100 years for socialism: on your Marx for the Communist Party centenary weekend

On Saturday August 1 the Communist Party reaches a high point in the programme to mark its centenary of struggle, writes Phil Katz, the Communist Party’s Centenary Project Officer.

This has been quite a year, with plans having to be completely rescheduled as a result of the pandemic and new skill sets acquired quickly so we could use technology to communicate with members and supporters.

Where some political parties effectively shut down during the lockdown, the organisation and democracy of the CP quickly adapted, with barely a week lost. By the last week in March, meetings, education, campaigning and inner party democracy were working full-on.

A landmark in this was the first wave of our Red Wedge meetings held across Britain in May. Communist Party comrades were active across Britain trying to rally unions to stand firm where work continued, not to allow themselves to be stampeded back to work and to organise on safety, where workers did return.

Now, again, we are changing gear to advance with more determination. And the Communist Party is growing in size and reach.

The programme of public meetings entitled “Pandemonium” (just starting and which you can still join at www.communistparty.org.uk/pandemonium) designed to “provoke and inspire the imagination” and the 13 Red Wedge live-and-direct meetings, which will be held on August 1, are a great opportunity to measure our achievement so far.

Pandemonium is a series of meetings, in which “some of the most interesting and engaging thinkers and writers on the left today will discuss the Covid-19 pandemic and the class struggle in our lives.” Tonight you can join writer and activist Jan Woolf to discuss “vital signs.” Tomorrow it’s the turn of Dr Helena Sheehan who puts capitalism to the sword.

From Monday for the next five days, Kevin Ovenden will invite you to “Break from liberalism,” Howard Stevenson will talk about Gramsci and “A Great & Terrible World,” artist, musician and activist Hannah Sawtell will talk on “Viral Access” and Tricontinental director Vijay Prashad will outline a “10 Point Agenda for the Global South.”

Friday July 31, the first day of the centenary weekend when the party was founded at the Cannon Street Hotel unity conference back in 1920, general secretary Robert Griffiths will speak on “Covid-19, Capitalism, Communism.”

If you are not registered for Pandemonium, now is the time.

The next day, Saturday August 1, the entire party swings into action. Or rather clicks into it as our centenary gala has moved online. Nothing stops us making the case for socialism, as we have for 100 years. It’s already clear we will be joined by many hundreds of activists. A good number have booked the day off work to join in.

With 68 speakers so far — 38 are women, ranging from a dairy farmer and an art theorist, to a school teacher and national trade union leaders, the speakers will open 13 live meetings, where the full extent of the CP programme, Britain’s Road to Socialism, will be explored and put to the test.

The first 12 meetings are designed for the party to outline its political positions, but as importantly, to listen to the changing thinking and mood of workers and activists.

You will be able to join speakers in discussion on key issues: communist women in action, fighting against imperialism and militarism, health and the community, rebuilding housing, the environmental crisis and capitalism, LGBT rights, the EU and austerity, anti-racism and antifascism — and culture matters.

There’s a buzz around the “Future of Work” event, where Gail Cartmail, assistant general secretary of Unite, shares a platform with Ursula Huws, professor of Labour and Globalisation; Hilary Wainwright, editor of Red Pepper; Victor Figueroa, specialist in work futures with the International Transport Workers Federation; and Leonardo Impett, a leading figure in research into artificial intelligence from the Cambridge Communist Party.

At midday, Steve Turner, assistant general secretary of Unite, will talk alongside Carolyn Jones of the Institute of Employment Rights; Tracy Delaney, a Unison north-west activist; Laura Briggs, NEU Lancashire activist; Annette Mansell-Green, Union secretary of the British Dietetic Association and rail worker Sarah Jane McDonough, a member of the TSSA.

The mass meeting is entitled “Take the Road” and explores the role of unions and trade union activists in the struggle for a road to socialism.

Mid-afternoon there is a rally to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the workers’ press. Chair, Ben Chacko, editor of Morning Star, welcomes general secretaries Dave Ward, of the Communication Workers’ Union, and Sarah Woolley, of Bakers & Food workers’ Union.

Young communist Amy Field, chair of London YCL, will speak alongside Mick Costello — the veteran Morning Star industrial correspondent during the Great Miners’ Strike. We will have special guests including Sean Hosey, Steve Marsling, Cathy Dolphin, Pete Smith and Ken Keable, members of the London Recruits and other surprise attendees.

The Star really is a miracle of modern working-class publishing. It is also the media partner of choice for the entire day.

We invite you to the centenary which will be celebrated all day on our website www.communistparty.org.uk/centenary

It includes sections on Spain and the International Brigades and apartheid and the London Recruits, alongside music and poetry. You will find a unique collaboration between Marx Memorial Library & Workers School and the Working Class Movement Library in Salford, which showcases some of its rarest artefacts of Communist Party history.

There is the launch of “Women and Class” and of the much-awaited new book “Red Lives,” which can be purchased August 1 onwards. Look out for the “meet our veterans” who have filmed greetings to site visitors. One is only three years younger than the party itself.

Pride of place goes to the video greeting from Vera Thalmann, granddaughter of the legendary leader of the German communists, Ernst Thalmann, murdered by the Nazis in Buchenwald in 1944.

Communist Party general secretary Robert Griffiths closes the centenary day with a speech about the history of the party, its sense of values and sense of purpose, at 5pm. We invite you to listen and consider how you might get more involved in the coming years of struggle for socialism.

To find out more and to register, go to www.communistparty.org.uk/centenary.

Challenge News Desk

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