R. Palme Dutt

Introductory Report on Election Programme

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.

OUR PROGRAMME, The Socialist Road for Britain, provides a striking contrast to the Tory programme, The Right Road for Britain, and the official Labour programme, Labour Believes in Britain.

This contrast is revealed, in the first place, in the democratic procedure by which our programme has been drawn up. The Draft Programme has been circulated and discussed during the past four months by every organisation and branch of our Party. Over three hundred suggestions for revision and amendment have been received, apart from verbal amendments. All these have been carefully considered by the Congress Committee elected for this purpose; the majority have been adopted to provide the basis for the revisions now circulated to Congress. Where there is any difference of opinion on an issue of principle, it will be brought before the full Congress for decision by democratic vote.

This democratic procedure contrasts with the methods of the Tory and Labour programmes. The Tory programme was imposed from above, with no say of the rank and file, and even so is not binding on the autocratic leader. The Labour programme was presented to the Whitsun Conference, when no amendments or votes were allowed.

Thus we may claim that ours is the only Party programme adopted by the democratic discussion and decision of the membership.

The contrast with the Tory and Labour programmes is still more marked in the contents.

Following the publication of the Tory and Labour programmes widespread complaints were expressed of their practical identity on major issues. Mr. Morrison complained that the Tory programme was a “cheap little imitation” of the Labour programme. The Tory Observer found that the two programmes demonstrated “the wide agreement that exists between the Tory and Labour Parties”. The American Editor of the Information, Please, Almanac, having obtained 5,000 words each from Mr. Morgan Phillips and Mr. Butler to explain the policies of their parties, wrote back complaining that, on the basis of these contributions, it would be impossible for the American reader to discover any difference.

No such complaint can be registered against this programme. Our programme is a challenge to the existing policy of the alliance of Toryism and Right-Wing Labour which has landed the country in a desperate situation, with deepening shadows of economic crisis and worsening conditions, increasing dependence on American financiers and warlords, and a crazy arms race for a third world war.

The programmes of Toryism and Right-Wing Labour offer no solution for the problems before the British people. They offer no prospect save cuts and more cuts, lower standards and conditions and desperate trade war in the illusory chase for dollar markets.

It is time for the whole Labour movement to turn to an alternative programme. The only alternative programme is the Communist programme.

The Communist Party’s programme, The Socialist Road for Britain, shows the only positive way forward to tackle Britain’s crisis. It is directed to the objectives of Britain’s national independence, economic recovery, prosperity and rising standards, and peace. In the fight for this programme the workers will rally their strength for the final defeat of capitalism and advance to a Socialist Britain freed from exploitation, slump and war.

This programme, The Socialist Road for Britain, is an immediate programme—a short-term programme of immediate measures around which the struggle can be carried forward. It is an immediate programme for support by the united Labour movement and by the broadest sections of the people, to tackle the present conditions of Britain’s crisis and combat the threatening slump, to reverse the existing disastrous policies and begin the people’s offensive against the monopoly interests.

We challenge the main assumption of the other parties, of the Tories, the Liberals and official Labour, of the press and the B.B.C., of big business and the Trades Union Congress General Council, that it is necessary to worsen the conditions of the people, to cut real wages and living standards and retrench the social services in the supposed interests of recovery.

Such measures can only hasten the onset of the slump.

On the contrary, we declare that an immediate change is possible and necessary to improve conditions, to raise wages and standards, and to extend the social services. Production has been enormously increased by the workers. World production, according to the United Nations Year Book, last year reached 30 per cent above pre-war. Production in Britain is officially claimed to be 25 per cent above pre-war. But this increased production of the workers has been misused and wasted for the purposes of reactionary imperialist policy, and in the interests of the colossal profits of the capitalists.

A drastic change in policy, in home and foreign policy, is essential, in order to end the present worsening of conditions and begin to get he benefits of increased production. Such a drastic change in policy is set out in our programme.

Our programme is an integral whole. It is not a collection of random demands or empty election promises. It is a fully thought out practical programme of immediate steps which can be achieved by the fight of the people in every field. It covers the main fields of

(1) Home economic policy (wages and standards; industry and agriculture; the social services).

(2) Trading policy.

(3) Foreign policy; and

(4) The extension of democracy.

In the home economic field we call for the ending of the wage-freeze and the immediate raising of wages, standards and social service benefits at the expense of profits. In the past two years production has increased by 17 per cent, and profits by 24 per cent, while real. wages have fallen by 3 per cent. There is plenty to be won from the 2,922 million which still goes to rent, interest and profits after taxation.

We propose an increase in the profits tax, a capital levy on big fortunes, and a 50 per cent cut in the interest payments to big holders of the national debt. We are for the abolition of the purchase tax except on luxuries, and would maintain and, where necessary, extend the food subsidies to keep down the prices of food.

In place of retrenchment of social services and provision for the people, we demand an immediate extension. Housing must take first priority. In place of the cut from 260,000 houses completed in 1948 to 175,000 planned for completion in 1950, or half pre-war, we show how it will be possible to provide 400,000 houses in the first year of an extended building programme. We wish to end the present educational retreat, and to provide the school building, the training of new teachers, and the improvement of conditions for teachers to make possible rapid and effective educational advance.

Our programme makes special provision for the needs of working women and housewives, not with empty electioneering talk about their status and verbal sympathy, but with concrete proposals to establish equal pay and level-up women’s wages; to develop nursery schools and creches, to cut prices, increase household incomes, and extend social provision for mother and child, so as to diminish the present burdens on housewives and mothers.

Equally we are concerned for the needs of young people, to combat the special exploitation of youth labour, by the raising of youth wages, with wage-for-age scales, the forty-hour week and four weeks’ annual holiday; extended provision for industrial training and promotion; and extended educational and cultural facilities.

We support the demand of the Old Age Pensioners’ Association, that the old age pension should immediately be increased to 2, with 4 for a married couple. Similarly sickness, disability and unemployment benefit needs to be immediately increased.

We call for the drastic cutting down of the numbers in the armed services, the reduction of compulsory service from eighteen months to twelve months, and the establishment of full civic rights, and improved pay and conditions, for all servicemen and service women.

For the development of industry, and weakening of the monopolies, our programme proposes nationalisation of a new type. We are not satisfied with the so-called nationalisation measures of the Labour Government, which have not improved the conditions of the workers or weakened capitalism, but only represent the alliance of the State and other big monopolies, leave 80 per cent of economy in private capitalist hands, hand over the nationalised services to Boards dominated by big business representatives, and by lavish compensation at market values continue in practice to extract the same surplus from the workers for the benefit of the former owners.

Against such spurious nationalisation we fight for nationalisation of a new type which

1. Extends to the main field of economy and resources of the country; the land, the banks and insurance, steel, engineering and shipbuilding, the docks, chemicals and building.

2. Drastically reduces compensation, paying out no new Government stock to former owners, but only terminable annuities on the principle of safeguarding the small shareholders and slashing the big shareholders;

3. Composes the personnel of the Boards from the workers and technicians, with direct trade union representation and participation at every level.

In agriculture the Communist programme is the only programme which shows the way to bring into full use the still largely neglected land resources of this country for the increased home production of food, at the same time as helping the small farmers, and improving the conditions of the agricultural workers and rural life.

The problems of Britain’s foreign trade in the new world situation can be solved, given a new direction of policy. The chronic deficit on the balance of payments since the war has been overwhelmingly due to Government overseas expenditure; more than seven-tenths of it has been overseas military expenditure. Unless this is cut, the deficit will continue, and will not be overcome by export drives. The American ban on exports of engineering and heavy industrial goods to Eastern Europe is the main factor disrupting Britain’s trade and artificially maintaining the dollar deficit. Political reasons lie behind the trade problem.

We stand for the ending of the one-sided dollar dependence, and the establishment of a new balanced trading structure for Britain, with a large increase of trade with the Soviet Union, the Eastern European People’s Democracies, People’s China and the liberated colonial peoples. This does not mean cutting off trade with the United States, but establishes a stronger and more effective bargaining basis for trade with dollar areas.

The indispensable condition for the fulfilment of this programme is a change in foreign policy. Home policy and foreign policy are inseparably linked. The present immediate problems and hardships of the people at home directly arise from the reactionary imperialist foreign policy of Churchill and Bevin—the policy of the “cold war”, the Anglo-American Bloc, colonial wars and the preparation of a third world war. The costs of this policy are bringing us economic catastrophe and subjection to America.

We demand the ending of the war policy, which is expressed in the Atlantic Pact and the Brussels Pact, and the return to the basis of the Charter of the United Nations as the cornerstone of a policy for peace.

We call for the restoration of the co-operation of the Great Powers, and declare that the fulfilment of the British-Soviet Treaty and strengthening of British-Soviet co-operation is the decisive step to achieve this.

We press for an immediate reduction of armaments, and the prohibition of the atom bomb, with destruction of stocks, and international inspection and control under the Security Council.

We put forward our proposals for a united democratic Germany; for peace treaties with a democratic Germany and a democratic Japan; and for immediate recognition of the Chinese Democratic Republic, withdrawal of our Forces from Hong Kong, and promotion of closest friendly relations and trade.

We call for the immediate ending of the, war against the Malayan people, and the return of our troops from all colonial and semi-colonial territories. We stand for the freedom of all colonial peoples—not sham “independence” which is sometimes used as a blind by imperialism to cover continued economic domination and strategic control; but real political and economic independence, including restoration of the economic resources owned by the imperialist monopolies to the peoples. Such liberation alone can open the way to true friendship and the promotion of mutually beneficial economic relations.

At home we fight for the fullest extension of democracy; and as immediate next steps we propose in this programme the abolition of the House of Lords; the establishment of a democratic electoral system, with proportional representation; the recognition of the national claims of Scotland and Wales; and the withdrawal of troops from Northern Ireland and support for the ending of partition.

These are the main outlines of the immediate programme we here put forward.

This programme will be the basis of our fight in the coming election. But it is more than an election programme. It charts out the objectives of the coming fight, not only in the election, but in every field, in industry and the mass struggle. We are a Party of a new type; not a mere electoral-parliamentary party; but the leader of the fight of the working class and the masses, of the people against monopoly capitalism, for the final overthrow of monopoly capitalism and victory of Socialism. Our programme sets out the next steps forward in the battle towards these aims.

We appeal for united support for this programme from all in the Labour movement, and from all progressive people who are disquietened at the existing policy of cuts and worsened conditions and the drive to war, and who desire to win improved conditions, and to advance against capitalism, for the aims of peace and Socialism.

We have no illusion as to the character of the fight in front of us. But we are confident that the stand of our 100 candidates will be the key political fight of the coming election. We are confident that our programme will provide the rallying ground for all militant and progressive sections in the battles before us. And we are convinced that the future development of the mass movement around the aims of this programme can create the conditions to make possible the establishment of an alternative Government truly representative of the people and with the participation of the Communist Party as the essential condition for the fulfilment of these aims.

In 1944 our programme, Britain for the People, and the fight for this Programme, helped to prepare the way for the new stage of advance at the close of the war to end Tory domination.

Today our programme, The Socialist Road for Britain, is preparing the way for the new stage of advance equally against Toryism and Tory policy in the Labour movement, for the victory of the Left and the development to the future leadership of Communism in the Labour movement—the only basis for the final victory of the working class and the rebuilding of Britain in the interests of working people.