November 21, 2021

Communist Party of Britain Holds its 56th Congress

V S Shyam

THE 56th Congress of the Communist Party of Britain convened in London with more than 140 delegates gathered at the party’s headquarters in Ruskin House, London. The Congress analysed, debated and proposed responses to the challenges facing humanity and more than ever relevance of the Left interventions towards the same. This was the biggest such Congress in decades, reflecting a membership increase of two-thirds since the last one, three years ago.

Overseas guests include representatives from the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Portuguese Communist Party, Communist Party of Ireland, Communist Party of the Russian Federation, officials from the embassies of Cuba, China and Vietnam, fraternal delegates representing communist movement from Afghanistan, Iran, Greece, Sudan, Spain and the coordinating committee for communist parties were also present. Communist and Workers’ parties of South Africa, Israel, Cyprus and Venezuela attended via video conferencing. Reflecting a long history of solidarity, representatives of banned or semi-legal parties in the Middle East and Africa were also there in attendance.

The main international resolution was proposed by the outgoing CP executive committee, on Halting Imperialism’s Drive to War. It began its analysis of the international situation by considering the disproportionate impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and global warming on the poorest and most oppressed sections of the society. A host of amendments from party organisations at branch, district and Scottish and Welsh levels emphasized the scale and calamitous consequences of climate change. This was the context in which the emergence of “a new cold war” aimed primarily at China was considered.

The ability of the US finance capital to continue extracting super-profits around the globe was now increasingly threatened by the rise of China, which was set to become the world’s biggest economy within the next decade. The smaller imperialist powers – notably Britain, Japan, France and perhaps to a lesser extent Germany share that fear.

Despite their rivalries with one another, they have stepped up their campaign of economic sanctions and political propaganda against China. Alongside this go the build-up of Western warships in and around the South China Sea, the strengthening of the EU military structures, the big expansion of Britain’s nuclear arsenal and the formation of the new US-UK-Australian pact which, among other objectives, intends to enhance Australian and NATO capabilities in the Asia-Pacific region.

At the same time, China’s willingness to engage in mutually beneficial economic relations with the developing countries around the world made it more difficult to enlist them in the new cold war on the side of the US, NATO and an unstable EU. The CP congress also analysed developments in the Middle East, Africa – a prime target for Western imperialist expansion – and the Americas, where the Left, including the communist parties, were resisting the US-backed attempts to roll back the anti-imperialist gains of the recent decades.

Not surprisingly, there were calls to escalate the campaign for Britain to ratify the UN Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and build anti-war movements nationally and internationally, including the anti-imperialist World Peace Council and its affiliate the British Peace Assembly.

On the domestic front, an executive committee resolution declares: “The crisis is capitalism. Take the road to socialism!” It analysed the major developments that had shaped the present political situation in Britain. These include the outcome of the 2019 general election, when several million electors ceased voting Labour as that party dropped its commitment to respect the EU referendum result and instead, influenced by the likes of Keir Starmer, Lord Mandelson and their business backers pledged to hold a rerun referendum.

A post-mortem on the Conservative government’s response to the Covid-19 outbreak was a searing indictment of a system driven by profit at the expense of public services and public health. The Communist Party has been warning for some time that the ruling capitalist class intends to make workers and their families pay the bills for helping businesses survive the pandemic. Tory talk of “levelling up” and “building back better” was designed to retain parliamentary seats in the Midlands and north of England with a mixture of bribery and nonsense.

Instead of Boris Johnson’s centralised post-EU Britain, where sovereignty has been secured for British state-monopoly capitalism, the Congress considered a strategy to win “popular sovereignty” – for the working class and the people. This included the fight for a “progressive federalism” in which the nations and regions gain the democratic powers and financial resources needed to intervene decisively against the market forces of the capitalist monopolies.

The post-Brexit state aid powers stolen by Johnson from the Welsh and Scottish parliaments must be taken back from Westminster and Whitehall. Instead of splitting the political class struggle in three, between Scotland, England and Wales, a united anti-monopolies alliance should be built – led by a reinvigorated labour movement – to challenge the wealth and power of monopoly capital.

Among the proposals from CP branches and district and nation committees were those prioritising campaigns for the Green New Deal and public ownership of the energy sector. The party was already committed to organise a campaign with bodies such as the Indian Workers’ Association (GB) and the Bangladeshi Workers’ Council against Britain’s racist immigration and nationality laws.

This was the greenest Congress in the Communist Party’s history. It also hosted major discussions on the trade union and the community action, sex-based rights and gender identity. Delegates elected a new executive committee for the coming two years. However, they voted in the secret ballot, it was almost certain that the Communist Party’s next leadership will be younger and more female than at any time since the re-establishment of the party in 1988.

The Congress asserted the fact that the Internationale will be sung with greater gusto than usual at the close of the Congress, after a period of significant advance by both the Communist Party and the Young Communist League.


Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury attended the 56th Congress of Communist Party of Britain and conveyed warm fraternal communist greetings.

Addressing the Congress, he said in the international situation, what we see apart from the Covid is the crisis of capitalism which has come up in a very very sharp manner during the last two years and the bankruptcy of capitalism, particularly of neoliberalism. But at the same time, the offensive of neoliberalism continues. Stimulus packages are being given by the advanced countries. All third world countries and developing countries are being pressured to follow the prescriptions of neoliberalism. As a result of which, in a country like India we have today a virtual loot of our resources and privatisation on a scale and nature never seen in the last seven decades with advancement of the big capitalists and corporates.

The manner in which neoliberalism has chosen to finance the stimulus packages is through government’s raising the funds by issuing government bonds into the stock markets which inflates the stock market. Thus, the rich become richer and the poor become poorer. So this is a method in this health crisis also that neoliberalism has been implementing which is generating a lot of public protests and to contain this rising public protest, there is a marked rightward political shift in the world with the rightwing governments whipping up chauvinism, emotional slogans to divide and disrupt the unity of the working class and the working people struggles against neoliberalism and this exploitation.

This rightward shift is very pronounced as seen in India with the government we have now and had for the last seven years. This rightwing government which whips up what we call in India communalism, that is religious tensions and conflicts disrupting the unity of the working people has set out on a course to destroy the very constitutional foundations of India. Now this is a very serious assault on the Indian Constitution and our secular democratic republic and this is what the people of India today are battling against.

The right wing fascistic forces in India today naturally see the CPI(M) as the main obstacle hence mounting a fierce attack, physical and ideological. It’s nothing new. Despite their best efforts they failed in dislodging the Kerala LDF government; even comrades in states like Bengal and Tripura are also facing fierce atrocities.

Also, in the process, we have India practicing policies which eliminate reason in public discourse, unreason becomes more dominant. Instead of rationality, there is promoting irrationality.  It reminds one of what Georg Lukacs wrote about the rise of Hitler in a very path breaking book called ‘The Destruction of Reason’. He examined how the German people, inheritors of the most rationalist philosophical legacy embrace and internalise Nazi philosophy? He said that is because of the systematic destruction of reason that took place, replacement of rationality with irrationality and it is that which created this mindset where fascism became acceptable. We are going through that phase in India today. A very dangerous phase. And that is what we Communists are battling.

There is a rewriting of history that is taking place. In that rewriting of history, I am glad that finally in Britain I believe Wales has started teaching about the colonial experience of Britain and finally the British Empire’s history is being taught. That is a very positive step and I hope that it will continue. Because unless we know our history properly, as Communists, all of us know, we cannot chart our own future.

At the same time, in India the struggles of the working class and our peasantry particularly have been growing strongly. The unity of the working class with the peasantry, the current struggle of our peasantry has gone on to one whole year demanding the repeal of anti-farm laws that the government has brought in favour of the corporates and multinational agri-businesses. Now this struggle that we have for more than a year has been met with a very high degree of solidarity supported by the working class and the seeds of a worker-peasant alliance in India, the beginning of which are being laid. So we are in the midst of these challenges and struggles.

The importance of international solidarity defending the rights of the working class becomes more and more relevant these days. The British and Indian communists have an integral link for a century. Many British communists were arrested by the British colonial rulers along with Indian communists during the freedom struggle. The Indian community in Britain, through its organisations and platforms are very active in working class struggles along with the Left movements and trade unions here.  Holding up this heritage, we should strengthen the struggles together ahead.