J. T. Murphy

Leninism in Britain

Source: Workers’ Weekly, January 16, 1925
Publisher: Communist Party of Great Britain
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Proofreader: David Tate
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2009). 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.

There is a strange notion being fostered in this country by renegade Communists and their spiritual brother the editor of the Daily Herald, that Leninism is all right for Russia but not for Britain. These nationalistic interpreters of Leninism proceed to argue most glibly that conditions are so different in Britain, the national character is so dull and stupid, the revolutionary fire of the Slav or the Latin is so contrary to the “sane,” stable, democratic plodding of Britishers that any notion of Leninism as the real guide to the workers of this country can be ruled out. Beside these we have George Lansbury and a number of others praising Lenin to the skies, but opposing Leninism in practice.

It will not be inappropriate in this special Lenin number of our paper to show that Lenin was not simply a Russian Revolutionist and Leninism is not something reserved for Russia.

An International Leader

Lenin was the International leader of the international class war. Every proposal which Lenin put forward was governed by this fact. All his tactics, all his manœuvres were determined by the international alignment of class forces.

To limit Lenin to Russia and Leninism to the New Economic Policy now operating in Russia is to view Lenin through blinkers, and to misunderstand both Lenin and the Party which he led.

The very people who do these things are the people who oppose the Communist Party, which strives with all its strength to apply the principles and policy of Lenin to the problems of the proletariat in this country. What was Lenin’s view of these problems here? He held that the class war, was raging fiercely in Britain as it raged in Russia. Do those who render lip service to the name of Lenin deny the truth of the statement? No, not one of them. Each of them agrees that there is a class war. But from this point onwards there is no agreement.

On every important contribution to the ending of the class war they are poles apart from Lenin. Lenin accepted the fact of class war, chose the side with which he would fight, and concentrated his whole energy upon the proletarian victory. He studied the class war and valued every proposition according as it contributed to or hindered the development of that victory. His statement on the British situation are bold, incisive, unmistakable, and the opponents of the Communist Party have yet to answer them.

Is Our Party Needed?

For example, on the most contentious question in their minds—the question of the formation and the rôle of the Communist Party in Britain—Lenin said:

“Sincere supporters of the emancipation of the workers from the yoke of capitalism cannot under any circumstances be opposed to the formation of a Communist Party, which alone is able to train the masses of the workers, on other than bourgeois or petty bourgeois lines, and which is alone capable of really exposing, ridiculing, and shaming the ‘leaders’ who continue to retain middle class prejudices about ‘democracy’ (bourgeois democracy), pacifism, &c.”

That these “middle class prejudices about democracy” are British phenomena as well as Russian (and probably more so) who will dispute? That to wage a class war effectively, i.e., with any idea of victory in our minds, it will be necessary to combat these middle class ideas is obvious. With what shall we combat them except with an organisation of those definitely opposed to those ideas and what other organization can there be to do this effectively other than the Communist Party?

The Labour Aristocracy

Again, having agreed that the class war is a fact and that the proletariat must have its Communist Party to lead them in this war, Lenin said that:

“The Labour aristocracy in England is stronger than elsewhere. Its traditions may be counted by centuries and not by decades. The bourgeoisie in England, which has had much more political experience—and democratic experience too—knew how to bribe the workers and how to create a big class—bigger than in the other countries yet small as compared to the great masses of the workers—of workers’ leaders, permeated throughout by bourgeois prejudices with an absolutely bourgeois reformist policy.”

Is this true? It is too true. It is a Marxist, Leninist observation indicating a particular British condition that cannot be dodged by referring to Lenin’s Russian origin.

With this position before us, to which must be added a clear recognition of the power of the British capitalist class, a further divergence between the nationalistic reformists and pacifists who praise Comrade Lenin as “the greatest leader the workers have ever had” demands attention. They propagate the idea that it is possible to convert the capitalist class to Socialism, to get Socialism without violence and through Parliament. In contradistinction to this teaching Lenin declared:—

Politics a Science

“Politics is a science and an art which does not drop from the skies and which cannot be obtained for nothing, and the proletariat, if it wishes to overcome the bourgeoisie, must create for itself its own proletarian class politicians, as capable as bourgeois politicians. Not Parliament, but Workers’ Councils will be the way by which the proletariat will achieve its end.”

This does not mean that we must not send “the workers’ politicians into the Parliament.” “They must from within Parliament help the workers to see in practice the results of a Henderson and Snowden Government. . . .” continued Lenin. The experience which the workers of Britain had during the last twelve months is demonstrating the truth of these statements day by day.

The workers saw a Henderson, Snowden, MacDonald Government in action. They are now witnesses to the fact that every reactionary deed of the new Tory Government finds a precedent in the practice of the Labour Government. Lenin’s declaration is being proven in experience in undebatable fashion.

Lenin Was Right

Again in urging the Communist Party to apply for affiliation to the Labour Party in 1920 he told us “it would not be at all a bad thing if the Labour Party refused our application.” Who can dispute this? From the moment the Labour Party began the fight to expel us from the ranks of the Labour movement, by refusing our affiliation, the whole Labour movement has had to face the issue of Communism, and has provided the Communist Party with the widest possible platform.

On all the fundamental issues of working class policy Lenin, following in the footsteps of Marx, has proved to be not simply a Russian revolutionist, but the leader of the workers and oppressed of all countries including Britain.

The Communist party is pursuing day by day the policy Lenin enunciated as the world’s greatest Marxist and proving from experience that Leninism is not for Russian consumption alone, but a vital factor in the progress of the working class of Britain.