Young Communists in the West of England

Nathan Russell

As secretary of the West of England branch, in the year preceding the YCL’s centenary, it feels timely to reflect on the experiences of participating within the League as a member of a newly founded branch.

The other members of West of England YCL and I found out about each other through our branch and district secretaries in the Communist Party, and were immediately keen to meet. Our immediate aims were, broadly speaking, to keep in regular contact socially, compare notes in terms of our political education, attempt to assert a communist presence in our communities, and recruit new comrades in a bid to make all of the above easier.

One advantage I found by being around other young people was that we communicated in a different, much more frequent way. Whereas I’d probably have to collar a CP comrade in person after a branch meeting; I can send my YCL comrades a message on WhatsApp asking how they’re doing and get a response within a few minutes. That said, we did have to make a conscious effort for political discussion; to do it properly does require certain levels of planning and structure. 

Wanting to start small, we settled on a regular format; in between each meeting, we’d read a chapter of Lenin’s State and Revolution, take notes, and go over our thoughts when we met next. It was simple enough, but plenty to take our discussions to the next level.

Given the cost of public transport it can sometimes be difficult to meet up as regularly as we would like. As young people in differing circumstances, and as communists, it was clearly an individual burden that we would never expect people to overcome alone; and so, the branch travel fund was born. Some of us put a tenner in the pot when we could, and we all drew on it as needed. The League and CP were prepared to make funds available, of course, and did so for the more expensive travel to London on occasion; but it was our intention to self-fund our activities as an organisation as far as we could.

The most recent challenge for our branch has been the suspension of face to face meetings due to the Covid-19 crisis, although it has of course disrupted all of our lives in many other ways. As much as we are making use of teleconferencing to meet, and providing ad-hoc tech support for less confident comrades online, I am very much looking forward to the day we can resume our branch’s public facing activities. It is in the nature of class struggle that such activities can be difficult and frustrating, but that doesn’t make them any less important.

There is a special importance and weight of responsibility that we should assign to YCL activity in Britain today. The League’s historic task lies in developing the communist leadership of tomorrow, not just working towards a larger, or more active membership; but also a membership equipped with the practical organising experience in communities and workplaces; learning, understanding and explaining the Marxist-Leninist political analysis capable of further strengthening our Party intellectually. As Lenin said, “Without revolutionary theory, there can be no revolutionary movement.”

It is therefore imperative that, despite the present challenges, we continue to inspire new activists in areas where in recent times the YCL hasn’t been present in great numbers, such as the West of England; that we prioritise the rebuilding of the League across Britain as the first in a series of steps to communist advance upon Britain’s Road to Socialism. 

In these circumstances it is right that we seek to accelerate the promotion of our young comrades from our League to our Party; and it is right that as a movement, we continue to learn from the struggles of our working class, doing our utmost to serve and lead them in the struggles ahead.

If you are in the West of England area and would like to hear more, now more than ever it is time to get involved in the struggle for Socialism in our lifetimes.

Nathan Russell