- Category: IS History
- Published on Tuesday, 30 July 2013
- Written by Jim Higgins
Introduction: The nature of capitalism
1. Capitalism long ago laid the foundations for the abolition of want in the world, for human freedom. Its continued existence perpetuates poverty and deprivation, war and waste. It is characterised by the production of commodities for profit and not for human need. Economic, social and even personal relations are determined by the blind necessity to accumulate capital. This accumulation is based on the continued exploitation of the working class and on world-wide oppression. Capitalism exploits and oppresses not by choice but by its very nature. It cannot be reformed out of existence.
2. Of all class societies, capitalism is the most unstable, constantly revolutionising both the means and relations of production. From within the heart of capitalist free competition developed monopoly capitalism Imperialism developed with monopoly capitalism; and from within Imperialism developed the Permanent Arms economy each development co-existing with the previous stages and punctuated by crisis, boom and slump, war and oppression.
The Capitalist Crisis
3. Today the relative stability and prosperity experienced by the crisis metropolitan capitalist world since the Second World War is ending. Massive arms budgets, related technological innovations and the extension of state intervention are no longer sufficient to ensure world-wide capitalist expansion. Increased international competition for markets and resources has intensified the internal problems of all national capitalisms.
4 From the middle 1930’ periodic monetary crises have shaken the world - a result of the bitter power struggle between the giant capitalist states. Great trading alliances are established to try and gain temporary advantages. The growth of huge multinational -firms deepen the crisis. Whilst remaining nationally-based they create blind international forces outwith the control of any single nation state. Each advanced capitalist country must serve its own multinational companies whilst simultaneously trying to protect itself from them.
The results of the crisis
5. As the advanced capitalist countries intensify this struggle to accumulate capital, the nascent capitalisms of Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East are destroyed. Unable to accumulate sufficient capital to industrialise, they face famine floods and war. The continued exploitation and oppression of these countries by the Imperialist states leads to civil war and genocide as each successive government fails to solve its crisis.
6. Faced with the anarchy of international competition ruling classes throughout the world must increase the rate of exploitation of their working classes. The room for national capitalist 'reforms' gets smaller. Massive class confrontations are again coming more and more into the open.
The objects of IS.
7. The International Socialists set themselves the goal of a world free of capitalism, a socialist world in which exploitation and oppression have been abolished. A world in which man's productive potential is used for the needs of the whole of mankind. To win this world we need to develop the strength and organisation of the only class capable of leading the fight against capitalism, the working class. This has to be done against the difficult background of the defeat and degeneration of the world's first successful working class revolution, the Russian Revolution of October 1917.
AN ALTERNATIVE PROGRAMME
8. The emancipation of the workers must be the act of the working class itself. All other classes stand for the preservation of capitalism. A complete social revolution is needed. Private ownership of the means of production has to be abolished and replaced by workers ‘control. The capitalist division of society into classes, and all social and political inequality arising from it, must be completely abolished.
9. To master capitalism and remove all obstacles along the road to socialism, the working class must win political power. The International Socialists therefore seek to establish workers power in a workers' state as an essential political condition for the social revolution.
SECTION B: THE RULING CLASS ATTACK IN BRITAIN
10. In the international struggle for markets and resources the age and structure of British capitalism puts it at a disadvantage. The growing problems of world capitalism, the relative decline of British capitalism and the strength of the British labour movement therefore oblige the British ruling class to mount a massive attack on the working class Its objects are to shift the balance of class forces decisively in favour of capital and to modify or destroy working class gains made in previous decades.
11…The central feature of this attack is the drive for higher productivity and lower real wages. To carry this through the British ruling class has to reduce the power of the workshop organisations built up in the years of relatively full employment since the Second World War. Even the giant multinational companies are incapable of doing this unaided. Increasingly the state acts as the everyday negotiator and organiser for individual capitalists as well as the executive of the general interests of the ruling class.
12. From the 1960’s Governments have tried to limit increases in wages and reduce workers' real incomes. Direct confrontations with organised sections of workers, incomes policies, wage freezes, productivity deals, price inflation and the manipulation of tax rates and welfare payments have all been used to this end. There has been a rapid growth of means testing and a run-down of welfare services. Housing, health, education, pensions and social security have all come under attack. Local Government is being reorganised to shift the remaining costs of these services directly onto the working class family.
13. The return of high levels of unemployment is a key component of the offensive. The ruling class is attempting to use it and the increased mobility of capital and labour in the Common Market to weaken resistance to its attack, Regional differences within British capitalism become more acute as the pressure of European capital syphons resources towards the Midlands and South-East of England. In Ireland the impact of British colonial and: neo-colonial oppression overladen with this regional economic backwardness explodes into a civil war situation at the demand for civil rights.
14 The anti-trade union legislation of 1968-71 was intended to strengthen officialdom at the expense of the rank and file. The emergence of the written shop floor agreement in the productivity deal offensive of the 1960's had the same object. In the Press and on Television there is a rising ideological-onslaught against shop floor militants. Nationalism, racialism and religious sectarianism are being increasingly used to help create divisions in the working class. Police repression o+" white, and black revolutionaries, blacks as a whole, students and youth and other minority groups has been stepped up.
THE WORKING CLASS RESPONSE
15. The comprehensive nature of the ruling class attack testifies to the strength of the working class in Britain. The British working class has developed a very high degree of trade union membership and, with its shop stewards, the strongest rank and file organisation in the world. The potential offered by the existence of some 200,000 directly-elected shop floor representatives makes them the focus of both the ruling class offensive and our revolutionary socialist strategy.
16. The British ruling class is using all the weapons of its state in the present offensive - Parliament Police, Civil Courts, and Industrial Courts and by doing so is changing the form of the class struggle. The fragmented, factory by factory, section by section struggle of the 1950’s has given way to a wider, more generalised struggle. Some workers are taking strike action for the first time since the General Strike of 1926 Politics and economics are increasingly fused at the shop floor level, and politics are now at the heart of a successful fight back.
The Labour Party
17. Political leadership in this struggle cannot be provided by the Labour Party. The 1962-70 Labour Government initiated the main lines of the offensive with its Incomes Policy and Wages Freeze, the Redundancy Payments Act, the Rent Act, the productivity deal offensive and the cut-back in the social services. Earlier than this it had stopped organising workers for either political or industrial action. So now, even if a 'left' leadership took it over, the Labour Party actually lacks an active organisational base inside the working class from which to provide leadership. Incapable of achieving or consolidating major reforms for the working class, isolated from its electoral base, the Labour Party merely attempts to foster belief in 'parliamentary democracy' and to serve 'the nation'.
18. The International Socialists seek to destroy illusions in the socialist character of the Labour Party by exposing its record and in its reformism by raising specific demands on it to act against ruling class interests. Without adding any illusions ourselves, we nevertheless will continue to urge class conscious workers to ‘Vote Labour without illusions' at General Elections for as long as there is no real revolutionary alternative. Only if a significant revival of active working class membership of the Labour Party occurs will there be any need to begin consistent work inside it.
The Communist Party
19. Neither can the small British Communist Party provide successful political leadership in the present struggle. The present strategy of the C.P.G.B is to become the 'established left-wing of British social-democracy. This leads to commitment to a non-existent 'parliamentary road to socialism and reluctance to embarrass left reformists. For 'historical reasons it remains firmly wedded to support for the state capitalist regimes (Russia and the East European bloc, China and Cuba), and this support is the chief obstacle preventing its disappearance into the Labour Party.
20. The sole remaining importance of the British Communist Party lies in its industrial base. This has a contradictory character including excellent rank and file militants, trade union bureaucrats and convinced social democrats. This prevents the Communist Party from creating and extending rank and file organisation within the trade unions, and from successfully generalising the struggle, For the International Socialists the winning of the best CP militants to revolutionary politics through work in rank and file organisations, is an indispensable step in the building of a revolutionary party.
The Trade Unions
21. With the decline of parliamentary reformism, only trade union reformism remains. The trade unions are the only existing organisational base for an attempt to shift the balance of class forces towards the working class. But the leadership of the trade unions has developed as a bureaucracy of a compromised and separate social strata. This is a result of its relatively privileged standard of living, working conditions and job security. Without the discipline of a revolutionary party or rank and file organisation, the trade union bureaucrat soon succumbs to the ideological pressure of capitalist society that officials should be responsible —not to their members - out to the nation, to the interests of the employers and the state. Their position, oscillating between the working and ruling classes but never members of either renders them incapable of giving a consistent lead to the working class.
22. Yet the trade union bureaucracy is not entirely homogeneous. With the generalisation of the struggle and the increasing involvement of the state from the 1960's, the official trade union machines have become more important to the rank and file than formerly. In consequence left social democrats with militant records have gone to the leadership of several unions. These changes have often brought more liberal regimes to the unions concerned, but they have not altered the main character of the bureaucracy. Even under conditions of growing unemployment the left leaders have not given a lead against productivity deals, a key component of the ruling class attack,, in a crisis their commitment to the bureaucracy clearly overrides their responsiveness to the rank and file.
23. The contradiction of the potential strength of the class organised in the trade unions with the nature of the bureaucracy must be challenged by a clear revolutionary strategy in the success of this challenge lies the road to the construction of a mass revolutionary party.
24. The principal task of the International Socialists is to build rank and file organisations around rank and file papers within the factories and the trade unions. Independent of the trade union bureaucracy they will give critical support to the left trade union leaders when they give a real lead to workers in action; and will oppose them when they do not. These fighting organisations will embrace both I.S members and other industrial militants on offensive and defensive demands. In the longer term the struggle will require the development of a national rank and file organisation surmounting the barriers of industry and union, and uniting workers around a programme that combines immediate and long-term demands.
25. Alongside this activity the International Socialists will form revolutionary groups within the workshops and factories as the basis of the cadre of a new revolutionary party. Around our paper we will organise workers' discussion groups.
SECTION D: THE NEED FOR A REVOLUTIONARY PARTY
26. From the first stirrings of the working class movement, the whole history of the class struggle demonstrates the basic contradiction of reformism. Attempting to change capitalism from within, reformists are unable to carry the day to day struggle against capitalist exploitation and oppression to its real conclusion: the struggle to overthrow capitalism. They resist and divert demands to raise the level of the struggle for fear of the possible consequences and their leadership of even the most immediate fight is consequently compromised and inadequate.
27. Organised revolutionaries, who are prepared to fight to win every confrontation with the ruling class because who welcome the next stage of the struggle, are therefore the only political leadership to whom the working class can turn with confidence. What is needed; both for the conquest of workers power and for the struggles loading up to it is a new democratic centralist revolutionary political party.
28. The revolutionary party is the actual leadership of wide sections of the working class. Its cadre must include the vanguard of more advanced and conscious workers who directly influence and lead their follow workers. It is the essential means for combatting the unevenness which capitalism creates amongst workers in consciousness, confidence, experience and activity; it is the instrument which fuses the experience of class struggle of manual and white-collar workers with the ideas of scientific socialism.
29. The central task of the revolutionary party is the fight to unite the whole working class in struggle behind its programme. To achieve this it use’ propaganda and agitation to:-
1. Encourage and sustain workers' self-activity.
2. Give direction to particular struggles.
3. Fight for unity in action within the working class.
4. Connect the immediate struggles with the final goal.
While most workers still have reformist illusions or are sceptical about a revolutionary alternative, the party has to prove in theory and practice that the revolutionary road is the only one possible.
SECTION E: THE INTERNATIONAL. SOCIALISTS
30. The International Socialist organisation is the developing nucleus of the revolutionary party in Britain. All its activities are directed to building the party. The most important of these are the establishment of genuine rank and file organisations within the trade unions, the integration of a broad layer of worker militants into the organisation, and the training and development of existing members,
31. The International Socialists aim at the establishment of a mass organisation of revolutionary youth. In this lies the key to the politics of tomorrow’s working class militants.
Origins and traditions of the I.S
32. The origins of the International Socialist organisation is as a propaganda group after the Second World War in the traditions ofMarx, Lenin and Trotsky. We therefore defend the main theses of this tradition. That 'the emancipation of the working class is the act of the working class' ('socialism from below); that the working class is the leadership of the socialist revolution in both the advanced and under-developed parts of the world; and that revolutionary struggles against capitalism must be both international and permanent to be successful. We deny the possibility of the survival of 'socialism in one country and reject the idea that socialism can exist in state capitalist countries merely because private ownership of the means of production has been restricted or abolished. A workers' state must be based on workers' councils, with elected officials paid the average wage and subject to recall, and an armed people organised into militia units for defence.
33. From the experience of the Russian Revolution of October 1917 and the first four Congresses of Lenin’s Third International, we derive-important lessons of party strategy. The party can in no case ignore any workers struggle, no matter how limited or narrow its aim. It must not turn its back on the existing institutions of the working class movement, no matter how bureaucratic and conservative some of them are. We reject the idea that the unions could be by-passed or ignored or that breakaway unions should be supported. A condition of membership must be systematic revolutionary work within workers' mass organisations. While members* first loyalty must always be to the party they must always act responsibly to their fellow workers. Ultra-leftism on the one hand and capitulation to left reformism and centrism on the
other must both be opposed.
34. The international character of capitalism makes socialist internationalism the very heart of a revolutionary strategy. Not only is 'socialism in one country' a Utopia: even the capacity of national capitalisms for independent 'reforms' is increasingly limited by international pressures. Those who seek to mobilise the working class in defence of national sovereignty ‘create dangerous illusions which lead to reformism, nationalism and ultimately to chauvinism. We affirm that the workers of the world have no country.
35. But as Marx and Lenin knew well, it is not possible to have an international under all circumstances. The International must be built, not proclaimed. Those who proclaim the International on the basis of small sects isolated from the real working class movement actually divert from the real job that is to be done.
36. A genuine democratic centralist international can be built only on the basis of real parties with a working class basis in several countries, and an international leadership that has proved itself in struggle. The major contribution the International Socialists can make it to build a revolutionary combat party here in Britain. At the same time, not only do we have a duty to assist revolutionaries elsewhere, but we must test our theory and strategy in debate within the international movement. Therefore we seek to develop opportunities for both political discussion and practical cooperation with revolutionary groupings throughout the world; on the condition that they share our basic premises that the working class is the agency of socialist revolution.
37. In the process of building the party the International Socialists believe it may be possible to unite with revolutionary groups of different origins from our own. The test of the value of unity is whether or not it facilitates the main task of gaining deep roots in the working class. At the same time we are always prepared to undertake united front work with other organisations - both revolutionary and social democratic - for specific and limited objectives in the interest of the working class. On the shop floor our members will work with all affiliated or non-affiliated members prepared to actively struggle against the ruling class.
Standing firm and fighting on our programme brings the International Socialists into contact with constantly widening layers of worker militants. Winning them to the organisation then depends largely on our internal regime. Shaping this regime for maximum effectiveness in the class struggle, into combat readiness, while at the same time maintaining .maximum internal democracy, is an essential condition for the growth of the party. Discussions take place within, and in some cases without the party in order that decisions should be taken as to the party's line. Once taken they are binding upon all members until the discussion is reopened. Only on this basis can we achieve inner democracy and disciplined revolutionary activity.
SECTION F: BUILDING THE PARTY
38 The international Socialist organisation is consciously attempting to transform itself from being the nucleus of the party in Britain into being that party itself. The conditions of this attempt have been outlined above; the capitalist crisis, the ruling class offensive, the fusion of politics and economics with the increasing involvement of the State, the bankruptcy of political reformism and the contradictions of trade union reformism, all superimposed on what is potentially one of the strongest working classes in the world.
39. In this attempt we hold to and fight for the communist tradition; the tradition of Marx in his struggle for a fighting theory, of Lenin in the struggle for the Bolshevik party and for a revolutionary International, and of Trotsky and the long battle against Stalinist degeneration. Inside the mass organisations of the working class in rank and file papers and directly through our own newspaper, Socialist Worker and journal, International Socialism, our pamphlets and propaganda, we struggle for this programme.
Membership of I.S
41. Applications for membership of the International Socialists is based on agreement with the following four points?
1. Opposition to all ruling class
policies and organisations
2. Uncompromising opposition to all forms
of racialism and to all migration controls,,
3. Opposition to imperialism and support for
all movements of national liberation,
4. For workers' control over production
and a workers' state.
Applicants must also agree to accept the discipline of the organisation, actively work for it, and contribute to it.
(1) Opposition to all Ruling Class Policies
42. Trade Unions
Only by successfully defending and improving their conditions can the working class gain the knowledge, confidence and strength to attempt the overthrow of capitalism. International Socialists therefore:
(1) Oppose productivity deals and all attempts to make the workers’ pay for the rationalisation of British capitalism
(2) Support all demands aimed at defending and improving working class living standards, and oppose all wage freezes and incomes policies under capitalism Short of the overthrow of capitalism this is the only defence against inflation.
(3) Fight against all anti-trade union laws and curbs on the right to strike; for 100% trade unionism and the right to win and defend the closed shop.
(4) Demand equal pay for work of equal value regardless of sex, age and race; for a national minimum wage of £25 a week linked to rises in the cost of living.
Unemployment can only be fought on a militant policy rejecting the ruling class propaganda of a 'national interest'. We:-
(5) Fight against all forms of redundancy and for work or full pay.
(6) Demand a 35 hour week without loss of pay.
(7) Support the organisation of the unemployed.
(8) Demand the nationalisation without compensation and under workers' control of workplaces threatened with closure.
Workers Control of the Unions
The battle for the idea of workers' control in the existing organisations of the labour movement is an essential part of winning large sections of the working class to political action.
International Socialists therefore:
(9) Fight for democratic trade unions with no bans or proscriptions, controlled directly by elected lay delegates through annual conference.
(10) Demand that all trade union officials be elected annually by, be subject to recall from, and be paid the same rates as those they represent.
(11) Fight for stronger and more effective joint shop stewards’ committees on both a workshop and combine basis; for the defence of shop stewards and the right of trade unionists to discipline follow workers who flout democratic decisions,
(12) Demand regular shop and site meetings with full report backs and opportunities for the rank and file to determine policy.
(13) Stand for the building of rank and file Councils of Action to co-ordinate the fight-back.
(14) Support amalgamations leading to industrial trade unions providing rank and file rights and control are preserved and extended.
The entry of Britain into the Common Market and the rise of the multinational companies makes internationalism .more and moreessential for the British working class. We therefore raise basic demands for the genuine internationalisation of the labour movement:
(15) For regular meetings between workers in the multinational companies, where possible leading to joint activity.
(16) For parity with the best conditions and wages within international units, while retaining the right of independent negotiations.
(17) For the unionisation of all immigrant workers.
43 Social Welfare
The working class is at its most open to attack when away from the factory and when out of work through sickness, retirement or unemployment. International Socialists therefore demand:-
(1) Housing as a social service. No 'Fair Rents’; the maximum rent to be one-fifth of the minimum wage. The abolition of all private profiteering in house building; the nationalisation of land without
(2) An end to means testing. All benefits as of right, and to be tied to the national minimum wage.
(3) Pensions for all of not less than the minimum wage.
(4) The abolition of all health service charges, a free comprehensive medical and dental service available to all and the abolition of private medical schemes. Free milk and meals for alt schoolchildren.
(5) Democratic control of the social services by those who work in them, those who use them and working class organisations.
44.The inferior position of woman is the product of class society, not of biology. The struggle for real equality for women is therefore an important end indispensable part of the struggle for socialism. International Socialists therefore fight for:
(1) Equal pay, educational and job opportunities; for equal entitlement to all social welfare benefits,
(2) Maternity payments at not less than the minimum wage after the fifth month during pregnancy, and subsequently until the child reaches the age at which
free nursery facilities are available.
(3) Free contraception and free abortion on demand,
(4) The abolition of all legal discrimination against women and the establishment of equal status,
45. International Socialists oppose all class discrimination and oppression in education. We therefore demand:-
(1) Positive discrimination in favour of schools in working class areas,
(2)Free nursery education, for the school -leaving age to be raised to 18, and for higher education to be open to all.
(3) A fully comprehensive school system and the abolition of all private and fee-paying schools.
(4) The abolition of religious instruction in schools, and for school and college students to be free to join students' unions and political organisations; for freedom to discuss politics.
(5) An end to the bourgeois ideology of selection and competition in education; its replacement by collective endeavour in which the contributions of all are equally valued.
(6) Democratic control of all educational institutions by those who have a stake in them, students, teachers, parents and working class organisations. Responsible officials to be elected and subject to recall.
(2) Uncompromising Opposition to all forms of Racialism
46. Racialism is a legacy of Imperialism and the domination of the peoples of the world by the Europeans and North Americans. The triumph over it of socialist internationalism is an essential part of the winning of the working class to the programme of the revolutionary party. International Socialists:
1) Fight within the labour movement and working class against all racialist policies and attitudes; for the unionisation of all coloured workers.
2) Completely oppose all forms of immigration control, any kind of repatriation and the introduction of identity cards.
3) Oppose any form of racial discrimination.
4) Support all black organisations fighting racism.
For solidarity with black defence organisations formed to protect the black community from attack.
Opposition to Imperialism
47. Struggles against capitalism taking place throughout the world are all part of the same world-wide struggle. But frequently nationalist ideas obscure this fact making it vital that we give anti-imperial struggles moral, and where possible, material support. We do this because workers who believe they have a shared interest with imperialism cannot effectively fight their own ruling class. Organised workers are also the most effective allies of the oppressed peoples; International Socialists therefore fight in the working class movement for: movement for:
1) Unconditional recognition of the right of national self-determination against imperialism.
2) Support for all movements of national liberation.
3) Support for the defence of non-imperialist states against imperialist aggression.
48. Our support for anti-imperialist movements is unconditional, but it is not uncritical. We have no moral objection to individual terrorism in response to the mass violence of imperialism. But we do not believe it can be successful. We believe that the experience of the last fifty years has confirmed the basis of Trotsky's theory of 'Permanent Revolution', and that this applies in Ireland today:
(a) That the bourgeois revolution in the backward countries spills over into the socialist revolution,
(b) And that this revolution can only be carried through by proletarian leadership and by the spreading of the revolution on an international scale.
Thus we reject any notion that movements within a peasant or petty-bourgeois base and a nationalist ideology, or even the most radical wing of such movements, like the official Irish Republican movement, can be substituted for the building of independent revolutionary socialist parties based on the working class.
49. The International Socialists therefore:
(1) Give unconditional but critical support to both wings of the Irish Republican movement and to all fighting British imperialism in Ireland.
Call for the immediate withdrawal of British troops from Ireland.
Give full support to the building of an all-Ireland revolutionary working-class party dedicated to the overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of an Irish Workers' Republic.
(4)For Workers* Control over Production and a Workers' State
50. Workers' control is not given by a friendly legislature in a capitalist parliament. It is not won by trade union negotiation in smoke-filled rooms, it has to be taken by a working class, conscious of the limitations of reformism and led by a revolutionary party armed with Marxist theory. International Socialists believe:
(1) That workers control is the vital condition for the maintenance of working class power and the eventual victory of socialism.
(2) That there is no reformist road to workers' control
within capitalism. The capitalist state must be smashed and be replaced by a state under workers the control of the working class and its organisations.
SECTION G: CONCLUSION
51. The everyday fight against capitalism - in the factories and work shops, the unions, the council estates, for women's rights, for jobs against racialism, for equality in education - all of these and more are an essential, inseparable part of the struggle for socialism.
52. But the connection between today's partial battles and. the final, unified assault for workers' power has to be consciously conducted, relating the immediate interests of workers to the overall strategy for socialism.
53. Only by building a revolutionary party, overwhelmingly working class in composition and rooted in the class struggle, can the necessary analysis, discussion, direction and action be effectively employee. Membership of the revolutionary party imposes tremendous responsibilities in disciplined discussion and activity.
The party is the expression of the working class and its fusion with the revolutionary theory Marxism. It is in the application of experience and theory to the live movement of the workers that all these elements - theory, experience, the party and the workers' movement - are enriched.
55. Building this party is the major task of the International Socialists and the object of this programme. The ultimate goal we set ourselves is no less than the emancipation of mankind. We have a world to win.
Conference instructs the NC. to: elect a Drafting Commission to:
- Incorporate Conference amendments into the Draft programme.
- Take serious note of the general structure, length and emphasis on strategy of the document ‘A Guideline for an IS Programme’ in redrafting the existing Draft Programme
- Consider the publication of explanations and expansions' of arguments omitted from the finished Draft as a ‘Commentary on the I.S Programme’, and to make a recommendation to the N.C.
- Subsequently the N.C to publish the finished Draft as the ‘Programme of the International Socialists'