by Eric Trevett
Theory without practice is sterile; practice without theory is blind.
THE DEEPENING capitalist crisis arises from the over-production of goods that the market is incapable of absorbing. The proof is plentiful to show that capitalism is in ever deeper political and economic crisis. But this has not put the capitalist class on the defensive.
All capitalist countries are engaged in swingeing attacks on the working class, and to a degree the middle strata, from democratic rights to economic and living standards.
Recent price hikes in transport and fuel costs have provoked further indignation and the repercussions include many individuals and families joining those already in poverty conditions.
The wages movement to offset the worst effects has been lagging. Some workers have endured a three-year pay freeze. The scourge of unemployment is a huge problem and the official figures cover up the reality. In some countries, like Spain, the figure is 40 per cent.
What is to be done?
The labour and trade union movement has been weakened by politically motivated the closure of the mining industry and the attack on manufacturing. This has been another short-sighted action by the employing class and adds to their problems in achieving the market’s capacity to absorb goods. It has also meant more difficulty in resolving the balance of payments deficit.
There are three main areas of struggle going on:
1) The trade-union led campaign against the cuts.
2) Students, who have held a number of large scale demonstrations on the issues of fees and grants.
3) The peace movement, leading with the demands that Trident should be cancelled and British forces should be brought home from Afghanistan.
Basically all three movements are directed at defeating Government policies and therefore it is obviously necessary for them to merge into a river of discontent and determination to defeat the austerity programme.
Laws such as the one criminalising the squatters’ movement are likely to be ignored as more people become evicted – unable to cope with mortgages or cuts in housing benefit. Such action should be supported and applauded.
The role of communists is to encourage the widest participation and to encourage the movements to merge, but also to campaign for an ideological shift in the main body of workers’ understanding of capitalism and the necessity for socialism.
Without the guidance of the revolutionary party the working class will not be able to escape from its continuing exploitation. The movements on various issues may well give rise to a revolutionary situation but without the guidance of a revolutionary party that understands the necessity of smashing the state machine of the ruling class as a prerequisite to building a socialist society they will not succeed.
Following such a revolution there will be a sharpening of the class struggle as the old ruling class tries to re-establish its authority. As stated above, our priority in calling for the merging of the various movements that are opposing the austerity strategy includes the essential struggle for working class unity around the revolutionary programme, taking into account the specific conditions in Britain and its class composition.
With the historic development of the labour movement we see the formation of the Labour Party and general unions coming into being – such as the dockers and gas workers and actions such as the match girls strike. Those engaged in struggle saw the need for working class legislation, especially to counter new laws seeking to make trade unions financially liable for any loss of profits the employers suffered as a result of industrial action.
The Labour Party was formed by the trade unions and socialist societies. But it did not have the aim of creating a socialist Britain in its constitution. It was a force for better representation of the working class within capitalist society.
Only after the First World War did the Labour constitution incorporate Clause Four, which called for the heights of the economy to be taken into public ownership.
In the 1990s that Clause Four was replaced because it hindered the right-wing policy of privatisation. And in Britain major parts of the labour movement support a right reformist policy.
Labour is still the workers’ party by virtue of the fact that the trade unions, trades councils and cooperative bodies are the main source of its being and its financial basis.
Its leadership has often betrayed the interests of the working class. But anger at such treachery by the leadership should not blind us to the reality in Britain of a reformist ideology and the myth of gradualism: the idea that socialism can be brought in piecemeal through parliamentary democracy.
This overlooks the fact that the capitalists have a state machine capable of negating Parliament – a state of Parliament, councils, the armed forces, police and civil service. All swear their allegiance to the crown.
To make the case for voting Labour in elections and working within the labour movement – with the trade unions and the Labour Party – is the best method of winning the working class for revolutionary ideology.
In opening our columns to a discussion on these issues we challenge anybody to put forward a more realistic strategy than that contained in our 17th Congress document, discussed and debated over many months and voted on and passed at our 17th Congress last December.
We face the future with confidence that the working class will triumph and overthrow the exploitation and oppression of capitalism.
The new technology forces society to embrace the more fundamentally efficient means of production. Only in socialist conditions can these new developments be used for the good of all humankind.