Robert Griffiths spoke at the Multilateral Forum, '100 years after World War I: the world in 2014' recently held in Lovain-la-Neuve, Belgium, 27-29 June 2014.
Multilateral Forum Communist Party of Britain Almost 100 years to the day since the outbreak of the imperialist Great War, my contribution to this seminar will concentrate on questions of militarism and war. However, as Lenin warned, this does not mean that the struggle against them should be seperated from the necessity to overthrow capitalism and build a socialist society.
100 years after World War I: the world in 2014
Lovain-la-Neuve, Belgium, 27-29 June 2014
The Communist Party of Britain will be holding its 53rd congress this November. According to the draft resolution from our Executive Committee on the current international situation, the main features are:
First, that the fundamental causes of the world capitalist crisis remain and have intensified since the banking collapse of 2008. The monopolisation of production continues, the over-accumulation of capital worsens and the control of banking capital becomes ever more concentrated.
Second, in terms of the international balance of power among capitalist states there has also been further concentration: Germany has increased its dominance within the EU, while globally the United States remains the leading imperialist power and still controls the key growth technologies, international banking and the world's main reserve currency.
Third, directly and indirectly, the US is seeking to contain the potential challenge of the BRICS countries. Their economic advance since the 2008 crisis has recently been stemmed, with the exception of China which continues to emerge as the world's second biggest economy. We are witnessing attempts at social and political destabilisation, notably in Venezuela and to some extent Brazil – aimed at undermining the ALBA alliance and other developments which challenge US free market hegemony.
In an effort to maintain the global predominance of US monopoly capital, the US has initiated two new trade treaties: one with the main economies of the Pacific region, which so far excludes China; and the second with the European Union. Together these treaties cover well over two-thirds of the current world market. Their longer-term objective is to set the legal terms for world trade in ways that would constrain Chinese competition and maximise the ability of US companies to penetrate all aspects of the Chinese economy.
President Obama’s ‘pivot to Asia’ has seen a rapid growth in US military bases around the Pacific rim and a heightening of military activity - some of it jointly with Japan - in the China Sea and on the Korean peninsula.
In the Middle East, a diplomatic detente is opening up towards the weakened theocratic regime in Iran, while new tensions have arisen between the US and its traditional allies such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and some of the Gulf Emirates. Strategically, the US has made massive state-supported investment in internal gas production to ensure its own self-sufficiency and use its corporate control over oil and gas reserves overseas to exert economic and diplomatic leverage over rival imperialist powers.
The US has stepped up its economic and military involvement in East and Central Africa and established a network of drone bases to overfly the Arabian peninsula. In Southern Africa, there have been signs of destabilisation aimed at dividing and disrupting the ANC alliance, the trade unions and the influence of the Communist Party.
Fourth, in our estimation, the major site of inter-imperialist rivalry remains Europe, centred on the European Union (EU).
US financial institutions now dominate EU financial services through the City of London. They draw profit from the financialisation of the European economy as well as providing a platform for the seizure of key productive assets. Germany and France seek to resist this. They have secured EU directives which limit bank leverage and regulate hedge funds. They have also created a banking union that does not include Britain and are actively promoting a financial transactions tax. Britain, on behalf of the US, has fought to limit the effectiveness of these measures and is currently using the threat of EU withdrawal to secure veto powers over the banking union.
More fundamentally, Germany as the dominant EU power is seeking to maximise the EU’s competitive advantages against the US. The US has control of cheaper energy resources and dominates global oil trading while the dollar’s reserve status underpins US support for its own industry and its access to external markets. Germany and its allies have used the banking crisis to radically open markets through enforced privatisation, at the same time as requiring a drastic reduction in labour standards. The enforced movement of labour is gathering pace. Collective bargaining and trade union rights are under pressure in all EU countries. At the same time the 2012 Stability Treaty has cut permissible public sector deficits to 0.5 per cent of GDP – re-introducing 1930s-style conditions in which unemployment becomes the ultimate economic regulator. The European Council’s new ‘big power’ voting system reflects this essentially imperialist subordination of weaker and smaller states.
For these reasons, Europe’s communist and left parties have declared that ‘the crisis of the European Union shows that the EU is not reformable’ and is ‘in essence a neo-liberal and militarist structure’. Their April 2014 declaration condemned the increasingly authoritarian trends within the EU, the drive against working class organisation and concerted moves to outlaw left and communist activity.
In Eastern Europe and the Caucasus, in league with the EU, the US has aggressively sought to expand NATO influence at the expense of Russia’s plans for a wider customs union. In our party's view - also expressed in the Morning Star daily newspaper - extremely dangerous precedents were set by US and EU recognition of the February coup in Ukraine and acceptance of the role of fascist paramilitaries.
Comrades, we are proud of the fact that it was our Young Communist League which first called mass protests at the Ukrainian embassy in London and consulate in Glasgow, against the coup and its imperialist and fascist supporters. Out of those actions has come a movement in solidarity with the anti-fascist resistance in Ukraine.
In all these developments, we see how imperialism today - as much as ever - means militarism, war or the threat of war.
Our response in Britain has been to build a mass anti-war, anti-nuclear weapons movement which is objectively anti-imperialist, with communists prominent in its leadership. Despite huge mobilisations, we didn't succeed in preventing British involvement in the invasion and occupation of sovereign Iraq in 2003. But we shifted public consciousness and helped politicise millions of people against imperialist war.
That is the main reason why the House of Commons voted to oppose military intervention in Syria in August 2013. In part, this reflected the pressure of the peace movement, of the trade unions and of those in the Labour Party who had learned the lessons of that party’s support for the Iraq invasion.
Some ultra-leftist sectarians who play no part in any mass movement in Britain, but who like to pose as militant Marxist-Leninists, condemn the peace and anti-war movement as 'petit-bourgeois' and the Communist Party in Britain as 'Kruschevite revisionists' for helping to build and lead it. But through it, we have extended and deepened people's understanding of imperialism, explaining the connections between monopoly capital, the state, foreign policy, militarism and war.
However, we still have much work to do to expose the monopoly capitalist character of the European Union. This must include informing people of those articles in the Lisbon Treaty which promote the mililtarisation of the EU, through the elaboration of a common foreign and military policy, closer collaboration with NATO and the development of EU rapid reaction forces and the European Defence Agency.
It is now essential that the case is put for democratic alternatives to EU membership which can win support for the concept of popular sovereignty at national level. In our view, mass movements for policies which end austerity and strengthen labour against capital provide the only effective antidote to the rise of racist, right-wing and fascist forces.
In Britain, building an alliance linking local anti-austerity campaigns, the trade unions and the non-sectarian left has been a top priority for the Communist Party and its allies. We have played a major role in initiating the People's Assembly, founded by 4,000 delegates at a conference one year ago. Last weekend, with substantial trade union support, the People's Assembly put 50,000 people on the streets of London and on July 10 it will take solidarity action with up to two million public sector workers striking to defend pay, services, pensions and jobs.
Comrades, our party aims to strengthen the presence in Britain of international labour, peace and progressive movements such as the World Peace Council, the World Federation of Trade Unions, the Women’s International Democratic Federation and the World Federation of Democratic Youth. In parallel, we seek to strengthen internationalist perspectives within the European TUC and International Trade Union Confederation and its global federations.
Now we need to ensure that an analysis of British imperialism, of its international alliances and its consequences for Britain’s economy and society, is taken into mass organisations such as the People’s Assembly, and made part of wider political debate.
In this work, of re-establishing a mass constituency for socialist internationalism, the unity of the international Communist movement will itself be critical. Participation in the International Meeting of Communist and Workers Parties represents a vital aspect of this unity. We reaffirm our party’s commitment to developing this unity based on Marxist-Leninist principles - a unity which is strengthened by its recognition of the need for differing strategies for socialism which match the specific conditions in different countries.
Finally, comrades, allow me to make two points about forthcoming events in Britain which may have international consequences as far as imperialism, peace and war are concerned.
The first is the referendum on September 18 on independence for Scotland. The Communist Party is neither for nor against Scottish separation or the union with Britain as a matter of principle. For us, this is a question of revolutionary strategy. We do not believe that, given the current or prospective balance of forces, Scottish independence will strengthen the struggle for socialism against a largely unified British capitalist class. Rather, it would run the risk of enflaming reactionary nationalism and divide what has developed up to now as an organically united working class movement across Scotland, England and Wales.
Already, we have seen the Scottish National Party government in Edinburgh abandon progressive taxation policies and opposition to NATO membership, in exchange for support from some minor sections of monopoly capital in Scotland, including the right-wing press.
That is why, together with our socialist allies in the labour movement, we argue instead for progressive federalism as the best policy to pursue, maximising the powers of the Scottish Parliament to intervene in the capitalist economy while retaining working class, progressive and communist unity against British state-monopoly capitalism.
Secondly, may I invite you to mobilise for and attend the protests being planned against the NATO summit being held in Newport, Wales, my native country, on September 4 and 5 this year. Join us on the August 30 demonstration, the following day's counter-summit and other mobilisations during the week.
One hundred years after the start of the imperialist slaughter of 1914-18, we will make the call: 'No to NATO. No to austerity. No to imperialist war'.
Communist Party of Britain
Almost 100 years to the day since the outbreak of the imperialist Great War, my contribution to this seminar will concentrate on questions of militarism and war. However, as Lenin warned, this does not mean that the struggle against them should be seperated from the necessity to overthrow capitalism and build a socialist society.