Robert Griffith’s oration at Highgate Cemetery later today (Sunday) at the commemoration, organised by the Marx Memorial Library, of the death of Karl Marx.

Dear Comrades,

In the Manifesto of the Communist Party, Marx and Engels wrote:

'Though not in substance, yet in form, the struggle of the proletariat with the bourgeoisie is at first a national struggle. The proletariat of each country must, of course, first of all settle matters with its own bourgeoisie'.

Have we settled matters with the capitalist class and its state power here in Britain, or in its constituent nations? Of course not.

Do we — the working class, the labour movement, the left — have the capacity and potential to do so?

There are those on the left who argue, 168 years later, that the struggle for a socialist society has to be fought at a continental level.

This presupposes that political power today is concentrated in the treaties and institutions of the European Union.

And it's true that these treaties and institutions represent the common interests of monopoly capital across Europe: for the free movement of capital and commodities including labour power; limits on public sector borrowing and debt; severe restrictions on social enterprise and state aid for industry; and militarisation of the economy in partnership with NATO.

But ultimately the EU still rests upon the state-monopoly capitalism of each country, dominated by the strongest ones. In a crisis or conflict, the German, French and British states represent the predominant interests of the capitalist class in their own country.

The question is, therefore: does membership of the EU help or hinder the political class struggle for progress and revolutionary transformation?

Our long experience of class struggle in Britain, and the experience of the Communist Party here since 1920, has taught us that there are no short cuts to socialism.

Whether Britain stays in the EU or leaves, the need will remain for mass mobilisations and confrontations in the revolutionary struggle for state power.

Will it assist us to be inside a European Union where the capitalist class in Britain can call upon basic EU treaties and institutions to obstruct the road to socialism?

The EU institutionalises the international solidarity of otherwise rival capitalist powers, not the international solidarity of workers and their parties.

This is imperialist internationalism which, as Lenin reminded us when arguing against a United States of Europe, would be aimed at socialism at home, rival imperialisms abroad and oppressed peoples everywhere.

Why should we lock ourself into a cage designed by monopoly capital, for monopoly capital?

Ah, we are told, we need the solidarity of other workers in Europe, as they need ours. This is true — our interests lie in the internationalism of exploited and oppressed peoples worldwide.

But our prime responsibility is to settle affairs wth the capitalist class in Britain. In fact, putting an end to British imperialism is the most profoundly internationalist task we could perform.

And however much international solidarity we receive, it cannot be a substitute for our own strength and our own efforts.

It is an insult to the history of the labour movement in Britain to suggest that we are incapable of fighting for progress and socialism. We have won employment and trade union rights, equal pay laws, health and safety at work, a national minimum wage, a welfare state, progressive taxation, universal suffrage and extensive democratic liberties.

These weren't given to us by a magnanimous ruling class or a bountiful European Union.

Nor does international working class solidarity require us to be members of the EU.

When Marx drafted the rules of the International Working Men's Association in 1864, he didn't specify that solidarity between the workers of Europe and North America required the formation of international capitalist alliances.

Antonio Gramsci condemned those who waited for socialism to come 'by a royal decree countersigned by two ministers'.

He did not believe that, instead, it would arrive in a European Directive countersigned by two European commissioners and the president of a European central bank.