Do you have a burning question you're dying to ask Britain's Communists, you aren't the first. In this section we've collated together some of the responses we've sent to inquiries from members of the public and prospective members of the CP. It's far from comprehensive - more detailed information on our history, policies, and activities can of course be found in other sections of this site - and we are constantly updating and adding to it.
The collapse of socialism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe in the early 90s was a massive setback. But there were specific reasons why this happened, including an increasingly out-of-touch bureaucratic-command system of economic and political rule; a dogmatic interpretation of Marxism-Leninism; the diversion of resources caused by the arms race; and a failure to mobilise the party and the people to solve these economic, social and political problems which led eventually to stagnation and political collapse.
However, the collapse of the Soviet Union does not indicate a failure of communism. Marxist-Leninism is an evolving ideology and the mistakes of the USSR provide useful tools to inform the future development of socialism. Capitalism by contrast has endemic failures built into it. Market crashes like those in the 1930s and 2008, as well as the failure of capitalism to provide for its people even in the most developed capitalist nations, prove that it is a failing economic model.
In the face of an ever-deepening crisis of capitalism, the need for socialism is all the stronger. Capitalism is based on exploitation and oppression. It is incapable of meeting basic human needs and now threatens the very existence of the planet. Communists make the case for protecting public services, ending totally unnecessary austerity and fighting for a system which offers social justice.
The CP has played a unique historic and political role in the British labour movement since its formation in 1920. It has consistently ‘punched above its weight’ because of its pedigree, the strength of the party’s strategic thinking and its history of struggle in defence of the values of community, class and nation. We continue to work in a broad, non-sectarian way with a wide range of different political forces, parties and organisations in Britain.
Membership is open to anyone over the age of 16 who broadly agree with the policies, aims and role of the Communist Party, as laid out in our strategic programme Britain's Road to Socialism. If you would like to apply to join us you can use the forms and materials on the join us section of this site.
The crimes committed during the Stalin period cannot be ignored. But the first attempts to build a socialist society took place in a semi-feudal society facing the hostile forces of imperialism. A bureaucratic-command system of economic and political rule became entrenched. The Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the trade unions became integrated into the apparatus of the state, eroding working class and popular democracy. In the late 1930s in particular, severe violations of socialist democracy and law occurred as large numbers of innocent people were imprisoned and executed. Lessons have to be learnt from both the achievements and the failures of this period.
But don’t forget that during its near 70-year existence, the Soviet Union showed how socialist state power, planning and public ownership could transform society in the interests of the mass of the population. And, crucially, it was the USSR’s central organisation and rapid, massive industrialisation that enabled the Red Army to smash Hitler's war machine, halt Nazi genocide and liberate much of Europe from fascism.
In addition, we should never forget the tens of millions killed by capitalism over the centuries as it exploits and oppresses people at home and abroad. Just to take a few examples, witness the many people killed as a result of the Atlantic slave trade; the dramatic fall in life expectancy in early 19th century British cities as the industrial revolution developed; the appalling treatment of native populations during 19th colonial expansion, sometimes tantamount to genocide; or the many who die today in third world countries as a result of growing capitalist exploitation of their people and resources.
The party organises at local regional and national levels under the principle of democratic centralism, where binding decisions are made by collective debate involving all members and structures. The CP has moved on from past mistakes in this area and is a genuinely open, democratic party, which encourages discussion and transparent decision-making. It also reflects quite a broad range of interpretations of communism, from former Trotskyists and Maoists, through old-style Bolsheviks to ex-Labour Party members.
The CP is a growing party, which focuses on work in the trade unions, with other progressive organisations and amongst local communities, with the aim of forging a united movement around socialist principles, with an extensive programme of campaigning and events which you can get involved in.
The stage of economic development that follows capitalism. Its key features are: state power is concentrated in the hands of the working class; the means of production, distribution and exchange are socially and/or state owned; central and local control of economic planning; control of pricing and wages; and an economic programme which continually increases output. Socialism is a transitional state between capitalism and communism, the length of time and the actual process would be driven by the economic and social conditions prevailing in that country at that time
It is a classless society that follows socialism, where the state has moved to ‘the administration of things’ rather than people, summed up by the phrase used by Marx and Engels “From each according to their ability, to each according to their needs”. A Communist society assumes that most production has attained a level of efficiency that provides for an overwhelming abundance of all the basic necessities of life, allowing for human beings to fully pursue their interests outside of the workplace. All existing and former socialist countries have erroneously been labelled as ‘communist’ but no society has ever achieved this stage of economic development.
Imperialism is an advanced stage of capitalist development that developed in the 20th Century and continues in leading European and North American capitalist countries. Imperialism essentially was bought about by: the completion of colonial expansion; the increasing monopolisation of capital; the dominance of finance capital; the export of capital rather than just commodities; and the formation of international capitalist bodies and alliances.
The guiding theory of Communist Parties, predominantly based on the theoretical work and practice of Marx, Engels and Lenin. Marxism-Leninism is a ‘living’ theory however which means that it is constantly being examined, revised, expanded, re-applied and debated in the light of experience and new knowledge, including developments by Communist Parties and individual Communists.
The idea that human nature and communism don't mix is based on the concept that humans are innately individualistic and selfish. In truth, human behaviour is related to the society in which they develop. Capitalism actively encourages these behavioural traits to develop and become normal in society. Under socialism the conditions for these traits to be advantageous are removed and instead are replaced by those that promote mutual cooperation and respect for other members of society.
We're a party of internationalists so we're committed to supporting the workers' and peoples' of Europe in their struggles. Ultimately we consider the cultural, historic and other differences between workers in different countries to be less significant than with the differences between Britain's workers and members of the British capitalist class. However the EU is an institution that is fundamentally opposed to working class interests. The EU exists to promote the interest of monopoly capital and big business, particularly German and French. Its totally unnecessary austerity policies are threatening national democratic processes - look at what is happening to Greece – and prevent member states from implementing independent economic policies. EU rules also erode collective bargaining, promote the privatisation of remaining public services, prevent the re-nationalisation of the energy companies or British Rail; and prevent support for strategic industries.
We want to see a Europe of democratic states that value public services, guarantees the rights of workers and puts the interests of ordinary people above those of big business. This is impossible while we remain within the EU given its anti-democratic structures. We need to campaign for a ‘left exit’ from the EU, based on socialist policies that respect the rights of other European countries.
The Tories (never mind the rhetoric of the ‘Euro-sceptic’ wing) want to remain a part of the EU single market because of the advantages this provides big business – and also because the City is a bridgehead for US capital - while getting rid of all the employment, social and environmental protections that reduce corporate profits. UKIP want to go further and leave the EU - placing Britain firmly under the control of US capital – while also stripping away social and employment protections, stopping immigration, replacing progressive income tax with a flat tax and reducing taxes on business.
Women are at the sharp end of Con-Dem austerity policies, facing benefit cuts, a widening pay gap and shrinking public services. The Government's assault on the social gains made since 1945 has to be stopped. The liberation of women is at the heart of the struggle of the class struggle for socialism. The role of gender in the political struggle is often neglected and we recognise that women are under-represented in the CP. This is your opportunity to make your voice heard in a progressive party which fully understands the important role you play in fighting for equality and social justice.
I'm active in my local trades council/union branch, is there a conflict between that and CP membership?
Local Trades unionism play a crucial role in broadening the political struggle and raising awareness of the case for socialism across the trade union movement. There's a vital need to promote the message that there is an alternative to endless austerity and the Government's use of the economic crisis to destroy the welfare state, based on investment in jobs, housing and public services. The CP plays a growing role in many TUCs, bringing with it an invaluable strategic focus and a history of struggle in defence of local communities. There is no conflict between the two roles. Why not become a CP member and become an integral part of the broad anti-austerity struggle?
Why not consider rejoining? We have moved on from the destructive infighting of the 1980s. The Party has been revitalised and very much the inheritor and continuation of the traditions formed over more than 90 years of struggle by Communists in Britain. The party has ambitious plans to raises its profile across the labour and trades union movement and take the fight to the Government. We have reached a crucial point in the political struggle to get rid of this vicious, parasitic ruling class. Now is the time to make your mark and see what you can do to advance the cause of socialism and make Britain a fairer country.
Communism means the end of the exploitation and oppression of the working class that characterises capitalism - where surplus labour is performed solely for the benefit of the capitalist class - and its replacement by the social ownership of economic property. This means that workers are fully represented in economic and political decision-making, and also means an end to the oppression of women, black workers and other groups. The divisions perpetuated within the working class under the vested interests of a powerful capitalist minority and their state apparatus will be replaced by popular sovereignty and the exercise of the democratic will of the people.
It’s in the interests of the wealthy minority that runs the country to encourage apathy and persuade people that there’s no point in trying to change things. But politics is about change achieved through struggle. All the rights we’ve won over the centuries – a free press, the right to form a trade union, the right to vote, health & safety legislation in the workplace, decent public services etc – have been secured precisely because people were prepared to stand up and be counted. Collectively we are strong. The CP fights for a better world free from exploitation and oppression, where people control their own destiny.
We recognise the Labour Party is the only mass party of the labour movement and only electorally viable alternative to the Con-Dem Government in current circumstances. But its continued failure to move on from the ideological dead-end of 'new Labour' and inability to commit to a genuinely socialist alternative to neo-liberalism suggest that the movement as a whole (including the CP) may need to reconsider this after the 2015 election. Any alternative would have to be based on an authentic working class, bottom-up movement, based on the genuine support of a significant number of trade unions. In the meantime, we should avoid being distracted by the latest in a long line of failed attempts to form a 'new' Left electoral Party!
Ultra-leftist attempts to move towards an early general strike risk immediate failure. Our political strategy has to be based on an understanding of the objective circumstances we face in society today. We need to work in the trade union movement to build support for broad-based action that has a realistic chance of putting significant pressure on the Government. The 2012 TUC congress backed a motion calling for the practicalities of a general strike to be investigated was an important step in the right direction.
Membership starts at 50p per month, but is on a sliding scale related to income. Joining the CP doesn't require a major financial commitment but unlike other political parties in Britain we aren't funded by big donors, who control and influence what we do and say. Every penny we recieve comes from members and supporters in Britain and every we spend every penny on fighting for and advancing the interests of working people at home and abroad.
If you join, you would be expected to accept the aims, constitution and policy of the CP, pay your party dues regularly and work in a party organisation (usually in a branch based on local village, town or city or in the workplace). CP members are also expected to buy, read and build support for the Morning Star, the only socialist daily newspaper in the English language. Beyond this, what you contribute is very much up to you. There is plenty of scope to contribute to party activities on a broad basis, but in a way that suits your abilities and commitments. And the important thing to remember is the opportunity to build your understanding of the application of Marxist-Leninist theory and practice in Britain in the 21st century as well as benefit from the solidarity offered by party membership: you will be supported by like-minded comrades dedicated to the advance of socialism!
Communists have always sought to build mass movements that use force either to block the way to fascism (e.g. the struggle in Cable Street and Bermondsey in the mid-1930s and again with the National Front in the ‘70s) or can open the way to struggle for improvement (e.g. the General Strike in 1926). This is important as they can deny capitalism its monopoly over the use of force – and, of course, party members served as energetic members of the armed forces during the Second World War.
There is a big difference between force and violence. Communists have been involved in organising mass picketing during four major miner strikes [’26, ’72, ’74 and ’84] but they denounce random, individualised violence and abhor terrorism.
We explain to workers that the ruling class in a class society, which own capital, seek to fashion a state to protect their interests (e.g. the shooting of strikers on Mersey and in Wales in 1911, Police at Wapping ’86, jailing of Shrewsbury pickets and Tilbury dockers, and attacks on anti-Poll Tax demonstrations). And they daily use force to protect their property and interests [Stop and Search, bailiffs, imprisonment for debt. The capitalist ruling class has, of course, a shameful record of using force to maintain colonial rule in the British Empire.
Communists believe that the greater the number who take action to force social change, the more difficult it will be for the capitalists to use violence to block it. In this way, Communists follow the tradition of the Chartist movement which stated “Peacably if we can, forcefully if we must”.
Whilst all Communists are committed to secularism (we argue religious institutions shouldn't play a role in the state and vice versa) we're not anti-religious. Many of our members today and historically hold a wide variety of beliefs and practice a wide range of religions - indeed quite a few are ministers of different denominations and religions. Historically of course in countries like Russia and China - before their socialist revolutions - religious institutions were integral to the exploitation and repression of the peasantry and so played a critical role in the machinery of the state and the ruling class of their day but this was not the case in later revolutions in Latin America, South East Asia which is why the response of Communists in those countries were very different.
Despite the fact that modern British society is very secular, it's institutions aren't. The Church of England is still the official state religion and has its own unelected representatives in Parliament. Communists argue that religious belief should be a matter for the individual. A socialist Britain would be one that celebrates and recognises the diverse traditions and beliefs of the peoples' of Britain, guarantees the freedom of religious belief and worship for all without having any institutionalised privileges for any one religion or church.
This is often the root cause of the misunderstanding of the attitude of Communists to religion - one which is often shared by supposed Marxists. This selective quotation fails to recognise that at the time Marx was writing, opium was viewed and used in Victorian England as a universal pain killer (a 19th Century Paracetamol). It was available in most pharmacies and prescribed for all manor of illnesses and medical complaints (including headaches). Even more seriously this selective quotation removes the preceeding sentences which clearly puts Marx's words in context.
"Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the masses." (K Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right 1843)