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Forty years young

40th Anniversary

The Communist Party of Britain was formed 40 years ago. And we are still here, while most of what appeared during the interesting year of 1968 has long since disappeared or found a resting place in obscure history books – or in the case of the "leader" of student revolt in Paris in 1968, a well-padded seat as a middle-of-the-road Green MEP.

We were formed out of the industrial working class of Britain, by engineers led by our first Chairman, Reg Birch. Early on, we established our task: in the words of our Party Programme, "to change the ideology of the working class".

That programme concluded: "In all our struggles we must seize every opportunity to relate Marxist-Leninist theory to the practice of the working class. Only thus shall we, the workers, make the change in the ideology of this working class of Britain, which has demonstrated all the way since Tolpuddle and before that all it lacks is its own ideology and has yet to discover that that ideology is Marxism-Leninism."

We said then, and we still say , that we "must therefore judge all our efforts against the contribution made to this end, for if we do not then our efforts will only perpetuate the confusion of thought which alone has held back the British working class for so long."

Much has changed since 1968. The Governments have come and gone. The industrial working class remains, but much diminished in size and even more so in confidence, vision and collective spirit.

Britain has been gutted by four decades of asset stripping under Labour and Conservative governments. The collapse and break-up of the Soviet Union has altered the politics of the world. China has emerged as a driving force of triumphalist capitalism. We have entered a new period of imperialist wars.

But some things have not changed. Amid the so-called triumph of capitalism, banks lose billions and workers must prop them up through taxation. In the city that harbours Wall Street 1.3 million go hungry (see News article). Above all, workers still have a solution to the problems of capitalism, if they choose to exercise it. Capitalism is still essentially weak, existing only because workers allow it to.

We will be celebrating our 40 years at Conway Hall on 1 May, International Workers’ Day, but also throughout the year. Workers will be carrying monthly articles looking back at the ebb and flow of struggle over the four decades, reprinting articles from the publication or its predecessor, The Worker. We start this month with the ultimately successful struggle that defined the early 1970s, against the Industrial Relations Act (see Feature article).