Communists and the British Labour Party 1927-29:
A sense of déjà vu
By Richard Price
Mention the term Third Period Stalinism and many on the left
they know the territory. The trouble is, most know the history of the
Third Period of the Communist International from 1928-33 only in the
most general terms, and that usually amounts to knowing that in
Germany, the KPD denounced its Social Democratic opponents as social
fascists, thereby sabotaging any prospect of united front resistance to
Hitler. Third Period Stalinism is today seen almost universally as a
bad thing — even by today's shrunken Communist Parties1 —
and therefore as an epithet it is applicable to only the most
The problem is that the increasingly Stalinised Comintern did
arrive at the wilder shores of sectarianism in one leap. By the early
1930s, the Comintern's frenzied attacks, not just on "social fascists",
but on "anarcho-fascists", "liberal fascists", "clerical fascists",
"left social fascists", and of course "Trotsky-fascists", suggested
that almost every other political tendency beyond its own ranks
supported or was conniving at fascism. But to arrive at this lunacy had
taken a series of shifts, the study of which is highly instructive and
of more than just historical significance.
For two years from 1927 to 1929, the Communist Party of Great
Britain was caught up in a set of internal struggle whose central
issues sound remarkably contemporary over 70 years later:
- Was the Labour Party now simply a third bourgeois party?
- Should Communists be active in the Labour Party?
- Should they attempt to build a bridge to the Labour left?
- Should trade unionists pay the political levy?
- Should they fight for political funds to be controlled
- Should socialists fight for trade unions to disaffiliate
from the Labour Party?
In fact, to compare these debates with debates under way
left today — and particularly within the Socialist Alliance — needs no
laboured analogy. Nor is this meant as an insult to Socialist Alliance
comrades. The CPGB in the late 1920s was a party whose members remained
dedicated to the victory of revolutionary socialism — if anything they
were impatient for its victory. But the mistakes made by the party in
this period echo down to today, not least because they have been
repeated in one form or another by many who consider themselves
Trotskyists. The struggle in the CPGB over the "new line" marked both
the last genuine political struggle within the party, and at the same
time the decisive period in which the party was finally Stalinised.
Attempts by the right-wing Labour leaders to take action
Communists being active in the Labour Party gathered strength in the
period running up to the 1926 General Strike. The Liverpool Conference
of the Labour Party in autumn 1925 reaffirmed the previous year's
conference decision proscribing Communists from being individual
members of the party, although they could still operate as delegates of
affiliated trade unions. However, as many as 100 divisional and borough
parties resisted the edict and by the end of 1926 some 1500 Communists
were still active as individual members. On the strength of this
resistance, the National Left-Wing Movement (NLWM) was launched in
December 1925, uniting Communists, Labour and Independent Labour Party
leftists, and trade union militants.
At its second conference in September 1927, 54 local Labour
sent delegates, claiming to represent 150,000 members. For the small
CPGB, this represented a considerable achievement. Its own membership,
which had stood at only 5000 in 1925, risen slowly to 6000 by April
1926, and then grown rapidly to 10,700 by October that year under the
impact of the betrayal of the General Strike, had fallen back to 7400
by 1927. Yet through the NLWM, and its widely read paper, the Sunday
it exercised an influence well in excess of its modest size. Whatever
its limitations, it demonstrated — as Trotsky would subsequently teach
his own British supporters — that such a tactic can act as "the lever
of a small group".
Origins of the “new line”
The CPGB's Ninth Congress in October 1927 essentially
line towards the Labour left that it had developed up to that point.
However, internationally, the line of the Comintern was about to shift
abruptly. A month later, Trotsky and the Left Opposition were expelled
from the Russian party. Having smashed the opposition by arrests and
exile, Stalin executed a sharp turn to the left, embarking upon forced
collectivisation and rapid industrialisation. Just as Stalin
exaggerated the danger represented by the kulaks, so as to justify the
civil war in the countryside and the repression against oppositionists,
so internationally a "war danger" imminently threatening the Soviet
Union was cooked up to bring non-Russian Communist parties into line.
The theoretical underpinning of the left turn was provided by
periodisation of the class struggle since 1917. The “first period” had
been one of revolutionary upsurge following the October Revolution; the
second had been characterised by a retreat under the slogan of the
united front; the “third period”, now opening, was one of a "renewed
offensive", in which Europe "was obviously entering into the period of
a new revolutionary upswing".2
Translating this into a viable perspective for the national
of the Comintern proved everywhere a daunting task, and Britain was no
exception. The working class had been forced back on to the defensive
in the wake of the defeat of the General Strike and the subsequent
employers' offensive. Strike days, which had totalled 162,233,000 in
1926, fell to 1,174,0003 the following year.
The first indication of a shift of the Comintern's line in
came in the form of a telegram from Moscow received in October 1927,
shortly after the CPGB's Ninth Congress. It gave notice that its
attitude to the Labour Party was up for reconsideration. Two months
later, at a meeting of the Presidium of the Comintern, it was proposed
to withdraw the slogan of a Labour government, and instead call for a
revolutionary Labour government4.
This implied criticism of the British party's line — despite
lack of basis in reality — fell on fertile ground. The defeat of the
General Strike had been followed by aggressive anti-Communist campaigns
in both the Labour Party and the unions. Thus, although the party's
influence over left-leaning Labour Party members and militant unionists
had grown, it was in an overall context of retreat, and it had failed
to translate into the growth of the party's membership. Indeed, by
March 1928, it had fallen to 5500. Much of the initial debate concerned
the NLWM, the leftists seeing it as a barrier to building a
revolutionary movement, rather than a bridge.
Struggle in the CPGB
Two tendencies emerged within the party. An increasingly vocal
minority, including Palme Dutt, Harry Pollitt, J.T. Murphy, Robin Page
Arnot and the MP Shapurji Saklatvala, claimed that the Labour Party was
no longer a workers' party of any sort, and that it had been
transformed into the third bourgeois party. Most of this minority also
wanted to abandon the CP's stance of advocating affiliation to the
The majority included such leading figures as T.A. Jackson,
Campbell, Willie Gallacher, Wal Hannington and Andrew Rothstein, and
stood by the existing line, claiming support from Lenin's writings such
as Left Wing Communism.
At a meeting of the CP Central Committee in January 1928,
thesis defending the majority line was carried by 17 votes to 6. Both
wings of the CC were represented at the enlarged Ninth Plenum of the
Executive Committee of the Communist International (ECCI), held in
Moscow in February 1928.5 Campbell and Gallacher put up a
vigorous defence of the majority's views, with Gallacher warning of
where the minority's logic would lead: "... if [Labour] is a third
bourgeois party, and we have to start fighting it now along the whole
front, we should not wait till the election, we should start now. And
the first thing to be done is to go to our comrades in the trade unions
and say: 'Withdraw from this third bourgeois party.' Instead of the
party going forward in the fight for affiliation, we ought to advocate
the withdrawal of the trade unions from the third bourgeois party."6
However, faced with the ECCI’s support for many of the
positions, the majority retreated, and a left-leaning resolution was
passed unanimously. It claimed that the Labour and trade union leaders
were "endeavouring gradually to convert their organisations into
auxiliary apparatuses of the bourgeois State and the employers'
organisations"; it called for a "strenuous fight" against the selection
procedures for Labour Party candidates, and urged local parties "to
call new Selection Conferences"; it committed the CPGB to "come out
more boldly and more clearly as an independent political party, to
change its attitude towards the Labour Party and the Labour Government
and consequently to replace the slogan of the Labour Government by the
slogan of the Revolutionary Workers' Government"7.
While this was clearly seen as a victory for the leftist
perspective, it stopped short of endorsing several of the minority's
positions. In spite of the rhetoric about a "Revolutionary Workers'
Government", nowhere did the resolution clearly define the Labour Party
as a purely bourgeois party. It also declared it "inexpedient as yet"
to withdraw the tactic of applying for affiliation to the Labour Party.
And it rejected the proposal to abstain in the forthcoming general
election in constituencies in which there was no Communist candidate.
In an introduction to the report of the Plenum's British
Campbell adopted a tone of ritualistic self-criticism. The Central
Committee had "underestimated the extent to which the bureaucracy had
succeeded in consolidating its influence in the Labour Party and
rendering all left-wing work in that body impossible".8 But
the differences were glossed over, rather than resolved, and the extent
to which the party was saddled with a set of contradictory policies was
soon exposed in its confused relationship with, and intervention into,
the Cook-Maxton campaign.9
The campaign was launched in June 1928 with the publication of
manifesto issued under the signatures of miners' leader A.J. Cook and
the left-wing Clydeside MP Jimmy Maxton of the ILP, although it was
apparently written by Maxton, John Wheatley and Willie Gallacher.
Interestingly, the manifesto declared that the Labour Party was "no
longer a working class party but a party representing all sections of
the community"10. The campaign, despite its revivalist style
and confused politics, did evoke a considerable response among workers.
Although the CPGB had played a significant role behind the scenes in
launching the campaign, rising leftism within the party led the
leadership to issue a statement which described the manifesto as
"nothing more than the effort to create a pseudo-left opposition in the
parliamentary Labour Party and trade union bureaucracy, resulting in
diverting the workers from the real struggle11". At a rally
in Glasgow, CP members demanded that Maxton call for Ramsay MacDonald's
expulsion from the Labour Party: "If supporters of the new line had a
strategy for intervention in the campaign, it was to provoke the Labour
Party right wing into expelling the left, thereby providing the
Communist Party with an anticipated influx of recruits.
"Meanwhile, at the Sixth Congress of the Comintern, which
Moscow in July 1928, the Third Period received something approaching an
official launch by Bukharin, who would shortly become one of its most
prominent victims. Belief in the rapid growth of revolutionary
consciousness among workers, fuelled by an ever-deepening crisis of
capitalism, became an article of faith, and the failure of perspectives
to materialise was attributed in section after section to the failure
of leaderships to implement the ultraleft turn with sufficient rigour.
The political levy
In the CPGB, the debate extended to the political levy. The
resolution of the Ninth Plenum had called for control of the political
levy at local level "in order that it may be possible to finance any
candidates the rank and file of the branch may approve".13
Back in Britain, the party leadership felt obliged to warn members that
if implemented, the policy could lead to legal action for
misappropriation of funds. Some members responded by proposing that
trade unionists should cease paying the levy — a position that Trotsky
had compared in Where is Britain Going? to strikebreaking,14
without any disagreement from the CPGB, which had published the book as
recently as October 1926.
In November 1928, the Central Committee of the CPGB passed
resolutions that highlighted the contradictory, halfway house it now
occupied. It unanimously agreed to drop the demand for the CPGB to be
allowed to affiliate to the Labour Party, and to call for trade unions
to disaffiliate from it. By 15 votes to two it advocated continuing to
pay the political levy, with the aim of controlling it locally at a
later date, while by 13-4 it voted to continue to support the NLWM.
The response of the ECCI, received shortly before the CPGB's
Congress held in Bermondsey in January 1929, was more cautious,
opposing both dropping the CP's affiliation tactic and the call for
trade union disaffiliation.15 By the time of the Bermondsey
Congress, membership had fallen again, to 3500 — less than half of what
it had been at the outset of the "new line" little more than a year
before. The leftists, urged on by Moscow, shrilly insisted that the
NLWM and the united front orientation it rested on were the main
obstacles to masses of radicalised workers streaming into the party. A
motion to disband the NLWM was passed against the wishes of the
majority of the leadership by the narrow margin of 55-52 — a result so
close that it was referred back to Moscow for further consideration.
Shortly after the congress, the CP members on the National Committee of
the NLWM carried a vote to dissolve the movement and urge its members
to join the CP.
Delegates to the Tenth Congress also voted by 100-22 to
paying the political levy, even if it was "only in order more
effectively to work for the breakdown of this bourgeois party".16
On dual unionism, the congress "resolved to support breakaway unions
where the left wing was threatened by right-wing leaders who were not
supported by a majority of the membership".17
On March 23, 1929, the Central Committee of the CPGB voted by
in favour of abstaining in the forthcoming general election in seats
where there was no Communist candidate. Workers in such constituencies
should spoil their ballot papers by writing "Communist" across them.
When the election was held on May 31, the CPGB fielded 25 candidates,
who polled a total of 50,000 votes, or 5.3 per cent of the vote in the
seats it contested. It was widely regarded as a poor performance,18
barely more than the 41,000 votes it had won in 1924 when it had
contested only six seats. A key extract from the party's election
manifesto Class Against Class — the name by which the "new
line" was known publicly — is reproduced after this article. As is
characteristic of ultraleftism, it combined wishful thinking (the idea
that the Labour leadership had exposed itself "completely" while in
government) with abstract maximalist propaganda (the programme of the
"Revolutionary Workers' Government"). The conclusion was that Labour
had become "the third capitalist party".
The triumph of ultraleftism
Although the wheel had already turned sharply to the left, the
majority of the CC was still unconvinced by the full rigours of the
ultraleft line, and even intimated it might reconsider the dissolution
of the NLWM. In contrast, Moscow wanted to turn even more sharply to
the left, and the Tenth Plenum of the ECCI in July 1929 singled out the
British section's leadership for criticism, calling for "an active
fight against the right deviation" and for such deviators to "submit
implicitly to all decisions of the Comintern and its sections, and
actively carry them out".19 The Plenum marked a new phase of
the Third Period, one in which the Labour leaders and the Labour
government began to be described as "social fascist".
Since the ECCI made a special point of calling for an
struggle" against the left wing of social democracy, any hope of
rescuing what remained of the party's influence in the Labour left was
out of the question. The Sunday Worker — whose circulation had
reached 100,000 three years before — was allowed to fold. Communist
influence in the trade unions was also shrinking in most industries,
and the Minority Movement held its last annual conference in August
By the end of the year, membership had fallen even further to
as the internal struggle grew in the frantic attempt to find a
leadership capable of consistently applying the ever more ultraleft
line coming from Moscow. The ECCI intervened to bring forward the
party's congress, which was now billed as an emergency congress and
held in Leeds from November 30-December 3, 1929. Summing up the results
of the congress, Brian Pearce writes that it "registered the final,
total triumph of the New Line in deeds as well as words, with
guarantees in the form of changes in the leadership".21 Only
13 of the 30 Central Committee members elected in January were
The congress's main resolution pulled no punches in its
ultraleftism, denouncing the Labour government as "social fascist" and
spelling out the classic sectarian formula of the "united front from
below": "The tactic of the united front from below is the most
effective means of winning over the Left workers, and, at the same
time, exposing the 'left' reformist leaders, the most dangerous enemies
of the workers."22 In a message to the congress, the
Presidium of the ECCI topped even this by speaking of the "fascization"
of both the Labour Party and the trade unions.23
In two years, the CPGB's role in the organised labour movement
been all but destroyed. Much of the blame can be laid at the door of
the Stalinised Comintern, although, as I have tried to show, there were
also domestic pressures arising out of the difficult conditions after
the defeat of the General Strike that fuelled the mood of desperate
Third Period Trotskyism
At this distance, and under very different conditions, what is
striking is how this period holds up a mirror in various ways to almost
every group on the left in recent decades and today. It is as if
Trotskyist groups are doomed endlessly to repeat the tragedy of the
CPGB as farce. The path to discovering that the Labour Party is simply
a capitalist party is a well-worn one, most recently trodden by the
Calling for an abstention in seats other than those contested
"revolutionary" candidates has a similarly long and ill-starred career,
from Robin Blackburn and Tariq Ali of the IMG in 1970, via Spartacism,
to Arthur Scargill's Socialist Labour Party and some of those active in
the Socialist Alliance at the last general election. Nor is the
Socialist Alliance's elevation of standing against Labour to the level
of a principle new; it was first voice by Robin Page Arnot in 1928: "In
order express the antagonism against the Labour Party in the sharpest
way, the principle must be that we put candidates wherever we can.24
"Page Arnot also anticipated by over 70 years the Socialist
Alliance's justification for splitting the vote in this year's local
elections in Burnley and letting in the British National Party: "this
argument of 'letting the capitalist candidate in' is wrong ... This is
an argument which should not be put forward in our discussion here."25
Like Page Arnot, the Socialist Alliance brushes aside the
splitting the vote, even if the outcome is the victory of a fascist.
The main issue, they argue, is to build the Socialist Alliance's base —
from which it flows logically that which party actually wins seats is a
On the trade union-Labour link and the political funds, the
Socialist Alliance. even if it is split internally between several
different positions — is all too clearly travelling the same road as
that taken by the CPGB in 1928.
Attempting to "build the party" by trying to engineer the
of Labour leftists was tried by the Socialist Workers Party in 1991,
when it campaigned for Labour Party members to tear up their membership
cards and sign an "Open Letter" that committed them to building "an
independent socialist alternative to Labour ... outside the Labour
Party". Not surprisingly the stunt failed to make any lasting gains.
And the SWP's preference for operating through party-controlled front
organisations like the AntiNazi League and Globalise Resistance owes
not a little to the CPGB's politics after it liquidated genuine mass
organisations like the Minority Movement and the NLWM.
Even the (current) CPGB Weekly Worker's attempt in the 2001
election to commit Labour candidates to left policies in return for
critical support was first proposed by Palme Dutt and Harry Pollitt's
minority document from January 192826.
The prize for the longest running and most committed
Third Period politics would in the past have gone to Gerry Healy's WRP,
which by the late 1970s had abandoned even the pretence of electoral
tactics in favour of demanding a Workers Revolutionary Government — by
happy chance a straightforward reshuffle of the CPGB's Revolutionary
Workers' Government slogan of 1929. Sheila Torrance's News Line
is in this sense a worthy successor, with its crazed belief in imminent
revolution being driven forward by economic catastrophe, and its
fetishisation of a daily paper without even modest support. Another
Healyite fragment, the Socialist Equality Party (formerly the ICP) has
for years insisted in impeccable Third Period style that left
reformists are much the most dangerous enemies of the workers'
movement, while the trade unions, it discovered some years ago, are no
longer workers' organisations at all.
It is, then, deeply ironic that all these avowed opponents of
Stalinism should have endlessly repeated the sectarian mistakes of the
CPGB from 1927-29, and created a weird and wonderful Third Period
Trotskyist hybrid. One angle relatively unexplored by writers from the
Trotskyist tradition is the extent to which Trotsky's own writings from
the mid-1920s have nourished this strange offspring. Certainly his
emphasis on criticising the role of the trade union "lefts" — Purcell,
Swales, Hicks and Cook — before, during and after the General Strike,
was somewhat one-sided, and not always balanced by stressing that the
only route for the CPGB to reach a mass audience lay in united front
activity along the lines of the NLWM and the Minority Movement. The
core of the first British Trotskyist group — the Balham Group — was
comrades who in 1929 had thought that the problems of the CPGB lay in
not applying the "new line" consistently enough.27 They were
won to Trotsky's ideas in 1931 as a result of his writings on Germany
rather than those on Britain.
In contrast, Trotsky's advice to his British supporters in the
often showed far greater tactical awareness and understanding of
British conditions, together with a deeper understanding of the dangers
of sectarianism. All too often, latter-day Trotskyists have drawn the
conclusion that the essence of revolutionary politics lies in
demarcating themselves at all costs from the "lefts", in the hope that
the process of convincing reformist-minded workers can be achieved via
1. Cf., N. Branson's official
History of the Communist Party of Great Britain 1927-1941, Lawrence and
Wishart, 1985, p. 17: "This new line — which came to be known as 'Class
Against Class' — was a disaster. It alienated former allies, and made
it much harder for the Party to recover lost ground in later years."
2. H. Dewar, Communist Politics in Britain:
The CPGB from its Origins to the Second World War, Pluto, 1976, p.72.
3. This equates approximately to the level of
strikes in 2002.
4. Branson, op. cit, p. 19.
5. Appendix 1 of B. Pearce, "The Communist
the Labour Left 1925-1929", in M. Woodhouse and B. Pearce, Essays in
the History of Communism in Britain, New Park 1975, pp.193-197 contains
extracts from contributions made by Campbell, Page Arnot and Gallacher.
6. Ibid. p. 197.
7. Ibid. pp. 198-201.
8. Quoted in Dewar, op. cit. p. 80.
9. See B. Pitt, 'The Cook-Maxton
Campaign',Workers News No. 12, Oct-Nov 1988.
11. Branson, op. cit. p. 33.
12. Pitt, Op. Cit.
13. Pearce, op. cit. p. 200.
14. L. Trotsky, Writings on Britain Vol. 2,
New Park, 1974, p. 101.
15. This contradicts the view that "lmost
CPGB itself stood to the right of the Stalinist majority in the
International" — J. Hinton and R. Hyman, Trade Unions and Revolution:
The Industrial Politics of the Early Communist Party, Pluto, 1975, p. 9.
16. Quoted in Branson, op. cit. p. 34.
17. Hinton and Hyman, op. cit. p.48.
18. This was nonetheless more than three times
better in percentage terms than the Socialist Alliance polled in 2001.
19. R. Groves, The Balham Group, Pluto, 1974,
20. It may have even fallen below 3000 — cf.
Branson, op. cit. p. 48.
21. Woodhouse and Pearce, op. cit. p. 191.
22. Ibid. p. 203.
23. Ibid. p. 192.
24. Ibid. p. 194.
25. Ibid. p. 196.
26. Branson, op. cit. p.25.
27. See S. Bornstein and A. Richardson,
Against the Stream, Socialist Platform, 1986, Chapter 3; Groves, op.
Class against Class
Extract from the Communist Party of Great Britain's programme
for the 1929 general election
The Communist Party
The Communist Party is the Party of the working class, in fundamental
opposition to all other parties. It is a part of the Communist
International, the international workers' party, leading the workers
and oppressed toilers of the world, the vast majority, in the world
revolution. It declares that the social contrasts of increasing wealth
in the hands of the rich, side by side with the increasing misery and
poverty of the proletariat, cannot be eliminated within the framework
of capitalism. It proclaims that the organisation of the economic life
of this country and of the whole world, the abolition of war, the
freedom of small nationalities, the liberation of the colonial masses,
the end of the capitalist dictatorship, the building of socialism, are
impossible, unless the working class overthrows the capitalist class
and becomes the ruling class.
The Communist Party therefore is the deadly enemy of
capitalist parties. It has as its aims the leadership of the working
class in the overthrow of capitalism, the establishment of a
revolutionary workers' government as the means to the establishment of
a Communist society in which the means of production will not be the
private property of the few, a society which will not be based upon
profit but on labour, will not be based on class division, will
eradicate both imperialist wars and class wars, and abolish poverty
forever. It regards the struggle for a revolutionary workers'
government in Britain as part of the international war of the classes
which can only end by the establishment of a World Federation of
Workers' and Peasants' Republics.
The Means of Conquest
Basing itself therefore on the interests of the working class and the
oppressed toilers, the Communist Party is not a mere parliamentary
party, but the leader of the workers in the class war in all its forms,
whether it manifests itself in strikes, elections, demonstrations or
other forms. Recognising that the working class can only conquer
capitalism and become the ruling class by the creation of its own
instruments of power (ie, workers' councils, composed of delegates from
the factories and the mass organisation of the workers), and the
impossibility of the working class capturing and utilising the
capitalist State apparatus for the exercise of its own class power for
the building of socialism, it participates in elections, in
parliamentary action, in all forms of political activity as the means
to the preparation of the working class for the act of imposing its
will, ie, exercising its own dictatorship over the capitalist class
preliminary to the building of socialism and the elimination of
The political power of the capitalist class is exercised, not
through the parliamentary institutions, which it modifies or discards
according to the advancement of appositional opinion within them but
though its own class control of all institutions, by its own officers
of the Army, Navy, Air Force, police force, law courts, press, schools,
church. It is only possible to conquer this class domination when,
through the breakdown of capitalist economy and the sharpening of class
relations, which inevitably follow, the majority of the workers are
prepared forcibly to throw off the capitalist class control in all
phases of social, industrial and political activity, and themselves
take control of the factories, mines, workshops, railways, etc.
The manner in which the everyday struggle of the workers
capitalist class culminates in the fight for power was clearly seen in
the General Strike of 1926. Although the strike was generated by the
efforts of the working class to defend their economic conditions the
action itself brought the classes face to face with the question —
which class shall rule in Britain? The capitalist class answered with
the suspension of parliamentarism and the mobilisation of its military
forces ready to answer with war in the streets. The working class, led
by the leaders of the Labour Party intent on the welfare of the State,
was unprepared for so decisive a battle. The working class was
defeated. Nevertheless it is thus that the fight for power comes for
which the working class has to prepare.
When the working class has power it can build socialism. With
revolutionary workers' government, exercising a working-class
dictatorship and operating a real workers' democracy, the working class
can solve the economic and social problems of this country and liberate
hundreds of millions of oppressed peoples. With power in the hands of
the workers, the pathway to socialism is as clear as daylight. A
revolutionary workers' government, having conquered the capitalists,
would not have to seek their consent to nationalise this industry or
that. It would, under the leadership of the Communist Party, at once
proceed to socialise the economic life of this country, and, for the
first time in history give the working class, ie, the great majority of
the population, equality of opportunity, control over their daily lives
and power to build the future.
The Communist Party and the General Election
The Communist Party, therefore, enters the General Election
view to furthering its fundamental aims outlined; to reveal to the
working class the nature of the present crisis, to expose the sham of
parliamentary democracy maintained by the Tories, Liberals and Labour
alike; to send as many Communists as possible to Parliament in order to
carry the working-class fight into the institutions of their class
enemies; to mobilise the workers for the Revolutionary Workers'
Government. Three parties — Tory, Liberal and Labour — appeal to you in
the name of the "NATION". One party — the Communist Party — appeals to
you in the name of the working class. No party can serve two masters.
No Party can serve the "Nation" so long as the nation is divided into
two warring classes — one which owns the wealth and one which produces
the wealth and does not own it. No party can serve the robbers and the
robbed at the same time. To speak of the "Nation" when it is thus
divided is camouflage to hide their support of the robbers because the
great majority of the nation belongs to the class which is robbed. The
Communist Party is thus the only Party of the workers, the oppressed.
The Tory Party
The Tory Party is the party of the landlords, the big
and financiers. The basis of its policy is upon the preservation and
extension of the private ownership of all wealth, land, property, all
the means of production. It is the party of imperialism. It is the
party of Mondism. Its record is one of class oppression, war
preparation and rationalisation at the expense of the workers. As the
governing party, it has been responsible for passing the Miners'
8-hourAct, leading the frontal attack on the trades unions, both in the
General Strike and the Trade Union Act, which weakened the unions,
deprived them of the rights of collective participation in politics,
detached the Trade Unions of State employees from the organised trade
union movement and helped the middle-class leadership of the Labour
Party to exercise their party dictatorship over the unions.
The Liberal Party
The Liberal Party is just as much a Party of imperialism and
financial capital as the Tory Party. The differences between the Tory
landowners and Liberal manufacturers which used to exist 80 years ago
have long since disappeared. Even the Liberal textile manufacturers,
who pioneered the Free Trade campaign because they wanted cheap cotton
for their mills and cheap food for their operatives, gave up this plank
during the war. The Liberal, Labour and Tory Parties today keep up the
game of "Opposition" only in order to make the workers and poorer
middle class believe that salvation will come through Parliament.
The Liberal Party is one of the masks which the British
wear in order to swindle the workers. It led the British Imperialist
forces into the war of 1914-18, and agrees with the Tory Party on the
need to maintain the Empire as the instrument of colonial exploitation.
Its leader, Simon, is chairman of the Commission appointed by the Tory
Government to devise improved means for the subjugation of India. It
opposes universal disarmament as proposed by the Soviet Government. Its
leader, Lloyd George, was responsible for the Black and Tan regime in
Ireland. It was party to the Versailles Treaty and is a supporter of
the capitalist League of Nations. It is a supporter of the Dawes Plan
and the Locarno Pact. It also is a "Mondist" party.
The Labour Party
This Party is the third capitalist party. It lays claim to the
of Socialist Party, but has nothing to do with socialism. Whatever
associations it has with the working class are due to its development
as a parliamentary wing of the trade unions, now turned to account as
the means of subordinating the trade unions to its dictatorship on
behalf of capitalism. It rejects working class politics and exploits
the workers' organisations for "national politics".
The Labour Party "in principle" stands for the nationalisation
the banks, land and industry by purchase, ie state capitalism, but
relegates in practice even this "principle" to the far distant future.
Meanwhile it is prepared to advocate the development of rationalisation
of industry. A common ground is thus provided in its programme for the
co-operation of Tories, Liberals and Labour. The Labour programme says (Labour
and the Nation,
pp. 15, 16), "They, [the capitalists] will be well advised to begin by
setting their own house in order — to modernise their organisation,
improve their technique, eliminate waste and apply more intelligently
the resources which science has revealed.
The Parties of Capitalist Violence
The policy of these three parties can be summed up as "Empire
Mondism". These are the parties which shriek about bloodshed and
violence and civil war. They are the voters of war credits, the
builders of armies and navies, the creators of air forces, the
organisers of armed police (all officered and controlled by the
propertied class). They are waging a perpetual civil war against the
workers and call it "social peace". They wage war abroad and call it
"international pacification". They speak of disarmament, but only as
the means of scrapping obsolete weapons and equipping themselves with
more deadly weapons. They all agree to "outlaw war" as the means to
legalise it. They are three parties of capitalist violence, of poison
gas, of bomb throwers, of the most efficient killing machines known to
man. Their outcry against violence is hypocritical. They are not
against violence on behalf of the capitalists, but only against
violence on behalf of the workers against the capitalists.
Our Changed Attitude to the Labour Party
Prior to the formation of the Labour Government in 1924, the
Communist Party, although the leaders of the Labour Party were as
treacherous then as now, advised the working class to push the Labour
Party into power whilst sharply criticising and exposing the leaders of
the Labour Party. Today this policy is no longer possible for the
following reasons. The situation of 1929 is entirely different from
that of the years prior to the General Strike and the Labour Government
of 1924. In the years immediately after the war the Labour Party, in
spite of its anti-working-class leaders, was forced by the pressure of
the workers into action against the Tories and Liberals, eg, threatened
general strike against war on Russia, demand for a capital levy,
repudiation of the Versailles Treaty, big working-class action on wages
and hours of labour, etc. The Labour Party also had not yet become a
closely-knit party with a single discipline. It was a federation of
trade unions and parties offering facilities for criticism from within
and a means of struggle for our party to battle against the
middle-class leadership and to strengthen the working-class forces
The Labour Government exposed the Labour Party leadership
completely. It proved the Communist Party criticisms to be correct. The
"minority" Labour Government was nothing more than a coalition with the
Tories and Liberals. The Labour leaders "led" the General Strike only
to betray it in the face of the challenge of the State. The General
Strike raised the question of class power — which class shall rule in
Britain. The Labour Party leadership of the General Council of the
Trades Union Congress were against the struggle for power. They stood
for capitalist power against working-class power. They co-operated with
the Tories in the defeat of the General Strike, but from within. They
denounced the General Strike and propagated against it. They developed
the offensive against the Communist Party and the revolutionary workers
who stand for the working-class struggle for power. They tied the trade
unions to the Tories and Liberals under the banner of Mondism and
transformed the Labour Party from a federal organisation to a single
party with a capitalist programme under the banner of "Empire and
Mondism". It is now no longer possible for the Communist Party or the
trade unions to bring pressure to bear on the Labour Party from within.
It is a completely disciplined capitalist party.
The Communist Party, as the party of the working class, must
necessity therefore explain to the workers in deeds as well as words
the completely changed situation, and set before the workers the means
of advancing to socialism.
These are the reasons for the Communist Party's exposure and
denunciation of the Labour Party as the third capitalist party, and why
it puts forward its candidates against the Labour Party and selects its
leaders for especial challenge.
Class is against class. The Labour Party has chosen the
capitalist class. The Communist Party is the party of the working class.