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As Infighting splits the British Communist Party, membership sags

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These are hard days to be a member of the Communist Party in Britain. Communism here is in deep trouble. The latest evidence comes from an open rift that has developed between party leaders and the management of the Communist Party newspaper in Britain, the Morning Star.

Beneath the split lie a fall in circulation, a drop in party membership, disagreements within the party and between paper and party - and a dogged refusal even of unemployed British young people to turn to communism as a solution to economic recession.

In 1942, when Britain and the Soviet Union were allies against Hitler, the party claimed a membership of 55,000. Today, according to party spokesman Ian Mckay in an interview, it has dropped to below 18,000. One estimate is that it is down to 15,000.

The circulation of the Morning Star is down to fewer than 32,000 a day, and the paper may have to close unless it can raise revenue quickly.

The party ran 35 candidates in the June 9 elections, Mr. Mckay said, adding, ''They did very badly: We are nowhere near electing any one of them.''

The best performances were in Nottingham North, where the Communist polled 2. 5 percent of the vote (1,184 ballots), and in a seat in the coal-mining Rhondda Valley in Wales, where a candidate attracted about 1,300 votes.

According to London Times reporter David Hewson, many middle-class members intellectually attracted to Marxism have swung to the left wing of the Labour Party. Meanwhile, a large number of young people are less left-wing than a decade ago, even though many grass-roots constituency parties within the Labour Party consider themselves radical and Trotskyite.

Mr. Hewson quotes a source as saying, ''Mass unemployment has had the opposite effect to the one we predicted. Far from being politicized . . . young people are further away from politics than ever because they think everyone in the game is crooked.''

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