J. R. Campbell

A Socialist Solution to the Crisis

Concluding Speech at the Twentieth National Congress of the Communist Party


Date:1948
Publisher: Communist Party of Great Britain
Printer: Farleigh Press, Ltd. T.U.), Watford.
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Proofreader: Chris Clayton
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2006). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


THIS Congress sees our Party stronger in numbers, firmer in discipline, more confident as to its way forward than any of the Congresses held since the termination of the war. We go forward from this Congress invigorated to smash the warmongers and to fight for the economic recovery and independence of our country. Without our Party the British people would be drifting into the greatest catastrophe in their history, a catastrophe causing endless pain and suffering.

Last year, many people saw the crisis in this country as being merely a temporary failure in our coal supply. They are now beginning to see it as a deep organic crisis of the whole capitalist system in Britain. We see a weakening of our imperialist basis and the loss of leadership in the capitalist world to the aggressive monopolists of the U.S.A. There is the effect of two terrible wars and the utter failure of the restrictive monopolies to modernise British industry between the wars. On top of this, there is the ruinous military expenditure, with which Britain has been saddled since 1945, which would be a crushing burden even in a prosperous country.

The consequences of all this will not be swept away in five minutes. It requires an organised effort under the leadership of a Left Labour Government, rejecting foreign domination, refusing to allow itself to be hampered by the Federation of British Industries, and mobilising our people to work for a free and independent Britain.

However deep the feeling against the Government, there is no inclination on the part of the British working class to turn to the Tories, with their policy of freeing the monopolists from the last vestige of control, their policy of creating mass unemployment in order to impose the discipline of hunger on the common people of this land.

Dr. Dalton, in his broadcast, may have seen Churchill as the great war leader, though history will place a big question mark behind even that designation, but the people of this country remember him only too well as the ugly venomous reactionary who helped to break the General Strike and who would wade through seas of blood in a new world war against the Soviet Union and the New Democracies at the present day

Camouflaged Tory Policy

It is not enough to reject Churchill, Hudson and Eden. It is also necessary to guard against the dangers of a thinly-camouflaged Tory policy being gradually introduced into the Labour movement by Messrs. Attlee, Bevin, Morrison and Cripps.

We know that there are working people who appreciate some of the social reforms which the Government has placed on the statute book, who appreciate the shorter working week, who in the lower paid industries appreciate the increases in wages. But our Party has the duty to convince these workers that all these things which they are cherishing today are in jeopardy because of the failure of the Government to tackle the growing economic crisis. Indeed, all these things are being whittled away day by day by the Government itself.

Last week we saw the opening of an attempt to put a most brazen swindle across the working class of this country. The Government White Paper on wages was perfectly clear. No wage increases except in the undermanned industries. And when some undermanned industries apply they will be told, “Why, you’ve just had a wage increase—you’ve had it, chum.” Freezing of wages. Refusal to peg prices. Refusal to increase the food subsidies. That is the Government’s policy.

Of late, however, this line is being presented in a new form. The T.U.C. tries to make us believe that the Government might be ready to bring down prices and to raise the wages of the lower paid. Dr. Dalton talks as if the whole object of the White Paper was to raise real wages, make the workers richer, and the rich poorer by enormous cuts in profits and by sharp reductions in prices. We regret to see that good progressive newspaper, Reynolds News, contributing to that prevailing confusion.

Will the trade union movement really believe that the capitalists who praise “Crippsian realism” can’t read? Will the trade union movement really believe that what the Government is doing is to increase the purchasing power of wages and reduce the volume of profits?—and that the left wing are rejecting this veritable “manna from heaven”? We do not accept that interpretation of the White Paper, for the Government has made it perfectly clear there will be no increase in the food subsidies, and that the price freezing is on unessential goods.

Your food will rise in price, but the Government has given you the most definite promise to control the price of tooth-picks.

We are next told that the big Tory monopolists are being asked to reduce their own prices and profits. Blum tried it in France, and five minutes afterwards price ceilings rose so high that they could not be seen through a telescope even on a fine day. Truman tried it with private enterprise in the U.S.A., and after he had delivered his speech all his pals, including his doctor, gambled on the commodity markets, and pushed up prices still further.

Perhaps we are different in Britain. Perhaps for one bleak, Arctic smile from Sir Stafford Cripps the big boys of the F.B.I. will bring down the price ceilings, and restore happiness for evermore!

We tell the trade union movement that if it accepts the Government policy, it will be the policy as outlined in the White Paper, not the gloss and misrepresentation being spread about the Government’s intentions. The White Paper shows the Government is against any increases in food subsidies, against increasing low wages, and against cutting profits.

“Profligate Expenditure”

In his recent broadcast, Mr. Churchill talked about the country being ruined by “profligate expenditure.” In his reply on the B.B.C., the good Dr. Dalton asked, was the rebuilding of Plymouth “profligate expenditure”? Was the new Health Service “profligate expenditure”? Was the financing of the Development Areas “profligate expenditure”? No, none of these things are “profligate expenditure,” but it is precisely this expenditure which the Government is working to bring down to the lowest possible level. If Dr. Dalton wants an example of profligate expenditure, we can turn his attention to the military costs. In 1946 we had a trade deficit of 350 millions, and as against that no less than 382 millions were spent in that year on gross Government military expenditure overseas.

Even last year, the year of growing crisis, when we had a deficit of 675 millions in our balance of overseas payments, 209 millions of that was accounted for by this tremendous overseas military expenditure. Never in the whole of human history has a country suffering from such a dangerous deficit in its foreign balance carried such a weight of military expenditure.

“Britain’s Plan for Prosperity”

Against all this we put our constructive policy contained in Britain’s Plan for Prosperity—which is not a blue-print for the economic experts, but a programme of action for the whole working class.

The Labour Party does not know quite what to say about that plan. In the first days, the Daily Herald, through one, Mr. McWhinnie, tried to belittle our plan by declaring that the modest production of consumer goods which we put forward alongside a great capital development programme, was a “flight of economic fancy.” Now, last week, another “expert,” a Mr. Donald Bruce, M.P., discovers that the large capital expenditure we are advocating can only be carried out by starving the British consumer for many years to come. What are the facts? We are suggesting a capital expenditure one-third above the pre-war rate—the same amount of capital expenditure as the Government’s own experts were suggesting before the Government joined President Truman in the “cold war” against the Soviet Union, and gave up relying on the British people to work out their own salvation.

We will never put a flood of great new machines into the factories, we will never close the technical gap between our equipment and that of the U.S.A., never make our own key industries modern and efficient, unless we are prepared to mobilise our material and human resources to carry out such a great development programme as we have outlined in our plan. Mr. Bruce had better behave like his more illustrious ancestor who watched the persistent spider, and try again to produce a better argument against the Communist Plan for Prosperity.

In that plan we make suggestions for the allocation of our manpower. We have enough men and women in this country to build up our foreign trade, to increase our supplies of consumer goods, and to carry out the great capital development programme we have outlined here. We challenge our opponents to refute that, or to present an alternative manpower allocation that holds out hope for the British people.

There are two aspects of this plan underlined at this Congress. First, the need to nationalise steel by emergency decree, to raise the efficiency of this industry in the speediest possible way. It is a lie to say that the steel industry is an efficient industry. Only in one of the war years did its production ever reach the total it reached in 1937. Even if it reaches the Government’s target this year, we will have little more than what was achieved eleven years ago. We will pay a full and bitter price in dependence upon America for the restrictive monopolist attitude of the steel barons. Instead of praising them for their efficiency we should denounce them and remove them. They have allowed this great asset of ours, the first great iron and steel industry in the world, to decline to the miserable state it is in at the present day.

Further, we want control of the engineering industry, so that the production of engineering machinery shall be concentrated to provide for the needs of the most vital industries. We have a great new machine in the mining industry, the power loader. In 1945 they were producing ten loaders per month. “Great strides” have been made since then, we are told, but the truth is that in December, 1947, we were producing only 13 loaders per month. As a contrast, the production of cigarette machinery is above pre-war! It is only in the last weeks that they have had the grace to send most of it abroad, and not to irritate the cigarette workers by installing new cigarette machinery to work up reduced stocks of tobacco.

Engineering is one of the great industries, in which there is no price control. And yet machinery is our greatest export. When a foreigner thinks of British prices, he does not think so much of the price of boots and shoes or Utility lipstick, he thinks in terms of generators, locomotives and tractors. These are enormously increasing in price, and we are being forced out of the market by the way some of the great engineering monopolies are raising the prices of these goods. We want a costing and efficiency system to bring these prices down to a reasonable level.

Communist Patriotism

Our Plan is based on confidence in the British people’s ability to work their way out of the crisis. Our opponents say we are not a British Party. If we were, our M.P.s would show more respect for our ancient and traditional monarchy and our not so ancient monopolies. What rubbish! It is a queer kind of patriotism that bleats about the British Way of Life, but rejects the possibility of our great people, with their own skill, their own resources, discipline and working-class leadership, working out their own salvation in the modern world. Yet those Parties who utterly lack faith in the British people reproach the Communists for not being sufficiently patriotic! If the test of patriotism is wrapping the Union Jack around oneself to conceal the dollar sign, then we are not patriotic. If the test of patriotism is the desire to oppress others, then we are not patriotic. But if the test of patriotism is our willingness to work for the freedom, welfare and happiness of the common people of this land, then we claim to be the patriotic British Party above all others.

It is useless to say there are no strings attached to the Marshall Plan. There were no strings attached to the American Loan—but the ropes attached to it nearly strangled us! There are no strings attached to the Marshall Plan—there are chains and slavery attached to it instead. We are being treated as British imperialism in the eighteenth century treated the minor German States, who supplied the soldiers for British imperialist adventures in return for subsidies. For every penny we get under the Marshall Plan we will dissipate much more in maintaining a huge army, navy and air force to support American designs for the domination of Europe and the world.

John Mahon yesterday quoted England’s great national poet, that never again would England lie at the proud foot of a conqueror. May I quote (with tiny variations) the national poet of the Scots, who characterised some of his own countrymen who sold their country for gold. “Such a parcel of rogues in a nation,” he called them.

“What force or guile could not subdue
Through many warlike ages
Is wrought now by a coward few
For hireling traitor’s wages.
The Nazi planes we could disdain,
Secure in valour’s station,
But Yankee gold will be our bane,
Such a parcel of rogues in a nation.”

It is bad enough to see trade unionists rushing to hug the Marshall chains themselves, pretending they are light, pretending they are not there—but it is surely monstrous to threaten the workers of other nations of the world that we will split the International Trade Union Movement because these workers will not wear the Marshall chains also. The American Federation of Labour is the chosen instrument of Wall Street. But let Deakin and Citrine be warned—the British workers are nobody’s stooges. They were the first to recognise the young Soviet State as something new in the world; they protected it from imperialist intervention; they protected it by the threat of a General Strike during the Russo-Polish war of 1920. The British workers did a splendid job in raising the status of the colonial workers and in helping them to organise their trade unions, and in giving them advice as to how to develop their young Labour movement. Two of our comrades, George Allison and Ben Bradley, spent years in jail in India because of their efforts to help organise the trade unions there.

We will not allow these great links with the Russian and Colonial trade unions to be broken. Let Tewson and Deakin hear, not “His Marshall’s Voice,” but the voice of the British people, and let us keep International Trade Union Unity intact.

The discussion of the Communist Manifesto at this Congress has provided us with sharper weapons for the struggle that is ahead. Outside America, you know, capitalism is seldom defended as such today—it is Christian civilisation which is being defended by these “humble disciples” of the Master who had nowhere to lay his head. The big monopolists would have us believe it is not profit, it is not power, it is not their right to exploit they are defending, but their right to confess themselves as miserable sinners every Sunday morning. In order to rope a wider group into this so-called Christian civilisation, they sometimes call it Western civilisation, and even the Turks and the Japanese will in due time be classified as Westerners.

Class Consciousness is the Key

We ask our Labour friends not to think in terms of religion, but to think in terms of class. If they did that, they would never be deceived by this East-West nonsense. If Messrs. Attlee and Morrison have forgotten, most workers know that there are progressive classes in our society, moving forward, and there are reactionary classes striving to preserve the decaying social order.

We see the working class today in the Soviet Union treading the road from Socialism to Communism, and we see the New Democracies building up Socialism, each in their own particular way. The great mass Communist Parties of France and Italy represent the majority of workers in these countries. When Messrs. Attlee and Morrison call for a crusade against Communism, they call for a crusade against the majority of the European working class, they call for a crusade against the progressive forces in the world.

Where are the millionaires in this struggle? Where are the quislings? Where is fascist big business? Where are the feudal landlords? Organised around Wall Street: organised around the campaign of reaction, boosting the policy of Western Union.

Are we going to allow the British working class, the children of the Chartists, of the Co-operators, of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, and the great pioneer organisers of the Socialist movement, to be brought into the campaign of blackest reaction against their own natural allies? No, comrades, we will need to convince our Labour Party friends that their duty is in the camp of their own class, the camp of the Soviet Union, the camp of Czechoslovakia, where our Party will triumph in this crisis, the camp of the working class advancing all over Europe and of the advancing colonial peoples.

And before Mr. Attlee gives us any more sermons about free expression in Britain, let him read the evidence before the Press Commission of how Francis Williams, the pre-war editor of the Daily Herald, had constantly to obey orders from millionaire Lord Southwood, who controlled the commercial side of that particular undertaking. But we are no longer dependent on the Daily Herald. This year you will see, after many disappointments, but this time certainly, a great new Daily Worker.

We should appreciate this great new weapon which we have forged with our own sacrifices. Do not treat it lightly. What would the pioneers of Socialism have given for such a weapon?

What would our life be today without it as we face the daily struggle in the interests of our class?

A Stronger Communist Party

In the teeth of the witch hunt our Party is strengthening its influence in the unions and increasing its members. We have had some reports regarding the magnificent progress made in bringing more members into our Party. If time had allowed, we would have had more, all telling the same story. That story is that there are no longer any difficult areas in this country for the Communist Party. We have gone beyond the days when we were confined to London and the Celtic fringe of South Wales and Scotland.

The days are gone when we were mainly a Party of the unemployed, when we had no weight in the great industries, in the great unions, when we had no weight with the progressive intelligentsia. But great as our achievements have been, we must make them greater in 1948. We have got to change the mood of doubt and grumbling in the Labour movement into active opposition to the present policy, against Marshall slavery, against the Western Union.

There can be no Western European bridgehead against the progress of Socialism in Europe without the British people. We are, therefore, a decisive sector. If we smash the warmongers here, the whole campaign of Wall Street and reaction elsewhere will be thrown out of gear. France and Italy will be relieved of the pressure now upon them if we do our duty in this country.

When the Prime Minister gives three speeches in succession denouncing the Communist Party, when he is reinforced by the viperish stupidity of the ex-Prime Minister, that is a compliment to our Party, to our work, to our influence in this country. It is an indication to us that we are a greater force than we imagined that we ought not to underestimate ourselves, that not tens of thousands, but millions, are beginning to lend a receptive ear to our message.

From this Congress we go forward to make our Party one of the principal Communist Parties in Europe, and the world, a Communist Party winning a decisive victory in the most decisive sector at the present time. A Communist Party making a mighty contribution to the peace and freedom of all mankind.