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Britain’s communists prepare their biggest electoral campaign in generations

PAUL SIMON speaks to some of the 40-plus communist candidates about their policies, their campaigning methods and their reception from the public

“THAT we are fielding numbers of candidates unprecedented in recent decades is no accident.”

Robert Griffiths, general secretary of the Communist Party of Britain (CPB), believes that the number of seats being contested on May 6 is the direct result of the party being the only viable alternative to the increasing economic, environmental and social destruction that defines the capitalist system.

The party is actively campaigning in over 40 seats for the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Senedd, London Assembly and various English county and district elections.

“The latest edition of our programme — Britain’s Road to Socialism (BRS) — has struck a real chord with many militant working-class voters, especially the young who face insecure jobs, expensive and substandard housing and public services being decimated before their eyes.”

Griffiths believes that the reception to the BRS is the main explanation for the enormous and ongoing increase in members both of the party and the Young Communist League since 2019.

This in turn has fuelled the number of activists keen to use the forthcoming elections as an opportunity to promote the CPB’s practical yet radical solutions to society’s deeply entrenched problems.

“People respect the fact that our national and local manifestos are not one-off pieces of electioneering, but are practical applications of the BRS to current real-world issues facing the British working class.”

The CPB is campaigning under the slogan “capitalism is the problem — socialism is the solution,” with a policy platform drawing out the stark choices between the realities of capitalism and the socialist alternatives.

Manifesto headlines include a substantial increase in public investment in housing, transport, R&D and sustainable energy, a shorter working week with no loss of pay, an above-inflation pay rise for all the public-sector workers who protected us during the coronavirus crisis and a rise in the National Living Wage to £10.40 an hour (two-thirds of median male earnings) rather than £8.91, a cap on rents and no foreclosure on home owners.

The CPB’s innovative approach to campaigning has also drawn praise from many quarters, building on the party’s recent “generational” leap to virtual meetings and events developed throughout last year.

Andy Chaffer, the party’s elections campaign head, described the situation this way: “The work that developed within the party to deliver the centenary celebrations in 2020 is now being enhanced for the election campaign in 2021.

“IT and creative comrades are now well tuned into making the party’s public materials look stylish and eye-catching, whilst also being immediately identifiable as from the Communist Party.

“The backroom IT work is allowing comrades across Britain to share ideas and information and there are weekly online meetings to support candidates and agents in their individual campaigns.

“This election campaign is the first that has fully utilised social media and the reach of this is being seen by candidates. The campaign has enthusiastically embraced modern campaigning, but there is a still a desire and willingness to be speaking to the electorate on the doorstep or at a rally when this is allowed.”

Reports from the electoral front line show both the enthusiasm of the party’s candidates and the positive response they are receiving from actual and virtual doorsteps.

Andrea Burford, who is standing in Leicester’s North Evington ward, reflected: “I decided to stand because I feel that the community need an alternative to the mainstream parties.

“After years of austerity measures and representatives who do not campaign or fight against these measures on behalf of the electorate. I see this as an extension of my activism and where I can directly represent our community.”

In the Motherwell and Wishaw constituency for the Scottish Parliament, candidate Daniel Lambe is upbeat as to the response to the party’s unambiguously socialist policies.

“The campaign has piqued the interest of the local press and I’ve been offered opportunities to write my comments for the papers about my campaign.

“Myself and my comrades have been out leafleting during recent weekends which has led to some messages on the Communist Party website from people who are keen to get involved. Even more, this has led to some people in Motherwell and Wishaw being interested in joining the party, which is really exciting.”

Lorraine Douglas, one of nine London candidates, is keen to emphasise the sheer scale of the party’s electoral effort.

“This is the largest number of candidates the CPB has stood in London for decades — and is the most diverse, with four women, three Young Communist League members, including the London secretary and national chair; a black candidate and two from the London European diaspora.

“London has the highest unemployment rate in the country and have lost the highest number of jobs, with retail, leisure and hospitality particularly hard-hit — all sectors that employ large numbers of women and young people.

“Communists are calling for a reversal of public-sector cuts and for investment in youth services, apprenticeships and jobs. We need to see investment in the emergency services; policing that protects rather than oppresses working-class communities, and a restoration of the ambulance and fire services to previous levels.”

The East will be red

Nowhere more clearly shows the renewed vigour of the Communist Party than the mobilisation of effort and energy by its eastern district for the local elections.

District secretary Phil Katz said: “The east of England is normally written off as one big Tory stronghold. Yet the region suffers as badly as others in terms of expensive and substandard housing, insecure jobs, poor public transport, environmental degradation and an education system that fails working-class students at every turn.”

In spite of no communists having stood in the area for generations, the party is fielding three highly respected activists this time around: Mark Jones (Felixstowe Coastal) and sitting CPB town councillor Darren Turner (Bury St Edmunds Tower) for Suffolk County Council and Marcus Kearney (High Town) for a Luton Borough Council by-election.

Construction worker Mark Jones explained that “the party has impressively pooled its expertise together to produce well thought-out, hard-hitting leaflets and social media content that speaks directly to long-neglected working-class voters.

“We’ve also secured some really positive coverage from the regional media — showing that the Communist Party can cut through to a mass audience.”

The response seems to be vindicating this approach. “Working-class voters like our programme — because it is unashamedly for the working class, by the working class.”

All three candidates have shaken up the other parties by their co-ordinated and radical demands, including for disused shops and malls to be bought into public ownership for community and youth, music and arts, advice and guidance centres, with spaces for local independent craft-based retailing.

Online May Day celebrations

Morning Star readers still have time to register to join CPB and Young Communist League election candidates and international guests to celebrate International Workers’ Day.

Starting at 6pm today, the event promises to be an inspiring reflection on past working-class achievements and struggles and an opportunity for activists to hear how the message of a renewed Communist Party is being received by hard-pressed communities.

Steve Handford who is standing in the Heaton ward of Newcastle City Council said, “It’s our time now. The elites had their go and what a mess they’ve made of things. The CPB will transform society for the common good, so that every day the workers win.”

To register: tinyurl.com/MayDayLaunch.

Paul Simon is chair of the Eastern District of the Communist Party.

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