When we caught up to interview Robert Griffiths, he was right in the middle of helping to organise the Communist University to be held in early November. Rob's answers were open and wide-ranging and give a taste of what can be expected from platform speakers and in the plenaries.
Q. The main theme of this years CU is 'Humanity's Future is Socialism!' Why was this theme chosen?
A. To paraphrase the late South African Communist Party leader Joe Slovo, the Communists may have failed the people of Russia - but capitalism has failed the whole of humanity. The only rational, realistic alternative to capitalist exploitation, war and the destruction of our planet is socialism. Only a society based on common social ownership of large-scale industry, commerce and the earth's natural resources, planning their use for society's common good, acting to eliminate all forms of oppression, can secure the future of humanity.
Q. Ideas and theory are so important to successful labour movements - what kind of audience comes to mind when you are thinking of organising a CU?
A. Everyone who wants to think, discuss and debate how we can achieve extensive reforms and revolutionary change in society is welcome - communists, socialists, democrats, anti-war campaigners, environmentalists, people of all political parties and none. Obviously, workers, trade unionists and young people have a special role and particular responsibilities in the struggle for a better future, so we take steps to ensure that the Communist University appeals to them. We invite speakers who know how to interest and inspire intelligent workers and young people who don't have a postgraduate degree in political philosophy.
Q. There have been other CU's held in the last year - very successful ones in Scotland, the North of England, the Midlands and Wales. In what way is CU 2009 different?
A.It's bigger and can feature a wider range of topics, speakers and events. The CPB centrally can put greater resources into organising every aspect of the Communist University of Britain. We are also increasingly using the CUB to launch new initiatives. Last year, speakers such as left-wing Labour MPs John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn, and RMT railway workers leader Bob Crow, joined us in the call for a People's Charter, which has since come to fruition. This year, the university will host the launch of a new left-wing publishing house, the Manifesto Press. Three books on anti-imperialism, working class history and Cuba will make an appearance along with their authors.
Q. For the next twelve months, politics will inevitably focus on the forthcoming general election - and there are sessions on anti fascism, The People's Charter, the Charter for Women and 'The Crisis of Working Class Representation'. Who will lead these sessions?
A.Among the speakers confirmed so far are RMT general secretary Bob Crow and Hope Not hate anti-fascist organiser Matthew Collins, alongside South-East Region TUC secretary Megan Dobney, People's Charter joint convenor John Hendy, Charter for Women leader Mary Davis, Green Party socialist Derek Wall, Indian Worker's Association general secretary Harsev Bains, Communist Party trade union co-ordinator Carolyn Jones and many others.
Q. What factors do you apply when you are working out if CP universities have been a success?
A. Well, we don't want to lose money! But more important is the quality of the contribution that Communist Universities make to political education and discussion. They energise many of those who attend, or at least recharge batteries for the work and challenges ahead. Increasingly, too, they act as a force and focus for better mutual understanding and greater unity in action on the left. If the Communist universities don't help equip communists, socialists and progressive campaigners with ideas and arguments to take out into workplaces and local communities, they have failed.