The Report introducing the Communist Party Programme, "The British Road to Socialism", to the 22nd National Congress of the Communist Party, Easter, 1952.
The publication of our Programme, The British Road to Socialism, just over a year ago was a landmark in the history of the Communist Party and the British working-class movement.
It appeared at a moment when it was admitted on all sides that Britain faced a crisis unprecedented in her long history, when as the Programme stated, "the past half-century has shown more and more clearly the breakdown of the old society and its inability to serve the needs of the people". The crisis has since got worse, and no one in ruling class circles or among the right-wing Labour leaders can find any real way out of it.
The Labour Party is discussing the need for a new programme. It is a clear sign of the bankruptcy of its official policy that such a discussion could' take place after six years of Labour rule. The right-wing leaders have publicly abandoned the aim of Socialism. But among the rank and file of the Labour Party, the trade union and co-operative movement, alarm and disquiet was never greater, as they search for a new policy which can solve Britain's problems and carry forward the fight for the aim of the socialist pioneers.
Our Programme, therefore, could not have been presented at a more appropriate time. Over 200,000 copies have been sold. Never has any pamphlet published by any section' of the Labour Movement been so eagerly sought after and discussed. That is a tribute to its scope and message.
In drawing up our Programme, the Party has been guided by the advice given by Harry Pollitt at our Executive Committee in July 1950, when he said:
"Our Party must and can formulate such a statement of policy as, alongside our fight for immediate demands, will attract wide attention, discussion and support. It must be concrete and not general. It must be immediately practicable and not only possible after some capitalist and Transport House bogey of a 'bloody revolution'. It must be applicable to British conditions and be based upon them and British institutions ... Any serious reflection will show that such a programme is essential if we are to prove our Party a serious political party anxious to make a serious contribution to solving the problems that face the British people ... Such a programme would end our present living from hand to mouth stage, and correctly link up our fight for immediate demands with a clear perspective for the future. Immediate issues and generalisations about Socialism are not enough. Thinking people want a perspective. They want to see the line of march and the path ahead. We have to outline a programme for such."
This is what The British Road to Socialism has done, and as a result, has placed our Party in an enormously strong position.
This, then, is a long-term programme in the sense that sets out fundamental objectives, but not in the sense that it will necessarily take decades to achieve. How long this will take depends on the rapidity with which we can develop the mass united struggle and the determination of the British people to see that it is achieved.
Peace and Friendship
From the outset the new approach of the Programme must be thoroughly grasped. It places as the first great issue the fight for a "lasting peace as the vital need for the British people". While capitalism is exposed as the basic cause of modern wars, it is the aggressive policy of American Big Business backed by British reaction and the Tory and right-wing Labour leaders, the Programme states; "which has undermined the unity of the war years, divided the world into two camps ... and created the danger of a third world war".
Harry Pollitt's report has dealt with this danger in detail and with what the people must do to win peace.
Despite this acute danger, however, and in the midst of the prevailing war hysteria, our Programme strikes a note of sanity by its categorical rejection of the inevitability of war between the socialist and capitalist camps.
On the contrary, it declares that the peaceful co-existence of Socialism and capitalism is possible on the basis of mutual respect for national rights and independence. It is possible, but it depends on the struggle of the people. From the socialist side there is no threat of war and cannot be. Socialist countries need no colonies or spheres of investment. What they produce is for the people's needs, and, since they have abolished private profit, they have no need to "conquer" foreign markets, but require only honest mutual trade. A socialist foreign policy can only be a peaceful one. The clearest example or that is the history of the Soviet Union. Every war she has fought has been a defensive war, forced on her by imperialist aggression. She is the only Great Power in the United Nations whose troops are not at war now and whose mighty resources, wealth and effort are engaged, not in exploiting colonial peoples, but in the huge internal construction schemes of Communism.
Our Programme brands as a lie "the charge that Communism is to be imposed by aggression and conquest and declares that socialist transformation can only come through internal changes in accordance with the actual conditions in each country". "The export of revolution is nonsense", said Stalin to Roy Howard in 1936. "Every country will make its own revolution if it wants to, and if it does not want to, there will be no revolution". This capitalist lie that Communism is to be imposed by conquest and aggression is the hoariest of all. It is a claim that every social change that comes anywhere, every movement of the workers for better conditions, is to be blamed on the Soviet Union. It is an insult to the fighting traditions of the British people to say someone will bring social liberation to us. We will win it for ourselves.
It is the capitalist Western Powers which are against any understanding or agreement, political or economic, with the U.S.S.R. They don't want peaceful co-existence, but the crushing of Socialism.
It is the task of the people to ensure co-existence by imposing peace upon the warmongers through the mass struggle of the great world peace movement. They can win, if they tear aside the web of lies and deceit with which the imperialists are concealing their aggressive designs. They can win because on their side is the mighty strength and effort of the Soviet Union, whose ceaseless initiative and struggle for peace is the inspiration and example to the people of the entire world.
The key importance of Britain in world affairs must be grasped. As Harry Pollitt says, "If Britain pursued an independent foreign policy, it would become such a force as to make it impossible for the American war plans to be carried through'.
"It takes a man and a gun to fight", Eisenhower told the U.S. Senators in Paris last year. "The U.S. is providing the gun, Europe the man." The retort is obvious. Let the European man refuse to shoulder the American gun, and it will never go off!
The national interests of Britain, as well as the very future of the British people, demand that Britain finish once and for all with the American policy of aggression and world conquest which can only end in national disaster for us.
Our Programme demands a British policy for peace. We want to finish with the Atlantic War Alliance and replace it with a Peace Pact of the Five Great Powers and restore the United Nations as an organisation for peace. Britain's interests require a Peace Treaty with a united democratic peace-loving Germany instead of a revived West German militarism in the aggressive American war bloc. They demand a new Japanese Peace Treaty which will ensure a peaceful Japan. Our Programme would end the wars against the peoples of Malaya, Korea and Egypt. And above all it demands the abolition of the atom bomb and all weapons of mass destruction, with international control and all-round reduction in armaments.
For National Independence
Our struggle, we say, takes place on the background of American attempts to dominate the world. Above all, these are aimed at Britain.
I would direct your attention again to that key passage in Harry Pollitt's report:
"The Labour Government, carrying out the policy of British Imperialism and following the path marked out in Churchill's Fulton speech in 1946."
Calculated that it could do a deal with American imperialism… These plans have ended.
For the first time in history, declares our Programme, our country has lost her independence and freedom of action in her foreign, economic and military policy to a foreign power-the United States of America.
The apparatus of American domination over Britain is widespread and at its head is the Atlantic Pact organisation and its manifold committees. U.S. control over Britain is exercised in the first place over our Army by Eisenhower, the self-styled Supreme Commander. Britain is to provide fourteen divisions for his command, which will be the bulk of the British Army. The Navy is under effective U.S. control by the appointment of the U.S. Supreme Atlantic Commander and a U.S. Mediterranean Commander.
Any independent foreign policy has long since ceased to exist. American control• comes via repeated degrading journeys of, British Prime Ministers to Washington. The Foreign Minister is periodically summoned to see Acheson in the Atlantic Deputies meetings. And in case we do not thoroughly understand this relationship, The Times correspondent told us on January 14 after the Washington meeting, that things have gone too far for M r. Acheson "to be able to accept any other Foreign Minister as an equal".
Economic control is exercised by the Finance Committee under Harriman. By issuing its orders on the size of Britain's armament programme, it, in effect, dominates our economic life. Through .the E.C.A. administration in London, which still exists with diplomatic status although the Marshall "aid" has gone, complete access is assured to the British Treasury, which is obliged to submit for Washington's approval complete details of its economic plans and policies. Through the Battle Bill and the provision of the Mutual Aid Act, etc., the U.S. controls the direction of British trade.
Still nominally an independent State, Britain has now lost control over her currency, her tariffs, the direction of her trade, the use of her materials, manpower and industrial resources, and the strength, armament and strategic disposition of her armed forces.
Military occupation of Britain is carried out by the 3rd U.S. Air Force occupying nineteen bases, with its own Courts, H.Q., anti-aircraft armament and the U.S. Military Advisory and Military Assistance Groups.
The right-wing Labour leaders and the Tories have competed with one another in servility and national betrayal to America. But the prize goes to Churchill when he said at the .Society of Cincinnati, "I am proud of my American ancestry. I think it wonderful that I should have the honour to rejoice in that fact ..." and then, recalling himself, hastily, added, "while at the same time I have never failed in my constitutional duty to my own country". "Treason and proud of it" should be the slogan of the Tory Party!
But our Party speaks for Britain. Our programme seeks to rally all who are prepared to defend our country's national independence. It issues this truly patriotic clarion call: "We stand for a Britain, free, strong and independent. We want our country to be subordinate and subservient to no foreign power, but to stand in friendly association and equal alliance with all powers that recognise and respect Britain's national interests."
Alone among the political parties in Britain our hands are clean. We would restore to the British Parliament its exclusive sovereign right to control the country's financial, economic and military affairs. We would tell Eisenhower that from now on the British Army will be under British command and tell MacCormick that our Navy will answer only to a British Admiral. We would send all American missions, advisers, confidence men and tricksters packing.
And above all, we would send the United States air force, its atom bombs, chewing gum and brothels back to where they belong. Burtonwood, Mildenhall and Lakenheath would once again become 'British- territory. And by doing all this, we would be striking a major blow for the peace of the world.
For Colonial Freedom
Our programme rejects all theories which declare national sovereignty to be out of date and thus seek to justify the sell-out to the United States or aggression against other nations. Britain's national independence is bound up with ensuring that all nations within the present British Empire also enjoy full national rights and independence. Today in the era of extreme crisis of British imperialism and its domination by America, the struggle for national independence has become a common struggle of the British people and all peoples of the Empire against the combined British and U.S. imperialists.
"Above all", states our Programme, "the Communist Party would solve the question of the relations of Britain with the countries of the British Empire".
There is hardly a single colony or dependent territory today where British rule or domination has not burst out into violence or open warfare. British colonial policy today is the crime of the war against the Malayan people, the Lyttelton policy of bullets before ballots, of hanging and concentration camps. It is the undeclared war in Egypt. It is the threat to impose white Federation on the Rhodesias which will invoke a general strike and mass civil disobedience of the African peoples. It is the shameful British role in America's horrible war in Korea.
That is why our Programme says: "The enemies of communism declare that the Communist Party, by underhand subversive means, is aiming at the destruction of Britain and the British Empire. This is a lie. On the contrary, it is precisely the Tories and the Labour leaders who are doing this by their policy of armed repression and colonial exploitation."
Not only is this policy a crime against the colonial peoples. Hundreds of thousands of British troops and conscript lads are fighting and dying in these lands. And while the City gets the colonial profits, the British people pay for the colonial wars in slums, overcrowded schools and rising prices.
"The Communist Party", our Programme states, "would put an end to the present abnormal relation of colonial war and repression between the British people and the people of the Empire by establishing durable friendship with them on the basis of equal rights". The present relations based on political, economic and military enslavement would be replaced by a new association based on full national independence and equal rights. The British troops would be withdrawn by the People's Government and sovereignty handed over to Governments freely chosen by the peoples of the territories .concerned.
Our People's Government, the Programme declares, would enter into free mutual arrangements with these popular Governments to ensure• Britain "the normal supplies of the vital food and raw materials necessary for her economic life"-- no longer on the basis of imperialist exploitation but on the basis of equal exchange. To the liberated colonial countries we would send "the products of British industry needed by those countries for their own economic development". Our industries will continue to need cotton, rubber, tin, copper, oil and wool, etc. which come in a large' measure from the colonial countries. At present they are increasingly "paid" for in useless sterling balances, the colonial peoples thus being swindled twice over. In a People's Britain, where industry would advance by leaps and bounds, such supplies would continue to be vital. Precisely because of the People's Government policy of national liberation and the completely new co-operative spirit it would engender, such supplies could be securely guaranteed. Our capital goods, machinery, transport equipment, electrical goods and apparatus, would be our payment-equipment of the utmost assistance to the liberated colonial territories for their economic transformation. We would offer technical specialists in a spirit of genuine fraternal co-operation. A new, harmonious, mutually beneficial economic and social collaboration would replace the previous unequal relations of imperialist exploitation. The enmity of the past would give way to a new friendship. Of course the British financiers will not get the colonial super-profits, but we will shed no tears for they will not be getting the profits out of our labour either.
All this, continues our Programme, "would provide the' basis for a new, close, voluntary and fraternal association of the British people and the liberated peoples of the present Empire to promote mutually beneficial economic exchange and co-operation, and to defend in common their freedom against American imperialist aggression".
It should be noted that unlike the Tory and Labour imperialists, the Communist Party does not seek to impose any form of association. It is a voluntary association "based on full national independence and equal rights" which is proposed. Why do we suggest that a People's Government should propose this? It is a big step forward in our policy and arises out of the expansionist aggressive policy of the United States and her dominating role in the imperialist world.
The fight of the peoples of the Empire for national independence can no longer be seen in isolation as when developing British imperialism dominated the world. It is now a fight against an Anglo-American imperialist bloc with America as the dominant force and Britain as the junior partner. It is necessarily a fight not only against British imperialism, but equally against American imperialism and its local quislings in each case. This fight requires close association and co-operation for victory not only in the winning of national independence but also, after liberation, in preserving .that independence from American aggression.
These proposals will not only be an act of long-overdue historical justice. They will strengthen Britain on a new democratic basis and make our position more secure than ever before.
People's Democracy – The Path to Socialism
The kernel of our Programme is this section. It raises the central issue of the political struggle, the issue of State power.
Criticising bourgeois democracy the Programme declares:
"The people cannot advance to Socialism, therefore, without real political power, which must be taken from the hands of the capitalist minority and firmly grasped by the majority of the people led by the working class. Only by this means can democracy become a reality."
By this our Programme is reiterating the famous demand of the Communist Manifesto, to raise the working class to the position of the ruling class, to win the battle of democracy.
Answering those who say that the Communists wish to abolish Parliament and introduce Soviet Power into Britain, our Programme makes its now famous key formulation:
"Britain will reach Socialism by her own road. Just as the Russian people realised political power by the Soviet road which was dictated by their historical conditions and background of Tsarist rule, and the working people in the People's Democracies and China won political power in their own way in their historical conditions, so the British Communists declare that the people of Britain can transform capitalist democracy into a real People's Democracy, transforming Parliament, the product of Britain’s historic struggle for democracy, into the democratic instrument of the will of the vast majority of her people."
Why can we put the issue in this way? It does not arise from a utopian desire based on illusions about the character of the British capitalist class or of the capitalist State machine. We make it because of the new historical opportunities arising out of the general crisis of capitalism.
Lenin' and Stalin, have proved that capitalism long ago became over-ripe and exhausted itself, historically speaking. The transition from capitalism to Socialism, being identical in content in all countries, is carried out in its own fashion in each country, depending on the concrete historical conditions. Lenin stressed that because of the existence of national and state differences between countries and peoples, it is necessary in the liberation struggle of the working class of different countries to take account of what is nationally particular and specific.
People's Democracy as a new form of the political organisation of society was able to appear because of the particular conditions after the Second World War, and above all, because of the existence of the mighty Soviet Union.
It arose, that is, put of the further sharpening of the general crisis of capitalism, the growth of the working-class movement; and the strengthening of the national liberation struggle in the colonial countries, and the radically changing international relation of forces in favour of Socialism.
The great October Socialist Revolution ushered a new social system into the world. It mortally wounded capitalism and opened up the era of its collapse. The building of Socialism in the U.S.S.R., following the triumphant development and consolidation of the Soviet Union, was a new powerful blow at world capitalism.
As a result of the victory of the Soviet Union in the Second World War, and the defeat of Germany, Italy and Japan, world capitalism suffered another severe defeat.
The system of imperialism, therefore, was immeasurably weakened while the socialist system emerged far more powerful than before. Favourable conditions were created for the struggle and victory of the masses of the working people in Europe and Asia.
After the defeat of Germany and Japan they did not want to trust their destinies to the reactionaries; they did not want to live in the old way. The reactionary classes were incapable of ruling these countries in the old way; their positions were undermined and weakened. A new round in the liberation movement of the working class and its allies in the capitalist countries and of the colonial peoples began, for national freedom, for democracy and Socialism through the establishment of People's Democracies.
It is wrong to think that these great political developments arising out of the Second World War have not also affected Britain. The First World War shook the British capitalist and imperialist system to its foundations, bringing stagnation and decline. The Second World War has immeasurably sharpened the crisis of British imperialism and has brought about a developing crisis in its political institutions.
The British party system in its early stages did not countenance democracy. Sir Reginald Banks, Tory theorist, in his book, The Conservative Case, published in 1929, wrote:
"Only in very recent times has England ever pretended to be a democratic state. The great Parliamentarians of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries repudiated with disgust any such theory."
The struggle for the right to vote was a long, drawn-out, and bitter battle in which the Chartists wrote some of the finest pages in working class history. It took a century of struggle from the Reform Act of 1832 to the Act of 1929 to achieve universal suffrage. Every concession had to be forced out of a ruling class whose conception of democracy was that there should be no questioning of the social system of capitalist property.
The whole structure and system of British bourgeois democracy, its methods and rules, the monarchy, the Lords and Commons, the Cabinet system judiciary and Civil Service, was built on this assumption, an assumption regarded by the bourgeoisie as unchallengeable.
Lord Balfour summed up this basic outlook in his introduction to Bagehot’s Victorian classic on the English Constitution when he wrote:
"Our alternating Cabinets, though belonging to different Parties, have never differed about the foundations of society. And it is evident that our whole political machinery pre-supposes a people so fundamentally at one that they can safely afford to bicker; and so sure of their own moderation that they are not dangerously disturbed by the never-ending din of political conflict. May it always be so."
By and large this has been true. The party struggle of the Whigs and Tories, and later of the Tories and the Liberals, was concerned to facilitate the rise of capitalism and to transfer the control of Parliament from the landed aristocracy to the forces of industrial capitalism.
The true inference to be drawn from Bagehot and Balfour, argued Harold Laski, correctly, is that:
"Since 1689 we have hold for all effective purposes, a single party in control of the State. It has been divided, no doubt, into two wings ... Its quarrels ... have always been family quarrels in which there has always been ample room for compromise." (Parliamentary Government, p. 94.)
But the British people did not fight for democracy and the right to vote just to participate in the traditional two-party system with its mimic warfare, effective capitalist control and frustration of the people's will. The emergence of the Labour Party was regarded by the workers as a challenge to this system.
The Labour movement was built by the sacrifice of the workers to end this control and bring in a new era for the people. But the right-wing Labour leaders have adapted themselves to the policy and interests of the capitalists and thus held back the realisation of this aim. They have swallowed, hook, line and sinker, the whole conception and method of bourgeois democracy.
Reformist theoreticians admit all this. In his History of the Labour Party since 1914, G. D. H. Cole wrote (p. 258):
"The Labour Government of 1929-31 had never attempted to apply a constructive socialist policy, or even follow the mild precepts of Labour and the Nation which dealt with social reform and with employment policy ... It is a sorry story; and there is nothing to be gained by attempting to make it out as better than it actually was."
And Harold Laski was forced to write this epitaph on the right-wing leaders between the wars:
"In all the great crises of the post-war period, their principles of strategy seem to have been based upon the belief that it is better to compromise with capitalist power than to threaten it." (p. 191.)
The experiences since 1945 only serve to confirm these conclusions. The defeat of the Tories and the election of the Labour Government was the direct outcome of the deep political experiences of the Second World War, but no basic social change took place under its rule. The power of monopoly capitalism grew stronger, it became more entrenched, the limited measures of capitalist nationalisation did not seriously affect the capitalist structure. Real wages went down and profits went up. The measures of social reform were engulfed by the rearmament programme arising out of the anti-Soviet, imperialist foreign policy. There was no change at all in the capitalist state structure.
During this period the Tory Observer (May 23, 1948) could argue approvingly in language almost identical with that of Lord Balfour:
"Until lately the (two-party) system worked smoothly in this country; Liberals and Conservatives differed sufficiently to give the country a choice, and agreed sufficiently to maintain the continuity of national life. Is a similar harmony possible between Socialists and Conservatives? Yes, it is possible; modem Conservatives and moderate Socialists have a good deal of common ground. They could alternate in office without vast, destructive reversals of legislation."
Had the Labour Government operated a real socialist policy destroying the economic power of the monopolists it would have rallied the widest sections of the workers. The big monopolists would have been increasingly isolated and a united, enthusiastic working class would have swung over decisive sections of the middle class, farmers, small businessmen, professional people and shopkeepers in an invincible alliance in support of socialist policies.
As we know, the opposite happened. Instead of fighting the Tories, the right-wing Labour leaders repudiated the class struggle and fought only the Communists and the leftward moving sections of their own Party. The T.U.C. preached class collaboration, while purging and disrupting the trade unions to the advantage of the Tories and the employers.
This disruptive role of the right-wing Labour leaders, serving the interests of monopoly capitalism, is the main reason why Labour proved incapable of holding and consolidating the 1945 majority and extending it. Along with the British electoral system which is devised to- perpetuate ruling class domination, it brought about the huge reduction of Labour representation in 1950 and the electoral defeat of 1951.
As a Government, the right-wing Labour leaders refused to carry out those decisive measures which were urgently needed in the present and future interests of the British people. Having thus prepared the way for the victory of .the Tories, they have become Her Majesty's "loyal opposition" in Parliament, and a majority of the General Council of the Trades Union Congress assured the Tory Government of "amicable" working relations.
They want to confine "opposition" to the unpopular Tory measures to verbal gestures in Parliament. They condemn and bitterly oppose the rising mass movement of action against them. They openly support the major Tory measures, endorse the huge armaments programme, and want to expel any Labour M.P. who votes against it. They support the present feverish steps to prepare the Atlantic Alliance for war.
They want a class truce and class collaboration of the employers and the trade unions for this purpose. In other words, they want a virtual coalition with the Tories to prepare war.
Yet these election results were anything but a sweeping victory for Toryism. They registered a deep political division in the country despite the coalescence of policy of the Party machines at the top. And the alarm of the bourgeoisie at this division is patent. Churchill expressed it on the 1950 results on March 7 of that year when he said in the House of Commons:
"We should not survive by splitting into two nations; yet that was the road we were travelling now, and there was, no sign of our reaching or even approaching journey's end."
And the 1951 election result confirmed this so-called electoral deadlock and the crisis in British political institutions.
It is all this which underlines the significance of the policies we outline in our Programme and the methods to achieve them. Ours is the only answer to the entire position. The Tories can never win the working class, but the working class can and must win the overwhelming majority of the working people, isolate and defeat the Tories, and prepare the way for the advance to a real people's democracy.
The British Labour movement must learn the bitter lessons of these past six years if it is now to advance. What are these lessons?
(1) The entire policies and tactics of the right-wing Labour leaders have proved bankrupt.
(2) The so-called electoral deadlock is the result of these tactics. To overcome it a complete change in policy is needed. This change can be brought about and the right-wing leaders defeated by Labour and Communist unity.
(3) Only fundamental social change leading to the establishment of Socialism can bring a lasting solution to Britain's problems.
(4) British political institutions, as at present constituted, were evolved by the ruling class to preserve the existing social order. To achieve real advance, Parliament must be transformed into an instrument reflecting the will of the people.
It is here that the whole strategy outlined in our programme to achieve a People's Government directly links up with the present political situation and the electoral deadlock. Our Programme states:
"The essential condition for establishing such a people's power is the building up of a broad coalition or popular alliance of all sections of the working people: of the organised working class, of all workers by hand and brain, of professional people and technicians, of all lower and middle sections in the towns, and of the farmers in the countryside."
Taken together, all those sections comprise the overwhelming majority of the population. Their interests are equally threatened by the big landlords and industrialists who dominate the Tory Party. They represent a mighty political force, fully capable of defeating the present exploiters, isolating the Tory Party and returning a Parliamentary majority which can form a People's Government.
Why, then, has the Tory Party, representing the handful of exploiters, been able to maintain its malign influence and grip on British political life between the wars, and after a six years' interlude of Labour Governments, why is it now back in the saddle?
As we have seen it is because this potentially mighty political force is split, divided and misled by the propaganda of the ruling class and the policy and outlook of the right-wing Labour leaders, who in practice, in or out of Government, support the ruling class.
To build this broad people's alliance, therefore, is the pre-requisite for the advance to a People's Government and it can only be built on the basis of a united working class as its decisive force – the class that is most concerned in the struggle for a new social order.
Comrade Pollitt in his report has shown the way forward. The call of the Communist Party is to raise the developing powerful mass movement to new heights in a united anti-Tory struggle that can make its influence felt inside the Labour Party and help bring about serious changes in its policy and leadership. Not only can this mass movement successfully defend living standards, it can also force a General Election, crushingly defeat the Tories and return a Labour Government which would be compelled to carry through an entirely new policy.
The unity of the working class is in the first place that vital link in the chain which can bring the Tories down, and as it grows in strength draw together the great new alliance of all working people that in the near future can elect a People's Government.
The necessary objective political conditions for the creation of this alliance are daily maturing as the crisis deepens, the war danger grows, and the American domination of our country increases. The possibilities will grow of uniting the majority of the British people in the struggle for peace and to rally all honest patriots to break the Yankee grip. Enormous opportunities are being created to draw in the mass of the teachers, doctors, health workers, architects and technicians to save the social services.
Our socialist Programme to solve Britain's economic problems will attract still wider sections as it becomes increasingly clear that it offers the only way out of the impasse.
Increasingly they will realise that there is no. future for the professions and the arts under capitalism, Toryism and rearmament. The working farmer, the small shopkeeper and the small business man, already under attack by the monopolists, will be further squeezed. The developing slump brings the menace of professional unemployment and the bankruptcy of the small man. But a People's Government, freed from the restrictions of capitalism, with its vast socialist programme of economic development, its great social plans, has a future to offer such people in co-operation with the working class, such as could never be dreamt of under the present social order.
It is out of the struggle for peace, wages and social advance that we see the broad people's alliance emerging. And the measure of its success will turn on the degree to which we can establish working-class unity Labour, trade union, co-operative and Communist. Only by this unity can the working class rally its forces and those of its allies for decisive action to win a Parliamentary majority pledged to form a People's Government.
What is the Programme of the People's Government? We summarise it as follows; it would:
"Break the power of the millionaire monopolists and other big capitalists by socialist nationalisation of large-scale industry, the banks, big distributive monopolies, insurance companies and the land of the large land-owners, and introduce a government monopoly of foreign trade.
"Introduce a planned economy based on socialist principles aimed at fundamental social change.
"Transform the existing unequal imperialist Empire into a strong, free, equal association of peoples by granting national independence to the colonies.
"Make Britain strong, free and independent with a foreign policy of peace.
"Break the political hold of the capitalist class by democratic electoral reform, democratic ownership of the press, the people's control of the B.B.C. and the democratic transformation of the Civil Service, Foreign Office, Armed Forces and Police, the Law Courts, and the administration of Justice."
Such a Programme represents a fundamental departure in British political life and is designed to bring about a radical solution to our country's problems. This, therefore, will be no ordinary electoral victory in the traditional political sense. As we see, it is the crowning act, the Parliamentary expression of the great people's movement, an alliance which has routed the Tories on a programme of decisive challenge to capitalism.
The winning of this victory is only the first task of the alliance. The People's Government will rely on it to mobilise the mass of the people for the decisive measures to break the economic and political power of the big exploiters. Up till now Parliament has, in the main, legislated in the interests of the ruling class. Such Parliaments and Governments feared the political activity of the people between elections. By the very nature of things, it would be directed against Parliament, as in the 1920 wars of intervention, the General Strike, the Cuts of 1931, Munich, the agitation for the Second. Front, etc. Both Tory and right-wing Labour leaders, therefore, have always wanted to keep the people quiet, as they do today. The exact opposite will be the case with the, People’s Government.
Secondly, the key motive in transforming the whole legislative and executive machinery of the State will be to make it continuously responsive to the democratic will of the people and to draw the whole of the people into active participation in the control and administration of every phase of national life.
Thirdly, for the first time in history, Parliament will act only in the interests of the working people, and the People's Government will rely on the strength of the organised workers to ensure that its programme is operated in practice and that all attempts to resist or sabotage it are defeated.
People's Democracy, therefore, in contradistinction to bourgeois democracy, is a democracy of politically active men and women. Parliament and the People's Government are its crowning expressions, but the continuous mass struggle, organisation and work of the people, led by the working class, is the real source of its strength and power. Socialism is achieved through the mass movement of the people transforming Parliament into an instrument of its will and using it to legislate for Socialism.
For over six hundred years political struggle has moulded and changed the British Parliament. In the first phase it was a struggle to increase Parliament's power against the absolute Monarchy and the Divine Right of Kings. It culminated in the revolution of 1640 and the subsequent political compromise. In the second phase the struggle was for a Parliament which would represent the developing industrial capitalism. This was achieved in the Reform Acts of the nineteenth century.
Parliament has thus developed as the instrument of the rule of big business with the Cabinet, in many cases largely composed of business men, controlling Parliament; with the "lobbies" of the F.B.I., the brewers and high finance bringing direct pressure to bear on the government; with the division of legislative and executive power and with the higher state administration drawn from the ruling class, comprising a permanent, unelected Tory majority; and the House of Lords maintained as a useful Tory instrument of obstruction should the need arise, This, then, is the "democracy" of the ruling class, which, combined with its economic power, comprises in reality a disguised dictatorship of the capitalist class over the working class. Labour Governments have not changed this set-up in any way.
The rules of debate and standing orders, the very structure of His Majesty's Government and His Majesty's Loyal Opposition, reflect the basic ruling "class assumption already stated, that fundamental social change is not intended. As Jennings puts it in Cabinet Government (p. 464), "In fact, opposition and Government are carried on alike by agreement. ... The most important elements "in parliamentary procedure are the discussions 'behind the Speaker's Chair' or 'through the usual channels'."
Churchill, Attlee and the ruling class would like us to think that Parliament, having reached this stage, must now stand still. Extolling its virtues, Jennings recalls that Cromwell said when he dissolved the Long Parliament that not a dog barked, "The dogs bark in Parliament", he concludes, "if there were no Parliament, they might bite", Well, we want a Parliament that bites!
The electoral victory of the people's alliance will rout the ruling class representatives in Parliament. Of the present 321 Tories in the House of Commons, no less than 158, or practically half, are company directors holding between them 618 directorships. If a Stock Exchange roll call were taken at Westminster, the names of Lloyds Bank, Westminster Bank, IC.I., Courtaulds, Arthur Guinness, Consolidated Goldfields, United Steel, Associated Electrical Industries, the Prudential, Tunnel Cement, and dozens of others would resound through St. Stephen's Hall. After our nationalisation legislation such interests would never again dominate Parliament, for these companies would be in the hands of the people.
Of the thirty-three Ministers comprising the present Government, twenty six came from the public schools; nineteen were, until appointed, company directors; fourteen belong to or were married into the families of the old nobility! Some democrats! For whom will they legislate-their class or ours? We give no prize for the answer,
But the Cabinet of .the People's Government would be truly representative of the British people. Its decisions, as its Programme shows, can only be in the interests of the people. The days when big business dominated the highest organ of British Government would be finished, never to return.
And of course the People's Government would deal with the House of Lords, that pillar of reaction, as an hereditary non-elected Chamber is an historical anachronism in a democratic society. The Labour Movement in the past was pledged to its abolition, but the Labour Government did not abolish it."
The Lords, these days, represents not so much the aristocracy as the plutocracy, Baron Kirkwood of Bearsden notwithstanding. Half its membership dates from the last sixty years. An analysis made in 1938 showed that of its 750 members, 12 were Labour, 84 were Liberals of various hues, and 400 were declared Tories. The position has not changed appreciably since.
Only a handful usually attend. But they are a reserve weapon of the Tory enemy. Their Lordships rally from their stately country homes or West End Clubs when there is a job of obstruction to be done. It is noteworthy also that in the present tense political situation the Tories are pledged to restore some of the lost powers of the House of Lords.
Seven members of the Cabinet and fourteen members of the present Government are members of the House of• Lords-real Government by the non-elected. This body cannot be, and should not be re-formed. It should be thrown into the dustbin of history, and a People's Government would do just that.
The People's Government would reform the undemocratic, fraudulent electoral system. In 1951 the Labour Party polled 200,000 more votes than the Tory Party. Yet the Labour Party won only 293 seats, while the Tories got 320 seats. Mr. Churchill was rejected by the British people. But Mr. Churchill is the Prime Minister. Not one of the Parliaments elected in the General Elections between 1918 and 1935 really represented the people. In the 1918 election the Tory-Liberal coalition polled 5.5 million votes and got 428 seats. The opposition polled 4.1 million and got only 81 seats. Only once has the system benefited the Labour Party. And the value of this system as a bulwark for reaction is seen when it is realised that on the Continent, reactionary Governments, with American support, are reforming the electoral system increasingly on the British model in order to stop the democratic advance of the Communist Parties. The People's Government would reform the electoral system on the basis of proportional representation and would grant the vote at 18.
Along with all these changes the Government would carry through the democratic transformation of the state apparatus. It would begin with the civil service, the armed forces, the judiciary and the diplomatic service. All the leading figures in these services, correctly observed Laski, “... come in fact, from an extraordinarily narrow class within the community. With; individual exceptions they bring to their work an attitude which accepts the fundamental assumptions of the present social order as outside the realm of controversy". (Parliamentary Government, p. 321.)
In the civil service it is the higher administrative class, the advisers of ministers and the makers of policy, which is the key. Most of them come from the ruling class circles and were educated in the public schools and Oxford and Cambridge. Sixty-five per cent of the leading personnel in the Foreign Office came from eleven public schools.
Capitalist in social outlook and training, Tory in politics, it is idle to think that such elements would be friends of a People's Government. On the contrary, they are part and parcel of the class enemy, bound up with the capitalist system by a hundred ties.
The whole tradition and outlook of the Foreign Office since 1917 is based on enmity to the Soviet Union and the maintenance of the most reactionary feudal regimes throughout the world. Its role during Munich was notorious; and since 1945 its main concern has been to re-establish imperialism in South-East Asia, put a fascist king back on the Greek throne, sabotage the development of the People's Democracies, re-establish relations with Franco Spain, rebuild German and Japanese militarism, and cement the war alliance with the United States and generally obstruct the United Nations.
The General Staff at this moment is engaged on perfecting plans for war on the Soviet Union in association with their American opposite numbers. And they bring to this task an enthusiasm they never displayed for the opening of the Second Front. Even bourgeois constitutional authorities, with the experience of the army leaders during the Ulster rebellion and their general conduct during the First World War, question their political impartiality. "There is evidence that senior military officers ... cannot be trusted", writes Jennings. "Their 'discipline' may stop short at the highest military rank, and their 'loyalty' may not extend to the politicians who are in control."
And most important, the leadership and direction of the police, the C.I.D., Special Branch and M.1.5 make these bodies the direct oppressive instruments of the ruling class against the Labour and progressive movements. They are a Government within a Government, and one Labour leader related in his memoirs how M.I.5 simply refused to disclose to the 'first Labour Government any details of its work.
Finally, the penetration of the United States into the higher organs of the British State is an alarming new factor in the situation. Its influence through the E.C.A. on the Treasury and the Board of Trade, the control exercised over our armed forces through the Atlantic Pact organisations, the influence of the G-men in M.1.5 and the Secret Service are all additional, urgent reasons for sweeping changes.
It was commonplace in the Labour movement to say in earlier days that the people in these key positions would be changed. No such steps were taken in the Labour Governments of 1924, 1929 or 1945. Carrying out capitalist policies they felt no need to change the capitalist personnel.
Any People's Government serious about fundamental change would have to clear out those who uphold the old system in all positions of authority in the state apparatus and replace them by men and women who are determined and loyal advocates of the people’s power. It would welcome the assistance of all those officials who genuinely wished to serve the People's Government. In Ministries such as the Treasury, the Board of Trade, Labour, Education, Health, Works, etc., new leading forces would be found from the factories and the organisations of the Labour movement, the progressive sections of the professional people, economists, scientists, etc. and progressive elements already in these Ministries would be promoted. At the same time steps would be taken to train the best young people for state administrative work.
The main diplomats and section heads of the Foreign Office would be replaced by men and women who could truly reflect the entirely new era in British foreign relations which a People's Government would usher in. Above all, action would be taken to democratise the armed forces and police, to extend their democratic rights and establish full opportunities for promotion from the ranks and training for the highest positions. Those who served with distinction in the anti-fascist war and who sympathise with the People's Government would occupy the highest positions in the services. After all, the Soviet Armed Forces and the new Chinese Army operating on this basis 110 not work so badly, as the fascists learned to their cost. We have faith in the British people and its youth that such a system won't work badly here also.
The judiciary and the judicial system would be changed. Dr. Jennings has said that the law is for the most part a legacy of the day when the country was governed by a small section of the population and when the "lower orders" had no function but to obey. It was long ago admitted by Professor- Dicey that, as the law now stands, normal political controversy is' only permissible because the Government does not seek to enforce the law. He might have added, and because the people will not let them. Its bias against the trade unions and progressive movement is notorious. Sir Walter Citrine observed in a letter to The Times in 1927: "The trade union movement has little faith in either the competence or the impartiality of the courts in matters affecting organised labour". So did such an outstanding legal authority as the late Professor Geld art. In general, in every great period of social reform in Britain, notorious judicial conservatism has been a stumbling block to social progress.
Of exceptional seriousness, with the development of the crisis and the increasing war danger, is the vicious ruling class attack on the civil liberties of the people. In the years immediately before the war, the Sedition Act and the Public Order Act were passed; the 1381 legislation was used against Tom Mann and the hunger marchers. Since the war we have seen the repeated use of the Emergency Powers Act of 1921 against the workers, and the use of troops in industrial disputes, National Arbitration Order 1305, the system of purges, espionage and forced narking in the Civil Service, and the new Reserve (Auxiliary Forces) Act for the call up of Z men, which makes the most serious inroads into long-established British democratic rights. These measures have nothing to do with security. They are an attack on liberty and to their eternal dishonour the Labour Government is mainly responsible for the use of them.
Finally, the British judges are recruited from the ranks of successful lawyers who have spent the l1la.im part of their lives serving the interests of property. Of the 24 Queen's Bench Judges, 15 came from Public Schools, 19 are members of West End clubs. Is it any wonder that the attitude of 'the courts has reflected the general atmosphere in which British society has functioned these past hundred years? There is no such thing as passionless and objective justice.
The People's Government would sweep away all the old legislation which infringes the basic liberties of the people. It would recast the law of Sedition and the Emergency 'Powers Act and all such measures, so that all menaces to the people's liberty were removed. It would appoint the High Court Judges from the ranks of progressive lawyers and take steps to ensure entry into the legal profession and progress to its highest ranks from the sons of the people: Keeping the best of English law, it would overhaul the whole legal code to conform with the aims and objects of a Socialist State.
A People's Government would end the power of the millionaire press. We cannot have a real democracy or a genuine free press while the bulk of the newspapers are in the hands of a dozen .capitalist combines and press lords. How can we expect anything else than what we have got? Anti-Soviet, anti-trade-union, anti-Labour, sensational newspapers, monuments of bias, suppression, misrepresentation and misinformation. The millionaire-owned newspapers will be taken over and placed at the disposal of the working class and democratic organisations.
Of crucial importance for the working of any democracy is the broadcasting system. The B.B.C. is probably the most potent instrument of the ruling class today for waging the cold war. Real working-class expression is frozen out. The whole ideological content of its work serves to maintain capitalism and capitalist institutions. It will be transformed into an instrument expressing the interests of the people in every aspect of its work.
A key role would be performed by the trade unions, without which no People's Democracy can function. National arbitration would be abolished and full powers of collective bargaining on wages and conditions restored. They would participate in the work of the Ministry of Labour and National Insurance and ensure the operation of the labour laws. Similarly the co-operative organisations with their accumulated experience would playa responsible part in the organisation and control of distribution and supplies.
By all these measures the position within Britain would be radically transformed. Power would be transferred from the hands of an insignificant group of monopolists, as at present, to the hands of the overwhelming majority of the people headed by the working class, bringing about the radical reconstruction of the whole state structure. Long ago, Lenin observed "the proletariat alone is capable of bringing about the complete democratisation of the political and social system because such democratisation would place the system in the hands of the workers". The People's Government would do just that.
Thus after the People's Government comes to power, the radical transformation of the State structure and the democratic reconstruction of the State institutions will be carried out in the interests of the people. Parliament will be preserved, but it will be transformed, and in this new form included in the state structure of people’s democracy.
In carrying through these decisive measures to implement the democratic will of the people the utmost resistance of the capitalist class can be expected. If there is one thing that the history of the class struggle teaches, it is that the capitalist class never commits suicide. It will fight to the bitter end to try to keep its power, and when it loses power, it will in every possible way try to regain it.
All the experiences of the People's Democracies in Eastern Europe prove this; the class struggle will sharpen in every way. Our Programme, therefore, makes the most categorical warning:
"It would be wrong to believe that the big capitalists will voluntarily give up their property and their big profits in the interests of the British people. It would be more correct to expect them to offer an active resistance to the decisions of the People's Government, and to fight for the retention of their privileges by all means in their power, including force."
To all such efforts, which would be the unconstitutional flouting of the nation's democratic decision, the reply of the People's Government will be, and must be, unhesitating and effective. The People’s Government will rely, above all, on the strength of the organised working class to support it in all the necessary measures to overcome any effort to overthrow it and thus wipe out the democratic verdict of the people.
Socialist Nationalisation and the Use of Britain's Resources
Socialist nationalisation, as our Programme says, "is the cornerstone of the economic policy of the People's Government". By taking over the great -industries, the banks, and the land, it breaks the economic power of the monopolists once and for all, puts industry in the hands of the people, finishes capitalist profit making, ensures the control of our national life and makes socialist economic planning a reality. Britain will be changed decisively from a capitalist country to one on the road to Socialism.
Our Programme proposes:
"All large-scale industry and transport, the banks, monopoly-owned wholesale and retail trading concerns, as well as large landed property, will be brought under social ownership by the People's State.
"The National Debt and stock representing compensation for industries previously nationalised will be annulled. Where concerns are taken over or stock is annulled, there will be partial compensation to those who do not resist the policy of the People's Government, but no compensation to those who resist the People's Government.”
The so-called "mixed economy" of the Labour Government was already visibly breaking down before the election. It was neither socialist nor democratic. Their capitalist nationalisation measures covered only a small section of industry, most of it, such as coal, steel and railways already bankrupt and left the great industries in private and capitalist hands.
Exploitation continued as fiercely as ever before, the previous profits of the ex-owners returning to them in the form of interest on compensation the first charge on the nationalised industries, some £80 million a year guaranteed by the State. The old capitalists and bureaucratic management remained the directors and managers of' the new nationalised industries with a few right-wing trade union officials thrown in for luck. Almost half of the 131 members of the central nationalised boards hold directorships in private industry and of the remainder twenty-three are knights, nine are landlords. A People's Government would sack the lot.
As before, the workers were frozen out of management, wage increases were resisted and the unions had to threaten strike action to improve conditions. Dissatisfaction among the workers was rampant.
In industry as a whole, the system of so-called "controls" was directed by the big monopolists and the so-called democratic planning was a farce. Profits and prices soared, .and real wages declined. The controls were evaded right and left, proved more and more unworkable, and were virtually abandoned in practice. Finally, nationalisation as a policy was abandoned. The present set-up with the monopolists in control of eighty per cent of industry in the opinion of the Labour leaders was to last forever.
Far from a voiding disruption and crisis, the whole system staggered from one crisis to another in foreign trade and home production and trade. Finally with rearmament and the end of the post-war boom an economic slump was threatening the whole economy.
Even before the defeat of the Labour Government therefore the bankruptcy of the so-called mixed economy was evident. It was the old capitalist system with the flimsiest of disguises.
Socialist nationalisation would eliminate the exploitation of the workers, and end the burden of profit rent and interest. The People's Government, however, would pay partial compensation to those previous share and stockholders who do not resist its policy. Such shareholders prepared to facilitate these just social changes would thus receive fair treatment from the Government, but those who resist will not get, and do not deserve, a penny. The small people need not fear that they will be left penniless. It is the big monopolist who is the enemy. As the People's Government will also annul National Debt Stock on the same basis it will relieve the Budget of a large part of the burden of £580 million a year. It could use the money thus saved to give the old age pensioners the decent pension they deserve.
The Boards of the new socialist concerns would be composed entirely of workers and technicians. All proposals, economic plans and targets would be placed before the workers for discussion and joint decision. The democratic participation of the workers and the unions in management would be ensured from top to bottom. With capitalist profit and control abolished, the unions and the workers could really become the driving force for raising production, for every increase in production would mean a higher standard of living for all.
All these measures will free society from the restrictive fetters of capitalism which have held it back. They will usher in a great new period of the swift development of British industry and trade. With the immense social wealth hitherto stolen in capitalist profit we can re-equip and reorganise our industries. Our socialist economic plan will do for Britain what Stalin's construction schemes are doing for the Soviet Union. With the landlords out of the way, the slums will be cleared, and new planned cities will arise. Six million more acres will be brought into cultivation. Schemes discussed for years under capitalism, such as the Severn barrage and Forth Road Bridge, will become living reality. We will electrify the railways, modern machines will replace back-aching toil, and we will master the application of atomic power to productive use.
Above all our great socialist national plan to increase the productive resources will bring about far-reaching improvements in the wages and conditions of all those who work, reduce prices, extend all social services and end forever the danger of economic crisis and unemployment.
Social and Cultural Advance
In order to make the people pay for rearmament an all-out attack has been launched by the Tories against the social services, and a decisive effort is being made to change the whole character of the so-called Welfare State in accordance with a far-reaching Tory plan.
When the Labour Government placed a financial ceiling on these services they took the first serious step fundamentally to undermine them and slashed their effective value by ten per cent. Now the Tories are carrying forward the attack begun by the Labour leaders by cutting education, the health service, housing, and the food subsidies.
They are now out to end the idea of the universality of the services, the conception that they should be available without charge to anyone irrespective of income. They are re-introducing the Poor House approach, service without charge only to those in direct need.
Charges for the services are being extended into a general principle with steep increases in the insurance contributions so that the people pay twice over. At every stage the Means Test is being introduced. Instead of the Welfare State we are getting the Means Test State.
There is a steady, systematic reduction in the existing services and, of course, an automatic and continuous reduction in the real value of all social service payments and benefits due to rising prices. Finally, there is the complete abandonment of the wider perspectives solemnly agreed to long ago; the abandonment of the raising of the school age to 16 and the County Colleges, the abandonment of the Health Centres and the industrial health service, etc.
The People's Government would not only save the social services from creeping death but would raise them to great new heights. Because of its policy of socialist nationalisation and rapidly expanding socialist production and wealth, annulment of the national debt and slashing of the armaments burden, it would:
Solve the housing question and clear the slums by a great housing programme and by taking over empty or half-empty houses for the people.
End the system of workers' contributions to social insurance. All will be paid by socialist industry and the State and all benefits raised to levels necessary for a decent life.
Develop the existing Health Service into a comprehensive, free service, building the necessary hospitals and health centres for this purpose.
Transform the existing class education service into a single comprehensive service from primary school to university, with the necessary new schools and buildings.
Introduce the principle of equal pay for causal work and provide the necessary facilities so that women can play their full part in the life of the nation.
Make the health, welfare and development of the youth the first charge on the nation's resources, and it is to the youth above all that the People's Government will turn for the driving force for the new society.
The Communist Party issues this Programme in no sectional spirit, but for consideration by the entire Labour movement and especially by those who, alarmed by right-wing policy, are seeking a new way of socialist advance. The way to achieve the Programme lies in the united action of the working people. That is the call of the Communist Party.
We Communists have no separate interests from the rest of the working class, the organised Labour movement and the working people. We work for the unity of all sections behind the People's Government to end the rule of the rich and to march forward to Socialism.
The Communist Party unites in its ranks, our Programme says, the vanguard of the militant working-class socialist fighters, inheriting the traditions of generations of democratic and working-class struggle. Its policy and programme is based on the impregnable foundation of Marxist theory, enriched and developed by Lenin and Stalin. History has shown that Marxism is the theory and practice that brings victory and Socialism. History proves that without such a Party the battle for Socialism cannot be won.
Go forward boldly to recruit to and build the Party. To the degree we build it, the quicker this great Programme will be transmitted from a paper document to glowing, living reality.
We face the days ahead with the confidence of our class that the future belongs to us, the new developing force. The old rulers of Britain are the representatives of a dying, decaying, social order. They dare not look forward, they can only look back. For them it is the terrible twentieth century, the century of the common people and of Socialism. With but half the century gone, a third of the world is socialist. Before it ends, Socialism will embrace the entire world.
And Britain will yet be in the van. The greatest pages in our history
have yet to be written and we will write them as our people march along
THE BRITISH ROAD TO SOCIALISM.
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