People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 46

November 15, 2009

CP Britain Holds �University� in London


THE 2009 Communist University of Britain (CUB) was by far most successful among those held to date. It was an action-packed programme. The Day One began at 10 a m and involved attendees in 8 meetings and plenaries, followed by a film show and book launch, to finish by 9 p m. There was just enough time to listen to the speaker panels and for many to have their say. The subjects ranged from Stonewall and the struggle for LGBT rights to a dialogue on the 'Crisis in Working Class Representation.' At the end of the CUB, a number applied to join the Communist Party.

The weekend opened with an internationalist rally that brought together representatives of the Chinese, Cuban and Venezuelan governments. Britain was represented by an 18 years old member of the Young Communist League (YCL); she was joined by a TUC gold medal winner and member of the general council.

The youngest attendee was 14 years old and the oldest was 90.

Speakers ranged from a member of the Indian parliament to general secretaries and presidents of unions. Participants came from Scotland and Wales, and from every region of England. Comrades from Ireland travelled to take part. The core themes were the unity of the working class, how to check the advance of fascism, how to develop industrial strategies to face up the ruling class offensive, and how to develop anti-racist, anti-fascist initiatives and electoral alliances to defeat the Conservative Party in the forthcoming general election.

As one would have expected from a university, there was much to tell and much to learn. Experiences were related and questions asked aplenty. There were a good number of real professors in the audience but they were content to be students for the day. Everyone's view was solicited and respected, even when there were real and principled disagreements.

On Sunday, November 8, Sitaram Yechury, member of the Political Bureau and head of the International Department of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and a member of the upper house of Indian parliament, addressed the university. Sitaram came to the university directly from a meeting in Madrid and presented a riveting analysis of the prospects for communism in the 21st century.

In a specifically organised briefing chaired by general secretary of the Communist Party of Britain (CGB), Rob Griffiths, Sitaram presented an outline of the international communist movement prior to the Great Socialist October Revolution and the formation of the Soviet Union. He discussed how Lenin and the pioneers of socialism accepted the challenge of building socialism in a single country. Sitaram highlighted the glorious struggle by the soviets in defending socialism and the defeat of fascism, which eventually led to the creation of the welfare state in the post-war Britain, to stall the advance of progressive ideas and socialism under Keynesian economics.

In his wide ranging presentation, Sitaram quoted from Marxist-Leninist classics and detailed the CPI(M)�s adherence to these basic principals and their application on the basis of a concrete analysis of concrete conditions prevailing in the given situation in India. He mesmerised and inspired the participants with his depth of political understanding, infused with humour and humility.

Yechury reminded the audience of the capacity of capitalism to adjust and its insatiable pursuit of greed, following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the setbacks in Eastern Europe. Quoting J J Dunning from a footnote in the first volume of Capital, he explained the behavioural change in the modus operandi of a capitalist who has no scruples in his pursuit of profits, tramples all laws and will even go to the extent of being hanged profit he is assured of a 300 per cent rate of profit. However, he said, the current depredations of imperialism and its unbridled quest for controlling the world�s resources through economic globalisation and militaristic means are facing challenges in Asia and Latin America.

Summing up the present crisis of capitalism, Yechury stressed the need for the working class to organise and that �every capitalist crisis is a potential revolutionary situation� was what Lenin said. But capitalism never collapses automatically; it has to be overthrown. Reminding the audience of Lenin�s submission that �in the absence of a revolutionary alternative, it (capital) emerges stronger from each crisis,� he underlined the necessity for the working class to fight for a real change in society in favour of the toiling masses.

Yechury concluded by explaining the regrouping and reorganisation of the international communist movement. He reminded the audience of the role discharged by the CPI(M) in assembling the leaders and representatives of twenty five Communist and Workers� Parties in 1993 to reaffirm the continuing relevance of Marxism in the contemporary world situation.

The yearning of these parties not to give up Marxism-Leninism, felt over five years, led to the initiative by the Communist Party of Greece to convene the first meeting of the international communist movement.

In place of the twenty five parties assembled in 1993, the number has now grown to one hundred and eleven parties representing eighty seven countries, being invited to the 11th international communist meet in New Delhi. The meeting is being jointly hosted by the CPI(M) and the CPI. Robert Griffiths, general secretary of the Communist Party of Britain, will be there among the participants.

In a session of frank and open questions and answers, Yechury explained the real Marxist understanding of religion in the context of the often misquoted phrase that �religion is the opium of the people.� Marx thus summarised this understanding in 1843: �Religion is the spirit of the spiritless situation, the heart of the heartless world. It is the opium of the people.�

�Marxism,� he said �is not anti-religion. It is against the conditions that make people seek solace and comfort in a world of �fantastic reality� that religion provides. But liberation comes with the change in the real world, not by seeking comfort in an ethereal world.

Religion lulls people and mars their effort to change the real world, which is why it has been called an opium. What Marxists seek to change are the conditions of the real world.

In his presentation, Harsev Bains, national general secretary of the Indian Workers� Association in Great Britain (IWA-GB), called for the widest possible mobilisation of anti-racist and anti-fascist organisations and communities to work together in alliance with the trade unions --- to stem the growth of right wing fascist parties electorally and ideologically.