The Communist Party of Great Britain was founded on July 31 1920 as a militant vanguard. It united in its ranks the most politically conscious, most courageous, most organised section of the workers’ movement. That made the CPGB the advanced part of the proletariat in Britain.
In its early years our party undoubtedly suffered from a certain amateurishness and economism. This was a carry-over from the past. Despite that, because of its revolutionary political and organisational principles, the party was able to take a lead in all the great struggles of the day and considerably deepen and widen its influence amongst the masses.
However, by the late 1920s signs of opportunist decay were all too evident. No doubt with the best subjective intentions many of our leaders began to see themselves as an extension of the Soviet Union’s foreign policy.
To serve these ends the leadership as a whole was congealed into a faction and, citing democratic centralism as justification, it began treating the party as its own property.
The claim to be operating democratic centralism was, of course, no longer true. What the leadership was concerned with was not revolutionary clarity, but silencing opposition. Democratic centralism had become bureaucratic centralism.
Things follow their own logic. What began as persecution in the name of the monolithic party ended as the liquidation of the party.
In the 1970s the Eurocommunist Marxism Today faction emerged from within the leadership. By the 1980s, craving respectability in the eyes of bourgeois society, it determinedly set about liquidating the party organisationally.
Minorities, above all the Leninist minority, were barred from ‘official’ party publications. Instead, these were given over to liberals, churchmen, police chiefs and reactionaries of all hues. Minorities had no possibility of becoming the majority. Not only were the various opposition trends denied places on leading committees: they were subject to crude bans and expulsions.
The open, disciplined and principled rebellion by Leninists was an important turning point in the life of the party. It was a rebellion against the bureaucratic centralist regime of the Marxism Today faction. It was also a rebellion against the entire history of opportunism in our party.
It was understood that the party had to be reforged. That meant a new revolutionary programme and new party rules which were actually based on democratic centralism.
These rules have been prepared with the aim of securing the necessary centralism and democracy of the CPGB, if it is to organise around its programme and put it into practice.
Article 1. The aim of the Communist Party of Great Britain is the voluntary union of communists, the overthrow of the capitalist state, the establishment of socialism and the triumph of communism.
Article 2. A member is one who joins the party, accepting its rules and programme, works in a party organisation and regularly pays dues.
Article 3. Except in exceptional circumstances application for membership is submitted individually. An applicant must be recommended by a party body. Application is subject to the approval by the next higher body. The proposing body must supply reliable information on the member being accepted.
Article 4. Party members are required to fulfil all tasks assigned to them by the party, to fight for the party’s unity in action and use the party’s material resources in a responsible manner. Party members also have a right and a duty to study Marxism and develop the party’s political positions.
3. Organisation of Party life
Article 5. The organisational principles of the party are based on democratic centralism. The part is subordinate to the whole, lower committees to higher, all committees to the Central Committee and the Central Committee to the congress.
Article 6. Except where the rules state otherwise, in all party bodies decisions are taken by the majority of members participating in the meeting. It is the right and the duty of party members to participate in the meetings of the bodies of which they are a member and to openly state their views on all matters concerning the party. In between meetings the tasks assigned by the secretary must be fulfilled.
Article 7. Party bodies are established on the basis of task, locality or workplace. Within their sphere of responsibility they are autonomous.
Article 8. Higher committees have the right to appoint representatives to participate in the meetings of lower bodies and establish relations with their members.
Article 9. During a particular action members have the right to submit their views to higher committees up to the Central Committee for discussion and to the central publication for publication. While acting fully in accordance with the principle of unity in action, members can oppose decisions taken by higher committees. That includes the right to form factions organised with a view to changing party policy or its leadership.
4. Structure of the Party
Article 10. The basic organisational form of the party is the cell. Cells should be kept as small as possible to allow maximum flexibility and maximum efficiency. Cells should as a norm meet weekly.
Article 11. The Central Committee, or a group of cells in an area, city, district or region, may establish area or city committees, which are responsible for directing the work of at least two cells, or district or regional committees, which are responsible for the work of two or more areas or cities in the district or region.
Article 12. The congress is the highest decision-making body of the party. The congress should normally be held every year. The congress should be announced by the Central Committee at least three months in advance. The congress can be delayed by decision of the Central Committee, but the period between congresses should not exceed two years.
Article 13. Extraordinary congresses can be called by a majority decision of the Central Committee. If more than a third of the membership demand it, the Central Committee is obliged to convene an extraordinary congress. It should be held within three months. Failing that, the next highest committees calling for a congress have the duty to set up an organising committee to convene one. Preparation and representation is decided by the committee convening the congress.
Article 14. The Central Committee may invite delegates to the congress who have speaking but not voting rights.
Article 15. Congress hears, discusses and votes upon all reports, resolutions and matters it considers relevant. Through simple majorities it also decides upon the numbers and composition of the Central Committee, changes in the rules and programme, appeals on matters of discipline, etc.
Article 16. The Central Committee is the highest decision-making body between congresses. The Central Committee elects its own officers. If one third of its members so decide, the chair of the Central Committee must convene an extraordinary meeting of the Central Committee.
Article 17. Decisions of the Central Committee are taken by a simple majority of those members participating. The Central Committee has the power to dissolve and re-establish any party body or publication. The Central Committee may co-opt new members who will not have voting rights.
Article 18. Between congresses or at particularly important junctures a conference may be convened by the Central Committee or a majority of district committees. Conference cannot take the place of the congress. It cannot elect the Central Committee nor change the rules and programme.
Article 19. The following are violations of party discipline: failure to adhere to party rules; violating organisational security; refusal to support an agreed action; concealing by words, conduct or silence one’s political or factional relations and activities; behaving in a way that brings discredit to the party.
Article 20. Any committee of the party can vote on a motion of censure against one of its members. The relevant higher committee must be notified. Votes by a committee to suspend or expel a member must be ratified by the Central Committee. A member who is suspended has no membership rights, only duties. The comrade’s level of consciousness and experience should always be taken into account.
Article 21. Every member of the party who is subject to disciplinary procedures has the right to appeal to higher bodies of the party, up to and including the congress.
Article 22. The expulsion of a member of the Central Committee must be agreed by a two-thirds majority of its full membership.
Article 22. The Central Committee determines the level of membership dues. Dispensation can be negotiated in particular cases by the basic committees, but have to be ratified by the Central Committee.