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New Communist Party of Britain

THE CRISIS IN BRITAIN AND THE COUNTER—OFFENSIVE

Congress needs to make an estimate of the character of the present stage of the capitalist crisis, its effects on the working class and the immediate steps that must be taken.

There are over 1,600,000 registered unemployed in this country including over 600,000 young people under 25 years of age. Millions are homeless or live in extremely poor conditions. Eight million are maintained at subsistence level on Social Security Whilst all social services face savage cuts.

The economic crisis that has afflicted Britain has been particularly acute. The ruling class has attempted as always to solve its difficulties at the expense of the creators of all wealth, the working class. The attack on living standards has been carved out through the policy of the social contract, forcefully advocated by the TUC and the Labour Party leadership.

The thinking behind the social contract was based on the notion that wages were the main cause of inflation and that the economic ills of capitalism could be solved by proper planning and the restraint and “moderation” of workers.

Capitalism, as at system, is characterised by conflict. That conflict is not only between capitalists and workers but also between rival national centres of capital and, of course, individual capital formations. The level of conflict inside capitalism is currently being heightened.

A principle feature of the present, acute stage of the general crisis of capitalism is the way in which the national capitalisms of all the “advanced” capitalist states are placing an increasing proportion of their foreign investment not in the countries of the “Third World” but in each other’s countries.

The cause of this development is, of course, the tendency toward real national liberation and even socialism in the Third World and the increased risks thereby created for investment.

The results are heightened contradictions between national centres of capital and an increased rate of exploitation of workers in the advanced capitalist countries as their exploitation is “rationalised” on an internationals scale.

This development, which necessarily involves a relative reduction in the thickness of the cushion of Third World profits which has created the basis for mass social democracy in the advanced capitalist world, renders irrelevant the left social democratic policies that have seemed so attractive to communist parties in Britain and some parts of Western Europe.

The economic basis that made plausible the theory of “American exceptionalism” and has made possible its modern counterpart “Euro-Communism”, is being eroded at the very moment when some at least of the Euro-Communists seem to be enjoying a fragment of glory.

The crisis of British capitalism is especially complex.

There are aspects of the overall crisis which specifically relate to Britain. These include the failure to adapt fully to the loss of the Empire and the “hinterland” geographic position of the UK in the EEC.

But these national factors should not be over— estimated. A bout of protectionism will not solve the crisis for the British working class. Leyland workers will not do themselves or other workers any favours by accepting more intensive exploitation. But a situation in which industrial production is declining at the rate of 1% per quarter, and there is no serious prospect of increased exports, cannot be ignored.

To some extent, the old definitions of prosperity are being successfully replaced by new, much lower, ones The idea that more than 1.6 million unemployed is compatible with a remarkable economic recovery has achieved a wide extent of acceptance.

The idea that the butchering of services, for which workers have fought, actually assists in the process of recovery has also been sold to a disturbingly high percentage of workers. The idea that cuts in real wages are the best way to solve the problem has met with unprecedented support.

These successes could not have been achieved by the capitalist class alone. They have been made possible by the right-wing of the Labour movement. The most powerful sections of that right-wing — the leaders of the Labour Government and TUC - bear a particularly heavy responsibility.

Those leaders are not, however, solely to blame. The failure of the left to isolate those who have fought for anti—working class policies cannot be ignored.

The use of the “big lie” technique requires no comment. The successful effecting of changes in the structure of the working class in the direction of even greater sectionalism must, however, be mentioned.

It is not clear at the time of this Congress whether the unity of the mineworkers will be broken by the proposed productivity deal. What is clear, however, is that the class has been fractured in many other ways.

The success achieved in persuading industrial workers that their interests can be furthered at the expense of those in the public services is an example. Equally, groups of industrial workers have been set against each other both by productivity deals and by plant bargaining. The flat rate increases of the past two years have sharpened the competition between skilled and unskilled workers.

Congress believes that the time has come for a new wages offensive and that this can only succeed if it is based on national claims that restore the living standards of all those engaged in the fight. At the present time, average increases of around £20 per week are required in industry. By this means the unity of the class can start to be restored.

The fight for wages has to be accompanied by a fight against cuts in the “social wage”.

The experience of the anti-cuts fight so far has shown that it cannot be mounted successfully by public service workers alone. The vandalisation of Hounslow Hospital could not have been achieved had the engineering workers of the area been mobilised on a large scale in their hospital’s defence.

The right~wing attack. on the housing programme itself is being accompanied by an attack on direct labour in an effort to maximise private builders’ profits. The existing public housing is threatened by the plans for council house sales which are now on the agenda of right-wing labour as well as that of the Tories.

Due to the cuts, the already overloaded health service is progressively deteriorating. Further, recent re- organisation has in effect extended bureaucratic control rendering it more difficult for the public to have any say in its affairs.

As well as vigorously opposing health cuts and demanding a preventative medical service, we must oppose the Resources Allocation Working Party plans for bringing better provided areas down to the same level as the worse provided.

Our education system reflects the class nature of our society. The vast majority of our working class children are deprived of the right to develop fully and leave school feeling alienated from education and ill equipped for their future life.

There must be a fight by the whole trade union movement for an extension of preschool provision, smaller classes and implementation of real comprehensive education and against authoritarian attitudes.


30th October 1977