16th International Meeting of Communist and Workers’ Parties, Guayaquil November 13-15, 2014
Contribution by Communist Party of Britain
Our thanks to the comrades here in Ecuador and to the preparatory committee for their work.
For Communists in Britain the renewal of the world Communist movement and the strengthening of our unity is a great encouragement.
The political and ideological conditions under which Communists work in advanced capitalist countries, and most especially the principal imperialist centres, are complex but with the contradictions that arise from the developing crisis of capitalism there are very many opportunities.
We have to attend to the specific features, both global and domestic, of this crisis. Once Britain was the workshop of the world. Today productive industry is very limited and much is centred on arms and aerospace. Finance capital plays the decisive role in shaping economic policy and foreign relations.
Britain is both the guarantor of US interests within the European Union, principally those of finance capital, and of the US investment in the North Atlantic military and intelligence alliance.
The interpenetration of British and US capital underlay the crisis of 2008 and its continuing consequences. This was a crisis of the financial system, arising from the speculative, parasitical circulation of fictional capital created to deal with the basic contradictions within capitalism and especially US capitalism.
Most particularly it was a crisis of state monopoly capitalism. While it has become fashionable to focus on those trends within bourgeois political economy that seek to reduce the role of the state, the response of the bourgeoisie in each of the developed capitalist economies where the crisis was most sharply felt, was to mobilise the state in order to resolve the crisis at the expense of working people.
In Britain this has taken the form of a sharp and continuing reduction of interest rates, the circulation of enormous amounts of new money – the so-called “quantitative easing” – and a powerful attack on wages and the social wage, welfare, health and education spending.
These policies enabled the banks to borrow from the central bank at rock bottom rates subsidised by the tax take from ordinary people, rebuild their capital reserves, head off institutional reform and prepare for the next crisis whilst placing the burden on working people.
This is the rule for decaying parasitical capitalism; privatise the profits and socialise the losses.
Austerity is working, for the rich. Profits have soared while the average worker is £2600 a year worse off with the longest fall in wages ever. If wages had kept pace with growth in overall output over two decades annual earnings for full-time workers would now be around a third higher than they actually are.
This crisis has changed the shape of politics. Even with Britain's deeply undemocratic majoritarian, first-past-the-post election system the principal party of the bourgeoisie, the Conservatives have been unable, for decades, to win a parliamentary majority and has been forced into a coalition with the Liberal Democrats.
The political genius of the Conservatives hitherto has been to maintain an alliance between big business and the banks with smaller capital, sections of the middle class, the self-employed and even sections of the working class.
This is breaking down under the weight of the contradictions between the interests of big business, the banks and, on the other hand, the mass of the people including middle strata elements and even sections of capital.
Defections to the chauvinist anti-EU formation UKIP have produced a leadership crisis for the Conservatives.
The consequence of this breakdown is a political theatre in which the government seeks to divert a powerful anti-EU sentiment, itself shot through with both progressive and reactionary trends, whilst maintaining the position of Britain within the EU and the free movement of both labour and capital.
The Labour Party leadership remains wedded to the EU's neo-liberal economic policy, fiscal orthodoxy on the transatlantic model, the projection of military imperialist power abroad and class collaboration on a European scale.
Thus, so long as the right continue to dominate Labour is preferred as the alternate party of the bourgeoisie if only because it is seen as the best instrument for incorporating the working class movement.
The political class is regarded widely as corrupt and indifferent to working class concerns. Labour's loyalty to the austerity agenda is eroding its electoral base – already weakened by mass abstentions – with support slipping away to Scottish Nationalists, Greens and even UKIP.
In the recent referendum in Scotland many working class areas expressed their opposition to bipartisan politics and the Westminster consensus by voting for the 'independence' option even though this would have maintained membership of NATO, the EU, with the Queen as head of state and Sterling as the currency. This has produced a leadership crisis in Scottish Labour in which a left challenge, based on the trade unions, has appeared.
This is in conformity with our party's perspective which sees the resistance to austerity sharpening the contradictions within the Labour Party opening the way to a change of direction or new ways to overcome the crisis of working class political representation.
Within our trade union and labour movement illusions about the EU are slowly eroding or, where they persist, assume a right wing opportunist and, marginally, a trotskyite flavour.
Building on a powerful anti war movement, in which our party plays a full part, we can now speak of a distinct and conscious anti imperialist current. One notable development has been the decisive shift in public opinion against Israeli policy with zionism on the defensive and with the Trade Union Centre, the TUC, standing clearly in solidarity with Palestine. Actions against the NATO and EU strategy in the Ukraine are gathering strength.
Our project, as British Communists, is to place the working class at the centre of politics. In a country where, exceptionally, the trade unions are organisationally united in a single centre and, in their majority, directly affiliated to the Labour Party, this party remains an unreliable instrument for the ruling class.
A recognition of this can be found in the attack on these links from government and monopoly media and from the Blairite wing of the Labour Party designed to reduce the presence of the organised working class in politics.
Set against this is a strengthening movement against austerity involving large demonstrations under the leadership of both the trade unions and a growing People's Assembly movement.
Our party and the Morning Star daily newspaper played a key part in establishing this initiative, which brings together – under the leadership of trade unions – left wing and green political organisations, community groups, public figures and celebrities and the peace, women’s and green movements.
Comrades, each of our parties face complex struggles in widely differing conditions. The indispensable factor is our unity, which must be constantly re-forged in the anti-imperialist struggle for peace and for working class political power.
Long live our unity!