LAUNCH interview with CP general secretary Robert Griffiths February 2010
Question 1 You have recently written a new pamphlet on countering the ruling class offensive. How does this offensive impact on workers in industry?
Manufacturing has been hit harder in this capitalist recession than any other sector of the British economy, so far. Output has declined by 14 per cent, while construction has shrunk by 12 per cent and services by nearly 5 per cent. So we have lost more than 200,000 industrial jobs, many of them skilled and relatively high-paid. This is potentially disastrous for the longer-term health of our economy and society. The rest of the world will not allow us to enjoy higher living standards indefinitely, with us serving each other and - as Lenin put it - 'clipping coupons' in the City of London, while workers elsewhere do the productive work and actually make the things that we ultimately rely upon.
Question 2 The Vestas closure was alarming. A profitable company, in a key and growing sector, ostensibly a government priority. What do you think could have been done in that situation to keep the company open?
Where the private profiteers want to shut down such a valuable enterprise, because they maximise profits elsewhere, the state has to step in, take control, secure new orders through public contracts and help provide investment in jobs and vital products. The attempt by Vestas workers to save the plant through occupation was truly courageous and deserved much wider support from the labour movement.
Question 3 What of the idea of a People's Bank or a Bank of Industry - is that a possibility? If so how might it be established and how could workers direct its investment?
The government has made £1,300 billion available in funds and credits to rescue the banks and money markets. Two major high street banks are now, in effect, in public ownership. But the policies and top personnel of those banks are unchanged. Many would-be housebuyers, small enterprises and productive industry are still finding it impossible to get mortgages, loans or credit. Instead of flogging these banks back to idle City shareholders, they could be transformed into a People's Bank with policies to assist the unemployed and promote investment in small, co-operative and productive enterprise. Public money should be used to serve the public interest.
Question 4 The Lindsey workers recently marched in London. They claim that many of the sources of last year's strikes remain unresolved with agency migrant labour paid as much as 1300 Euros less each month than their British colleagues. What was your reaction to the strike? What is the significance of this movement amongst construction workers?
The Lindsey workers and others who took action in the construction and energy industries showed how super-exploitation, of themselves and migrant workers, can be resisted despite the anti-trade union laws. They reminded their union leaders and non-union workers what trade unionism is about - fighting for human dignity against unscrupulous employers. The fact that some backward nationalistic ideas and slogans surfaced in the early days of the strike wave should not have blinded anyone to the need for solidarity. In fact, this was the basis on which those backward ideas were combatted with some success, not least because of the efforts of union stewards and officials, socialist militants and the daily coverage in the Morning Star. But, as always, big business seeks ways to limit, undermine and frustrate any gains won in negotiations, which is why workers and their unions must always be prepared to take action to enforce their interests.
Question 5 There are 2.5 million out of work with chronic unemployment amongst the young. What does the CP propose can be done in the immediate sense to reverse job loss, factory closure and decline?
The immediate need is for trade union and mass resistance to job losses, factory closures and - especially in the coming period - cuts in public services. This is necessary regardless of who might win the General Election. But the labour movement and the left also need a more strategic view of what we should be fighting for as well as against.
That is why the Communist Party puts forward its Left-Wing Programme of policies for public ownership of the energy utilities, public transport and the financial sector; a law against mass redundancy in profitable enterprises; substantial increases in the national minimum wage, state pensions and benefits; repeal of the anti-trade union laws; a Wealth Tax on the super-rich; a huge programme of public sector house-building; a national energy grid and public investment in non-nuclear renewable resources and so on. Many of these policies are also reflected in the People's Charter, which now needs to developed as a mass campaign. But the labour movement also needs to work out how to ensure that it has its own mass political party, capable of winning elections and implementing substantial reforms - either through reclaiming the Labour Party from the New Labour cuckoos or through re-establishing a labour party.
Question 6 The special contribution of the CP to workers, indeed its appeal to those who join it, is the longer-term and joined up thinking. What can be done to promote a strategic and ideological challenge by workers to the waste, greed and exploitation at the heart of neo liberalism?
The labour movement in Britain does not think strategically, and generally holds the study and discussion of theory in low regard. We are now paying a heavy price for this profound weakness. Trade unions should use more of their resources to encourage political education among the members, so that they can learn about the history of the labour movement, its values, lessons and ideas.
There needs to be a revival of socialist politics, with workers developing a deeper understanding of what socialism is and could be, why it provides the civilised, humane alternative to capitalism - why, in fact, a socialist society is the only basis on which we can secure a sustainable, peaceful world in which social justice prevails over private profit. As the Marxist party of the labout movement, the Communist Party will continue to promote this approach alongside its allies, as well as doing everything within its power here and now to assist the working class to resist the ruling class offensive that is now unfolding.