J. Shields

J. T. Murphy’s Desertion to the Class Enemy

Source: The Communist International, Vol. IX, No. 13, July 15, 1932, pp. 430-432
Transcription/HTML Markup: Brian Reid
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THE renegades from the ranks of Communism, the camp of the enemies of the working class, have received another recruit in the person of J. T. Murphy, who has deserted from the Communist Party of Great Britain.

On May 8th, 1932, Murphy, who had been a member of the Central Committee of the Party in Britain, addressed a letter to the Political Bureau, which declared:—

“It is perfectly clear to me . . . that there is no place for me in the C.P.G.B. at this stage of its history . . . . Therefore from to-day I cease to be a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain.”

What is “this stage” of the Party’s history which Murphy refers to? It is the very moment when the whole attack of capital against the working class, and, above all, against the Communist Party, is being rapidly developed and takes on a more pronounced form. It is the period when the Party is mobilising the working masses for the struggle against the economic and political offensive of the bourgeoisie. It is the period when the Party is leading a tremendous fight against imperialist war and the danger of intervention menacing the U.S.S.R. Particularly at the present moment, when the struggle needs to be strengthened against the enormously swollen stream of poisonous war propaganda which is being poured out, to uncover and expose the feverish war preparations of the bourgeoisie which they seek to mask in every way, Murphy takes the road of desertion and goes over bag and baggage to the camp of the enemy.

This is no chance occurrence. Almost always, at a time of a sharpening of the class struggle, the opportunist elements in the labour movement have lifted up their heads and have preached the policy of capitulation, the line of counter-revolution and have finally openly deserted from the revolutionary class fight.

What was the political line of Murphy which directly led to his open treachery to the working-class movement?

The standpoint which Murphy has taken up has been accompanied by strenuous efforts on his part to introduce his opportunist line into the ranks of the working class with regard to the question of the fight against war and intervention, and the problem of the two world systems, the system of capitalism and that of socialist economy in the U.S.S.R. Here he has deliberately resorted to attempting to introduce exceedingly wrong and dangerous views and conclusions which objectively help the policy of the bourgeoisie. His first effort in this direction was contained in a letter which he wrote to the Party Secretariat on March 10th where he formulated his position on the question of the fight against war and intervention and for the revolutionary way out of the crisis. In the position of Murphy, the real essence and the chief method of this struggle is a struggle for the granting of Soviet credits from British capitalism. Despite every effort made by the Party leadership to convince Murphy of its incorrectness, he further developed and elaborated it, and later embodied it in an article in the April issue of the “Communist Review,” the theoretical monthly organ of the Party, where he acted in the capacity of editor. The following passages from the article in question express the policy which Murphy advocates:—

“It is not enough to shout, ‘Defend the Soviet Union,’ ‘Stop the transport of munitions.’ We must do more. We must also advance the demand for credits to the Soviet Union. We must fight to work on the Five-Year Plan of Socialist construction . . . The more the daily life of the working class of this country becomes integrated with the industrialisation of the Soviet Union, even through bourgeois channels, the more difficult it will be for the British Government to sever relations . . .

“This is fighting against the war. This is waging the class war.”

Here we see openly advocated the integrating of the Socialist and capitalist systems, which Murphy declares is to be brought about by the Party raising the demand for credits to the Soviet Union. This also, according to Murphy, is the way to prevent intervention and is waging the class war.

He puts forward the proposition that the socialist and capitalist systems should be “integrated” at a time when capitalist economy is suffering a severe crisis through its whole system, while socialist construction in the U.S.S.R. is successfully advancing in triumph. It is due to the latter fact that capitalism is now developing for armed attack on the Soviet Union. What significance, therefore, can Murphy’s formulation, serve other than to cover up the capitalist preparations for armed attack on the U.S.S.R.? With his talk of “integration” he seeks to dampen down the working-class fight at the very moment when the whole situation demands its utmost intensification for the smashing of the plans of the war-making imperialists.

He conveys the idea that capitalism does not want to attack, and thus disarms the workers. This line, far from assisting the carrying out of the Five-Year Plan in the U.S.S.R., actually helps forward the war plans of the imperialists for its destruction. This position is quite on a par with Murphy’s attitude on the question of credits for the Soviet Union. After he left the Party, Murphy attempted to excuse his cowardly desertion and treachery by writing an article in the “New Leader” and the “Forward,” which the I.L.P. had no hesitation in placing at his disposal. This article, which is entitled “Why I left the Communist Party,” makes a pretence of changing one or two formulations in the lines written in the “Communist Review.” In no way, however, does it make any alteration in his basic standpoint, but instead uses this for the purpose of attacking the Communist Party, contriving to make it appear with knavish trickery that the Party is against credits for the Soviet Union. Here he seeks to pose as a defender of the Soviet Union, and to trick the workers into the belief that he favours the struggle for credits while the Party is against it. Murphy maintains that the Communist Party should place in the very forefront and centre of its present activity an appear to the bourgeoisie to grant credits to the Soviet Union. Put in the way which Murphy wants, the demand for credits for the Soviet Union is transformed into a means for sidetracking the revolutionary fight against intervention, and for damping down the mobilisation of the working class for the stopping of the manufacture and transport of munitions and war materials. In short, Murphy transforms the slogan of credits into a substitute for the class struggle, into a means for disarming the working class.

What is the attitude taken up by the Party on the question of credits? This question is of great importance for the working class and has to be made perfectly clear. At the present time the workers in Britain are all for the unhampered development of Soviet trading relations. They are in favour of the Soviet Union being given whatever credits it desires.

The British bourgeoisie, on the other hand, is pursuing a policy of sharpening attack against trade relations with the U.S.S.R., against the granting of credits. Despite the fact of a certain section of British capitalists being in favour of trade with Russia, the opposite is the attitude which dominates the policy of Government. Against these restricting and dislocating efforts of the bourgeoisie, the Communist Party calls on the working class to take up struggle and to meet these attacks with the widest possible protests.

The Labour Party and the I.L.P., of course, take up the direct opposite position. When the Conservatives made a rabid attack on Soviet trade relations recently in the House of Commons, the Labour M.P.s acquiesced in this by their careful silence during the debates, thus indicating their attitude towards the interventionists. The Communist Party, however, whilst reacting plainly and clearly against the attempts to break off trading relations, does not, however, make the slogan of credits a slogan of the Party. The Party is not against the demand for credits to the Soviet Union, on the contrary it supports demands for this which are put forward by the trade unions, unemployed organisations, and similar mass working-class bodies.

But the main aim of the Party is to mobilise the workers for fighting against, not appealing to, the bourgeoisie. The Party, therefore, supports such demands as credits for the Soviet Union, which are raised by working-class organisations, and uses these demands for also mobilising the workers in the class fight, for developing the struggle against the capitalist offensive, for bringing about working-class action for the stopping of munitions and the smashing of the plans for intervention, for carrying forward the fight for the revolutionary way out of the crisis through the overthrow of British capitalism.

It is just this line of policy which Murphy has deserted, and which he now seeks to distort in the eyes of the workers. He deliberately belittles the attempts of the Party to mobilise the workers against the transport of munitions. Making use of the strike weapon for the stopping of munitions is sneered at by Murphy, just at the time when the police are arresting and sentencing comrades for attempting to do it. Is this not the most glaring treachery to the working class?

No wonder the bourgeois press at once hastened to shower praise upon Murphy, and to use him for its attacks against the Party. The bourgeois daily organ, the “Manchester Guardian,” hurried forward to describe him as being “one of the most remarkable men in the Communist movement” and his viewpoint as “this not illogical advice.”

The renegades from the ranks of Communism also hastened to support Murphy against the Party and to use his expulsion for an outburst of abuse against the Communist International. The “Socialistiche Arbeiterzeitung,” the organ of the “left” social-democrats in Germany, after giving Murphy a pat on the back and declaring that Trotsky “emphasises, among others, demands similar to those proposed by Murphy in his article,” goes on to characterise his expulsion from the Party as “another example of the devastating effect of the domination of the Stalin fraction in the Comintern apparatus.” The “Workers’ Age,” the weekly organ of the counter-revolutionary Lovestonite group in America, announces that:—

“This amazing treatment of one of the oldest, most capable and most experienced leaders of the British Communist Party focuses sharp attention upon the intolerable régime now dominating the world Communist movement.”

Murphy cowardly deserted from the Party because the Party prevented him from carrying through the ideas of the enemy in the ranks of the working class. The Party has always helped every comrade who made mistakes to rectify and correct such mistakes and grasp the correct working-class viewpoint. The Communist Party is founded upon the principle of democratic centralism. This means that every Party member has the free and unfettered right to express his opinions on any point or subject, but that once a decision has been arrived at by a majority on any question, then every Communist is expected to abide by and actively carry out that decision. Murphy did not even wait for a decision being taken, but ran out of the Party. The whole Party unanimously condemned him.

The Party must draw all the necessary lessons and conclusions arising from the question of Murphy. The whole of the Party membership and the workers must be made perfectly clear as to the full meaning of his “theories” and their implications. This must not be done in an abstract way but the explanatory campaign must be closely related to the carrying out of the immediate concrete tasks in connection with the fight against war and intervention, against the capitalist offensive, and the struggle for the revolutionary way out of the crisis. The Party must ensure that strict control is exercised over the theoretical organ of the Party, the “Communist Review,” in future, and must sharpen the fight against opportunism wherever it manifests itself. Decisive efforts must also be made to immediately develop and raise the ideological level of the Party, a task which hitherto has not received adequate attention. Finally, the Party requires to secure a greater concentration of its efforts on the carrying into effect the resolution of the Central Committee on the tasks connected with building the Party in the factories, work in the trade unions, amongst the unemployed. In all this work there must be emphasised very clearly the sharp differences which exist between our revolutionary policy and methods and the rôle and attitude of the reformists. This is the way to the further strengthening of the authority and influence of the Party amongst the masses and to the rapid shattering of the opportunist views that the deserter Murphy and similar renegades stand for.