Communist trade unionists met in London for a weekend school to discuss the economy, Britain and the EU and the union struggle against cuts to public services and to defend pensions. In a second day session, members met in a broad range of Advisories and Commissions to analyse CP policy and the state of the workers' movement by industry and sector.

The meeting brought together members who are activists in a wide range of unions, travelling to London from Party districts in England, Scotland and Wales.

 

Agreement was made early on in the school to focus on the issue of the European Union and austerity opposed by popular sovereignty. The later afternoon session was given over to an educational session on the European Union, its institutions, policies and programmes as well as the character of opposition to it. A later session adopted plans to build trades councils as local campaign centres for unions in the community and to bring new support to the People's Charter campaign.

 

Discussion focused too on a document, the 'Needs of the Hour', which the CP prepares to crystallise party policy on a broad range of subjects from defense of industry to peace, from strategies for making the unions more democratic and accountable to ways in which the privatisation of health can be stopped. 

 

The first session was led by general secretary Robert Griffiths and the national women's organiser Liz Payne who reviewed the process of drawing up the new edition of the CP programme, Britain's Road to Socialism. Rob related the areas of the programme, which were of relevance to trade unionists. Key amongst this was a need to grasp the nature of the ruling class offensive and what can be done to raise the struggle to block that strategy.

 

He analysed the cyclical crisis of capitalism in Britain and in the countries that it traditionally traded with as well as the banking crisis, which compounded the malaise. Banks and modern finance monopoly capital were heightening the crisis overlaying a structural crisis of the capitalist system. This system could not produce a resolution of its own crisis and certainly had no intention of resolving it in favour of the people.

 

"It is completely absurd", he said, "to think that capitalism could turn back the tide of capitalist development". The BRS helps us identify who the main enemy is - "but we must not think that bashing a banker or restricting their bonuses - understandable as that is - will resolve the crisis." The crisis is in the essence of capitalism, made worse by the dominance of finance. So what is needed is a thorough going change in the system. State monopoly capitalism involves use of state power in a sharp way, as a clear means of asserting and protecting ruling class interests. The Labour Movement cannot duck this issue.

 

So the BRS is clear that we need a strategy which takes on the capitalist ruling class and provides the arguments to check and indeed overcome, exploitation and discrimination. To do this the BRS raises policies for workers and trade unionists to unite around, which can make inroads into the space occupied by the capitalists by promoting: public ownership and nationalisation, progressive taxation; integration of the economy and planning including as a means to control prices and quality of services to be made accessible to workers. The BRS calls for the Labour movement to campaign for an Alternative Economic and Political Strategy. In the context of this, Robert said, communists campaign for opposition to separatism in Scotland or reactionary unionism.

 

Communists seek unity within the labour movement and a non sectarian unity of the left where possible but in the knowledge that a unity of just this force is insufficient to sway a majority of the people. And it is a real majority, in the form of a broad anti monopoly alliance, which is required. Nor do communists hide the fact that "This is an illegitimate, unelected government cobbled together by the banks in the interest of the banks." So he continued, "We reject those who want to 'tidy up policy' and wait till next election". The damage done during that time would be "massive."

 

The only alternative to the ConDems is a Labour government and it is to this that the unions must turn their minds, with the intention of changing the character of Labour opposition. It must be made sharper and more assertive and pressurised to take up the concerns and interests of the people.

 

Liz Payne pointed to the danger of war - a danger which results from the action of imperialism in the eastern part of the Middle East. The drive to war was set out in the BRS, with capitalism seeing increasingly aggressive ways of getting out of the crisis of its own making. Imperialism sets about frustrating and snuffing out progressive movements which might want to use for its own people, resources and control over land and sea trade routes. Imperialism seeks to impose its way in the area to block the development path of rival economies in Russia, India and China.

 

Liz said that "These are issues that we can legitimately raise with trade unionists because the British monopoly capitalist class who seek to prevail in Britain is the same as that which takes a role in every strategy to provoke war in the Middle East." The reactionary dictatorship in Iran is being led in to a trap of its own making and now faces sanctions.These will serve as a pretext for war and will only bring greater hardship to the ordinary people of Iran. In solidarity with the people, and with no illusions about a so called progressive 'anti imperialist' Ahmedinijad government, the CP warns the people of Britain of the threat of war and calls for oppsition war moves, including the despatch of the fleet to areas outside of Britain's waters. To block the move to war a Peace campaing must operate at all levels of society and in every neighbourhood. Trade unions have a vested interest in opposing which which wastes lives, resources, and jeopardises important international relationships which could serve to help us out of economic decline and crisis.

 

Communists are prepared to take their part in the fight for Peace alongside the struggle for jobs and public services. Capitalism requires people "divided and obsessed with trying to survive the day to day. We need unions that raise the big issues and the strategic ones and which challenge workers to raise their sights to contend class power." Advance requires especially that our Labour Movement engage with women workers and the many women local leaders of union campaigns, which have developed in the last year. Engaging with women workers and bringing this force into play in an organised way will be a focus of communist party activity and campaigning in the unions in the coming phase of struggle.