General Secretary Robert Griffiths delivered the Political Report to the first meeting of the Communist Party’s new Executive Committee on 21 January 2017 outlining the international and domestic political situation and the tasks facing Britain’s Communists.
There is an ancient and well-worn Chinese saying: ‘May you live in interesting times’. What is not so well-known – at least outside China – is that this is meant as a curse, not a blessing.
After the inauguration of Donald Trump as US President, we can be sure that we live not only in interesting times, but in dangerous times as well.
He has taken office on a minority vote, but having won substantial support among sections of the working class with promises of private and public sector investment, more jobs and higher wages.
Trump’s Nationalist Appeal
His ‘America First’ appeal has been a nationalist one to the insecurity, despair and racism of different sections of the American people. This nationalism – rather like that of UKIP and the Tory right – is not a progressive patriotism of the kind identified by Lenin, which takes pride in the struggles and achievements of one’s compatriots against exploitation and oppression. Rather, it’s a perversion of patriotism, appealing to the most backward and reactionary of national feelings and traditions.
Trump’s economic, social and foreign policy programme also includes more tax cuts for the rich and big business, scrapping the Obamacare health insurance scheme, massively extending drilling rights for oil and shale gas, a crack-down on inner-city crime, the mass deportation of illegal immigrants, a wall to keep out Mexicans, blatant discrimination to keep out Muslims, measures to limit imports that could lead to a trade war with China, and a major expansion of US military power.
Some of these policies will, sooner or later, dash the hopes of those millions of working class electors who rejected Hillary Clinton’s pro-Wall Street, pro-globalisation agenda.
Their industries are unlikely to be rebuilt and their jobs will not be restored by the capitalist free-market jungle in which ruthless and predatory beasts such as Trump and his Cabinet members prosper. His newly appointed Director of the National Economic Council was the President of Goldman Sachs, the ubiquitous merchant bankers, and a former commodities gambler. The new Treasury Secretary had also worked for Goldman Sachs before heading a notorious hedge fund that foreclosed on homeowners during the sub-prime mortgage crash. Trump’s Labour Secretary, the CEO of a major fast food and restaurant chain, rejects any increase in the federal minimum wage.
There will be many disillusioned unemployed or low paid workers who mistakenly placed their faith in Trump and who, in future, will be looking for scapegoats.
The new President’s nationalist and xenophobic rhetoric – and the measures that flow from it – will deepen racial divisions in American society, intensifying the prejudice and discrimination aimed at black and ethnic minority citizens. They should not expect too much support from the new Attorney General, who has a history of friendly relations with the Ku Klux Klan while opposing civil liberties groups, voter registration drives and immigration.
Within hours of occupying the White House, Trump staffers had taken down web pages proclaiming LGBT, BME and civil rights and the need to combat global warming. In their place now are proposals to strengthen the police and ‘homeland security’ and to promote fossil fuels.
Threats to peace and the environment
On the international front, the most immediate impact of Trump’s accession will most likely be felt in Cuba, Latin America and the Middle East.
He may well re-freeze US relations with Cuba, while maintaining the economic and financial embargo not lifted by his predecessor. We can also expect the imperialist counter-offensive against left and progressive governments in Venezuela and other Latin American countries to intensify.
The work of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign and similar movements in Britain is far from finished.
In the Middle East, the Trump regime will lend uncritical support to the Israeli government and its genocidal policies against the Palestinian people. He will seek to undermine the recent UN support for a two-state solution and the creation of a sovereign state of Palestine alongside Israel.
The announcement yesterday of his intention to build a missile defence shield against a possible nuclear attack from Iran will further destabilise the region. Make no mistake, this would be an offensive measure against a non-existent threat. The real purpose of such a shield is to enable the US or Israel to launch a first strike at Iran without fear of retaliation by any kind of missile, whether nuclear or conventional.
Almost certainly, the immediate effect of announcing the shield will be to strengthen the reactionary regime in Tehran itself.
President Trump seeks a rapprochement with Russia, perhaps seeing in President Putin a kindred spirit – ruthless and authoritarian – with whom he can ‘do business’.
Both declare a common cause in the defeat of Islamic fundamentalist terrorism in Syria and elsewhere. That would, of course, be in humanity’s interests. But it also begs the question: what kind of rule will be installed in the wake of US and Russian military intervention, and in whose interests?
Moreover, ruling circles in the USA and Russia, as in Britain and France, also see this struggle against Islamic fundamentalism as a prime opportunity to restrict civil and political liberties at home in order to prosecute the ongoing ‘war on terror’.
Certainly, Trump’s intelligence chiefs and his Secretary of the Interior are not best known for any commitment to civil or even human rights. The newly appointed Director of the CIA openly supports the use of torture against detainees.
A more fundamental motive for any Trump-Putin rapprochement would be economic.
One of the new US President’s earliest appointments as Secretary of State, responsible for foreign policy, was Rex Tillerson. As the Chief Executive of Exxon Mobil, Tillerson has negotiated extensive agreements with the Russian state oil corporation Rosneft to drill for and extract oil in Siberia and the Arctic. Work there has been halted by Western sanctions against Russia on the questions of Crimea and the Ukraine, but Trump and Tillerson understand the enormous potential for profit-making in some of the biggest sectors of the Russian economy. In return, Putin and Rosneft want the most advanced technology that only companies such as Exxon Mobil can provide.
A short-term marriage of convenience between Trump and Putin might also be intended to drive a wedge between Russia and China, so that the US regime can concentrate its fire on the latter.
The bellicose outbursts from Trump about Taiwan, and from NATO chiefs about Chinese ‘expansionism’ – into the South China Sea! – should sound the alarm bells for all who care about world peace.
Real expansionism is the spread of US and NATO military installations and operations across much of the globe, including military bases in Diego Garcia, Afghanistan, Japan, Thailand, South Korea, Singapore, Australia, the Pacific Islands, Iraq, the Gulf States, Kosovo, Turkey, the Caribbean including Cuba, Djibouti, Greenland, Western Europe and now in much of eastern Europe and the Baltic States.
China has no bases outside its own territory. Its foreign policy is based on peaceful co-existence, mutually beneficial economic relations and collective security through the United Nations.
But Trump’s proposal yesterday to install a missile defence shield against a possible nuclear attack from North Korea will ramp up tension across the whole region.
We should have confidence in China’s Communist Party and government not to rise to provocations from the Trump administration and NATO.
We should not be fooled by Trump’s disparagement of NATO. He will be brought into line with US imperialism’s military strategy, and his call for higher arms spending by other NATO members will – if conceded – enable him to divert some of the US military budget into his missile defence project.
Our responsibility, meanwhile, is to redouble our work in the peace and anti-war movements to expose the machinations of US and British imperialism; to oppose the renewed US-NATO drive to global ‘full spectrum’ military dominance of land, sea, air and space; and to call for Britain’s exit from NATO and the closure of US military bases here. In particular, we must take definite steps – including the allocation of Executive Committee members – to rebuild the Peace Assembly as Britain’s affiliate to the anti-imperialist World Peace Council.
Trump and his administration represent some of the most reactionary circles of US finance monopoly capital. But that Cabinet and his policies contain contradictions. Some of his appointees support the Paris Climate Change Treaty, perhaps appreciating its weaknesses and limitations rather than its positive points and potential. There are divisions, too, over such issues as free trade and protectionism, rapprochement with Russia and gay and reproductive rights.
Mass struggle will help bring those contradictions to the fore. With that in view, we are sending a message of solidarity to the Communist Party of the USA and our best wishes in the battles to come. We also applaud the mass women’s marches across the USA and around the world for social justice and the environment, and against the sexism, racism and xenophobia reflected in the words and deeds of the 45th – and possible most dangerous – US President.
The Tory Brexit
It is clear that the Tory regime of Theresa May – unelected in any General Election – seeks to use Britain’s exit from the European Union to intensify neoliberal policies, while claiming to represent the interests of people ‘left behind’ by globalisation, many of whom voted Leave in last June’s EU referendum.
Closer economic relations with the US may provide the opportunity for a trade deal enshrining the same pro-big business principles as those contained in the stalled (and possibly doomed) Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the USA and the EU.
Far from defending the many millions of people left behind by capitalist globalisation, the Tory government will continue to cut or privatise public services, hold down wages and restrict trade union and employment rights.
But those on the left and in the labour movement who support membership of the EU and the European Single Market should be under no illusion. These Tory policies would be coming at us whatever the result on June 23 last year. And membership of the European Union or the European Single Market will no more stop them over the next few years than it has stopped any of the cuts, privatisations and anti-trade union laws inflicted on the working class and peoples of Britain since Thatcher was first elected Prime Minister in 1979.
The Communist Party and its allies in the EU referendum campaign have no illusions whatsoever about the capitalist, imperialist and anti-democratic character of the EU, which makes it incapable of fundamental reform.
The City of London’s financial institutions, the Bank of England, the Confederation of British Industry, the Institute of Directors, the International Monetary Fund, the EU Commission, the European Central Bank and NATO all understand that membership of the EU serves the interests of big business and imperialism and should be maintained.
These are the powerful forces – backed by an illiberal intellectual elite – that have sought to undermine the legitimacy of the referendum result and frustrate its implementation.
Their fall-back position has been to keep Britain enmeshed in membership of the European Single Market with its rules requiring the ‘free movement’ of capital, goods, services and people across the EU and, for capital, across the world.
In her recent speeches at Lancaster House and Davos, May appears to have accepted that public opinion, including many who voted to remain in the EU, is strongly in favour of respecting the sovereignty of the people and implementing the result; that many who voted Leave are also opposed to remaining in the Single Market, especially with its ‘free movement’ of cheap and super-exploited labour; and that neither German Chancellor Merkel nor the various unelected ‘presidents’ of the EU are prepared to compromise substantially on the ‘free market’ and ‘free movement’ principles.
So now, the May government is outlining its perspective of a Britain open to free trade with the rest of the world, cutting taxes and regulations in order to attract companies and capital to Britain as an offshore tax haven; a Britain where almost everything is up for sale, labour is ultra-flexible, unions are shackled and the interests of a largely unregulated financial sector continue to predominate.
In Scotland, the SNP government is prepared to leave the British ‘single market’ which accounts for 85 per cent of that country’s trade, in order to remain in an EU market which accounts for 10 per cent or less.
Neither of these neoliberal perspectives will rebuild industry in England, Scotland or Wales. Nor will they rescue the NHS and local government services from further rapid disintegration and collapse. Nor will they build the millions of new affordable homes that we need – and which can only be guaranteed through public sector investment and provision.
Nor will they ensure the investment required in safe, non-nuclear, renewable energy supplies for the future – a vital task that cannot be left to the profiteering whims of the private sector.
Only a sustained upsurge in popular and industrial action will block the May regime’s policies, and create the conditions in which a left-led government can be elected to office as envisaged in the Communist Party’s programme, Britain’s Road to Socialism.
The mass demonstrations on March 4 (‘It’s Our NHS: No Cuts, No Closures, No Privatisations’) and March 18 (‘Stand Up to Racism’) will step up the pressure on the Tories and UKIP. As well as promoting the Morning Star at those events, special issues of the Communist Party’s bulletin Unity! will project the case for a ‘People’s Exit’ and our programme of meetings.
On the electoral front, there must be active support for left and progressive Labour candidates in the forthcoming Copeland and Stoke Central parliamentary by-elections on February 23. At the same time, Communist Party branches should seek to maximise the number of Communist candidates fighting in the council and mayoral elections across England, Wales and Scotland on May 4 on a platform of opposing cuts and privatisation, rescuing the NHS and replacing the council tax with local direct taxation and equalised central funding.
A People’s Brexit
Jeremy Corbyn’s important speech in Peterborough on January 10 displayed some of the signposts towards such a ‘People’s Exit’ from the EU.
A future Labour government in Britain must be free of EU rules and any TTIP-style agreements with the EU, USA or anyone else, so that it can intervene decisively to rebalance, rebuild and modernise the economy. Together with the Scottish and Welsh governments in a federal Britain, it must have the powers and resources to:
- take strategic industries and services into public ownership;
- direct regional economic development;
- limit the export of capital and the import of particular commodities;
- set the terms of public sector contracts;
- enforce fairer pay and prevent the super-exploitation of imported labour; and to
- end Britain’s racist immigration controls which discriminate against non-Europeans.
Now this case must be raised more clearly and forcefully in the labour and progressive movements. That’s why the Communist Party will organise a series of Communist Party public meetings in every district and nation in April, May and June to project this perspective of a ‘People’s Exit’, against the Tory and UKIP one of austerity, privatisation and so-called ‘free markets’ dominated by big business monopolies.
We will invite speakers from the Portuguese, German and Irish communist parties to address these meetings alongside our allies in the labour movement, on the left and in such bodies as the Indian Workers Association and the Bangladeshi Workers Council. Of course, the meetings must be thoroughly prepared and publicised by our party centrally and locally.
Members of the CP Executive Committee are also taking the lead in disseminating the main resolution of our party’s 54th Congress – ‘Block the Ruling Class Offensive and Win a Left-led Government’ – throughout the Party and across the labour and progressive movements.
Celebrating Socialism and Communism
This year will mark the centenary of the Great October Socialist Revolution and the 150th anniversary of the publication of Das Kapital, which Karl Marx himself rightly described as ‘the most terrible missile that has yet been hurled at the heads of the bourgeoisie’.
Communist Party local, district and national organisation will organise events to celebrate the Bolshevik Revolution and the historic national and international achievements of the Soviet Union. 2017 is the year to proclaim afresh that socialism alone will guarantee the future of humanity and of our planet.
We Communists are the original internationalists, and we continue to proclaim the closing words of Marx and Engels in the original Manifesto of the Communist Party: ‘Workers of all lands, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains! You have a world to win!’
The CP Executive Committee meeting also decided to:
- Support the call for an official investigation into the activities of the Israeli embassy in Britain, including the character assassination of pro-Palestinian MPs and the deployment of Israeli agents and funds inside the Labour, Conservative and other political parties.
- Highlight the role of women in the Russian revolutions of 1917 at events this year to celebrate International Women’s Day and the Great October Socialist Revolution.
- Urge support for the Marx Oration at Highgate Cemetery on March 19, to be delivered by Venezuelan Ambassador Rocío Maneiro.
- Elect its officers for 2017-19, including: Liz Payne (chair), Ruth Styles (vice-chair), Robert Griffiths (general secretary), Graham Stevenson (trade union organiser) and John Foster (international secretary).
- Publish new pamphlets on immigration, the EU, China and Marxist philosophy.
- Thank CP members and supporters for raising more than the £10,000 target in the party’s Big Red Appeal.