Our Society and Why We Want to Change it: Capitalism
The aim of the Communist Party is to achieve a Socialist Britain in which the means of production, distribution and exchange will be socially owned and utilised in a planned way for the benefit of all.Rule 2 of the Aims and Constitution of the Communist Party
Britain, And Its People
Whoever travels through our land must be struck by its beauty. Despite over 200 years of industrial development, Britain’s varied loveliness is world famed. But, in addition to great natural beauty, Britain is rich—rich in natural resources, in the skill of her workers, in her capacity to produce everything necessary for a good life for all.
Britain’s greatest single asset is the British people, who in their long history have often been foremost in the fight against tyranny and oppression:
- the British people were the first in the world to fight and end the absolute power of kings in the English Revolution of 1640
- the British working class pioneered trade unionism and the Co-operative movement
- the struggle of the English Chartists in the forties of the last century is an inspiration to the workers of all countries
Britain could be a paradise for the people—its skilled working people could build a new and better life as rapidly as any other people in the world. But Britain is not a paradise for the peqple. On the contrary, there is:
- massive unemployment and part time working
- continually rising prices, and bitter resistance by the government and employers to wage increases
- a vicious programme of cutting our social services to the bone
- starvation and hypothermia among old working class pensioners, starving on miserable pensions, and desperate hardship for our disabled people
- cultural domination of our country by the US
- a continuous history of wars, the result of Britain’s membership of NATO and other war alliances, on behalf of the US
- a constant waste of taxpayer pounds to finance costly nuclear submarines, though the ostensible reason for them, the Soviet Union, has disintegrated.
…to be selective! All of this is the consequence of policies supported largely by both the Tories and right-wing Labour leaders. But why? Who and what is responsible?
Underlying it is the fundamental cause of all the sufferings and tribulations of the people, namely, that Britain is a capitalist country, ruled for and by capitalists for their profit and interests. It is the capitalists and those right-wing leaders of the Labour movement who support their policies, who are responsible for the position we find ourselves in. What is wrong with Britain is the way society is organised, the “system of society” which prevails. Some of the main features of this society are:
- It is divided into rich and poor—a tiny handful of rich (1 per cent of the population own more than half the nation’s wealth) who do no work and the overwhelming majority who work their whole lives through:
- Large fortunes comprise a quarter of this country’s wealth. This is owned by about 5,000 people—one-fifth of 1 per cent of the nation. There are hundreds of thousands of capitalist firms, but only a few hundred of them take half the total yearly profit made in Britain.
- Millions of people can exist in this country only by drawing public assistance. But there are roughly 100,000 big bosses, 300,000 small employers and 650,000 managers—a total of around 1 million who live off what the rest of us, the twenty or so millions of the working population, produce.
- These working people produce everything and own very little. The million produce nothing, own practically everything and dominate everything—the Government, Parliament, the press, the courts, book publishing, the films, ITV and the BBC.
- Wars—involving incalculable suffering to the people—are a regular occurrence. There have been two terrible wars within the lifetime of elderly adults in Britain, and continuous wars backing US imperialism, especially in the Middle East.
- Empire—Britain is the centre of a huge empire, now called “the Commonwealth” covering a quarter of the earth’s surface and containing a quarter of the world’s population. This empire was acquired by brutal conquest, just as the US is now acquiring its empire. It brought huge profits to British capitalists and financiers. It cost the lives of thousands of British soldiers and hundreds of millions of pounds spent in trying to keep the colonial peoples down. While many of these peoples have now won their political independence, vast profits are still squeezed out of them, for British firms still dominate decisive sections of the economic life of the poorer colonial countries.
These are some of the features of the system we live under which is called capitalism.
What Is Capitalism?
Here we deal with two main aspects only:
It is a system of exploitation. Capitalism is a system in which the means for producing the wealth—the land, the mines, factories, the machines, etc—are in private hands. It is true that in Britain some industries—mining, the railways, electricity—have sometimes been taken out of private hands and have been nationalized. But the first charge on the nationalized industries is compensation for the old, private shareholders. Nationalised boards are manned overwhelmingly by ex-directors of the industries concerned. In any case only around 20 per cent of industry at most has ever been nationalized. The remaining 80 per cent stays in private hands. Thus a tiny handful of people own these “means of production” as they are called. But they do not work them. The immense majority of the people own nothing (in the sense that they can live on what they own) but their power to work.
By exploitation we mean living off the labour of other people. There have been previous forms of exploitation. In slave society, the slave owners lived off the labour of the slaves who were their property. In feudal society, the feudal lords lived off the forced labour of the serfs. In capitalist society, the worker is neither a slave nor yet a serf, that is, forced to do free, unpaid labour for a master. But he is exploited just the same, even though the form of this exploitation is not so open and clear as was the case with the slaves and the serfs.
The essence of exploitation under capitalism consists in this—that the workers, when set to work with raw materials and machinery, produce far more in values than what is paid out by the capitalists in wages, for raw materials, etc. In short, they produce a surplus which belongs to the capitalists and for which they are not paid. Thus they are robbed of the values they produce. This is the source of capitalist profit. It is on this surplus, produced by the workers, that the capitalist lives in riches and luxury.
Let us take actual examples of this using werll established historical data. Official figures show that in 1955 the value added by labour to the raw materials, etc. in the cement industry came to £1,870 per worker. Average wages and salaries came to £620. Thus there was a surplus value of £1,250 produced by each worker. This is 200 per cent exploitation—a lot of workers got one-third and a few capitalist got two-thirds.
Capitalism is a system in which the means for producing wealth are owned by a few who live by exploiting the workers, that is, by robbing them of the values they produce over and above the value of their wages.
It is a system of booms and slumps. From the earliest days of its existence—at the end of the eighteenth century—until today, capitalism has been marked by periodic slumps, or “economic crises” as they are called, which cause mass unemployment and untold misery for the great mass of the working people. These are very special crises. They are caused because there is too much of everything and are therefore called “crises of over-production”.
In these crises there breaks out an epidemic that in all earlier epochs would have seemed an absurdity—the epidemic of over-production…Marx-Engels, Communist Manifesto
The great world economic crisis of 1929-31, which really lasted until the beginning of the Second World War, is the yardstick for more recent crises, including the present one. At that time there were over 40 million people unemployed throughout the capitalist world. In Britain, in the autumn of 1930, the figures of registered unemployed exceeded 2,300,000 and never sank below 1 million until 1940, after the beginning of the Second World War.
Capitalist Crises of Over-Production
Capitalism is a system based on competition. There are many capitalists each producing the same kind of commodity. Each hopes to sell all that he has produced and thereby to realise a profit. He has to compete with his rivals in the attempt to sell his goods. The quantity of goods produced therefore bears no relation to the real demand. Capitalism is thus by its nature an unplanned, anarchic system. Each capitalist tries to produce as much and as cheaply as possible to grab as much of the market and as much profit as possible. To do so more effectively, to defeat their rivals, the capitalists constantly seek to cheapen production by introducing new machinery, speeding up the workers, etc. Thus more and more goods are being produced. At the same time they seek to drive down the wages of the workers to increase their share of the wealth produced.
There thus arises a constant gap between the quantity of the goods produced and the ability of the mass of consumers—in all countries, workers and peasants dependent on more or less fixed wages and small incomes—to buy them. This is the source of crises under capitalism.
So long as capitalism has existed there have always been crises of overproduction.
So long as capitalism continues to exist crises are inevitable. It is impossible to plan continuous unbroken production in the interests of the people under capitalism. Only socialism makes crisis-free production possible.
Capitalism Develops to Imperialism
So, capitalism is a system where each capitalist is faced with competition for the market from his rivals. To meet this competition each capitalist tries to produce more and more cheaply than his competitors. This results in the enlarging of the units of production as individual capitalists enlarge their plant, introduce more modern machinery, speed-up, etc. By this competition, the bigger and stronger capitalists ruin the smaller and weaker ones, and a stage arises when whole sectors of production are dominated by a few giant concerns. These are called monopolies and they are able to regulate production in their own interests, charge high monopoly prices, and maximize profits.
This is a new stage in the development of capitalism—the domination of economic life by monopolies—monopoly capitalism—and began to develop in most European countries at the end of the nineteenth century. Monopoly is the essence of imperialism, and imperialism is the highest and last stage of capitalism.
Competition leads to monopoly in each capitalist country. But monopoly does not eliminate competition. Within each country the big monopolies engage in fierce conflict with one another. Competition is particularly violent between the monopolies of different countries for world domination. One result is the scramble for secure, exclusive, competition-free markets, for sources of raw materials, for spheres for the most profitable investment of capital. This is found in the technically undeveloped parts of the world. These are seized and transformed into colonies, whose whole economic and political life are forcibly dominated by imperialist governments to meet the needs of the big monopolies for maximum profits.
But the world has only so many colonial areas. And by the beginning of the twentieth century the available colonies were parcelled out between a few older imperialist countries—Britain, France, Holland, Belgium, Portugal—especially Britain. The British Empire, by 1914, covered 12.7 million square miles of territory with a population of 431 million people. 3,700,000 square miles of the British Empire were acquired between 1884-1900, the period of the rise of imperialism as a new stage in the development of capitalism.
Imperialism Causes War
In this situation, developing monopoly capitalism in Germany and the USA driving outwards and eager to acquire colonies could secure them only by taking them from those powers who already had empires, that is, by war—especially from Britain.
The various powers “gang up” in combination against other groupings of imperialist powers. Thus the First World War of 1914-18 took place as a conflict between two groups of powers—one led by Britain (the Entente) and the other by Germany (the Central Powers). It was a brutal imperialist war between Britain and Germany for colonies, markets and European domination. The Second World War arose out of the drive of Hitler Germany for world domination. Today the danger of a third world war arises out of the drive of US imperialism to subjugate the entire world.
Imperialism is not only the period of world wars. It ushers in the era of the world socialist revolution.
The workers in the imperialist countries, faced with increased exploitation, the peoples of the colonial countries, subject to even greater oppression, the people of the whole world, faced with a succession of terrible wars, awaken to the need to end imperialism. New revolutionary Marxist parties—Communist Parties—arise to head this struggle. Where these parties have the leadership of the working class and of their allies, imperialism is smashed, as was the case in Russia in 1917 after the First World War, and China after 1945. These countries take the path to socialism, which will see the ending of the exploitation of man by man.
The Class Struggle
The Class Struggle arises from Capitalism itself. It is not Imported.
Capitalism is a system in which there are different classes, exploiters and exploited, rich and poor. The interests of these two classes are clearly opposed. The exploiters try to increase the exploitation of the workers as much as possible in order to increase their profits. The exploited try to limit this exploitation and to get back as much of the wealth as possible of which they have been robbed.
This is one aspect of the class struggle which arises inevitably out of the whole character of capitalism as a class system based on exploitation.
In the fight against monopoly capitalism, the working class needs allies, and can secure them. Monopoly capitalism attacks not only the working class but threatens the interests of other sections of society, including those of the smaller capitalists—small businesses like sole traders and self employed craftsmen. The whole home and foreign policy of monopoly capital threatens the existence of the overwhelming majority of the people. This is seen particularly in the policy pursued by the Tory Government on behalf of the big monopolies. Thus monopoly capital can be isolated and the whole forces of the people organised against it. It is the task of the working class to unite around itself the majority of the nation in common struggle for peace, national independence, defence of living standards, East-West trade, etc.
The working class has to fight both immediate and long-term struggles. The immediate struggles are those that are fought out on different aspects of struggle within the existing capitalist order. Such struggles are those for wages, in defence of living standards, for peace, etc. These struggles can be victorious without a fundamental change of social system. Organisations for waging these particular struggles are established, for example, trade unions, peace organisations, old age pensioners’ organisatiops, etc.
But for a lasting solution of all these problems, working people have to end capitalism altogether and replace it by a new system of society in which the working people rule. For this purpose, the working class creates the Communist Party to draw together the most advanced and progressive sections of the working class and of other sections of the people. The Communist Party is dedicated to the task of ending the capitalist system and replacing it by a socialist system. The Communist Party participates to the full in all the immediate struggles facing the working class and its allies, for it is impossible to talk about fighting capitalism unless one takes part in all aspects of that struggle. But the special task of the Communist Party is to link the struggle on the immediate questions with the struggle to develop consciousness and understanding of the need to end the capitalist system as such and replace it by socialism.
Capitalist society gives rise to fierce class struggles which are sharpened enormously in the period of monopoly capitalism—imperialism. This period provides the most favourable possibilities for the securing of allies for the working class. Imperialism puts the task of ending capitalism on the agenda of the day. Communist Parties are created by the working class to lead this struggle. The main task of the Communist Party is to combine participation in the day-to-day struggle with the spreading of understanding of the need to end capitalism and establish socialism.
The ending of the exploitation, of cruelty and injustice caused by class society in its various forms, has long been the dream of men. It found expression in the teachings of the early Christians, in the writings of men like John Ball, Sir Thomas More, Robert Owen, the early English Chartists and the pioneers of the British Labour movement.
But so long as modern, large-scale factory production did not exist, socialism—which alone can end the exploitation of man by man—could only remain a dream. It was capitalism, in the search for greater profits, which mastered natural forces, expanded the production of goods on an enormous scale, united the scattered, individual production of men into highly developed, large-scale factory production, thus establishing the basis on which socialism can be built.
But capitalism by itself does not “evolve” into socialism. It has to be transformed into socialism by the conscious action and struggle of men. Capitalism creates the living social force which, by its very position in capitalist society, is compelled to change capitalism into socialism. This force is the working class and its allies. The age-long dream of the thinkers and the fighters of the past can only be transformed into reality when the working class, supported by its allies and led by the Communist Party, wages the struggle to take political and economic power from the capitalist class and, having succeeded in this, sets about building a socialist society.
Features of a Socialist Society
What will such a socialist society look like? How will exploitation and oppression be ended? We can get an idea of the general features of a socialist society when we examine the experience and achievements of the Soviet Union, the country where socialism was entered for the first time. Ultimately the Soviet Union failed, partly because it was harassed for its whole existence by hostile capitalism, but also through deviations from Marxism and democracy in its internal organization. But despite the problems the Societ Union faced, it did achieve much, enough to show what socialism would be like in better circumstances.
The first and most important feature is that political power, that is, control of the apparatus of government—of the state—is now in the hands of the majority of the people led by the working class. This means that control of the armed forces, the police, the foreign office, education, radio and television, etc, is in the hands of the working class and its allies. It is this power which makes possible the taking over of the main means of production, distribution and exchange, the transformation of the country, from capitalism to socialism, and the defence of the new socialist state from attempts to overthrow it either from inside or outside the country.
The means of production—the factories, mines, land, banks and transport are taken away from the monopoly capitalists. They are transformed into social property by socialist nationalization. This means that they belong to and are worked by the whole of the people, that the fruits of production likewise become social property, used to advance the standard of life of the peoples.
Exploitation of man by man is ended. No longer can some men—the capitalists—by virtue of the fact that they own the means of production, live off—exploit—the labour of others—the working class. No longer are the workers compelled to sell their labour power to the capitalists to live. The workers are no longer property-less proletarians. They now own the means of production and work them in their own interests and in the interests of society. For society is now composed of workers by hand and brain, that is, of an associated body of wealth producers.
What is produced is no longer divided between the workers’ wages and the surplus taken by the capitalists. The whole of what the workers produce comes back to them in various ways. The achievements of the Soviet Union have been ignored and denigrated by western propagandists, but, its national income belonged to the working people. One part—about a quarter—went to the further expansion of socialist production and for other public needs, and the remainder—approximately three-quarters—was used for the satisfaction of the working peoples’ material and cultural requirements… This figure included wages and salaries and the income received by collective farmers. It included the money spent by the government on pensions and other forms of social maintenance, social insurance, and free education and medical services and on other cultural services and amenities.
Since production under socialism is still insufficient to give everybody all that they need, the direct return in money—or “wages” as they are still called—is based on the individual contribution made. The distribution principle of socialism is therefore: “From each according to his ability to each according to the work done”.
What is produced comes back in other ways as well as in wages. The whole immense system of social services—health, social insurance, pensions, education, etc—are free and non-contributory, available to all. The expenses of state administration, of defence, above all, the money for expanding socialist production—the guarantee of a constantly improved standard of living—are financed from the values created by the workers in production. All these serve the immediate and future interests of the working class.
Production is planned to meet the constantly rising material and cultural needs of the people. This is only possible because the means of production have been taken out of the hands of competing private owners whose only concern was to produce what was profitable, not what was needed by the people. Thus there is an end to crises, slumps and unemployment, of poverty in the midst of plenty. For what is planned is both an increase in production and in consumption by the people through increasing their purchasing power. The many price reductions in the Soviet Union since the end of the Second World War, alongside a great increase in production, are examples of how this works out in practice.
Socialism means the ending of the oppression of nation by nation, the end of imperialist exploitation of colonial peoples. It is impossible to build socialism on the basis of imperialist oppression—a point which right-wing Labour leaders cover up. Imperialist exploitation is the policy of monopoly capitalism and benefits it. A socialist society eliminates monopoly capitalism. There is therefore no social basis for imperialism in a socialist society. On the contrary, socialism alone ends imperialism, frees formerly backward colonial peoples, and by fraternal assistance brings them into the front ranks of industrial and social development. The development of the former colonial peoples of the Tsarist Empire since 1917 is one of the most inspiring proofs of the truth of this statement.
Socialism means peace. Within the country there are no longer capitalists who profit by war, who see in war the way to secure more colonies, markets and a chance to dominate the world. On the contrary, in a socialist society everyone loses by war not only in terms of personal suffering but also by the diversion of resources from socialist construction and the advance to a better life. The last war cost the Soviet people the equivalent of two Five-Year Plans—as well as 25 million dead.
Finally, socialism means a new, higher type of democracy—a wider, more purposeful life for all. It is the only system in which the old definition of democracy as “government of the people, by the people, for the people” becomes a reality. Capitalist democracy is government of the people by the capitalists in the interests of the capitalists. The basis for socialist advance is the development of the initiative of the people, their enrolment in the active processes of government and social life. Without this the building of socialism is impossible. Socialism cannot be imposed on the people from above. It develops from below, from the new opportunities which socialist society provides to men and women to develop all their capacities in their own interests and in the interests of society as a whole. The great advances made against forbidding odds in the socialist countries show this.
Socialism—the First Stage of Communism
Socialism is the first stage of transition of mankind from class to fully classless society. Marx and Engels visualised Communism in two stages—socialism, the lower stage, and Communism, the higher stage. There are many differences between these two stages. The main difference is that under Communism production has been developed to such an extent that there is an abundance of goods of all kinds. Society can now advance from the watchword on which socialism is organised, that is, “From each according to his ability to each according to the work done”, to that of Communist society, which is, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”. This means the greatest advance in human history of all time.
Socialism for Britain
The steps necessary to advance Britain towards socialism are outlined in the Communist Party programme The British Road to socialism. On the basis of the building of an alliance of the working class and other oppressed social groups, a socialist government will be set up. Resting on the power of the majority of the people and on their continued struggle, this government will take over all the means of production at present in the hands of the monopolies and turn them into social property. Production will be planned in the interests of a continually rising standard of living for the people. The state apparatus which served capitalism will be transformed and replaced by one which serves the interests of the people. The people will begin more and more to play a decisive part in the running of their country.
A Socialist Britain will greatly strengthen the new advancing world of socialism which already exists and will speed up the final overthrow of imperialism all over the world.
The Path to Socialism in Britain
A fundamental problem of the Labour Movement is how to achieve socialism. Within the movement controversy has raged for a very long time as to the best way to do it. There are two main outlooks:
The Right-wing View
There is a powerful group in the Labour movement composed mainly of the leaders of the Labour Party and a majority at the TUC, which propagates a “right-wing” or “Social Democratic” view on achieving socialism.
It is based on the idea that the way to socialism is through capitalism and its institutions—that capitalism is transformed peacefully and gradually into socialism through the “introduction” of socialist measures by a Labour Government, for example, nationalization. The two Labour Governments of 1945-51 are held up as examples of this gradual transition to socialism. This “theory” is false and dangerous:
It avoids the central issue of real power—political and economic power, which under capitalism is in the hands of the capitalist class and which must be taken out of their hands if the advance to socialism is to be made. Power in the sense of a parliamentary majority must not be confused with real power. A parliamentary majority in British conditions is of importance in beginning the advance to socialism, but, by itself, it cannot bring about socialism.
Economic power means ownership of all the means of production—the factories, mills, mines, land, banks, etc. So long as these remain in the private hands of the capitalist class, society remains capitalist society, irrespective of the character of the government in power. The workers continue to be exploited. Production continues to be production for profit. Planned production for socialism is impossible. Finally, the capitalists can use this power to sabotage and disorganise the economy.
Political power means control of the state apparatus, which is more than Parliament. The state apparatus is the machinery of coercion and government established by every ruling class to maintain its rule over the subject classes. Essential positions in the capitalist state, in the armed forces, the police, law and the judiciary, education, media, etc, are, by careful process of selection, concentrated in the hands of trusted defenders of capitalism. Control is a powerful weapon in the hands of capitalists, used whenever their basic interests appear to be threatened by any progressive government.
It teaches that the state is neutral. The right-wing leaders proclaim this state apparatus is “neutral” and carries out the orders of whichever government is in power. This is a fatal and dangerous idea. Experience in the past has shown that whatever the government in power, however large its majority, the defenders of capitalism in the state apparatus are ready to use their power to thwart any move which might be disadvantageous to the capitalist class as a whole or to any individual section. This was proved in the case of the Liberal Government of 1913, which had passed a Home Rule Bill for Ireland. Landlords of big estates in Ireland and Tory imperialists were bitterly opposed to this measure. They organised a mutiny in the armed forces, called the Curragh Mutiny, and compelled the Government to withdraw the Bill.
Experience in pre-Hitler Germany, Austria and Spain, and the present experience in the Arab states, in South America, particularly Chile and now Venezuela, where the US backed capitalists constantly harass the legitimately elected government, all emphasise the same point, that is, that control of the key positions in the state when left in the hands of capitalist supporters results in the overthrow of the elected parliamentary majority—where such a government is regarded as a menace to capitalism.
It confuses nationalization with socialism. The right-wing leaders assert that any economic activity by the state constitutes socialism. But capitalism often resorts to nationalization. It depends on the kind of state which does the nationalising and the kind of nationalization undertaken. In a number of countries—Germany, Canada and a number of European countries—the railways were nationalized long before the British nationalized theirs. State dockyards, arsenals, etc, have been a feature in many countries for a long time, but nobody would call them socialist measures—served a predominantly capitalist economy to benefit capitalism, not the people.
In Britain some important industries were nationalized—coal, railways, electricity, steel. This was not socialism, for these industries serve the big monopolies, providing them with cheap steel, fuel, power, and transport at the expense of the workers in the industries and of the consumers. The nationalized industries continue to be administered by the former managers and directors with a few retired generals, admirals and old trade union leaders thrown in. The industries nationalized constituted 20 per cent of industry, 80 per cent still remained in private hands. The economic power of the capitalists is not threatened by this kind of nationalization.
It teaches that the working class have no need tp fight for socialism. In essence, right-wing Labour theory reduces the role of the working class in the fight for socialism to that of “voting fodder”. All the workers need to do is to vote every so often for a Labour Government in sufficient numbers. Then socialism is handed down from above, from the magnanimity of Labour politicians, even though many are careerists and opportunists looking for the chance to aggrandize themselves by serving capitalists' interests. In practice, they disarm the working class and prevent them organising and mobilising for the greatest struggle of all—the struggle for socialism.
It turns experience upside down. This theory is most dangerous because it flies directly in the face of the experience of the international working class. No country has achieved socialism on the basis of this theory. On the contrary, in all cases right-wing Labour Governments have been replaced either by fascists, near-fascists, or Tory Governments—Germany, Austria, Britain, Australia.
The Marxist View
General principles. The essence of the Marxist view of the transition to socialism is that unless political and economic power is taken out of the hands of the capitalist class and transferred into the hands of the majority of the people, led by the working class, no advance to socialism is possible.
This means that the state apparatus is transformed into one which serves the majority of the people. The leading positions in the state—army, police, judges, etc—are taken by representatives of the people and defenders of their interests. It means, in the economic field, that monopoly capitalists’ control of the means of production is eliminated by socialist nationalization. This is the general essential content of the transition to socialism in all countries.
Concrete circumstances. While the essential content of socialism applies to all countries, the form in which the transition takes place varies according to the differences of time, place and the relation of class forces in the world, and in the particular country. In various places, we have seen socialism appear in several different ways, some of which were fundamentally non-violent, but turned violent by external interference, mainly from the USA and its allies, such as Korea, Chile, Cuba, Syria, Vietnam. In Britain again the form will be different. In our programme The British Road to socialism our party outlines the specific British forms of advance to socialism.
The British Road to Socialism
Only socialism can solve the problems facing the British people. The British people can only secure peace, national independence, better social provision, the end of imperialist domination over colonial peoples, when monopoly capitalism is ended. Britain can only advance and finally solve its problems when it takes the path to socialism.
The development of unity and of the immediate struggle are the foundations for the advance to socialism. The fight for socialism is not something separate from the fight for the immediate and urgent interests of the people, that is, the fight for wages, peace, social standards or national independence. On the contrary, the greater the level of activity on these issues, and above all, the greater the unity in action of the working class and its allies in the fight for these interests, the more speedy and effective will be the fight to end the Tory Government, to eliminate right-wing influence from the Labour movement.
Action in unity, now, lays the basis for the wider unity which is essential if we are to achieve a Socialist Government and to advance to socialism in Britain.
The alliance of the majority of the people, led by the working classn is the force that can end monopoly capitalism. Monopoly capital, whose political representatives are the Tories, pursues a policy opposed to the interests of the overwhelming majority of the British people. It has tied Britain to the United States, with resulting loss of independence. The continuation of this policy threatens the British people with economic, political, military and national destruction.
The way to prevent this is to build a broad, popular alliance of the workers and their allies—the small shopkeepers, farmers, professional people, who between them constitute the large majority of the nation, and all of whom are oppressed and threatened by monopoly capital. But this alliance must be led by the working class, the class most blatantly exploited, and so with most to gain from socialism, and therefore the most determined and decisive class in capitalist society, once the capitalist propaganda veils are lifted from its vision. It is the guarantee that the outcome of the struggle will be to advance to socialism. Such an alliance would unite to defeat the Tories in a General Election and return a government which, through constant agitation and relentless pressure would begin a programme to take Britain to socialism.
The Role of Parliament
Parliament is rooted in British history. Through it, the British people have expressed their aspirations for social advance for centuries—the English Revolution founded Parliament 1640, Chartism 1840, General Election 1945. Parliament could play a positive role in the development of socialism in Britain, but it would not be a Parliament resting on a passive people whose task was ended with voting it into power. It would rest on and be impelled by a politically active people whose struggle for socialism would continue and be part of the activities of Parliament. In short, it would be a Parliament reflecting the will of the people and giving the sanction of its authority to their struggle.
The Programme of a Socialist Government
The Socialist Government, based on the continued action and struggle of the people, would lead the British people to socialism by carrying out the following programme:
- Socialist nationalization of large-scale industry, banks, insurance companies, big distributive monopolies, and the land of the big landowners, to break the power of the billionaire monopolists, and control of foreign trade in the interests of the people
- A planned economy based on socialist principles and aimed at rapidly improving the people’s living and working conditions, with workers by hand and brain, and their organisations, participating in planning and management at every level
- Consolidation of the political power of the working people by ensuring that those in commanding positions in the armed forces and police, the civil service and diplomatic services are loyal to the Socialist Government and increasingly representative of the people, and by democratic electoral reform, democratic ownership of the press, and control of broadcasting by the people
- The strengthening and extension of all democratic rights, and measures to ensure the just administration of the law
- Recognition of the right of all subject peoples to self-determination, and the necessary measures to guarantee this
- Making Britain strong, free and independent, with a foreign policy of peace and friendship with all nations.British Road to socialism.
The Decisive Role of The Communist Party
It is because monopoly capitalism—imperialism—places before the working class and the whole people the urgent task of ending capitalism that the working class creates the political weapon for accomplishing this task—the Communist Party.
Without a strong Communist Party which has the support of the decisive sections of the working class, no advance to socialism is possible. This is the experience of the working class struggle in all countries. It is in those countries where Communist Parties lead the working class that socialism either exists already or is in the stage of being achieved. In all countries where right-wing Labour leaders dominate the Labour movement, the working class has been led to defeats and the rule and power of the capitalists have been strengthened.
The Communist Party originally formed in Britain in 1920, following on the experiences of the First World War and the Russian Revolution, is a party of a new type. It differs fundamentally from the Social Democratic Parties, the parties dominated by the right-wing Labour leaders.
Differences of Theory
The Communist Parties base themselves on the theories of Marx and Engels which were developed further by Lenin and by communist countries. These theories are called Marxism-Leninism. They are drawn from the actual experiences of the working class under capitalism. Marxist theories generalise these experiences and draw scientific conclusions from them. For example, a fundamental principle of Marxism-Leninism, based on the actual experience of the working class, is the Class Struggle.
Since the dawn of class society, history has been the history of different classes struggling for political domination, for the ownership of the means of production and for the major control of the wealth produced. Marxism-Leninism asserts that the class struggle exists and is developed most sharply in capitalist society. We saw the interests of the capitalists and workers are opposed—they confront each other as exploiter and exploited. The workers can only defend and improve their conditions by struggle. Finally, that the outcome of this struggle must not be limited to the defence and, improvement of existing conditions but to the ending of the capitalist system altogether.
The right-wing Labour leaders accept capitalist theory on all decisive questions of the working class struggle for socialism. They justify profits. They deny the class character of the state and preach its neutrality. They proclaim the Parliamentary transition to socialism within the framework of capitalism. They deny the class struggle and preach the “common interests” and the “reconciliation” of classes.
Their theory is the theory of the capitalists, which they transmit to the Labour movement. The fundamental task of the Communist Party at this stage is to combat this capitalist theory and to infuse the Labour movement with the class theory of Marxism-Leninism.
Differences of Aim
The aim of the Communist Party, clearly stated in Rule 2 of its Constitution, is to achieve socialism in Britain. The aim of socialism is also to be found in the Constitution of the Labour Party and undoubtedly reflects the aspirations of the rank and file for a Socialist Britain.
But the whole practice of the right-wing leaders who dominate the Labour Party has been to strengthen capitalism and thereby to prevent the achievement of socialism.
In words, the Labour Party now stood for common ownership. In fact, the dominant right-wing leaders were able to maintain their alliance with the capitalist class, to hold back the movement in the great struggles of the twenties, leading up to the betrayal of the General Strike in 1926, the collapse of the Labour Government in the 1931 slump, and the disruption of the Labour Party by Ramsay MacDonald’s desertion to the, Tory Party.John Gollan, Which Way for Socialists?
They supported the first imperialist war of 1914-18. They support the capitalist gulag, the European Union. They sided with reactionaries and diehards in attacking and slandering the Soviet Union, even when we owed our freedom from fascism to the Soviets” defeat of the Nazis. The two post War Labour Governments continued the policy of strengthening capitalism, and tied Britain to US imperialism. Blair kept Thatcherism alive under Labour when the country was sick of it, and subsequent Labour governments have gone from bad to worse, Brown aiding the capitalists by emptying the Treasury of our tax pounds to prop up crooked Bankers, supporting vicious Tory cuts blaming, with the Tories, the feckless working people have to service the debt.
Throughout they have weakened and disrupted the unity of the working class by attacks on the Communists, bans, splits, purges of progressive socialist activists in the Labour movement. It is therefore not surprising that the right-wing leaders today hardly speak of socialism. Instead they speak of the “Welfare State” the “Mixed Economy”, and now even Disraeli”s expression “One Nation”, falsely imagining these mean socialism.
A fundamental task of the Communist Party is to put the aim of socialism constantly before the working class, to raise its political consciousness and fighting spirit, and to inspire all aspects of working class struggle—peace, national independence, against attacks on living standards etc.—with the aim of socialism.
Because right-wing Labour theory sees a parliamentary majority as a sufficient condition for socialism, its organisation is adapted mainly to electoral activity. The other aspects of working class struggle—the day-to-day fight with the capitalists over wages, working conditions, standard of living—is not regarded as the business of the Labour Party. Indeed to retain the support of capitalist backers, it sides with the Tories in condemning working class action. The “wings” of the Labour Movement are rigidly divided between the trade unions and the party, with the party concentrating overwhelmingly on electoral and parliamentary activity.
The Communist Party is also interested in the electoral struggle in strengthening the number of fighting, militant MPs of the type in the past of William Gallacher and Phil Piratin, and today Jeremy Corbyn and John McConnell in Parliament. But it rejects the view that Parliament is the sole and decisive form of working class struggle, and emphasises the connection between the developing struggle against the capitalists on all issues and the return of a progressive, socialist parliamentary majority.
The main body of the Labour Party is now unquestionably the Parliamentary Labour Party, and within this, of the top leaders—the members of the Government, particularly the Prime Minister when Labour is in office—due to the machinations of Blair and his advisers when in power—and of the “Shadow Cabinet” when it is in opposition.
The Parliamentary Party has become a dictatorial party within a party with an almost presidential leader. It is a law unto itself, outside the real control of the party as such, and now independent of party conference decisions, though it commonly ignored them anyway. Glaring examples are the refusal of Gaitskell and his supporters to accept the decisions of the 1959 Labour Party conference on unilateral disarmament, and their sustained struggle to overturn them. Because the right-wing policy of the leaders comes into constant conflict with the outlook of the rank and file, discipline in the Labour Party is imposed from above, with constant bans and proscriptions from the leadership. The remaining members are content that Labour should be electable, even if all that can be elected is a Tory Party in all but name.
Because of the totally different outlook and the aim of the Communist Party, the form and character of its organisation is likewise different. The Communist Party does not isolate one side of the struggle—the electoral fight—as does the Labour Party. It bases itself on the need to encourage and develop all sides of the working class struggle, besides that on the electoral field. This is emphasised especially in Rule 2 of the Party Rules. It sees the working class the decisive, most advanced force for socialism in modern society, the class which is called upon to lead other sections in the struggle against monopoly capitalism.
Communist Party organisation is based on the idea that the Communists must have contact with all sections of the people, especially the working class, and participate in all struggles, especially the struggle of the workers in large—scale industry. This is why the Communist Party gives such emphasis to factory organisation.
The leaders of the Communist Party do not have a conflict of outlook with the Labour Movement and the mass of the people, as does the Labour Party—that of the two trends in the Labour Party—the socialist trend of the rank and file, and the capitalist trend represented by the right-wing leaders.
The Communist Party is a voluntary union of people who share a common outlook—Marxism-Leninism—and the common desire to work to realise its principles in life—that is, to advance to socialism in Britain. There are not two disciplines in the Communist Party as in the Labour Party, one for the leaders and one for the rank and file, but only one discipline. This is binding on all, leaders and rank and file alike.
The system of organisation which prevails in the Communist Party and is called “democratic centralism” is the combination of centralised organisation—higher bodies, like the Executive Committee, District, Area, Factory and Area Branch Committees—with the fullest democracy from the bottom to the top. This democracy is expressed in the following:
- all decisions are based on majority vote
- all leading bodies are elected by the vote of the membership
- all members are encouraged to play the fullest part in formulating Party policy.
Rule 3 of the Party Constitution and Aims explains this process in great detail. Democratic centralism means that:
- All leading committees shall be elected regularly and shall report regularly to the Party organisations which have elected them.
- Elected higher committees shall have the right to take decisions binding on lower committees and organisations, and shall explain these decisions to them. Such decisions shall not be in conflict with decisions of the National Congress or Executive Committee.
- Elected higher committees shall encourage lower committees and organisations to express their views on questions of Party policy and on the carrying out of such policy.
- Lower committees and organisations shall carry out the decisions of higher elected committees and shall have the right to express their views, raise problems, and make suggestions to these committees.
- Decisions shall be made by majority vote, and minorities shall accept the decision of the majority.
The Rights and Duties of members are dealt with in Rules 15 and 16. Members have the duty to take part in the life and activities of their Party branch and to equip themselves to take an active part in the working class movement. The rights of Party members are:
- To take part in their Party branch in the discussion and formation of Party policy and the carrying out of such policy, in accordance with the procedure defined in Rule 17
- To elect and be elected to all those leading Party Committees defined in Rule 6
- To address any question or statement to such leading Party Committees up to and including the Executive Committee
- To reserve their opinion in the event of disagreement with a decision, while at the same time carrying out that decision.
All these features taken together constitute the Communist Party as a party of a new type, able to fulfil the role of advance guard and leader of the working class struggle for socialism. In short, the role of the Communist Party can be summed up as follows:
- To give the Labour movement a socialist consciousness, a scientific socialist theory, a perspective of advance to socialism
- To lead the workers and their allies in all the struggles which confront them—from the immediate struggles under capitalism right up to the struggles for political power and the building of socialism
- To provide the organisation for the vanguard of the working class and working people capable of carrying out these two tasks.
The building of a mass Communist Party is the key to immededlate advance and ultimate victory for those dubbed “the 1 per cent”, more precisely the ruling class of capitalists.
More and more the rank and file of the Labour Party and the trade unions are fighting the policy of the right-wing Labour leaders. More and more they are fighting for the policies originally outlined by the Communist Party. The decisive task facing the Communist Party is to build unity in action with the best elements of the Labour movement in the struggle to save Britain from aiding warfare, for national independence, and for the defence of the living conditions of the people.
This unity of the socialist forces of the working class is essential if the working class is to lead the majority of the British people against monopoly capitalism. In the course of building this unity of action, the most determined effort must be made to win understanding of the need for and role of a mass Communist Party and to increase the numbers of participants many times over. It has been the consistent struggle, propaganda, Marxist explanation and leadership of the daily struggle undertaken by the Communist Party over the years which has helped maintain a principled Left movement in the Labour Party. The stronger the CP, the stronger will be the struggle for a socialist policy in the Labour Party.
Build the Communist Party
While the task of building unity with the Left of the Labour movement is of central importance, it is no substitute for the building of a mass Communist Party. Unity itself can only be strengthened if in the course of it ever new recruits are won for the Communist Party. A mass Communist Party, based on widespread unity of action with the best socialist forces in the Labour movement, is the only guarantee that the magnificent prospect of a Socialist Britain will be realised in our lifetime.
Only the Communist Party, because it is based on Marxist-Leninist theory, can point the correct way to the working class, and link immediate struggles with the ultimate fight for socialism. The Communist Party alone has applied Marxist principles to the concrete problem of the advance to socialism in Britain in its programme The British Road to socialism.
The task of building a mass Communist Party is one of the greatest importance to the whole Labour movement. A mass Communist Party is the key which will open the door on a socialist future for the British people.