J. T. Murphy
Source: Speeches & Documents of the Sixth (Manchester) Conference of the Communist Party of Great Britain, May 17-19, 1924
Publisher: Communist Party of Great Britain
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Proofreader: David Tate
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). 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.
I am sorry to have so little time to devote to this important question of the programme of the International and the Party. But in the brief time which we have at our disposal I want to bring forward as quickly as possible the most essential features of the Programme which has been submitted to you and which will proceed from this Congress to the Fifth Congress of the Communist International.
This question is of exceptional importance, for upon it depends to a considerable extent the development of the whole International. I do not think you will find in the reformist parties, or in the Reformist Internationals, whether the Second International, the Amsterdam International or the Hamburg International, any programme whatever. They cannot produce a programme. They dare not face the problem in the way that the Communists face this problem. They are so bound up with the fate of their own particular national groups that they cannot approach the question of the world movement at all. They live from hand to mouth with regard to ideas as they do in everything else they pursue. Consequently, all the reformist parties are bound up with the fate of capitalism. The capitalists lead, and the reformists follow after. It does not matter which of their slogans you examine, you will find that they have simply echoed what advanced capitalists have put forward as the best means of defending capitalism. It is because of this fact that they have become more than ever before the principal bulwark between the working class and the overthrow of capitalism. We cannot, therefore, look to them for a workers’ programme.
True, there have been programmes before. All of you will be familiar with the first programme and manifesto of Marx, issued in 1847. This was the first scientific attempt to crystalise the experiences of the working class in relation to the historical development of society, to indicate the character of the struggles the workers would have to face and the tasks they would have to undertake. That programme stood out as a beacon light to the workers for many generations.
The next programme of importance came at a much later date and reflected the developments which had been taking place since the introduction of the first Communist programme. This was the Gotha Programme, and you will remember, those of you who have followed the discussions on this question at all, how the international movement was reflecting the difficulties through which it was passing. How that reformism in practice was giving rise to reformism in theory. The adaptation to expanding capitalism was so moderating the action of the workers and their leaders that revisionism became an issue in the Socialist International. Bernstein became the leader of revisionism, and finally Kautsky. Revolutionary Marxism had few defenders.
But when the new period of revolution burst upon world history, all that had come to the working class movement during the period of the domination of reformism failed to meet the new situation. Reformist theories were no good for a revolution. Their organisations and theorists and leaders failed. Revolutionary Marxism and its leaders came into their own. So in the present situation, when in the international crisis of capitalism and revolution, we have got to crystalise and express anew our experiences clearly so that we can face all the complications, certain of the pathway we must take. That is why this question of the International Programme figures so prominently before us and will play so important a role in the development of our movement.
With this introduction permit me to pass on to what we have endeavoured to do in the draft of the programme submitted to this Congress. Just as you have experienced in this Congress the introduction of comrades from other countries, from the German Party, from the French Party, and so on, to participate in our work, so here on the programme question we are experiencing what it means to belong to an international party. We in turn participate in the work and problems of the other sections of the International exactly as they have participated here. That is why we have approached, this problem by producing our own draft as a contribution to the international discussion.
In the programme we have considered it necessary for us not to start with the immediate situation, but to go further back. We have tried to put into it something which would visualise our outlook on society itself, so that there shall not be any vague or illusory idea that we are a set of Utopists imposing some fantastic scheme from above, but, through an understanding of the development of society, we can point the way to the working class as to how they can escape from their bondage and bring society to its highest forms of development. So, after defining exactly what the Communist International is, we have indicated the types of society which preceded capitalism. We consider this to be necessary because society is not developing uniformily and has not developed uniformily. There are still in existence some of those pre-capitalist forms, although they may be under the domination of capitalism. Consequently, we have placed them historically in our programme, and then, realising where they stand in social development, we know exactly how to approach and deal with them immediately they come within the range of the movement of to-day. We do not expect the measures applicable to the most modern capitalism to be applicable to the most backward countries, but in our dealings with them we must help to get rid of exploitation of the working people and develop the conditions which will make Communism possible.
Then we have proceeded to an analysis of capitalism itself. What is its social composition? What are its principal characteristics? How are the workers exploited? How does society develop under capitalism? What are its contradictions and their consequences, and so on, making clear that the logic of its development is to produce the forces which destroy it and make Communism possible.
Next, seeing that this programme is to be more an analysis of capitalism and has a special relationship to the working class itself, we have directed attention to how the working class has grown with these developments. How it came into being, what kinds of defensive and offensive instruments of struggle it created; their limitations; their purpose. Here may I indicate one feature we have emphasised. We have shown that the trades unions and political parties have not followed in similar sequence in every country alike, but in some countries the political parties preceded the unions and in others the unions preceded the parties. The fact that this is so, presents peculiar problems to the respective countries and has a very decided effect upon how the workers develop and how they approach the particular problems with which they are faced.
In our analysis we have also shown why the issue of the Communist Manifesto of 1847 calling upon the workers of all lands to unite was not accompanied by any international organisation of workers. Why did not International organisation coincide with the development of that international programme? Simply because the material conditions which obtained in that period were not far enough developed to make international organisation of the workers possible. It is only when the material conditions have developed historically which make such organisation possible that these things can be. This answer is not only an explanation to ourselves of our own history, but an answer to those who continually reproach the Communists with the idea that we seek to impose upon history instead of to develop it. We are proving in actual experience to be the only party and force within the working class movement itself which sees clearly what are the implications of the development of the working class and the manifold forms of organisation which it throws up in its experience.
In the next section we have given attention to what we call the historical crisis of capitalism and the first struggles towards Communism. Here let me stress that the reformists have refused even to attempt an analysis of the epoch in which we struggle. They refer to the aftermath of the war or something of that kind when up against something for which they have got no explanation. They certainly never attempt to explain the crisis or tell us what it all means or how the workers can get out of it. But Communists can have no time for this haphazard approach to the problem. We have to understand as thoroughly as possible the objective conditions in which we operate. We have stated that the 1913-14 crisis, wherein the imperialists had to face war as a means of solving the problems was not simply an incidental crisis, but the beginning of capitalism’s historic crisis.
What then is the situation of capitalism as we see it? Instead of a number of imperialist powers struggling for world power alone, we have new factors introduced to history. We have a sixth part of the earth under a Workers’ Republic. We have, for the first time in history a proletarian state. In addition to this state, which is struggling, fighting and developing we observe that the problems of everyone of the countries participating in the war have been intensified to a marked degree. The war has broken down the economy of a great portion of Europe, while it has developed to colossal dimensions the powers of younger nations. America has emerged from the role of a second-rate power to that of leader of world imperialism. Britain has increased her capacity, for production, but is still unable to utilise the machinery at her disposal. An indication of the general character of the crisis is seen in the dancing currency exchanges. Everywhere they are discussing the fluctuations and commercialism has degenerated into a gamble.
In this general condition of things, the problem of capitalism can be clearly stated. The capitalists of the victorious countries have either to re-establish Germany and Europe or face the onward sweep of the revolution across Europe. If they re-habilitate Germany by means of the Experts’ Report—one of the most stupid reports ever submitted to intelligent men—it means that the competition between these imperialist powers will be increased enormously. The logical result of that process is an economic crisis far more severe than any capitalism has yet faced. And that means also an intensification of the world revolutionary situation. That is the position which faces capitalism and from which it cannot escape.
We then pass from an analysis of this situation to state what we consider to be the fundamental measures necessary for the workers to consolidate their revolution and develop the productive forces. For example, we have stated that in the International part of our programme we should set the demand for the abolition of landlordism, the nationalisation of land without compensation. That the small farmers should be granted an opportunity to work their land and develop it along the lines pursued in Soviet Russia to-day. The next fundamental economic measures are all the key industries, the railways, the mines, etc., should be nationalised without compensation to their present owners. These measures we consider applicable to most countries, and I cite them as examples of the type of proposal we have introduced.
From the International aspects of our programme we proceed to an analysis of the position of British capitalism, and follow with the application of the same principles illustrated in the international section, to the problems which are facing the working class of this country. What have we to say of British capitalism? That British capitalism, being a part of world capitalism is faced with the same problems as practically every other capitalist country. We can see from the condition of her state finances the seriousness of her situation. Whereas in 1913 this country could easily have met all her liabilities, to-day she is burdened with such a colossal debt that no matter how she increase her taxes she cannot pay it off. Heavier taxed than any other country she can only meet the interest on the debt. Other imperial powers are striving with her for the possession of her colonies. Canada has almost ceased to be a possession of the British Empire. The penetration of American finance and industry has made her position insignificant. The same process has begun in every other colony, in addition to the fact that the colonies are developing on their own account and becoming competitors with the mother country.
Her industries are in a bad way. Unemployment on a massive scale has become chronic. Political instability characterises her political situation. For this situation we have accordingly enumerated a series of demands which we consider essential measures in the struggle for the conquest of capitalism in Britain. Taking account of the fact that we have yet to win the masses of the proletariat to our side, we have added a number of transitory demands which the workers are voicing in their every-day struggles. These demands are partial demands, but the struggle for these lead inevitably to the application of the larger demands and measures only capable of application through the dictatorship of the proletariat.
This programme we want to submit from this Congress to the International Congress, so that from it may emanate the complete Programme of the International Communist Party, applicable throughout the world, and adaptable to the particular conditions of every country. If we do that I am convinced that the Fifth Congress of the Communist International will have made a great contribution to the working class, given to it a Charter that will be a guide from the slavery of capitalism to the goal of Communism.