Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Britain Could be a ’desert’ of wealth


First Published: The Worker, No. 47, December 6, 1979.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Sam Richards and Paul Saba
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IN A MAJOR speech at Conway Hall on November 30, Reg Birch, Chairman of the Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist), called on the workers of Britain to recognise the situation we are in and to act accordingly.

In his speech, Reg Birch drew attention to the irony of the title of the meeting, ’Is Britain to become an Industrial Wasteland?’, since it would be a desert full of wealth.

“We are an industrious people, and here we are with a great glut of wealth, that is, people, the working class.

An army of scholars

“We have a working class army which is articulate, which, even with the decline of educational facilities, is an army of scholars. They are a working class who over the years have developed themselves through the industrial revolution as capitalism developed, the one being inseparable from the other. We are a people without superstition, without any Middle Ages inhibitions educated and civilized enough that you can be religious or you needn’t be religious. You can work in Ford’s and you don’t have to stop five times a day and kneel down on a prayer mat if you don’t want to. I don’t know what Ford does if you do want to. All that has been done before, not necessarily by us but our predecessors, as capitalism developed, getting rid of the divine right of kings and everybody else’s divine right. What it is we’re still lacking is the divination of what’s right and wrong – practically right and wrong for us now at this point in time.”

He went on, “The fact that Britain is in such a parlous position is simply a matter of historical development, in relation to capitalism in the world as a whole. In the general decline of capitalism, Britain, as the oldest and first, is the first to be in an accelerated decline. This means that all the problems sharper than almost anywhere else, are thrust upon our working class. The reforms achieved in the development of capitalism as a quid pro quo cannot be sustained in a period of absolute decline. It is not just that capitalism is declining but also that which it created and is also its mother and father, bourgeois democracy, is fast disappearing. So we take fright when we listen to an hysterical hen like Thatcher who says all the things that have been said before but says them even more shrilly.

Artists of contraction

“There are two kinds of capitalism, throughout its growth and in its death, the one assuming ascendancy over the other and putting it down. There are those who acquired exchange value and used this surplus in the process of manufacture, to make others work, to exploit them and thus make more money. Then there are what Lenin called the ’coupon-clippers’. In this period of crisis we have been exhorted to welcome the new angels, and they’re just like theatrical backers, the new solution givers. All these financial wizards held up as examples of how to do it are artists of contraction, never of growth. Robens combed out the coal industry, Beeching cut railways on the theory that they had outlived their usefulness, Weinstock took over and immediately shut down Associated Electric, Woolwich and everywhere else – always diminution, not expansion. None of them had an engineering background, no manufacturing, no “making” skills. Now we have Edwardes who came yesterday and will be gone tomorrow, with his concept; Contraction: This is the complete contradiction of capitalism now – not to use the skill and the wealth there is, namely people. There are over two million unemployed – a complete squandering of that which they need for their capacity to exploit. And most recently we have a Joseph who is something of a deviationist – a constructive contractor. He says let a thousand John Blooms flourish: all the little men who will set up the little factories and end up on charges of fraud? There were the Cornfelds and all the other get-rich-quick ’coupon-clippers’ operators.”

Thatcher destroys

“Then we get Thatcher. She’s not bothered with the market. She’s bothered with humanity and her contraction is in everything to do with humanity in this land. Don’t just cut this school or that. Do away with education. That is the meaning of ending expansion for contraction. If you don’t grow you die. It is the same with health. One would imagine that Britain is full of hypochondriacs who never go to work and live on free hand outs of placebos. As a matter of fact Britain spends less per head on health than France, Germany, Italy or the US.”

“There is supposed to be a shortage of money here but Britain invests abroad 8.5 billion, 50 per cent of this going to the US where British capital is the largest foreign investor. Or consider the money there is to waste on personal licence plates or 800 for a bottle of claret or 120,000 for a commode, as was recently paid at Sotheby’s.”

“Compare with this the fine Swan Hunter had to pay when found criminally negligent in the death of eight workers 8000. In an auction recently advertised, a bottle of wine had a reserve price of 6000 –or the same value as six workers: “In this land of ours the working class has been inexhaustible in its tenacity and its struggle. It’s been very good at it. But you also get many odd things going on like the contradictions of the workers’ actions at Leyland. We are very able to struggle, to fight and to win; but we must do so much more in the situation we are in now.”

Not business as usual

“It’s not business as, usual. We’ve got to learn that there are no more variations in the struggle. There is only the major struggle itself. It’s a question now of absolute overthrow. Either them or us. In the first place, and especially because of her ineptitude, Thatcher must go. Don’t let us get involved in a Jesuitical debate about who comes afterwards. If the governor attacks us or a foreman gets a bit naughty in the shop, we don’t refrain from punching him on the hooter because there’s always another boss or another foreman. Thatcher has been running around talking about what she was going to get back from the Common Market, but they’re just as villainous as she is. If she were a shop steward in a factory they’d have had her card back overnight. And it’s time that’s what our working class did.”

“In order to advance, our working class must know that only an organised people can do anything. That means first of all those who are in unions – above all those who accept that there is only a political way forward. Those who understand that the CPB(ML) is of them and is them, too.”

Squandering of wealth

“As for Labour Party opposition, what did they do in the House of Commons on the day the MLR went to 17 per cent? Joined in the irrelevant discussions about some octogenarian who was supposed to be a traitor for passing some useless information to the Soviet Union when it was our ally. That’s the opposition.”

“Are you going to go on suffering this complete squandering of your wealth and that of your children? Or are you going to move into a situation of overthrow? There are but two choices now. We either have dictatorship or dictatorship of the proletariat. Those are the choices. Are you going to leave it to your kids? Well, there may not be time.”

“We must understand that we are the source of all strength and all wealth and instead of running up and down talking about a cut on this or a cut on that we must stop the cutting into our heart, the cutting of our arteries that is going on. It is on our great strength and our enormous wealth that this nation still depends. Let us use that wealth and strength for construction. Let us now in this situation determine that we have had enough. ’Out with Thatcher.’”