Frequently Asked Questions
Quite the contrary. In the face of an ever-deepening crisis of capitalism, the need for socialism is all the stronger. Capitalism is based on exploitation and oppression. It is incapable of meeting basic human needs and now threatens the very existence of the planet. We need to make the case for protecting public services, ending totally unnecessary austerity and fighting for a system which offers social justice.
The CP has played a unique historic and political role in the British labour movement since its formation in 1920. It has consistently ‘punched above its weight’ because of its pedigree, the strength of the party’s strategic thinking and its history of struggle in defence of the values of community, class and nation.
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The crimes committed under Stalinism cannot be ignored. But the first attempts to build a socialist society took place in a semi-feudal society facing the hostile forces of imperialism. 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. In the late 1930s in particular, severe violations of socialist democracy and law occurred as large numbers of innocent people were imprisoned and executed. Lessons have to be learnt from both the achievements and the failures of this period.
But don’t forget that during its near 70-year existence, the Soviet Union showed how socialist state power, planning and public ownership could transform society in the interests of the mass of the population. And, crucially, it was the USSR’s central organisation and rapid, massive industrialisation that enabled the Red Army to smash Hitler's war machine, halt Nazi genocide and liberate much of Europe from fascism.
In addition, we should never forget the tens of millions killed by capitalism over the centuries as it exploits and oppresses people at home and abroad. Just to take a few examples, witness the many people killed as a result of the Atlantic slave trade; the dramatic fall in life expectancy in early 19th century British cities as the industrial revolution developed; the appalling treatment of native populations during 19th colonial expansion, sometimes tantamount to genocide; or the many who die today in third world countries as a result of growing capitalist exploitation of their people and resources.
The party organises at local regional and national levels under the principle of democratic centralism, where binding decisions are made by collective debate involving all members and structures. The CP has moved on from past mistakes in this area and is a genuinely open, democratic party, which encourages discussion and transparent decision-making. It also reflects quite a broad range of interpretations of communism, from former Trotskyists, through old-style Bolsheviks to ex-Labour Party members.
The CP is a growing party, which focuses on work in the trade unions, with other progressive organisations and amongst local communities, with the aim of forging a united movement around socialist principles, with an extensive programme of campaigning and events which you can get involved in.
The stage of economic development that follows capitalism. Its key features are: state power is concentrated in the hands of the working class; the means of production, distribution and exchange are socially and/or state owned; central and local control of economic planning; control of pricing and wages; and an economic programme which continually increases output. Socialism is a transitional state between capitalism and communism, the length of time and the actual process would be driven by the economic and social conditions prevailing in that country at that time.
It is a classless society that follows socialism, where the state has moved to 'the administration of things' rather than people, summed up by the phrase used by Marx and Engels "From each according to their ability, to each according to their needs". A Communist society assumes that most production has attained a level of efficiency that provides for an overwhelming abundance of all the basic necessities of life, allowing for human beings to fully pursue their interests outside of the workplace. All existing and former socialist countries have erroneously been labelled as 'communist' but no society has ever achieved this stage of economic development.
Imperialism is an advanced stage of capitalist development that developed in the 20th Century and continues in leading European and North American capitalist countries. Imperialism essentially was bought about by: the completion of colonial expansion; the increasing monopolisation of capital; the dominance of finance capital; the export of capital rather than just commodities; and the formation of international capitalist bodies and alliances.
The guiding theory of Communist Parties, predominantly based on the theoretical work and practice of Marx, Engels and Lenin. Marxism-Leninism is a 'living' theory however which means that it is constantly being examined, revised, expanded, re-applied and debated in the light of experience and new knowledge, including developments by Communist Parties and individual Communists.
The collapse of the Soviet Union was indeed a huge loss to socialism. But there were specific reasons why this happened, including an increasingly out-of-touch bureaucratic-command system of economic and political rule; a dogmatic interpretation of Marxism-Leninism; the diversion of resources caused by the arms race; and a failure to mobilise the party and the people to solve these economic, social and political problems which led eventually to stagnation and political collapse.
However, the collapse of the Soviet Union does not indicate a failure of communism. Marxist-Leninism is an evolving ideology and the mistakes of the USSR provide useful tools to inform the future development of socialism. Capitalism by contrast has endemic failures built into it. Market crashes like those in the 1930s and 2008, as well as the failure of capitalism to provide for its people even in the most developed capitalist nations, prove that it is a failing economic model.
The idea that human nature and communism don't mix is based on the concept that humans are innately individualistic and selfish. In truth, human behaviour is related to the society in which they develop. Capitalism actively encourages these behavioural traits to develop and become normal in society. Under socialism the conditions for these traits to be advantageous are removed and instead are replaced by those that promote mutual cooperation and respect for other members of society.
The original meaning of vanguard was the part of a medieval army that was composed of the most disciplined troops that would make up the front ranks of an army and would determine the pace of march. Lenin used this comparison to highlight the role that Communists play as part of the working class in the revolutionary struggle. Although not a widely used term in modern Marxist circles, the concept of a disciplined force that provides strategic and ideological leadership and is at the frontline of the class struggle, continues to be a guiding principle for Communists across the globe.
We don't have anything against European countries, people or culture. But the EU is an institution that is fundamentally opposed to working class interests. It is now showing its true colours - and the 'social Europe' chimera promoted by many progressives is clearly revealed for what it is. The EU exists to promote the interest of monopoly capital and big business, particularly German and French. Its totally unnecessary austerity policies are threatening national democratic processes - look at what is happening to Greece - and prevent member states from implementing independent economic policies. EU rules also erode collective bargaining, promote the privatisation of remaining public services, prevent the re-nationalisation of the energy companies or British Rail; and prevent support for strategic industries.
We want to see a Europe of democratic states that value public services, guarantees the rights of workers and puts the interests of ordinary people above those of big business. This is impossible while we remain within the EU given its anti-democratic structures. We need to campaign for a 'left exit' from the EU, based on socialist policies that respect the rights of other European countries.
The Tories (never mind the rhetoric of the 'Euro-sceptic' wing) want to remain a part of the EU single market because of the advantages this provides big business - and also because the City is a bridgehead for US capital - while getting rid of all the employment, social and environmental protections that reduce corporate profits. UKIP want to go further and leave the EU - placing Britain firmly under the control of US capital - while also stripping away social and employment protections, stopping immigration, replacing progressive income tax with a flat tax and reducing taxes on business.
Women are at the sharp end of Con-Dem austerity policies, facing benefit cuts, a widening pay gap and shrinking public services. The Government's assault on the social gains made since 1945 has to be stopped. The liberation of women is at the heart of the struggle of the class struggle for socialism. The role of gender in the political struggle is often neglected and we recognise that women are under-represented in the CP. This is your opportunity to make your voice heard in a progressive party which fully understands the important role you play in fighting for equality and social justice.
Trades union councils play a crucial role in broadening the political struggle and raising awareness of the case for socialism across the trade union movement. There's a vital need to promote the message that there is an alternative to endless austerity and the Government's use of the economic crisis to destroy the welfare state, based on investment in jobs, housing and public services. The CP plays a growing role in many TUCs, bringing with it an invaluable strategic focus and a history of struggle in defence of local communities. There is no conflict between the two roles. Why not become a CP member and become an integral part of the broad anti-austerity struggle?
Why not consider rejoining? We have moved on from the destructive infighting of the 1980s. The CPB is revitalised and very much the inheritor of the traditions of the 70 years of struggle of the Communist Party in Britain. The party has ambitious plans to raises its profile across the labour and trades union movement and take the fight to the Government. We have reached a crucial point in the political struggle to get rid of this vicious, parasitic ruling class. Now is the time to make your mark and see what you can do to advance the cause of socialism and make Britain a fairer country.
Communism means the end of the exploitation and oppression of the working class that characterises capitalism - where surplus labour is performed solely for the benefit of the capitalist class - and its replacement by the social ownership of economic property. This means that workers are fully represented in economic and political decision-making, and also means an end to the oppression of women, black workers and other groups. The divisions perpetuated within the working class under the vested interests of a powerful capitalist minority and their state apparatus will be replaced by popular sovereignty and the exercise of the democratic will of the people.
It's in the interests of the wealthy minority that runs the country to encourage apathy and persuade people that there's no point in trying to change things. But politics is about change achieved through struggle. All the rights we've won over the centuries - a free press, the right to form a trade union, the right to vote, health & safety legislation in the workplace, decent public services etc - have been secured precisely because people were prepared to stand up and be counted. Collectively we are strong. The CP fights for a better world free from exploitation and oppression, where people control their own destiny.
We support Labour as the only mass party of the labour movement and electorally viable alternative to the Con-Dem Government in current circumstances. But its continued failure to move on from the ideological dead-end of 'new Labour' and inability to commit to a genuinely socialist alternative to neo-liberalism suggest we may need to reconsider our support after the 2015 election. Any alternative would have to be based on an authentic working class, bottom-up movement, based on the genuine support of a significant number of trade unions. In the meantime, we should avoid being distracted by the Left Unity red herring!
Ultra-leftist attempts to move towards an early general strike risk immediate failure. Our political strategy has to be based on an understanding of the objective circumstances we face in society today. We need to work in the trade union movement to build support for broad-based action that has a realistic chance of putting significant pressure on the Government. The 2012 TUC congress backed a motion calling for the practicalities of a general strike to be investigated was an important step in the right direction.
For membership costs for the YCL and for the CP, related to income, you can view the reverse of the application form. If you join, you would be expected to accept the aims, constitution and policy of the CP, pay your party dues regularly and work in a party organisation (usually in a branch based on local village, town or city or in the workplace). Beyond this, what you contribute is very much up to you. There is plenty of scope to contribute to party activities on a broad basis, but in a way that suits your abilities and commitments. And the important thing to remember is the opportunity to build your understanding of the application of Marxist-Leninist theory and practice in Britain in the 21st century as well as benefit from the solidarity offered by party membership: you will be supported by like-minded comrades dedicated to the advance of socialism!