Discussion on the Report of the Executive

(5 December 1922)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 2 No. 107, 5 December 1922, pp. 868–869.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
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Comrades! With the main line of the Executive Committee’s Report, our Party is in entire agreement. So also do we agree that the diagnosis of the condition of Capitalism throughout the world is correct. We appreciate the fact that the offensive of Capitalism today against the working class is not the offensive of a class which is confident of its power, but an offensive started as the only means of defence. Probably there is no country in the world where this offensive has been more cleverly conducted than in Great Britain. But in spite of the attempts, in spite of the cleverness of the capitalists there, they have still proved totally incapable of tackling their own fundamental problems. At this moment we have just witnessed the fall of Lloyd George. The fall of Lloyd George marks a new stage in the disintegrating process of capitalism in Great Britain, even though the election which is proceeding is being used as a vehicle for the consolidation of the imperialist parties. Again they have acted very cleverly and although the Labor Parties of Great Britain have had high hopes of that General Election, I feel that their hopes are not going to be realized to the extent to which they have figured. This is a most important development in itself because it foreshadows a new period of more violent activity in Britain than what we have experienced hitherto.

Comrade Zinoviev stated in his speech that the Fascisti movement is confined to Italy. As a matter of fact when the Fascisti of Italy began their attack on the Communists, the trade unionists, co-operatives, etc., the capitalist papers in London were announcing the regularizing of the special police and announcing that these were the future Fascisti for England.

Now, with such conditions obtaining in general, practically everywhere, it is of the utmost importance that we should take the measure of these events and outline for ourselves the policy of the immediate future. We have heard a great dea! about the United Front, and there is no doubt that the opposition to the United Front, is steadily disappearing in the ranks of the Communist international.

Its introduction in Britain however, had some rather remarkable effects. It came to the Party in Britain practically as a galvanic shock. The party was young, and had no great experience, and at first the demand for the United Front resulted in some districts in considerable loss of membership of the Party. This particular demand for the United Front had come successively after a struggle within the Party which was practically in the process of formation.

At the Second Congress there was no Communist Party. There were only a number of parties, small parties, with all shades of socialist colour from pale pink to brilliant scarlet. These were ordered by the Second Congress to come together, unite, and to immediately proceed with the application for affiliation to the Labor Party. It is one thing to make a demand. It is one thing to unite Socialist parties and call them a Communist Party. But it is another thing to make out of those forces a real Communist Party: and the following months have been months of insistent struggle within the Party itself striving to get clear of the various difficulties within its ranks. The Labor Party issue had divided the parties even before they had come together, and now that they had come together, at the first Conference that particular issue was only carried by a small majority. It took another year before this particular issue was enabled to pass into the party experience for practical work. In this thy Labor Party had unwittingly assisted us, because at the Brighton Conference they had deferred consideration of the issue, and twelve months had elapsed before it became a fighting issue for the party in relation to the Labor Party. Previously it was more a matter of theoretical discussion inside the party, than a matter of practical fighting with the Labor Party. This fight was brought to a head by the Labor Party Conference in Edinburgh this year.

In order to appreciate the difficulties we have had to face in tackling this question, I want to remind this Congress that we have not only had difficulties to tackle in relation to this question of affiliation to the Labor Party but it was not until October of this year that the party elected its Central Committee at its National Conference – an indication of the syndicalist character of many elements in the party.

With the struggle in the party, and being compelled to face this larger issue of unity in action, you can readily appreciate that this was no light matter for us to undertake. But once the Party got into its stride, valuable lessons were learned both by the Party and the Labor movement as a whole. The Labor Party which in the general election – or in the period leading up to the general election – has been out-manoeuvered by the capitalist parties in its attempt to play up to the middle class has been losing support from the working ciass. One of its tactics in order to capture all the middle class votes has been the tactics of expulsion of the Communists from its ranks. The Edinburgh resolution focused the struggle between the Communists and the Labor Party. There the two resolutions, stated that no party which had parliamentary candidates in the field running in opposition to the Labor Party, should be permuted, to become affiliated.

Consequently we were faced with this situation: that the conditions of the party at the moment forbade our entrance into the Labor Party. Furthermore, the Labor Party challenged the situation by compelling the Labor organizations affiliated to it to exclude such members as belonged to a party which conducted a parliamentary campaign against it by running candidates. Consequently we delivered a counter stroke, immediately the party withdrew its parliamentary candidates who were running in opposition to the Labor Party, accepted the constitution of the Labor Party. By this means the Communists have won a considerable victory inside the ranks of the Labor movement. In spite of the fact that we lost membership at first, the influence of the Communist party increased in different sections of the working class.

In Glasgow, Sheffield, Manchester, Birmingham, the Labor Party has been totally unable to put into operation its own resolutions, furthermore in Barrow, Battersea and other local Labor Parties, the Communists have practically got control of the Labor Party organizations.

Further we were faced with this fact, that this attempt to exclude the Communists from the Labor Party only produced further problems for that party which it could not overcome. For example, the fact that the Labor Party is made up of affiliated trade union organizations compelled them to face the issue of expulsion of Communists from Labor Party Conferences. Here they must face the big labor organizations and not all these will follow their lead. Already at least one Labor organization, and an important one has refused to put into operation the Labor Party resolution: and immediately the Labor Party was face to face with a breakaway of a Labor union, a mass organization. In that they dare not go any further.

Hence we can see that policy of the United front, instead of being a policy which weakens the Communist Party, is a policy which is accumulative in strengthening the Communist Party.

Equally important has been the progress in the industrial movement. At the Trade Union Congress, for example, by pursuing the policy of putting forward a program for the consolidation of the union movement, we have been able to parade all the union leaders before the masses and show them their defects.

With regard to the actual struggles in the factories or in the union movement we have one considerable influence. In the Engineer’s lockout it was the Communist and the supporters of the R.I.L.U. who controlled that struggle and made whatever fight was made.

Here I must take exception to one point in Comrade Zinoviev’s report and it is his statement on the factory committees movement. He said that “No Communist Party can be considered a bona fide, formally established mass party that has no stable influence in the factories and workshops, mines, railways, etc. In the present circumstances no movement can be considered a well organized proletarian mass movement of the working class if its organization does not succeed in establishing factory and workshop committees.”

To this we take exception. We think it has been spoken with eyes too closely fixed on Germany. In England we have a powerful Shop Stewards’ movement. But it can and only does exist in given objective conditions. These necessary conditions do not exist al the moment in England. How can you build factory organizations when you have 1,750,000 workers walking the streets? You cannot build factory organizations in empty and depleted workshops – while you have a great reservoir of unemployed workers.

The movement under these conditions takes other forms. It takes the form of a minority movement in the unions and throws up a great unemployed workers’ committee movement. In the engineers’ lockout it was these organizations which conducted the fight and rarely those who were actually locked out from the factories.

Hence the Communist Party must adapt itself to the various forms of the struggle thrown up by the given historical conditions. In one country the conditions nuke possible a drive into the factories and the creation of factory committees. In another minority movements in the unions and unemployed workers’ committees are the order of the day. That Communist Party which is deeply rooted in the struggles of the masses and adaptable to the varying forms of mass organizations which the conditions make possible is a bona fide Communist Party whether the form of mass organization is that of factory committees or some other form.

Let us face also the International implications of this policy as expressed by the demand for the United Front. Since the Conference of the 2nd and 2½ Internationals what have we seen? We have seen a number of struggles taking place in this country and in that country. At the time of the engineers’ lockout there were some countries in which occurred disputes of the metal workers, and the Communist Parlies of these countries did not knew what the other was doing and had no vital contact with each other. They did not put forward the same slogans and no measures were taken to make even a United Front of the Communist Parties. In this direction the Communist lnternational has much to do to improve the situation.

But further we have heard much talk of the awakening peoples of the East and the colonial populations. We hear of a rising movement in India, Egypt, Mesopotamia, and we have a revolutionary movement developing in Ireland, yet little has been done to bring together the parties of those countries which control and subjugate these peoples, into live contact with the problems of the struggling masses. Remedy the defects in these directions and we shall make possible a wider application of the United Front.

Last updated on 8 July 2021