Skip to content Communist Party of Greece

Personal tools
You are here: Home » International meetings » Meetings of communnist & workers' parties » European Communist Meeting 2011 » Contribution of the Communist Party of Britain

Contribution of the Communist Party of Britain

April 11-12 2010

Robert Griffiths
General Secretary, Communist Party of Britain

Across the developed capitalist world, ruling classes are conducting an offensive against the working class to ensure that workers and their families pay for resolving capitalism's economic and financial crisis.

Assisted in many different ways by the state, monopoly capital's profitability is being restored or expanded.

Ruling class policies are very similar in many countries: deep cuts in public services and social and welfare programmes; cuts in wages, social benefits and pension entitlements; the privatisation of public sector industries and services that are potentially lucrative for monopoly capital; and new restrictions on trade union and workers' rights.

This offensive has been underway in Britain since early 2009, when our party published a pamphlet warning the working class and peoples of England, Wales and Scotland about the policies being prepared for them by political parties, business organisations and various right-wing 'think tanks', regardless of who won the forthcoming General Election.

No political party won an overall majority in June 2010, leading to discussions between the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats, and between the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats.

Even before the formation of the Conservative-LibDem coalition, the leading finance capitalists in the City of London were warning any incoming British government that public spending must be slashed even more than planned by the outgoing Labour government - or the City would lose confidence in government bonds, Britain would lose its 'AAA' credit rating, interest rates would rocket and the British economy would collapse.

The new coalition government moved quickly. In its June 2010 emergency budget and the October 2010 Comprehensive Spending Review, it added £73 billion of public spending cuts to the £120 billion already announced by Labour for the period to 2015.

This was at a time when Britain's financial deficit and its consolidated National Debt was roughly equal to that of France and Germany, and below that of Japan and the USA.

In fact, Britain's National Debt - as a proportion of GDP - was lower in 2009 than it had been in 200 of the past 250 years.

But now, over the next four years, there will be reductions in central government current spending of 29 per cent in environmental and rural affairs; 27 per cent in local government (including education, social care, youth services and libraries); 24 per cent in culture, broadcasting and sport; 21 per cent in transport; 18 per cent in energy and climate change; and 7 per cent in state pensions and benefits. Total capital spending is being slashed by 29 per cent.

These cuts will hit not only workers and their families, but many people in the intermediate strata, too, such as the self-employed and middle managers.

Most public sector workers are having their pay frozen for a minimum of two years. So far, 132,000 jobs have been scrapped in the public sector; at one million more jobs will be lost, half of them among private sector contractors.

The coalition government claims that the private sector will create more than enough employment to compensate. But the reality is that the economy in Britain is stagnant, with the OECD and the government itself revising levels of projected economic growth downwards.

According to the widely-quoted Institute for Fiscal Studies, the majority of people in Britain have already experienced the biggest drop in their living standards since the early 1980s.

The governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, estimates that they will go on to suffer the biggest fall since the 1920s. He wonders why people in Britain are not more angry.

I think there are three reasons.

The first is the weakness of a revolutionary political culture in what is the classic land of the 'labour aristocracy', and of what Lenin called the 'bourgeois Labour Party'.

Even now, the Labour Party leadership is deeply compromised by its own policies when in office. The present government can point to Labour's plans to part-privatise the health, education, prison and postal services, and argue that it is seeking to carry forward the same process of 'reform' - which is code for importing markets and private capital into the public sector.

When the Conservative-led coalition carries out the wishes of big business and seeks to further restrict the right to strike, it will build on existing anti-trade union laws which the last Labour government refused to repeal.

A second factor is the power of the mass media in Britain, much of which is owned by ruthless monopolists who take every opportunity to attack public services, trade unions, strikes, the left and even centre-ground politicians who fail to support completely the big business agenda.

For more than a year, the mass media have been blaming public spending, public sector wages and pensions, social benefit claimants and the previous Labour government for what it describes as the 'calamitous' state of Britain's public finances.

This is how skilled our long-serving ruling class in Britain is at fooling most of the people, most of the time.

Even today, many workers believe these myths to some extent, although they also hold 'greedy' bankers responsible for the banking crisis.

A third factor is that most of the cuts have yet to happen. While libraries, day care centres for children and the elderly, community arts groups, youth clubs and bus services are beginning to shut down, far worse is still to come. Some social benefits are being frozen or cut, but the impact will deepen as household fuel, food, public transport and petrol prices continue to rise.

Price indexes used by the government indicate that inflation is running at between 4 and 6 per cent a year. A working class price index, reflecting what workers and their families spend their money on, would show an inflation rate nearer to 12 per cent.

The Communist Party of Britain is sure that public opinion will move even more quickly and strongly against Conservative policies this year and next.

It will be important to build broad-based campaigns in local communities with this in mind, with patience and perseverance. The Trades Councils which bring local trade union branches from different unions together have a vital role to play in such developments, helping to unite workers and their unions with those who use and rely upon local services.

We support moves to coordinate militant action between the unions in the public sector, overcoming sectionalism and sectarianism.

This is likely to begin soon with strikes in support public sector pensions. It needs to develop more generally into action to defend services and jobs, bringing private sector workers and local communities out in solidarity.

We are raising the need for general strike action, once sufficient momentum has been built up. Recent strike waves in the construction industry have shown that anti-union laws can be made inoperable when workers are united, strong and determined enough to defy them.

In the ideological struggle, the Communist Party and the daily socialist paper the Morning Star are arguing that no cuts in public services, pensions or benefits are necessary.

Britain has the sixth biggest economy in the world. The British capitalist class is enormously wealthy.

That's why we call for a wealth tax, a windfall tax on monopoly profits in particular industries, a levy on financial transactions in the City of London, the closure of all tax havens under British jurisdiction, price controls, nationalisation of the whole financial sector and the return of public transport and the energy utilities to public ownership of a new, democratic, progressive kind.

This Left-Wing Programme is also reflected in the key demands of the People's Charter, an initiative launched by the Communist Party and its allies, and now the official policy of the Trades Union Congress.

We are urging the the trade unions, some of the biggest of which are under left-wing leadership, to help build and lead an alliance of all the forces that can be mobilised against the British government's austerity programme, including the reinvigorated students' movement.

This could be, in embryo, the kind of popular, democratic anti-monopoly alliance envisaged in the new draft of the Communist Party's programme, Britain's Road to Socialism.

We are insisting that this movement cannot be held back in order not to embarrass the Labour Party leadership. Instead, the mass movement must add to trade union pressure on that leadership to adopt left policies.

But its primary objective must be to challenge the policies of the Conservative-LibDem coalition, and bring down an illegitimate government - for which nobody voted - at the earliest opportunity.

This, the Communist Party's approach, is projected by the Morning Star which now enjoys unprecedented practical and financial support from Britain's trade unions. For example, they financed the production of an extra 30,000 copies of a 48-page full-colour paper for the great TUC demonstration on March 26, all of which were distributed free of charge to the marchers.

We also highlight the role of the European Union, the Commission, the European Central Bank and the councils of ministers in seeking to impose austerity programmes and privatisation across the continent, in collusion with the financial markets. Although not in the euro-zone, Britain is an integral part of the process, with British governments submitting their 'national reform programmes' and stability and convergence reports to the EU for approval.

Our party believes that the time is ripe to give renewed emphasis to the demand for British withdrawal from the European Union.

The reactionary character of the EU, embedded in its fundamental treaties and institutions, is becoming clearer for workers and their unions.

The militarisation of the EU, through the Common Foreign and Defence Policy and the 'European pillar' of NATO, adds to the urgency of challenging and dismantling both alliances.

In our view, the NATO intervention in Libya is intended to insert Western imperialist influence into the popular movement spreading across North Africa and the Middle East, with a view to asserting control over vital oil and gas resources and supply routes.

As such, it expresses some key aspects of the new strategic concept adopted at the November 2010 NATO summit in Lisbon, drawing the European imperialist powers into the centre of political and military operations and extending 'out of area' operations.

In Britain, there is widespread public unease about this latest war. People are told that it is a limited, humanitarian intervention in favour of civilian rebels against a brutal regime. But the lies and hypocrisy used to justify the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are still fresh in people's minds.

Britain's Communists also point out that - whatever the state of Britain's public finances - the ruling class will always find enough money for imperialist war.

Later this year, a Morning Star conference is being held on the need for Britain to have an independent foreign and defence policy, with no role for NATO membership or nuclear weapons. This is already an approach favoured by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, but we need to involve the trade unions in developing such a policy for the labour movement.

We would certainly welcome a discussion among Communist and workers' parties in Europe about greater coordination of the struggles against EU and NATO policies, and about perspectives for replacing them with new forms of international cooperation which reflect the interests of the working class and the people - and not those of monopoly capital and imperialism.

Home | News | Campaigns | About KKE | Documents | International Meetings | On the EU | Theory & Socialism | Other Articles | About Greece | Photos / Music | Printings | Red Links | Contacts

Communist Party of Greece – Central Committee
145 leof.Irakliou, Gr- 14231 Athens tel:(+30) 210 2592111 - fax: (+30) 210 2592298 - e-mail:

Powered by Plone