An Alternative Economic & Political Strategy

As well as stepping up the resistance to the policies of the capitalist monopolies and their state, and securing solidarity and coordination wherever possible, the labour and progressive movements need a unifying programme of alternative policies.

Such a coherent, integrated LWP would therefore comprise a vital component of the AEPS. It will give direction to all those fighting against right-wing policies and the capitalist monopolies, adding to their confidence and combativeness as realisable advances are won. Many of these policies can also be popularised through initiatives such as the People’s Charter for Change, the Charter for Women and the Charter for Youth.

But in important respects, the LWP goes further. While showing how policies in different spheres can reinforce one another, it lays the basis for even more advanced policies from a left-wing government at a later stage in the revolutionary process. That is why it must be debated, adopted and fought for at every level of the labour and progressive movements, making possible the kind of mass movement and mass struggle essential for victory.

Building a productive, sustainable economy

The LWP will have to include policies to end the City of London’s financial domination of British government economic policy. They should strengthen productive industry and our public services, achieve full employment, assist Third World development and contribute to safeguarding our planet’s ecosystem.

Full employment must be restored as a central objective of government economic policy. All young people should be guaranteed a job, good-quality training or apprenticeship, or a place in post-school education. The LWP would therefore need policies to invest massively in public services and end all forms of privatisation. Public and private sector investment should be directed into manufacturing and productive industry, with controls imposed on the export of capital. Exporting more hi-tech goods and services to developing countries would help meet their economic and social needs while sustaining productive employment in Britain. Through a comprehensive system of planning agreements, and with the fullest participation of workers and their unions, the government committed to the LWP would be able to ensure that major private companies pursue investment, employment, pensions and other policies that serve the interests of workers, the economy and society.

A shorter working week and standard working life, with no loss of pay, would also help to ensure that investment in new technology does not lead to an overall loss of jobs. Mass redundancies should be outlawed in viable enterprises, while strategic enterprises threatened by closure are taken into democratic public ownership. Advertising, financial and property services should be limited and their socially useful functions transferred to public bodies. Hostile buy-outs based on debt and asset-stripping must be stopped, along with speculation in commodities, securities and derivatives.

Support for viable, sustainable local communities in the countryside will also require specific measures to provide well-paid employment in farming, forestry, conservation and tertiary industries including light engineering, manufacturing and construction. Sustainable agricultural production should be expanded but subsidies ended to big landowners and agribusiness. Britain should aim to become more self-sufficient in food production, with support for small and tenant farmers, including incentives for cooperative initiatives. Landed estates, luxury tourist establishments and ‘second’ homes must be brought under the democratic control of local communities. No longer will big landowners, property developers and big business be permitted to impose unwanted development against the wishes of local people.

Securing the economic base of rural communities will help ensure the future of vital local school, public transport, postal and communication services, supported where necessary by central government funding. Such policies are especially necessary if young people are to have a viable and fulfilling future while sustaining our rural communities.

Measures to promote cooperative, municipal and other forms of social enterprise and common ownership can provide an alternative to capitalist enterprise and a glimpse of post-capitalist possibilities, although at this stage they have to function within the confines of the monopoly-dominated ‘free’ market in the capitalist system.

Democratic public ownership of the financial sector, gas, electricity, water, oil, railways, buses, road haulage and air travel is the only basis on which these vital sectors and resources can be planned, integrated and managed in the interests of society and the environment. Such an approach would facilitate the extension of rail and tram networks and a massive transfer of freight from road and air to rail.

A huge expansion of investment and production in wind, tidal, geothermal and solar power is vital to meet what will have to be strict targets for cutting carbon emissions. Policies might include, for example, installing solar panels in all large and new public and private sector buildings, and harnessing river estuary tidal power through the deployment of lagoon and submarine turbine technology.

Britain’s substantial deep-mined coal reserves should be utilised with the application of clean-coal and carbon capture technology. This would provide the alternative to the massive open-cast developments which scar the landscape and blight nearby communities through traffic and other pollution.

Reliance on nuclear fission as a source of energy remains a costly, dangerous and hugely irresponsible option. The consequences of radioactive contamination can be calamitous. Decommissioning obsolete plant is enormously expensive. Eliminating or storing waste safely and permanently cannot yet be done. The by-product of nuclear power generation – plutonium – provides the otherwise scarce core material for most nuclear weapons.

Nuclear fusion, on the other hand, neither requires uranium (another core material when further enriched) nor produces plutonium. This safer technology could supply the planet’s population with most, if not all, of its power. But major technical problems mean that research and development have been expensive and unprofitable. That is why private monopoly capital refused to invest in it. Britain’s nuclear fusion programme, part of an international effort based here, should be kept in the public sector and hugely expanded as part of the drive against carbon emissions and global warming. Likewise, research should be intensified into alternative fission technology based on the use of thorium. It could prove to be safer and more efficient than uranium, does not produce weapon material and can burn up toxic waste and plutonium from scrapped nuclear plants and bombs.

National programmes of energy conservation, waste disposal and recycling would utilise the most advanced energy-efficient and environmentally friendly technology. They should include policies to support home-working, to bring jobs closer to where people live and to encourage greater use of public rather than private transport.

For social justice and democratic culture

The main social policies of the LWP must aim to raise people’s living standards, sharply reduce social inequality, attack all forms of discrimination and encourage people’s own cultural creativity.

The LWP will therefore need to include policies to increase state pensions, benefits and the national minimum wage substantially, linking them to rising earnings or prices and ending all discrimination against women and young workers. Compulsory equal pay audits across the private and public sectors would provide a clear framework for trade union and legal action to achieve equal pay for work of equal value in all workplaces. It is also important to provide training and retraining programmes for workers of all ages, especially women and ethnic minorities, thereby allowing them entry into more skilled, secure and better-paid jobs. The age of voluntary retirement should be reduced for all, with no loss of pension entitlements, thereby making jobs available for the next generation of workers.

Stronger legislation will need to be rigorously enforced against all forms of discrimination on grounds of gender, race, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, etc. The right of women to control their own bodies necessarily involves the right to free contraception and abortion across Britain. A comprehensive network of services and refuges for victims of domestic violence must be established throughout Britain, properly funded and regulated.

A massive drive has to be launched to build more council houses, especially in inner-city and rural communities, and to appropriate long-term empty properties for socially useful purposes. Free or affordable sheltered accommodation and residential care must be available for the elderly, together with free domestic fuel and public transport.

All measures to weaken, break up, commercialise or privatise the National Health Service (NHS) must be halted and reversed. Medical treatment must remain free at the point of delivery, funded largely through progressive taxation. NHS coverage should be extended rather than reduced, for example into the provision of cancer screening and dental treatment. The aim must be to drive profiteering out of the NHS, while involving workers and users more closely in consultative and administrative functions.

Drug addiction will only be combated effectively through school and public health education, combined with substantial investment in treatment, not least in prison, and rehabilitation. The decriminalisation of drug addiction would signal the end of a failed and counter-productive policy. Similarly, combating self-destructive and anti-social behaviour will require much greater investment in the youth services and facilities that provide stimulating and constructive alternatives.

The education system needs to be of the highest quality, adequately staffed and free to all. Improving nursery and childcare provision and making it available to all, funded by the public and private sectors, will not only benefit the children themselves. It will also ensure that women with children can escape casual work on the margins and obtain jobs in the mainstream of the economy.

The principle of a comprehensive, secular primary and secondary education system must be resolutely upheld and, wherever possible, extended. Breaking up and privatising the current state system, separating children along religious lines and removing schools from democratic control will plunge Britain’s education system into a new age of gross inequality, privilege and divisive sectarianism. Further and higher education, including the universities, must be accessible to every section of society, with grants generous enough to support students without recourse to loans or family contributions. Maintenance grants should be the right of all adults engaged in full-time study, with no place for tuition fees or graduate taxes.

The promotion of social harmony and good community relations can only be based on the principles of multiculturalism and secularism, respecting and celebrating cultural diversity while opposing oppressive ideas and practices in all cultures and religions. Freedom of religious belief and worship must be guaranteed for all, with no privileges for any one religion or church in the machinery of state.

The state must vigorously enforce laws against racial hatred and discrimination. But this should not be relied upon as a substitute for mass mobilisations to deny all platforms to racists and fascists, drowning them in a sea of popular, democratic activity.

Cultural policies should aim to encourage people’s participation, creativity and self-organisation. This is the alternative to passive consumption of the mass, trite, individualistic ‘culture’ propagated by the capitalist monopolies and the state-licensed broadcasting media. It would require greater support for all kinds of local facilities and initiatives in the arts and physical culture, including in radio, television and film production, publishing and sport.

There will also need to be policies to promote the Welsh, Scots Gaelic and Cornish languages in economic, social, political and cultural life. All immigrants to Britain must have opportunities to learn the language of their new home area free of charge, whether English, Welsh or Scots Gaelic. The rights of all citizens will be protected as everyone is encouraged to make her or his distinctive contribution to Britain as a multicultural society.

Funding the Left-Wing Programme

Such an ambitious range of economic, social and cultural policies will have to be financed through a more progressive tax regime and revised public spending priorities. The LWP might therefore include policies to:

  • Increase tax rates on higher rates of income.

  • Levy an annual wealth tax on the richest section of the population.

  • Impose a ‘Robin Hood’ tax on City financial transactions.

  • Increase the rate of corporation tax on the profits of large companies.

  • Place a windfall tax on monopoly profits in specific industries as necessary.

  • Close all tax havens under British jurisdiction.

  • Implement deep cuts in VAT on essential goods and services.

  • Replace the council tax by local income, wealth, land and property taxes based clearly on the ability to pay.

  • Renegotiate and, where appropriate, cancel Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contracts in order to eliminate excessive corporate profiteering.

  • Cut British military spending and end all state subsidies for armaments exports.

  • Control movements of capital in and out of Britain.

  • Over time, as inequalities in income and wealth are eroded, economic growth would provide more of the basis for increased tax revenues.

Extending and deepening democracy

The struggle to promote the economic and social interests of working people is directly linked with the battle to expand democracy against the power of big business. The institutions of state and their top officials must be made answerable to elected representatives, who in turn must be fully accountable to the people. More extensive democratic rights are necessary, not least so that people and their organisations can take action more freely and effectively.

The LWP should therefore include measures to restore the democratic and civil liberties abolished or eroded by Conservative and Labour governments since 1979, especially those relating to assembly, demonstration and detention without charge.

This would also mean repealing the anti-trade union laws so that trade unionists are free to govern their own organisations and determine their own policies. The right to take industrial and solidarity action without the threat of sequestration and imprisonment is a fundamental human right, enshrined in international law. Full trade union rights must be extended to police and prison officers, intelligence staff and armed forces personnel, who should also be encouraged to study and discuss the wider social, civic and political context in which they operate.

All workers should qualify for full and equal rights at work from day one of a job. Workers and their trade union representatives should have more extensive rights to consultation and veto over company plans relating to substantial restructuring, mass redundancy or closure.

Britain’s asylum, immigration and nationality laws must be purged of all direct and indirect racial discrimination, and the internment centres for asylum seekers must be closed.

So that Britain’s parliaments and assemblies more closely represent the preferences of the electors, they should be elected by single transferable vote in multi-member constituencies. This would ensure proportional representation without breaking the direct link between elected representatives and meaningful local constituencies. Such representatives would be made constantly accountable if electors had the right to petition for a by-election.

Political parties should not receive any state funding, so that they have to rely largely on voluntary donations from the people they claim to represent. Corporate political donations should be submitted to a ballot of the employers and employees of the enterprise concerned.

Setting the age of adulthood, including the right to vote, at 16 would reflect the other freedoms and responsibilities acquired by many young people at that age.

The role of the mass media in promoting and sustaining democracy would be transformed by breaking up monopoly ownership and control. Greater diversity of sources and views, a statutory right of reply and an end to the use of injunctions and libel laws by the wealthy and powerful would hugely expand media freedom in Britain.

To revive and develop community participation, accountability and self-government, powers and resources should be restored to local government in areas such as business taxation, council housing, management of schools and public transport.

Likewise at British state level, the Westminster parliament must take steps to recover important powers from the EU and its institutions. The House of Lords should be abolished and the Church of England disestablished as the official state church.

It is essential that the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly have the full economic, legislative and financial powers necessary to protect and develop the economic, social and cultural interests of their peoples. Such powers and resources are particularly important for the Scottish and Welsh governments to enable them to intervene decisively in the economy, to exercise popular sovereignty over monopoly and market forces.

The growth of legislative powers in Scotland and Wales raises the question of the legislative process for England. The Communist Party believes that this will best be resolved by the House of Commons reconstituting itself as an English parliament, with only the English MPs present whenever England-only measures are considered.

A longer-term constitutional settlement, based on the unity of three nations of Britain combined with substantial powers of self-government for each, might take the form of a federal system with new structures that reflect their equal status.

Directly-elected regional government in England should proceed where there is clear demand, although without sufficient powers and resources to direct economic development there is the danger of creating ‘talking shops’ which draw powers from local councils instead. English regional assemblies should also take control of services currently administered by non-elected public bodies – ‘quangos’ – in fields such as training, further education and health.

The distinctive cultural and social characteristics of Cornwall should be expressed through a directly elected Cornish Assembly, with powers that match local aspirations.

The special status enjoyed by monopoly capital in the Isle of Man and Channel Isles, which are run as semi-feudal big business fiefdoms, will have to be ended. Instead, the peoples of those islands should be democratically represented in the Westminster parliament, with their own democratic parliaments – Tynwald and the States – strengthened by proportional representation and economic powers like those proposed for Wales and Scotland.

An independent foreign policy for Britain

In the international arena, the aim of the LWP must be to ensure that Britain pursues its own foreign policy, independent of the United States (US) and the EU.

A left government in Britain would strengthen relations with progressive regimes and movements around the world on the basis of practical and political solidarity.

It would seek to develop fair economic relations, except where people demand the boycott of an oppressive or occupying regime in their own country.

Major new trade and technology agreements with developing countries would bring mutual benefit. British transnational corporations (TNCs) overseas would be regulated to ensure compliance with the highest labour and environmental standards. Cancelling Third World public debt to British financial TNCs would enable those countries to invest, develop and benefit from fair-trade relations with Britain and other developed economies. It follows that the left government would therefore oppose neoliberal economic and financial policies in all international agencies of which Britain is a member.

The development of the United Nations (UN) and its associated institutions as agencies for progress will depend on the strengthening of working class and anti-imperialist forces at national level. Making the permanent membership of the UN Security Council more representative of the world’s peoples, with states such as China retaining their veto, would provide some counter-balance to the abuse and manipulation of the UN and member states by the imperialist powers.

An independent, progressive foreign policy for Britain would also include support for measures to rid the world of nuclear testing and all weapons of mass destruction. Unilaterally abolishing nuclear weapons, as Ukraine and South Africa have done, would enable Britain to promote multilateral nuclear and conventional disarmament more effectively. The resources currently wasted on unnecessary armaments research, development and production should be redirected to socially useful purposes, notably in such fields as renewable energy technology and advanced communications, transport and rescue systems.

Clearly, the subservient alliance with US imperialism, including collusion in the violation of fundamental human rights and international law, would have to cease immediately. All British involvement in military invasions and occupations of other people’s countries must also end, as should diplomatic support and arms exports to repressive regimes. Any further enlargement of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) should be opposed and, failing that organisation’s dissolution, Britain should withdraw from it.

In the absence of any significant progress towards the establishment of an independent, sovereign Palestinian state on the basis of UN resolutions, alongside a secure Israel, the British government should pursue unilateral and multilateral sanctions against the Israeli state and its institutions until real progress is made.

Striving to implement the domestic and international policies of the LWP would mean rejecting the neoliberal directives and policies of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the Council of Ministers, and legislating to negate the anti-trade union and anti-working class judgements of the European Court of Justice.

The British government should resist all further steps towards a ‘United States of Europe’ and begin preparations for Britain’s withdrawal from the EU. New bilateral and multilateral agreements may need to be negotiated, for mutually beneficial cooperation with European and other countries. Britain should also oppose all attempts in the EU or Council of Europe to equate or supplant the crimes of fascism with the ‘crimes of Communism’.

In Ireland, as well as fulfilling all the terms of the Good Friday Agreement in the north, the British government should work with the Irish, Scottish and Welsh governments to strengthen and extend the work of the Council of the Isles. In particular, it would make clear Britain’s commitment to help bring about the reunification of Ireland on the basis of popular consent, north and south.

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