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No 2 EU – Yes to Democracy Election Broadcast. Part 2 of a 2 part series? May 28, 2009

Posted by Garibaldy in British Politics, European Politics.
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Following on from yesterday’s Libertas broadcast comes the No 2 – EU Yes to Democracy European election party political broadcast, which I picked up on courtesy of a thread from Politics.ie. No 2 Eu – Yes to Democracy is a broad alliance of mainly left groups. Its main components are the effectively the RMT (best known for representing London underground workers I guess) and the Communist Party of Britain (responsible for the Morning Star), although it includes other groups like the Indian Workers’ Association and the Socialist Party of England and Wales (two further apart groups on the left would be hard to imagine). Good to see such a level of left and progressive cooperation, and a shame we have been unable to replicate it in Ireland, north and south. For a less positive appraisial of the project, see this post from the consistently interesting Johnny Guitar.

The broadcast itself is quite good, although personally I wonder about having several people with the same last name and the emphasis on the BNP. Thought it might be of interest. Not that anyone will have noticed my absence given WBS’ Stankanovite tendencies, but I hope to be back to regular blogging soon.

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1. Omar Little - May 28, 2009

Why are you concerned with the emphasis on the BNP?

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2. Garibaldy - May 28, 2009

I thought it was giving them too much time, and not enough promoting their own message. The tone could have been more positive I thought.

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3. Omar Little - May 28, 2009

The BNP will do a lot better than any of the far left parties in the Euro elections, unfortunately. They will also take a lot of votes from Labour in places where they should not.

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4. Garibaldy - May 28, 2009

That’s clearly true, but I wonder if it isn’t playing into their hands somewhat by spending a lot of time screaming about what a danger they represent. It gives them added credibility in areas where they might otherwise struggle for profile. It will be interesting to see how many votes the BNP take from the Conservatives and UKIP.

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5. Mark P - May 28, 2009

Thanks for the video, Garibaldy.

No2EU is a welcome initiative, although its vote will probably be small. It has a solidly progressive, if limited, platform and represents a substantial chunk of the left in Britain standing together.

The most important element of the coalition is without the RMT, one of the most radical unions in Britain. Then you have the involvement of the Communist Party of Britain, which is a small organisation without much in the way of activist strength but which played a significant role in getting the grouping together and which “influences” the Morning Star daily newspaper. The bulk of activists on the ground are provided by the Socialist Party in Wales and in England and Solidarity – Scotland’s Socialist Movement in Scotland. Smaller groups are also contributing, most notably the Indian Workers Association (which is an important organisation in the Indian community) and the Alliance for Green Socialism.

No2EU is just a temporary coalition for the EU elections, but it could represent a step towards independent working class representation.

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6. Wednesday - May 28, 2009

They’re absolutely right to confront the BNP issue head-on and I don’t think they spent too much time on it, although they could have made better use of that time. I can’t really see anybody who might be tempted to vote BNP – even just as a protest vote – being swayed by terminology like “racist” and “they’re against multiculturalism”. I thought it was a lot more effective where they pointed out the BNP’s history of holocaust denial and their potential to set worker against worker and to further divide communities.

Overall a good effort.

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7. Garibaldy - May 29, 2009

Mark,

I’d have thought that the relative strength of the on the ground activists would depend on the areas. So undoubtedly the SP would be the biggest in say Coventry, but not necessarily in parts of Wales where the CPB has traditionally had a presence. Does that seem reasonable?

Wednesday,

I see your point about racism and especially multiculturalism, though I assume they were used deliberately to make clear the organisation’s rejection of BNP criticisms of government community cohesion policy or whatever it’s called these days.

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8. Mark P - May 29, 2009

dy:

Well it seems “reasonable” alright, but it isn’t true. The Communist Party of Britain claims a paper membership of in or around 900. That paper membership may even be accurate in so far as it is supposed to measure people who take out a card. But it bears no relationship to the numbers of actual activists it can muster.

The CPB has the Morning Star. It has some influence in the “Peace” movement (ie within CND and the Stop the War Coalition). It still has residual although much diminished influence amongst a layer of trade union officials (although notably not amongst elected officials). Those are the reasons why it still matters to some degree. What importance it has doesn’t rest on the number of activists it can turn out, which is just as well because those numbers are very low. As in a fraction of those of the Socialist Party or SWP over there and a lot closer to the numbers of the larger of the small Trot groups.

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9. Garibaldy - May 29, 2009

I’m not entirely sure that that answers my point Mark, which wasn’t about overall size and strength, but about regional differences. Like in Ireland, not one of the further left groups in Britain can claim a significant presence across the entire country, so I find the notion that one group is responsible for the majority of activists right across the country suspect. That’s without getting into the question of whether a definition of activists that excludes the peace movement and trade unions is a suitable one.

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10. Mark P - May 29, 2009

Garibaldy,

I’m not excluding activists in the Peace movement or Trade Union activists. If I did that there wouldn’t be a CPB to discuss. Taken altogether, the CPB’s national activist base might, if we are being generous, be over 200. I would be surprised if there is one city in Britain where they can turn out more people for a particular action or event than the local SP or SWP (or in Scotland, Solidarity or the SSP).

There may well be a town or two where the CPB has the remnants of some branch left over from the glory days of the CPGB, like a shell left behind on the beach by a retreating tide, and where there’s no other organisation present. That’s about as generous as I can reasonably be.

I really don’t think you understand just how low profile the CPB is on the British left and just how few people it can mobilise for any given event or action. It’s just not that sort of organisation and hasn’t been for a long time. Its active core is much smaller than that of other organisations on the left there, although it does have a supportive periphery of paper members and a limited wider influence in certain other fields.

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11. Garibaldy - May 29, 2009

Mark,

I take your point about mobilising for particular actions, though given that the organisation sustains the Morning Star and the Marx Memorial Library (or at least one faction of it does) I think that its achievements are not so readily dismissed as you. I mean putting out a daily paper that reaches a fairly wide audience (you can see it in places like WHS in some cities) is an impressive achievement. They are also still capable of sustaining a theoretical magazine and a youth magazine (though I have no idea of the circulation for the magazines). Added to this there is election campaigns, which though failures, take a certain amount of energy and organisation. I doubt you can do all this on an active base of less than 200.

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12. Mark P - May 29, 2009

The thing about the Marx Memorial Library and the Morning Star is that they aren’t really “sustained” by the CPB in quite the same way as say the Workers Party used to produce the Irish People. They are formally independent bodies which, although they might well collapse without the assistance of the CPB, are at least capable of contributing to their own upkeep. The CPB is very definitely the dominant influence in both, but to take the Star as an example it’s produced by a professional (often non-CPB) staff and recovers much of its costs through sales, fighting fund donations, union orders and even a bit of advertising. The CPB certainly bears a significant burden in this regard, but it isn’t doing all of the lifting itself.

Even leaving aside the degree to which the Star and MML are truly part of the CPB’s “apparatus”, the size of an organisation’s apparatus isn’t necessarily a good way to judge much else about it. The Workers Revolutionary Party, for instance, puts out a daily paper, in colour, even now when it can’t have more than a few dozen activists. And believe me, the Newsline doesn’t bring in much money or receive much help from the union movement.

Back when the WRP split in the 1980s, the perhaps 900 members in total were supporting a daily newspaper, a weekly youth newspaper, a theoretical magazine, a chain of bookshops, a more modern printing operation than Fleet Street and residential training centres in the countryside! To gove another exanmple, the CPGB/Weekly Worker put out a weekly paper and maintain a reasonably steady stream of books despite having less than 30 activists.

In fact, I would suggest that one of the reasons why the CPB is quite so low profile (and it really is low profile, even compared to groups like the AWL or Workers Power) is that its small “human resources” (sorry) are almost entirely occupied with keeping the Star going and after a bit of routine movement activism they just don’t have the time to be doing anything much else.

The circulation of their theoretical and youth magazines are certainly extremely low, by the way. I’ve never once seen either of them on sale outside of Housmans in London or Connolly Books in Dublin. And standing paper election candidates (which is all the CPB generally do, because they don’t have the people to do anything else) requires only a candidate and the money to throw away a deposit.

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Informant - June 7, 2009

Mark P, I think you are trying to be objective in your assessment of the CPB’s strengths (as well as weaknesses), whch is why I am offering the following info which I hope will be of assistance.
Firstly, the CPB’s activist base is a little bigger than you give it credit for. The party’s official membership figure (which appears to be genuine enough) is around 1,000. Within that, I would reckon about 40% are retired (it used to be nearer to 60% about 6 or 7 years ago) – some of whom are still pretty active! Looking at the CPB contingents on national demos, the Morning Star sellers etc., there has clearly been an influx of younger members. This is due in part to the re-establishment of the Young Communist League about 6 years ago.
In London, Wales and Scotland, which have about 35% of the CPB’s membership, I would estimate the activist members – including those active in party work, the trade union, peace and international solidarity movements – to number around 130-160.
The national activist base – broadly defined – would be about 300-350.
Remember, the CPB has the residue (plus some new recruits) of branches in quite a few parts of Britain where sections of the far left – except those with a history of involvement in the Labour Party – have never firmly established themselves eg. Devon, Cornwall, Kent, Cumbria, North Wales, South Wales valleys. Also, many of its activists have a longstanding (but often low profile) involvement in peace groups, Cuba Solidarity, pensioners groups etc.
The Marx Memorial Library is not under CPB control, but is controlled by the ex-leadership, ex-party faction around Mary Rosser and Mike Hicks, although the CPB still supports the work of the MML.
Throught its work in broad movements, alliances in the trade union movement and – especially – through the Morning Star, the CPB exerts more influence than meets the eye.
They don’t make as much noise in some (actually very limited) circles as AWL, Workers Power and the pretend “CPGB”, but I suspect the CPB carries enormously more weight where it really counts.

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13. Jim Monaghan - May 29, 2009

What about the CPB member who got the proceeds of an Old Master which which she subsidises the party.The Nazia seized it from relatives who were later murdered. Quit a few millions.
I feel the alliance bends to English Nationalism which is somewhat different to Irish Nationalism.I refer to the english jobs for english workers undercurrent

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Informant - June 7, 2009

Jim, I think you’ll find that your claim that a wealthy CPB member “subsidises” the CPB is not borne out by the party’s accounts published by the Electoral Commission. There has been no sudden huge increase in donations, although legacies – left by dead people – have gone up.

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14. Vabian - June 7, 2009

While we’re on the subject of left-wing publishing, I wonder
is the WP’s Repsol publisher still going?

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15. WorldbyStorm - June 7, 2009

I don’t know. Anyone?

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16. Joe Williams - September 3, 2009

I love it when people say that the CPB has hardly any ‘active’ members, or have a low-profile or whatever.

I usually hear comments like that from tiny sect-dwelling morons from the ‘FAKE CPGB-weekly worker group’ etc.. who love to attack the real Communist party for any reason real or made up.

Although the CPB certainly is much smaller than the old CPGB, from looking at their influence in campaign groups such as Stop the War, Cuba solidarity campaign, as well as in the trade union movement, you can see how when the general secretary wrote in the Morning Star that we need a Peoples Charter, only a few months later, several unions, left M.Ps, and other sections of the Left join with the Communist Party to start the Peoples Charter.

Granted i have only been active politically for about 4 years, every national demo I have been on has had a sizeable CPB-YCL contingent, which must mean that they have more membership than you give credit because I only know 3 people in the CPB and they always march with either their union/trades council or one of them marches with her local peace group.

A lot of ways many people on the far left measure ‘active members’, if the same measurment was used on the Conservatives or Lib Dems would judge that they have no membership either.

At the end of the day, I would say that most CP members have important roles as head of a national campaigning group/ positions in trade unions etc and so don’t generally go to every left-wing meeting and stand at the back of the room with the 15 other newspapers on sale. Even those that actually go on demos march with their trade union/peace group. As the Morning Star shows the CP are quite focused on being non-sectarian within the Labour movement, so are not as prepared to go and shout down all political opposition/ make huge posturing gestures of how REVOLUTIONARY they are.

However, my membership of the labour party would certainly make my comments on the CPB worthless to those on the left who reject anyone associated with the party of imperialist wars and attacks on the working class (despite what this Labour member may think of all that New Labour bollocks)

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17. Mark P - September 3, 2009

Jim, despite your aggressive tone I’m not sure that you are saying much that really contradicts what I was saying earlier. I think that Informant’s post was really quite, well, informative in that regard. As he or she says, the CPB does have a lot more influence when compared to say the AWL then its activist numbers would suggest. But it also has a much lower key presence than its paper membership would imply.

The CPB does, as has been said repeatedly in this discussion, have real influence in the peace movement at least in its institutional form (ie CND and the Stop the War Coalition). It also has some influence over a layer of trade union officialdom. And through the Morning Star it has a daily newspaper which, while it has a very small circulation in the greater scheme of things, does have a readership in the unions.

My estimate was that it has 200 or so activists, as opposed to paper members. Informant, who seems to be a supporter, puts it at 300 plus. These are not wildly divergent estimates.

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18. EamonnCork - September 3, 2009

Speaking of EU referendum broadcasts, has anyone seen the extraordinarily irritating, and stupid, yes campaign ad currently screening in the cinemas. Its, repeated, tagline is, “what does this EU thingy do for me.” Are we all six years old now or something? Has Richard Curtis taken over the government? What next, “Voting no – like, what’s that all about,” or, “Joe Higgins is pants.” The notion that people might vote yes because Mick Galwey and Robbie Keane tell them to is intellectually impeccable by comparison. I mean, who says Thingy apart from Hugh Grant? And what will Cowen say if the referendum is defeated? “Oh bugger, oh bum,” perhaps.

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