PRINT workers and anti-fascists gathered last Monday evening at Marx House in Clerkenwell to witness the unveiling of a memorial to printers who gave their lives fighting in the wars against fascism: the war in Spain and the Second World War. The Marx Memorial Library houses a specialist collection of books and memorabilia from the war against fascism in Spain – many volumes being donated by people who went to fight there. It also houses a comprehensive collection of books and memorabilia of the printing industry in Britain and the various print trade unions. The memorial is situated in a tiny garden at the side of Marx House, close to the rooms where the archives of the print unions are kept. Among those present was Mike Hicks, the printers’ union leader during the Battle of Wapping in the mid 1980s between right-wing Australian newspaper magnate Rupert Murdoch and the print unions. Mike was arrested and imprisoned for a short while during that struggle to defend the principles of trade unionism in the printing industry. Les Bayliss, assistant general secretary of the giant union Unite (print section) and a trustee of the Marx Memorial Library, addressed a short meeting before the unveiling, giving a brief history of the print unions and their links with the struggle against fascism. He said the memorial expressed solidarity with the comrades who had fought; they were lost but not forgotten and they had fought for a society built on cooperation, not exploitation.
photo:NCP leader Andy Brooks (left) and Daphne Liddle from the Central Committee (right) at the unveiling ceremony.
LONDON’S historic Marx House in Clerkenwell was once again the venue for the NCP’s triennial congress on the first weekend in December. After welcoming delegates and fraternal observers to the 16th Congress chairperson Alex Kempshall handed over to NCP President Eric Trevett to open proceedings with a summary of the current political situation and the dangers arising from the current recession of cuts in jobs and services. On the international arena Eric warned that we do not know the intentions of the United State towards Iran and this poses great dangers on the Middle East. “Oil is the key to our understanding of what is happening,” he said. Eric spoke of the statistics on the pay of the top bankers compared to average workers and the way the banks had been nationalised – separating the loss making bits to be owned by the state while “privatising the profit-makers”. He also spoke of the need to communicate with young people, who are facing unemployment as the de-industrialisation of the British economy proceeds, saying we had a unique chance to make progress in this situation if we can get through to the youth. Congress paused to remember comrades Arthur Attwood, Herbert Jones, Richard King and Stella Moutafis who had all sadly passed away since the last congress. And after the formalities of electing tellers and the Congress panels and standing orders committees, general secretary Andy Brooks moved the main resolution in a speech covering imperialism, revisionism and the slump of 2009, which was published in full in this paper last week. Andy spoke of the problems now facing imperialism and the successful rebuttals of attempted interventions in Iran, Venezuela, Nepal, Zimbabwe and other places. He pointed out that the document was the product of collective discussion on the Central Committee, the cells and districts over the past 11 months and that the weekend would refine it to make it a fighting programme for the next three years. Professor John Callow of the Marx Memorial Library was a welcome guest at the Congress. He spoke on the history of the building, which dates from 1738 when it was built as a Welsh charity school. By the end of the 19th century it became the premises of the first socialist press in Britain. Lenin worked in the building when he was in London and edited 17 issues of Iskra there. In 1933, 50 years after the death of Karl Marx and at a time when Nazis in Europe were burning Marxist books, the Marx Memorial Library (MML) was founded to conserve the writings of Marx, Lenin and many other communist leaders. “The New Communist Party stood by the Marx Memorial Library when elements were trying to undermine it,” John told the Congress. Now its future is secure and houses a unique and historic collection. A number of fraternal delegates from other communist and workers’ parties brought messages of support from around the world and joined comrades and friends for a reception Saturday evening. These included Nephytos Nicolaou from AKEL (Progressive Party of the Working People of Cyprus) and Luis Marron from the Cuban Embassy. Luis passed on the fraternal message from the Communist Party of Cuba and spoke of the progress that is now being made in Cuba. “The Cuban revolution is alive, healthy and moving forward,” he said. But he added that progress in Latin America is in danger. The United States is building bases in Colombia and Honduras and plans to restore Latin America to “the old order”. He quoted Ian Fleming of James Bond fame who said “When something bad happens once, that is chance; if it happens again that could be coincidence. But if it happens a third time, they are definitely out get you.” Luis also informed the Congress that since Democrat President Obama has come to power “in spite of anything you may have heard to the contrary there has been no change of attitude of the US towards Cuba. When the blockade is lifted; when the Guantánamo concentration camp is closed and when the Miami Five are free, then we will recognise a real change.” Comrade Jiang Song Chol brought the good wishes of the Workers’ Party of Korea as did Isabella Margola of the Greek Communist Party (KKE) who spoke of the KKE’s work in exposing the European Union and the growth in attacks on immigrants throughout Europe, the rise in right-wing nationalism and ideological terrorism. Lorena Jaime Bueno brought the greetings of the World Federation of Trade Unions. She spoke of the particular difficulties facing the NCP and other communist parties in the imperialist heartlands and presented the Party with a WFTU trophy which will be displayed at the Party Centre. And Michael Chant, an old friend from the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist), brought the greetings of his party and spoke of the struggles ahead in the current economic crisis. Old friends, like the comrades from the Danish Communist Party, Communist Party of the Peoples of Spain and the Workers League for the Restoration of the Communist Party of Germany could not be with us this time but they sent their messages of support. Other fraternal greetings included those from the Syrian Communist Party, Communist Party of Brazil (PCdoB), SUCI (India), Communist Party of Pakistan and a number of others from the international communist movement. NCP delegates made dozens of contributions to discussion throughout the two-day Congress on ideological questions and day-to-day struggle and activity: campaigning or peace, trade union struggles, the NHS, welfare benefits and many other topics. Alan Rogers spoke about the cuts that have happened in the NHS and the further £5 billion cuts that are on the agenda. And he attributed high levels of infection to the rapid turnover of bed occupation. Pete Hendy spoke on the reasons why the NCP calls on people to vote Labour, followed by Ann Rogers who spoke on the same topic. She emphasised that when deciding policy the important thing is to think through what is in the interests of the working class – and that certainly is not a Tory government. Some delegates supported the main line on Labour but pointed out that the New Labour leadership made it very difficult to rally support for that party except as the lesser of two evils. And Alex Kempshall and Andy Brooks who both pointed out that the Party is campaigning for a democratic Labour Party answerable to the union movement that funds it and did not support “New Labour” policies. Mike Fletcher spoke of his trade union work and working with the Labour Representation Committee and the struggles against the BNP and its summer festival in Ripley, Derbyshire. He also spoke of his work in mental health care and the epidemic of stress and depression that is afflicting working people in this country. Pat Abrahams made a strong contribution on the troubles faced by medical secretaries in hospitals: chronic understaffing and growing backlogs of work. She spoke of how this leads to delays in clinic appointments. Appointment times are routinely booked threefold – leaving patients with very long waiting times and clinics overrunning. Added to that are problems of poor building maintenance that leads to flooding of floors – even with sewage. The admin staff have to rescue written records; patients notes get lost, operations are postponed. Many secretarial staff put in long hours of unpaid overtime because they cannot face coming into work next day seeing the backlog mounting and mounting. And, being human, they do not like to see patients being delayed in getting the treatment they need. Neil Harris spoke about the continuing attacks on the principles of health and safety from the Tory leadership. “This is a full-scale onslaught on workers’ rights and conditions,” he said and added that Cameron and Brown are not bothering about the workers but vying for ruling class support. During the closed session delegates discussed the growing work of the New Worker Supporters’ Groups and expanding the sales of our communist weekly. And they showed their support by raising £1,692 for the fighting fund. Delegates voted to endorse the reports of the standing orders and panels committees – thus the new central committee was elected and the main resolution, setting out the NCP’s policy for the next three years was agreed – as amended by the discussion in committee. Winding up NCP leader Andy Brooks stressed the need to raise the profile of the communist alternative across the country. It had been a busy and worthwhile weekend that ended, as always, with a rousing rendition of the Internationale.
photo: Andy Brooks and Alex Kempshall listening to the debate