General Secretary Robert Griffiths Speech to 53rd Congress

At the 53rd congress of the communist party, general secretary Robert Griffiths calls for the workers of Britain to unite and to organise to clear out the Coalition government as soon as possible.


Time appears to be accelerating. Capitalism hurtles towards global warming, climate chaos, ever more deadly pandemics and a state of continuous rearmament and war, while long-standing social inequalities and injustices persist and fester.

This is not the New World Order promised by former US President George Bush Sr. after collapse and counter-revolution in the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.

This is not a new epoch of freedom and democracy, in which the world’s peoples enjoy universal health, welfare, education, shelter and sanitation financed in part by a massive ‘peace dividend’.

But it is the New World Order which communists foresaw as the inevitable consequence of a world dominated by giant financial and industrial corporations whose interests are promoted by state power in Britain, the USA, Germany, France and the other major imperialist countries.

Big business power – economic, social, cultural and political – strives to negate democracy in the real sense of the term, namely, rule by the people; the possession of real power in the hands of the working class and therefore of the mass of the people.

For monopoly capitalism, the democratic rights that people have fought for and won represent a challenge: how to ensure that those freedoms are not mobilised to challenge the vested interests of capitalism? How to restrict the ability of trade unions, social movements and political parties of the left to bring about real change in the interests of the working class and the people generally?

The European Union’s basic treaties enshrine the freedom of capitalist monopolies to shunt capital, labour, goods and services around the continent, to set monetarist and militarist policies in concrete, to make nationalisation all but illegal, to guarantee the independence of the European Central Bank and the anti-trade union European Court of Justice from any democratic influence or control, to restrict the power to initiate legislation to a powerful and unelected European Commission, while all the time sustaining the pretext of parliamentary democracy in the charade played out between Brussels and Strasbourg.

Through its treaties and structures, the EU shows how the capitalist monopolies and their bourgeois politicians believe they have found a way around the problem of the universal franchise.

The European Union – backed as it is by most of big business and the City of London – is doing its utmost to squeeze real democracy out of politics, to restrict the economic and financial options of elected national governments, while all the while the EU’s ‘free market’ – freedom, that is for the monopolies to exploit labour and every other commodity – sets peoples and countries against one other.

The free movement of capital and the ‘flexible labour market’ are just twin aspects of the capitalist jungle. Whether dressed up as ‘social partnership’ or a ‘social Europe’, they offer nothing to working people.

Trade unions were established and maintained by workers without any assistance from the EU, which has never blocked any of the anti-union laws that we still need to overthrow here in Britain. The basis and framework of our welfare state, the statutory minimum wage, equal pay for women, health and safety at work and – such as it is in practice – the right to strike without victimisation were won by our labour and progressive movements, in struggle, against the capitalist class, and with no assistance from the EU.

In fact, here and across the world – as the semi-secret Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership discussions with the USA confirm – the EU spearheads the global drive to monopoly domination, privatisation and the super-exploitation of labour.

That’s why the Communist Party of Britain remains consistent and principled in its opposition to the EU, on the same basis as the 14 other communist and left parties in Europe which signed the joint declaration in April this year, that the EU is reactionary, anti-democratic and unreformable. The most direct contribution that we in Britain can make to intensify its crisis of legitimacy is to withdraw at the earliest opportunity.

Ed Miliband should stop being a cheerleader for the EU, stand up for popular sovereignty and commit the next Labour government to holding a referendum on Britain’s membership.

Withdrawal from the EU and NATO, is an essential step not only towards shaping a genuinely independent foreign and defence policy for Britain, but also towards popular sovereignty – towards making the working class and the people sovereign over the economic power which at the moment controls the most essential conditions of their existence.


We meet also when the consequences of EU and NATO expansionism have revealed themselves yet again – as previously seen in the former Yugoslavia and then in Georgia – in chaos and war, this time in Ukraine.

Alongside the communists of the Russian Federation, we have no illusions in President Putin. He is a reactionary who represents the predominant section of the capitalist oligarchy in that country, those thieves and gangsters who – in league with elements in the old state apparatus – stole the economic assets which once belonged to the Soviet people collectively.

But we also recognise a coup incited, financed and shaped by the US, Germany and other Western powers when we see it, such as the one which overthrew the democratically elected government in Kiev with a pro-EU, pro-NATO regime riddled with right-wing nationalists and fascists.

There are plenty of grounds on which the Putin regime can be condemned. But accepting the clear will of the Crimean people to rejoin Russia is not one of them. Neither is assisting the people of eastern Ukraine to withstand a brutal military assault from Kiev troops and fascist irregulars.

Above all, we refuse to swallow the propaganda of Western powers – above all the US and Britain – which have the blood of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans on their hands as the result of bombing and invading those countries; reducing cities, towns and villages to rubble; and creating the chaos in which the brutal reactionaries of ISIS and other fundamentalists can prosper.

Nor will we forget that had Britain’s Tory government and its little LibDem helpers had their way last year, ISIS would be in power in Damascus today, murdering Syria’s ethnic and religious minorities, slaughtering communists and progressives and enslaving women.

British and US governments laid the basis for the rise of Islamic fundamentalism when they trained and funded jihadists in the 1970s and early 1980s to overthrow the progressive, communist-led government in Afghanistan. Western military intervention to topple the Assad regime would have had similar consequences today.

Again, this does not make us cheerleaders for the Assad dynasty. But like the two Syrian communist parties which took opposing positions on the character of that regime, we support the struggle of the Syrian armed forces and its allies to maintain a secular society against the fundamentalist barbarians.


There is no imperialist intervention to assist the Palestinian people. Israel remains free to oppress, dispossess and massacre the Palestinians rather than engage in discussions to end its illegal occupation and bring about a two-state solution based on UN resolutions and international law.

Unless and until Israel enters meaningful negotiations with the elected representatives of the Palestinian people, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign should be intensified. The drive to win recognition for Palestinian statehood goes on, not least here in Britain where public opinion has finally seen through the smokescreen of Israeli lies to the bloody reality laid bare in Gaza this summer.


The biggest contribution we can make to international solidarity is to change things in our own country, which is still one of the world’s centres of imperialism.

Our own people are suffering, too.

The ruling class in Britain, with the City of London finance capitalists at its core, has utilised the economic and financial crisis to escalate its offensive against workers and their families.

The New Labour government of Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling rescued the banking sector and the whole British economy, with a bail-out that now amounts to £1.3 trillion in buy-outs, loans, guarantees and ‘Quantitative Easing’.

This blood transfusion for British capitalism far exceeds any subsidies received by the old nationalised industries. And is British big business grateful to Labour for rescuing it once again, as it did in the post-war reconstruction period after 1945?

Of course not. Once Labour has served its purposes, state-monopoly capitalism and its mass media want Labour out, and the Tory first eleven back in office to turn the screw even tighter.

And the Tories, the Daily Mail, the Sun and the rest of the pack are only emboldened by Ed Miliband’s timidity and Ed Balls’ gabbling cowardice.

Well, at this 53rd congress of the Communist Party in Britain, we are as bold and resolute as we were at our 1st in 1920.

Faced with the rampant fraud, greed and crookery of the City of London, we say: nationalise the banking sector, not subsidise it!

Shut down the tax havens under British jurisdiction around the world!

When top company executives in Britain grab 143 times the average wage of their employees, three times the gap in the 1990s – slap a wealth tax on the super-rich!

If Labour is serious about winning the General Election next May, the party should adopt these and other popular policies that would inspire millions of electors and throw UKIP into retreat.

Does anyone now argue that taking the railways, Royal Mail, gas, water and electricity back into public ownership would be anything but a vote winner?

Ah, the still lurking New Labourites say, that’s all very well but how could we possibly afford it?

Well, I went to the FTSE 350 Index on Thursday and costed a shopping list based on the market value of all the shares in the following companies:

Centrica & British Gas £14.8 billion
Scottish & Southern Elect. £15.1 bn

They account for almost 50 per cent of the domestic energy market. We could throw in all the infrastructure and buy the National Grid for £35.3bn.

This would be by far the best basis on which to plan the vital switch to guaranteed investment in renewable wind, tidal, geo-thermal and solar power and the development of nuclear fusion and thorium technology within the public sector. The Tory government’s alternative – huge subsidies and guaranteed corporate profits for fracking and nuclear fission – is a ticking financial and environmental time-bomb for which future generations will not thank us.

To carry on with the shopping:

Pennon Water £3.4 bn
Severn Trent £4.7 bn
United Utilities £5.9 bn

The water companies owned by French, Australian and Middle Eastern interests would add another £20bn or so to the bill.

Bringing the Royal Mail back into public ownership, but with a more democratic model which involves the workforce and their union in decision-making, would cost £4.7bn at Thursday’s share price.

The privatised railway franchises could be taken over for nothing on expiry, although a Labour government could buy them out early for around £25bn. Ten-year Treasury bonds could pay the dispossessed owners £2.5bn a year in interest, instead of the same amount that we currently hand them every year in state subsidies for nothing in return. The £28bn in state funds earmarked for infrastructure investment through National Rail would then go into an efficient publicly owned industry, rather than into a high-fare profiteering private one.

And while we’re shopping in the transport department, we could pick up the First Group for £1.5bn, National Express for £1.2bn, Go-Ahead for £1bn and – without the enthusiastic support of the SNP – Stagecoach for £2.1bn.

Successive British governments guarantee huge profits for the armaments industry, parts of which could be converted to more socially useful production. One of the biggest companies, BAE Systems, would cost £14.5bn. Qinetiq, the company set up by New Labour to promote arms conversion but which used military technology to boost corporate profits before being privatised, could be had for £1.3bn.

Finally, although taxpayers have already paid for the main British banks several times over, we could buy out the remaining shareholders of Lloyd’s and RBS for around £57bn and snap up Barclays for £37.7bn and HSBC for £121.5bn.

How much is that at the till? Presuming that all the shares are being bought, and not just a controlling parcel, and that the prospect of nationalisation has not driven down their value, the bill would amount to just under £370bn.

Where would the money come from? If we wanted to buy each company outright, the Brown and Cameron governments have had no problem finding £375bn in the Bank of England to fund the banks through Quantitative Easing. So we would even have some change from that. Or the government could finance the annual interest payable on Treasury stock, issued in place of existing shareholdings, out of the annual profits or state subsidies that these companies enjoy.

All of which begs the question: what kind of government would take such bold steps to secure, modernise and plan key sectors of Britain’s economy?


Together with the Morning Star, our party has worked hard to stimulate and guide discussion in the labour movement about the crisis of working class political representation in Britain.

The outgoing Executive Committee believes that this 53rd congress must continue to give a lead, to help ensure that this crisis is resolved in the interests of workers and their families in England, Scotland and Wales – not on the basis of any type of nationalism, but on the basis of class politics, uniting the working class not dividing it along national or ethnic lines.

Developing our policy for progressive federalism, including devolution for England, is an urgent and important task that this congress can perform for the labour movement.

The EC believes that the period up to, during and immediately after the General Election is likely to prove decisive in helping us to assess whether the labour movement can and will reclaim the Labour Party; or whether major sections of the movement will have to consider what steps should be taken to re-establish a mass party of labour, one capable of winning General Elections, forming a government and enacting far-reaching reforms in the interests of the working class and people generally.

In order to create the most favourable conditions for resolving this question, and to advance the immediate interests of working class people, an upsurge is needed in mass activity and action. That is why it’s so important that we discuss the priorities and line of march of the trade union movement, the People’s Assembly, the women’s movement including the National Assembly of Women, and the peace movement.

How can we make a more effective contribution to the fight against racism? What more can be done in solidarity with the unemployed and people with disabilities in their battles against a cruel government, its benefit tests and its Bedroom Tax?

There is much to discuss and much to do.


The efforts of the EC and Party centre since the 52nd congress are set out in the Report of Work, which I formally move and commend to you as an honest assessment of our strengths, weaknesses, successes and failures.

Our biggest strength is the calibre of our members.

As General Secretary of the Communist Party, it’s been my privilege over the past two years to address numerous events across Britain. Whether at the Cambridge Union, the Sheffield or Bristol Trades Council, public meetings in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee, a Morning Star conference in Exeter, the Durham Miners Gala, a public meeting in north London, the TUC in Liverpool, the May Day rally in Cardiff, the YCL school in the Peak District, the anti-Tory march through Manchester or the Midlands Communist University in Birmingham, the commitment and hard work of our comrades, and the esteem in which they are held by so many friends and allies, never ceases to impress me and make me proud of our party and its contribution to the political class struggle on every front.

In the interests of the working class and the peoples of Britain, in the interests of the labour, women’s and peace movement, in the interests of the international communist movement, we must build the Communist Party of Britain.

And as we do so, let us bear in mind those words of Marx and Engels in the Manifesto of the Communist Party in 1848:

‘The Communists fight for the attainment of the immediate aims, for the enforcement of the momentary interests of the working class; but in the movement of the present, they also represent and take care of the future of that movement’.

Comrades, the future of our movement, of Britain and of our planet is socialism!

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