Sunday, 21 November 2010

General Secretary's address to the new Executive Committee

Communist Party general secretary delivers the Political report to the first meeting of the new Executive Committee this weekend

Comrades, It's not my intention to deliver a state of the universe address - that was attempted in my General Secretary's address to our 51st congress. But I do want to highlight some economic and political developments and trends that, I believe, should provide a context for our decisions today and our work over the coming two years.
Firstly, I think it can be said that barely a day passes which does not confirm - and sometimes dramatically - the analysis made at our congress of the domestic and international situation.

The NATO summit in Lisbon, for instance, underlines the extent to which United States imperialism is seeking to re-orientate its military perspectives while rebuilding its hegemony over the other main imperialist powers - notably France and Germany - and over emerging or re-emerging economic and political powers such as Russia and India. China and Brazil present particular problems because of their own political orientations.

The upshot is that the war in Afghanistan is set to continue for years, regardless of timetables adopted this week – and regardless of the views of that country's nominal president, Hamid Karzai. The conflict will, in all likelihood, also flare up more fiercely across Pakistan, regardless of the views of its president Asif Ali Zardari.

There will be no more NATO 'out of area' operations, because the Lisbon summit has effectively redefined the 'North Atlantic' to cover the entire world, and outer space as well.

We should not allow the ideological chaff about 'failed states', 'Islamic fundamentalism' and the 'war on terror' to conceal the underlying imperatives behind this military globalisation.

The 21st century will be the century of resource wars over oil, gas, water, minerals, staple foodstuffs and their transportation routes, unless the peoples of the world can prevent it. While also in competition with each other in these vital matters, the main imperialisms have a common interest in uniting as far as possible against those peoples, governments and states that will not yield to outside exploitation and domination.

We can and should anticipate more extensive NATO intervention in Central Asia, the Middle East, Africa and - despite adverse developments for US imperialism - in South America. 

This places a special responsibility on the Communist Party to organise more effectively at every level - local, district, national and central - and in the labour movement to strengthen the Stop the War Coalition, CND and the peace movement generally.

We know that this will happen only to the extent that we plan consciously and collectively, through advisories and other Party organisations, to make it do so. Within the leadership of our party, it is insufficient and unfair to place central responsibility on one comrade alone. This is why the 17th November Political Committee discussed the need for more than one EC member to be appointed to guide the Party's work in the most important movements and spheres of activity in between EC meetings.

Our International Advisory has been exemplary in its efforts to stimulate and steer our work, highlighting the achievements and challenges in People's Cuba, Venezuela and South Africa for example. Its analysis of the role of British imperialism in Africa should be discussed in Party and public meetings across Britain.

But neither the Communists nor the labour movement as a whole are doing enough to support, initiate and help lead the solidarity so desperately needed by the Palestinian people. There, imperialism's policy is one of non-intervention, of not enforcing UN resolutions and international law to end Israeli state terrorism, but to intervene only to finance Israeli repression and muzzle the United Nations.

Comrades, we have to explode the myth that there is a 'peace process' in the Middle East, let alone one that can be put back 'on track' by bribing the Netanyahu government to cease its illegal construction of Zionist settlements on the West Bank for 90 days. Meanwhile, the ethnic cleansing of East Jerusalem and the slow strangulation of Gaza continues without sanction.

Time is running out for the two-state solution favoured by so many Communists, socialists and progressives around the world. There can be no more excuses for soft-pedalling the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign.

And we need to take forward our initiative, announced at this year's Communist University of Britain, to demand freedom for Marwan Barghouti and all Palestinian political prisoners. For that we need, in my view, to allocate specific responsibility to at least one and perhaps two EC members to drive forward that campaign within and beyond the Party, periodically reporting progress back to this EC.

Comrades, three of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse arrived in Dublin last week. Emissaries of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF came to deliver - if not War, Conquest, Famine and Death - then class war, EU domination, more austerity and mass unemployment.

They have made the Irish government an offer it cannot refuse: an EU/IMF 'stability' package to help pay off the debts of the Irish banks to British, German and French banks - ultimately at the expense of the Irish people. The grip of the EU on Irish public finances will tighten, as will the belts of Irish workers. German imperialism, in particular, is demanding that Ireland's near-invisible rate of corporation tax on big business profits be increased, to remove its competitive advantage.

Significantly, the fourth horseman, Britain's chancellor George Osborne, made an early appearance to offer a British loan to the Irish government. According to the Bank for International Settlements, British banks are exposed in Dublin to the tune of £140 billion - more than those of any other country - as the result of their gamble on the Irish property market.

So Osborne plans to cut welfare benefits in Britain by £83 billion, while being prepared to lend untold billions to the Irish government and Irish banks so that they can pay back British banks (notably RBS and Lloyds) - which have already received £731 billion in share purchases, loans and credit guarantees (including £18 billion passed on to their Irish subsidiaries).

He may also have wanted to pre-empt the EU offer, knowing that Ireland's low rate of corporation tax (12.5 per cent) benefits Britain's corporate tax-dodgers and provides the floor and the rationale for driving down Britain's rate beyond the planned reduction from 28 per cent to 24 per cent.

This ConDem government is a government of the fat cats, by the fat cats, for the fat cats. A blizzard of recent policy announcements has set out in stark terms who will get the skimmed milk, if anything at all, and who will get the cream.

It's cuts, ceilings and terminations of housing, incapacity, child and unemployment benefits for the millions - and cuts in capital gains and corporation taxes for the rich and big business. It's underfunded schooling and lifelong debt after college for the millions - and affordable public school and university places for the wealthy and privileged few. 

But as the first of the £300 billion ConDem and New Labour cuts begin to bite, popular opposition is beginning to grow. Even the Financial Times, on 17th November, was moved to report on a welter of successful local community campaigns: in Brighton, staff and trade unions collected 1,600 signatures and stopped the closure of a state nursery school; in Devon, protestors threatening legal action have forced the county council to scrap plans to abolish free bus travel for primary school children; in Nottingham, workers and their unions have delayed plans to chop teaching assistants' pay by up to 25 per cent; in Leeds, parents and residents have pressed the Labour council to rethink plans to close six crèches.

Millions more people are learning quickly that Prime Minister Cameron's mirage of the 'big society' is really a subterfuge for 'the big business society', in which millionaires and religious fundamentalists run our schools and private corporations direct the NHS on behalf of GP fund holders.

Communists and the Morning Star have an important role in carrying forward this battle of ideas, within the labour and progressive movements - where we need to do much more to promote the Communist Review - but in society more widely.

This is integral to the process of forging the mass, popular, democratic alliance that can halt the ConDem coalition in its tracks. As some local victories already show, that alliance must aim to include the widest range of social forces - student unions, pensioner associations, community groups - in unity with the trade union movement, including local Trades Union Councils.

Women, too, will be a powerful component of the coalition against the cuts. They are in the front line, and it will be a central task of our whole party - guided by a new women's organiser, other EC members and a functioning women's advisory - to help draw many more women into the mass movement, and to draw out the connection between today's battles and the demands of the Charter for Women.

We should not be misled by a slight fall in unemployment figures. More than two million people are unemployed in Britain, a quarter of them under the age of 25. At least 1.6 million workers will lose their jobs as the result of government cuts and January's VAT rise, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. Women workers will be hit disproportionately hard as the result of being in public sector, less secure  and 'peripheral' jobs.

Who will defend the unemployed? Who will help them to organise and fight back? In the 1920s, 1930s and early 1980s it was the Communist Party. This EC cannot duck a similar challenge in 2011 and 2012, which is why some comrades must take on the responsibility - with our collective support - to convene an Unemployment Advisory and organise our work, in close liaison with the Young Communist League.

Racism and fascism can thrive in conditions of growing mass unemployment and poverty. Congress delegates made clear their view that our party has failed to give a clear lead to comrades in this field - and to the many more who should be joining them. To make amends, a number of EC members should be appointed to draw up guidelines and tasks - in consultation with the PC and domiciled comrades in the Coordinating Committee of Communist Parties in Britain - to propose to an early EC.

Comrades, the students are once again revolting. The Liberal Democrats are the most vulnerable link in the coalition, as the result of their tuition fees betrayal.

The scale of that betrayal is shown by the gap that exists between today's fees for domestic students (up to £3,000 a year), those that will apply at least in England in the future (up to £9,000) and current levels in Sweden, Norway and Finland (nil), France (£148) and Germany (free in two of the 16 states and around £420 in most others). We are heading in the American direction where Yale, Harvard and Princeton charge around £23,000 a year.

Communist Party branches, districts and nations, together with the YCL, need to work out how we can support the student movement and develop its links with trades unions locally. Again, our youth and student work and the Party-YCL liaison committee must spring to life over the coming period.

In this as in other struggles, Communists should make clear that we favour a wide range of tactics - including walk-outs, sit-ins, strikes and occupations - provided they broaden and deepen the protest movement rather than narrow it.

We certainly won't listen to scare-mongering about smashed windows from those who supported the blitzing of Belgrade and Bagdad.

But protest, however militant, is only the first step. If the objective is to change government policy, and even to change the government itself, the mass movement has to be won to a clear alternative that itself points a strategic way forward.

That is why the People's Charter is so important for giving direction, coherence and cohesion to working class and popular campaigns. Party members and organisations must now plan how they can win broader support for the Charter and its joint initiatives with the Coalition of Resistance Against Cuts and Privatisation, beginning with the conference in London on Saturday, November 28.

This is also the period in which the labour movement must redouble its efforts to regain the Labour Party for progressive policies. At the moment, the new leadership of Ed Miliband is hampered by its failure to break cleanly with the discredited policies of New Labour, to wholeheartedly support public ownership, progressive taxation, the redistribution of wealth, trade union freedoms and an independent foreign and defence policy for Britain.

But general aspirations and declamations are not enough. The Communist Party must engage more systematically with its trade union and Labour Party allies to challenge and defeat the New Labour trend. Again, this work must be planned and led from within our EC and Political Committee.

But our party's 51st congress was also clear that horizons cannot be limited by the struggle in the Labour Party, however important that is. There are other significant forces on the left outside the Labour Party, in the labour movement, in the green, Welsh and Scottish national movements. We seek unity across the left, labour and progressive movements, while recognising that this will not always be possible in the case of many sectarian and ultra-left groups.

Comrades, we have agreed that the Communist Party's strategic programme, Britain's Road to Socialism, needs to be updated in the light of developments and experience. There is no need to try to polarise the party over what is only the first draft, even before most comrades have had the opportunity to read and discuss it. This EC has been given the responsibility of conducting that inner-party discussion, which should be undertaken in an open and comradely way, without any return to the superficial labels and caricatures that misinformed previous debates.

Nor should discussing the very serious questions raised in the first draft be treated as an academic exercise, separate from engagement in the struggle, to be postponed until later when the political temperature cools down. It is precisely now that the labour movement needs a sense of direction, the glimpse of a better future and some idea of how to get there.

The next two years will be a supreme test for the Communist Party. If we are of no great use to the working class as it faces an historic struggle to hold on to the gains of the 20th century, then we should drop any ambition to play a leading role in the revolutionary transformation of society.

This is no time for passengers on our Executive Committee. We need all EC members helping to take forward at least one specific aspect of party work in between meetings, and putting a high priority on supporting and mobilising for national Party and Morning Star events.

If we deepen our Marxist understanding of society, and display the qualities of tenacity, collective organisation, self-discipline and boldness that have characterised the Communist Party through much of its history, then we will earn that leading role. Together with our allies, through the mass mobilisation of the working class, through the fight for the Left-Wing Programme and popular sovereignty, we can put Britain on the road socialism.

Taken from:

No comments: