The forces for change in Britain
The forces exist which, if strengthened and united, can put Britain on a new course, tackle the crisis in the interests of the people, extend democracy and open the way to socialist revolution. Glimpses of their potential strength have already been seen in the struggles of past years. Wide and diverse sections of the people have been reacting against the adverse effect of capitalism arid capitalist policies on their lives.
The need is to show that these struggles are linked with each other, and to unite the various sections in a broad democratic alliance. This would embrace the great majority of the people, and be overwhelmingly superior in numbers and strength to the forces which want to maintain the status-quo. The objective basis for this is that those who own and control the monopolies which dominate the economic and political system in Britain are only a tiny minority of the people, pursuing policies which conflict with the interests of the great majority. These monopoly capitalists are the main enemy in the way of democratic, economic and social progress.
The social forces and movements which can be won to an awareness of this, and be brought into an alliance against them are, on the other hand, all involved in- the battle for an extension of democracy. This is a common thread running through the various struggles — for trade union rights, for free collective bargaining, the right to work and industrial democracy, for the rights of ethnic minorities and against racialism, for the national rights of Scotland and Wales, for a democratic solution in Northern Ireland, for women’s liberation, for young people’s rights, for the protection of the environment, for peace and against NATO and the Common Market.
This common thread provides the basis on which the broad democratic alliance can be built. But as the alliance develops it must more and more encompass all the political, social and economic demands of these forces and movements, and not simply the points they have in common.
Classes in capitalist society
Building the broad democratic alliance involves an understanding of the class forces in capitalist society in Britain.
The working class
The leading force in the alliance will be the working class, whose interests are most directly opposed to those of the capitalist ruling class, and whose strength and capacity for organisation enables it to give leadership to all the democratic forces in society.
The working class includes the great majority of the population: those who sell their labour power, their capacity to work, in return for a wage or salary, and who work under the direction of the employers (who own the means of production, distribution and exchange) or their agents.
Among the workers are those in mainly manual occupations, such as mining, engineering, building, dock work, etc. This is the section often traditionally called the working class, but in fact the boundary is far widen-It embraces also non-manual workers in industry and distribution, such as technicians, clerical and sales workers. These also do not own any means of production, depend on the sale of their labour power to the capitalist employers, and as a rule have no control relationship to the means of production. Then there are those engaged in education, the health service, the civil service and local government. Though they do not sell their labour power directly to capitalist employers, indirectly their work contributes to the capitalist production of goods and profits.
Though some of these workers may regard themselves as ‘middle class’, and often work in institutions which help to perpetuate capitalism and its ideas, they are objectively part of the working class. Their interests broadly coincide with those of the workers in manual occupations, and indeed the distinction between manual and non-manual work is more and more being broken down by modern processes of production.
The working class is the most important of the forces that can be ranged against monopoly capital, not only for immediate demands but for socialist change. It is important not just because of its numbers, but because of its special characteristics as a class, and the decisive role it plays in society. It mines the coal, drives the trains, makes and operates the machinery, produces the power, grows the food, prepares and prints the newspapers, and staffs the local and central government apparatus. The conditions ofits work have led millions of its members to organise a powerful trade union movement, whose roots go back 200 years: the life of society as a whole depends on it. It is not static in its composition and structure, for changes take place within it as a result of changes in the nature of production, and the concentration of production under capitalism results in many who were formerly small capitalists or self-employed becoming wage or salary earners.
There are considerable differences, and sometimes conflicts, between its different sections. They differ in degree of trade union organisation and class consciousness; in political understanding, organisation and allegiance; in their function in relation to the productive process and social life; and in the degree of their ties, real or imagined, with the capitalist class.
At the heart of the working class are those in the basic extractive, transport and manufacturing industries who have always played a leading role in the development of the trade union and labour movement. Although they have declined in numbers, these workers, because of their experience, organisation and degree of class consciousness, continue to play a leading role in the working class movement. They have frequently demonstrated their power in industrial action and solidarity. Among these workers the need for trade union organisation became clear at an early stage, and the class struggle took a more open form.
In recent years, because of the way capitalism has developed, there has been a big decline in many traditional industries, and the rise of new industries. Even in the older industries there have been many changes in the methods of production. Then there has been a substantial increase in the number of non-manual workers in industry, while developments in the social services and the operations of the state have also resulted in increases in the numbers of workers employed in these sectors.
In the past, many non-manual workers have held aloof from the traditional working class, and even from trade union organisation. But changes in the nature of production and the impact of capitalist crisis have produced a transformation in recent years, with a great increase in trade union organisation among these workers and a readiness to take action to defend their interests. Much more is involved here than just an increase in the size of the working class. For example, the carrying of trade union organisation and ideas of class solidarity and socialism into sections of workers employed in the state machine and in the mass media represents an important extension of the potential power of the working class to act in mass struggle outside Parliament, as well as through elections.
Another important development has been the participation of many more women in the production process and in trade unionism. Their struggles against the discrimination from which they have suffered have been a significant new feature in the industrial scene. Although there has often been completely insufficient support from the movement as a whole, these efforts have begun to change the position and have already achieved the passing of the Sex Discrimination and Equal Pay Acts, imperfect though they are, and increasing support for the demands of the Working Women’s Charter.
Winning black workers, who often find themselves in unorganised factories, for active participation in the trade union movement, and giving them its full support, is vital. As many examples, including the Grunwick strike have shown, they can display great courage and militancy and enrich the whole movement.
Because the great majority of the population is in the working class, achieving its unity is a central task. This means overcoming the sectional differences which at present divide it and limit its consciousness, and building alliances between the different sections of the working class. Only by developing its class and socialist consciousness, and strengthening its unity, will it be able to emerge as the leading force in society around which other sections of the population can be united in the struggle for socialism. This involves recognition by the labour movement that, as well as pay and conditions, the areas of housing, education, the social services, the family, women and race, are central areas of struggle.
Combating the narrow sectionalist trends which affect both the manual and non-manual sectors, requires an understanding of the differences which remain, despite the tendency for their conditions of work and political and class consciousness to converge. Their experience of class struggle, their forms of organisation and activity, and their approach to many questions still vary considerably, making the task of uniting the working class a complex and difficult one which calls for an organised and conscious effort.
The capitalist class
The capitalist class comprises the owners and controllers of the means of production, distribution and exchange — the factories, banks, shops, land, etc. — and their agents. People in higher managerial positions and in the higher echelons of the civil service and the state apparatus, although they sell their labour power, are part of the ruling class because they act directly or indirectly on behalf of the capitalists, identify with them, and often own substantial amounts of company shares.
Even as a whole the capitalist class is only a small fraction of the population. But within it there is a still smaller minority exercising the dominant power — those who control the very big firms, which not only exploit their workers, but also operate at the expense of many smaller businesses, small shopkeepers and small farmers.
These small enterprises are among the first victims in periods of acute capitalist crisis, many of them going bankrupt, being forced to close down, or being swallowed up by the big firms. When working-class standards are cut, small producers, shopkeepers and traders are also adversely affected.
There is therefore an objective basis for an alliance between the working class and many in these sections of the capitalist class, against the common enemy - the big British and international capitalists. There will be big problems in building such an alliance, since the smaller employers are in a contradictory position in relation both to the monopolists and the working class. They face the prospect of being squeezed out by the big firms, but are also often linked to them as suppliers, or as distributors of their products. They usually see it as in their interests to keep wages down for the sake of their profits, and working conditions are often worse in small workplaces. On the other hand, small employers generally face problems when the living standards of the working class fall and unemployment rises.
The labour movement needs to show them that there is no solution to their problems in lining up with big business against the workers. It must seek to win them to the side of the working class, and prevent them becoming a prey to right-wing and fascist propaganda. This means campaigning for specific measures to assist them, such as cheap credits, restrictions on monopoly price manipulation, control of rents, relief from high rates, the abolition of VAT, etc., as well as winning them for the wider democratic demands of the labour movement.
While in contemporary capitalist society the great majority of people are either members of the working class or the capitalist class, there are also those whose relation to the means of production places them in an intermediate position.
Middle-grade management and the middle ranks of the state apparatus act to a considerable extent as agents of the capitalist class, but the degree to which they exercise control over the means of production is often limited, and their income is derived mainly from selling their labour power for a salary. They may therefore be considered part of the intermediate strata between the capitalist class and the working class.
Members of family businesses, small shopkeepers and small farmers who employ little or no labour are another such group, as are those among professional sections like architects, lawyers, doctors, writers and artists, who are self-employed. They are affected by the social and economic crisis of capitalism, and by the way in which it holds back advances in spheres with which they are particularly concerned, such as housing, health and culture.
Policies need to be advanced by the working class and progressive forces which will win as many as possible among these sections for the broad democratic alliance.
The labour movement
The main influence of the working class on society is expressed through the labour movement, though this does not yet comprise the whole of the working class. It includes the trade unions, the Labour Party, the Communist Party and the Co-operative movement, and such organisations as the shop stewards committees and Trades Councils.
The British labour movement is one of the best organised and potentially most powerful in the capitalist world. It has engaged in repeated struggles against the effects of capitalism. Yet its power has not been fully used in these struggles, and still less in a struggle to end capitalism and build socialism. This is because, powerful as they are, the majority of the organisations of the working class are still dominated by an outlook which accepts capitalism, and prevents their power being fully used to achieve socialism.
During the formative period of the development of the working class, Britain had a manufacturing monopoly as ‘the workshop of the world’. Although other states later developed and challenged this position at the end of the nineteenth century, the British capitalists were able to develop a fresh source of super—profit by establishing the greatest colonial empire, exploiting hundreds of millions of people in other countries as well as at home. Over a long period this gave them the resources, strength and confidence to make concessions which resulted in many sectors of workers feeling that provided they organised and struggled, they could make sufficient advances within the system. The ending of capitalism was either seen as unnecessary, or as a remote aim to be achieved by transforming it through a process of piecemeal reforms. This was the basis for the dominant outlook, reformism, which developed in the labour movement.
Its main features include class collaboration rather than class struggle; the view that the state is neutral and can serve the purposes of a Labour Government as well as Tory or Liberal Governments; and the belief that the industrial power of the workers should not be used for political, but only for economic ends. Even the traditional definition of socialism (as, for example, embodied in Clause 4 of the Labour Party Constitution) has been frequently challenged, with attempts to remove the aim of social ownership.
The large and complex ideological apparatus of the British ruling class has functioned continually to strengthen this outlook, so that it remains strong even in the period of deep crisis, when it is no longer so easy for concessions to be made to workers. The way in which, over many years, leaders of the working class movement have been drawn into the practice of class collaboration, as part of the capitalist power structure, and have enjoyed some of its rewards, including company directorships, has made reformism particularly strong at the higher levels of the movement.
But within the labour movement there has been a constant contradiction between the class interests of organised workers and the class collaborationist policies of reformism. This has been reflected in the recurrent clash between the socialist convictions of many members of the movement and the repeated failure of Labour Governments to carry out socialist policies. These internal contradictions have resulted in the Labour Party, formed from a combination of the mass trade unions and the early socialist societies, being from the outset a battleground between a right- wing trend, composed of the most "consistent exponents of reformist policies, and a left-wing trend, which has often challenged the practical policies resulting from reformism, and to a lesser extent the basic ideas of reformism. The issues on which this right-left conflict has been fought out have constantly changed, and the political positions of individuals have shifted, but the clash has been constant and will continue.
Changing the dominant outlook of the labour movement, winning it for left policies and breaking the grip both of economism and reformism, involves a battle in all the sections and at all levels of the movement. The Communist Party has played a significant part in this battle from its foundation in 1920, and has been associated, directly or indirectly, with all the major left developments.
The arenas of struggle between the left and right trends include the trade unions, the Co-operative movement and the Labour Party.
The trade unions are class organisations, founded by the workers to defend themselves against the employers, and primarily concerned with the economic struggle. They are not, and cannot be a substitute for political parties of the working class. Nevertheless, because of the federal nature of the British Labour Party, with its trade union affiliations (unique among social democratic parties), many unions play an important role within it. The direct impact of government policy on the economy, arising from the development of state monopoly capitalism, has also resulted in the unions becoming increasingly concerned with political and social questions. Governments, and especially Labour governments, have sought their collaboration in the carrying out of government policies.
Thus winning the trade union movement at all levels — from individual members and shop stewards committees to national executives, trades councils and the TUC — for mass action on immediate questions, and for support for social and political change, is vital. This has been demonstrated in the recent period, which has shown that industrial militancy is not enough, and that there is a need to combat the economist outlook which sees the trade union struggle on economic issues as sufficient in itself. That struggle needs to be linked with a political perspective if it is to produce lasting gains for the working class. This has been consistently stressed by the Communist Party, which considers it vitally important that its members should work to strengthen the trade unions, the shop stewards movement and workplace organisation for social and political, as well as economic struggles. Action on social issues, such as pensions and pollution, and on questions concerned with the control and direction of production, such as the alternatives to arms production, helps break down the divisions between work, home and community.
Such a vigorous fight for the interests of their members could help the trade unions draw into their ranks the millions of workers who are not yet organised, as well as giving new life to the branches and workplace organisations. In particular, they need to do far more to attract, organise and draw into activity the young workers on whom the future of the movement depends, especially through the establishment and strengthening of youth sections. A stronger and more united left fight is needed to end the still dominant position of the right. This must be conducted at workplace level, among the mass of the workers, and not just at the level of union leadership. To win workers to a socialist, and not only a militant, class, outlook, increased political activity by the Communist Party and the Labour left in the workplaces is essential.
The Co-operative movement was built to organise and defend workers as consumers, parallel to trade unions organising at their place of work. With its ten million members, its enormous assets of tens of millions of pounds in property, and its political and educational facilities, it represents a potentially powerful force of struggle for socialism. It needs to make inroads into monopoly distribution; to expand greatly its share of retail trade, still under ten per cent; to increase its trading and other links with the socialist world; and to use its great power and influence much more, in close liaison with the trade union and political wings of the movement.
The Labour Party is the mass party of the working class, with about 6 million affiliated members and several hundred thousand individual members. It enjoys the electoral support of large sections of the working class. Thus changing the politics of the Labour Party is bound up with changing the politics of the working class. The reformist outlook which is dominant in the Labour Party sees it as confined exclusively to a parliamentary role within the capitalist system. .Its political role is seen almost entirely as participating in elections, and it carries out little or no socialist education. Far from developing mass action, as well as electoral work, the right wing has tried to hold back such action whether by the Labour Party or the unions and the shop stewards.
This outlook is reflected in the structure of the Labour Party. The parliamentary party, and especially the Cabinet or the Shadow Cabinet, in practice determine the key policies pursued, as well as electing the party leaders, and annual conference decisions are not binding on the parliamentary party or on Labour governments. The activity of the local organisations is overwhelmingly electoral in character.
The left within the Labour Party has opposed right-wing policies, and has often succeeded in winning the annual conference for a left position on important questions. Its influence in the Labour Party executive committee has also increased. But it has not been able to break the right-wing grip, especially on the Parliamentary Labour Party, or decisively change the right-wing policies of Labour governments. Its growth is of great significance, and could be assisted by more activity by ward and constituency labour parties, with the fullest participation of trade union delegates. But more than this is needed to bring about real changes, particularly in strengthening democracy within the Labour Party, in the selection of MP5 and their relationship to the local parties, and in the election of the party leader.
The Labour Party left is not a cohesive and united force. While some of its members are influenced by Marxist ideas, most are still influenced by the reformist outlook on such questions as the need for mass struggle in the workplaces and localities, incomes policy, the nature of the state and the issue of political power in the struggle for socialism. The parliamentary and constituency left has often underestimated the importance of the left fight in the unions. When the unions were almost entirely under right— wing control, some of the Labour left saw no future unless the union link was severed, so changing the traditional basis of the Labour Party. But the Communists and others on the left argued that the task was to win the unions for left policies as part of the process of winning such policies in the Labour Party and throughout the whole labour movement.
Because the Labour left still lacks a clear political perspective, is not centrally organised and is not sufficiently related to the many extra-parliamentary movements and struggles, it cannot by itself bring about the necessary transformation in the outlook and activity of the labour movement. Nor is the answer to be found in the various ultra-left groups, which have in common a narrow interpretation of Marxism and a mistaken strategy, and whose tactics are therefore often adventurist and irresponsible.
The vital need is for an organisation of socialists, guided by the principles of scientific socialism, active everywhere among the people, in all the struggles, in all the unions, in all the progressive movements, and able to give leadership to them — in other words, an organised party, as distinct from the left groups in the Labour Party, the separate unions and the other social forces and movements. It was to fulfil this role that the Communist Party was founded in 1920 by Marxists in the Labour movement.
The Communist Party
What are the essential characteristics of a party capable of giving the leadership needed in the struggle to transform the labour movement, strengthen working class unity, build alliances with other democratic movements in society, and achieve socialism?
First, it must be based on Marxism-Leninism, including a developing British Marxist tradition, which enables it to analyse the nature of society, the character of class rule, and the varied forms of oppression experienced by the working class and other sections. Without such an understanding the Marxist party cannot properly grasp the nature of different forces and the part they have to play, and develop a strategy which will lead to socialism.
Second, it must be organised for socialist revolution. It must therefore be firmly rooted in the working class, because of its leading role in society, and especially in the industrial working class. The party must be capable of welding together all progressive movements at a local and national level. It must be capable of initiating and assisting in all the people’s campaigns. In order to develop political consciousness it needs to be organised both in the workplaces and localities for mass struggle, not just for propaganda.
Third, it must be a democratic party, one which draws on the initiative and creativity of its membership in planning and carrying through its activity and policy and electing its leadership. To this end the party must create new and close relationships within its own ranks — between different sections of workers, between men and women, black and white, young and old, workers and intellectuals. Only in this way can the party overcome the expression among its members of the sectionalism that divides working people.
Fourth, the party needs to be centralised, to be capable of fighting, struggling and intervening as a disciplined and united collective once policy is decided. It is this, among other things which makes the party capable of acting in a unique way. These last two points embody the principles of democratic centralism.
Fifth, it needs to have close relations with the Communist movement in other countries, based on the independence and equality of each Communist Party in a world movement which is making history on a global scale. Such international solidarity is vital not only in the immediate struggles, but for the achievement and building of socialism.
Building and strengthening a party with these characteristics is essential to the strategy for democratic advance and socialism outlined in this programme.
Since its foundation the Communist Party of Great Britain has been a party of struggle, involved in all the main battles of the working class and the labour movement, generating class and socialist consciousness and showing the need to win political power and advance to socialism.
It is democratic; it is centralised; it is, and always has been, deeply rooted in the British working class and labour movement. Unlike the Labour Party, it is organised to initiate and take part in struggle in an all-round political way; it is internationalist in outlook; and, basing itself on Marxism-Leninism, it has a viable strategy for socialist revolution as well as the capacity to give leadership in the daily struggles.
But it is still too small: its internal democracy needs enrichment, including the development of much closer relationships between different sections and levels of the Party; its roots among many sections are still weak. The important work already done in developing Marxism in relation to British conditions needs to be carried very much further forward. It needs to grow both numerically and politically. To become a leading political force, capable of uniting the movements for democracy and socialism, able to involve millions extending control over their individual and collective lives, the Communist Party must become a political magnet, drawing new forces towards itself from the labour movement and from all other sections.
It aims to inspire discussion with a view to developing activity and struggle, not only in the traditional forms of the labour movement, but among all democratic organisations and social forces. It aims to win the confidence of those potentially revolutionary forces among those coming into political action. It must help, organise and educate a new generation of active Communists to invigorate, staff and lead its organisations in the workplaces and community, and conduct consistent public work. It aims to encourage positive cultural movements, recognising their place in the lives of working people.
It needs to increase its electoral activity, giving the maximum possible number of people the opportunity to vote Communist, and winning representation in Parliament as well as more local Council seats.
It must also endeavour to show more effectively in experience of action, as well as by explanation, that class collaboration has to be replaced by class struggle, that the ‘neutrality’ of the state is an illusion, that only if parliamentary struggle is combined with mass struggle outside parliament can the working class and its allies win significant victories, and that the problems we face can only be successfully tackled by a strategy for socialist change. Ready to listen and learn, as well as to provide strategic leadership, Communists will more and more become a trusted and respected popular force. In this way the Communist Party aims to become a mass party - not just a party with a bigger membership, but, with its members drawn from and involved in every section and area of our society, a party through which more and more people are drawn into political action.
This is an essential condition for the Communist Party to develop its distinctive political role as a force which leads from where the people are, which fights for the unity of the working class, and for the cohesion of the broad democratic alliance at every stage. Only in this way, with a mass Communist Party, can right-wing influence amongst working people be overcome and replaced by socialist consciousness.
At the same time, however large our party, we could not envisage achieving this by ourselves. Other parties, social forces and organisations will play an essential role in this process. But the distinctive aspiration of our party is, in placing our policies before the people, to give this movement coherence and vision, and to exercise democratic leadership.
The Communist Party, as part of the labour movement, seeks no special privileges within it. What it does seek, however, is the removal of all discriminatory bans and proscriptions directed mainly against Communists, but also affecting others on the left, which only help the right wing by keeping the movement divided. Communists want to restore to the trade unions the democratic right to elect, from among those who pay the political levy, delegates of their own choice to the Labour Party.
In the electoral field, proportional representation would not only make Britain’s electoral system much more democratic, but would create more favourable conditions for uniting the left and achieving Labour-Communist unity.
Developing the Communist Party along the lines indicated is crucial for the building of the broad democratic alliance, for changing the outlook of working people and for transforming the labour movement. This perspective requires a much larger and more broadly-based party, with a significant electoral base. The Communist Party does not, however, seek to replace the Labour Party as a federal party of the working class, but rather to strengthen its original federal nature, and we see a much more influential Communist Party as crucial to the future of the Labour Party itself, and to the development of the labour movement and the broad democratic alliance as a whole.
As right-wing ideas and leadership in the labour movement are progressively defeated and replaced by people and policies committed to struggle against the monopolies, as the Communist Party itself grows in strength and influence, and as bans and proscriptions are removed, so new opportunities will open up for still more developed forms of Labour- Communist unity, including in the electoral field, and with the possibility of future affiliation to the Labour Party.
The youth organisation of the Communist Party, the Young Communist League, has similar aims. Through its branches and its paper, Challenge, it seeks to win young people to the broad democratic alliance, to which they can make a big contribution. Campaigning on the specific issues which affect young people, it tries to win them to struggle on these and other questions which affect the whole of society. It shows the responsibility of the capitalist system for unemployment, inadequate training, education, sport and leisure facilities, and bad housing. It seeks to build the unity of young people in the struggle for a better life. It opposes racism and imperialism, and develops solidarity with the Communist Party in the fight for socialism.
One of the main sources of capitalist power is its control of the press, television, radio, cinema and other media, through which it influences millions of people and secures a large measure of acceptance of capitalist rule. The labour and progressive movement needs to fight for the right to reply and put its case on television and radio and in the capitalist press. But it also needs to have its own means of mass communication. For generations, it has under-estimated the importance of this. The weekly journals Tribune and Labour Weekly, and some trade union papers, have played a part in the shift to the left in the labour movement, but much more is needed, especially to counter the daily propaganda of fleet Street.
The only national daily newspaper which is co-operatively-owned and free of control by the press lords is the Morning Star. Maintained in existence, with its predecessor the Daily Worker, since 1930, by the tireless support of its readers, it acts as a forum for the labour and progressive movement, advocating left unity and putting the case for socialism. Helping to build the broad democratic alliance, it forges links between the labour movement, other social forces, and wide sections of the British people. Its role is crucial, and all on the left should support it and help to increase its circulation.
Social forces and movements
The basic force for change in our society is the class struggle between workers and capitalists. However, capitalism not only exploits people at work, it impinges on every aspect of their lives. Thus they react to it, and often struggle against its effects, in their communities, in their leisure activities, as men and women, black or white, young or old, Scottish, Welsh, Irish or English. So movements and groupings develop which may not belong to a major class (for example, students) or embrace people from different classes and strata (for example, black, national, women’s, youth, environmental, peace and solidarity movements). Hence the broad democratic alliance needs to be not only an expression of class forces, but of other important forces in society which emerge out of areas of oppression not always directly connected with the relations of production.
The struggle for women’s liberation is a central political question for the working class. The emancipation of women is an important goal in itself. In addition, unless women are involved in the overall struggle for socialism, and men in the struggle to resolve the specific problems of women, the possibilities of developing working class unity and the broad democratic alliance will be greatly diminished. Thus the fight for women’s liberation is an integral part of the struggle for socialism, and needs to be taken up by the whole labour movement.
The subordination of women to men in society is experienced by all women, but working class women are doubly oppressed. They are exploited because of their position as workers and discriminated against because of their sex. The movement for women’s liberation which has developed in recent years has been a major stimulus to thought and action on these questions. It has focused attention on the sexual division of labour, particularly on how women’s role within the family, economic dependence, and responsibility for child care, limits educational opportunity, career prospects and participation in social and political life on equal terms with men. This has highlighted the debate and activity on economic and social issues like equal pay and child care, and shown the importance and potentialities of organising on related questions like abortion and battered wives. It has also raised other questions on the nature of personal relationships, human sexuality, and the future of the family, with which the progressive movement needs to concern itself much more than in the past. Support for the basic demands of the Women’s Liberation Movement and of the Working Women’s Charter, and the overcoming of sexism, the defence of male privilege, are essential parts of the struggle to build the broad democratic alliance. Significant also is the development of the gay movement, which aims to end prejudice and discrimination against homosexual men and women.
The black movement also raises important issues. Black people are oppressed not only as, in their majority, members of the working class, but because of their colour. The struggle by the black movement and other ethnic minorities against all forms of racial discrimination is a vital democratic question. Racism is fundamentally anti-human. Eradicating it from British society is a task for all, and not only a problem for the ethnic minorities. At the heart of the problem is the unity of all workers, black and white alike. This is why fascism, the worst enemy of .the working class, preaches racial hatred to divide the workers in the interests of capitalism.
There have been significant developments in action and propaganda against racism. Such actions achieved the passing of the Race Relations Act, though this needs to be implemented and strengthened so as to combat discrimination and incitement to race hatred more effectively. Black people’s organisations are growing, and are becoming increasingly aware of the need for the unity of black and white people against racism. There is also a growing awareness of the need for joint action between all democratic and progressive forces in this fight. However, the response of the labour movement is slow and inadequate, both nationally and in many localities, and far more needs to be done to counter the divisive effects of racism.
The labour movement must play the decisive part in winning the working class to reject racist ideas and practices, and in defending black people from discrimination. It needs to work to bring together in the widest unity all who can be won to resist racist trends, oppose the provocative marches of fascist organisations like the National Front, demand the prosecution of those preaching racial hatred, and urge the repeal of racist legislation like the 1971 Immigration Act.
In response to the national problems of Scotland and Wales, national movements have developed. Their origins lie in centuries of oppression and deprivation. The economic distortions of capitalism, the decay of extractive and basic industries and the parasitic development of British imperialism have meant that the two countries have shared with underdeveloped areas of England lower-than-average levels in housing, health, education and leisure facilities, and greater poverty, neglect of social conditions and unemployment. But these problems have had an additional dimension in that they undermine the population, social, community and cultural life of the two nations. The economic rundown intensifies the discrimination against national and cultural rights. As part of the resistance to this process, national consciousness has increased, and there has been a rapid development of nationalist parties, largely as a result of the failure of the labour movement to champion the fight for national rights. The interests of the people of Scotland and Wales will best be served by devolution with effective legislative and executive powers. The Scottish and Welsh people, in common with all others, must have the right to self-determination and independence, but the big political and economic issues which face the British people as a whole arise from the class nature of our society and require the unity of the working people of Scotland, Wales and England for their solution. It is the responsibility of the labour movement to show this, to give leadership in the fight for national rights, and prevent right-wing forces from using the issue to confuse and divide the people.
Within the communities and localities a mass of problems exists — on housing, urban decay, transport, the environment, health, leisure and cultural facilities. Associated with them is the lack of democracy in local affairs and the increasing trend toward central government dictation over local councils. In response to these problems many movements and organisations have developed: tenants’ and residents associations, environmental groups, community newspapers, theatre. and other cultural groups, transport campaign groups and broad committees against social service cuts. Not only are working people affected every day by these problems, but it is also increasingly an area in which capitalism is intervening and profiting. The battle for participation in local politics and , the struggles around all aspects of community and environmental issues are of concern not only to the groups directly involved, but to the whole democratic alliance. It is especially important that the organised working class takes up these issues and establishes close links with the various movements concerned. Local councils themselves, with the winning of more left Labour and Communist Councillors, can play an important part in tackling these problems and strengthening local democracy.
New areas of struggle have been opened up by the growth and activity of such sectors as teachers, civil servants, scientists, technicians, journalists, local government and social workers. As well as being concerned with their economic situation, many of them are also concerned with the social purpose of their work, with democracy in their institutions, and their relationship to the rest of the labour movement. Thus discussion and activity have been developed on such important issues as the content of education, teaching methods, private education, the viability of the health service, private beds, the use of science, and the role of social work.
The peace organisations which exist bring together many of those who are determined to maintain world peace. But the desire for peace extends far beyond their ranks, and needs to be expressed in a much more powerful and broadly-based peace movement as part of the broad democratic alliance. The organisations and movements concerned with solidarity with the national liberation struggles also have an important part to play.
Young people are a social group with specific problems, and their unity needs to be built in the struggle to resolve those problems. Within the various movements young people have played a prominent role, reflecting not only their natural energy, but the extent to which these movements are concerned with questions of culture and ideas. Unemployment is leaving its mark on an entire generation of young' people, and aggravates the discrimination faced by young Women and black people. Discontent among them is increasingly met by harassment from the authorities, and there is the danger that continuing youth unemployment could lead to the strengthening of right-wing trends stemming from growing frustration and a lack of contact with the left and progressive movement.
In contrast to the presence of young people in many movements is the weakness of most progressive youth organisations. The chief exception to this is the National Union of Students, which has made an increasing contribution to the democratic struggle, in response to the way in which the educational system is shaped and distorted by the needs of the ruling class and monopoly capital. It has helped to develop the battle against cuts in educational expenditure, striven for the full employment of teachers, and raised important issues for debate such as democracy in educational institutions, curriculum reform and teaching methods. It has also participated in and associated with many of the struggles of the labour and democratic movement, and in movements of international solidarity.
On a more limited scale the National Union of School Students has developed activity on similar issues in the schools. But more needs to be done to extend democracy in the schools, and give school students more say in their education.
While the establishment of the TUC Youth Conference and the Campaign Against Youth Unemployment represent an important advance, both remain limited in their impact and influence on young workers. This reflects the historic neglect of young people by the labour and progressive movement, which needs to campaign on their demands, provide organisational structures and social facilities for them, and particularly fight for their right to work. In this way it can also influence the wider youth movement and bring great numbers of young people into active participation in the labour movement and the broad democratic alliance.
In recent years the pensioners’ movement has taken on a new militancy, and has received more backing from the trade unions and local labour parties in its battle for adequate pensions and the extension of those social services dealing with the elderly and disabled. The Labour movement needs to be won for more vigorous and consistent activity in support of these demands.
Many religious people are deeply concerned about the conflict between their religious ideals and the oppression and exploitation of capitalist society. They accept their social responsibility in the world, and are prepared to fulfil it. They, and many humanists, see the need for social change. Such individuals, and the organisations of which they are members, can play an important part in democratic and social struggles.
Alliance — not isolation
It is clear, however, that if these movements and their struggles proceed in, isolation from each other, they can do no more than challenge the position of the ruling. class on a series of different issues, and not its overall domination. If they are isolated from the labour movement, not only will they themselves suffer from the lack of its support, but the working class will be unable to fulfil its role of the leading force in society.
The labour movement needs alliances with these other democratic movements because, in supporting their aims and aspirations, it becomes increasingly aware that class oppression, and the struggle against it, extend far beyond the workplace, and embrace strata beyond the working class. Such alliances are needed to bring the political weight of the overwhelming majority of the population to bear on the minority ruling class. They can lead to a greater awareness of the forces that oppress all workers, and also strengthen working class unity. It is therefore through such support and association that the labour movement becomes more conscious of its own national role as the leading force in society, and better able to fulfil that role, both-now and under socialism.
Further, because many among such sections as teachers, journalists, scientists, civil servants and doctors have historically played, and still play, a big role in helping the ruling class to secure voluntary acceptance of its position, changes in their position are of major significance. The association of the whole labour movement with the progressive demands and struggles of these sections, therefore, can help to undermine the political and ideological. domination exercised in society by the ruling class, and strengthen the position and credibility of the working class as the alternative leading force in the nation.
Finally, if the working class does not win over to its side other strata which are also victims of monopoly, there is the danger that reaction will be able to organise them and use them against the working class.
The work of the left is vital in building the broad democratic alliance. Left unity needs to be promoted both in the practical development of activity and in the battle of ideas. There are those who will be united by an understanding of the need for fundamental change, and those who will become involved only on specific issues. Communists and the labour left have a special role to play in developing broad left unity and in helping to build the alliances, of which only the most politically conscious sections of the new forces will see the need, between different sections of the working class and different social and political movements.
The Communist Party, as the organised Marxist political party, has a key and decisive responsibility. Throughout its history it has been active on many of the questions around which the movements detailed above have been campaigning — the fight against racialism and fascism, for women’s rights, peace and national liberation, Scottish and Welsh parliaments, education, housing and the other social issues. Just as it works to overcome sectional divisions within the working class movement and unite it for the struggle against capitalism, so it can help the labour movement and the other social forces to see the need for alliances between them, to the benefit of all.
Winning a new popular majority
We have described in this section the forces and movements which, brought together in a broad democratic alliance, with a labour movement won for left policies as its core, can transform Britain.
The strategy we have outlined will, in the first place, help the left to win the political majority inherent in Britain’s social structure, with its huge working class — something that the Labour Party’s old strategy has signally failed to do. As far back as 1935, Labour had already won 38 per cent of the vote in a General Election. In 1945 it got 48 per cent, and in 1951 registered its high-water-mark of 4.9 per cent. But in 1974, after 40 years of political experience, it was back to 39 per cent, or roughly the 1935 level — a striking indication of the failure of the old strategy. Achieving a decisive advance in the Labour vote is bound up with the need for a new strategy.
The traditional right-wing approach of adopting capitalist policies to win the so-called middle ground in politics, has been consistently tried, and has consistently failed to win the majority of the electorate to Labour’s side. Reformist policies always play into the hands of the Tories and help them to make a come-back. Right-wing Labour’s forms of nationalisation, and right-wing opposition to further nationalisation, present the Tories with effective anti-nationalisation propaganda. Right-wing Labour’s immigration policies help and encourage the most racialist elements inside and outside the Tory Party. Labour incomes policies pave the way for the Tories to return to operate their forms of wage restraint.
The labour movement therefore needs to end the policy of ‘managing capitalism’ and instead to take a course which challenges capitalist power, and, by helping to build the broad democratic alliance, opens the» way to change in the direction of socialism.
Alongside this must go the initiation, leadership and encouragement of mass struggle. The reformist strategy is based entirely on the ballot box. The mass of the people are accorded a strictly limited voting role, and MPs are regarded as little more than lobby fodder. Only the top parliamentary leadership have an active role to play; the masses have a purely supporting role. This is wrong, and would be wrong even if the parliamentary leadership had a better policy. Mass struggle outside parliament has a vital role to play now and in the future - as a political educator of millions of people whose socialist ideas will be developed in such struggle; as the essential means for ensuring that an elected Labour parliamentary majority does the job it was elected to do; and as the essential weapon for breaking the resistance of the monopolists and their political representatives and transferring political power into the hands of the working class and its allies. Indeed the major changes won throughout the history of the labour movement have mainly come as a result of the struggle outside Parliament.
A labour movement with socialist policies which challenged the monopolies and which led masses of people in struggle against them could break out of the present vicious circle of British parliamentary policies, rallying wider sections around itself, detaching from the Tory, Nationalist and Liberal parties many of their present supporters, defeating the poison of racialism and winning the support of both black and white working people, and building a new, popular anti-monopoly majority.
To bring this about will require a big development of left unity and a much stronger Communist Party. Decades of the old two-party system, with both party leaderships equally devoted to managing capitalism, even if in slightly different ways, have deeply confused masses of the people. Illusions about the present system are deep-rooted. But the old historic strategy of three-quarters of a century of reformism has clearly failed: however difficult the struggle, this alternative that we propose is the only way forward.