Publisher: Communist Party of Great Britain
Publisher: Farleigh Press Ltd. (T.U. all depts.), Beechwood Works, Beechwood Rise, Watford, Herts.
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Proofreader: Christ Clayton
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2006). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.
WHEN we got the news that the first atomic bomb had dropped, I think, most of us realised that this was something new among all the tremendous events of this long war. Here, helping to close the war with amazing swiftness, is discovered a source of power far more destructive than anything seen in the worst blitzes and fly-bomb raids. With three or four powerful bombs, the scientists tell us, it should now be possible to devastate the largest cities in the world, to wipe out at a stroke the work of 2,000 years of civilisation.
And on the other hand, they say it should be possible before very long to use this new-found source of energy to replace many of those we now use, such as coal and water power. It should be possible, provided the scientific effort goes ahead at wartime speed, to lighten the lot of the world’s people to a degree never dreamed of before. For the first time ample leisure and a good standard of living can be the birthright of every child, whether it is born in Glasgow or Wigan, New York or Bombay.
Which is it to be? Is the incalculable power which man now has over nature to be used to desolate the world or to elevate its peoples to a vastly higher level of civilisation?
The answer depends upon the common people, above all upon the leaders of the common people, the organised working class.
The workers, at any rate, are not indulging in any laments for the world of the past that has now been brought to an end by the atomic bomb—the world of slums and unemployment, of Belsen and Buchenwald, Caen and Okinawa. They do not want to hold back science, but to control it to make life richer and happier, and they are grimly determined that never again can another great war be allowed to start where this one left off. The unity of the Great Powers for peace has become the most immediate, direct interest of every family in Britain.
More and more people are coming to realise that these tremendous natural forces cannot be left to the private control of privileged individuals and privileged classes without wrecking the world in which we live. Never has the contradiction been so glaring. On the one hand the immense State-organised, co-ordinated effort of scientific and technical development, over-leaping frontiers, employing the resources of three continents and involving a government expenditure of no less than £500 millions, to solve in three years a problem that would have taken two or three generations in normal times. And this immense achievement of social organisation takes place in a society which, because of its very wealth and productive power, hangs today on the brink of a fearful economic crisis, a society which has never yet been able to organise such a great scientific drive for peace-time uses, and whose internal strains and stresses continually threaten new and more fearful wars to solve the difficulties of the profit-making class.
The war against Fascism has brought new millions into the struggle for Socialism—to win a country and a world organised for the happiness of the people. This has long been the conscious aim of the working-class movement throughout the world, especially of the British working-class movement. The results of the General Election in Britain marked a tremendous step forward in the people’s understanding of this need.
To realise how gigantic this victory is for the working class, just contrast the General Election at the end of the People’s War in Europe in 1945 with that at the end of the Imperialist War in 1918.
In 1918, the Tories swept the country. Now there have been tremendous Labour gains and the Tories have been swept aside. The result further bears out the propaganda that our Party has constantly carried on against the defeatism that expressed itself in the phrase “it will be the same after this war as it was after the last.”
New life opens before the people of Britain. During the whole of our lifetime, despite a high degree of political consciousness among advanced sections of the workers, the mass of the people have time and again been taken in by the crude propaganda of the reactionaries. This time reactionary propaganda has failed. An immense advance has been registered which should fill every working man and woman with a new feeling of tremendous pride, confidence and strength.
The people have learned much during the war. They have learned their own power and ability and have time and again demonstrated them under the most difficult wartime circumstances. They want to share in peace-time in the administration of things. They want to play their part and have their say. In the experience of a Labour Government the Labour movement will learn more rapidly than ever it could with Labour in Opposition, without responsibility.
Labour’s Immediate Tasks
When the new House of Commons met after the election, the King’s Speech outlined a far-reaching and comprehensive programme of democratic and social reform, which has been warmly welcomed by the entire Labour movement and by the widest sections of public opinion.
The demands of the transition from war to peace have made necessary a very great speeding-up of the plans for demobilisation and for the conversion of industry from war to a peace basis. Only planned reconstruction and Government initiative can ensure that the cessation of war orders shall not lead to widespread unemployment, and that the full strength of industry shall be turned to the production of the essential peace-time goods urgently needed by the people. In the transition, steps will be necessary to protect the wages and rates of the workers, so that the passage from war to peace shall not be accompanied by a loss of earnings. This will require the immediate raising of wages in the lower-paid peace-time industries, especially textiles, clothing and distribution; the speedy establishment of the principle of equal pay for men and women workers; the raising of unemployment benefit; and large-scale industrial training schemes.
The Communist Party sees in the programme of measures set out in the King's Speech the immediate objective before the Labour movement.
The fulfilment of this programme will constitute a land-mark of progress and prepare the way for the further advance to Socialism.
We should make a very big mistake, however, if we thought that the forces of Toryism and reaction were finished. They have had a big defeat, in the Parliamentary field, but we cannot measure the strength and resources they still have by the 200-odd hard faces in the House.
Where is the real strength of Toryism and reaction to be found?
1. In the ownership of industry, the land and the banks
The employer in a privately-owned industry has considerable power to sabotage a Labour Government. He may attempt to do this in a crude way, by refusing to produce at all (for example, at least one firm which was proposing to takeover a Government factory for war work has changed its mind “because of the Labour Government.”) Or he may obstruct measures of price-control, provoke the workers, or go in for speculation and make the switch-over to peace-time production more difficult.
2. In the control of the machinery of the State
The Tories are still strong among high Army officers, the higher Civil Service, the Ambassadors and diplomats, and the police force. Moreover, the layout of Parliament itself, with its two Houses and the methods by which Bills are passed through them, is advantageous to the Tories. In the House of Lords the majority (despite a handful of peers created by the Labour Party) are landowners and representatives of the old aristocratic families, or leaders of the big monopolies and financiers, or both at once. The power of this House to delay legislation may be skilfully used to make difficulties for a Labour Government.
3. In its influence over the minds of the people
Toryism still has 10 million voters to Labour’s 15 Million. Despite its grim record, the poverty and suffering it has brought to the people, culminating in this war which could have been avoided—Toryism still retains an important influence which it would be most foolish to think has been eliminated for ever. The Tories will make every effort, using their command of press, radio, etc., to strengthen this influence and play on all the difficulties which confront the Labour Government, and on all the pressing problems of the people, to try to regain power.
4. In its powerful allies abroad
Defeated on the home front, the reactionaries will make every effort to use their powerful friends—for example, in Wall Street—against the Labour Government. The sudden ending of Lend-Lease is a case in point. The fact that this is against the national interest is no guarantee that the Tories will not endeavour to take advantage of the new difficulties it has created.
They have had a bad shock. Wherever they look in the world, they see the old kings and aristocracies weaker, the big capitalists discredited, and the working people pushing them aside and getting on with rebuilding their countries. They see the Socialist Soviet Union, which they had gambled on Hitler to destroy, now stronger than ever before in economic and military power, and in the support and admiration it has won from the working people in every country.
They hoped that Britain and the U.S.A.—the two strongest capitalist states in the world—would at least “stand firm” as a bulwark against the “wicked” spirit of freedom that is sweeping the world.
The election victory of Roosevelt in the States was a setback to their plans. But that they might explain partly by his popularity as the war-leader. They have no such excuse for not understanding the British General Election results.
The Tories cannot but realise their weakened position. And just because of that, they will fight all the harder to prevent the Labour Government from being a success. For if it is successful, if it carries out its programme and deals firmly with capitalist resistance, the result will be something that has never been seen in Britain before, and there will be no swing of the pendulum back to the Tories.
This is the main thing to understand—that the old, bad oppressive forces in society never give up, never accept defeat, but have to be continually fought and crushed by the Government and the people, in whatever form they try to reassert their power.
Already we can see the Caretakers reporting at their new “Action Stations.” Mr. Churchill to the Opposition Front Bench, Sir Andrew Duncan back to the Chairmanship of the Steel Ring, Lord Woolton back to Lewis’s Stores, Lord Leathers to be Chairman of William Cory, the rank-and-file Tory M.P.s in the safest Tory seats—City of London, South Kensington and Bournemouth—hastily posted to the Lords in Mr. Churchill’s retiring Honours List to make room for more fancied fighters. Churchill opens up with an attack on the Potsdam decisions in which he himself participated.
On the other side of the Atlantic, the reactionaries are sharpening their knives too—those whom the fearful power of the atomic bomb only encourages in their dangerous game. Already we have the U.S. Government objecting to the provisional Bulgarian Government as too Communist, and to the Methods of the forthcoming elections. We have a sharp fight in U.N.R.R.A. because of the support given to anti-Soviet elements. We have an open tendency, even referred to by Governor Lehmann, to withhold supplies from U.N.R.R.A., so as to avoid helping “Communist” governments; and we have the Lend-Lease bombshell.
No one can foresee just how the Tories will manuvre, in what order they will play their cards, on what issues they will try to make an unscrupulous “appeal” to the people. But we know enough of their past methods to be sure that they will try a great many methods and lines at once. They have, of course, some power of straight, direct, economic sabotage, but that means “sticking their necks out” in a way that is rather dangerous so soon after a smashing Labour victory at the polls. It is an invitation to the Labour Government to deal summarily with the obstructors as would have been done during the war.
We can expect that while quietly working with one hand to make the working of Labour measures difficult by every form of obstruction (B.M.A. on the Health Bill, for instance, or building rings on housing), with the other the Tories will be endeavouring to cajole Labour to keep its decisive measures and policies in cold storage. One thug may give prudent advice to the Labour Government in its own interests not to give way to extremists not to go too fast, not to get in tow of the dangerous new governments in Europe; and at the same time his confederate may be creating difficulties in industry or the City, or advising American business friends that Britain is too rocky to be given credit. No doubt some employers will be more provocative than ever, and the Tories will seize any opportunity they can to accuse the workers of holding up reconstruction and the Labour Government of being unable to control the situation.
On the other hand, there are undoubtedly some business circles who in their own immediate interests will wish to get on with reconstruction, to build up a stable Europe, and to co-operate with the U.S.S.R. How numerous this section turns out to be will depend, above all, on the firmness with which the saboteurs are handled by the Labour Government and the determination with which it leads the nation in international co-operation.
It is no use denying that already there is profound disappointment over two aspects of the policy of the Labour Government which the Tory opposition is using to the full to help create doubt about whether or not the Labour Government is going to fulfil the programme outlined in the King’s Speech. There have already been two aspects of the Labour Government’s policy which have helped the Tories to create doubt about whether the programme outlined in the King’s Speech will be carried out. First, the slowness of demobilisation; and it must be noted that the pressure of the Labour movement, which voiced the feeling among the Forces, helped the Government to reconsider its policy and led to a big improvement in the rate of demobilisation. Second, the alarm, with which Mr. Bevin’s statement of foreign policy was received. It caused consternation in the working-class and progressive movement all over the world, and gave a stimulus to reaction everywhere to raise its ugly head. The Labour movement has expressed its dissatisfaction with this policy on Greece and Spain, but as yet the Labour Government seems to be more influenced by the Foreign Office than by the movement.
It is not accidental that since this speech was made the situation in Greece and Spain has grown more acute, and there has also been a growth of anti-Soviet propaganda, in which the Daily Herald is at once the leader and inspirer so far as Britain is concerned.
The breakdown of the Ministers’ Conference in London was, on the surface, due to failure to agree on procedure. But behind this was the issue of policy: the Soviet Union was fighting for the carrying out of the Potsdam decisions to root out Fascism; while the United States and Britain (still led by the Foreign Office) were fighting against the safeguarding of democracy in Liberated Europe.
The Role of the Communist Party
The situation today calls for the most intense political work by the Labour movement among the people and the most active interest by the people themselves. It is not the time to sit back after the effort of marking a ballot-paper and say, “Now we’ll leave it to the chaps on top.” The people themselves have to organise to defeat the employers’ sabotage, to sustain and support the Labour Government, and to guarantee that its programme is carried through.
We in the Communist Party are confident that the British Labour movement and the British people have the power and ability to deal with all the problems that arise and to solve them in the interests of the great majority. The housewives who stood up to blitzes and V-2s will not panic because of a temporary cut in the clothing ration or a threatened shortage of Spam, provided they understand the reasons and accept them as sound and fair, and see a real policy of equality of sacrifice for rich and poor alike.
But to ensure success we require a stronger Labour movement, stronger trade unions, more political experience and understanding on the part of the people, and therefore, above all, a stronger Communist Party.
Why do we say this? What is the special role of the Communists? Why does Labour, with 12 million votes and 390 M.P.s, need the Communists, and more Communists than we have today?
To answer this we have first to explain what the Communist Party is, why it exists and what it does.
The Communist Party is part of the working class and the Labour movement. Like that movement as a whole, it works for Socialism. In the first document of Communism—the Communist Manifesto, issued now nearly 100 years ago—Karl Marx and Frederick Engels express the special job of the Communists in a way that is still true today.
“The Communists have no interests separate and apart from those of the proletariat as a whole.
“The Communists are distinguished from the other working class parties by this only (1) in the national struggles of the proletarians of the different countries, they point out and bring to the front the common interests of the entire proletariat, independent of nationality. (2) In the various stages of development which the struggle of the working class against the bourgeoisie has to go through, they always and everywhere represent the interests of the movement as a whole.
“The Communists, therefore, are on the one hand, practically, the most advanced and resolute section of the working-class parties of every country, that section which pushes forward all others; on the other hand, theoretically, they have over the great mass of the proletariat the advantage of clearly understanding the line of march, the conditions and the ultimate general results of the proletarian movement.”
The Communists, from Marx and Engels onwards, have certainly been the most “advanced and resolute” in the practical day-to-day struggles for “reforms.” Marx and Engels were outstanding leaders in the fight for workers’ votes, for the eight-hour day and trade union rights, and for wage increases. In our own time we can say with pride that in every struggle to improve wages, to fight unemployment, to win better old age pensions, the Communists have been there. Today, Communists are playing a leading part both in the workshop and on the Executives of almost all our big trade unions, and proving themselves at every point among the boldest, most determined and skilful fighters for the everyday interests of the workers, and not only at election times.
But what about the other points mentioned? Does our movement need an organisation that will point out and bring to the front the common interests of the entire working class, not only in this country, but in the world? Does it need a body that can clearly understand “the line of march, the conditions and the ultimate general results of the proletarian movement?” We believe it does need this very seriously indeed.
The Labour Movement
In the course of their long struggle for a better life the British workers have built up a great variety of organisations for different aspects of the fight. The first to develop were trade unions, trying to limit exploitation and to bargain collectively about wages and conditions. Then came the first co-operatives, aiming to protect the worker against the private monopoly of trade. Much later, the trade unions began to feel the necessity not only for Liberal members to put their views on Labour questions in Parliament, but for independent Labour members of their own; and out of the coming together of trade unionists and the small active groups of Socialists and Fabians, the Labour Party was born.
Thus the British Labour movement today is the product of a long and complicated history. Its strength has always lain in the recognition of the need to bring the great mass organisations, particularly the trade unions, into politics and it soon developed a broad-based electoral organisation. At the same time, from the very beginning the movement has been the scene of many political conflicts between those in its ranks who reflected the ideas of their capitalist surroundings and those who put forward an independent working-class policy for transforming society. The movement has long felt the need of a core of clear Socialist thinkers and political workers to unite and give direction to its work, and also organisations to train and develop such thinkers. Without this there could be no effective common policy. Instead of a united line based on the interests of the working class as a whole, there would be sectional policies, divisions between workers in Britain and those in the Colonies and abroad. There would be no way of carrying the movement forward from victory on a single issue (such as the Taff Vale case) to victory on a wider front and towards Socialism.
In the early days various bodies tried in their different ways to supply this Socialist leadership—the Social Democratic Federation, the British Socialist Party and the Independent Labour Party—and all of them had successes to their credit in bringing to the active young trade unionists a deeper understanding and the inspiration of Socialism. Yet none could fully supply the consistent, all-round leadership needed.
It was the most serious, advanced and self-sacrificing leaders of these organisations, together with shop stewards from “non-parliamentary” bodies such as the Clyde Worker’ Committee, who in 1920 came together to found a Communist Party in Britain. They did so in the belief that the Labour movement could only win through to its great objectives, resisting all sabotage and corruption by the Tories and capitalists, if the active Socialists in its ranks were organised and disciplined as the Bolshevik Party in Russia had been; and if, like the Bolsheviks, they were armed with a consistent working-class theory enabling them to judge events in relation to the fight for Socialism.
In order that this work could be effectively carried out, the Communists had to organise themselves in a new kind of party. The first great model of this new kind of party was the Bolshevik Party of Russia, founded by Lenin, the Party which led the Russian workers in the great Revolution in 1917 and which has continued to lead and guide them in the building of Socialism.
Why do we say the Communist Party is a new type of party? Firstly,because it bases all its practical work upon a scientific understanding of events, on the closest study of the past and present experiences of the working-class movement in a whole number of countries, in which all its members and not just a few leaders take part. This scientific method of theory is founded in the first place on the teachings of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, who themselves lived mainly in England and learned much from the first English Socialists such as Robert Owen. It has been greatly enriched and strengthened by the new experiences of the working-class movement since that time—especially by the experiences of the Russian Communists, led by Lenin and then by Stalin, who were able to add the knowledge gained in the winning of power and the construction of the Socialist order.
Marxist theory does not lay down that the movement towards Socialism must always develop in the same way in every country and at every time, but it does give us an understanding of the general laws of that movement. Marxism shows that it is no use expecting the clashes, depressions and poverty which arise from capitalism to disappear because of the greater “wisdom” of all classes (for example, the mere horror of the atom bomb will not prevent its being used). The only way to end the contradictions and conflicts in society is for the working class to become stronger, to become the ruling power and to lead the mass of the people to build a classless society.
Marxism also shows that the workers can only succeed in this task if they are able to take the leadership of all sections of the people who suffer under monopoly capitalism, and unite them in the fight against the power of the capitalists and their hangers-on. This includes not only the workers and middle class in one’s own country, but the workers of every country. “Workers of all lands, unite!” is not just a phrase to the Communist Party, but the guiding line of its work.
That is why the Communist Party continually gives help and support to the struggles for national independence of the people of India and other Colonies exploited by British capital. The people of Britain cannot be free while their rulers defy all freedom to hundreds of millions in India and Africa.
But is it really so important to have a consistent scientific theory on the basis of which to study history and decide our policy?
Even today, in the age of the atom bomb, there are plenty of people who sincerely believe that Socialist politics is a matter of “common sense,” instinct and platform manner—not of science.
There is many an honest Labour worker who sees quite clearly that to advance the cause of the working class you must have good organisation, dues should be paid regularly, rules of business adhered to and decisions conscientiously carried out in a disciplined way. But a revolutionary Marxist theory is something for which, quite sincerely, he does not see any need. Communists are of course among his best election helpers, speakers and canvassers, but he doesn’t know why this is. He thinks only what a pity it is that Communists have hung round their necks this “theory” which causes the Labour leaders to do everything they can to prevent any kind of unity. What an unnecessary squabble about a mere “theory”!
We Communists say that unless the Labour movement is armed with a scientific working-class understanding of history and politics, based on the class struggle, its members will not maintain their unflagging energy and enthusiasm. What is worse, it may easily become the tool of the capitalist class in their efforts to side-track and continue to oppress the workers. This may sound a hard thing to say, but all experience shows us that in the absence of a theory of their own, the workers’ leaders have continually to take over theories devised by and helpful to the other side, which are, as it were, in the very air in a capitalist country. You cannot in practice lead a movement for victory without ideas; the question is, are they to be the ideas of capitalism and imperialism or the ideas of Socialism?
For many Labour leaders their idea of Socialism is one which leaves untouched the fundamental questions of abolishing the exploitation of man by man, of ending the system of rent, interest and profit, and the holding clown of Colonial peoples. This conception of Socialism is limited to one of nationalisation with compensation; this conception of “democratic-gradualism” is one that leaves the capitalists free to overthrow democracy before any fundamental changes are made. This attitude is not one of mere academic interest to the Labour movement; it is of vital importance.
The Communist Party fully supports the policy of nationalisation as laid down in the Labour Party’s programme, and will resolutely rally the entire working class and progressive sections of the people to demand it is carried through with the utmost speed.
It will fight every vested interest that in any way opposes this programme or tries to bring pressure to bear on the Labour Government, either to water down, or delay the carrying out of the policy for which the people voted at the General Election.
It will do this, not because this programme represents Socialism, but because it is essential to meet the needs of the people and the nation, it weakens the power of the capitalist class; and alongside the political experience of the people in securing their immediate aims, it hastens the developments towards the winning of complete political power and the establishment of Socialism.
It is this difference in outlook which explains why in the past and at the present time sections of the capitalist class have assisted Social Democracy, because they recognised in it the lesser evil to that of Communism, which has declared and openly declares as its final aim the establishment of a Socialist, classless society in which the exploitation of man by man for private gain has been abolished, with all the resultant changes that follow from this from a political, economic and social standpoint.
It is the difference between the opportunist outlook of Social Democracy and the Marxist outlook of Communism.
How the Marxist Outlook Helps
Time and again their grasp of Marxist theory has enabled the Communists to give the correct lead, when the Labour movement was being drawn, against its own best interests, into support of policies which would have assisted the Fascists and enemies of the working people.
This came out very clearly in 1931. The Labour Government was faced with a very difficult question—what to do when a slump was overwhelming this country and the world. Those men who were becoming traitors to the movement—MacDonald and Snowden—did not act without a theory; they acted very completely on the theory that was handed out to them by the Bank of England and the City—i.e., cut wages and “economise.” How disastrous that theory was we know full well. But we cannot get away from the fact that if our movement had had as clear an idea then of how to deal with a slump as it has today and how to put Britain’s industries back on their feet, MacDonald could never have got away with it. The 1931 election would have produced as big a landslide for Labour as 1945 has, and all the misery of the hungry “thirties”—and the war itself—could have been avoided.
Our Party said then that the way forward lay not in accepting but in resisting wage cuts and social service reductions. Instead of the Means Test we raised the slogan “work or full maintenance.” We campaigned for large-scale schemes of national development to combat the depression, and it was our Party that led employed and unemployed workers, including “blackcoated” workers, teachers, Civil Servants, and so on, to fight together to maintain living standards.
In 1936 the Communists were the first to show the tremendous importance of the Spanish people’s struggle against Fascism and to declare that non-intervention was a wrong, dangerous policy. Labour at first supported nonintervention, but later events proved the correctness of our slogan “Arms for Spain,” and Labour ceased to give its support to the non-intervention farce.
The Communists again have been the most consistent fighters for unity between the unions and have fought against breakaways and disruptive movements.
The Communist Party has been the most consistent and determined opponent of Fascism since this ugly menace first raised its head. Our fight for the Peace Alliance before the war, especially, for closer relations with the Soviet Union, could have prevented war ever breaking out. During the war we continued the fight against the “Munichites,” the Tory friends of Fascism, and for an alliance with the Soviet Union, which was at last realised in June, 1941. We strove might and main to increase production, give real responsibility to Joint Production Committees; strengthen factory, shop steward and trade union organisation, so that the victory over Fascism could be speeded up.
In factory and armed forces our members set the highest example by their work and endurance, their courage and sacrifice. Our fight for the opening of the Second Front was a great political campaign that roused and steeled the morale and capacity for self-sacrifice in demanding a form of military strategy that could speedily end the war in Europe and save countless precious lives. The events following the opening of the Second Front proved how correct our policy was.
The Communists have been the consistent champions of friendship and unity with the U.S.S.R. and had every kind of slander and abuse thrown at them for this by the capitalists and those who voice their ideas within the Labour movement. How right we were the triumph over Fascism has shown, yet it is already clear that as long as capitalism exists we have to go on with this fight.
A very clear and very tragic example of the wrong kind of theory has unfortunately been given recently by Mr. Ernest Bevin in his first speech on foreign affairs. In this speech he attacked the new democratic regimes in Hungary, Bulgaria and Rumania as “replacing one kind of dictatorship by another” and upheld the Vulgaris Government in Greece, established by the use of the British armed forces against the force of the Greek anti-fascists. He denounced alike the use of force by the Fascists, against the mass of the people, and the use of force by the peoples’ organisations to suppress the Fascists. But in Greece he supports a government based precisely on the use of armed force against the people (and British armed force at that). Nor does he, apparently, understand at all what has happened all over Europe, where the old State armed forces and police allied themselves with Fascism, and in the fight to smash Fascism the people have had to create their own people’s armed force and people’s State bodies—partisans, local Resistance Councils, etc. All this revolutionary initiative and energy Ernest Bevin calls, a “habit of lawlessness,” and he asks the European peoples to learn from the conduct of General Elections in Britain—where we have never experienced German occupation, and consequently have never had to shoot our Quislings, and where the Fascists still remain concealed in strong “prepared positions.”
Such a conception of democracy can only isolate the British Labour Government from its best friends, and help those who want to see it fail. To try to conciliate the most reactionary American monopolists by attacking the new governments in Europe is a line which must weaken the international workers’ movement and which must therefore end by weakening it in Britain.
The British Labour movement needs the Communist Party, needs Marxism, to fight against the point of view that for the immediate convenience of Britain, we can afford to sacrifice the workers of Yugoslavia or Bulgaria, or even our close friendship with the U.S.S.R. It needs the Communist Party to fight against all tendencies by whatever leader or member they may be expressed, to use the British Labour movement to carry forward the aims of the reactionary monopolists in Britain and U.S.A. and prepare the way for another war. The Communist Party wishes to become affiliated to the Labour Party, in order that it may help to strengthen it and carry out the policy the nation voted for at the General Election.
The Communist Party is a new type of party also in its organisation and its methods of work, which are based on the aim of helping forward the struggle of the workers on every front (both inside and outside Parliament) and all the time (not only at elections).
The Labour Party in Britain, on the other hand, has been almost entirely focussed on the winning of elections, though we hope that in future much more will be seen of the new M.Ps. in the constituencies.
Labour Councillors have done a great deal by their work on local Councils to improve the lot of their fellow workers, but they have not always seen the need to arouse the initiative and support of the workers who elected them; thus they have often been hamstrung.
Because it was organised to help carry on the struggle in every way, the Communist Party in Britain was able, even when it was much smaller than it is today, to initiate and lead great campaigns in which millions of workers were involved. For example, the great marches of the unemployed against the Means Test for work and wages before the war, the rousing of the whole Labour movement in support of the miners in 1926, against “Economy Cuts” in 1931. The organisation of the British Battalion of the International Brigade and the raising of volunteers to fight in its ranks, the mass resistance of the East London workers that barred the streets to Mosley’s blackshirts. Without these campaigns, we would not have had the smashing Labour victory of 1945.
Our Party has been able to carry on such work as this only because it is an organised body, in which every member is actively working under the guidance of the Party to bring into the common struggle the workers he meets in the factory or office and the neighbours he meets in the street or over the garden fence.
Today the Party must be able to explain to and influence people not only in its own political meetings, but wherever they meet and discuss their problems—in trade union and professional organizations, social clubs, co-operative organisations, and in the fish queue of a morning. It must be able to show the workers, the housewife, the professional man, the farmer, the student, how to win their own future by helping and supporting the policy of the Labour Government. This is not only a matter of propaganda. By organising to make their own lives a little easier or happier—to defeat a greedy employer or a grasping landlord, or make the Borough Council get a move on with blitz repairs—the people also learn who are their enemies, learn to make use of their Labour M.Ps., gain confidence in the united strength of the Labour movement for the next stage in the fight.
This work can only be done by a Party which recruits the best members of the Labour movement, in every walk of society, organises their work and gives them a continuous and thorough political education training for the job they have to do. The Communist Party carries on more political discussion in its ordinary everyday meetings than any other party, and these discussions are not general and abstract, but deal with the burning questions facing the people and the daily experiences of the struggle. In such discussions, as well as in special political schools and educational classes, the Party is able to study and learn from the experience of the whole Labour movement, to criticise and correct its own mistakes, and to work out the up-to-date strategy which will help the Labour movement to strengthen itself and weaken the big business and fascist forces.
The need for a strong party that can unify and rouse all sections of the Labour movement is today overwhelming. The Labour Party and the Labour Government will, above all, need the active fighting assistance of trade unions and all organisations of the people to carry its policy through.
We have fought and won the election on a programme, and a good programme. It is now the duty of the workers to help in thinking out the detailed application of Labour’s programme. Ministers have shown that they are going to ask for this co-operation, and as Sir Stafford Cripps has said, the whole reputation of the trade union movement will be at stake.
In the period of the previous Labour governments, there were serious differences between the trade unions and the Government. We can already see the reactionary forces endeavouring to work up and play upon similar differences today (in relation to demobilisation for instance) and to drive a wedge between the two sections.
We are confident that this time the differences can be avoided, and that the trade union movement, having grasped the “line of march,” will play its part in meeting any obstruction from the employers, and in finding ways to overcome difficulties. We base this confidence especially on the part the Communists will play in the leadership of some of the most decisive trade unions combining the struggle for their members’ wages and conditions with the wider aim of strengthening and carrying forward the working class movement as a whole.
Let me give an outstanding example of how this can be done. In the leadership of the miners, Communists such as Arthur Horner, Abe Moffatt and hundreds more in local Miners’ Lodges, have won a high place. Their positions have been won and maintained, despite all attacks, by the service they and their Party have given to the miners in 1926, in the dark days of unemployment and victimisation that followed, and in the bitter uphill battle for trade union rights and conditions in the 1930s. During the war the Communists have been among the foremost fighters for a decent minimum wage and living standards for the miners. At the same time they have fought boldly and untiringly to get the coal to defeat Fascism, no matter what provocation the coalowners might resort to; and throughout the whole period of more than 20 years they have spoken, written and worked for national ownership of the mines and one national Union for mineworkers.
Today, as a result of the victory over Fascism and the return of Labour to power, nationalisation is at last to become law. There are 39 mining members in the House, but it is not enough to pass legislation about nationalisation—it is essential to get the coal at once to enable Britain’s peace-time industries to get going. Otherwise big business would seize the chance for a comeback. To get coal means mobilising the miners to do the job. There are no magic solutions. The coal has somehow to be raised from the same poorly-planned, obsolete pits we had two months before. Only the initiative of the workers can overcome the bottlenecks now, and eventually transform the industry.
The Minister of Fuel and Power, Mr. Shinwell, has set a very good example in consulting the organised workers on how this problem should be tackled. He has cut away the bureaucracy and red tape of absenteeism investigators and Group Directors, and has given the miners’ organisation the responsibility of ensuring all-out effort.
The National Union of Mineworkers has welcomed the opportunity to make its full contribution. Realising that its working members on pit production committees and in the workplaces are the only people who can make sure the coal is got, it is giving them every assistance and encouragement. There is to be a great, national campaign, in which the miners’ M.P.s will take part, stressing the political importance of getting the coal so that the Labour Government, which the miners helped to elect, can do its job. In each region the Union will have a special production officer to deal with the practical problems and requests of the pit committees and Lodges. Nationally, the whole campaign is to be in charge of a National Officer; the man selected is the Communist, Arthur Horner. The success of the campaign will depend to no small extent on what is done to help it forward by the Communist Party in every mining area in the country.
I have described this experience at length because it is an outstanding example in so many ways. First, the close unity established between the Labour Minister and the organised workers; second, instead of relying on a bureaucratic machine handed down from the Coalition to get the results, the opportunity is given for the mass of the workers themselves to use their energy and practical initiative to solve the problem. This is the way in which democracy can be given new life and meaning. Thirdly, the role of the Communist Party is clear—not only in the new scheme, but in all the varying struggles that have finally brought us to the point of nationalization. It is not a question of leadership separate from the Labour movement, but rather of a Party that can unite and co-ordinate all that is best in the movement, because it fully understands what is involved in the fight.
In one form or another, according to circumstances, this is the example the Labour Government will need to follow in its dealings with industry, including non-nationalised industries, and just as the work of the Communists helped to give life, enthusiasm and constructive direction to the drive for war production in the aircraft factories, their work will be essential in the switch-over and the fight for full employment now. It is not just a one-way process of getting the workers to do what the Government asks; it is just as important to organise the workers to let the Government know what the people need and demand in the way of jobs, wages and conditions, for instance.
In this way the unity of Government and people can be maintained and the enthusiasm shown in the election made to drive the wheels of reconstruction. This is the way to avoid any “disillusionment” and swing of the pendulum, which would be so dangerous in the present situation.
Friends in the Labour movement often say to us: “Your ideas are good, your keenness and organising ability are splendid, you have exceptionally fine leaders in your Party—but why are you outside the Labour Party? Why don’t you dissolve your separate organisation and come inside the Labour ranks? We should welcome you and you could do far mare good.”
We understand the sympathy, and friendliness that often lies behind these remarks. We, too, wish that Communists were allowed to do their work as members of the Labour Party, to represent their unions at Labour Party Conferences, to sit as Labour members in Parliament, as Labour councillors, to take part in forming Labour Party policy, and so on. We shall not be satisfied until this is achieved by affiliation of the Communist Party to the Labour Party, and removal of the ban on Communists representing their union in all Labour Party activities.
Our fight for affiliation to the Labour Party is not some political manuvre through which a numerically smaller Party can prolong its existence through being affiliated to the Labour Party. But because we believe that the Communist Party has something to contribute to the Labour Party that will asist it to win members and strengthen its local organisations, in exactly the same way as the Communist Party has done in relation to trade unionism.
We want to have the opportunity of helping to unify and strengthen the whole Labour movement and, through this, guarantee for the people the winning of the peace, as they have already won the military war over Fascism and reaction.
It is the recognition of this fact that has prompted some of the most important trade unions in Britain to support this policy; and added significance is given to this fact because they are precisely these trade unions which took the first steps towards the creation of the Labour Party itself.
They now wish to see the Communist Party affliated to the Labour Party, because they know on the basis of the contribution it has made to strengthening workshop organisation, shop stewards and trade unionism as a whole, it can make a similar one on the political field also.
But we want to be there in our own right, in a position to make our full contribution as an organised group based on Marxism, and not merely as individuals. It would be little use having the Communists inside the Labour Party if they were forbidden to continue Marxist discussion and propaganda, if their working-class paper were to disappear, if those who were too consistently friendly with the Soviet Union were liable to be expelled.
You cannot have the exceptional political ability, devotion and steadfastness which you find in the Communist Party members without the Party that trains and maintains it. You cannot fight against weaknesses and divisions, for working-class discipline unless that discipline is based on real understanding.
Suppose we were to scrap our Party organisation tomorrow. No more Daily Worker, or perhaps a Daily Worker bought up by Odhams (and what has happened to the Daily Herald since Odhams got it is surely a salutary lesson). No more flow of political pamphlets explaining the up-to-date tasks of the working class in a simple language. No more systematic training in Marxism for the leaders of the workers in the trade unions and co-operatives. No more Communist campaigns to mobilise the people in relation to housing, fuel saving, production. No clear united conviction and policy binding together the different sections of the Labour movement.
What would happen? For a short time, some of the more conservative-minded leaders might enjoy the unwonted silence of their members—the lack of constructive criticism.
But very soon such a situation would lead to a happy hunting ground for Toryism and Fascism. Instead of constructive work, support and helpful criticism, you would get cynicism and division among the workers, which the Tories would play upon to the utmost. You would get the movement exploited for a time by the Tories for their own purposes, then broken up and cast aside. You would get the British Labour movement forced into conflict with other countries.
We do not mention this as a serious prospect. There can be no question of the Communist Party dissolving itself, for this would not help, but hinder working-class unity.
On the contrary; we are already strengthening our Party ranks by the addition of many active people in the Labour movement—who have experienced and admired our work in the General Election and who realise the need for that work to be carried on more widely than it is today.
There is no greater honour in the Labour movement than to be a member of the Communist Party. Joseph Stalin stated at Lenin’s funeral:
“There is nothing higher than the title of Member of the Party whose founder and leader is Comrade Lenin.”
It is an honour that we are not prepared to relinquish, even if we are offered the alternative honour of more easily becoming Labour councillors or M.P.s. The Labour movement will realise in time that it needs Communist councillors and M.P.s; the more surely if we do our work in the spirit of those who have gone before and who have not seen the great victory we now experience.
It is Communist discipline, understanding and political training which enabled our brother Parties under Hitler, occupation in France, Yugoslavia, Norway and Italy to organise, despite fearful terror and mass executions, the tremendous movement of resistance to the Nazis and to win the respect and confidence of millions in these countries.