|CP women’s organiser Liz Payne attended the 15th International Meeting of Communist and Workers’ Parties in Lisbon hosted by the Portuguese Communist Party. At the meeting she took part in the debate on priorities and challenges facing the communist and workers’ movement. This speech first appeared on the CP website.
It is an honour to attend this meeting and to bring greetings from the Communist Party of Britain.
This annual meeting is of particular importance to small Communist parties such as ours. The existence of a unified world movement provides critical encouragement and support.
The Communist parties gathered here struggle in different circumstance. But all are ultimately united in seeking to achieve socialism.
Our internationalism and unity is a key part of our strength as Communists.
The Communist Party of Britain is indeed small – and we have to struggle against a ruling class that still represents one of the great centres of imperialist power.
Today, however, the British ruling class is itself weak and parasitic.
I want to focus on the contradictions it faces – which Communists and their allies seek to exploit.
British finance capital has only a very limited base in productive industry. Its ability to exploit depends disproportionately on finance. Its international power rests on its long-term alliance with the US. US banks use London to control financial markets in Europe.
Politically Britain’s role in the EU is to defend these banking interests and to ensure that the EU is tied to the wider geo-political objectives of the US and NATO.
What are the contradictions that arise ?
The extent of financialisation has meant that Britain is still saddled with a mountain of commercial and financial debt. Over 400 per cent of GDP. Far higher than any other major imperialist power.
Investment in the wider economy has collapsed.
The government’s response has been two-fold.
One is to seek to resolve the crisis at the expense of working people: to deepen exploitation still further. Real wages have been cut by over 11 per cent since 2008: more than anywhere else in Europe apart from Greece and Portugal.
The other is to impose cuts in public expenditure that again match the worst elsewhere in Europe. Equivalent to 10 per cent of GDP. The object is to cut labour’s social wage but, even more, to give the government the funds to bail-out the banks when the next crash occurs.
The result has been to prolong Britain’s recession indefinitely. Its economy remains 3 per cent smaller than it was in 2008.
However, this has in turn brought significant political challenges for finance capital in Britain.
First, its own wider political base is eroding. Small business, the self-employed and the traditionally xenophobic sections of the working class are deserting to support the anti-immigrant, anti-EU UKIP.
Second, the trade union movement has moved to the Left threatening the role of the Labour Party as the alternative government for finance capital – a party that under Blair served as the advance guard of US imperialism.
This change was illustrated in the historic vote in parliament this September when the Labour leadership was obliged to oppose armed intervention in Syria.
The ruling class response has been to attack the organisational and financial links that still exist between the trade unions and the Labour Party. In order to end the threat of further working class mobilisation, it wants to depoliticise the trade unions and fully capture the Labour Party.
In terms of its own electoral base it has imposed racist anti-immigrant policies and taken a posture of criticising the EU.
But let there be no mistake. It is only a posture. The Conservative Party has no intention of pulling out of the EU. The Americans would not let them. Finance capital would not let them.
Instead, the Conservatives intend to use the threat of an EU referendum to extract further concessions on behalf of the City of London. Currently Cameron is forging a tactical alliance with Germany to push for even harsher anti-working class policies across the EU.
This is why the Communist Party of Britain opposes the EU and supports withdrawal.
We see the EU as representing the collective interests of the imperialist powers within Europe including our own ruling class and its US allies. The EU is systemically bound to big business policies. It represents the interests of the most powerful monopoly capitalist states against the peoples of Europe. Its further integration is designed to destroy the potential for democratic transformation and popular sovereignty within the nations of Europe.
Today our task as Communists in Britain is to win an understanding of these class forces: to be at the forefront of the mass defensive struggles but at the same time expose the nature of our ruling class and exploit the contradictions within its base.
We back the People’s Assembly movement. This is led by the trade unions and aims to unite organised and unorganised workers, local communities, the women’s movement, peace and ecology – and to do so in struggles to develop the principles of anti-capitalist democracy and public democratic ownership.
In this work we are immensely strengthened by the existence of the wider Communist movement, by the achievement of Communists and their allies elsewhere.