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Communist Party congress: taking the road to socialism

On November 6-7, the Communist Party of Britain will be holding the 56th congress since its foundation in 1920. General Secretary ROBERT GRIFFITHS sets the scene for pre-congress discussion

THIS autumn’s Congress will analyse the national and international situation since the previous one in 2017; set out the party’s strategic and tactical objectives for the coming period; and elect a new executive committee to lead its work accordingly.

The outgoing CP executive has now issued its resolutions for debate up to and during the 56th congress. The domestic resolution begins with an assessment of the game-changing 2019 general election.

The chief causes of Labour's defeat were, firstly, the party’s disastrous change of policy from respecting the EU referendum result to one of obstructing Brexit and proposing a second referendum; and secondly, the slanderous ruling-class character assassination of Jeremy Corbyn, aided and abetted by a substantial section of the Parliamentary Labour Party.

The result was the election of a central government that put the interests of big business far above those of workers, their families and the general public when the Covid crisis struck. Moreover, the pandemic itself confirmed that Britain’s economic and political system has been designed to meet the needs of monopoly corporations, not those of the people.

The Conservative government’s refusal to halt international travel and implement a lockdown early enough; the transfer of elderly NHS patients to care homes without a test or staff with PPE; the premature relaxation of Covid protection measures; the refusal to work with unions and enforce an adequate workplace safety regime — all these helped propel Britain to the top of the world Covid mortality table.

But there is also a deeper explanation. As the Congress resolution puts it: “A decade of deep austerity cuts and privatisations had fatally weakened the capacity of the NHS, elderly care and civil emergency services to protect lives despite the heroic efforts of staff and other front-line and key workers.”

What a contrast to the drastic, decisive action taken in China, Cuba and Vietnam where the state, the workers and the people generally were mobilised to beat back the pandemic.

Safeguarding company profits was and remains the government’s top priority. In the end, however, this criminal negligence has not only cost 152,000 lives. It is also costing the Treasury £407 billion, much of it in subsidies to big business.

Yet again, public funds have been used to bail out capitalism in Britain, this time on an even bigger scale than turned out to be the case following the 2008 financial crash.

Who will pay the bill is a question to which we already know the answer. This year’s spring budget announced the first round of public spending cuts — with the armed forces exempt — and real-terms tax increases.

Other government policies, including authoritarian measures to strengthen the powers of the police, courts and intelligence services and to restrict public protests, signal a renewed ruling-class offensive against working-class living standards and democratic rights. Early signs of this offensive can be seen in the spate of “fire and rehire” attacks on jobs and wages by big private-sector companies.

Neoliberal economic policies are not a departure from “state-monopoly capitalism.” State power at British level is used ruthlessly to promote the interests of monopoly capital as much as ever. This means, among other things, that all the forms of bribery and corruption experienced under pre-Brexit Conservative and Labour governments are flourishing under Boris Johnson.

Johnson’s Conservative regime intends to reshape Britain, using populist rhetoric and deceptive slogans — Build Back Better and Levelling Up — to maintain support for a more centralised “free-market” Britain in which the capitalist monopolies (not least “Big Pharma”) are free to profiteer at will. In the battle of ideas, British nationalism and militarism are being deployed to rally people to the flag against challenges to Conservative rule at home and British imperialism abroad.

The Internal Market Act rescinds powers from the Scottish and Welsh parliaments to administer regional development funds and control state aid to industry.

Such a blatant attack on the devolution settlement underlines the case for what the Communist Party calls “progressive federalism” (also known as “radical federalism” in some left-wing Labour circles).

Communists uphold the right of the Scottish and Welsh people to independence and the mandate of the SNP-Green parliamentary majority in Edinburgh to hold a second referendum. But rather than pursue a bogus model of independence whereby Scotland is subservient to the Bank of England, the Treasury, the EU and Nato, we call for maximum economic powers in a federal Britain.

A federal chamber, an English parliament and regional assemblies elected by a genuine system of proportional representation would entrench a new constitutional settlement, safeguarding greater powers for Wales and Scotland and assisting the growth of a progressive English patriotism.

The labour and progressive movements should remain united in the struggle to challenge the power of the capitalist monopolies and to seize and redistribute the vast wealth concentrated in the City of London and British tax havens overseas.

What the objective conditions demand now is a return to class-based politics and unity to build an anti-monopolies alliance against British state-monopoly capitalism.

Hence the congress resolution’s emphasis on the ways in which big business, corporations and the state and monopoly media block the road to progress on every front. Economically, they resist the policies needed to tackle the chronic weaknesses of Britain’s unbalanced economy.

They do this by underinvestment in industry, infrastructure and technology — except in the state-subsidised armaments sector — and in education and training; the predominance of the City of London financial institutions and markets and over-reliance on financial and property services and on earnings from overseas investment; the absence of central planning and controls; the refusal to tax the super-rich and big business in order to fund public services; and the reliance on household and corporate debt to maintain demand in the economy.

Environmentally, the failure to plan and invest much more in low-carbon transport and renewable non-nuclear energy is undermining the contribution that Britain must make to the fight against global warming.

Socially, reliance on profit-driven construction companies and landowners to build the millions of homes needed has patently failed; instead, we have property speculation, escalating prices, the spread of second homes for the wealthy and the return of slum landlordism.

No successful mass movement can be built without the extensive participation of women. But many are trapped in precarious and low-paid jobs and poverty, weighed down with unfairly large burdens of housework and family care.

But instead of enjoying remedies based on employment rights, public services and benefits, women now have to fight a rearguard action to defend recent gains against reactionary forms of gender identity politics.

Our position is clear: “The Communist Party recognises no antagonistic contradiction between the class-based struggle against the oppression and super-exploitation of women and the campaign to end discrimination against transgender people.”

Reasoned dialogue and debate will help advance the legitimate interests of women and trans people, not divisiveness and disunity in the labour, women’s and LGBT+ movements.

The ruling class has another weapon in its armoury against the prospect of unity in an anti-monopolies alliance, namely, racism. Employers big and small continue to profit from the super-exploitation of black, immigrant and undocumented workers.

Racism is rooted in capitalist exploitation and imperialism. The participation of anti-racist campaigners in a wider alliance aimed at the capitalist monopolies can only be to the mutual benefit of all the forces involved.

Young people face more and bigger problems in education, employment and housing than for a generation or two. The Young Communist League’s Youth Charter offers a way forward and every movement needs the energy, skills, boldness and ingenuity of those who will inherit our society.   

As the congress resolution points out, “Building such an alliance through discussion, debate and action must now be the top strategic priority of the labour and progressive movements and the left, including the Communist Party.”

The People’s Assembly resembles an anti-monopolies alliance in embryo. But this must be an alliance built in campaigning at every level, in workplaces and local communities as well as in national demonstrations. And it should not only oppose cuts and privatisation — it must propose a positive alternative.

That’s why the Communist Party proposes a left-wing programme of the key demands that challenge state-monopoly capitalism. These include:

  • A Green New Deal of job-creating investment.
  • Cuts in military spending and diversification of the arms industry into civilan R&D and production.
  • Public ownership of key sectors of industry and the utilities.
  • Repeal of anti-trade union laws and a return to collective bargaining.
  • Restoration of full employment as a central aim of economic policy.
  • Abolition of Britain's racist immigration, asylum and nationality laws.

An anti-monopolies convention could consolidate such a programme as the basis for a mass movement, laying the foundations for replacing the present government in London with a left-led government.

There will be controversy around these perspectives.

They refute the escapism of Modern Monetary Theory and a Universal Basic Income. They forsake the superficial “anti-Toryism” peddled by the self-proclaimed “centre left” and some of the far left. They uphold working-class unity against national separatism.

In short, the resolution rejects idealism and makes a concrete, class analysis of the concrete situation, followed by concrete proposals that point to the road to socialism.

The main resolutions for the CP congress can be accessed at: www.communistparty.org.uk/56th-congress.

Readers are invited to send their comments (up to 300 words) to letters@peoples-press.com or Morning Star, Ruskin House, 23 Coombe Rd., Croydon CR0 1BD.

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