Phil Katz, the Communist Party’s Assistant Secretary for Communications, outlines the exciting plans for the Communist Party’s Centenary celebrations over the next few months.
The weekend of 31 July and 1 August 2020 marks 100 years since the historic gathering of delegates at the Cannon Street hotel in london, to form the Communist Party.
Plans to celebrate the centenary are being stepped-up as we near the date, with the organising team having to take into account radically changed circumstances, resulting from the lock-down.
The recent growth of the Communist Party, with a rapid rise in membership and the formation of new branches, means more is expected of the celebration.
The first response to the COVID-19 crisis was the rebuilding of an entirely new party website, which allowed meetings and organisation to continue. The WiFi waves now positively hum with Communist Party activity. Public meetings are regularly held and for members, there are a growing range of online training courses. A major centre for political education, including the use of video tutorials for new members, on the party programme Britain’s Road to Socialism, sits alongside a suite of ePublications. A social network to put members in touch with each other, for discussion and mutual aid, has helped answer questions promptly, taking pressure off the ever busy central and Scottish party offices, which have continued to function remotely.
The party’s centenary store has done its best business in decades with the party programme selling out twice and now heading for its third printing.
The centenary publication Red Lives – 100 years for socialism is nearing publication, work is at an advanced stage on a film, The Reds and a new history of the party is in preparation. Graham Stevenson’s history of the Real Life of Jessie Eden was published in April. A travelling exhibition is ready as soon as conditions allow, with bookings running into 2021.
The party’s web presence will take centre stage as the main source of delivery for ambitious plans to mark the centenary weekend. The 1 August will be a ‘wear your badge with pride day’ – photos can be sent in for the Communist Party Facebook page and the Young Communist league Instagram.
Over the period the party website will host political education courses, including a new four part series Women and Class and agitprop short courses for activists wanting to organise in workplaces facing job loss, wage cuts and
dangerous unhealthy conditions. There will be a number of public meetings on the day, relayed online, about party history, internationalism, the struggle for women’s equality, anti racism and for peace. These will be hosted by party
organisations and supported by the Young Communist league.
There will be guest lectures including one on ‘the importance of history – why we remember’, another on The German-Soviet Pact and British communists, and a number of online meetings for women and for young workers that will require prior registration. Some of the meetings will be hosted by friends and allies of the party.
There will be an internationalist meeting on press freedom hosted by the Morning Star and marking its 90th anniversary this year.
Party trade union activists will host ‘why and how you should organise’ training events – these require prior registration.
Young Communists will read out the biographies of communists that will be included in the Red Lives – 100 years for socialism. look out for the life story of legendary communists such Bob Stewart from Scotland, Yvonne Kapp and
sports champions such as Clem Beckett, boxer and anti-racist campaigner Len Johnson and hockey ace Angela Gradwell Tuckett, dropped from the England hockey team for refusing to give the Hitler salute when playing in Berlin.
Expect an online exhibition of historic documents relating to the Communist Party, many not seen before.
There will be a presentation of historic banners, including one from the cyclathon riders of the Harry Pollitt brigade (their ride to London later in the year will be filmed online).
Culture will play an important role and there are plans for publishing playlists of radical music and historic performances including the everpowerful voice of Paul Robeson. A cinema will show a range of labour movement and anti-imperialist films.
The weekend will mark the launch of a new film history of the Communist Party and we will run a trailer for the feature film, London Recruits.
A series of podcasts will include interviews with communists and the reproduction of historic speeches by early party leaders Tom Mann and
Presentations to veteran members are planned, and a call for you to raise a cuppa or something stronger (as long as you are not driving or at work!) in their honour. There are special events to mark the contribution of Communist Party volunteers in the international brigades and the London Recruits who volunteered to fight against apartheid, with greetings from leaders of communist parties in South Africa, Russia, India and Ireland.
Ambassadors from China, Vietnam and Cuba will make presentations. Communist Party General Secretary Robert Griffiths will give a live keynote speech later on the 1 August.
Over the weekend we will announce landmark events in the next phase of the centenary year including a residential school for young organisers being held in the north of England, a wreath laying an commemorative event for party activists, a conference on the future of work at a venue in the Midlands and more.
Its all systems go for the Communist Party!
Communist Party Assistant Secretary for Communications
Leader Organiser for the Party’s Centenary Celebrations