Communism has a bad press but our favourite Communist is one of the nicest people you could meet! One of our Manchester Politics in Pubs members explained why she joined the Communist Party of Britain Marxist-Leninist.
On 24th January 2024, Politics in Pubs met at The Welcome Inn, Bury Old Road, Whitefield, M45 6TA, Manchester (see here for location).
Joan, one of our Manchester members, is a Communist – and this sometimes puzzles people who meet her. So much so that Joan agreed to talk about why she is a member of the Communist Party of Britain Marxist-Leninist.
Joan began by saying that her introduction would have 3 key parts – with the first being much the longest
- Why, at 23, she became a communist
- Why, at 65, she is still a communist.
Trade has existed down through the ages because one individual can’t produce everything they need. Different forms of human society have evolved or been created to produce goods and wealth and facilitate trade. Capitalism was better in many ways than earlier forms of society such as feudalism, subsistence farming or the many societies based on slavery. (Egyptian, Ottoman, Greek, Aztec …). Capitalism didn’t just evolve though, in its early stages it was the result of struggle between merchant traders and the landed aristocracy.
Development of capitalism
In the 1700s the industrial revolution began in Britain and this meant that developing capitalism here was accompanied by an explosion in the production of goods for trade and in the wealth that could be created as a result. The capitalist owners of the means of production increased their wealth massively through value added to raw materials by the labour of 100s or 1000s of others. Artisan makers such as hand loom weavers could not compete with large scale mechanised manufacturing and people were compelled to move to cities to seek employment in mills and factories, often enduring poor living conditions and poverty. A few owners looked after their employees better than others but workers had to fight to improve their working and living conditions and get a share of the wealth that their labour created. This is a natural law of capitalism, workers always have to fight to improve their lives. Nothing is ever given to us (workers) freely and while capitalism continues, any gains made can and will be taken away again, as we have seen. One tactic is to move production away from parts of the world where workers are organised, and have had success in improving their lives at the expense of the profits claimed by their capitalist employers, to parts of the world where workers are not yet organised.
Meet the super-rich
Like all societies, capitalism evolves and Joan believes that modern day capitalism is dramatically different to the British capitalism of 1700s to 1850s. It now manifests itself not as many wealthy factory and mill owners (i.e. the owners of the means of production) but as a smaller number of super-rich individuals. Individuals such as Jeff Bezos who, according to investment website Market Watch, would need to spend $28 million a day just to stop getting richer.
But it’s much worse than a few individuals being obscenely rich. Capitalism has moved away from production and the creation of real wealth. This is a huge problem. We now have trans-national investment and asset management companies that are used by the rich and super rich to increase their wealth even further by sucking up wealth created by other people. They don’t take part in the creation of wealth – like the earlier capitalists did. Asset management companies have assets worth trillions of dollars to play with, and instead of creating wealth, they use this existing wealth to “invest” largely in 2 types of assets – housing and essential national infrastructure such energy supply, water, farming, schools and hospitals. But they don’t buy into these assets to improve the services they provide ordinary people. They do so with the sole aim of bleeding the assets, of sucking the wealth out of them and then selling on the carcasses. Witness what is being done to the water industry here in Britain.
Why Joan became a communist
Joan became a communist because of capitalism – she says it’s as simple as that.
Joan believes that modern capitalism is likely to drag us to war – if we let it. We have had previous wars under capitalism and continue to do so, but the destruction is ratcheting up. Like earlier societies, capitalism will either be changed to another form of society or it will fall. Joan is a communist because she believes that capitalism must be changed or it will collapse and take us with it. History shows that when societies collapse, humankind is set back, the lives of the majority became much harder – or ceases to exist.
Joan wasn’t particularly political as a student – she disliked the sectarianism of student politics – but she read the Communist Manifesto when she was 20. She became a communist at 23 because she was convinced that capitalism will take us down with it unless we take control. Who is “we”? It is the working class, the vast majority of the population. Taking control must be popular, not imposed, and it doesn’t have to be called communism or socialism, but it does have to mean that we take control of the wealth of the country for the benefit of the people of the country. Joan believes that history shows – and common sense suggests – that this has to happen organically in individual countries, but to have a chance of succeeding it must be popular. The majority of the population must see the parasitic and destructive nature of capitalism and want to take charge.
Nation states and workers nationalism will be key. Which is why organised capitalism uses the WEF, and any transnational organisation (or national government) that it can control, to undermine, weaken and ideally eliminate the nation state as a potential tool for workers to take control.
Why Joan is still a communist after 41+ years
Communism gets a bad press. Joan argues that this has always been so – but that often people who call themselves communists fuel that bad press by being bonkers, divisive or downright dangerous. Joan became a communist at 23 and joined the Communist Party of Britain Marxist Leninist. Joan says that she is still a communist because she is convinced that capitalism is in absolute decline and a danger to us all – but also because of how the Party she happened to join works.
The CPBML was founded in 1968 and has a democratic centralist structure. Democratic centralism is not confined to communist organisations. Many successful organisations work on the same principles: that everyone should speak up, try to understand and describe reality; work together to agree a plan of action; no-one is denounced as a heretic, no-one shouted down; once a plan of action is agreed everyone commits to it. But nothing stands still. Everyone evaluates progress with constructive criticism; the plan evolves. Nothing is sacrosanct. Disagreement is valued. Comrades are valued. Ideas and plans must fit with reality – the continued process of democratic centralism is the best way of achieving it.
Joan thinks that this is a key reason why she is still a communist – this method of working and thinking. She is particularly proud of the literature produced by the Party during and after the Brexit referendum.
- Marx wrote about the collapse of capitalism but not the substance of Communism. Politics can be controlled but the economy can’t – cancelling property ownership (e.g. of a horse, land, a sewing machine) makes the system is impossible to operate without brutal dictatorship, even though in theory, there should be an abundance for all.
- Thomas Sowell the American economist and philosopher is a former Marxist who now favours free market economics.
- What would the USA/UK look like under Communism? What would be the way forward?
- How do you get the good part of communities acting together for the general good without coercion and the inevitable bloodshed?
- What could Communism produce? Under capitalism, shareholders are able to influence companies.
- How would Communism get 8 billion workers of the world to put aside their cultural differences to unite and work towards the same goal?
- Cuban people are not allowed to sell their own products. There is a ‘Millionaire’s Mile’ where Cuban government officials reside.
- The Communist government in Chile introduced huge tax rises and the economy tanked, resulting in mass protests. Venezuela’s socialist government has enabled mass immigration into Chile, causing the Chilean government to focus its energy on housing Venezuelan immigrants rather than its own tax paying residents.
- Communism goes against human nature and variations in productivity, capability and laziness – pay should reflect individual performance at work. Companies like Amazon provide an incredible service. The UK is better off with capitalism.
- What is the one thing about Communism which would make things better in the UK?
- The Communist Manifesto is a propaganda leaflet. Capitalist governments work hard to prevent revolution and put it down. The debate should be about shaping a new society to alleviate want and need, not about the elite controlling the means of production.
- The Googles and Amazons are efficient but are also the modern day equivalent of the ‘lord of the manor’ – they are corrupt monopolies and should not be influencing national governments via trans-national bodies like the WHO.
- Capitalism lifts more people out of poverty but the abuses of capitalism are what cause the harms – e.g. Bezos working to force electric vehicles on the world instead of letting the free market decide. Reducing the abuses of capitalism would be better than throwing it out altogether.
- Pilgrims arriving in the New World in the seventeenth century lived as a commune where labour and resources were shared but human nature intervened with some labouring less productively than others, causing the commune to fail. A new (capitalist) model whereby each pilgrim received their own plot of land for which they were responsible caused the group to thrive.
- Many Communist societies have collapsed. China has made a turn towards capitalism. What is the model of Communism?
- Human nature can be changed through conditioning such as EDI and we are becoming a sad and sorry shadow of ourselves. Socialists and communists are responsible which is why they were hated in America in the 50s, 60s and 70s.
- Communism is in denial of the laws of supply and demand and survival of the fittest. Governments are too corrupt and inefficient.
- While Communism might be regarded as another abstract top down ‘corporation’ like socialism, conservatism, liberalism which is hard to visualise in a practical sense, people who know Joan will be aware of her talent for bringing people together voluntarily for a common purpose, such as Politics in Pubs and other community groups that she is part of. If that is an expression of what Communists do at a local level, that’s a positive thing.
- When workers try to take control, capitalism will do everything it can to impede it e.g. the trade embargoes imposed on Cuba.
- Communism is not about creating utopia – it is about workers (the majority) taking control away from the capitalist minority.
- Communism is not about equality but about using resources and wealth for the benefit of the whole population – not continuing to allow a small minority to reign and take the vast majority of the world’s wealth for themselves.
- “Workers of the world unite” was a slogan of the communist manifesto, from nearly 200 years ago. It’s not practical. Since 1917 we have seen examples of where workers have taken control within their nation states – even though they’ve since lost control again in some of those nations.
- Capitalism will collapse. Workers taking control of their own country will be our survival.
Thank you Joan, for outlining why you are a member of the Communist Party of Britain Marxist-Leninist, and for prompting an excellent discussion about the benefits and abuses of modern day capitalism, and its alternatives. As always, a big thank you to our lovely hosts at The Welcome Inn. Cheers all!
Dates for your diary
Saturday 3rd February 2024
The Free Speech Union presents ‘How to Stand Up for Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Thought’ in Manchester with guest speaker Toby Young:
Sunday 18th February 2024
Cancelling Cancel Culture presents ‘Post-modernism – the roots of woke’ with guest speaker Dr. Caroline Kay:
Wednesday 28th February 2024
Politics in Pubs presents ‘Warrioring Against Woke’ with guest speaker, Barry Wall:
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