Ian Williams

Conference of Marxist-Leninists, Birmingham, 2/3 July 1977

Written: July 20, 1977
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Sam Richards and Paul Saba
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At the instigation of the Communist Workers’ Movement, over 80 Marxist-Leninists assembled for two days to discuss the problems of unity and party-building in Britain. Organisations represented included, The Communist Workers’ Movement, Communist Federation of Britain, Communist Unity Association, Workers’ Party of Scotland, Working People’s Party of England, Bangladesh Workers’ Association; Birmingham Communist Association, Coventry Workers Association, East London Marxist-Leninist Association, Joint Action Committee, and the Workers’ Film Association. Geographically, there were comrades from Liverpool, London, Birmingham, Nottingham, Newcastle, Brighton, Reading, Medway, Coventry, Newport, and Glasgow.

In the opinion of the CWM, this breadth of representation, politically and geographically, represented a major achievement in itself considering the fragmented nature of the British Marxist-Leninist Movement, and as could be expected from such a body, there was a lively exchange of ideas and experience, in the main in a refreshingly non-sectarian manner. There was no doubt that there was assembled the bulk of genuine Marxist-Leninists organisations and individuals in Britain, and that despite the lively arguments, there was much common ground, and a common desire for unity. “Gurus” and would-be “little Lenins” were prominent by their absence.

It was noticeable that while there was a general agreement on the danger to the World’s peoples of there two superpowers, there was disagreement on the interpretation Of this thesis in relation to work in Britain, and indeed, on political question’s affecting work in Britain there was a general lack of deep analysis.

This demonstrated the great need for application of general Marxist principles to the part1cular questions and problems of Britain if a genuine Communist Party were to be built.

On the question of party-building, of unification, despite the agreement of all concerned that the party must be built, and that the conference had to some extent helped create favourable conditions for unity, it was evident that much more work was necessary to actually bring this about. Nonetheless, it was agreed that it was a matter of urgency that such work be done, and that there were strong possibilities of unity among many of the organisations present, which should be fostered.

Finally, the resolution that was adopted by the conference was:
1) That the CWM should convene further meetings of organisations on particular political and ideological issues, with a view to advancing unity.
2) That where organisations have comrades working in particular areas of industry, these comrades should get together to work out a programme of work for those areas.
3) That we should encourage bilateral discussions arid where possible, mergers of organisations.

In the course of the proceedings, a resolution of support for the strikers at Grunwick’s was passed unanimously and a collection of 55 was made for them.

In summary, although more was hoped for from the conference, it was without doubt a positive development, and it is to be hoped that further gatherings will produce the degree of unity needed to start the necessary process of party formation.

The Communist Workers’ Movement for its part, while still holding to its already stated positions of willingness to merge with other organisations on a basis of equality and of readiness to dissolve itself into the party, will be considering the questions of its own organisation and basic programme, in which it welcomes, the participation of other Marxist-Leninists.

Ian Williams, for the CWM