Communist Party of Great Britain
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You, as a new member, have joined our Party because you want to help make Britain a socialist country. We welcome you into our ranks. Your contribution and that of the many other new recruits who are joining us will help “speed the day”.
But struggle to be successful, to avoid mistakes, must be based on knowledge derived from a scientific study of the experience of the working class, of the development of human society, from a study of socialism where it has already been established. That is why our Party places such great emphasis on theory. It seeks to wage the class struggle for socialism on a scientific basis not by rule of thumb.
It is for this reason, too, that our Party lays great stress on Party education. We organise education classes for all our members and you should do your utmost to enrol in one, to start with on the basis of this syllabus which is for new members. But our Party lays equal stress on personal study — the conscious effort of every member to read and to study the rich heritage of Marxist writing, to study critically the best of the important non-Marxist books, to widen his or her horizon by becoming acquainted with the best of our own literature and that of other countries.
There is a vast amount of literature available. Here we can only give a few suggestions for introductory reading for those who wish to develop their understanding of Marxist theory and of the history of the British Labour movement.
Folder for New Members
KARL MARX: Wage, Labour and Capital (Foreign Languages Publishing House, 6d.).
MARX-ENGELS: Communist Manifesto (F.L.P.H., 6d.).
EMILE BURNS: Introduction to Marxism (Lawrence & Wishart, 5s.).
LENIN: Lecture on the State (Little Lenin Library, No. 23, Is.).
HARRY POLLITT: Serving My Time (Lawrence & Wishart, 10s. 6d.).
W. GALLACHER: Revolt on the Clyde (Lawrence & Wishart, 2s. 6d.).
ALLEN HUTT: British-Trade Unionism (Lawrence & Wishart, 12s. 6d.).
The British Road to Socialism (C.P., 6d.).
If anyone requires any assistance as to suggestions for more advanced and systematic reading the Education Department will be glad to give help. Please write to us at 16 King Street, London, W.C.2.
Session I: THE WORLD WE LIVE IN AND WHY WE WANT TO CHANGE IT
Session II: IMPERIALISM
Session III: SOCIALISM — OUR AIM
Session IV: THE PATH TO SOCIALISM IN BRITAIN
Session V: THE ROLE OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY
“The aim of the Communist Party is to achieve a Socialist Britain in which the social ownership of the means of production and exchange shall replace the existing capitalist system.” (From Rule I of the Communist Party Rules)
Whoever travels through our land must be struck by its beauty. Despite over 200 years of industrial development, England’s varied loveliness is world famed.
But, in addition to great natural beauty — Britain is rich. Rich in natural resources, in the matchless skill of her workers, in her capacity to produce everything necessary for a good life for all.
Britain’s greatest single asset is the British people, who in their long history have been foremost in the fight against tyranny and oppression. The British people were the first in the world to fight and end the absolute power of kings in the English Revolution of 1640. The British working class pioneered trade unionism and the Co-operative movement. The struggle of the English Chartists in the forties of the last century is an inspiration to the workers of all countries.
Britain could be a paradise for the people — its skilled working people could build a new and better life more rapidly than any other people in the world.
But Britain is not a paradise for the people. On the contrary, there is growing unemployment and short time. Prices are continually rising and there is bitter resistance by the government and employers to all demands for wage increases. Old folks are starving on miserable pensions. The Americans occupy our country. We bear a crushing rearmament programme resulting in the social services being cut to the bone. Over Britain there hangs the menace of nuclear destruction. U.S. H-bomb and Polaris bases are stationed here. So are West German troops. This is the result of Britain’s membership of N.A.T.O. and other war alliances, its participation in the “cold war” — policies supported both by the Tories and by the right-wing Labour leaders.
Who and what is responsible? It is the capitalists and those right-wing leaders of the Labour movement who support their policies, who are responsible for the immediate position we find ourselves in.
But underlying the causes of the present situation is the fundamental cause of all the sufferings and tribulations of the people, namely, that Britain is a capitalist country, ruled for and by capitalists for their profit and interests.
What is wrong with Britain is the way society is organised, the “system of society” which prevails. Some of the main features of this society are:
1. It is divided into rich and poor — a tiny handful of rich (1 per cent of the population own more than half the nation’s wealth) who do no work, and the overwhelming majority who work their whole lives through.
“Large fortunes of £50,000 and over comprise a quarter of this country’s wealth. This is owned by about 5,000 persons — one-fifth of 1 per cent of the nation. There are 293,000 capitalist firms, but 520 of them take half the total yearly profit made in Britain.
“1,700,000 people can exist in this country only by drawing public assistance. But there are 100,000 big bosses, 300,000 small employers and 650,000 managers — a total of around 1 million — who live off what the rest of us, the 212 millions of the working population, produce.
“These 212 millions produce everything and own very little. The million produce nothing, own practically everything and dominate everything — the Government, Parliament, the press, the courts, book publishing, the films, I.T.V. and the B.B.C.” (John Gollan: Which Way for Socialists? p. 4.)
2. Wars — involving incalculable suffering to the people — are a regular occurrence. There have been two terrible wars within the lifetime of every adult in Britain over forty years of age.
3. Empire — Britain is the centre of a huge empire, now called “the Commonwealth” covering a quarter of the earth’s surface and containing a quarter of the world’s population. This empire was acquired by brutal conquest. It brought huge profits to British capitalists and financiers. It cost the lives of thousands of British soldiers and hundreds of millions of pounds spent in trying to keep the colonial peoples down. While many of these peoples have now won their political independence, vast profits are still squeezed out of them, for British firms still dominate decisive sections of the economic life of the poorer colonial countries.
These are some of the features of the system we live under which is called capitalism.
Here we will deal with two main aspects only.
(a) It is a system of exploitation. Capitalism is a system in which the means for producing the wealth (the land, the mines, factories, the machines etc.) are in private hands. It is true that in Britain a number of industries — mining, the railways, electricity — have been taken out of private hands and have been nationalised. But the first charge on the nationalised industries is compensation for the old, private shareholders. The nationalised boards are manned overwhelmingly by ex-directors of the industries concerned. In any case only 20 per cent of industry has been nationalised. The remaining 80 per cent is in private hands. Thus a tiny handful of people own these “means of production” as they are called. But they do not work them. The immense majority of the people own nothing (in the sense that they can live on what they own) but their power to work.
By exploitation we mean living off the labour of other people. There have been previous forms of exploitation. In slave society, the slave-owners lived off the labour of the slaves who were their property. In feudal society, the feudal lords lived off the forced labour of the serfs. In capitalist society the worker is neither a slave nor yet a serf, i.e. forced to do free, unpaid labour for a master. But he is exploited just the same, even though the form of this exploitation is not so open and clear as was the case with the slaves and the serfs.
The essence of exploitation under capitalism consists in this — that the workers, when set to work with raw materials and machinery, produce far more in values than what is paid out by the capitalists in wages, for raw materials etc. In short, they produce a surplus which belongs to the capitalists and for which they are not paid. Thus they are robbed of the values they produce. This is the source of capitalist profit. It is on this surplus, produced by the workers, that the capitalist lives in riches and luxury.
Let us take actual examples of this. Official figures show that the value added by labour to the raw materials etc. in the cement industry in 1955 came to £1,870 per worker. Average wages and salaries came to £620. Thus there was a surplus value of £1,250 produced by each worker. This is 200 per cent exploitation — the workers got one-third and the capitalist got two-thirds. Or the fact, used by the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions in support of their wage claim in 1954, that each worker in engineering produces a surplus of £6 a week.
Capitalism is a system in which the means for producing wealth are owned by a few who live by exploiting the workers, i.e. by robbing them of the values they produce over and above the value of their wages.
(b) It is a system of booms and slumps. From the earliest days of its existence (at the end of the eighteenth century) until today, capitalism has been marked by periodic slumps, or “economic crises” as they are called, which cause mass unemployment and untold misery for the great mass of the working people. These are crises of a very special kind. They are caused because there is too much of everything and are therefore called “crises of over-production”.
“In these crises there breaks out an epidemic that in all earlier epochs would have seemed an absurdity — the epidemic of over-production . . . . ” (Marx-Engels, Communist Manifesto).
The great world economic crisis of 1929-31, which really lasted until the beginning of the Second World War, is remembered only too well. At that time there were over 40 million people unemployed throughout the capitalist world. In Britain, in the autumn of 1930, the figures of registered unemployed exceeded 2,300,000 and never sank below 1 million until 1940, after the beginning of the Second World War.
Slumps or crises of over-production arise for the following reasons:
Capitalism is the system based on competition. There are many capitalists each producing the same kind of commodity. Each hopes to sell all that he has produced and thereby to realise a profit. He has to compete with his rivals in the attempt to sell his goods. The quantity of goods produced therefore bears no relation to the real demand. Capitalism is thus by its nature an unplanned, anarchic system. Each capitalist tries to produce as much and as cheaply as possible in order to grab as much of the market — and as much profit — as possible. To do so more effectively, to defeat their rivals, the capitalists constantly seek to cheapen production by introducing new machinery, speeding up the workers etc. Thus more and more goods are being produced. At the same time they seek to drive down the wages of the workers in order to increase their share of the wealth produced.
There thus arises a constant gap between the quantity of the goods produced and the ability of the mass of consumers (in all countries, workers and peasants dependent on more or less fixed wages and small incomes) to buy them. This is the source of crises under capitalism.
So long as capitalism has existed there have always been crises of overproduction.
So long as capitalism continues to exist crises are inevitable. It is impossible to plan continuous unbroken production in the interests of the people under capitalism. Only socialism makes crisis-free production possible.
Communist Manifesto. Section (1) “Bourgeois and Proletarians”.
Wage, Labour and Capital. Introduction by F. Engels.
EMILE BURNS: Introduction to Marxism, Chapter 3 (Lawrence & Wishart, 5s.).
(a) The Rise of Monopoly
As stated, capitalism is a system where each capitalist is faced with competition for the market from his rivals. To meet this competition each capitalist tries to produce more and cheaper than his competitors. This results in the enlarging of the units of production, as individual capitalists enlarge their plant, introduce more modern machinery, speed-up, etc. As a result of this competition, the ruin of the smaller and weaker capitalists by the bigger and stronger ones takes place, and a stage arises when whole fields of production are dominated by a few giant concerns. These are called monopolies and they are able to regulate production in their own interests, charge high monopoly prices, and net what Stalin called “maximum profits”.
Examples of monopolies of this kind operating in Britain are: I.C.I., Vickers, Unilever, Courtaulds etc.
This marks a new stage in the development of capitalism — the domination of economic life by monopolies. This stage is called monopoly capitalism, and began to develop in most European countries at the end of the last century. Monopoly is the essence of imperialism and imperialism is the highest and last stage of capitalism.
Competition leads to monopoly in each capitalist country. But monopoly does not eliminate competition. Within each country the big monopolies engage in fierce conflict with one another, while competition is particularly violent between the monopolies of different countries for world domination. One result is the scramble for secure, exclusive, competition-free markets, for sources of raw materials, for spheres for the most profitable investment of capital. This is found in the technically undeveloped parts of the world. These are seized and transformed into colonies, whose whole economic and political life are forcibly dominated by imperialist governments to meet the needs of the big monopolies for maximum profits.
But the world has only so many colonial areas. And by the beginning of the 20th century the available colonies were parcelled out between a few, older imperialist countries — Britain, France, Holland, Belgium, Portugal, but especially Britain. The British Empire, by 1914, covered 12.7 million square miles of territory with a population of 431 million people. 3,700,000 square miles of the British Empire were acquired between 1884-1900, the period of the rise of imperialism as a new stage in the development of capitalism.
In this situation, developing monopoly capitalism in Germany and the U.S.A., driving outwards and eager to acquire colonies, could secure them only by taking them from those powers who already had empires, i.e. by war — especially from Britain.
(c) Imperialism Leads to War
The various powers “gang up” in combination against other groupings of imperialist powers. Thus the First World War of 1914-18 took place as a conflict between two groups of powers — one led by Britain (the Entente) and the other by Germany (the Central Powers). In essence it was a brutal imperialist war between Britain and Germany for colonies, markets and European domination. The Second World War arose out of the drive of Hitler Germany for world domination. Today the danger of a third world war arises out of the drive of U.S. imperialism to subjugate the entire world.
(d) Imperialism, the epoch of Socialist Revolution
But imperialism is not only the period of world wars. It ushers in the era of the world socialist revolution.
The workers in the imperialist countries, faced with increased exploitation, the peoples of the colonial countries, subject to even greater oppression, the people of the whole world, faced with a succession of terrible wars, awaken to the need to end imperialism. New revolutionary Marxist parties — Communist Parties — arise to head this struggle. Where these Parties have the leadership of the working class and of their allies, imperialism is smashed, as was the case in Russia in 1917 after the First World War, and in the People’s Democracies and China after 1945. These countries take the path to Socialism, which sees the ending of the exploitation of man by man.
(a) The Class Struggle Arises from Capitalism itself. It is not Imported
As we have seen, capitalism is a system in which there are different classes, exploiters and exploited, rich and poor. The interests of these two classes are clearly opposed. The exploiters try to increase the exploitation of the workers as much as possible in order to increase their profits. The exploited try to limit this exploitation, and to get back as much of the wealth as possible of which they have been robbed.
This is one aspect of the class struggle which arises inevitably out of the whole character of capitalism as a class system based on exploitation.
In the fight against monopoly capitalism, the working class need allies and can secure them. Monopoly capitalism attacks not only the working class but threatens the interests of other sections of society, including those of the smaller capitalists. The whole home and foreign policy of monopoly capital threatens the existence of the overwhelming majority of the people. This is seen particularly in the policy pursued by the Tory Government on behalf of the big monopolies. Thus monopoly capital can be isolated and the whole forces of the people organised against it. It is the task of the working class to unite around itself the majority of the nation in common struggle for peace, national independence, defence of living standards, East-West trade etc.
(c) The fight within capitalism, and the fight to end capitalism
The working class has to fight both immediate and long-term struggles. The immediate struggles are those that are fought out on different aspects of struggle within the existing capitalist order. Such struggles are those for wages, in defence of living standards, for peace etc. These struggles can be victorious without a fundamental change of social system. Organisations for waging these particular struggles are established, e.g. trade unions, peace organisations, old age pensioners’ organisations etc.
But for a lasting solution of all these problems, it is necessary to end capitalism altogether and to replace it by a new system of society in which the working people rule. For this purpose the working class creates the Communist Party, in which the most advanced and progressive sections of the working class and of other sections of the people are organised. The Communist Party is dedicated to the task of ending the capitalist system and replacing it by a socialist system. The Communist Party participates to the full in all the immediate struggles facing the working class and its allies, for it is impossible to talk about fighting capitalism unless one takes part in all aspects of that struggle. But the special task of the Communist Party is to link the struggle on the immediate questions with the struggle to develop consciousness and understanding of the need to end the capitalist system as such and replace it by Socialism.
Capitalist society gives rise to fierce class struggles which are sharpened enormously in the period of monopoly capitalism — imperialism. This period provides the most favourable possibilities for the securing of allies for the working class. Imperialism puts the task of ending capitalism on the order of the day. Communist Parties are created by the working class to lead this struggle. The main task of the Communist Party is to combine participation in the day-to-day struggle with the spreading of understanding of the need to end capitalism and establish Socialism.
EMILE BURNS: Introduction to Marxism, (Chapters 4 and 5, Unity Behind).
The ending of the exploitation, of cruelty and injustice caused by class society in its various forms, has long been the dream of men. It found expression in the teachings of the early Christians, in the writings of men like John Ball, Sir Thomas More, Robert Owen, the early English Chartists and the pioneers of the British Labour movement.
But so long as modern, large-scale factory production did not exist, Socialism — which alone can end the exploitation of man by man — could only remain a dream. It was capitalism, in the search for greater profits, which mastered natural forces, expanded the production of goods on an enormous scale, united the scattered, individual production of men into highly developed, large-scale factory production, thus establishing the basis on which Socialism can be built.
But capitalism by itself does not “evolve” into Socialism. It has to be transformed into Socialism by the conscious action and struggle of men. Capitalism creates the living social force which, by its very position in capitalist society, is compelled to change capitalism into Socialism. This force is the working class and its allies. The age-long dream of the thinkers and the fighters of the past can only be transformed into reality when the working class, supported by its allies and led by the Communist Party, wages the struggle to take political and economic power from the capitalist class and, having succeeded in this, sets about building a socialist society.
2. Features of a Socialist Society
What will such a socialist society look like? How will exploitation and oppression be ended? We can get an idea of the general features of a socialist society if we examine the experience and achievements of the Soviet Union, the country where Socialism has existed for the longest period of time.
(a) The first and most important feature is that political power, i.e. control of the apparatus of government — of the state — is now in the hands of the majority of the people led by the working class. This means that control of the armed forces, the police, the foreign office, education, radio and television etc. is in the hands of the working class and its allies. It is this power which makes possible the taking over of the main means of production, distribution and exchange, the transformation of the country, from capitalism to Socialism, and the defence of the new socialist state from attempts to overthrow it either from inside or outside the country.
(b) The means of production — the factories, mines, land, banks and transport are taken away from the monopoly capitalists. They are transformed into social property by socialist nationalisation. This means that they belong to and are worked by the whole of the people, that the fruits of production likewise become social property, used to advance the standard of life of the peoples.
(c) Exploitation of man by man is ended. No longer can some men (the capitalists), by virtue of the fact that they own the means of production, live off (exploit) the labour of others (the working class). No longer are the workers compelled to sell their labour power to the capitalists in order to live. The workers are no longer property-less proletarians. They now own the means of production and work them in their own interests and in the interests of society. For society is now composed of workers by hand and brain, i.e. of an associated body of wealth-producers.
What is produced is no longer divided between the workers’ wages and the surplus taken by the capitalists. The whole of what the workers produce comes back to them in various ways.
“In the Soviet Union the national income belongs to the working people.
“One part (about a quarter) goes for the further expansion of socialist production and for other public needs, and the remainder (approximately three-quarters) is used for the satisfaction of the working peoples’ material and cultural requirements. . . . This figure includes wages and salaries and the income received by collective farmers. It includes the money spent by the government on pensions and other forms of social maintenance, social insurance, and free education and medical services and on other cultural services and amenities.” (The U.S.S.R.: 100 Questions Answered, 1958 edition. Soviet Booklet No. 40, Question 34, p. 61.)
Since production under Socialism is still insufficient to give everybody all that they need, the direct return in money (or “wages” as they are still called) is based on the individual contribution made. The watchword of Socialism is therefore: “From each according to his ability to each according to the work done”.
What is produced comes back in other ways as well as in wages. The whole immense system of social services — health, social insurance, pensions, education etc. — are free and non-contributory, available to all. The expenses of state administration, of defence, above all, the money for expanding socialist production — the guarantee of a constantly improved standard of living — are financed from the values created by the workers in production. All these serve the immediate and future interests of the working class.
(d) Production is planned to meet the constantly rising material and cultural needs of the people. This is only possible because the means of production have been taken out of the hands of competing private owners whose only concern was to produce what was profitable, not what was needed by the people. Thus there is an end to crises, slumps and unemployment, of poverty in the midst of plenty. For what is planned is both an increase in production and in consumption by the people through increasing their purchasing power. The seven price reductions in the Soviet Union since the end of the Second World War, alongside a great increase in production, are examples of how this works out in practice.
(e) Socialism means the ending of the oppression of nation by nation, the end of imperialist exploitation of colonial peoples. It is impossible to build Socialism on the basis of imperialist oppression — a point which right-wing Labour leaders cover up. Imperialist exploitation is the policy of monopoly capitalism and benefits it. A socialist society eliminates monopoly capitalism. There is therefore no social basis for imperialism in a socialist society. On the contrary, Socialism alone ends imperialism, frees formerly backward colonial peoples, and by fraternal assistance brings them into the front ranks of industrial and social development. The development of the former colonial peoples of the Tsarist Empire since 1917 is one of the most inspiring proofs of the truth of this statement.
(f) Socialism means peace. Within the country there are no longer capitalists who profit by war, who see in war the way to secure more colonies, markets and a chance to dominate the world. On the contrary, in a socialist society everyone loses by war not only in terms of personal suffering but also by the diversion of resources from socialist construction and the advance to a better life. The last war cost the Soviet people the equivalent of two Five-Year Plans (apart from 25 million dead).
(g) Finally Socialism means a new, higher type of democracy — a wider, more purposeful life for all. It is the only system in which the old definition of democracy as “government of the people, by the people, for the people” becomes a reality. Capitalist democracy is government of the people by the capitalists in the interests of the capitalists. In the Soviet Union and in the People’s Democracies, the basis for socialist advance is the development of the initiative of the people, their enrolment in the active processes of government and social life. Without this the building of Socialism is impossible. Socialism cannot be imposed on the people from above. It develops from below, from the new opportunities which socialist society provides to men and women to develop all their capacities in their own interests and in the interests of society as a whole. The great advances made in the Soviet Union, the People’s Democracies, and in People’s China are proof of this.
Socialism is the first stage of transition of mankind from class to fully classless society. Marx and Engels visualised Communism in two stages — Socialism, the lower stage, and Communism, the higher stage. There are many differences between these two stages. The main difference is that under Communism production has been developed to such an extent that there is an abundance of goods of all kinds. Society can now advance from the watchword on which Socialism is organised, i.e. “From each according to his ability and to each according to the work done”, to that of Communist society, which is, “From each according to his ability, to each a ccording to his needs”. This means the greatest advance in human history of all time.
The steps necessary to advance Britain towards Socialism are outlined in the Communist Party programme The British Road to Socialism. On the basis of the building of a broad alliance of the working class and its allies, a socialist Government will be set up. Resting on the power of the majority of the people and on their continued struggle, this Government will take over all the means of production at present in the hands of the monopolies and turn them into social property. Production will be planned in the interests of a continually rising standard of living for the people. The state apparatus which served capitalism will be transformed and replaced by one which serves the interests of the people. The people will begin more and more to play a decisive part in the running of their country.
A Socialist Britain will greatly strengthen the new advancing world of Socialism which already exists and will speed up the final overthrow of imperialism all over the world.
MARX-ENGELS: The Communist Manifesto, Section 2. “Proletarians and Communists”.
EMILE BURNES: Introduction to Marxism, (Chapter 6).
Within the Labour movement controversy has raged for a very long time as to the best way of achieving Socialism. There are two main outlooks.
(a) The Right-wing View.
There is a powerful group in the Labour movement composed mainly of the leaders of the Labour Party and the T.U.C. which propogates what is called the “right-wing” or Social Democratic view on the path to Socialism.
In essence this view is based on the idea that the path to Socialism is through capitalism and its institutions; that capitalism is transformed peacefully and gradually into Socialism through the “introduction” of socialist measures by a Labour Government, e.g. nationalisation. The two Labour Governments of 1945-51 are held up as examples of this gradual transition to Socialism.
This “theory” is false and dangerous because:
(i) It avoids the central issue of real power — political and economic power, which under capitalism is in the hands of the capitalist class and which must be taken out of their hands if the advance to Socialism is to be undertaken.
Power in the sense of a parliamentary majority must not be confused with real power. A parliamentary majority in British conditions is of key importance in beginning the advance to Socialism. But by itself it cannot bring about Socialism.
Economic power means ownership of all the means of production — the factories, mills, mines, land, banks, etc. So long as these remain in the private hands of the capitalist class, society remains capitalist society irrespective of the character of the government in power. The workers continue to be exploited. Production continues to be production for profit. Planned production for Socialism is impossible. Finally, the capitalists can use this power to sabotage and disorganise the economy.
Political power means control of the State apparatus, which is more than Parliament. It is the control of the armed forces, the police, law and justice, education, propaganda, etc. — all of which are headed by defenders of capitalism. The state apparatus is the machinery of coercion and government established by every ruling class to maintain its rule over the subject classes.
The key positions in the capitalist State, in the army, police, judiciary etc., are by careful process of selection concentrated in the hands of trusted defenders of capitalism. It is a powerful weapon in the hands of the capitalists used whenever their basic interests appear to be threatened by any progressive government.
(ii) It teaches that the state is neutral. The right-wing leaders proclaim this state apparatus is “neutral” and carries out the orders of whichever government is in power. This is the most fatal and dangerous idea. Experience in the past has shown that whatever the government in power, however large its majority, the defenders of capitalism in the state apparatus are ready to use their power to thwart any move which might be disadvantageous to the capitalist class as a whole or to any individual section. This was proved in the case of the Liberal Government of 1913, which had passed a Home Rule Bill for Ireland. Landlords of big estates in Ireland and Tory imperialists were bitterly opposed to this measure. They organised a mutiny in the armed forces, called the Curragh Mutiny, and compelled the Government to withdraw the Bill.
Experience in pre-Hitler Germany, Austria and Spain, and present experience in France, all emphasise the same point, i.e. that control of the key positions in the state when left in the hands of capitalist supporters, results in the overthrow of the elected parliamentary majority — where such a government is regarded as a menace to capitalism.
(iii) It confuses nationalisation with Socialism. The right-wing leaders assert that any economic activity by the state is Socialism. But nationalisation can be of advantage to capitalism. It depends on the kind of state which does the nationalising and the kind of nationalisation undertaken. In a number of countries — Germany, Canada and a number of European countries — the railways were nationalised long before the British railways were. State dockyards, arsenals etc., have been a feature in many countries for a long time but nobody would call them socialist measures, for they serve a predominantly capitalist economy.
In Britain some important industries were nationalised — coal, railways, electricity, steel. This was not Socialism, for these industries serve the big monopolies, providing them with cheap fuel and power at the expense of the workers in the industries and of the consumers. The nationalised industries continue to be administered by the former managers and directors with a few retired generals, admirals and old trade union leaders thrown in. The industries nationalised constituted 20 per cent of industry: 80 per cent still remains in private hands. The economic power of the capitalists is not threatened by this kind of nationalisation.
(iv) It teaches that the working class have no need to fight for Socialism. In essence, right-wing Labour theory reduces the role of the working class in the fight for Socialism to that of “voting fodder”. All the workers need to do is to vote every so often for a Labour Government in sufficient numbers. Then Socialism is handed down — “introduced” — from above. This disarms the working class and prevents them organising and mobilising for the greatest struggle of all — the struggle for Socialism.
(v) It turns experience upside down. This theory is most dangerous because it flies directly in the face of the experience of the international working class. No country has achieved Socialism on the basis of this theory. On the contrary, in all cases right-wing Labour Governments have been replaced either by fascists, near-fascists, or Tory Governments — Germany, Austria, Britain, Australia.
(b) The Marxist View
(i) General principles: The essence of the Marxist view of the transition to Socialism is that unless political and economic power is taken out of the hands of the capitalist class and transferred into the hands of the majority of the people, led by the working class, no advance to Socialism is possible.
This means that the State apparatus is transformed into one which serves the majority of the people. The leading positions in the state — army, police, judges, etc. — are manned by representatives of the people and defenders of their interests. It means, in the economic field, that monopoly capitalists’ control of the means of production is eliminated by socialist nationalisation.
This is the general essential content of the transition to Socialism in all countries.
(ii) Concrete circumstances: While this essential content of Socialism applies to all countries, the form in which the transition takes place varies according to the differences of time, place and the relation of class forces in the world and in the particular country. Since 1945, as a result of the new developments in the international situation, a new form of transition to Socialism has been developed. This form is that of People’s Democracy. In Britain again the form will be different. In our programme The British Road to Socialism our Party outlines the specific British forms of advance to Socialism.
(a) Only Socialism can solve the problems facing the British people. The British people can only secure peace, national independence, advance of their living standards, and end the shame of imperialist domination over the colonial peoples if monopoly capitalism is ended. Britain can only advance and finally solve its problems if it takes the path to Socialism.
(b) The development of unity and of the immediate struggle — the foundation for the advance to Socialism
The fight for Socialism is not something separate from the fight for the immediate and urgent interests of the people, i.e. the fight for wages, peace, living standards or national independence. On the contrary, the greater the level of activity on these issues, and above all, the greater the unity in action of the working class and its allies in the fight for these interests, the more speedy and effective will be the fight to end the Tory Government, to eliminate right-wing influence from the Labour movement.
Action in unity, now, lays the basis for the wider unity which is essential if we are to achieve a Socialist Government and to advance to Socialism in Britain.
(c) The Alliance of the Majority of the People, led by the Working Class, the Force that can end Monopoly Capitalism
Monopoly capital, whose political representatives are the Tories, pursues a policy opposed to the interests of the overwhelming majority of the British people. It has tied Britain to the United States, with resulting loss of independence. The continuation of this policy threatens the British people with economic, political, military and national destruction.
The way to prevent this is to build a broad, popular alliance of the workers and their allies — the small shopkeepers, farmers, professional people, who between them constitute the overwhelming majority of the nation, and all of whom are oppressed and threatened by monopoly capital. But this alliance must be led by the working class, the strongest, most advanced and decisive class in modern society. This is the guarantee that the outcome of the struggle will be advance to Socialism. Such an alliance would lead to the return of a Socialist Government which would begin to carry out a programme which would take Britain on the path to Socialism.
(d) The Role of Parliament
Parliament is rooted in British history. Through it the British people have expressed their aspirations for social advance for centuries (English Revolution 1640; Chartism 1840; General Election 1945). Parliament could play a key role in the development of Socialism in Britain. It would not be a Parliament resting on a passive people whose task was ended with voting it into power. It would rest on and be impelled by a politically active people, whose struggle for Socialism would continue and be part of the activities of Parliament. In short, it would really be a Parliament reflecting the will of the people and giving the sanction of its authority to their struggle.
(e) The Programme of a Socialist Government
The Socialist Government, based on the continued action and struggle of the people, would lead the British people to Socialism by carrying out the following programme:
“Socialist nationalisation of large-scale industry, banks, insurance companies, big distributive monopolies, and the land of the big landowners, in order to break the power of the millionaire monopolists; and control of foreign trade in the interests of the people.
“A planned economy based on socialist principles and aimed at rapidly improving the people’s living and working conditions, with workers by hand and brain, and their organisations, participating in planning and management at every level.
“Consolidation of the political power of the working people by ensuring that those in commanding positions in the armed forces and police, the civil service and diplomatic services are loyal to the Socialist Government and increasingly representative of the people; and by democratic electoral reform, democratic ownership of the press, and control of broadcasting by the people.
“The strengthening and extension of all democratic rights, and measures to ensure the just administration of the law.
“Recognition of the right of all subject peoples to self-determination, and the necessary measures to guarantee this.
“Making Britain strong, free and independent, with a foreign policy of peace and friendship with all nations.” (British Road to Socialism, p. 11.)
MARX-ENGELS: Communist Manifesto (Section 4, “Position of the Communists in Relation to the Various Existing Opposition Parties”).
British Road to Socialism (Sections 1,2,3 and 4).
Without a strong Communist Party which has the support of the decisive sections of the working class, no advance to Socialism is possible. This is the experience of the working-class struggle in all countries. It is only in those countries where the Communist Parties lead the working class that Socialism either exists already (as in the Soviet Union) or is in the stage of being achieved (as in the People’s Democracies.)
In all countries where right-wing Labour leaders dominate the Labour movement, there the working class has been led to defeats and the rule and power of the capitalists has been strengthened.
It is because monopoly capitalism – imperialism — places before the working class and the whole people the urgent task of ending capitalism that the working class creates the political weapon for accomplishing this task — the Communist Party.
The Communist Party, formed in Britain in 1920, following on the experiences of the first world war and the Russian Revolution, is a Party of a New Type. This is because it differs fundamentally from the Social Democratic Parties, the parties dominated by the right-wing Labour leaders.
(a) Differences of Theory
The Communist Parties base themselves on the theories of Marx and Engels which were developed further by Lenin and Stalin. These theories are called Marxism-Leninism. They are drawn from the actual experiences of the working class under capitalism. Marxist theory generalises these experiences and draw scientific conclusions from them. For example, a fundamental principle of Marxism-Leninism, based on the actual experience of the working class, is the development of society through the Class Struggle.
Since the dawn of class society, history has been the history of different classes struggling for political domination, for the ownership of the means of production and for the major control of the wealth produced. Marxism-Leninism asserts that the class struggle exists and is developed most sharply in capitalist society. As indicated in Session I, the interests of the capitalists and workers are opposed — they confront each other as exploiter and exploited. The workers can only defend and improve their conditions by struggle. Finally, that the outcome of this struggle must not be limited to the defence of existing conditions, but to the ending of the capitalist system altogether.
The right-wing Labour leaders accept capitalist theory on all decisive questions of the working-class struggle for Socialism. They deny that the workers are exploited by the capitalists through the appropriation of surplus value. They justify profits. They deny the class character of the State and preach its neutrality. They proclaim the peaceful transition to Socialism within the framework of capitalism. They deny the class struggle and preach the “common interests” and the “reconciliation” of classes.
Thus their theory is the theory of the capitalists which they transmit to the Labour movement. A fundamental task of the Communist Party is to combat this capitalist theory and to bring the independent class theory of Marxism-Leninism to the Labour movement.
(b) Differences of Aim
The aim of the Communist Party, clearly stated in Rule 1 of its Constitution, is to achieve Socialism in Britain. The aim of Socialism is also to be found in the Constitution of the Labour Party and undoubtedly reflects the aspiration of the rank and file for a Socialist Britain.
But the whole practice of the right-wing leaders who dominate the Labour Party has been to strengthen capitalism and thereby to prevent the achievement of Socialism. They supported the first imperialist war of 1914-18. They have been at one with the reactionaries and diehards in attacking and slandering the Soviet Union.
“In words the Labour Party now stood for common ownership. In fact the dominant right-wing leaders were able to maintain their alliance with the capitalist class, to hold back the movement in the great struggles of the twenties, leading up to the betrayal of the General Strike in 1926, and the collapse of the Labour Government in the 1931 slump and the disruption of the Labour Party by Ramsay MacDonald’s desertion to the Tory Party.” (John Gollan, Which Way for Socialists? p. 6.)
The two Labour Governments since 1945 continued the policy of strengthening capitalism and tied Britain to U.S. imperialism. Throughout they have weakened and disrupted the unity of the working class by attacks on the Communists, bans, splits, purges on progressive socialist elements in the Labour movement. It is therefore not surprising that the right-wing leaders today hardly speak of Socialism. Instead they speak of the “Welfare State” and the “Mixed Economy”, equating these with Socialism.
A fundamental task of the Communist Party is to put the aim of Socialism constantly before the working class, to raise its political consciousness and fighting spirit, and to inspire all aspects of working class struggle — peace, national independence, against attacks on living standards etc. — with the aim of Socialism.
(i) Because right-wing Labour theory sees a parliamentary majority as the key to Socialism, its organisation is adapted mainly to electoral activity. The other aspects of working class struggle — the day-to-day fight with the capitalists over wages, working conditions, standard of living — is not regarded as the business of the Labour Party. There is a rigid division between the “wings” of the movement — the trade unions and the Party, with the Party concentrating overwhelmingly on electoral and parliamentary activity.
The Communist Party is also interested in the electoral struggle in strengthening the number of fighting, militant M.P.s of the type of William Gallacher and Phil Piratin in Parliament. But it rejects the view that Parliament is the sole and decisive form of working class struggle, and emphasises the connection between the developing struggle against the capitalists on all issues and the return of a progressive, Socialist parliamentary majority.
The main decisive body of the Labour Party is, in effect, the Parliamentary Labour Party — the organisation of Labour Members of Parliament — and within this, of the top leaders — the members of the Government when Labour is in office, and of the “Shadow Cabinet” when it is in opposition.
This is really a Party within a Party, a law unto itself, outside the real control of the Party as such, and frequently violating Party conference decisions. The most glaring recent examples are the refusal of Gaitskell and his supporters to accept the decisions of the 1959 Labour Party conference on unilateral disarmament and their sustained struggle to overturn them. Because the right-wing policy of the leaders comes into constant conflict with the outlook of the rank and file, discipline in the Labour Party is imposed from above, with constant bans and proscriptions from Transport House.
(ii) Because of the totally different outlook and the aim of the Communist Party, the form and character of its organisation is likewise different. The Communist Party does not isolate one side of the struggle — the electoral fight — as does the Labour Party. It bases itself on the need to lead and develop all sides of the working class struggle, including that on the electoral field. This is emphasised especially in Rule I of the Party Rules. It sees the working class the decisive, most advanced force in modern society, the class which is called upon to lead other sections in the struggle against monopoly capitalism and for Socialism.
Communist Party organisation is based on the idea that the Communists must have contact with all sections of the people, especially the working class, and participate in all struggles, especially the struggle of the workers in large-scale industry. This is why the Communist Party gives such emphasis to factory organisation.
(iii) In the Communist Party there is no such conflict of outlook between the leaders and the mass of the membership as exists in the Labour Party. This conflict represents the two trends which have always existed in the Labour Party — the socialist trend of the rank and file, and the capitalist trend represented by the right-wing leaders.
The Communist Party is a voluntary union of people who share a common outlook — Marxism-Leninism — and the common desire to work to realise its principles in life — i.e. to advance to Socialism in Britain. There are not two disciplines in the Communist Party, as in the Labour Party one for the leaders and one for the rank and file, but only one discipline. This is binding on all, leaders and rank and file alike.
This is ensured by the system of organisation which prevails in the Communist Party and is called “democratic centralism”. This is the combination of centralised organization — higher bodies, like the Executive Committee, District, Area, Factory and Area Branch Committees — with the fullest democracy from the bottom to the top. This democracy is expressed in the following: all decisions are based on majority vote; all leading bodies are elected by the vote of the membership; all members are encouraged to play the fullest part in formulating Party policy.
Rule 3 of the Party Constitution and Rules explains this process in great detail, viz.:
“Democratic centralism means that:
(a) All leading committees shall be elected regularly and shall report regularly to the Party organisations which have elected them.
(b) Elected higher committees shall have the right to take decisions binding on lower committees and organisations, and shall explain these decisions to them. Such decisions shall not be in conflict with decisions of the National Congress or Executive Committee.
(c) Elected higher committees shall encourage lower committees and organisations to express their views on questions of Party policy and on the carrying out of such policy.
(d) Lower committees and organisations shall carry out the decisions of higher elected committees and shall have the right to express their views, raise problems, and make suggestions to these committees.
(e) Decisions shall be made by majority vote, and minorities shall accept the decision of the majority.”
The Rights and Duties of members are dealt with in Rules 14 and 15. Members have the duty to take part in the life and activities of their Party branch and to equip themselves to take an active part in the working class movement. The rights of Party members (Rule 15) are:
“(a) To take part in their Party branch in the discussion and formation of Party policy and the carrying out of such policy, in accordance with the procedure defined in Rule 16.
(b) To elect and be elected to all those leading Party Committees defined in Rule 6.
(c) To address any question or statement to such leading Party Committees up to and including the Executive Committee.
(d) To reserve their opinion in the event of disagreement with a decision, while at the same time carrying out that decision.”
All these features taken together constitute the Communist Party as a Party of a new type, able to fulfil the role of advance guard and leader of the working class struggle for Socialism. In short, the role of the Communist Party can be summed up as follows:
“1. To give the Labour movement a Socialist consciousness, a scientific Socialist theory, a perspective of advance to Socialism.
2. To lead the workers and their allies in all the struggles which confront them — from the immediate struggles under capitalism right up to the struggles for political power and the building of Socialism.
3. To provide the organisation for the vanguard of the working class and working people capable of carrying out these two tasks.” (25th Congress Report — Political Resolution of the Congress, 1957, p. 71.)
(a) 3. The New Situation in the Labour Movement
More and more the rank and file of the Labour Party and the trade unions are lighting the policy of the right-wing Labour leaders. More and more they are fighting for the policies originally outlined by the Communist Party. The decisive task facing the Communist Party is to build unity in action with the best elements of the Labour movement in the struggle to save Britain from atomic destruction, for national independence, and for the defence of the living conditions of the people.
This unity of the socialist forces of the working class is essential if the working class is to lead the majority of the British people against monopoly capitalism.
In the course of building this unity of action, the most determined effort must be made to win understanding of the need for and role of a mass Communist Party and to increase the numbers of the Communist Party many times over. It has been the consistent struggle; propaganda, Marxist explanation and leadership of the daily struggle undertaken by the Communist Party over the years which has resulted in the emerging of a growing left movement in the Labour Party. The stronger the Communist Party the stronger will become the struggle for a socialist policy in the Labour Party.
(b) Build the Communist Party
While the task of building unity with the left of the Labour movement is of key importance, it is no substitute for the building of a mass Communist Party. Unity itself can only be strengthened if in the course of it ever new recruits are won for the Communist Party.
Only the Communist Party, because it is based on Marxist-Leninist theory, can indicate the correct line of march to the working class, link the immediate struggles with the ultimate fight for Socialism. The Communist Party alone has applied Marxist principles to the concrete problem of the advance to Socialism in Britain in its programme The British Road to Socialism.
A mass Communist Party, based on widespread unity of action with the best socialist forces in the Labour movement, is the only guarantee that the magnificent prospect of People’s Democracy for Britain will be realised in our life.
The task of building a mass Communist Party is one of the greatest importance to the whole Labour movement. A mass Communist Party is the key which will open the door on a socialist future for the British people.
Party Constitution and Rules (in your Party card).
The British Road to Socialism (last section, “The Communist Party and the Labour Movement”).
JOHN GOLLAN: Which Way for Socialism?