Last month Andy Brooks became general secretary of the New Communist Party. Ann Rogers, the editor of the New Worker talked to him last week about the problems facing the movement in Britain today.
ANN ROGERS: You've become general secretary at a time when the pundits in the media are writing obituaries for communism and claiming that the “new world order" now holds sway.
ANDY BROOKS: Well they've been doing this for over 100 years. Before the Russian Revolution they said that socialism sounded good in theory, but it could never work in practice. After 1917 they said it wouldn't work in the Soviet Union. And when the Soviet Union did survive they argued that it wasn' t really socialist and they presented it as a distortion of what it really was.
There's nothing new in what they say. What we have to ask ourselves is has capitalism succeeded? Of course the counter-revolutions in eastern Europe and the Soviet Union in 1989 and 90 had a major effect on the morale of communists all around the world. There's no doubt about that.
But it's equally clear that capitalism isn't working in those countries today. Far from improving the living standards of the people, the standard of living for the workers and peasants is much worse in all the former socialist states of Europe.
Crime has soared, in Poland for instance by 400 per cent. Inflation has soared like Bulgaria's -- now 20-25 per cent. And In the former Soviet Union the countries are being racked by gangsterism, drugs and complete economic collapse. We must also remember that communism has only collapsed in the Soviet Union and the countries which were closely allied politically and economically to the Soviet system. The socialist countries in Asia are continuing to make progress: Democratic Korea, People's China, Vietnam and Laos -- and of course Cuba.
We don' t need to make any concessions to the ideology of the ruling class. Its system is failing and socialism is the only way forward. We need to learn from the experience of the Soviet Union and the eastern European revolutions. We need to understand why the counter-revolutions succeeded.
It would take a book rather than the discussion we are having today to go intd the details but we can say that they were all brought down through imperialist intrigue abetted by internal treason within the communist movement -- elements who had abandoned the socialist cause and gone back to the capitalist camp.
There were economic problems -there always were --but socialism didn't collapse because it didn't work. The capitalists say that workers and Peasants can never run a state efficiently. Such jibes are made because people's democracy would strip them of their own wealth and power. They say, in essence, that the only economic and political system which works is one in which a tiny minority -- themselves -- exploit the rest of the population to ensure that they live lives of ease and luxury.
If we were Martians observing the Earth from afar we would see how absurd and self-serving this theory is. Unfortunately many working people believe this because they are brought up to accept their own slavery. Capitalism had a progressive role once when it emerged from the feudal period. It's certainly not the case now. It's outlived its sell-by date. It's an oppressive and backward system which stifles the hopes and ambitions of the people who produce all the wealth of the world. I think we can safely say that the future is ours.
AR: What about the “new world order"?
AB: This phrase is an expression of how imperialism, particularly United States imperialism, would like to run the world. All imperialist countries have had this dream. German imperialists talked of "world domination". British imperialism bragged about the Empire on which "the sun never set". United States imperialism has always been more subtle. After the Second World War it made a bid to control the economic development of the world through the Marshall Plan and its dominance of the fledgling United Nations Organisation. This was thwarted by the opposition of the Soviet Union and the new people's democracies.
The end of the Soviet Union and the Cold War in Europe gave the impression that the United States could now operate throughout the world unchallenged. But we can see its limitations. Look at the Gulf War. The Americans built up an alliance against Iraq. They drove the Iraqi army out of Kuwait and imposed a cruel blockade which is still going on six years after the fighting ended. But they haven't been able to bring down the government of Saddam Hussein.
Look at Cuba. They tried to destabilise Cuba and bring down the Castro government but they haven't succeeded. In Somalia they sent a taskforce to impose an imperialist solution to the civil conflict. But they were driven out by the Somali people.
Even in the Balkans they've failed to impose their original plan for Bosnia -- a government led by only one of the three communities in that former Yugoslav republic. They've had to accept that all three communities -- including the Serbs -- have rights.
So we can see that the 'new world order" can't impose its solutions to the problems of the world in the way the imperialists would like, even though the Soviet Union has gone. It's true that there are many outstanding issues in the world -- the division of Ireland, Korea, Cyprus and the Palestine question. These problems were created by imperialism in the first place and popular resistance has prevented the United States and the rest of the pack "settling" them by neo-colonialist means. Resistance continues regardless of whether the Soviet Union is there or not, and class struggle continues just the same. The 'new world order" has failed. It hasn't led to a global imperialist camp.
The United States, the European Union and Japan may all close ranks against communism but they are divided on the future of the world capitalist economy.
They have no answer to global pollution or the destruction of the environment caused by capitalism. But the revived communist movement, which never died in Asia or in Cuba, is taking up the challenge again. The communists briefly formed the government in Nepal only last year. The movement is growing in India, in eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union and more and more people are looking at the communist alternative again.
AR: British imperialism's biggest problem must be Ireland...
AB: Yes and I think the problem our ruling class faces is the problem it's faced even since it partitioned the country. Past nationalist upheavals have been put down by British imperialism but for the past 25 years it's been under persistent attack by the nationalist community, who want the re-unification of their country, who now enjoy significant support in southern Ireland and the substantial Irish-American community.
Unfortunately Britain's occupation of the north of Ireland is not being challenged in any real way by the labour and peace movement in this country. The bosses' propaganda machine tells us that the issue is very complex but in fact it's very simple and can easily be solved by a British withdrawal from Irish soil.
We must work to put Ireland top of the agenda throughout the trade union and peace movement. The Irish people have never benefited from British colonial rule. Not once in the brutal past and certainly not now.
Our position is consistent. We want Britain out of Ireland and the country re-unified. That's the position we would like to win the labour movement and indeed the Labour Party for. The conflict can never be ended unless there is a British withdrawal.
AR: You mentioned the Labour Party which is expected to win the next general election. But the current leadership is probably the most right-wing in the party's history. Do you think there really will be much change if Labour wins?
AB: Well there's no doubt that the Blair leadership is the worst we've ever seen. It outdoes Ramsay Macdonald's pre-war leadership in its crawling to the bosses. It doesn' t even pay lip-service to social justice in its current programme.
But we still call on people to vote Labour everywhere...
AR: Why is that?
AB: The Labour Party is still the party of the organised trade union movement. It still has a programme of modest reforms. And the only alternative to a Tory government today is Labour government -- and a right wing Labour government at that. 0f course they're not the same. The Tories are the chosen political instrument of the ruling class. If they win the next election the attack on the working class will continue with a new vengeance. If Labour wins with a big majority the left of the movement will be strengthened and the rank and file pressure for social justice on the leadership will grow.
We want to see the National Health Service restored. We want to see the public sector rebuilt and we want te see the anti-trade union laws repealed These are important issues for working people and they can be won from a Labour government if there is a strong enough mass movement. All of these would represent gains for working people and we can't turn our back on them. It won't give us socialism We know that.
We support industrial militancy ane day-to-day working class struggles We know that the trade unions car never replace the bosses. They don' exist to do that. They exist to fight for improvernents for their members ant we support their struggles. We all know that the Labour Party, even led by its left-wing, can never introduce socialism through Parliament. WI know that social democracy can never bring aboutsocialism. Only mass struggle and the complete overthrow of the capitalists can bring about the socialist revolution. But communists have to work within the labour movement it's the only way to combat social democracy and win the class for revolutionary change.
Social democracy can never solve the economic and social crisis facing working people because it basically upholds the system which has created those problems in the first place. Blair uses the three-card trick to tell us tha the problem is simply "bad management". If that was the case the Tories wold have remedied it themselves.
If it was simply a question of th British economy in the doldrums then we could point to some other capitalist country whose economy was working. But we can't. The capitalist economy is failing throughout the world. They can solve the problem for their own class, the capitalists and land-owners, but only by increasing the exploitation of workers and peasants. We have the solution which will solve the crisis for the vast majority of the people, on which will build a new society which will end exploitation once and for all.
The question of supporting the Labour Party in elections is more than just a question of tactics. The party is still the party looked to by of millions of working people. When we campaign for the communist alternative we are campaigning to win militant workers to our cause. Many are active trade unionists. Many are in the Labour Party. We campaign to win them for the communist cause to build the mass struggle for fundamental change.
In recent years we have won readers to the New Worker who left the communist movement before the New Communist Party was established in 1977. They left the old Communist Party mainly because they opposed Krushchov’s attack on Stalin and the theses of the 20th Congress and many of them opposed the old British Road to Socialism. We have reviewed our attitude towards Krushchov and many other issues which faced the world communist movement but our rejection of the British Road in its entirety remains the same as it was at our first and second Congresses.
Some of our friends argue that we should intervene in some local or parliamentary elections. We don't believe in it. It's the policy of the old British Road It's the programme of the Communist Party of Britain, the Communist Party of Scotland and it's reflected in the programmes of Scargill's Socialist Labour Party and some of the Trotskyite groups. It's essentially a parliamentary and reformist road and It s basically left social-democratic in spirit.
It never worked in the past and it's not working today. Under our electoral system there's only room for one social democratic party and that's Labour. Working people recognise this and that's why they are returning to Labour today -- even under the worthless leadership of Tony Blair and his friends. If there was the basis for another left party backed by the trade union movement we would see it reflected in electoral support for these other groups which stand in the elections. But we don't.
Of course we want genuine working class leadership in the trade union movement -- not the "new unionism" of today's collaborators and careerists. That will only come from active communist campaigning within the class and not through pointless posturing at elections which only serves to isolate communists from the people.
The communist movement was strong in Britain in the past. But that wasn' t because it once had two MP' s in parliament. It was because the party had immense strength in the organised trade union movement, as well as amongst other sections of society. That's where communist leadership lies -- amongst organised workers at the point of production in the factories and offices and housing estates up and down the country.
In western Europe we've seen communist parties build huge parliamentary blocs in France and Italy. What good did it do them? The French and Italian workers are no nearer to socialism now then they were 40 years ago. I know they've been betrayed by their leaders -- that's often the case but part of the surrender to social democracy and the capitalist road began with the acceptance of the parliamentary roads advocated by those leaders in the first place.
We shouldn't exaggerate the Labour Party. The Labour Party isn't the main enemy of the working class -- the exploiters are. The Labour Party isn't the main force holding back working class advance, though social democracy plays its part in upholding the bosses' state. The major problem we face today is combating the ideology of the ruling class. That can only be challenged by raising the communist alternative and fighting to build our revolutionaty party. Without it there can be no revolutionary change and all other issues are secondary to building a fighting communist movement deeply rooted amongst the working class.
AR: Finally, you talked of other communist parties and we know that the communist movement is divided in Britain. Do you think that there is any likelihood of unity in the near future?
AB: It depends what we mean by unity. If you mean organisational unity where we try to paper over fundamental differences to cobble together some sort of front the answer is no. But if we're talking about co-operation with other sections of the left I would say the signs are optimistic.
We have major disagreements with the two other communist parties in Britain, the Communist Party of Britain and the Communist Party of Scotland. Both those parties follow versions of the British Road which we rejected long ago. But we agree with them on many other issues -- the fight for jobs, higher pay and shorter hours, the struggle for peace, for Scottish and Welsh parliaments, the struggle against racism and opposition to the European Union.
We also support the Morning Star as the broad daily paper of the left, which is what it calls itself. If the Morning Star went under it would take a generation to restore it. The paper is an asset to the working class and its daily coverage of trade union struggles is vital to the movement. We have disagreed with it's stand on other issues in the past and I'm sure we will disagree with the Morning Star in the future.
Divisions between communists and the left often occur because we don't have an identical perspective. But the New Worker is not in competition with the Morning Star and I know that most of our supporters read it and many supporters of the Morning Star take the New Worker.
Our attitude to Scargill's party is similar. We disagree with it's stand towards the Labour Party and it's constitution, which is simply another left social democratic variation on an old theme. But it is a party of the left, like the CPB and the CPS. We can work with all of them, and the left of the Labour Party on many issues in the broad movement and the trade unions. But what we also say is that if you want to make a clean break with social democracy, if you want to help build the communist movement then you should make that decisive break and join the ranks of the New Communist Party.
AR: So you're optimistic for the future?
AB: We all must be. When Marx and Engels were alive they could never foresee the future. Towards the end of their lives in Britain there probably was only a handful of active communists in the country. But they had complete confidence in the future. They never lived to see the October Revolution or the revolutionary changes that have swept the world in the 20th century. We can't predict what the immediate future will bring but we can share their confidence that working people can and will take their destiny in their own hands and end the old order once and for all and build a new tomorrow for us all.