C21 Manifesto

Politics and culture blog - edited by Nick Wright, which goes straight to the heart of the main issues

Country Standard

Published since 1935 - edited by Mike Walker - for rural and food workers and countryside communities.


Unity! is the CP's regular bulletin published for Trade Union Conferences, events and disputes

CP union and political cadre school

The Communist Party held a Trade Union and Political Cadre School over the weekend of 6/7 February at the labour movement centre, Wortley Hall, just outside Sheffield in Yorkshire. It lived up to its billings in more ways than one.

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Land nationalisation - the story so far



By Betty Grant

Discussion about nationalisation has a long history in the British Labour movement. The word itself seems to have been used first by Bronterre O'Brien in the Chartist period, and he used it in connection with the land. But even before that, the idea of public, as distinct from private, ownership of land had been put forward by the Radical Thomas Spence, who proposed in 1775 that parishes (the units of local government) should simply declare all land within their boundaries to be parish land, the rents to be paid to parish officers and used for all kinds of public purposes.
It was natural that the land  should be the first "means of production" to attract the attention of Radical reformers in the early days of industrial capitalism.
For on the one hand the population of Britain still depended mainly on home produced food; while on the other hand, no industry had yet developed to a point  where  "nationalisation"  would have seemed a practical proposition.
Until Marxism could find a foothold in Britain—which did not seriously happen until the 1880's—it was not to be expected that any specific schemes for nationalisation of an industry would be put forward by the working class.
All through the 19th century, opposition to landlordism and to aristocratic power based on landownership was one of the main planks of Radical reformers.
Dating from a time when the landed aristocracy really was the ruling power in Britain, this attitude was fortified by a deeply-felt conviction that the very institution of private landownership was a robbery of the common people.
Sometimes this was expressed in "historical" terms: the Anglo-Saxons, it was thought, had farmed the land communally—or alternatively, had all been freeholders—until the Normans had imposed  their  "yoke"  of  landlordism.
Often the Bible was quoted: "The Earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof";
and "The Earth He hath given to the children of men." Memories of injustices
caused by enclosure of common lands added to the indignation with which the
typical  Radical  regarded  the  landed aristocracy.
Bronterre O'Brien
Yet, apart from Thomas Spence and his immediate followers, the Radicals had not developed any theory of public landownership until Bronterre O'Brien began to advocate the nationalisation of the land. By 1841 he was advocating the "gradual resumption by the state" of all the land in the country, by purchase as and when a landowner died. In his speeches about land nationalisation, O'Brien never failed to  remind  his audience that first of all political power must be won for the working classes via the Charter.
The highest peak was reached at the Chartist Convention of 1851, when a social programme which included land nationalisation  was  adopted.  But  by 1851 the economic basic for a mass movement was dwindling away, and the demand for nationalisation of land, like the other demands in the social programme, failed to take root in the working class.
The main practical importance of  O'Brien's  clear-cut  theory  on  land nationalisation was perhaps that it served as a bridge between Radicals and Marxists. O'Brien's little organisation of devoted followers, the National Reform League,   persisted   (under   different names) for many years after his own death in 1864 and continued to propagate the idea of land nationalisation. So, when the International Working Men's Association (the First International) at  its Congress in 1864 adopted as part of  its policy "the abolition of private property in land", it was possible to set up  in London a Land and Labour League  in which O'Brienites and supporters of  the International combined on a nine-point programme in which land nationalisation stood first.
Communist Manifesto
Although historically the demand for land nationalisation had developed in  Britain   from non-socialist Radical sources, it was also in line with the idea of socialism put forward by Marxists.
Indeed, Marx and Engels, in the Communist Manifesto, had put the land first in the list of reforms which the working class would deal with after acquiring power: "Abolition of property in land, and application of all rents of land to public purposes."               '
Both the International and the Land and Labour League ceased to function after a few years. But in the  1880's during, the  Great  Depression,  which created mass unemployment for the first time since Chartist days, with a corresponding awakening of interest in fundamental economic questions, the "land question" again came to the fore. In the same period the struggles of the Irish Land League, under Michael Davitt's guidance,  increased  the  interest of British Radicals in the land question in general.
T.U.C. policy
This time the idea of land nationalisation began to take root. It was brought into the T.U.C. by Radical trade unionists and,  after a temporary victory in 1882, became official T.U.C. policy in 1886.  In a different sphere, a Land 'Nationalisation Society was established in  1881  by a little group of Radical intellectuals led by Dr.  A.  Russel Wallace.
Two years later, some of its members broke away to form the Land Restoration League, which propaated the land nationalisation theory of the American Henry George, namely, that  landlordism could be destroyed by a single heavy tax upon land which would make landowning so unprofitable that owners would eventually be willing to transfer their rights to the state.
Michael Davitt, too, being convinced that state ownership rather that peasant proprietorship was the true solution to the Irish land problem, became a popu-
lar propagandist in Britain in the early 1880's for the general idea of  land nationalisation.
Meanwhile, a federation of London Radical clubs under Hyndman's leadership included land nationalisation in its programme, and this demand was maintained when the organisation took on a definitely socialist character and became the Social-Democratic Federation.
Hyndman himself, in his books of this period, combined his interpretation of Marx's analysis of capitalism with a factual approach to the land question in .
Britain in which the Radical solution of nationalisation was enlarged into a socialist critique of the capitalist exploitation of agriculture itself.
In this way land nationalisation became linked with the general aim of socialism, as it had been in the Communist Manifesto. It was assumed by all who became converted to socialism—including the founders of the I.L.P.—that the land, like all other "means of production", should become the public or  collective  property  of the whole people. The I.L.P. programme of 1895, for example, states the Object of the Party to be: "An Industrial. Commonwealth founded upon the socialisation of land and capital."
A productive industry
This programme also elaborates a policy  for  agriculture,  including the establishment of a "state land department for agriculture", with agricultural colleges and model farms, and state organised marketing of farm produce.
Whereas Radicals had seen only the problems of landlordism. Socialists were beginning to see agriculture as a productive industry which could be regulated by the state on the basis of the public ownership of the land.
On the other hand, the very fact that public ownership of the land was now part and parcel of the general aim of socialism, coupled with the fact that the Fabians  were  advocating  piecemeal municipal ownership, rather than total state ownership of the land, might have resulted in the aim of nationalisation being lost, had it not been for the two specific societies formed in the 1880's.
Red vans and yellow vans
In the 1890's both these organisations, with the help of speakers from the S.D.F. and I.L.P., blossomed out with propaganda campaigns in the countryside.  The  yellow  vans  of  the  Land Nationalisation Society and the red vans of the English Land Restoration League were now seen on village greens, and at hundreds of meetings farm-labourers were urged to support land nationalisation. It is a notable fact that up till then the demand had come only from town-dwellers, who had not imagined that
farm-labourers might be interested too.
More important was the deliberate turn  towards  the  Labour movement made by the Land Nationalisation Society in the years before the First World War. Affiliations were received from many Co-operative societies and from trade union branches—particularly the railwaymen's and miners' unions. which were both by this time demanding nationalisation of their own industries.
Parliamentary Bill
At the end of the war, in the general upsurge of militancy, the demand for land nationalisation was included in the Labour Party's programme. Labour and the New Social Order, at the same time as the Labour Party adopted a definitely socialist aim. And in 1921  a Bill for nationalisation of the land was presented in Parliament by Labour M.P.S.
At this point, with the aim of land nationalisation securely in the hands of the Labour movement, without which it could never be achieved, we can leave the story for the moment, taking up in the next article other, movements for nationalisation of railways and coal mines which had also developed before 1918.
World News 14th June1958

country_standardTo mark our new collaboration with Country Standard, an online blogspot for all things relating to the struggle for land and landworkers, we present a history feature: Land nationalisation and the labour movement.

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The failure of the Copenhagen Summit

John Foster writes on the failure of the Copenhagen Summit and what can be done now.

The Copenhagen Summit saw a complex clash of positions. As a summit, it failed and therefore represents a serious crisis for efforts to halt climate change. But the summit also marked a turning point and one which represents challenge for Communists and the Left in Britain.

The mass media presented the summit as a struggle for dominance between the G7 countries and the new economies of the south and east. They portrayed China, Venezuela and Sudan as those responsible for the breakdown and as playing politics with the future of the planet. There is no doubt that that the US and its allies did not get what they wanted. They failed in their bid to use the UN bureaucracy to impose their own settlement as they have done in the past. Hence a turning point.

But the dispute was not about power and status. It was about economic systems and control. In essence it was about imperialism. It represented a conflict between the big business-run economies of the West and the ability of state-led developing economies to tackle carbon emissions on their own terms. The West, especially the EU, wanted legally binding targets with legal penalties linked into a market-based carbon trading system. In theory this system forces polluters to pay steeply increasing prices for permits and hence compels them to install carbon reducing technologies. In reality this has not happened – at least in any proportionate way. Instead of rising, the price of permits has been falling as the recession cuts the level of industrial activity. And their price has fallen even further as a result of the failure of Copenhagen: by 8 per cent to just 12 euro per unit. It is estimated that it requires a price of 40 euro per unit to trigger significant private sector investment in clean technologies. So although ostensibly dealing with the issue, it does not. It evades the need for governments in EU countries to directly invest in clean technologies. At the same time the market system is productive of massive distortions (as polluting processes are moved to the Third World) and also allows big business to claim massive subsidies from the EU. The objective of EU big business at Copenhagen was to extend the system across the world – turning it into a giant new market for their technologies. Big business did not get it.

The issue for countries like Venezuela, Brazil and China is that the process of reducing emissions must be primarily state-led. Their demand was for technology transfer and finance to allow them to invest in ways that would allow them to continue with their own economic development on a low carbon basis. They also wanted real cuts in emissions, well above the ‘hold temperatures at 2C above pre-industrial’ offered and they wanted this because it will be their countries that will suffer most from climate change. They don’t want climate change to be used to refasten market-based big business dominance over their economies. The $100b over ten years offered to developing countries was derisory. In Britain alone more than ten times this sum was used to rescue the banks in one year. In return for this paltry sum developing countries would be tied into a market system dominated by the big Western monopolies.

This was the issue: an exercise in soft imperialism.

This is also the challenge. We as Communists have to explain. The outcome was a failure. Neither the EU nor the US was willing to move beyond the market system. The eventual accord was merely noted. There is a further meeting in Bonn this month - and a conference to draft a legally binding agreement in Mexico by December.

It is therefore urgent that the Left counterattacks against the dominant big business interpretation – esp. in and through the TU Movement. In practice market-led approaches have not worked anywhere. The European countries that have done most to reduce carbon emissions (Germany, Scandinavia) have done so through state expenditure. Cuba is a prime example of a country where state and popular intervention have transformed the economy into a low carbon one. Britain today will not get anywhere near its own targets unless the government spends on housing, transport and renewable energy – as noted last week by the House of Commons Select Committee report. This estimated that the current rate of reducing emissions was only one third of that required.

Bring the war criminals to justice

When finding Nazi leaders guilty of causing World War Two, the Nuremberg tribunal declared that initiating a war of aggression was 'the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole'.

Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians have died as a result of the blitzkrieg on Iraq and the divide-and-rule occupation policies which followed. Millions more were driven into exile. No significant section of the Iraqi opposition to the Saddam dictatorship asked Bush and Blair to play god with Iraqi lives.


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2010 Calendar Wales CP



5th – 7th in Whortley Hall, Sheffield

Trade Union & Political Cadre School – transport going from Wales

Wednesday 10th at 7 pm in UNISON House, Custom House Street, Cardiff


Saturday 13th at 12 pm in Cardiff

Welsh Communists’ Trade Union aggregate meeting – for further details about venue and agenda e-mail

Monday 15th Aldermaston

CND Blockade


Saturday 27th at 10 am in UNISON House, Cardiff

Searchlight Cymru AGM and training day


Sunday 11th at 12 pm in Clwb y Bont

Welsh Communist Party’s Executive Committee meeting

Saturday 17th at 10.30 am in Cayo Arms, Cathedral Road, Cardiff

Welsh Communist Party’s New & Prospective members day school


Saturday 1st at 6 pm in Twyn Hall, Caerphilly

May Day rally

26th – 27th May in Llandudno

Wales TUC conference


Sunday 6th at 1.30 pm in Cayo Arms, Cathedral Road, Cardiff


Saturday 19th June

Morning Star conference


Sunday 4th 11 am at Cardiff Castle gates

Morning Star Sponsored Walk

31st July to 7th August

Morning Star stall on the Eisteddfod Maes


Saturday 14th from 2 pm in Efail Isaf

Welsh Communist Party Fund raising BBQ

20th – 22nd August in Aberystwyth

Welsh Communist Party’s Summer School


Sunday 26th at 12 pm in Clwb y Bont, Pontypridd

Welsh Communist Party’s Executive Committee meeting


30th – 31st

51st Congress Communist Party of Britain


Friday 26th at 7.30 pm – venue tbc

Gwyn Alf Williams’ Memorial Lecture

27th – 28th in YMCA, Pontypridd

Communist University of Wales

Copenhagen Failure

copenhagen-summit1In a special political opening to the EC in January, International Secretary John Foster dealt with the failure of the Copenhagen summit, whether there has been a shift in the strategy of US Imperialism and the prospects for the general election in the wake of the continuing crisis in Britain’s productive economy.

THE COPENHAGEN SUMMIT saw a complex clash of positions.  As a summit, it failed and therefore represents a serious crisis for efforts to halt climate change.  But the summit also marked a turning point and one which represents a challenge for Communists and the Left in Britain.

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