Thomas Bell
Political Secretary, Communist Party

March Separately—Strike Jointly

An Open Letter to the Executive Committee of the National Labour Party

Source: The Communist, January 13, 1923.
Publisher: Communist Party of Great Britain
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Proofreader: Chris Clayton
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). 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.

THE success of the Labour Party at the polls last November marks a further step in the direction of ultimate workers’ control of Government. Not the least important feature of that further step is the advent of a definite Communist Party representative to the House.

The working class has certainly added to its political strength. For the Communist Party, however, the vital matter is to consider how this revival of strength of the British Labour movement can be consolidated and developed, with a view to still more striking victories in the future.

Regardless of the slanderous stories of Communists “splitting the movement,” the Communist Party attributes the present turn of the tide in no small measure to the active work of its Party members inside and outside the trade unions, in throwing themselves heart and soul into the “back to the union” movement. In this campaign our members have worked without consideration for Party labels: but our task is far from being completed.

This is obvious from a study of the results. Whatever the misuse made of the facts by the capitalist press, it remains unquestionable that over fifty of the workers’ candidates were elected on a minority vote. It also is unquestionable that, throughout the county as a whole, the forces of capitalism, their financial and technical resources, were split up between three principal bourgeois parties.

Will this occur again?

We do not think so. The lesson of the Municipal Election in November, when the capitalist bloc succeeded in ousting our workers’ majorities in so many places, is too obvious.

The sweeping Labour victories at the General Election and the experience in the House of Commons has been a rude shook for the advocates of capitalist tranquillity. Many of the capitalist papers have not failed to draw the moral, in no uncertain terms.

The working class representatives will be faced in the future with a more compact and determined opposition from the capitalist parties than ever before.

Against this coming unification of the forces of capitalism on the political field, there must be a unification of the workers’ forces.

The Communist Party took this into account before the elections, and proved both in words and in deeds that we were ready to assist the Labour Party in the Parliamentary field by every means in our power. Nowhere did we put forward candidates in opposition to those of the Labour Party. On the other hand, at Gorton, Dundee, Bridgeton, South Shields, and scores of other vital points in the working class front, the successful workers’ candidates can give a testimonial, if necessary, to the sincerity and whole-heartedness of our work.

Immediately the elections were over, this policy, we declared, would be continued. We declared that our Party members in Parliament—Comrades Newbold and Saklatvala—would take a united stand with the rest of the workers’ members on every question at which the interests of the working class came into conflict with those of the capitalist class. They have done so. In further pursuance of our policy of a United Front against the capitalist enemy, our Comrade Newbold applied for the Labour Whip.

That application has been rejected on the basis of the decisions of the Edinburgh Conference. So much the worse for the wisdom of the delegates to the Edinburgh Conference.

Nevertheless our Party members will continue to go into the Lobby, with the Labour Party members every time and all the time the Labour Party are fighting the battles of the working class against the defenders of capitalist power and privilege.

But the immediate situation requires more than united action: it requires determined and consistent action towards certain concrete ends which answer to the elementary needs of the oppressed workers. The forces of reaction have received a check; but this has only redoubled their ferocity, and we may expect the attack at any moment. The most obvious directions are, at the present time: in foreign policy, by further wars; in home policy, by savage repression of the justifiable demands of the unemployed; on the industrial field, by a direct attack on the hours of labour and the already low standard of living.

Here again the Communist Party is not breaking entirely new ground. During the six months preceding the elections we, on more than one occasion, particularly on May Day and during the Hague Conference, offered to join whole-heartedly with all other Labour organiaations in a united working-class-struggle; but the situation to-day is more pressing than ever. The only source of strength at the disposal of the working class, with which to counterbalance the mechanical Parliamentary majority of the capitalists—secured by means of fraud and deception practised on the workers through the machinery of the press, is their own pressure outside Parliament.

This was amply shown in the memorable days of August, 1920, when the Council of Action was formed.

The silly accusations which are often levelled against the Communist Party, viz., that our advocacy of a united working class front is not loyal or sincere, but a political manœuvre, are too ridiculous for words. Our action during the General Election is the best reply to this absurd suggestion.

The Communist Party, now still more than ever, is convinced that the emancipation of the working class can only be achieved by the working class taking the monopoly of power into its own hands, through its own workers’ councils. It is more than ever convinced that the workers will soon realise this, and will not be daunted by the violence with which the capitalists will meet the growing disillusionment of the exploited masses.

We believe, however, that working class parties must justify their name, in anticipation of the day of the final struggle, by resolute action in any cause which represents a step forward towards class solidarity, first in defence and then in attack.

The Communist Party differs from other working class parties in its estimation of how the victory may be ultimately secured; but in the defence against capitalism and the attack upon the latter’s forces, it wishes to go forward shoulder to shoulder with all other organisations pledged to the interests of the working class.

The watchword of the United Front is: