Letter: Reply to Finsbury Communist

Proletarian writers

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Proletarian writers

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“Whenever workers get the sack and see their jobs transferred to a cheap labour country, the CPGB-ML has the same explanation, whether it is the Peugeot car workers in Coventry or the Cadbury’s chocolate workers in Keynsham, Bristol, or wherever. Nobody is really to blame, says Proletarian. It is simply the World Crisis of Overproduction of cars, chocolate, etc. Resistance is futile. The worker should, instead, simply demand index-linked full normal pay for doing nothing. If the employers and the government refuse to come up with same, the workers should change society.

“It is just not true that there is overproduction of cars and chocolate. If such were the case, why would the employers want to continue producing them in Slovakia and Poland for much less than one-third of British pay?

“There is one world market, one world employment exchange. Hundreds of millions of workers have been and are leaving abysmal pay and conditions in the Third World countryside for better-paid working class jobs in the towns. Too many workers, worldwide, are chasing too few jobs. The UK ruling class, the government and the employers are taking advantage of the situation to attack the pay and conditions of some of the best-paid members of the international working class.” (From ‘Tell the working class the truth’, Finsbury Communist, February 2008)

One can sympathise with the writer’s frustration. When yet another chunk of Britain’s manufacturing base crumbles into the sea, it would be very satisfying to be able to offer workers a sure-fire set of tactics that would keep everybody in a job and reverse the decline. It is clearly frustration at the lack of any such easy answers that drives the author to have a go at satirising what he supposes to be the CPGB-ML’s quietism – “Resistance is futile”!

Sober reflection should, however, convince him that it is social democracy, not our Marxist economics, that is the obstacle blocking the British proletariat from its own emancipation. So far from denouncing resistance, we welcome every blow against capitalism, even the feeblest.

However, instead of telling workers to put pressure on the government to ‘protect British jobs’, or relying on appeals to conscience and common sense to stay the executioner’s hand, we do indeed “tell the working class the truth” (as our correspondent enjoins us to do) about the crisis of overproduction upon which imperialism is once again foundering.

Why does the writer suppose that “too many workers are chasing too few jobs”, if not because the overproduction crisis is forcing capitalism to wipe out surplus capacity and intensify exploitation to avoid extinction in the cut-throat struggle for shrinking markets? Cadbury’s prays that by relocating chocolate production to a cheaper-wage economy like Poland, it can remain an instrument of monopoly concentration and not become another of its victims.

Whether winners or losers, by their actions, Cadbury’s, Peugeot and the rest will thereby intensify further the crisis from which they seek to escape.

Workers need to hear about this if they are to grasp the tasks facing their class in the coming period. Even in the short term, a struggle for defence of jobs that is accompanied by the struggle to break the link with Labour actually has the strongest chance of securing whatever concessions might prove possible – and with the least danger of reinforcing illusions in the system or chauvinist prejudices along the way.

And if, as in an increasing number of struggles will prove to be the case, the time for even minor capitalist reforms and concessions is past, then such a clear-sighted campaign will all the more serve to prepare workers for the yet-more crucial struggles ahead, whatever the immediate outcome of the particular battle.