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What’s in store for the Communist Party’s 56th congress?

ROBERT GRIFFITHS surveys the top subjects up for debate, including the drive to a new cold war, developments in the Middle East, Africa and the Americas, the working-class response to Covid — and more

THE Communist Party of Britain begins its 56th Congress today in a world in turmoil. 

More than 140 delegates will gather at the party’s headquarters in Ruskin House, Croydon, to analyse, debate and propose responses to the challenges facing humanity.

This will be the biggest such congress in decades, reflecting a membership increase of two-thirds since the last one three years ago. 

Overseas guests include representatives from the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Portuguese Communist Party, the Communist Party of Ireland, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation and — visa permitting — the Palestinian People’s Party. 

Officials from the embassies of Cuba, China and Vietnam will also be present and video messages will be broadcast from the communist and workers’ parties of South Africa, Israel, Cyprus and Venezuela. 

Reflecting a long history of solidarity, representatives of banned or semi-legal parties in the Middle East and Africa will also be in attendance. 

The main international resolution to be debated is proposed by the outgoing CP executive committee and headed Halting Imperialism’s Drive to War.

It begins its analysis of the international situation by considering the disproportionate impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and global warming on the poorest and most oppressed sections of society. 

A host of amendments from party organisations at branch, district and Scottish and Welsh levels emphasise the scale and calamitous consequences of climate change.

This is the context in which the emergence of “a new cold war” aimed primarily at China will be considered. 

The ability of US finance capital to continue extracting super-profits around the globe is now increasingly threatened by the rise of China, which is set to become the world’s biggest economy within the next decade.

The smaller imperialist powers — notably Britain, Japan, France and perhaps to a lesser extent Germany — share that fear. 

Despite their rivalries with one another, they have stepped up their campaign of economic sanctions and political propaganda against China.

Alongside this go the build-up of Western warships in and around the South China Sea, the strengthening of EU military structures, the big expansion of Britain’s nuclear arsenal and the formation of the new US-UK-Australian pact which, among other objectives, intends to enhance Australian and Nato capabilities in the Asia-Pacific region.

At the same time, China’s willingness to engage in mutually beneficial economic relations with developing countries around the world makes it more difficult to enlist them in the new cold war on the side of the US, Nato and an unstable EU. 

The CP congress will also analyse developments in the Middle East, Africa — a prime target for Western imperialist expansion — and the Americas, where the left, including the communist parties, are resisting US-backed attempts to roll back the anti-imperialist gains of recent decades.

Not surprisingly, there will be calls to escalate the campaign for Britain to ratify the UN Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and build anti-war movements nationally and internationally, including the anti-imperialist World Peace Council and its affiliate the British Peace Assembly.

On the domestic front, an executive committee resolution declares: “The crisis is capitalism. Take the road to socialism!”

It analyses the major developments that have shaped the present political situation in Britain. 

These include the outcome of the 2019 general election, when several million electors ceased voting Labour as that party dropped its commitment to respect the EU referendum result and instead — influenced by the likes of Keir Starmer, Lord Mandelson and their business backers — pledged to hold a rerun referendum. 

A post-mortem on the Conservative government’s response to the Covid-19 outbreak is a searing indictment of a system driven by profit at the expense of public services and public health. 

The Communist Party has been warning for some time that the ruling capitalist class intends to make workers and their families pay the bills for helping business survive the pandemic. 

Tory talk of “levelling up” and “building back better” is designed to retain parliamentary seats in the Midlands and north of England with a mixture of bribery and bullshit.

Instead of Boris Johnson’s centralised post-EU Britain, where sovereignty has been secured for British state-monopoly capitalism, the congress will consider a strategy to win “popular sovereignty” — for the working class and the people.

This includes the fight for a “progressive federalism” in which the nations and regions gain the democratic powers and financial resources needed to intervene decisively against the market forces of the capitalist monopolies. 

The post-Brexit state aid powers stolen by Johnson from the Welsh and Scottish Parliaments must be taken back from Westminster and Whitehall. 

Instead of splitting the political class struggle in three between Scotland, England and Wales, a united anti-monopolies alliance should be built — led by a reinvigorated labour movement — to challenge the wealth and power of monopoly capital.

Among the proposals from CP branches and district and nation committees are those prioritising campaigns for the Green New Deal and public ownership of the energy sector. 

The party is already committed to organise a campaign with bodies such as the Indian Workers’ Association (GB) and the Bangladeshi Workers’ Council against Britain’s racist immigration and nationality laws.

This will be the greenest congress in the Communist Party’s history. It is also likely to host major discussions on trade union and community action, sex-based rights and gender identity.

Delegates will elect a new executive committee for the coming two years. However they vote in the secret ballot, it is almost certain that the Communist Party’s next leadership will be younger and more female than at any time since the re-establishment of the party in 1988. 

One thing is certain: the Internationale will be sung with greater gusto than usual at the close of the congress, after a period of significant advance by both the Communist Party and the Young Communist League.

Robert Griffiths is general secretary of the Communist Party of Britain.


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