Communist Party general secretary Robert Griffiths opened the party’s 54th congress over the weekend.
This is his introduction to the main political resolution
Since our 53rd Congress in November 2014, the world has become an ever more dangerous place as the general crisis of capitalism deepens.
A cacophony of NATO chiefs, military generals and their mouthpieces in Westminster and the mass media warn us almost daily of our unreadiness for war with Russia.
American warships patrolling the South China Sea come across a Chinese military vessel — and we are invited to quake in our boots at this naked display of Chinese ‘expansionism’!
There is a calculated, coordinated campaign by our rulers to spread a war psychosis in Britain and other NATO countries, linked to a massive rearmament drive which includes renewal of the Trident nuclear weapons system.
These developments underline the need not only to strengthen CND and the Stop the War Coalition in Britain. We must also project the World Peace Council and its anti-imperialist perspectives and rebuild its affiliate here, namely, the British Peace Assembly.
Already we are reaping the whirlwind of more than half a century of Western imperialism’s corrupt and self-serving alliances in the Middle East.
From the Shah of Iran and Saddam Hussein to the Sultan of Oman and the House of Saud, from Sharon, Netanyahu and the Mujahideen to President Erdogan and the al-Nusra Front, there is nobody that British and US imperialism will not support if it suits their own interests.
The result is that whole villages, towns, cities and countries have been shattered. Many millions of people have been terrorised, uprooted, driven into exile or killed. They are the chief victims of the whirlwind sown by our rulers.
Meanwhile, the war criminals who set fire to Iraq have still to spend a day in court, let alone behind bars. Those politicians, advisors and intelligence chiefs who colluded in Blair’s ‘Big Lie’ about Saddam’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction have climbed higher up the career ladder or slipped gently into feather-bedded retirement.
Yet still, British politicians and pundits discuss the Middle East and what can be done about it as though British intervention were part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
We even witnessed the grotesque spectacle of Hilary Benn, when Shadow Foreign Secretary, calling in aid the 3,500 volunteers of the International Brigades who went to fight fascism in Spain as the core of his case for British military intervention in Syria.
Of course, with slippery dishonesty, he referred to the International Brigaders only as ‘socialists’ when, as we know, three-quarters of them were communists.
We also know that the primary aim of British military intervention in Syria was to topple the secular regime of Bashar al-Assad. Only after Russian intervention in September 2015 began to turn the tide against the anti-government fundamentalists did the Tory government and its Labour allies begin to talk of ISIS rather than Assad as being the main enemy in Syria.
Perhaps we should contrast the urgency with which Britain, France and the USA have sought to intervene in Syria with their indolence when it comes to Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese territory.
Two years on, no progress has been made towards recognising the national-democratic rights of the Palestinian people on the ground. Israeli colonisation of the West Bank proceeds apace, while embargoed Gaza remains the world’s biggest open prison.
There is no reason to imagine that Donald Trump as US President will spur any progress. Indeed, his staff have already let it be known — on Israeli Army Radio — that he will break from official US policy by neither condemning the expansion of Israeli settlements on occupied land nor regarding them as ‘obstacles to peace’.
The international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel will have to be intensified until the Tel Aviv government comes to the negotiating table. And in Britain, the Communist Party should take the lead in campaigning for the release of Marwan Barghouti and the thousands of other Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails.
Imperialist intervention in Africa — not least in Libya — and the super-exploitation which utterly distorts local economies, has likewise driven millions of people from their homes, hundreds of thousands of them desperately searching for safety and stability in Europe.
So the navies of EU member states have been mobilised into action — not to escort or rescue desperate women, children and men, but to keep them out. A dirty deal has been done between the European Union and Turkey to dump the migrants back over the far side of the Aegean Sea.
This is a new feature of the old racist ‘Fortress Europe’ policy that has obliged members states to raise their barriers to people from the rest of the world, regardless of historical, cultural and family relations.
The historic vote on June 23 this year against Britain’s continuing membership of the EU was a rejection of this policy among a large section of our Asian and Afro-Caribbean communities.
However, the official campaigns on both side of the issue dragged much of the pubic debate into the gutter, playing upon people’s fears and prejudices rather than concentrating on the real issues.
That’s why the Communist Party can be proud of the role we played in helping to establish and lead Lexit — the Left Leave Campaign. We opposed the scaremongering, nationalism and xenophobia from both sides.
We exposed and attacked the anti-democratic, monopoly capitalist, imperialist and increasingly militaristic character of the EU. We explained how its largely unreformable treaties and institutions enforce neoliberal policies and would be an enormous barrier to progress for a future left-led government in Britain.
Many of the 17 million people who voted to Leave did so because they were worried about jobs, public services and democratic sovereignty. They sense that globalisation, privatisation and free markets dominated by multinational corporations are not being pursued in the interests of working people and their families.
So they registered a protest vote against the elite, those in power, the remote politicians and bureaucrats who know little about the realities of working class life and care even less.
We saw similar sentiments at work in the election of Donald Trump as US president earlier this month — the supreme validation of Lenin’s dictum that bourgeois democracy, while better than no democracy at all, is ultimately ‘democracy for the money bags’.
The regrettable fact that so many electors are putting their faith in bogus, right-wing remedies does not make their problems any less real.
Make no mistake, Trump’s victory jeopardises not only the rights of women and ethnic minority peoples in the US itself; it jeopardises environmental security, the Paris Climate Change Treaty and ultimately peace itself.
In Britain, the sorry fact is that a large section of the political left abandoned the working class and the people in the EU referendum campaign. They ended up as cheerleaders for the EU-IMF-NATO axis, allowing sections of the outside right to pose as the champions of democracy, self-government, sovereignty and even the NHS!
The rise of UKIP and the triumph of Trump are indictments of a left that would prefer to be on the same side as the ruling class than risk being seen — however absurdly — as being in bed with Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage.
Nevertheless, the forthcoming EU exit negotiations are an opportunity to rebuild left and labour movement unity around a clear set of demands.
For example, we should be arguing against Britain remaining an integral part of the Single European Market.
Being in that market would mean that we remain powerless to control the movement of capital, or to regulate trade in order to protect vital strategic industries, or to legislate against the super-exploitation of migrant workers and so reverse a series of reactionary rulings from the EU Court of Justice.
It would mean that we would remain powerless to abolish or radically alter the VAT rates of many goods and services. How did we end up in the position whereby a democratically elected government had to go to Brussels to plead with the unelected European Commission for permission to zero rate women’s sanitary products?
It would mean that the free trade, pro-big business fanatics of the European Commission would continue to negotiate international agreements with other countries on our behalf and to represent Britain at the World Trade Organisation.
And membership of the Single European Market would mean continuing to make a net contribution to EU budgets, paying not only for every penny that is recycled back into Britain, but for all those blue signs that make out that these projects have been funded by the bountiful bureaucrats of Brussels.
Of course, access to the EU market is important, especially for Britain’s exports. But this will continue, whether within the framework of a new bilateral trade agreement, or on the basis of WTO rules, perhaps with exporters enjoying tax relief on tariffs funded from much bigger tariff revenues from EU imports.
There is no reason why many other types of bilateral relations shouldn’t continue and even thrive after Britain leaves the EU — although a Common Foreign and Defence Policy would clearly be incompatible with an independent policy of our own, especially with one that is no longer subservient to the White House, the Pentagon and NATO.
The labour movement must formulate its own agenda and demands to ensure that we secure a ‘People’s Exit’ from the EU, one which reflects the interests of the working class rather than the capitalist class.
The rearguard action to sabotage implementation of the people’s verdict on June 23 must be opposed and defeated. This is not a fight about the independence of the judiciary or the sovereignty of parliament — it’s about the sovereignty of the people.
And if the House of Lords tries to frustrate popular sovereignty, that will merely demonstrate one more reason why it should be abolished.
Since our last congress, the Tories have won a General Election and changed their Prime Minister, while the Labour Party has lost Scotland and elected its new leader — twice.
We should not be fooled by Theresa May’s right-wing populism. She pretends to embrace Brexit and abandon austerity in a strategy to fight off UKIP and win over a section of Labour voters.
But riding two horses at once is a trick best left to the circus. We shall see whether the Tory Party’s paymasters in the City and big business boardrooms will allow her to lead Britain out of the EU or its Single Market.
Certainly, they will not permit her government to fund extra public investment from higher taxation on private wealth or corporate profits, whether now, or in the future to pay off increased government debt
And the reality is that public spending cuts are going ahead as planned, and will continue to do so. That is why teaching assistants, school cleaners, defence workers, university staff, prison officers and other public servants have been taking action in recent weeks and months to defend jobs, pay, pensions and services.
In the private sector, railway staff, journalists and building workers have been striking for the same reasons.
If the British and other economies slow down as widely forecast, and tax revenues continue to fall as a result, there is every likelihood that a Tory government will seek further cuts.
Yet for many of the most vulnerable people in our society, their situation today is already desperate enough, without an economic downturn and more austerity.
Welfare reforms and cuts have targeted people with disabilities in the most brutal, callous and cynical way. It is no surprise, therefore, that the UN Committee on the Rights of People with Disabilities has just issued a damning report on British government policies.
It accuses the government of ‘grave or systematic violations’ of disabled people’s rights, lying about benefit fraud, failing to carry out proper equality impact assessments and violating human rights in relation to assessment tests and the Bedroom Tax.
Women and ethnic minorities, too, have been hit disproportionately hard by welfare reforms and cuts.
Women comprise 55 per cent of employees on zero-hour contracts, while more than one-third are young people. The number of all such workers has rocketed from 110,000 in 2012 to 747,000 last year, and up since then by 20% to 903,000 today.
Britain’s housing crisis is growing worse: as council housebuilding has hit rock bottom, council tenancy has halved since 2001, the private rented sector has doubled to 22% of households and — surprise, surprise — the scourge of slum landlordism and rack-renting has returned.
We thought we had got rid of Rachmanism back in the 1960s, but today it’s back along with TB and rickets.
So many of our young people today face housing insecurity as well as unemployment or precarious, low paid work. The next generation may even suffer a return to Secondary Modern education, where the majority of working class children are stigmatised as failures for life at the end of the age of 11 and condemned to third-rate schooling and skivvydom.
These are just some of the serious social problems confronting youth in what is still the sixth biggest economy in the world.
They are problems which the People’s Assembly, the National Assembly of Women, Disabled People Against the Cuts, Defend Council Housing, the Anti-Academies Alliance and other campaigning bodies are organising people to overcome.
The potential exists — and is already being partly realised — for building a popular, democratic, anti-monopoly alliance that challenges state-monopoly capitalism’s failure to provide even some of the basic requirements of a civilised society.
A Left-Wing Programme of measures is necessary if we are to rebalance Britain’s economy away from a bloated and corrupt financial sector towards modernised and productive industry.
That is the perspective set out in the Communist Party’s programme, Britain’s Road to Socialism. But our programme also calls upon the working class movement to lend its organised strength to all these battles and help draw them together in a common, united stream that turns into a flood.
It is the working class upon which the whole of this society depends. Capitalism could not last beyond a few days or weeks without workers’ labour power and the surplus value that is drawn from it.
The historic question is whether that labour power should be planned, mobilised and deployed in the interests of society as a whole, or in the interests of corporate profit.
Comrades, we remain steadfast in our commitment to the overthrow of capitalism, to the transfer of state power to the working class and its allies and the construction of a socialist society based on common ownership of the commanding heights of the economy, social justice, peace and environmental security.
We know that these aspirations are shared by Jeremy Corbyn and we salute his efforts to provide socialist leadership to the Labour Party.
We will make every contribution that we can to the election of a left-led Labour government.
But we also recognise that this is made all the more difficult by the loss of support and seats in Scotland to the SNP.
As Engels and Lenin argued a hundred years ago and more, federalism is the only progressive solution to the national question in Britain.
Again, Britain’s Road to Socialism makes clear the need for the labour movement to champion this and other policies to defend and extend democratic rights.
A federal Britain will put real economic, financial and political power into the hands of the peoples of Scotland and Wales alongside democratic devolution to the regions of England.
It alone will preserve and mobilise the united, collective strength of working people against a common enemy, namely, British state-monopoly capitalism.
And only that unity has the capacity to capture and redistribute the enormous wealth of the capitalist class in Britain and redistribute it to the workers and their families of every nation and region.
The SNP alternative is to fabricate the illusion of an ‘independent’ Scotland that would still be subject to the Bank of England, the English monarchy, the European Union and NATO.
I must say, I would have more respect for the SNP if they were real nationalists, not half-hearted semi-separatists by Royal Appointment, supporting nuclear weapons as long as somebody else stores them on their behalf.
That agenda is not the worth the cost of breaking up a united labour movement built up in the course of more than 200 years of class struggle.
The other chief threat to the unity of our working class and its labour movement is the cancer of racism.
Prejudice and discrimination on grounds of race, or creed and nationality, is poisonous. It must be combated wherever it arises. Disunity within the anti-racist and anti-fascist movement weakens that fight.
But an integral part of the struggle against racism must be the formulation of a policy towards immigration, asylum and migrant labour that unifies the working class.
The Communist Party is not in favour of market anarchy when it comes to labour power, any more than it favours the free movement of other commodities or capital. We advocate the maximum possible planning of production, distribution and exchange under capitalism, as part of the material preparation for the transition to socialism.
Unlike the EU and its European Court of Justice, we do not support freedom for multinational corporations to import cheap and unorganised labour in order to undercut local pay and conditions, including those previously negotiated with trades unions.
We support the regulation of labour by the state and where possible by the trade union movement to prevent such super-exploitation of migrant workers.
We demand equal terms and conditions of employment for all workers. We urge the trade unions to step up their efforts to organise all workers, whatever their nationality and status.
We support an amnesty for all illegal immigrants and so-called ‘overstayers’. We favour a generous welcome to desperate and persecuted refugees.
And we join our comrades in the Indian Workers Association and the Bangladesh Workers Council in Britain in demanding an end to all racist immigration controls.
This is the alternative to the right and the far right and to the utopian, anarchistic and ‘free market’ slogans of the far left.
The working class and people of England, Scotland and Wales need their labour movement as much as ever. The labour movement needs its daily paper, the Morning Star — the only paper that supports, educates and helps to mobilise the working class.
And the labour movement needs its Communist Party. The Executive Committee’s Report of Work reflects the wide range of activities in which our party and its members have been and are engaged, along with our failures and shortcomings.
The Communist Renewal process is an important initiative that will enhance our contribution to the political class struggle.
That is vital, because the Communist Party is the party of class struggle, solidarity and socialist revolution.
We are the party of the international communist movement, alongside our courageous comrades in the Communist Party of Ukraine.
Long live working class internationalism!
Long live Marxism-Leninism!
Long live the Communist Party, the Young Communist League and communism!