First Published: The Worker, No. 14, July 30, 1975.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Sam Richards and Paul Saba
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On July 4th at the Bellman Bookshop Reg Birch, Chairman of the Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist), spoke of the necessity of the British Revolution – a declaration of independence of the British working class from the capitalist system which is crushing the life out of Britain.
“Revolutionary change”, he said, “is inevitable – and nowhere more so than in Britain where the very class relationships of capitalism began. We are the first working class in the world, the first proletariat. The capitalist class in Britain which was the first to ascend to power has the right among the older capitalist countries to some priority in its descent!
“But anyone who believes that the British bourgeoisie are unable to sustain their old role any longer seriously underestimates them.
“They have exported vast wealth to Europe to draw upon when they like and lend back to Britain at staggering interest. If the Mafia can have numbered accounts in Swiss banks, do you think British capitalists would be behind hand in such financial juggling? With the mobility of capital the bourgeoisie when in difficulties can simply move their seat of power elsewhere.
“Industry and development in Britain are run down. This is the shift of the bourgeoisie to other sources of surplus value – an attempt to do without the British working class which Is so difficult to humble and control. Capitalism can no longer use the young. They can become “guest workers” in West Germany or they can go back to the land and become peasants again.
“Lenin defined these “coupon clippers” when he spoke of the change from industrial to finance capital. That is what inflation is really about – speculators who rule the roost and can cash in on any situation no matter how disasterous for workers. Then this very inflation is blamed on wages and we are threatened with extremism of left and right if we, the victims, do not arrest it.
“The European Economic Community is a recrudescence of imperialism doomed to failure from the outset. It has been joined by the British capitalist class because, face to face with the British working class, it has to seek the help of other monopoly capitalists. NATO is the prop to neo-fascist trends in West Germany under the aegis of the US and, though ostensibly against the USSR, is really the means for retaining order and power for capitalism in Western Europe. The international plot to put the West European working class in bondage is like the “popular front” in France before the War from which arose Laval, Doriot and Petain.
“Bourgeois democracy demands two political parties, originally representing different class interests – a governing party and an opposition. In Britain, as also in the US, this has been transcended. The two are identical. There is a single party system. Bourgeois democracy begins to break down at that point. Certain legislative measures begin to take away freedoms previously won. Collective bargaining goes; an Englishman’s home is no longer his castle. On the excuse of drug detection youth are stopped anywhere and searched; majority decisions by juries can convict and we have Sir Robert Mark’s plea for more practices of the police state.
“Since bourgeois democracy requires a two-party system, now that there is only one we can see the extent of the decay. From this situation can only emerge two political forms – a triumphant working class led by the CPB (ML) or fascism.
“It is not a question of whether we want the capitalist class to do these things to us or not. If you believe you have a choice it is like saying you will “turn the other cheek”. They will come for you in your bed. Revolution is needed not only to bring about a new order but even to prevent the clock being turned back.
“This is a new revolutionary situation. If you think things can continue as they are the class enemy does not think so. The court jesters of the capitalist camp like Muggeridge and Worsthorne are not just clowning when they talk about civil war, war declared on the working class. They want blood, working class blood.
“Only socialism can save us and only a class, the working class, can bring that about. Not some political nostrum like “The British Road to Socialism”. It is a British revolution because that is where we are. This is where we live and work as British workers. But it won’t be cricket!
“If we say the revolution has to be violent, people will say that it means we have no mass base. What it means is that today, in advance of the revolution, we have counter-revolution – counter revolutionary preparation.
“In this revolutionary situation the working class in Britain has to take on the task of leading. There is no model. There has never yet been a revolution in a highly industrialised country, though in some respects the October Revolution is closest to ours. Russia was not occupied by a foreign power. The intervention of imperialist powers came after the revolution. Britain is an aircraft carrier of reaction. Do you believe that it can be sealed off and defended from intervention by putting bits of paper in a box?
“Our situation is not like Portugal where the people have not developed sufficiently and an armed junta does the job for them. Politicians are more difficult to be recognised for what they are and driven out than colonels and little Napoleons. That is why even a body like the General Council of the TUC can be difficult to topple. “Lenin thought it might be easier for us in Britain because of our industrial position enabling us, once we did make the revolution, to surpass others overnight. But I am not so sure. We are a land of perpetual and all pervasive corruption because of the capitalism which is even in our own minds as social democracy. To minimise the revolutionary task before us is to betray the young.
“Here, in this revolutionary situation, the working class can either be for revolution or it will go the way of the German working class before the War. This is our job. Either revolution or counter-revolution already being prepared in advance. This job depends on changing a state of mind -social democracy.
“We led in making some changes. We exposed the Labour Party’s “In Place of Strife”. We made them say of such anti-trade union legislation “Never again!” But Healey did not hear. We dealt with Heath and the Industrial Relations Act. We have been right about Ireland. If there be no British forces in Ireland, they will have to solve their own problems of liberating themselves. We are clear about Soviet imperialism. We explained the relations between India and Pakistan and condemned the aggression involved insetting up ’Bangladesh’. We have exposed the illusions of Parliamentarism.
“But if we do not work even harder we will be too late. The youth of ’68 are no longer young. Some turned to political dilettantism, some got lost in the day-to-day routine. Theorising is idle. The way is already clear. Marxism-Leninism has been expounded, as has the inevitability of revolution. We alone can draw on our own experience which is not to be got from a book. It comes down to the primitive question – them or us. We the working class: they the class enemy. And time gets shorter. We have to work all the time. Not for us leftism as a kind of youthful indulgence. Nor is it open to us ever to retire.
“Although the working class espouses social democracy it does not believe in it. It uses social democracy as a coward’s castle. They are advanced enough to be so cunning. We are of that class. What we say is what they really think and wait for us to say.
“The only popular front we recognise is the organised working class. We would not join with the Labour Party, with the revisionist Party, with Trotskyists who are police spies and tools of the bourgeoisie. The working class has to create its own position, not reformist but revolutionary. The Labour Party is still the largest voice of assembled workers, existing on funds of movement. As there emerges from them those who were formerly reformists but are so no longer we shall welcome them.
“You cannot eschew any form of struggle in which the working class is involved. The battle for the right to work is revolutionary. It came after the War with a new wave of automation. (It was introduced by Reg Birch at an AUEW National Committee Meeting – Ed.) It forced governments to say that unemployment could never again be an instrument of policy! The reply to redundancy by occupation itself has a revolutionary content. There are only two kinds of economy – ours or the governors! They have yet to realise that theirs is a loser.
“Revolutionary change is inevitable!”