The Case for Communism
THE CASE FOR COMMUNISM
New Communist Party of Britain
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“I DON’T SEE HOW you can ever
get any real justice or prosperity, so
long as there’s private property, and everything is judged in terms of
money – unless you consider it just for the worst sort of people to
have the best living conditions, or unless you’re prepared to call a
country prosperous, in which all wealth is owned by a tiny minority –
who aren’t entirely happy even so, while everyone else is simply
These words were written in 1515 – originally in Latin – by Thomas
Moore in his famous work Utopia. Since his day philosophers have tried
to work out how human society came to be in such a mess – and more
important, what we can do to put it right.
In the 1840s two great communists, Karl Marx and Frederick
Engels, made an analysis of human society, the class system and
capitalism – and how the injustices arising out of private property
could be put right through socialism.
In 1848 they published the Communist Manifesto – a call to the
working class of the world to unite to get rid of capitalism and
replace it with a fair and just system – socialism.
Before civilisation, there were no class divisions in human society.
People lived in tribal village communities with no private
property. A single human being alone in the wild world
might, if lucky, just about be able to survive. But they could not
raise children and so have descendants unless they worked together with
other humans and co-operated in finding food, shelter and other basic
necessities of life – and in raising the children.
Human children are weak and vulnerable. Human society, if it was
to last for more than a generation, had to care for the weak and
vulnerable. Tribal societies were based on large family groups working
together to support each other through good times and bad. There was no
private property, no money. People worked together to produce the
necessities of life and shared them.
This means humans are naturally social beings. The tendency to
co-operate and work collectively is innate within us. Humanity could
not have survived any other way.
Human society became more complicated when some were skilled or
lucky enough to produce a surplus to their needs. They began to barter
with other tribes. This led – over many centuries, even millennia – to
the invention of money as a way of simplifying exchanges. The first
coins, produced in the Middle East, carried images of cows – one coin
was the equivalent value of a cow.
The concept of private property followed, with the possibility of
amassing personal wealth. This undermined the ancient tribal relations,
leading to strife, competition, greed, envy, debt and even war.
Prisoners of war became private property as slaves. For the first time
human society needed a state machine – government, army, laws, courts
and so on capable of imposing the laws of private property.
Society divided into those who had wealth and could control the
means of production – access to land, food, water, housing and other
necessities – and those who did not. This gave them power over those
who were poor. The poor could only get the necessities of life on terms
dictated by the rich – they had to work for a living while the rich
could take life easy.
As history evolved the slave society, where the workers were themselves
private property, gave way to feudalism where the ruling class
controlled access to the land – the chief source of food and all other
necessities, while the poor became peasants who were tied to the land.
Feudalism replaced slavery. Under this system the lord would own
the land and the peasants would give some kind of tribute to the lord –
either a few days’ work a week or produce from their land, there were
many variants in the system. The lord gave tribute to another lord
above him and so on up to the king, who in theory owned all the land
and delegated control of it to the lords under him in exchange for
tribute and loyalty.
This became the basic form of exploitation with the ownership of
the means of production, distribution and exchange in the hands of the
aristocracy. Even today remnants of feudalism still exist within modern
capitalism, for example the monarchy and unelected members of the House
With improved navigational aids the New World was discovered and
mercantile adventurers flourished and made fortunes without owning land.
In time feudalism gave way to capitalism in which the ruling
class owns the land, the factories, the banks, the means of transport,
shops and so on. The workers have no property and are forced to sell
their labour power to get money wages to exchange for everything they
Capitalism began with rich adventurers setting up companies as a way of
borrowing money from their rich friends, who were invited to buy stocks
and shares in the companies. In the
beginning these companies financed adventure ships to explore the New
World, bring back treasure and trade in valuable goods. The slave trade
played an enormous part in allowing these companies and their
shareholder backers to accumulate huge resources of wealth, by selling
human beings forcibly transported from Africa to the Americas.
Later this huge wealth was invested in new inventions, in steam power,
railways, coal mines and factories. It made the industrial revolution
Capitalists believe in the virtues of the private enterprise as a means
to bring progress. They argue that wherever there is a need, someone
can make a profit by supplying it. They say that this stimulates
manufacturers to invent new products to meet every imaginable need and
to improve manufacturing processes to reduce the cost of goods within
the market. Those who cannot compete will not be able to sell their
higher priced goods in the market and so will go bankrupt.
In this way, they say, inefficient processes will be continually
weeded out and human society will progress.
This is true to a point. Capitalism has introduced manufacturing
processes that have changed the world, produced more goods and make
life more comfortable for most people.
But the private enterprise serves only those who have money to
buy. The free market cannot ever serve the needs of the poor. Nor can
it provide many things needed by society as a whole but which are not
Extreme fundamentalist capitalists – “libertarians” – insist that
no one should ever get anything without paying for it and that to
supply any goods or services, benefits or pensions, without charge will
encourage idleness in the working class and weaken the human race. They
say that those who cannot work and earn money should be allowed to die
of starvation so that only the strong survive to breed – it is every
individual for themselves and let the “inefficient” perish. They claim
that “greed is good” and deny the role of society, co-operation and
mutual caring in the survival of the human race.
In the hey day of early industrial capitalism the capitalists
would not supply education, healthcare, sewerage, clean water, street
lighting, rubbish collection and so on because these schemes required
huge financial investment and no guarantee of any profit. No one would
take responsibility to meet the costs. The new industrial towns grew
fast, crowding people together. Without clean water supplies and
sanitation there were increased levels of disease and epidemics that
could affect the rich as well as the poor.
Even so, private enterprise was not willing to invest in these
civic necessities. The state had to provide them – at local or national
government level – and fund them from taxation. The workers had to pay
for them. Some Victorian economists called this “gas and water
socialism” because it involved public money being used to provide
services that benefited even people who could pay nothing.
Today these basic utilities are being privatised so that
capitalists can make profits from them but the basic funding, the
investment, is still coming from taxes – from workers’ pockets.
The profit motive also encourages capitalists to produce more and more
goods more and more cheaply until the markets are flooded. Then there
is a glut, prices collapse,
manufacturers go bankrupt, factories close and workers are thrown out
of work. When this happens on a massive scale it leads to a depression
where capitalists cannot sell their goods and unemployment rises.
Industrial nations fight each other over markets all around the world
and this can lead to wars.
War destroys a lot of goods, homes, factories and so on. It
creates a new demand, first for weapons then for reconstruction, new
markets for new goods and the conditions for an economic boom. It also
eliminates unemployment among working classes by conscripting them as
canon fodder and killing many of them. So capitalism tends to go in a
cycle of boom, bust and war. This is an unstable and destructive cycle
that now endangers the future of the human race.
During industrial crises big companies buy up the smaller, more
vulnerable ones that are going bankrupt and get bigger than ever. Many
big capitalist companies have become huge from benefiting during wars.
This process is called monopolisation and it concentrates more and more
power and wealth into fewer and fewer hands. Some companies end up with
more money than whole nations. Their power grows to the point where
they can dictate policies to nations.
Capitalists believe that all restrictions on profit making should
be removed; that their money should be free to move around and rule the
globe. They believe in the utmost freedom for money but at the same
time the utmost restrictions on trade unions and the rights of workers
– that (their) money should be free while people (workers) are in
All wealth is created by work. But those who do the most work end up
with the least wealth. How is it stolen from us? The ruling class is
composed of three main types of thief: the bosses, the
landlords and the financiers. In modern times they overlap and are not
clearly separated but the three main mechanisms of theft remain the
same. They usually act together in unity against their prey – the
workers. Just occasionally they fall out with each other.
first thief: the boss
Capitalists use money and its power to force workers to make them
wealthier using the money trick, known as surplus value.
Economists had struggled long and hard to work out what it was that
determined the price of goods in the market place, their exchange rate
relative to money – and that included the price of a worker’s labour.
The early simplistic economists talked of supply and demand: when
something is needed but is in short supply, the price is high.
Marx calculated that the price of a commodity was determined by the
cost of the labour embodied in it. For example a cotton dress would
include the cost of the labour of the dressmaker, the spinners and
weavers who made the material and the people who grew and picked and
shipped the cotton. It would also include a tiny bit of the cost of
work embodied in all the machines and tools involved in the production
and transportation. Marx specified that the price of a commodity would
be fixed at the amount of socially necessary labour embodied in it.
That meant that even if it were produced by old fashioned less
efficient ways with more labour embodied in it, in the market it would
still fetch only the same price as its more modern, cheaper rivals.
This process steadily forced all manufacturers to modernise continually
or face bankruptcy.
The same principal applied to the cost of labour. A worker’s labour
power was worth the minimum cost of sustaining the worker in health and
reproducing that worker – in other words supporting a growing family.
This determined the level of wages.
The manufacturer pays each worker a wage equivalent to the market price
of labour power. But the workers, in exchange, have to give the boss
enough labour power to reproduce that amount of wealth – and then carry
on working, producing wealth that is pure profit for the industrialist.
This is known as surplus value. The longer hours the workers work, the
richer they make the boss. The industrialist accumulates more and more
riches and becomes more and more powerful and can employ more and more
Surplus value is the basic con trick, the theft from the workers, that
is the heart of capitalism. It is the economic motor of the whole
system. It is how wealth is created by the many, stolen and accumulated
in the hands of the few.
The deal between capitalists and workers is an unequal deal between
those with power of money and those who have nothing and no way to get
at their daily necessities except through getting a job to get money
wages. Money is now a barrier between the majority, the workers, and
the things they need to get to stay alive. And the capitalists, the
bosses, control it.
Only when workers get together in a trade union and bargain together
can they exert any power on the employer. By uniting and withholding
their labour from the market until the bosses are prepared to pay an
acceptable price for it, trade unions can drive up wages and also
bargain for shorter hours.
Both these will reduce the profits of the capitalists. There is, as
Lenin said, an irreconcilable difference between the economic interests
of the bosses – low wages, long hours and high prices – and the
interests of the workers – high wages, short hours and low prices. No
talk of “partnerships” and working together and so on can hide this
fundamental contradiction between industrialists and workers.
The employers exploit the labour of their workers and the more
efficient the production process, the greater the exploitation. When
capitalists introduce new machinery that speeds up production, they
increase the rate at which their workers create more wealth for them.
So even if they are paying higher wages, their workers are still being
exploited at a higher rate because they are creating more wealth for
the employers relative to their rate of pay.
In Karl Marx’s time the cost of labour power involved keeping a worker
alive and usually a wife and a large growing family. Today most women
work full time and it takes the wages of both adults to sustain them
and a small family. We have more machines in our homes to do the
housework but we do not get more leisure because of this. It simply
makes us available to work longer hours – and the overall rate of
exploitation is higher.
The power of the unions, the organised working class, is greatest
when it is exerted at the point of production, when it puts the brakes
directly on the creation of surplus value. Industrial trade unions can
hit the manufacturer where it hurts most. This is why industrial
manufacturing unions have traditionally been stronger than those in
service industries have, where unions have only an indirect impact on
second thief: the landowner
The landlord exploits anyone and everyone who does anything – living,
breathing, working, playing, buying, selling, manufacturing, lending,
borrowing – on dry land, by charging a tax on that activity called
rent. The landowners never created the land – it existed long before
the human race. But through the course of history the ruling class has
grabbed it all – largely through a process called the enclosure
movement – put walls and fences round it and called it their own
They charge everyone else for the use of their patch of land over
and over again and at the end the land is still theirs. They cream off
a percentage of all wealth produced without having to do a single
stroke of work themselves. They are absolute parasites on the rest of
society. The more wealth-producing work that happens on a piece of
land, the more rent they can charge. Town centre land is more
lucrative than rural land but those who own it keep a very low profile.
Very often they are the descendants of old feudal families but they set
up complex property companies to hide their identity.
When house prices and rents rise they make a fortune by doing
nothing at all. When the manufacturing capitalists suffer an economic
crisis the value of stocks and shares goes up and down and the value of
money goes up and down. These capitalists can lose fortunes and go
But whatever happens to money, the land remains and keeps its
value because people will always need land, so the landowners remain
rich and powerful. This is why many capitalists try to buy land as a
safe investment that will keep its value no matter what. This pushes up
the price of land during a capitalist economic crisis so that the
landowners get richer while everyone else gets poorer.
Manufacturers find that rents are a burden on production costs:
the rents for the factories, warehouses, shops and of course the homes
of the workers. This cost has to be included in wages as part of the
cost of sustaining the worker.
The only thing that the landowners fear is land reform and the
workers uniting to take over the land. That is when we see them raising
their profile and they can get very vicious. Traditionally they have
strong links with the armed forces.
third thief: the financier
The other thief is the financier. This means the banks, building
societies and so on who lend money and charge interest rates.
They lend money to workers, to bosses and to nations. They get the
money from people, at all economic levels, who save their money in the
banks, through pension schemes and so on. Banks pay one interest rate
to those who deposit their savings in them and charge a higher rate to
those who borrow. They get their vast profits from the difference
between to two rates. They do no work and create no wealth. They just
rearrange wealth so that those who are already rich get richer. They
too are absolute parasites.
To workers they lend money in the form of mortgages, personal
loans, credit cards and so on. The more they lend us, the more profit
they can make out of us, so they are very keen to persuade us all to
borrow as much as possible. They love people to be deep in debt and
they love high interest rates. For us this means working all the hours
we can to pay them back. Personal debt is a major factor in the
long-hours culture as people strive to keep up with their debts and of
course the employers just love workers who want to work long hours
because it pushes up their surplus value. And the bosses also love
workers who are in deep debt because it is harder for trade unions to
persuade them to take part in strikes.
The finance companies tempt us by advertising the things we could
buy with a loan and then mention only the minimum monthly repayment
necessary. They don’t point out that to pay off a debt like this will
take years, even decades, during which time the banks will make a
fortune from the interest. We will ultimately pay the original amount
of the loan many times over.
As we get deeper into debt, it controls our lives and dictates
our whole lifestyle. The banks are not afraid of a few defaulters who
fail to keep up the payments – they make enough profits out of the rest
The giant international banks lend money to manufacturing companies to
enable them to expand and compete in fiercely competitive markets.
Those who do not borrow to expand will be
outstripped and put out of business by those who do. When big companies
go bankrupt it is bad news for the banks. But on the whole they make
vast profits, creaming off a percentage of the companies’ wealth from
the interest on the loans.
The manufacturers depend on the banks and the banks can have a
big say in their policies. They have indirect control over deciding
what is to be made, how it is to be made, where it is to be sold and
what wages are to be paid.
For example, when motor manufacturers in the West Midlands are in
desperate trouble, they go, cap in hand, to the big banks to bale them
out with a loan. The banks will insist on various productivity
agreements to be imposed on the workers to increase exploitation rates.
The trade unions, fearful of high job losses, will be under extreme
pressure to concede.
The big banks also lend to governments. This is a very safe
investment because a country cannot disappear, cannot take the money
and run. Countries in the developing world desperately need finance to
build up their wealth-producing capacity and to finance the basic
social infrastructure. They need health, welfare and education if they
are to sustain a population of workers – who are the basic wealth
But the international banks are only interested in their own
profits. They pressure small countries into borrowing up to their
limits. Again they speak only of the minimum regular repayments – not
mentioning the years and years of debt slavery that will be needed and
that the original loan will have to be paid many times over.
In this way the international banks cream off most of the surplus
wealth created by the workers in those countries so there is little
left for the social infrastructure or for the local manufacturing
capitalists. The loan repayments keep these countries in a constant
state of grinding poverty. The banks do not care if millions of workers
in Africa, Asia and Latin America die of hunger and disease – as long
as enough survive to keep working and making profits.
The bank loans made to these countries come with lots of strings.
Part of the deal will be that the money must be spent on the
development of cash crops and raw materials for the export market and
the import of manufactured goods from the imperialist countries, or on
the products of a particular giant manufacturing company – one that is
making a lot of profit for the bank. The deal may insist that the small
country’s government must privatise its health, welfare and education
so that capitalists can get a profit rake-off from providing these
services. This of course means that less of the money spent will
actually go toward providing the services.
Lenin described this imperialism as the highest stage of
capitalism. Today many call it globalisation. When communists use the
word imperialism we mean that it conquers vulnerable countries with
money rather than with military might and keeps them in grinding
poverty while making a fortune for the big banks.
Needless to say, if such a country defaults on its debts or tries
to change the loan agreements, the armies of the imperialist countries
are soon on the doorstep.
The thing that these big banks fear the most is working class
revolution, the workers taking over their own countries, tearing up the
debt agreements and telling the banks to get lost.
Most newspapers and the rest of the media are owned by companies
that are controlled by the banks. It is hardly surprising they have
nothing good to say about communists and socialists.
The global ruling class knows that communism is its most
dangerous enemy. So it has been prepared in some cases to invest to
undermine working class unity. Some of the super profits gleaned from
the extreme exploitation of developing countries have been used to buy
off certain sections of the working class in the imperialists’ home
countries. This creates a higher paid “aristocracy of labour” who will
attack communism and revolutionism within the working class movement
and who will support imperialism abroad.
Socialism, the alternative
Karl Marx pointed out that
capitalism creates the seeds of its own
destruction – politically conscious workers. The industrial
manufacturing process brings together thousands of workers in
factories, mines, mills and so on and once there the workers get a good
education. This is not the education that the capitalists deliberately
set out to give workers. They would like us to learn all about
Christianity, the work ethic, the nobleness of being obedient,
submissive, respecting our “betters”, earning our way and paying our
bills – and that it is impossible to change society – we must accept
injustice, exploitation and learn to live with it.
But the education they cannot help giving to workers is how they
are cheated; how the bosses wring out of them as much work as they can
and pay back as little as they can get away with. Being exploited, yet
feeling helpless and frustrated about it, is the most powerful lesson a
worker can have about capitalist economics. This is why so often
ordinary working class people can understand the works of Marx, Engels
and Lenin so much better than middle class people can – however many
university degrees they may have.
Another lesson the employers teach the workers, without intending
to, is the value of unity and working together. The very complex
industrial processes in themselves are a lesson to all involved that
the role of each individual is insignificant, but by working
co-operatively together they can accomplish amazing feats.
The ruling class, the middle class and intelligentsia are
educated to believe that each individual among them is important and to
value individualism. Workers learn that alone they can accomplish
little, but enough of them working together can do just about anything.
Sooner or later workers realise that they do not have to stand by
passively as they are robbed of the results of their work. After all,
they are many and the capitalists are few.
Marx referred to these workers as the proletariat – meaning
workers who have no property except their own ability to work. He
predicted that when they came together in large numbers it would only
be a matter of time before they became class conscious. In other words
before they realised that the bosses needed them much more than they
needed the bosses and they meant that potentially they had power over
But their strength lies in their numbers. To exert their power
they have to come together, collaborate and organise, to become aware
of themselves as a class and of the enormous strength they could have
as a class if they could get organised.
The trade unions are the first stage in this process. But when
workers realise that minor improvements won through hard struggle by
the trade unions are soon lost again, especially in time of economic
crisis, then they realise something stronger is needed – a working
class political force or party. Then workers have to raise their vision
and begin to fight for a new kind of society without capitalists,
landlords or financiers, a society where workers would own and control
all the wealth they produced and use it for the benefit of the masses –
socialism. They stop demanding a bigger slice of the cake and start
demanding control of the bakery.
Socialism was not a new idea in Marx’s time; other thinkers had
proposed versions of it as a solution to exploitation. But before Marx
and Engels most socialists had idealistic, Utopian ideas of how
socialism would be achieved by kind-hearted middle class people
realising that exploitation was wrong and generously bringing socialism
to the workers in a gradual process.
Marx and Engels were the first to make a scientific analysis of
the nature of capitalist exploitation, how the capitalists would never,
could never give it up voluntarily and that socialism could only be
achieved by the working class themselves, seizing their own destiny and
Socialism and communism
Marx and Engels realised that in the immediate aftermath of a socialist
revolution it would not be possible to achieve a workers’ paradise. The
circumstances of a socialist revolution are
likely to be against a background of capitalist economic collapse, even
world war. Much of the economic infrastructure will be in ruins. And
the old ruling class will be trying like mad to reverse the revolution,
with the backing of all their powerful international capitalist friends.
This is why they describe socialism as just the first stage of
communism. Socialism will be the gradual process of the building of
workers’ power, of using economic methods developed by capitalists to
increase production, to meet the needs of everyone.
Only when production has reached a level to supply an abundance
of everything that people need, and only when the memory of capitalist
or bourgeois power and culture have faded and the old ruling class no
longer exists to try to reverse the revolution, can true communism be
achieved. In the highest stage of communism money and wages would be
obsolete. There would be enough of everything to go round. Machines
would do most boring work. The remaining work would be interesting, and
would be enjoyable and voluntary. There would be plenty of leisure.
There would be no motive for theft or exploitation and no need for
state machinery to defend the interests of one class against another.
The state would wither away, the government of people would give way to
the co-operative administration of things – making sure that everything
needed was produced and distributed appropriately.
No one knows exactly how long this process will take. It will
probably be centuries. Nevertheless, throughout the process of
socialism, living standards will be gradually rising, economic
production will be geared to meeting people’s needs rather than making
profits. And by planning economic expansion with a long-term
perspective, damage to the environment can be avoided.
There are some major improvements in the lives of workers that
would begin immediately after the revolution. All the personal debts of
the old regime would be wiped out – credit cards, mortgages and so on.
Debt would never again be a cause of anxiety for ordinary people. The
big banks and major capitalist enterprises would be taken over.
The wealth they produce would belong to the workers and would be used
in reconstruction and improving public facilities like schools,
hospitals, leisure facilities and so on. The workers would vote on how
it would get spent. With this revenue, the new workers’ government
would not need taxes.
Workers would be much more actively involved in debating and
drawing up new laws. So it is impossible to predict exactly what those
laws would be. But we can guess that, in general, land would be
nationalised. But there would be no need to take the homes of
owner-occupiers. These people would benefit from the cancelling of
mortgages. It is the use of land to exploit other people through rent
that would be outlawed.
Small businesses that provide a useful service for workers would
be left untouched. They too would benefit from the cancellation of
debts. There would be new laws to protect their employees from over
The former upper classes would experience an immediate fall in
living standards and be expected to get ordinary jobs like other
people. The middle classes, including the intelligentsia may also
experience some temporary fall in living standards – and they would
probably protest loudly.
But most workers would probably experience an immediate rise in
living standards. Wages might not rise much but many day-to-day costs
would diminish or disappear: like taxes, debts, rents, travel fares and
so on. Some prices for basic essential could be subsidised. It all
depends what the workers at the time will want. Housing and employment
would be guaranteed.
The working classes outnumber the bosses, the landlords and the
financiers all put together – many times over. So what stops us seizing
control of the whole system tomorrow and sacking the
parasites? The police, the army, the courts, the prisons and the whole
paraphernalia of government stop us. This is known as the state machine
and it includes Parliament, local government, various assemblies, the
monarchy and so on.
This complex machine was created by the ruling class specifically
to defend its position and its wealth – any other function these
organisations perform is subsidiary.
The state machine is the reason that socialism cannot be achieved
gradually or through electing a majority of socialist MPs and passing a
law to abolish capitalism. Parliament is only part of the state – a
small part – and the rest of the state machine would not allow it to
The elected Parliament does not rule this country. Government
policies are dictated by the needs of the capitalist system and
formulated by bodies like the World Bank, the International Monetary
Fund, the Bank of England and other bodies, national and international,
representing the main vested interests of the ruling class. They tell
the Prime Minister what the government’s policies will be – regardless
of what party s/he represents or what was in that party’s election
manifesto. This is why the main economic policies of the major parties
in Britain are much the same – and this is the same in all western
capitalist countries. The party in government is only allowed free rein
on trivial issues that have little economic impact.
The House of Commons could be packed from floor to ceiling with
clones of Tony Benn, Arthur Scargill, George Galloway and so on but
whoever was Prime Minister would have to do what the ruling class want.
If not they would face the deliberate economic sabotage of the
Government’s policy, forcing its resignation. In a last resort, the
ruling class would stage a military coup – the army would be sent to
arrest the Prime Minister and government leaders, who would be charged
with treason. This is what did happen in Chile and what was attempted
recently in Venezuela.
The attempted coup in Venezuela failed because the working class
there was mobilised and ready to fight. And the army, the most crucial
part of the state machine, had been won over to back the workers.
The only time that the Westminster Parliament ever enacted
significant socialist reforms, introducing the state welfare of the
Beveridge Report, was just after the Second World War. At that time the
adult working class of Britain had just taken part in the military
defeat of Hitler fascism. It was trained and experienced in military
combat and was in a mood to make serious demands. The ruling class
could not count on the large conscript, largely working class armed
forces to support the state against the workers. Furthermore, following
the alliance with the Soviet Union, workers were aware of the free
education, health and social benefits enjoyed by Soviet workers. The
ruling class in Britain realised it had to make big concessions to
avoid a threat of revolution here.
Today, Britain’s ruling class sees a working class that is no
longer organised, mobilised or dangerous and it has a small, well
armed, brainwashed, obedient standing army. The Soviet Union is no more
– so the bosses are taking back those state welfare concessions.
The working class can never achieve socialism through Parliament
alone. It must change the whole state machine. The state machine that
was created to defend private property and the current ruling class can
never be altered or adapted to defend working class interests. It must
be smashed and replaced with a new kind of working class state machine
to enforce the interests of the workers – the new ruling class.
Such a state is called the dictatorship of the proletariat. It is
necessary because after a revolution the rich and powerful who have
been displaced will try everything to get their power back. They will
have the backing of international capitalism and will be a truly
formidable force. The workers’ state must match this – and it will have
the backing of international socialism.
To achieve this, the workers must be ready to fight, must be
educated, organised and mobilised.
and Social Democrats
The working class political movement has, since 1848, been divided into
two main strands. The social democrat parties, including the Labour
Party in Britain, believe that socialism can be
achieved gradually through elections. They maintain that the evils of
capitalism are so obvious that intelligent capitalists will eventually
recognise their system is wrong and play a leading role in changing it
bit by bit into a socialist system.
Communist Parties, including the New Communist Party of Britain,
recognise that the nature of the bourgeois state will prevent this
happening and that only a revolution can bring socialism. We cannot
predict exactly what course this revolution will take. It may or may
not involve violence but it must involve the complete dismantling and
abolition of the bourgeois state machinery and its replacement by a
dictatorship of the proletariat.
We also recognise that capitalism can never become sympathetic to
workers. There remains the fundamental economic contradiction between
the interests of workers and those of the capitalists. Some individual
bosses may be nice people and give a lot to charity and so on. But the
capitalist system compels them to seek the highest profits possible –
or be put out of business by rivals. They cannot afford scruples. This
is why capitalism is so dangerous to the environment. Modern industrial
processes are doing untold environmental damage. But if an intelligent
capitalist tries to modify these processes, with the long-term
interests of the planet in mind, rivals who prioritise short-term
profits will soon put them out of business.
It is the role of a communist party to give the lead in convincing the
working class of the need to organise for a socialist revolution as the
only way to end exploitation and save the planet.
A communist party does not necessarily have to be big but to be
effective it has to be clear about what it is trying to do and united.
It cannot be a party encompassing a wide range of views on the best way
forward. If everyone in the boat is rowing in a different direction it
can only go round in circles.
This is why we adopt a process called democratic centralism.
Party members discuss policy at all levels. They take trouble to learn
and understand the basics of Marxism-Leninism so that they are better
equipped to make analyses and judgements. Then they meet together in a
party congress to discuss and vote on the best way forward on all the
issues confronting the workers’ struggle at that time. Once they have
voted, the line is agreed and they all stick to it, even if they
personally may have a few disagreements on some points. The unity of
the party in action is more important than these differences.
Nothing paralyses a party more than having to discuss the same
thing over and over again, so once issues have been decided they are
not discussed again unless new events indicate that mistakes may have
been made. There is no such thing as a party that never makes mistakes
but communist parties analyse and correct their mistakes and learn from
them – while maintaining party unity.
All members of the party are required to support it financially
and to take an active part in fighting for its policies. This is in
contrast to other political parties where often the active five per
cent of members spend all their time collecting dues from and servicing
the inactive 95 per cent – leaving no time for any other activity.
Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, Mao Tse Tung and Kim Il Sung – and
all other important communist leaders – stressed that at all times the
communist party is the servant of the working class. Members are
motivated by a desire to help the working class liberate itself from
exploitation, to achieve socialism and a better standard of life for
future generations of workers.
No socialist revolution can take place unless the working class
is politically aware, organised and mobilised ready to fight. Communist
parties are trying to achieve this situation. We recognise that this
will take time.
We cannot achieve socialism through Parliament but that does not mean
that all activity around Parliament is useless. An angry and aroused
working class can wring some useful reforms from Parliament to make
workers’ lives a bit better in the short term while the long-term
struggle for socialist revolution continues. But to be successful, even
in these small aims, we need more than just election campaigns.
Campaigning around Parliament and elections is only a small part
of broad campaigns that will include demonstrations, strikes, petitions
and various kinds of non-violent direct action. The tactics must be
tailored to the aim of the campaign and the circumstances.
The Labour Party was created by the trade unions to give the
working class a voice in Parliament. Even though Parliament does not
rule the state, that voice could be useful and could be a vital part of
a broad campaign for social reforms.
From its earliest days the Labour Party has been dominated by
non-revolutionary social democrat ideas rather than by scientific
socialists. Most of its members have believed that they could achieve
socialism gradually, through parliamentary elections. The limited
reforms they have achieved throughout the last century gave credence to
this belief, especially in the 1950s and 60s when conditions improved
for the working class.
In addition, Labour Prime Ministers, on coming to power, have all
been taken aside by the real rulers of the state, the top bankers,
military and so on – and put fully in the picture. They have been told
what financial policies they must implement and what minor reforms they
will be allowed – in order to keep up appearances. When they step out
of line, as Harold Wilson tried, economic sabotage follows and they are
brought to heel.
Nevertheless it is still worth electing a Labour government
because the structure of the Labour Party gives the trade unions a
direct link with Labour MPs. We do not vote Labour with any illusions
that this will bring socialism. But it will increase the strength of
the working class to bring pressure to bear on the Government.
When canvassing for Labour we never lie to people, we say plainly
that voting is not enough to achieve any real change, there must be
much more, including broad active campaigning at al levels – leading to
revolutionism. We tell people they must be ready to fight for
themselves and their class. It is no use sitting indoors waiting for
capitalism to become kind-hearted.
And it is through this broad campaigning and trade union activity
that the working class is educated in the strength of its own power,
that it becomes aware and confident and ready to challenge the ruling
class. For that reason alone, it is worth electing a Labour government.
When Labour loses an election and the Tories are in power,
workers are disheartened and demoralised. It is harder to raise a
struggle. People feel that if they cannot even keep the Tories out, how
on earth could they win a revolution? This is when workers become most
apathetic and right wing opportunists find it easy to rise to the
leadership of trade unions and local Labour constituency parties.
The social democrats have always been to the right of the communists.
To the left we have the ultra-revolutionaries, mainly Trotskyites.
Trotsky was once a Bolshevik revolutionary along
with Lenin and Stalin. He and Lenin had many differences but perhaps
the most important was Trotsky’s assertion that a communist revolution
could not succeed unless it became a global revolution almost
immediately. He believed that capitalism and communism could not
coexist peacefully on the same planet.
Lenin, Stalin and the other Bolsheviks pointed out that, since
different countries develop at different rates there was no possibility
that all countries could reach a revolutionary situation at the same
time, this would make the attainment of a socialist revolution
impossible – anywhere except the moon. Once a country has reached a
revolutionary situation it cannot simply mark time until the rest of
the world catches up. If it cannot go forward it must go back into the
arms of reaction and repression.
Communists cannot lead their working class to a revolutionary
situation and then capitulate because circumstances are not perfect.
That would be the utmost betrayal. Lenin, Stalin and the Bolsheviks led
their working class forward to socialism.
The Great October Revolution of 1917 was the first in history. It
gave birth to the first workers’ state, the Soviet Union, born in the
most difficult circumstances. Under the circumstances, including the
economic backwardness of the country, its size and diversity and the
immediate attacks made upon it by powerful imperialist nations that
were hell-bent on strangling workers’ power at birth, some mistakes
Nevertheless socialism brought a country covering a quarter of
the planet’s land surface from a backward largely agrarian economy to a
super-power, a modern industrial country with universal free education,
healthcare and social services. Its science and technology led the
world and its people enjoyed an unprecedented improvement in living
standards while it lasted. And it played the major role in defeating
Imperialist powers had to respond to this by allowing their own
working classes improved living standards or they too were in danger of
Trotsky soon became disaffected with the Soviet Union because it
did not meet his perfectionist standards. He left it to live in the
West and continued all his life to pour scorn on the achievements of
the Soviet working class.
His followers have kept up the tradition. While claiming to be
super revolutionaries, they attack every socialist revolution that has
ever happened for not being perfect and not achieving advanced
communism quickly. No Trotskyite party has ever led a successful
They use all their energy attacking parties that do succeed. They
fixate on Marx’s prediction that the state will wither away under
advanced communism, and expect this to happen within a few years of the
revolution. They strive to outdo the capitalists in pouring venom
on the real, positive but imperfect achievements of the working class
throughout the world.
Within Britain they attack working class organisations, including
the trade unions. They attack right-wing opportunist union leaderships.
But instead of fighting within the labour movement, within trade unions
and the Labour Party for genuine working class policies, they leave and
try to set up rival unions and rival social democrat parties. This
divides the working class – whose only strength is in unity. And it
leaves the right wingers and opportunists to consolidate their grip on
the genuine items.
If broad campaigns are founded around a particular issue –
housing, anti-racism, the poll tax or whatever – instead of supporting
the campaign they set up their own rival campaigns and divide the
workers. They will not join a campaign unless they can dominate and
In an industrial dispute, when workers seem set for a modest
victory, the ultra-lefts will call for another demand to be added to
the list. It will be a legitimate demand but not one that is easily
achievable at that time. Workers will be divided and confused about
what they are fighting for. The unity and clarity of vision necessary
for a successful strike will be lost and so will the whole issue be.
Some older Trotskyites, now in social democrat parties like
Respect, admit they have altogether given up hope of achieving a
socialist revolution. They say they still believe that is the only way
to socialism but have lost hope that the working class will ever
achieve the necessary level of political awareness and mobilisation.
This is hardly surprising; given the negative message they are
continually delivering. When they ceaselessly attack every achievement
and every structure of the working class at home and abroad, how can
they expect to inspire workers with confidence? They blame the workers
for being too stupid.
But there is nothing stupid about rejecting divisive and
unrealistic tactics that will only benefit the bosses. The build up to
a real revolutionary situation is a long, hard slog and results are
rarely instant. It involves building working class confidence by
working in unity for achievable goals – and winning them. Workers do
not want to be heroic martyrs chasing impossible dreams. They want to
win a better life for themselves and their children.
From the very beginning communist parties have had problems with
right-wing revisionism – the rewriting of Marxism and Leninism to take
out the revolutionary bit – and to tame it so that
becomes like social democracy, aiming to achieve socialism through the
existing capitalist state machinery.
The idea of an easy peaceful road to socialism is always very
tempting. And at times when the ruling class is making concessions and
trade unions are winning higher standards of living for the members
simply through industrial action, it is all too easy to believe that we
just need to continue along his track.
At times like this the working class, naturally, does not want to
know about revolutions and activities that might be unpleasant or
dangerous. Some communists, seeing their duty as supporting the working
class, make the mistake of adopting this wishful thinking as party
They forget that capitalism goes in economic cycles and that even
if things are peaceful and pleasant now, sooner or later there will be
an economic crisis with unemployment and attacks on workers’ living
conditions. Concessions made by the ruling class will be withdrawn. The
state machine that has been peaceful and benign for years will start to
tighten the screws.
The danger of revisionism is often greatest in parties where
there has been a sudden mass influx of new members, as happened in the
Communist Party of Great Britain after the defeat of Hitler fascism,
when pro-Sovietism was high. The vast majority of the new members were
well intentioned but they were not given a proper educational grounding
in Marxism-Leninism. When the leadership of that party became
revisionist, the mass of new members simply followed the leadership.
The real Marxist-Leninists in the party who held out against the
revisionism were marginalised and rendered ineffective. Eventually they
had to leave the old party and launched the New Communist Party in 1977.
Revisionism came to dominate many western communist parties in
the 60s and 70s. It even gained ground in the Soviet Union where, two
generations after the Great October Revolution, party members forgot
the real nature of capitalism and allowed those who wanted to
collaborate with the imperialist powers to control their party. They
did this in the name of world peace but the danger of world war is now
much greater since the fall of the Soviet Union. And global imperialism
is now uninhibited in its bullying and aggression towards countries
The threat of nuclear war hangs over the whole planet and the whole
human race. The dangers of wars between rival giant capitalist powers
grow with economic crises and recessions. Usually
such wars are now carried out in the exploited Third World countries as
rival powers fight over who will be allowed to exploit the people, over
markets and over raw materials, especially oil.
We must struggle for peace and for nuclear disarmament – and the
abolition of other kinds of weapons of mass destruction. Only in
peaceful conditions can the working class develop towards being capable
of a successful socialist revolution.
Existing socialist countries are well aware that they have to
find a way of coexisting peacefully with the aggressive imperialist
countries, though this is not easy.
So throughout the world, communists are active in promoting peace
and peaceful ways of reconciling political differences.
This does not mean that we are pacifists. We believe that workers
have every right to defend their interests. This includes building a
strong dictatorship of the proletariat to defend a successful
revolution. We also believe that workers have the right to use force of
arms to liberate themselves from exploitation, through a socialist
revolution or to liberate their country from foreign imperialist
aggressors. We support national liberation struggles in many countries,
including Ireland and Palestine. We believe that the organised working
classes in these places are the best judges of what tactics they should
use, what form their struggle should take.
Uniting the working class
The ruling classes throughout the world know that their chief enemy is
a united, organised and mobilised working class – so they do their
utmost to prevent this happening. They set out to divide
us; using sexism, racism, and many other devices.
We believe that an injury to one is an injury to all – when a
worker is treated less well because of their sex, their race, their
disability or their gender orientation, this damages the strength and
unity of the whole class. It is the responsibility of the whole working
class to fight against all forms of discrimination, of racism, sexism,
ageism and so on. Communists should be actively involved in fighting
Existing and future socialism
The Republic of China, the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, Cuba,
Vietnam and Laos are countries where successful socialist revolutions
have taken place and where the workers’ parties are still in charge.
Building socialism in the teeth of global opposition from the big
imperialists is not easy but each of these countries is doing its best
to bring a better standard of life to its workers, free from capitalist
They are each going about it in different ways. The Korean
workers’ leader Kim il Sung formulated the policy of Juché,
meaning self-reliance and adapting socialist ideas to the concrete
conditions of the country at the time.
The Communist Party of China, has admitted mistakes in the past.
It now views the path through socialism to communism as very long.
Right now they are engaging in a lot of trade with capitalist ventures
in the West, hoping this will bring economic benefits and peace.
So far they seem to be succeeding. China has made enormous
economic advances in recent years, resulting in vastly improved living
standards for most. And they still seem to be in control of the western
investments in their country, enforcing trade union rights and respect
for the workers. They are currently increasing the protection for their
They recognise this means that some Chinese workers are now
making super profits for capitalists. But so long as the workers’ state
remains firmly in control, they see this as a necessary price for
China’s new economic wealth has brought it increased power in the
international arena. It is now able to do trade deals to help Cuba
against the effects of the illegal US blockade against the socialist
Vietnam and Laos are still suffering the after effects of the US
war on the workers of that region and the poisonous weapons of mass
destruction the used, especially Agent Orange. But the workers there
are gradually building themselves a better life.
The fall of the Soviet Union has demonstrated that no socialist
country can become complacent. There is no automatic proofing against
future mistakes. It also demonstrated that it was a mistake for all
communist parties in the world to look blindly to the Soviet party for
All communist parties and their members have an absolute and continuing
duty to use their own brains, to think for themselves and to use the
mechanism of democratic centralism to strengthen the political
understanding and the policies of their parties.
Meanwhile the strength of the international working class is
growing around the world, especially in those countries where
exploitation is harshest. The workers’ parties in Venezuela, Brazil are
now strong enough to defy the global imperialists.
The extreme global imperialists, the neo-cons of the United
States, are stretching out their well-armed fists to try to control the
whole globe. But as they do so they provoke resistance everywhere. New
technology means the international workers’ parties are in regular
contact as never before. The imperialists can no longer keep secrets.
They cannot hide their failure to subdue Iraq and other places.
This encourages resistance everywhere. Workers are standing up to their
So long as the neo-cons are not allowed to do permanent damage to
the whole planet, sooner or later the workers of the world will take
control, will smash the structures of capitalism and imperialism and we
will all liberate ourselves from exploitation and oppression.
This booklet is an
attempt to give a very brief summary of their
message – with a plea to all readers to understand that this is just an
introduction. It is too short to give full or proper explanations of
complex, interconnected political aims and ideas. Anyone wishing to
become an active communist or socialist will need to read further.
The Communist Manifesto –
K Marx & F Engels
Socialism, utopian and
scientific – F Engels
State and Revolution – VI Lenin
Left-wing communism: an infantile
disorder – VI Lenin
Foundations of Leninism – J Stalin
Dialectical and historical materialism
– J Stalin
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