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.
THE TIME has come to bring this great Congress to a close. We have work to do, arising out of the decisions we have taken, and that work we will do with a will.
In closing this Congress, I would first desire to express my regret that Harry Pollitt, our Party leader, is absent. We all of us miss him and just as certainly he will miss us. I must, before this Congress, pay tribute to his deputy at Party Headquarters, our young comrade George Matthews. I must also say a word about one who was very dear and close to me in all that concerned our Party—Comrade Bill Rust. His work on the Daily Worker, as in other spheres of Party work, was invaluable for the Party. His loss was a heavy blow to all of us, but his work goes on in the Daily he did so much to foster and build.
Comrades, it has always been an accepted Socialist maxim that where people were prosperous, the country was prosperous. But this, like so many other of our Socialist conceptions, has been reversed and we are now presented with the amazing proposition that the restriction of consumption is the only way to economic stability. In other words, only through increasing poverty and hardship for the people can the present system of society be kept going. And this is not to be a temporary privation—something that will pass after a year or two of compulsory abstinence!
Let us consider for a moment what has happened in the past few years. It may serve as a guide to what lies ahead. Since the end of the war, America has blackmailed this country. I have good authority for using such a term. It was the expression used by Mr. Eden—who is not even suspected of being a “fellow-traveller”—when Argentina demanded, according to the Ministry of Food, dollar payments and excessive prices, a practice which was already being operated by the moguls of Wall Street.
So serious did this blackmail become, that at Easter, 1947, Mr. Dalton, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, came to the House of Commons and told us we were diving into an economic crisis—we could not meet our dollar commitments.
What was his remedy? Cuts in domestic consumption. He was told then—I told him, the Daily Worker told him—that cutting the purchasing power of the people would not get us out of the crisis—it would plunge us deeper into it. But he went ahead. We got the cuts. Six months later he was back again. Was the situation better? No, it was worse. What we said had proved to be true. But Mr. Dalton was not taking advice from the Communists. American pressure was turned on full strength and so, the first cuts having proved disastrous, we got a second set of cuts. Down we went a further stage. Then Dalton lost his job and Cripps took over. How about it now, Mr. Chancellor, are we pulling out? No sir, we are not. We’re deeper in than ever before. Well, what do you propose? Dalton pushed us down, are you going to lift us up?
“My remedy,” said the Chancellor, “is bigger and better cuts than ever. Dalton was a real child; I give you a real slash, and with that slash, frozen wages.” These cuts made by Cripps, cuts in capital expenditure, meant cuts in housing, health and education. A truly shameful expedient, to keep capitalism going a little longer.
The vaunted Health Service, so much publicised by Mr. Bevan—nothing like it in the world, he says (he should pay a visit to the countries of Eastern Europe)—has remained on paper. The central features of the scheme, the health centres, are non-existent, and there is no hope of their realisation till we get a different Government and a different policy.
As for frozen wages, we are told by Cripps and his stooges on the General Council of the T.U.C. that if restraint is practised by the workers, then by 1952, when Marshall Aid comes to an end, we may have closed the gap and precariously balanced our economy. There it is—use a sensitive pair of scales and you’ll see we’ve just about done it, provided of course, that German steel and Japanese textiles don’t come wading in and knock our balanced and sensitive scales all to smithereens.
But we’ll shut our eyes to that. We won’t see dangers, so dangers won’t be there. By 1952 we’ve got that delicate balance, without which our standard of living will go down to colonial level. Then what happens? Can we withdraw restraint? Obviously we can’t. Withdraw restraint and immediately the balance is upset, the gap is opened and we’re back again where we were. Yes, frozen wages, are permanent, the crisis is permanent, or at any rate they will last so long as we make the saving of the present system the object of our efforts.
Production is going up and the ratio of profit is going up along with production, but the ratio of wages over production is going down. That being so, what are we working for? We are working for dollars. And if you are in a job that is not going to provide dollars, you are going to be yanked out and put in a job that will provide dollars. But who gets the dollars? The American monopoly capitalists. But in working for dollars for them we are providing profits for our own coupon-clippers. It makes us colonials. Work for dollars and cut your living standards. Such a gospel is a betrayal of all for which the Trade Union and Labour movements were built.
From this Congress we send a better message to the workers, a call to action, a call that carries with it the inspirations of the pioneers. Instead of working for dollars, work for Socialism, and for ever higher standards of living. That is the true and sure way to national prosperity and national independence.
And here it should be noted that there is unanimity between Labour and Tory leaders in subservience to America, in the betrayal of our independence. In fact there is unanimity on all important issues. The Atlantic War Pact, the so-called Western Union, the Union of Western capitalists and their Social Democratic allies; or the anti-Soviet campaign, the maintenance of partition in Ireland, the subjection and exploitation of the colonial peoples, the tin and rubber war in Malaya, the shocking events in Nigeria, the high rates of compensation for nationalised industries, the capital cuts, frozen wages, longer hours, cuts in domestic consumption and the refusal to meet the demands of the old age pensioners. That’s a pretty hefty list. It about covers everything.
On what do they disagree? Watch carefully as I might, I have found it difficult to discover. They fight, oh how they fight—but about nothing. Of course that is an essential part of the business. If they didn’t fight about nothing—then the workers might decide to take a hand, and then they’d have to fight about something.
Take, for example, devaluation. The Government introduce a motion—Phil Piratin and I introduce an opposition motion. The Government motion was “ . . . that the House approves of the decision taken at Washington, blah, blab, blah, etc. . . Ours was “That this House repudiates the decisions taken at Washington, calls for big cuts in armaments, etc. . . . ” Churchill & Co. put down 24 motion that “this House while approving the decision taken at Washington, blab, blah, blah, etc.”
Our motion was not called—Churchill’s motion was called. Both agree on the decision taken at Washington. They reached agreement that day, blah, blab, blah.
Churchill proved that every Marshall country was going down but that Britain was going, down quicker than France, Belgium and Italy, because of the squanderings of the Labour Government. Next day Bevin made a terrific speech against Churchill. If you took away Churchill there would be no speech left. Bevin proved that Churchill was wrong, that while every Marshall Aid country was going down, France, Belgium and Italy were going down quicker than Britain. But the important thing is to note that every country getting dollars is going down. Every country doing without dollars is going up. Yugoslavia is getting dollars—Yugoslavia is on the way down. Dollars are sinkers. Break the dollar chain and our dependence on America. Trade with the Soviet Union, Eastern democracies and liberated China. Friendship with these and the war clouds scatter.
Comrades, let us go forward from this great Congress each to his allotted task, with the scarlet banner of human brotherhood flying high and ever higher. The future is ours, yes, but we must shape the future from the present. Gather the workers around you. They are the source of our strength.
With the workers we go forward to the last great fight, to the defeat of the imperialist warmongers, to the victory of Socialism, and the peaceful progress that Socialism alone can bring.