New Communist Party of Britain
LOOKING BACK at the last century we see that it was an epoch of imperialist war and revolution. But the characteristics of the two world wars and the economic developments following them were quite different. In the First World War, the majority of casualties (killed and wounded) were actual combatants themselves.
It was a war of position and comparatively little damage was unleashed on towns and cities outside the immediate war zone.
The Second World War was highly mobile. It ranged over vast territories and civilian casualties as well as military casualties were colossal.
The First World War was an imperialist war which brought Czarist Russia to its knees and led to the Great October Revolution. The Second World War started as an imperialist war but soon developed into a fascist onslaught against the Soviet Union and ended with a new revolutionary upsurge in Europe and Asia.
During that war the imperialist powers all included the bombing of civilian centres in their battle plans.
The Second World War therefore inflicted massive damage and destruction on cities and towns.
Factories and plants, housing and furnishings, railway stock and roads had to be replaced after the war.
Following the First World War the economy quickly moved to a recession.
Then after the Wall Street crash there was no improvement in the economy until the Second World War had broken out.
The ruling class following the Second World war had to contend with the tremendous advances of the working class which identified capitalism as being the cause of the war and the suffering and the rise of fascism, of which it was essential to defeat.
Socialism was extended to the Eastern Europe and the Baltic, and the working class was on the move in Asia, led by militant communist parties.
In Western Europe, the workers were determined not to tolerate the pre-war conditions of mass unemployment and poverty.
Social Democratic governments were swept into office, often with huge majorities.
These governments and the ruling class of the capitalist countries, realised that concessions had to be made, if revolution was to be averted.
Capitalism in the post war period therefore emerged politically weaker but with the basis for an expanding economy and with the major industrial power of the world, the United States of America, unscathed by a single bomb on its mainland. The basis for a growing capitalist economy with rising productivity was partly due to the Americans ability to export a mass of tools of production coupled with the struggle of the working class to win concessions from the capitalists by militant struggle, especially in the fight for higher wages.
The strategy of the ruling class from then to now, has been to maintain and expand the economy, nationally and internationally in order to ensure the political stability of the capitalist system. The social democrats opposing the concept of class struggle helped popularise the idea that capitalism was now crisis free.
The problem for them and the ruling class was how to sustain and achieve a constantly expanding economy whilst holding down the purchasing power of wages and undermining pensions and student grants.
Over the years, the way forward for capitalism has been to take advantage of certain objective circumstances and to take administrative measures designed to boost investments in the economy.
The use of the bank rate in order to fine tune the economy could not in itself ensure such economic expansion. Therefore, the first measure introduced was to popularise the virtues of investing on the stock exchange. Increasing emphasis was put on this and many people including workers, started to invest some of their income and savings on stocks and shares.
This had the political advantage for capitalism of making people feel they had a stake in society. For a period they did enjoy a good return on their investments, but now that happy state of affairs has clearly come to an abrupt end.
The next major ploy was to get rid of the policy of thrift in favour of buying now with future earnings. This too proved to be popular. In the short term it ensured a continuation of growth but it stored up greater problems for the future as many countries, corporations and individuals built up huge debts.
These debts have proved to be a significant cut in earnings. Since they not only have to be paid back, they also have to be serviced by interest charges.
In the case of individual debts, which many people are being tempted to take out against the surety of their homes, they run the risk of having their property confiscated.
The most recent effort to sustain and expand the economy shows a measure of even greater desperation. It is the mass privatisation that is taking place in virtually every sector of the economy, including the National Health Service and Education.
This measure is to try and soak up the mass of capital and is desperately seeking a safe haven for investments now that the Stock Exchange has recorded crippling losses in share prices.
The aim of sustaining and expanding the economy has been accompanied by the effort to derive maximum profits on capitalist investments, which have focused on holding down wages and cutting the purchasing power of pensions and student grants. Part of the rising productivity being achieved by the slimming down of the work force and the intensifying the pressure under which the employed have been subjected. The ruling class, helped by successive governments, has consistently done their utmost to hold wages down and cut their purchasing power as price inflation affects goods and services.
As part of this effort, the bourgeoisie has worked to divide the working class movement and it must be said, they have had considerable success.
The tenants movement was a number one target and became much less effective when the government introduce a differential rent scheme.
This was not developed to help the poor and needy tenants, but to sow discord and create division amongst the tenants themselves. The lack of consequent unity and militancy of the tenants' movement undermined the consequent policy, which was to sell off the bulk of council housing.
The second divisive measure preparatory to the assault on the industrial working class was to introduce the Redundancy Payments Act.
This was another divisive measure which undermined the militant resistance to job cuts. Alongside of this was claptrap about "partnerships" between employers and workers, with governments declaring that the class struggle, which they have never recognised, was now in any case finished and over.
But in this so-called partnership, surprise, bosses have retained the right to hire and fire, and to back up their powers still more with a range of anti- trade union legislation. Introduced by the Tories, it is still mainly intact after six years of Labour government.
A further step encouraging division amongst the workers, had been the adoption of the percentage increase as opposed to the monetary across the board claim.
Percentage increases are divisive because they widen the gap between the higher paid and lower paid workers, who should be completely united in pursuit of the claim which benefits all to the same extent. People also lose sight of the fact that a high percentage claim based on a small amount does not amount to a great deal.
We shouldn't believe that the world economy or national economy has expanded consistently. Downturns have occurred.
Unequal competition and the divisions between poor and rich countries meant an uneven development in terms of economic growth and degrees of poverty.
Not surprisingly, individual countries from the developing sector were the first to get into difficulties. However since then, whole regions have been affected by falling production and continuing crisis, as is the case within South East Asia.
We hear nothing now of the economic miracle of Japan.
As for Europe, irrespective of whether countries are included in the European Union or not, all are now experiencing the symptoms of a major crisis. Germany, which was once held up as an example to us all by the capitalist class, is now facing an economic crisis of such proportions that is has decided to cut its military budget.
This is a step to be welcomed but it should be noted that it has caused dismay in the ruling circles of Britain and America.
Here in Britain, having crippled the manufacturing industry and decimated its labour force, the slimming down process has now moved to affect the banks, insurance travel and communication sectors. The huge numbers of redundancies taking place now, include many numbers of highly paid white-collar workers who never dreamt that they would be affected by the threat of job losses.
Many of these have got alternative employment, but in the main, are accepting considerably reduced wages, giving rise to a growing insecurity.
This is one of the reasons for the rising militancy in the trade union movements and opposition to US-British plans to wage a full-scale war against Iraq. There has been a healthy growth of anti-capitalist sentiment by working class youth, with massive demonstrations taking place in Europe and elsewhere.
As yet there is not so much clarity that the only answer to capitalism in crisis that serves the interests of the working class is socialism.
State intervention against the working class is being swept up with the Establishment using the excuse that it is defending the country against terrorism. The use of state intervention is also having the effect of turning strikes over wage demands and safety procedures into a political confrontation between the workers on one hand, and the ruling class aided and abetted by the governments of the day on the other.
The crisis of capitalism is also a crisis of social democracy. The priority of this Labour government, and indeed of all Labour governments, has been to perpetuate capitalism. This is why the present Labour government has adopted Tory policies in respect of privatisation, tax concessions to the rich, and is slavishly following the interests of big business by backing US imperialism for a war on Iraq.
The so-called global economy of capitalism benefits the imperialist powers at the expense of the former colonial countries. With the ruling class exploiting the working class in every country where it holds power, the so-called global economy is shot through with contradictions such as the one relating to farming. With millions starving in Africa, we are paying our farmers to cut down the production of food. Presumably we should go down on our knees and pray for bad harvests so that world prices can be kept high, even though millions suffer from malnutrition and famine.
When the overall situation is looked at in this way, the need for communist and revolutionary leadership is clearly proven. The working class does not just need a communist leadership in times of revolutionary upsurge. It also needs it in its day to day struggles to defend and extend its interests.
In the struggle for communist co-operation, development of the relations between the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) and the New Communist Party has been very encouraging. We can see no reason why this practice should not be developed further, with the inclusion of other communist parties in Britain.
Our proposals are on the table. We are in favour of round table discussions on the basis of complete equality.
On a number of crucial national and international issues, there is a common position between the parties. The question of organisational unity is not an immediate issue, since such a development requires agreement on an overall strategy for achieving working class state power.
There is currently a wide divergence of opinion on such a strategy, with some emphasising the role of parliamentary democracy. Socialism has never been achieved through legislation by bourgeois parliaments. Nor has it the remotest possibility of happening here in Britain. The lesson of Chile, with the shooting down of president Allende, and the US backed atrocities on the militants and people of Chile should not be forgotten.
The present crisis is the most serious to have faced capitalism since World War Two. It cannot yet be described as a slump, but all capitalist countries in the world have been affected by it. It is doubtful whether the United States can kick-start the global economy to maintain its necessary expansion. Without that there is no way that capitalism can shore up its political stability.
Inter-imperialist rivalries are already significant and sharpening. The national, corporate and personal debts account for substantial future earnings and incomes. Banks and other companies are having to put huge sums aside to cover bad debts. Pension funds are increasingly at risk, redundancies affect every sector of the economy, the purchasing power of wages, pensions and student grants are being undermined - and this undermines the market capacity still further.
We are aware that there has been a tendency to cry wolf many times in the past half century. But it really does look as if capitalism has worn out its options for growth.
This is why the attack on the working class is being pursued so ruthlessly. It is a measure of desperation, not of confidence. For the working class, the day-to-day struggles must become consciously linked to the fight for fundamental change, and that means revolution and socialism.
To give greater input to the struggle for socialism we invite readers of our paper, The New Worker, to take extra copies of the paper and consider becoming members of our party.
20th December 2002