Harry Pollitt 1937

The Twentieth Anniversary and its Lessons for British Workers

Source: International Press Correspondence, Volume 17, no 47, special undated issue, 1937. Scanned, prepared and annotated for the Marxist Internet Archive by Paul Flewers.

Let the British working-class movement, on the occasion of this magnificent Twentieth Anniversary of the Russian Revolution, ponder well over its political lessons.

Twenty years – historically a short time, but what a wealth of self-sacrifice and gloriously successful effort has been crowded into this period by the workers and peasants of the Soviet Union.

This twenty years has not interpreted history – it has changed it.

Against the darkness and bestiality of fascism, against the inability of the capitalist class in the democratic countries to solve unemployment, against the world drive to war – the Soviet Union stands out as a lighthouse whose warm rays sweep round the whole world to guide the working class.

The Soviet Union proves that what the ruling class can never achieve the workers can.

Against the Nuremberg maniacs and war plotters, the Soviet Union stands out like a giant thwarting their plans and rallying round itself the support of all that is best in the forces of world democracy, peace and Socialism.

Against the foul treachery and wrecking of the counter-revolutionary Trotskyists, and the defeatism and doubts of waverers and capitulators, against spies and degenerates of all types, the Soviet government has triumphed, has conquered. Is it casual? Is it accidental? Is it because of ‘Terror organised by the Kremlin'? Of course not. The advance of the Soviet Union has been made possible because the policy of Lenin and Stalin and the Communist Party has been correct. It won the support of the masses. Experience has proved it.

In every other country in the world the workers are harassed, worried and cannot see clearly the end of the road. In the Soviet Union everything is different. Millions carry out their duty as conscious Socialist citizens, realising ever greater constructive victories.

What is the meaning of the difference? It is due to the fact that the workers and peasants supported the policy of the Communist Party, led by the mighty leaders Lenin and Stalin. And the Communist Party believed in the workers, inspired them with that spirit of self-sacrifice, initiative and energy which alone can accomplish great things.

The Communist Party also gave the workers knowledge and the consciousness in their own power to overcome difficulties – that unconquerable determination which neither capitalism nor reformism can ever inspire.

Thus the workers were able to survive the dark and bloody days of civil war; to beat back the enemy on eleven fronts; to beat them, though, like the Spanish people today, they fought with bare hands and sticks in tattered rags.

Communism reacted on the workers and peasants of the Soviet Union so that they ignored the doubters and faint-hearts in their own country; they smashed the Trotskyists and wiped out the counter-revolutionaries of all lands.

And today, proud millions of the Soviet Union surge into the centre of every Socialist city and village to celebrate the Twentieth Anniversary of the Russian Revolution. Millions of Socialist citizens will pledge themselves once more to defend their country and their Socialist conquests.

The Twentieth Anniversary of the Russian Revolution is an answer to the anxious questions of British people, now groping for release from the morass of poverty, the fear of reaction and war; the burning question – ‘Which way have we to go?’

The experience of the Soviet Union shows clearly that unity and revolutionary struggle alone can win power for the workers; the dictatorship of their own class and the destruction of their exploiters.

And along these lines the workers of the world must proceed – shunning all class cooperation and capitulation which leads directly to fascism.

Only thus can they secure in every country the undivided domination of the Socialist system of economy, the steady growth of their productive forces, the abolition of economic crises and unemployment. Only thus can they secure the right of work, rest, education and culture for all.

From every corner of the Soviet Union on this Twentieth Anniversary will go out greetings to the heroic Spanish and Chinese people now fighting the greatest struggle since 1917.

We may be sure, too, that in Spain and China today the people will be inspired by the fact that twenty years ago, against almost insuperable odds, the workers won that victory which we are confident our Spanish and Chinese comrades will also win.

From the Soviet Union will go forth that same urgent call for peace as Lenin sent twenty years ago. Today it will find a mighty response throughout the peace-loving forces of the whole world. The times we live in are serious, the outlook is grave. But the darker the night in Europe, the more brilliantly the star of the Soviet Union shines.

The longer the workers suffer under the yoke of capitalist oppression, the greater the longing with which they gaze towards the Soviet Union, where it has been shown that Socialism can be established.

Let us, therefore, celebrate this Twentieth Anniversary of the Russian Revolution by a solemn vow that never will we allow the mad dogs of fascism or the Tory reactionaries to attack the Soviet Union.

But let us also profit from the experiences of life by building up a powerful Communist Party in Britain, which can also lead the British workers to victory, and which in alliance with the Soviet Union could end for ever the menace of poverty, unemployment, oppression, fascism and war.

For the stronger the Communist Party, the stronger the whole labour movement, and the sooner will a united working class be able to transform the present relation of forces nationally and internationally and prepare the way for the defeat of the National Government. [1]

Soviet power will resuscitate industry in Britain, and put an end to unemployment by organising the work of all on a common plan for the needs of all.

Soviet power will destroy the toll of landlords and capitalists and bring abundance for all.

Soviet power will bring freedom for the people of Britain and for the colonial peoples.

Soviet power will conquer British imperialism, and the invincible unity of Soviet Britain with the Soviet Union and all peace-loving peoples will conquer war.

These are the thoughts which, on the occasion of the Twentieth Anniversary of the Russian Revolution, the Communist Party of Great Britain will endeavour to drive home to millions of the British workers.


All notes have been provided by the MIA.

1. Britain was governed by a series of National Governments from 1931 to 1945. The first emerged from the collapse of the Labour Government in August 1931 through a deep Cabinet division in respect of public expenditure cuts following the Wall Street Crash of 1929, with the former Labour Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald at its head, leading to his expulsion from the Labour Party. A general election was held in October 1931, and although the Conservatives won a resounding victory, MacDonald remained Prime Minister. MacDonald resigned in June 1935, and the Conservative leader Stanley Baldwin took over. The Conservatives won another victory in the general election of November 1935, Baldwin remained Prime Minister, and was replaced in May 1937 by Neville Chamberlain, who was himself replaced by Winston Churchill in May 1940.