Spying on the CPEml

Infiltration by the state in the workers’ movement has a long pedigree, and within living memory there are numerous examples of the surveillance, manipulation and disruption of independent political organising that challenges the status quo regardless of its political allegiance. The flowering of protest in the late 1960s and 70s in Britain saw a vibrant and varied opposition that attracted the concealed attention of state agents. One element of the security apparatus, Special Branch, has had the lens focused upon its practices when spying on the Left, including the newly emergent forces of the anti-revisionist Marxist-Leninists in Sixties’ Britain through infiltration by field officers.  The Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) was a covert unit under Special Branch supervision that existed within the Metropolitan Police Service between 1968 and 2008.  So far the cover names of 45 out of a total of at least 144 undercover officers have been disclosed during the official Undercover Policing Inquiry.  The tale of one anonymous clandestine spy, assigned the designation HN13, is an incomplete record through reports submitted on the marginal Far Left Communist Party of England (Marxist-Leninist). [i]

DC HN13 was an experienced office. He joined the Police Force in the late1960s and the Branch in the early1970s, then approached in 1974 to join the Special Demonstration Squad. Married with young children, there were no disclosures of improprieties involving, as with other undercover SDS field officers, seducing and fathering children of targeted activists. Prior to his deployment the CPEml had a name for headlong rushes into confrontations; whether Barry/ Desmond Loader was acting as ‘agent provocateurs’ is unknown however he was twice prosecuted for public order offences in his false cover name and convicted once. Despite this, the Undercover Policing Inquiry   Chair, John Mitting, stated that there is no known allegation of misconduct during the deployment.

 His widow confirmed in a very brief statement that he stole his cover surname from a deceased child from Wiltshire, and that he had told her of the surname during his deployment into the Communist Party of England (Marxist-Leninist) from 1975 to 1978. [ii]

Active in the East London Branch, Loader was also an active member of the Party’s cultural activities offshoot, the Progressive Cultural Association (PCA), and the East London Peoples Front, and the Outer East London Anti-Fascist Anti-Racist Committee. DC HN13’s reports provide a flavour of the activity and demands placed upon the activists of the CPEml in the period he was spying on them. Evidence of hype-activism that brunt out cadre evident in the singular account of attending a social, going back afterwards for a meeting that lasts into the early hours of next morning and then volunteering to provide the materials for a morning leafletting session!

He also filed reports on the activities of the Communist Unity Association (Marxist-Leninist).

Pictured below PCA leader, and CPEml Central Committee member , the composer Cornelius Cardew (1936-1981).

Confrontations with the Police

In the 1970s, members of the CPE had a reputation for rushing at police lines in demonstrations, seemingly without strategic consideration, that served to raise the group’s profile in relation to the police – and the CPEml became a target for Special Branch.

Party comrades who were leafleting were ‘brutally attacked’ whilst by the police at a demonstration in East Street market in South East London in 1972. Several received prison sentences.

The CPEml placed the confrontations and violence within an environment of a decaying capitalism:

Whilst increasing fascist legislation, the monopoly capitalists are also stepping up their harassment of working people and progressive organisations. In the last couple of years, large numbers of progressive people have been harassed, intimidated and attacked by the British police. Last December, some supporters of the Communist Party of England (Marxist-Leninist) were attacked by the London police and planted with drugs, ammunition, explosives and have been committed to trial at the Old Bailey on concocted charges. Comrade Lindsay Hutchinson, an active supporter of the Communist Party of England (Marxist-Leninist), is at present serving a five year sentence on concocted charges of “malicious wounding” and “assault”. Many other progressive people and Irish patriots living in England have been given jail sentences of up to 30 years on concocted charges. Many workers pickets have been fascistically attacked by the police who encourage strike breakers to break the picket lines and attack striking workers: and working people have been murdered by the police. Is this not violence and terror of the highest order? [iii]

Following a police raid on a ‘house used by comrades and fabricated evidence’, in January 1974, four members of the party were found guilty of possession of petrol bombs and assaulting police. They received 12-month sentences for possession of petrol bombs and were fined for assaulting police.

Also in 1973/74, several party members were arrested for the (again, fabricated) charge of the theft of roof lead, after their car was stopped on Queens Town Road, Battersea.

Given the confrontational experience of members that saw members arrested (and identified) it comes as no surprise that Barry Loader’s reports are peppered with references on proposals by the Communist Party of England (Marxist-Leninist) to launch a campaign on behalf of its members on bail for offences arising from various demonstrations, and to organise pickets outside courts such as Redbridge Magistrates’ Court. This defence of democratic rights campaigning prove both time-consuming and energy sapping, with ramifications on the lives of members. Commenting in July 1978 on arrests at an Irish demonstration in Birmingham the previous May, Loader reported CPEml policy was that “although imprisonment is to be seen as a means of taking the political line into prisons, leading members should remain free to carry on their function within the Party.” Adding, “It is also likely that the cost of her appeal will be met from Central Party funds.”

No Platform and Anti-Fascism

In the 1970s across higher education campuses, students launched a number of protests at right-wing and fascist speakers. These incidents in the early 1970s were a ‘prelude’ to what became known as ‘No Platforming’ such speakers.

One well-publicised incident allegedly involved student members of the CPE from Birmingham and elsewhere:

On 8 May 1973, the psychologist Hans Eysenck, whose theories were rooted in the controversial theory of eugenics, attempted to deliver a lecture at the London School of Economics, but faced heavy protests from students. A group of Maoists stormed the stage and assaulted Eysenck.

The CPE (M-L) was also vocal and active in broader anti-fascist politics during the 1970s and early 1980s at a time when National Front was a rising force on the street and sometimes at the ballot box. During this time the NF was successfully challenged on the street by a variety of anti-fascist groups.

In 1974, the CPEml were also present at the Red Lion Square counter-fascist demo during clashes between anti-fascists and the police took place. During this violent confrontation, one protester Kevin Gately received severe head injuries from which he died. Members of the party also gave evidence at the subsequent public inquiry into the incident – which was chaired by Lord Scarman.

Loader reported on people involved in actions against the National Front (NF), such as the organisation of demonstrations, pickets, and leafletting and confronting the NF directly. Barry Loader attended the counter-NF demonstration, the Battle of Lewisham on 13 August 1977. He was injured during the event, receiving a blow to the head – the first of the two times he was assaulted by uniformed police.

Internal Special Branch documents show that Loader met to share his experience and provide recommendations for methods of policing future demonstrations with Deputy Assistant Commissioner along with Peter Collins (HN303), DCI Pryde and DI Willingale following the Lewisham demonstration. [iv]


Loader was arrested twice while in his cover identity. The first occasion, in late 1977, was for ‘insulting or threatening behaviour’ following a clash with the NF outside Barking police station. Chief Inspector Craft of the SDS recorded that Loader was ‘somewhat battered by police prior to his arrest’ [v]

Seven other individuals from Loader’s group were also arrested. Superintendent Pryde maintained contact with a court official during the proceedings in April 1978. He informed them that one of the defendants was a police informant who they would be ‘anxious to safeguard from any prison sentence’ [vi]

Ultimately, the charges against Loader were dismissed. Three of the other seven individuals were found guilty and fined on 12 April 1978 [vii]


Just three days after his court appearance, Loader was arrested a second time during trouble at a National Front meeting held at Loughborough School, Brixton on 15 April 1978.

He was again charged with threatening behaviour under s.5 of the Public Order Act 1936, along with three others [viii]

At the hearing, an application was made to hear all the defendants’ cases together. However, the Magistrates decided to hear Loader’s case alone. This was, allegedly, because Loader had been involved in a separate incident to the other defendants, who had infiltrated an NF meeting while Loader stayed outside.

In fact, records reveal that Superintendent Pryde established contact with a court official during the proceedings and told them that one of the defendants was:

a valuable informant in the public order field whom we would wish to safeguard from a prison sentence should the occasion arise’.

Unlike the previous arrest, however, it is noted that Loader’s cover name was specifically given to the official [ix]

All the defendants, in this case, were found guilty, with Loader being fined and given a one-year bind-over of £100. It is noted in the Minute Sheet that this sentence was considered ‘very useful’ as it would allow Loader to keep a low profile for the remainder of his deployment [x]

It was not all confrontations on days out in the CPEml. Other activities included in loader’s reports map out the activists’ busy schedule of meetings and commitments. From supplying accounts of private meetings of the East London Branch of the Communist Party of England (Marxist-Leninist) held at Barking Polytechnic, various  planning meetings to small social gatherings, the files of Special Branch were filled with minutiae of undercover intelligence gathering, including the gossip about individuals from CPEml and Indian Workers Movement living together thought worthy of inclusion in Special Branch’s intelligence files, along with reports on individual “comrades”, an active member of the Communist Party of England (Marxist-Leninist) who failed to attend court on charges of assault, and his efforts to avoid arrest moving to Canada and changing his name. Loader providing a description of his current appearance for the files.

A National Conference of the CPE(ML) on the anniversary of the October Revolution to be held in Birmingham at the YMCA, late October 1977 drew the attention of SDS coordinating with West Midlands Special Branch even though they acknowledged, “There is no public order issue involved”. Photographic surveillance was arranged, it was “hoped that a good identification of national membership and information on the future policies of the C.P.E. -M.L. will result.” [xi]

The attendance was estimated at around 200 and included SDS Field Officer, HN 13 “Desmond /Barry Loader” who was well-practiced on reporting on the CPE (ML).

Among the SDS reports put into the public domain when released by the Public Inquiry included those on open public events, of both the CPEml and its associated organisations (like the Progressive Cultural Association, PCA) when Loader took the opportunity to purloined the contact sheet from PCA events and names were cross referenced with existing Special Branch files [xii]

There were also internal PCA evening meetings, such as that held 15th May 1977 in Belsize Park NW3 attended by 30. Others covered a meeting of the Progressive Cultural Association to discuss its activities in a proposed anti-monarchy campaign.

In July 1977  a report submitted on a meeting of the Communist Party of England (Marxist-Leninist) held under the broad front-group name of Outer East London Anti-Fascist Anti-Racist with Indian Defence Committee in Ilford. When that faltered CPEml broad front activities were consolidated in a new organisation, entitled the People’s Front.

By February 1978 Loader reported the CPEml was engaged in a “rigorous self-examination” with the leadership conscious of drift within the organisation.

 The previous Christmas 1977, as an “alternative to the feudal, bourgeois Christian festival”, a national meeting of CPEml had been arranged December 23rd to January 1st. (A not uncommon gesture as another group arranged a Standing Committee meeting for Christmas Day morning!).

Some 60 persons were present in Birmingham (referred to as new centre of CPEml). However, the context of the systematic shift in political allegiance and political identification with the positions of the Party of Labour of Albania are missing from the Special Branch reports. Its historic First Congress was held in 1978. [xiii]

Much of the main address given by Carol Reakes was published as an extract in issue 63 of Workers Weekly. At the previous October 1977 Birmingham conference on Trostskyism, she told members that what was needed was “considerable improvements needed” in the regularly, distribution and study of the paper, Workers’ Weekly. A familiar exhortation on the Left.

 The emphasis on building an industrial base, the organisation of the masses around one party (them), developing a leading role in the anti-fascist/anti-racist struggle and the ‘Bolshevization’ of the CPEml especially in relation to its internal discipline. All these themes occurred at this time across the spectrum of anti-revisionist Marxist-Leninist groups in Britain. In London the CPEml’s emphasis was Ford’s at Dagenham.  The more industrially established Communist Party of Britain (ML) was identified as the organisation’s main Left opponent in this period.

What was announced was the formation of the ‘Little Red Guards’, despite the misgivings of a minority, Barry Loader reported to Special Branch that “their inaugural ceremony involved the receiving of a red scarf (to be worn when meeting) an address from Carol REAKES on the significance of their role and the singing of revolutionary children’s songs”. Some 12 children are “believed to be involved” age range 4-10 years.  They will meet on a Saturday “to be given a ‘low key’ political talk in the morning on basic issues, such as evolution and the history of labour in the morning, and in the afternoon taken on an outing to places of interests, such as the docks or a ferry crossing.”

January 1978 saw a joint Indian Workers Movement/CPEml East London branch meeting to “denounce the sham of India’s Republic Day” (January 28th), and after the mobilisation for the “Bloody Sunday Commemoration march, an evening concert organised by PCA at the Trinity Community Centre, East Avenue E12 under the slogan “British Imperialism Out of Ireland!”

Commensurate with significant anti-fascist activity, there was a probable fascist attack on the election headquarters of the South London People’s Front in the 1978 Lambeth Central by-election. Coincidentally, going against the documentary evidence of Barry Loader’s infiltration, the recollection of Michael Chant, the current party General Secretary, was that Loader did not appear until 1978 at election hustings in for the constituency of central Lambeth where Stuart Monro stood under ‘South London People’s Front’. Michael Chant recalled that:

“In the Lambeth Central by-election of 1978, Stuart Monro stood as a candidate representing the South London People’s Front, supported by CPE(ML). A campaign centre was set up in a private house in Stockwell, where mailing out of election leaflets, organising of canvassers, and other activities took place. It was only at this time that Barry Loader […] appeared and offered to help. Given he had no known links to any progressive activity and his general bearing, he was immediately suspected of being an undercover policeman. However, following Lenin’s dictum to put suspected spies to useful, but not compromising work, he was assigned to washing-up duties in the kitchen, large-scale cooking being required to feed the election volunteers. Loader carried out his duties diligently, but was not invited to any discussions or to participate in any planning activities. When the election period ended, he disappeared, and a visit to the address he had given revealed only an empty bed-sit.”


A post-script to Loader’s career was that a note made of a meeting with Commander Buchanan in 2013 suggests that Loader had difficulty reintegrating with the police following his deployment [xiv]

The successor party to the CPE, the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) were later infiltrated by another SDS officer Malcolm Shearing (alias) between 1981 and 1985. [xv]


[i] These notes on HN13 – known as ‘Barry’ rather than ‘Desmond’ by former CPEml members –  and his activities draws heavily from the work undertaken by  the Undercover Research Portal at Powerbase – investigating corporate and police spying on activists.

Undercover Policing Inquiry released Special branch documents in May 2021 related to the activity of HN13 cover names “Desmond Loader/Barry loader”, an active member of the Special Demonstration Squad (1975-19778) assigned to infiltrate and spy upon the Communist Party of England (Marxist-Leninist) .

Indispensable is the ongoing independent work produced by both Dónal O’Driscoll of Undercover Research Group and journalist Rob Evans on the Spycops.

[ii] Released file  MPS-0740967

[iii] Worker’s England Daily News Release, September 4, 1973 https://www.marxists.org/history/erol/uk.hightide/real-terror.htm

[iv] Released file MPS-0732886

[v] Released file MPS-0722618

[vi] Released file MPS-0526784

[vii] Released file UCPI0000011984

[viii] Released file UCPI0000011356

[ix] Released file MPS-0526784

[x] Released file MPS-0526784

[xi] Special Branch memorandum 28th October 1977. Released file MPS-0730696

[xii] Special Branch 8th September 1977 ref:400/76/166

[xiii] https://www.marxists.org/history/erol/uk.hightide/cpe-historic.pdf

[xiv] Released file MPS-0738057

[xv] https://powerbase.info/index.php/Malcolm_Shearing_(alias)

How many ‘X’s in a lifetime?

Instructions for voting by post.

Exercising franchise rights, secured by past struggles and sacrifices, in a Covid environment has seen the accelerated tendencies for campaigning politics for bourgeois institutions to focus on the digital, televised and postal delivery of argument and prejudice. The mini-manifesto of the twenty candidates seeking election as Mayor of London were compiled and distributed in a booklet for the 6 May 2021 election (the vaguely interested can explore at londonelects.org.uk) . Sadly not a declared socialist amongst them .

That’s the extent of participatory electoral democracy until another four years.

Right Up Against the State

A few years back, Amber Rudd resigned as Home Secretary in the midst of the controversy over the government’s treatment of those known as the Windrush generation, and their relatives with its “hostile environment” policies designed to deter illegal immigration.

On Rudd’s watch, an extreme right-wing group, National Action, was proscribed as a terrorist organisation. Announcing the ban, then Home Secretary Amber Rudd said: “National Action is a racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic organisation, which stirs up hatred, glorifies violence and promotes a vile ideology, and I will not stand for it.”

“It has absolutely no place in a Britain that works for everyone.”

Migrants from Commonwealth countries, who were encouraged to settle in the UK from the late 1940s to 1973, were, by the same government,  being wrongly declared illegal immigrants and targeted by state bodies for deportation in a systematic denial of their citizens’ rights.

The effect was similar to policies National Action advocated: Only they did not have the Home Office, police, border force and Department for Work & Pensions to implement the policies.

The target of a mainly young, small band of immature activists from the far right of the political spectrum, with their political stunts and inflammatory behaviour eventually drew the attention of the guardians of the state.  That it was the state that organisationally smashed the far right National Action reflects the dominant social democratic morale that can be recalibrated if thought required.

2020 saw a series of criminal cases involving activists involved with the legally banned National Action .

READ more here

Obituary to Ross Longhurst aka ‘Harry Powell’


Posted on October 11, 2020  http://www.revolutionarypraxis.org/?p=2909

Obituary: Ross Longhurst 1941-2020

It is with great regret that we heard our comrade Ross Longhurst (aka Harry Powell) had passed away on 28th September 2020. Ross was a dedicated Communist and upholding proletarian internationalism when many others discarded it in favour of tailing nationalism of all kinds. Ross remained politically active until the last weeks of his life.

Ross was born in Hastings, Sussex in 1941. In 1959 he moved to London, living in Streatham where he was a member of the Streatham Hill ward Labour Party and was also active in anti colonial and anti racism campaigns and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. This was Ross’ first encounter with “Marxism” which was presented in the form of Gerry Healy who was the ward secretary of his Labour Party branch in Streatham and the Trotskyite Socialist Labour League (SLL) that he led. The antics of Healy and the SLL put Ross off this caricature of Marxism and left him with a firm opposition to Trotskyism. He would later have a proper introduction to genuine Marxism Leninism in his involvement in the movement against the imperialist war against Vietnam.

Ross worked at the time in a type face setting factory in Merton. Later he returned to Hastings and worked as a labourer on the building of Dungeness A atomic power station. By this time he was disillusioned with reformist Labourite politics and left the Party and would oppose reformism for the rest of his life. Ross got a place at the London School of Economics in the mid sixties and studied Sociology. He became involved in the student occupations and the campaigns against the Vietnam War. This experience led Ross to understand that Marxism Leninism and its further development by Mao Zedong was the only revolutionary science capable of transforming society towards Communism. This was the time of the Cultural Revolution in China one of the greatest revolutionary movements in history where the masses grasped communist ideology and attempted to take power away from the emerging capitalist class in Socialist China and move towards communist relations of production. This inspired progressives around the world but compared to France, Italy, Scandinavia and Germany had less impact on leftists in Britain which remained under the influence of Labourism, revisionism and Trotskyism. Ross therefore was among those who swam against the tide. He once wrote on the revolutionary nature of Maoism in comparison to the Trots and revisionists:

“…one important reason I became attracted to the Maoist stream of Marxism was the positive attitude it took towards oppressed and exploited people. This contrasted with the revisionist and Trotskyist variants of Marxism which viewed workers and peasants as deserving but essentially incapable by themselves of taking effective action to defend and advance their interests. According to these types of Marxists it is only the conscious Marxist revolutionaries who have the knowledge and insights necessary to guide the masses into doing what is good for them…Maoism was different because it conceived of the masses as potentially most revolutionary. ”

While being active in various campaigns and working with comrades of other anti revisionist Marxist Leninist groups, Ross did not join any of them until 1974 when he became a member of the Communist Party of Britain (Marxist Leninist) led by trade union official Reg Birch which he described as “the best of a bad bunch”. Ross found many of the other groups suffering from idealism especially in the manifestation of a religious outlook and style. The CPB (M L) appeared the most materialist in outlook. At this time Ross was working in education as a lecturer in Sociology in Liverpool and then Nottingham.

In 1976 Ross spoke out at the CPB (M L) congress against the Parties political trajectory into nationalism and economism. The Nottingham branch left and formed the Nottingham Communist Group (NCG). This group developed theoretical defence of revolutionary communism against the new manifestations of revisionism such as the ‘Theory of the Three Worlds’ and upholding the Cultural Revolution and the necessity of violent revolution to bring about the proletarian state.

The NCG attended the founding conference of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM) in 1984. The NCG and Stockport Communist Group would later merge into the Revolutionary Internationalist Contingent in Britain, Ross would be a leading member and while others dropped out over the years Ross was consistent in political activity and upholding Maoism, carrying out solidarity work for the Peoples Wars in Peru and Nepal when many British leftists ignored them or simply didn’t want to know about real revolutions. He travelled to Nepal in 2009 to observe for himself the struggles in Nepal meeting members of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre).

Ross was a founder member of Revolutionary Praxis after the collapse of the RIC. He helped organise educational studies in Marxism and did much street activity including book sales to propagate communism. Although he was painfully aware that we are currently in very difficult times in regard to the dominance of bourgeois ideology in imperialist countries, he did not give up as many of his contemporaries did and remained a stalwart. He was also consistent in his refusal to capitulate to the tailing of nationalism and reformism as so many on the left have done especially when Corbyn became leader of the Labour Party. He also believed that to articulate a political point or protest you had to be bold. During the Iraq War he and another comrade went to Wootten Bassett. Alone they protested against and called out the crimes of British imperialism against the peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan during one of the macabre imperialist publicity exercises of repatriating dead British soldiers by parading the coffins through the town. This protest put them in serious danger of attack by zealous right wing thugs and onlookers but he was not deterred.

Ross would often try to set an example hoping to encourage other leftists to undertake more direct actions, rarely did they follow though which earned them his rightful contempt. Ross’ last major act of defiance at the age of 72 was to withhold payment of council tax in protest at austerity cuts implemented by the local city council, again he was the only one in his local anti cuts campaign to take this stand which led him to court and a month long prison sentence. In prison he found much support his action and gave advice to other prisoners. He found many had taken up criminal activities such as drug dealing to support their families and pay mortgages as their wages were too low to survive on.

Eventually he left the local campaigns around nuclear disarmament, the health service and anti cuts because of the pacifism and timidity of the other campaigners. Throughout his life under the name Harry Powell he wrote prolifically on revolutionary theory of Marxism Leninism Maoism and current world events. He never stopped emphasising that communists must listen and rely on the masses and not to take an elitist attitude towards them. During elections he would campaign against voting and expose the false nature of capitalist democracy. He would hold Revolutionary Praxis campaign stalls in run down areas of Nottingham which other leftist groups avoided. He continued until August of this year to hold stalls with communist literature and propaganda from Revolutionary Praxis at local Black Lives Matter protests and anti fascist protests. As he would often say “on with the struggle”.

Red Salute to comrade Ross Longhurst

Winstanley (1975)


Winstanley details the story of the 17th-century social reformer and writer Gerrard Winstanley, who, along with a small band of followers known as the Diggers, tried to establish a self-sufficient farming community on common land at St George’s Hill (“Diggers’ Hill”) near Cobham, Surrey. The community was one of the world’s first small-scale experiments in socialism or communism, and its ideas were copied elsewhere in England during the time of the Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell, but it was quickly suppressed, and in the end left only a legacy of ideas to inspire later generations of socialist theorists.


Made by Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollo (creators of It Happened Here) and based on the 1961 David Caute novel Comrade Jacob. Great efforts were made to produce a film of high historical accuracy. Armour used was real armour from the 1640s, borrowed from the Tower of London. Libertarian activist Sid Rawle played a Ranter (i.e. a member of one or other of several English Revolution-period dissident groups).

The film was reissued on DVD and Blu-ray in 2009 by the British Film Institute (BFI), which had funded the original project

Guardian interview with David Caute (2008)

See also the book Gerrard Winstanley: The Digger’s Life and Legacy by John Gurney

‘The power of property was brought into creation by the sword’, so wrote Gerrard Winstanley (1609-1676) – Christian Communist, leader of the Diggers movement and bête noire of the landed aristocracy. Despite being one of the great English radicals, Winstanley remains unmentioned in today’s lists of ‘great Britons’. John Gurney reveals the hidden history of Winstanley and his movement. As part of the radical ferment which swept England at the time of the civil war, Winstanley led the Diggers in taking over land and running it as ‘a common treasury for all’ – provoking violent opposition from landowners. Gurney also guides us through Winstanley’s writings, which are among the most remarkable prose writings of his age. Gerrard Winstanley: The Digger’s Life and Legacy is a must read for students of English history and all those seeking to re-claim the commons today says the publisher.

There is also the director’s text:

Winstanley; Warts and All by Kevin Brownlow (2009) UKA Press

[Elisabeth’s Amazon review: Reality of filming a real film]

Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 16 March 2011

This book is a marvellous read, immersing me in the filming of the 1976 low-budget cult classic, Winstanley. Co-director, Kevin Brownlow took notes during filming which he wrote-up after the film was finished. Published for the first time in 2009, his account is a wealth of fresh honest detail.

The book takes us on a journey of the challenges facing an independent filmmaker. It starts with the painfully-won success of securing UK-funding, includes financial and technical obstacles, and ends – despite critical acclaim – with the frustration of not getting proper distribution.

Professional conflicts and resolutions are truthfully described, with humour and empathy. I identified with the satisfaction of being an (unpaid) local extra dressed in 17th century costume, and the ouch of the screenwriter’s polished script being used as raw material by co-directors, Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollo. Both had previously made It Happened Here (another cult-classic), and the book reproduces their creative tussles making Winstanley – which, sadly, for British cinema, turned out to be their final film.

I first came across Gerrard Winstanley a few years ago in the land-campaign magazine, The Land. His writing is as relevant as ever: the earth is “a Common Treasury for all”. A key figure in the Digger movement, which resisted the enforced enclosures of common land, Winstanley was a Christian communist, political activist, eco-hero.

I saw the film at Bristol’s independent cinema, the Cube, in 2009 (and wrote about it on my blog, Real Food Lover). I believe our current industrial food model is linked to the enclosures, conducted over several centuries, depriving the poor of their traditional land-rights to grow food and rear cattle.

Shot in black and white, the film brings to life with authentic detail the Diggers’ self-sufficient commune set up in 1647 at St George’s Hill, Surrey. Inhospitable British weather features strongly – I have an enduring image of rain dripping off trees. The film captures the wretched meaning of resistance where only a camp fire and tents protect protestors.

The film acquaints us with Winstanley’s vision through his written words. It shows the inequal battle with the aristocratic authorities, and paints the conflict with local poor people, suspicious of the Diggers.

I did not realise until reading this book what goes into creating such scenes, making them accurate, accessible and filmmable.

Just as Kevin Brownlow’s film reveals a hidden part of history and makes it real so does his book unveil the reality of filming. Its subtitle – Warts and All – says it all.

And for many the quick verison is

The Digger Song

Roy Palmer who prints the song in his “A Ballad History of England” notes:

“Gerrard Winstanley’s Diggers’ Song remained in manuscript until 1894, when it was
published by the Camden Society. No tune was indicated, but it is clear from the metre which was meant: a version of the family of tunes later used for Jack Hall, Captain Kidd and Admiral Benbow. Its earliest appearance in print seems to have been 1714.”

The song has been recorded by many artists, take your pick from this six.

Lady Maisery – Diggers’ Song

Chumbawamba – The Diggers’ Song

Attila the Stockbroker – Levellers / The Diggers’ Song

The world turned upside down – Billy Bragg

The Digger’s Song · Leon Rosselson

The Song of the DiggersThe Black Family –






Revisionists in Crisis


A follow up on an earlier posting on the British Road to Socialism ~ Charlie Woods’ pamphlet was a brief shooting star in the early 1980s factional universe, with its clear polemical alignments in oppositional groups that engulfed the Communist Party. Does it matter if the 83 year old actually wrote the critique? Not really, he lent his name because – knowing it could (and did) meant expulsion from the Party he served since 1922 –he shared the positions and criticism the pamphlet amplified.

Behind its publication was the Straight Left faction headed by Fergus Nicholson, who had previously worked as the CPGB’s student organiser. Other key figures were John Foster, Brian Filling, Nick Wright, Susan Michie, Pat Turnbull and Andrew Murray. It was a secret, hard-line anti-reformist pro-Soviet faction within the Communist Party. Nicholson pen name was “Harry Steel”, an allusion to Harry Pollitt and Joseph Stalin. While they produced a newspaper Straight Left , edited by Mike Toumazou  and had Seumas Milne as business manager, the pamphlet entitled “The Crisis in Our Communist Party – Cause, Effect and Cure”, was distributed nationally but not under its imprint.  Attributed author and contact was C.R.Woods’ Newcastle address.

The pamphlet provides minute detail of the differences and intrigue between the squabbling revisionist factions, the political manoeuvring and disintegration of the organisation, its theoretical weakness evident from both the Morning Star and Marxism Today camps. It touched upon the struggle at the Annual General Meeting of the People’s Press Printing Society – publishers of The Morning Star , formerly The Daily Worker – that saw off interference from an outside body, namely the Communist Party.

Amongst the criticism of the pamphlet was that all it was “offering is fawning prostration before labourism , and diplomatic internationalism, laced with a liberal dose of liquidationism.”

James Marshall, The ‘Charlie Woods’ Pamphlet and the hypocrisy of Straight Leftism. The Leninist No.6 January 1984

Hindsight confirmed the truth of the sentiment expressed, “the rot described here has sunk deep into the party”; but it was a truth argued by anti-revisionist Marxist-Leninists of the early 1960s, not just 20 years later.

The pamphlet vaguely dates the decline of the party from the post-war period:

“The drift towards opportunism was not necessarily an act of cynicism or betrayal. Indeed, it was probably more of a process of accommodation to the difficulties of being a communist, a revolutionary, in British conditions…. The Party leadership… slipped rapidly into opportunism – reformism in politics, economism in industry.

That is the essence of Gollan, Woddis, Ramelson, McClennan, Charter and Costello. A political trend which sacrifices the long term interests of the working class, its true interests nationally and internationally, for some real or imagined short term gains. A trend which in practice has come to accept the framework of capitalism.”

Download: The Crisis in Our Communist Party

BUFP: Black People in Britain

October is Black history Month in the UK

Black history Month is an annual commemoration of the history, achievements and contributions of Black people in Britain. Often centred on personalities and celebrities, the rich experience of community organising in Britain lies within the living memory of people and increasingly the documentation held in various archives, not least the Brixton-based Black Cultural Archives, the only national heritage centre dedicated to collecting, preserving and celebrating the histories of African and Caribbean people in Britain.

Drawing on the February celebration organised in the United States, Ghanaian-born Akyaaba Addai Sebo, a special projects officer at the Greater London Council, initiated the UK’s version of Black History Month in 1987.

The explanation is that Akyaaba chose October to reconnect with African roots as this month is when African chiefs and leaders gather to settle their differences in west Africa. Additional, since it was the start of the academic year, an October celebration was thought to encourage black children’s sense of pride and identity and application in their studies to emulate such role models.

Pioneering work of education and memory were undertaken by radical black political groups like the Black Unity & Freedom Party who published in the early 1980s a series on the Black perspective on the presence of Black people in Britain. This nine-part series was published in Black Voice the newspaper of the BUFP.

Down load Black History copy here

Solidarity in London from the early 1960s


106. Still on the British Road to Socialism?

Readings on the programme of the Communist Party of Great Britain

Sometimes unimaginatively referred to by its critics as the ‘The British Road to Nowhere’, the programmatic publication of the Communist Party of Great Britain was first published in 1951 as The British Road to Socialism.

It superseded the previous programme titled For Soviet Britain that was published for the party’s 13th Congress in 1935. The publication of Communist Party programmes in Britain began in the 1920s with the release of Class against Class, the General Election Programme of the Communist Party of Great Britain published in 1929.

At its heart, since the end of the Second World War, the CPGB’s political stance has been on “the leading role of the organised working class in a broad democratic alliance directed against state monopoly capitalism.” Often translated in practice to fighting the Tories. How this has been understood and presented has undergone modification and revision as subsequent editions of The British Road to Socialism were issued and criticised from within and without as essentially a left social democratic and reformist programme.

Thanks Stalin

Rumours that the first edition of the document received the personal approval of Joseph Stalin have been largely substantiate which led some Stalinist to distinguish between the first edition and the revised 1958 edition – seeing evidence of the reformism and revisionism evident in the post-Stalin publication. However the first edition was explicit that

“The enemies of Communism accuse the Communist Party of aiming to introduce Soviet power in Britain and abolish Parliament. This is a slanderous misrepresentation … British Communists declare that the people of Britain can transform capitalist democracy into a real People’s Democracy, transforming Parliament, the product of Britain’s historic struggle for democracy, into the democratic instrument of the will of the vast majority of her people.”


First Edition The British Road to Socialism, https://www.marxists.org/history/international/comintern/sections/britain/brs/1951/51.htm

1950 Stalin On_the_British_Road_to_Socialism

Ray Jones Stalin &  The British Road to Socialism

Andy Brooks Stalin & The British Road to Socialism

Parker No word on Uncle Joe

Vijay Singh 1951 A Programme of People’s Democracy

Subsequent editions of BRS were issued in 1958 – https://www.marxists.org/history/international/comintern/sections/britain/brs/1958/58.htm

The anti-revisionist inner-opposition,  that had criticism of the strategy inherent in the British Road to Socialism, drew inspiration from the disputes in the International Communist Movement in the late 1950s and early 1960s, to organise and coalesce their forces.

The crisis around the Communist Party was an intricate affair, however the groups that supported the anti-revisionist position championed by the Albanian and Chinese parties in the early 1960s had little support within the CPGB. From the anti-revisionist viewpoint one might rankle at the state’s view of the CPGB as “the largest single subversive group in the UK” but in terms of membership even a terminal declining CP for most of its existence outnumbered the rest of the far left. It was the organisation, with its roots in the labour movement that others often revolved around or responded too. Its debates, as around the Alternative Economic Strategy, seeped into the general left agenda. The CP remained the dominant organisation on the Left even when others (particularly following the outbursts of the ’68 activism) were attracting the media headlines. An early break away from the party, the Action Centre for Marxist-Leninist Unity, argued against the revisionist leading clique of the CPGB, explained:

“It has been the extremely protracted and long – standing character of the degeneration of the C.PG.B., dating as it does from at least the year 1943 and the dissolution of the Comintern, that has been a most decisive factor in the development of our Movement .”

The early criticism of the British Road to Socialism from the anti-revisionist Marxist-Leninists included:


Opposition Inside the Party [Chapter 6 from What’s Left? What’s Right? by Muriel Seltman]

Destroy the Old to Build the New! by Michael McCreery

The Way Forward – The need to establish a Communist Party in England, Scotland and Wales by Michael McCreery

The Road to Nowhere  FORUM for Marxist-Leninist Inner-Party Struggle, Supplement, October 1964.

Editorial Comment: Back To Square One? The Marxist, No. 3, March-April 1967

The Communist Party No Longer Exists in Britain Action Centre for Marxist-Leninist Unity

A New Surface on the British Road by W. B. Bland

The ’British Road’: An Opportunist Path to Counter-Revolution CFB(ML) Revolution issue 5. May 1977


Revisionism: The Politics of the CPGB Past & Present   RCLB Briefing


9781909831056Warring camps had emerged within the party, those critics of the BRS that remained in the party were mainly associated with those less critical of the Soviet Union and traditional orthodox practices of the party. There is an intricate history of interminable manoeuvring and struggle to be written on the factional life within the decaying party as no single authoritative account has emerged from the literary out pouring and polemical material of the time.

CPGB Bibliography

Another edition of the British Road to Socialism was produced in 1968


1968 BRS ed

The British Road to Socialism by Nina Stead [Nina Fishman]

The British Road to Socialism – A Reply to Criticisms by Nina Stead [Nina Fishman]


Since the 1960s a secret faction known as the “Smith Group” and later as the “Party Group” had operated within the CPGB based around the theories of the Italian communist leader Antonio Gramsci. This provided the political base for the emergence of an open Eurocommunist faction in the early 1970s. The John Gollan leadership sought to prop itself up by aligning itself with the Eurocommunist forces further to their right. Within that camp was an active faction that called itself the “Revolutionary Democratic Current”. (see: Evan Smith & Matthew Worley (2014) Against the Grain: The British Far Left from 1956 . Manchester University Press)

By the late 1970s the tensions and contradictory positions within the party were reflected in the pre-Congress discussion period that saw furious arguments within the party – with the majority saying that the British Road to Socialism new programme was about building a broad alliance for revolutionary social change, though implicitly or explicitly agreeing that the proposals broke with the Leninist tradition.

BRS draft 1977The proposed revisions in the 1977 draft and the leadership’s intention to stamp on its disloyal critics saw the premature breakaway by oppositionists members of the Communist Party of Great Britain in 1977, centred on the Sid French-led Surrey district, who disagreed with the direction that party was taking, perceiving that it had abandoned Marxism-Leninism in favour of social democracy. This was heavily linked to the New Communist Party’s support for the Soviet Union and the CPGB’s more nuanced critical stance on the policies and actions of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.


1977 The Crisis in the British Communist Party

1977 Sid French The British Road to Socialism

Pete Cockcroft Australian Left Review 61 September 1977

1978 Cook the BRS and the CP

1978 Smith the BRS and the CP

1978 Ward the BRS and the CP


 The factional universe that revolved around the CPGB

The internal crisis 1980s saw a deep rift appeared amongst what many had assumed to be an ideologically united minority in the C.P.G.B. On the one hand those who believed it correct to stay in the C.P.G.B., and continue the fight against Eurocommunism from within, regarded the NCP ‘breakaway’ as betrayal and desertion in the face of the class enemy. On the other hand, those who join the New Communist Party, (reportedly some 700) believing the struggle in the C.P.G.B. to be a lost cause, regarded those who refused to leave as misguided people who naively clung to the notion ( like the anti-revisionists Marxist-Leninists before them) that the revisionist stranglehold on the party apparatus could be broken.

Internally there were two oppositional groupings: Straight Left led by former CPGB student organiser Fergus Nicholson and the Communist Campaign Group (supporting the Morning Star newspaper since 1945 owned by a readers’ co-operative, the People’s Press Printing Society) against the leadership’s Eurocommunist faction aligned to the magazine, Marxism Today. These groupings were as equally opposed to each other; the CCG explicitly excluded from membership fellow oppositionists within the party:


On the fringes were groupscule publishing ‘The Leninist’, the NCP and an expelled group from the NCP – Proletarian (hardly to be confused with the publication published since 2004 by the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist–Leninist)).

The Leninist, noted for their polemical zeal, (and criticised as semi-trotskyists by CP members who questioned their political pedigree) made no reference to the British Road in its founding statement however observed that:

“The leaders of the NCP and the vast majority of the rank and file fought over many years in the Communist Party to defeat what they call the ‘revisionism’ of the party. In this fight, ideological struggle was reduced to the almost ritualistic incantation of the ‘holy trinity’. Proletarian Internationalism, Democratic Centralism, Dictatorship of the Proletariat they chanted, as if that was enough to exorcise the devil of ‘revisionism’.”

[Founding Statement of the Leninist: The Communist Party, the crisis and its crisis. The Leninist No.1 Winter 1981/2 p6]

The group had its roots as a section of the NCP’s youth wing that decided to re-enter the CPGB in the early 1980s under the auspices of The Leninist, which in turn became involved in further factional disputes before being expelled in the mid-1980s. It survived the liquidation of the CPGB and metamorphosed in name to publish the Weekly Worker, “a paper of Marxist polemic and Marxist unity” published under the reclaimed (vacant) name of the Communist Party of Great Britain (Provisional Central Committee).

Likewise, the Proletarian group emerged from a split in the New Communist Party (NCP). The Proletarian faction around Keith Nelson emerged in 1981, expelled from the NCP in 1982 and dissolved in 1988 following a domestic abuse incident that split the leadership. It briefly spawned ‘Partisan’ that, against the reality of contemporary experience, advocated the united front of communists in the early 1990s.

The Proletarian faction argued that the NCP’s newspaper, The New Worker, should be aimed at raising the level of politically advanced workers. Specifically they looked towards CPGB which they believed was corrupt but had to be saved as it was the largest party for the politically conscious members of the working class. (See: “Economism, Tailism and the New Communist Party” Proletarian No.1 1982)

The group went on to produce a journal, Proletarian: Two issues appeared, the first in 1983 and the second in 1984. Selected articles and correspondence was published in 1987. The specific political stance taken by the journal was clearly its pro-Sovietism as its basic credo, a policy pursued out of genuine loyalty to the Soviet Union and an opportunist hope that they would gain Soviet recognition.

[In the 1990s another expulsion from the NCP later formed the short-lived Communist Action Group.]

Pyrrhic victory

After the arguments, expulsions and splits the victorious the Euro-communists dissolved the Party and transformed themselves into the short-lived and never lamented Democratic Left. When the CPGB’s leadership abandoned The British Road to Socialism in 1985, elements in the party that remained loyal to the programme, including the then editorial board of The Morning Star, form the Communist Party of Britain in 1988.

Discussion around the new draft of the British Road to Socialism “is a vital step in the fight to restore the damage done to the Party by revisionism, to build the Party and to resume the struggle for socialism in line with the proud traditions of broad-based working class struggle that have always characterised our Party throughout its history” wrote Tony Charter, editor of the Morning Star (in Communist Review Number 3 Spring 1989).

However the former members of the CPGB (re)established the Communist Party of Britain (CPB), not on the revolutionary ideology of the CPGB at its height in the twenties and thirties but on the basis of the 1978 British Road to Socialism.

1989 40th congressPrior to the first Congress, following the re-establishment Congress in April 1988, a commission of nine was established to prepare a redraft of the 1977 edition of the British Road. The draft programme attracted 367 amendments along with 69 policy resolutions provided the main business of, what was labelled to claim the legacy of continuity, the 40th Congress of the Communist Party of Britain. The final version of the programme was to be published to coincide with the 70th anniversary of a communist party in Britain. Still at the Congress , held on the 18th/19th November 1989 in Islington , north London, Mike Hicks, NCP General Secretary, described BRS as “a strategy for advance” and that the party’s “relationship to the Labour Party are crucial questions for this whole strategy”. 1989 Hicks Congress Speech

Noted in an earlier posting ‘Left Counting’: Far Left is a bit of a misnomer given their actual activity which so often revolved, like the CP, around involving Labour Party activism. Come the General Election most far left groups are encouraging its audience to support Labour critically which is largely what they were already doing.

In essence, a political position that is waiting for the historic election of a left-led Labour government while trying to explain that there should be no illusions that social democracy can ever bring about socialism.

Affiliation has been the longstanding position of the CPGB/CPB since the 1930s but without the slightest chance of it since around 1945. There is not the slightest chance of any organisation with “communist” in its title affiliating to the Labour Party. The CPB may have adopted the NCP line of ‘Vote Labour Everywhere!’ but if CPB members want to become part of the Labour Party, they simply leave the former and join the latter. The Labour Party did away with the old proscribed list in the early 1970s. Instead it relies on this catch-all clause in its Constitution:

“Political organisations not affiliated or associated under a national agreement with the Party, having their own programme, principles and policy, or distinctive and separate propaganda, or possessing branches in the constituencies, or engaged in the promotion of parliamentary or local government candidates, or having allegiance to any political organisation situated abroad, shall be ineligible for affiliation to the Party.”

The CPB took no chances and was sole copyright holder for 6th edition of “the British Road to Socialism.”

Jeremy Corbyn MP welcoming the delegates to his consistency

The 40th Congress report pictures Jeremy Corbyn MP welcoming the delegates to his constituency.



1985 Communist Campaign Group1985 CCG_crisis in the CP

1989 Communist Review Number 3 Spring 1989

Adereth A Consistent class policy

Bellamy Revisionism and the 1977 BRS

1989 Hicks 1989 Hicks Congress Speech

1989 https://www.marxists.org/history/international/comintern/sections/britain/brs/1989/

2006 New Communist Party,  2006 NCP The Case for Communism,

2008 Lalkar 2008 Lalkar The British Road to Socialism

The CPB at its 41st Reconvened Congress in November 1992 decided to amend sections on the world situation in the light of the enormous changes which had occurred in the former countries of Eastern Europe. This is the revised and amended version of The Present World Situation based on the decisions of that Congress. https://www.marxists.org/history/international/comintern/sections/britain/brs/1989/ch1rev.htm

BRS 2001Two subsequent editions of the programmatic document have been produced with further revisions and the 7th edition in 2001 was renamed Britain’s Road to Socialism.


The political message was consistent from those nominal opponents that remained in the NCP: NCP leader Andy Brookes at the 15th Congress of the New Communist Party of Britain, at the Marx Memorial Library in London on the weekend of 2nd / 3rd of December 2006:

“We believe that the working class can never come to power through bourgeois elections but that doesn’t mean that we turn our back on working class demands for social justice and state welfare. We believe that social democracy can never lead to people’s democracy but that doesn’t mean that we turn our back on social democratic movements that represent millions upon millions of working people in Britain in the unions and in the Labour Party.

“We believe that the class collaborationist ideas of social democracy must be defeated within the working class but not by imitating it in the countless variations of the British Road to Socialism upheld by the revisionist and Trotskyist movements in Britain today. The fact that these platforms do not work; that they are rejected time and time again by the same working class these programmes claim to advance never deters these pseudo-revolutionaries who believe they can change the consciousness of the masses through rhetoric and wild promises.

“Now we can all play that game and call upon imaginary legions beyond the British working class to advance along the revolutionary road. We can all invent a class that is seething with anger and mobilised for revolutionary change that is just waiting for the correct party with the correct formula to lead them to victory. Unfortunately as communists we have to work with the working class that exists and not the phantom of romantic leftism.

“Running left candidates without mass support against Labour divides the movement and the class and ignores the obvious fact that the only realistic alternate governments are those of the Tories and the Liberal Democrats that would be much worse than any Labour government.” http://www.newworker.org/congressdocs/index.html

An 8th edition was adopted by the CPB Executive Committee in July 2011. https://www.marxists.org/history/international/comintern/sections/britain/brs/2011/toc.htm

In this programme, the CPB explained its view that:

  • Capitalism is a system of exploitation that generates crisis, inequality, corruption, environmental degradation and war; and is innately incapable of solving the most fundamental problems of humanity.
  • The capitalist monopoly corporations and the state apparatus which serves their interests are the main obstacles to progress on every front: economic, social, cultural and political.
  • Socialism is the only form of society that offers the potential for solving humanity’s problems in conditions of individual and collective freedom.
  • Because the working class has the most direct and immediate interest in putting an end to capitalism and replacing it with a socialist society, its own class interest also represents the interests of society as a whole.
  • In Britain, the potential exists to pursue an alternative economic and political strategy that challenges and ultimately defeats the ruling class.
  • More specifically, a popular democratic alliance can be built, led by the labour movement, to fight for a left-wing programme of policies that would make inroads into the wealth and power of the monopoly capitalists.
  • Through an upsurge in working class and popular action, a left government can be elected in Britain based on parliamentary majorities of Labour, socialist, communist and progressive representatives, and strengthened by the election of left majorities in Scotland and Wales.
  • In striving to implement the most advanced policies of a left-wing programme (LWP), the mass movement and its left governments will have to engage in a decisive struggle for state power and win.
  • Ensuring a united challenge to British state-monopoly capitalism will require a high level of working class and progressive coordination and unity, maximising the democratic potential of national rights in Scotland, Wales and Cornwall and minimising the scope for division.
  • Achieving state power and minimising the opportunities for counter-revolution will create the conditions in which capitalism can be fully dismantled and the foundations laid for a democratic and peaceful future in a federal, socialist Britain.
  • A socialist society can then be built in which wealth and power are held in common and used in a planned way for the benefit of all, with the working class and its allies liberating the people generally from all forms of exploitation and oppression.
  • Putting an end to British imperialism – the exercise of monopoly capitalist exploitation and power in other parts of the world – is the biggest contribution we can make to international human liberation and socialism.
  • A Communist Party that exercises mass influence will be essential if Britain’s road to socialism is to be realised in practice, through political class struggle.

This programme is based on the study, analysis and assessment of concrete realities, tendencies and trends. It is intended to be a guide to action, not a speculative prediction or a dogmatic blueprint. It is a living, developing programme to be constantly tested in practice and reassessed in the light of experience.

Above all, it is subject to the Marxist insistence that the liberation of the working class and the emancipation of the people can only be achieved by the action of the working class and the people themselves. Freedom cannot be imposed from outside or above – it has to be fought for and won by the overwhelming majority of the population.

It proposes that socialism can be achieved in Britain by the working class leading the other classes in a popular democratic anti-monopoly alliance against monopoly capital, and implementing a left-wing programme of socialist construction. Part of this strategy involves winning the labour movement with a left-wing position, through struggle in the existing democratic bodies of the working class, such as trades unions, trades union councils and tenant’s associations.

A draft of an updated 8th edition of the Communist Party’s programme was issued on International Workers Day, May 1 2018, by the CPB’s Political Committee for wider discussion before an Executive Committee decision on yet another edition of the British Road to Socialism .

Robert GriffithsPresent chairman of the CPB, former welsh republican, Robert Griffiths spoke  that June at a conference in Shenzhen, China, on Marxism in the 21st Century and the Future for World Socialism on Mapping an updated road to socialism for today’s world


2018 Robert Griffiths Mapping an updated road to socialism

2018 draft BRS

The present BRS  is actually far weaker than the 1978 CPGB Edition.

It talks of a “left government”, but, unlike the 1978 BRS, cannot define what a “left government” would be, and then seems to assume this government will first try and implement the Left Wing programme (a modest list of mildly reformist palliatives), and will then have to progressively democratise the state until it is so democratic it becomes the state of the working people and we have arrived in socialism. This incremental path to socialism is one of the problems with the British Road to Socialism. In all its editions is the unrealism and mechanical progression in depicting the evolution of more and more left and then socialist governments, in the attempts to set out a credible scenario of societal transformation there is a binary position that seems to have faded from the scenarios of political transformation : This can only end one way or another; either in revolution where the working class takes control of the state and ownership of the means of production for their benefit as a class, or the ruling class carries out a counter revolution and snuffs out the workers struggle, if only temporarily. It’s only temporary because capitalism needs workers to produce surplus value and the class struggle is always a product of capitalism. No one can plan out how a revolution will take place, not least because it will be the working class who makes a revolution rather than any individual or any party. All the same it is Leninist ABC that the revolutionary party would have be so much a part of the class that it would be able to take a leading role in bringing about a revolution.

The programme recognised the aim and the need of having a socialist government in power. However you cannot somehow ‘snowball’ democratic, peaceful extra parliamentary activity and then in some way convert that into a movement for revolutionary change. Class struggle is a part of the contradiction of capitalism and if you elect a left reformist government you will inevitably get a left reformist policy, which is then dramatically reversed as the left government is forced to face up to the ebb and flow of capitalist realities. All the workers struggles are reformist – an attempt to improve or reform capitalism to their benefit and as such, they can’t change the system. The British Road to Socialism had long abandoned the notion that only by destroying the bourgeois state can you liberate the working class and only by creating a dictatorship of the proletariat can you build a socialist society.

100. Lal Salam! Red Salute!

In Memorial

JAGMOHAN JOSHI, General Secretary of the Indian Workers Association of Great Britain (IWA GB), died from a heart attack on June 3rd 1979 leading a 4,000 strong demonstration in London against state racism, discrimination, police brutality and immigration controls.

Born in Hoshiarpur in Punjabi, India, in 1958, at the age of 21 he came to Britain to find a livelihood. He continued to be deeply involved in community and communist politics. [See The IWA (GB), Indian Communists & the AIC] He upheld the People’s Republic of China under Mao Zedong as a great beacon of socialism, and fought for Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong thought against revisionist and Trotskyite distortions of Marxism. Former members of the Birmingham Communist Association in tribute to his contribution noted:

Joshi’s communism was quite clearly not of the Eurocentric type that has typified the white left for so many years. For some of us, he was instrumental in opening our eyes to the realities of oppression in the Third World and the significance of the national liberation struggles. He did not see racism as a diversion from the class struggle – as something that will simply be resolved with the socialist revolution, but stressed the importance of black struggles. [Remembering Comrade Joshi Class Struggle, June 1983]

He stood for building alliances of all people opposed to racism, however he never accepted that the struggle was only against open fascism and not against the system which breed and promote racism. The Times described Joshi as “uncompromising and thoughtful Maoist industriously working for broad-front multi-racial British militant organisation”. Partially true: the IWA was his prime focus, but he helped bring progressive campaigning organisations in Britain together in the 1960s Joshi initiated the formation of the Coordinating Committee Against Racial Discrimination (CCARD), a broad based campaigning committee of 26 organisations, fronted by Victor Yates, MP for Ladywood, who was the first president. Maurice Ludmer of the Jewish Ex Servicemen’s Association and editor of Searchlight anti-fascist magazine played a significant role, together with Jagmohan Joshi and academic, Shirley Fossick, who later married Joshi. In 1968 he led the Black Peoples Alliance and organised marches of up to 15,000 people, however such a heady mix of pro-Maoist and Black Power activists proved an unsustainable agenda in the absence of a unifying revolutionary party. In the 1970s the Joshi-led IWA continued to challenge through participation in the Campaign Against Racist Laws (CARL).

In innumerable struggles against racism, he and the IWA GB played a leading part. There were many struggles in the community, including the rights of Sikhs to wear turbans, and against discrimination in public places, e. g. the refusa1 of many pubs to serve black people. The IWA has always supported and fought to maintain the culture of their own people. This is shown in such things as support for Punjabi schools and the promotion of cultural activities at all IWA events. The Indian Workers Association led by Joshi campaigned against discrimination and social exclusion facing Indian and other black and Asian migrants in Britain through poor housing conditions, employment inequalities such as the segregation of facilities in factories where its members worked; the operation of a ‘colour bar’ in employment and education, as well as in shops, public houses, and other leisure facilities; and the restrictions of immigration legislation introduced during the 1960s and 1970s. The IWA supported industrial disputes involving black and Asian workers at a number of workplaces in the Midlands and expressed broad solidarity with the Trade Union movement – attending May Day rallies, encouraging members to join trade unions and supporting the miners strikes of the early 1970s and 1984-1985 – although it also campaigned against racial discrimination within trade unions. [See The Rise and Fall of Maoism: the English Experience]

He clearly saw the importance of the struggle against racism, and recognised the effects of racism and imperialism on the working class in this country:

“Racialism in white workers is class collaboration and fatal for the working class struggle.” and “Loya1ty to the British nation is loyalty to the class that controls it i.e. monopoly capitalism. The white worker must reject such loyalty. Loyalty to Britain is loyalty to British imperialism. The white workers owe loyalty only to proletarian internationalism.”

He argued very strongly against the idea that black workers must not expect white workers to support them in their fight against special oppression, but must themselves support the economic struggles of white workers under white leadership as the best means of indirectly achieving their economic and political emancipation.” He saw this as totally incorrect like that other argument” that workers and peasants in colonial and semi-colonial territories should wait patiently for the workers in the metropolitan countries to overthrow the imperialist power.” [Quoted in Remembering Comrade Joshi Class Struggle, June 1983]

At home and abroad, Joshi was involved: in campaigns to stop atrocities on India’s poorest people, the Dalits or so-called “Untouchables”, and in 1975, Indira Gandhi put India under a State of Emergency. The Alliance against Fascist Dictatorship in India was formed, in which Joshi and the IWA GB played a leading role, continued to campaign for the release of the 100,000 political prisoners still held by the new Indian Government after Mrs Gandhi’s downfall. He led the movement when Gandhi visited Britain in 1978, which prevented her speaking in Southall and Birmingham.

At a Memorial meeting 1,500 people packed Birmingham Town Hall on June 17th 1979 to hear speeches, poems and songs including the chorus of IWA (GB) youth and The Banner Theatre Group in Joshi’s honour.

“Comrade Jagmohan Joshi belonged to his community, but also to all people who fight racism, fascism and imperialism. The greatest contribution we can make to his memory will be to carry on the struggle”.

Words spoken by his widow Shirley Joshi but sentiments repeated throughout the day.

It is a tribute to comrade Joshi’s style of “uniting all who can be united” (noted a report in Class Struggle) that many different political and social trends were represented and Comrade Joshi’s history was recalled by many speakers: representatives of Bharatiya Dalit Mukthi, an organisation of Dalits, Bangladeshi, Kashmiri, Afro-Carribean and Azanian organisations spoke.

Maurice Ludmer, Chairman of the Birmingham Trades Council, and editor of Searchlight anti-fascist magazine, said “my association with comrade Joshi goes back 22 years. He used to discuss with me in a room above a hairdressers in Soho Road, Handsworth. Within a few years the IWA (GB) had built a membership of 28,000. Unlike many whom the press and the race relations industry claim as immigrant leaders, Joshi genuinely had a mass base”. He pointed out “The IWA (GB) played a major role in the trade union movement in Britain. Many of the sweatshops in the “Black Country” were organised for the first time by Indian workers. Comrade Joshi stood shoulder to shoulder with the whole working class in this country”.

Amrit Wilson spoke on behalf of AWAZ (Asian Women’s Group) and pointed out how Comrade Joshi fought against male chauvinism and was anxious for women to play a full part in political life.

A leader of the Sikh temple in Smethwick paid tribute. The “Friends of India”, an organisation whose basis is Hindu nationalism, but which united with the IWA (GB) in the fight against Indira Gandhi’s fascist rule, sent a message of support. A representative of the Wolverhampton Anti-Nazi League spoke of his devotion to the anti-racist and anti-fascist struggle.

From the Left in Britain, the Maoist RCLB and Communist Workers Movement praised comrade Joshi as a great communist and an outstanding fighter against imperialism. The CWM pointed out that Comrade Joshi had put into practice the Leninist line of uniting the struggle of the working class in the advanced capitalist countries with those of the oppressed nations and peoples. The CWM speaker spoke glowingly of Comrade Joshi’s work to build the IWA, unite the national minority communities and unite them with the rest of the working class, uphold Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong thought and build the revolutionary Communist party in Britain and stressed that Comrade Joshi had made, “important contributions to the struggles of the British and international working class.”. New Age, No. 14, June 1979

Political opponents, speakers from the “Communist” Party of Great Britain, Socialist Workers’ Party and International Marxist Group took the platform to acknowledge his great achievements.   Class Struggle June 28-July 11th 1979 Vol.3 No.13

An accomplished Urdu poet, writing under the pen-name of Asar Hoshiarpuri.his own words made a fitting epitaph:

“We are fighting for the light, and if I am sacrificed, it doesn’t matter;

For there will be others who will see the dawn”

Joshi (2nd left) Avtar Jouhl (far right)Avtar Singh Jouhl


Historic Notes

Is a 186 paged pdf collection that covers episodes in British working class history, providing a brief account of some familiar milestones in the calendar of struggle and other less known occurrences. They began appearing in The Worker, newspaper of the Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) in 1978.

Reading these “notes” the worldview of the CPB (ML) can be seen, particularly blatant with regard to their position on a united British state, incorporating the three nations and expressed in political opposition to both devolution and membership of the European Community. These were written with a purpose, and the contemporary relevance and political references providing history lesson for its reader.

What’s missing? The specific contribution and concerns of black people and women. There is a narrow focus that is pale and male reflective of the organisation’s binary understanding of, and what constitute, class struggles. Intersectionality is not a concept to be found in the understanding or writings of the CPB ML . The emphasis is on the organised working class in its industrial institution, the trade union hence the Match Girl Strike makes an appearance due to its nature as a trade dispute. There is an Anglocentric focus on events in England, some Imperial episodes, the French, Irish and Russian Revolutions so “Historic Notes” is a partial contribution, a scaffolding of events towards recording a history far from comprehensive, riddled with the perceptions and concerns of the writers, which may provoke further research to raise the voices of the unheard.

Reproduced here is not the complete series but a selection of articles, arranged chronologically rather than by date of publication. There are some duplication of subject as the writers return to commemoration some achievements of working people.

index of articles

1215 Magna Carta

1349 Statute of labourers

1381 Peasant Revolt

1395 Lollards

1549 Class war

1560 Robert Crowley

1598 Stow’s Survey of London

1640 The Levellers as pioneers

1648 William Walwyn

Books available for download at archive.org

Berens, Lewis Henry (1906) The Digger movement in the days of the Commonwealth: as revealed in the writings of Gerrard Winstanley, the Digger; mystic, and rationalist, communist and social reformer. London: Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent

Clayton, Joseph, (1910) Leaders of the People; studies in democratic history. London: Martin. Secker

Stow, John, (1912) The Survey of London 1598 .London: J.M. Dent

Trevelyan, George Macaulay, (1904) England in the age of Wycliffe. London,Longmans

1707 The Treaty of Union

1750 Adam Smith

1750 Britain was the first country to industrialise

1750 The Destruction of the old Highland

1779 The Iron Bridge

1788 The Times

1789 The French revolution

1795 The Road to Speerhamland

1797 Mutiny at Spithead

1800 Not deemed respectable enough

1800 Developing Capitalism Integrated Britain

1807 Wilberforce

1810 The British Empire

1810s Friendly Societies

1810s Luddities Act against Destitution

1812 Luddities

1817 Peterloo

1831 Merthyr Riots

1831 Working Class Union

1832 Workers and the Vote

1833 Tolpuddle Martyrs

1834 The Way to the workhouse

1840 Miners Advocate

1848 Communist manifesto

1850s Crimea war

1857 The Indian Revolt

1860 Robert Applegate1861-1865

1862 The Hartley Calamity – a pit disaster

1864 delegates

1868 TUC Forged

1869 The First international

1870s Afghanistan under the British

1870s Fight for the shorter working week

1870s Samuel Plimsoll

1871 The Paris Commune1971 The first jolt to the ruling classes

1872 Joseph Arch

1878 Kent & Sussex Lockout

1880s Truth behind the Boer War

1888 Matchgirl Strike

1889 A Day for the working class

1889 The Docker’s Tanner

1900 Taff vale

1902 The Education Act

1907 Strikes in Belfast

1910 Social progress and the great unrest

1911 Burston teachers

1913 Farm workers strike

1914 The First World War

1914 the war to end all wars

1916 The Easter Uprising

1917 International Women’s Day

1917 The October Revolution

1919 Army sent to break the strike

1920 Jolly George

1921 Economic crisis

1921 The Popular struggle

1921 Popular Councillors Imprisoned

1922 Lowestoft Teachers Strike

1926 The General Strike

1926 The general strike in Brighton

1939 Capitalism Pact of Steel

1939 Non-Aggression Pact

1939 Swife Scales Seven

1941 Betteshanger Colliery

1941 Stalin: war leader

1941 The battle for Moscow

1943 Battle of Kursk

1945 Second World War in Europe

1948 Malaya after the end of WW2

1950 Outbreak of the Korean War

1950-53 The Korean War

1952 The Mau Mau Rebelliion

1958 Iraq

1970s Resisting anti-union laws

1972 The Miners’ Strike

1979 Albania celebrates 35 years

1980 Nalgo and white collar unionism

1987 the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale

1989 Bitter Winter of struggles.

Download the pdf here