WHATEVER the likes and dislikes of leaders or of anybody else as to the way history ought to have been made, the big fact now remains that it has been made by the General Strike. Called by leaders opposed to it, conducted by leaders who did not want it, it has been surrendered by the same leaders, who were anxious to see it defeated. Were it not so tragic for the millions who responded to the noblest of human impulses, and risked everything they possessed, the situation would be farcical. Because it is tragic and not farcical, it is now time to take stock.
In the chapters preceding my narrative of the strike, I outlined the events leading up to it, and placed them in line with the evolution of class forces in Britain. I there showed that this evolutionary process took the form of sharpening the class alignments, widening and deepening class conscious in parliament, but the power of one class to impose its will ness and intensifying the class war. I produced evidence pointing to the fact that the more difficult the economic and social problems became, the more intense and powerful became the grip of the capitalist class upon political power through its most conservative party. This process in the capitalist class had as its corollary in the working class a great awakening to political consciousness on the part of millions of workers and the crystallising of the class consciousness in the formation of a party, the Communist Party, based upon the interests of the working class. Our task now, therefore, is to examine the effect of the General Strike on this process.
The Conservative Party and the whole capitalist class are exceedingly jubilant about their “victory.” Up to the present their “victory” is entirely a political victory and not economic. That they will use their increased political power to secure economic advantage is more than likely, but at the moment they are holding back from a general attack pending the settlement of the issue with the miners. That they have increased their political power can hardly be disputed. By political power I do not mean simply the counting of noses upon other classes. Of course to those who confuse the garments of power with power itself, this definition is rank heterodoxy. Worshipping the ballot box instead of taking it at its real worth, they are blind, wilfully or otherwise, to the realities of life.
Let us see what the capitalist forces have gained in this experience. Before provoking the General Strike the Government put in at least nine months’ preparation. It has been able to test its army, its navy, its police, its auxiliary organsations such as the special constabulary, the O.M.S., its whole apparatus of food control and transport. For nine days it was enabled to give its machinery a thorough trial run against a minimum of opposition with the stage of civil war set, with one side unarmed and quiet. It gave the police excellent exercise in all the preliminaries and manuvres of street fighting, raiding and confiscation. So pleased were the bourgeoisie with the result, that over £200,000 has been raised for a police fund in a fortnight. No one can dispute that for the whole of the nine days the Government was enabled to go ahead, unhampered, with experiments directed towards the complete subjugation of the working class. The capitalist leaders of Britain are now not only theoretically equipped as a result of their studies of European revolutions, but have a mass of material and experiments from their own experience which will prove invaluable to them in subsequent struggles. So thoroughly have they gripped the State apparatus and knit the auxiliary forces to it, that they have reduced to absurdity the project of the Fascists, who dreamed of superseding the State apparatus by an Italian brand.
In its relations with other parties the governing party can record singular triumphs. The remnants of the Liberal Party in the Parliament became good Tories, justifying and supporting the actions of the Government in its measures to suppress and defeat the General Strike. The Liberal opposition ceased to exist, with the exception of Mr. Lloyd George who opposed the policy of delivering an ultimatum to the strikers although supporting the Tories in their defence of constitutional issues, as did MacDonald and Thomas. The resulting split in the Liberal Party has weakened its forces still further. They are so busy debating as to who rendered the best service to the Tory Government that the latter can rule them out even as a potential opposition for some time to come.
The only other source of opposition is the Labour Movement. In all its most important lines of policy the Government had already secured the collaboration of the Labour Party official leadership. This was secured of course by the formation of the Labour Government. The difference between the MacDonald-Thomas combination and the Baldwin—“Jix” combination lies in the forces which they are respectively leading, and not in any fundamentally different policy. Mr. Baldwin heads the capitalist forces, in the name of the “nation” of course. Messrs. MacDonald and Thomas head the working class, also in the name of the “nation.” Naturally there is friction due to the conflict of interests between the classes, but it is only “friction” and not real conflict. The Government in any of the little incidents of parliamentary talking has only to remind the front bench of the Labour Party of their own statements during their term of office, or taunt them with disloyalty to the Constitution, and the opposition collapses.
It is only necessary to remind my readers of the Labour Government’s ultimatum to Zaglul Pasha, and the faintness of the Labour opposition to the present Government’s high hand with the “constitutionally elected leader” of the Egyptians, as the most recent example in foreign politics. In domestic politics two incidents relating to the General Strike reveal the completeness of the bankruptcy of the Labour opposition. The first occurred on Friday, April 30th, the day before both the leaders named led the workers into a General Strike. Mr. Thomas declared:
“I have never disguised that in a challenge to the Constitution, God help us unless the Government won.”
On the same occasion Mr. Baldwin reminded Mr. MacDonald that the Labour Government had threatened to use the Emergency Powers Act against strikers in 1924. Mr. MacDonald replied:
“The Prime Minister said that he sat down with an aching heart. I got up with an aching heart” (there’s loving commiseration for you!). “With the discussion of General Strikes and Bolshevism, and all that kind of thing, I have nothing to do at all. I respect the Constitution as much as Sir Robert Horne.”
After, the calling off of the General Strike came the debate on the question of continuing the operation of the Emergency Powers Act for a further month. On this, occasion only just over sixty Labour members voted against the Government. The front bench gentlemen and a number of those closely attached to them did not vote, an attempt at neutrality which leaves the Government with a bigger majority than ever and with the implied consent of the Labour leadership. With such abject weakness in the ranks of Labour’s leadership it is impossible to affirm that the Government has any serious opposition in Parliament.
It has now emerged from the General Strike with the opposition outside Parliament seriously weakened. Before the strike, we had been witness to a process of centralisation of the powers of the unions in the hands of the General Council. That it accepted this power reluctantly I have already shown. It dropped this power through its nervous fingers on May 12th and the unions were left on their own to make the best of a bad job. The Trade Union Executives were as nervous of the new situation as were the members of the General Council, and promptly pledged their unions not to repeat their wickedness of acting together—in short pledged themselves against a repetition of Labour solidarity. The Government has reduced the trade union opposition outside Parliament to the level of the Parliamentary opposition inside Parliament.
Mr. Baldwin can now say: “I provoked a general election in November, 1923, as a means of demoralising the Labour movement and securing the commitment of the Labour Party to our imperialist policy in deed and word. I provoked a General Strike in 1926 as a means of demoralising the trade union leaders and breaking up the unity of the unions which had become so manifest in 1925. There is now no important organised political opposition either inside or outside Parliament. Whatever strength may be gained by the revolutionary forces, which as yet are very small, it will take some considerable time before they can seriously hamper any policy we wish to pursue.”
The nature of the policy the Government will have to pursue, even with its greater political grip, depends largely upon the effect of the General Strike upon the economic life of the country. The Liberal leader, Mr. Runciman, promptly realising the need for inspiring confidence in capitalism’s powers of recuperation, delivered himself of an oration to show that the General Strike had really done no harm at all. The Conservative Party was very grateful for the assurances. “Society” settled down to its most serious problem—how to snake up for lost time with its court and social functions. The Prince of Wales sported £10 to the hungry wives and children of the Somerset miners, and arranged to attend two court functions in two days.
There is no need to debate with Mr. Runciman as to the exact amount of damage caused by the strike. The fact remains that there is no record of a strike of three to four million men for a period of nine days putting profits into the pockets of the owners! And the ending of the strike has not meant the ending of the crisis which produced the strike. Charges on the national finance are increasing daily. Charges on the Municipal authorities are increasing daily, and industry is steadily slowing down. In short the effect of the strike and of the crisis of which it is a part upon the economic situation is directly opposite to the effect upon the political position of the Government and the Conservative Party.
We have no hesitation therefore in coming to the conclusion that the General Strike has accentuated the process already indicated. It has weakened the economic foundations of the power of the bourgeoisie whilst intensifying and consolidating their political power. Of course it will be said at once that this proves that the workers ought not to have used the General Strike, which means that the miners and the General Council should now surrender without a fight. But it must be remembered that the General Strike came as a direct sequel to the failure of the bourgeoisie to improve the economic situation even to the extent of preventing further degradation of the masses, that it was determined upon by the Government politically and that the workers did not conceive of it as a solution of their economic problems. It was an act of passive resistance on the part of the working class and not a measure of economic construction, an act of war called forth by an act of war.
That the General Strike will make profound changes in the opinions of masses of people, who can doubt? For although our story of the strike reveals the rally of the middle class to the Government and the pulverising of the trade union leadership, the same cannot be said of the workers. Passive they may have been in spite of the terrific incitement of the forces of Government, but they were not beaten by any means so far as their morale was concerned. Their ranks were solid, remarkably solid considering the confusing orders that were issued. And twenty-five hundred prosecutions before class conscious magistrates inside nine days will not drive the workers into the arms of the Conservative Party. The Hammersmith bye-election held immediately after the calling off of the General Strike, wherein Labour turned the tables on the Tories and Liberals, is an eloquent indication of that. The General Strike, therefore, has rather accentuated the process of developing the political consciousness of the workers than driven them into the fold of conservatism.
That these indications reveal the limits of the changes that will take place it would be folly to assert. But it does not follow, because all the forces of the capitalist class have rallied behind the Government, to the extent of practically absorbing all Fascist Tendencies within the constitution, that the final stages of the evolution of bourgeois political forces have been reached. It requires no great powers of discernment to foreshadow changes in the ranks of the bourgeoisie themselves. At the present moment we are living under the domination of the bankers and rentiers. A reflection on the figures already quoted with reference to income tax, supertax, the relief to the rich of £40,000,000 per year in taxation, the return to the gold. standard which promptly increased the value of investment 10 per cent. to 12 per cent. and added hundreds of millions to the value of the war-loan investments of the banks, the plan for exporting capital to industrial countries so well exemplified in the Dawes Plan to the disadvantage of all the heavy industries, the appointment of three bankers out of the four persons on the Coal Commission, all strengthen our characterisation of the Government as a financiers’ Government and warns is of coming cleavages in the ranks of the capitalist forces the longer the economic crisis continues.
Symptoms of coming changes abound. The repeated protests of the Federation of British Industries; against taxation, against the return to the gold standard, etc., and the demand for still greater economy, are clear indications that whilst there is a common bond which links together Baldwin, the banks, Lloyd George, the F.B.I., MacDonald and Thomas, there are struggles within the fraternity which will sooner or later manifest themselves in new forms and combinations. But at the moment the fact remains that “finance capital” dominates the situation through the Conservative Party and holds unchallenged sway. Having succeeded in securing this domination and reduced its opponents to a state of disorganisation it would be signally lacking in political acumen if it did not pursue the advantages gained by the Strike. In this respect the lines of action are more clearly discernable than in the case of its demoralised opponents.
Already committees have been appointed to examine the measures necessary to safeguard them against the passing of any Socialist legislation by the strengthening of the powers of the House of Lords. The electoral system is also being brought under review with the intention of blocking the Labour advance in Parliamentary representation. Already Conservatives have a distinct advantage in the country districts but are losing ground in the industrial centres. The revision therefore is taking the form of finding a corrective to the encroachments of Labour in the industrial areas and reducing its chances in the rural areas to a minimum. The outcome is most likely to take the form of a combination of proportional representation and alternative voting, plus a tightening of the franchise regulation prohibiting workers who have received Poor Law relief from voting. An examination of the figures I have given from the last election results show that the Liberals get a less number of seats for votes cast in their favour than the other parties, and proportional representation which by the way they favour, would give the Liberals a bigger representation at the expense of Labour, whilst the alternative vote in the countryside would put the Labour Party clean out of the picture in these areas for many a long day. Whichever line is taken the direction of the Conservative efforts is to stop the encroachments of the Labour movement and to block the path against Socialist legislation.
A further enquiry is being conducted into trade union law as a direct sequel to the General Strike. Indeed so great was the impatience of the Tories that the Government had to warn its party against hasty measures, at the same time assuring it that the fullest attention was being given to the situation. The Committee appointed to examine the law have had the line made clear by the speeches of the Liberal, Sir John Simon, and the Judge Astbury decision making illegal the General Strike. The individual settlements of the unions made at the termination of the strike, along with the advice of Mr. MacDonald and Mr. Clynes complete the main material necessary for guidance. The latter are stumping the country denouncing the General Strike and advocating the narrowing down of union disputes to the limit of the particular union concerned and the confining of the other unions to finanical aid. Mr. MacDonald especially would prefer a complete return to the craft unionism of the nineteenth century. The Government will certainly move along these lines and introduce legislation against revolutionary propaganda, even propaganda in favour of the General Strike.
If only the Conservative Party could stop the rising tide of class consciousness within the working class as easily as it has disposed of its lieutenants in the ranks of Liberalism and Labour, how justified it would be in its jubilation! He laughs best who laughs last, and the last laugh is not yet.
There is no need here to repeat the data showing the complete absence of organised preparations for the General Strike on the part of the Labour movement, other than to emphasise the principal features of the situation prior to May. The reiterated affirmations of the General Council in support of the miners against wage reductions and longer hours, following as they did upon the July manifestation of solidarity, acted as propaganda for its repetition. But the domination of the Council by Mr. Thomas and his Right Wing colleagues since the Scarborough Congress prevented any organisational preparations for a struggle. This lack of preparation was accompanied by speeches by Messrs. MacDonald, Thomas and Hodges, who acted more and more openly as capitalist agents within the ranks of the Labour movement—speeches all directed against the idea of a strike. They favoured wage reductions or “adjustments.” On April 30th the “settle went” was offered and rejected. On May 1st the opponents of the General Strike supported and called the General Strike.
It is now necessary to observe the sequel as shown in the records of the strike. First the strike was limited, not only in the number of unions called into action, but in that only sections of some unions were called out, creating endless confusion. This was due to an anxiety to co-operate with the Government in serving “the people” with food supplies. In effect this was handing over the food supplies to the Government, and we were witness to the Co-operative milk supplies being centralised in Hyde Park under Government control. Second. This meant that the Co-operatives became the allies of the Government instead of the allies of the unions on stike. This was contrary to the wishes of many Co-operatives. Third. Orders were issued through the separate union executives instead of from the General Council direct. The Trades Councils were consequently severely handicapped in the efforts to prevent the strike being run as a series of union strikes instead of as a single fight. It was preventing a class fight, which alone could cope with the rally of the middle class forces to the Government. Fourth. The closing down of the Labour Party in Parliament and outside Parliament is in direct contrast with the action of the Parliamentary trade union members in July, 1925. On that occasion it was proposed to obstruct in the House of Commons.
These decisions have a common foundation in the political outlook of the General Council and the Labour Party leaders as revealed in the repeated statements concerning the industrial character of the dispute, absence of challenge to the Constitution, etc. All the members of the General Council are members of the Labour Party or the Independent Labour Party. The latter of course is an affiliated body of the Labour Party. It is of significance to note that neither party issued any statement contradicting this estimate of the strike action. They remained silent and left their members on the General Council to pursue their individual course. In short, the Labour Party and I.L.P. as political entities went out of existence for the duration of one of the most serious political situations in the history of this country. Each of these parties placed their apparatus at the disposal of the General Council and handed over the political leadership of the situation to a body which refused to face political responsibilities.
The only party in the working class movement which whilst giving the utmost of its support and of its membership to the strike committees, Councils of Action and the like, maintained its continuous political work in the teeth of police interference and persecution, and continued to show the workers the politics of the struggle and how to meet the full demands of the situation, was the Communist Party. Its line of policy and conduct are indicated in the manifesto and instructions quoted in previous pages. Whatever its merits and demerits, according as the readers’ views may be, the fact remains that it did face the situation while the Labour Party and the I.L.P. surrendered their politics to the General Council, who though composed of members of these parties denied all political responsibilities. Indeed the leader of the Labour Party in Parliament and a leading member of the I.L.P., Mr. MacDonald, glories in the fact that the politics of the situation were never discussed.
This astounding accord between leaders of the Labour Party in Parliament and out of it, in the I.L.P. and in the General Council, in attempting to conduct a General Strike, lies at the bottom of the betrayal and disaster, the confusion of orders, the limited nature of the call to action, the surrender of the food supplies to the Government, the failure to make an alliance with the Co-operatives, the denunciation of the General Strike as a political weapon, the attempt to divert the masses into formal parliamentarism, pacifism and craft unionism. For the Labour Party leaders Messrs. MacDonald, Thomas, Clynes, and the I.L.P. to now play the role of Pontius Pilate, washing their hands of responsibility for what has happened in the strike is downright hypocrisy following upon complete political bankruptcy.
There is not a leader in either party or on the General Council, not a journal belonging to any of them but has time and again declared that it is impossible to separate the industrial from the political. Why then this sudden conversion in the hour of action to the repudiation of the politics of the General Strike? The answer is simple and clear—the action into which they were plunged, from which they shrank in 1921 and cheered in 1925 and were forced into in 1926, was an historic event which completely repudiated the politics of the parties represented therein. Having represented to the workers that they can choose as weapons of conflict parliament for politics, trade unions for industry, Co-ops. for economics, they dare not tell the workers the truth without repudiating their past and re-shaping entirely the whole of their political outfit. The Government called their bluff as leaders of class action, but the wonderful nine days, wonderful only in the magnificent solidarity of the masses, have revealed on a colossal scale the completeness of the political bankruptcy of the Labour Party, the I.L.P. and the trade union bureaucracy.
What is a political act? A political act is an action, whether in the form of words written or spoken, the making of a law, the raising or reducing of wages, the conduct of a strike, the casting of a vote or any other act which changes or tends to change the relation of the classes in society. If this definition of political action is correct, there is very little in the life of present day society which has not a political significance, irrespective of intentions. Everybody knows the destiny of good intentions, and for the Labour movement to have intentions the opposite of its actions is adding childishness to its other defects.
Does strike action on the part of three to four million workers, the shutting down of several principal industries, tend to change the relations between the classes? To put the question is to answer it. A schoolboy in politics would answer promptly, “Of course it does.” It shakes the foundations of industry, raises ever more sharply the question as to which class shall hold the reins of power. Why then deny it, and refuse to fade the logic of the action, unless you are seeking to destroy the power of the workers?
But, say Messrs. MacDonald, Clynes and a host of others, the political issue should be faced at the ballot box. What relevance has this reply to the situation when the challenge has been made and the opposing forces are in action? The Government had not resigned. We were not in the midst of a general election. Do these men say the Trades Union Conference should have surrendered before the Government’s ultimatum? No. They voted for it or delivered speeches supporting the action.
Not one of them got up and told the conference that they should not take action, and that the miners must accept reductions. The action raised the political issue more sharply than the lock-out of the miners. To refuse to see the politics of the situation and yet to take action was to ask for defeat by the Government which saw the issue clearly and based its actions upon it. To think that politics can be reserved for general elections or confined to the House of Commons is the height of absurdity and exhibits the lowest depths of political ignorance, however grandiloquent the language in which such ignorance may be clothed.
Yet this is the key to all the confusion in the ranks of the working class movement, including the trade unions, the Co-operatives, the Labour Party; the foundation of and the illusions within its ranks as to the easy, rosy path to Socialism without struggle. They say, “join the Co-op., join your grade union, join the Labour Party,” without perceiving that every growth of the workers’ forces, and every action, marshals forces affecting class relations and raises ever more sharply the question of class power. These organisations are based upon the working class, have grown as a result of the conflict of interests in capitalism, and must inevitably and insistently raise the question in the ranks of the capitalist class itself as to what the capitalist class is to do to defeat them. That means and can only mean the insistent raising of the question of power. To fail to see this is to surrender as the General Council surrendered.
The obvious conclusions to be drawn from this situations and this experience are clear for everyone to see. (1) All actions of the working class movement are political action, and the instruments of the working class struggle, the unions, the Co-ops., the Labour Party itself, can never be led anything other than disaster by men and women who either fail to see, or seeing, refuse to accept the political responsibilities of their actions. (2) The General Strike raised the question of class power and the leaders ran away from it, instead of answering with measures commensurate with the developing situation. (3) To raise the question of the ballot box as an alternative to the General Strike is to dodge the issues and the politics of the issues raised in the course of the struggle, which embraces periods between elections as well as during elections; it fosters illusions as to what can be secured through the ballot box without warning the workers as to the counter plans of the capitalist class to block the way of Socialist legislation; it encourages the belief in the notion that the vote is an alternative to the strike instead of only one of the weapons in the armoury of the workers; in short it ignores completely the realities of the class war as revealed in the General Strike. (4) The failures of the General Council are based upon anti-working class politics which govern the minds of the members of the General Council. The collapse does not signify that there is no need for a General Council; on the contrary the whole experience of the strike shows the need for a real General Council uniting within itself the whole of the trade unions but composed of members governed and disciplined by working class politics. (5) There can be no disciplined action in working class politics without organisation on the basis of working class politics, that is membership of a working class party—the Communist Party. (6) The Communist Party is the only Party which after the General Strike can look the working class in the face confident in the strength of its line of action, before the strike, in the strike and after the strike. The I.L.P. and the Labour Party failed as completely as the General Council.
The contrast in the position of the classes we have revealed does not mean that here is the end of the struggle. The struggle goes on. Whilst the immediate situation shows the ruling class triumphant and truculent, better prepared and better equipped, it is impossible to forget that it operates in a situation where the social foundations upon which it rests are rapidly weakening. Emerging from the strike stronger in its powers of political dictatorship, it emerges weaker at the roots. The economic and social conditions at the end of the strike are worse than before it, and can only accelerate the demands of the capitalist class for further wage reductions and longer hours of labour. The strike is therefore not the end of class war but an accelerator of the class war. The ruling class knows this, and the preparations that it is making to block the lines of Labour advance, to fetter the trade unions, to illegalise revolutionary action and propaganda, show clearly the utter folly of the “Never again” slogans emanating from the leaders who refuse to learn or who are consciously helping the capitalists.
The working class has emerged from the General Strike with its morale undamaged, though bitterly resenting the collapse of its leaders. It was incapable of producing promptly an alternative leadership, owing to the organic weakness of the revolutionary forces within its ranks and the mass pacifism which prevailed and yet prevails. In spite of this it is still grasping the fact that the main question before the movement is not the question of structure, important as it may be, but the question of leadership. To change the leadership is a slow process bound up with the task of building a Communist Party.
Much more than direct individual recruiting of workers into the Communist Party is essential for the purpose although this is obviously the first line of progress. The increasingly large numbers of workers whose class consciousness is being roused as never before must be assisted by efforts which enable them to learn, on the basis of their own experience, the important rôle of the Party of revolution in the political class war. In other words the great mass of workers in the trade unions, the Co-operatives and Labour Party, who are in transition from Labourism to Communism, who are letting slip the fetters of capitalist politics and striving to become efficient working class fighters, must be prevented from floundering between Mr. MacDonald as the custodian of Tory Socialism and the Communist Party as the custodian of working class politics, by organising them within the Labour organisations on the basis of fighting for working class demands which they perceive as immediate urgent needs of the working class.
Already this process has gone far by the development of the Minority Movement in the trade unions, working as a fraction within them. It is now necessary to extend this Movement, not only by passing its resolutions as indications of agreement with its policy, but by electing to office only those pledged to carry it into action. To pass radical resolutions and leave conservatives to take control of them is the height of folly, a guarantee of further failures.
The need for an extension of this process on a wide scale to the Co-operative Movement stands out so glaringly that it is only necessary to mention it to at once recall the manner in which the Co-ops. staggered along through the Strike. When their leaders were not openly sabotaging the Strike they were torn between those who wanted to help and knew not how, and the confused people who wanted to be loyal to everybody, the King, the Constitution, the Miners, Lady Asfor and Mr. Cook.
But still further there is the need for those in the Labour Party who are opposed to the MacDonald leadership and policy to organise their opposition, and act as an organised body on the same lines as the Minority Movement in the trade unions and the Co-operatives. It is surely not without significance that the collapse of the Left Wing on the General Council during the General Strike follows on the collapse of the “Left Wing” at the Labour Party’s Liverpool Conference. The fact of the matter is, in neither case could the people designated be looked upon as a “wing.” A “wing” does imply a degree of organisation, but these in both cases were feathers in the wind, bound by nothing, and blown away by the organised power of the “Right Wing.”
Without organised effort nothing can be achieved against determined foes. To organise a “Left Wing” does not mean formation of another Party any more than the creation of the Minority Movement means the organisation of a new trade union. There is no room in the working class for another working-class party other than the Communist Party. To form a party means not only the putting forward of a series of demands but the formulation of aims, a policy, a political theory. Any attempt on the part of the “Left Wingers” to do that will land them into one or other of the existing parties, and still leave the problem of this awakening class conscious movement symbolised by the term “Left Wing” untouched. This can only be tackled along the lines pursued by the Minority Movement in the unions, viz.: the uniting in common effort in the form of a fraction with its own leaders, all those who will agree to struggle for specific working class objects more or less immediate along the line of loyalty to working class interests. With such an organised line of action the Labour movement can be cleared of its anti-working class leadership and enabled to face the obligations of the class war.
This does not mean that here is an alternative to the building of a Communist Party. On the contrary we Communists are so convinced that the efforts of sincere workers to find a way out for the working class without a party will convince them of the need for the Communist Party, that we will readily join with them in any and every honest effort to fight the workers’ battles. We will thus prove that we not only understand how social forces evolve and what lessons to draw from history, but how to march with history and assist the process of its unfolding. The victory of the working class over the capitalist class, without a powerful Communist Party leading it, is unthinkable.
This is no new conclusion driven upon us by the General Strike. Before the Liverpool Conference of November last I wrote in the September issue of the “Communist Review”:
“The Labour Party Conference will present us, therefore, with a measure of the real preparedness which exists in the Labour ranks for the crash that is coming. We know, however, that until the working class struggle has developed our party into a party uniting the workers’ organisations on revolutionary issues and for revolutionary purposes there will be, and can be, no victory in the challenge which is now destined to repeat itself.”
The challenge came, the crash came, and the history of the conduct of the present leadership of the Labour Movement provides convincing evidence that we were right.
We have no hesitation, therefore, in now affirming that the General Strike of May 1926, is the greatest political landmark in the history of the working class of Britain. It proclaimed as nothing else has ever done that the challenge of class power, raised four times in six years, is inescapably bound up with the growth of the working class and the decay of capitalism. It was no exceptional circumstance, but a great event in the evolution of social forces fighting for mastery, in the war from which there was no escape. According to the measure in which the workers of Britain fulfil the tasks we have outlined, the war will be long or short. But the victory never was in doubt. It belongs to the workers.