J. T. Murphy

Reflections on our Party Congress at Manchester

Source: The Communist, November 1927
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
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.

NO one who will give five minutes’ serious thought to the work of our Ninth Party Congress at Manchester will question the statement that it is a most important landmark in the history of the British working class movement. Coming quick on the heels of the Labour Party Conference at Blackpool, Manchester demonstrated by force of contrast on every leading question before the working class, that our Party stands alone in this country as the banner bearer of socialism, and the custodian of the interests of the working class.

The Labour Party made opportunistic vote-catching the key to its conference proceedings, relegating socialism out of sight and out of mind, producing nothing but what, in general, is acceptable to the Liberals. Its retreat from the capital levy, its preservation of the “principle” of nationalisation, whilst swallowing the Coal Commission’s report, combined with its utter failure to render the slightest aid to the miners, the textile workers and others now being attacked with demands for further wage reductions, reveal the fullness of its capitulation to capitalism, signalled by its betrayal of the General Strike in 1926.

The I.L.P. completed this degeneration by the most abject surrender at every point of the proceedings. The generations of struggle for an organised independent Labour movement, independent not only in organisation, but in purpose, method and aim, have thus been sacrificed to secure the spoils of office with the good graces of the bourgeoisie.

A Contrast

The Ninth Congress of our Party provides the historical contrast. By its method of analysis of the conditions in which the class struggle is proceeding; by its examination of the relation of class forces; by its formulation of the perspectives before the working class; by its attention to the immediate struggles before the workers, and consistent application of socialist class war principles to their needs in the present situation, our Party Congress demonstrated that the growth of our Party, and the forces sympathetic to it, is the historical emergence of a real working class Party.

To have established this fact far outweighs any despondency that may have been felt by some comrades at the loss of membership, which has been boosted so much by the enemy press. Naturally, no Party likes to lose members, and we must, and will, examine thoroughly how far our losses are due to objective difficulties and how far to mistakes on our part.

But it would be folly indeed to make this the key to our appreciation of the position of our Party to-day. The building of a revolutionary party is not so simple a task as the building of a P.S.A. party. By the very nature of things it must go through periods of growth, rapid or slow, assimilation and re-assimilation, in accordance with the fluctuation in the intensity of the class war. This is necessary before it can stand forth as the Party of the best, clearest-sighted and most courageous of the working class, steeled in countless struggles, and capable of leading the proletariat to victory over its class enemies.

Numbers no Criterion

Hence, the question of numbers is not the only criterion to be applied as a measure of our Party progress. Besides numbers, indeed, more important than numbers, is the purpose for which the Communist Party exists. Our Party exists, as a section of the Communist International, to express the interests of the working class, to lead the workers in pursuance of these interests until, under its leadership, they conquer power and lay firm and sure the foundation of the new social order of socialism.

To consider any situation without regard for these fundamental principles governing our actions, is to be guilty of the grossest betrayal of the workers, even if the majority of the workers are thinking differently at the time. To make the backwardness of the great masses of the workers the basis of a policy, as is done habitually by such as Thomas, Bevin, and the majority of the Labour Party Conference, is to flounder in the bogs of opportunism, or to consciously obstruct the clarification of the workers in the interests of the bourgeoisie. Such has been, and is, the fate of the Labour Party and the I.L.P. But such is not the fate of our Party as the proceedings of our Congress prove most conclusively.

In complete contrast to the Labour Party Conference, Manchester did subject the conditions in which the working class of Britain have to struggle to the closest examination, not only nationally, but internationally. In complete contrast to the Labour Party Conference, it based its work upon the needs and interests of the working class, and related them to the forces to which the working class is opposed. The coming General Election did not set the pace to our Congress, but the consideration of the class struggle, as revealed by the analysis of the struggle during the last year, and the perspectives which this analysis revealed. Only by this means is it possible for a party to relate the interests of the class to exigencies of the struggle.

Guiding Principles

The full value of a theoretical understanding of the class struggle here becomes immediately apparent, when once this is clearly grasped. Without theoretical understanding, how is it possible to lead a class to liberation, and not be swallowed up by opportunism? It is not possible. And this is, undoubtedly, one of the reasons why many in the Labour movement are swept off their feet in such conferences as the Blackpool Conference of the Labour Party.

If ever there was a time when it was necessary to distinguish clearly how to adapt ourselves to the immediate needs of the struggle on the basis of the fundamental principles of the class struggle and socialism, it is now. And this the Communist Party Congress did by taking as its starting point the working class as the leading revolutionary class of present day society; examining its present relations to other classes, the condition of its own forces, and what is required to carry it forward along its historic path of struggle against capitalism.

An examination of the Manchester decisions, whether on the war danger, or the miners’ struggle, imperialism, or its relation with the Labour Party, will show these guiding principles throughout. By its firm adherence to these principles the Communist Party Congress provided a profound study in contrast on every decision it took.

The war danger was regarded, not as a matter for negotiation or discussion with the war-makers, but as a clarion call for the organisation of class solidarity in every direction against the war forces of capitalism: not as something to talk and declaim about when war arrived, but as a means of mobilising the working class now.

The miners’ crisis was not regarded as an unfortunate occurrence upon which to make promises as to what should be done with a hypothetical Labour Government, but as an urgent matter demanding the organisation of the whole working class for support of every kind.

The activities of British imperialism were not regarded as the basis for a moral lecture as to the good intentions of a possible Labour Government, but as activities which demand the most immediate efforts to unite the proletariat of Britain with the workers and peasants of the colonies, in common struggle against British imperialism.

New Leadership

This contrast was maintained on all issues, and is of immense significance in the evolution of the British working class.

We can now boldly say what is clear for all to see, that the rise of the Communist Party is the rise of a workers’ leadership within the working class. All other “leadership” within the working class is not working class leadership, but bourgeois leadership fettering the organisations of the working class to capitalism. The rise of our Party, accompanied, as it is, by the growth of sympathetic organisation such as the Minority Movement, the Left Wing Movement, etc.—bodies which represent the transition of the workers from their loyalty to the old “leaders” to the new class leadership—represents, therefore, not something imported from abroad, but the growth from within the British working class of its first real Labour Party united in principle, aim and policy, upon the class interests of Labour.

For the Manchester Conference of our Party to have revealed this so clearly in the midst of the flood tide of opportunism is an achievement which will bring its reward, as the unavoidable struggle of the classes carries the working class further in its process of differentiation.

At the moment we are fighting against the stream, to-morrow our turn comes, as certain as the dawn.