The Tories have declared war on the organized working class in their
Manifesto. Despite speeches about ‘freedom’ and all the other smooth
talk, the measures they propose are a declaration of class war, a
twisted echoing of Heath’s Industrial Relations Act.
The cardboard lady Mrs Thatcher has adopted her ‘Iron Maiden’ pose
[reflecting her big business paymasters] to “Cut down” the power of the
trade unions and “Restore the balance between the Trade Unions and the
“It won’t be shouted from the Hustings”, says the ‘Economist’, right
wing organ of big business “but Britain needs a swing from wages to
profits to help regenerate industry. Britain’s underlying growth rate
is now so low that getting higher profits may need a cut—not just
slower growth—in real wages”. (7/4/79)
That is the background to the Tories’ policies, and the media’s poisonous campaign against the unions.
The unions are the shield of the organised working class, protecting rights, conditions and living standards.
Through pressure to defend and improve the social wage; pensions,
hospital services, housing, social services and transport, they fight
for the interests of all workers.
All the rights of working people including the right to vote,
organise and strike; free speech and free press were won by struggles
of the labour movement.
The real Tory programme is one of holding down wages; allowing
prices to rise, and further slashing government spending. The CBI has
called for another £6,000 million cut.
In five years, arms expenditure has increased from £3, 600 million to £8, 500 million.
This programme is bitter class war. The Tories want to deepen the
present gulf between the health, housing, and other amenities of the
capitalists and those of the workers. Private health schemes and
subsidies for private schools are encouraged. These are all out of the
reach of workers, who must suffer cuts in already inadequate services.
Pennies from income tax concessions to low income families will be
more than cancelled by increased food prices through increasing VAT on
necessities such as furniture. But cuts in tax will mean that ‘at a
stroke’ the weekly income of top directors and managers will rise by more than the average industrial worker earns in 6 months.
Meanwhile, arms expenditure will rise. British capitalism is
obsessed with ‘arms’, with spending more than doubled in five years, at
a time when their Japanese rivals spend less than 1% of GNP on
The Japanese ruling class have ploughed back the surplus extracted
from the labour of the working class into industry, one of the reasons
for their out-stripping all their capitalist rivals except for the
Without a powerful industrial base, armaments do not increase the
military strength of a country. Quite the reverse. Yet the Tories, and
unfortunately under pressure, the Labour leaders too, have increased
the production of what amounts to scrap metal, rapidly obsolescent arms.
This will neither frighten the Russian bureaucracy (who treat
British capitalism with open contempt) nor assist the standing of
capitalist Britain with her allies.
Why then this crazy stockpiling? Merely a frenetic attempt to
restore the long gone power of the pre-war days when Britain was second
only to the USA as a world force. But now Britain is regarded as a poor
country by her rivals: twentieth in the league of industrialised
nations. “Defence” and “law and order” would be the only exceptions to
But the Tories’ determination to drive down workers’ living
standards and to increase big business profits is not a personal whim
of Thatcher and Joseph. It is caused by the economic crisis of British
capitalism which has polarised class society into two fundamental
camps, the workers and the capitalists.
It is false for the right wing social-democrats or even Tribunites
to weep at the ‘unfair’ attitudes of the Tories. Their programme is
dictated by the economic impasse of capitalism. The failure of
Keynesianism leading to inflation has led to attempts to return to
orthodox methods of deflation of the past. Neither will help workers.
But to carry out such a policy the Tories have to weaken workers’
resistance and try to undermine their defence—the unions. Even after
the experience of the Heath government the capitalists need to return
to economic and social confrontation. On the road of capitalism there
is no alternative.
In 1979 in Britain, only one worker in three is employed in
manufacturing industry. Sir Adrian Cadbury, the chocolate boss has
projected that it will shortly be one in five. In the last fifteen
years 1.5 million manufacturing jobs have been lost in Britain.
But the number employed in West Germany, France, Japan and Italy has
increased by more than a million over the last ten years. That process
has begun to seize up in those countries too as a consequence of the
organic crisis of world capitalism. But within this world crisis is the
special crisis of British capitalism.
In the past the only argument for capitalism was that in their greed
for gain, capitalist reinvestment in industry increased the wealth of
society. But in Britain the capitalists invest in unproductive
money-spinners like land.
The failure to invest in the production of real wealth, i.e.
manufacturing industry, and in particular machinery and equipment for
production means that Britain is falling further and further behind her
rivals. Despite higher subsidies which pay for half of all
manufacturing investment it is increasing at a snail’s pace.
The capitalists invest in land, property speculation, tourism, stock
exchange speculation, advertising, service industries, casinos, horse
racing, antiques, painting and jewellery, anything but in manufacturing
In 1976 they invested over £2,000 million abroad. Now the City of
London wants Mrs Thatcher to open the floodgates by abolishing the
dollar premium on investment abroad.
So, despite the sacrifices of the last five years the working class
in Britain has the lowest wages of any capitalist industrialised
country. Only by exploiting cheap labour can British capitalists
compete in world markets; but in today’s world, cheap labour is not
In productivity of steel Britain has been outclassed. Now, due to
massive investment, Japan produces 45 cars in the time it takes workers
in British factories to produce 7. Of all the radios sold in Britain, a
mere 4% are made in this country,—and exports are negligible!
Britain 20 years ago had 98% of the world market of motor bikes.
They now have 2% of the. British market! Half of the cars, televisions,
fridges, vacuum cleaners and washing machines sold in Britain are
imported. 25% of all manufactured and even more semi-manufactured goods
And British manufacturers’ share of markets at home and abroad
continues to fall. Denis Healey has pointed out that “in 1979
manufacturing will be unable to stand up sufficiently to competition
either in home or export markets.” The Treasury forecast greater import
penetration and a deterioration in the volume of trade in manufactured
goods. Healey has also estimated that manufacturing exports would rise
by only 7% while imports rose 14%.
In the vital sphere of machine tools, British capitalism is also
losing ground. Imports of agricultural machinery (expensive
sophisticated technical equipment) has risen 197% in ten years. Exports
have grown by only 31%. Investment in the machine tool industry has
fallen sharply in real terms since 1970, particularly in new building.
In 1970 £18.6m of plant and machinery was manufactured; by 1977,
this had declined to £17m. The amount of new building collapsed from
£5.2m to £2.2m (all at constant 1975 prices).
British capitalism is being defeated on both home and international
markets because of failure to invest in manufacturing industry. There
is a contradiction between finance and industrial capital. Service
industries are more profitable.
The ‘Economist’ again points out “without a revival in
profitability, why should the average British company invest more? In
1976, it was making 16.8% on capital measured at historic costs,
compared with the 15% it could have got simply by depositing cash
risk-free with local authorities.”
Interest rates are so high that it does not pay the capitalists to
invest in machinery. They produce not for need, but for profit. The
contradictions of capitalism have so developed in Britain that the
essentials have been forgotten—real wealth is manufacturing wealth.
Reforms promised by Labour, which we support, could not be carried
out on a capitalist basis. Capitalism must press for counter-reforms:
wage cuts and slashed services, i.e. the Tory programme. At this moment
big business do not want a Labour government.
This crisis poses a nightmare future for the real producers of
wealth, the working class. Britain remains potentially an enormously
wealthy country, but only if the resources of society are taken over by
the working class.
The nationalisation of the banks and insurance companies and the 200
monopolies controlling 85% of the wealth of the country (with minimum
compensation on the basis of need) is indispensable to release
productive forces from the fetters which bind them.
Planning production would mean the maximum production of goods to
benefit working people, and the absorbing of the unemployed into
productive work. The £4,000m paid out in dole could be used for social
purposes. Used in productive industry the unemployed could produce
£20,000m extra wealth. £20 a week for every family!
Only about 80% of productive capacity is now in use— because of the
limits of the market. 20% more goods could be produced by this alone
with a socialist plan of production. In addition a democratic plan of
production would entail workers’ control of management of industry and
Without the fear of redundancy if they produced more, the workers
would respond with invention, initiative, elan and enthusiasm. A growth
rate of 20% a year would be possible.
A socialist Britain could begin with at least £70 a week for every
family, including pensioners, widows and the sick. Skill and technique
would be used to the maximum extent. Within a few years Britain’s
factories could be completely reequipped.
At most a 35-hour week would be worked, while rapidly a 4- or 5-hour
day with a 4-day week could be introduced. This would allow the
involvement of the whole population in politics, and give the working
class the necessary time to run industry and state.
The new techniques of computers and micro-electronics would make
this entirely possible. Under capitalism, though, they would merely put
further millions out of work.
Professor Curnow of Sussex University predicts that on introduction
of micro-computers, “The first jobs to go will be in the office and
light assembly work in factories, mostly carried out now by working
housewives.” “The typist, secretary, lower white collar management man
will become redundant,” he says confidently (‘Daily Express’, 8.12.78).
Professor Stonier of Bradford University predicts that 90% of
manufacturing jobs will be abolished by the silicon chip in 30
years.”10% of the population will provide all the material things we
need,” predicts the professor.
New technology will mean unemployment under capitalism, but leisure and plenty with a planned economy.
“The basic week will be four days of 5 hours a day, and people will
be moving back into the education system for the whole of their lives.”
This would be impossible under capitalism. But in a democratic socialist Britain, it could be achieved in 3, not 30 years.
Such a state would be a beacon to workers of Europe and the world. A
socialist appeal by British workers would be followed by the collapse
of capitalism in Western Europe and the fall of Stalinism in Eastern
Europe. Internationalist policies and a socialist United States of
Europe and the world would lead to the scrapping of the lunacy of arms
£1,000,000,000,000 is wasted throughout the world every four years
on arms. The greater part of the world’s scientific resources is spent
on preparing ever more devilish instruments of destruction. Used
constructively, all these resources could abolish poverty and disease,
racialism and war. It would mean the complete transformation of mankind.