J. T. Murphy

Significance of Llandudno Conference

Source: The Communist Review, Vol. II November 1930, No. ?.
Publisher: Communist Party of Great Britain
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). 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.

We meet in a period of unexampled economic unsettlement throughout the world. The prophecies of our forerunners are coming all too true. On all hands the accumulated products of the massed energy of the nations remain undistributed because the peoples are too poor to purchase and enjoy the wealth they spend their working lives in creating. The futilities of the competitive system are only emphasized by the newer co-operative devices of its capitalist advocates. Mass unemployment in Britain, in America, on the Continent, in the Colonies and in the distant Orient—no matter whether their trading system be protected or free—all stand as grim witnesses to the folly and falsity of capitalist economics, both ancient and modern.

The power wielded over their fellows by the owners of land and industrial capital, of finance and credit, has never been greater than in these days of concentrated industry; yet, step by step, with its continued development has steadily marched the ever-increasing numbers of the unemployed. Idle land, idle machines, idle labour power, in face of world-wide need, stand in their questioning array, awaiting the national and international wills of the masses to command their co-operative use for the common good.

The powers of modern wealth production have outstripped all known history; the more sordid aspects of its consequent poverty are mitigated to a greater degree than ever we have known; yet the problem of wealth distribution remains unsolved and challenging, awaiting the will of the multitude to realize their common powers, to exercise their common rights, to face their common responsibilities.” [1]

THE above extract from the report of the Executive to the Conference is the sum total of what the leadership of the Labour Party gave to its members prior to the Conference, which could be taken as a basis upon which to examine its record and the problems before it. The Executive Committee had no resolutions of its own before. the Conference. The Party and the Conference delegates had to wait for wisdom to fall from the lips of. its leaders, or fasten upon some resolution from a local Labour Party or trade union. All the resolutions and amendments dealt with some facet-of the social problem, and always unrelated to other resolutions. Not one resolution attempted to analyse either the condition which gave rise to it, the reasons for its existence, or the effect which its operation would have. The reporters could therefore be discursive, humorous, oratorical, demagogic, just as they wished, knowing full well that the delegates of the Conference had neither the material nor the means at their disposal to make effective criticism. There was no prior discussion of an organized character in the Labour Party, no attempted analysis of the situation in which the Labour Party and the Government had been working, no perspectives before the Conference and the Party; only perorations, hopes, fears, love, brotherhood, “hands to the plough,” “brick on brick,” “swords and trowels,” blether. In short, the Labour Party Conference was a big mass meeting, with a little more freedom than is usual in a Labour Party meeting for the members thereof to “say a few words.”

The final resolutions of the Conference were not the work of the delegates resulting from their active participation in discussion in organized commissions, but the work of a small clique called a standing orders committee, which worked on the principle of amalgamating resolutions into composite resolutions, “mixing chalk and cheese” in a way which leaves scope for the leadership to interpret the resolutions as they wish. The Conference delegates and the resolutions, under such circumstances, constitute material for the manipulation of the leaders.


Anyone unfamiliar with the Labour Party, reading the quotation I have made from the report, would assume that the Labour Party Conference was an anti-capitalist conference, that they were met together to rid the world of capitalism and all its evils What must be the surprise of such a one to discover that the great concern of the Conference was not for the abolition of capitalism and the means to finish it off, but because capitalism is in such a mess and the Labour Government has not been able to get it on to its feet. Examine the speech of Miss Susan Lawrence. She said:

“When the Labour Government took office in June, 1929, unemployment was bad enough in all conscience. . . . In Great Britain the number of unemployed at September 15th was 1,103,413. In Germany at the same date it was estimated that 2,983,000 were unemployed. . . . This is the sort of price the workers pay for the capitalist system. . . .”

That is on the lines of the Executive’s statement, and it would appear that capitalism has got to go. But now she says:

“I now pass to a group of constructive measures designed for the improvement of industry, trade and unemployment.”

No question, mark you, of finishing capitalism, but “constructive measures”—i.e., building capitalism. She then reviews State grants to capitalist municipalities, private corporations, etc.; and then:

“The greater task before the Party is the reorganization of our major industries, and the first step which has been accomplished in this direction is the Coal Mines Act.”

Does the Coal Mines Act aim at abolishing the capitalism, “the price which the workers have to pay,” etc.? Not in the least It is a measure which the Liberal Manchester Guardian described as one “which Mr. Baldwin would have introduced had he been Prime Minister.”

Miss Susan Lawrence was supported by Mr. Herbert Morrison, who reported on “transport organization.” Are the transport proposals of Mr. Morrison Socialist proposals directed against capitalism? Not in the least. He proposes nothing more nor less than centralized capitalist corporations, diminishing the number of authorities and rationalizing the transport industry. Not a single shareholder of capitalist stocks need worry. On the contrary, most of them are very pleased at the more efficient means for wringing profits out of the workers.

All this is in fundamental contrast to the impression created by the Executive’s statement as quoted, and the opening part of the speech of Lawrence. In every case, in the resolutions, speeches from the platform and the critics in the Conference, they deal with improvements of capitalist machinery, and not once throughout the Conference proceedings was the question of the class struggle raised as a basis for criticism on policy. They “deplored the effects of rationalization upon the workers”; they pleaded in resolutions for “something to be done for those displaced by rationalization”; they said “workers ought to receive pensions at sixty”; “there ought to be more social services,” but never did a single speaker indicate how the workers shall get them except “urges upon the Government.” Every proposal for the workers was a window-dressing demand for elections; every measure for capitalist rationalization—was a measure which the Government is putting into operation.


Now let us examine the critics in the Conference. First the I.L.P. At previous conferences where Communists have been present it has always been the cry of the I.L.P. (Maxton group) that, if the Communists were not present, the Conference would listen to the “reasoned practical criticism” of the I.L.P. Very well. The I.L.P. had a clear field at Llandudno; not a single wicked Communist was there to mar the track. And what a show they had! From the outset they were going to challenge the Government. They formulated a series of proposals on unemployment. It does not matter at the moment whether they were good, bad or indifferent; but what happened to them? They withdrew and accepted a composite resolution based on “Labour and the Nation”—a capitalist rationalization programme from beginning to end-padded with the proposal of “socializing the basic industries,” and mixing up credits for the development of foreign trade with a repudiation of foreign trade. No wonder Maxton got mixed up between embracing MacDonald and repudiating him! Such a mixed resolution, with one foot in the camp of Socialism and the rest of the carcass entangled in all the patent trappings of capitalist restoration, was certainly enough to produce the display of affection between MacDonald and Maxton. But it finished off the I.L.P. The Conference treated it as a wayward child, put it at the bottom of the class as it were, and was quite sure that it would not stray.

Nor did Brockway recover the situation for the I.L.P. on the question of India. He exposed the Labour Government; he told of the number of prisoners; forgot all about Meerut; pleaded for reason; referred to Labour Party history. And what did he want?—a successful “Round Table Conference.” Precisely the wish of the Labour Government, and the only difference which lay between them was Brockway thought it not to be possible without the Ghandists being present. The Government speakers deplored “the excesses,” but “what could they do?” Brockway deplored the excesses, but what then? Shall the Indian working masses rise in their strength, organize their might, throw out their oppressors from the land of India? No; Brockway wanted harmony, reason, peace—pleading pathetically that there should be no class war. The futility of this moralizing, along with the debacle of Maxton, made it easy for Kenworthy and others, led by Mr. Cook, to kill the discussion and support the bloody policy of the Government.


The utter collapse of the I.L.P. paved the way for Mosley. No one had yet caught up the latent discontent of the Conference with the report of the Government; and Mosley did it. He swept the Conference off its feet. How? By drawing out this discontent, directing it against the Government, harnessing it to “national Socialism.” “The Government had no policy,” he declared, “and the nation is crying aloud for a policy, for strong action, decisive action. It demands that it shall be ‘insulated’ from foreign dumping,” etc. He gave a friendly gesture to tariffs, a brotherly grip to the Trades Union Congress Empire Memorandum, and demagogically called for a raising of the standard of life of “our people.” He led the Conference along the Fascist path, and the Conference responded as it responded to nothing else throughout its whole proceedings.

This was the outstanding event of the Conference. The platform could cry it had no apologies to make; it did not touch the depths of the Conference, which had to listen all the time to speeches which were apologies. It was this new phenomenon that caught the imagination and roused it. The young demagogue had beaten the old demagogues.

But he was not alone; because the voice of Mr. Bevin, who also caught the note, challenged the Government, advised the Government, deplored the softening effect of Old Age Pensions at sixty, talked of the co-ordination of social services and, with the help of Messrs. Hayday and Greenwood, gave a cold shower to those who demanded so many things by legislation. He advanced the theory that strikes helped the bosses, helped capitalism. Give the capitalists a free hand in rationalization, he cried, and capitalism will kill itself. Public corporations for industry like that which Mr. Morrison has produced for transport—that is Socialism, says Bevin.


To sum up. The Labour Party Conference was not the. conference of an advancing party, but of a party in decay. Its leaders were explaining away its failures, clinging desperately to capitalism in the name of Socialism. The I.L.P. has finished its course in the Labour Party—and out of it. It is discredited as an oppositional force and has no further value as a safety-valve for the Labour Party. In the midst of the Social Fascist Labour Party, naked Fascism has raised its head and bids for leadership, gathering around the personalities of Mosley and Bevin. The Labour Party is a party in process of disintegration. This is the historical significance of the Llandudno Conference.



1. Report of the Executive of the Labour Party to the Conference.