Revolutionary Communist Group (UK)

The Revolutionary Communist Group is a communist organisation in the United Kingdom. It evolved from the "Revolutionary Opposition" in the International Socialists (forerunners of the Socialist Workers Party) during the early 1970s. The grouping was an undeclared and therefore, under the terms of the IS Constitution, an illegal internal faction. It was described by the leadership of IS as the "right opposition". The group was strongly influenced by Roy Tearse, who was once the Industrial Organiser of the wartime Revolutionary Communist Party but not a member of IS.

When the leading figures of the "Revolutionary Opposition", the name itself only first appearing in print in their appeal document, were expelled from the IS its members met to decide on their course of action, and disagreements between Tearse's allies, many based in Bristol, and the majority of the faction around David Yaffe rapidly surfaced. The result was that Tearse's friends formed the Discussion Group which led a quiet life for a number of years inside the Labour Party before dissolving. Meanwhile Yaffe and his comrades proceeded to found the Revolutionary Communist Group.

Early years

In January 1975 the RCG began publishing a theoretical journal called "Revolutionary Communist" [|right|thumb] in which it espoused an ultra-orthodox view of crisis theory, a theme they had already addressed in the IS when challenging the work of the theoreticians of that group. They developed Marx, Engels and Lenin's analysis of the labour aristocracy, and showed its relevance for politics in the period after the Second World War. Their conclusions led them to call for no vote for the Labour Party. In so doing they broke totally from Trotskyism.

The early years of the RCG saw the group lose a large part of its initial membership. For example in September 1975 the Birmingham branch decamped in order to join the Workers' Socialist League. In time another minority in the RCG gave rise to the 'Revolutionary Communist Tendency' led by Frank Richards, a pseudonym for University of Kent sociologist, Frank Furedi. They were expelled in November 1976. They claimed to stand on the RCG's original politics which they alleged the tendency around David Yaffe had abandoned. They developed into the Revolutionary Communist Party.

The RCG recognised the progressive role played by some of the traditional communist parties such as the South African Communist Party and from that position developed into a more orthodox communist grouping supporting the socialist revolution in Cuba.

Whilst other far-left parties in the UK welcomed the demise of the Eastern Bloc and then of the Soviet Union, the RCG argued that these events were counterrevolutionary and constituted a set-back in the class struggle internationally because many national liberation movements and socialist states in the Third World were supported by the Soviet Union and the Comecon. The RCG believed that while the Soviet Union was a socialist state, as a result of both internal developments in the Soviet Union itself and the reactionary role of working class parties (social democratic and communist) in the imperialist countries, the revolution degenerated and the communist party became an elite party separate from the working class. These developments laid the foundation for the counterrevolution between 1989-91.

Irish and South African solidarity work

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, the RCG became heavily involved in support for the Irish national liberation struggle, working with the Prisoners Aid Committee, Sinn Féin and the Troops Out Movement (TOM), and focussing particularly on support for Irish republican prisoners held in British prisons. The analysis which the RCG developed through this work, on the role of national liberation movements in opposing imperialism, laid the foundations for much of its later positions, and its relationship to the rest of the British left. Unlike many other left organisations, the RCG consistently argued that British troops had no progressive role to play in Ireland, and called for total support for the Republican movement in the struggle against British imperialism. Their involvement with the prisoner support groups established a tradition of outspoken support for prison struggles which has continued to the present, with a page of every issue of their newspaper dealing with prison conditions and struggles. In 1990, when prisoners at Strangeways took over the prison in protest at conditions, the RCG was active together with other groups supporting them on the outside, and later published a book, 'Strangeways: A Serious Disturbance', largely written by prisoners and former prisoners.

During the 1980s, the RCG's most notable activity was its participation in the non-stop picket of the South African embassy in London calling for the release of Nelson Mandela. This was organized by the City of London Anti-Apartheid Group, within which the RCG played a leading role alongside elements of the Workers' Revolutionary Party, the Humanist Party and members of the Kitson family. City AA, as it became known, had been founded by Norma Kitson, the wife of the South African Communist activist David Kitson who served 19 years and 5 months in prison in a South African prison for his work in the National High Command of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), the military wing of the African National Congress.

City AA was eventually expelled by the national leadership of the Anti-Apartheid Movement, over differences centering on City Group's insistence on making the link between British support for apartheid in South Africa, and racism within Britain.

Another significant campaign during the 1980s was the Viraj Mendis Defence Campaign, against the deportation of one of the group's members to Sri Lanka. This developed into a high profile national campaign involving people from left-wing groups such as the RCG, local residents of Manchester, and extending to church leaders and Labour Party Members of Parliament.

The 1990s

In 1995 the RCG set up Rock Around the Blockade (RATB), a solidarity organisation with the Cuban Revolution. As well as campaigning on issues such as the US economic blockade and the Cuban Five, and sending political solidarity brigades to Cuba, RATB raised funds to take sound systems out to Cuba. These were used with young people in cultural and political work, and the RATB has donated five sound systems over a ten year period.

By the end of the 1990s, three members of the RCG who had alleged that the leadership was bureaucratic and failing to train the membership in Marxism-Leninism were asked to leave or resign because of what were described as their reactionary ultra-left views. One example of the division was over the September 11th attacks in 2001, which the three people who left viewed as a victory against imperialism. They left to form Communist Forum, often known by the name of their newsletter, "Fightback". They have ceased to be active.


Following the start of the Palestinian second intifada in September 2000, in October the RCG joined a group which had begun to picket Marks and Spencer in Manchester over their support for Israel, and helped to spread this to other cities. Over the next six years pickets of Marks and Spencer were held in places including Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee, Newcastle, Stockton, Middlesbrough, Durham, Rochdale, Nottingham, Leicester, across London, Stratford and Brighton. Throughout this period the flagship store on Oxford Street in London was picketed weekly, and in many other places pickets were sustained on a regular basis.

In 2005 and 2006, the RCG stepped up their work in solidarity with asylum seekers, supporting the setting up of UNITY, an asylum seekers' union, in Glasgow, and helping to establish Tyneside Community Action for Refugees (TCAR) in Newcastle and Gateshead and the North West Asylum Seekers Defence Group (NWASDG) in Manchester.

The newspaper of the Revolutionary Communist Group, "Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!" (FRFI)commemorated 25 years of publication with issue Number 182 December 2004/January 2005. The paper is still published every two months.

External links

* [ Revolutionary Communist Group]
* [ RCG Manchester local website]
* [ RCG North East local website]
* [ Rock Around the Blockade]
* [ Cuba: Socialism Into the 21st Century Speaking Tour Feb-March 08]

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