A Future That Works

A Future That Works
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Thursday, 18 August 2011

Communist Party of Britain trade union activist meeting for members and supporters

Saturday 24 September, 10.30am - 4.00pm

Courtyard Room,
Bishopsgate Institute,
230 Bishopsgate,
London EC2

Plenary sessions

• the role of trades councils;
• unions working across the public sector,
• and the anti-cuts movement.

Speakers include:

Anita Halpin CP trade union coordinating secretary
Carolyn Jones on the TUC
Kevin Halpin, Gawain Little and Anita Wright on trades councils
Tommy Morrison and Andy Chaffer on anti cuts campaigns
Bill Greenshields and Robert Griffiths on the CP and the labour movement

To register: please contact CPB head office

office@communist-party.org.uk

Allies of the Party may also attend on application direct to CPB head office

31 comments:

  1. Ben Stevenson's, CP executive speech in Birmingham came as the streets of Britain erupted.

    "I bring fraternal and sororal greetings from the Executive Committee of our Party to this, the 2011 Midlands District Congress.

    Your Congress could not be meeting at a more auspicious time for our class, our movement and our Party. The wave of rioting that swept through impoverished working class areas in every major city in England over the last week cannot and should not be dismissed as isolated acts by a criminal underclass, separate from any political or economic consideration.

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  2. The deepening economic crisis which is further re-distributing wealth to the top 10% whilst further impoverishing the other 90%, rising unemployment, growing disillusionment with the capitalist class and its state apparatus brought about by widely publicised evidence of endemic corruption amongst politicians, the media, the police, bankers and city speculators etc, institutionalised racism, cuts to youth and other public services are a key backcloth to these events. Working class resentment of the repressive character of the local state – especially in the shape of its most visible representatives in the form of the police - has risen to fever pitch in areas like Hackney and Toxteth. Here in the Midlands, too, in Handsworth, Aston, and Nottingham we saw major outbreaks. And in a dozen other working class inner city areas across the country, the police are seen as part of the problem not a solution. The attempt to conjure up the notion that there exists a phenomenon of criminality as some kind of permanent state of being within the lumpen proletariat ignores the depth of the crisis for the State.

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  3. David Cameron has already attempted to draw a connection between the level of intervention of the state and the events of the last week to justify the ConDem governments ruthless public spending cuts. Apparently in the gospel according to Dave, a more socially responsible and interventionist state actually “creates an irresponsible and sick society.” Of course it’s well documented that the social-democratic Scandanavian countries have riots practically every day, whereas Victorian Britain was a picture of social harmony. Hopefully, very few people will be fooled by these facile pronouncements.

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  4. The inability of the state to effectively deal with the situation that developed from Saturday onwards, mainly because they were all in their villas in Tuscany or had been sacked in the wake of the news international scandal, nevertheless demonstrates the continuing breakdown of the consensual means that the state uses to keep the working class in check. Over the last three decades increasingly the coercive means at its disposal have been successively strengthened and deployed. In the wake of the capitalist crisis and the offensive that has followed, now more than ever, the state is becoming more and more reliant on coercion rather than consent. From the response to the G20 protests to the kettling of anti-fees student protesters, this is clearly in evidence, and anyone who watched the parliamentary debate on Thursday can only come away with the conclusion that from the dangerous - ejecting people from social housing, stopping benefits etc. to the ridiculous – banning hoods – the coercive arsenal at the disposal of the state is to be strengthened.

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  5. These are all significant factors which we should take into consideration when explaining the route causes of this wave of public disorder. But as Communists we need to go much further than merely highlighting underlying causes. This current spontaneous expression of anger directed at the existing order is far from unique, every period of capitalist economic crisis and an intensified class struggle in Britain has been punctuated with similar displays. From the Newport riots that accompanied the Chartist movement of the 1830s to the wave of riots in the 1980s in precisely the same working class areas as in the riots of the last week. This spontaneity should not be condemned nor lauded but critically understood as Marxists.

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  6. Indeed spontaneity continues to be the predominant trend within British working class politics whether in the labour movement, the anti-cuts movement etc. It is a demonstration of the dearth of revolutionary consciousness within the working class movement. It is no surprise therefore that in the wake of the sharpening contradictions within capitalism and the ruling class offensive, that working class youth should be swept up in such a wave of sporadic, spontaneous and directionless displays of collective anger.

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  7. Lenin in his epoch defining What is to be Done considered the question of spontaneity amongst the Russian working class. As he explained the task of revolutionaries was to “help the mass of the people move from spontaneity (or trade union consciousness) to class (or revolutionary) consciousness. A new way ahead is needed. Not to worship spontaneity, but to reject subservience to and conciliation with what already exists.”

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  8. Spontaneous movements do not exhibit a revolutionary character .To expect a wave of riots to have found a coherent political and class conscious character is to exist in a pseudo-revolutionary dreamland. Consciousness does not spring from the ether nor does a nascent primitive understanding of one’s class position gleamed from your relation to the means of production, magically transmute into a revolutionary class consciousness.

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  9. It is only by the organic linking together of seemingly disparate, localised and isolated struggles that it is possible to see this emerge. The gradual cultivation of revolutionary consciousness through the linking of Marxist theory to the immediate conditions and contradictions faced by ordinary working class people can produce intense revolutionary ferocity. These riots can neither therefore be dismissed as an isolated example of the desire to attain certain consumer goods but nor can it be heralded as a signal of a massive leap forwards in the class struggle. It is further evidence, if more was needed, of the crucial role of the Communist Party.

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  10. There are of course many challenges, in this period, in which we as Communists have a particularly significant role to play. The perception is growing and becoming entrenched, even amongst working people that these cuts are necessary and inevitable. The ideological barrage launched by the ConDem government, to which, in parliament at least, there is no opposition to, is doing the job of dividing our movement, of pitting worker against worker, of ensuring an acceptance, at least in principle, that the way to tackle Britain’s economic problems is by cutting public expenditure.

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  11. But just how necessary is it for Britain to immediately reduce the level of its deficit? Our National debt is lower today than in 70 of the last 100 years. In fact as a proportion of GDP our deficit in 2009, immediately after the £1,350 billion bailout package for the banking and finance industry was actually lower than in 200 of the last 250 years. Our level of national debt is substantially lower than that of the USA or Japan and any of the other European industrialised countries.

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  12. Since the general election, the Communist Party has made it quite clear that there are alternative ways to tackle the national debt rather than the £203 billion worth of ConDem cuts. Rather than doing it over the course of five years we could do it all in one fell swoop simply by introducing; a 2% Wealth Tax on the richest 10% of the population; a 20% windfall tax on monopoly super-profits in the energy, retail, food, armaments and pharmaceutical industries; a ‘Robin Hood’ tax on each financial transaction made in the City of London; Closing the tax loopholes and making the super-rich and big business tax dodgers pay what they’re supposed to in the first place; and forcing those banks that we bailed out to repay the money owed to the treasury.

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  13. Of course this type of an economic programme is unlikely to come from a cabinet, which contains 22 millionaires in it. Instead the ConDem government will seek to preside over the most savage cuts in public expenditure in generations, which will dwarf the levels of unemployment and deprivation we experienced under Maggie Thatcher in the 80s, whilst big business and the super rich will and are experiencing a bonanza. Corporation tax, already one of the lowest in the developed world is being cut once again. Why don't we see a dedicated unit to chase up and challenge these criminals who go to great lengths and great expense to ensure they don't have to pay their due?

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  14. Currently the richest 10 per cent of the population collectively own private wealth of well over £4,000 billion, that's 71 per cent of the total wealth. Whilst the poorest half, the majority, own collectively less than 1 per cent of the wealth, down from 12 per cent in 1976. Working class households have already experienced the largest single drop in their living standards since the early 1980s, and current forecasts predict that by the time the planned cuts have run their course in 2015 they will have plummeted at a rate not seen since the 1930s. And yet Britain is not a poor country there is no economic reason why even within the capitalist framework there should be such a gross disparity between the super-rich minority and the working class majority, with Britain still being the 6th largest economy in the world!

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  15. Getting half a million people out to March for an Alternative on 26th March, although if you asked 100 random people on that march what 'the alternative' is then you'd probably get 100 different answers, and the first round of co-ordinated public sector action on the 30th June, are all good starts, but that’s all they are. The Ruling Class’s offensive may be well under way, but the opposition to it, is only just getting its boots on and beginning to flex those rarely used and often forgotten muscles.

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  16. Of course we will have a second and a third round of co-ordinated industrial action in the public sector, but we need to go much further than this. We will need to have more generalised industrial action, because despite the furore over supposed gold-plated pensions and lucrative wages for public sector workers, the interests of private and public sector workers are indivisible. The mood amongst many workers is vibrant.

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  17. At the Unite rules conference, 53% of delegates (just short of the required two-thirds majority), voted in favour of removing Unite’s commitment to operating within the current legal framework for industrial relations. Unite’s Executive Committee understandably opposed the amendment, since it may have led to the government sequestering the union’s funds and frankly passing rule changes is not the most effective strategy that we can adopt. But this was nevertheless an indication of the frustration that ordinary workers are beginning to feel.

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  18. Nor should comrades be too disheartened that the anti-cuts movement is only just now beginning to build effective campaigns in localities across Britain. After all the British working class is, as Engels put it, a sleeping giant, and at the moment it seems as if it is only just beginning to yawn and wipe the sleep from its eyes.

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  19. The only way that we can possibly defeat the ruling class assault is to successfully mobilise every section of our movement and our class, be they students, children, public or private sector workers, pensioners, the unemployed, community groups and service users. We'll need more regional marches, more days of action, we’ll need to continue to build broad effective anti-cuts organisations in every single locality – but we also need to put forward a positive alternative.

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  20. It won't be enough just to oppose what this government is doing. We must show that there are alternative policies, we have the Left Wing Programme, most of the policies of which are reflected, albeit not at the same level of detail in the People's Charter, that is now official TUC policy. Brendan Barber and his fellow TUC apparatchiks, not to mention the Labour Party Machinery of course didn't want it to be, and used plenty of tricks - dirty and otherwise - to try and stop it, but the Communist Party and our left-wing allies won the victory 2 years ago at the TUC Congress. The TUC of course did nothing with it but now that there's a different government in place and it's okay to rock the boat a little, there seems to be a hazy recollection within Congress house that there is an agreed alternative set of policies around which we can mobilise the movement. So the TUC is now actually beginning to promote the People's Charter, and we have 14 national trades unions, currently affiliated to the Charter campaign.

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  21. The point is, the potential exists, as we build up a mass movement, and if we can get the kind of coordinated action that is needed from trades unions and workers as well as establishing locally based broad and politically conscious movements in every locality, the potential is there, if we can bring down this government to really begin to challenge, in earnest, the power of state monopoly capitalism in Britain for the first time in nearly four decades.

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  22. It is in this context that we have approached the redrafting of Britain’s Road to Socialism. I’m sure most of you will have read the new draft editions of the Party programme, we hope to get the final version out in the next couple of weeks, but let me just briefly highlight a few key areas where I think strategically significant and substantial changes in our analysis have been made.

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  23. Firstly we’ve sharpened and developed our analysis of the changing class relations in Britain and how this obviously impacts on the struggle for Socialism. In fact arguably we've rediscovered our Marxist-Leninist theory in defining the character of class relations today. There have been several key developments over the last two decades, which the last edition failed to address sufficiently, that have led to substantial shifts. Of most significance has been the continued growth of capital and its increasing tendency to become monopolised and particularly in the recent period the increasing convergence and fusion of monopoly capital and the state. Not only has this produced a system where the political representatives of monopoly capital have tended to dominate across advanced capitalist countries over the last 30 years, but additionally other class forces, which may have been identified as separate from the working class in the past, have become increasingly proletarianised. All people in Britain who owe their survival wholly or predominantly to the sale of their labour power are part of the working class. This includes private sector workers and public sector workers, white-collar workers and blue-collar workers, workers in the North of England and workers in the South of England. This may seem obvious but given the scale of false class consciousness that has been cultivated amongst the working class over the last thirty years thanks to the work of bourgeois academics, ideologues and culture, as Communists we have to express with absolute clarity that our definition of class relations begins with an economic analysis based on an individuals relationship to the means of production and whether, directly or indirectly, their labour power is exploited in the production of surplus value.

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  24. Secondly, we have some would say, rehabilitated the much maligned and misunderstood notion of the general crisis of capitalism. This doesn't mean that we're proclaiming the inevitable collapse of the capitalist world order and the triumph of socialism in the next decade, rather were returning to an understanding that capitalist crisis is much more than just a crisis of overproduction, although that is of course still the trigger for it.

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  25. Thirdly we have taken into account the shifting balance of forces internationally and begun to answer the question 'What comes next...' We are after all Communists and so our perspective clearly spells out, that the mobilisation of the entirety of the working class behind an alternative economic and political strategy which challenges the power of state monopoly capital and propels a left government into power, is only just the beginning.

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  26. Of course to paraphrase Lenin it's not what's in the programme, it's what you do with it that counts. Well we want to use the promotion of our new programme as an opportunity, an opportunity for debate and education across the labour movement and working class. The subjects that the BRS touch on are ones that are and have always been relevant to the working class of Britain irrespective of the precise formulation expressed or historical epoch in which it was rooted. All too often we, as a Party and a movement, expel most of our energy arguing over minor differences in formulation and pay little or no heed to the analysis, which has brought us to these conclusions.

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  27. The EC will be assisting local Party organisations in the second speaking tour in October and November around those themes contained within the BRS. Additionally the annual Communist University of Britain, now retitled 21st Century Marxism – A World to Win is to receive a major boost this year, with a big expansion of the diversity and breadth of the programme, a central London location, a real cultural programme and a shift in emphasis towards more collective, participatory discussion and debate.

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  28. In October we will also be holding a march and rally to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street, given the continued rise of the fascist EDL and BNP and recent events in Norway, never has an initiative of this character been so timely. Other initiatives on the campaign to defend the NHS, a major unemployment initiative, building the People's Charter, anti-cuts movements and local trades councils, a new issue of the re-launched and revitalised Country Standard.

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  29. Our Party is not lacking in ideas, but all too often what we lack is the cadres to carry out this work. The simple fact is that we are entering a critical phase in this phase of capitalism and imperialism, if we as a Party, as a movement, as a class do not grow and fight and do so rapidly then we will see all the gains won over the last century tossed on the slag heap.

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  30. So comrades, the challenges that face us over the coming period are of monumental significance, and we need a much larger, stronger, Communist Party in which every member can work in a disciplined collective way, combining theory and practice, balancing immediate priorities and demands against the sustained and prolonged struggle for a Socialist future. Let this congress be the launchpad for the growth of the our Party in the Midlands, when we break out of our isolation and reclaim our position at the vanguard of the class struggle."

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  31. (Ben Stevenson, Midlands Region, Communists District Congress Saturday 13th August 2011)

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