From Fourth International, vol.4 No.6, June 1943, p.190.
Transcribed, marked up & formatted by Ted Crawford & David Walters in 2008 for ETOL.
Britain continues to seethe with unrest. Unauthorized militant strikes continue to break out among workers driven beyond the limits of endurance by the employers’ policy. Carters and dockers in Belfast, railwaymen at Stratford, Royal Ordinance Factory workers at Beardmores, and the miners repeatedly here and there, flare up in angry defensive protest. The new Wage Award of the National Arbitration Tribune to the engineers [machinists] is regarded as an insult to the engineering workers, and in effect amounts to a provocation which must have stormy repercussions in the next few months.
The Beveridge Report is also a big issue here. The Labour “lefts” and petty-bourgeois careerists of all shades are trying to cash in on it. This is a reflection of the way the masses have turned their attention to the future and are asking “What are we fighting for?”
In the political field there is a definite trend on the part of organized labor to break the electoral truce. This is only the beginning, but it is already sufficiently widespread to cause a split among the Labour and Trades Union tops. Churchill has threatened the labor movement with a split if the forthcoming conference decides to break the truce. Thirty six [local] Labour Parties have placed on the agenda “Break the Electoral Truce.” Two resolutions putting our position in all essentials are also on the agenda: “Break the Coalition – Labour to Power on a Socialist Program.” Unquestionably the Labour Party Conference will be one of the most momentous in years.
It is difficult to predict what the outcome of the Conference will be. One thing is certain: the truce has not long to live. The leadership will attempt to sidetrack the discussion away from the question of the coalition; if it gets too hot they will try to find a formula to retain the coalition but break the electoral truce as a vent for the feelings of the rank and file.
The leading strata of the labor fakers are also worried by the rise of the middle-class party, Common Wealth, which has been successfully contesting by-elections on demagogic slogans of precisely that reformist character which the Labourites would be raising were they not self-gagged by participation in the coalition cabinet.
The Labourite tops are grateful for Stalinist agitation for continuation of both coalition and truce. But they do not want the Communist Party in their own house. It will need all the bureaucratic steamrollering of the Trades Union bloc to keep the Communist Party from affiliation, for the Stalinists are certainly organizing their campaign.
The Stalinists continue to grow numerically. But it is significant that the best of their national cadres in the working class are becoming “demoralized,” i.e., shocked into consciousness of their class needs and permeated with “Trotskyism.” In the Clydeside, where the Stalinists have been complete masters of the industrial movement for years, they are receiving shattering blows from the leftward-moving workers. The Area Shop Stewards Committee there is split almost equally in two – a left wing versus the Stalinists. The latter are the least representative of the shop stewards at this stage in the area. They have lost their leading figure, Sillers, at the recent District Committee elections for the Amalgamated Engineering Union. All the pointers are that they will lose heavily in the next elections. The split, it is publicly known, is directly reflected in the ranks of the Stalinists themselves.
What we cannot too seriously emphasize is that two processes are simultaneously occurring. The continued growth of the Stalinists comes from the leftward gropings of previously backward workers who are now driven by the historic conjuncture to seek a “left” way out. Thus this growth stems from a new base, comes from new strata. Simultaneously, the politically more advanced workers in the CP, learning from bitter experience the class-collaborationist nature of Stalinism, are turning farther left, looking for a real Bolshevik program, toward us.
For example, in discussions with the Shop Stewards Convener of one of the most Important government plants on the Clyde, he informed us that the Central Committee of the CP had instructed them not to participate in the “Trotskyist” controlled Consultative Committee covering all Royal Ordinance Factories in the country. The plant is the acknowledged Stalinist stronghold on the Clyde and has a bloc of 60 votes in the area council of 250. They rejected the Central Committee’s instruction and were expecting expulsion.
These workers, of course, are not yet Trotskyists but had arrived at the correct conclusion: that Stalin was prepared to sacrifice the British working class in return for Churchill’s aid. Their proletarian basis and background plus contact with real Marxists will bring them ultimately all the way into the Trotskyist movement. Of this we are confident. Were our leading forces numerically larger, the process would be rapid.
A similar situation exists in most proletarian centers with the exception of London, where the Stalinist bureaucrats have a strong grip. But it is symptomatic of the general trend that even in London a movement is beginning.
The Independent Labour Party is about to hold its annual Conference. For the first time since the C.L.R. James walk-out and debacle, there has matured in the ILP a sizable group of genuine Marxists. Of course most of them are young and lack the experience of battling with old foxes of the calibre of Brockway. But there is obviously developing a Bolshevik wing. A resolution proposing to open up discussions on affiliation with the Fourth International was ruled out of order by the Standing Orders Committee and ILP National Secretary McNair wrote to a local branch stating that under no circumstances will they permit this resolution to come up at the Conference.
It is not at all excluded that the ILP leaders are preparing to scuttle and enter the Labour Party in a miserable capitulation. They are at all costs determined to show the Labour bureaucrats that they are by no means dangerous and that they do not harbour any revolutionary tendency within their ranks. Fresh proletarian elements are, however, entering their ranks and branches long extinct are coming to life again. The fresh elements turn instinctively toward sound Bolshevik policy.
The Workers International League is now producing a mid-month supplement to the monthly Socialist Appeal. This is our only legal means of expressing our views more frequently at this stage. Only the Paper Control limits our possibilities in this sphere. Nobody can estimate how much greater our circulation could be if it were not for the paper regulations: we have been forced to print prominently in our April issue the following note:
“Pass the Appeal on. The limitations of the paper supply imposed by the Government regulations determine the maximum circulation of our paper. We are therefore forced to ask our friends to see that their copies are passed on – not to one comrade or work-mate, but to several. This is an elementary duty of every real supporter of the Socialist Appeal.”
The impact of our press on the British workers is significantly reflected by the behaviour of our Stalinist and capitalist foes. A pamphlet has been published against us by the Communist Party, with the slanderous title, Hitler’s Agents Exposed, which contains the first attempt by the British Stalinists to deal with the program of Trotskyism, and is an important reflection of the above-described situation within their own ranks. There has also been published How the Defeatists Work, by the Economic League, the British brand of Pinkertons, blaming us for all the strikes.
P.S. The leading shop steward on the Clydeside, mentioned above, has been expelled with three others from the CP As a result, 40 members in the plant have resigned from the party.
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Last updated on 26.8.2008