J. R. Campbell
Source: Communist Policy to Meet the Crisis, Report of the 21st National Congress of the Communist Party, November 1949.
Publisher: Communist Party of Great Britain
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2008). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.
I WANT TO deal with the following points which have been raised in discussion: How we handle the question of the fight against the crisis; how we develop the mass movement; the issue of the General Election; the battle of ideas, and the role of the Party.
Now, of course, none of us are under any doubt that the crisis will develop, that the cost of living will go up six, seven, or even ten points, that unemployment will grow in the basic industries of this country. But I think we have got to avoid the tendency of analysing the crisis as spectators, and start really acting on the crisis as militant workers.
We tend to be more expert in analysing the crisis than moving and rousing the fight against it. We are not astrologers and fortune tellers, foretelling to the workers their sad future; we are agitators and organisers, full of confidence and optimism, convincing the workers that if they fight, their future will never be a sad one.
Our only safeguard against the crisis lies in developing the workers’ fight. We know from some of our reports that there are Party members in factory groups who are meeting the crisis by lying low. They are “protecting the factory group”, they say. This is the surest means of securing victimisation of every member of the factory group. Maintaining factory organisation in the fight is the only way to safeguard the individual.
Therefore I commend the action of the shipbuilding workers and the women of Nelson, of whom we have heard from this platform. They have demonstrated that they are not waiting for the full impact of the crisis—they are getting their blows in first; they are reacting against the first, tiny manifestations of increasing, unemployment, and we want that to be a lesson to other workers.
In this situation we have got to draw a clear line between the reformist leaders and the Labour Party workers. It is one of the most important aspects of Comrade Pollitt’s report, to which too little attention has been paid in the discussion. The Labour workers want what we want; they want full employment, and the removal of the menace of victimisation from the militants; they want no cuts in real wages, but an advance in wages towards a higher standard of living. They want no cuts in social services, but their expansion. They want powerful unions under democratic control of the membership. The leaders want all that the Labour workers do not want-prices rising without wages increasing, no increase in wages until prices are up by six points further.
Every worker has had his wages docked by 6s. or 7s. per week; every union going forward for wage increases is hampered by the trade union instruction to employers and to Arbitration Tribunals that wage increases ought not to be granted until real wages have been reduced a bit further, until the cost of living is up a few more points.
The reformist leaders want to keep housing down to the miserable level of 175,000 next year, half the level of a good pre-war year in housing construction. And we must arouse the workers against this. We must get the women indignant; we must tell the demagogue Bevan that his prefabricated insults to the Tories are not a substitute for houses for the British people to live in.
In the eighteen months up to devaluation, the reformist leaders represented themselves as having an alternative policy to the Communists. Whenever we came forward for increased. wages, they brought forward alternative proposals to reduce food prices as the alternative to increased wages. When we rejected the Cripps policy in 1948, they promised an early fall in the cost of living—and Cripps increased the tax on tobacco and withdrew the leather and wool subsidies and pushed prices up. When we rejected the policy of the T.U.C. in 1948, Cripps followed by the increase in prices through the pegging of the food subsidy in the budget this year. When they reaffirmed this policy in September 1949, it was immediately followed up by devaluation, meaning a substantial cut in the standard of life of all the people in this country.
We are not fighting merely for wage standards. We are fighting for the very existence of the Trade Union movement as a democratic institution controlled by its members. We object to the policy of taking the control out of the hand of the members of the unions and putting it under distant control from Wall Street. Wall Street imposed devaluation and the Government immediately proceeds to ask the unions to wipe out the democratic decisions of their members; to break up the trade union cost of living agreements; to cease to defend their members.
The British unions are now being tied up more than any unions have ever been in so-called capitalist democracy. The General Council tells the Arbitration Tribunals to refuse wage increases. If a union rejects this advice, there is still the machinery of compulsory arbitration to force it to conform. Hitler imposed wage cuts by destroying trade unions; British Social Democracy seeks to impose them by distortion of the Trade Union movement and by the destruction of trade union democracy.
We have faith that the British working class will destroy this traitor policy utterly. The British working class may be cautious and slow moving, but when it gets its hands on something like a standard of life, like a guaranteed week, like a social reform, it is easier to take a chunk of meat out of the jaws of a bulldog than to take these things away.
This may be a slow-moving working class. It may be far too practical-minded for its own benefit; but it is the working class which forced the trembling reformist leaders into the General Strike of 1926, it is the working class that built up the miners with their seven months’ strike; and comrades will know that this year it was the British dockers from Avonmouth, Bristol, and London whose long, hard fight on behalf of the Canadian seamen set an example of international working-class solidarity.
No one can fight like the British workers when they are roused, and no one can fight like the British women when they are roused. It was the British women who fought the fight for votes for women in the days just previous to the First World War. It is the British women who are the backbone of the rent agitation in various parts of the country today.
Some comrades say: “Yes, we would do better in our trade union fight if we weren’t running so many candidates at the General Election. The Labour workers don’t like it. Perhaps if we were more ‘tactical’ we would get better results in the economic field.” But, even if the General Election has not been discussed, I ask our comrades to reflect on the fact that if we were not running 100 candidates, who would be carrying on the fight for Britain’s independence in the General Election?
It seems almost like yesterday when Labour leaders were telling us we were carrying no hampering obligations under the Marshall Plan. Since then, in return for Marshall dollars, we have had to subordinate ourselves as war allies of the United States, pouring out resources for war and cutting housing, to provide these resources. Lancashire has been turned into a war base for the American atom; planes; since then we have had to tolerate the U.S. Treasury organising the financial crooks of the whole world, from Wall Street to Tangiers and Cairo, in an attack on the British £.
Now they are going to try and drive us into the same kind of arrangement by the U.S. low-wage satellites in Europe. European tariffs have to be lowered to make that continent—or the western part of it—a vast market for U.S. goods. The U.S. gangster manipulation of customs regulations has got to remain, and very shortly, if we don’t stop it—and we will stop it—we will find amongst our allies the West German army, dominated by those same Nazi types whom we fought in 1945 and thought we had crushed for ever. No Nazi gauleiters behaved as crudely as Hoffman and Harriman are behaving in relation to this country at the present moment.
We would be traitors to the British people if we did not fight against this policy. What kind of a Communist Party would we be if we did not fight against the subjection of Britain to the monopolists of the U.S.A.? How could we hold up our heads in the great world-wide family of the Communist Parties if we did not make the General Election the occasion for a fight for the defence of the Soviet Union and the establishment of peace throughout the world? If we were not to make that fight, the electoral contest would be a fight between two parties discussing who was best equipped to fight Communism; who was best equipped to lead towards the Third World War.
Mr. Hector McNeil dared to tell Vyshinsky that world opinion was more united against the Soviet Union than it has been against Herr Hitler. This is a lie in the best Goebbels tradition.
It tells us nothing about world opinion, of the opinions of the masses in the colonies, of the great emancipated workers and peasants of Eastern Europe, of the great Communist Parties in the West. It tells us nothing about world opinion; but it illuminates the psychopathology of Social Democracy in this country and its frantic hatred of people building up Socialism while it is retreating before the American millionaires.
George Short told us that one of their characteristics was to make a Left speech as a prelude to surrender. Nye Bevan tells the workers in Middlesbrough that the steel masters can no more run the steel industry than his granny. Nine days afterwards the steel masters are reprieved even from the phoney nationalisation of this Government. But reprieved men and reprieved institutions sometimes live long. Unless we are arousing the workers at the General Election, the steel monopoly in this country might survive as long as Nye Bevan’s granny to exploit and rob the people of this country.
Then there is Manny Shinwell, who puts out his tongue at the financial oligarchy of the City of London (from a safe distance), and that is followed by the nationalisation of insurance being transformed into the mutualisation of insurance, or the mutilisation of insurance, as one indignant Labour Party member put it.
These retreats are forced on the British Government by its allies and partners, by the British monopolists with whom it hopes to co-operate and its ally, U.S. imperialism.
There is a group of M.P.s going shortly to Yugoslavia. They are going to discover whether Tito, on, the basis of American loans and the American stranglehold, is building up Communism in Yugoslavia or not. I don’t know why they are going to Belgrade for information on this point. All the necessary data is there for them to see in Westminster and in Whitehall.
This shows that under the grip of the American monopolists, not only can one not build up Socialism, but one cannot carry through the mildest of democratic deforms, and one is forced to pursue a policy that means the complete ruination of one’s own country. And the best argument against Tito is that the architect of the Fulton policy, Mr. Winston Churchill, is convinced that he is no longer a Communist.
The General Election will help us a thousandfold in our economic struggle—because every one who has been in an economic struggle knows that the workers are being held back, as Will Paynter said, by political inhibitions, by misunderstandings of Soviet policy, by misrepresentations of what the Communists stand for in this country; and the more we use the General Election to clear the air the greater the struggle on the economic field will be.
The economic struggle and the political struggle are part of the one process. They are not in contradiction to one another, and we ask all members, from the most important trade union officials to the most recently joined recruit, to make the General Election the greatest fight in which our Party has ever engaged.
Douglas Garman’s point was that the Battle of Ideas is not a battle between professors. We must attack all the main trends of bourgeois ideology, logical positivism, Mendel-Morgan genetics, Keynesian economics, which have polluted the Labour movement from top to bottom, but we must also fight those more crude ideas which have such an influence over the masses at the present time.
Julie Jacobs was right when he said we cannot advance the cause of British workers unless we kill every anti-Soviet lie, in the language of Bunyan, of Cobbett, of Blatchford, and Gallacher and Pollitt, and not in a jargon far above the head of the masses of the people in this country.
Lastly, we must strengthen our Party, not only by criticism and selfcriticism, but by turning outside to the workers. Let us measure our Party influence by the number of actions we have led, by the number of non-Party workers we have approached in a given week, by the mounting sales of the Daily Worker. Heroic words require to be matched by heroic deeds. Force up the circulation of our paper, which is the sharpest weapon in the hands of the Party.
Self-criticism must strengthen and not weaken the discipline of the Party. According to certain sections of the press Harry Pollitt says we are not sufficiently following up the line of the Extended E.C. in February. All the other material of the struggle of the British workers by our constructive policy is passed over to Harry Pollitt’s criticism. Therefore things must be in a bad way. Truly things would be in a terrible way if we ever got the philosophy, if we ever thought we were doing everything that was possible.
The Right-Wing sneer at our discipline—but while they, sneer they envy.
We know that social changes are not made by exhibitionists, but by great mass movements, and not stimulated by poseurs and political one-man bands, but by organised workers under the leadership of a disciplined Party such as ours. And it is not such a mechanical discipline, but a free discipline of free men and women in which their service is to their class. And therefore we will go into great battles, and we will emerge strengthened, with greater numbers and a wider circulation for our paper, and greater influence over the mass of our people; and the mass of the people will emerge from the economic struggles, from the General Election, from the fights of the women, strengthened and influenced by our example.
Neither press conspiracies of silence will deter us in our fight. Our greatest hour as a Communist Party is approaching. We shall go forward joyfully to match that confidently, knowing that we take the British working class a long way along the road, making this land a great bastion in the triumphant family of Socialist nations.