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.
TWENTY YEARS ago this week-end the Eleventh Congress of the Communist Party was held in Leeds.
Our Party then was not firmly united either in policy or leadership, and one of the principal tasks of the Leeds Congress was to strengthen the leadership in order to speed the building of a mass Bolshevik Party.
I think we can claim that much has been done, though not enough, towards this aim.
That Congress met during the term of office of the Second Labour Government, when, as now, the Labour Government was carrying through a capitalist policy with the inevitable effect of intensifying the slump.
Let us remember what that slump meant for the British working class. In 1931-32 the unemployment figure reached three million, and our great industrial centres in Lancashire, the North-East Coast, South Wales and the West of Scotland became known as the “Depressed Areas”. The wages of the British workers in this period were reduced by millions of pounds.
The demands imposed by the Wall Street millionaires before they would grant a loan to the Government caused a split in the Labour Party. MacDonald, Snowden and Thomas made a treacherous alliance with Baldwin and Chamberlain; a National Government was formed in August 1931, and the Labour Party met ignominious defeat in the General Election in the autumn of that year.
Unemployed benefits, all social services, the salaries of Civil Servants and Teachers and the pay of the Armed Forces were reduced by ten per cent; the infamous Means Test was introduced.
From the moment Hitler came to power in Germany, the Baldwin-Chamberlain clique allied themselves with him in his campaigns against Communism and the Soviet Union, which set in train the series of events culminating in the Second World War in 1939.
It was because at the end of that war the British people were determined never to return to those days of mass unemployment, misery and preparations for war that they voted the third Labour Government into office in 1945.
They believed that the Labour leaders would keep the promises they made in Let Us Face the Future, would fight capitalism and the Tories and would co-operate with the Soviet Union and the “left” forces throughout the world to make the peace secure.
But the Labour leaders have betrayed the people, broken their promises and co-operated with big business here and in America in an attack on the working class of Britain and the world.
So our 21st Congress meets at a time when, as a result of the policy of the Third Labour Government, a great new attack has been launched on the standard of life of the British workers. Devaluation, which it is estimated will result in a rise of 10 per cent in the cost of living, has been followed by the cuts announced on October 24, affecting housing, education, all health services and food prices.
This onslaught on the workers takes place at the moment when profits of the big employers have never been so high and when it is admitted they will go still higher as a result of devaluation. The immediate difficulties which will follow for the working class, and especially the lower-paid workers, the women and the old-age pensioners, are serious enough. But worse still is the perspective if this policy is not reversed. For as surely as night follows day, it will lead to the development of mass unemployment on a colossal scale.
At a time when the restricted markets of the capitalist world are shrinking still further, when the post-war boom has come to an end, and the offensive of Wall Street millionaires against Britain is developing rapidly, this reduction in the purchasing power of the British working class will hasten the development of the crisis of over-production which has already begun in the capitalist world.
Contrast this picture of the present position and future perspectives of capitalist Britain with what we find in the Socialist Soviet Union. In the Soviet Union there is not, nor can there be, any fear of economic crisis or unemployment. There, because the working class is in power and the Communist Party is leading the nation, triumphant advances in production and in the standard of living are being made, and new vistas of progress opening out.
Despite the vast devastation of the Second World War, by June 1949 the average daily output of Soviet industry was 41 per cent above that of their pre-war year of 1940. The Five Year Plan targets set for the end of 1950 will undoubtedly be reached by the end of 1949.
In two years the purchasing power of wages has doubled. Sales of consumption goods are soaring. Each week, each month, each year, the Soviet people consume more and live better.
And these are only the first results of what the transition from Socialism to Communism means for the Soviet people.
Look also at the great advance of the People’s Democracies, which, now that their workers and peasants have, with the assistance of the Soviet Union, thrown off the yoke of the landlords and capitalists, are rapidly laying the foundations of Socialism.
These formerly backward agricultural countries will before very long have carried through plans of industrialisation and agrarian reform which will raise the already improved living standards of their people to new heights.
Czechoslovakia aims by 1953 to increase industrial production by 57 per cent and agricultural output by 37 per cent over 1948, and to increase home consumption of food and manufactures by 60 per cent.
Bulgaria in the same period aims to increase industrial production by 119 per cent, and farm output by 59 per cent, and to double the home consumption of food and manufactures.
Poland aims by 1955 to increase industrial output per head to four times the pre-war figure; to increase agricultural output by 45 per cent over 1948, and for the standard of living to be twice as high as pre-war.
Hungarian industrial production in the period 1950-54 will expand more than it did in the previous 50 years. Agricultural output will go up 27 per cent above the 1949 figure, and home consumption 40 per cent.
In these countries economic planning is a reality, resources of raw materials, machinery and foodstuffs are pooled, and the closest relations with the Soviet Union are established, so that the foundations of Socialism are being rapidly laid.
And in all these countries the new society is establishing a new type of Socialist man and woman, who take a direct, personal and collective part in factory organisation and production, in local, regional and national administration, in every conceivable aspect of social welfare, and in everything associated with education, science and culture. Their patriotic pride in their national achievements and traditions is allied with the fullest international outlook and solidarity with the working peoples of the world.
It is in these countries, where the Communists are in power, that there are joy and confidence and hope, and the fullest development of the human personality.
But where the capitalists and their agents the Right-Wing Social-Democrats rule, there are defeatism, pessimism, increasing poverty and unhappiness, and the degradation of humanity.
Our Congress must explain the reasons for this contrast between the worlds of Socialism and Capitalism. We must give the answers to the fundamental questions that millions of British workers are now beginning to ask themselves. We must show the cause of the present difficulties, advance the solution to them, and with faith in our great British working class, go forward to lead the mass movement whose development and mighty strength can guarantee also for our country a future of peace and Socialism.
THE DEVALUATION of the £, following closely on the Washington talks and the cuts announced by the Government last month, are the sharpest warnings the British people have yet had of the disastrous consequences of the Government’s policy.
To understand what is involved, and to appreciate the complete bankruptcy of the Government’s past policy and of all its proposals for the future, it is necessary for us to examine the economic situation of Britain and the capitalist world in some detail.
The fall in the gold and dollar reserves of the sterling area are the clearest indication of the gravity of Britain’s crisis.
In 1946 they stood at £660,000,000.
In March 1948 they had dropped to £550,000,000.
The Government declared in that year that it would be disastrous if they were allowed to fall below that figure.
But by March 1949 they had fallen to £471,000,000.
Between April and June they fell by a further £65,000,000 down to £406,000,000. By September 18, the date of devaluation, they had fallen to £330,000,000, and in the first fortnight of devaluation only £20,000,000 was added to the reserves.
This has happened despite the fact that Britain during this period has borrowed or received from abroad, mainly from the U.S., £872,000,000 in 1947, £368,000,000 in 1948, and £92,000,000 in the first six months of 1949.
One of the most striking features of the past year has been the rapid growth of unemployment in a number of capitalist countries.
It is in the U.S.A., the largest and most powerful capitalist country, that the growth of unemployment and the appearance of the symptoms of acute crisis have been especially rapid during the past year. The official figure of U.S. unemployment is over 4,000,000, with another 11,400,000 on short time.
Between October 1948 and July 1949 industrial production declined by 19 per cent. There is now a “buyers’ market” there for almost everything except motor cars, and it is expected that very shortly the supply of cars will have caught up with demand.
The Moody Index of Commodity Prices in the U.S. has dropped from 460 in mid-1948 to 370 in February 1949, and 336 in October 1949. Farm prices, which at the find of 1948 were for the first time in the post-war period lower than at the beginning of the year, have dropped still further during 1949, and in July, farmers’ receipts were 22 per cent less than in July last year. Huge surpluses of wheat, corn, cotton, and tobacco are being accumulated.
This so-called paradise of the U.S.A., which the British workers are asked to take as their model, is already at the beginning of the greatest economic crisis of over-production the world has ever seen; one which is developing in the period of the general crisis of capitalism, and affects, and is affected by, the development of the cyclical crisis throughout the entire capitalist world.
In Western Germany there are 1,267,000 unemployed. In the Western Sector of Berlin 230,000 (or one in four) of the wage earners are unemployed.
In Italy 2,500,000.
In Belgium 236,000.
In all the countries of Western Europe there is increasing short-time and laying off of workers.
The fact that there is not yet large-scale unemployment in Britain is not due, as the Government pretends, to its having carried out a “policy of full employment”. What has happened is that British industry, little damaged by the war, has been able, during the last four years, to take advantage of shortages at home and abroad arising from the war. That period has come to an end, and the narrowing of markets, together with the reduced purchasing power of British working people resulting from the Government’s policy, will soon be reflected in unemployment in one industry after another.
It may be as well here if we re-state the fundamental Marxist analysis of the cause of the recurring crises of capitalism, especially at a time when in Britain the former Left Social Democrats like Cole and Laski are so busily peddling the old capitalist theories dressed up in new forms, with the object of persuading the workers that everything under the sun is responsible for these crises except the capitalist system itself.
Marx, in Capital, Vol. III, states:
“The last cause of all real crises always remains the poverty and restricted consumption of the masses as compared to the tendency of capitalist production to develop the productive forces as if only the absolute power of consumption of the entire society would be their limit.”
This is as true of the present crisis as of all previous crises of capitalism.
But what above all characterises the present crisis of over-production is that it is beginning to develop in a period in which the general crisis of capitalism has enormously deepened as a result of the Second World War. Even in 1930, Stalin could declare that the Socialist system, existing side by side with the capitalist system, was “flourishing, resisting the capitalist system, and by the very fact of its existence, demonstrating the rottenness of capitalism and shaking its foundations”. But how immeasurably stronger is the Socialist system today! How decisively in the supreme test of war the Soviet Union proved the superiority of Socialism over Capitalism! And today, with its colossal economic advances, its rapidly rising standard of life, and its mastery of atomic energy, the Socialist system is demonstrating still further its decisive and complete superiority over capitalism.
Further, not only the U.S.S.R., but now also the People’s Democracies, are out of the orbit of capitalism, and the gigantic area and population of China has been withdrawn from the field of imperialist exploitation.
In the colonial and dependent countries, the liberation movements of the people have advanced to a point where they threaten the entire imperialist position, especially in South-East Asia. The imperialists pour out money, arms and lives in colonial wars in Malaya, Indonesia, and Viet Nam, and in so doing weaken still further their own economic position, but still they cannot maintain a secure grip on the colonial peoples or suppress their struggle for independence.
Moreover, the unemployment to which I have already referred as developing is only a foretaste of what will come as the slump develops. As the gap between the growth of the production capacity in the capitalist countries and the purchasing power of the people increases, an enormous amount of the productive capacity will be forced out of use, and millions thrown out of work.
When we add to these factors the complete crisis in world trade, the disruption and distortion of “normal” trading relations and the shrinking of the markets of the capitalist world, it becomes absolutely clear that against this background of the deepened general crisis, the capitalists can find no solution to the developing crisis of over-production, but in face of the decay and decline of the capitalist system and the majestic advance of Socialism can only attempt to put the burdens of the crisis on the working class and the colonial people.
The crisis of British imperialism is especially deep-rooted and acute. Already before the war the breakdown of the old monopoly position of the British capitalist class was apparent. Even then, valued at present prices, the direct dollar deficit was probably about £150;000,000 per annum. But then the rest of the sterling area countries covered the United Kingdom’s direct deficit. Now they add another £200;000,000 deficit of their own.
The tremendous upsurge of the colonial peoples in the war and post-war period, the colossal burden of military expenditure involved in the attempt to continue their exploitation and oppression, the sharpening of the antagonisms between Britain and the Dominions, and the offensive of United States imperialism, have resulted in a profound deepening of the crisis of British imperialism.
Now the development of the crisis of over-production is dealing further heavy blows at the British colonial system. Not only exports from Britain to the dollar areas, but especially exports from the colonies (tin, rubber, etc.), have fallen catastrophically. The main basis of Britain’s so-called “Four Year Plan”, announced at the end of 1948, was the expectation that increased imperialist exploitation of the colonial peoples would enable a vast expansion of dollar exports from the colonies to take place. But to the liberation fight of the colonial peoples themselves has now been added the effects of the developing slump, and the full bankruptcy of the Government’s policy is revealed.
Moreover, the Second World War has greatly accentuated the uneven development of capitalism and resulted, as we shall see, in the U.S.A. assuming a dominant position in the capitalist world.
The capacity of U.S. industry is 50 per cent greater than pre-war. Her total production in 1948 was two-thirds greater than in 1937. In 1948, three out of every five tons of petroleum or steel, and four out of every five cars produced in the world outside the U.S.S.R. were U.S. products.
Whereas the industrial output of Europe, excluding the U.S.S.R., in pre-war days was greater by one-third than that of the U.S.A., in 1948 it was less than three-quarters of the U.S. output.
There has never been a capitalist power so dominant in nearly all lines of production as is the U.S.A. today.
And this is a capitalist power which is almost self-sufficient; which can produce practically all its requirements at home and do so on the whole more cheaply than by importing from abroad.
Thus U.S. exports for the first five months of 1949 were running at an annual rate of 13,200,000,000 dollars, while imports were only at the annual rate of 6,900,000,000. In the first half of 1949, the excess of U.S. exports over imports grew larger, thus intensifying the dollar problem.
This disproportionate weight of the U.S. in the world capitalist economy is the most important immediate factor in the disequilibrium in the capitalist world, and the persistent and intensifying, “balance of payments crisis” of Britain and other capitalist countries.
From what we have already stated it is clearly seen that every contradiction in the capitalist world will be rapidly intensified.
Already behind all the talk of “Western Union”, “United Europe”, and the “Atlantic Community”, the desperate struggle between rival imperialist powers is intensifying.
There are the antagonisms between the Western European powers, and especially between Britain and the rest of Western Europe. There are the antagonisms between Britain and the Dominions, and between the Dominions themselves.
But above all, there is the Anglo-American antagonism, which is the most profound of all in the capitalist world.
The dominant position of U.S. imperialism which I described earlier has been achieved largely at the expense of British imperialism. During and following the Second World War, the expansion of U.S. imperialism in relation to Britain has been especially rapid.
Before 1939, U.S. naval armaments totalled 1,000,000 tons as compared with [Britain’s 1,200,000. By the end of the war the U.S. Navy totalled 3,800,000 tons as compared with the British 1,500,000.
Before 1939 the U.S. merchant marine totalled 15,000,000 tons as compared with the British 18,000,000. By the end of the war the U.S. tonnage was 48,000,000 compared with Britain’s 16,000,000.
In 1938 the U.S. share of world capitalist exports was 13.5 per cent, compared with Britain’s 10.3 per cent. By 1947, the U.S. share had risen to 32.6 per cent, while Britain’s remained at 10.3 per cent.
In 1948 British iron and steel exports reached roughly the 1938 level, whereas U. S. iron and steel exports doubled.
During this period the U.S. imperialists have striven by every means in their power to drive into the markets formerly dominated by Britain. Of especial significance is the American penetration of the British Empire.
Between 1939 and 1948 British exports to Canada rose (in value) less than three times, American four times; British exports to India four times, American seven; British exports to Malaya less than three times, American eight times.
U.S. exports to Latin America have increased five and a third times, and to Marshall countries two and a third times.
At the same time as its direct drive against Britain takes place, the U.S. builds up Western Germany and Japan under its control as anti-Soviet bases, and also as key sectors in the U.S. offensive against Britain in the fight for the world market.
Thus already West-German competition with British goods, based on German wages of about half the British level, is serious in respect of a number of countries; while Japanese competition, similarly based on extreme exploitation of the Japanese working class, menaces especially the Lancashire textile industry.
The recent talks in Washington did not contribute in any way to restoring Britain’s national independence, but will have still more serious results for the British people than the acceptance of the Marshall Plan in 1947.
As we have already pointed out, devaluation means lower standards of living for the British people, and this is already proved by the increase in the price of bread. It will not be long before other, price increases take place, since a high proportion of our cotton and tobacco supplies, as well as our wheat supplies, comes from the dollar areas, and sterling import prices will also rise. Thus prices of household goods, meat, building materials, tinned food and tobacco will all be affected by devaluation. It is estimated that the total rise in the cost of living will be about 10 per cent.
In other words, devaluation is a method of reducing real wages and this is the reason why the British Tories and employers, as well as the Americans, carried on their campaign for it and welcomed the Government’s surrender to them.
Devaluation cannot solve the problem of exports, since other countries which are competing with Britain in the U.S. and other markets have also devalued their currencies, and therefore their goods, like ours, will cost less in dollars. As far as the U.S. market itself is concerned, Britain will have to sell far more goods to earn the same amount in dollars, and it is fantastic to imagine that, in the conditions of developing slump, the Americans will take anything approaching the 300 per cent increase in British exports necessary to eliminate the dollar gap.
On the contrary, devaluation is part of the U.S. offensive against sterling, designed to enable the Wall Street millionaires to improve their position in relation to other countries. So far from preventing mass unemployment, which was the theme which Cripps and the Daily Herald have been playing on to conceal the real nature of their policy, the reduction in the purchasing power of the British people following on devaluation will hasten the development of unemployment and intensify the effects of the slump.
The other decisions arising from the Washington talks are all equally clearly designed to assist the U.S. in its offensive against Britain.
The decision to increase the flow of public and private American investment to Britain and the Empire represents the complete sell-out of our national independence to the American imperialists.
Together with devaluation, it will assist them in their aim of buying up the factories, industries and raw materials producing enterprises in this country, the dominions and the colonies. It will assist them in their aim of achieving the terms on which Snyder declared such investment to be conditional, namely, “reasonable business terms”, “the right of convertibility of investment income into dollars”, and “satisfactory compensation if United States property were to be nationalised”. It will mean that to the exploitation of the British and colonial workers by the British capitalists will be added exploitation by the American capitalists also.
The outcome of the Washington talks, as far as the British people are concerned, will be the greatest offensive against their living standards which has ever been seen in its history, and the danger of the total loss of their national independence. The cuts in housing and education, the charge for prescriptions and the increase in food prices which will result from Attlee’s programme of cuts announced in October are only the forerunner of the still greater attack which is being prepared. Only a few days after Attlee’s statement the Marshall Aid Administrator, Hoffman, called on the European countries to take budgetary action, “unpleasant though it might be”, to prevent “fresh inflation”.
The common hostility of the U.S.A. and Britain to the Soviet Union, New China, and the New Democracies has now resulted in a position where Britain is more and more acting as the junior partner of the U.S.A., even at the cost of having to sacrifice some of its own imperialist interests.
Although the Anglo-American antagonism is still very real, as witnessed, for example, by their rivalries in Latin-American and China, Britain is in a weaker position to defend its imperialist interests, and therefore in the end Britain always capitulates to the demands of the U.S.A.
No resistance to American imperialism is possible on the basis of anti-Soviet hatred, of anti-Communism, of continued domination and slavery of the colonial peoples. Neither the weakened British capitalist class nor any section of it can or will consistently resist the far stronger American imperialism.
It must be clear from the foregoing analysis that there is only one way to solve the present crisis and the developing slump—to abolish capitalism and the exploitation of man by man, and proceed to the building of a Socialist society.
But a Marxist Party, aiming to give concrete political leadership to the working class, cannot confine itself only to explaining the necessity of the conquest of power by the working class—it must advance a programme of immediate demands around which the masses can be won for struggle now, and in the course of that struggle learn both from their own experience and our explanations of the further stage in the fight which is necessary.
The working class and its allies can and must be won in the immediate future for the most energetic fight against the slump and against the capitalists’ attempts to place the burdens of the slump on their shoulders, and instead they must fight to place the burdens on the shoulders of those who are responsible for the present position—the capitalists and their hangers-on.
What are the main features of our, policy?
1. To raise wages and extend social services, and so increase the purchasing power of the workers.
It would be fatal to the present and future interests of the workers and the trade union movement if they succumbed to the propaganda of the capitalists and the right-wing Labour trade union leaders that “the crisis demands wage freezing” and “cuts in real wages are essential to lower production costs”.
To make concessions to the employers in a period of capitalist slump means to involve the workers of Britain in a starvation contest between all the workers in the capitalist world, for the capitalists in every land are making the same efforts to reduce nominal and real wages, and this can only result in reducing the purchasing power of their own home markets and thus intensifying the crisis it is supposed to solve.
Such a policy not only means immediate increased hardships for the workers—it rapidly intensifies the slump and hastens the development of mass unemployment on a gigantic scale.
Therefore the workers of Britain, as in all capitalist countries, must fight harder than ever for higher wages and increased social services, as part of the fight against the slump.
This involves also a fight against the enormous profits and high prices of the employers, and the increase of taxation on the rich.
It means the strengthening of international contacts between the workers of the various countries, especially through the strengthening of the World Federation of Trade Unions.
2. To develop our trade with the Soviet Union, the People’s Democracies and the New China.
I have already dealt with the tremendous economic and political advances which these countries are making. What an enormous contribution it would be to alleviating Britain’s “balance of payments” problem if trade with them was enormously increased, as it could be tomorrow if the Government and the Tories did not deliberately refuse to embark on this alternative trading policy.
These countries need the very manufactured goods Britain can supply, and can provide in exchange the food and raw materials we need; whereas the U.S.A. can well do without British goods and at present is only prepared to supply us with goods we need on the basis of economic, political and military domination over us.
There can be no future for Britain and its working class unless we trade to the fullest extent with the non-capitalist sector of the world, where the living standards of hundreds of millions of people are going to rise rapidly in the coming period and where consequently the market is going to expand enormously while the capitalist world market continues to shrink.
And we must add that if this alternative trading policy we advocate was embarked upon, it would put Britain in a very strong position to trade with the U.S.A. on equal business terms and without any strings attached, for Britain is not the only country with a trading problem—the U.S. millionaires have also a gigantic problem—that of finding markets for their goods. Once the present policy of subservience to them is ended, that gives Britain very strong cards to play, in order to secure from them, on terms which do not prejudice our national independence, the goods they want to sell and which we need.
3. To end the present criminal and wasteful military expenditure, and contribute in this way also to solving the balance of payments problem and raising the standards of the people.
The so-called “cut” in the military expenditure announced by Attlee is complete make-believe. Military expenditure next year is far more likely to increase above the present level than decrease.
In the last four years £811,000,000 of exports have been wasted in payment for overseas military expenditure—used to oppress the colonial people and carry through the “cold war” against the Soviet Union.
The £800,000,000 spent this year on war preparations is more than the Government spent on the national health service, housing, national insurance and Government grants to local authorities all combined.
4. To take over, in a new form of nationalisation, those essential industries whose directors are likely to panic and intensify the crisis. The chief of these are the SHIPPING industry, whose leaders are already gravely disturbed at the future prospects and who may easily cancel most existing orders with the shipbuilding industry as they did in 1921; the DOCKS; the SHIPBUILDING industry; STEEL; the ENGINEERING industry (key to the fight for beneficial long-term trading agreements); and the BUILDING industry, decisive in the house-building and capital reconstruction programme we advocate. It is also necessary to nationalise the LAND to weaken the power of the Tory landed gentry and enable the utilisation of capital on a scale that would facilitate the maximum food production from the land.
Such measures and the fight for them, and not appeasement of the big monopolies, are the way forward for the working class in the period of deepening crisis.
The fight against the slump, resistance to Wall Street domination, defence of the independence of Britain, can only be carried out under the leadership of the British working class in co-operation with the liberation movements of the colonial peoples fighting for independence, and as part of the great camp of peace led by the U.S.S.R.
WHEN IN MAY last, agreement was reached between the Western Powers and the Soviet Union to end the Berlin conflict, there was a slight easing of the international tension, and the Paris meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers was a further step in this direction.
The background of the temporary check in the war drive of the Western Powers was threefold. First, the growing strength of the Soviet Union and the People’s Democracies, both in the economic field and in the exposure of a number of plots organised by the Western Powers in the People’s Democracies, and also the victories of the Chinese People’s Armies, bringing defeat and discredit to America’s whole policy in China. Second, the growth of the peace movement within the capitalist countries, including the United States itself. And finally, the clear signs of capitalist crisis developing in the United States and in Western Europe, with growing resistance by the workers to the Marshall Plan and the war policy being pursued by the Governments.
At the head of the world peace forces stands the Socialist Soviet Union, which, because it is a Socialist country without, landlords or capitalists, is only concerned with the preservation of peace, in order to advance as rapidly as possible to Communism. The peace policy of the Soviet Union is supported by the New Democracies, the People’s Republic of China, the German Democratic Republic, and millions of people all over the world. They all represent a mighty and invincible force for peace.
The Soviet Union alone has remained faithful to the Potsdam Agreement, and in the Eastern Zone of Germany put its principles into operation. The Soviet Union alone has made its constructive proposals for the maintenance of peace through the United Nations Organisation.
It has fought consistently for the prohibition of the atom bomb, for the reduction of armaments, and for co-operation between the Great Powers in the United Nations Organisation in the interests of peace and the welfare of the peoples. But the Western Powers, and especially the Governments of Britain and the United States have consistently rejected the prohibition of the atom bomb and the proposals for reduced armaments, and have used their capitalist majority in the United Nations Organisation to try to make that organisation unworkable.
President Truman and Prime Minister Attlee undoubtedly thought they did a wonderful thing when, as the General Assembly of the United Nations had just commenced its sessions, they released their scare story about the Soviet Union having exploded an atom bomb, but its repercussions have been quite different from what they expected.
The Soviet Union long ago proved its superiority over capitalism in every field of production, and by its abolition of poverty and unemployment, and its astounding record of scientific achievement, showed that it was inevitable that it would also soon overtake the capitalist world in the field of atomic energy development, particularly in its application for lightening human toil and increasing productivity.
This represents a tremendous gain for the peace-loving forces of the world, because it is now clear that the American gangsters and their stooges had depended on their temporary exclusive possession of the atom bomb to terrorise the world into accepting the writ of Wall Street.
At the recent General Assembly of the United Nations, Vyshinsky again advanced the only concrete proposals for keeping the peace of the world:
1. Condemnation by the General Assembly of the preparations for a new war.
2. Unconditional prohibition of atomic weapons and the establishment of adequate strict international control.
3. The U.S.A., Great Britain, China, France and the Soviet Union to unite their efforts to preserve peace and conclude a pact for the strengthening of peace.
These proposals were rejected by the Western Powers. It is of vital importance to explain their significance to all peace-loving people.
There can be no doubt that the imperialists are planning an aggressive war—a war to be directed against the Socialist Soviet Union, the People’s Democracies and Democratic China. As an example, take Montgomery’s speech at the Hague on July 15, 1949, when he said:
“The enemy is Communism. It is my view that the nations of the West are at war with Communism.”
The persistent efforts by the Western Powers to foment counter-revolution in the People’s Democracies have reached their climax in Hungary, as revealed in the course of the Rajk Trial, in which we see also the full treachery of the Tito clique in Yugoslavia.
From the facts brought out in the trial we are better able to understand the whole course of events in Yugoslavia. There was a time when Trotskyism was regarded as a trend within the working-class movement; in its later stages it became an open tool of fascism and reaction in every country. It was only in the course of the Moscow Trials that the leading Trotskyites were revealed as having been the agents of foreign imperialism for many years. So also with the Tito clique in Yugoslavia.
Now, after the Rajk Trial, we know that some of the leading figures around Tito were themselves trained among the Trotskyites, and have for many years been agents of British and American imperialism. In fact, Titoism represents the revival of Trotskyism in new and more dangerous forms. In view of this, it is not difficult to understand why they have led Yugoslavia out of the camp of democracy and peace, out of the camp of Socialism, and are doing their utmost to serve the provocative and warlike aims of the American paymasters.
Tito’s deliberate suppression of the Communist Party is another of the main reasons why his policy has been made possible.
It is clear that the financial and material aid now being given by British and American imperialism to Tito is directly connected with his linking up with fascist Greece against the Greek Democratic forces, and in a joint campaign against Albania. Knowing the origin of the Tito clique and the imperialist war plans, we must regard the situation in South-East Europe as extremely serious. At any moment, provocative actions may be launched against Albania; the plots that have miscarried in Hungary will undoubtedly be attempted in other countries, and it is of the greatest importance that the Party should explain to the Labour movement the actual character of the Tito regime and the danger to peace arising from it.
Neither can there be any doubt that the central organisation of the imperialists for aggressive war is the Atlantic Pact. Signed on April 4 last, it has now been ratified by all the signatory States. In the summer, the American Chiefs of Staff visited Europe to inspect the forces grouped under the Pact, and General Bradley announced that the United States would do the strategic bombing with the atom bomb, but “the hard core of ground power would come from Europe”. In September the Atlantic Pact Council met in Washington and a Defence Council is being set up, under direct American control. At the same time by its trading policy, diplomatic and other manuvres, the British Government is doing all it can to bring the Fascist Government of General Franco officially into the Western War Bloc.
The recent conference in London of all America’s ambassadors from the countries of People’s Democracy was not only an insult to the British people, but a warning of the need to keep up the fight for peace.
While the Atlantic Pact represents the highest organisation of the imperialists for aggressive war against the Soviet Union, the Marshall Plan is the tie-up to America of the capitalist States of Europe in a single economic system dominated by America, with the building up of Western Germany as an industrial and military base for such a war. The victory of the reactionary parties in the West German elections, the revival of fascist organisations and press in Western Germany, are welcomed by the instigators of war.
In the Far East, American imperialism is building up Japan for the same purpose and in the same way, as well as maintaining puppet governments in South Korea and the Philippines, and Chiang Kai-shek in Formosa. It has threatened the New China with disruption, and is fomenting counter-revolution wherever it can find agents in China. Under cover of warning the People’s Armies that any advance beyond the frontiers of China will be met by force, American imperialism is encouraging war preparations in Tibet, which is an old province of China. At the same time, the British Government has heavily reinforced Hong Kong, and may at any moment launch provocative action.
These facts call for the most determined mobilisation of the peace forces in every country. Particularly in Britain, where, as we have seen, the Labour Government’s war policy is closely linked with its subjugation to America, it is important to explain to the working class the hypocrisy of the Labour leaders’ denial of warlike intentions, and the close link that exists between their war policy and the economic difficulties of Britain. Not only are these difficulties largely due to the overseas military expenditure in Palestine and the Middle East, in Greece and Malaya; the expenditure of £800 million a year on the armed forces is due to be increased under the Atlantic Pact; and above all, the Labour Government’s subservience to America’s war plans involves also the cutting off of Britain from the large-scale trade with the Soviet Union and the People’s Democracies and China, which could go far towards fighting the slump.
Therefore the fight for peace, against the war preparations and subservience to America, is also the fight against the economic crisis, and must be linked with it in all our campaigns.
Moreover, it is the fight for Socialism, because a Third World War would inevitably set back the great advance to Socialism and Communism that is now taking place, and because the fight for peace is also the fight against the power of the imperialists and their subjection of the peoples.
Our policy to defeat the imperialist war plans and make peace secure is set out in our Election Programme. Its essence is the working-class fight to end dependence on imperialist America and to build an unbreakable link of friendship and trade with the Socialist world, the camp of peace.
We have to fight against the mounting military expenditure and the corresponding cutting down of social expenditure for the welfare of the working people. We have to fight against the propaganda for war, the so-called “cold” war, whose aim is to divide the British workers from the workers of the Socialist countries and make an imperialist attack on the Soviet Union possible.
There can be no doubt that the peoples do not want war and that throughout the world, including the United States of America, great peace forces exist which, provided they are united and determined, can utterly rout the warmongers and prevent the outbreak of a Third World War.
It is our task to ensure that in Britain, the country which plays a key role under the present Labour Government in the imperialist preparations for war, we conduct the fight for peace in such a way that we can rally and unite the peace forces, and especially the Labour movement, for a determined struggle against the war policy and those responsible for it.
We are confident that the British working class, true to its great international traditions of working-class solidarity, will never be a party to a war against the Socialist Soviet Union, the new People’s Democracies and China now building Socialism, and this Congress will take a solemn pledge to do all in its power to prevent such a war.
Our Party has to show the greatest initiative in developing every form of propaganda, struggle and organisation that, can help to strengthen the mobilisation of the people for peace. We must ceaselessly expose the war preparations that are being made, showing their aggressive character, their effects on the economic situation and on the well-being of the working class. We must ceaselessly expose the lies and provocations associated with the “cold war,” explain the Soviet proposals for reducing armaments and the prohibition of the atom bomb, and show that the Atlantic Pact is a pact of war which means the destruction of the United Nations Organisation on which so many had set their hopes of peace.
But propaganda alone is not enough. We must do our utmost to bring the supporters of peace into action.
We must mobilise the workers for active protests against. every new step in tying Britain to America, such as the visits of American Generals, the use of British airfields by American units, the signing of new Quisling agreements. At the same time, all sections of the Labour movement in particular should keep the closest contact with the rank and file of the armed forces, see to their welfare, take up their grievances, and look after their immediate interests in the same way as was done during the Second World War.
The peace forces extend far beyond the ranks of our Party and of those directly influenced by us. Our work must be conducted in such a way that we draw these wide forces into the struggle, especially the organised working-class movement and the co-operators, and especially the women, who are the traditional fighters against war and war preparations. Whatever the forms of local unity built by the movement in the fight for peace, it is essential that our Party should help to strengthen them and their activity. But we must never forget that the Party must itself be foremost in the fight, that the wide development of the campaign depends in the first place on. our initiative and organised work.
All the forces of dying imperialism are preparing for war. Day and night the warmongers are at work. But a Third World War is not inevitable. If they are organised, the forces of peace, immensely stronger than the forces of war, can defeat the warmongers.
And in the struggle for peace a very heavy responsibility lies with the British working class. It has the power to prevent war, but it must be made to realise that this demands a ceaseless fight against the policy of the Labour Government.
In the war plans of Anglo-American imperialism a key place is given to Britain to the war bases in the British Isles and Empire, to the cannon fodder of the British Servicemen, to the British factories turning out implements of war.
How could the Wall Street warmongers plan for war if they could not count on Britain?
How great and urgent therefore is the duty of the British working class, and, in the first place of our Party, to fulfil its responsibility to the international working class movement—to strengthen the fight for peace—and to remove Britain from the camp of war!
THE AIM of our Congress is to mobilise and prepare for the General Election and at the same time to mobilise and prepare for the fight in every field on the basis of our policy.
As our programme declares:
“The Communist Party’s electoral programme is no mere programme of election promises. It is a programme of action before the election, in the election and after the election. Only through active struggle against the capitalist class can the working class rally its strength for the final defeat of Toryism and advance to a Socialist Britain freed from exploitation, slump and war.”
The Labour Party leaders, and especially its chief demagogue Aneurin Bevan, are now making great play with the black record of the Tory Party in the pre-war years when it was in power. It is right always to remind the working class that the Tories are their bitterest enemies, but it is a shameful thing for the Labour leaders to refer now to the great mass struggles against Tory policy in the pre-war years as if they had initiated and organised them.
It was our Party—the Communist Party—which led the real fight against the Tories. It was our Party which launched the slogan “Stop The Retreat” while the General Council was giving way all along the line to wage cuts. It was we who organised the great Hunger Marches when the Trades Union Congress was refusing to receive delegations from the Hunger Marchers, and the Labour Party leaders were denouncing them as stunts, intended only to deceive the unemployed. It was our Party which fought against the Means Test when the Labour leaders were giving it their support, and fully operating it in localities where they were in control.
It was our Party which organised the resistance against the Mosley fascists, while the Morrisons were telling the workers to “keep off the streets”. It was our Party which organised the British Battalion of the International Brigade to fight fascism in Spain, and it was Attlee who afterwards went out to Spain to give his name to a British Battalion, but never lifted a finger to help it, because he and his Party supported the infamous policy of non-intervention in Spain.
It was the Communist Party which alone fought against the Munich betrayal when the Labour leaders in Parliament were crying “God Speed” to Chamberlain. It was our own Comrade Gallacher who hurled his challenge to Tories, Labour and I.L.P. alike at the time of this most shameful episode in the history of the Labour Party.
And just as we fought the Tory policy in the pre-war years, so will we fight it again as long as an ounce of strength remains in our bodies—not forgetting that today this involves the strongest possible opposition also to the Right-Wing Labour leaders who carry out Tory policy. This is why we are putting forward in the coming General Election the maximum number of Communist candidates that the excessive and anti-democratic Nomination Fee of £150 allows.
Our policy alone expresses the needs and interests of the great mass of the people. Our participation in the Election can draw millions in the factories and streets into the struggle for higher wages, for homes, for peace and independence. Our participation in the Election will strengthen the class fight of the workers against Tory and Right-Wing Labour reaction.
To those who are being confused by the dishonest attempts of rightwing leaders to play on the old “split vote” argument, we say: look to past history for the answer. Year in year out, we Communists have fought for unity of the Labour movement. We have done, and will continue to do, everything in our power to weld the working class into a mighty force capable of challenging the capitalist system.
But who has barred the road to unity? The Ramsay MacDonalds, Morrisons and Bevins of the movement. The only kind of unity they support is with the Tories against the workers and Communists, the result of which is to weaken, divide and disarm the working class.
We know that the final decision for the future of Britain will be taken, not in the debates of the Parliamentary arena, but in the field of the class struggle. Representation of the people in Parliament is only of value to them in so far as it directly reflects and expresses the interests of their struggle against the capitalist class.
But a really effective representation of the working class is vitally important in a country with the parliamentary tradition of Britain. We need only consider the enormous value of the fight made in Parliament by Comrades Gallacher and Piratin to recognise the importance of electing more Communist M.P.s.
The coming General Election will provide us with an invaluable opportunity for presenting our programme in opposition to Toryism and official Labour. We shall be able to arouse the class feelings of the masses and mobilise their support on a scale exceeding anything that is possible in normal times.
We know that in Britain General Elections have been tactically used for the purpose of deceiving the people.
The coming Election will be no exception. Once again a policy of deception is being prepared. Toryism seeks to denounce the Labour Government for the economic crisis and offers its vague and hypocritical programme in order to conceal its real intention of launching the most ruthless offensive against the standards of the people. Official Labour points to the evil Tory record in the thirties, and calls for the support of the workers to defeat reaction. But in reality, both parties are allied in preparing an American programme for Britain with capitulation to Wall Street—the big business programme with its cuts in social services, wage-freeze, lower real wages and devaluation, the Anglo-American imperialist programme of rearmament and war.
The Communist Party is alone in putting forward an alternative policy in the interests of the overwhelming majority of the British people.
For this reason our fight is the decisive one in the coming election.
The key issue of the election can be stated in the following terms in 1945 the British people rejected Toryism, but the Labour Government, like the two previous Labour Governments, betrayed their trust by carrying out a Tory policy and surrendering to the U.S.A.
The best way to struggle against the capitalist policy of the Labour leaders, and ensure that there is no Tory victory at the General Election, is to carry through the strongest possible fight for the policy and candidates of the Communist Party and to win mass support and votes for them.
These considerations determine our approach to election tactics, our decision to put 100 candidates in the field and our call on all the organisations of the Labour movement to replace Right-Wing Labour candidates by militant candidates who will represent the true interests of the working class.
We must bear in mind the peculiar and undemocratic character of the electoral system in this country, which is devised to perpetuate the two-party system and prevent a true expression of the political views of the electors. When contrasts are drawn between the number of Communists in Parliament in other countries and in Britain, it is often forgotten that elections in other countries are based on proportional representation by which system electors vote for the Party of their choice, confident that they will be assured of representation according to the strength of their vote.
The British electoral system heavily weights the odds against our Party in such a way as to rule out any correct measure of the volume of Communist support in the country. For example, the excessive fee of £150 which has to be deposited before a candidate can stand prevents the Communist Party from putting forward its maximum number of candidates; and the fact that it would be possible for Communism to win the support of 30 per cent or more of the electorate and yet fail to win a single seat in Parliament if this support were evenly spread over the single-member constituencies.
It is this system that prevents us from presenting our candidates and programme to the whole electorate and deprives the majority of our supporters of the opportunity to vote according to their political convictions. And it is due to this system that the special tactical questions of these constituencies which we do not contest have arisen.
In these conditions our line is clear.
Thus we regard as the spearhead of the election the campaign around our 100 Communist candidates. We must draw into the contest the full strength of the Party—all our members and supporters who can possibly reach the localities in which we are fighting. The measure of the support won by our candidates will represent the most important side of the political outcome of the election.
We will support the Labour Independent Group as we will support any militant candidate who opposes the policies of Toryism and Right-Wing Labour.
The carrying out of our independent campaign is also a vital part of our electoral policy. We do not see the campaign, like the Labour leaders do, just as a fight for seats in Parliament. We want more Communist M.P.s, but we want, in the course of the campaign, to strengthen in all constituencies the militant, working-class movement around the Communist Party.
In the last analysis the future of Britain, the salvation of the British people from disaster, depends not on the choice of a Tory or a Right-Wing Labour Government but on the development throughout the country of a fighting working-class movement that will ceaselessly defend the working class from the coming capitalist attack, and will advance to the establishment of a new Government which will include Communists and carry out a genuine working-class policy such as we have outlined.
It is in the light of this independent campaign and fight of the Party that the question of voting Labour has to be seen. In constituencies where, when it comes to the Election, in spite of our efforts, there is no candidate pledged to fight for a genuine working-class policy, we have to face the problem of what to advise the workers.
Our advice to vote Labour as against Tory or Liberal where there is no Communist candidate or member of the Labour Independent Group is not based on any illusions as to the aim of another Right-Wing Labour Government, which would be to preserve capitalism. It is based on the necessity for the Party to lead the working-class opposition to the Tories, to strengthen co-operation between all sections of the workers in the fight against Toryism, and on this basis to help develop the Socialist outlook of the workers and convince them of the necessity of fighting also against the Tory policy of the Right-Wing Labour leaders and for our alternative policy.
Voting Labour where there is no Communist candidate gives the capitalist class an indication of the determination of the working class to struggle for better conditions and win concessions from the capitalists, even if the majority of the workers have not yet set themselves the conscious aim of winning power.
Some comrades argue that if we advise the workers to vote Labour this means damping down the exposure of Social Democracy. But on the contrary, if a strong independent Communist campaign is carried out for a real; Socialist policy, both in and after the election, then the exposure of the Right-Wing Labour leaders will be further carried forward, precisely by the continued practical demonstration of their role in office, and the most favourable conditions created for the workers to shed their Social Democratic illusions, and to take up the offensive against capitalism and its Tory and Right-Wing Labour spokesmen.
In our electoral campaigns it is vital that we give serious attention to winning the support and votes of the women and young people. Today the Tories are making exceptionally serious efforts to win women’s votes. Our policy, because it alone defends the living standards of working people, can make a special appeal to the women, who feel most severely both the problems and hardships involved in a rising cost of living and in the drive towards war.
It is estimated that at the coming General Election three million young people will be eligible to vote for the first time, and their votes might very well decide the final result. Again, our policy is the only one that gives youth any hope of improving their present conditions, and opens out for them the great future of Socialism, in which they will be able to take the leading role in the construction of the new life, with tremendous new possibilities in every sphere of activity.
We are fully aware of the arduousness of the tasks that lie ahead. We call upon the whole Party membership, on all our supporters among militant trade unionists, co-operators and the ranks of the Labour Party—on all those who are ready to fight for democracy and peace—to come forward and mobilise their forces for this supremely important electoral contest.
We are confident that the result of the campaign will be significant, not only in the vote recorded, but in the effect it will have on the growth of our political influence. The Communist Party will gain in strength as well as the whole working-class movement, so that it can face with added vigour the battle against reaction, the crisis and the capitalist offensive, and the task of leading the way to working class victory.
THE WHOLE policy of the Federation of British Industries, the Tory Party, the Labour Government and the General Council of the Trade Union Congress, must be relentlessly fought. And in this fight it is the wages issue and the right to strike that lie at the very centre of the struggle.
The effects of devaluation will be cumulative, and it is no use waiting “to see how things turn out”; it is essential to fight now.
Already 5,000,000 trade unionists are demanding wage increases. Every trade unionist should follow the lead they have given. This is the way to fight the employers’ offensive and the way to fight against unemployment. The whole working class must recognise the importance of the struggle of the 5,000,000, and rally behind their demands. They are the advance guard of the battle for higher wages, and if they are successful it will represent a decisive victory for the working people of Britain.
The Communist Party will give them, and any other section of the workers which goes into battle for wage increases, the fullest support in any action they may take to defend their conditions, including strike action.
It will be necessary to warn that all kinds of delays, evasions and trickery will be resorted to in order to damp down this struggle, and try to divide the workers. The experience of the railwaymen should be a lesson to all in driving home the point that it is only by fighting that the just demands of the workers can be won.
There needs to be a mass demand coming up from the factories and through the trade union organisations for the ending of the Arbitration Order 1305. It is now only a weapon in the hands of the employers’ organisations and the Government to prevent wage increases.
The compulsory arbitration system, unprecedented in peacetime, serves no purpose but to deny the workers in a period of full employment the advances they could have obtained by their own strength, with resulting delays, demoralisation and loss of members. It is a complete illusion to argue that this same compulsory arbitration system is going to prevent the employers cutting wages as the crisis develops. Arbitration Boards which can calmly say that a railwayman on a wage of 92/6d. a week is not below a standard of minimum human needs, who can “freeze” lowered real wages in one industry after another on the plea of “national interests”, will use the same argument tomorrow to justify wage cuts. Only the strength of the workers, only their determination to withdraw their labour if necessary, is a real barrier to the employers’ attacks. It is more than time to finish with these fetters on our movement.
There must also be a powerful fight against the criminal offensive to lengthen hours, now being launched by the employers and certain Government spokesmen. The five-day week was one of the real gains won by the workers in the post-war period, and was to be the prelude to the forty-hour week. It is vital that this attempt to take away this gain should be defeated.
The workers must also be on guard against the specious but deceptive propaganda now very current in Labour and Beaverbrook circles about a National Minimum Wage. The difference between the attitude of those who are now suggesting the introduction of a National Minimum Wage as the alternative to all-round wage increases, and the old agitation for a National Minimum Wage, is quite simple.
Formerly, it was to make the Minimum Wage the lever to secure the highest possible maximum wage. Today, the aim is to make a low minimum wage the level to which all higher rates should be reduced.
I have stressed many times that it is through mass struggle alone—united mass struggle of the organised and unorganised workers in every section of the Labour movement—that the workers can defeat the attacks of the capitalists, and the grip of Social Democracy can be broken.
It is necessary to repeat once again that there can be no illusions that this mass movement will arise spontaneously under the hammer blows of the crisis. Capitalist attacks tend to lead to demoralisation, splits and weakening of resistance unless we provide a strong alternative leadership.
We have encouraging evidence that the movement to defend their standards is already gathering force among the industrial workers—despite all the efforts of the Deakins, Lawthers and Tanners to damp it down. It is significant, for example, that the engineering and shipyard workers are pressing ahead with their claims for £1, a week, that the miners are demanding a substantial increase for the lower-paid, and the builders 6d. an hour. There have been important battles against standing-off of workers in many factories.
The struggle of the agricultural workers against the infamous tied cottage- system should not escape our attention. It is comparatively easy where large masses of industrial workers are in close contact with each other to fight the bosses; it is quite another thing, calling for great courage and initiative, to conduct such fights in scattered agricultural areas, such as we have seen in Manton Down, Wiltshire, Leicestershire, Staffordshire and Scotland. They showed the great potentialities that already exist in combining the struggle of the workers in town and countryside alike.
The dockers in London, Bristol and Liverpool have shown how the British workers can fight for trade union principles. They expressed not only splendid solidarity with their Canadian comrades, but by insisting on this trade union principle they have strengthened their own defences against future attacks by the employers and the Dock Labour Board. The docker knows that an injury to one is an injury to all.
But a far wider section of the workers need to have explained to them the lessons which can be learnt from the dock lock-outs—for instance, how easily the employers can play on any trend of disunity or sectarianism and isolate one area before taking on another.
This danger is shown even more strikingly by the experience of the railway workers: their just claims for increased wages to meet higher prices and for improved conditions could not have been flatly rejected, arbitration or no arbitration, if there had been unity among the various sections and unions, and if their actions had been united actions.
Let us now develop the united fight around the three great demands of the workers:
Wage advances now!
Save the Five Day Week!
Fight for Full Employment!
We have to develop not only class solidarity, but as we have seen in other connections, international solidarity, which is more necessary for British workers than any others when it comes to a question of living standards. With German miners’ wages less than half our own, with French miners working for £4 a week, with Japanese shipyard workers drawing 35s. a week, Britain is not going to come off very well if an international wage-cutting war starts. Our only course is to prevent it, and that is why the splitting of the World Federation of Trade Unions is such a crime.
The movement of support for the rest-centre squatters, the campaigns against rent increases and for day nurseries, for repair of schools and building new schools and classrooms—all those are examples of the mass movement which can bring many thousands of ordinary working people into action, parents and patients alongside teachers, nurses and building workers, for a reduction in military expenditure and a break with the war policy.
It is also important to bring women into activity. British working women have a great tradition in the class fight in this country, and today, when women have to face the full brunt of the hardships connected with high food prices, rotten housing conditions, bad educational facilities and long queues at hospitals, this is especially so.
It is increasingly important, too, for women to begin to take a more active part in support of the wages battle in industry and, the struggle on social questions, bound up as these are with the Government’s military expenditure. In industry the fight for equal pay and better wages for 7,000,000 women workers becomes more urgent as the crisis develops. More and more women are forced out to work by sheer economic necessity, and their low wages represent a serious danger to the whole working class.
In all these actions a leading part must be played by our own women’s groups of the Communist Party, which have already shown ability to lead the mass movement and whose extension we should encourage. The scope and development of the mass movement among women will depend on the degree of attention and care given by the whole Party to this important aspect of our work and to the development of comrades to lead it.
If we can greatly increase the circulation of Woman Today we would find it an invaluable weapon.
A word about youth and youth movements. The decay of Britain’s basic industries and the distortion of our economy means that large sections of young workers are unable to learn a trade and are forced instead into the swollen distributive trades, a term which covers a multitude of blind alley, unskilled jobs connected with a parasite economy.
British imperialism today can offer no future to youth except that of providing the cannon fodder for colonial wars and the ground forces for Wall Street’s plans for a Third World War.
These are the reasons why there is a constant ferment among the young generation, and why young workers, thrust into struggle for their rights and their future, come up against capitalism itself, which stands in the way of all they want from life.
But in times of crisis, youth can be won by the demagogy and ideology of reaction, as well as by the working class. That was the case in Germany in the nineteen-thirties, and that is why Tory reaction pays so much attention to building a youth movement in Britain today.
The attempt of the Right-Wing Labour leaders to deny elementary democratic rights to the young Socialists in the Labour League of Youth, stifling their initiative and preventing the growth of a strong and militant Labour Youth movement, has played right into the hands of the Tories.
What we must understand is that the neglect and indifference to young workers’ problems, traditional in the Labour movement, is today of great danger to the working class, and we must do all we can to end it.
We Communists need to do far more to help forward the organisation of young workers, to give them the scope and the training to lead others—and in how many trade union branches, Trades Councils and Co-operative organisations where our members are active is systematic attention and publicity being given to the problems facing youth? The issues of wages, trade training, working conditions, shortening service in the Armed Forces, are burning ones around which millions of young people can be drawn into the battle—and they will bring to the mass movement an enthusiasm, confidence and inspiration which only youth can give.
Our own Party must set the example in the continuous help and care we give to the development of the Young Communist League and to Challenge, and in particular to help our young comrades to come forward as the leaders in action of their generation.
Another field for building mass support for our policy is the Co-operative movement, with its tremendous opportunity to play an important role in the coming struggles, especially against the rise in prices. The campaign against the Purchase Tax and for increased food subsidies is already being taken up widely in the Co-operative movement, and can become a great force above all if ways and means are found to organise active support from the millions of co-operative members.
At the same time the Co-operatives, through their own trading organisations, can challenge monopoly prices and strengthen the resistance to further attacks on the standards of the people as consumers.
The fight for peace and friendship with the Soviet Union finds especially warm support among Co-operators, and every opportunity must be taken to give expression to this in united demonstrations and actions.
This unity in action of millions of workers, professional people, and progressive sections of the middle class, which can transform the whole political outlook in Britain, will never come by itself, or merely through reiterating in general terms the need for unity. It will only be achieved to the degree that we Communists go out, of our way to convince every section of the workers, men and women, young and old, Catholic and Protestant, Labour supporters and sectarians in our ranks, of the overwhelming need for united action, because unless we do get together, we shall be taken separately by capitalism and separately defeated.
The elementary trade union principles which our Party champions today represent a challenge to the whole policy of propping up British capitalism. That is why the anti-Communist drive is intensified in the Labour movement. All the power of the machine and the block vote is used to prevent the workers freely electing a fighting leadership. We have to face very seriously the fact that the Right-Wing, in the leadership of the Transport and General Workers’ Union, a union which Communists have done so much to build up, has been able to get a ban introduced on Communists holding office.
These bans and witch-hunts are a blow not only against the Communists, but the whole British working class. For in every country where it has operated, the attack on the Communists—the most courageous and clear-sighted leaders of the working class—has paved the way for successful attacks by the employers, and has weakened and divided the working class movement at a critical moment. It was so in Germany in 1933, in France in 1939. It is so today in America and Britain.
In December 1947, in the statement of the E.C. of our Party, in my report to the Twentieth Congress, and at the enlarged E.C. in February of this year, I referred to the need for a great struggle against reformism, against the Right-Wing Labour leaders.
But on this correct line some of our branches put a wrong interpretation. They turn their attacks, not only against reformism and the reformist leaders, but against the members of the Labour Party.
Let us make no mistake. The Crippses and Bevins and Attlees form a capitalist wing in the British Labour movement, but we cannot and must not confuse the rank and file members of the Labour Party with the Tories and their supporters. The more we attack reformism, the more the Labour workers come to understand the disloyalty of their Right Wing leaders to the Labour movement, the greater the need for, close contact, co-operation, unity in action with the members of the Labour Party, with the members of the Co-operative movement, and above all, inside the trade unions. It is not enough to destroy the illusions of the workers so far as the Right-Wing leaders are concerned, but through unity in struggle we must help the workers to a new Marxist theoretical approach, and forge with them a new militant working-class leadership.
Above all, the main thing we need to remember in our efforts to secure unity in action with members of the Labour Party, trade unions, and Cooperatives, is not what divides us but what unites us in the fight for the common interests of all working people.
At the same time it will also have to be recognised by those claiming to be “left” in their political outlook and desirous of bringing about a change in the policy of the Labour Party, trade unions and Co-operative movement, that it cannot be achieved unless they are prepared to work openly in common campaigns with the Communists.
The unity we work for is not something we want for ourselves, or to further any particular demands advanced by our Party. It can be built only in struggle for the demands of the workers, however trivial they may sometimes appear, in comparison with the great national issues that confront us. We have to remember that lessons which the workers can never learn by years of propaganda alone are rammed home unforgettably in days of action, which reveal so definitely who are the friends and who the enemies of the working class.
The way forward is not to plot discreetly behind closed doors, to keep dark the fact that you read the Daily Worker, and even try to put Morrison off the scent by a few well-chosen anti-Communist cracks. No, in order to change their policy you must stand up to our enemies and fight for unity; help to organise unity in action, and not be afraid to stake your personal position for this great working-class movement. In this way you will win the respect and confidence of your friends and workmates and carry conviction which the most skilful manuvres will never do.
If we are to defend the standards of life of the workers, and win all the things we have discussed at this Congress—if our country is not to become America’s war base against Socialism, then we must forge now the mass unity without which all our efforts are fruitless.
We Communists are ready to make our maximum contribution to this great end, and that means whatever we do or plan in our political fight, this question of building unity must be always in our minds.
OUR ANALYSIS of the present-day situation as a whole immediately gives rise to the question: Is there a fundamental solution to all these complex problems?
And, in face of the growing concern of the working class with regard to their future, it is the urgent duty of the Communist Party to answer that question and to expound the solution on every possible occasion.
It should be borne in mind that millions of British workers have lived through two world economic crises and two world wars. And now, as they face the gravest crisis in their history, bitter memories of the Liberal, Tory, National and Labour Governments that they have experienced must inevitably arouse intense interest in the policy that can offer a satisfactory road out of their grave difficulties.
In his opening speech at the recent Washington Conference, Mr. Snyder spoke of “matters most perplexing to us,” causing the American correspondent of the News Chronicle (8.9.49) to remark:
“This is indeed a meeting of perplexed men. Perhaps they are the nine most perplexed men in the world.”
It is not surprising that these gentlemen were, and still are, perplexed: they can never solve the contradictions of capitalism.
We cannot do better in this connection than recall the words of Stalin in 1930 to the Sixteenth Congress of the C.P.S.U.(B), which so clearly analyse the reasons for the development of crises:
“The basic cause of economic crises of over-production lies in the very system of capitalist economy. . . . In order to win in the game of competition and squeeze out more profits the capitalists are forced to develop technique, raise rationalisation, intensify the exploitation of the workers, and raise the productive capacity of their under-takings to the extreme limit. In order not to fall behind one another, all capitalists are obliged in one way or another to enter this path of furious development of productive capacities, but the home and foreign market, the purchasing power of the millions of workers and peasants, remain at a low level. Hence crises of overproduction. . . . If capitalism could adapt production, not to the acquisition of the maximum of profits, but to the systematic improvement of the material conditions of the mass of the people, if it could employ its profits not in perfecting methods of exploitation, not in exporting capital, but in systematic improvement of the material conditions of the workers and peasants, then there would be no crises. But then, also, capitalism would not be capitalism. In order to abolish crises, capitalism must be abolished.”
We have seen enough in our description of how the present crisis has grown up, and the futile attempts to extricate itself carried out by world imperialism, to recognise the profound truth of these words. They can experiment with their tariff adjustments, their free trade, multilateral trade, convertible currencies, “New Deals”, mixed economies, colonial investments, and Keynesian panaceas to their hearts’ content, but their economic problems continue not only to exist, but seriously to deepen.
Social Democracy is equally powerless to solve the problems which arise from the capitalist system. If it could, it would have done so long ago in such countries as Australia, New Zealand and Sweden, where it has held power for so many years.
Every point in the plan that either the capitalist or Social Democratic parties put forward always, as we have shown, has its roots in a capitalist solution of the crisis at the expense of working-class conditions.
Their proposals may vary in the matter of a word or a form, but fundamentally the results have always been, and must always be, the same, so long as the exploitation of man by man, production for profit, and the struggle for markets remain.
It is fashionable in Labour circles, with full encouragement from the capitalists, to deride Marxism on the grounds that it is “one hundred years behind the times”, but does not the quotation which I have just read suggest that the more acute the problems and contradictions of capitalism become, the more correct its analysis proves to be?
Yes, comrades, it must be clear from our remarks that the only way to solve the present crisis and the developing slump is to abolish capitalism and all that it involves and proceed to the building of a Socialist society. This alone can end the possibility of slumps and wars and all their disastrous consequences.
The crisis of British imperialism will inevitably deepen with every day that passes. The contradiction between the growth in the productive capacity and the consumption of the working people will sharpen. There will be still fiercer attacks on the workers and on the rights they have won by years of struggle. The bankruptcy of the imperialists will be more and more sharply revealed. Every development will drive home the need for the revolutionary way out of the crisis.
In this fight the working class can be conscious of the support of 90 per cent of the people in opposition to 10 per cent of the millionaires and their hangers-on.
For the first time in British history, when the working class takes power the democratic will of the people will prevail against wealth and privilege—and that is called the dictatorship of the proletariat.
For generations the British workers have been frightened by reformist propaganda and the bogey that, though social revolution may be necessary in other capitalist countries, Britain as an island is particularly vulnerable to starvation at the hands of stronger capitalist powers.
I have already touched upon this point and how the entirely new situation at the present time guarantees us many allies ready to come to our assistance. Let us go a little further into the matter. Once workers’ power is established there is an entirely new solution to this problem.
Our policy in regard to the colonial peoples is well known. The winning of workers’ power in Britain would be followed immediately by the withdrawal of British armed forces and the apparatus of the Colonial State, so that the peoples of the colonial countries could take complete control of their destiny. The exploitation of the colonial peoples by the imperialist monopolies would be ended, and all the resources of the country handed back to their rightful owners. On this basis of political and economic emancipation, the British workers’ State would give the colonial peoples all the assistance they required in developing the resources of their countries for their own benefit. On this foundation, there is not the slightest doubt that the colonial peoples would desire to maintain friendly political and trading relations with the British workers’ State, and the rapid growth of their economic prosperity in such conditions would be the guarantee of increasing supplies of their produce in exchange for the products of British industry, which in turn would build up their economic strength.
Again, once workers’ power was established in Britain, the Soviet Union, the countries of People’s Democracy, the new China, and every country where the workers rule, would readily provide foodstuffs and raw materials—such as wheat, maize, meat; oil, rubber, tin, tea, cocoa, timber, cotton, etc.—in return for manufactured goods. They would also desire to join in new political and economic relations with a country such as Britain would become, and enemy attempts at subjugation by means of cutting off supplies would fall to the ground.
In this connection the statement of the Soviet representative A. A. Arutyunyan to the U.N. Economic and Social Council on July 26, 1949, is of very great significance:
“If the Soviet Union, having only just healed the wounds inflicted on its economy by the war, is already in a position to render economic aid to a number of countries, it will, as a result of the growth of production in the future, be in a position to extend this aid to an ever wider extent. I must assure the Council that the development of industry in the U.S.S.R. has reached a level at which it is able to produce any of the most complex machines and give the necessary technical aid in the construction of any factory and the production of the most complex and up-to-date equipment.”
One has only to remember the effect of industrialisation and agricultural re-organisation on such other great nations as China, Poland, Hungary, Rumania and Bulgaria—the achievements in connection with coal, heavy engineering, rail, road and sea transport, power plants and generating stations—to understand that there will be no limit to the productive potentialities of the British working people.
Beyond the supply of raw materials and foodstuffs, there could be a mutual exchange of technical experts, scientists, industrial and agricultural organisers, so that varied and valuable experience and knowledge could be pooled. Thus the economies of many nations would be integrated, and a world-wide, plan for Socialist and Communist production and construction established.
This new atmosphere of peaceful endeavour would permit an enormous reduction in armaments and military expenditure. The manpower and raw materials thus released would greatly assist the new Britain to increase her productive capacity.
At the same time the effect of far higher standards of life would encourage an ever-expanding productivity and use of the country’s resources.
The vision of these inevitable consequences of a Socialist Britain should spur us on with renewed enthusiasm to reveal to the broad masses of the British people the way out of the crisis of capitalism and the boundless superiority of Socialism.
There are only two roads for the British working class—the capitalist road, which, in the conditions of our time, can lead only to starvation, mass unemployment and war; and the road of the proletarian revolution, which points the way to plenty, prosperity and lasting peace.
For the revolutionary way out of the crises of capitalism we must win the support of every adult man and woman who desires to see the anxieties, frustrations and fears of war caused by capitalism removed for ever; to win the support of all young people who have such an important part to play in constructing a new form of society in which their future is assured.
Equally is it necessary to win for oust policy and our programme the women in the factories, in the streets and in the homes, and involve them in the mass fight.
In the factories they are used as cheap labour; in the homes they are unpaid labour constantly battling against poverty and rotten housing conditions, and worrying how to make both ends meet. Thus capitalism throws the whole responsibility for the family mainly on women; capitalism means for women a double exploitation. No Tory policy with its Housewives’ League, trying to exploit the grievances of women; no Labour programme promising a few things to the women provided they accept the conditions of capitalism, can radically change their lives.
Women can win a really full life only under Socialism.
Socialism means not just equal pay for equal work, a few more nurseries and kindergartens—it provides a chance and the right for every woman to enjoy a full life as a mother, as a worker, as a citizen. Only Socialism really safeguards the family because it abolishes every form of exploitation.
The Communist Party does not claim that its immediate policy represents a fundamental solution to all the problems which arise out of the present situation. That is only possible by the defeat of capitalism and the establishment of Socialism. But we do claim that its adoption would prevent the crisis from being solved at the expense of the worker, his wages, his job, his health, his food and the general poverty and anxiety of his family.
We do claim that our immediate policy could prevent Britain being dragged into America’s slump, contribute to solving the balance of payments problem, and guarantee employment for hundreds of thousands of workers who would be otherwise unemployed.
We put forward a programme of struggle, based on the demands that the workers themselves are raising. In developing mass struggles along these lines we can make drastic inroads into capitalism, weaken the capitalist system; we can increase the boldness, self-confidence, class-consciousness, militancy and fighting unity of the working class; we can, if we work correctly, strengthen the leading role of the Communist Party.
If, as these struggles develop, we constantly and consistently carry out our Marxist explanations of the nature of capitalism and the need for the workers themselves to seize power, we can lead them forward from these immediate struggles against the various aspects of the capitalist system to the struggle for the overthrow of capitalism and for the seizure of power by the working class.
Therefore let us strain every muscle to develop now the mass, fighting, united movement for living standards and against the slump; for peace and the independence of Britain; let us win the confidence of the workers by our bold and leading role in these struggles; let us never cease our Marxist explanation of fundamentals and our building of the Communist Party in the course of developing struggles; and then we will be able to pass, and pass_ quickly, from the fight on immediate issues to the fight for working-class power.
THE COMMUNIST PARTY is a revolutionary party, based on the teaching of Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Stalin. Its historic mission is to lead the workers to victory over capitalism, to destroy capitalism and replace it with the power of the working class.
Comrade Stalin, in describing the parties of the old Second International, clearly points this out when he says that these parties “are unfit for the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat, leading the workers to power, but election machines adapted for Parliamentary elections and Parliamentary struggles”.
He goes on further to say: “With such tasks to shoulder, if the proletariat remained under the leadership of the old parties it would be completely unarmed and defenceless.”
This is an absolutely, apposite description of the British Labour Party, despite its federal character and the fact that its main base is in the finance it raises from the affiliations of the trade unions. The fact is that it is the reactionary political leadership of the Labour Party that until now has imposed its policy and domination on the trade unions.
It is our responsibility in Britain to win the leadership of the workers on the basis of the programme and policy outlined in my report.
But to do this we require a Party with many times more members than our present 40,000—a Party firmly rooted in the factories, the trade unions, Co-operatives, and among the mass of working-class women, which is really leading the mass movement of the working class in defence of peace and the living standards of the people.
We must face the unpalatable truth that we are far short of such a position. Why is this?
In my report to the Extended Executive meeting in February I dealt with some of our principal mistakes, particularly since the end of the war, which undoubtedly affected the progress of our Party. I don’t want to repeat this again, but pose the question—have we done enough to learn from those mistakes? And I think the answer is “No”.
Criticism and self-criticism are only honest and sincere if we immediately endeavour to operate in future with the firm intention of not repeating these mistakes to which attention has been drawn. But how can this be done, when in reality we do so little sustained political explanation of our important discussions and conclusions to the whole of the Party membership?
The Extended Executive Committee Meeting in February was one of the most important of this character we have ever held; there had been the most extensive preparation for it, there had been a Political Letter issued in December 1948 as a guide to the discussions and issues which would be brought before that meeting, and yet it hag to be stated we singularly failed to get the maximum support from bur Party in carrying through what the Political Letter and the meeting itself set as the central task for the Communist Party.
Let me remind you of how this was formulated:
“The essence of the task facing the Party is to advance to the position of leading the working class, especially in mass action in defence of its conditions, and ending the domination of the workers’ movement by Social Democracy. Unless this is done there can be no fundamental advance of the British working class to fulfil its responsibilities in the present historical situation.”
The fact that we have not, as yet, approached within measurable distance of being able to say we have fulfilled this task, reflects a position in which it is clear we have not yet rid ourselves of some of the illusions prevalent during the war against fascism and the immediate post-war years.
It means we tend to be content with laying down a line of policy, and then not taking every possible measure to see our membership is firmly convinced of the correctness of that policy and then going about to fight for it with renewed vigour as a result of the clarity which has been reached. There will never be any plain sailing for the Communist Party. We have witnessed the danger signal represented in the fact that half our Party has not even studied what is the policy of the Party following our February Extended Executive. The low sales of the February report are something to which we should have quickly reacted. The Executive accepts responsibility for not having done so with sufficient energy, and it must take steps to avoid this in the future.
The main weakness of our work is that we have still not succeeded in leading the masses into action on the scale that is necessary. All the objective conditions are maturing for great class struggles, but the Party as a whole is not yet clearly convinced of this, and therefore is not yet seizing every opportunity, however small, to develop the fight of the workers.
We must also accept responsibility for the still slow growth in our factory organisation and slow reaction to developments on the industrial field. Our branches still do not grasp that without powerful factory organisation there can be no real effective mobilisation of the working class to fight for our policy.
We do not deny that the attack on our Party is heavy, and we pay a warm tribute to the way our comrades have stood up to this attack. The spokesmen of the Government and the Tories—Attlee and Churchill—are joined by the so-called Liberal Party in this anti-democratic onslaught on Communism. The purges in the Civil Service are extended to ordnance factories and private industry. In the trade union movement, as we have seen, the Deakins and Tewsons, with the word democracy on their lips, deny elementary democratic rights to their members. Capitalist laws protect the deadly enemies of democracy, the fascists, while the workers are penalised. Halls are closed against us; the right of free speech and assembly in the open air curtailed and threatened. In the name of religion, workers are organised to oppose the Communists and to try to prevent them from occupying responsible positions in the trade union and Co-operative movements.
Surely, the very intensity and extent of these attacks are a tribute to the growing strength of our influence and importance.
We know that many times our comrades are inclined to contrast the slow growth of our own Party and its achievements with what is taking place in other countries. This is understandable, but we can only sympathise with such modesty if it is accompanied by an understanding of the special conditions in which we have to work, and an eagerness to redouble our efforts to overcome the undoubted obstacles which lie in our path.
We are fighting against the oldest and most experienced capitalist class and the most treacherous and cunning Social Democrats in the world. It is a formidable combination, and no useful purpose is served by pretending that this is not the case, or by trying to apply mechanically in Britain the experiences of other parties working under totally different conditions.
But the partial success that we have gained despite the character of the opposition ranged against us should spur us on to increase the mass activity and membership of our Party.
We must admit that our fighting response is not yet nearly as determined or sustained as it should be. Too often we adopt an apologetic and defensive tone. We lack sufficient faith in our case and under-estimate the effect of our propaganda on the workers either from speeches, discussion or the Daily Worker.
Let me make it perfectly plain: the reason for this attitude among our members is that there is not a strong enough class understanding of our role as a revolutionary political party, fighting for political power in order to build Socialism.
How else can we explain, first, the slow progress in building factory organisation and, secondly, the virtual refusal of our membership to go out and win thousands of recruits to our Party?
Let us never forget Lenin’s words:
“For the factory, which seems only a bogey to some, is that highest form of capitalist co-operation which has united and disciplined the proletariat, taught it to organise, and placed it at the head of all the other sections of the toiling and exploited population.”
It was never more necessary that at this moment, when the working class of Britain is moving forward to great class battles, for our Party to understand certain fundamental questions about the factory and its importance. It is here, in the mine, mill, factory and farm, that the capitalist robs the worker of the surplus value produced by him. Here the antagonism between the working class and its exploiter, the capitalist class, is most sharply expressed and so often reflected in open clashes around demands on wages, hours and conditions.
For this reason and because the only weapon possessed by the working class in its fight to overthrow capitalism is the weapon of organisation, we have established as our main basic unit the factory group and branch to organise the Party members wherever three or more comrades are employed in a given enterprise.
The situation now demands even greater speed and energy in our fight rapidly to establish many more factory branches.
In factories where there is a Party group we can see the good effect it has on the strength of working-class organisation. Let this fact encourage our whole Party to concentrate all its energy on the task of extending our organisation in the factories. We must make use of past successes and avoid past mistakes. Above all we must build on the factories.
Among the many letters that I received in response to my appeal for assistance in preparing this report, there was one from the secretary of one of our outstanding Party organisations, the Hackney Borough of London. He said that in Hackney they have come up against the problem of members’ failure to study the line of the Party. Four months after, the extended E.C. only one in six of their cadres force, that is, 3 per cent of the membership, appeared even to have read the report to that important conference.
My correspondent drew the conclusion that this sheer ignorance of the Party’s policy and analysis of the present situation caused some comrades to share the illusions of certain sections of the workers who believe that the crisis is purely temporary, and that there can be no real progress in our Party until the slump and mass unemployment are operating in Britain.
Another weakness which stands in the way of building the Party is the conception of the fight for immediate demands as a thing in itself, and not as a means of developing and deepening the political consciousness of the workers and drawing them into the Party on the basis of their understanding of the need to fight for the interests of the whole class and not merely one section.
For proof of this we have only to look at the wage fight of the railwaymen or what happened on the wages issue at Bridlington T.U.C. The setback to the railwaymen’s wage fight was the direct result of the influence of Social Democracy among the railway workers. The same applies to the voting in many T.U. delegations at Bridlington on the wage-freeze issue.
Our comrades fail to explain with sufficient clarity each economic or other issue from the standpoint of our class as a whole. This does not mean that we insist on the workers accepting our whole policy if their fight concerns wages, victimisation, unemployment, etc. We should find the best way to use every one of these sectional issues to clarify the workers’ political understanding and bring them further along the road, whose goal is the achievement of power by our class.
Such issues also provide countless opportunities for recruiting into the Communist Party and the Young Communist League, yet we literally ignore them. I notice that every time I write an article in the Daily Worker on building the Party, and an application form is inserted in the paper, it is absolutely certain that next morning the first filled-in form will arrive with the mail at Party Centre. By the end of the week never less than fifty applications appear. And the results are very similar if some other comrade writes an article.
If this kind of response follows an article in the paper, surely we are correct in assuming that if some hundreds of our members made a personal approach to Daily Worker readers the response would be far greater. Apply this method in the factories, trade unions, clubs, sports organisations and among neighbours, and discover how many opportunities have hitherto been missed. The reaction of many housewives against the effects of devaluation in pushing up bread prices provides a fruitful field for winning many of them into our Party.
The other side of the picture is the question of keeping members after they have joined. The way many of them are treated is a scandal—that word is not strong enough. In Stepney we have one of our two M.P.s and nine Borough Councillors, and very considerable activity. Our record with regard to our M.P. and councilors—our housing fights and a whole host of other projects—is one of which we can be justly proud, but let me quote from the printed report of the Stepney Borough E.C., May 1948 to June 1949:
“Education—thirty classes were held with 700 attendances. Few regular branch classes were held and none at all for new members.
“Cadres—Very little effort has been made by the leadership to acquaint themselves with the character, experience and ability of new members.”
Every delegate listening to me now knows that some part of what I am saying applies to his or her own sphere of action. It is not only in education and cadres work that we are slack. How often do we fail even to contact the members? There is resistance to dues collection because, according to some comrades, “the members should be sufficiently politically conscious to go along to the Party factory group or area branch to pay their dues”, This attitude illustrates a resistance to Party building. The act of collecting does not only ensure a better financial position for the branches, districts and Party Centre, but provides the opportunity for personal contact and improvement in the Party organisation and activity which is so essential for our work.
Incidentally, I am reminded that it often, happens that quite active comrades, who attend their branch meetings regularly, have been found to be heavily in arrears with their dues. This fact proves the value of a regular card check at all meetings.
Our Party has had experience in past years of the disruptive activities of Trotskyites, using Left slogans in order to discredit the line of the Party and confuse its members. In this period, too, we need to be vigilant against the disrupters, who are now being organised by the Tito clique to attempt to demoralise the Party membership. Our leading committees at all levels must not tolerate those who try to undermine confidence in the Party, in its line and in the Soviet Union. Delay in handling such situations when they arise is dangerous to the Party, and leading committees have the responsibility of winning clarity among the members concerned, and dealing with any members who are clearly carrying on disruptive activities.
Furthermore, we need to combat the very prevalent outlook among members of the Labour Party who are profoundly dissatisfied with its policy—that if they join the Communist Party “they become outlaws”. Nothing of the kind—they are joining the most powerful working-class movement in the world, they are at one with all the most advanced and progressive forces of every country in the world; so long as they acquiesce in the policy of the Labour Party on the ground they are “doing more good inside that organisation than if they were in the Communist Party”, so do they become accomplices, however unwillingly, to the policy of betrayal of working-class interests that is today represented by the policy of the Right-Wing Labour leaders.
The stronger the Communist Party becomes, the stronger the whole working-class movement becomes in its daily struggle against capitalism and its efforts to establish Socialism. This is the all-compelling fact that we need to bring sharply home to those who advance the type of arguments to which we have just referred.
The decisions taken at this Congress demand a tremendous increase in activity.
To exaggerate our difficulties into miss our opportunities, and these are truly great. Our Communist Party is constructed in such a way as to unite us with the people, to teach our class and learn from it.
When we clearly understand these duties and responsibilities we approach every problem with greater ease. We are better equipped to solve each difficulty and surmount all obstacles.
What a splendid vista is opened before our Party by this Congress. Ours is the responsibility to future generations to lead the working-class of Britain in the most critical yet glorious period of its history.
I appeal to you comrades—stand firm at your posts—build a mighty band of members—women and men—entrenched in the factories—a great Young Communist League to lead the progressive youth of Britain, and a vast host, hundreds of thousands strong, of readers for our paper.
Carry our message into every mill, mine, factory and farm in the land! Raise high the people’s flag, our scarlet standard of freedom! In our hands we hold the destiny of a great people—the British people.
The capitalist class of Britain, together with their Wall Street masters, are developing a ruthless attack on the British working people. We stand at the threshold of great class battles. If we are bold and clear-sighted, we can lead the British workers to repel this attack, and in their turn to launch a smashing offensive against British capitalism. From the great mass struggles for living standards, peace, and the independence of Britain, will develop a movement steeled in the struggle that can defeat and overthrow the capitalist class and establish a Socialist Britain.