This motion was passed unanimously at the recent CPGB-ML party congress
This congress notes that the last five years of deepening capitalist overproduction crisis have imposed genuine and unaccustomed hardships on British workers, and have hit working and middle-class youth with exceptional ferocity.
Congress further notes that British capitalism in crisis has seen all three of the major (Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Labour) parties in administration, and has shown that any party that aims to preserve British capitalism through this crisis cannot but attack British workers in general, and can offer no prospect of a productive and meaningful life or prosperous and secure future for working-class youth in particular. Since our last congress in 2010, we have seen the intensification of a long campaign against education and welfare provision for working-class youth, coinciding with a precipitous decline in paid employment.
Congress commends those British youth who have responded with an increased militancy and growing political consciousness, which has indicated both to the British state and the wider working class their revolutionary potential.
Congress joins in the popular outrage felt amongst British youth and students in response to parliament’s abolition of the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) and skyrocketing higher-education tuition fees, which were introduced by a Labour government, and have been ratcheted up to a staggering £9,000 per year since 2011 by their ConDem successors. When these fees are combined with increasing living and accommodation costs, the reason that applications to university are down despite rising rates of unemployment becomes clear. We are witnessing the end of the era in which British working-class youth could access further and higher education; capitalism has declared the education of workers to be ‘uneconomic’.
Meanwhile, this congress notes that the burden of unemployment is growing, and probably stands above 10 percent nationally. Official figures have been systemically ‘massaged’ and under-reported over the last three decades, and can be considered only an indication of the problem rather than a true representation of it. The present figure is now based on the number of benefit claimants, so does not include the growing army of unemployed workers who have been deprived of their benefits, or those who receive incapacity benefits, students, the part-time under-employed, those over the age of retirement who cannot live on their pensions and are looking for work, or those classed as ‘illegal immigrants’ or asylum seekers, among others.
Congress further notes that more than one million British youth are unemployed: between 20 and 25 percent of all 16-24 year olds across the UK. As an index of discrimination, it merits attention that a staggering 60 percent of young black men are jobless. As a result of endemic unemployment and under-employment, declining and often derisory wages, 3.6 million British children are growing up in poverty (between a quarter and a third of all children in the UK), and that this figure is set to rise. A recent report indicates that 1,000,000 children go hungry in Britain every day.
This congress believes that in a country whose ruling class has looted the resources of an empire and ‘sphere of influence’ that covered two thirds of the globe for 300 years this is absolutely inexcusable. There is no shortage of money in Britain.
This congress does not believe the government and media-peddled lies that in these hard times, “we are all in it together”. We are wage-slaves in a global capitalist economy, where the super-rich capitalist exploiting class are growing ever wealthier, even as they ruin the economies of entire nations. Recent estimates show that the world’s super-rich finance capitalists have stashed $38tr of their ‘earnings’ in tax havens, simply to avoid paying any contribution from their ill-gotten gains towards the social wage of the labourers they exploit. In the last analysis, all their wealth is the product of our labour. Truly, “their wealth is built upon our poverty, their joy upon our misery”.
This congress notes that Britain is considered a tax haven for the super-wealthy, a place where ‘non-domiciled’ Russian gangster oligarchs (who have robbed the Soviet people’s wealth), oil sheikhs (who have sold the birth-right of the Arab peoples to western imperialists) and Greek shipping tycoons, among others, can launder their money no questions asked, and without having their capital taxed by the British state.
This congress believes that the interests of the working class, not the financial capitalists, should be considered ‘too big to fail’. But under our ConDem and Labour governments, the City of London bankers have accepted £1.2tr of British taxpayers’ money, while all useful government expenditure (housing, health care, and education provision) faces a 20 percent cut across the board. This is more than unnecessary, stupid, and inexcusable; it is deliberate and criminal. Our entire ‘democratic’ political system is designed to facilitate this capitalist gang in looting the masses of the people and, quite literally, stealing our future.
Congress further believes that, as a consequence of this crisis in the system of wage-slavery, working-class youth are increasingly aware of their alienation and disenfranchisement. Lacking youth facilities, encouraged to cultivate individualistic, consumer-driven, and destructive sub-cultures exemplified by the ubiquitous presence of alcohol and drugs in our communities, and in many instances driven to survive outside the limited avenues sanctioned by a failing system, an increasing proportion of youth are facing problems that make them capable of being criminalised.
This congress affirms that it is a sign of the bankruptcy of British capitalism that police repression (rather than jobs, housing, educational or economic support) is increasingly British society’s first and only response to our youth. We are living in a police state. In addition to political policing of demonstrations, and criminalisation of the anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist sections of the population, working-class youth, whose problems the state cannot ameliorate, have become a constant target of police harassment, aggression and physical violence. While this has become a feature of life for all working youth, it is especially so for immigrant, black and Asian youth, who endure higher rates of unemployment and meet discrimination on every level in society, not least at the hands of our institutionally racist police forces.
Congress further affirms that British youth are angry and embittered at the prospect they face. In the absence of a strong and vibrant revolutionary movement to channel their anger and frustration, we have seen spontaneous outpourings of anger on the streets as never before. We are witnessing a change in the temper of our youth, students and young workers – as can be gauged by the spontaneous militancy shown during the London G20 demonstrations, the student protests of Nov/Dec 2010, young people’s overwhelming response to the TUC’s half-hearted call for action on 26 March 2011, to the Occupy and LSX movements, and, of course, by the nationwide youth uprising against police repression in August 2011, triggered by the latest cold-blooded police assassination of a young black man in Tottenham, and the clumsy attempted ‘cover-up’ that followed this murder.
Congress notes that Mark Duggan, a father of four children, was surrounded by 31 armed police in a taxi outside his home and shot dead. He was not armed, but, after his death, the metropolitan police lied to justify their actions. They claimed Mark shot at them first, and their act of murder was therefore ‘self-defence’. The disrespect accorded to his friends, family and the entire community was the final spark that lit the conflagration of nationwide anger against the police.
This congress believes that the CPGB-ML and Red Youth have been absolutely correct in refusing to equate the violence of the oppressed with the violence of the oppressor. The real thugs and vandals at work in Britain are the parasitic rich and their servants, the Camerons, Cleggs, Osbornes and Milibands; the politically-motivated judiciary and police. The real victims are the workers and youths themselves.
This congress further believes that education and organisation are our greatest weapons in the struggle to overthrow this parasitic order and build a new socialist society, but we refuse to renounce violent forms of struggle, for they too have their time and place. Meanwhile, our oppressor stands over us with a gun to our head, demanding that we proclaim ourselves non-violent and trust in his tender mercy!
This congress reaffirms that our task is not to disarm workers, but to combine their righteous and militant anger with a clear Marxist-Leninist understanding of the real enemy – capitalist imperialism and its representatives (all bourgeois parties, including the Labour party). What we need is not bourgeois pacifism but effective organisation and intensified struggle. We do not reproach those who rise up for their violence. Rather, we reproach our own movement for still being too small and weak to offer the kind of practical leadership that is capable of channelling their anger into more constructive acts of destruction. Spontaneous outpourings of rage, however justified, leave those involved isolated and subject to reprisal; they will not abolish capitalism, which is the cause of our misery.
Congress further reaffirms that capitalism can offer no solution to the problems faced by British youth. The level of police violence used against us is an admission by the British government and state, on behalf of capitalism, that they have no solutions to our problems. We must take our destiny in our own hands.
This congress therefore resolves to:
- Oppose the victimisation of young people in all its forms, including attacks on our education, housing, welfare, and employment.
- Oppose the criminalisation of young people, including all legislation and police powers that target working-class youth, the violent and discriminatory application of police powers and judicial sentencing against black, working-class and politicised youth.
- Oppose anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs), introduced in 1998, and their proposed successor, the criminal justice behaviour order (or CRIMBO) as arbitrary punishments intended to lay the blame for the decaying capitalist order on its young victims.
- Oppose arbitrary stop-and-search powers, which are used disproportionately against working-class youth, especially black youth.
- Do everything in our power to loosen the grip of establishment, overtly capitalist and reformist ideology and organisations on working-class, youth and student movements. We will oppose the pro-capitalist propaganda in our media, educational institutions and mainstream political parties. Labour party social democrats, Trotskyites, revisionists, pacifists and anarchists of various hues remain the chief obstacles to building a vibrant revolutionary movement in Britain.
- Promote the understanding that, while fighting for short-term gains and against the worst excesses of the capitalist economy and state, in the last analysis only a socialist planned economy administered by the dictatorship of the proletariat can solve the problems faced by working-class youth.
Recognising that Red Youth and the CPGB-ML have limited presence among the working class youth we seek to influence, this congress further resolves to take the following practical steps to increase the scope of our organisation and work:
- Each one, teach one! All members, even if isolated, should actively seek to recruit at least one other friend, student, or colleague into the organisation in their community or place of work. This is the surest way to double the size of our organisation, double our reach, and multiply our influence.
- Encourage all members to undertake a programme of personal study and participate in regular group study or discussion, wherever possible, using Proletarian, Lalkar and wider reading to strengthen their understanding in order better to be able to politicise the wider working-class.
- Encourage every member to subscribe to Proletarian and Lalkar, and read each issue. If there is a perceived problem with the material, criticisms should be fed back to the editors so that it can be improved. Each member should take at least one extra copy to sell on, and think about increasing this number progressively. Increasing circulation will help create fertile ground for recruitment.
- Encourage every member to maintain organisational contact with their nearest regional group, coordinate their action and attempt to attend regional and national events when possible. This will facilitate exchange of ideas and give each member a means of calling for help in organising local practical activity.
- Encourage every member to identify local, regional and national events and activities in which the party should take part, bring these to the attention of the party and participate in them personally. These may be local workers’ meetings, galas, rallies or demonstrations, solidarity or strike actions, union conferences or broad political fronts in which we can promote the aims of the party and the political interests of the working class, meet progressive workers, influence their opinion and recruit them to the ranks of the party.
- Encourage every member to read the available leaflets and party statements online. Copies can be printed off and distributed, using home, school or work facilities, or ordered in bulk from the party. Family, friends, school, university or the workplace may be your best avenue for dissemination, but members should consider the possibility of running regular street stalls where they calculate they can reach their target audience. If there is a particular issue that needs to be addressed that is not covered adequately by party literature, members should help write or commission the propaganda they feel is required.
- Encourage every member to think about writing letters or reports from their region (to be printed in Proletarian, on our website or in our party bulletin), or to inform their region (via the regional organiser) or the central committee (via the general secretary) of the problems, opportunities and successes faced by workers in their area and in their organisational work. This will help us to target our activity to our specific needs and help us grow in your area.
- Encourage all members involved in education to get involved in school, college or university debating societies, where they should seek to table debates on real political issues (Syria, Libya, war, capitalism, the economy, poverty, the food crisis, the environment, immigration, racism, etc) and invite party speakers. The party has been invited to speak at the Oxford Union in 2008, and at the Durham Union on three occasions. These debates, and many other presentations and speeches, are on our YouTube channel and can be used to support such a proposal.
- To think creatively, study diligently, act boldly, and, if in doubt, seek advice from local, regional and national comrades as to the best form of action to be taken to advance the interests of the group, the party, and the British and international working class.
We must learn to target our enemies precisely, to be systematic and broad in the sweep of our movement, and to ally ourselves and coordinate our action with the widest possible sections of the working class in order to tackle the crucial task of overthrowing the ruling class – by any means necessary.
Via Global Research
Fires blaze on Tottenham High Street, north London, on the night of 6 August
After a conflagration of arson attacks, riots and looting in several British cities, including the capital, London, there is a sense of order having been restored from a massive mobilisation of police forces.
There now follows the tracking down and prosecution of individuals involved in the mayhem. Conservative Prime Minister Cameron is leading “the fight back” to punish anyone who has inflicted damage and destruction on Britain’s society.
The events have visibly shocked the political establishment of all parties, police chiefs and the mainstream media. But what should be more shocking is the myopic and incredibly banal commentary that is being offered to ‘explain’ the outburst of street disturbances and violence.
As pundits sit in comfy television studios trading inane insights about the ‘evils’ of individual immorality, criminality, dysfunctional families, gang culture – in the background, so to speak, are the glaring signs scrolling across the screens of the cause of this societal breakdown. And yet the preponderant signs escape the mental radar of pundits and politicians alike.
The fact that the capitalist economic system is in worldwide meltdown is not even registered in the mainstream commentary. This is the system that the mainstream political parties have facilitated and fawned over, whether Labour, Conservative or Liberal, and which has resulted in social devastation across Britain while the corporate and financial elite has ransacked economic resources. This system of legalised looting has been going on for decades, but certainly took on a precipitous dynamic starting with Cameron’s Conservative predecessor Margaret Thatcher in the early 1980s. Labour’s Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were merely purveyors of the same dynamic.
In surveying today’s Britain, Karl Marx words are so right: “An accumulation of wealth at one pole of society indicates an accumulation of misery and overwork at the other.” That is the hallmark of capitalism in today’s Britain, the US and Europe.
All other problems are largely secondary in causation. Crime, racist policing, disorder, the lack of police budgets to restore order (so ironic), alienation and self-destruction, and so many other ills including the mobilisation of resources to fund illegal wars – most of our present day problems flow from the tap root of dysfunction that is the capitalist economy.
Speaking in the House of Commons Thursday, Prime Minister Cameron’s ‘explanation’ for the outbreak of street disturbances across England demonstrates a total ignorance and poverty of understanding on his part of the nature of the breakdown in his society. He blames it on “criminality pure and simple” and “pockets of sickness” and “lack of individual morality and responsibility”.
This view is largely echoed in the British political establishment of all parties and the media.
The looting, thievery and lawlessness that Cameron so condemns is but the reflection at the street level of British society of what is taking place on a much greater scale at the upper echelons of government and the economy.
Despite the appearance of pinstripe suits and well-groomed accents, we can, if we are honest, see decades of looting and thievery of economic and financial resources by corporate elites aided and abetted by Labour and Conservative governments. The taxpayer bailout of corrupt banks initiated by Labour PM Gordon Brown and now overseen by Cameron, paid for in large part by austerity in public spending cuts, is but the latest manifestation of official robbing of the majority to swell the already outrageous wealth of the ruling elite class.
Cameron and his gang of plumy-accented thugs are gunning for $150bn in public spending cuts to pay for the criminal enterprise known as British banking. This is racketeering that a street gang in London’s east end can only marvel at … and indeed, in a very real way, only emulate.
Combined with that looting by the elite we see the total lawlessness and criminality of British governments who have worked hand in glove with other criminal governments to launch wars of aggression (Nuremburg standard war crimes) in Afghanistan, Iraq, and now Libya, resulting in the deaths of over one million civilians. Where is individual responsibility for that mass murder and destruction Mr Cameron?
This social decay and necrotism is a symptom of the collapse of capitalism, an economic system that enriches an elite at the cost of the majority. It polarises political power beyond democratic accountability to the point where, among other deformities, wars and planetary looting are being carried out even blatantly against the consent of the majority public.
So when Cameron and his political cronies fulminate about pockets of sickness, looting, criminality, lawlessness, and the need for “consequences for actions” – his words and exhortations are richly ironic and benighted.
For he is inadvertently describing the very society and world that capitalism creates in its own image. The indoctrination of Cameron’s mind and that of the entire political establishment prevents them from seeing the inferno for the sparks. An inferno that the government of Cameron and his Labour predecessors, and in other western countries, have been dousing fuel on with their slavish policies aiding and abetting capitalist kleptocracy, both at home and abroad.
The real lessons from Britain will not dawn on, never mind be drawn on, by mainstream politicians or media. And the same can be said for the US and other western countries. To paraphrase a slogan used by former US President Clinton: “It’s the capitalist economy, stupid.”
Finian Cunningham is a Global Research Correspondent based in Belfast, Ireland.
A presentation to the International Communist Seminar delivered by Ranjeet Brar, on behalf of the CPGB-ML, Brussels, 17 May 2009.
“Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under given circumstances directly encountered and inherited from the past. The tradition of all the generations of the dead weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living.”[i]
We are born, not onto the world of our choosing, but into that bequeathed us by humanity’s collective history. And at the turn of the 21st century, that means a world mired in all the contradictions of capitalist imperialism; that is, monopoly capitalism at its highest stage – highest, meaning final, and speaking economically.
It would be equally true to say that mankind, despite all advances in technology and the possibilities they offer, has never been brought so low. Lenin was absolutely correct when he characterised finance capitalism as decadent, parasitic and moribund.
In fact, Lenin’s profound analysis of monopoly capitalism, written in 1916, during the first ‘great’ inter-imperialist conflagration, remains entirely accurate in all its principal features. It is, sadly, as fresh and redolent of today’s society as on the day it was published, and must be read and assimilated by all class-conscious workers.
The working-class movement, then, is addressing precisely the same problems as were identified a century ago. In the tumultuous intervening period, our movement has seen stunning advances and painful defeats, but the root causes that brought the working classes of all nations face to face with the question of proletarian revolution, far from ending with the Soviet counter-revolution, have become broader and more profound.
We are living in the era of the proletarian revolution, and our task is to expedite the transition.
If we are to bring the youth to communism, we must first have an idea of communism to bring to the youth. And in this regard, the theses recently adopted by the KKE at its 18th party congress are to be welcomed.[ii]
2009 is fast becoming a year synonymous with capitalist economic crisis on a scale not seen since the Wall Street crash of 1929. Giants of finance capital have collapsed, and in Britain (as in the US and many European countries), our ‘Labour’ government has responded by giving banks hundreds of billions of taxpayers’ money: robbing the poor to pay the rich.
Workers’ outrage is mounting, as shown by recent demonstrations against the G20, and by increasingly militant industrial and political actions (notably, in Europe, in Greece and France). And it is fully justified, but, in truth, not yet broad enough in its scope, for these are but exaggerations of the daily actions and normal workings of capitalism, whose entire system of wage slavery rests on the perpetual looting of the wealth created by the labouring masses.
It is abundantly clear that, as long as capitalism endures, the money borrowed by our governments today will be paid back tomorrow by means of cuts in public spending – workers’ schooling, housing, and health care will pay the bankers’ bill. Truly, their wealth is built upon our poverty, their joy upon our misery! We must insist that bankers pay for their own crisis.
Attitude of the youth
The average youth that one encounters on the street may not yet want communism, but the truth is that he is in desperate need of it. For the youth, as indeed all humanity, are beset on all sides by the problems and contradictions of capitalist economy and society in crisis. Its realities impinge upon them and limit their prospects, regardless of their consciousness of the fact.
As capitalist society becomes ever more historically outmoded, a germ of consciousness grows; the awareness that something is profoundly amiss, and needs change. It is felt keenly by the youth, who have not yet reconciled themselves to the absurd injustices they witness all around.
Poverty, homelessness, helplessness and despair. Environmental degradation and climate change. Colonial and inter-imperialist war (in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, etc) – in which they may be called upon to fight. Famine, malnutrition and malnutrition-related disease. Unemployment, under-employment, and decreasing living standards. These are the benefits of monopoly capitalism in the 21st century. Imperialist cause and anti-social effects are inextricably linked, and the growing opposition to all these social phenomena are, at base, all elements (conscious or not) of the anti-imperialist struggle.
As no solution to these profound social problems can be offered by the capitalist political establishment, a thin gruel of diversionary sub-culture, mixed with a large measure of racism, communalism and misogyny are daily pumped to the masses, in order to divide workers, and to give us self-destructive avenues down which to vent our anger, in a manner that preserves rather than destroys the capitalist system.
And, ever present, behind the honeyed words, are the mailed fists of Anglo-American and EU imperialism: administering police beatings on the streets at home, to workers in general, but to organised and disenfranchised workers in particular; or conducting occupations, colonial wars and punitive expeditions abroad on behalf of an imperialist class desperate to enforce its domination as its economic grip weakens.
The capitalist class, whose future is in the past, clings tenaciously to power and pours scorn on all criticism; particularly on scientific Marxist criticism. Fukuyama’s thesis of capitalism as “the end of history” remains their default position.
But such triumphalism looks increasingly shaky when the crisis of overproduction becomes profound. For capitalism offers four fifths of humanity a wretched existence, and the oppressed nations and particularly the working classes feel keenly their lack of interest in maintaining a system so profoundly at odds with the needs and wishes of the vast masses of humanity.
Figure 1 – ‘The demographic divide’[iii]
DEM REP OF CONGO
Population < age 15
8.4 million (14%)
31.3 million (47%)
Population age 65+
Annual natural increase (births minus deaths)
Annual infant deaths
Life expectancy at birth
Percent of population undernourished
The youth are not always the most radical element of society, for inexperience can lead to susceptibility to false promises and demagogy, but in as much as they are overwhelmingly working class, and that their lives lie ahead of them and their future is very much jeopardised by the current political order, they are unquestionably our natural ally. The most oppressed and downtrodden populations in the world are also the youngest.
For our part, to be effective, we must find the means to connect our understanding with the vast masses of humanity, not least the youth. Otherwise, we are doomed to play the role of helpless spectators on the recurring capitalist train-wreck, rather than the instigators and shapers of humanity’s bright future.
“It is clear that the arm of criticism cannot replace the criticism of arms. Material force can only be overthrown by material force, but theory itself becomes a material force when it has seized the masses.”[iv]
Our tasks: what is to be done?
But the youth must first be drawn to the cause of their own emancipation. They require concrete explanations, understanding of the class interests that perpetuate injustices, and the means to overcome them.
The atomised youth, isolated and oppressed, need to be organised and to gain experience in fighting for meaningful change. To win the youth, just as to win other sections of the population, we need to subject the imperialist order to ruthless criticism, or, as Lenin put it, we need to aim at “the revolutionary elucidation of the whole of the present system or partial manifestations of it.”[v]
Our respective organisations must not only have the correct and uncompromising political line, but need to take every opportunity to break the capitalist monopoly on the means of communication in order to win the people to our correct reasoning, galvanise them and draw them as an organised force into political life and action!
“The social-democratic [communist][vi] ideal should not be a trade-union secretary, but a tribune of the people, able to react to every manifestation of tyranny and oppression, no matter where it takes place, no matter what stratum or class of the people it affects; he must be able to generalise all these manifestations to produce a single picture of police violence and capitalist exploitation; he must be able to take advantage of every event, however small, in order to explain his socialistic convictions and his democratic demands to all, in order to explain to all and everyone the world-historic significance of the proletariat’s struggle for emancipation.”[vii]
Radicalisation of the youth
The youth in Britain are once more – at long last! – becoming radicalised, by their deteriorating employment prospects during the crisis, by the growing burden of unemployment, by their oppression at the hands of the police (especially black, Asian and muslim working-class youth), by ongoing racist discrimination against ‘minority’ communities, or by their principled opposition to imperialist wars and occupations, which in an imperialist country are as much a part of domestic political life as cuts in health and education provision.
We recently saw a wave of protests and occupations in over 20 universities, triggered by our government’s support for Israel’s attacks on Gaza (Dec 2008-Jan 2009), and – a positive development – by the imperialist propaganda machine’s blatant bias, especially the bias of that allegedly ‘impartial’ mouthpiece of British capital, the BBC.
Even in docile Britain, long the home of class-collaborationist, social-democratic politics, workers are learning the methods of more radical and determined struggle, as shown by the sabotage of arms manufacturers Raytheon (during Israel’s assault on Lebanon) and EDO-ITT (during Israel’s assault on Gaza), and the occupation of the Visteon (Ford) works in Enfield.
The British anti-war movement recently adopted resolutions calling on unions to encourage members to do all in their power not to cooperate with British imperialist war crimes, as well as supporting the Smash EDO activists.[viii]
There is strong anti-war, anti-capitalist and pro-Palestinian sentiment among sections of the working population, but the Labour party’s grip over all these movements, direct and indirect, as well as over many of the ‘independent’ (even ‘communist’) political parties involved in these struggles, is an all-pervasive and crippling factor.
Social democracy’s prime aim is always and everywhere to frustrate and curtail the “propaganda of brilliant and complete ideas” and prevent the emergence “of revolutionary opposition that expose[s] the state of affairs in our country, particularly the political state of affairs, in so far as it affects the interests of the most varied strata of the population.” (Ibid)
Our task is to break the hold of social-democratic politics over these groups, to make contact with workers in struggle and to explain the relationships between their concrete grievances and imperialism, and that the proletariat’s struggle for emancipation offers the only alternative path.
Racism – the Achilles’ heel of the European proletariat
Labour is a party with a history of dividing working people by fanning the flames of racism and anti-immigrant sentiment. Today, it is attempting to divert workers’ attention and anger from the true cause of their misery – the capitalist system – towards immigration and ‘foreign’ workers, whom it points to as being ‘the problem’ while mouthing the fascist British National Party (BNP) slogan “British jobs for British workers”. Its hypocritical campaigns to “Vote Labour to keep the BNP out”, cannot disguise the fact that that its own racist and anti-immigrant policy has made all the running for the BNP. We must counter all this with campaigns for real working-class unity and the demand for equal rights and jobs for all workers!
In the field of education, Labour has introduced an increasingly (although ‘voluntarily’) segregated and communalised secondary schooling system. In addition to the huge number of private schools, we have catholic and Church of England, jewish and muslim, sikh and black schools. Far from ‘protecting the heritage’ of minority communities, as is the stated aim, this is a recipe for dividing the working class, of emphasising racial and religious differences, and for peddling all kinds of obscurantism.
Such a system of ‘cultural national autonomy’ was seen under the British in the north of Ireland and the declining Russian empire (among others). British imperialism’s history of fomenting communalist strife and inciting pogroms to divert revolutionary struggle is well known. We must fight for comprehensive secular and high quality education – as we would in the field of health or housing provision.
The greatest threat to peace and stability in Britain and the world is not yet the fringe BNP councillor, but the ‘mainstream’ free-market fundamentalist Gordon Brown and his entire Labour apparatus. As a first step towards real change, the British working class must give up its unrequited love for Labour.
There is no shortcut to building a disciplined, professional, tried and tested party of the proletariat that is capable of taking the initiative and advancing the true interests of the working class, drawing to it all disaffected strands of anti-capitalist resistance. Such a party must have a solid Marxist-Leninist political foundation if it is not to be thrown easily off course in the rapids of revolutionary struggle. It must cultivate and establish deep roots among the masses.
In Britain, our comrades in the CPGB-ML have set about this task in earnest. The militant youth must lend a hand in this process, also.
Urgent as our tasks are, and much as we want to expand our influence by leaps and bounds, losing sight of our revolutionary goals and concentrating instead on petty and often illusory short-term ‘advances’ has led more than one young comrade into lamentable opportunism and careerism.
As we win layers of the most conscious workers, undoubtedly our work will be enhanced by the work of new comrades, who are active in their local communities, unions, schools, youth clubs, music or drama groups, and many other political, organisational and cultural undertakings.
“We must have such circles, trade unions and organisations everywhere in as large a number as possible and with the widest variety of functions; but it would be absurd and dangerous to confuse them with the organisation of revolutionaries, to obliterate the border line between them, to dim still more the masses’ already incredibly hazy appreciation of the fact that in order to ‘serve’ the mass movement we must have people who will devote themselves exclusively to social-democratic [communist] activities, and that such people must train themselves patiently and steadfastly to be professional revolutionaries.”[ix]
It is not, in our opinion, the job of revolutionary parties, operating still in a capitalist society, to concern themselves, first and foremost, with the tasks of creating youth clubs, after-school clubs, sporting leagues, immigration advice centres, rap groups, etc (as some of our comrades and acquaintances have advocated). This is putting the cart before the horse, and diverting our precious resources from their most urgent political and organisational tasks.
Namely, “We must make it our business to stimulate in the minds of those who are dissatisfied only with conditions at the university, or only with Zemstvo [local government – but equally, the anti-war movement, housing campaigns, Palestine, trade-union struggles, state violence], etc the idea that the whole political system is worthless. We must take upon ourselves the task of organising an all-round political struggle under the leadership of our party in such a manner as to obtain all the support possible of all opposition strata for the struggle and for our party. We must train our social-democratic [communist] practical workers to become political leaders, able to guide all the manifestations of this all-round struggle, able at the right time to ‘dictate a positive programme of action’ for the restless students, the discontented Zemstvo councillors, the incensed religious sects, the offended elementary schoolteachers, etc, etc.”[x]
And further, “[we must arouse] in every section of the population that is at all politically conscious a passion for political exposure. We must not be discouraged by the fact that the voice of political exposure is today so feeble, timid and infrequent. This is not because of a wholesale submission to police despotism, but because those who are able and ready to make exposures have no tribune from which to speak, no eager and encouraging audience, they do not see anywhere among the people that force to which it would be worth while directing their complaint against the ‘omnipotent’” imperialist order.[xi]
“Give us an organisation of revolutionaries, and we shall overturn …” Britain and the world! Our prime task is to build such vanguard organisations, broad in their political vision, disciplined, professional and steadfast in carrying out their tasks.
With respect to the youth, our task is to make contact with their spontaneously arising struggles, to broaden their political vision so they can sustain their activity, and to connect them with the wider working-class movement.
“Our task is not to champion the degrading of the revolutionary to level of an amateur, but to raise the amateurs to the level of the revolutionaries.”[xii]
Lenin’s advice to the youth: Educate yourselves in Marxism
The second congress of the RSDLP issued a resolution welcoming the growing revolutionary initiative of the student youth. It is worth revisiting.
“The Second Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party welcomes the growing revolutionary initiative among the student youth and calls upon all organisations of the party to give them every possible assistance in their efforts to organise. It recommends that all student groups and study circles should, firstly, make it the prime object of their activities to imbue their members with an integral and consistent socialist world outlook and give them a thorough acquaintance with Marxism, on the one hand, and with Russian Narodism and West-European opportunism, on the other, these being the principal currents among the conflicting advanced trends of today; secondly, that they should beware of those false friends of the youth who divert them from a thorough revolutionary training through recourse to empty revolutionary or idealistic phrase-mongering and philistine complaints about the harm and uselessness of sharp polemics between the revolutionary and the opposition movements [UNITY! At all costs, and at the lowest denominator – let us not discuss divisive politics!], for as a matter of fact these false friends are only spreading an unprincipled and unserious attitude towards revolutionary work; thirdly, that they should endeavour, when undertaking practical activities, to establish prior contact with the social-democratic organisations, so as to have the benefit of their advice and, as far as possible, to avoid serious mistakes at the very outset of their work.”[xiii]
Today, alongside a firm grounding in the principles of Marxism Leninism, the trends we must advise our young comrades to familiarise themselves with must surely remain the ever present west-European social-democratic opportunism (the Labour party et al), its ‘ultra-revolutionary’, phrase-mongering Trotskyite wing, and its reformist, ‘communist’, Khrushchevite-revisionist wing (today’s otzovists and liquidationists); and, perhaps, with anarchism.
It is perhaps not the most romantic and exciting undertaking to assign to young comrades, but as Engels remarked profoundly “Socialism, having become a science, must be pursued as a science, that is, it must be studied.”[xiv]
Of course, broad masses of workers and youth must be inspired and mobilised – but how, and by whom? They can only be mobilised under a consistently revolutionary and effective programme by a vanguard organisation of relatively advanced and united class-conscious workers. As Lenin so rightly pointed out, in a movement plagued by opportunism and ignorance, to advance any other aim would be the political equivalent of wishing mourners at a funeral “many happy returns of the day”.[xv]
If, a century ago, the capitalists sought to deprive working people of all education, today they seek to drown all real political education, all revolutionary knowledge and all working-class history in a sea of anti-communist and pro-capitalist lies and half truths.
In our ‘history’ classrooms, such tools as the Trotskyite ‘critique of communism from the left’ (Revolution Betrayed) and the fairytales of the semi-Trotskyite British state agent George Orwell (Animal Farm, etc), are systematically peddled to the youth, wrapped with crude bourgeois anti-communist lies. In the working-class movement, the Trotskyite parties join seamlessly with the capitalist state to push anti-communist and anti-national liberation propaganda, and we must point out that the Trotskyites sing from the imperialist hymn-sheet, while ruthlessly exposing the underlying essence of these counter-revolutionary positions.[xvi], [xvii], [xviii]
It is clear to us that such intellectually shabby slanders are merely aimed at undermining the confidence of the working class to take their destiny into their own hands and overturn the exploiting classes’ applecart.
The Gobbelsian art of propaganda has attained a high degree of perfection, and the mass media a high degree of monopolisation, under the current imperialist order, such that our most urgent task is once again – while maintaining the struggle against school cut-backs and closures – to augment the taught bourgeois syllabus with a programme of revolutionary education, both for our own party members and for the wider working class.
We must remember Lenin’s words, directed at the Tsarist autocracy, but applying with equal force to the contemporary capitalist order:
“Our minister regards the workers as gunpowder, and knowledge and education as the spark; the minister is convinced that if the spark falls into the gunpowder, the explosion will be directed first and foremost against the government. We cannot deny ourselves the pleasure of noting that in this rare instance, we totally and unconditionally agree …”
“Workers, you see how terrified our ministers are at the working people acquiring knowledge! Show everybody, then, that no power will succeed in depriving the workers of class-consciousness! Without knowledge, the workers are defenceless, with knowledge they are a force!”[xix]
[vi] ‘Social democracy’ was the term adopted by the communist movement in the days of the Second International (1889–1916).
When, at the outbreak of the first inter-imperialist war (1914–18), the majority of these national parties shamefully sided with their own imperialists, betraying proletarian internationalism, Lenin and the Bolsheviks declared social democracy to be “a stinking corpse”, whose hollow preaching of socialism in words was belied by their pro-imperialist deeds. Hence the terms ‘social-chauvinist’ and ‘social-imperialist’ were coined to describe them. In response, the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP) changed its name to the Communist Party.
In 1918, Lenin initiated the founding of a new, Third or Communist International, comprising the truly revolutionary trends and parties from the former social-democratic movement. It is this trend and movement which led to October 1917 and all similar proletarian advances. What Is To Be Done?, written in 1902, predated this split, hence the term ‘social democratic’ should be read ‘communist’, and not confused with the modern-day descendants of the social-imperialists of the second international type, such as the imperialist Labour party in Britain.
[xi] ‘Where To Begin?’ by V I Lenin, Iskra, 1901, Collected Works, Vol 4, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1961, pp21-22