Communist Party of Great Britain

A Policy for Britain

General Election Programme of the Communist Party


Published: February, 1955
Transcription\HTML 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.


AS A GENERAL ELECTION approaches, thoughtful people are naturally concerned about the future of our country. Ten years have passed since the war, yet the outlook still seems uncertain and insecure. There are so many problems—how to safeguard peace, how to ensure security of employment, how to achieve a decent standard of life for all.

On most of the major questions of the day both the Tories and the leaders of the Labour Party seem to speak with one voice. At home and abroad, Tory actions often just continue what Labour began. The programme of neither party offers any hope of lasting peace or advance to a better life.

No wonder that so many people have lost confidence in the leadership of both parties. It is time for a change.

Under Tory rule the rich have become richer and the mass of the people, both working and middle class, poorer. Prices, especially of food, have risen, housing and food subsidies have been cut, rents increased and a charge made for medical prescriptions. But wages and salaries have failed to keep pace.

The people have produced more—due to overtime and harder work—but their consumption of the good things of life has not gone up. What have gone up, without any doubt, are profits. Between 1950 and 1953 total dividends on ordinary shares rose by over 5s. in the £ and have risen further since.

The rich, therefore, have been able to spend extravagantly on luxury. For theirs the lights have indeed been bright.

But for the mass of the people the story is different.

The Tories say they have restored “freedom”. All they have done is to abolish rationing by the book—only to replace it by rationing by the purse. They have given the profitable road transport undertakings and the steel industry back to private owners—with very handsome pickings to the big concerns, at the public expense.

Yes, greater freedom has been granted—to the rich to make and spend money, while the shops and warehouses are full of goods the ordinary man and woman cannot afford.

Saddest of all is the plight of the old folk, the sick and disabled. The meagre increases added to their pensions and allowances are in marked contrast to the lavish concessions made to the wealthy. And even these increases have to be paid for by higher contributions of the people themselves.

The whole basis of Tory policy is unsound. In spite of full employment, at no time since the end of the war have people felt less secure about their future.

The Tories themselves are warning of difficulties in the drive for exports which can lead once more to mass unemployment. Yet they still maintain bans, imposed by America, on trade with the great markets available in Eastern Europe and China.

Because the American alliance has been the cornerstone of Tory policy, there has been no independent British attitude on foreign affairs. The Americans have demanded the rearmament of the “ex” Nazis. They have established atom bases in our countryside, placing us in the greatest peril.

No country would face more terrible prospects in a modern war waged with atomic and hydrogen bombs than Britain. For us, above all, a policy of peace is a condition of survival.

But the alliance also endangers our economic future. Production has more and more been directed to armaments at the expense of our national interests. One-eleventh of our total labour power is wasted in rearmament instead of being used to raise our standards of life and modernise our industry.

If the British people have suffered under Tory rule, the fate of the colonial peoples has been much worse. To maintain and expand the profits British businessmen draw from the Empire, the liberation movements of the colonial peoples have been suppressed by military force.

Clearly, it is in the interests of the great majority of British people, both working and middle class, to defeat the Tories decisively in the coming election. But they can only do so by demanding a policy completely different not only from that offered by the Government, but also from the programme put forward by the leaders of the Labour Party.

This programme, Challenge to Britain, has aroused the strongest criticism from hundreds of thousands of active members of the Labour Party. It treats the “cold war” and the arms burden as inevitable. It accepts the American-imposed trade bans and the policy of colonial wars. It offers no prospect of establishing public ownership and control of industry in the common interest, but proposes to strengthen still further the big businessmen and employers. There is no vision of steadily improving social services—only a future of further sacrifice by the many for the benefit of the few. This is the kind of policy that led to Labour’s defeat in 1951.

No wonder that there has been little or no real fight inside or outside Parliament against the Tories—except by some backbench Labour M.P.s—when the leaders of both parties speak the same language and when the Tories can claim, on so many issues, to be continuing where Labour left off. No wonder the Tory Government has lasted so long when the Labour leaders offer nothing very different to the people.

But the majority of Labour supporters do want a different policy; they want to elect a Parliament which will change things and not just carry on in the same old way.

They want a policy which will inspire them to fight for a new Britain, free from the horror of war, and dedicated to the advance of the people’s welfare. Such a policy will result in the British people giving of their best, as their skill and resources would be used for the common good. It will raise Britain’s prestige as an independent power, determined to end colonial oppression and work for peace and friendly co-operation among the nations of the world.

Such a policy we offer here in the confidence that it will win the support of all men and women in Britain who are anxious to build a new life for our great nation.

A POLICY FOR PEACE

IF THERE IS one thing that unites the overwhelming majority of the British people, it is the desire for a lasting peace. “Never Again” was the thought most widely expressed in 1945, and it is still the feeling of the common people today.

Why, then, does a war danger exist?

Because the leading statesmen of Great Britain and the United States repudiated the wartime agreements for international cooperation and preferred to build up alliances of capitalist States against the Soviet Union, the socialist countries of Eastern Europe, China, and the liberation movements in the colonies. Mr. Churchill’s revelation about his readiness to fight with the Nazis against Russia in 1945 is striking new evidence that this is true. The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, the South-East Asia Treaty Organisation, and last of all, the Agreements to rearm West Germany, all deny the principle of peaceful co-operation and have divided the world into two opposing groups.

The folly of this policy, which has meant gigantic armament programmes and the deliberate fostering by the U.S.A. of international tension, is now seen by most people, who no longer believe that Russia wants war.

The U.S.A., controlled by big businessmen, wants to dominate the world. It has seriously weakened British independence. It has kept China out of the United Nations. Worst of all, it is chiefly responsible for the plans to rearm the Nazis, the butchers of humanity.

If peace and co-operation between the nations are to be won, a new policy is necessary. Britain can and must take the lead in this, giving new hope to humanity.

Our country must refuse to allow the rearmament of Germany.

The division of Germany should be ended. The Four Powers should meet, and in consultation with East and West Germany arrange for the holding of free elections throughout Germany to establish a single all-German Government.

This would prepare the way for a peace treaty.

Germany should not take part in military alliances directed against other States, but should participate in a treaty for collective security in Europe, in which all European States could take part, and with which China and the U.S.A. should be associated.

We stand for the universal banning of the atom and hydrogen bombs, with international inspection and control; and for substantial reduction, by international agreement, of all other weapons and armed forces.

This would be welcomed by all people of goodwill throughout the world.

Britain should follow an independent foreign policy of peace and break with the military alliance with the U.S.A. U.S. bases in Britain must be closed and American troops withdrawn.

The ending of the wars in Korea and Indo-China was achieved because the will of the common people for peace overcame U.S. obstruction. These two examples of co-operation between the great Powers have given the world renewed hope. They must be followed up by the admission of China to the United Nations. This will allow of the five-Power co-operation essential to the proper functioning of the United Nations Organisation.

Britain should reduce the period of military service, which along with the arms budget are intolerable burdens on our economy. Twelve months’ service, which should be taken at home, would be ample to meet the genuine needs of British defence. All our troops should be withdrawn from the colonies.

These proposals can be summed up as follows:

Peaceful co-existence developed into peaceful co-operation.

No rearmament of Germany—a European Security treaty instead.

The banning of atomic weapons and progressive disarmament.

The admission of China to the United Nations.

The reduction of the period of military service to one year to be served at home.

The cutting of the arms budget.

A POLICY FOR PROSPERITY

GIVEN a policy of peace and national independence, Britain can develop her resources to the full. Our skilled manpower is second to none in the world. We possess all the means to bring about an enormous advance in the living standards of our people, if these means are used in the common interest, not as hitherto to make a few rich from the labour of the many.

We propose a new economic policy which will use and develop Britain’s resources for the people.

Higher Wages and Salaries

We welcome and encourage the great, united and determined movement for substantial increases in wages and salaries. These are necessary if living standards are to be raised, the demand for goods increased and the danger of unemployment thus lessened.

Wage increases can be met from profits—in 1953 the total amount of company profits was £3,153 million!

The forty-hour, five-day week should be introduced, with strict control of overtime and at least two weeks’ holiday with pay and three weeks for young people.

Equal pay for equal work should been granted immediately.

Break the Power of Big Business

Today, big business holds the community to ransom. This can and must be stopped. But it can only be done if our great, basic industries are made to serve the common interest by being placed under national ownership.

While they are privately owned, these industries are run for the profit of the employers. In times of crisis, as happened in the 1930s, these employers will close down factories if they cannot make enough profit, and so increase unemployment.

We therefore propose the renationalisation, without further compensation, of steel and road transport. We also propose the nationalisation, but in a new way, of engineering in all its branches, shipbuilding, the building materials and chemical industries, the banks and big insurance companies, and the land of the big landowners, both urban and rural.

When nationalisation was brought in by the Labour Government it was widely welcomed. Why, then, is there such disappointment with the results? Because it did not bring a new deal for either the worker on the job or the consumer.

Too much compensation was paid, and remained a charge on each industry, creating a burden which has kept wages down and prices up.

The boards of the industries are full of ex-owners and other people of a capitalist outlook who do not believe in nationalisation. No wonder that the managements’ attitude to workers and staff is the same as in the days of private ownership.

The main industries nationalised were those in which the private owners were no longer able to make a profit which satisfied them. The most modern and profitable industries were left in the hands of the big private firms, which were aided further by the way nationalisation worked. Thus, the consumer pays high prices for coal—but coal is sold cheap to industry. Passenger fares keep on going up—but the charges for transporting goods remain low.

A new type of nationalisation is needed, both for those industries already publicly owned and for those to be taken over.

Compensation should be cut, and interest charges paid by the Government—not remain as a burden on the future of the industry.

Ex-owners and people of a capitalist outlook should be removed from the boards, which should be composed of people who want nationalisation to succeed and will co-operate with workers and staff to see that it does. The trade unions concerned should be entitled to consultation at every level of management, and to inspect all accounts.

The first charge in each industry should be the wages, salaries and conditions of its workers and staff, and the industry should be run with the aim of providing cheap goods and services for the community.

All this will enable the fruits of nationalisation to be gathered not by the rich but by the whole people. It will make possible the full use of science and modern equipment in our industry, for the benefit of our national standard of life.

The Co-operative movement, too, can play its part in weakening the influence of big business. It should be encouraged by special measures, including the removal of income and profits tax, and help in increasing co-operative production and developing international trading. This will lead to lower prices all round.

Trade with every Country

All bans on trade with the Socialist countries should be removed, so bringing us food, timber and essential raw materials in return for our engineering products, ships, textiles and other goods. And we would have the great advantage of trading relations with nations possessing planned economies not subject to the ups and downs of capitalist countries.

At the same time we must place our trading relations with the U.S.A. on a normal basis, with no political strings attached.

Jobs for All

All these things would help to make employment secure and raise the standard of living. So too will a big programme of building homes, schools, hospitals, roads and other public works urgently needed.

Agriculture and Food

Britain should produce more and cheaper food. This can be done if we reduce the profits of the big firms supplying agriculture and of the big farmers, cut out unnecessary middlemen and begin a bold policy of land development.

Farmworkers’ wages should be raised to the level of those in other skilled industries, and their conditions improved by abolishing the tied cottage system, building more rural houses and schools and supplying other amenities in the countryside.

We would help the small farmers and producers, especially by encouraging co-operation in the use of machinery, marketing, and purchasing essential materials; and by developing the system of guaranteed markets and prices in their interests.

The land of the big landowners should be nationalised, with security of tenure for efficient farmers.

Tax the Rich, Help the People

The heavy tax burden on working- and middle-class families should be eased by bigger earned income and dependants’ allowances.

The rich can well afford higher income and profits tax, and stern measures against tax evasion are necessary.

All purchase tax on essential goods should be removed and big cuts made in indirect taxation, so lowering the cost of living.

Food subsidies should be restored.

Post-war credits must be repaid.

Our economic policy can be summarised as:

Higher wages and salaries, and shorter hours, at the expense of profits.

Extended nationalisation.

No trade bans.

Security of employment.

Expansion of agriculture, and cheap food.

Cut taxation on the people—increase it on the rich.

SOCIAL SECURITY

Good health, a full education, freedom from want, a decent home and an old age lived in comfortable retirement—these are the rights of every human being. But they have never been realised in Britain.

On the contrary the Tory Government has continued more severely the whittling down of the social services begun under the Labour Government in order to pay for rearmament. Today, social security depends more and more not on what people need but on how much money they have.

The Communist Party puts forward a practical policy for the health, happiness and security of the British people as a right, not a charity.

Can We Afford Social Security?

The Tories say we can’t. We say we not only can but must. In 1954 the Chancellor spent £1,640 million on the forces—12s. 8d. a week for every man, woman and child in the country. Yet he allowed only £780 million—5s. 8d. a week—for education, health and housing combined.

We can find £1,000 million right away for homes, schools and hospitals, if we cut military expenditure to the 1950-51 level and restore the Excess Profits Levy. There is plenty of money for pensions and allowances if the Government puts back the £203 million it took from the Insurance Fund in the last three years alone, and raises its contribution for the next five years to half that provided by workers and employers.

Housing

The Tories have cut the size of council houses, given complete freedom to private enterprise to build houses for sale, increased interest rates on housing loans for the benefit of the bankers, and cut housing subsidies. Their Rents and Repairs Act is intended to increase the rents of 7 million controlled houses.

We strongly oppose any increase in rents and demand the repeal of the Rents and Repairs Act.

Where the landlord refuses to carry out repairs, councils should be compelled to carry them out and charge the cost to the landlord, or take over the house at site value.

We propose a building programme of at least 400,000 houses a year for renting, with priority and a special subsidy for slum clearance. This should come before all luxury building.

To lower rents we demand the nationalisation of the building materials industry, the reduction of interest charges on housing loans to 2 per cent, and bigger housing subsidies.

Education

Tory economies have deprived the children of their right to all-round development.

We demand the full carrying out of the progressive parts of the 1944 Education Act by providing nursery schools, raising the school leaving age to sixteen, and setting up county colleges to give school leavers compulsory part-time education to eighteen. School meals should be free and available to all children.

Money allowed for school building should be doubled, to abolish slum schools, improve accommodation all round, meet the needs of the bigger number of children coming into secondary education, reduce the size of classes to thirty, and adequately provide for handicapped children. If we are to get the extra teachers we need we must pay higher salaries, with equal pay, and give bigger allowances to students.

Local education authorities should be encouraged to establish comprehensive schools within their areas—only this can lead to the end of the vicious “selection” system at ten, and ensure a full secondary education for all. Until this policy is operated in an area, grammar and technical schools should be extended, and conditious in secondary modern schools levelled up — especially by providing courses beyond the school leaving age.

Many more young people should be enabled to go to technical colleges and universities by giving more and bigger grants, and allowing more building. Higher salaries should be paid to staffs.

Finally we aim to end class privilege in education by bringing all schools under the control of the local education authorities, abolishing fees where they still exist. This would mean the ending of the present Public Schools system.

Health

The aim of a national health service should be to prevent illness, not simply cure or alleviate it. This is why health centres were proposed by the National Health Service Act.

But today only five or six health centres exist in the whole country, and no new general hospital has been completed since 1939, though in 1952 there were half a million people on hospital waiting lists. The number of maternity beds is being cut, and overcrowding in mental hospitals is a national disgrace.

We therefore demand that more money be spent on modernising and extending hospitals, on providing at least one large, modern hospital in every region, and on building health centres. This would provide for care, under modern conditions, for all patients requiring treatment, more maternity beds, special clinics, and wards for old people. More day nurseries, home helps and residential homes for old people are also needed. All Health Service charges must be abolished.

Because of the shortage of nursing staff, 25,000 hospital beds cannot be used. Better conditions and pay for nurses and for maintenance staffs are needed to attract people into the hospital service.

Insurance Benefits

Two and a half million people are compelled every year to apply to the National Assistance Board, and two-thirds of these are insured contributors who cannot live on the benefit they draw. Their dependants include 400,000 children. More than a million old age pensioners had to apply for National Assistance in 1952.

We stand for an immediate increase in all National Insurance benefits to £3 for a single person, and £5 for a married couple, with 15s. for each dependent child. Unemployment benefit should be paid as long as the person is out of work, with no waiting days. The right to receive maternity benefit should be restored to all mothers whether they are insured in their own right or not, and discrimination against married women (who now pay the same contribution as single women, but get lower benefit) must be abolished.

The Tory increase of 1s. in National Insurance contributions: should be removed.

Our ultimate aim is a non-contributory system.

Security for Old Age

The near-starvation in which so many old age pensioners live has shocked the country. The meagre increases recently given are quite inadequate.

Pensions should be raised to £3 for a single person and £5 for a married couple, with no increase in the pension age, and on the basis of the 1954 contributions. All people of pension age should be brought into the scheme and those who want to work on should receive full pension irrespective of their earnings.

Local authorities could transform the lives of thousands of old people by establishing a visiting welfare service, organising more home helps, allowing free transport and providing canteens and social clubs.

Youth and Leisure

Our young people, the finest in the world, want to be able to enjoy their leisure and develop their mental and physical fitness to the full.

The youth service should be extended to provide and adequately equip many more clubs and centres, and a Government-financed programme of playing fields, sports facilities and other amenities immediately started.

Social advance demands also the fullest encouragement for the arts—British films, theatre, music, literature and the fine arts should be given every help to develop. We favour effective action to prevent the publication and sale of the American-type comics which: have so shocked the public conscience.

In short, our social security programme is:

At least 400,000 houses a year, lower rents.

A programme of educational advance.

No Health Service charges; build health centres and hospitals; better staff conditions.

Insurance benefits and pensions to be 3 for a single person and £5 for a married couple. Removal of the extra shilling contribution; no increase in pension, age.

A new deal for youth, and encouragement for the arts.

DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS

The Communist Party stands for full rights of freedom of expression, assembly and organisation, and demands the removal of restrictions which now limit these.

We oppose the use of the Emergency Powers Act in industrial disputes and press for the repeal of “conspiracy” laws which have been misused against workers on strike. The right of the worker to withold labour must legally be completely unrestricted.

No British democrat wants McCarthyism over here. The witch hunt in the civil service and the teaching profession should be ended and political discrimination in the letting of public or private halls stopped.

Racial incitement, discrimination, and the spread of race hatred have always been the tactics of fascism, and should be made a criminal offence.

We shall press for restoration of full civil and political liberty in Northern Ireland.

State Administration

The army, police force, and civil service are directed to the maintenance and strengthening of the present social system in Britain.

We say that these bodies need overhauling so that they are no longer controlled by an exclusive minority of the people drawn from a few schools and colleges. Entry into all ranks of the public services should be open to all in fair competition.

The B.B.C.

The directorate of the B.B.C. should include representatives of the trade unions and all sections of political opinion so as to end the gross political and social discrimination it now shows.

The Tory commercial television law should be repealed.

Electoral Reform

The Communist Party aims to strengthen both Parliament and local government as instruments of democracy. To achieve this we press for a form of proportional representation in both local and national elections, with the right to vote at eighteen.

The House of Lords

The House of Lords must be abolished. In demanding this, the Communist Party is reaffirming the traditional democratic policy of the Labour movement.

Local Government

A healthily working local government is an essential part of any democracy. But local government powers have been steadily whittled down in recent years. At the same time the central government’s grip over the local authorities has become stronger owing to the way in which government grants are paid.

We propose the abolition of the derating provisions of the 1929 Local Government Act, and the payment of larger grants to local authorities without interfering with local control of the services assisted. The cost of the various services must also be equalised as between the various local authorities, and many of the powers removed from councils in recent years restored.

Scotland and Wales

Scotland and Wales should be given self-government through Scottish and Welsh Parliaments with powers to deal with their domestic affairs. This is necessary not only to safeguard and develop the great cultural traditions of these two countries, but also to ensure their economic health. There must be no return to the depressed conditions that existed before the war.

These proposals can be summed up as:

The withdrawal of anti-democratic laws.

An end to the witch hunt.

Democratic reform of the administrative services and the B.B.C.

The vote at 18; proportional representation; no House of Lords.

Greater powers and more money for local authorities.

Self-Government in domestic affairs for Scotland and Wales.

BRITAIN’S EMPIRE

Why does Britain keep troops in the Empire?

Why are our lads sent to fight thousands of miles from home when we are supposed to be at peace?

It is to protect the huge profits made by big business firms—profits only possible because of the miserable wages paid to the colonial workers, and the seizure of colonial resources.

Tory policy has worsened colonial conditions. No wonder the colonial people everywhere are demanding their freedom—the right to run their own countries in their own way.

Britain should recognise the just demands of these peoples and help them raise their standard of life. But instead our Government is waging war in Malaya and Kenya, has removed the democratically elected Ministers of British Guiana, and deposed African rulers who show any sign of independent spirit. It has set up a military base in Cyprus against the wishes of the Cypriot people—who want to live in peace and be freed from foreign rule. Tory policy not only makes the British people pay for all this but is also allowing the growth of American influence in the colonies. And the Labour leaders support, and even began, many of these actions. Their programme offers no real change.

We should end this policy which has created for us millions of enemies and develop new, friendly, fraternal relations with the colonies based on equal rights and mutual advantage.

Communist M.P.s would, therefore, press for:

An immediate cease-fire in Malaya, the ending of the state of emergency, negotiations with the leaders of the Malayan National Liberation Movement to give independence to the country and open trade negotiations.

An immediate cease-fire in Kenya, release of the imprisoned leaders, and negotiations with the Kenya African people on the basis of their just national demands.

The withdrawal of troops from British Guiana, the restoration of democratic rights and the deposed ministers, and agreement with them for advance to independence.

The right of the people of Cyprus to decide their own future, and the withdrawal of British troops from the island.

An end to the enforced partition of Ireland.

The immediate granting, in all colonies, of elementary democratic rights such as freedom of the press and movement, the right to hold meetings and form political parties and trade unions.

Immediate steps to raise living standards and improve social conditions.

Such a policy would not only lead to the freedom of the colonies but to friendly, fraternal relations between their peoples and ourselves. We could work together in harmony to defend our common independence and world peace against American designs. Instead of robbing the colonial peoples of their wealth we could supply the machinery necessary to enable them to industrialise their countries and raise their standard of life. In return we could get the raw materials and food we need so much.

To sum up, we demand:

A cease-fire in Malaya and Kenya; freedom and democratic rights for all colonial peoples.

Self-determination for Cyprus and an end to the enforced partition of Ireland.

Friendly trading relations on a basis of equal rights.

CONCLUSION

Communist candidates are standing in the election in order to voice this policy and ensure that it is fought for in the next Parliament.

We therefore urge—Vote Communist where our candidates are standing. In all other cases vote Labour. The election of a group of Communist M.P.s alongside a majority of Labour M.P.s would be the surest guarantee that Parliament reflected the real wishes of the people.

William Gallacher and Phil Piratin showed in the 1945 Parliament what can be done even by two M.P.s if they have the courage of their convictions. Communist M.P.s would fight for this programme and help to rally Labour M.P.s to win peace and social progress. The whole Labour movement would be greatly strengthened by their election, because their loyalty to the principle on which the Labour movement was founded means that there would never give way under the pressure of the Tories and big business.

Every possible occasion would be sought to put forward the proposals of this programme for improving the lot of the people. Our record is proof of that. We were the first to propose policies which have become accepted by millions—the fight against the wage freeze and against cuts in the social services, the banning of atom and hydrogen bombs, opposition to American domination and friendship with the Soviet Union and China.

We believe our policy can unite all who want peace and progress because it corresponds with the wishes of the rank-and-file members of the Labour movement and also of the professional and middle classes.

Success for this programme would open the way for further advance to Socialism as charted in our long-term policy The British Road to Socialism. The Communist Party stands for the replacement of the present capitalist system of society by socialist system, in which the community would own and control the factories, the land and the banks.

Socialism would put an end forever to the spectacle of poverty in the midst of plenty, to the restrictions on the freedom of the people which now exist, and to the danger of unemployment. It would lead to a new, wider freedom for all people.

Socialism would enable the wealth of our country to be used to the full for the benefit of all, and so open up new roads of human advance, which wound enable mankind to develop to its full stature.

Above all Socialism would put an end forever to war and ensure that the peoples of the world lived together in peace and friendship, using all the earth’s resources for the benefit of humanity.