UK forum discusses prospects to build the Communist League

By Oliver Jones
October 9, 2023
Over the past year 1,000 workers at Amazon sites in U.K., above, have taken 26 days of strike action fighting long hours, low pay. Inset, Communist League leader Jonathan Silberman speaks at Sept. 2 London Militant Labour Forum. CL had met week before, discussed new openings to build revolutionary working-class party.
Militant photos: above, Jonathan Silberman; inset, Marnie KennedyOver the past year 1,000 workers at Amazon sites in U.K., above, have taken 26 days of strike action fighting long hours, low pay. Inset, Communist League leader Jonathan Silberman speaks at Sept. 2 London Militant Labour Forum. CL had met week before, discussed new openings to build revolutionary working-class party.

LONDON — The end of a decadeslong retreat of the labor movement presents new opportunities for the Communist League, Jonathan Silberman told 40 people at a special Militant Labour Forum here Sept. 2. Silberman was speaking on behalf of the Central Committee elected at the CL’s 11th Constitutional Congress, held the previous weekend.

Also on the forum panel were leaders of the Communist Leagues of Australia and Canada, and of the Socialist Workers Party in the U.S. Participants came from across the U.K. and Europe.

These new openings to build a revolutionary proletarian party were at the center of the Congress. Delegates discussed the work of party branches in London and Manchester responding to mounting union resistance to assaults by the bosses; reaching out to the toilers in the countryside; joining fights against Jew-hatred; for amnesty for undocumented immigrants; defending the Cuban Revolution; and participating in efforts to expand the circulation of the Militant and the sale of books by communist leaders.

The Congress set a course for party members to continue making progress to get jobs in unions where they can more effectively advance the communist program from within working-class resistance.

“A proletarian revolution aimed at changing which class is in power is inconceivable without organizing our class to fight to build unions,” Silberman said, “and to use union power to advance the interests of working people here and around the world.”

This involves fighting for employment and wages that allow families to live, rather than be torn apart. “Communists join with others to advance demands for cost-of-living clauses to protect wages against inflation; for cutting hours with no loss of pay in response to job cuts; for a program of government-funded public works at union-scale pay to provide jobs and the schools, hospitals, homes and infrastructure workers need; and for a basic income floor for all families.”

That course opens the road to the emancipation of women, Silberman said. “Especially so given the responsibilities women shoulder for family members and as bearers of new life.” He pointed to the place of women in the leadership of a number of union struggles taking place in the United Kingdom.

Just three days before the forum members of the Communist League joined hundreds of rail union members and their supporters protesting the bosses’ closure of 1,000 ticket offices across the country, eliminating over 2,000 jobs. This was one of many such protests against the bosses’ assaults being organized by rail workers across the country.

War danger

“The global order imposed by the victors of the imperialist slaughter of World War II is shattering with huge ramifications for working people, Silberman said, “including the danger of war.”

He cited the recent deployment of British, Danish and Dutch fighter jets in response to Russian bombers nearing their airspace. This was taking place a week after Washington sent destroyers to follow a Russian-Chinese flotilla of warships near Alaska in August.

“These incidents come in the context of the Ukraine war,” he said, and sharpening conflicts worldwide.

Linda Harris, a leader of the Communist League in Australia, described how the government there is building up its armed forces, stepping up military exercises and boosting its alliances as part of the long-term conflicts between its ally, Washington, and Beijing. In these fights there are no common interests between Australia’s capitalist rulers and working people, she said.

“The rulers are not heading imminently for armed clashes,” Silberman said. “But the war threat is built into capitalism’s DNA in the imperialist epoch.”

“Workers will have our chance to stop the march to war — by wresting political power from the capitalist rulers,” he added. CL leader Pete Clifford will present that course in next year’s general election in his campaign in the Manchester Central constituency.

The Cuban Revolution showed what is possible, Silberman said. “Fidel Castro recognized that making a revolution requires leading millions of the exploited and oppressed to take their destinies into their own hands through establishing their own class rule.”

“The campaign by U.S. President Joseph Biden to prosecute Donald Trump for a crime, any crime, is a witch hunt,” Paul Mailhot, a leader of the Socialist Workers Party, told the forum. “This is the answer of the Democratic Party — and many in the Republican Party — to having no solutions to the crises of the capitalist system other than to place its burdens squarely on the back of the working class at home and abroad.

“What dominates the debate in U.S. politics today has nothing to do with crimes committed by Donald Trump — before, during, or after his presidency. Every indictment against Trump is the opposite. They’ve decided he is the criminal and now the Democratic Party is trying to come up with some crime that will stick. All of these charges should be dropped.

“The ultimate target of the rulers’ assaults on rights and freedoms is the working class,” he said.

Michel Prairie, a leader of the Communist League in Canada, described how the rulers there have utilized sweeping repressive measures against working people’s struggles. The federal government invoked the Emergencies Powers Act to break up last year’s truckers’ protest. But Ontario school workers won widespread support when they went on strike and defied a provincial government attempt to impose a no-strike law.

A participant from France pointed to the challenges the French rulers face in their intervention in Africa. The weakening of French imperialism is not the product of revolutionary struggle, Prairie said. He pointed to the powerful example of the fight against imperialism set by Thomas Sankara, the leader of a revolutionary government in Burkina Faso between 1983 and 1987.

“Are there similar attacks on rights in the U.K. or elsewhere in Europe?” one participant asked.

The anti-Trump witch hunt is of worldwide importance, Silberman replied. “There is nothing on the same scale here, but the trend to criminalize political differences is international.” Silberman cited the move to expel former Prime Minister Boris Johnson from Parliament by Members of Parliament and the cop investigation into the finances of the Scottish National Party.

In response to a question about the CL’s perspective of forging a class party of labor, Silberman said, “Workers need to break from the illusion that the capitalist parties — Conservative or Labour, SNP or Liberal Democrat — can represent our interests.

“We are for unions establishing a party of labor. That will come out of working-class battles. Right now there is a party you can join: the Communist League.”

Over 3,700 pounds ($4,520) was raised at the forum, kickstarting the CL’s 6,000-pound party-building fund. The following day, supporters of the communist movement in the U.K. and Europe met for further discussion and to plan their work.