First Published: n.d. [1979?]
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The survival of socialism and the future of communism depend on the proletariat of the advanced iriacountries moving to revolution. The British working class and our Marxist-Leninist Party must accept the responsibility which falls upon them, arising from the particular historical development of our country.
Britain was the first nation in which the bourgeois class rose to complete supremacy. Britain witnessed the early abolition of its peasantry and the transformation of that peasantry into agricultural wage labourers.
Mercantile capitalism flourished here unrestrained and above all the unprecedented and rapid industrialisation at the end of the Eighteenth Century and the beginning of the Nineteenth finally ousted the landed from political power.
This complete political domination was the ideal precondition for the most thoroughgoing economic transformation of Britain into a capitalist country. Within a very short period of time the overwhelming majority of the population were forced into wage slavery.
Our class, torn from the land, thrown into conditions in which survival itself was a daily achievement, could look to no one else but itself for its protection and alleviation. Without stars, without do-gooders and without parties, our class founded its own bodies to defend and further the interests of its own. The whole force of the employers’ state was brought to bear upon these emerging working class organisations which, despite imprisonment, transportation, penury, acts of parliament, spies, provocateurs and even death itself, were never vanquished.
The British working class first discovered for the world this absolute truth – the necessity of working class solidarity, of combination of labour against capital, of trade unionism.
From these beginnings and throughout subsequent history, everything that has made our lives as workers in any way tolerable, the dignity we have, is a product of the incessant strivings of our class, organised and defiant in the face of capitalist exploitation.
Today’s trade unions are our heritage. They are the repository of all the accumulated experience of our class, both good and bad; those qualities of courage, cunning, resourcefulness, obstinacy, self sacrifice, democracy, humanity, discipline have coexisted with the shortcomings of cowardice, self deceit, passivity, laziness and the search for easy ways out; but the former qualities have never been eclipsed by the latter. Our Party must seek to embody these former qualities and nurture them within the class. Their supremacy is a precondition of revolution and a guarantee of socialism’s consolidation.
We, who proclaim ourselves Marxists, and believe that socialism is the only future, must recognise that in Britain the working class is the only force for progress. Its actions have caused governments to fall, have rendered laws inoperable; indeed, the primary function of the capitalist state, its raison d’etre, is to contain and eventually destroy the organised working class within the trade unions. If our Party fails to appreciate and fully understand the power of the organised working class, we shall err in our political line and become yet another millstone around its neck, and there would be no reason for our continued existence.
Those who call for the liquidation of our trade union movement are employers’ men. Insane calls from whatever quarter, for ’red trade unions’ created by politicos who arrogantly ascribe the role of leader to themselves, are calls not only of folly but of treachery. People should read their history – such attempts in the past have been miserable diversions. The proponents of such ideas are perverting Marxism and negating the central role of the working class in the struggle for revolution.
The argument that the working class is straining at the leash to make revolution and that it is only held back by trade union leaders or by the trade union machinery itself is an infantile deception, deserving only ridicule.
But we must keep everything in perspective: trade unions are not revolutionary bodies and never will be. Neither are they ’schools for communism’. They are important and necessary because they are the authentic voice and the authentic creation of the working class.
As we have said before; “We want not a ’save the unions’ campaign but seizing of the assets material and human“. What do we mean by assets? What do we mean by seizure? Assets cannot be seized if we don’t understand what they are. The central asset is human. Assets are people, working people with their experience of class struggle, experience out of which they erected some machinery for their defence, the trade unions. To seize the assets is not to capture but to seize the leadership, to seize the mind of the people, to seize their machine. It is to seize these assets for a qualitatively new phase of class struggle.
Our Party is for the unity of the working class in struggle against employer and capitalist government. Unity depends on understanding. Our Party in its line is very clear – there are but two classes in Britain. The class battles over the last decade have been a vindication of our recognition of this simple truth.
New forces have joined the ranks of the organised working class. The employers and their state have faced an offensive on all fronts, involving all sections, from engineers to nurses.
Though our Party did not create this upsurge, we anticipated and clarified it. By our understanding, urging and promoting, we hastened and guided it. And, moreover, through comrades at work in many places we led this advance.
Even within our own Party these developments have not been accepted fully. This lack of acceptance takes different forms: the white collar comrade who considers his section the new vanguard, or another who regards industrials to be the only real workers; on the other hand, the industrial worker who still retains the notion that white collar workers are middle class. These views hold back the Party and prevent the comrades from doing effective political work. This Congress must finally rid our Party of these incorrect ideas and those members who still cling to them must go, because they have no place in our Communist Party.
The term ’labour aristocracy’ which gained credence in leftist circles from the writings of Engels and Lenin, describes no animal – living or dead. Marxist economics teaches us that labour power as a commodity possesses value, the greater the skill the greater the value and therefore the greater the surplus value expropriated by the capitalist, and hence the possibility for the workers involved to claw back more in the form of higher wages. A worker is only employed to create profit; no worker has ever been ’bribed’ to produce. Lenin’s argument that workers in the industrial heartlands were bribed by imperialism’s ’super profits’ and were elevated to the lofty heights of a labour aristocracy, is the very antithesis of reality. This whole fallacy was a pathetic attempt to explain why the workers in Western Europe had not made revolution.
There is still within our class, and indeed within our Party, a tendency often to see the implications of a struggle as limited to the section immediately involved. This is an aspect of the social democracy within our class.
Our class’s adherence to social democracy should not lead us into futile intellectual convolutions. We should understand social democracy. It is the dominant philosophy of the class, not imposed on them but created by them. It has served them in the past. Reforms and improvements often resulted. But the decline of capitalism and the growing corporatism attempt to envelop social democracy. Social democracy as a political outlook is fast becoming obsolescent; unable to enact its ameliorative function. Our class, to survive and progress must discard this moribund philosophy – and must seize upon that other philosophy which has always resided within it, always as a minor aspect, revolution. There are no short cuts. Our Party must face this situation squarely and develop the struggle of ideas with our class.
The British working class are in no way isolated in their battle. Let us take Europe for instance. In France the rundown of industry has been similar to our own and the threat that represents to traditional communities has been met by resistance which is marked by its militancy and organisation. This same spirit has been reflected in the ability of Dutch and German workers to see beyond their own national boundaries in their burgeoning solidarity action with British Ford workers during their recent strike.
The overt fascist states in Europe – Francoist Spain, Salazar’s Portugal and the military junta in Greece – have been overthrown by the people in their desire for freedom and their revulsion against tyranny. However, capitalism does not lie down and die. It is particularly noticeable that the bourgeoisie in these countries now look for succour in the arms of the EEC. Forced by their own decline and the growing strength of the working class of their own countries, the capitalists of Western Europe have embarked upon the strategy of corporatism. The EEC is a recipe for the growing exploitation and oppression of the European working class. The concentration of the control of capital more and more through the state and large corporations, often international, means the termination of traditional centres of production on a national basis, consequent unemployment and deskilling, the distortion and ultimate destruction of the national economies throughout the Community. The hardest hit victim in all this is the youth, the seed-corn. This destruction of the economic base in each of the European countries, if allowed to go unchecked spells political disaster for the European workers, not only to their immediate wellbeing and their power of organisation, but also to their prospect of moving swiftly through revolution to building self-reliant socialist societies.
The EEC was founded to restore a discredited capitalism in Western Europe. This move to supra-national unity of the capitalist class is paralleled by their drive to divide the working class. The British working class has started to recognise this and is repelling the internal threat of devolution. Now it must turn to the external threat, the EEC.
Our working class’s growing hostility to EEC membership must be turned into a thoroughgoing campaign, not merely for withdrawal but for the destruction of this capitalist bloc. A blow by the British working class – or any other – for its destruction would be a victory for the working class of Europe.
Disgruntlement with the EEC is unevenly felt by the peoples of the member countries. Certain peoples appear to be more advanced in their detestation of the Common Market than others, e.g., the British, the Danish, the Norwegians (who have never joined). These peoples have a duty to take the lead in withdrawal from and destruction of this bloc.
The EEC seeks, to be the political and economic arm of the existing military bloc, NATO, whose very inception was anti-working class and anti-communist in nature. NATO belongs to American imperialism and props up every capitalist force in Europe. Its control is still manifested in its military presence throughout Western Europe and the European working classes still tolerate this foreign occupation of their soil.
Our Party stands for the expulsion of all foreign troops from Britain and Europe. Why is it that our working class, which is so opposed to the EEC, is so somnolent with regard to the danger of NATO? NATO is essentially aggressive; internally, a gendarme, externally an imperialist. Our toleration of NATO is a toleration of imperialism, a toleration of the prospect of war.
This toleration is expressed most shamefully in the failure to mobilise against the military occupation of Northern Ireland. Our Party at its beginning was singularly alone in calling for the withdrawal of troops and in supporting the Irish people’s right to national independence and self determination. What have we done to move our class on this essential issue? Have we done enough? Once again our British government is involved in fighting a merciless war against the Irish people and our response so far has been too muted.
While Ireland suffers partition and British domination, we can never achieve our own political emancipation.
We reject the false notion that imperialism is a problem of foreign parts, of oppression elsewhere. That same force – monopoly capitalism – which exploits in the capitalist heartlands does so as well in the colonies and neo-colonies. The capital needed for the development of Empire was accumulated from the sweated labour of the workers at home. In fact, the tremendous creation of surplus value in the industrial countries gives the capitalist class the ability to act as an imperialist force.
Imperialism is the enemy, no matter what its source: American, Russian, British or Chinese. No particular imperialism is essentially any worse or any better than another. To qualify imperialism by describing it as ’social imperialism’ or whatever is to imply some qualitative difference. The aggressive acts of Russia and China have everything in common with the customary behaviour of classic imperialists and have nothing in common with socialism, they are the outward manifestation of the internal degeneration to capitalism within those countries.
For the people of any country the main enemy at any one time is that imperialism which immediately threatens. For instance, to advance the notion as China does that ’Soviet social imperialism’ constitutes the overriding global threat to the peoples of the world, particularly those of Europe, ’and that those peoples should subordinate themselves to their capitalist rulers to ward off the bloodthirsty Bear is not only to ignore the living threat of all imperialism, but also to exacerbate the threat of war. Such a call is an attempt to incite the world’s proletariat td an orgy of mutual destruction.
Remember that those who advocate a Holy War against Russia – recently egged on by China – are a direct continuation of the protagonists of the Cold War, thrive on international tension and raise this bogey as an excuse to launch anti-communist crusades at home.
For the British working class the main enemy is British imperialism and its partners.
The supreme example of a people who have had the clarity to concentrate their forces against-the immediate principal enemy at any one time is that of the Vietnamese who have in turn faced and defeated Japanese, French, American and now latterly Chinese imperialism. We salute the heroism of Vietnam which has fought over many decades for freedom, independence and revolution, and further we acknowledge the debt owed to them by the world proletariat.
The line of ’three worlds’ which never warranted the title of a theory, stands naked for what it always was, a weak apology for China’s bid to attain the status of a world imperialist power; it also represents a retreat on the world stage from socialist principles. It matched the attack on the socialist gains of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution inside China; reaction at home and abroad go hand in hand, imperialism is a singular force acting on both.
The hard won dignity and self respect of the Chinese people are being trampled underfoot. What a shameful spectacle.’ Even the emperors of the Ching dynasty sought to resist foreign incursion and domination and had to be bombarded into submission by the Victorian imperialists. Nowadays the new ruling clique openly welcomes a flood of foreign capitalists who come in search of orders, profits and influence, while a horde of Chinese soldiers is dispatched to ’punish’ Vietnam (as if they could) thus besmirching the noble tradition of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. What a sordid contrast to the role of the Chinese volunteers who fought and died alongside their Korean brothers and sisters.’ Socialist fraternity is ousted by capitalist war and bids for domination.
The unilateral cessation of agreements and aid by China to Vietnam and Albania in July 1978 was a cynical abandonment of steadfast comrades in favour of such a rag-bag of new friends as American presidents, NATO generals, the Shah of Iran, Mobutu of Zaire, backwoodsmen of the British Tory party, deposed monarchs and political has-beens of the calibre of Heath and Nixon.
Those gains and successes obtained by the Chinese people under the leadership of their Communist Party, led by Mao Tse-tung and Chou En-lai, stand in vivid contrast to the debacle brought on by today’s rulers, the Huas and Tengs; and this fine revolutionary tradition will haunt the schemes of the counter-revolutionaries until it reemerges.
Although China is intent on becoming a world imperialism its sights are first set on South East Asia which has been the scene of notable revolutionary advances since the end of World War II – Vietnam, Korea, Laos, Cambodia. Where American imperialism was beaten, Chinese imperialism seeks to tread. It will get short shrift. It will suffer the fate of those who went before.
The historic defeat of US imperialism in Indo China proved a major setback for America’s international strategy. It did not, however, change its character in essence. US imperialism is, as it was, an oppressive, violent force in the world.
However, the victory of the peoples of Indo China proved that however vicious it might be, it is not indestructible.
US imperialism still maintains a stranglehold over most of Latin America. Its domination takes many forms – from the collaboration with fascist dictatorships such as that of Pinochet in Chile, through control of the bulk of industry to the military occupation of the Panama Canal Zone. Those who talk of America as a neutral or non-aggressive force, need look no further than the misery and oppression wrought by it and its stooges in this region to realise their folly.
Capitalism assumes different political guises in different times and places in order to maintain its power and exploit the people. In the Middle East at present it uses particularly vicious forms of theocracy, e.g., ’Islamic Republics’ and kingdoms, reminiscent of the Catholic states of the Middle Ages but mirroring the local enemy they love to hate – Israel. The workers of the various countries of the Middle East must sweep aside religious differences and lead the labouring people in each to overthrow their exploiters.
The Iranian people, spearheaded by the oil workers, have taken a first great step by overthrowing the despicable Shah; their next step (against Ayatollahs) will be more difficult. The workers of Israel must unite with their Palestinian class brothers to sweep away Zionism and establish a secular state. The capitalist fiction of the ’Arab nation’ is another one intended (like the fiction of religion) to hide the reality of class oppression in the area. The Palestinian workers and peasants have as allies only their class brothers, who do not hold state power in any country of the Middle East.
US policy in the world brings it into contradiction with USSR imperialism, sometimes manifested in conflict, sometimes in cooperation. As stated previously, all imperialisms are the enemy. While identical in essence they exhibit different features. A distinguishing feature of Soviet imperialism is that it is state monopoly capitalism, which is both a source of strength and weakness.
The USSR’s imperialist role is most clearly expressed in its denial of true national sovereignty to, and its military occupation of, the other countries in the Warsaw Pact. This once fraternal alliance created to defend the gains of the revolution against the aggressive stance of western imperialism organised in NATO, has been transformed into an internally repressive, externally aggressive body and an instrument for Soviet control. Imperialism takes the USSR beyond these boundaries in search of new markets and new spheres of influence – facilitated particularly by a massive build-up of the Soviet fleet. Does this new departure in naval policy, begun after the counter-revolutionary usurpation of power in the 1950’s represent an intention on the part of the Soviet rulers to imitate the Nineteenth Century British imperialists’ design ’to rule the waves’?
British imperialism is still a major force and the City of London remains the centre of world finance. The world economy is characterised by its domination by multi-national companies within which the capital and influence of the British ruling class is ever present. British imperialism works in tandem with that of the US as, for the most part, their interests do not conflict. A particular example of this is what they call their ’joint initiatives’ in Southern Africa. In Zimbabwe the racist regime led by Ian Smith, still clinging to power seeks to mask its true nature by the inclusion of such quislings as Sithole, Chirau and Muzorewa in the administration. The Anglo-US proposals for ’all party talks’ and ’majority rule’ in that country are equally cosmetic. Both powers have consistently aided and abetted the regime there. They are still united in purpose; to deny the people of Zimbabwe real control of their country’s future. In Namibia it is the same story. They negotiate with South African racists over its future and ignore their illegal occupation of that country. Yet again their interests coincide and their priorities are the same; to maintain their domination of these countries and their exploitation of the indigenous people and resources. This is done in conjunction with their partners in the EEC who see Africa as a particularly valuable source of markets, cheap labour and raw materials.
This policy is reflected in Britain’s relations to most of the countries of Africa and Asia, particularly to its former colonies. All efforts are exerted to ensure its continued economic domination and the maintenance of ’friendly governments’. Neither should it be forgotten that Britain still maintains its rule directly over colonies, other than Northern Ireland. The dominant feature of these is the great wealth of the few and the squalor and oppression of the many as in Hong Kong.
Throughout the world people are seeking an end to foreign interference in, and domination of, their countries. The only final guarantee of an end to the power and influence of imperialism is to destroy it in its heartland. That is a part of the historic task of the British working class; in gaining its own emancipation it will strike a hammer blow for the forces of national liberation.
The forces of national liberation throughout the world still constitute the primary ally of the proletarian revolution. The overt, direct rule of imperialism in the colonies was made untenable by the movement for national independence, and the last of the old style empires, that of Portugal, has in this decade been ignominiously kicked out of Africa.
But does the achievement of a national government actually represent independence, liberation? Erstwhile colonies are still a prey to economic domination and political interference by the imperialist powers. Liberation does not merely mean ridding a country of foreign rulers but also of poverty, famine, disease and ignorance, vile products of continuing oppression and exploitation. Liberation also requires the abolition of the rule of the new, local bourgeoisie, the comprador class, whether it be under an emperor Bokassa, a field marshal Amin or a Christian Kaunda.
Only the exercise of power by the workers and peasants will assure true national independence. And only the development of Marxist forces, of strong communist parties, will bring about this people’s dictatorship. Marxist leadership in these countries can only spring from their own struggles and traditions and they will eschew foreign powers who pose as friends and avoid the mechanical imitation of others’ revolutionary experience.
The UN is not a neutral force, as can most clearly be seen in Lebanon and in its proposed role in Namibia. Its ’peacekeeping’ troops are introduced to thwart the advance of the people and to maintain the interests of imperialism, often as a last resort when all other tactics have failed.
The international duty of our Party is very clear. Above all we must make revolution and establish socialism in Britain, that oldest of imperialist countries. To do so would be to remove the foundation stone from the bastion of reaction in the world, and would also bring all the enemies of progress flooding to attack us, fearful of the collapse of the whole edifice.
But we have other international duties too, and our Party has always accepted them. When Czechoslovakia was invaded by Russian and Warsaw Pact armies in 1968, our Party, very early in its foundation year, was the first voice in the world to denounce in our Open Statement, and then in a public meeting that act of aggression. In May 1969 the Worker predicted imminent massive reinforcement of the existing British military occupation of Northern Ireland, and when in August that invasion took place, only our Party demanded withdrawal. The march which it organised through London in September 1971 still stands as the clearest demonstration ever to have emerged from within the British working class of solidarity with the Irish people.
Our line alone cuts clearly through the unscientific concept of Soviet imperialism as something ’social’ and the notion of ’superpowers’.
When the line of three worlds was enunciated by China, our Party was the first in the world to oppose it. Explicit in this opposition was our insistence on the basic issue of class, proletariat against bourgeoisie, exploited against exploiters. Throughout a period of great confusion, betrayal and deceit amongst communists and parties the world over, which is still continuing, our Party has embraced one principle: we stick to Marxism and we stick to the truth. If that leaves the Party alone in the world for the moment, it accepts this, never with a superior or insular attitude, but always understanding the imperative need to keep Marxism alive in the world. As long as our. Party is rooted in the working class we never are alone, and shall attract friends in the world.
Further we do not interfere in the affairs of other parties or states or instruct them, as China did in Europe over the EEC, or others in the call for new Marxist trade unions.
How does our Party operate internationally? Our Party does not go in for polemic nor for idle tete a tete about the internal affairs of others. Experience, both common and particular and issues of mutual concern are a proper starting point for discussion between parties. Our Party, based on a principle of self reliance has developed a healthy suspicion of globe-trotting to international conferences where, rather than face the concrete problems of their own proletariat, people huddle together for warmth in convivial surroundings.
We should remember that the First International was the most proletarian in composition and character, a forum for workers of different countries to learn from and aid each other. It is worthy of study by all workers.
Proletarian internationalism is an objective reality. It manifests itself essentially in struggle and even permanent structures exist, international bodies which draw together representatives of organised labour from many countries. Communist understanding and influence is still very weak in them; is this a consequence of past disregard for them by communists?
It has been a traditional weakness of the international communist movement to look to some international centre for direction and leadership, a communist Vatican, a Marxist pope. But for communists there can only be one international centre and that is the international proletariat. It is for each national communist party to look to its own proletariat. It stands or falls by its understanding of and relationship to it.
Given the problems and confusions we face internationally our Party feels that the formation of a communist international would at best provide no solution and at worst be a diversion.
The ability of a working class to seize power, to make a revolution, is not in doubt and has been proven many times –in Russia in 1917, China, Vietnam, Albania. What is still in doubt and has not yet been proven is the capacity of a working class, having made the revolution successfully to hold on to and build the socialist society. Socialism has not yet assumed a continuous existence.
As Marxists we must treat with this problem maturely and not ignore it.
The international proletariat has witnessed failure and setback and received a devastating blow to morale, first in Soviet Russia and the Eastern European peoples’ democracies, now in China. If capitalism under revisionist leadership retakes a socialist citadel, as it did after Stalin’s death with Khruschev’s clique and after Mao Tse-tung’s and Chou En-lai’s deaths with the Hua and Teng clique, where were the workers? Were they asleep? Were they taking a sabbatical? Were they interested? Where were the independent organs of a working class-capable of challenging the emerging revisionist apparatus which had seized hold of the socialist state and was attempting to transform it?
What is the ultimate guarantee of the maintenance of the dictatorship of the proletariat? The first and foremost precondition is the active control that the working class exercises over its society and through its state. Involvement at the invitation of the party or the government is not enough; the working class must really be in command. It must truly be the dictatorship of the proletariat.
How is it that the death of great socialist leaders can be followed by a wholesale political reversal emanating from with the party itself, supposedly the guardian of the integrity of the revolution, and why is it that the mass – the revolutionary force – permits it?
Up till now socialist revolutions have occurred in countries where the industrial aspect has not been dominant, where the proletariat has been in the minority and where often the tradition of autonomous working class organisations was not deep rooted. The special responsibility of the British working class and others is not only to move to revolution, but also to demonstrate conclusively that the dictatorship of the proletariat can be consolidated and retained. Over 200 years of class struggle have given British workers a tradition of organisation, democracy, discipline, knowledge, an accumulated experience, all this the property of their mass organisations. Within our class we have all the abilities and skills required to run our own country in a socialist way. The character of the British working class is such that if once convinced of the need to discard social democracy and embrace its own natural ideology, revolution, it will pose new questions and formulate new solutions to the whole challenge of retaining control in a workers’ dictatorship. Will not the unity of this class, once convinced to advance ideologically, given their character and wealth of experience, make it all the harder for aspiring revisionists to usurp power after socialism has been achieved?
Socialism in Britain presupposes not just a revolutionary party, but the existence of an organised working class possessing structures where power would reside, exchange would occur and decisions would be made. It would be the task of the Party to exercise its leadership role, its struggle of ideas, within this.
The problem facing the world’s proletariat goes beyond the exploitation and oppression, the degradation and misery which it suffers under the weight of imperialism. It carries on its shoulders the responsibility for the very survival of humanity. Capitalism in its decline destroys: it destroys industry, skill and resources, and it seeks to destroy the dignity which is essential to life. But more than that it destroys life itself.
The forces of imperialism are always poised for war, whether war against each other, internecine for the redivision of the world, or acting together against a third party; always, ultimately ready to turn upon those peasant and working classes who rise up in revolution. The first task of imperialism is to annihilate all who stand in its way.
Two world wars and countless regional wars are proof that humanity is of no concern to imperialism, whose most hideous atrocities are perpetrated upon those peoples who have the courage to seek the best that life can offer through socialism.
Now we have a bomb which reflects the quintessence of imperialism, that property shall survive amidst slaughter. We are not afraid of the bomb: history has shown that the might of the people has always been greater than weaponry. But the task is very urgent.
It is the duty of the proletariat to enforce peace against the wishes of capitalism. It is the aspiration of the proletariat to achieve socialism and thereby guarantee lasting world peace.
We reject the assertion that war is inevitable, as it negates the role of the working class in history, who can say yea or nay to being used as cannon fodder.
Our Party opposes war. It stands for peace, which is the dearest wish of the world’s people. Workers must not only declare themselves for peace but must organise for it and wreck the plans of the warmongers.
The word war is loosely used in common parlance. On the one hand purely descriptively, a catch all; and on the other precisely, politically. It is imperialism that launches wars to redivide the world, grab markets, land and resources to further oppress and, particularly, divide workers. But when workers in the midst of this abomination take up arms in civil war; when workers, unprovoked by war, overthrow with force their capitalist rulers in naked class struggle, they do so to remove the source of their oppression and gain emancipation. This is revolution not war.
Should imperialism embark upon war, the working class of the world has only one course, one duty: we shall not fight your war, we shall not be your corpses or foot soldiers, we shall launch against you our own struggle, turn imperialist war into civil war, fight for revolution.
In considering the state of the Labour Movement we must consider how we define it. It is in two parts: those workers who belong to trade unions – there are approximately 12 million workers who have declared their position by being organised in trade unions (roughly 50 per cent of the employed population); then those in the Labour Party, some 6 million, but this is duplicated in that some are covered by trade union membership affiliation. It could be said that the Labour Movement consists of 18 million out of a population of 56 million. Only by working in it do you really become knowledgeable and understand its complexities.
We must consider what has been happening in the struggles taking place and the form the struggle is taking today and its contradictions.
The crisis of the ruling class gets deeper and more difficult all the time. Whatever they do it won’t go away and has been intensified by the workers’ fight back. Their problem is how to combat the strength of the organised working class and its resistance to the vicious attacks on their living standards.
Hardly a section of the class has not been in struggle over the past months against the Government pay policy and its destruction of Britain.
The death of Government pay policy was presaged in the most gallant Firemen’s dispute. Though not a victory for the Firemen it was no defeat. It was the last stand of the Labour Government, and a pyrrhic victory. The whole working class owes an eternal debt to the Firemen and Fire Brigades Union.
The working class is not as it was. They know the acceptance of the Social Contract, following the victories over In Place Of Strife and the Industrial Relations Act, was a retreat that led to further intervention of the state in the functions of trade unions, and to the permanent control of wages.
The class go the way they want to go. They make and have their own theory, alternately attacking and submitting. Perhaps they were slow to challenge, but each experience registered until they were pushed too far in being forced to bear the burden of the crisis. All workers know the problem and the answer, that is, the employer wants them to accept less. They have had enough and want more to survive. They have no choice and will take on their employer.
The resistance of the working class through their unions compelled Government and employers to surrender their 5 per cent policy. It was the Party that forced the 5 per cent battle – at the beginning nothing seemed to happen – then it happened through the union machinery. The TUC Congress was an example of workers using their unions to determine policy and to impose their will on the leadership and to challenge the State.
Because of the resistance of the working class there is talk of curtailing trade union power, that means the working class. Trade unions are people and their organised strength, which has been so effective and unmoved by any such talk of edge of precipices and economic disaster. The class will fight capitalism whether we say so or not and the attack will grow in the future. The working class is not a single disciplined army of revolution, but a collection of units all learning from each other. Our immediate aim should be to unite all the forces of the class that are in action.
It’s full of possibilities and dangers. They should build strong trade union organisation, but no matter how strong they are in themselves, they are not an island, they are not immune from what goes on nationally, in terms of the policy of Government, employers or unions.
We have to ensure all members participate in the life of the unions, at all levels, to ensure that the policy of unions is determined by the membership and that the policy is carried out as at present – its members pushing the leaders.
Do we understand the Labour Movement? It is not only what trade unions are, whatever weaknesses may exist, but what they can become. They may have shown they don’t accept social democracy but they have not yet shown they accept revolution. Our job is to explain that there is no other way. In understanding the history of our class we know that not only is it the unions which can deal the sharpest blows at the ruling class, but also that, for all their shortcomings, they retain all that is best in terms of organisation, power and strength.
We say we should direct all struggle to revolution. What is the Party’s relationship with the working class – that is what is important. How do we regard the working class? Unless the Party is integrated with the class we will be unable to advise it, no matter how good we may be. The Party must understand that the unions, the Labour Movement is not an echo of the Party and in this field of work we must adapt to meet this circumstance.
The Party is in the working class, of the working class but is not the working class.
If we consider that there has never been a revolution in an industrialised country, and if we remember that no fully developed capitalist state has been overthrown, then we must look for the reasons. Are they within the Labour Movement? If we reject such arguments as ’the Labour Aristocracy’ and ’the crumbs from empire’ then we must consider the development of the working class to this day as evolutionary. Yes, this: is so –without capitalism there is no working class, without the working class there is no capitalism. With capitalism, the working class and from the working class come trade unions. Trade unions are born not made.
The trade unions are a defence, a device attempting to minimise the degree of exploitation. When, with such machinery, workers fight back, alleged Marxists argue “Economism”and “Spontaneity”. It seems that the label ’economism’ and the ’economic struggle’ is so asserted because it is esteemed that economic struggle is not revolutionary, hence also the term ’spontaneity ’. Perhaps spontaneity is better described as the appelation so given as to mean, “since it is not what I think; since my thoughts, my plans for progress are not adopted, then it is without thought, that is, ’spontaneous’.”
If we believe in dialectics, then why spontaneity? Workers never do anything except with thought. If all be thought then so is all action, thought. Why then assume that at any point, at any stage, the action is spontaneous? It is dogma to think this way. It is to say, “If you do not do what I think, you are not thinking, therefore you are without thought. You are acting spontaneously“. There is no such thing as spontaneity in workers’ actions; all actions are products of mind.
Since no Marxist, real or self-styled, is prepared to assent that the working class is not by class relationship revolutionary, then what? Or is it being said that the revolutionary base of a working class is inherent spontaneous reaction to environment? Such a heresy would that not be.
Because in general historical terms workers do not pass from defence to revolution, specious reasons are sought to explain (as already written here) ’economism’, ’sponanteity’, ’crumbs’, ’labour aristocracy’. Workers frequently pass from ’defence’ to ’attack in defence’. How to move from this to the overthrow of capitalism?
This we say is the hurdle. In fighting, in attacking, which is so hard and demands such sacrifice and thought, then take the final step and the eternal struggle; destroy the enemy in one last great battle. For such a seemingly impossible task consider the forces.
With such strength, nothing is impossible. Then, why not revolution? Because they do not follow us, they do not accept our thinking in substitution for their own? But since we are all part of the whole, the working class, is there different thinking? And if this is so, if we be right, how to change? Sometimes it is explained as betrayal; that in the case of unions they be misdirected; that the solution, the answer be to create ’Red Unions’ – that we pick, we select from the working class’. Nonsense. We, the Party, can neither select nor neglect. We must be in and of the working class, above all in the machinery of the working class.
A belief that we can affix slogans and thought externally, is incorrect and does not work. Do we think we could walk away if they reject us and do not act as we demand? Unless the Party and each comrade is immersed in and genuinely part of the class there can be no reason for any worker or the mass to heed us.
Leadership comes from acceptance, acknowledgement of correct positions taken. There must be respect for experience and actually seeing it done by example. There is no substitute, no by-passing. It cannot be exogenous. We must shed all notions and inhibitions apropos ’economism’ and ’economic struggle’. So we must be involved in, believe in, belong to, and be ready to supply, because of these things, counsel so others may come to agree that we may be right, that we can be as thoughtful as they.
The area of work is resident solely in the organised expression of the working class. We must know when they be thirsty how to get clean water. It is not good enough to drink muddy water if you know where clear water is. We must show that they can get clean, clear water if they dig a well. They have to dig the well themselves.
The rule to be in and of, but never to lose identity is the hardest task of all for the Marxist-Leninist. To the British working class the protection of democracy is only ensured through the trade unions, not via political parties, nor by law enacted through parliament. Again and again in the history of struggle this has been proved. Laws have been set aside, governments are opposed, governments destroyed, all within the electoral ritual dance. The point is that this direct political action, seen, understood, envisaged, and applied by the working class must be transformed, to seizure. This has ever stemmed from the direct class relationship, never from exhortation by political parties. Here too are the trade unions. It is for us ceaselessly to divine the relationship to make plain that we are of this too, same class and that the only solution is revolution which they must make with our assistance and participation.
We have written this in this way to pose a problem. There is an acceptance that the working class is the revolutionary force. There must be an unqualified acceptance that the class struggle is waged most effectively, solely so, through the trade unions who are the most advanced section of their class. The level even within the unions is uneven. Here in levelling this, in extracting the maximum in class struggle both in direction and in blows against the opposing class, the capitalist class, lies our work. There must be too, the recognition; class struggle is not synonymous with revolution but need not and must not be separate. It is this that is now the problem never truly tackled and never yet solved; perhaps because, as we have already said, “no capitalist country has achieved a revolution therefore this remains unsolved”.
In the theory of Marxism no true place has been found for organized labour, the trade unions in being, the main force for revolution. It as though there is an artificial separation between the trade unions and the revolutionary party. Yet, if we as a Party of the working class are so, and it is so, then how can we be separate from the unions, or yet from the struggles of the unions? The distinction lies the fact that the class struggle within capitalism is daily, continuously so, but revolution is not. Revolution is the accumulation of forces within the contradictions gathered by the class in one fell blow, to put down, to destroy capitalism, to seize power and to rule.
In interim a party must accept that the class struggle within a capitalist society is perpetual, must be and is, waged with or without a revolutionary party. Since this is so, we must be in it, of it, and lead it. It may well be that in so undertaking this work, we the Party, will solve the seeming contradiction. A party of a new type must not be above a working class, not a section with a greater mind clutched as a secret to be doled out graciously in moments of crisis with the cry “Follow me” but that the party of a new type assists and prepares a working class to become a working class of a new type, a type to overthrow capitalism – since this has never been done before. This is why we must understand the functions of trade unions, long to them, be of them just as much as being of our class.
To work in them seriously, conscientiously and with integrity requires recognition that the unions have been there a long time and that there are thousands of members within the unions who know clearly their limited purpose, better in many instances, than we ourselves; who know better the unions than we, who do not seek to divert them through subterfuge to other purposes. It is for us, with humility, being a part of, to learn and to lead.
Do not despise these hard-wrought organisations. In the course of the class struggle such organs have twice been the force to destroy governments – the Labour Government over ’In Place of Strife’ and the Tory over the ’Industrial Relations Act’. Then there is no limit to the proper application of this force for revolution, through a revolutionary Party, our Party of the working class.