Ruth Styles speech at 22nd IMCWP meet – Havana, October 2022

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Statement of the Communist Party of Britain

The Communist Party of Britain welcomes this 22nd international meeting of Communist and Workers Parties in Havana. We salute our hosts, the Communist Party of Cuba. We pledge our profound solidarity with Cuba and its fight for self-determination and sovereignty.

Our meeting takes place at a time when world peace is under immediate threat from economic, military, and political tensions arising from the situation in Ukraine, notably the intervention of US led imperialist forces seeking to escalate, prolong and widen the conflict. 

The escalation of the conflict threatens a nuclear conflagration with Zelensky now calling for a pre-emptive nuclear strike against Russia. The US, NATO and the EU have – by a massive escalation in arms supplies – changed the battlefield geometry and further reduced the chances of a negotiated resolution based on the principles agreed at Minsk. This option is even further reduced by Russia’s incorporation of Ukrainian territory while Putin’s barely veiled threat of nuclear escalation has diminished the credibility of Russia’s raison d’etre in violating Ukrainian sovereignty.

Beyond the legitimate defence of linguistic and political rights for significant sections of the Ukrainian people – and the countervailing defence of Ukraine’s sovereignty – this conflict is a struggle over territory, mineral wealth, energy and its transit routes, markets, and natural resources.

The sabotage of the Nordstream pipeline exactly fits the US strategy in opening up Europe to fracked gas exports from a newly energy-sufficient North America.

The US has largely succeeded in subordinating European states to its global strategy, diminishing capitalist Russia’s regional influence and security and – with Britain and the US client Baltic states as instruments – reducing Europe as a potential commercial, financial, and military rival. This is an essential component of its wider aim of containing China.

Sanctions against Russia are a multi-use weapon that both weakens European, especially German, and French capital, depresses living standards, productive capacity, and demand.

The OPEC decision to limit oil production is a challenge to the US and is both a function of reduced demand in the East and of the unwillingness of states outside the western imperialist alliance to go along with the US global strategy. This is expressed both by the failure of the US to gain a majority at the UN and the relative success of Russia in aligning its energy policy with major oil producers including direct US allies.

The OPEC move undermines the scheme by the major imperialist powers in the G7 to constrain Russian energy prices.

The domestic consequence of the western imperialist strategy is inflation, rising interest rates, increasing impoverishment and political crises in several states.

We can measure the relative and recent success of the US strategy in Europe against the relative failure of its global strategy where the balance of forces is changing and is reflected in the sclerosis and atrophy of productive capacity in the developed capitalist countries and a growth of the productive forces most particularly in China and the Eurasian landmass.

We must not lose sight of the reality that wherever the productive forces develop along capitalist lines it results in an aggregation of capital which constantly seeks further outlets.

Where capitalist relations of production develop there develops the working class and the essential antagonism between capital and labour inevitably arises.

These contradictions arise independently of the wishes or desires of particular states and leaders and themselves are the motor of history and the precondition for a transition from capitalist hegemony to working class power.

The circumstance in which we find ourselves – following the world historical defeat of socialism at the end of the last century – are pregnant with new possibilities for revolutionary change that were unimaginable in the decades in which capital was able to absorb into the capitalist system of wage labour vast millions of working people from the countries where socialism was dismantled with brutal consequences.

In every continent we see the developing contradiction between popular power and capitalism in crisis.  In a global dimension there are renewed threats to agreements to ameliorate the climate crisis which increasingly expresses a profound contradiction between capitalism and life itself.

In these circumstances it is particularly important for the working class movement in general, the trade unions in particular and most essentially the communist movement to find the greatest political, ideological, and organisational unity.

This, of necessity precludes formulaic and mechanical approaches based on old realities. It compels us to learn from experience, particularly new experience. It compels us to consider every facet of the class struggle in its concrete, national, material reality and its movement and development.

I would like to refer to recent developments in my own country – what was, until India replaced it a few weeks ago, the fifth largest economy. But one gripped by a profound political and economic crisis and today a crisis of government.

The divisions in our ruling class, with the most powerful, dominant, monopoly sections wedded to the capitalist entity of the European union but with a subordinate section, rooted in a section of predatory finance capitalism, seeking new opportunities outside the EU, were temporarily resolved with a deal that the EU bureaucracy and the major EU powers were more than happy to agree.

But this did not resolve the economic problems of what is the world’s second most powerful imperial power nor resolve the internal divisions in our ruling class.

The reflection of this in politics is the deep division in the Tory Party as it jettisoned its populist figurehead who surfed a wave of working class opposition to the EU to Make Brexit Happen and defeat the Labour Party.

In recent weeks, the new leadership of the main party of bourgeois power, the Tories, swiftly discovered that the price it pays for departing from capitalist orthodoxy is the mobilisation of the markets and the permanent instruments of monopoly rule – including the ‘independent’ Bank of England – to limit its freedom of movement. In a few days it lost its credibility and opinion polls showed a deep erosion of its support.

This new Conservative government of Liz Truss indeed did not last the course – she resigned as Prime Minister after only 44 days in office, making her the shortest serving Prime Minister in British history. Her successor will offer no respite to the working class only more of the poisoned pill of capitalist austerity, inequality and racism. Even at the next General Election due in 2024, the Labour Party – with membership losses in the hundreds of thousands and its parliamentary left reduced to silence and impotence – represents only the possibility of cosmetic change.

Britain’s Labour Party, born in the late 19th century crisis of imperialism, reflects the contradictory trends in the British working class. At the same time the repository of millions of working class votes and the expression of class collaborationist ideas in the working class its parliamentary cohort is insulated from pressure exerted by both party members and voters.

When less than a decade ago, a maladroit manoeuvre by the party establishment to open up its leadership election to US-style primary votes, hundreds of thousands of people joined the party to elect Jeremy Corbyn. He is a veteran leader of the anti war movement that put two million people on the streets against Tony Blair’s Iraq War. This totally transformed the life of the party everywhere except in parliament where Labour MPs, in their great majority, tried three times to depose Corbyn.

Their efforts were subverted when, in 2017, a radical manifesto based on extending workers rights and social protection, industrial development and progressive social measures resulted in the largest increase in Labour votes since the Second World War with a 40 per cent plurality.

This completely destroyed ruling class confidence that Labour could be periodically entrusted to take its turn in office and an intensive two-year programme of slander and mass media attacks combined with a subversion – by Keir Starmer – of Corbyn’s pledge to respect the vote to leave the European Union diminished working class confidence in Labour. A pledge by the new Tory leader Boris Johnson to Get Brexit Done ensured a shift in working class votes to give the Conservatives victory.

Our experiences in this period – in which our party threw its modest resources in influencing the revived Labour left – confirm our view that it only possible to open up the road to working class power and socialism on the basis of the massive mobilisation of the working class and its allies around a programme which cannot be met by capitalism in crisis.

Experience, realism, and revolutionary ideology convince us that the objective situation always provides both limits to advance and new opportunities.

No defeat such as the one we suffered is ever permanent.

Today millions of workers in Britain are on the move in a strike movement of unprecedented scale and intensity.

What is distinctive in the present movement of the working class is the clear articulation – by the main leaders of this strike movement – that the issue is the contradiction between the interests of wage earners and the employers. The repeated positing of wages against profits is giving a new and more class conscious dimension to a popular movement in which overwhelming majorities – even of conservative voters – back public ownership of energy, utilities, transport and even banks and, even in the face of Europe’s most restrictive employments rights, workers are piling up massive majorities for strike action in ballots.

In this situation the recent growth and revitalisation of our Party and Young Communist League are factors which compel optimism that, along with the growing influence of the Morning Star daily newspaper, revolutionary Marxist Leninist ideas are finding new audiences.

Long live our Communist unity for Peace and Socialism 

Long live the international unity of Communist and Workers Parties