Communist Party of Great Britain
Publisher: Communist Party of Great Britain
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This course has been published in the first place for the use of all new members of the Communist Party. Branches or groups of Branches are asked to see that all new members participate in such a series of classes as soon as possible after joining the Party.
But in many cases this course can prove a useful preliminary course for whole Branches; and in all cases an effort should be made to invite those who are interested in or friendly to our Party to attend the class.
The syllabus has been divided into five main sessions, but we would stress that these are only provisional divisions, and that often it may be found necessary to hold two or more discussions on any one session.
CENTRAL EDUCATION DEPARTMENT
Session I: THE WORLD WE LIVE IN AND WHY WE WANT TO CHANGE IT
Session II: IMPERIALISM AND THE CLASS STRUGGLE
Session III: SOCIALISM—OUR AIM
Session IV: THE PATH TO SOCIALISM IN BRITAIN
Session V: THE ROLE OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY
“The aim of the Communist Party is to achieve a Socialist Britain in which the social ownership of the means of production and exchange shall replace the existing capitalist system.” (From Rule I of the Communist Party Rules)
Whoever travels through our land must be struck by its beauty. Despite over 200 years of industrial development, England’s varied loveliness is world famed.
But, in addition to great natural beauty—Britain is rich. Rich in natural resources, in the matchless skill of her workers, in her capacity to produce everything necessary for a good life for all.
Britain’s greatest single asset is the British people, who in their long history have been foremost in the fight against tyranny and oppression. The British people were the first in the world to fight and end the absolute power of kings in the English Revolution of 1640. The British working class pioneered trade unionism and the Co-operative movement. The struggle of the English Chartists in the forties of the last century is an inspiration to the workers of all countries.
Britain could be a paradise for the people—its skilled working people could build a new and better life more rapidly than any other people in the world.
But—Britain is not a paradise for the people. On the contrary. Prices are continuously rising. Old folks are starving on miserable pensions. Young lads lose two years of their lives as conscripts. Cruel colonial wars are raging in Kenya and Malaya, conducted with a barbarity that shames our name. The Yanks occupy our country. We bear a crushing rearmament programme resulting in the social services being cut to the bone. Britain faces a danger of atomic war as a result of the sell-out of our country to the U.S.
Who and what is responsible? It is the capitalists, and those right-wing leaders of the Labour movement who support their policies, who are responsible for the immediate position we find ourselves in.
But underlying the causes of the present situation is the fundamental cause of all the sufferings and tribulations of the people, namely, that Britain is a capitalist country, ruled for and by capitalists for their profit and interests.
What is wrong with Britain is the way society is organised, the “system of society” which prevails. Some of the main features of this society are:
1. It is divided into rich and poor—a tiny handful of rich (1 per cent of the population own more than half the nation’s wealth) who do no work, and the overwhelming majority who work their whole lives through.
2. Wars — involving incalculable suffering to the people — are a regular occurrence. There have been two terrible wars within the lifetime of every adult in Britain over forty years of age.
3. Empire — Britain is the centre of a huge empire covering a quarter of the earth’s surface and embracing a quarter of the population of the world. This empire was obtained by brutal conquest, and is maintained by blood and iron. While it has brought vast profits to a handful of monopolists, it is a burden to the people. It costs hundreds of millions of pounds every year to keep the colonial people down. The colonial wars involve an increasingly heavy toll of young British lives.
These are some of the features of the system we live under, which is called Capitalism.
Here we will deal with two main aspects only.
(a) It is a system of exploitation.
Capitalism is a system in which the means for producing the wealth (the land, the mines, factories, the machines, etc.) are in private hands. A tiny handful of people own these “means of production” as they are called. But they do not work them. The immense majority of the people own nothing (in the sense that they can live on what they own) but their power to work.
By exploitation we mean living off the labour of other people. There have been previous forms of exploitation. In slave society, the slave-owners lived off the labour of the slaves who were their property. In feudal society, the feudal lords lived off the forced labour of the serfs. In capitalist society the worker is neither a slave nor yet a serf, i.e. forced to do free, unpaid labour for a master. But he is exploited just the same, even though the form of this exploitation is not so open and clear as was the case with the slaves and the serfs.
The essence of exploitation under capitalism consists in this — that the workers, when set to work with raw materials and machinery, produce far more in values than what is paid out by the capitalists in wages. In short, they produce a surplus which is taken by the capitalists and for which they are not paid. Thus they are robbed of the values they produce. This is the source of capitalist profit. It is on this surplus, produced by the workers, that the capitalist lives in riches and luxury.
A striking example of this whole process was given by Mr. Jack Tanner when, as President of the A.E.U., he was arguing for the 15 per cent wage increase for the engineers:—
“The surplus realised on the work of each person (before the cost of rent, rates, advertising and other selling expenses, and all other similar charges have been met) increased by 44 per cent and in 1948 was about £205 per person employed.” (Proceedings at Special Conference between Engineering Employers and Confederation of Shipbuilding Unions, June 26, 1952.)
Capitalism is a system in which the means for producing wealth are owned by a few who live by exploiting the workers, i.e. by robbing them of the values they produce over and above the value of their wages.
(b) It is a system of booms and slumps.
From the earliest days of its existence (at the end of the 18th century) until today, capitalism has been marked by periodic slumps, or “economic crises” as they are called. Every seven to ten years a crisis of greater or lesser severity has taken place, bringing with it mass unemployment and untold misery for the great mass of the working people. These are crises of a very special kind. They are caused because there is too much of everything and are therefore called “crises of over-production”.
“In these crises there breaks out an epidemic that in all earlier epochs would have seemed an absurdity—the epidemic of overproduction. . . . ” (Marx-Engels, Communist Manifesto.)
The great world economic crisis of 1929-31 which really lasted until the beginning of the second world war, is remembered only too well. At that time there were over 40 million people unemployed throughout the capitalist world. In Britain, in the autumn of 1930, the figures of registered unemployed exceeded 2,300,000 and never sank below one million until 1940, after the beginning of the second world war.
Slumps or crises of over-production arise for the following reason: the capitalists in their drive for profit, and in order to defeat their rivals, constantly seek to increase output and save labour by new machinery, speed-up, etc. On the other hand they seek continuously to hold down the wages of the workers in order to increase their (the capitalists’) share of the wealth produced. Thus there arises a constant gap between the power to produce, the quantity of goods actually produced and on sale, and the ability of the workers, who are dependent on their wages, to buy back what has been produced. This is the source of crises under capitalism.
So long as capitalism has existed there have always been crises of over-production.
So long as capitalism continues to exist crises are inevitable. It is impossible to plan continuous unbroken production in the interests of the people under capitalism. Only Socialism makes crisis-free production possible.
COMMUNIST MANIFESTO Section (1), Bourgeois and Proletarians.
WAGE LABOUR AND CAPITAL. By Karl Marx. Introduction by F. Engels.
(a) The Rise of Monopoly
As stated, capitalism is a system where each capitalist is faced with competition for the market from his rivals. To meet this competition each capitalist tries to produce more and cheaper than his competitors. This results in the enlarging of the units of production, as individual capitalists enlarge their plant, introduce more modern machinery, speed-up, etc. As a result of this competition, the ruin of the smaller and weaker capitalists by the bigger and stronger ones takes place, and a stage arises when whole fields of production are dominated by a few giant concerns. These are called monopolies and they are able to regulate production in their own interests, charge high monopoly prices, and get what Stalin called “maximum profits”.
Examples of monopolies of this kind operating in Britain are: I.C.I., Vickers, Unilevers, Courtaulds etc.
This marks a new stage in the development of capitalism, the domination of monopolies. This stage is called monopoly capitalism, and began to develop in Europe and the U.S.A. at the end of the last century. Monopoly is the essence of imperialism and imperialism is the highest and last stage of capitalism.
Competition leads to monopoly in each capitalist country. But monopoly does not eliminate competition. Within each country the big monopolies engage in fierce conflict with one another, while competition is particularly violent between the monopolies of different countries for world domination. One result is the scramble for secure, exclusive, competition-free markets, for sources of raw materials, for spheres for the most profitable investment of capital. These are found in the technically undeveloped parts of the world. These are seized and transformed into colonies, whose whole economic and political life is forcibly dominated by imperialist governments to meet the needs of the big monopolies for maximum profits.
But the world has only a definite area. And by the beginning of the 20th century the available areas were parcelled out between a few, older imperialist countries—Britain, France, Holland, Belgium, Portugal, but especially Britain—as colonies, semi-colonies, or spheres of influence. The British Empire, by 1914, covered 12.7 million square miles of territory with a population of 431 million people. 3,700,000 square miles of the British Empire were acquired between 1884-1900, the period of the rise of imperialism as a new stage in the development of capitalism.
In this situation, developing monopoly capitalism in Germany and the U.S.A., driving outwards and eager to acquire colonies, could secure them only by taking them from those powers who already had empires, i.e. by war—especially from Britain.
(c) Imperialism Leads to War
The various powers “gang up” in combinations against other groupings of imperialist powers. Thus the first world war of 1914-18 took place as a conflict between two groups of powers—one led by Britain (the Entente) and the other by Germany (the Central Powers). In essence it was a brutal imperialist war between Britain and Germany for colonies, markets and European domination. The second world war arose out of the drive of Hitler Germany for world domination. Today the danger of a third world war arises out of the drive of U.S. imperialism to subjugate the entire world.
(d) Imperialism, the epoch of Socialist Revolution
But imperialism is not only the period of world wars. It ushers in the era of the world socialist revolution.
The workers in the imperialist countries, faced with increased exploitation; the peoples of the colonial countries, subject to even greater oppression; the people of the whole world, faced with a succession of terrible wars, awake to the need to end imperialism. New revolutionary Marxist parties —Communist Parties—arise to head this struggle. Where these Parties have the leadership of the working class and their allies, imperialism is smashed, as was the case in Russia in 1917 after the first world war, and in the People’s Democracies and China after 1945. These countries take the path to Socialism, which sees the ending of the exploitation of man by man.
(a) The Class Struggle Arises from Capitalism itself; it is not Imported
As we have seen, capitalism is a system in which there are different classes—exploiters and exploited, rich and poor. The interests of these two classes are clearly opposed. The exploiters try to increase the exploitation of the workers as much as possible in order to increase their profits. The exploited try to limit this exploitation, and to get back as much of the wealth as possible of which they have been robbed.
This is one aspect of the class struggle which arises inevitably out of the whole character of capitalism as a class system based on exploitation.
In the fight against monopoly capitalism, the working class need allies and can secure them. Monopoly capitalism attacks not only the working class but threatens the interests of other sections of society, including those of the smaller capitalists. The whole home and foreign policy of monopoly capitalism threatens the existence of the overwhelming majority of the people. This is seen particularly in the policy pursued by the Tory Government on behalf of the big monopolies. Thus monopoly capital can be isolated and the whole forces of the people organised against it. It is the task of the working class to unite around itself the majority of the nation in common struggle for peace, national independence, defence of living standards, East-West trade etc.
(c) The fight within capitalism, and the fight to end capitalism
The working class has to fight both immediate and long-term struggles. The immediate struggles are those that are fought out on different aspects of the struggle within the existing capitalist order. These struggles can be victorious without a fundamental change of social system. Such struggles are those for wages, in defence of living standards, for peace etc. Organisations for waging these particular struggles are established, e.g. trade unions, peace organisations, old age pensioners’ organisations etc.
But for a lasting solution of all these problems, it is necessary to end capitalism altogether and to replace it by a new system of society in which the working people rule. For this purpose the working class creates the Communist Party, in which the most advanced and progressive sections of the working class and of other sections of the people are organised. The Communist Party is dedicated to the task of ending the capitalist system and replacing it by a socialist system. The Communist Party participates to the full in all the immediate struggles facing the working class and its allies, for it is impossible to talk about fighting capitalism unless one takes part in all aspects of that struggle. But the special task of the Communist Party is to link the struggle on the immediate questions with the struggle to develop consciousness and understanding of the need to end the capitalist system as such and replace it by Socialism.
Capitalist society gives rise to fierce class struggles which are sharpened enormously in the period of monopoly capitalism—imperialism. This period provides the most favourable possibilities for the securing of allies for the working class. Imperialism puts the task of ending capitalism on the order of the day. Communist Parties are created by the working class to lead this struggle. The main task of the Communist Party is to combine participation in the day-to-day struggle with the spreading of understanding of the need to end capitalism and establish Socialism.
CHALLENGE TO LABOUR, Chap. 5, Unity Behind a Common Policy. (Harry Pollitt.)
FOUNDATIONS OF LENINISM, Section I, The Historical Roots of Leninism. (J. V. Stalin.)
The ending of the exploitation, the cruelty and injustice caused by class society in its various forms, has long been the dream of men. It found expression in the teachings of the early Christians, in the writings of men like John Ball, Sir Thomas More, Robert Owen, the early English Chartists and the pioneers of the British Labour movement.
But so long as modern, large-scale factory production did not exist, Socialism—which alone can end the exploitation of man by man—could remain only a dream. It was capitalism, in the search for greater profits, which mastered natural forces expanded the production of goods on an enormous scale, united the scattered, individual production of men into highly developed, large-scale factory production, thus establishing the basis on which Socialism can be built.
But capitalism by itself does not “evolve” into Socialism. It has to be transformed into Socialism by the conscious action and struggle of men. Capitalism creates the living social force which, by its very position in capitalist society, is compelled to change capitalism into Socialism. This force is the working class and its allies. The age-long dream of the thinkers and the fighters of the past can only be transformed into reality when the working class, supported by its allies and led by the Communist Party, wages the struggle to take political and economic power from the capitalist class and, having succeeded in this, sets about building a socialist society.
What will such a socialist society look like? How will exploitation and oppression be ended? We can get an idea of the general features of a socialist society if we examine the experience and achievements of the Soviet Union-the only fully socialist society in existence.
(a) The means of production—the factories, mines, land, banks and transport—are taken away from the monopoly capitalists. They are transformed into social property by socialist nationalisation.
This means that they belong to and are worked by the whole of the people, that the fruits of production likewise become social property, used to advance the standard of life of the peoples.
(b) Exploitation of man by man is ended.
No longer can some men (the capitalists) by virtue of the fact that they own the means of production, live off (exploit) the labour of others (the working class). No longer are. the workers compelled to sell their labour power to the capitalists in order to live. The workers are no longer property-less proletarians. They now own the means of production and work them in their own interests and in the interests of society. For society is now composed or workers by hand and brain, i.e. of an associated body of wealth-producers.
What is produced is no longer divided between the workers’ wages and the surplus taken by the capitalists. The whole of what the workers produce comes back to them in various ways.
“In capitalist countries more than half the national income is appropriated by the exploiting classes. In the Soviet Union . . . all of it goes to the working people, who receive nearly three-quarters of the national income for the satisfaction of their personal requirements—the remainder being used to expand socialist production and for other state and public needs.” (Malenkov, Report to the 19th Congress C.P.S.U., p. 22.)
Since production under Socialism is still insufficient to give everybody all that they need, the direct return in money (or “wages” as they are still called) is based on the individual contribution made. The watchword of Socialism is therefore “From each according to his ability, to each according to the work done”.
What is produced comes back in other ways as well as in wages. The whole immense system of social services—health, social insurance, pensions, education, etc., are free and non-contributory, available to all. The expenses of state administration, of defence, above all the money for expanding socialist production—the guarantee of a constantly improved standard of living—are financed from the values created by the workers in production. All these serve the immediate and future interests of the working class.
(c) Production is planned to meet the constantly rising material and cultural needs of the people.
This is only possible because the means of production have been taken out of the hands of competing private owners, whose only concern was to produce what was profitable, not what was needed by the people. Thus there is an end to crises, slumps and unemployment, of poverty in the midst of plenty. For what is planned is both an increase in production and in consumption by the people through increasing their purchasing power. The seven price reductions in the Soviet Union since the end of the second world war, alongside a great increase in production, are examples of how this works out in practice.
(d) Socialism means the ending of the oppression of nation by nation, the end of imperialist exploitation of colonial peoples.
It is impossible to build Socialism on the basis of imperialist oppression—a point which right-wing Labour leaders cover up. Imperialist exploitation is the policy of monopoly capitalism and benefits it. A socialist society eliminates monopoly capitalism. There is therefore no social basis for imperialism in a socialist society. On the contrary, Socialism alone ends imperialism, frees formerly backward colonial peoples, and by fraternal assistance brings them into the front ranks of industrial and social development. The development of the former colonial peoples of the Tsarist Empire since 1917 is one or the most inspiring proofs of the truth of this statement.
(e) Socialism means Peace.
Within the country there are no longer capitalists who profit by war, who see in war the way to secure more colonies, markets and a .chance to dominate the world. On the contrary; in a socialist society everyone loses by war, not only in terms of personal suffering but also by the diversion of resources from socialist construction and the advance to a better life. The last war cost the Soviet people the equivalent of two Five-Year Plans (apart from 25 million dead).
(f) Finally, Socialism means a new, higher type of Democracy, a wider, more purposeful life for all.
It is the only system in which the old definition of democracy as “government of the people, by the people, for the people” becomes a reality. Capitalist democracy is government of the people by the capitalists in the interests of the capitalists. In the Soviet Union and in the People’s Democracies, the basis for socialist advance is the development of the initiative of the people, their enrolment in the active processes of government and social life. Without this the building of Socialism is impossible. Socialism cannot be imposed on the people from above. It develops from below, from the new opportunities which socialist society provides to men and women to develop all their capacities in their own interests and in the interests of society as a whole. The great advances made in the Soviet Union, the People’s Democracies, and in People’s China are proof of this.
Socialism is the first stage of transition of mankind from class to fully classless society. Marx and Engels visualised Communism in two stages—Socialism, the lower stage, and Communism, the higher stage. There are many differences between these two stages. The main difference is that under Communism production has been developed to such an extent that, step by step, an abundance of goods of all kinds is reached. Society can now advance from the watchword on which Socialism is organised, i.e. “From each according to his ability, to each according to the work done”, to that of Communist society, which is, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”. This means the greatest advance in human history of all time.
The steps necessary to advance Britain towards Socialism are outlined in the Communist Party programme The British Road to Socialism. On the basis of the building of a broad alliance of the working class and its allies, a People’s Government will be set up. Resting on the power of the majority of the people and on their continued struggle, this Government will take over the main means of production at present in the hands of the monopolies and turn them into social property. Production will be planned in the interests of a continually rising standard of living for the people. The state apparatus which serves capitalism will be transformed into one which serves the interests of the people. The people will begin more and more to play a decisive part in the running of their country.
A People’s Democratic Britain will greatly strengthen the new advancing world of Socialism which already exists and will speed up the final overthrow of imperialism all over the world.
COMMUNIST MANIFESTO, Section 2, “Proletarians and Communists”. (Marx-Engels.)
CHALLENGE TO LABOUR, Section X, “Onward to Socialism”. (Harry Pollitt.)
Within the Labour movement controversy has raged for a very long time as to the best way of achieving Socialism. There are two main outlooks.
(a) The right-wing view.
There is a powerful group in the Labour movement composed mainly of the leaders of the Labour Party and the T.U.C. which preaches what is called the “right-wing” or Social Democratic view on the path to Socialism.
In essence this view is based on the idea that the path to Socialism is through capitalism and its institutions; that capitalism is transformed peacefully and gradually into Socialism through the “introduction” of socialist measures by a Labour Government, e.g. nationalisation. The two Labour Governments of 1945-51 are held up as examples of this gradual transition to Socialism.
This “theory” is false and dangerous because:—
(i) It avoids the central issue of real power—political and economic power, which under capitalism is in the hands of the capitalist class and which must be taken out of their hands if the advance to Socialism is to be undertaken:
“Power” in the sense of a parliamentary majority must not be confused with real power. A parliamentary majority in British conditions is of key importance in beginning the advance to Socialism. But by itself it cannot bring about Socialism.
ECONOMIC POWER means ownership of all the means of production—the factories, mills, mines, land, banks, etc. So long as these remain in the private hands of the capitalist class, society remains capitalist society irrespective of the character of the government in power. The workers continue to be exploited. Production continues to be production for profit. Planned production for Socialism is impossible. Finally, the capitalists can use this power to sabotage and disorganise the economy.
POLITICAL POWER means control of the State apparatus, which is more than Parliament. It is the control of the armed forces, the police, law and justice, education, propaganda, etc.—all of which are headed by defenders of capitalism. The State apparatus is the machinery of coercion and government established by every ruling class to maintain its rule over the subject classes.
The key positions in the capitalist State, in the army, police, judiciary, etc., are by careful process of selection concentrated in the hands of trusted defenders of capitalism. The State is a powerful weapon in the hands of the capitalists, used whenever their basic interests appear to be threatened by any progressive government.
(ii) It teaches that the State is neutral. The right-wing leaders proclaim this State apparatus is “neutral” and carries out the orders of whichever government is in power. This is the most fatal and dangerous idea. Experience in the past has shown that whatever the government in power, however large its majority, the defenders of capitalism in the State apparatus are ready to use their power to thwart any move which might be disadvantageous to the capitalist class as a whole or to any individual section. This was proved in the case of the Liberal Government of 1914, which put forward a Home Rule Bill for Ireland. Landlords of big estates in Ireland and Tory imperialists were bitterly opposed to this measure. They organised a mutiny in the armed forces, called the Curragh Mutiny, and compelled the Government to withdraw the Bill.
Experience in pre-Hitler Germany, Austria and Spain all emphasise the same point, i.e. that control of the key positions in the State, when left in the hands of capitalist supporters, results in the overthrow of the elected parliamentary majority—where such a government is regarded as a menace to capitalism.
(iii) It confuses nationalisation with Socialism. The right-wing leaders assert that any economic activity by the State is Socialism. But nationalisation can be of advantage to capitalism. It depends on the kind of State which does the nationalising and the kind of nationalisation undertaken. In a number of countries—Germany, Canada and a number of European countries—the railways were nationalised long before the British railways were. State dockyards, arsenals, etc., have been a feature in many countries for a long time but nobody would call them socialist measures, for they serve a predominantly capitalist economy.
In Britain some important industries were nationalised—coal, railways, electricity, steel. This was not Socialism, for these industries serve the big monopolies, providing them with cheap fuel and power at the expense of the workers in the industries and of the consumers. The State-owned industries continue to be administered by the former managers and directors with a few retired generals, admirals and old trade union leaders thrown in. The industries nationalised constituted 20 per cent of industry: 80 per cent still remains in private hands. The economic power of the capitalists is not threatened by this kind of nationalisation.
(iv) It teaches that the working class have no need to fight for Socialism. In essence, right-wing Labour theory reduces the role of the working class in the fight for Socialism to that of “voting fodder”. All the workers need to do is to vote every so often for a Labour Government in sufficient numbers. Then Socialism is handed down—“introduced”—from above. This disarms the working class and prevents them organising and mobilising for the greatest struggle of all—the struggle for Socialism.
(v) It turns experience upside down. This theory is most dangerous because it flies directly in the face of the experience of the international working class. No country has achieved Socialism on the basis of this theory. On the contrary, in all cases right-wing Labour Governments have been replaced either by fascists, near-fascists, or Tory Governments—Germany, Austria, Britain, Australia.
(b) The Marxist View
(i) General Principles: The essence of the Marxist view of the transition to Socialism is that unless political and economic power is taken out of the hands of the capitalist class and transferred into the hands of the majority of the people, led by the working class, no advance to Socialism is possible.
This means that the State apparatus is transformed into one which serves the majority of the people. The leading positions in the State—army, police, judges, etc.—are manned by representatives of the people and defenders of their interests. It means, in the economic field, that monopoly capitalists’ control of the means of production is eliminated by Socialist Nationalisation.
This is the general essential content of the transition to Socialism in all countries.
(ii) Concrete circumstances: While this essential content of Socialism applies to all countries, the form in which the transition takes place varies according to the differences of time, place and the relation of class forces in the world and in the particular country. Since 1945, as a result of the new developments in the international situation, a new form of transition to Socialism has been developed. This form is that of People’s Democracy. On the basis of an analysis of the new world situation and of the class forces in Britain, our Party in its programme The British Road to Socialism sees the transition to Socialism in Britain in the form of People’s Democracy.
The British Road to Socialism
(a) Only Socialism can solve the problems facing the British people. The British people can only secure peace, national independence, advance of their living standards, and end the shame of imperialist domination over the colonial peoples if monopoly capitalism is ended. Britain can only advance and finally solve its problems if it takes the path to Socialism.
(b) The development of unity and of the immediate struggle—the foundation for the advance to Socialism: The fight for Socialism is not something separate from the fight for the immediate and urgent interests of the people, i.e. the fight for wages, peace, living standards or national independence. On the contrary, the greater the level of activity on these issues, and above all, the greater the unity in action of the working class and its allies in the fight for these interests, the more speedy and effective will be the fight to end the Tory Government, to eliminate right-wing influence from the Labour movement.
Action in unity now lays the basis for the wider unity which is essential if we are to achieve a People’s Government and to advance to a People’s Democracy in Britain.
(c) The Communist Party stands for a lasting peace as the vital need of the British people. It believes that it is possible to achieve peaceful co-existence between capitalist and socialist countries. It supports and welcomes every measure of peaceful co-operation (trade, delegations, culture, sport, etc.), between the Great Powers and between all powers. But it does not believe that such a peaceful relationship can be achieved or maintained “by itself”. It gives every possible support for the development in Britain and on a world scale of a broad movement of the people for peace, led by the working class. Only such a movement by its continuous action can make our aim of peaceful co-existence a reality.
(d) The alliance of the majority of the people, led by the working class, the force that can end monopoly capitalism: Monopoly capital, whose political representatives are the Tories, pursues a policy opposed to the interests of the overwhelming majority of the British people. It has tied Britain to the United States, with resulting loss of independence. The continuation of this policy threatens the British people with economic, political, military and national destruction.
The way to prevent this is to build a broad, popular alliance of the workers and their allies—the small shopkeepers, farmers, professional people, who between them constitute the overwhelming majority of the nation, and all of whom are oppressed and threatened by monopoly capital. But this alliance must be led by the working class, the strongest, most advanced and decisive class in modern society. This is the guarantee that the outcome of the struggle will be advance to Socialism. Such an alliance would lead to the return of a People’s Government which would begin to carry out a programme which would take Britain on the path to Socialism.
(e) The Role of Parliament: Parliament is rooted in British history. Through it the British people have expressed their aspirations for social advance for centuries (English Revolution 1640; Chartism 1840; General Election 1945). A People’s Parliament would play a key role in the development of People’s Democracy in Britain. It would not be a Parliament resting on a passive people whose task was ended with voting it into power. It would rest on and be impelled by a politically active people, whose struggle for People’s Democracy would continue and be part of the activities of Parliament. In short, it would really be a Parliament reflecting the will of the people and giving the sanction of its authority to their struggle.
(f) The Programme of the People’s Government: The People’s Government, based on the continued action and struggle of the people, would lead the British people to Socialism by carrying out the following programme:—
It would —
“Break the power of the millionaire monopolists and other big capitalist, by Socialist Nationalisation of large-scale industry, the banks, big distributive monopolies, insurance companies, and the land of the large landowners and introduce a Government monopoly of foreign trade.
Introduce a planned economy based on socialist principles aimed at fundamental social change.
Transform the existing unequal imperialist Empire into a strong, free equal association of peoples by granting national independence to the colonies.
Make Britain strong, free and independent, with a foreign policy of peace.
Break the political hold of the capitalist class by democratic electoral reform, democratic ownership of the press, the people’s control of the B.B.C., and the democratic transformation of the Civil Service, Foreign Office, armed forces and police the law courts and the administration of justice.”
(British Road to Socialism, p. 12.)
COMMUNIST MANIFESTO, Section IV, “Position of the Communists in relation to the various existing opposition Parties” (Marx-Engels).
BRITISH ROAD TO SOCIALISM—Sections, “Peace and Friendship with all Peoples”; “People’s Democracy—the Path to Socialism” and “Socialist Nationalisation and the use of Britain’s Resources”.
CHALLENGE TO LABOUR, Sections IV and V (Harry Pollitt).
Without a strong Communist Party which has the support of the decisive sections of the working class, no advance to Socialism is possible. This is the experience of the working-class struggle in all countries. It is only in those countries where the Communist Parties lead the working class that Socialism either exists already (as in the Soviet Union) or is in the stage of being achieved (as in the People’s Democracies.)
In all countries where right-wing Labour leaders dominate the Labour movement, there the working class has been led to defeats and the rule and power of the capitalists has been strengthened.
It is because monopoly capitalism – imperialism—places before the working class and the whole people the urgent task of ending capitalism that the working class creates the political weapon for accomplishing this task—the Communist Party.
The Communist Party, formed in Britain in 1920, following on the experiences of the first world war and the Russian Revolution, is a Party of a New Type. This is because it differs fundamentally from the Social Democratic Parties, the parties dominated by the right-wing Labour leaders. The example of the Party of the new type is the Bolshevik Party which, since 1903, has led the Russian people first to victory over capitalism in 1917, and from then to the victory of Socialism, and now to the transition to Communism.
(a) Differences of Theory
The Communist Parties base themselves on the theories of Marx and Engels which were developed further by Lenin and Stalin. These theories are called Marxism-Leninism. They are drawn from the actual experiences of the working class under capitalism. Marxist theory generalises these experiences and draws scientific conclusions from them. For example, a fundamental principle of Marxism-Leninism, based on the actual experience of the working class, is the development of society through the Class Struggle.
Since the dawn of class society, history has been the history of different classes struggling for political domination, for the ownership of the means of production and for the major control of the wealth produced. Marxism-Leninism asserts that the class struggle exists and is developed most sharply in capitalist society. As indicated in Session I, the interests of the capitalists and workers are opposed—they confront each other as exploiter and exploited. The workers can only defend and improve their conditions by struggle. Finally, that the outcome of this struggle must not be limited to the defence of existing conditions, but to the ending of the capitalist system altogether.
The right-wing Labour leaders accept capitalist theory on all decisive questions of the working-class struggle for Socialism. They deny that the workers are exploited by the capitalists through the appropriation of surplus value. They justify profits. They deny the class character of the State and preach its neutrality. They proclaim the peaceful transition to Socialism within the framework of capitalism. They deny the class struggle and preach the “common interests” and the “reconciliation” of classes.
Thus their theory is the theory of the capitalists which they transmit to the Labour movement. A fundamental task of the Communist Party is to combat this capitalist theory and to bring the independent class theory of Marxism-Leninism to the Labour movement.
(b) Differences of Aim
The aim of the Communist Party, clearly stated in Rule 1 of its Constitution, is to achieve Socialism in Britain. The aim of Socialism is also to be found in the Constitution of the Labour Party and undoubtedly reflects the aspiration of the rank and file for a Socialist Britain, but the right wing is seeking now to remove even the aim of Socialism from the objects of the Labour Party.
But the whole practice of the right-wing leaders who dominate the Labour Party has been to strengthen capitalism and thereby to prevent the achievement of Socialism. They supported the first imperialist war of 1914-18. They have been at one with the reactionaries, are diehards in attacking and slandering the Soviet Union. They damped down the revolutionary struggles after the first world war, betrayed the General Strike of 1926, obstructed the fight against fascism in the inter-war years. The two Labour Governments since 1945 continued the policy of strengthening capitalism and tied Britain to U.S. imperialism. Throughout they have weakened and disrupted the unity of the working class by attacks on the Communists, bans, splits, purges of progressive socialist elements in the Labour movement. It is therefore not surprising that the right-wing leaders today hardly speak of Socialism. Instead they speak of the “Welfare State” and the “Mixed Economy”, equating these with Socialism.
A fundamental task of the Communist Party is to put the aim of Socialism constantly before the working class, to raise its political consciousness and fighting spirit, and to inspire all aspects of working-class struggle—peace, national independence, against attacks on living standards, etc.—with the aim of Socialism.
(i) Because right-wing Labour theory sees a parliamentary majority as the key to Socialism, its organisation is adapted mainly to electoral activity. The other aspects of working-class struggle the day-to-day light with the capitalists over wages, working conditions, standard of living—are not regarded as the business of the Labour Party. There is a rigid division between the “wings” of the movement—the trade unions and the Party, with the Party concentrating overwhelmingly on electoral and parliamentary activity.
The Communist Party is also interested in the electoral struggle, in strengthening the number of fighting, militant M.P.s of the type of William Gallacher and Phil Piratin in Parliament. But it rejects the view that Parliament is the sole and decisive form of working-class struggle, and emphasises the connection between the developing struggle against the capitalists on all issues and the return of a progressive, people’s parliamentary majority.
The main decisive body of the Labour Party is, in effect, the Parliamentary Labour Party (the organisation of Labour Members of Parliament) and within this, of the top leaders—the members of the Government when Labour is in office, and of the “Shadow Cabinet” when it is in opposition.
This is really a Party within a Party, a law unto itself, outside the real control of the Party as such, and frequently violating Party Conference decisions. Because the right-wing policy of the leaders comes into constant conflict with the outlook of the rank and file, discipline in the Labour Party is imposed from above, with constant bans and proscriptions from Transport House.
(ii) Because of the totally different outlook and aim of the Communist Party, the form and character of its organisation is likewise different. The Communist Party does not isolate one side of the struggle—the electoral fight—as does the Labour Party. It bases itself on the need to lead and develop all sides of the working-class struggle, including that on the electoral field. This is emphasised especially in Rule I of the Party Rules. It sees the working class, the decisive, most advanced force in modern society, as the class which is called upon to lead other sections in the struggle against monopoly capitalism and for Socialism.
Communist Party organisation is based on the idea that the Communists must have contact with all sections of the people, especially the working class, and participate in all struggles, especially the struggle of the workers in large-scale industry. This is why the Communist Party gives such emphasis to factory organisation.
(iii) In the Communist Party there is no such conflict of outlook between the leaders and the mass of the membership as exists in the Labour Party. This conflict represents the two trends which have always existed in the Labour Party—the socialist trend of the rank and file, and the capitalist trend represented by the right-wing leaders.
The Communist Party is a voluntary union of people who share a common outlook—Marxism-Leninism—and the common desire to work to realise its principles in life, i.e. to advance to Socialism in Britain. There are not two disciplines in the Communist Party, as in the Labour Party (one for the leaders and one for the rank and file), but only one discipline. This is binding on all, leaders and rank and file alike.
This is ensured by the system of organisation which prevails in the Communist Party and is called “democratic centralism”. This is the combination of centralised organisation—higher bodies, like the Executive Committee, District, Area, Factory and Area Branch Committees—with the fullest democracy from the bottom to the top. This democracy is expressed in the following: all decisions are based on majority vote; all leading bodies are elected by the vote of the membership; all members are encouraged to play the fullest part in formulating Party policy.
Rules 10-14 of the Party Constitution and Rules explain this process in great detail, viz.:
Rule 11: All Party members shall have the right:
(a) to take part, through their Party organisation, in the discussions of all questions of Party policy and of the carrying out of such policy;
(b) to elect and be elected to Party Committees;
(c) to address any questions or statement to any Party Committee up to and including the Executive Committee.
Rule 12: The organisational structure of the Party is based on the principle of democratic centralism:
(a) the election of all leading Party Committees;
(b) the responsibility of all such leading Party Committees to submit reports at regular intervals to the Party organisations which have elected them;
(c) minorities shall accept the decisions of the majority;
(d) the lower Party organisations shall accept the decisions of the higher Party organisations.
Rule 13: All Party members have the right and the duty to participate to the full in discussion on Party policy as laid down in Rule 11 (a).
Criticisms and disagreements with the policy of the Party should be raised by any member in his Party organisation.
All these features taken together constitute the Communist Party as a Party of a new type, able to fulfil the role of advance guard and leader of the working-class struggle for Socialism.
(a) The New Situation in the Labour Movement
More and more the rank and file of the Labour Party and the trade unions are lighting the policy of the right-wing Labour leaders. More and more they are fighting for the policies originally outlined by the Communist Party. The decisive task facing the Communist Party is to build unity in action with the best elements of the Labour movement in the struggle to save Britain from atomic destruction, for national independence, and for the defence and advance of the living conditions of the people.
This unity of the socialist forces of the working class is essential if the working class is to lead the majority of the British people against monopoly capitalism.
In the course of building this unity of action, the most determined effort must be made to win understanding of the need for and role of a mass Communist Party and to increase the numbers of the Communist Party many times over. It has been the consistent struggle; propaganda, Marxist explanation and leadership of the daily struggle undertaken by the Communist Party over the years which has resulted in the emerging of a growing left movement in the Labour Party. The stronger the Communist Party the stronger will become the struggle for a socialist policy in the Labour Party.
(b) Build the Communist Party
While the task of building unity with the left of the Labour movement is of key importance, it is no substitute for the building of a mass Communist Party. Unity itself can only be strengthened if in the course of it ever new recruits are won for the Communist Party.
Only the Communist Party, because it is based on Marxist-Leninist theory, can indicate the correct line of march to the working class, link the immediate struggles with the ultimate fight for Socialism. The Communist Party alone has applied Marxist principles to the concrete problem of the advance to Socialism in Britain in its programme The British Road to Socialism.
A mass Communist Party, based on widespread unity of action with the best socialist forces in the Labour movement, is the only guarantee that the magnificent prospect of People’s Democracy for Britain will be realised in our life.
The task of building a mass Communist Party is one of the greatest importance to the whole Labour movement. Every Communist must apply himself to recruiting for the Party. A mass Communist Party is the key which will open the door on a socialist future for the British people.
PARTY CONSTITUTION AND RULES.
CHALLENGE TO LABOUR, Section IX, “The Communist Party” (by Harry Pollitt), and REPLY TO DISCUSSION (by John Gollan).
THE BRITISH ROAD TO SOCIALISM, last section, “The Communist Party and the Way Forward”.
BUILD THE COMMUNIST PARTY (by John Gollan).