The true spirit of '45: A Soviet soldier hoists the red flag over the Reichstag in Berlin, marking the complete defeat of Nazi fascism.
There are some good bits in Spirit of ’45, the new film from Ken Loach. Some of the interviews and archive footage about working-class life in the 1930s are a poignant and timely reminder of the social horrors inflicted by capitalism in the throes of a global overproduction crisis – right down to the vermin-infested blankets and deadly absence of health care.
And the juxtaposition of such cruel personal reminiscence with the end-of-war scenes of jubilation and hope from 1945 could have set the context for a much more interesting film, taking a fresh look at the birth (and premature death) of the welfare state.
Instead, we are offered yet another panegyric on the supposed achievements of ‘old’ Labour ‘heroes’ like Clement Attlee and Herbert Morrison.
Not a word is said about the imperialist superprofits upon which the ruling class crucially depended to subsidise these temporary and partial concessions to the working class.
Not a word is said about the poisonous pro-imperialist policy of the Labour government, hell-bent on preserving those same superprofits, no matter what the cost to the hundreds of millions of people locked in colonial bondage around the world.
Most glaring omission of all: not a word is said about the popular levels of enthusiasm aroused by the heroic exploits of the Red Army in putting fascism to the sword and in defending its own, infinitely superior version of a state that put the welfare of workers at the top of every agenda.
It was that threat of a good revolutionary example set by the Soviet Union that emboldened workers to demand “no return to the ’30s”. And it was the special role of Labour imperialism to help deliver a ‘welfare state’ – a pale capitalist imitation of the Soviet original – in such a way as would simultaneously tie the working class to the colonial agenda of monopoly capital and clear the way for the post-war reversion to anti-communist red-baiting (on a script written by Orwell, another of Loach’s ‘heroes’).
All of this is a closed book for the filmmaker.
Starved of any international context, the film stumbles on impressionistically, locked always behind the little-British narrowness that remains the trademark everywhere of ‘left’ social democracy.
After airing some woolly criticisms of the earlier shortcomings of the reforms (same old managers at the National Coal Board, failure to nationalise all transport), the film hastens on to the sudden arrival of the Bad Fairy, Thatcher, and her (unexplained and apparently personal) crusade to smash everything up.
Just one of the film’s talking heads makes a single brief reference to the overproduction crisis, but beyond that there is no attempt to explain what was fuelling the assault upon workers’ conditions and rights. In fact, having finished its history-hopping journey from the ’30s through ’45 to the advent of Thatcherism, nothing remains but to open the screen to a few soundbites from some pale anti-communist ‘left’ luminaries like Tony Benn, John Rees and Alex Gordon, before the film finally runs out of steam and the credits roll.
As the deepest ever overproduction crisis is pushing Britain’s ruling class to accelerate its dismantlement of the welfare state, Spirit of ’45 is an opportunity missed to examine not only what brought Britain’s hard-bitten imperialist rulers to make such serious concessions to workers in the first place, but also why those concessions were only ever going to be temporary while the capitalist system remained in place.
These are questions whose answers are urgently needed to permeate the workers’ movement if we are going to be successful in breaking out of the downward spiral of imperialist poverty, crisis and war. Lasting rights for workers will not be won by going back to the ‘good old’ reformist dreams of ’45 – days that inevitably led to where we are today – but by smashing the capitalist system and going forward to build socialism.
This article is part of the industrial report that was presented at the 12 January meeting of the CPGB-ML central committee.
Riots in Tottenham by Surian Soosay
The announcement of an across-the-board 1 percent cap on benefit rises is the latest salvo in a capitalist offensive against the working class.
By pretending to champion the ‘workers against the shirkers’ (ie, the employed versus the jobless), the government hopes to divide and undermine the working class. Labour’s feeble response, pointing out that the benefit cut will hit low-pay working households dependent on tax credits too, merely ropes off another section of the working class (‘strivers’, a 21st-century version of the ‘deserving poor’), further reinforcing the debilitating notion that some capitalist cuts are ‘fairer’ than others.
Meanwhile, the salami slicer grinds on relentlessly in every borough, regardless of which party is turning the handle.
Birmingham city council intends to cut £600m from the £1.2bn budgets under its control. More than a thousand council workers have already been made redundant, with another 1,000 to follow this year, and council leaders predict that by 2017, 7,000 jobs will have gone.
The leader of the Labour group on the council refused demands that the council should defy central government and pass a ‘deficit budget’, instead announcing “the end of local government as we know it”, entailing some services being completely wound up and others pared to the bone – eg, fortnightly or monthly rubbish collections.
In their account of this meeting, Birmingham Against Cuts reported that “One young person from Handsworth who was there with the Save Birmingham Youth Service campaign talked passionately about how his youth worker had helped him, and without the youth service (which faces further cuts this year) he would probably be following a life of crime. He said he could see another riot and asked ‘Do you really think you can handle what will happen if you cut youth services?’”
Or, as the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Yves Daccord, puts it in a wider context: “If the economic pressure on people goes on, yes it will have a social impact on people. And if young people especially don’t see any future, any options, you might be confronted also with unrest – like in 2011 – and there is no reason that this unrest will not repeat itself one day.” Daccord went on to draw a parallel with the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.
Even if the council in Birmingham relents over youth service funding under this kind of pressure, this will only mean £1m being taken out of another budget, raising the economic and social pressure somewhere else. Something has to give.
See also: ‘Who stole our future?‘
This motion was passed overwhelmingly at the recent CPGB-ML party congress
Affirming that “A nation is a historically-evolved, stable community of language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a community of culture” (JV Stalin), this congress is of the view that at the time of the 1707 union of England and Scotland, Scotland was not a nation since it lacked more than one of the essential characteristics of nationhood.
This congress notes that during the half century following the Jacobite rising and the 1746 battle of Culloden, which resulted in the suppression of the Jacobites, the destruction of the feudal system was followed by a phenomenal development of capitalism in Scotland, during which Scotland acquired all the characteristics of nationhood. However, precisely at that time, such were the dialectics of history that the Scottish people threw in their lot, along with the English people, into building a common British nation. The development of capitalism in Scotland not only bridged the gap between the highlands and the lowlands of Scotland, but it also made the Scottish economy indistinguishable from that of England. By 1815, there were no separate English and Scottish economies but only a common British economy.
Congress further notes that the Scottish people – from all classes, not just the bourgeois sections of it – played a vital role in building the British nation, of which they have been an integral part ever since. The British nation is neither an English racket nor an elitist project of the ruling circles of England and Scotland. The British nation is well and truly a historically-evolved stable community with a common language and a common territory, with a common economic life that welds the various parts of England and Scotland into an economic whole, and with a common psychological make-up.
This congress affirms that, contrary to Scottish nationalist myths, Scotland was neither an oppressed nation nor subject to English colonialism. Nor was she a junior partner of England. Far from it: the Scots played an equal, and on many occasions a leading, role in the economic, cultural and social life of Britain, as well as in the establishment of the British empire, which at one time ruled over one third of humanity.
Congress further affirms that, contrary to the myths propagated by the ‘left’ Scottish nationalists, at no time was the working-class movement in Scotland driven by separatist and nationalist sentiments. If, from time to time, the militant movement of the Scottish working class dug into Scottish history and used the names of such figures from the past as William Wallace and Robert the Bruce, it was for no other reason than to invoke figures from the past who had fought against established authority. The names of these figures, and the songs associated with them, were just as much invoked by the workers in the Lancashire mills, while, conversely, no matter how misguidedly, the Magna Carta was invoked in the struggle against the bourgeoisie not only by the workers in Lancashire and many other places in England but also by those in Scotland. Indeed, it was not uncommon for the Scottish workers at their militant demonstrations to sing ‘God Save the King’.
This congress is of the view that, historically, the workers in Scotland, just as in England, faced the British state and endeavoured either to reform it or to overthrow it. At no time did the Scottish working class hold the view that its misery could be ended through the separation of Scotland from England. Scottish workers overwhelmingly regarded themselves as British, just as did the workers in England. They were firmly of the view that they sank or swam as British proletarians.
This congress is further of the view that, notwithstanding any outward appearances of ‘independence’ that may follow a ‘Yes’ vote in the 2014 referendum, the only real separation achieved in practice would be from fellow workers in the rest of Britain. In times of crisis, nationalism, like racism, is a useful tool for our rulers in dividing our movement and stopping us from effectively fighting the system of capitalist exploitation.
This congress believes that the historically-constituted British ruling class has no intention of allowing its own unity or strength to be in any way diluted. Most especially, it has no intention of allowing its financial or military apparatus, and thus its ability to project imperial power into the world, to be broken up. The fact that the bourgeois-nationalist SNP is gradually ditching all its apparently ‘progressive’ policies as it edges closer to the possibility of taking power in a nominally independent Scotland is a clear sign of this fact. Alex Salmond and his cronies have agreed that ‘independent’ Scotland would keep the same head of state (ie, the British queen), the same currency (the British pound) and the same army regiments. SNP leaders are in the process of ditching their manifesto promise to take Scotland out of Nato, which would then clear the way to ditch the commitment to drop trident.
This congress further believes that the apparent willingness of the SNP to maintain funding for education and health services is nothing more than a short-term bribe to Scottish workers, aimed at persuading them to pin their hopes for a way out of the crisis onto capitalist politicians, while removing them from a joint fight against privatisation with their counterparts in England. In reality, they are simply allowing the ruling class to attack workers one section at a time – thus helping it achieve its aim of saving its rotten system by making the poorest pay for the crisis.
In view of the foregoing, this congress believes that the Scottish nationalist movement is a retrogressive and reactionary enterprise, whose success can only bring in its wake a catastrophic split in the unity of the historically-constituted British proletariat.
This congress therefore resolves:
- To work for a NO vote in the Scottish referendum.
- To hold at least one further party school on the subject of Scottish nationalism, with the aim of helping comrades to become confident in arguing the party’s case amongst workers who have become infected with nationalist sentiments.
- To produce two pamphlets: one based on the discussion article in Lalkar, which lays out the scientific case against Scottish nationalism, and another that uses simple language to address common questions and concerns, such as (for example) ‘Are you asking me to be proud to be British?’, ‘Aren’t you in favour of more local powers for Scottish people?’ and ‘Won’t Scottish independence lead to the weakening of British imperialism?’
This motion was passed unanimously at the recent CPGB-ML party congress
This congress recognises that the economic and financial crisis gripping the world is a classic crisis of overproduction of the kind that Marxism demonstrates is bound to affect the capitalist world periodically because of the contradiction inherent in capitalism between private ownership of the means of production, on the one hand, and the social nature of production on the other. The private owners of the means of production (ie, ‘capital’) deploy them only for the purpose of accumulating private wealth, while the social producers – the working class – are squeezed as much as possible in order to maximise the capitalists’ profits.
However, congress further recognises that, since it is overwhelmingly the working-class masses who constitute, either directly, or indirectly through government purchases on their behalf of services such as health care and education, the market for the products of the capitalist economy, their squeezed powers of consumption cannot keep pace with the permanent need of capital to expand its production (the unquenchable thirst for expansion being forced on capitalists by the phenomenon of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall, which the capitalists strive to neutralise by expansion). Hence the recurring crises of “overproduction”.
Congress affirms that it is not that more is being produced than people need – it is that more is being produced than people can afford to buy. The least competitive capitalists are wiped out, along with all their workers, who are thrown out of employment by the thousand, and then cause a general lowering of wages because there is an oversupply of workers in relation to the supply of jobs available. This in turn undermines the general market for the products of capitalism still further, and so on in a vicious downward spiral.
This congress notes that crises of overproduction appear as financial crises because the bankruptcies caused by producers being unable to sell their commodities in the quantities they had been banking on leaves these producers unable to pay their debts – most businesses being dependent on bank loans in normal times to ensure that their businesses run smoothly. To avert the economic chaos that would arise from bank failure, national governments step in to save their banks by pumping huge sums of taxpayer money into them. This, however, means that governments are forced to borrow more, pay more interest and, generally, pay increased rates of interest too as they become more of a credit risk.
Congress further notes that these huge borrowing costs have to be paid by taxpayers, which puts still more pressure on their purchasing power – aggravating the crisis rather than curing it. Therefore, in order to reduce borrowing costs, governments reduce their spending – ie, they introduce ‘austerity’ – with thousands of government employees being added as a result to the mounting numbers of unemployed, and a further twist being added to the downward spiral of the crisis. Precisely because it is no solution, even the Financial Times condemns austerity as counterproductive, leading to reduced GDP and therefore to a reduced income with which to pay all the problematic debts.
This congress recognises that the crisis of capitalism will within capitalism be resolved – and then only temporarily – when enough capital (machinery, unsaleable goods etc) has been destroyed to ensure that there is room for whatever is left to expand as it needs to. Since capitalism evolved into imperialism, which has divided the whole world into spheres of influence under the control of one or other imperialist power, economic crises have driven the various imperialist powers to world war (ie, the first and second world wars) as each of them sought to resolve its crisis at the expense of the others. These wars take place over and above the incessant wars conducted in every corner of the earth by the various imperialist powers, either directly or through local proxies, to maintain oppressed nations in subjection to the imperialist diktat.
This congress therefore affirms that the recurring crises of capitalism and its ever more destructive, inhuman and brutal wars, demonstrate that this last exploitative economic system has now by far outlived its usefulness and urgently needs to be discarded. The ruling bourgeoisies who benefit from this moribund system, and who fight tooth and nail to preserve it, stopping not even at world war, must be overthrown and the proletariat must establish socialism in order to put itself in a position to implement real solutions to the economic problems of the world.
This congress resolves that the party shall continue to do its best to spread an understanding of these economic facts throughout the working-class movement in order to help dispel the illusions in the viability of the capitalist system that have been engendered by social democracy.
This motion was passed unanimously at the recent CPGB-ML party congress
This congress notes the continued attempts to privatise the education system by both the Labour and ConDem governments.
Congress further notes that, with the so-called ‘austerity’ measures, education is facing its biggest cuts since the 1950s.
Congress believes that the proliferation of academies, which are replacing LEA-funded schools and which have brought private finance into the running of schools, are the precursor to full-scale privatisation in primary and secondary education. Along with the increase in religious, private and grammar schools, they are paving the way for the re-establishment of the two-tier system in state education, abolishing comprehensive schooling.
Congress notes that, in the area of further education, government cuts are set to remove the funding for adult education (those over 24) from September 2013, which will result in anyone wanting to pursue level 3 qualifications having to pay fees. This can only push more working-class people out of the education system at a younger age and lower stage.
Congress further notes that, in higher education, the continued increase in tuition fees, and now the introduction of ‘top-up fees’, has made the cost of university education a luxury rather than a right, with many of those who do make it to university facing debts of well over £30,000 when they leave.
This congress therefore asserts that, while private finance is being brought into schools to siphon profit out of the education system, the cost of actually providing that education is being gradually shifted onto those being educated, making it harder and harder for working-class people to remain in education. This is backed up by the fact that the number of young people in education is already rapidly falling, with 15 percent of 16-24-year olds not in education, employment or training nationally. In some areas, this figure now reaches as high as 25 percent.
Congress recognises that, under capitalism, the education system is not geared to developing the capabilities of all who live within our society. As the crisis of capitalism deepens, the ruling class’s ability to provide the sop of free education to the working class in Britain is diminishing, leaving behind a third-rate education system aimed only to fit us for wage slavery or the scrap heap of unemployment.
This congress recognises that only socialism will bring free universal education for all, where the needs of the whole of society are the priority. However, in the struggle towards the overthrow of capitalism, we recognise the need for raising the consciousness of those facing the onslaught of capitalism and for engaging with these struggles.
This congress therefore resolves to support campaigns against the cuts and privatisation of our education system and to demand:
- Free universal education for all.
- The abolition of all private schools; academies; grammar schools and religious schools.
- The cancellation of all PFI contracts and a return to public funding.
- A ban on all armed force and police propaganda and recruitment on education premises.
- The scrapping of ALL tuition fees, including ‘top-up’ fees, further education fees and any other disguised version of fees for education such as the proposed ‘graduate tax’.
This congress also resolves to:
- Actively spread awareness of the educational attainment of socialist countries such as Cuba, the DPRK, and the Soviet Union before its collapse, since they provide vivid and inspiring examples of what is possible when questions of maintaining minority rule or providing capitalism profit are removed from the education equation.
- Bring all possible influence to bear on the National Union of Students to step up its campaign against ALL fees, as well as to break its link with the imperialist Labour party, in order that it might actually become a real fighting force for students in Britain.
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.
From the International Report delivered to the CPGB-ML’s central committee on 4 February
Relations between Egypt’s ruling military government and the US remain fraught, as the government has barred six US ‘human rights’ workers from leaving the country. To avoid arrest, at least three of them have taken refuge in Cairo’s US embassy, while the US threatens to withhold its $1.3bn annual military aid to Egypt unless the government stands down on its objection to so-called ‘pro-democracy’ groups from abroad operating in the country.
In the meantime, the severe economic difficulties that lay behind the Arab spring uprising have continued to worsen. Unemployment stands at at least 15 percent, (but much higher among the young), half as high again as it was when the uprising started. Tourism has declined 30 percent and construction work has come to a standstill.
To avoid a devaluation of the Egyptian pound that would send food prices spiralling upwards, the Egyptian government has been spending $2bn a month in a losing battle to prop it up. According to the New York Times, foreign currency reserves have, as a result, fallen to about $10bn, from about $36bn before the revolt. Clearly this is unsustainable. (See ‘Economic crisis adds dangers on Egypt’s new political path’ by David D Kirkpatrick and Mayy El Sheikh, 24 January 2012)
Nor is the government able to raise money from Egypt’s banks to finance its expenditure, even at an interest rate of 16 percent, because the banks are fearful that the state will be unable to repay them. Another drain on its resources are energy subsidies, which cost it $15bn a year (one-fifth of all government spending), but the government cannot afford to reduce the subsidy as to do so would infuriate the Egyptian population still further.
In the circumstances, the Egyptian government has had to go back cap in hand to the IMF to ask for a $3.2bn loan – after having refused an offer of aid of $3bn only last June because it would have excessively compromised Egyptian sovereignty. In the meantime, the Muslim Brotherhood, whose Freedom and Justice Party controls over half the seats in Egypt’s new parliament, has pronounced itself in favour of IMF borrowing, free markets and abolishing subsidies.
With regard to relations with the IMF, the New York Times pointed out that the Muslim Brotherhood’s position was a “stunning reversal after eight decades of denouncing western colonialism and Arab dependency”. The crisis is making many such organisations reveal their true colours, which can only advance the understanding of the masses.
From the International Report delivered to the CPGB-ML’s central committee on 3 December
Hungary is yet another European country in extreme financial difficulties. As it tries to refinance its debt, it is being forced to pay high rates of interest, and its currency, the florint, has tumbled to record lows.
This is causing severe difficulties for thousands of Hungarians who took out mortgages in Swiss francs when the florint was much stronger and are now facing massive mortgage repayments.
Credit ratings for Hungary have dropped close to junk status as Hungary’s biggest market – the eurozone – finds itself in trouble.
From the International Report delivered to the CPGB-ML’s central committee on 3 December
The Greek authorities have launched a poll tax in an attempt to increase the government’s tax revenue. The tax makes no exceptions for the unemployed or the elderly and is almost triple the amount paid in property tax previously.
The new tax, levied on people who have already suffered massive cuts in pay and pensions, is based on square footage, the age of the building and the average value of a neighbourhood, and has nothing to do with the taxpayer’s income. To ensure effective collection, the state-owned power company will be required to cut off electricity to anybody who has not paid.
The Greek people are fighting back, however, with electricians being recruited to restore power to people who have been cut off, and workers occupying the power company’s billing centre to prevent bills from being issued.
From the International Report delivered to the CPGB-ML’s central committee on 3 December
There is a real threat that the euro is going to collapse as a currency. This is because everybody is trying to get rid of their euro holdings. The reason this is happening is that it has become clear that Greece is not going to avoid defaulting on its debt, with the general consensus being that its lenders are going to have to take a 50 percent ‘haircut’.
At the same time, Portugal’s debt has been reduced to junk status by credit rating agencies, and borrowing costs for Italy and Spain have soared above the affordability mark, with even German bonds suffering increased borrowing costs. Now France is under threat as it is likely to need to bail out its banks as a result of their losses on their Greek debts, etc.
Attempts to put together a firewall that will enable European countries to continue to borrow at affordable rates of interest are floundering, and the Germans are resisting attempts to have the European Central Bank step in to perform this service, because they make the largest contribution to this bank and don’t want to throw good money after bad and then find themselves in financial trouble.
There is some suggestion that Germany would be willing to be more accommodating if the European countries would agree to greater fiscal integration, which of course implies a surrender of sovereignty to the EU which in turn is very much dominated by Germany and France. They of course can be expected to use that control for their national benefit at the expense of other EU countries.
In the meantime, the elected leaders of Greece and Italy have both been forced to resign, to be replaced by unelected ‘technocrats’ with close links to Goldman Sachs (which in turn was intimately involved with the repackaging of subprime debts as high quality by camouflaging them in complex ‘derivatives’). The new head of the ECB is also a former Goldman Sachs man.
The UK and the US are said to be making contingency plans for the chaos that will certainly ensue if the euro does in fact collapse. More detail in this month’s issue of Proletarian.