As part of the Communist Party’s Centenary Red Wedge meetings Johnnie Hunter discusses the legacy of struggle of Britain’s young communists against imperialism and war and the contemporary fights occurring in South America. This is a transcript a speech delivered online on 1 August 2020.
The unrelenting struggle against imperialism and war is one of the fundamental characteristics of the international communist movement as a world historic tradition.
That working people of any nation can expect and receive solidarity from every corner of the planet against their own ruling class and imperialist domination is one of the defining strengths of our ideology.
For Britain’s communists over the last 100 years, the fight for peace and against imperialism has been of paramount importance, organising and struggling as we did in the heart of the biggest empire the world has ever seen and as we do in what continues to be a major imperialist centre.
For a century Britain’s youth and Britain’s young communists have held the fight against the imperialism of Britain’s ruling class as a duty of primary importance.
It is a duty we have not shrunk from in the 100 years of our Party.
Even before our Party was founded 1920, Britain’s young communists led the fight to defeat intervention against the fledgling Soviet Republic, inspiring troops bound for Russia to mutiny and halting Churchill’s plans to “strangle Bolshevism in its cradle”.
Two decades on Britain’s communists would again answer the call to aid the Spanish Republic against the rising fascist tide. Almost two and a half thousand volunteers from Britain joined the International Brigades. 500 fell in the defence of freedom. Four-fifths of volunteers were members of the Communist Party and the YCL.
It was Britain’s communists who first sounded the alarm on the pro-fascist appeasement of our ruling class and led the fight for a People’s Front against fascism in Europe. When war came, Britain’s young communists stood shoulder to shoulder with their comrades fighting in the resistance and partisan movements across Europe, throwing themselves into the battle for production, the fight for a second front and active service in all branches of the military.
In the post-war era, our Party and the Socialist Camp entered a new phase of struggle. As Britain’s Empire was dismantled by national liberation movements, US and NATO nuclear armed aggression made the fight for peace an existential one.
The response of Britain’s young communists was a willingness to fight imperialism in any way possible.
YCLers formed the core of the legendary London Recruits, white volunteers from Britain prepared to carry out covert work on behalf of the African National Congress to hasten the fall of the aggressive, anti-communist, apartheid regime in South Africa.
Britain’s young communists led the struggle for solidarity with the national liberation struggle of the Vietnamese people, building opposition to the war and leading a vigorous campaign to collect medical supplies and bicycles for Vietnam.
Britain’s communists have always argued that the most fundamental form of solidarity and anti-imperialism is to fight to prevent Britain’s involvement in imperialist wars and to dislodge our country from the web of US imperialism.
As the United States’ Cold War intensified and the threat of NATO nuclear first strike against the Socialist Camp loomed Britain’s young communists came to the fore. Communists led the broad struggle for peace and nuclear disarmament, exposed NATO warmongering and called for an independent foreign policy for Britain.
Nowhere has the bloody legacy of US and British imperialism been felt more than among the peoples of South America. Nowhere has the anti-imperialist struggle been borne on the shoulders of the youth more. Nowhere have the blows struck against imperialism inspired the youth of the world more to take up the struggle.
Socialist Cuba stands as a pinnacle of development, democracy and real human rights. During this COVID-19 pandemic it has been the Cuban people who have sent doctors around the globe. The United States has never been able to reconcile itself with the Cuban people opting for independence and taking the socialist path.
Venezuela too which dared to use its oil wealth for the benefit of its people has drawn retribution from Washington. Their efforts to destabilise the elected government are well documented, sponsoring opposition violence and coups and a crippling economic war. British courts recently upheld the Bank of England’s theft of Venezuelan gold reserves designated for life saving anti-coronavirus medical supplies.
Bolivia has been the latest victim of US imperialism, their practiced methods removed the democratically elected government of Evo Morales to secure valuable lithium deposits at the end of last year. Barely concealing their handiwork, billionaire Elon Musk recently declared “We Will Coup Whoever We Want”.
If the US wrongly sees South America as its own backyard, then Britain is surely its faithful attack dog. British monopolies have hundreds of billions of pounds of overseas investment in the continent, particularly in mining and oil concerns and agricultural holdings. Britain maintains its strategically valuable colonial outpost in the Falkland Islands.
Britain has a long history of supporting military dictatorships in South America working to protect the interests of monopolies and guarantee profits and sales for arms manufacturers. The British state and press shamelessly parrot Washington’s line against progressive governments and support their pro-coup agenda.
But just as the chains of imperialism stretch to encircle the world so to do the even stronger bonds of solidarity between working people. The solidarity work of Britain’s communists continues among the Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua Solidarity Campaigns and the solidarity missions and campaigning work of the YCL and the World Federation of Democratic Youth.
Comrades, the struggle against militarism and war takes on an increasing urgency in our time as British and US imperialism grow more reckless. The threat of nuclear of annihilation is still an ever-present threat to humanity.
The only future free from imperialism and war is a socialist one.
Britain’s young communists have not wavered in this struggle for 100 years. It is a duty and a privilege being carried on by a new generation of young comrades.
Comrades, it has been a long road, a difficult road with many turns – but it has been a certain one. With each passing day we come closer to the future.
Long live the anti-imperialist struggle!
Long live the struggle for peace and socialism in our lifetime!
Long live the Communist Party!
Young Communist League