Address to 56th Congress of CP by general secretary Robert Griffiths – 6 November 2021

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Comrades, esteemed guests from overseas, from embassies in Britain and from Communist and workers’ parties domiciled here,

Our 56th Congress opens today in a world ravaged by exploitation, oppression, militarism, war and the crisis of global warming and climate change.

Yet only two decades ago, US President George Bush Sr and other Western leaders were telling us that the human race stood on the threshold of a new era of cooperation, peace and development.

The Soviet Union had disintegrated. Supposedly Western values of ‘democracy’ and ‘free enterprise’ had triumphed. The world’s poorest peoples would henceforth benefit from a ‘peace dividend’ now that the so-called ‘Red Menace’ was no more.

The World Doomsday Clock, once set at three minutes to midnight, was turned back to 17 minutes.

But today, according to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, the human race stands at just 100 seconds to midnight – closer than ever to Armageddon.

How different the prospects for planet Earth and its peoples are today!

Why? Because, in reality, this remains a world still dominated by giant monopoly corporations and the states that protect and promote their interests.

These are the same forces of capitalism and imperialism that prompted Rosa Luxemburg to pose the question from her First World War prison cell: what shall be the future for humanity: ‘Socialism or Barbarism’?

The contradictions of a system driven by the need to maximise corporate profit erupt at every level, from the global to the continental, the national, the regional and the local.

In a world that has the capacity to feed, clothe, house, educate and care for everyone, billions of people go to bed hungry, hundreds of millions – the majority of them women and girls – are illiterate, many millions die every year of preventable or curable diseases. Hundreds of millions of migrants have abandoned their homes and communities in order to escape famine, oppression or war.

Even in the wealthiest countries of Europe and North America, problems of poverty, unemployment and inadequate or unaffordable housing are rife. Yet the super-wealthy are richer than ever.

The Covid pandemic has starkly exposed these inequalities and injustices. Even in the most developed societies with their health and welfare systems, the poorer and more vulnerable sections of the population have been struck down in their millions.

Among the 30 countries with the highest rate of Covid deaths per head of population are the US, Britain, Italy and Belgium as well as Tunisia, Brazil, Peru and Argentina. Most strikingly, former socialist countries comprise half of that 30, their public health and medical services slashed or privatised.

Altogether, more than 230 million people have been infected around the world and five million have died. Meanwhile the ‘Big Pharma’ drug coprorations have grown ever fatter on the public money pumped into them to produce life-saving anti-virals.

For example, AstraZenica, Pfizer-Biontech and Moderna have received Western government subsidies amounting to more than £2bn while making profits so far of at least £10bn from sales totalling £30bn (mostly to to public authorities).

Although the Covid pandemic will pass, the predatory interaction between human beings and the natural world seems bound to create more – and quite possibly deadlier – viruses.

Where once the time on the Doomsday Clock was determined primarily by the threat of nuclear war, today that minute-hand is being relentessly pushed forward by greenhouse gas emissions, global warming and the looming prospect of calamitous climate change.

Comrades,

Let’s face the truth. Communists and socialists have – with honourable exceptions – been slow to recognise the extent of this threat to many of the world’s poorest and most marginalised peoples.

Yet it is the ruthless drive of the capitalist monopolies to maximise profit, depleting the Earth’s natural resources without thought to conservation, recycling or renewability, that has ruptured what Karl Marx called the ‘bond of union’ between humanity and nature.

In particular, he wondered why in London, ‘they find no better use for the excretion of 41/2 million human beings than to contaminate the Thames with it at heavy expense’.

One hundred and fifty years later, and Thames Water is still doing it.

But now the environmental crisis is even more serious than the pollution of our rivers and oceans. It encompasses deforestation, soil erosion, desertification, melting polar icecaps and rising sea levels.

Over the past week in Glasgow, we have seen the COP26 summit of world leaders attempting to address the climate emergency. But they cannot resolve this crisis, because they dare not take the necessary measures to do so.

The 15th Report of the UN Panel on Climate Change spelt out what was urgently needed to cap the increase global warming at 1.5% since the Industrial Revolution and achieve net zero emissions by 2050. The one thousand and more scientists who composed or reviewed the report called for ‘rapid and far-reaching transitions … on an unprecedented scale’ in industry, transport, energy, land use and construction.

Many of the measures they proposed would require extensive state intervention, planning and public investment.

And the reality is that the big industrial, transport, energy, agribusiness and construction monopolies would never allow such degrees of state control, direction and accountability. Nor could they and the financial monopolies permit such high levels of taxation.

That’s not what they pay Presidents Biden, Bolsanaro and Macron, or Prime Ministers Johnson and Fumio Kishida for.

Capitalism’s business leaders and politicians know full well that the levels of state intervention, planning and investment required to avert climate disaster would point in only one direction … to widespread public ownership and socialism.

Then there is the other force propelling the Doomsday Clock towards midnight – war and the preparations for war.

Collapse and counter-revolution in the Soviet Union and the former socialist countries of eastern Europe delivered a brief peace dividend as military budgets were reduced in the West.

But the imperialist drive to domination and war has reasserted itself with a vengeance, from the former Yugoslavia to Iraq and from Libya to Afghanistan.

Now the main targets for containment and coercion are China and Russia. The US, Britain, France, Japan and Australia are all greatly expanding their military budgets. They are backing up their economic sanctions with military provocations in the Indian Ocean, the South China Sea and the Asia-Pacific region generally.

The Second Cold War has been declared. The new US-UK-Australia military pact is limbering up for future confrontations.

Of course, none of this has been mentioned in Glasgow this week. Yet armaments production, military exercises and wars contribute massively to carbon emissions and global warming.

Whose profits cause carbon emissions? The capitalist monopolies!
Who profits from militarism and war? The capitalist monopolies!
Who profits from wars of domination and conquest? The capitalist monopolies!

That’s why the struggle for peace is the struggle against global warming.
That’s why the struggle against global warming is the struggle for peace.

And who loses? The dead, the injured, the displaced, their families and friends. The countries and communities stripped of their young people.

Many millions of people also lose in the developed capitalist society. In Britain, hundreds of billions of pounds are lavished on almost doubling our nuclear arsenal that could be invested instead in our public services, in doubling our overseas aid budget, in a ‘Green New Deal’ to create jobs in sustainable and socially useful production.

And let us never overlook the plight of the Palestinian people. The struggle for their national rights must be to the 21st century what the struggle against South African apartheid was to the 20th century.

We as a party are very clear about what the current stage in that struggle has to be, taking our line from the Palestinian Peoples Party, the PLO, the Communist Party of Israel and the Communist and workers parties of the wider Middle East. We demand a sovereign state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel in accordance with pre-1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital.

If that sounds unrealistic in the face of Israeli intransigence, armed to the teeth by US imperialism, how much more unrealistic it is to imagine that Israel and the US would agree to a unitary state of Israel-Palestine in which the Palestinian Arab population could outgrow the Israeli non-Arab population within a generation or two.

Comrades,

In this Congress, we need to focus on those forces blocking progress on every front – economic, environmental, social and cultural – namely, the capitalist monopolies and the state power which serves, protects and promotes their interests.

These forces are more powerful than any ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ politician. Our analysis and our policies must be on the basis of class politics, not some obsession with Boris Johnson, Rishi Sunak, Priti Patel or ‘the Tories’.

We urge unity in struggle to build a popular democratic anti-monopoly alliance against their policies and against the system they represent.

Boris Johnson may appear to be a dissolute character, but he’s not a clown. He might not have any real convictions when it comes to EU membership or state intervention in the economy.

He might appear to be in it only for the attention, the status and the office. But we must also understand that he is deeply ideological. He believes absolutely in the capitalist system and in its modern form: state-monopoly capitalism,

And he vehemently opposes socialism and Communism.

The former editor of the Morning Star, my dearest friend and comrade John Haylett, whom we have lost since our last Congress, once told me this from a mole inside the Mayor’s office at the Greater London Authority. When Johnson moved in after defeating Ken Livingstone in 2008, one of his first acts as Mayor was to find out how many copies of the Morning Star were ordered by the GLA’s press office every day – and cancel them.

Now he is the Prime Minister who delivered Brexit. But he has delivered none of the benefits of Brexit.

The Communist Party warned at our last Congress what would happen should the Labour Party abandon its pledge to respect the EU referendum result.

Labour campaigned in the subsequent General Election for a second referendum instead – and duly lost 52 of its Leave-voting seats to the Conservatives.

So now we have a government that believes in the sovereignty of British state-monopoly capitalism, not in ‘popular sovereignty’ whereby the working class and the peoples of England, Scotland and Wales fight to exercise control over capitalist market forces.

The Conservative Party and its paymasters dare not let us enjoy the real freedoms that are available now that we have escaped the neo-liberal rules, treaties and institutions of the European Union:

The freedom to end the corporate super-exploitation of imported workers.
The freedom to control the movement of capital between Britain and the rest of the world.
The freedom to finance public spending and investment from Bank of England credit or bond purchases.
The freedom to impose selective import controls to protect strategic industries such as steel.
The freedom to abolish VAT, for example on sanitary products; and
The freedom to award local public sector contracts to local enterprise.

And the Scottish and Welsh parliaments have scores of new policy-making powers which, apparently, their SNP and Welsh Labour governments would have preferred to leave in Brussels!

Comrades,

We should draw no satisfaction from the failure of the Labour Party and its leadership to mount effective opposition to the Conservative government.

The labour movement, the working class and the peoples of Britain need a mass left-of-centre party that can campaign against the ruling-class counter-offensive and win the next General Election.

To the extent that Labour retains active, organic links with the trade union movement and engages in extra-parliamentary campaigning, the possibility remains that it can turn left once again.

But whatever happens in the immediate future, the labour movement needs a strong, influential Communist Party and a vibrant Young Communist League.

As the Executive Committee’s Report of Work to this 56th Congress shows, our party is active on every front: in the trade unions, for full employment and decent housing, in the National Assembly of Women and the wider movement for women’s liberation, in the struggle against racism, for gay rights, in the battle of ideas and in the peace and anti-war movement.

We combine a commitment to working-class and progressive unity across the British state, against a largely united monopoly capitalist class, with a commitment to progressive federalism.

The peoples of Scotland, Wales, England and the regions must have the democratic parliaments and assemblies with the powers and resources to defend and develop their economic, social and cultural life.

The Communist Party is growing, but we must ensure that new members are encouraged, mentored and given the opportunity to participate in campaigning activity and political education.

We are a democratic and a disciplined party, united around our strategic programme, Britain’s Road to Socialism.

Now let us have a vigorous but comradely congress that will show people how this government can be challenged, how the ruling class counter-offensive can be turned back, and how they – the people – can open the road to a higher form of society, to socialism, in the struggles ahead.

Long live the Communist Party of Britain!
Long live the Young Communist League!
Long live the international Communist movement!