From this issue of the Weekly Worker, we are launching a fund drive to add another £500 in regular standing orders coming into our coffers every month. We have a provisional deadline for this target to be achieved – May 1 – and will be regularly reporting our progress.
It will be clear to most readers why we are launching a special fund campaign at this particular point in time. World capitalism is heading for its deepest, most sustained economic downturn since the 1930s. Almost overnight the leaders of the big powers – the US, Britain, Japan, Germany and France – ditched their free market mantras and rushed to adopt hastily put together Keynesian rescue packages. The whole banking sector has effectively been nationalised or bailed out with taxpayers’ money. Other sectors – car makers, steel and construction – are begging for similar help.
Margaret Thatcher’s famous claim that “You cannot buck the market” can now be seen by everybody for what is – a barefaced lie. So capitalism faces not just an economic, but a political crisis too.
Protectionism and nationalism is bound to grow. So is the tendency towards war. For the mass of the population the crisis will mean job losses, increased taxes, reductions in living standards and more and more attacks on democratic rights. Inevitably, however, there will be a fightback. Indeed it has already begun.
France’s one-day general strike, the youth revolt in Greece, the overthrow of the rightwing Icelandic government, the street protests in Latvia and Lithuania, the mass demonstrations across Russia and now the wildcat strikes in Britain.
But the existing left is in a sorry state. Divided into numerous confessional sects, ever ready to split over secondary issues, painfully weak in organisational terms, afraid of open debate, politically confused or downright useless. The left needs to change urgently if it is to meet the huge challenge life presents us with. Unity is clearly needed. But not unity around left Keynesian charters, halfway house alliances or lowest-common-denominator talking shops.
We have the name ‘Communist Party of Great Britain’. But, as we constantly emphasise, there is no Communist Party. There is no unity of all Marxists, revolutionary socialists and militant fighters for democracy around a common programme and in the type of fighting organisation the working class needs if it is not only to resist capital, but supersede it.
So our appeal for funds is inextricably linked with qualitatively upping our campaign to rearm the working class. Crucial to this is, of course, the Weekly Worker. A paper recognised as an invaluable asset by wide sections of left opinion – and not only here in Britain, but internationally too.
Yes, like all workers, our readers and supporters will be facing financial woes over the coming period, as this huge crisis of global capitalism plays itself out. Most won’t have easy cash to casually throw our way. But we have never relied on easy cash. No, we rely on political understanding and political determination.
We must push the idea of a single Marxist party to the very top of the agenda of working class partisans. Central to this is a radical overhaul of our website. The vast majority of the readers of our press and other materials access us online. The bulk of people who actually contact the organisation with a view to joining come through the web. It is the first port of call for journalists and researchers. In many ways, it is the organisation’s most high-profile public face.
Its current design and technical format have served us well – but now, after nearly seven years, they are in need of a radical overhaul. A number of comrades with the requisite skills have been involved in making our site more flexible, responsive and easily navigable. Of course, much of this work has been donated gratis; but costs have been incurred and will continue when the new format is launched.
We want to use our new website to engage in a more proactive way with the comrades who visit it. We are trying to shift many of these comrades from sympathetic, but passive imbibers of our politics to active involvement. This will involve a drive to encourage them to take hard copies of the paper to distribute amongst their contacts; to actively participate in the campaigns our organisation is centrally involved in and take the step of actually becoming members of the CPGB.
It was with this in mind that our leadership – meeting on February 1 – agreed to launch the new category of ‘associate member’ of the CPGB. This replaces the class of ‘supporter’, which again served us well enough in its time, but has now become too hazy, ill-defined and lacks any real obligations for the people who fill out the application box regularly featured in these pages. Associate members will have limited, but real rights in the organisation – and duties, of course. More details of this will be available as we report on the progress of the campaign, but the motivation for launching it is clear.
Given a fragmented left which dogmatically refuses to unite on a principled basis, it is incumbent on this organisation to fight harder for a positive resolution of the crisis that also exists in our movement. Despite its disproportionate influence, the CPGB remains numerically small and – in contrast to some of the more lurid tales cynical lefties swap over pints – chronically under-resourced. However, our drive for extra funds is not just about adding to the political and organisational weight of the CPGB, but setting into motion a unity process that leads to a real party that unites the left on the basis of Marxism.
The extra money will be used to finance work to harden up the embryonic national infrastructure that has emerged over the last few years; to make sure that comrades from our centre in London have the wherewithal to travel and regularly meet our comrades across the country; to provide ourselves with a more sizable office so that we can hold regular educational and other such events. We also intend to publish more books and pamphlets in the forthcoming period and make the serious study, free debates and honest exchanges that take place at our annual Communist University something for the whole of the left.
Our culture dictates that first come the politics; then money is found for the tasks politics dictate. Surveying the damage opportunism has done to our movement – and the lack of any other viable pro-unity project based on Marxism – the CPGB has decided it is time to up our game. We hope readers agree and we will be contacting many of you directly to find out.
Mark Fischer, CPGB national organiser.