Communist Party of Britain

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
This article is about the modern political party. For the earlier organisation, active from 1920 to 1991, see Communist Party of Great Britain.
Communist Party of Britain
General Secretary Robert David Griffiths[1]
Chair Liz Payne[2]
Vice-Chair Ruth Styles[2]
International Secretary John Foster[1]
National Secretary Ben Stevenson[2]
National Treasurer Martin Graham[3]
  • 1920 (as the CPGB)
  • 1988 (as the CPB)[4]
Split from Communist Party of Great Britain
Headquarters Ruskin House, Croydon
Youth wing Young Communist League
Membership  (2014) Decrease 917 [3]
Political position Far-left[9]
International affiliation International Meeting of Communist and Workers’ Parties
Colours Red and Yellow
House of Commons
0 / 650

House of Lords
0 / 724

European Parliament
0 / 73

Local government
0 / 21,871


Former members of the party include Bob Crow (former general secretary of the RMT union), Ken Gill (former general secretary of the MSF union, and member of the TUC General Council), and Kate Hudson (general secretary ofCND).The Communist Party of Britain is a Marxist-Leninist[10] political partyorganised in Great Britain and since 2012 has been the sole British representative at the International Meeting of Communist and Workers’ Parties.[11] The party emerged from a dispute between Eurocommunists and Marxist-Leninists in the Communist Party of Great Britain in 1988.


The Communist Party was re-established in April 1988[12] by a disaffected section of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB), which had largely embraced Eurocommunism. This section included the editorship of theMorning Star newspaper; largely supporters of the Communist Campaign Group, formed to oppose the party’s new direction. The founders of the new party attacked the leadership of the CPGB for allegedly abandoning ‘class politics’ and the leading role of the working class in the revolutionary process in Britain. The youth wing of the CPGB, the Young Communist League, had collapsed, and the Morning Star was losing circulation.

The following year, the leaders of CPGB formally declared that they had abandoned the party’s programme, The British Road to Socialism. Members of the party perceived this as the party turning its back on socialism. The CPGB dissolved itself in 1991 and reformed as the Democratic Left.[13] Many members of the Straight Left faction who had stayed in the CPGB formed a group called “Communist Liaison” which later opted to join the new Communist Party. Others remained in the Democratic Left or joined the Labour Party.

The party still has members who were active in the CPGB (which dissolved itself in 1991), some of whom were active in the Anti-Apartheid Movement[14][15][16] and trade union disputes such as the Upper Clyde Work-inor the Miners’ Strike of 1984–1985.[17]

The new Communist Party was largely the creation of the “Communist Campaign Group” and one of its prominent leaders, Mike Hicks, was elected to the post of general secretary when the party was founded in 1988. In January 1998 Hicks was ousted as general secretary in a 17 – 13 vote moved by John Haylett (who was also editor of the Morning Star) at a meeting of the party’s Executive Committee. Hicks’ supporters on the Management Committee of the Morning Star responded by suspending and then sacking Haylett, which led to a prolonged strike at theMorning Star, ending in victory for Haylett and his reinstatement.[18] Some of Hicks’ supporters were expelled and others resigned in protest. They formed a discussion group called Marxist Forum.

The party traces its roots back to 1920 and claims figures such as Willie Gallacher, Harry Pollitt, Phil Piratin and John Gollanas part of its legacy.[19]

Rob Griffiths Communist Party general secretary 1998-present (Speaking on the BBC in 2010)

The party is part of the Stop the War Coalition; the movement’s former chair,Andrew Murray is a Communist Party member. Prior to the formation of the Respect – The Unity Coalition, with the support of the Socialist Workers Party, the party engaged in a major debate about whether to join an electoral alliance with George Galloway and the SWP.[20] Those in favour, including general secretary Rob Griffiths, Andrew Murray and Morning Star editor John Haylett, were however defeated at a Special Congress in 2004.[21]

In 2009 the party was one of the founder organisations of the No2EU electoral alliance alongside the RMT and a number of other left parties. The aim of the alliance is to stand in European Parliament elections on a platform of opposition to the European Union which it considers undemocratic and neo-liberal.

In 2013 the party was a founder of the People’s Assembly Against Austerity along with a number of other political and campaign groups to create a broad organisation in opposition to Austerity policies of the major political parties of Britain and of the European Union. The People’s Charter, that the Communist Party had helped create several years earlier, subsequently was voted to be incorporated into the People’s Assembly.

General Secretaries[edit]

General Secretary Took Office Left Office
Mike Hicks 1988 1998
Robert Griffiths 1998 Incumbent

Ideology and summary of main policies[edit]

“The aim of the Communist Party is to achieve a socialist Britain in which the means of production, distribution and exchange will be socially owned and utilised in a planned way for the benefit of all. This necessitates a revolutionary transformation of society, ending the existing capitalist system of exploitation and replacing it with a socialist society in which each will contribute according to ability and receive according to work done. Socialist society creates the conditions for advance to a fully communist form of society in which each will receive according to need.”[22]

The party’s main policies are set out in the Alternative Economic and Political Strategy, contained within this is the Left Wing Programme which comprises the following fourteen key policies:

Stance on socialist countries[edit]

The party supports what it regards as existing socialist states and has fraternal relationships with the Cuban, Chinese, Laoand Vietnamese Communist Parties, as well as with other ruling Communist Parties around the world. It is affiliated nationally to the Cuba Solidarity Campaign[23] and the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign.

Britain's Road to Socialism cover (2011).png

Britain’s Road to Socialism cover (2011)

The party’s stance on the Soviet Union is summed up in Britain’s Road to Socialism;

Russia and the other countries of the Soviet Union were transformed from semi-feudal, semi-capitalist monarchist dictatorships into modern societies with near-full employment, universally free education and healthcare, affordable housing for all, extensive and cheap public transport, impressive scientific and cultural facilities, rights for women and degrees of self-government for formerly oppressed nationalities. This was achieved through a world historic break with capitalist ownership and social relations, on the basis of social ownership of industry and centralised economic planning.

But the struggle to survive and to build socialism in the face of powerful external as well as internal enemies also led to distortions in society that might otherwise have been avoided. In particular, a bureaucratic-command system of economic and political rule became entrenched. The Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the trade unions became integrated into the apparatus of the state, eroding working class and popular democracy. Marxism-Leninism was used dogmatically to justify the status quo rather than make objective assessments of it.

At times, and in the late 1930s in particular, severe violations of socialist democracy and law occurred. Large numbers of people innocent of subversion or sabotage were persecuted, imprisoned and executed. This aided the world-wide campaign of lies and distortions aimed at the Soviet Union, the international communist movement and the concept of socialism.

— Socialism – the lessons so far[24]


Under the Registration of Political Parties Act 1998, which regulated the use of symbols on ballot slips and electoral material, the Communist Party is the only British political party entitled to use a stand-alone hammer and sickle in such cases. The party tends to use the hammer and dove (adopted when the party was re-established in 1988) in conjunction with the hammer and sickle in publications and on other material, with the hammer and dove normally taking primacy. The party’s official flag consists of a golden-outlined, five-pointed red star above and slightly to the left of a hammer and sickle design in red with a golden outline in the flag’s canton. The words “Communist Party” appear in gold along the bottom of the flag.


See also the Young Communist League

The YCL is the autonomous youth group of the Communist Party, with its own internal organisation. It is a growing organisation, having reorganised several districts with growing branches and has also increased its autonomous activity and events, as well as playing more of an active role in the Communist Party and political campaigns such as the People’s Assembly Against Austerity.

Logo of the Young Communist League as it appeared in 1923.

The Communist Party describes itself as a “disciplined and democratic organisation” and operates on a model of democratic centralism.

The basic party body is the branch. These are normally localities (towns or counties, for example), although workplace branches also exist. In England, branches are grouped into coherent geographical areas and send delegates to a biennial District Congress which elects a District Committee for its area. Similarly, the Welsh and Scottish branches send delegates to their own national congresses where each elects an Executive Committee. These congresses also decide the broad perspectives for party activity within their districts and nations.

The all-Britain national congress is also held biennially. Delegates from districts, nations and branches themselves decide the party’s policy as a whole and elect an Executive Committee (EC) that carries out a presidium-like function, including decision-making and policy-formation whilst congress is not in session.[25]

The EC also elects a Political Committee (PC) to provide leadership when the EC is not meeting. Advisory Committees also exist to provide in-depth information on an array of subjects, including committees dedicated to women, industrial workers, pensions, public services, education workers, economics, housing, rails, science technology and the environment, transport, Marxist-Leninist education, LGBT rights, anti-racism, anti-fascism, civil service and international affairs.

Size and electoral information[edit]

For the last ten years the party has had a membership of over 900 members and has branches in most major cities withinGreat Britain.

Party membership over time
Year 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Membership 811 852 916 930 967[26] 955[26] 931[27] 915[28] 922[29] 924[1] 917[30]

The statement of accounts submitted to the Electoral Commission following the party congress in 2013 reports a total annual income of £140,978.[1]

General election results[edit]

House of Commons of the United Kingdom
Election year # of total votes  % of overall vote # of seats won
1997[31] Increase 639 0.0% Steady 0
2001[32] Increase 1,003 0.0% Steady 0
2005[33] Increase 1,124 0.0% Steady 0
2010[34] Decrease 947 0.0% Steady 0
2015[35] Increase 1,229 0.0% Steady 0

In 2015 the party fielded 9 candidates, whose combined vote came to 1,229.[36] Laura-Jane Rossington stood for the party in Plymouth Sutton and Devonport; at just over 18, she was the youngest candidate to stand in the general election in England.[37]

Summary of 2015 General Election results
Candidate Constituency Votes %
Robert Griffiths Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney 186[38] 0.6
Andy Chaffer Birmingham Hodge Hill 153[39] 0.4
Mark Griffiths Torfaen 144 0.4
Zoe Hennessy Glasgow North West 136 0.3
Mollie Stevenson Newcastle upon Tyne East 122 0.3
Steve Andrew Sheffield Central 119 0.3
Gerry Sables Devon North 138 0.2
Ben Stevenson Croydon North 125 0.2
Laura-Jane Rossington Plymouth Sutton & Devonport 106 0.2

In 2010 the party fielded 6 candidates whose combined vote came to 947; it also supported John Metcalfe and Avtar Sadiq who stood as part of electoral alliances. Metcalfe stood on behalf of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition in Carlisle[40]and won 365 votes, or 0.9% of the total vote.[41] Sadiq stood on behalf of Unity for Peace and Socialism in Leicester East[42]and won 494 votes, or 1% of the total vote.[43] Unity for Peace and Socialism is a domestic alliance between British domiciled sections of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) of which Sadiq is a member, the Communist Party of Bangladesh and the Communist Party of Greece.

Summary of 2010 General Election results
Candidate Constituency Votes %
Marc Livingstone Glasgow North West 179[44] 0.5
Martin Levy Newcastle upon Tyne East 177[45] 0.5
Robert Griffiths Cardiff South & Penarth 196[46] 0.4
Ben Stevenson Croydon North 160[47] 0.3
Steve Andrew[48] Sheffield South East 139[49] 0.3
Gerry Sables Devon North 96[50] 0.2

In 2005 the party fielded 6 candidates whose combined vote came to 1,124.[51][52]

Summary of 2005 General Election results
Candidate Constituency Votes %
Robert Griffiths Pontypridd 233[53] 0.6
Glyn Davies Alyn & Deeside 207[54] 0.6
Martin Levy Newcastle upon Tyne East & Wallsend 205[55] 0.6
Monty Goldman Hackney South & Shoreditch 200[56] 0.6
Geoffrey Bottoms Crosby 199[57] 0.5
Elinor McKenzie Glasgow Central 80[58] 0.3

At the 2001 general election the party ran 6 candidates whose combined vote came to 1,003.[59] At the 1997 general election the party ran 5 candidates whose combined vote came to 911.[60]

Other election results[edit]

The party runs candidates in elections on the local, national and European level.

In the 2010 Mayoral Election in the London Borough of Hackney, Communist candidate Monty Goldman secured 2,033 votes (2.17%).[61]

For the London Assembly, the party ran on its own[62] and won 536 votes in 2000[63] and 1,378 votes in 2004.[63] In 2008the party supported the Unity for Peace and Socialism alliance, which won 6,394 votes.[64] In local elections in 2008 the party gained one councillor, Clive Griffiths, a former Labour councillor who joined the party and was re-elected unopposed to Hirwaun and Penderyn Community Council as a communist.[65]

In the 2009 and 2014 European Parliament elections the party supported the NO2EU alliance led by the RMT union. The party also ran in the Welsh Assembly elections in 2007[66] and 2011.[67] In the 2011 Scottish Parliament election the party stood Marc Livingstone as a candidate.[68]


The party publishes a wide variety of literature and material.

Communist Review[edit]

Communist Review Number 76 Summer 2015

This is a theoretical and discussion journal published on a quarterly basis.[69] It takes its name from the old journal published by the CPGB[70] and current issues cost £2.5. The content of the journal covers book reviews, feature articles, letters and sometimes poetry. The editor is Martin Levy.


This is a magazine published by the Young Communist League. It mainly covers news, feature articles and political reports. It runs a Back 2 Basics series which explains the basic foundations of Marxism-Leninism in an accessible way. Occasionally it publishes music, film or video game reviews alongside other light content such as comic strips. It’s aimed at young people and tends to be less academic than Communist Review.

Communist News & Views[edit]

This is an email bulletin which summarises the party’s recent statements, resolutions, reports and policies.[71] It also brings attention to campaigns and events being promoted by the party. It is open to the public and can be subscribed to on the party website, if someone makes an enquiry to join the party they can choose to be subscribed to the email list.

Country Standard[edit]

A journal for rural communities, produced since 1935.[72] It is produced annually and is run by an editorial collective of Communist and Labour members, environmentalists and trade unionists. The paper supports the Countryside Charter with the following aims:

• Restore the Agricultural Wages Board • Restore the Commission for Rural Development • Unite to save local schools, post and health services – build housing • Break with EU Common Agricultural Policy • Extend the Gangmaster’s Act • Tax super profits of the giant food retailers • The land to those who work it.[73]

Manifesto Press[edit]

The party publishes books under the Manifesto Press imprint.[74][75] It has a total catalogue of 8 titles and also sells 2 titles which are published separately by Hetherington Press. The books cover historical, political and social topics and are edited by Nick Wright.[76]

Unity! and Solidarity[edit]

Unity! is a short booklet focused around labour issues and often distributed for free at trade union events. Solidarity is a bulletin published by the international department of the party, it covers the party’s foreign policy and the activities of theCo-ordinating Committee of Communist Parties in Britain.[77] The editor is Anita Halpin.[2]

In addition to this the party publishes many miscellaneous pamphlets under its own name.[78] The Classics of Communismseries are reprints of classic works such as The Communist Manifesto or “Left-Wing” Communism: An Infantile Disorder. The Our History series aims to re-tell ‘history from below’ and covers historical events from a working class perspective. The party also publishes congress reports, the party programme, briefing notes and other documents.


At the beginning of November 2004, the party and its youth organisation, the YCL, moved out of its temporary headquarters in Camden, North London after receiving notice to quit because of redevelopment. The building was owned by AKEL, the Cypriot communist party. Ruskin House in Croydon was chosen as the new party headquarters, with its long history in the progressive movement as centre of the Anti-Apartheid Movement and also local Labour Party and co-operative groups. The party rents the top floor of four offices at Ruskin House which also allows it plenty of room to hold its congresses and other important meetings, including an annual industrial cadre school and the Communist University of Britain.

Conferences and festivals[edit]


The party holds a biennial congress with delegates from districts, nations and branches. The last congress as the Communist Party of Great Britain was the 43rd congress and was held in 1991. The 44th congress, as the Communist Party of Britain, was held in 1997. Since 2000 the congress has been held every two years apart from a special congress held in February 2004. The 29 member governing Executive Committee (EC) of the party is elected at congress.


In November 2004 the party organised Communist University events in Wales and England, these were further developed to form a national three-day event which ran annually from 2005 to 2010. This was accompanied by regional weekend universities in Wales,[79] Scotland and the Midlands. Among the speakers at the Communist University at Ruskin House in November 2006 were Labour MP John McDonnell, RMT general secretary Bob Crow, CND chair Kate Hudson, Communist Party USA vice-president Jarvis Tyner, French Communist Party economist Paul Boccara and Palestine Liberation Organization ambassador Dr Noha Khalef.

21st Century Marxism[edit]

In 2011, the national Communist University event was renamed to “21st Century Marxism” and the format was changed slightly from a festival to a conference. The style of the event has changed widely over the years as the organisers experiment with different venues and speakers.

Date Venue
26 to 27 November 2011 Bishopsgate Institute[80]
21 to 22 July 2012 Bishopsgate Institute[81]
2 to 3 November 2013 Marx Memorial Library[82]
26 to 27 July 2014 Marx Memorial Library[83]

The party’s political education strategy also includes Trade Union & Political Cadre Schools, Party Building Schools, and Day Schools.