Research Note ~ the artist, Maureen Scott.

The picture space was crammed with figures and in the centre was a grim portrait of Pinochet with his henchmen and their victims floating in a river of blood. A bleeding Allende was also shown. Above the dictator, a giant male figure flanked by red flags carried by trade unionists strained mightily to break the chains that bound his wrists, while below the people marched forward holding aloft a flame of resistance.” MS Chile

From Left to right: Ken Hume (Chile Solidarity Campaign trade union organiser), Mrs and Mr Alvaro Bunster (ambassador to Britain from the Allende government and President of the Chilean Anti Fascist Committee), John Boyd, Luis Pavez (CUT) the AUEW’s President Hugh Scanlon, Elaine Nicholson (interpreter) and Maureen Scott (artist).

   It was painted in a gesture of solidarity, a mural in support of Chile for the Peckham headquarters of the AUEW. While a symbol and expression of the AEUW’s no truck coverinternationalism, the mural was taken into the AUEW museum shortly after it was unveiled in July 1976. The protest music of Chile, typified by the work of Víctor Jara, became an integral part of the Chile Solidarity Campaign in Britain. It was not alone in using culture to foster solidarity among trade unionists around the world in the hope that they would use their power to mount an international blockade of Chile’s commerce as explored in Ann Jones’ study , (available here) No Truck with the Chilean Junta.

 


The artist, Maureen Scott, was among the many talented and creative people drawn to political activism in the ferment of the 1960s . From August 1971 in the League of Socialist Artists (LSA),   Maureen Scott,  and other members of the group, notably her co-worker and husband Mike Baker (1972-90), and Bernard Charnley were active in politically motivated art projects.

Maureen Scott (b. 1940, Coventry), trained at Plymouth College of Art, Goldsmiths’ and St Martin’s while Bernard Charnley (b. 1948), a graphic artist studied at Leeds College of Art  were based at 18 Church Street, Camberwell ,The Communard Gallery, until 1975. Here they had exhibition space where they exhibited their own work, delivered lectures, published the poetry of the Turkish Communist Nazim Hikmet, The Wall , with illustrations by Scott, and generally promoted the cause of socialist realism. Amongst the titles they published was the 1973 polemic, “Liberal populism or revolutionary proletarian realism in art?”: a reply to John Weber of the Chicago Mural Movement and in 1976, the illustrated book, Class War in the Arts!

The LSA members were in addition to their artist activities were members of a small left-wing group, the Marxist Leninist Organisation of Britain. At the organisational hub of the MLOB, Maureen was also the LSA’s Provisional Secretary.

The League favoured the style of socialist realist art, and politically orthodox . “Our art must serve revolutionary politics. We place our art unreservedly at the service of the working class.”

Scott, Maureen, b.1940; The History of Labour
Scott, Maureen; The History of Labour; People’s History Museum; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-history-of-labour-206682

“Within [the] overall tasks of the proletarian socialist revolution a role of unprecedented importance devolves upon… creative artists. For it is precisely through art that science., the knowledge, understanding and experience of the laws of motion of the universe, including particularly of human society, is distilled… artists, whether of the visual or the dramatic arts, are no less than “engineers of the human soul” [JV Stalin]… “Proletarian socialist art is a reflection in artistic form of the class struggle between proletariat and bourgeoisie… The method of artistic creation of proletarian socialist art is therefore proletarian -socialist realism…”communard

“We Socialist Artists declare our aims and work to stand completely apart from and in irreconcilable opposition to the formalism and commodity fetishism of capitalist art which serves at one and the same time to mystify the movement  and conflict of social classes, to preach and inculcate the helplessness of man before the “unknowable” universe, and the  “atomic chaos” of the “existentialist” society – as also to provide the effete, luxury loving ruling class with those soporific, sensationalised and alienated titbits which might, for an hour or a day, provide an anodyne to bring forgetfulness of the moment of doom for their class which the approaching proletarian-socialist revolution is bringing ever nearer.”

Socialist realism was the only path: “In place of the pop art, mobile junk, psychedelic and other fringe lunacy of decaying capitalist art we will erect an art which expresses the dignity of working people, into which life is breathed from out of their very struggles…”

The “Theses on Art,” were put forward in 1972, by the “League of Socialist Artists”; this version  was first made available by American political allies in Alliance,  issue number 8, with the poems of Nazim Hikmet, illustrated by Maureen Scott. Their co-thinkers praised the contribution:

“We have still not found a better and more concise and clear expression of Socialist aesthetics and thus offer this in web form.”

http://ml-review.ca/aml/CommunistLeague/WBBTHESEART1972.html


bourgeois critic was less complementary:

“unfortunately typical of many, small, ultra-left political groups that they expend more energy attacking potential allies than their principal opponents.) Nevertheless, LSA members contributed to the Art Workers’ Subcommittee of the Artists’ Union, to ‘United We Stand: Exhibition in Solidarity with the Miners’ (London, Congress House, 1974), to a conference on art education and to a conference on art/politics, theory/practice held at the RCA in 1974.”

In discussing their cultural endeavours John Walker argued that: “Despite their left-wing rhetoric, in certain respects the LSA artists were conservatives: they believed in representation not abstraction, employed traditional techniques such as painting and drawing, accepted art galleries as places to display work and the necessity for artists to make a living by selling their products as commodities”

~ Walker, (2002) Left Shift: Radical Art in 1970s Britain. London: I. B. Tauris p51~


Publications of the League of Socialist Artists 

1972 Manifesto & Theses on Art  22 pages, published by League of Socialist Artists. 9780950297613.

 1973 Communard Gallery – forthcoming programme: Paintings, prints, posters, propaganda material for the working class movement (January 1972, 15 pages). 9780950264912.

 1973 “Liberal populism or revolutionary proletarian realism in art?”: A reply to John Weber of the Chicago Mural Movement publish date January 1973, 13 pages, 9780950297644.

 1975 Paula Modersohn-Becker,1876-1907

 1975 In commemoration of Nazim Hikmet (1902-1963) 

 1976 Maureen Scott, Essays on art and imperialism – art and socialism

 1976 Class War in the Arts!: The League of Socialist Artists V. the “art and Culture’ Agencies of Monopoly Capital : a Collection of Documents in Struggle against Corporate Reaction in Art Produced by the League of Socialist Artists since Its Foundation in May 1971 . 0950154075

1977 Manifesto & Theses on Art. 3rd ed (19pages)


 

Illustrator’s Note

That Wall is a poem depicting the mass terror and widespread horror thrown up by capitalism-imperialism in the era of its senility. It is a poem showing one side of class struggle – the side which arouses the greatest feeling of revulsion and loathing, and which many well-intentioned people, particularly the type of liberal intellectual which forms the main prop of the revisionist parties, cannot accept. It does not lay emphasis on the strength, the creativity, the resource and unbounded resilience and reserves of the working masses who have the power to rise and destroy this ultimate product of man’s class-divided prehistory, and in this respect may be considered a pessimistic poem. I have nevertheless felt that, in an age when renegade ‘socialists’ seek to cover up the true face of capitalism, representing its ruling monopolist oligarchy as ‘striving for peace’, ‘more reasonable’, ‘interested in the preservation of mankind’, etc., the true face of brutality revealed to tens of millions of struggling peoples in all the continents of the world should find expression in images striving to portray the essence of capitalism-imperialism, and thereby helping to educate all those temporarily taken in by the illusion of relative class peace to a true stance of proletarian internationalism. For so long as exploitation, oppression and war should continue in any corner of the globe, it is necessary to strip away the false mask which the objective allies of imperialism give it, to make it stand exposed in all its diseased violence and inhumanity, so that working people the world over may unite the quicker in the titanic struggle to topple the ‘colossus with feet of clay’, and to usher in the era of socialism and communism. This aim, in my view, Nazim Hikmet fulfils in a powerful and convincing way in this poem.

Maureen Scott 1973

Link to:On Poetry by Nazim Hikmet


 

Maureen Scott life  from Facebook

Maureen Scott was born in an air-raid in Coventry in 1940 and this experience has broken through in her agitation and political art all her life. “Political protest painting has been the central part of my body of art starting in various art schools and continuing throughout my life.” Years of struggle and poverty with marital breakups, child loss, abusive relationships have influenced a serious of paintings on homelessness, grief and the perpetual study of the oppressed.

Examples at http://maureenscottartist.com/index.php/social-realism-humanism/

Painting by candlelight

Maureen Scott’s earlier work deals with the struggles of the working class. Her painting Unemployed (1972), was created in a bedsit during a particularly difficult time in her life. The work expresses the issues she faced in the conditions her family were living in at the time. Having to paint by candlelight due to no electricity and having a lack of relevant support, she found her family relationships strained. The painting itself bears the marks of this austerity, with burn marks at one edge. The stark harshness and realism of Scott’s work act as a call to arms, to stand up and resist power imbalances and social injustice.

For three days a week, Scott painted by the light of a single electric light-bulb and for the rest of the time by candlelight due to her financial circumstances in the 1970s.unemployed

Unemployed (1972) reflects the challenges her family faced and the struggles of the working class – small living spaces, unemployment and the lack of child support.

“This painting was set in my one room with just space for my cooker on the Holloway Road,” she says. “The gloomy light was from a single light bulb and my hope for room to work and breathe only lay in dreams of success as an artist.”

She describes the piece as autobiographical. The father-figure is her partner at the time who died from a second heart attack. He had refused to take medication after the first. “It was a terrifying death I found impossible to deal with,” she said and underwent bereavement therapy in the 1990s

Rediscovered colour

 In the 1990s recovering from bereavement therapy and a pause from painting I returned to still life oil painting and rediscovered my love of colour. [http://maureenscottartist.com/index.php/still-life-studies/]

Maureen began drawing and painting as a small child. She went on to attend Plymouth College of Art in the early 60’s, then Goldsmiths College and Central St. Martins in the 70’s. At the age of…. she suffered a breakdown after her husband died and was admitted to Maudsely Hospital. Despite these turbulent years Maureen has accomplished a great deal including having her poetry published, working in Fleet Street as a professional litho printer and showing her artwork in exhibitions in the Whitechapel Gallery, Galerie Poll in Berlin and as far afield as Delhi and the USA.maureen scott artist

Her work is in collections such as the Museum of Modern Art, Utrect and the Museum of Labour History in Manchester and Bethlem Archives and Museum.

The work on show at the Bethlem Gallery presents a side to Maureen’s work that is rarely seen. Her accomplished brush strokes reveal a sense of the artist’s daily life and what she sees around her; a mother and child in the kitchen, the veg for the evening meal, a favoured cat sitting on the tablecloth. The exhibition introduces us to the person behind the politics and invites us to enjoy the simple things in life.

In preparation is War Paint is a new book covering the artist and poet’s most productive period from 1990 to present day.

 “I could not live without canvasses, paint boxes, and easels. I was born with images in my head and I have a compulsion to make these images real. Some images are happy, some horrific. Some use colour the effect the viewer. My pictures are where I make the life I want to live. Unlike some fashionable, thus mega-rich artists who claim they believe in nothing, I am the opposite. I am full to the brim with everything and it over flows onto my canvass. I cannot stop it.”

* *  *

“Painting, for me, is literally a process of getting the images out of my head, I see an image and have to paint it.”

– Maureen Scott


 Thesis on Art cover

Reading about the ‘Naxalites’

It doesn’t get that much coverage in the British mainstream media but there is material out there on the complex contemporary revolutionary struggle that has been sustained in India for half a century ~

Communist Party of India (Maoist) Documents, Statements, and Interviews of Leaders

http://www.bannedthought.net/India/CPI-Maoist-Docs/

International Committee to Support the People’s War in India

https://icspwindia.wordpress.com/

News from the struggles

http://www.redspark.nu/en/category/peoples-war/india/

http://democracyandclasstruggle.blogspot.com/

http://www.massline.info/India/

or search these out ~

 

 Linkshttp://library.redspark.nu/2011_-_Walking_with_the_Comrades

http://library.redspark.nu/Azad    Maoists in India  Writings & Interviews

http://library.redspark.nu/Charu_Mazumdar

http://library.redspark.nu/Anuradha_Ghandy

http://films.redspark.nu/category/south-asia/india/

 

See also Just read…..

 

Friendship and Solidarity with Socialist Albania, part two

The CPB (ML) & the New Albania Society


For most of the Seventies the Communist Party of Britain (ML) held the stewardship for friendship and solidarity with the People’s Socialist Republic of Albania. There were many strands to the relationship.

There were the set piece visits to Albania as guests at trade union and Party congresses, and the calendar of activity reflected important celebrations in Albanian revolutionary history as the CPB (ML) held public meetings and carried reports on Albania in the pages of The Worker that, typically were one-sided celebratory view of the Albanian experience.

There were three visits to Albania in 1969: Jim Farrell and another CPB (ML) industrial comrade were guest of the Albanian trade unions in the May; Ted Roycraft, CPB (ML) Secretariat member, led a six member delegation (that included Danny Ryan of Bristol CPB (ML) in the October; and in November, Chairman Birch was in Tirana for the 25th Anniversary celebrations of the founding of Socialist Albania.

During that visit, during a conversation with Enver Hoxha, the Albanian party leader was quoted as praising The Worker as providing “thoughtful and helpful analysis and commentary on the struggle of the working class in Britain.”

Such visits were taken as physical demonstrations of fraternal links, they provided the opportunity for exchange of views and first hand observations of a socialist country.

“A tour of Albania is in many ways a miniature of China. Everywhere there are Chinese machinery, equipment and technical experts. This is real international Marxist‐Leninist cooperation and solidarity. Mao’s name is greatly revered by all. His pictures and quotations are found in every factory along with pictures of Enver Hoxha and other giants of history.The Worker June 1969 quoted in https://www.marxists.org/history/erol/uk.hightide/high-tide.pdf


The Worker October 1969                          CPB(ML) DELEGATION TO ALBANIA

SIX MEMBERS of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) are at present in Albania at the invitation of the Central Committee of the Albanian Party of Labour.

All members of the delegation are workers and they will also be meeting representatives of the Albanian Trade Unions.

June 1972 The Worker pictures Enver and Ted Roycraft.

Their visit coincides with preparations all over the country for the celebration of the 25thAnniversary of the liberation of Albania from fascist occupation. The Albanian Working people are not only successfully fulfilling plan targets but have undertaken special pledges of endeavour in all fields to meet with a balance sheet of great socialist achievements the nation-wide celebrations of this Anniversary on November 29th.

Not only on the industrial front have workers surpassed the estimated level of production in the metallurgical and chemical enterprises and the supply of building materials but they have also achieved great success & in the food industries and have nearly completed the electrification of the countryside a whole year ahead of schedule.

DELEGATION REPORT

https://www.marxists.org/history/erol/periodicals/worker-uk/11-69.pdf


The Worker December 1970                                GREETINGS TO ALBANIA

Greetings on the 26th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of Albania. The Secretariat of the Communist Party of Britain (Marxist- Leninist) sends its warmest fraternal greetings to the Party of Labour of Albania in celebration or 26 years of socialist advance.

We hail the steadfast and determined struggle of the Albanian Party under the brilliant leadership of Comrade Enver Hoxha which has kept the banner or socialism flying high despite every kind or provocation by imperialism and Soviet revisionism. Surrounded by US and Russian imperialist bases, threatened by nuclear missiles, the people and Party have refused to be intimidated, refused to compromise, refused to deviate from the hard revolutionary road.

Today on the eve of the 26th anniversary of the founding of the socialist state the Albanian workers and peasants, under the banner of Marxism-Leninism, have scored tremendous victories in industry and agriculture.

Not material incentives but socialist emulation, not dependence on experts but the initiative and self-reliance or thousands or workers have led to the transformation of a backward, semi-colonial economy into a modern balanced socialist economy. All branches or industry and agriculture are booming and targets of the 4th Plan have already been fulfilled and over-fulfilled.

Most important or all have been the tremendous strides taken in the formation of the new socialist man and woman. We who live in the midst of capitalism’s decadence salute the creation of a new society and a new morality not based on the exploitation of workers but on their liberation. Every socialist victory in Albania encourages us as we start on the long and arduous road to smash British imperialism.

Long live the People’s Republic or Albania!

Long live the revolutionary friendship of the Albanian and British working class!


January 1970 CPB (ML) Delegation Report of visit to Albania https://www.marxists.org/history/erol/uk.secondwave/cpb-albania.pdf   

The Worker, mid-June 1972    WORKERS’CONGRESS

 workers congress


 

The Worker November 1971                CPB (ML) DELEGATION TO ALBANIA

The Worker, in what was to become an annual feature, carried a report that:

At the Invitation of the Albanian Party of Labour Reg Birch, Chairman of the Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) and another member of the Central Committee have gone lo Tirana to take part in the celebration of the Party of Labour’s 30th Anniversary and the convening of the Sixth Party Congress. They take with them the comradely greetings of the CPB (ML) and the fraternal good wishes of British workers.

See: 6TH CONGRESS OF THE PARTY LABOUR OF ALBANIA https://www.marxists.org/history/erol/periodicals/worker-uk/12-71.pdf


The Worker No.21 November 1st 1973                          A VISIT TO ALBANIA

1973 visit to albania


Bellman Books, the public face of the CPB (ML) , organisational hub and meeting venue, provided an important outlet for English-language material from Albania.

The bookshop were subscription agents for Albanian English-Language magazine e.g. New Albania (‘beautifully illustrated bi-monthly magazine of socialist developments In Albania), and sold publications not stocked in mainstream book sellers

History PLA

e.g. “ HISTORY OF THE PARTY OF LABOUR OF Albania . One volume edition in hard covers obtained nowhere else 70P (postage extra)”, and political propaganda such as the “Report on the Activity of the Central Committee of the Party of Labour of Albania, submitted to the Vlth Congress by Enver Hoxha”, along with material on the culture and social developments in the small Balkan nation.

Radio Tirana’s English language broadcasts were advertised in The Worker as a…..RADIO STATION FOR WORKERS IN BRITAIN   Radio stations The Worker SEPTEMBER 1969


NEW ALBANIAN SOCIETY   

New Albania society

In March 1969, the newspaper of the CPB ML carried this article announcing the NEW ALBANIA SOCIETY, the officially recognised friendship and solidarity organisation in Britain, and advertised two meetings with talks from “recent visitors” to Albania. That contact with the country had a rarity as the country was regarded as one of the most “backward” under-developed countries of Europe, diplomatically isolated and closed off, inaccessible, a secretive, culturally different society regard like North Korea is presented in the popular media today.

The Worker’ April 1969 reported the first public meeting of the New Albanian Society on March 15 1969. Dorothy Birch, a teacher who visited Albania in the summer of 1968, “gave an interesting account of the country and its socialist development” accompanied by “interesting slides of many aspects of the country.” Chairman of the society was Professor Cyril Offord, F.R.S. (London University), its secretary Joanna Seymour of Westbourne Grove, London W 11.

Programmes of events were drawn up: typically as on June 13 1969: an illustrated talk on Albanian folk TU viewmusic at 155 Fortess Road. The British premiere of the film, ‘Triumph over Death’ was shown at Conway Hall on Friday October 31st 1969. The Society was to be a regular feature of Party life until the late 1970s. Regular meetings and talks at Bellman Bookshop, showing films under the auspices of the friendship organisation, New Albania Society e.g. JAN. 21st 1972 MEETING ON Albania AND Film SHOW


FIRST SHOWING IN BRITAIN

The premiere of the Albanian feature film: “TRIUMPH OVER DEATH”

Based on a true incident in the heroic liberation struggle of the Albanian people against Fascism.

Conway Hall, Rod Lion Square. WC1.

7.00 p.m; Friday October, 31st. 1969


Pickaxe

A visitor to the country and leading CPB (ML) member, William Ash published Pickaxe and Rifle: The Story of the Albanian People in 1974.

Reports on the economic and social developments in Albania accentuated the positive and masked the low base from which the country was developing. The reportage was strong on solidarity and friendship, less so as an accurate portrayal of the country’s state e.g. ALBANIA: where people’s needs have priority (The Worker No.2 January 25th 1973) so when they state that rent for homes is only 3 per cent of an average worker’s wage, there are no statistical facts to indicate what level that income is, and how it might compare to other European countries.   25th anniversary ad

One of the features of Albania today that never received a mention: the ubiquitous concrete mushrooms that populate modern Albania, built as part of a defensive strategy that saw huge investment in construction to defend the country against invasion. The UK legacy of WW2 pillboxes pales into insignificance.

The extent to which the political promotion of Albania distorted the actual reality of a developing nation was most evident in the 1976 pamphlet published by the CPB (ML) dominated New Albania Society entitled, Albania: The Most Successful Country in Europe .


 The Worker September 1970                  Albanian Handicrafts on Display

There will be an Albanian stand, displaying examples of their handicrafts, at the 18th International Handicraft Exhibition which opens on August 28th and continues till September 12th. These products of Peoples’ Albania which all the friends of Albania will want to see will be shown on stand 030.

Exhibition Hall Olympia


FILMS – PHOTOGRAPHS – MUSIC  From PEOPLES ALBANIA

The only Socialist country in Europe, which has just celebrated 25 years of tremendous achievements in industry, agriculture, the arts and, most important of all, social relations in a true workers’ democracy.

Albania is our window onto the exciting world of socialism, where workers under the leadership of the Party of Labour, inspired by the great Marxist-Leninist, Enver Hoxha, are blazing the trail British workers will want to take.

From the 14th September till the first week in October

Every evening from 6 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m.

Feature Film – “Triumph Over Death”

Tues. 15th Sept., Fri. 25th Sept., 7.30 p.m. 3/6.

I 55 Fortess Road, Tufnell Park Tube Station, London NW5.

All welcome.

Organised by the Bellman Bookshop.


The Worker, July 1970                         ALBANIA ABOLISHES INCOME TAX

 

From November 8th this year the Peoples Republic of Albania has decided to abolish the system of taxation, including insurance.

There will be no deductions from any workers’ pay packet!

Any British wage or salary earner who looks angrily at the difference between the figure at the beginning of his pay slip and the much smaller figure at the end, will be envious.

The Albanians are able to do this because of the steady increase in the national income, and the success of the workers in surpassing the targets of the fourth 5 year plan. This is an example of socialist planning in a country led by a Marxist Leninist party.


The Worker May 1971    

1971 may day greetings

albanian meeting

1971 Enver toasting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


The Worker, Nov 16th. 1972 (No17)              ONE BIG CONSTRUCTION SITE

(Written by a young worker who spent his holiday in the People’s Republic of Albania)

one big construction

To know about a socialist country from books and pictures is one thing, but actually to see socialism first hand is quite another experience.

Especially when that country, twenty–eight years ago, was the most backward in Europe, ruined economically by the war and retarded by age-old religious and superstitious beliefs .Today however, this tiny country, The People’s Republic of Albania, is forging ahead in the construction of socialism and rapidly rising the welfare of its people.

The tone of the country is set when you reach the border, having left Yugoslavia; the cultivated trees, the flower beds, and the new customs house being built. For it is the amount of building being done that strikes the visitor most. Factories, irrigation, canals, houses, railways and, something most important for the future of Albanian industry, a huge metallurgical works. These are some of the projects well under way. In 1969 the volume of construction work had increased seventy-nine times over that of 1938.

Agriculture is making speedy Progress also, with many new crops being cultivated. Even in the rugged mountains, areas are being cleared and olive and fruit trees planted. A most impressive sight is the formerly barren hillsides now terraced and ready for planting.

But to admire only the economic and technological progress is to see only half of the Albanian picture. With a socialist base, they have created a platform from which it is possible to fight against many of the ills that beset capitalist society, such as pollution, delinquency, alcohol and drug addiction, and crime. (Many crimes, from petty theft to murder, are virtually unknown,)

Albania is above all a healthy country, a country of the future, and most important of all a country for the workers. There are no wealthy business men living in big villas, rich property speculators or corrupt bureaucrats tying the system up in knots with red tape. With a Marxist-Leninist party as its vanguard, the working class is taking the lead and forging for itself a new type of society.


ALBANIA’S NATIONAL DAY Meeting Friday November 24th 1972

7.30 pm Central College Theatre, 16,Gordon St . W.C.1 off Euston Square.

CPBML delegate reports back

Changing Friends

The shift in international allegiance of Britain’s most prominent Maoists, the CPB (ML), occurred over a very short period of time. In 1976, the pending changes were signalled in Birch’s speech to the 7th Congress of the Party of Albania, he concluded,

“The test of a revolutionary working class in Europe today is in its understanding of the greatness and historic contribution to Marxism‐Leninism to revolution and socialism of the Albanian people. Just as in October 1917 and for all the years of the Bolshevik Revolution, the test of class understanding of Marxism was the attitude to the Bolshevik Revolution now the test is the attitude to Albania. Albania is not alone, nor are the workers of Europe ever without a champion and friend while there is Albania.”

New Albania Society, Albania, the most successful country in Europe (1976)

That Reg Birch had singled out the attitude towards Albania as the litmus test of marxist understanding was a clear sign of agreement with the PLA analysis of the international situation. The Worker of November 29th 1976 devoted half of its space to coverage of the PLA Congress, reproducing excerpts from Enver Hoxha’s criticism of the concept of’ three worlds’ . In an allusion to the foreign policy analysis of China, the 1976 Congress document says: “For our party there is but one world. The divisive force is class. The division in Britain: working class – capitalist class, the expropriated and the expropriator, the exploited and the exploiter.” This attacked the three‐world line before it was profitable or popular to do so. That support was made even more explicit with the front page Worker article. “A Single World Divided By Class” with its opening line:

All over the world the two class forces, the capitalist class and the working class, confront each other with their radically different: ways of life and thought: profits, exploitation and war on the one hand, production geared to people’s needs, freedom and peace on the other.

The Worker Jan.24th 1977

The CPB (ML) was not simply tailing behind the Albanian position, the 1976 Congress of the organisation had contained criticism that matched that of the Albanian party, and that agreement cemented the CPB (ML) alignment to Albania in her strained relations with China. The ’76 Congress document observed:

“The division of the world into 1, 2, 3 is artificial and mechanistic, and there are special dangers inherent within the so‐called developing countries and within the liberation struggles today; no true liberation can be achieved within this one world without the strongest development of marxist forces.”

Initial solidarity with Albania in its criticism of the “Three Worlds Theory” led to a re-assessment of China’s general political orientation, with The Worker describing “China’s Capitalist Chaos” by February 1979.

Throughout 1978, The CPB (ML) organised public meetings in support of Albania. At a meeting in Conway Hall (London) in October, Enver Hoxha was praised for leading the attack “against the anti‐communist theory of three worlds.”

The Worker No.35 October 12th 1978 p20.

The meeting, “Albania – beacon of Marxism‐Leninism”, promoted the view that, “the Albanians had been able to foresee, expose and survive the treachery of former allies in the struggle for socialism – first of all Yugoslavia at the end of the war, then Russia in the 1960s and now China.”

The Worker No.36 October 19th 1978 p4

The CPB (ML) stated at ‘Congress 1979’ had argued

“The line of ‘three worlds’ which never warranted the title of a theory, stands naked for what always was, a weak apology for China’s bid to attain the status of a world imperialist power.”….”Our Party was the first in the world to oppose it.”

However the relationship with Tirana waned. Reg Birch stated explicitly the deeply held belief within the CPB (ML) leadership in his 1978 May Day address at Conway Hall, London:

“You will not solve the problems of Britain by theories extracted from Peking or anywhere else. They will be solved solely by the will, the power of the British working class, its clarity and the guidance it receives from this party.”

The Worker May 11th 1978

The pride in, what Reg always referred to as the oldest working class in the world, degenerated into a very chauvinist stance that was impervious to learning from other organisation.

Throughout 1979 another shift had taken place in the perception of the party. The identification with , and its relationship with Albania cooled as there were noticeably less frequent reports about Albania in contrast to 1978 and there was no special reference to Albania in that year’s May Day edition of The Worker. The principal reason, expressed in fellow Party member, Will Podmore’s sympathetic biography of Reg Birch, was the conflicting attitude to organising in the working class in Britain.

Podmore notes that the 1979 Congress document “depicted the development in Britain of the two contending classes and the way that the working class had developed trade unions in order to survive. It appraised the organisational strengths and political weaknesses of our trade unions. It also upheld the class’s right, and duty, to work in our trade unions, and opposed suggestions from, sadly, the Party of Labor of Albania, that workers should walk away from their own organisations and form Red unions.”

Podmore, Will (2004) Reg Birch: engineer, trade unionist, communist. London: Bellman Books:166

Even though Reg Birch retired from the General Council of the TUC that year, neither him nor the CPB (ML) were going to idly accept such “slanders” directed against British trade unionists. The dominant line that had informed the CPB (ML)’s international allegiance reasserted itself:

“We can’t turn to a united international communist movement for aid, which is no great handicap really. We have to rely on our own resources in any case.”

The Worker December 21st 1978

The CPB (ML) reaffirmed its self‐reliance and its sturdy independence baulked at being little more than a political section of the Albanian friendship society; there were others who did accept the guidance from Tirana.

The CPB ML’s initial pro‐Albanian turn was echoed by the Communist Party of England (Marxist‐Leninist), once the most zealous proponents of “Mao Tse‐Tung Thought”, the organisation sought to prove it was critical of Maoism and the most vociferous opponent of Chinese “social imperialism”. Praise was now heaped upon Enver Hoxha and the Party of Labour of Albania, as “the foremost Party in the International Marxist‐ Leninist Communist Movement.” It joined in the condemnation of the “anti‐Marxist” Mao in support of the Albanian positions. The adoption of Tirana’s perspective led the Internationalists in Canada, Ireland and Britain to conclude that:

Mao Tsetung, whilst being a revolutionary democrat who led the Chinese people in tremendous advances in their struggle against imperialism and feudalism, was never a Marxist‐Leninist…”Mao Tsetung Thought” was a profoundly anti‐Marxist and revisionist trend” which denied the hegemonic; role of the proletariat in the revolutionary struggle, which substituted eclectics for dialectics, which promoted conciliation of the proletariat with the bourgeoisie and denied the basic character of our epoch.

Workers Weekly March 17, 1979

The CPE (ML) re-launched as the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) in 1979, relationship with the Party of Labor of Albania followed in the wake of the conversion of Hardial Bains, leader of the CPC (ML). The cooperation and unity of the two parties was strengthened with the visit in May 1980, a delegation of the RCPB (ML) at the invitation of the Party of Labor of Albania.

Workers Weekly March 21,1981

The relevant adjustments had been made: the previous April, The Marxist‐Leninist Journal carried an issue length article, ‘Mao Zedong Thought: a profoundly anti‐Marxist theory’.

The Marxist‐Leninist Journal Vol. 1 No.3 April 1980

A month earlier, the RCPB (ML) had taken part in the Internationalist Rally held in Montreal on March 30th which celebrated the Tenth Anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist Leninist). May 1981 saw another delegation visit Albania; the previous month, on April 26th 1981 saw the founding of the Trade Union Revolutionary Opposition. The RCPB (ML) follow the “Albanian line” and set up organisations (consisting of a few party members) that purported to be revolutionary trade union opposition, whereas Reg and the Party he founded and shaped “held to the line of working in the trade unions, despite pressure from the Albanian leadership.”

Podmore, Will (2004) Reg Birch: engineer, trade unionist, communist. London: Bellman Books :167

Even though the political recognition went to the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) when it denounced its Maoist past and embraced Albanian criticism of Mao and China as its own, it was the Bland-led organisation that retained the friendship franchise.

New Suitors

“After the open break of the PLA with China, the Communist League approached the CPB (ML) suggesting discussions aimed at a unitary party as the CPB (ML) had denounced China and aligned themselves with Albania. In this letter to Reg Birch & the CC, the offer was made to dissolve the Communist League & enter the CPBML as individuals if they wanted to ensure there was ‘no factionalism’. The CPB (ML) did arrange meetings for a period to ‘assess ‘but after a very brief period denied admission. No reason was offered.”

Again, when the RCPB (ML) supported Albania in the late 1970s, it replaced the CPBML as Tirana’s recognised party:

“The Communist League also approached the RCPB (ML) but consistent with the general attitude of the Bains organisations ‐ an olympian indifference and rude silence greeted the approach. They did however then do something remarkable. They approached the Albanian Society and tried to ‘take it over”. This was unsuccessful as the open and non‐sectarian approach of the Albanian Society had been its feature and strength. The membership enjoyed the poetry and the discussion on art, and resisted the attempts to label these as ‘distracting bourgeois diversions’.”

Account by Hari Kumar for Alliance ML cited in High Tide

Click to access high-tide.pdf

Archive pdf copies of The Worker , the newspaper of the Communist Party of Britain (M-L), can be found at https://www.marxists.org/history/erol/periodicals/worker-uk/index.html

 

63. Friendship and Solidarity with Socialist Albania

Part One: the Albanian Society of Britain 

Little is known of the Albania Society set up by the Communist Party of Great Britain in the1940’s. It ceased to be active once the Albanians began to criticise Soviet revisionism. That is an area of unexplored archives. From the memoirs of one prominent activist, Bill Bland had been consistent in the defence of the People’s Socialist Republic of Albania over more than three decades and the building of friendship, we can sketch out later friendship and solidarity with that beacon of socialism.*

Bill Bland (1916-2001), then a Communist Party member, played a key role in re-establishing the Albanian Society of Britain which had the aim of disseminating information about the history, culture, language of that country in Britain. In 1957 he managed to get hold of the old secretary who supplied a list of members, there were only two members left in it one of whom was Ivor Kenna, another character from the UK’s anti-revisionist fringe. Three years later he become secretary of the society, a post which he held almost continuously for 30 years until July 1990 when he resigned because of the restoration of capitalism in Albania. This society which gradually prospered over the years and grew to several hundred members, published a journal, ‘Albanian Life’. Bland edited the Society’s quarterly journal from his home in Ilford, Essex.

coverAS32

Albanian Life, #32 (1985, #2), 52 pages. Memorial issue following the death of Enver Hoxha.

When the Albanian party had come out fairly early against Soviet revisionism, Bland recalls that   I wrote to them congratulating the Party on the correction of its line on Soviet revisionism, and it’s from there the Central Committee invited me to visit Albania for the first time, in 1960.” On his first of many visits, Bland did the filming for the film ‘The Land of Eagles’ shown at the Edinburgh Film Festival.

Bill learnt the Albanian language which facilitated the translation of varying kinds of literary work which would otherwise have been unknown to the English reading world

When I first became the secretary of the Albania Society back in the early sixties. My knowledge of languages is basically a visual one. I can translate the written stuff but if someone speaks to me I can’t understand what they are saying.

He spoke and wrote in defence of the developments in that Balkan nation out of an ideological alignment to the Marxist-Leninist regime. Bland was, in addition, instrumental in the foundation of the MLOB which in 1975 was renamed the Communist League. An example of his political defense can be found here two articles by Bill Bland

Among the work Bill Bland wrote were an introduction to the country, Albania: World Bibliographical Series, Oxford 1988 and co-authored the self-published exploration, A Tangled Web: A History of Anglo-American Relations with Albania 1912-1955, Ilford 1986

Bill recalls the turmoil of the mid 1960s when he was in the leadership of the Marxist Leninist Organisation of Britain published a report which was anti-Mao Tse Tung.

“all the Maoists in the [Albania] Society who had previously been active and supportive began to demand that Bland go on the grounds that my organisation, to which I belonged, had published a report which was anti-Mao Tse Tung and therefore anti-Albanian, and therefore I shouldn’t any longer be allowed to be secretary of the Albanian Society. Instead they organised a faction within the society to get rid of Bland, and at the next AGM they organised a miniature cultural revolution in the society.

The chairman at that time was a Maoist called Berger, she wrote articles on wine, her husband was a leading member of the friendship society with China. They organised this sort of cultural revolution at the AGM whereby a lot of people who had never been members of the society before appeared and demanded the right to vote, and Berger as chairman ruled that they had the right to vote because we were a democratic society and therefore anyone who walked in off the street to vote should be allowed to vote. This was the masses speaking you see. Unfortunately they hadn’t got quite enough people to outvote the other members, and our members didn’t agree with this particular line that it was reasonable grounds for sacking me, and so they lost the vote and I got re-elected as secretary and the Maoists walked out.

They then formed another New Albanian Society which rapidly split into four or five other groups all of which rapidly disappeared”

In 1968 the Albanians recognised the Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) run by Reg Birch, and the associated New Albania Society. The policy of the Party of Labour of Albania was for sole recognition so relations with the Bland-led Albanian Society were ended by the Albanians. “We carried on exactly as we had done, sending our literature to them regularly over the next six or seven years, until 1978, the Albanian Party changed its line and came out attacking Mao Tse Tung as being revisionist”

“Albania is a socialist country, we accept that, we don’t agree with their line on this particular point, but none the less we stand for solidarity and support for the Albanian Party of Labour and the Albanian regime, therefore we would continue to support Albania, whatever their attitude to us might be.”

Shortly after publishing the pamphlet Albania: The Most Successful Country in Europe New Albania Society (Dec. 1976), Birch broke off relations with Albania, dissolved the New Albania Society without even consulting its membership. “There were just notices in the post saying ‘as from today the society is dissolved’, full stop.”

Contact was re-established after ten years with the Albanians through the expert on folk music, Bert Loyd who made regular trips to Albania to record folk music, not in his capacity as president of the Albania Society but in a personal capacity. He raised the point that “it was rather ridiculous to have no Albania friendship society because there was no one except for ourselves”

Bland was invited to Paris to speak to the ambassador there, which led eventually to the invitation for a delegation from the Society to go to Albania. There was no mention of what had happened over the previous ten years, no self-criticism although as Bland explained, this was a “matter for the Albanians and not for us really” .

The Bland-led organisation retained the friendship franchise even though the political recognition went to the Communist Party of England (Marxist-Leninist) transformed into the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) when it denounced its Maoist past and embraced Albanian criticism of Mao and China as its own in the late 1970s .

* Quotes taken from an interview by JP and the obituary that appeared in William B. Bland – Obituary – Revolutionary Democracy and the 1976 MEMORANDUM of the Communist League – Following the Expulsion of Mike Baker & the split in the then Marxist-Leninist Organisation Britain.