Thank-you very much for coming today, to hear our presentation on The Historical Need for Communism.
We are the International Communist Party, and this is the first time we have held a public meeting in England. We are very pleased to welcome some Italian comrades, who have made a special journey to be here today, and they will also take questions at the end of the presentation.
So who are we? We represent the continuity of Marxism, and the need for economic organisation of the working class. Very briefly, what distinguishes us against all those who make similar claims is the line running from Marx to Lenin, to the Third International, and onward to the founding of the Communist Party of Italy at Livorno in 1921; and from there through the struggle of the Italian Communist Left against the degeneration in Moscow - forever associated with the name of Stalin and the poisonous notion of ‘Socialism in One Country’ - and against the popular fronts and coalitions of resistance groups. Our task is to restore the revolutionary doctrine and the party organisation, in contact with the working class, outside the realm of personalist politics and electoral manoeuvrings.
In a nutshell, we represent the views of the Communist Left, of intransigently revolutionary communism.
A presentation on The Historical Need for Communism was then given, which will be published seperately.
Another comrade then referred to the article “Outside and Against the Existing Trade Unions”, which was published by the Party in 1979 and sums up the lessons learnt from the formation of the new "base-trade unions" in Italy, which are still a component of the Italian labour movement today. These breakaway unions appeared due to the failure of the "official" unions, which are now firmly integrated into the State like the old fascist unions, and are now entirely impenetrable as far as communist organisation is concerned. We view these new "base" (or rank-and-file) unions as an expression of the need for a class trade union, necessary in order to fight the proletariat’s economic battles on a class basis, that is, at the expense of the "national" economy and the requirements of the capitalist class.
Although we didn’t have time to present the article in full, we distributed copies to those interested, and highlighted that, even as we spoke, thousands of members of the "base" unions had taken to the streets in Italy to declare a 24 hour General Strike. The slogan "Outside and Against the [State-controlled, patriotic] Trade unions" is therefore not something plucked out of thin air, but a response to the reality of what is actually happening before our eyes.
The meeting was then opened to questions, which became a series of contributions from those attending the meeting.
Experiences of the workers in Britain and Denmark were highlighted - but the fact that the workers seem to be quiet at the moment doesn’t mean that they will continue to be subservient in the future.
A worker who attended the meeting was clearly moved by the outlining of a clear and undiluted communist message. He expressed the hope that he would hear more of the same, and noted the difference between what we were saying and the reformist positions expounded by many so-called left-wing groups. After the meeting was over, this comrade told us about his experiences as a dockworker, the appalling working conditions, and how, entirely spontaneously, he had come to lead an unofficial dock strike and how he was later victimised as a result. His story, of unofficial action in the face of the stalling of the official unions, was a heartening confirmation of the potential for revolt that always exists just below the surface in any working class struggle.
Other questions posed by the attendees were: Do you not think the State is getting increasingly involved in the confrontation between working class and bosses? Do you not believe that all the organisations ‘influenced by’ the Communist Left should get together and meet, with a view to uniting their forces?
It was difficult to give a short answer to either of these questions but, at any rate, our comrade replied to the first one by recalling that the State has always interfered in working class/capitalist confrontations, and always, of course, on the side of capitalists as it is the State of capitalism, not the state of all classes as they would have us believe. There may be times when its presence is not so obvious because the situation does not require it, as in the second post war period (at least in the Western democracies) but history has proved that it is always there, in all countries, ready to compensate for any shortcomings in control over the proletariat; and examples of this were given.
The second question is an old one, and goes back to the time of the separation of our party from the "Internationalists"; who had failed to understand the lessons of the Left and of the counterrevolution. The rebirth of the Party in 1952 on firm and clear foundations, after the period of elation that followed World War II, meant a neat and definitive separation from the "Internationalists" and from their positions. To talk now of mergers or joint actions is therefore deprived of any historical significance. But, of course, any revolutionary who sees in the International Communist Party the party of the revolution can join as an individual basis.
The final issue raised at the meeting was by a member of the Anti-Cuts campaigns, who talked about her experiences, and the impact of the Government cuts on jobs and services which directly and indirectly affect millions of people. It was recognised that the working class is being affected by the cuts and it was predicted that there will be more cuts to come: affecting principally the public sector workers, the impact is being felt through unemployment, reduced job security, lower pay and reduced pension rights. In a word, the conditions of the public sector workers - historically better organised - are under attack, and the government is seeking to reduce it to the condition of the workers in the so-called "third sector", mainly charity providers (isolated and often entirely unorganised) to whom a lot of public sector work is now being farmed out, often on very short-term contracts.
One of the speakers then went on to point out that there are millions who are on State benefits affected by the attacks upon their payments. Besides those affected by “sanctions” (having benefits stopped if they are not willing to take any job offered) there are the even worse experiences of those who had had their Sickness Benefits removed, after failing to meet the new, far stricter criteria. The procedure for forcing people onto Jobseekers Allowance (being available for work) is a particularly appalling and degrading process, and increasingly mirrors the attacks against those in work.
A Summing Up: The speaker took the opportunity to point out that the bureaucratisation and assimilation of the unions into the State, and into the service of the employers, is a process that has been going on since the 1860s. During the 1860s (the period of the First International, and the formation of the TUC) the craft union leaders preferred to be in the pay of the capitalists, to the point where Marx caustically commented that it was an honour not to be called an English trade union leader.
The 1880’s saw the emergence of the new unions, the organisation of semi-skilled and unskilled workers (the Great Dockers Strike, the Gasworkers, etc), these too would be drawn into the same processes of bureaucratisation that the skilled unions had gone through earlier. Prior to and during the first world war, the expression of revolt and organisation of the rank-and-file workers against the bureaucratisation of the new unions took the form of unofficial movements and shop stewards committees.
Since the 1920s onwards we have seen a purging of unofficial movements, and the incorporation of the shop stewards movement into the trade union structures.
How workers in Great Britain will organise in the face of current challenges, with the incorporation of the unions into the capitalist machinery becoming ever more evident, remains to be seen. We believe, however, that the formation of breakaway unions, as a matter of necessity in Italy, is the way things will also go in England, leading eventually to a class union; that is, a union that is no longer beset by illusions that workers and capitalists can "work things out", but one that understands that they can never be anything other than... implacable enemies.
The meeting was then closed.
INTERNATIONAL COMMUNIST PARTY