Twenty-five and counting
Howard Roak draws out an important fundraising lesson from the Summer Offensives of yesteryear
This is actually our 25th Summer Offensive, the annual campaign of intensive fundraising when our organisation fights to provide the financial wherewithal for our political tasks.
Apart from making me feel older than the pyramids (I have taken part in all of them, for pity’s sake! - where did that quarter of a century actually go?), this important milestone affords us an opportunity to compare and contrast where we are today with snapshots of our political trend as it has matured and grown. I will be providing a more comprehensive historical overview of the SO in next week’s paper, but in this week’s column I really want to highlight just one aspect of the campaign - its integral role in the political independence of this organisation.
When we emerged as a distinct political voice in the ‘official’ CPGB in the early 1980s, our party was in an advanced state of decline and disintegration. At the top, a putridly opportunist leadership presided over an organisation seething with underground factions, several busily plotting to reclaim the party for ‘Marxism-Leninism’ (or rather, their Stalinoid version of it) at the ‘next congress’. Which - like tomorrow and Godot - never came, of course.
The Leninist - the no-nonsense name of our factional journal of the time - lifted the stone on these creatures and let the light in. We raised the banner of open ideological struggle and the reforging of our party on the basis of principled Marxism. Typically, the opportunists responded with slander and innuendo - they were incapable of much else. There were dark sotto voce mutterings of ‘Where does the money come from?’ and ‘Who’s paying them to do this?’
Given their own political prostitution, these people simply could not get their heads round the concept that a political project which set out not to curry favour with the trade union or Soviet bureaucracy (let alone the bourgeoisie itself in the case of the Eurocommunist trend within the party!) could be financially self-sustaining. Their slovenly, reformist politics had engendered a laughably amateur, dozy approach to organisational culture. The simple truth - that The Leninist had attracted serious people because it set itself a serious political project that presumed to tell the truth as it saw it, whoever it offended - was just incomprehensible to them.
I know. I tried to explain to some. It was like talking Klingon to them - with the qualification that, given the high nerd-count amongst these trends, quite a number of them may well have been fluent in Klingon.
We formalised our muscular approach to money-raising in 1983, with our first Offensive. By the time of our third SO, in 86, we were explicitly comparing our annual campaign to the factional debris surrounding us in the party. As we wrote, “Unlike all other tendencies and publications in and around the Communist Party of Great Britain, we have no outside sources of finance. We do not leech from the past as Seven Days [the official party paper of the time, dominated by the Euros] does to the tune of £1,000 a week … Nor do we sell all possibility of political independence by accepting a situation where one half of our circulation goes to the socialist countries” (The Leninist October 23 1986).
Now, reading over the TL reports of the SO from previous years, it is sometimes hard not to smile at the youthful ‘Leninist’ verbosity on display or grimace now and then at the dated language (let alone the dated political categories - see “socialist countries” above!). However, a constant theme in them that links yesterday with today is this question of political independence. The Ian Mahoney article on the fifth SO again reiterated that, while our fund drive was dubbed an offensive, “the opportunists [trends] of the CPGB and the Communist Party of Britain have their organisations and publications heavily subsidised as a result of political prostitution. Because of this, they merely have to appeal for donations from their supporters in order to top up their bank balance.”
Thus, comrade Mahoney contended - a little smugly I would say with the benefit of the intervening years - that the total raised at our faction’s SO launch meeting - some £1,255 - was larger than the total achieved by “seven whole districts” of the ‘official’ party. Moreover, our sympathisers, who took a limited part in that year’s campaign, actually pulled in more than “three whole districts” of the Euro-dominated CP, he reported (The Leninist September 3 1988).
The Weekly Worker is proud to stand in the outspoken traditions of The Leninist. We say exactly what we feel needs to be said and go all out to raise the cash that will ensure that no-one can stop us saying it. This is the spirit behind the decisions of the July 12 members’ aggregate to use the money raised in this campaign to buy a digital printer - greatly enhancing our printing flexibility - and to pay for a professional redesign of our website to make its material (including all the back issues of The Leninist that are now ready to be uploaded) more accessible to users. Readers are urged to contribute to this year’s campaign to ensure that our independent political voice continues to ring out loud and true.
And, in truth, the campaign could do with a bit of boost after a very sluggish week. Just £957.23 was added in the last seven days. Yes, that takes us beyond the £6k mark, but compares very badly with the near £11,000 we had raised by this time last year. Thanks in particular to TB for a £200 chunk of her pledge and AM for his £100 - but we are well behind schedule, comrades. Despite the fact the pace of every SO picks up dramatically in the second month, we need comrades to pull their fingers out now to develop some momentum, as we head towards our August 17 finish.
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