This weekend delegates from party organisations across Britain met in London for the 52nd Congress of the Communist Party. Below is the opening address by party General Secretary Robert Griffiths.

Comrades, honoured guests, delegates to this 52nd congress of the Communist Party of Britain.

The current military conflict in Gaza, grossly unequal as it is, must not be allowed to conceal the fundamental cause of the conflict in this region, namely the continuing denial of the right of self-determination to the Palestinian people.

In 1948, Israel seized two-thirds of the territory allocated to the Palestinians by the United Nations partition plan, including a substantial strip of land to the north of Gaza where most of the rockets have fallen in recent days. Israel now occupies about 90 per cent of the land set aside for the Palestinian people including, of course, the West Bank.

For as long as this oppression – the greatest unresolved injustice of the 20th century – persists, there will be resistance. The only basis for a just and lasting peace remains the establishment of an independent, sovereign Palestinian state alongside Israel in accordance with the pre-1967 borders, with Palestine's capital in East Jerusalem and international guarantees of peace and security.

It says much about the genocidal aims and motives of Israeli ruling circles that they are doing everything possible to destroy the potential viability of such a Palestinian state, including the continued incarceration of Palestinian leaders such as Marwan Barghouti.

Our party, along with the international communist movement, must redouble its efforts to demand the release of all Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli gaols and to win ever-wider support for recognition of Palestinian statehood.
This is all the more important as we see imperialism's intrigues plunging the Middle East into a fresh pit of conflict and bloodshed.

It is not necessary to endorse any aspect of al-Assad and Ba'ath Party rule in Syria to see the bloody hands of US, French and British imperialism at work in this conflict, in league with some of the reactionary oil states of the Middle East. The mountains of arms supplies to the anti-government forces have not materialised out of thin air. Their passage through NATO member Turkey into Syria is not unknown to the Ankara regime.

Recent Western-sponsored negotiations to unify the opposition are intended to pave the way not for a peaceful settlement of the Syrian crisis, but for diplomatic recognition as the first step towards open financial and military support for the rebellion. This itself could involve direct NATO military intervention, perhaps under cover of a 'No Fly Zone' as we saw in Libya.

Again, alongside the rest of the international communist movement, Britain's communists oppose these dangerous manoeuvres designed to install a more compliant regime in Damascus. They prolong the suffering of the Syrian people, they weaken the forces of secularism in Syria, they risk strengthening the forces of sectarianism and religious fundamentalism and they further undermine the prospects for launching a genuine peace process.

US imperialism and its allies are lining up their options. A military attack on Iran, especially by proxy through Israel, remains a real possibility. Of course, it will be prefaced by the same kind of lies that prepared public opinion for the invasions of Iraq and Libya.

With our comrades of the Tudeh Party of Iran, we understand how Western threats are utilised by the reactionary Amhadinejad regime to rally domestic support and provide the pretext for repressing democratic and progressive opposition to theocratic dictatorship.

Let us make our position as communists absolutely clear. We opposed Islamic fundamentalism in Afghanistan when Britain, the US and other imperialist powers were funding and arming Bin Laden and the so-called Mujahedeen 'freedom fighters' who were murdering school teachers and planting bombs in Afghan cinemas and aeroplanes.

In retrospect, it is now clearer than ever that the defeat of the progressive, Soviet-backed Najibullah government in Afghanistan was a disaster for the Afghan people. It is all too late in the day for the British government now to pose as champions of women's rights and girls' education in that country.

British and US pledges to evacuate military forces from Afghanistan by 2014 are not worth the paper they are not written upon. The establishment there of US and NATO military facilities are part of a grander strategy to exert imperialist control over the resource-rich Asian sub-continent.

They also represent links in the military necklace being drawn around People's China. As communists, we congratulate the Chinese Communist Party on the success of its 18th congress. We salute the progress made to lift more than 600 million people out of absolute poverty in the past three decades – a feat 'on a scale and at a pace unequalled in history', as the World Bank put it.

But while we see China as a force for economic growth, peace and social progress, imperialism sees it primarily as a market to be conquered and a military power to be subdued.

Comrades, as Marxists, we understand that capitalism's relentless drive for profit leads to monopoly, domination, conflict, militarism and war. The great imperialist slaughter of 1914-18, which Prime Minister David Cameron wants us to celebrate and the failure of social democracy to fight against it, led to the formation of communist parties in Russia and other countries.

Because imperialism still means domination, militarism and war, communists in Britain have a duty to maintain and strengthen the peace and anti-war movement. Doing this most effectively, alongside our allies, will have to be a top priority for the Communist Party of Britain over the next two years.

At the same time, we will continue our work in solidarity with socialist Cuba – still a beacon of social justice for oppressed peoples around the world – and with the revolutionary movement of Venezuela, including its militant communist party.
The class character of the European Union is being revealed for all to see, and who wish to see it, as the European Commission and the European Central Bank join with the IMF to spearhead austerity, privatisation and labour market deregulation across the continent. Just because some forces on the far right oppose the EU on nationalistic and xenophobic grounds, we will not flinch from putting the working class, democratic and anti-imperialist case against it, for popular sovereignty, against big business dictatorship.

But we also recognise that, ultimately, international agencies like the IMF, the World Trade Organisation, G8, G10 and those of the European Union rest on the state power of their members. The strongest states struggle for domination, so that – for example – the EU is dominated by the interests of German and French monopoly capital.

The struggle for state power at national level therefore remains the central task for the working class and its allies, including here in Britain.

International solidarity strengthens this fight, but it cannot replace it. We salute the millions of workers in Greece, Portugal, Spain, France, Italy and elsewhere who have taken strike action against the policies of their own governments and the troika. We salute the mass protest movements in those countries – and we are proud of the leading role played by our communist sisters and brothers.

The greatest contribution that we can make to international solidarity – whether with the peoples of Europe or those of the Middle East – is to put an end to the unelected, illegitimate government that we have here in Britain. Nobody voted for this Tory-LibDem coalition, cobbled together at the behest of City of London banks and financial institutions.
We should not be surprised, therefore, that the wealth, arrogance, duplicity and corruption that characterise the British ruling class also find their reflection in this ruling coalition government.

Our party, together with the Morning Star, has played a significant part in unmasking the chief purpose of this government's austerity programme, namely, the wholesale privatisation of public services. This itself, like the growing attack on trade union and employment rights, is linked to the broader, perpetual objective of reducing the cost of labour and driving up profits.

The great question now is: will the labour movement respond in time, and on the scale necessary? Will it act to save the National Health Service from Virgin Healthcare and the other privatisation vultures? Will it fight against the super-exploitation of young people? Will it defend the main victims of heartless benefit cuts - women, carers, single parents, migrant workers, low paid workers and the unemployed on housing benefits and our sisters and brothers with disabilities?

They cannot afford to wait for the next General Election and hope that a Labour government will not be quite so vicious.
The fight to bring down this government at the earliest opportunity and force a General Election must begin in earnest now. The fight to change Labour's policies must be redoubled.

That means building a popular, democratic, anti-monopoly alliance in action, in our workplaces and local communities, through our trades unions and our trades councils. Four-fifths of the austerity cuts are still to come. That means, perversely, that there is still time to build broad-based local campaigns against them.

Generalised and coordinated strike action by millions of workers can play an invaluable role in the great movement that has to be built. But we must win the argument for such action, drawing inspiration from our comrades in Portugal, Greece, France and elsewhere. We must explain how mass action can shock this government, divide its supporters and bring pressure on it from employers. We must win the argument for a general strike in private as well as public sector workplaces, and in our local communities.

The prospects for winning that case will be hugely enhanced if we can also show that there is an alternative. And there is one. The Trades Union Congress has already adopted the People's Charter, endorsed by the Scottish, Welsh and Women's TUCs.

Its policies for progressive taxation, public investment, public ownership, for a massive housebuilding programme, for sustainable energy and against militarism and war, can unite millions of people around a real alternative to austerity and privatisation.

The Charter for Women was launched at a previous congress of this Communist Party and now has the support of almost all major trade unions and a reinvigorated National Assembly of Women. It, too, projects the kind of policies that are needed in the workplace, in the labour movement and in society more widely.

The new executive committee elected at this congress must take on the responsibility of projecting the People's Charter and the Charter for Women on an even bigger scale in the year to come, linking them to the economic, social and political battles that lie ahead.

Comrades, we should not under-estimate the dangers that the current crisis poses to black and ethnic minority people and community relations. Unscrupulous forces in political parties and the monopoly mass media, and on the far and fascist right, are already using the austerity agenda to attack immigration and immigrants.

As with benefit claimants and the unemployed, the labour movement must resist these attempts to divide working class people against each other. The Communist Party will have to use what influence it can to help overcome divisions in the anti-racist and anti-fascist movement.

We support all broad-based initiatives against the racists and fascists, including militant action where it reflects the mass mobilisation of local people.

Comrades, we as a party have much to do over the coming period. We have the commitment. We have confidence in working people. We know that our labour movement can be enthused, roused and activated.

We have our programme, Britain's Road to Socialism. We know that the Morning Star needs to reach many more people, every day, as the voice of peace and socialism. We know that the working class and peoples of Britain, including their labour movement, would benefit from the growth of our Communist Party.

Long live the working class movement!
Long live the Communist Party of Britain!
Long live socialism and communism!