a left alternative?” Tantalisingly he did not elaborate upon this line of thought.

However, there can be no mistaking Kevin Halpin’s attitude. To loud cheers from the floor, he denounced any attempts to build a left electoral alternative to Labour as “diversions”. Warming to his theme, he expressed his political solidarity with GMB leader John Edmunds who had spoken of the need to “reclaim” Labour - only “pessimists” want to build outside Blair’s party, Halpin warned. Demands to “democratise the political levy” are nothing more than mealy-mouthed disaffiliation calls.

There was a great deal of talk presently about ‘road maps’, he told his audience. The CPB’s “road map is the British road to socialism”, its auto-Labourite programme that enshrines a vision of ‘socialism’ being won through the agencies of parliament and a left Labour government.

There is latent division in the CPB. Comrade Murray comes from the tradition of Straight Left, a faction that opposed in principle standing candidates against Labour and yet denounced the BRS programme as thoroughly rightist (what their alternative might have been is another matter, of course).

Comrade Halpin is more ‘old guard’ - an opportunist trend associated with one-time Morning Star editor Tony Chater - a convinced reformist and BRSer if there ever was one.

Given that general secretary Robert Griffiths was once a man who wrote passionately and at some length against the rightist BRS, there is surely a programmatic time bomb of some sort ticking away here.