Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Radical Left Battles Over the Communist Party of Britain’s Young Communist League.

with 8 comments

Edinburgh YCL (@YCLEdinburgh) / Twitter

“Visually striking assertions of communist identity”.

Lawrence Parker is probably best known on the left as the gumshoe who uncovered the funding of the CPGB (Provisional Central Committee). It turned out to be that they owned the copyright on the much-loved Wurzels’ hit,  ‘I’ve Got a Brand New Combine Harvester’. (The CPGB-PCC, The Wurzels and me). (1)

in recent times, that is October, there was this spat this year with Gerry Downing in the pages of the Weekly Worker,

Gerry writes: “Comrade Parker is clearly nostalgic for Uncle Joe, as the title in his piece of October 16 – ‘The Communist Party of Britain disappears comrade Stalin’ – shows. In challenging the view of former CPB member Andrew Murray that ‘violations of socialist democracy during the Stalin period’, which were ‘a shameful blot on the proud history of the communist movement’, he points out that this ‘existed alongside a contradiction: the Soviet Union, despite these abuses of democracy, was still adjudged to be a socialist society and one where the ‘positive features of the socialist experience would far outweigh the negative ones’.”

There a longer intervention, of sufficient importance to get even more widely noticed than what they are already calling the Downing-Parker debate, was this, part of a series of interesting articles:

Young Communist League general secretary denounces critics as ‘saboteurs’ (November the 17th).

Correspondence – the Communist Party of Britain, the YCL and Stalin (October the 11th).

Now Cde Parker returns to the fray with a post that may succeed in its intention, to piss off other groups, largely the AWL, though also the (back to its birth name) Workers’ Power (WP).

British Trotskyists take notice of the Young Communist League

The British Trotskyist left has been forced to sit up and take notice of the Communist Party of Britain (CPB) and its associated Young Communist League (YCL). I guessed this would happen sooner or later because the sight of hundreds of young people marching under red banners, shouting revolutionary slogans and being sympathetic to the historical legacy of Stalin strikes at the existential heart of Trotskyism’s current crisis. If Trotskyists think about this then, surely, in their eyes, they should have won such forces after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the concurrent, although incomplete, disintegration of the ‘official’ communist movement? Who can forget Peter Taaffe of the Socialist Party and his truly gormless idea of the ‘red ‘90s’? But much of the Trotskyist left shared versions of this ‘us next’ mentality and I have documented such matters on this blog in relation to the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP). The whole idea of a revitalised YCL, which most Trotskyists understand under a pejorative and simplistic rubric of ‘Stalinism’, will be sending shivers of horror through various factional centres in relation to what such happenings reveal about the attractiveness, or otherwise, of various Trot sects and groupuscules.

I shall leave it to Cdes Sacha and Jim to respond, if they see fit, to the measured criticisms made in this, long, aesthetical post, “all the residual appeal of Jim Davidson reciting Macbeth. “social-imperialist AWL”, “such hysteria”.

But this, on Workers’ Power (WP), part of the League for a Fifth International is intriguing:

While the YCL comrades refer to their ‘party of a new type’, WP has historically referred to itself as a ‘fighting propaganda group’, which has a set of, ahem, remarkable similarities with the CPB/YCL variant. In both organisations, open factions are banned, public debates between comrades are rare and the membership is generally expected to parrot the group’s line. The rider here is that the CPB has a slightly better culture of open debate between its members than WP in that it at least publishes its low-level congress discussion every couple of years; unlike in WP where any attempt by members to debate publicly would be treated as an act of treason. If the “splits between Stalinists usually lead nowhere” where have recent splits from WP led other than to weaken and demoralise a much-diminished mothership, form a useless and defunct group such as Permanent Revolution and fritter away other cadres into ‘good causes’? This then is the depressing balance sheet of the bureaucratic centralism that has infected both Trotskyists and ‘official’ communists in brutal contradiction to the democratic and open traditions of our movement.  

The Weekly Worker, for which Cde Parker used to write, is again behind the curve: there is nothing on this row in the latest issue.

The YCL claims a massive 450 members.

(1) “there has been much discussion on the left about the financing of the CPGB, with many dubious explanations being advanced. In order to scotch these rumours I can reveal that, many years ago, Mark Fischer bought out all the copyright on songs by The Wurzels. This has been a constant source of finance for the CPGB over the years, and cider is indeed now obligatory at their many social gatherings. So the next time you’re reading some tedious diatribe from Jack Conrad, think about “I’ve Got a Brand New Combine Harvester” and raise your glass with me. I hope that clears it up.”

CPGB – The Final Countdown?

Written by Andrew Coates

November 25, 2021 at 3:45 pm

8 Responses

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  1. I could watch looters initiate the use of force against each other for hours. Stateside we have fascist republicans and mostly communist dems going at it. Libertarians hope voters listen closely to what out adversaries say about each other.


    November 25, 2021 at 8:06 pm

  2. Not surprised that the formerly Stalinist left are recruiting amongst the young. These youth were born a decade after the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the intra left arguments between Stalinism and Trotskyism mean little or nothing to them, except for being a rhetorical parlour game with no actual substance in the real world.
    These nostalgics are everywhere on social media and purposefully try and attract the young with memes and flashy Socialist Realist graphics. The Trots, by contrast, are staid and boring. Plus I have always had a sneaking admiration for organizations that have Communist in their names. As this is what they are. This directness would appeal to the young I guess. Groups like the SWP and SP , while being Communists and wanting a Communist society, deliberately used ‘Socialist” in their names so as to not “scare the horses” and appeal to the Labour Left. In conclusion I could well see these Communist groups becoming the dominant groupings on the Far Left in Western Countries going forward.

    P.S. Thanks for the link to the Lawrence Parker blog. Will read with interest


    November 25, 2021 at 8:23 pm

    • Still very small numbers, and Lawrence Parker has an odd idea of aesthetic appeal. They look to me like the WRP at its height, or the French Lambertists of over 30 years ago, and if disciplined ranks with red flags are the way forward then what happened to the Turkish M-Lers, whom he also cites, in their own country?

      Andrew Coates

      November 25, 2021 at 8:51 pm

    • ‘ These youth were born a decade after the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the intra left arguments between Stalinism and Trotskyism mean little or nothing to them, except for being a rhetorical parlour game with no actual substance in the real world.’
      So no different to the vast majority of younger generations before the fall of the wall.


      November 26, 2021 at 10:05 am

  3. Andrew Coates

    November 25, 2021 at 9:12 pm

  4. It’s certainly a very different style to the YCL of the 1970s and 1980s. Eurocommunist ideas and a punk aesthetic ensured that we couldn’t have presented a disciplined-looking front even if we had wanted to. But our approach in those years rapidly led to the league’s total disintegration, so I can well understand the CPB’s YCL seeking to avoid our mistakes…


    November 25, 2021 at 9:22 pm

    • I never liked the idea of joining a “young” branch of a party, be it the YCL or the Labour Party Young Socialists (LPYS).

      Having been for some years a Woodcraft Folk Venturer , which had a political dimension (some older Woodcraft Folk members were in the YCL as well), up about 15/16, I had no wish to stay in youth organisations for my later teens.

      Andrew Coates

      November 25, 2021 at 9:50 pm

  5. The CPGB’s minimum age was supposedly 18, although I was just 17 when I joined it. But at 15, I had to join the YCL in order to get involved with the party. The ‘youth politics’ aspect never appealed much, even if the social side of it was sometimes quite amusing,


    November 25, 2021 at 10:15 pm

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