Harry Pollitt

The United Front in Great Britain

Source: The Communist International, Vol. X, No. 16, Auguat 15, 1933
Publisher: Workers Library Publishers, New York, N.Y.
Transcription\HTML 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.

(Speech at the meeting of the Presidium of the E.C.C.I., evening session, Oct. 11, 1934.)

COMRADES, I want to deal with some questions in connection with the united front, the fight against fascism, the Trade Union Congress and the trade union work of our Party.

The United Front

In July, after the Austrian events, the Central Committee of the Party issued a united front appeal to the Labor Party, the Trade Union Congress and the Cooperative Party. Fifty thousand copies of the appeal had been printed and we arranged for its distribution at the key factories in some of the most important industrial towns. In addition, copies were sent to every local Labor Party and Trades Council.

This appeal received a very good reception from the mass of workers. The Labor Party replied to our letter, saying “there were now no new circumstances to justify any change in policy on the part of the Labor leaders”. We answered this and again distributed another 25,000 copies of our reply. It was quite clear that a very favorable situation was developing for the united front, especially after the news of the united front agreement between the French Socialist Party and the French Communists, which has had very important reflections in the ranks of the working class in Britain.

We reviewed the situation in the August Plenum of the Central Committee of the Party. The C.C. Plenum recognized, first, that the outstanding feature of the situation in Britain was the passionate desire for the united front on the part of the workers. Second, that unless our Party can organize this unity, the working class movement faces the possibility of terrible defeats. Third, that what has been done in France can be done in Britain. Fourth, that if the British working class could force the National Government to withdraw its charges against Pollitt and Mann, the British workers can bring such pressure to bear on the Labor leaders as will force them to change their policy towards the united front.

In reviewing the situation in the Party, we stated that in the Party as a whole, there was not the serious interest in developing the united front which is necessary, and that when the Labor leaders rejected our appeals there was an attitude in the Party of “Thank goodness, that happened, we don’t have to bother with that”. We had to end this attitude once and for all, and make it clear that when we made an appeal for unity it was a serious appeal and not a paper document, that it was our intention really to organize concrete united front action, and that the appeal must be realized in practice.

The Central Committee meeting resulted in some good changes taking place throughout the Party and in a number of districts we have excellent examples of the beginning of united front activity in earnest. For example, in Liverpool, 29 trade union branches endorsed the Central Committee appeal. One trade union branch circulated a resolution, appealing for the united front, to every other trade union branch affiliated to the Trades Council, and demanded that the Liverpool Trades Council call a special conference at which every working-class organization should be represented to organize a united front against war and fascism. The result of this is the decision of the Manchester Trades Council to organize an all-inclusive counter-demonstration, including the Communist Party and the Independent Labor Party.

In Walthamstow, an important area in the East End of London, the Trades Council decided to support the Party’s appeal by a vote of 14 to 11. The officials of that Council appeared to be worried about the decision and they therefore called a special delegates’ conference of all trade union branches in Walthamstow affiliated to the Trades Council. Forty-four delegates were present. After the case had been put for the Communist Party’s letter, 13 speakers asked questions and 13 took part in the discussion. The general line of the questions in the discussion was as follows: “Is the Communist Party really sincere this time in the united front?” “If we come to an agreement would the Communists abide by the decisions of the majority?” “How can we ask for the united front in the fight against war and fascism and fight the Labor Party in the elections?” “What would be the attitude of the Communist Party if it should be decided to make a war upon Germany in order to free it from fascism and make it safe for democracy?” “What was the attitude of the Communist Party to the question of bringing the unorganized workers into the united front?”

Finally, at the end of the discussion, 42 delegates voted for the united front and two delegates voted against.

One of the best examples of local initiative was in Bilston, a small town in the Midlands, where we have a comparatively new local. Immediately we issued our appeal, the local mobilized its members and sent a personal delegation to every trade union branch secretary in the town and to every local Labor Party secretary. In this way they not only gained sympathy, but ensured that a discussion took place in every working class organization in that town. It is true that we did not win any decisive victories for the united front in that town, but the important fact is that the united front was discussed in every local workers’ organization. On the Birmingham Trades Council, big discussions have taken place; as also on the London Trades Council, Glasgow Trades Council, and Bradford and Manchester Trades Councils.

After the September 9 anti-fascist demonstration in Hyde Park, the Central Committee again decided to approach the Labor Party. We stated: the September 9 action has shown that the Communist Party can bring 150,000 workers into Hyde Park against fascism. What could be done if the organized labor movement had taken part in this counterdemonstration to the fascists? Therefore we propose a discussion without any preliminary conditions or restrictions, to hear what, in your opinion, are the obstacles in the way of the united front, and for you to hear our answers.

This has had a very good effect in the labor movement, and many resolutions have been passed by the local organizations demanding that the Executive Committee hear the Communists, hear what they have to say, and discuss their proposals. But both at the Trade Union Congress and the Southport Labor Party Conference, that have recently terminated, this question was debated and defeated by a very big vote. This, however, does not represent the feeling of the rank and file of the Labor Party and the trade unions, but is the bloc vote of the trade union bureaucracy.

What are the arguments advanced by the Labor Party and Trade Union leaders against the united front? First, that it is impossible to have a serious united front with an organization that believes in dictatorship and revolution. Second, that the Labor Party, Trade Union Congress and Cooperative Party are the mass organizations of the workers and represent the united front, and that therefore nothing else is necessary. Third, why should such big, powerful organizations like the Labor Party be expected to take up united action with such small organizations as the Communist Party and the I.L.P., and finally, the old argument is put forward that the Communists are not sincere in the proposals they are putting forward.

The Labor leaders have been able to give those answers simply because we have been. unable as yet to organize the mass pressure from below that will compel them to change their line.

In the recent period the Labor Party leaders have used a further argument against the united front in what they describe as the “splitting tactics.” of the Communist Party in the elections. The experience of the development of the united front over recent months has shown that it is necessary that we work out a clear line of united front tactics, both in relation to the municipal elections is November and March, and in the preparations for the general elections. Such a line will not mean the abandonment of our policy of “class against class” or the with drawing of the independent role of the Party. On the contrary, we must discuss a line which will strengthen the policy of class against class and bring the Party forward as a real political force in the country. Therefore, we are now proposing an extension of united front tactics in the immediate municipal elections to take place.

It may be stated that what is proposed is a revision of the Ninth Plenum on the British question, so far as our electoral tactics are concerned, but if we read the Ninth Plenum resolution, we will find that we never made a serious attempt to operate the exceptionally important clause in the resolution in regard to united front tactics in elections. For example, in the Ninth Plenum resolution on Britain; it states:

“In some districts, active support to Laborites, who pledge themselves to work for the elementary demands of the working class, and for accepting the Communist Party into the Labor Party, is admissible.

“Voting for Labor Party candidates in the remaining districts must be definitely decided upon only after all possible preliminary work has been done in the matter of putting up our own and Left worker candidates.”

We are proposing nothing today that means a rejection of the decisions of the Ninth Plenum, and if we look back over the period since the Ninth Plenum was held, I cannot remember a single election campaign where we really made a serious attempt to develop united front tactics, either with the Labor Party or the I.L.P. in the elections.

And yet we are bound to take note of the fact that one of the biggest barriers to our getting into closer contact with the reformist workers is the fact that they deeply resent what they call “splitting the vote” in the elections. This resentment has become stronger since the German and Austrian events. At the present time, in connection with the forthcoming elections, it is naturally stronger in the districts where there is a Labor majority in the Councils and we have to work out a line which takes this card out of the hands of the Labor leaders. The Labor leaders, in the speeches they make, the conferences they organize, when they meet with opposition because of their refusal to take part in, the united front, declare that the Communist Party is “splitting” the vote. Despite the fact that we can show with truth in many examples that not the Communists, but the Labor leaders have split the working class, have disrupted the ranks, and now are preventing the united front by their policy, nevertheless we are confident that we can work out a line which will take that card out of their hands. This will lead to further unity of the masses in the struggle against the National Government and the fascists and will, strengthen the Communist Party and bring us nearer to the masses.

Therefore, we are proposing to come forward with our own independent municipal election program, and to make the question of the united front the biggest issue in the municipal election campaign, extending the demand for unity of action among the Labor Party and trade union members. What is our election program? The following are our main demands: Refusal to operate the Means Test, increased winter unemployed relief scales, increased children’s allowances, general demand to operate work schemes of social value at trade union wages and conditions, free meals for necessitous school children, free milk to all school children up to five, extension of creches, welfare centers and clinics, restoration of all economies imposed on municipal employees in 1931, reduction of workers’ rents, no support for slave camps, the closing of fascist barracks and against the Unemployment and Sedition Bills.

We shall put forward our candidates and carry the campaign for our program in all localities where the Party has mass influence and can gain results, with increased prestige for the Communist Party. This means that in the November elections we should put forward our candidates in all areas where the Party has influence among the workers and where this influence can be expressed either in the return of the candidate or where we can get a really significant vote. In localities where the Party had no serious chances of winning either a significant number of votes or a seat, or where we do not contest the election, we propose to the Labor Party that they support measures aiming at achieving some of the demands in our platform, with a declaration that they favor the united front against fascism and war. If the Labor candidates give satisfactory guarantees, we will give full support to the candidates, take part in the election meetings and not only explain why we give them support but popularize our policy in our own independent election meetings which we will simultaneously organize.

Wherever there is a locality where our Party would get a big vote or where our Party has a chance of winning, then under no circumstances do we withdraw our candidate, but propose to the Labor Party that they support our candidate on the same basis that we would be prepared to support theirs. We shall immediately approach the I.L.P., both at the center, and in the districts, to discuss with them the question of an electoral bloc, and we should try to aim at getting agreement on the basis that each Party support the candidate who received the highest vote in the last municipal elections. This is of chief importance in Glasgow where a number of I.L.P. and C.P. candidates ran and were fighting each other, and, on the basis of the last election results, we believe we can reach an electoral arrangement.

We are also proposing that, in places where the C.P., I.L.P. and Labor Party are all putting forward candidates, an attempt be made to reach agreement on the candidate who can best express the united front desires of the workers. For this purpose a Workers’ Selection Conference should be held; let the three candidates be voted upon at that conference, and a workers’ candidate be selected on the basis of the united front. Should the Labor Party refuse and we have reached an agreement with the I.L.P. and if the Labor candidate has the least chance in the election, we should propose to them that they withdraw their candidate from the field. This will be one of the most effective means at present for consolidating the demand for unity, extending the united front, and bringing forward new measures to combat the recent decisions of the Weymouth Trade Union Congress and the Southport Labor Party Conference.

We must also discuss the possibility of cases where there is a fight between the capitalist and Labor candidate, and where there exists a danger of the victory of the capitalist candidates. In these circumstances, where the Labor candidate rejects our proposals for a united front, even then we will consider the possibility of the Party leadership in each separate case deciding whether to withdraw our candidate if his going forward would mean the victory of the capitalist candidate, and thus to recommend to the workers to vote for the Labor candidate. Where we recommend to the workers to vote for the Labor candidate, this will be done on class issues that the C.P. will carry into the elections in order to prevent the return of a class enemy of the workers to any of the existing Town Councils. If the Labor Party refuses our offer, and we are still recommending to the workers to vote for their candidate, we will, of course, continue as usual to organize our separate election meetings, we shall criticize the policy of the Labor Party and put this issue to the workers, and ask them to endorse our demands and the united front tactics we are operating. This will enable us to reach many thousands of Labor Party workers and win their support for the united front.

Finally, I believe the C.C. should publish immediately a manifesto explaining that the situation at home and abroad demands that this line be carried out in order to build up the unity of the working class. We can formulate this declaration and carry it out in such a way as will show to the working class that the C.P. is a Party of serious political importance and that these proposals are a still further attempt on our part to strengthen the united front against the workers’ enemies. We are convinced that this policy will then become the medium through which we can remove many objections to the united front that at present exist amongst the Socialist workers, and will undoubtedly draw our Party much closer to them than we are at present.

If, therefore, we take careful note of the experiences and arguments, the character of the negotiations that will take place in the coming November elections, we shall then have a basis for extending a wider discussion on the whole question of the Party’s line in connection with the coming general elections and particularly we will be able to get important experiences and material that will enable us to work out a clear line in our Party Congress in January, in connection with the coming general election.

Thus, at the very moment that the Labor leaders are attempting to make it more difficult for Communists to work in the trade unions and Trades Councils, when they threaten to expel from the Labor Party all their members who are identified with the united front—at this moment our Party comes forward with new proposals which will not weaken but strengthen the class struggle, I am certain that this policy will be accepted by the Labor Party workers and will compel the leaders to revise their present attitude towards the united front.

The Fight Against Fascism

In April it was clear already that the opposition to fascism in Britain was exceptionally strong and gave us the best opportunity to develop the united front.

In the resolution of the E.C.C.I., it stated that the Communist Party must set itself then as one of its central tasks, the organization of the masses against fascism. I think we can say here that we have endeavored to fulfill this task. There can be no question about it, that until June, 1934, Mosley was making progress in England, holding big meetings, get. ting the support of a powerful group of newspapers. He organized a demonstration in Albert Hall, holding 10,000 people, last May. The Communist Party made a great mistake in allowing that demonstration to go by unchallenged. Over 10,000 people attended, but 2,000 people went to the Hall to demonstrate against him, without leadership or preparation. At this meeting in the Albert Hall, Mosley announced that the fascists were going to conduct the biggest political campaign England had ever seen, that they would organize in June a meeting in the Olympia, holding 50,000 people and another in one of the biggest stadiums, White City, holding 150,000.

At once the Communist Party issued a call to prepare to fight Mosley at the Olympia on June 6. That call was answered in a magnificent manner by the working class. In order to make a fight inside the Hall effective, the Party took measures to ensure a counter-demonstration. We were able to organize processions to the Olympia, and, as everyone now knows, that meeting marked a turning point in the development of fascism in Britain. Mosley was compelled to resort to unparalleled scenes of brutality and the effect of it was tremendous on the public opinion that had been neutral at first, but which now definitely came out against him. Then he had a series of meetings all over Britain where the workers turned out in thousands to demonstrate against him. At a meeting in Sheffield, 25,000 demonstrated outside the hall where he had his meeting, a demonstration such as had never been seen there before. There were similar scenes in Bristol, Newcastle, Swansea, etc., and all the time the Party endeavored to keep this anti-fascist feeling going.

The Labor Party came out very strongly with the demand for free speech for Mosley, and the government was compelled to organize a debate in the House of Commons on the question of the Olympian events. As a result of the debate, the government announced that it would hold a conference of the Liberal, Tory and Labor Parties to discuss the question of future political meetings and their conduct. This conference took place.

Mosley announced his intention to hold a mass demonstration in the East End of London on July 22. The C.P. called for a counter-demonstration, and it was clear, weeks before July 22, that Mosley would never be allowed to march down the East End. Our Party organized a demonstration on July 22 that was the biggest demonstration seen since the general strike in 1926. Then the proprietors of the big stadium at White City got the wind up and refused Mosley the use of the Stadium. Mosley announced he would hold his fascist demonstration in Hyde Park on September 9.

A meeting of Labor Party workers, comrades of the I.L.P., and trade unionists was called. Over 80, turned up at this meeting and the question was put: are we going to organize a counter-demonstration against Mosley on September 9? Everyone was unanimous and a number of Labor Party leaders, I.L.P. leaders and C.P. leaders then signed a joint manifesto, and we commenced the campaign for our counter-demonstration. We can say that without any doubt the Party carried through this demonstration, and although we drew in other people, all the practical and detailed work fell upon the C.P. So far as our experience is concerned, it was a model of the way a campaign should be carried out. The Party distributed over one million leaflets and resorted to forms of publicity which, whilst the demonstration took place in London, brought it right home to millions of workers all over England. Some of the forms of anti-fascist activity were as follows:

At a big classical concert in the West End of London, a concert was being broadcast, and a comrade was able to get to the microphone and issue antifascist slogans to call upon the workers to come to Hyde Park. At a big restaurant in London, where dance music was being broadcast, a comrade was able to get to the microphone and made a splendid appeal against the fascists which millions of people heard. Similar events took place in picture halls where music was being broadcast. Slogans were painted everywhere in London. It was impossible to go anywhere without meeting anti-fascist slogans and the call to Hyde Park.

The nearer we came to the actual day itself, the more the press became full of stories about “the Communist blood bath battle”, “The Communist provocation”. Every day the Labor leaders came out and told the workers not to go to Hyde Park. A big meeting was called, 1,500 workers attending, to discuss the question of who is right, the antifascists who say “Fight Mosley”, or the Labor Party which says “Stay Away”. This was really a splendid meeting. It was absolutely unanimous for the line of the anti-fascist struggle.

September 9, comrades, was a triumph. We have never, in our experience, witnessed such scenes and no one in London ever remembered such a demonstration in Hyde Park. It was not merely the fact that 150,000 people were in Hyde Park, that the Mosley demonstration was an absolute fiasco, but it was the fighting spirit of the workers, the discipline, the splendid anti-fascist banners they had made, and it was really a tremendous victory for our Party. It is interesting to quote the opinion of the Manchester Guardian because the Manchester Guardian for a week before had been saying our demonstration would be a fiasco and it was also calling upon the workers to stay away. This is what the Guardian had to say the day after the demonstration:

“The point for Sir Oswald Mosley to ponder over is that if this counter-demonstration, which outnumbered his by about 20 to 1, could be gathered from such a small party as the Communists, with large numbers of Londeners acting on their own initiative, on what scale would the opposition have been had it had the whole force of organized labor behind it.”

We have made tremendous use of that quotation because that was what the workers in Hyde Park were saying—that if we could do this acting against the Labor Party, with the Labor Party we could have brought a million workers to Hyde Park. One result of this demonstration is that at the Southport Labor Party Conference, a suggestion was made that they organize an anti-fascist demonstration on the same day in all the principal towns in England.

The Daily Herald stated that 500 Communists marched to Hyde Park, and such a scandalous write-up of the proceedings had a boomerang effect because never has the Daily Herald received so many thousands of protests from its readers.

The committee that was responsible for organizing this demonstration met the following day, and we came to the following conclusion so far as the weaknesses were concerned: that we had failed to draw in sufficient trade unions and the local Labor Parties, and that we were late in issuing a statement that the intention of the demonstration was not a demonstration of violence against Mosley, but a mass political demonstration of anti-fascist opinion. It is quite clear that if we had issued the line a week earlier, we could have brought another 50,000 workers with us that day.

It was decided to carry out the following next steps:

1. To assist the comrades in Manchester to organize a counter-demonstration against Mosley there. That was done, and the same success we had in London on the 9th, we had in Manchester on the 29th of September.

2. To prepare opposition to the Mosley demonstration in Albert Hall in October.

3. To organize an anti-fascist demonstration in Albert Hall in November.

4. To do everything in our power to get the local Trades Councils to call anti-fascist conferences which would include every section of the working class movement.

5. To make a special effort to influence the London Trades Council Conference on September 26.

6. To develop the anti-fascist trade union movements, that are springing up all over London, for instance, amongst the busmen, railwaymen and printers, there are now really strong anti-fascist movements.

7. To bring out a weekly anti-fascist paper; and finally, to prepare a memorandum as a basis of discussion by a number of leading people in the labor movement, to discuss the question of fascism, and to issue a call for a national anti-fascist congress either at the end of this year or the beginning of 1935.

All these steps have been taken in hand and already we can see some results coming in from the localities. The Bradford Trades Council is going to call an “all-in” united front conference, and the Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow Trades Councils all have this question on the agenda.

It will be interesting also to report the proceedings of the anti-fascist conference organized by the London Labor Party and Trades Council.

Immediately after the Olympia events, the London Labor leaders tried to canallize the anti-fascist opinion by promising to organize an anti-fascist conference, which took place on September 26. Only those would attend who were prepared to sign the constitution and policy of the Labor Party and Trade Union Congress. 1,220 delegates took part, 577 from trade unions, 502 from local Labor Parties and the League of Youth, and 141 from the Coop Guilds. We had 70 comrades there, but not one of our speakers got the floor. The chairman allowed no amendments, and, as he thought, carefully picked the speakers.

Nineteen speakers took the floor, 15 were against the resolution and against the platform. Of these 15, five were from Labor Parties, four from trade unions, five from the League of Youth and one from the Cooperatives. And in spite of the fact that Clynes, Morrison, Williams and Clay tried their very best to down this opposition, every opposition speaker had a great reception, and many of their speeches were models of the way the case ought to be put. Only the Socialist Democratic Federation supported the line of the platform and their speaker was Montague, who was a member of the Labor Government. Montague said this conference was alarming, that it showed how far the Communist poison had penetrated the London labor movement and that the time had come to stop the Labor Party speakers from making Communist speeches. That was as far as he got because the delegates did not allow him to finish.

When the resolution was put, over one-third of the delegates voted against it. We consider this as important as September 9. We proposed immediately the following steps: to invite the 15 opposition speakers to a meeting of the Coordinating Committee against fascism, to publish their speeches in pamphlet form, that the London District Party Committee and our local in London should immediately make a new approach to the local Labor Parties, that we should try to get four divisional conferences called in London by the Trades Councils, and that we should aim to get the trade union district committees all over the country to call special anti-fascist meetings of their members.

  *  *  *  

Now, comrades, some conclusions from this brief review. First it is absolutely clear to us in Britain that the main task is now to give leadership and organization to this wide, broad anti-fascist feeling. To bring in not only the working class but other sections of the population that are anti-fascist. To go ahead with this drive for local trades councils, to initiate united front conferences and demonstrations and also for the preparation of a national antifascist congress. We are confident that to this antifascist manifesto we can get signatures of people who really matter, of people who have mass influence. We must more effectively combine the fight against Mosley with the fight against the National Government, linking up our slogans of “Close Down Mosley’s Barracks”, and “suppress his fascist army” with the fight against the Sedition Bill and Section 2 of the Unemployment Act. We must do more convincing propaganda showing the responsibility of the Labor leaders for the development of fascism in their slogan of free speech for Mosley, in their support for more police influence. We must more effectively combine the fight against Mosley with the struggle against the advocacy of their slogans of “the sinister analogy between Communism and fascism” and above all, of their refusal to take part in the united front.

We believe it is necessary to maintain the greatest flexibility in the development of this movement, that there should be no talk of cards, membership dues, but let the movement develop and encourage it to develop and extend in every way possible, particularly in the localities and in the trade unions. To extend the work now of the coordinating committees to the whole of the country. We are convinced that along these lines we are going to make a decisive break, both in the trade unions and in the local Labor Parties, and therefore the connection now of our tactics in the elections with the leadership of this anti-fascist fight without any doubt at all gives our Party perspectives of coming into closer touch and of contact with reformist masses than we have had any time since the formation of the Party.

The Trade Union Congress

Some remarks about the recent Trade Union Congress at Weymouth. This took place in September and there can be no doubt that it was the most reactionary Congress since the end of the War. It is useful to remember that at the time the Congress met, over two million workers were demanding wage increases, and yet no time was spent at the Congress in discussing this vital question. The main discussions were carefully formulated in such a way as not to touch the basic issues for the workers of wages, hours and the general class struggle in England. Seven of our comrades were there and worked exceptionally well, despite the big obstacles, particularly in the debates on fascism and war, and were supported by a number of the delegates.

What are the main decisions of the Weymouth Congress? Refusal to formulate any common plan of action on the wages and hours questions; refusal to take any mass action against fascism in Britain; dropping of the general strike against war. Here, we must take note of the fact that there has been tremendous opposition throughout the labor movement to the proposal of dropping the general strike against war, and also to the proposal that the British labor movement should support its government in any war against an aggressor nation. We must also take note of the arguments used both by the Labor leaders at Weymouth and also at the Labor Party congress. What is their main argument now? It is this, that if it is right for the Soviet Union to build up a system of collective pacts and to agree to participate in action against an aggressor, then it is right for the British labor movement to follow such an illustrious example.

This is the line they put and this is the line that carried with the delegates at the Trade Union Congress. The Trade Union Congress rejected the united front and gave instructions to all local trades councils to find ways and means whereby they can prevent the Communist delegates coming from the trade union branches. The role of the bureaucracy was strong throughout the Congress.

It was also reported that there had been a special meeting of the General Council of-the Amsterdam International and proceedings of the General Council were reported to the Weymouth Congress as follows: on the question of war the Brussels resolution still stood and that it was necessary to do even some more hard thinking in this respect; that the best way to fight fascism was to revive the belief in parliamentary democracy; on the question of the united front, that no united front was possible until the Red unions have been dissolved and gone back to the reformist centers, and finally to make a serious effort to bring in the American Federation of Labor. To achieve that objective Citrine is going to America to open up negotiations.

What are the next steps the Party has to take in regard to the trade unions?

First of all, to improve the trade union work, and now compel every member eligible to belong to the trade union to get into the trade unions. Of course, this is not a new thing, in some districts we have made very good progress in this, particularly in South Wales, but in other districts such as in London and Scotland, our activity must be intensified.

We must bring about much better organization of our fractions in the unions, prepare a campaign for winning of elective posts in the coming trade union elections in December and January and for the next annual trade union congresses. We must develop and extend the existing rank-and-file movement among the busmen, railwaymen and miners, and extend it to other industries, especially the docks, seamen, metal and textile. We have to make clear the driving force for this work must be the Party fraction and individual members of the Party who work in the unions, and try to get a better form of coordination between the rank-and-file movements on a national scale, to extend the work in the busmen’s union, which is purely a London union, to other centers, and to begin at once to coordinate the activities of the miners’ rank-and-file movements that exist all over the country, to carry out a wide reporting campaign on the Weymouth Trade Union Congress, and to publish a pamphlet giving our opinions on that Congress.

Tom Mann has issued a memorandum on the trade union question. What does this memorandum propose? It proposes a common platform on the question of united action on wages, hours, workers’ democracy, united front against fascism and war, etc. It is a very simple, popular document and has been received with very big support all over the country, and we believe that we must win for support to this document lower trade union functionaries, and also the official endorsement of branches and district committees. We believe that this shall become the platform which can be put before all trade union conferences and should be popularized in preparation for the next Trade Union Congress. We believe it forges an opportunity for overcoming the decisions of the Weymouth Congress.

The commencing of the experiment of regular meetings of active trade unionists to discuss the existing situation, get suggestions, check up on the weaknesses of the campaign and in this way strengthen it as a whole must be continued, and, finally, we must again emphasize that the success of the campaign depends upon the activity of every member in the trade unions.

We can say without any hesitation at all that under the leadership of our Party in the last two months we have been responsible for taking thousands of non-unionists into the South Wales Miners’ Federation and the authority of the Party has gone up very strongly as a result. Comrade Horner plays a very big role now in South Wales and is in tremendous demand throughout the whole coal field.

But in London where the majority of the Party members are employed, only 50 per cent are in the trade unions. In Scotland it is even worse. In Scotland only 36 per cent of the Party members are in the trade unions. It is true that in Scotland we have the biggest proportion of unemployed membership of the Party. But still we will have to make a drive to get those to take out trade union membership cards.

Our Party’s influence was never as great as at the present time; there was never a bigger interest in all the Party says and puts forward than at present, and if we now make a correct combination of the united front tactics in regard to the fight against fascism and war and the tactics in the elections and the mobilization of the Party membership to recruit into and build up the Party, then I am confident that we will be able to make a very big advance in all fields of our work.