Derby Silk Mill commemorations 2023: no communists allowed

How did the CPB appoint itself the gatekeeper of the British working-class movement?

Proletarian writers

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Advertisements for this year’s commemorations of the Derby lockout of 1833-4 included exortations to ‘Remember your past, fight for your future’ and to uphold working-class ‘solidarity’. But it seems that by the definitions of local trades council and CPB gatekeepers, membership of the working class is confined to those who uphold their Labour party-aligned ’orthodoxies’ (betrayals).

Proletarian writers

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The march and rally commemorating the 190th anniversary of the Silk Mill lockout was trailed on Saturday 10 June by the Morning Star with an article by Communist Party of Britain (CPB) member Moz Greenshields in which she “invited all and sundry” to come and participate. (Don’t miss this for the world)

Local members of our own party, the CPGB-ML, had tried repeatedly to hire an official stand at the event, but, after much prevarication, were told this was being denied on the basis that the organisers were “over-subscribed”.

Nevertheless, East Midlands members responded to the open invitation and turned up anyway, setting up a stall and handing out leaflets – only to be told by the very same Moz Greenshields that while ‘all and sundry’ might be welcome, the CPGB-ML most definitely was not!

The petty and sectarian behaviour of the CPB gatekeepers to this working-class gathering was revealed during the day as they persistently harried our contingent. First they were told that the empty piece of grass they were standing on had been “booked by someone else” (a ‘someone’ who strangely never appeared), then that there was a “health and safety issue” since they hadn’t filled in all the proper forms.

Whilst our members engaged with other stallholders and organisations in a comradely fashion, they were met with hostility and aggression from all sides. Despite having advertised nationally for participants, one of the ‘accusations’ levelled at our comrades was that some of them were “not local” – apparently showing solidarity to our comrades around the country is now also an offence.

The desperation to find excuses for the official rejection of our party’s presence was palpable.

Finally, bureaucracy and sectarian pettiness gave way to political venom, and our contingent was informed in no uncertain terms that their party’s “anti-trade union message” was not acceptable to the Silk Mill organisers.

By which it was plainly understood that our anti-Labour party message was not welcome by these errand boys of social democracy, the incurable anticommunists of the so-called ‘Communist Party of Britain’ and their friends in the trade union bureaucracies.

So what were these self-appointed policemen of the left really afraid of?

A real communist approach to the trade union movement

The CPGB-ML is not against trade unions or the trade union movement; we are against the bureaucratisation and NGO-isation of the trade union movement.

We are against those leaderships of trade unions who work with the imperialist Labour party, which is backed and controlled by British monopoly capital – the sworn enemy of the working class.

We are against trade unions that obey the immoral and crippling anti-trade union laws.

We are against trade union promotion and celebration of ‘wage deals’ that leave workers starving.

We are against trade union ‘deals’ that preserve conditions for mid-level workers and above while leaving low-wage members to depend on food banks for survival.

We are against trade unions that hold back working-class political education and refuse to offer meaningful leadership in the struggle against British capital.

Trade unions have played a major role in many revolutions — in Russia, in Vietnam, and elsewhere — but those unions were of a very different type. They were not the lapdogs of the sworn enemy of their members; they were wolves on the heels of the enemy.

Our party does not want to weaken the trade union movement; we are fighting to make it as strong as it was in those successful revolutions.

We are fighting to rid the working class of the control of bought-and-paid for servants of capital.

This is not only possible but necessary. It must be done if we are to move forward to socialism and avoid the downward spiral of poverty, unemployment, crisis and war which is all that workers have to look forward to under conditions of capitalism.

We will continue to do everything in our power to convince the rank and file that they need to create a leadership that is committed to the emancipation of workers; which is prepared to fight outside the ‘respectable’ confines of lines drawn by capital and do whatever is necessary to win.

And in order to do that, we will continue to help workers understand that both the capitalist-imperialist ruling class and the Labour party which serves that class are our enemy.

We will continue to apply Marxist science to all areas of our work and we will continue to do what we can to connect that powerful liberation tool with the mass of the working class.

We will never be scared to tell it how it is. We will never be intimidated by the barrage of lying propaganda that fills Britain’s corporate media.

It is the capitalists’ job to try to stop us from building a socialist society; it is our job to do it anyway!

Challenge your ideas — challenge their propaganda — seek the truth — serve the people — change the world!


Read our leaflet for the Silk Mill commemoration
Read our Manifesto for the Crisis: Class Against Class