Rajani Palme Dutt 1940

Twentieth Anniversary of the Communist Party of Great Britain

Source: International Press Correspondence, Volume 20, no 31, 3 August 1940. Scanned, prepared and annotated for the Marxist Internet Archive by Paul Flewers.

In the midst of the storms and perils of the present situation the twentieth anniversary of the Communist Party is a signal and a rallying call to the working people of Britain to rally to the fight for the victory of their cause against all imperialism, fascism and reaction.

The crisis which is gathering in Britain as a consequence of the war is raising issues which involve the very existence and future of the people of this country, of the working-class movement and of socialism. More and more clearly through all the present ferment, through all the first confused forms in which the mass awakening of the people in the face of the grave perils of the present hour is finding expression, the basic issues of class power are being laid bare. Either the ruling class of dying imperialism will drag down the people to the very depths of disaster, destruction, mass annihilation, famine and slavery, or the masses of the people, led by the organised working class, led by the working-class vanguard, will take their fate into their own hands and find their way to peace with freedom, in unity with the working people of all countries, to real social liberation, to the victory of socialism. These are the alternatives which open out today.

At a time when all the older parties, including the Labour Party, have united in a coalition for the protection of the power and privileges of the monopolist owning class, personified in Chamberlain, Churchill [1] and the heads of the Tory machine, the Communist Party leads the fight of the working class and of all sections of the people for their rights and interests, for their power and government, for peace, for freedom, for the victory of socialism. Had not the Communist Party been built and forged through these twenty years of the tireless invincible struggle of the indomitable pioneers, there would be no independent initiative, no leadership of the struggle of the people in this hour of trial and testing today.

The mighty issues of the present situation are the justification and the vindication of the twenty years of the Communist Party’s existence.

The Communist Party was born out of the experience of the First World War, whose twenty-sixth anniversary falls also in this week. The Communist Party was born out of the revolutionary awakening which followed the First World War, which already shook capitalism to its foundations, but which was not yet capable of winning victory because of the absence of a revolutionary political party of the working class capable of uniting, leading and centralising the struggle and all sections of the movement for the victory of the socialist revolution.

The First World War demonstrated the bankruptcy of the old capitalist society, which was incapable of offering mankind anything further save extending crises, misery and wars; which was revealed as rotten-ripe for destruction and for the most rapid transition to socialism. It dealt a shattering blow to the old illusions of peaceful progress within capitalism. But the First World War also demonstrated the no less complete bankruptcy of the policy, leadership and organisation of the old labour movement, which was incapable of leading an offensive against capitalism and carrying through the necessary change; which was neither able to prevent the mutual slaughter of millions of workers, nor to utilise the resultant crisis to lead the rising anger and struggle of the workers against capitalism, but actually became the bulwark of capitalism against the working class.

The shattering of old illusions and the laying bare of the only path forward did not and could not of itself create the readiness and capacity of the working class to fulfil its historic role, where the working class had not evolved beforehand the requisite organisation and leadership for the achievement of its revolutionary task. Only in that country where revolutionary Marxism led the labour movement, where the working class had been able to evolve beforehand its revolutionary Marxist party and leadership, closely linked up with and leading the mass movement, only there was the working class able to conquer power and advance to socialism. In the other countries the experience of the war and of the years after the war was an experience of defeat.

The One Positive Outcome

Therefore, the militant workers in Britain, as in the other countries of capitalism, drew the lesson of their experience after the war and united to found their Communist Party. The foundation of the Communist Party was the answer of the militant working class to the historic bankruptcy of the old labour movement. The foundation of the Communist Party was the one positive outcome achieved by the working class in the capitalist world from the war of 1914 and the defeat of the revolutionary strivings which followed it.

The Communist Party was founded in 1920, at the close of a revolutionary period, not at its opening. It could not lead the revolutionary movement which followed the war. It could only draw and embody the lessons for the future. Hence the long period of upward struggle through which it had to pass before the situation began to open out anew. Hence the significance of the present anniversary which falls in the midst of the new cycle of wars and revolutions now developing.

Through these twenty years the Communist Party has grown in strength and experience from the first weak and still confused beginnings; has struck roots deep in the working class, in the factories and the mass organisations of the workers; has proved its policy and leadership in every issue of these twenty years; has become fused with the workers in the burning tests of struggle.

The working class was not yet ready to follow the path of the Communist Party. The workers still placed their hopes in the lavish promises of capitalism after the last war to create a new world of peace and prosperity. They still placed their hopes in the promises of the Labour Party leaders, who warned them against the path of revolution as the path of bloodshed and ruin, and offered the easy, peaceful alternative of gradual progress through the reconstruction of capitalism, growing daily more organised and democratic, to the ultimate transition to socialism without struggle.

Therefore, through these twenty years the workers have had to travel the bitter path of Calvary: through deepening capitalist decay and crises, mass unemployment, the Means Test, the arms race, to the present explosion and conflagration which is consuming the capitalist world in the flames of a Second World War. Because the workers were not ready, history has had to teach the lesson with blood and tears. From its first foundation the Communist Party gave warning that the path of capitalism and capitalist reconstruction would only lead to this outcome. The Communist Party has been proved correct.

Today the illusions are tumbling. The old stability is broken down. The path of capitalism and the Labour Party is revealed as the path of limitless bloodshed. In death and ruin the workers are awakening. Bulldozed, duped and deceived for years by their rulers and the lying labour leaders, the masses are awakening in anger and rising storm. As they awaken, they begin to turn to the Communist Party, which is proved true, which has given true leadership, which has never failed the workers’ struggle.

The twentieth anniversary of the Communist Party, embodying the experience of these twenty years, teaches that the only path before the workers is the path of the working-class revolution, the breaking of the power of the capitalist class and the establishment of the power of the working class, in order to build socialism. The path of the Labour Party is revealed as a false path, leading to misery, massacre and enslavement.

The twentieth anniversary of the Communist Party teaches that the victory of the working class, the unification of the workers’ ranks, the winning and holding of power and the building of socialism requires a centralised revolutionary political party of the working class, based on the theory of Marxism, drawing into its ranks all the most resolute, courageous and class-conscious workers, building and training the vanguard, rooted in the factories and the mass organisations of the working class, linked with the mass movement and with all sections of the working people in every phase of the struggle, and therefore capable of defending the everyday interests of the working people and advancing to the defeat of capitalism and the victory of socialism.

The World Party of the Working Class

The twentieth anniversary of the Communist Party teaches that such a party of the working class must be international to be capable of defeating world imperialism; a world party, a single centralised international party, under a single centralised leadership. The phantom of the postwar Second International has gone right out of business with the present war. The Communist International, the world party of the working class, the world party of Lenin and Stalin, rides the storm, and goes forward united and strong in the midst of war. The Communist International is revealed as the sole functioning international organisation in the world, with sections in every country and corner of the globe following a single policy and a single leadership: the sole unifying force of the human race and triumphant demonstration of working-class internationalism in the midst of the chaos of world anarchy: the hope of mankind.

Today the Communist Party approaches its greatest tasks and responsibilities, for which all these twenty years have been only a preparation. New blows and menaces assail the working class; the dying capitalist order prepares terrible trials for the people. The struggle in front will be heavy. But the way forward stands out ever more clear and certain. The masses are awakening. The ruling class fear the mass awakening. They fear and hate the Communist Party, which they recognise as the sole alternative political centre to their own regime, capable in a sharpening situation of arousing and leading the people against them.

The task today is to mobilise and build up, to give organisation and leadership to the mass awakening and developing mass movement, such as can alone enable it to realise its aims. For this task of leadership the Communist Party is indispensable. The rapid strengthening of the Communist Party is imperative:

For the proletariat to be strong enough to conquer on the day of decision, it is necessary, and this view Marx and I have upheld since 1847, that it should form its own party, separated from all others and opposed to them, a class-conscious class-party. (Engels to Trier, 18 December 1889) [2]

On this twentieth anniversary the Communist Party calls with confidence to all militant workers and sincere socialists to join its ranks. The truest celebration of this Twentieth Anniversary will be a mighty recruitment to the Communist Party.


All notes have been provided by the MIA.

1. Neville Chamberlain (1869-1940) was a Conservative MP during 1918-40, Minister of Health during 1923, 1924-29 and 1931, Chancellor of the Exchequer during 1923-24 and 1931-37, and Prime Minister during 1937-40, heading the coalition National Government which declared war on Germany in September 1939. He resigned on 10 May 1940, and was replaced by Winston Churchill (1874-1965), who had been appointed First Lord of the Admiralty on the outbreak of the war. Churchill had been a Conservative MP from 1925 (having been elected on a Liberal ticket in 1924), but did not hold a cabinet post in any National Government prior to the outbreak of war in September 1939.

2. Friedrich Engels to Gerson Trier in Copenhagen, 18 December 1889.