|Manifesto of the Revolutionary Communist Group|
|First published in 1984, Larkin Publications, London WC1N 3XX
© Revolutionary Communist Group, Larkin Publications 1983 - 1999
Cover designed by Carol Brickley All Photography by Paul Mattsson
2nd Electronic Edition HTML conversion by Workers' Web
|Table of Contents|
|Note to the Electronic Edition
|1||Imperialism in crisis
The economic crisis of imperialism
The political crisis of imperialism
|4||The challenge to British imperialism
Ireland and British imperialism
South Africa and British imperialism
The revolutionary struggle of black people
|5||British imperialism and the split in the working class movement
The Labour Party
Trade unions and the crisis
State sector workers
The new middle class and British imperialism
|2||Roots of the imperialist crisis
The capitalist system of production
The capitalist crisis
Capitalism and imperialism
Imperialism and opportunism
|3||The crisis of British imperialism
British imperialism - parasitic and decaying capitalism
British imperialism: war without end
British imperialism prepares for global war
|6||Building a communist party in Britain
The international working class movement
What is a communist party?
NOTE TO THE ELECTRONIC EDITIONThis document was produced by the Revolutionary Communist Group in 1983 and reflects the RCG's position on the situation at that time. For current policy and analysis, please refer to the latest issue of "Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism", obtainable from RCG/FRFI, BCM Box 5909, London WC1N 3XX. Postal subscription rates are available on request.
As communists we are concerned with the progress of humanity. Today the possibility exists to create a society where the basic needs of all people throughout the world can be satisfied. Yet the vast majority of people live in poverty and squalor while a small minority lives in unprecedented wealth.
At a time when there is an urgent need to rapidly increase the production of goods which people desperately require throughout the world, in the capitalist countries the productive forces are being destroyed as industry is being run down and millions of people are unemployed or underemployed. Such conditions have recurred time and again over the historical period in which the capitalist system has been in existence. For the capitalist system of production which has revolutionised the productive forces is now itself a barrier to any further development of those productive forces. By restricting production to the narrow limits of profit-making the capitalist system holds back the progress of the vast majority of humanity. If the basic needs of the human race are to be satisfied then the capitalist system must be overthrown and replaced by a system which organises the production of wealth on a planned, socially organised basis - that is, by socialism.
Over 150 years ago the founders of the communist movement, Marx and Fngels, demonstrated the essential truth of these points. They also showed how the capitalist system creates within itself the very forces which will eventually overthrow it and organise production on a socially planned basis in the interests of the vast majority of humanity. Those forces were the working class or proletariat.'The proletarian movement is the self-conscious independent movement ofthe immense majority in the interests ofthe immense majority. The proletariat, the lowest stratum of our present society, cannot stir, cannot raise itselfup, without the whole super-incumbent strata of official society being sprung into the air.' (Communist Manifesto)
For Marx and Engels the modern working class, itself the product of capitalist development, was the really revolutionary class. Being forced to sell its labour power in order to live and owning no property or capital, it had no interests in the existing property relations - capitalism.'The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.'
Marx and Engels firmly believed in 1847/8 that the working class having no ties to the capitalist system would oppose the exploitation ofone nation by another. The victory ofthe working class in the most developed capitalist countries would therefore lead to the liberation of oppressed nations. The class struggle in England, the most developed capitalist country at the time Marx and Engels wrote the Manifesto, was therefore the key to the liberation of oppressed peoples. This was given substance by the revolutionary character of the Chartist movement in Britain at that time. Marx and Engels made these points clear in speeches in November 1847 on Poland.'Of all countries, England is the one where the contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie is most highly developed. The victory of the English proletarians over the English bourgeoisie is, therefore, decisive for the victory of all the oppressed over their oppressor. Hence Poland must be liberated not in Poland but in England. So you Chartists must not simply express pious wishes for the liberation of nations. Defeat your own internal enemies and you will then be able to pride yourselves on having defeated the entire old society.' (Marx and Engels Collected Works Vol 6 p389)
The same standpoint was adopted in relation to Ireland.
However, a decisive shift of view was forced on Marx and Engels by the further development of British capitalism and its effects on the working class movement in Britain. In 1848 the revolutionary Chartist movement was defeated and in the second half of the nineteenth century British capitalism, with the markets of the world under its domination and its vast colonial possessions, was able to relax the extreme pressure upon the working class which had been present in the 1830s and 1840s. The character of the organised British working class movement totally changed. It was now composed of privileged strata - skilled workers and craftsmen - who looked to their own minority interests and no longer represented the interests of the vast majority of the working class in Britain. They rejected socialism as utopian and identified their interests with the growing prosperity of British capitalism. So much so that ten years after the defeat of the Chartist movement Engels was able to write:'...the English proletariat is actually becoming more and more bourgeois, so that this most bourgeois of all nations is apparently aiming ultimately at the possession of a bourgeois aristocracy and a bourgeois proletariat alongside the bourgeoisie.' (Engels to Marx 7 October 1858)
This change in the nature of the British working class movement, together with the rise of the revolutionary Fenian movement in Ireland, forced Marx and Engels to revise their position on the relation between the British and Irish revolution. Henceforth the liberation of Ireland from British domination was the precondition for the British revolution.
By the last quarter of the nineteenth century the organised British working class movement had become a reactionary, backward current in the international working class movement. The British working class was among the last of the European working class movements to create its own independent political party. And when it did it was the rotten racist pro-imperialist Labour Party.
The domination of the British working class movement by opportunism has ensured that all major working class struggles which threatened the stability of the capitalist system have been betrayed and eventually crushed. This has been the case through two Imperialist World Wars and the Great Depression of the 1930s. Communism has never taken root in the British working class movement. What possibilities exist then for communism taking root in Britain today?
This document has been written to show that, once again, conditions exist in Britain for the development of a revolutionary working class movement. This movement has to break with the rotten traditions of bourgeois socialism in Britain. It has to unite with the oppressed peoples in their fight to destroy imperialism and defend the socialist countries against imperialist aggression and counter-revolution. Finally it must organise politically for the overthrow of the existing social order.
The 1981 uprisings in British cities demonstrated that a section of the working class now exists which can unite the struggle of the working class in Britain for socialism with the struggle against national oppression at home and abroad. Communists have to work alongside such forces to build with them an anti-imperialist, anti-racist movement which will draw in wider sections of the working class. From the most politically conscious, vanguard elements of this movement a new communist party can be born in Britain. Its banner will proclaim 'workers and oppressed peoples of all countries unite to destroy imperialism'. Only by taking such a stand can the British working class take its place alongside other revolutionary forces fighting to liberate humanity and build socialism throughout the world.
Every severe crisis of a social system brings forward something new. It pushes to the fore those forces which represent the future and shows ever more clearly the bankruptcy of those forces which desperately try to hold onto the past. The present crisis of imperialism is no exception.
Imperialism in its rapacious drive for profits has divided the world into oppressor and oppressed nations. In the oppressed nations, the poverty and starvation suffered by millions has forced the people into revolutionary war to drive out the imperialists. The people look to the IRA/INLA in Ireland, ANC/SWAPO in Southern Africa, PLO in Palestine, the revolutionary democratic forces opposing Khomeini in Iran, FMLN in El Salvador and many other revolutionary movements fighting imperialism throughout the world. These represent the vanguard forces of millions of people in the struggle to destroy imperialism. These are forces of the future.
The exploitation of millions of oppressed people, the starvation, poverty and terror they are subjected to, has been the engine of prosperity and social stability in the imperialist nations themselves. But even the mounting super-profits wrung from the oppressed masses are no longer able to bolster the decaying crisis-ridden imperialist system. In a desperate attempt to restore profitability, the imperialists are increasingly forced to step up their attack on sections of the working class in the imperialist countries as well. Inevitably new forces of revolution will emerge in the imperialist countries. Britain is no exception to this.
In Britain today 4 million people are unemployed. 15 million people are living below the official poverty line and millions are suffering from increasingly inadequate state benefits and services. And it is, of course, the most oppressed sections of the working class, in particular black people in Britain, who have come under the most severe attack. Faced with growing police harassment and repression it is the most oppressed who have begun the fightback.
In the fight for democratic rights, in defence campaigns against the racist police, in struggles against deportation and immigration laws, in the fight for the basic right to organise in trade unions, and in the recent struggles to defend the health service, the most oppressed sections of the working class, black people in particular, have played the leading role. The uprisings in British cities in 1981 decisively confirmed the revolutionary vanguard role of black people. The lead was given by black youth who were joined by other sections of the oppressed, including unemployed white youth. These vanguard forces, in recognising the need to fight the British state on every front, have taken the first major step towards creating a revolutionary movement in Britain. Their instinctive solidarity with the national liberation struggles and their own actions show that they are part of the growing world-wide movement that sees the fundamental enemy as imperialism. These are forces of the future.
There could be no greater contrast than that between the youth battling on the streets and the complacent inactivity of the British Labour and trade union movement in the face of the attacks being made by the Thatcher government on the working class. The organised trade union movement has accepted four million unemployed without fighting. It has accepted the dismantling of the health service, closure of schools, rundown of public transport, reduction in social security benefits and attacks on trade union rights without fighting back.
The leadership ofthe unions and the skilled and privileged workers have chosen to hold on to what they have rather than fight to improve the position of all workers and the unemployed. The privileged sections of the working class have consistently accepted redundancies knowing full well that this merely adds to the ranks of the unemployed. Throughout the post-war boom these privileged workers have increased their standard of living, sharing the spoils of imperialism at the expense ofthe oppressed both at home and abroad. Arising from their privileged position comes their loyalty to British imperialism and their contempt for the oppressed and unemployed. The British Labour Party gives political expression to the narrow, selfish, chauvinist outlook of this privileged layer. It is an imperialist party which has consistently defended British imperialism's interests throughout the world.
The inability of the Labour and trade union movement to defend the British working class arises from its dependence on British imperialism. The fact that the Labour and trade union movement has supported 14 years of imperialist terror in Ireland, racist terror against black people in Britain, the suppression of democratic rights and the bloody imperialist slaughter in the Malvinas/Falklands, only confirms their subservience to their paymaster - British imperialism. The evolution, growth and 'success' of the British Labour and trade union movement have been closely linked with the strength of British imperialism. A share in the profits of super-exploitation has been the foundation of the massive apparatus - luxurious premises, conference halls, full-time staff, newspapers, pension funds etc - that is the dominant characteristic of this movement. These are the forces of the past.
The relative prosperity in the imperialist nations during the post-war boom gave rise to new relatively privileged sections of the working class - a new middle class. This layer of predominantly salaried, white-collar workers grew with the expansion of the state and services sector. The privileges and status of this layer depend on the continuing prosperity of imperialism. The crisis of imperialism threatens to undermine the social and economic conditions that sustain this layer. Uprisings on the streets, police violence, erosion of democratic rights, cutbacks in the state sector and the prospect of nuclear war - all are seen as threats to their existence.
As the crisis of imperialism deepens this new middle class is faced with a choice. Either to side with the most oppressed sections of the working class, black people, the Irish people and the liberation movements fighting imperialism. Or to side with the oppressor - the British imperialist state and its allies in the Labour and trade union movement.
The small forces of the British 'left' draw their membership primarily from these new relatively privileged layers of the working class. The last few years have demonstrated that the British 'left' has made its choice. It has consistently supported the imperialist Labour Party. At the same time it has attacked those liberation movements taking up the armed struggle against imperialism and opposed the oppressed in Britain taking to the streets to flght the forces ofthe British state. The British 'left' has taken its stand with the forces of the past.
Inevitably the violence and terror of imperialism bring sections of this new middle class into conflict with the British state. The peace movement, particularly the Greenham women, have come under attack for their militant opposition to nuclear war. Their recent experience ofrepression at the hands ofthe police, courts and prisons has led some of them to a closer identification with the struggles of the oppressed against imperialism. Those fighting for peace and democratic rights will only advance if they make common cause with the oppressed fighting imperialism.
The traditional and now corrupt organisations of the British working class, the Labour Party and trade unions, are designed to prevent and contain any fightback - to restrict such a fightback to constitutional, parliamentary and ineffectual forms of protest. We must build anew. A fighting anti-imperialist movement must be built based on the most oppressed sections of the working class who have shown such courage and determination in their struggles against the British state. Only from the most politically conscious, vanguard elements of this movement can a new communist party be born in Britain.