New Communist Party of Britain pamphlet  - print copy £2 plus postage


When Harold Wilson, Labour Prime Minister in the 1960s, spoke about the “White Hot Heat of technological revolution” he envisaged a situation where we would all be enjoying much more leisure time. This hasn’t happened. Instead there is a “culture” of long hours, unpaid overtime, a dramatic increase in the tempo of work and job insecurity. The stress caused by working under these conditions  has grown enormously. It would seem that we have become the slaves of new technology In reality what we are experiencing is an increase in the rate of exploitation. It is the employers who are cracking the whip; they work together in their pursuit of  higher profits by applying various techniques to maximise the hours worked whilst minimising the wages paid.  They have the right to hire and fire and because of the lack of sufficient militancy by the organisations of the working class; they are demanding the maximum effort, whilst successfully retarding any significant rise in wages. How should we meet this challenge? What should our immediate demands be? Why is it that the only solution that can satisfy the working class is socialism? This pamphlet will endeavour to answer those questions.

Capitalism ? The drive to maximise profits

Under capitalism every method to increase economic growth is enacted solely to increase profits, never to increase wages or reduce hours.

            Some of these methods are :

•    The introduction of new technology. The British car industry currently produces almost two million cars and commercial vehicles annually. This is a similar volume to the industry’s peak years of the early 1970s but employment in the industry has dropped from 525,000 to 197,000. Before the closure of MG Rover productivity of workers’ in the group had risen from 5.9 cars per worker in 1978 to 25 in 2004.

•    The introducion of  “lean production” systems that require workers to work more intensely. In a report published in November 2004, the TUC (Trades Union Congress) estimates that work-related stress costs the economy up to £7 billion and as many as 13 million lost working days a year. The Health & Safety Executive says it is the biggest cause of working days lost through injury or ill-health.

•    The lengthening of  the hours worked. Almost 5 million workers worked regularly longer than their contracted hours for no extra payment, worth £23bn in extra profits to the capitalists. This extra unpaid work is often performed to the detriment of family life. This is no labour of love. The worker feels compelled to do the extra unpaid work to safeguard their jobs in case of cutbacks.

All this contributes to the increase in profits which grew by up to 33 per cent in the second quarter of 2004, wages grew by a measly 4 per cent. Deregulation, privatisation, restrictions to workers rights and cuts in unemployment benefit have also contributed to the increase in profits.

According to the office for national statistics, the mean annual salary of chief executives and directors was £162,028. Train drivers, who have the best paid manual jobs, were in 61st place earning £33,425 a year while nurses were 143rd in the tables earning £24,462. Among the worst paid workers were the 27,000 retail cashiers and checkout operators who earned £10,734.

Capitalism cannot solve the problem of distribution. That is partly the proof of the obsolescence of the system. On a national and international basis there is massive poverty amidst incredible wealth. Company directors walk away with golden handshakes of millions whilst at the other end of the scale people struggle to make ends meet. We are told that we are in a global economy, yet whilst famine stalks the continent of Africa, African farmers have to comply with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund decisions on which crops that may or may not grow. The heavily subsidised food production in countries like Britain results in the reduction of sustainable food production in developing countries.

 Production and productivity

The factor that makes it imperative and inevitable for capitalism to renew and revolutionise its productive techniques is the competition from its rivals. The assumption of the capitalists is that it will be their products that will be bought and not the products of their rivals this results in too many products being produced. The market is unable to absorb all that is produced and so the capitalists compete with each other to gain a larger share of the market at the expense of their rivals. In the sharpening struggle for markets trade wars develop between large corporations, countries and economic trading blocks like the European Union and the North American Free Trade Agreement. This struggle for markets and control of resources, gives rise to physical wars as they try to  redivide the world in their favour.

War is not necessarily their preferred choice in solving the contradiction of the   crises of over production. Their first choice is to augment the purchasing power of the market. This sometimes gives some immediate relief to the system but at the cost of actually aggravating the basic problem, as boosting the purchasing power of the market is achieved not by increasing wages but by encouraging people to go into debt – “buy now pay later” is the maxim. However, because these debts have to be repaid with interest charges, the overall effect is to  cut the future purchasing power of wages, pensions and student grants and so on.

The increase in debt puts pressure on workers to work longer hours in order to pay off their debts. This working of extra hours makes  more profits for bosses and contributes even more to over?production.

At present people, in Britain, are in debt to the tune of  about £1,000 billion (€1,500bn, $1,800bn) which is 102 per cent of GDP and growing at more than 14 per cent a year, almost 4 times the rate of wage growth. Once this bubble bursts, when people find they cannot service their debts, there will be a dramatic cut back in purchasing power which could result in an economic recession further exacerbating the existing problems. As a result of increased debt and marketing pressures  there is the feeling that finances are stretched in spite of low inflation, a so-called stable economy, two-earner families and longer working hours.

The level of debt is already showing signs that it is unsustainable in that there are a growing number of people having their homes repossessed: a 25 per cent increase in the first quarter of 2005.

Capitalism exacerbates the problem still further by increasing the output per person per working day (productivity).To increase productivity the capitalists reduce the amount of effort required to produce a particular product or provide a particular service, they do this by lengthening the working week and by making workers work more intensely. New technology helps this process enormously either by lightening the physical effort of the job or by the introduction of “lean production” systems where workers are given a greater number of tasks to perform.

Skills and education

Until the 1970s the emphasis was on producing skilled manufacturing workers through apprenticeship schemes. Apprentices were given a well rounded engineering background and would, when trained, make a significant contribution to adding value to the production process. It is only through the increased production of new products like food, clothing, cars and  televisions that GDP can grow in real terms. Selling insurance or providing a banking service does not increase GDP it only redistributes the existing “pot” of money.

With the introduction of new technology there is no longer a need to have so many skilled manufacturing workers as computerised machines can now replicate the skills of many of these workers as is the case in the motor car industry exampled above. Many engineering companies have made heavy investments in new machine tools. Some of these machine tools are laser guided with diamond cutting tools so precision is very high and wear very low. Wages can be reduced because the machines often run around the clock, sometimes seven days a week, sometimes without operators and with greater efficiency and accuracy.

This introduction of new technology has replaced many of the skills that had been previously considered essential for a modern workforce. Computer controlled machine tools have replaced many highly skilled workers. In the office letter writing and book?keeping are carried out more efficiently through the use of computers and their associated programmes. Staff in call?centres deal with specific customer queries, through the use of computerised telephone switch?boards that can direct enquirers to specifically trained staff, thus obviating the need to train multi?skilled staff. In shops numeracy skills are no longer required as check-out operators simply scan the goods being bought.

Apprenticeships have been replaced by non-vocational university education, the exceptions being law, medicine, social work, sciences , technology and engineering.  Only on specifically orientated technology and engineering courses will students be trained in how to design, build or configure advanced computerised machines. To gain entry to these courses students will need an advanced education in physics and mathematics. In the office the requirement is for skilled managers with related business knowledge.

Whereas acquiring these management and business skills will require many years of education and training, the mastering of word processors and spreadsheet  tools can be achieved in a few weeks. The rest of the workforce not directly engaged in design engineering or management will require less specialised skills than were previously gained under the old apprenticeship schemes.

The emphasis in education and in career development is for students to move towards a career in business or finance as opposed to those careers in the wealth creating or new technology sectors.  University acceptances for Information Technology (IT) courses have declined from a peak of 29,000 in 2000 to 22,500 in 2003. According to the research, the IT industry needs up to 179,000 entrants each year. The problem is not just about numbers: jobs in engineering, manufacturing and IT are perceived to be those most easily transferable to other countries and are thus shunned by the young. Skills in new technology are the very ones that are the most easily transferable with the developing countries having a vast pool of highly educated and technologically skilled people and can provide economy of scale. So employers are holding back on training staff as they consider these jobs as suitable for outsourcing overseas as the knowledge-based content of the output of office workers can be exported anywhere. These services being exported are not only at the low end of the value chain – call-centre operators and data processors  –  but increasingly at the upper end where software programmers, engineers, accountants, lawyers, consultants and doctors work.

The imperialist and developing countries

Until the mid 1900s imperialism exported capital to the former colonial countries for the purpose of plundering their mineral wealth and transferring it back to the metropolitan country for manufacture into finished products. These finished products were either sold in the metropolitan country or exported to elsewhere in  the world. With the introduction of new technology, the tendency now is for manufacture to be conducted in countries with the lowest wages. In the past manufacture was exported to countries with relatively small populations, now the tendency is for manufacture or provision of services to be conducted in China, India or elsewhere.

The incentives to take the outsourcing of more complex services one step further and move them offshore are compelling. A body called Accountants in India recently estimated that a qualified bookkeeper or entry-level staff member in the US cost about $30 an hour, including all the overheads (employee benefits, computers, office space, continuing education and so on). Experienced accountants got 50 per cent more. In contrast, a qualified, college graduate accountant, trained in standard business management applications could be hired for about $8 an hour in India.

How should the working class respond to this development? How can jobs be defended?

First of all the labour movement should put as much pressure as possible to stop jobs being exported by the capitalists. It will not be possible to win all such struggles. Many jobs in manufacturing, banking, insurance and other service  industries have already been exported.

It is important to realise that our argument is with the employers. It is not with the workers of the developing countries who in some circumstances are being exploited by the same capitalists we are in conflict with.

Even with the loss of jobs in the major imperialist powers like the US and Britain the working class is growing in size and wherever jobs are exported to, trade unions are developing as workers struggle to improve wages,  safety standards at places of work and health and education facilities in the wider communities.

Through militant struggle and good leadership these countries will experience a rise in living standards – and that is to be welcomed.

Indeed, the raising of living standards and working conditions through active struggle will force the employers to think again about transferring the jobs. To a certain extent this is already happening in China as workers united around the Communist Party of China and the ACFTU have forced even Wal?Mart to shift on it’s position of not recognising trade unions.

The direct interests of the workers in Britain are best served by giving the workers in the developing countries as much support and solidarity in the struggles they wage against our common oppressors  –  the capitalists.

In addition there are political developments taking place. The impact of China’s example of working to a long term strategy for socialism should not be underestimated. In planning for socialism China with Cuba and Vietnam are showing the way forward to advance the interests of the human race.

China and India are leading the way in the race for economic development, but their approaches are very different. China is developing its manufacturing base whilst India is increasingly providing services to the developed world. Together, they are ushering in a broader and more powerful strain of globalisation. This will result in an appreciable rise in living standards which is to be welcomed. The impact of China politically as well as economically should not be underestimated in encouraging developing countries to adopt the revolutionary perspective of socialism.

In the long run, the income Chinese and Indian workers make as producers will show up on the other side of the ledger as  they exercise their new wealth as consumers, presenting opportunities to suppliers elsewhere in the world.

New technology and the class struggle

If Britain is to maintain any semblance of a wealth creating industry it must train high quality scientists, engineers, architects and IT specialists. 

Emphasis also needs to be put on the training doctors, nurses and other health service professionals.  It is a scandal that Britain continues to deny training to people wanting to enter the health profession whilst poaching staff from the developing countries.

Even with the adoption of new technology and the exporting of jobs it needs to be stressed that there are certain trades where it is very desirable to have apprentice style training with the emphasis on hands on practice. These include plumbers, electricians, carpenters, engineers, mechanics, bricklayers and so on. All too few of these are being trained at the present time. In addition nurses, health and care workers should have their status raised and their salaries  enhanced. Affordable housing for those care workers has to be found near their places of work.

Transport employees should enjoy proper training.

Pensions should be tied to wages. Student grants need to be reintroduced and paid for by higher taxation of the rich and a severe curb on their incomes.

Outsourcing is not a new phenomenon what has changed is the speed, quantity and quality of the jobs being exported. From the 1950s through to the 1980s it was the export of low-added value jobs as in clothing with these jobs being replaced with more more “knowledge-based” jobs in the design and service orientated industries, now even these jobs are being exported.

Historically within Britain, it has been engineering, manufacturing and the exploitation of the colonial empire that has provided jobs and wages for Britain’s workers whether it was those directly working in the wealth creating manufacturing, engineering, extractive and agricultural industries or  those working in the service and finance sectors. This is not to say that relatively high wages were not achieved without a determined struggle by the working class. With the manufacturing base of Britain considerably weaker than in the 1950s, there are now less than 4 million workers employed in the wealth creating sector, it is the added value that these workers create that is used to sustain the economy and pay the wages in the service and finance sectors. Unless Britain invests in engineering and manufacturing, creates university places to train engineers and other scientists and actively encourages the young to work in the wealth creating sector the decline will continue.

With the manufacturing base of the country weakened it will be a  difficult challenge to improve living standards and reverse the decline, but it can be achieved by a  determined struggle by the working class.

Why a revolutionary perspective is essential for Britain

The tactic employed in the leading capitalist countries by their ruling classes to avoid socialist revolution  has been to grant social reforms. when the pressure from the working class for change is too great, in the anticipation that the reforms will be revoked at the earliest opportunity. In Europe workers are under great pressure to work longer hours. Even though the European Parliament has voted to limit the working week to 48?hours, in practice the ruling class will attempt to make the 48?hour working week the norm under a pretext that workers need to build an adequate pension for retirement.

  There is much to defend and improve if we are to achieve the benefits that Wilson intimated in his “White hot heat of technological revolution” speech. It is this continuous battle to win social reforms and then to defend them sometimes successfully other times not, that leads to the political realisation that the only sure way of securing social reforms and enhancing them permanently is for the working class to assume control of the state through a socialist revolution.

Under capitalism there can be no partnership with the employers, the partnership spoken of by the employers, Mr Blair and some trade union leaders is not a partnership based on equality. It is based on the acceptance of capitalist norms of behaviour. The capitalist right to exploit is the essential principle enshrined in capitalist democracy.

Just as in ancient Greece the slaves had no say in that democracy, the workers say in capitalist society is essentially muted. The opinion forming media is largely monopolised and controlled by the anti?communist, anti?socialist anti?trade union and anti?working class forces.

As capitalism continually revolutionises the means of production, the possibilities for changing the relations of production increase. But even given a revolutionary situation occurring,the transition from capitalism to socialism depends on the political consciousness of the working class, its revolutionary resolve and strength of organisation, its ability to link immediate struggles to longer term perspectives and its skill in winning allies and neutralising some of its enemies as it achieves its goal of establishing working class state power.

The immediate struggles – unite and fight

As capitalism moves into crisis the ruling class will intensify its efforts to divide the working class. Racism, religious bigotry and narrow nationalism are some of the weapons used to achieve that division and are increasingly becoming evident as witnessed in the British 2005 general election campaign. The tendency for capitalism to resort to authoritarian rule and even fascism is usual when the system enters into crisis.

Against the divide and rule strategy of the ruling class, the working class seeks to unite the people around the general demands for peace, full employment, defence of the environment, public ownership and improved public services.

The immediate need today is to build trade union organizations at the places of work. This is not just an organisational task. It must include and ideological work as well.

Over the past few years the working class has changed considerably in its composition. The industrial working class is still of crucial importance for political and economical reasons, but it has been weakened. Those employed in the service sector have increased their class consciousness and have formed militant trade unions. Health workers, teachers, local government workers and civil servants come readily to mind.

Many in the labour force are not class conscious. Some do not even see themselves as part of the working class but as their material circumstances change they can be won for progressive policies. The trade unions nationally can adopt strategies and make their wage claims more effective. They should consider submitting their wage claims at the same time and even go so far as jointly deciding what the claim should be. The practice of wage claims being based on percentage increases should be abandoned because they widen the differentials to the detriment of the low paid worker. Wage claims should be based on a cash across the board basis.

Unite and liberate

The organisation best equipped to counter capitalist ideas is a Marxist?Leninist Communist Party. Its strategy must harmonize with the struggle for working class unity. The basic demands of peace, full employment and public ownership must figure prominently in the working class demands.

The New Communist Party has a strategy designed to help the working class win their immediate aims and the longer term task of achieving political power. In the conditions of Britain we believe it to be fundamentally wrong to contest elections against Labour Party candidates.

We state quite openly that our policy includes becoming an affiliate to the Labour Party to participate in the struggle for the restoration of those aims within the Labour Party Constitution that promoted public ownership (Clause 4) and defeat the right wing policies of the current leadership. In addition we consider it important to strengthen the democracy in the Labour Party by helping to transform its national conference into a body whose decisions are binding on the whole membership.

What is the Labour Party?

It is a working class party with a federal structure comprising, among others, trade unions, the Co?operative Party, the Socialist Health Association and individual constituency Labour Parties. The bulk of it’s membership are affiliated through the trade unions. It is a party that works for reforms within the system. It is not a revolutionary party. It considers the state to be neutral. It encompasses members widely varying in their political beliefs and outlooks. When the New Communist Party takes it’s rightful place in the federally based Labour Party, the left will have been considerably strengthened having the opportunity to unite and develop around a vanguard for socialism. This too is of vital importance because the struggle for state power cannot be achieved solely by spontaneous action.

Why socialism?

Socialism would resolve the problem of distribution, so poverty would be eliminated.

With socialism the rewards from production and new technology would be used to enhance the quality of life of the majority of the people. The needs of the community will have to become a priority over the unfettered desires of the individual. That quality of life would embrace not just material things but culture as well. To reverse global warming, an integrated framework will be put in place to ensure that, as far as possible, there will be a reduction in the emission of polluting gases and other materials damaging to the eco?system, consistent with sustainable world economic development and that takes account of maximum assistance to the developing countries.

Socialism would eliminate the pressure for profit made by vested interests like the oil companies, which veto the  initiatives to combat global warming, and replace cut throat competition with cooperation and would help to ensure that successive generations inherited a world at peace, cooperation and greater happiness. It is not an exaggeration to say that socialism is a necessity to guarantee the future existence of human kind.

That surely is a goal that is worth fighting and sacrificing for.

To the New Communist Party Page