Preface The Exeter and South Devon branch of the Communist Party of Britain held its first Annual General Meeting on Saturday the 4 th December 2010. The new branch committee felt it important to put together a report of that meeting for two reasons. Firstly to create a permanent record for the benefit of branch members unable to attend the meeting, and for members who may join the branch in the coming year. Secondly as it was felt that some areas, in particular the report of work done, did not receive the time at the meeting that they deserved. Throughout this report “facebook page” refers to the facebook page of the branch that can be viewed by the public at www.facebook.com/southdevoncommunists. The “blog” refers to the personal blog of Tim Gulliver 1, which is found at www.southdevoncommunist.blogspot.com. The outgoing branch committee are: Jane Yates – Secretary Gillian Bemrose – Treasurer Tim Gulliver - Chair Thanks go to comrade David Gibson for the design of the front cover of this report. Tim Gulliver December 2010
1. This is a personal blog, not originally intended for branch business. However, as it is written by a member of the branch committee, its contents does comment on branch and party activity. The opinions expressed in the blog are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the branch or party. Page 1
Welcome from the outgoing Chair Comrades, thank you all for coming today. Before we begin, a few congratulations are in order. At the 51 st Congress of the Communist Party, Gerry Sables was elected to the Party's Appeals Committee, Liz Payne was elected to the Party's Executive Committee and as the Party's Women's Organiser, and Rob Griffiths was re-elected as the Party's General Secretary. Congratulations to all of you. I must also pay respects to a comrade very few of us had the chance to meet. Lillian Brown died in July this year, and our thoughts today are with her family and her husband Donald. Perhaps if a few more of us were to lay down all morning in Totnes High Street to protest at a Post Office closure, the world would be a better place. Welcome to the first ever AGM of the Exeter and South Devon branch of the CPB. As you can probably work out, our branch has been going for a year! Finding myself chairing a branch within a few months of joining the party was fun, if unexpected, but hopefully you'll agree we've achieved a really solid foundation for future growth. And I want the party to grow. I want to be part of a big branch. In our area we have the only two cities in the county. There is no reason why, given the hard work we've put in so far, we can't continue to grow and become a real force in the area. It has been sixty years since there was a Communist MP in the House of Commons, and I don't want to have to wait that long for another one. Party strategy is to influence the policy of the Labour party through our work in the Trade Union movement. The bigger our party is, the more influence we will have. And should the Labour party not change, then we will just have to take a leading political role ourselves. There are eight of us in the branch now, but over the year, as well as David joining us, and as well as the dozen or so random and possibly drunken membership enquiries, we have at least four Page 3
people who are very keen to join us, and over the coming months, will hopefully become serious comrades. I feel at this moment I should also take on the role of Anita Halpin 2. Looking around the table, of the seventeen of us here, there are only three women â€“ that is still not enough! We do however have quite a few people under thirty! Just to say a few words about our AGM. We have tried to be as procedurally correct as we can. We have a report of work done, a financial report, and we've even managed to cobble together a few speakers for you. We have a few non-party members present, but as we have no problem with them knowing about the loose change that is rattling around in our bank account, I hope they feel able to contribute, and also that party members don't feel anything needs to be hidden from them. I would like to thank our speakers for coming today. Rob Griffiths, Liz Payne and Andrew Duncan, a fellow founding member of the Exeter Anti-Cuts Alliance. That's about it for the introduction. Thank you all for coming, thank you to the support and advice of North Devon over the year, and thank you to my fellow branch committee members â€“ Gillian our treasurer, and Jane our secretary, without whom not only would this branch not exist, but we wouldn't have had the drive and leadership pushing us forward to achieve what we have so far.
2. National Party Chair Page 4
Report of Work We have decided to report the branch's activities chronologically from its re-establishment in October 2009. The report does not present a record of every communication or meeting between branch members, but a record of official meetings, public events and the planning processes behind them. All branch meetings, unless otherwise stated, were held in the Exeter Phoenix Arts Centre Café. Film nights were held at the Phoenix Centre Black Box Studio. Following discussions between Jane Yates, Gillian Bemrose and Bill Edwards, it was felt that a second branch was needed in Devon. Current party activity was concentrated around Barnstaple in North Devon, with very little happening further south. As the south of the county is also home to the only two cities in Devon, it was logical to set up a second branch. Exeter was chosen as the base for its ease of access via public transport, and as both Gillian and Bill lived in Exeter, and Jane has close links with the city. Minutes of all branch meetings are available on request. October 2009 The branch is launched with a film night at the Exeter Phoenix Centre. “Hasta Siempre – Will the Revolution Survive Tomorrow?” is shown and eleven people attend. Andy Goodall and Joanne Stevenson from party centre are also present. There is a stall (with merchandise donations from party centre and the YCL) and both Andy and Joanne speak. January 2010 30th - Branch meeting, attended by Jane, Gillian and Tim discussing the successes and failures of the film night. It is felt that too much was attempted in one go, with the event becoming confused. In the future film nights are to be more closely related to the Cuba Solidarity Campaign (CSC) with public meetings and stalls to have a separate platform. We learn that Bill Edwards is planning to move out of the area. Tim Gulliver is elected branch chair. At the meeting we decide that getting out onto the High Street should be Page 5
a priority, as well as setting up a bank account for the branch. We also feel it important to make contact with the Exeter Socialist Party, especially as they hold street stalls and could give us some advice. Dates are set for a stall and a second film night. February 6th - Jane and Tim meet in Exeter to try and find the Socialist Party stall in the High Street - it's not there! 27th - First stall in Exeter High Street (photos available on facebook) Jane, Gillian, Tim and Hugh from North Devon present. Raise £24 in sales of publications and badges. The stall was a success and enjoyed by all present. There was no hostility from the public, and several genuinely interested people. March 8th - Film night. We show the Cuban/Mexican production “Strawberry and Chocolate”. The event was advertised on the Party website, CSC website, and by the Phoenix Centre. Twenty six people attend, including both CSC members and the general public. £60 raised which didn’t quite cover the costs of room and projector hire. 23rd - Email received from sixth formers at Blundell's School. They are running a school election campaign, and three of them would like to represent the Communist Party. 31st - Branch meeting at Bill's house. Jane, Tim and Bill present. Gillian unable to attend due to work. We decide to put together some flyers for the school campaign and send them a party flag. Jane has received in the post £20 of PPPS shares that used to belong to the old Exeter and District branch. We also receive a list from party centre of all past and present members and membership enquiries in the area. Tim is delegated the task of emailing them all (which gained no results). Tim also to set up a facebook page. Date set for next film night. April 9th - Owl Café Barnstaple. Jane and Tim attend the election campaign launch of Gerry Sables. 26th - Film night, “With our Memory on our Future” a documentary Page 6
about the Federation of Cuban Women. Poorly attended compared to the previous event. Perhaps the documentary was too specific. The film also clashed with a major concert going on elsewhere in the building. May Jane and Gillian help out at a CND fund raising event, selling tomato plants! They manage to get their photo on the front of the local CND newsletter. 22nd - Branch meeting Phoenix Centre, attended by Jane, Gillian, Tim and Gerry from North Devon. Election report from Gerry. Branch bank account now set up. Tolpuddle is discussed and we decide we will take part and have a branch banner to take along. Designs are discussed. We also decide to affiliate the branch to CSC. As June will be a busy month for branch members personally, the next events are set for July. July Jane has ordered branch T-shirts for Tolpuddle and other events. They are branded â€œDevon Comradesâ€?. These were paid for by Jane and while some were gifted to branch members, most are sold to other comrades in the area. Tim bought fabric to make the branch banner as the company we asked to print one was taking far to long to even send back a proof. 3rd - Second stall in High street. Attended by Jane, Tim and Gillian. Again, a really positive event with good discussion and public interaction. Photos available on the facebook page. July 17th - Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival. The branch takes part in the annual event. Photos available on the facebook page. August Tim attends launch meeting of Plymouth Fightback Against the Cuts campaign. Discussion is also had via facebook with local trade unionists and the Exeter Socialist Party about setting up an Exeter anti-cuts group. September Page 7
4th - 90th celebrations. The Exeter Branch was charged with hosting a 90th birthday celebration for comrade Ron Champion of North Devon. The event is held in the Phoenix Centre and attended by comrades from Devon, Somerset, Bristol and London. The Bristol based “Red Notes” choir provided the entertainment. The event was combined with celebrating the 90th anniversary of the party and 80th anniversary of the Morning Star/Daily Worker newspaper. Photos of the event are on the facebook page. 10th 11th and 12th - Jane attends the Fête de L’Humanité in Paris helping out on the Morning Star/CPB stall. 15th - First Exeter anti-cuts planning meeting. The meeting was held in the local PCS office and attended by around twenty five people. Tim wrote the agenda and chaired the meeting, but as not resident in Exeter, declines a position on the elected organising committee. October 6th - Branch meeting held prior to second anti-cuts planning meeting. Jane, Tim, Gillian, Hugh (North Devon) and new comrade David present. The branch decides that with the anti-cuts movement growing and Congress approaching our own activities will be put on hold. The branch decides that from the next branch meeting we will begin political theory discussions and David suggests we begin with Engels “Principles of Communism”. 9th - Tim and Jane help out in Exeter High Street on the Anti-Cuts stall. Apart from one Labour party member, the stall is manned by CPB and Socialist Party members despite the strong trade union presence at organising meetings. 30th and 31st – National Congress. Tim is the branch’s delegate at the 51st Congress of the CPB held at party central, Ruskin House, London. Jane attends the Saturday session as a visitor. November 9th - Exeter Anti-Cuts public meeting in Exeter Library attended by Jane. 20th – Branch meeting attended by Jane, Tim and Gillian. Report from Congress, planning the AGM and preliminary discussions of the “Principles of Communism”. This document will form the basis of future work. The discussions will be typed up into a learning tool. Page 8
Financial Report As can bee seen below, with most members paying dues directly to party centre, branch income is low. The accounts for the year were inflated by the donations received to fund the 90 th celebrations outlined in the report of work. Income: Donations for 90th celebrations Personal donations
North Devon Branch
Stall sales Other Donations Total
13.953 56 393.95
Expenditure: 90th Celebrations Room Hire Food Affiliation to Cuba Solidarity Total
84.60 199.75 40 324.35
3. The branch owns stocks of various CPB and YCL publications. The majority of these were donated to the branch when it was first set up. Supplies have been added to by donations from party members. Sales from the two stalls totalled £27.95. £13.95 was paid into the branch account, £14 was paid to the Morning Star for newspapers supplied. Page 9
Balance and Assets: Account balance
Assets (branch banner)
Several areas of branch activity have not been funded through the branch accounts â€“ most notably the film nights. The film nights have all so far been run at a loss. These events have been funded by donations from branch members and donations from members of the public attending the events. All party flags and T-shirts are the property of branch members. All administration and stationary costs have been met by branch members. The branch does not pay any expenses or travel costs to branch members.
4. The cost of the branch banner was split between Jane and Tim. The banner is now the property of the branch. 5. These shares were received by Jane from a comrade in Manchester who said they used to belong to the former Exeter and District Branch. Page 10
Election of Branch Committee In electing the branch committee for 2011, Gillian Bemrose was elected branch treasurer, Jane Yates branch chair, and Tim Gulliver branch secretary.
Branch Membership There are eight members of the Exeter and South Devon Branch at the time of this AGM.
Additional Information The following internet services are now registered in the branch's name: Our facebook page: www.facebook.com/southdevoncommunists A website prototype still in development: http://sites.google.com/site/southdevoncommunists/ A web publishing service: http://issuu.com/southdevoncommunists A YouTube channel, registered to prevent the name being used by anyone else, but not developed in any way: www.youtube.com/user/southdevoncommunists The email address firstname.lastname@example.org has been set up as an admin for these sites. It is not used for branch communications.