THE ROLE OF THE BRANCH The political basis The importance of the Branch Talking politics Uniting, supporting and valuing all comrades Winning more women and black Communists Turning words into deeds
4 4 4 5 6 6 7
ORGANISING THE BRANCH Branch meetings Annual General Meeting Collective leadership Workplace and industrial branches Finance and fund-raising Working with the District or Nation Committee Relations with the Party centrally Social life
8 8 9 9 11 12 14 14 15
BRANCH ACTIVITY Broad movement work Independent Party work Planning for success Types of campaigning activity Public meetings Public speaking Using the media Running election campaigns The Morning Star Political education
16 16 16 17 17 20 20 21 22 25 26
BUILDING THE BRANCH Membership and recruitment Following up membership enquiries Recarding Cadre development Young Communist League
29 29 30 31 31 32
APPENDICES A A model branch income and expenditure account B Electoral law on donations to political parties C Preparing for a public meeting D Conducting a public meeting E A model press release
34 34 34 35 36 37
Communist party branch activists handbook | 1
he Communist Party of Britain was re-established in 1988 on the basis of the rules, principles and programme of the former Communist Party of Great Britain prior to its capture by revisionism. At subsequent national congresses, we have outlined the key tasks for the Party, updated and renamed our programme Britain’s Road to Socialism to take account of changing conditions, and produced a new edition of Inner Party Democracy. The way in which our branches should function derives directly from the political objectives as set out in Rule 2 of the Party’s aims and constitution: The aim of the Communist Party is to achieve a socialist Britain in which the means of production, distribution and exchange will be socially owned and utilised in a planned way for the benefit of all. This necessitates a revolutionary transformation of society, ending the existing capitalist system of exploitation and replacing it with a socialist society in which each will contribute according to ability and receive according to work done. Socialist society creates the conditions for the advance to a fully communist form of society in which each will receive according to need.
Reports, rules and resolutions do not – however – make a party. Our effectiveness depends entirely on our members and their ability to respond to political events and to turn words on paper into action. The re-establishment of Communist public activity and industrial work, and the unparalleled support given to the Morning Star, are a testament to the dedication and commitment of our members. In particular, since re-establishment we have rebuilt some of our influence in the trade union movement, played a leading role in the peace and pensioners movements, sustained the Communist Review and Communist News, refounded the Communist University of Britain, initiated an annual industrial cadre school and supported the re-establishment of the Young Communist League. Communists helped launch the Charter for Women and occupy key positions in a range of internatonal solidarity campaigns. Our Party participates vigorously in the international Communist movement, including through the Coordinating Committee of Communist Parties in Britain which brings together the CPB and domiciled parties from overseas. Leasing magnificent new premises and colour printing facilities at Ruskin House, Croydon, symbolises this new lease of life for Britain’s Communist Party. Nonetheless, not even Communists can achieve miracles. We still face significant problems: the small size of our Party; limited finances; the lack of premises in many areas; unrepresentative age, gender and race profiles; a limited industrial base; and, not least, a political climate which makes even the smallest victory almost a superhuman task. All of these factors have contributed to the slow rate of growth since re-establishment. Breaking out of this situation will not be easy. The function of this Branch Activists Handbook is not to overload dedicated comrades 2 | Communist party branch activists handbook
who are already shouldering an enormous burden of Party work. Rather it is intended to help branches and their members to structure and co-ordinate their activity, so that they can become even more effective. It is hoped that all branches â€“ no matter what their size â€“ will find in this handbook a resource which will enable them to improve their organisation and activity. However, it is not intended to be prescriptive, and indeed many comrades may have better ideas. The Political Committee would therefore welcome any proposals for inclusion in future editions. Political Committee June 2007
Communist party branch activists handbook | 3
1.THE ROLE OF THE BRANCH
The political basis
Britain’s Road to Socialism makes clear the necessity for an effective Communist Party to provide leadership, not through any subjective or arbitrary notions of elitism, but because of the Party’s aims and principles of organisation: ■ ■
The Communist Party is based upon the class and internationalist principles of Marxism-Leninism which enables it to analyse the nature of capitalist society and to develop a strategy that will lead to socialism. It is organised for socialist revolution, and therefore constantly seeks to strengthen its roots in the working class because of the latter’s leading role in revolutionary social change. On that basis, it seeks to weld together all progressive movements at local and national level, initiating and assisting the people’s campaigns. In order to develop political consciousness, it organises itself both in workplaces and localities. The Communist Party is a democratic party, drawing on the initiative and creativity of its membership in planning and carrying through its activity and policy, and in electing a leadership which is answerable to that membership. To this end the Party develops and maintains close relationships within its own ranks including between men and women, black and white, young and old. The Party is centralised, so it can intervene in the class struggle as a disciplined and united force,once policy is decided.This combination of democracy with centralism to produce ‘democratic centralism’ – the highest organisational principle of the Party – helps make the Party capable of acting in a uniquely effective way. The Communist Party seeks close relations with the communist movement in other countries, based on the independence, equality and mutual respect of each communist party in a world movement which is leading the transition to socialism on a world scale. This unity, together with international solidarity with other movements fighting for peace,progress and national liberation,is vital not only in the immediate struggles, but for the achievement and building of socialism in Britain.
These essential characteristics of the Communist Party have enabled it to be an effective vanguard party of struggle over the years, involved in a central way in the main battles of the working class and the labour and progressive movement, generating class and socialist consciousness, and showing the need to win state power and advance to socialism. Branch organisation and activity have to be considered in this political and ideological context. The importance of the Branch
The Branch is the basic unit and branch life is the lifeblood of our Communist Party. The Branch is the collective for political organisation, education, discussion and action. 4 | Communist party branch activists handbook
All branches should aim to meet regularly and with the maximum possible attendance of members. Branch officers should maintain contact with members unable to attend branch meetings regularly. The Branch is also the key to reaching all sections of our communities on immediate and political issues. Our best branches relate the strategy and policies of the Party to the actual situation in their locality or workplace, playing an active part in people’s struggles. They work publicly, contest elections and develop close relations with organisations of the labour movement and other forces working for progressive demands. Branch discussion is a vital part of the preparation for branch activity – practice without theory is blind but, obversely, theory without practice is sterile. Without activity to bring the Party’s name and policies to the notice of people in local communities and workplaces, the Communist Party will cease to grow and develop. Therefore, as well as working in broad organisations and campaigns, branches should set themselves the target of conducting public work in the name of the Communist Party – leafleting, petitioning, flyposting, selling Party publications, contesting local elections, sending statements and letters to the local media, displaying Party banners and placards on demonstrations etc. – according to the resources of the Branch . Talking politics There used to be a rule in the Keir Hardie Labour Club in Merthyr Tydfil to prevent arguments breaking out - ‘No talking politics’. Across Britain, many trade union branches and local Labour Party organisations meet infrequently and, even when they do meet, they rarely discuss important political issues. Today, this is even true in some ‘far left’ organisations, where political and theoretical discussion has been displaced by diktats from above on political and organisational questions. This is not the Communist approach. All branches should normally begin branch meetings with political discussion to inform and educate members on the issues of the day and, in so doing, to relate them to the programme of the Party, Britain’s Road to Socialism.
Given the dearth of political discussion in the labour movement, we need to see our role much more widely. Our branches should be political forums in which members and nonmembers can learn. They should: ■ be open to close allies in the wider labour and progressive movements ■ maintain a contact list and invite others on the left to branch meetings ■ invite speakers from outside as well as inside the Party ■ engage in Marxist-Leninist political education At a normal branch meeting, the main political discussion or report should be an early item on the agenda, not left until the end where there is the danger it will be squeezed for time later on. Alternatively, especially if non-members have been invited, the Branch could complete the organisational items within, say, the first half hour, so that the Communist party branch activists handbook | 5
political discussion can be advertised for the later time of which allies and friends have been notified. Uniting, supporting and valuing all comrades
Communists are renowned for having strong opinions. The skills to defend those opinions are often developed by inner-Party discussion, and it is not unknown for those discussions to get quite heated! However, it is impermissible for differences of opinion between Communists to be transformed into personal animosity. We can all learn from each other’s views, even if we don’t agree with them. Argument without conceding the possibility that you could be wrong – or at least might still have something to learn – becomes dogmatism. Comrades bring into the Branch not only their own views and ideas for activity but their experiences of struggle – current and in the past. This is a rich heritage which the Branch needs to cherish. However, it is all too easy for ‘routinism’ to develop and for the enthusiasm of new and younger members to be crushed. It is important therefore that the Branch: ■ provides a supportive and comradely atmosphere ■ seeks to learn from experience and synthesise it ■ encourages participation in policy formation ■ encourages and supports initiatives from young and new members, allowing comrades to learn by trial and error if necessary. Winning more women and black Communists Women and black people comprise the most exploited and oppressed sections of society in Britain,yet they are under-represented in the ranks of the Communist Party.Because we do not reflect today’s working class in all its multi-ethnic,multicultural and gender diversity we cannot fully represent it.This is also true of large sections of the labour and progressive movements and wherever Communists are involved in organising meetings on any issue, whether Party or non-Party, they should try to ensure that the platform of speakers broadly represents the composition of the population in terms of gender and race. Every level of the Party has to take steps to rectify our own weaknesses, but this requires conscious, planned and concrete action including at branch level. In Party meetings, the tendency over-represented among male comrades to speak often and at length needs to be curbed by a combination of self-restraint and firm chairing.The atmosphere should be created in which women, young and new members feel that their contributions to discusssion are welcome. Rules, structures and ways of working – which sometimes have to change – should be fully explained so that new recruits, especially women, do not feel excluded. Political, technical and organisational tasks should not be distributed on the basis of gender stereotypes.Women comrades may be perfectly capable of organising,addressing and chairing meetings, making placards or dealing with the local media, while male comrades can be equally adept at decorating a hall, providing refreshments or looking after children. Wherever possible, concrete proposals should be made to encourage women members to participate in activity and stand for elections in the Party. Above all the Party must ensure that it vigorously pursues policies which reflect the interests of women, especially women workers. Such policies must address the link between the oppression of women and their super-exploitation in the workforce. The 6 | Communist party branch activists handbook
Party must support the continued advance of women as they strive to make their voices heard in the labour movement, and we must be prominent in challenging sexist ideas and practices whenever and wherever these manifest themselves. Given that women now constitute half the workforce, our Party must be at the forefront in generating an understanding that social advance will not be possible without the full participation and mobilisation of women workers.This inclusive class understanding must permeate all our work and set an example to all on the left. Hence the necessity for Party branches and local Morning Star groups to have discussions based on the Charter for Women and our party pamphlet Women & Class. These could include the need for a broad-based initiative to promote the Charter for Women locally among labour movement and community organisations and activists. Party branches must also discuss, learn about and take action on the issues which most directly and disproportionately affect black,Asian and ethnic minority communities – racism, immigration, asylum, policing, social and economic inequality, cultural rights and democratic freedoms.A class and anti-imperialist perspective is essential to our approach to such issues. Branches also have to find ways of making or strengthening links with these communities and their organsations.This can include invitations to have a bilateral discussion on issues of local concern (such as racist attacks on people or premises, a local asylum case or cuts in language teaching provisions) or to address a party or Morning Star meeting. Anti-racist and anti-fascist work should be an integral part of our activity. Branches should give active support to broad and non-sectarian initiatives in their area,with Party members using all means and structures available to them to combat racist ideas in their communities and workplaces.
Turning words into deeds Discussion and political education are essential if we are to be able to understand society and how it works. But discussion will be of limited value unless it leads to some form of activity by the Party. It is therefore important that branches: ■ set themselves campaigning tasks ■ have regular Executive and District/Nation Committee reports, and translate them into action ■ develop their own initiatives, without waiting for a national lead. Solly Kaye, elected Communist local councillor in the 1960s, used to tell what happened to him when he became Stepney Party secretary just after the Second World War. He was escorted round the area by the then London district secretary, who said to him, ‘Look, Solly, you’re the leader of all these people!’ This was a time when Phil Piratin was the constituency’s Communist MP. But the story illustrates two key points – first, that the leading role of the Party has to be earned; and secondly, that to earn that leadership, Communists have to see themselves as being at one with the people they seek to represent, identifying with their concerns. In this sense we all need to become ‘leaders’ (or ‘tribunes of the peole’ as Lenin put it). But we should guard against thinking that we know all the answers. Often, we do not even know all the questions. Communist party branch activists handbook | 7
2. ORGANISING THE BRANCH Branch meetings
The first essential for a branch is a regular pattern of meetings. Apart from the impossibility of effective collective work if this does not happen, it also makes it possible for comrades to make a regular commitment to attend. The aim should be to hold meetings at least monthly, preferably according to a formula (eg. the second Tuesday in every month) which enables comrades to remember and plan for their attendance. Many branch activists are already heavily committed and long intervals between branch meetings can lead to comrades forgetting and attendances therefore falling. This makes it important for the Branch secretary or some other appointed comrade to ensure that all members are given adequate notice of the date, time and venue of each meeting, especially when it falls outside an established pattern. Most smaller branches will be restricted, through limited finance, to relying on the hospitality of one of their comrades for a meeting room. As the Branch grows, the search for a rented venue should receive attention, while making sure that no comrades are excluded from possible attendance because of transport, financial, childcare or personal safety considerations. Where members are scattered over a wide area or have health, transport or childcare difficulties which prohibit travel, the Branch may consider holding occasional meetings in the home of the comrade concerned. Meetings need to have a formalised agenda, along the lines of the following: 1 Attendance, card check and apologies for absence to ensure that attendance and 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
membership responsibilities are taken seriously; the chair should make a point of welcoming any new members and visitors. Minutes of last meeting and matters arising to follow up or review decisions and the carrying out of individual and collective responsibilities (this item may also include Branch Committee or officers’ reports). Political report is an essential item which should not be pushed to the bottom of the agenda. District/Nation Committee and Executive Committee reports ensure two-way communication and unity in action. Planned activities because ‘theory without practice is sterile’. Morning Star is an essential item for all agendas and should include a Fighting Fund collection. Date of next meeting – an important reminder. Any other business should be a brief item, restricted to matters of which the chair has received prior notice.
Other agenda items such as finance, correspondence, recruitment, political education, other reports etc. can be slotted in as and when needed – but guard against agendas becoming too long. It is vital that branch meetings are made as interesting, informative and relevant as possible. Too much time spent on minutes, formal reports etc. can drive away new and even experienced members. The comrade giving the main political report in order to stimulate 8 | Communist party branch activists handbook
discussion should have prepared adequately beforehand. Rotate this important responsibility around branch members, without putting new or under-confident members under pressure to lead a discussion before they are ready. Guest speakers, non-Party as well as Party members, can add greatly to the variety and value of meetings. Where the facilities exist in a meeting room or a comrade’s house, consider using a short film (no more than 40 minutes or so) – a DVD or a video recording of a television programme on some contemporary or historical question – to stimulate political discussion. There should be a fixed time at which branch meetings finish, which should only be extended in exceptional circumstances and by consensus of those present. Two hours is usually sufficient to complete a normal agenda. Annual General Meeting
Under Party rules, every Branch must hold an Annual General Meeting which should discuss a report of Branch work in the previous year, receive a financial statement, discuss the lines of Branch activity for the coming year and elect a Branch Committee. An AGM is essential if the Branch is to analyse its work and draw necessary conclusions for the way forward. Properly organised, they can give comrades encouragement through the successes achieved, however small. It is good practice to give members a couple of weeks notice in writing of the meeting. Generally, the AGM should be held in January or February (by which time new membership cards and a full set of bank statements for the preceding year should also be available). A typical agenda might be: 1 Welcome and opening (given by the Branch chair). 2 Minutes of the previous AGM – for approval only. 3 Report of work of Branch and Branch Committee (Branch secretary) – factual
6 7 8
information about the previous year’s meetings (average attendance, topics discussed), branch officers elected, membership and activities, followed by a brief discussion and assessement to identify strengths, weaknesses and lessons. Political report – to situate the work of the Branch in the context of political developments over the past year and current trends. This can be given by a District or Nation Committee representative or by the Branch secretary. In either case, it should include some outline of the work being done by the Party at both allBritain and District/Nation levels. Financial report (Branch treasurer) – keeping and approving branch accounts is now a legal requirement under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA 2000). As a point of good practice, the accounts should be audited by a comrade who is not a member of the retiring Branch Committee. Proposals for the coming year (Branch secretary) Election of new Branch Committee Any urgent other business
Collective leadership The Branch Committee exists to help organise and guide the Branch, while remaining accountable and subordinate to branch meetings. A functioning Branch Committee can play a major role in helping to ensure that a branch functions efficiently and effectively. By Communist party branch activists handbook | 9
dealing with administrative details and making the necessary preparations, it can enable branch meetings to concentrate on bigger political questions as well as any major organisational matters. At its first meeting after the Branch AGM, the Branch Committee should elect the necessary minimum number of officers – chair, secretary and treasurer (Rule 14a). Electing and sustaining a Branch Committee may not be practical, especially in branches where membership is small or widely dispersed. In this case, branch officers will have to be elected at the AGM itself, although a better option would be to elect a Branch Committee even if it can only meet, for example, for just half an hour immediately before each branch meeting. Usually, the Branch secretary is the political leader, but in public this role can also be played by the Chair. The secretary, however, has the overall responsibility of ensuring that members know of forthcoming meetings, that an agenda is drawn up (usually in consultation with the chair) and that minutes are taken and decisions implemented. The treasurer is responsible for keeping the accounts and making payments of dues and quota to the District or Nation Committee or – where there isn’t one – to Party Centre directly. Other officers which the Branch Committee may elect depend upon its size. They could include: Political education organiser – to arrange Branch classes and liaise with the District or Nation education organiser. Membership organiser – to ensure regular political contact with, and dues collection from, all members. Rule 14(d) specifies that the Branch Committee should appoint ‘membership stewards’ for this, but even where this is done there needs to be a comrade who exercises overall responsibility. Literature organiser – to arrange sales of Communist Review and pamphlets, and possibly distribution of Communist News. Morning Star organiser – to arrange daily/weekend/demonstration sales, and assist fund-raising for the paper. Women’s organiser – see ‘Winning more women Communists’ above. Press/media officer – not only to prepare media statements and draft letters to the press, but to collect cuttings from the local press on important issues of concern. This is an important responsibility as it can provide the basis for local campaigning initiatives by the Branch. Minutes secretary – to ensure that accurate records of Branch business are maintained where this function is not given to the Branch secretary.
While the Branch Committee has to elect officers in order for specific work to be carried out, the principle of collective leadership requires the whole Branch Committee to share responsibility for seeing that this work is done. Branch Committee meetings need to focus on: ■ calling regular meetings of which every member is informed ■ planning Branch activity and development, including sales of the Morning Star and Party literature ■ organising political education ■ building membership ■ raising and managing Branch funds 10 | Communist party branch activists handbook
■ ■ ■
ensuring efficient collection of dues and political contact with every member enhancing opportunities for all comrades to participate in the work of the Branch and to develop their political understanding, especially women and young members conducting a programme of cadre development.
Workplace and industrial branches Communist Party work and influence in the trade union movement is one of our party’s great strengths. It reflects the Marxist principle that the working class will and must be the leading force for socialist revolution.Workers organising to challenge injustice and exploitation in the workplace is not only a vital starting point for the development of trade union class consciousness. It also provides the basis – with the involvement of Communists – for the growth of revolutionary political consciousness. Therefore workplace-based Party branches are ideally placed to take up trade union issues and give a lead to the workforce. But the best such branches aim to do much more. They conduct sales of the Morning Star and party publications, hold political discussion and education meetings and work with local party branches including in the electoral arena. Members of workplace branches are also encouraged to participate in their local residential branch where possible, albeit without an additional vote in internal party affairs. But establishing and sustaining workplace-based Party branches has been much more difficult in recent decades. The decline of traditional manufacturing, mining and shipbuilding enterprises has weakened trade unionism and broken up large sections of Communist Party organisation in industry. Yet the class struggle continues at its sharpest point, in the workplace.Trade unionism has gained ground in the public sector and among women workers in particular.These developments provide new opportunities for Communist activity and organisation which adapt to the new realities.A priority for union and Communist industrial activity is to extend union membership among young,black,migrant,casual and part-time workers. Since re-establishing the Party in 1988, we have developed new forms of organisation to meet changing conditions. Where three or more Party members share the same workplace or employer locally, but where forming a workplace branch is not feasible (perhaps because one of the comrades plays an irreplaceable role in a local residential branch), they should organise themselves as a Party collective.This would mean regular meetings to plan trade union and political work in the workplace, but without any of the formal apparatus of a Party branch. Collectives should report on their activites to local residential branches or the District/Nation Committee as appropriate. We have also introduced a third category of Branch besides the residential and workplace ones, namely an ‘industrial’ branch. This aims to organise all comrades working within a particular industry in a given district or nation. The number of branches in this category is still small, but it has allowed the development of collective organised communist work in the industries concerned. Thus the London Transport Branch has co-ordinated trade union work, held Morning Star public meetings, run political education classes and promoted international solidarity initiatives. But there is no substitute for a much larger number of workplace Party branches.This should be the aim of our local and industrial branches together with all of our District and Nation Committees. Communist party branch activists handbook | 11
Finance and fund-raising
For the Party, money is political. Without it, we cannot run our organisation and fight the political class struggle. Dues and quota It is a responsibility of the Branch and its officers to ensure that every
party member pays their dues through one method or another. In addition, the Executive Committee sets annual quotas for additional funds from each English district, Scotland and Wales based on the size and income status of their membership. Branches not attached to an organised district with a District Committee are also set an annual quota. This money is also an integral part of the Party’s central budget, essential to meet the Party’s expenditure plans. These quota targets are collective ones for the district, nation and unattached branch, to be met through fund-raising activities including a voluntary levy from members (usually a guaranteed amount each month decided by the member – or ‘guarantor’– in the light of their financial circumstances). Where comrades pay quota through a direct debit to Party Centre, this is credited to their branch, district or nation’s contribution. More than three-quarters of our party’s income comes from dues and quota, with more than two-thirds of this in turn coming through direct debit payments (ie. directly from members’ bank accounts to the Party’s central account each month). This system has proved invaluable in securing the regular income needed at Party Centre for staff wages, rent and other essential expenditure each month. That is why branches should encourage new members in particular to complete the direct debit section of the membership registration form. In addition, the Party also relies upon an annual appeal (and occasional election or special appeals) to finance between 12 and 20 per cent of its central budget. As well as meeting their quota for Party Centre, our District, Scottish and Welsh Committees also require finance for their own activities and administration. On top of that, of course, the Branch needs funds of its own to pay for publicity materials, a venue for meetings and other essential administrative expenses. As party membership continues to grow, and with it the Party’s financial base, it is the intention to restore the former arrangement whereby a portion of membership dues is returned to branches, districts and nations to help fund activity in their areas. In the meantime, 100 per cent achievement of dues, quota and annual and special appeal targets is an essential political responsibility for every Branch if the Party is to function effectivenely at every level. Fund-raising While most of our members give gladly, their resources are not limitless. Thus Branches need to find ways of fund-raising other than by repeatedly asking the same people to put their hands in their purses or pockets. The Communist Party is the Marxist party of the labour movement and so, when we ask non-members to support us financially, we are making the political case for the Party and its role. It is important that all donors get a proper receipt and/or a letter of thanks, and are informed about our activities so that they can see that their money is being well spent. But raising funds for the Party and the Morning Star can also be done in more collective, political and enjoyable – and therefore effective – ways. For example, branches in Scotland, Manchester and London organise a traditional ‘Burns supper’ in honour of the revolutionary Scots poet; Cardiff and surrounding branches hold an annual ‘Red November’ dinner to celebrate the Bolshevik revolution; London branches 12 | Communist party branch activists handbook
support an annual Seder Night Jewish dinner; fund-raising summer barbecues take place in Hackney, Pontypridd, Brighton & Sussex and Birmingham; raffles or sweepstakes can be promoted at social events (without which a licence must be obtained from the local authority); Birmingham YCL and Wolverhampton comrades produce and sell badges, DVDs, T-shirts and framed postcards; other party and Morning Star supporters groups organise sponsored walks and historical tours (some of which include public houses of revolutionary significance); Welsh comrades and the YCL provide volunteers to the Workers Beer Company in return for payment; some nations, districts and branches raise a surplus from their own bookshops or bookstalls (Party Centre will always supply books, pamphlets and Communist Review at a discount); car-boot sales can be an easy earner; book fayres and bazaars are also held, usually for the Morning Star, although like formal dinners these require a lot of planning and effort in order to make a worthwhile profit. In some areas, party branches have challenged local anti-war or Cuba Solidarity branches to fund-raising skittles matches. An annual Xmas event in Taff ’s Well requires comrades buying a round of drinks to put money in the cap for a dear, departed comrade – the last person standing then sends the substantial proceeds to the Morning Star. Branches might consider which local, national or international events, anniversaries or personalities they could celebrate each year, combining pleasure with political education and fund-raising. More May Day, International Women’s Day and Bolshevik Revolution events would be welcome, however local and small-scale, along with anniversary socials to mark the contribution of past Communists and other revolutionaries. Treasurer and deputy treasurer While finance and fund-raising are the collective
responsibility of the Branch Committee, the treasurer of course plays a key role. In practice, very few comrades want to take on this job, perhaps through modesty about their ability to manage the Branch’s income and expenditure. However, even at a book-keeping level the Branch treasurer’s job is an important political function, and in fact an essential legal requirement now if the Party is to maintain its registration under the PPERA 2000. This law now obliges all registered political parties to lodge the name of the treasurer and deputy treasurer for each designated ‘accounting unit’ with the Electoral Commission. An ‘accounting unit’ is any organisation of the Party which manages its own funds, which includes most Branches. Therefore, at the beginning of each year our Party treasurer has to have a list of all Branch treasurers and (in case they resign) all their deputies. In practice, the most likely deputy would be the Branch secretary – since they would have to find a replacement if the Branch treasurer resigned – or one of the co-signatories to cheques from the Branch bank account. Of course, changes to branch officers can take place throughout the year, so Party Centre needs to be kept informed of them. Branch accounts A second consequence of the new electoral law is that all accounting units have to draw up an annual statement of accounts, and keep them for up to six years. This should not be a significant alteration in practice, since the Branch treasurer and Branch Committee ought to be presenting annual accounts to the AGM. Although the prospect is remote, the Electoral Commission registrar is empowered to inspect these accounts at short notice. It would therefore be good practice from now on for Branches to send a copy of the annual accounts to their District or Nation Committee for safekeeping. On the positive side, keeping proper records will help districts and nations to keep track of shortfalls in dues Communist party branch activists handbook | 13
payments. The Electoral Commission has produced a model receipts and payments account which can easily be adapted for our branches (see Appendix A). Donations and the law The PPERA 2000 sets out detailed and complex provisions concerning permissible, impermissible and reportable donations to political parties (see Appendix B). The bottom line for our branches is that, to be on the safe side of the law, all donations to the Branch from a single source above £200, or which add up to more than £1,000 in a calendar year, should be reported to Party Centre as soon as possible (although only donors giving more than £1,000 to the Branch or £5,000 to the Party centrally have to be disclosed to the Electoral Commission). Working with the District or Nation Committee
Our District, Scottish and Welsh Committees play a vital role in the life of the Communist Party. Elected at a biennial congress, they have the responsibility in their area to guide the work of Party organisations including branches, direct Party enterprises, co-ordinate central party initiatives such as financial appeals, manage funds and assist Party members elected to local government and other public bodies. These committees also receive regular reports from the Executive Committee and have the responsibility to help build or revive Branch organisation in their area. Therefore it is important that Branches participate fully in the political life and work of their district or nation, receiving regular reports of their District or Nation committee meetings and supporting its initiatives. District or Nation Committee officers should also be invited occasionally to deliver reports to the Branch. In parts of England where we have not re-established district organisation, branches unattached to a District Committee are encouraged to liaise with other branches in the same area, convening aggregate meetings where possible in order to help lay the basis for future district organisation. In the meantime, it is important for unattached branches to establish and maintain strong links with Party Centre, the latter having special responsibility to help provide them with EC reports, Party materials and and other possible assistance. In return, unattached branches have to take sole responsibility for fulfilling their dues, quota and appeal targets to Party Centre. Relations with the Party centrally
Party Centre and the Executive Committee have direct links with districts and nations, but this does not detract from the need to strengthen relations between the Party centrally and our individual branches. These are necessary to ensure that branches regularly receive supplies of Communist Review and Communist News (also sent to all members with notified e-mail addresses) and of party leaflets, pamphlets, badges and other merchandise ordered by the Branch . The monthly Political Letter – also sent to all members on e-mail – informs branch secretaries of Party campaigning and organisational priorities over the coming period. The Party treasurer contacts branch secretaries or treasurers about dues and quota payments or problems. Membership records also have to be exchanged between the Branch and Party Centre, with both sides helping to ensure that our records are as accurate and upto-date as possible. In addition, branches can raise matters of concern about political or 14 | Communist party branch activists handbook
organisational matters with officers at Party Centre, including the General Secretary, and if needs be – in writing – with the Party EC for consideration at its next meeting. Social Life
Communists are revolutionaries, but we are not one-dimensional. Our overall objective is to build a world in which all people can enjoy the best that life has to offer – education, culture, family life, sporting and other leisure pursuits and so on. It is not the best advertisement for the Communist Party or for socialism if we give the impression that we have no interests or concerns outside the work of the Party. Working people will not identify their aspirations with those who give the impression of being grim, uncaring fanatics. Within our own ranks, too, Party members should be sensitive to the responsibilities and problems of our own comrades as well as to those of other people. Members are entitled to their own ‘quality time’ in addition to that spent working for the Party and the broader movement. Strong supportive relationships may certainly be built through common experience of struggle, but these are often cemented through socialising together. For this reason, Branches should seek to organise their own social activities, to which non-members are also invited. Such events may raise funds, but they also help members to get to know each other, an essential step towards building and sustaining morale, and helping new members to feel part of our organisation.
communist news June 2007 Published by the Communist Party free to members and supporters Communist party branch activists handbook | 15
3. BRANCH ACTIVITY Communist Party branches engage in two distinct spheres of campaigning activity: broad movement work and independent Party work. Broad movement work
Central to our strategy for socialist revolution in Britain is the building of a democratic antimonopoly alliance through mass struggle, with the working class – organised primarily in the trade union movement – as its leading force. This means working people and their allies organising to fight for progressive and left policies across a wide range of social, economic and democratic questions. In addition to trade union and political bodies, this movement includes organisations campaigning for peace, pensions, women’s equality, civil liberties, housing, the environment, international solidarity and against poverty, racism and imperialist war. Communists seek to be active in these broad movements wherever possible, offering political leadership where necessary but always respecting the need for them to be broadbased and independent. Party branch meetings should discuss reports from members and allies in these local movements and campaigns in order to strengthen our contribution to their progress, where necessary allocating one or two branch members to specific areas of broad movement work. In particular, Branches should remember to pay attention to work in the local trade union movement. Comrades should be encouraged and assisted to be active in a trade union and the local trades council wherever possible, reporting on developments to the Party branch. Local workers in dispute should receive messages of solidarity from the Party, including visits to the picket line with complementary copies of the Morning Star (which may itself need to be informed about the dispute if it is a purely local one). Offers of practical assistance will usually be very welcome – and must be carried through when accepted – while instruction on how to conduct the dispute will not. The Branch should also help ensure that its trade union activists receive a copy of the ‘Needs of the Hour’ model resolutions, drawn up every year for submission to union organisations. Although our prime motivation for working in broad movements is not to recruit new members to the Party, this can result when Communists are seen to be making an effective, non-sectarian contribution to them both organisationally and politically. This will involve putting forward our own analysis and proposals where appropriate, although we should always be careful not to abuse positions of responsibility in broad movement organisations by utilising them for narrow party advantage. Independent party work
At the same time, we also believe that these movements and campaigns – and the working class and progressive forces in Britain as a whole – would benefit greatly from a growth in the size and influence of the Communist Party. The most immediate and direct way in which the profile and membership of the Party can be increased is through independent Party campaigning. This means Party members carrying out political work in the name of 16 | Communist party branch activists handbook
the Party, issuing Party materials. In this way, too, we can put forward ideas and initiatives that go beyond the prevailing consensus in many broad movements, seeking to raise the level of political understanding within them and among the people more generally. Planning for success
Campaigning activity can be very rewarding when successful. It will raise the confidence and morale of participants, develop the sense of comradeship, win new friends and members, and enhance our standing in the minds of our allies. But when it is a failure, the reverse can occur. The key to successful campaigning is four-fold: ■ conception ■ preparation ■ implementation ■ review. Most often, the best campaigning activity has been carefully considered beforehand by the Branch Committee or, at least, at a branch meeting. What issue are we intending to highlight, and why? Where and when should it be held with the best prospects of maximising involvement and impact? Which Party members can guarantee to attend? What materials will be necessary (leaflets, petition, pens, table, banner, posters?) and who will ensure that they materialise on the day? the Branch meeting after the activity should assess its effectiveness and learn lessons for improvement in the future. Of course, there can be occasions when we should ‘strike while the iron is hot’, responding swiftly to a sudden crisis with a leaflet, stall, petition or public meeting. If there is no time to hold a branch meeting before taking decisive steps, an emergency meeting of the Branch Committee or officers and key activists should be possible. Urgency may necessitate a break from routine, but the right preparation will be as vital as ever even if it has to be compressed into a shorter time-scale. Types of campaigning activity
Almost every kind of public Party activity should involve at least two comrades. This is an important health and safety consideration, as a comrade can fall ill or have an accident. Local conditions may also require additional activists, especially where the campaigning issue is a controversial or unpopular one, or where there is a danger of fascist harrassment. While the prospect of some hostility cannot be ignored, our experience is that 99 per cent of Communist Party public activities are trouble-free, although there may sometimes be a small number of passers-by who voice their displeasure at our existence. Campaigners should avoid getting embroiled in heated or lengthy argument. It is usually a waste of time and effort that would be better spent on other, more receptive and reasonable members of the public. Having four or five members at an activity usually makes a much bigger impact than just two or three, and allows other supporting activities to take place such as a Morning Star sale and staffing a stall. Branch members who make a commitment to attend a local campaigning activity should recognise that they are letting comrades down very badly when they fail to turn up for no good reason. Leafleting is a straightforward activity and generates interest when done in a shopping Communist party branch activists handbook | 17
centre or at the entry to a workplace. A stall with petitions and posters creates a focus of attention and facilitates discussion with interested passers-by. To avoid problems with the police, the stall should be sited on public property (not always possible in some shopping centres) and should not cause an obstruction. Any petition should clearly state to whom it is addressed. Another activity which directly engages the public is to conduct an opinion survey using a questionnaire, as some comrades distribute leaflets and one or two others sell the Morning Star. Petition figures and survey results can both provide attractive material for a subsequent statement or letter to the local media. So, too, can the verdict of a people’s referendum on a local, national or international issue which elicits strong opinions. In one General Election campaign, a Party branch placed a large black ballot box on a trestle-table in a shopping area and invited people to mark a ballot paper for or against the plan to close their local steelworks. Although the result was a foregone conclusion, the local paper sent a photographer along and gave the event generous coverage (not least because fewer local jobs would lead to fewer readers). Public speaking with a loud-hailer can be an effective complement to leafleting, paperselling, petitioning or a people’s ballot. The speaker should concentrate on a few key points central to the main campaigning issue or to that day’s Morning Star lead story. Most passersby will not stop long enough to hear more than one minute of any speech. When planning a shopping centre event, the precise location must be worked out beforehand in relation to public use, visibility, transport and accessibility with materials. In the case of factory-gate leafleting, some basic research will have to be done first – how many workers are there? What times do the shifts start? Which is the busiest entrance? Generally it is a much better idea to distribute material as workers go in, since they then have the opportunity to comment on it. At ‘knocking off ’ time, they will be much more interested in getting home than in reading what we have to say. Leafleting will be difficult where workers arrive by car and drive through the gates. However, once credibility has been established, drivers may well stop to collect material – particularly if the Party has gained a reputation for ‘inside’ information. Leafleting and Morning Star sales can also be done door-to-door. Obviously, leaflet distribution will be most rapid in terraced streets or tower blocks. While this work can be done by individual comrades, morale is highest when a number can turn out at the same time, and pairs of members can share individual streets. Despite the inclusion of an ‘enquiry’ box on leaflets, however, we should avoid raising hopes too high for responses – generally we do well if we get one enquiry from 2,000 leaflets. Many leaflets will get binned, but every one read breaches the wall of ruling class propaganda. Flyposting is generally illegal and can result in prosecution both for the individual and, whether the bill stickers are caught or not, for the organisation that produces the posters. In addition, it can be a dangerous business as territorial criminal elements are now involved in flyposting for events like rock concerts. However, well-placed political posters can have an impact when seen by large numbers of people otherwise denied the opportunity of knowing what the Communist Party is saying or doing. Using lamp-post and button stickers is often as effective, and carries much less risk. Painting slogans can have an even bigger impact, but it carries the greatest risk of being caught and severely fined. Whether painting, fly-posting or stickering, the golden rule is: keep away from residential or commercial premises, or you 18 | Communist party branch activists handbook
risk committing criminal damage and causing offence and hostility. Edge of town commuter routes and industrial areas provide sites for posters which carry much less risk and yet also reach large numbers of workers and travellers. At demonstrations, there are many demands on comrades – leafleting, selling the Morning Star and carrying banners for labour movement and progressive organisations of which they are members. Although Communists may be playing a leading role in the demonstration, all these commitments mean that they may not be visible. Yet it is important that the Party should be seen to be participating, not just to show that we are there but to display our commitment. So, the first requirement is to maximise branch turn-out. Next, where national posters are available, placards can easily be made from strong A3 card (stationers’ or artists’ suppliers) and light wooden strips (available in 1-2 metre lengths from the local hardware superstore) – to be collected back at the end so that they can be re-used. Branch banners require greater investment in terms of time and expenditure, but will last
much longer! The Branch might consider organising a special fund-raising appeal or event to pay for one. Our Cumbria Branch has shown cost-saving imagination by adding its name to one of the Party’s hammer-and-sickle flags! On national demonstrations, the presence of a number of colourful Party branch banners alongside that of the Executive Committee can be particularly striking. When the Party centrally urges support for a national demonstration, all branches within reasonable travelling distance should give urgent attention to mobilising as many members and friends as possible in response to the call. This will ensure that valuable work can be done at the event, and that the Communist Party shows itself to be a united, active and disciplined force whose support is worth having. Branches should also make every effort to organise campaigning activities in an all-Britain month of action when the EC calls one on a particular issue. Branch newsletters and websites allow us the opportunity to raise important political issues, both national and local. Mailed to members, the newsletter can help to maintain contact and morale, particularly where the Branch covers a wide geographical area or age profile, so not all members can get to meetings regularly. Oxford Branch also circulates its quarterly bulletin Impact to close friends and allies. Websites tap into an audience which we might otherwise miss – and one which is not exclusively young. Any organisation can establish its own website through an Internet Service Provider for a small annual fee, although there may also need to be an initial outlay for the necessary computer software. Of course, these two different media are not mutually exclusive, as a newsletter can be posted on the Branch website and also sent by e-mail to members (and interested non-members) who are connected. E-mail addresses are now requested on the Party membership counterfoil, and Communist News and the Political Letter are already distributed this way to all who wish it, speeding delivery and saving postage costs. Literature sales represent an important if low-profile campaigning activity. National pamphlets should be read by all active Party members, but their effect will be limited if that is as far as they go. The same applies to Communist Review, Congress Reports and Communist News, so branches should identify potential readers outside the Party’s ranks. It is not just a question of recruitment, although we hope that some readers will recognise the Party’s ideological role enough to join us. More important is that the issues raised get disseminated and discussed in the wider labour and progressive movements. Communist party branch activists handbook | 19
Organising a public meeting is a major undertaking which requires careful thought, planning and preparation (see Appendix C for a checklist of things to consider and do). As with other public activites, the rewards can be considerable, but the risks can also be high as can be the costs of failure. Running the meeting itself also requires planning beforehand (see Appendix D). Indoor public meetings have to be seen as part of a broad campaign to raise the profile of the Party or the Morning Star, and/or to highlight particular issues in the local community, and to strengthen our alliances with other progressive and labour movement forces. Attendance at the meeting by members of the non-activist public is a bonus, and expectations should not be set too high. However, there may be occasions where a meeting called in immediate response to a local, national or international crisis – one which will not be resolved before the meeting date – can bring together a wide range of concerned people. Our Cardiff branch called an emergency public meeting immediately after Saddam Hussein’s army entered Kuwait in August 1990, just as Britain and the US were first raising the possibility of a military response. Comrades spent the first half of the meeting bringing in extra chairs for the dozens of anxious peace campaigners, socialists and trade unionists who turned up to the first meeting in the city on this issue. Similarly, a meeting which responds immediately to, say, a local upsurge in fascist activity can act as a focal point for the labour and progressive movements. This is especially so where the Party ensures that the platform hosts a broad range of political, trade union and antifascist speakers, perhaps under the banner of the Morning Star. The public meeting has to be seen as a vehicle for raising political consciousness through a campaign involving leaflets, other publicity materials, use of the media (see below) and – if we are lucky – the meeting itself. Such meetings can also lead to specific campaigning initiatives, like the Cardiff meeting above which facilitated the formation of a local Committee Against War in the Gulf. Morning Star public meetings in Cornwall prompted the formation of a local Cuba Solidarity network and in Newport brought together campaigners against council housing stock transfer. If a public meeting is being held in the name of the Morning Star, the broad nature of the paper’s existing and potential support must be respected. Morning Star meetings are not Communist Party meetings under another name, and efforts should be made to ensure that non-Party supporters of the Morning Star play a full role in organising and participating in Morning Star events. Public speaking
It is not necessary to be a passionate or flowery orator in order to make an effective speech at a public meeting. The following basic guidelines can help most Communist Party members to improve their ability to make a speech in public; some also apply to less demanding but often just as important talks or reports which may be required in a political or trade union meeting: ■ ■
Know your subject. Preparation is essential, usually involving research and consultation. Contact knowledgeable comrades and even Party Centre if necessary. Make notes for your speech. As you gain experience, these should be reduced over time from a fairly full script to a list of main headings, sub-headings and key quotes
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■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■
and statistics. Plan the structure of your speech carefully, deciding what the main points are that you want to convey to the audience and where in your contribution they will be made. If it is not already clear, begin by announcing what you will speaking about; end on a strong point which sums up the position you have taken. Keep within any time limit and don’t speak for too long. A short, structured speech will be more effective than a long, rambling one. Don’t try and include everything that you have learnt, or everything that could be said, about the subject. Don’t apologise or make excuses for any lack of preparation, poor delivery etc. – you may be doing yourself an injustice, and in any case the audience will not need your help to identify any deficiencies. Speak as clearly as you can, taking your time to consult and/or read your notes. Rushing puts pressure on your audience and on you. Look up at your audience as much as you can and do not mumble into your notes. Humour can be effective, but do not overdo it because (1) you are probably not as funny as you think and (2) it could sound as if you are not taking the issue seriously enough. Avoid swearing and heavy sarcasm completely, and do not use terms or initials which many in your audience are unlikely to understand. Repetition of some main points can help reinforce them, although this should not be overdone. Enliven your speech with a striking quote, a stunning fact or a simple but telling statistic or two – but again, do so in moderation.
Using the media
For generations, the mass media have been used to confuse people on public issues. However, in the local media in particular, publicity can be won with well-informed and clearly-presented material. This is also the least expensive form of campaigning. Branch members should write in frequently to the letters page in local newspapers, especially comrades who may not be in a position to be very active in other areas of campaigning. One comrade should be specially authorised to write on behalf of the Branch (it may be the Branch secretary or press/media officer) so that the name of the Party can also feature on the letters page. Letters should be reasonably short and not abusive or otherwise potentially libellous. If they respond to an article or editorial in a previous issue, this might improve the chances for publication (even more so if the letter congratulates the paper for raising the issue in the first place). Morning Star editorials often provide an excellent basis for constructing a letter, especially if a local angle can be added. Phone-ins on local radio stations and forums on local website blogs offer similar opportunities to promote the Party’s views. Statements can be issued to the local press, web news and television and radio stations, but these will rarely be given coverage if they merely state the views of the Branch. The local media are primarily interested in statements which relate to an activity that is taking place in their local area. This might be a public meeting or demonstration of some kind, a petitioning session, a lobby of the local council, a picket of an objectionable speaker or event or the suchlike (see Appendix E for a model press statement). When issuing notice of such an event or a report immediately after it has happened, a Branch statement should: Communist party branch activists handbook | 21
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be on headed notepaper clearly stating the name and contact details of the Branch feature the main points of interest in the first sentence or two express policy views in the form of a quotation from a speaker at the event or a Party spokesperson – most media outlets will not publish Communist Party policies as though they are an impersonal fact rather than somebody’s personal opinion ■ always include the contact details for a named Party representative – who must be easily contactable – for further information or quotation. If an event is interesting enough, the media may be prepared to give it advance publicity. Some papers and websites have a ‘what’s on’ column of forthcoming local events which can be contacted. A routine leafetting session or literature stall is unlikely to attract media coverage. But if someone is there in an appropriate costume eg. dressed as a ‘fat cat’, prospects for publicity may rise dramatically. So too if a banner is going to be unfurled, balloons released or a ‘mock trial’ staged. It may be regrettable that gimmicks and stunts are often needed to attract media coverage, but it can also be fun! Timing is important, too. Campaigning activities are best held – and media statements issued – in the morning for publicity to appear in the media that evening and on the following morning. Branches should seek to develop links with local media journalists, phoning them with notice of events and following up written press releases. Circulate the name of the Branch’s media spokesperson to all local media outlets and build up a Branch list of media e-mail and postal addresses to which statements can immediately be sent. Running election campaigns
Successive Party congresses and Executive Committee s have reiterated the need for Communists to make more use of electoral opportunities to project our party and its policies on a mass scale. When properly prepared and conducted, Communist election campaigns can raise the profile of the Party, introduce a left and socialist perspective into the contest, raise political awareness, help to develop our local policies, mobilise our own members, win new recruits and strengthen our contacts with left and progressive forces. As Party branches develop an effective local campaigning presence, they should seek to increase the quality and number of local election contests involving Communist Party candidates. It is at local council level that Party resources can be used more effectively, and where potential support is greatest. Where the work has been done, and growing public awareness of the Party and its involvement in struggle can be achieved, it may also be appropriate to stand candidates at General Elections; this would be important for propagating the Party’s views and raising its profile.The District or Nation Committee and then the Party EC have to approve all constituencies and candidiates selected for a parliamentary contest, taking into account financial as well as political factors.
In general, branches should look to stand in council or parliamentary elections wherever the Party has the capacity to carry out propaganda work, except in areas where (1) our intervention could directly prevent a Labour victory or let the fascists in; (2) the Labour 22 | Communist party branch activists handbook
candidates are on the left; or (3) the real danger of a fascist victory requires support for the anti-racist candidate best-placed to defeat the fascists. That’s the political case for fighting elections. What are the practical steps that have to be taken to do so? Identify the best ward(s) or constituency to contest This should be where (1) the
Branch has some members; (2) there is a history of Communist campaigning; (3) there are major social and political issues to be addressed; and (4) there is a sitting right-wing Labour councillor or MP. Generally, it will not be possible to satisfy all these requirements at once. In any event, this decision should be taken many months before the election, so that public work can be carried out there over the longest possible period. Establish an election committee This may be the Branch Committee or main branch officers together with the candidiate and some key activists. A dedicated election committee meeting frequently will help ensure that the campaign is properly planned, resourced and executed. Select the Party candidate Ideally the candidate should be well known in the locality and the local labour movement, confident and able to speak in public. However, the absence of these qualities should not be a bar. All active comrades should be able to develop some or all of these qualities. The only legal requirement for local council elections is that the candidate lives or works in the local authority area, is not employed by the local authority in question and is not a senior civil servant or a senior-level employee of another local authority. For the legal position on this and other election-related issues, go to www.electoralcommission.org.uk Appoint an Election Agent The Agent must have an address within the local authority
area or immediately adjacent, be a good organiser, collect and then submit the nomination papers on time, attend the count (in order to argue over disputed ballot-papers) and ensure that the necessary financial records are kept and prepared for submission. The agent and candidate can be the same person, though this is not advisable. Start campaigning This should be done over an extended period, to put the Party on the
map. Leafleting is the most obvious: typically one active person can distribute 200 door to door in an hour, but sessions of 4-5 comrades together are good for morale. Also important are letters to the press by the candidate, door-to-door Morning Star sales, flyposting (but see above under ‘Types of campaigning activity’), a Saturday stall with petitions etc., open-air public speaking and canvassing where possible. If a loud-hailer or public address system is available, this can be used to good advantage to put the Party in the public eye during the campaign. However, ‘soundbites’ have to be brief when this is done from a moving vehicle. The day before polling day is a traditional time for touring the ward or constituency with a loud-speaker. Raise funds A realistic budget should be drawn up based on quotations for the biggest elements – leaflets, posters and room hire. Unlike local council elections, a deposit (currently £500) is required for each British, Scottish or Welsh parliamentary contest and is usually paid by the Party centrally. While members should be asked to make donations, the Communist party branch activists handbook | 23
case for supporting a Communist campaign needs to be taken into the labour movement and allies approached for financial contributions. District and Nation Committees should also be prepared to assist branches, along with Party Centre. Draft the election address The election address is the primary vehicle by which the
candidate is introduced and the Party’s policies are projected. The Branch needs to decide the key campaigning issues and slogans before the start of the contest. The address should aim to take up both national and local issues, link them together and explain how a Communist councillor would be different. There should be a brief biography of the candidate and/or a personal statement by them and an advert for any Party public meetings. To help identify the local issues, it may be useful to appoint a comrade with specific responsibility for taking cuttings from the local press. The address should clearly display the name of the ward, the election date, the candidate’s name and the words ‘VOTE COMMUNIST’. The Branch must also decide whether to use the hammer and peace dove or the hammer and sickle logo on its literature. The chosen one will feature on the ballot paper. The election address – and all other material which promotes the Party or its candidate during the election period – must carry an imprint stating: ‘Printed by [name and full postal address of printers] and promoted by [name and full postal address of agent/representative] on behalf of [name and full postal address of candidate]’. Whether or not the candidate is also the agent, an alternative imprint may also be used: ‘Printed by [name and full postal address of printers] and promoted by and on behalf of [name and full postal address of candidate]’. In parliamentary elections, the Royal Mail will deliver election addresses to any or all parts of the constituency free of charge, but the design and content of the address must be approved by a designated Royal Mail official before printing and distribution. The requirements are available to prospective candidates, and in particular they specify that election addresses must not appeal for new members or money. Party Centre will design print-ready election addresses on request. Collect, complete and submit nomination papers Nomination papers, together
with the election timetable and a copy of the relevant electoral register, can generally be collected from the electoral services unit of the local authority once the register is ready. The authority will probably want to know the intended ward or constituency, the candidate and the agent and nomination papers will need to be submitted by a set date, usually five weeks before polling day. The papers include a form requiring the candidate’s description to go on the ballot paper (‘Communist Party’ or ‘Communist Party of Britain’) and a statement to be signed by the Party’s electoral nominating officer that the candidate is authorised to use the Party’s name and logo. A similar procedure applies if Party members are standing as part of the ‘Unity for Peace and Socialism’ alliance with domiciled Communists in Britain. The candidate must have the assent of 10 registered electors from within the ward or constituency. Where we do not have enough members or known supporters, going door-todoor to seek ‘assent’ on the basis of our Party’s right to stand invariably succeeds. Canvassing After distributing the election address in a planned way, the most effective way of winning votes is by canvassing. This is, in fact, the pinnacle of campaigning since it involves discussing our policies on the doorstep. Canvassers should take along canvass cards (design can be supplied by Party Centre) and copies of Party material and the Morning Star, 24 | Communist party branch activists handbook
which they may be able to sell. Results of the canvass should be indicated as COMM, LAB or any other left or progressive inclination. The cards should be used for ‘knocking up’ on polling day ie. calling on committed Communist voters to ensure they have been to the polling station. These supporters can be invited to buy the Star, come to Party meetings or even to consider joining. In any case, the canvass cards are invaluable material which can be used for follow-up activities. Many comrades may lack confidence to canvass effectively, but it is a skill which can be learned in a Branch training session and by canvassing in pairs. The count The count is usually held shortly after the polling stations close, and it is
important that both candidate and agent attend. The agent will have been asked to nominate a number of counting agents, whose role is to watch the votes being sorted and counted, and make sure that none get misallocated. The agent should also be on hand to deal with any questions of spoilt ballot papers. Completing and returning election expenses The agent and candidate need to make a return of election expenses within about six weeks after polling day (longer in some parliamentary elections). This should include receipts where possible. Failure to complete the return satisfactorily may lead to barring from future contests. Reviewing the campaign After the election is over, the Branch should meet to draw any
lessons, and take decisions about follow-up including the need to maintain campaigning in likely areas for future contests. The Morning Star Increasing the circulation of the Morning Star is crucial in the battle of ideas to raise political consciousness among the working class and its allies, to build left unity and to mobilise opposition to the policies of state-monopoly capitalism. It provides the vehicle to project a left-wing programme and the alternative economic and political strategy to open the road to socialism.
The special political relationship between the Party and the Morning Star is based on the fact that the editorial policy is guided by Britain’s Road to Socialism as agreed by successive AGMs of the co-operative organisation – the People’s Press Printing Society – which owns the paper. Without the Morning Star, our Party – and the whole labour movement – would be immeasurably weaker. Without the Community Party, the paper would lose its ideological and strategic coherence, as well as its single biggest source of active political support. Party branches need to support the Morning Star in a whole number of ways – winning new readers, donating to the Fighting Fund, placing advertisements and helping run bazaars, book sales and other fund-raising initiatives. In Glasgow, Party members run a weekly Morning Star stall in the city centre. If a local Morning Star Readers & Supporters Group does not exist, the Party branch should approach other readers, socialists and progressives with the object of establishing one. With a sufficiently broad base, such groups can provide a forum Communist party branch activists handbook | 25
for discussion on the left as well as a structure for fund-raising and building circulation. They are also eligible for affiliation to organisations such as the Labour Representation Committee, where they can play a direct role in the labour and progressive movements. As a top priority of the Party, the Morning Star should feature on the agenda of all Branch meetings. Discussion needs to be particularly directed towards winning new daily readers, which means that targets need to be identified. Regular Fighting Fund collections should be held at the Branch and, wherever possible, at local labour movement meetings. Where a demonstration or labour movement event is being organised locally, extra copies of the paper should be ordered. Contact the Morning Star circulation department to discuss and sort out the most convenient arrangements. Political education
One of the most important aspects of Branch life is the organisation of political education. To understand its role and content, we can pose the questions: why, who, what and how? Why do we need political education? Communists are interested in changing the world (‘The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point, however, is to change it’ – Marx, Theses on Feuerbach). We therefore need a theory of change, one which analyses society in its constant state of flux, and which on that basis devises the most effective political strategy. Marxism provides such a theory – a tool for both analysing the present and developing a longer-term perspective. But since society is in a continual process of change, we need continually to refresh our understanding of Marxism, testing our strategy against reality. It follows from this that we cannot simply take a detached or longterm view of society – political education must also be related to our short-term objectives, helping us to understand the problems of the working class and to give leadership in the day-to-day struggles. Who needs political education? All members do. Very few of us have a comprehensive knowledge of Marxism, so most members – and especially those who have recently joined – need political education. In fact, no-one in the Party has a monopoly of wisdom, so even the most experienced comrades benefit from participation in education classes. New problems are continually arising, and collective discussion throws up different insights and solutions. Political education is, however, not just for the Party. It is essential that Marxist ideas penetrate deep into the labour and progressive movements to counter Britain’s long tradition of pragmatism and reformism. Our political education therefore needs to reach out, helping to develop mass class consciousness and – among the cadres of the labour and progressive movement – an understanding of the need for revolutionary political change. Sales of Communist Review outside the Party can play an important role here, but it is also important to invite labour movement activists to contribute to, and take part in, discussion in Party branches and in district/nation day-schools. What kind of political education? Any political discussion in the Party is, in a sense, an education. We learn not only from the presentation of a political report, but also from the responses to it by other comrades, based on their own experiences and viewpoints. The whole process of discussion helps us as individuals to clarify our own thoughts, and enables the Party to develop its collective viewpoint. This of course is education about current political developments, important if we are to 26 | Communist party branch activists handbook
intervene effectively in our public work. However, in order to be able to analyse events and relate them to our overall strategy, we also need education in Marxist-Leninist theory. The first starting point here should be our programme, Britain’s Road to Socialism, together with Party pamphlets and some articles from Communist Review and of course the Morning Star. For deeper understanding, however, it is necessary to deal with key aspects of MarxistLeninist theory in more detail. Classic works by Marx, Engels, Lenin and other communists are a valuable starting point for education, but they should not be regarded as holy texts, but rather as analytical tools, of key importance at the time when they were written and still relevant when tested against current circumstances. Of course, not all their judgements will hold, since society develops, but Marxism-Leninism is a living theory, being continually and creatively developed, not least by discussion in our own ranks. At the other extreme, political education also involves detailed examination of particular current-day issues such as pensions, trade union legislation and asylum rights. Such education has a directly practical connection with our Party’s activity, since it is essential for us to be informed if we are to build campaigns on such issues. However, it is also important for such education to draw the links between the particular and the general, to make the class context clear, just as it is important for a study of Marxist ‘classics’ to make the link with current political developments. As Communists, we need to engage in struggle on three levels – class, political and ideological. All are interlinked. Branch political education programmes therefore need to address all these levels. The Branch AGM should agree the broad objectives of political education for the coming year, to include a balanced combination of Marxist-Leninist classes, political reports/discussions and presentations on more practical issues. How – and with what resources? Some of the most successful political education
programmes are run as classes separate from the monthly or fortnightly branch meeting. This gives them more of a profile which can be projected to attract not only branch members but also allies and supporters. The education and discussion is likely to be deeper and more stimulating if it is informed, and therefore all comrades should be asked to do some reading before the education class takes place. We already have sufficient materials published by our own party to form the basis of a number of courses: Course 1 Britain’s Road to Socialism (4 classes based on each major chapter
and the Left-Wing Programme) Course 2 An Introduction to Marxism (3 classes based on each chapter of
the pamphlet) Course 3 Contemporary Questions (based on our Manufacturing,
Pensions, Education and Environment pamphlets) Course 4 Women and Class (based on the pamphlet and the Charter for Women) Course 5 Classics of Communism (based on our series of pamphlets)
A tutor should take the lead in preparing for and introducing each class. While sharing responsibilities between a number of tutors over the course ensures variety, a balance needs to be struck between appointing tutors who are reasonably knowledgeable and experienced, and encouraging other comrades to gain experience in this important role. Communist party branch activists handbook | 27
We learn most by active involvement. That’s why discussion is so essential. An introduction which goes on for half an hour often leaves other comrades feeling either bored or inadequate – and in any case many of the points made will have been forgotten by the end. The most constructive approach for the tutor is to concentrate on a relatively small number of key points, to illustrate them and to put discussion questions to the class. The political education of new members is particularly important, and branches may wish to consider appointing a ‘mentor’, to advise and encourage new members on their education, and to be available for one-to-one discussion of particular issues or pamphlets. Since the re-establishment of an annual Communist University of Britain in 2003, similar initiatives have spread to Wales, Scotland and the Midlands. The annual industrial cadre school similarly aims to raise the levels of knowledge and political understanding of our activists in the trade union movement. Branches should encourage and where possible assist comrades to attend and participate in these exciting events. New members should also be encouraged to attend new members schools organised by Party Centre, districts and nations.
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4. BUILDING THE BRANCH
Membership and recruitment
Recruitment is an essential part of the work of the Branch and its members, and should be a regular item of Branch Committee discussion. If the Branch does not recruit in any year it is not a tragedy, but clearly it limits the degree to which the Party can campaign and raise funds. Sooner rather than later, of course, failure to recruit means a real membership decline. Biology is not on our side, but death is not the major cause of membership losses. Each year we fail to recard around 10 per cent of our members, including a significant proportion of our recruits. We will only overcome the major problem facing us – our small size – and maintain real membership growth if we significantly boost the recruitment rate. Each branch therefore needs to develop, and periodically review, a recruitment strategy. New members can be won if the Branch is campaigning, involved in the labour and progressive movement, building Morning Star sales and maintaining a public profile. Although some enquiries will come through Party Centre, identifying and approaching potential recruits is the responsibility of all branch members who meet people and discuss political issues with them. With the agreement of the Branch secretary or Committee, such people can be invited to Branch meetings and other activities. The Branch also needs to be pro-active, maintaining a mailing list of potential new members, and ensuring that they are invited to meetings and social functions and approached to buy Party literature and the Morning Star. Party rules specify a formal procedure for dealing with applicants, involving an interview and a report back to the Branch Committee before a decision is taken on admission. This ensures that the decision is taken collectively and not on the whim of one or other leading member. Although it is not in the rules, it is also good practice for potential new members to attend one or two meetings before joining, in order not only for members to get to know them, but also for the applicant to see how the Party functions and to judge themselves whether they are ready to take on the responsibilities of membership. At the same time, if we are going to be pro-active in winning new members, then the discussion in the Branch Committee may sometimes come first. We decide whom we want to win, agree that they would be an asset to the Party, and then ask them to join. In practice, therefore, the Branch or Branch Committee may authorise a Branch officer beforehand to issue a card on the spot if forthcoming discussions are satisfactory. Members of the Party’s EC have also been authorised by Congress resolution to issue membership cards to activists in the course of political work, although they must report their action to Party Centre as soon as is practicable and Party Centre must in turn forward the details of the new member to their local branch. We shouldn’t simply assume that potential recruits will make the first move when they are ready. When people are reading our literature and the Morning Star, we should seize opportunities to discuss with them the issues raised and win them to understand that their place is in our ranks, on the basis that they can make a contribution. In all cases, new recruits must complete the standard membership registration form issued Communist party branch activists handbook | 29
by Party Centre, whether or not they complete the bottom section in order to pay dues and/or quota by direct debit. Issuing a card is, however, just the first step. It is important that branch meetings are comradely and open, and that new members are integrated as much as possible. It is an unfortunate fact that some of our organisational structures could act as a disincentive to recruitment, so help may be needed from the district or nation in particular circumstances – eg. if we are dealing with a young comrade where most Branch members are elderly, or an industrial comrade who is unable to get to meetings regularly. District/nation-wide meetings of comrades in particular areas of political work, as well as district or area education classes, may help comrades to feel part of the Party. Following up membership enquiries
A steady stream of enquiries about the Party arrives at the central office via post, phone and e-mail. Many are in direct response to advertisements in the Morning Star, others to leaflets, pamphlets, radio broadcasts, letters to the press, Communist Review or the web page. Some enquirers have simply found our address or phone number in the telephone directory. All are sent a membership information pack, including a copy of What We Stand For, together with a letter informing them that their enquiry has been passed on to a particular nation, district or branch. Only about 10 per cent of these queries finally produce members. Of course, people ask about the Party for a whole number of reasons. Some definitely want to join, some are not certain of their own political ideas while others are genuinely just seeking information. We have our share of hoax and ‘crank’ enquiries, and we must also assume that among the correspondents is the occasional fascist or intelligence agent. We also have people who say at first that they want to join, and then change their minds. Perhaps, under domestic or social pressures, they get cold feet – or perhaps they haven’t thought things through sufficiently deeply, and aren’t ready for what is a major step in life. That doesn’t mean that they can’t be won eventually. The fact that some Branches do much better than others in turning enquiries into recruits, and retaining them, suggests that we are missing an opportunity to build the Party. The following checklist is intended to help overcome this problem: ■
In the first place, enquiries to Party Centre are referred to the Branch secretary concerned, with a copy to the district/nation secretary or membership organiser.
The Branch secretary or another designated officer should immediately phone the enquirer. Voice contact is by far the best initial approach. Arrangements should be made to meet for an informal discussion. Security may be an issue if there is a risk that the enquirer is a fascist. If so, meet at a safe venue or a known house address, with other comrades informed of the details.
If voice contact cannot be established after repeated attempts, efforts should be made to write to, e-mail or call on the enquirer in order to arrange a discussion.
The first contact that enquirers have with the Branch should not be a written communication inviting them to a Branch meeting. Most people are not willing to
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turn up to a room full of strangers without any prior discussion with a Party member. ■
In the event that discussions with the enquirer are positive, they should be assured that our meetings are open to non-members as well as members and that, while we want to build the Party, we shall not be browbeating them to join. They should also be told that, while we need an activist Party, we recognise that not everyone is able to make the same contribution.
If the enquirer is unable to get to Branch meetings, but still wants to join, then a report should be made to the Branch/Branch Committee so that arrangements can be made to keep the new member in touch with Party activities and decisions.
Districts, nations and unattached branches are periodically required to report to Party Centre on the outcome of enquiries or applications passed to them.
Commonly called ‘card exchange’, this is an important annual process whereby members reaffirm their political commitment to the Party. It should start when next year’s membership cards are printed, usually towards the end of the previous year, and aim to finish by the end of January in the new year. The Branch Committee should organise the card exchange to ensure that every Branch member is seen personally by a committee member. This meeting provides the opportunity to discuss the work of the Branch, sort out any arrears in dues or quota and to remind members of their duty to receive the Morning Star every day. It should also be regarded in many cases as an exercise in the process of cadre development (see below). Where branches cover a wide geographical area, personal recarding visits may be impractical in some cases. In such circumstances, recarding will have to be done by post, although this should be preceded if possible by a telephone discussion and a followed up with a call to check that the card has been received. Rapid recarding is essential for district/nation secretaries and the Executive Committee to have an accurate picture of the progress of the card exchange. In addition, any cases of difficulty (eg. with dues collection, or loss of contact) should be reported. District/Nation Committees may be able to help where branch activists are short on the ground. Cadre development
A party ‘cadre’ is a committed active member who takes a conscientious approach to their responsibilities. These include attending party events whenever possible, taking part in activities on behalf of the Party, seeking to play a part in the labour and progressive movements, reading the Morning Star and party publications, and extending their political knowledge and understanding. Wherever possible, party cadres fight for the political strategy and policies of the Party while abiding by the constraints of office within broader movement organisations. On the basis of correct tactics and strategy, they aim to fulfil their duties and give leadership in ways which unite, educate and mobilise those around them. While Communist cadres make no superior claims for themselves as individuals, they Communist party branch activists handbook | 31
endeavour to carry out their political work conscientiously, in a spirit of comradeship and modesty, with consideration for others and a willingness to accept advice and criticism. Clearly, it is a major responsibility of the Communist Party to help its members to develop as cadres by providing education, training and guidance in political and organisational matters. At branch level, this requires the officers and Branch Committee to identify, designate and develop individual members of the Branch. There should be a planned discussion with every active or potentially active member about any areas of experience and knowledge, any relevant interests or enthusiasms which they may have, and about the role they are or could be playing to assist the Party and the broader movement. Their requirements in terms of political education should also be assessed, including their capacity to help deliver as well as receive it. Such discussions will help the Branch leadership allocate party and broad movement work to members, devise its local political education programme and identify comrades who should be especially encouraged and assisted to attend central, national or district events in the Party. There may be members whose skills could help set up a website or make a banner. Another comrade could be allocated to play an active role in the local CND or Stop the War Committee, or the Palestine or Cuba solidarity campaigns. Members at work could be advised about joining or becoming more active in their union, even taking up a place on the local trades council where appropriate, while retired members may be in a position to play a role in the pensioners movement locally. Members active in particular areas of campaigning work should be encouraged to work together in Party collectives in order to maximise their effectiveness on behalf of the Party and the movement concerned. In a number of important areas of political work, the Party’s EC has advisory committees to co-ordinate our activity. The main ones are our industrial advisories (public services, civil service, teachers, higher and further education, rails, media and manufacturing/services/ transport) together with the peace, anti-racism/anti-fascism, women, pensions, housing and science/technology/environment advisories. Districts and nations are entitled to nominate comrades to serve on such committees, and branches should inform their District or Nation Committee of branch members who may be willing and politically ready to attend any advisory. Wherever possible, every new recruit should be assigned a ‘mentor’ – a more experienced comrade in the same locality or area political work. The mentor will assist the new member in expanding their political activity in the Party and broader movements, and through discussion and recommended reading help them to develop their understanding of Party policy and Marxism-Leninism. Young Communist League
As Communists we are fighting for the future – not just for ourselves, but for the young generation and the generations to come. Young people need our Party if they are to have a future, but the Party also needs the dynamism, enthusiasm and freshness of youth if it is to campaign effectively and lead the struggle. Within our ranks we have a tremendous record of experience. Past and present battles fought by our comrades are both an inspiration and an example of effective communist 32 | Communist party branch activists handbook
campaigning. However, each new generation needs to experience the class struggle for itself, in its own circumstances. Inside the Party, the enthusiasm of young people could easily be crushed. For that reason the Party has its own youth organisation, the Young Communist League. Membership is open to all young people aged between 12 and 28 who accept the League’s aims and objectives. The YCL is separate from the Party, decides its own constitution and policies and elects its own leadership. By providing opportunities for young people to develop their political and organisational skills, it is a training ground for the communists of the future, as well as a campaigning organisation among the youth of today. However, the YCL is spread very thinly and needs the support of the Party if it is to grow. Branches can help by buying the YCL’s journal, Challenge, contributing to the League’s finances, identifying potential recruits, providing a venue for YCL meetings and supplying sympathetic tutors for YCL education classes. Local YCL members should be invited to attend Party branch meetings, whether or not they are members of the Party. The minimum age for Party membership is now 16. This means that, where there is no YCL branch, young people can still be part of the Communist movement. However, Party branches need to be aware that their gain may be the YCL’s loss. Branches should therefore include as part of their political work the need to build the YCL and encourage all members aged 28 and below to join it.
On Karl Marx & Marxism £2.50, including post and packaging. Communist party branch activists handbook | 33
A MODEL BRANCH INCOME AND EXPENDITURE ACCOUNT RECEIPTS Brought forward Membership dues Guarantor payments Donations Literature & merchandise Fund-raising events Bank interest Other receipts
£ 53.62 192.00 144.00 140.00 62.00 296.50 2.20 18.00 TOTAL 908.32
PAYMENTS Personnel expenses Room hire Printing Conference fees Fund-raising events Literature & merchandise Stationery, postage, phones Non-DD dues Non-DD quota Party appeals Morning Star donations Affiliation fees Other expenses Carried forward
£ 16.00 40.00 45.40 40.00 53.20 58.00 27.00 176.00 112.00 185.00 96.50 25.00 13.00 21.22 TOTAL 908.32
NB. Every receipt and payment should be recorded in a cash book under the appropriate heading, including the date or month.
ELECTORAL LAW ON DONATIONS TO POLITICAL PARTIES Only ‘permissible donors’ may make donations of more than £200 to registered political parties in Britain. The PPERA 2000 defines ‘permissible donors’ as any individual on a UK electoral register; or a UK-registered political party, company, trade union, building society, limited liability partnership, friendly society; or an unincorporated association based in Britain. Donations of more than £200 from impermissible sources (eg. foreign residents not on a 34 | Communist party branch activists handbook
UK electoral register) or unidentifiable ones cannot be accepted, although collections and other lawful fund-raising revenues can. The provision of non-cash support to a party – such as providing free office space or supplies – must also be treated as a donation. The legislation also classifies sponsorship of party events as a donation. The Communist Party centrally is required to make quarterly returns to the Electoral Commission, giving details of all donations above £5,000 accepted by Party Centre and above £1,000 accepted by a party accounting unit (which the Branch must therefore report to Party Centre as soon as possible). Donations made by the same donor to different accounting units of the Party totalling more than £5,000 in a calendar year must also be reported, as must those made on different occasions to a party accounting unit totalling more than £1,000. These provisions cannot lawfully be avoided by making the donations via individual party members. Donors who make numerous small donations of £200 or less must themselves submit a report to the Electoral Commission if these add up to more than the £5,000/ £1,000 annual thresholds. (Further information is available at www.electoralcommission.org.uk)
PREPARING FOR A PUBLIC MEETING 1. 2. 3.
Decide your date and time. This may seem obvious, but you do need to allow plenty of time to get all the preparatory work done. Decide your topic. Ideally this should be important to the Branch campaigning strategy. However, another topical domestic or international issue may draw a good response. Choose the venue very carefully. It is no good having a cheap meeting place if people stay away. Is the venue safe for comrades and the general public to attend? Is it accessible for members and supporters with disabilities? Will a pub venue turn off potential attenders? Ideally, the venue should be located in an area where the Branch has already established a profile. Decide your speakers. For a Party meeting, the keynote speaker should be a leading Party member locally or nationally, but others need not be members at all. A broad platform will help to generate interest, although all-male platforms should be avoided. If any speakers are to be advertised as office-holders in another organisation, check with the speaker whether this is permissible, and whether the words ‘in personal capacity’ need to be added to their description. Design and produce publicity material. Cost is an important issue, but a well-designed leaflet has more chance of being read (even if people don’t come!). One comrade should be given the responsibility of drawing up a first draft, and then incorporating any suggestions. The leaflet should make clear that the Party is organising the meeting. Without cramming too much into it, the leaflet should be two-sided so that some political points can be made as well as providing details of the meeting. The leaflet must carry an imprint , however small, saying ‘Printed and published by …’, followed by the Party Branch name and address. Target your audience. A direct attempt should be made to attract labour and Communist party branch activists handbook | 35
progressive movement activists to the meeting, by circulating a notice or a special letter of invitation by post and e-mail. A phone around or mutliple text message one or two days before the meeting can also be very effective in boosting the size of an audience. Distribute publicity material. For leafleting, door-to-door is the most effective as recipients live in the locality where the meeting is to be held. However, a local shopping area can also provide useful opportunities for leafleting or displaying posters which advertise the forthcoming event. Issue a press statement. See the â€˜Using the mediaâ€™ above.
CONDUCTING A PUBLIC MEETING 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8.
The meeting-room should be properly signposted, and if possible decorated with Party/Morning Star posters. There should be a stall with Party literature and the Morning Star. The chairperson should open the proceedings by introducing herself/himself, welcoming the public, stating the purpose of the meeting and introducing the speakers. The speakers should be told beforehand how much time they have, and the speaking order, worked out in consultation with them. The chairperson will need various stratagems to ensure that they do not run over (much). After all of the speeches, the chairperson should invite questions, to which the speakers may respond, and then open up the meeting to discussion. At some point, the chair should either conduct a collection to offset the costs of organising the meeting, or introduce another comrade to do so. A contact list may also be announced and circulated so that attenders can be contacted about subsequent initiatives or meetings. The speakers should be invited to respond to the discussion, and the chair should then add some concluding remarks, including thanks to the speakers, a report on the funds raised in the collection, and an invitation to members of the public to join the Party. The speakers should get their expenses. A report of the meeting should be sent to the local press and the Morning Star.
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A MODEL PRESS RELEASE Cardiff Branch, Communist Party of Britain Cangen Caerdydd, Plaid Gomiwnyddol Prydain June 23 2007 For immediate release
‘JAMES SHOULD RESIGN OVER NHS CUTS’ SAY COMMUNISTS CARDIFF COMMUNISTS are calling for the resignation of the chief executive of the city’s main NHS hospital trust. They made the demand after launching a petition on Saturday against proposed cuts in local health services. ‘Mr Byron James has betrayed every pledge he gave to the trade unions and the people of Cardiff six months ago’, Communist Party branch secretary Jill Jones declared today (Monday). ‘Now their budget is in deficit because of the money wasted on bureaucracy and private contractors, and the Cardiff Royal Hospital Trust has no solution except to slash vital jobs and facilities’, she added. The hospital trust’s management committee announced cuts in facilities and services last week in a bid to save £23 million of a projected deficit of £26 million this year. But the local branch of the Communist Party has launched a petition supported by local trade unionists against the emergency measures, demanding that plans to spend £30 million on private treatment provision be scrapped instead. ‘Our petition attracted 367 signatures in less than two hours’, Ms Jones remarked, ‘which indicates the extent to which local citizens reject the mismanagement and misiniformation coming from Mr James and his senior colleagues’. She plans to present the final list of signatures to the next meeting of the hospital trust board on July 22. END For further information contact: Jill Jones tel. 029 20999999 (home) 07777 999999 (mobile) or e-mail Jillthered@aol.com
Communist party branch activists handbook | 37
Published on Jun 16, 2010
2 ORGANISING THE BRANCH 8 Branch meetings 8 Annual General Meeting 9 Collective leadership 9 Workplace and industrial branches 11 Finance an...