Letter: Anti-monopoly doesn't mean backing small capitalists

Submitted by AWL on 23 March, 2021 - 11:14
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I am struggling to understand what points Jim Denham was trying to make in his article 'Return of the Anti Monopoly Alliance' (Solidarity 581).

I am not a spokesperson for the Communist Party of Britain but I am in favour of left and socialist unity and believe this can only happen if we are open and honest with each others’ respective political positions and not construct straw windmills.

Jim claims the concept of the Anti Monopoly Alliance is making “more frequent reappearances” in his favourite daily newspaper, theMorning Star. Actually, it never went away. The “anti monopoly” nature of the broad alliance for progress and social change was one of the key demarcation issues in the divisions in the original Communist Party of Great Britain in the 1980s. The “anti monopoly alliance” is very much written into the DNA of the CPB and its programme Britain’s Road to Socialism (BRS).

Jim claims an implication of the anti monopoly alliance may be an alliance between the labour movement and small capitalists, but doesn’t describe his specific concern. I think Jim is insinuating by omission that the CPB is proposing an alliance of equal partners between the labour movement and small capitalists, a cross-class alliance which cannot by definition be anti capitalist since it includes small capitalists. Not true.

Capitalism is a system of society and a system of economic, social, ideological, political and state relations. When the BRS refers to monopoly capitalism, this simply describes the nature of capitalism in Britain since the early 20th century. It is not intended to imply that we other forms of capitalism are in any way preferable, that we want to “de-monopolise” capitalism or that capitalism can be reduced to a number of big capitalist corporations.

The BRS’s opposition to monopoly capitalism in Britain means opposition to capitalism as it is in Britain, to capitalism itself as a whole system.

The BRS makes clear the aim is the revolutionary overthrow of the capitalist class, of capitalist rule and of capitalism itself. And for it to be replaced by the state power of the working class, the political rule of the working class and socialism. It makes clear the leading force for the revolutionary social change is the working class and therefore achieving the maximum unity of the class and winning it to the politics of anti capitalism and in favour of socialism is central to the BRS. The working class combined with working people more generally constitute the majority in Britain, so winning the majority of working people to revolutionary social change is fundamental.

The BRS does point out that within the capitalist class there are some who can by no means be described as big monopoly capitalists and who therefore may have interests not in line with those of monopoly capital. Exploiting potential divisions within the enemy capitalist class makes good tactical sense and also serves to highlight the miniscule numerical scale of the true ruling class in this country.

The BRS also identifies intermediate strata such as small business owners, small farmers and shopkeepers who are also subject to the economic and financial domination of the big monopoly capitalists. They may technically be self employed, they may “own” a small amount of capital (probably from a bank loan), employ a small number of workers, but they themselves are often required to work hard for long hours for little direct remuneration and subject to economic conditions dictated by the big monopolies. They therefore have far more in common with the working class among whom they live and work than the jet setting multi millionaire or billionaire monopoly capitalist class.

We should always try to maximise our forces, to deprive our principal opponents of allies and cause as much disruption and dissent within the capitalist class as possible.

However, winning over a number of small business owners, small farmers and shopkeepers to the “popular, democratic, anti monopoly alliance” for revolutionary social change is in the scheme of things fairly marginal to the main tasks of uniting and politicising the working class itself.

Andrew Northall, Kettering

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