Phil Katz Communist Party director of communications, urges readers to get involved in the May elections, to Vote Left and where possible also, to vote Communist.
Communities fit for working class people.
Communists are standing in the May council elections with a programme ‘Communities fit for working class people’, that offers a way out of constant capitalist crisis with a renewed sense of purpose.
The Communists’ Manifesto is now circulating on social media, in thousands of print copies, backed-up by a series of podcasts on housing, education, combating crime and rebuilding communities, facing up to inflation and on ‘levelling up’. These are available from CPTV, the party’s digital viewing and audio channel.
As one would expect, the Communist Party puts the case for socialism, but there is something very interesting happening in the way this is articulated. As a result of its growth since its centenary in 2020, the Party has attracted a new generation of member, with backgrounds in community and trade union activism, and with knowledge of how the basics of socialism can be argued for, at local level.
It is here, at local level, in ‘freebie’ journals and on citizen internet radio, that we are starting to break the ban on media coverage. Though in one instance a candidate was prevented from standing by their employer.
Getting rooted in local communities results also from the work of an important gathering of Party activists in a ‘Progressive Federalism Commission’. Party commissions are brought together to hot-house ideas and advise the Executive on developments in policy. They also influence what is happening on the ground.
The Progressive Federalism Commission developed the case to “Return powers to the Scottish and Welsh parliaments so they can rebuild communities. Elect regional assemblies in England to do the same. But workers and families are stronger when we all pull together and put pressure on Westminster.”
The Communist Party has been an advocate of Parliaments for Wales and Scotland since the early 1930s, but this has since been extended to support for regional assemblies in England, an English Parliament and a British federal parliament based on STV in multi-member constituencies. These local bodies would have “full economic, legislative and financial powers necessary to protect and develop the economic, social and cultural interests of their peoples.”
Our main manifesto looks at the problems facing communities in the context of the NHS. Widely popular and a taste of socialism, the NHS is “free”, “planned” and “inspirational”. Imagine if these benchmarks were used for ownership and provision of food, gas, electricity, housing, social care, education, the internet and buses and trains?
We are campaigning to “Move ownership and control downwards to local communities. Give councils the funds to invest and create jobs. Reverse the centralisation, outsourcing and privatisation. Tax the super-rich!”
The CP makes the case to “Invest massively in council housing —‘social housing’. A new home now costs £270,000+ on average! We need homes for young people, not a rigged property market.”
We support unions fighting for “Proper pay, employment rights from Day 1, job security and training for the future, in any job a council funds or approves. End precarious work, age discrimination, poverty pay and zero hours contracts.”
Communist councillors will vote to, “Invest in free council-run leisure, culture and sport, libraries, sports fields, pools, venues, gardens, youth clubs, gyms — these all make communities. Stop closing them. Stop rationing them by price. Let’s get out more! And let’s make our streets safe.”
Our candidates want to, “Make schools secular and under elected local authority control. Listen to the teaching profession. Make it an education system not a market. Make our schools safe and a place for ALL to learn.
Councils must own and run local buses and city transport networks. All integrated with a publicly-owned national rail system. Connectedness makes communities.”
And we denounce the Conservative central government with a call to “Learn the lessons of Covid. Key workers and carers are the frontline. Local services are critical. So many lives lost due to Conservative unpreparedness, cronyism and reliance on the private sector!”
The main challenge for our campaign is to gather together local activists and supporters to get the vote out, but its way more than that. Our local campaigns seek allies and alliances, organising on vital issues like Stopping War, local authority ownership of systems of transport and against food poverty.
In Edinburgh we lead the way, campaigning for safe use of drugs, in Manchester for a freeze of rent rises, using empty buildings for housing and for councils to lead on a large scale building of homes. In St Albans in Hertfordshire, Mark Ewington is campaigning to “replace the council tax with local income, wealth, land and property taxes based clearly on the ability to pay.”
For the Communist Party every day is election day so we are looking for legacy campaigns that rebuild local labour movements, which in some areas have collapsed and to refocus them on local, winnable issues. All this at a time when in some areas, Labour has abandoned the fight.
In Edinburgh Richard Shillcock has a daunting task of reaching into 18,000 homesteads in Leith Walk ward. Richard is being supported by a series of ‘Days of Action’ with supporters coming en masse to join in. He recently charged, “Edinburgh councillors tell us Edinburgh has earned the title ‘Living Wage City’. The Scottish Living Wage is a minimum of £9.90 per hour for 18+ year olds. Are they having a laugh? A friend’s daughter was sacked from her hairdressing job on the last day of her apprenticeship. She was then asked for £600+ back “to pay for her training”. The following Monday, another apprentice was taken on. Says Richard, “Edinburgh needs an end to drug deaths. One goal—within our grasp—is a Safe Consumption Facility in Edinburgh. Scottish drug deaths are more than three times anywhere in Europe. But drug deaths are just a symptom. Poor housing. Broken communities. Fractured education. No opportunities. Poverty. That’s the bigger picture we have to change.”
In Sheffield, Carrie Hedderwick is standing in Shiregreen & Brightside ward in Sheffield. Carrie is a well-known member of Sheffield Trades Council. The ward is the sixth most deprived in the City (out of 28 wards). It has upwards of 8000 households in an area that used to be a communist stronghold of former steel & engineering works. A former British Gas works site is now the base for an AMAZON warehouse – how the economy has changed! It was the birthplace of founder CP members JT Murphy and George Fletcher.
Carrie is campaigning on “Jobs – better jobs – a third of the local population is unemployed; an expansion of council apprenticeships leading to secure work, ouncil house building and strict control of the private rented sector. We want to see a sixth-form college established as there’s insufficient provision for the 16-18 year olds and for affordable and reliable transport & health services.”
As part of the campaign, the party is inaugurating new branches in Burnley(1 May) and Suffolk (26 April).
Dan Ross is standing in Besses, in the town of Whitefield, a suburb in the Metropolitan Borough of Bury. It’s an area consisting of primarily two residential estates of largely social housing and rented properties. Recently the local MP Christian Wakeford defected from Conservative to Labour. The area has few jobs available and these are in the service sector. It’s a historic area, which contains the headstones of two people murdered by soldiers at Peterloo and an International Brigade volunteer. Dan is very much at home in the area and has been a campainging public figure for some years.
In south London, Stewart McGill, co author of recent Communist Party pamphlets on Energy policy and on inflation is on his home turf in Blackheath Westcombe, in south east London. Stewart is well known for his opposition to the building of the Silvertown Tunnel. In the area he is known as a Krav Maga martial arts instructor. Stewart has helped raise his family in the area and says, “We have to sort out the housing situation in Greenwich. All the issues are down here. New homes are being built but no locals can afford them. The local council needs a massive shift of thinking and resources. It has to insist that private developments provide sufficient homes at locally affordable prices. And it has to build council homes. We also need an ‘all-in’ integrated approach to crime in the area, starting with council coordination of services, but also provision of well resourced youth centres of community focus.”
The age of our candidates is noticeably younger. In north London, Robin Talbot, chair of the Young Communist League, is contesting the Arsenal Ward in Islington. According to Robin, “It’s a diverse inner London community based on key transportation hubs to Central London, with the Emirates Stadium and a small university in the south. An area with a strong community feeling and independent high street shops.” The Party has a growing member base in the area, who often leaflet and sell the Morning Star. Comrades are supporting his campaign on “the big issues of living standards under threat, debt, equality and safety as the area has a high crime rate. Investment in the community and rebuilding it with a programme of employment especially for local youth is our number one issue.”
The Party has responded quickly to feed back from voters who have been encouraged to believe that Russia is still socialist and therefore the CP supports Putin!Our literature including a podcast, make clear “Communists opposed Putin’s invasion of Ukraine from the first hour. Putin and his cronies are opposed to Socialism and Communism. They stole what belonged to the Russian people. We say: Stop the war, Start the peace.”
The Communist Party “is the party the rich cannot buy.” We are standing for a society which moves towards Socialism. We stand for peace. We stand for sustainable development. We stand for workers, for those struggling to raise families, for students, for pensioners and for local communities.
“We are a Communist Party made up of people like you. We organise and campaign for people like you. With your vote, Communists will represent you, your community, your class, on the council.”
We call for electors to “VOTE LEFT and where possible to put a communist on your local council. They will fight tooth and nail for you…”