26 December 2020

Planting the flag

Originally published in The Leninist No.117 March 28 1992. Available on our archive here

This election gives us the chance to raise the need for communist politics and a Communist Party. Our campaign puts this forward on a national level. While the bosses once again try to bury communism, we are waging a militant – and definitely alive – battle to raise communism’s flag for militants to rally round. Here we present the candidates that are showing workers a real alternative for the first time in decades

Stan Kelsey: Bethnal Green and Stepney, London

Stan Kelsey, 45, was born in London. He has been an active trade unionist in Ucatt, FTAT and Nalgo. He is a single parent with three daughters and has worked as a registered child minder. A communist for over 30 years, Stan is a fulltime worker for the Communist Party and is one of the country’s leading campaigners for unemployed rights via his work in the Unemployed Workers Charter. This year he was one of the main organisers of the national demonstration against unemployment in London.

“My constituency is in the heart of London’s East End. It is a strong working class area and over the years has experienced a great deal of working class activity and militancy. This is underlined by the election of communist MP, Phil Piratin, in 1945. While significant, it is important not to dwell on the past. We must look at what is needed today.

As with most working class areas in a time of recession, unemployment is rife in the constituency. In the drive to increase, or at least preserve, capitalist profits, businesses sack workers and leave us to a life of misery and poverty on the dole. In Tower Hamlets the official level of unemployment at the end of December stood at 14,495.

We deserve better than this. We need an organised, militant fightback by employed and unemployed alike, struggling to win what we need, not what the capitalist system says it cannot afford.

Capitalism is desperate to prevent and destroy the unity of the working class. This is because, when unified in struggle our class is capable of smashing capitalism. Unemployment is one of the ways in which the ruling class attempts to divide and rule.

Racism is another.

By blaming black people, capitalism attempts to provide a scapegoat for its own failings. Those workers who see black or migrant workers as being responsible for their problems are playing the bosses’ game.

Racism in the working class communities of London’s East End is a sickness that weakens the fighting capacity of the working class. It must be stamped out. Racist ideas need to be fought by argument; racist attacks must be fought by workers defence corps, not by the racist police and racist laws of the British imperialist state.

The state- whether in the ‘soft’ form of the race relations industry, or the hard form of the police or the courts – is the source of the problem. It must be kept out of working class affairs.

Only one candidate in this constituency is standing on an anti-racist ticket – that is myself, standing for the Communist Party. All the other candidates are reactionaries of one sort or another.

The Liberal and Labour candidates, Jeremy Shaw and Peter Shore, are competing to promote their British national chauvinism to upstage the openly racist British National Party candidate Edmonds. Only communists are genuinely against racism in all its forms.

We demand the lifting of all immigration controls: no worker is illegal. Our goal is to unite the working class to fight for what it needs as a whole and to prevent the division caused by setting up one section against another.

Capitalism is the cause of unemployment. Capitalism fosters sexism and racism. Capitalism is responsible for the exploitation and oppression of all workers. Only one party fights capitalism effectively – the Communist Party!”

Anne Murphy: Brent East, London

Anne Murphy, 30, was born in Ireland and came to Britain to work some five years ago. She is a leading member of the Communist Party and is on the Party’s Women’s Commission. A local government worker, Anne is currently studying for a degree in Social Sciences. She is standing against Ken Livingstone – a move that has prompted Livingstone himself to denounce the Communist Party as “M15 agents”! Anne responded In the Irish World of March 20, pointing out that ‘Red Ken’ “isn’t even a light pink around the edges these days”. She highlighted the issue of Ireland as an example of the Labour Party’s totally chauvinist and pro-imperialist nature. Anne is the main organiser of this year’s annual Easter Rising commemoration march in London.

“As far as I’m concerned, I’m up against the representatives of two reactionary capitalist parties – Tory and Labour.

Take the issue of abortion. Damien Greene, the Tory, is a member of the shady Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child, the extreme right wing anti-abortion group. We will certainly be giving Mr Greene as few things to think about in the course of the campaign! But then, what about Livingstone and Labour? He is a member of a party that makes an issue of defending even the highly restricted access to abortion allowed under the 1967 legislation a free vote.

Brent East, in North West London, has suffered a great deal over the last 13 years of Tory rule at Westminster. And it is the working class that has had to bear the brunt of that suffering. This can only get more and more acute as capitalism goes further into recession.

Working people in Brent are being sacked and thrown onto the dole in their thousands by industry and the local council alike. While Brent has the highest percentage of empty council housing in London – over 700 vacant properties – thousands go homeless in the area, either living on the streets, in squalid bed and breakfast accommodation or on friends’ floors.

Over the past six or seven years Brent Council, both under the present Tory administration and under the previous so-called ‘loony left’ Labour Party, has cut jobs and services.

None of the capitalist parties – Tory, Labour, Liberal Democrat or the Greens – will do anything to stop this. Their solution to the problems of capitalist recession is to screw down on the working class. Our Party is standing on a manifesto which shows how the working class of Brent East and Britain as a whole can defend itself from capitalist attacks and fight for a socialist future.

Some fake leftists oppose us standing against Ken Livingstone because he is a ‘good socialist’, with only a slim majority – 1,653 in 1987. We are told that we risk letting the Tories in by standing up for the working class. Let them back the pro-imperialist, pro-capitalist Labour Party if they wish. As for us, we fight for the working class and its political independence. If that means Livingstone losing, so be it.

It will not make an iota of difference to the fight for socialism whether Livingstone or any other Labourite has their parliamentary ambitions ended on April 9.

If Livingstone had stood on our basic platform of workers’ rights – a platform that includes the demand for the immediate withdrawal of troops from the north of Ireland – we would have stood down and supported him.

He refused. His address to electors in the constituency does not even mention the word ‘socialism’!

What sort of ‘red’ is that?

The read reds are not hiding under Kinnock’s bed. We are out fighting.”

Mark Fischer: Rhondda

Mark Fischer is the National Organiser of the Communist Party. He has worked in the past as a journalist and a writer. For the past six years he has been a leading supporter of the Unemployed Workers Charter and has organised many marches, pickets and other protests against the crime of mass unemployment. He was one of the main organisers of the recent national march against unemployment in central London. Mark is from a South Wales family with a history in communist politics going back to the 1920s.

“The working people of the Rhonda have had more than enough of the empty promises of the Labour Party.

On the knocker in places like Tonypandy, Maerdy and Ferndale, Communist Party candidates are being told of voters’ frustration with Labour and their sellout of the valleys. Some workers in despair are turning to the message of the Welsh nationalists, Plaid Cymru. Many others are planning simply not to vote at all.

The Communist Party is the real alternative in this election. Yes, we stand for the rights of Wales to self determination if that is what the people want. But that will solve none of our problems.

An independent capitalist Wales will be just as anti-working class as the British state. What would be the point? In fact, the best moments of places like the Rhondda have come when we have struggled alongside workers in other parts of Britain, even the world. It is those struggles, struggles that the Communist Party has led and supported, that point the way forward to a better future.

The Communist Party in the Rhonda has played the leading role in the proudest moments of the area, whether it has been the struggles of the miners or the gigantic battles against unemployment in the 1930s.

Rhondda was famous for coal. Therefore the 1984-5 Great Strike was a battle for the very survival of the area. Who can doubt now that the miners were right to fight, that Arthur Scargill was spot on when he said that the fight was a fight for the jobs and livelihoods of all miners? That is why communists supported that fight 100%.

That heroic struggle was scabbed on by the TUC leadership, stabbed in the back by Kinnock and the Labour Party tops. The Rhondda paid the price for this treachery when its last pit closed in December 1990.

When the Maerdy pit closed, the Communist Party distributed a leaflet to miners and their families who joined the march to the closure. Our leaflet stated that the closure was “stark proof, if proof were needed, that the working class gets nothing on a plate. To protect our jobs, our living standards, we have to fight. That is why you should join the Communist Party, the combat party of the working class in Britain!”

Today, the unemployment rate in Rhondda stands way above the national average. In desperation, the young people of the valleys are made ‘economic refugees’; they are forced to move around the country in search of work.

These horrors are a product of capitalism itself. Any party in this election that tells you the problems of the workers in the Rhondda, or anywhere else, can be solved without ending the system that produced them is telling you a pack of lies from beginning to end.

The old male dominated workforce in the Rhondda is changing. Women are being drawn more and more into paid work. They need the burden of domestic work taken from their backs with free 24 hour nurseries, high quality laundries and collective provision of food.

Only one party is fighting for what the working class in the Rhondda actually needs – the Communist Party. We make no grand promises. We honestly tell you that without a revolutionary change in society, workers can be sure of nothing.

But we do say that our party, in parliament and more importantly outside, works night and day for that revolution. That is why you should work with us, that is why you should join us!”

Tam Dean Burn: Glasgow Central

Tam Dean Burn, 33, was born in Edinburgh. An actor by trade, Tam has appeared in many films and TV programmes. He is a leading member of the Communist Party and the director of the Workers Theatre Movement. Tam is one of the county’s leading campaigners for Irish freedom through his work in Hands Off Ireland! He is one of the main organisers of the annual HOI! March in commemoration of the 1916 Easter Rising.

“Glasgow grew as the centre of industrialised Scotland to become the proletarian capital of the country. Although most of the industry of Glasgow has now been destroyed, the city’s record of making and supporting communists is real today. Communists are made in struggle, and Glasgow is a city of struggle which had to fight all the way; from George Square to Red Clydeside, and now against the poll tax.

The last 15 years have been hard on Glasgow, and it is the workers which, as usual, bear the brunt. Some, those forced out to ‘Silicon Glen’ for example, found low paid non-unionised work. Others are victims of rocketing unemployment.

Then, to add insult to injury, Ravenscraig closed even earlier than was originally threatened. The health service is now the largest employer remaining in the constituency, and that can only be further decimated by cuts – unless they are fought and defeated. The other parties tell you lies; they say they will not impose cuts. Only the communists support health workers’ resistance to prevent those cuts.

Housing, like unemployment, reflects the general situation of the workers. The slum clearances of the sixties, in the Gorbals for instance, have left high-rise monoliths. Anti-social, badly built, falling apart and unfit for workers to live in.

The failure of the labour movement to deal with these problems, its surrender to reaction over the last 15 years, the recent collapse of the socialist states; all this has caused disillusionment in the ideals of socialism. In Scotland we see an upsurge in nationalist feeling, but this is no answer. The bourgeoisie cannot deliver what the workers need, in any country. Only communism can do that.

The failure of Labourism is not the failure of socialism, but of opportunism, of rife class collaboration. Only the same or worse can come on from the same economic system on a smaller scale. That is why it is essential now that communism is presented to the Scottish workers as a real option. When the workers’ movement is weak, only a firm class position stands between us and reaction.

Whether workers are tempted to vote Labour or SNP, it is the same mistake. There is no solution to working class problems in the bourgeois state. It has not worked, it will not work. Despite Alex Salmond’s lefty pose, he is a bourgeois politician. After all his rhetoric about the poll tax, his party is quietly implementing it, just like Labour. Dishonesty and duplicity is all we can expect from the bourgeois parties.

Glasgow workers are no strangers to culture. Holding its own against the hype of the European city of bourgeois culture, working class Glasgow thrives with expression and life. But workers need the quality of life which allows its cultural base to grow. As a communist and an actor I am acutely aware of the value of culture in working class society. Capitalism cheats us all of this quality. Culture is a weapon in the hands of the workers, since it is our lives which we communicate, our lessons and our aspirations.

The strength of working class politics can be seen in the sharpest contest between communists and the bourgeoisie, and there is little conflict sharper than over the fate of the Irish nation.

The revolutionary situation there can be resolved either in favour of the working class or the British state. Mike Watson, the Labour candidate, believes that the United Nations can do the Brits job for them. Well it could, I’m sure, but we will have to get rid of the UN too in the end. I was physically thrown out of a Labour party lecture recently for raising the question of Labours record in Ireland. If labour can do this in Ireland then they can do it in Britain too when the situation becomes equally sharp.

The working class needs to defend itself; only its Communist Party can lead that defence. All other options have proven false. Supporting the rebuilding of our class’s own party barely starts with voting communist on April 9”.

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