MORNING STAR journalists walked out on 25 February demanding the
re-instatement of suspended editor John Haylett but the dispute reflects the
growing crisis within the Communist Party of Britain (CPB) and a struggle
for control of the paper.
For the past three years the CPB has been divided into two camps --
born from the old "Communist Campaign Group" which saved the Star from
liquidation during the 80s and brokeaway from the CPGB, eventually
establishing the CPB in 1988 under the leadership of Mike Hicks.
The other camp is backed by former members of the CPGB's old sectarian
"Straight Left" faction which remained in that party until it dissolved
itself in 1990.
After briefly operating as "Communist Liaison" and "Communist Trade
Unionists" most of them eventually joined the CPB though they appear to have
no direct link with the old Straight Left magazine, which is still published.
At the CPB Congress the old leadership successfully defeated proposals
aimed at destroying democratic centralism but they were unable to retain
their majority on the Executive. At the January meeting of the CPB EC Mike
Hicks was ousted from the post of General Secretary by 17 votes to 13.
The anti-Hicks motion was moved by Morning Star editor John Haylett.
suspended a week later on charges of gross industrial misconduct by the
Management Committee of the People's Press Printing Society following a 7 to
4 vote on 24 January. On 30 January the new CPB General Secretary Rob
Griffiths sent out an all-members circular supporting Haylett and on 4
February 12 Morning Star journalists went on a one day unofficial strike
backing Haylett which halted production
of the paper.
The NUJ has made the strike official though it is not being supported
the Star's two GPMU print union chapels. In a statement published in the
Morning Star on 25 February the paper's management stated they "would have
Liked to have listed the charges against Mr Haylett but have been advised
that to do so could damage his reputation and put the paper at risk from
libel action". But versions of the charges have been widely aired in the
Both sides have agreed to go to ACAS in an attempt to resolve the dispute.
The majority group on the PPPS board have consistently fought to maintain
the independence of the Morning Star as the "broad daily paper of the left".
This is increasingly being challenged by their opposition, who have argued
that the paper be more directly Linked to the CPB and possibly with Arthur
Scargill's Socialist Labour Party.
Some former members of the CPB within the SLP called on SLP members
intervene in the PPPS elections pt their own conference in December. This
was opposed by SLP President Arthur Scargill and overwhelmingly
But this week the Star said "We understand that talks are taking place
between the leadership of the Communist Party of Britain and the SLP
regarding the Morning Star -- but the Morning Star has not been involved in
The NCP has no wish to intervene in the internal guarrels of the CPB.
the question of the Morning Star is different. It involves everyone on the
left. Many NCP members and supporters hold shares in the PPPS and many
our supporters buy the Star. At our 1995 and 1997 Congress's the Party
re-affirmed our support for the survival of the Morning Star as an
independent broad daily paper of the left, which is an asset to the working
The Morning Star's survival depends on the support it is given from
labour and trade union movement as a whole. Any attempt to make the Star the
paper of the CPB, or indeed, any other party. would kill it. It cannot be
sustained by the CPB's membership alone, which is put at around 1 ,200, half
of whom are pensioners.
We have many differences with the stand of the Star on many issues --
Labour Party and Iraq immediately spring to mind. But differences between
communists and the left are inevitable -- and they reflect the differences
within the labour movement today.
But as a source of daily reports of industrial struggles the Morning
provides a service that cannot be replaced. If the Star goes under it would
take a generation or more to restore it.
New Communist Party of Britain Homepage