Harry Pollitt 1938

Speeches to the Fifteenth CPGB Congress, September 1938

Source: For Peace and Plenty: Report of the Fifteenth Congress of the Communist Party of Great Britain, pp. 25-87 and 112-30. The congress was held in The Town Hall, Birmingham during 16-19 September 1938. The report was published in 1938 by the CPGB, 16 King Street, London WC1.;
Transcribed: by Paul Flewers. A small number of typographical errors have been corrected without notice.

I: Economic Security, Peace and Democracy: Report to the Fifteenth Congress of the Communist Party of Great Britain

The Fifteenth Congress of the Communist Party is being held in Birmingham as a challenge to the Chamberlain [1] government which is betraying the national interests of the British people, no less than it is betraying the interests of world peace.

Its pro-Fascist policy is a step towards an attack on their democratic rights. The small clique of monopoly capitalists who dominate their destiny and the destiny of the Empire wish to create a state of affairs similar to that in Germany because they see in the labour movement a hindrance to the free development of their class interests.

The National Government [2] is also injuring the mass of the people by pursuing a policy which is leading towards a new economic crisis and a further reduction in the standard of living; and, also linked up with this, its persistent surrender of strategic positions to Hitler and Mussolini and its sabotage of collective security, encourages Germany and Italy in their preparations for a future war against us.

Every British man and woman who treasures the prestige of Britain and the liberties of our people, and does not wish to see them sacrificed to the selfish interests of the treacherous, unpatriotic gang of monopoly capitalists, must immediately take united action to change the position now.

Chamberlain has not been able to carry through his policy entirely without opposition from his own ranks. The historic political parties – Tory and Liberal – have suffered severe shocks, and had there been unity among the masses against him, the government could have been defeated. The resignation of Eden, [3] the betrayal of Austria, the Official Secrets Act – all produced critical situations, and it is a very serious fact that lack of united leadership prevented the democratic forces in Britain from seizing the opportunity to win power.

Our congress has one supreme aim – to formulate a policy that will help the labour movement, and all progressive people who realise the serious consequences of the economic crisis, the threat of war and the peril that faces democracy, to combine in one common effort to overthrow the National Government.

How different would the world be today if we could boast a government really eager to alleviate the miseries of the poor, to prevent unemployment, and to defend democracy and peace from the onslaughts of the Fascist dictators? How much easier would life be in Europe if our government supported the democratic powers?

How is it possible for the people of Britain who claim to be the inheritors of a great tradition of democracy and culture, who remember their brave history of struggle for freedom, to sit quietly at home and read of the horrors in the world today without rising up in fury against the Chamberlain government? Picture the mothers of Barcelona and Tortosa, Nanking and Canton, witnessing sights that eyes were never meant to see; think of the anxieties of the people of Czechoslovakia. Think of the worry of our people in the Distressed Areas. [4]

Working men and women, liberal-minded citizens, intellectuals, whoever you are, our congress appeals to you. If you have hearts that beat, minds that think, unite now and fight to change the policy of Britain.

Reason must prevail in Britain. Let this thought burn into the innermost consciousness of us all.

Our congress is not the private affair of the Communists, but of all that is best in the British people.

The release of Britain from the chains of Chamberlain is not only the concern of the British people, but of the whole of progressive and cultural mankind.

II: The Situation in Britain

The Economic Crisis: In 1931 the National Government came to power to cure the economic crisis. This all-party government, we were told, would solve the economic troubles then facing Britain, and would lead us to a new era of plenty and prosperity.

It is well to remember this deceitful boast when we look round at the economic position of Britain today.

The economic crisis, the first signs of which could be seen last year in the United States and the Colonies, has now reached Britain and in our opinion will grow more severe in the coming months. The number of unemployed in July was half-a-million more than a year ago; in the second quarter of this year industrial production fell by 11 per cent, as compared with the first quarter; exports in the first six months of this year were £18,000,000 below the same period of 1937. The index of retail trade in Britain shows a sharp decline. British exports are less than two-thirds of the 1929 level.

The Colonies producing foodstuffs and raw materials are already in the grip of the crisis. The movements of the masses in Trinidad, Jamaica and British Guiana are only the reflection of poverty and economic pressure spreading through the countries of the Empire.

The National Government’s economic policy at home has also hastened the development of crisis.

The Marketing Boards and Quota Schemes which it operates in many commodities are designed to force up prices for the benefit of the big middlemen. Its manipulation of tariffs is used to foster monopolies.

By its policy of high rents – revealed in the New Rent Act; by its vicious attacks on the unemployed through the Means Test and UAB Scales; [5] by its attempt to introduce dilution [6] and break down the standards of the engineers as an incentive to private employers, to attack wages and conditions in other industries; by all these, the National Government is both causing the slump by cutting down the purchasing power of the people, and throwing the whole burden on the poor whilst the rich escape scot-free.

The government is placing increasing financial difficulties in the way of local authorities embarking on social works; it is launching a fresh campaign to economise on social services, and as Chamberlain frankly declared at Kettering, it is deliberately preventing all schemes of agricultural development.

The government that has sabotaged collective security; that has aided and abetted the war-makers; has by these very acts reduced and partially destroyed the markets on which many British factories have depended in the past.

The Social Effects of the Crisis: What are the present effects of all this on the workers and their families?

In the twentieth century, in the year 1938, the conditions of the people in Britain, worked out by competent social investigators, are literally appalling.

Mr Rowntree, in his book The Human Needs of Labour, [7] works out a budget for a family with three children, which provides what he declares as a rock-bottom minimum ‘below which no class of worker should be forced to live’. It demands a weekly income of £2 13s per week. [8]

This is confirmed when you realise that it makes no allowance for recreation, education, fresh milk and butter or special requirements of nursing mothers or the sick.

According to the economist, Mr Kuczynski, in his book Hunger and Work, [9] ten million men, women and children of the working class are existing on incomes below the Rowntree minimum. All agricultural workers, four coal-miners out of five, half the builders and textile workers, one out of every four railwaymen, bring home to their families each week wages which fall below this minimum subsistence income.

It must be obvious to anyone that such an appalling picture of poverty and semi-starvation will produce its inevitable results in malnutrition, disease and death.

The effects of the economic crisis and of the attacks of monopoly capitalism are also felt by many people, outside those directly organised in the labour movement, who are faced with the problems of the high cost of living, dear rents, bad housing, difficulty of making ends meet; anxieties about the education of children and their future employment; competition and rationalisation amongst black-coated workers; the worries of small farmers, shopkeepers and business men, through the squeezing robbery and domination of the big combines.

Where the Money Goes: Meantime, how do the rich live?

I have before me a table showing the colossal profits of the big firms.

FirmNet Profit – £Ordinary Dividend – %
Guest, Keen & Nettlefold1,075,4677.5
Shell Transport & Trading6,616,48920.0
Morris Motors1,292,17945.0
Lever Bros & Unilever7,116,52910.0
J Lyons1,011,00022.5
Woolworths Ltd6,781,20260.0
Handley Page210,12620.0
Bristol Aeroplane344,57925.0
Ranks (Millers)667,85318.0
United Dairies630,43212.5

Where the Money Comes From? Where does it all come from? From the bowed backs and aching muscles of the working class.

Output per worker employed has risen far faster than his wages, but profits have risen faster still. Thus, in coal, an average miner who in 1933 hewed 57 cwts, [10] in 1938 is hewing 61.25 cwts of coal. In 1935 he earned 9s 2d per shift and today he earns 11s 2d, but this rise is almost swamped by a 16 per cent rise in the cost of living over the same period. Meanwhile the profits netted by the coal-owners rose nine times.

Average Increase in Physical Output in Industry and Agriculture, 1930-35 – %
Public Utilities and Government Departments27
Mines and Quarries31
Average for all20

Every railwayman employed in 1933 earned a profit of £44 for his employers. Last year, this rose to £63. Every shipbuilder made £7 profit for his employer in 1933. In 1937 he made £97. In every industry the same tale can be told. His wage gains have been nullified by rising food prices. The surplus value drawn from his labour and profits have risen at a remarkable pace.

Chamberlain Attacks Democracy: In addition to its inroads on social services and working-class conditions, the National Government has made drastic attacks on the hard-won liberties of the workers.

There have been a series of legislative Acts, such as the Incitement to Disaffection Act, [11] aimed seriously to curtail the liberty of the people.

The kite recently flown by Sir Philip Game [12] to prohibit all future processions in the central London area, was not without the knowledge of Chamberlain.

The recent scandals associated with the Official Secrets Act in the Sandys [13] case have a deep political significance.

We must be on our guard. But while we jealously preserve our democratic rights here and work for the repeal of all legislation directed against the working class, we must not forget the people in the rest of the Empire struggling for such liberties as we already enjoy and for their right to determine their own destiny.

Chamberlain and Defence: The pro-Fascist policy of the government demonstrates the hypocrisy of Chamberlain’s claim that the present rearmament is intended to defend Britain and its democratic institutions.

We are perfectly willing to support any measures necessary to defend Britain from Fascism, either from British or foreign sources.

But we are ruled today by a government which prepares the way for the advance of Fascism in Britain, and supports Fascist aggression abroad.

A necessary part of the defence of the British people is the changing of such a policy immediately, and the replacement of such a government by one pledged to defend our democratic rights and liberties at home, and to secure them for the people in all parts of the Empire, and to collective security on the basis of honest and sincere cooperation with all other peace-loving peoples and nations.

The question of defence is not only a question of guns. It is also a question of who controls them. The democratisation of the armed forces is essential to any successful defence of democracy.

The Fifth Column in Spain, the revolt of the generals and officers, the Hooded Men in France, [14] provide a warning of the dangers of the class and caste system that also prevails in the armed forces in Britain.

Recently Spain has proved what the defence forces of the Soviet Union had proved already, and that is that the best leaders in the armed forces come from the working class. And if there were free and open examinations for positions as officers in the forces in Britain, the working-class soldiers would walk away with them.

This is why we hope the Labour Party will proceed at once with its Report on Democracy in the Armed Forces, so that public attention can be focused on a very urgent problem.

The Air-Raid Precautions are entirely of a class character. They are not designed for the protection of the mass of the people.

The devastating exposure of the government’s Air-Raid Precautions, by the eminent authority Professor JBS Haldane, [15] ought to rouse the whole country, while there is yet time, to force the Haldane proposals to be adopted.

We will give our support to these proposals and also to the Left Book Club [16] campaign to get them popularised.

Professor Haldane’s plan is in two parts, and in view of their importance, we will give the congress a summary, so that our party can also take full part in the fight for their adoption.

Summary of Professor Haldane’s Recommendations:

A1. A Ministry of Civilian Defence to be formed.

A2. Air-Raid Precautions personnel to be appointed democratically, including evacuation wardens where needed.

A3. Landlords to provide materials for covering lights with government assistance. Showing of lights to be made a crime. Full lighting regulations for vehicles to be made.

A4. Gas protection for babies to be provided at once.

A5. Civilians to receive instructions in use of respirators in tear-gas chambers. After respirator stores are completed, respirators to be issued in most vulnerable areas, so that a respirator is available for each citizen both at home and in the store.

A6. An expert committee to investigate existing respirators.

A7. Steel helmets for wardens, and allowances during period when they are training their neighbours.

A8. Increase in fire brigades and rescue squads. Landlords to provide fire-fighting apparatus in houses.

A9. Trenches to be dug in open spaces, as a temporary measure.

A10. Compulsory powers of billeting in steel-frame buildings in crowded areas.

A11. Underground railways to be made flood-proof and gas-proof.

A12. Compulsory billeting of refugees in country, and preparation of small camps.

A13. Schoolchildren to be evacuated under teachers, others under special evacuation wardens.

A14. Evacuation schemes to include use of roads as alternative to railways. Private vehicles to be controlled.

A15. Road exits from towns to be widened.

A16. Food stores to be accumulated in country for refugees.

A17. Negotiations to be opened for evacuation to the Free State and Northern Ireland.

A18. Peers to be created if Lords obstruct.

A19. Labour movement to be mobilised behind the scheme.

B1. Survey of subsoil in vulnerable towns.

B2. Immediate report by engineers on bomb-proof shelters.

B3. A loan or levy to be raised for shelters.

B4. Tunnels to be made under London and other cities 60 feet below ground. No person should be more than 200 yards from nearest entrance in crowded areas, or 400 yards where houses are scattered.

B5. Till gas filters are available air to be taken in through tall pipes.

B6. Where tunnels are impossible, concrete shelters nearer the surface to be built.

B7. Where this is impossible wholesale evacuation to be arranged.

B8. As tunnels in Eastern Britain are completed, similar shelters to be made in the West.

B9. Camps for school-children, to be used in peace-time, to be built, each provided with a bombproof shelter.

B10. Evacuation schemes for children to be remodelled so as to give full protection during evacuation.

B11. Special provision to be made for getting the sick and infirm also art treasures into shelters rapidly.

B12. National food stores on a large scale to be provided against danger of blockade.

B13. British bombers to be scrapped and international conference called to discuss complete prohibition of bombers.

B14. If this is unsuccessful, the scheme to be continued till every village has bomb-proof shelters for all, or means for instant evacuation.

III: Foreign Policy of National Government

Millions of people all over the world wonder how it comes about that Britain, which boasts of being the oldest democracy in the world, now gives active support to any effort of Fascism to destroy democracy in Europe.

The Chamberlain government represents the dominant group of the most powerful and reactionary capitalist class. Its goal is the complete dominance of monopoly capital, the protection of millionaire employers and landlords. In order to achieve this purpose, it aims to bind the working class in the same way as they are bound by the Fascists in Germany, Italy and Japan.

The monopolist capitalists have a natural affinity with Franco, Hitler, Mussolini and the Mikado, and seek to help them in every possible way to strengthen their power at the expense of other nations.

It is this deliberate policy of the ruling group in Britain which, in pursuance of its aim to destroy democracy, is betraying the interests of the British people, surrendering strategic positions to the Fascist states, and lowering Britain’s prestige in the eyes of the peoples of the world.

This, and not any fear of Italy and Germany, is the real reason why Chamberlain protects the Fascist invasion of Spain, allows the murder of British seamen, the sinking of British ships, and the seizure of Austria.

Let no one be deceived by the Chamberlain – Hitler manoeuvres.

In face of the overwhelming demand of the British people that a stand must be made against Hitler’s aggression, and the fact that France, the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia had already made plain that they would meet any aggression with united resistance, Chamberlain was compelled to pass the warning to Hitler that the time was not yet ripe to march.

But the government which refused to support the French proposals on behalf of Austria; the government, which sent its agent to intervene in Czechoslovakia on behalf of Hitler, has not changed its spots. It is merely waiting for a more favourable moment, when the vigilance of the people has been lulled, and its hopes of detaching France from her allies have succeeded. When that moment arrives, Chamberlain will inform Hitler that he can strike.

Again it is Chamberlain’s pro-Fascist attitude that has prompted him to sabotage the League of Nations.

Ultimately the National Government hopes to see the combined Fascist advance turned against the Soviet Union, where they watch with dread the triumph of Socialism. This lies behind its project of the Four-Power Pact or reactionary imperialist bloc against the Soviet Union, in preference to a democratic peace bloc, and its willingness to suffer many insults and sacrifice of immediate policy.

But where does Chamberlain’s policy really lead? He claims that it ensures peace, ‘that it keeps Britain out of war’. Never was there a greater lie. And this great lie must be exposed.

The seven years’ record of the National Government shows a steady assistance to the growth of Fascist economic and military power, and an expansion of war all over the world, until now war involves one-fourth of the human race.

Chamberlain, like Baldwin before him, deliberately lies to the British people about the tempestuous rate of Germany’s war preparations. He refuses to disclose what he knows of Hitler’s strategical plans against France, and about which the Nazis in their military journals speak openly.

Chamberlain is leading Britain into war.

How long can Britain, turning its back on the peace bloc, hope to escape being drawn into a conflagration? She is already visibly in danger.

The time-honoured slogan – ‘United we stand, divided we fall’ – has a new significance, when we see what has happened and what is threatening. But we know also that the nations who want peace possess the resources with which to defend it, without the need to drop a bomb or fire a bullet, if those resources could be pooled, and the Fascist bullies made to understand that we will, if necessary, defend our liberty and culture.

Unless a united, organised mass movement can force changes now in the policy of the Chamberlain government, then Britain will be isolated in her own hour of need.

The honour of Britain is at stake. Do we want to lose the love and respect of people of all countries? Our finest traditions are besmirched. Who can forget what Byron [17] stood for in the fight for Greek independence? Think of the countless examples of the solidarity of our people in struggles against oppression and tyranny, the Jolly George [18] ship of 1920. We cannot allow the Chamberlain government to be looked upon as representative of the British people. For it has betrayed our past, as it will more cruelly and decisively betray us unless we defeat them.

The real Britain is the Britain that has sent food, money and medical supplies to Spain and China.

The real Britain is represented by the heroes in Spain – the immortal British Battalion. They carry forward the traditions of the past, they, and they alone, have redeemed the honour of the British people.

We shall prove worthy of them and for what they have fought, if we work now as never before to secure arms and food for Republican Spain; material aid for China; guaranteeing the independence and integrity of Czechoslovakia; for an honest policy of collective security, and cooperation in a Peace Bloc with our Dominions, France and the Soviet Union, the USA and all other democratic states.

This is our peace policy. We reject the inevitability of war.

We refuse to speculate on this or that tactic if war breaks out.

We know if our policy is adopted, peace can be made secure and Fascist aggression brought to an end.

It is a shameless lie that those who stand for collective security are jingoes and want war.

The biggest opponents of collective security are precisely the Fascist states and the National Government.

Those who refuse to attack Chamberlain; those who want to sacrifice the Czech people to the Fascist tigers, as Abyssinia and Spain are being sacrificed, are not only traitors to peace and humanity now, but are strengthening the economic and military basis of Fascism to attack the British people in the future.

War cannot be localised. Peace is indivisible. Capitulation in Manchuria and Abyssinia did not satisfy the Fascist beasts.

Stabbing the Chinese and Spanish people in the back does not satisfy them. Imposing infamous concessions on Czechoslovakia does not satisfy them. It encourages them. It betrays the Soviet Union. It will ultimately betray Britain.

Our peace policy will save Spain, China and Czechoslovakia and the peace of the world.

Rally millions to its support and end the dominance of the Chamberlain gang who sacrifice other people today as surely as they will betray the people of Britain tomorrow unless we end their alliance with Fascism and in its place make one with the democratic nations and muzzle the beasts of Fascism.

Herbert Morrison [19] should not lose his temper and political judgement when the masses criticise the Labour leaders for not placing themselves at the head of such a campaign.

This is no time for waiting to see the way the tiger jumps.

This is the moment to ensure that the people assert themselves and make it impossible for the tiger to jump at all.

If Hitler is the ‘misunderstood’ person that Chamberlain, Citrine [20] and Lansbury [21] would have us believe, let him call off his present armed mobilisation, let Germany enter the League of Nations, let the Fascists withdraw their forces from Spain.

Let them call off the Nazi Murder Campaign in Czechoslovakia.

Meantime let Labour lead a real fight for peace and not for collaboration with Chamberlain who is the enemy of labour, of peace, and of democracy.

The Midlands is sometimes called the ‘Black Country’. That is because of Chamberlainism. [22]

Let us avoid all Britain being black in the eyes of the world.

IV: Whom the National Government Represents

The National Government is not only a rich man’s government, it is a government of rich men. It not only acts for, but consists of leading sections of the ruling class.

Chamberlain himself has sprung from a rapacious family of Birmingham capitalists – a section of the ruling class that rivals even the Durham mine-owners in its aggressive and reckless search for profits.

Yet when it serves his Fascist masters, he talks with mock shame of the wicked capitalists who make money by sending food ships to Spain. And as head of the government which is responsible for the arms programme, the biggest profiteering ramp in history, impudently holds up his hands in horror at the idea of protecting such ‘profiteering’.

How closely his personal economic background and his political policy correspond is shown by his opposition to the Rent Restrictions Act; by his behaviour in 1926, when as Minister of Health he attacked local authorities that were paying relatively high scales of relief by means of the Board of Guardians (Default) Act. In 1929, he introduced the Derating Act which relieved industry and business of three-quarters of their rates and has thus increased the burden on the working classes – through rent and rate increases – and the small tradesmen and professional men. In 1932 he introduced the economy budget.

Lord Stanley, Dominions Secretary, and his brother Oliver Stanley, President of the Board of Trade, are sons of Earl Derby who owns 62,000 acres of Lancashire land. Oliver Stanley is a son-in-law of the notorious Lord Londonderry – the man who saved the bombing plane at the Disarmament Conference – one of Britain’s biggest royalty and coal-owners. [23]

Lord Halifax is a member of the Wood family, large Yorkshire landowners. Earl Winterton and his uncle own 28,000 acres of land. Earl Plymouth, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Chairman of the Non-Intervention Committee, and his father-in-law, own 92,600 acres. [24]

Sir Samuel Hoare is connected with the banking firm of Barnetts, Hoare & Co. Sir Philip Sassoon, grandson of Baron Gustave de Rothschild, of the famous banking family, was a director of his family firm of David Sassoon & Co, Ltd, Indian Merchants. Lord Hailsham worked for his family firm of Hogg, Curtiss, Campbell & Co, West Indian Sugar Merchants. Hore-Belisha is a son of JI Belisha, head of the stockbroking firm of Belisha & Co. [25]

The Duke of Devonshire, Under-Secretary for the Dominions, [26] recently inherited 186,000 acres and minerals in Derbyshire from his father, who, by subtle financial methods, so arranged things that the estate was able to dodge paying death duties for which they should rightly have been liable.

Lord Runciman [27] is a big ship-owner. The fortunes of this family were greatly increased in the postwar shipping boom and slump. In 1919 his father, who controlled the Moor Line Co, sold its vessels to another company for £22 per ton. On the strength of this deal, the Moor Line Co was wound up, the shareholders – mainly the Runciman family – getting £15 for every £1 share held.

We do not sufficiently realise that we live in an age when the wealth of the community is held by a small gang of monopolists. The high point of the control is exercised by the controllers of finance. Sir Josiah Stamp, [28] for instance, who ‘teas’ with Hitler while Hitler’s armies move, is on the Bank of England Directorate, on the LMS Railway and the biggest building society in the country. There are twenty or thirty of this calibre. They control the big trusts, often organised by the big banks, which stand right across the production and trade of the Empire and of our land.

The big landlords, themselves again often in league with this small group, complete the strangulation.

Some of these families are old, and their fortunes are based on the plunder of the Conquest [29] or Reformation; some date from the Industrial Revolution and imperial expansion. Other families are new and acquired their fortunes during the war years. Others are importations from America, like the Astors who dominate the Cliveden Set. [30]

These are the people who control our press, our milk, our tin, our steel, and every other produce we use. They keep us off our own land and countryside. They get the rent that keeps food from our children’s mouths. They are the people who intrigue with Fascism, who attack trade unionism.

They profit from the rising profits of a boom and secure themselves in a slump by throwing the poverty on everybody else. They hold up production, they waste food, they profiteer in armaments production. They are the arbiters of fashion, the personnel of the upper civil service, company directors and the Church.

We have outgrown these families as Russia outgrew the Tsar or France outgrew her feudal lords. Their degeneracy is shown in their pro-Fascist policy, their divisions, their treachery, their leader Chamberlain.

The people of Britain have crushed monopolists before. We can break again these families who rule by plunder for plunder, by force and war, and who strangle the productive and mental development of half the world.

V: A Programme of Advance

How can we best fight the whole policy of the National Government and monopoly capitalism?

The main responsibility for this falls upon the labour movement. Unfortunately, it is passive, confused and disunited at the moment when it needs to be active, clear and united.

Why is this?

Because the right-wing Labour leadership seek cooperation with Chamberlain, and adopt a policy which keeps the labour movement divided and weak.

It is necessary to end this state of affairs. The labour movement must be transformed if the needs of millions are to be satisfied. That is why the Communist Party has carried out its struggle for unity; why we say ‘Away with passivity and collaboration with the millionaires. Forward to a policy of working-class unity and struggle!’

That is why the Communist Party urges a common drive inside the factories and trade unions in the first place, so that the organised workers can lead the fight for their immediate needs.

We must gain unity in action now to secure changes in the policy of the government immediately. We must prepare now for the November municipal elections, so that the Tory drive for new economies at the expense of the workers can be defeated, and the mass movement against the government as a whole be helped forward.

The chief places from which such a movement can be effectively organised are the factories and the trade unions. The more such a movement develops, the greater will be its force of appeal and attraction to other sections of the population who are opposed to Chamberlain’s policy.

Wherever unity in action has been organised, there the workers advance and win victories. Take, for example, Harworth. What a magnificent struggle that was! Ten years after the employers had set up their company union and the miners had been defeated in their struggles of 1926, the united action of the miners – and also, do not forget it, their wives – of Harworth, focused the attention of all on this burning question of trade unionism. [31]

Step by step the action spread, until the Miners Federation of Great Britain were prepared to throw their whole force behind the Notts colliers. And the employers and the police did their utmost to crush the spirit and militancy of the trade union. Today we welcome Mick Kane in our midst, released last month from prison, and now become more than ever a symbol around which trade unionism in Nottingham will grow.

United action can win municipal elections. Take, for example, the London County Council elections, where in constituency after constituency everyone admitted that it was only the united forces of the working class, with the Communists playing their part, which won the victories achieved.

Take again the example of the rents strike in Quinn Square last month – 264 tenants stood together and forced the landlords to grant their demands. [32] Every party was represented; every individual, organised and unorganised. It gave an example to tenants’ associations and residents’ associations throughout the whole country.

United action has helped Spain and China. United action received its highest and noblest expression in the International Brigade.

United action is the supreme need of the moment.

Let us start to organise it now, and campaign so that it is carried out by a united labour movement. It could achieve its purpose, at the same time as it would recruit new members to the whole labour movement.

In the first place, the organised and unorganised workers can strike a heavy blow against the economic crisis by not only standing firm against wage cuts – which have already begun – but by making a definite forward movement for higher wages for all who are below the subsistence level; especially in regard to women and juveniles and the lower-paid sections generally.

To raise wages and protect existing rates means increasing purchasing power, and makes things easier for the shopkeepers and the farmers.

The immediate raising of the school-leaving age to 16, with maintenance grants, is another long-overdue measure which the crisis makes more urgent.

We must campaign for lower prices and rents, for the lightening of the burdens on small incomes, and stop tax evasions by the rich.

We should force the abolition of the Means Test and insist on real help to the depressed areas, and the carrying out of large-scale schemes of building – houses, schools, hospitals, playing-fields, welfare clinics, maternity clinics – and other constructive works of social value to the health and well-being of the people.

In no sphere is organised advance and assistance more urgent than in agriculture and fishing, which are now being deliberately held back. We must insist on state help being given to the actual producers instead of the middlemen and monopolists; raise the level of production and give more employment and better conditions in these industries.

We must organise our campaign by means of factory-gate meetings, mass demonstrations, local conferences and a great national united labour conference, mobilising every speaker, writer and artist in the movement.

It is because of our knowledge that this programme is what the workers want and demand in order to change entirely the present situation of passivity, that we of the Communist Party express our burning desire for working-class unity. For this purpose we declare our readiness to affiliate to the Labour Party, loyally accepting its constitution and expecting no special privileges.

When we make this declaration, surely every class-conscious member of the Labour Party will ask himself why a group of right-wing leaders prevent this accession of strength, and what reason of principle can be brought forward against the immediate admission of the Communist Party to take their place in the ranks of the fighters against Chamberlain?

We do not wish to make affiliation a definite condition of our joint working with Labour organisations now. Now, immediately, we will cooperate to the fullest extent of our strength, activity and enthusiasm, with all Labour campaigns that endeavour to organise and lead the mass movement.

The basis for this cooperation already exists in the factories, trade unions, cooperatives and localities. Nothing should be allowed to stand in the way of it being realised in action.

It cannot be obtained without a strenuous explanatory campaign amongst the Labour Party workers, exposing the shameful policy of the right-wing leaders who, in fact, support the policy of Chamberlain and seek in the interests of the reactionary ruling class to hinder the coming together of the working-class movement and the democratic masses of the people.

The main criterion of any success of the Communist Party is how far it is in a position, supporting itself upon a movement of the masses, to influence decisively the policy of the British labour movement in the direction of the improvement of the standard of life of the workers, and the development of the struggle of the British people against reaction and Fascism through the unity of all democratic anti-Fascist forces in the country, even when such leaders as Citrine, Bevin, [33] Dalton [34] and Middleton [35] remain at the head of the labour movement.

If the Communist Party succeeds in bringing about a united workers’ movement and its unity with all democratic forces, it will be able to isolate any reactionary labour leaders who serve, not the labour movement, but capitalism.

Trade-Union Unity: The great tasks standing before the workers of Britain cannot be fulfilled without the strengthening and reorganisation of the trade-union movement.

Our congress must insist that the whole party should carry through a sustained drive for trade-union unity in Britain, because of the new situation and problems. Can any thoughtful trade unionist be blind to the seriousness of these problems, such as trainees, the conflict between the craft and general labour unions in the armaments industries, the problem of youth and women labour, the low wages and high rate of exploitation?

Is it not a fact that Chamberlain skilfully foments the existing divisions between the trade unions in the armament industry? It is time to get a move on, to revive the types of campaigns for increased activity in the factories and trade unions that were seen before, during and after the War. It is in the factories and trade unions where the decisive forces of the labour movement are, and which must form the steel core of any forward drive.

The Communist Party must set an example in its ceaseless work to bring about 100 per cent trade unionism, and for all trade unionists paying the political levy; for recognised elected shop stewards, factory committees; for an active militant trade-union branch life; for the creation of more effective working-class unity through the amalgamation of trade unions in kindred trades on the lines of ‘One Union for the Industry’.

The development of speedier methods of material aid between the trade unions, so that the strong unions can help the weaker unions, the skilled workers help the unskilled, the organised help the unorganised and recruit them into the trade unions.

The fulfilment of these aims demands not occasional and sporadic efforts on the part of local trades councils and district committees, but the wholehearted cooperation and leadership of the executive committees of the trades unions and the General Council of the Trades Union Congress, in well-thought-out organised campaigns directed in the first place to the most important industries.

The trade union movement of Britain is the oldest and has been one of the best organised in the world. It has a record of struggle second to none. Its example has spread all over the world. Our trade union movement would be a thousand times stronger if it were united and better organised. We are proud of it, and prouder still that one of the pioneers and founders of the movement is a leader of the Communist Party – our Comrade Tom Mann. [36] If the Trades Union Congress would call on Tom Mann and Mick Kane now to lead, under their auspices, a great campaign for trade-union recruitment and unity, what a response there would be!

Here let me emphasise how necessary it is to carry out much more sustained activity amongst the unemployed. They are a forgotten army today, and their ranks are growing. There is need for the closest unity of the unemployed and the employed. It is the duty of the labour movement, and especially the Trades Union Congress and trades councils, to give a new lead in this direction. To bring the NUWM [37] and the local unemployed associations together. To unify and coordinate their present activities, and to make a great drive for the organisation of the unemployed alongside the trade-union movement.

We are sure that our comrades in the NUWM, which has such a great and proud record in leading the struggles of the unemployed, are more than ready for such a movement. The Communist Party must itself set the example now of making the fight against unemployment and the organisation of the unemployed one of its principle concerns.

International Trade-Union Unity: Was it not shameful when it became known throughout Europe, that the delegation from the British trades-union movement to the Oslo Conference of the International Federation of Trade Unions, had supported the reactionary section of that conference in breaking off negotiations with the Soviet trade unions for the establishment of international trade-union unity?

There can be no really effective international trade-union movement unless the Soviet unions are part of it.

If you demand collective security of all the nations who desire peace, and recognise that the strongest bulwark in such a combination is the Soviet Union, how can you leave the Soviet trade unions out of any really seriously effective trade-union international?

It was alleged that the Soviet trade unions want to dictate the conditions on their coming into the IFTU. They do not. They do want, and this is in the interests of every trade unionist in the world – to ensure that the IFTU shall be a fighting organisation in the interests of the masses. That is all.

When the trade unionists of France, Spain, Czechoslovakia and Mexico demand the admission of the Soviet trade unions into the IFTU, it is a slur on our trade-union movement that a Knight of the British Empire [38] should be the means of preventing this by his alliance with Chamberlain, and the heir to the late notorious Samuel Gompers – Matthew Woll of the American Federation of Labour. [39]

The Trades Union Congress at Blackpool failed in its duty when it refused to condemn the British delegation at Oslo for voting for the breaking off of negotiations with the Soviet trade unions, a vote that was a direct violation of the decisions of the Trades Union Congress, and even the instructions of the General Council.

We note, however, that the Blackpool Congress passed a resolution on international trade-union unity to which it is necessary to draw attention:

This congress expresses its regret at the absence of any satisfactory result of the negotiations between the IFTU and the Russian trade-union movement, reaffirms the desire and policy of the British trade-union movement to establish complete unity and common action by trade-union organisations in all countries, and asks the General Council to continue their efforts to achieve this object.

This resolution represents the opinion of the overwhelming majority of British trade unionists. It has been passed to be acted upon, and not shelved.

It does not ask the British trade unions to be governed in their attitude to international trade-union unity by what the reactionaries in the American Federation of Labour or in the unions in the small states of Europe think. The British trade-union movement, resuming its place as the pioneer of international trade-union unity, will see that this resolution is implemented in the shortest possible time.

VI: A People’s Movement Against Chamberlain

A successful struggle against Chamberlain demands the cooperation of all sections of the people, and of all organisations that are alarmed and discontented with his policy.

The situation creates a common anxiety and raises common tasks.

Let us look at the people of Britain. There are 12 million workers engaged in the leading productive and transport organisations. Five millions of them are organised. Many millions of the remainder are young workers. Many of them are women workers. These two sections are holding increasingly important jobs in the new industrial processes. How are we to capture the imaginations of these people, not only for trade-union organisation, but for sustained interest and a hope in a leadership other than the negative dead oppressive bullying of the boss and of Chamberlain? They live in new housing estates, work in new factories, uprooted from the tradition of the labour and trade-union movement. The leadership of a Peoples’ Movement would swing them into action and arouse their interest, and, as was found in France, rally them to the labour movement.

What is holding them back? The feeling that these organisations are just as dead and unresponsive to their needs as Chamberlain and his gang. They may not at the moment subscribe to Socialism; but they want economic security, peace and democracy.

Of course these are the predominant people in Britain. They represent perhaps 30 million souls, including the children who themselves are being held back and restricted by Chamberlain’s ‘Economy’ measures.

In the agricultural community, there is an astonishing lack of effective political or industrial organisations or leadership for the protection of the agricultural workers, small farmers and smallholders against the big vested interests which so mercilessly exploit them.

We have also in Britain 11 million belonging to the professional and middle-class sections of the population, ranging from doctors to advertising agents; from clerks to teachers; from artists, writers, to small shopkeepers and businessmen. All of them are concerned at the effects of the economic crisis, at Fascism, at the menace of war, and at the lack of opportunity and advancement open to them at the present time. Many of these sections for the first time are becoming organised or demanding the right of organisation.

There is a growing disillusionment inside the Tory and Liberal Parties at the present results and future consequences of Chamberlain’s policy.

Inside various sections of the pacifist movement there are deep differences of opinion and recognition of the fact that to say ‘No More War’ does not prevent war breaking out.

Amongst Protestants and Catholics there is uneasiness at the brutal and repressive methods that Fascism adopts to prevent religious teaching and expression, and resentment that Chamberlain’s policy helps the Fascists to carry through their attack upon religion by force.

Who can afford to ignore the power and influence of the Left Book Club, and how in the two years of its existence it has directly affected the thoughts and actions of tens of thousands of people in the struggle against the National Government and for solidarity of action with the peoples of Spain and China.

It is politically very short-sighted not to recognise these developments and to ignore the importance of bringing all these sections of the people and their organisations into cooperation with the labour movement.

It is necessary to recognise that at the present decisive moment, neither the working class alone nor these other sections of the people are able by themselves, with their present divided forces, to bring about the immediate changes in policy that are required and that can lay the sure basis for defeating Chamberlain.

The ruling class in Britain has always carried through the policy of ‘divide and conquer’. Once again the most reactionary sections of monopoly capital are trying to carry through this policy in order, gradually, to establish Fascism in Britain. The chief task of the moment is to put an end to the policy of the Chamberlain clique, and to reach an understanding over a common programme in the interests of all who are directly affected. We should regard them all as equal comrades-in-arms against the common danger, the common enemy, and in the struggle for their common interests.

The labour movement, which is better organised than other sections of the population, is also more experienced in struggle and therefore should recognise as a duty the bringing together of all useful forces. The best method to accomplish this goal is to unite as many sympathetic people as possible within the labour movement itself.

How can the working class win the valuable support of all these sections of the people and the various democratic, peace and religious organisations that so many are identified with?

Should we set up some hard and fast scheme as to how it shall be done? By no means.

There can be no greater error than to believe that you can mechanically transfer the political and organisational forms of the People’s Front from one country to another.

In Britain the movement towards the People’s Front will be on the basis of British conditions and circumstances.

The final form this will take in Britain will depend on conditions at home and abroad, but it is essential not to confuse the United Peace Alliance, or any other form of wide front for peace, with a People’s Front such as is in being in France and Spain at the present time.

The difference between France and Britain, for example, is that in France there was a direct attack on democracy in 1934 which definitely brought the working-class parties together, and out of this, the extension of a united front between them to other political organisations.

In the French Chamber of Deputies it had been possible for the various parties of the left to reach an agreement and work and vote together. But neither of these stages has yet been reached in Britain.

Unity has not been established in the working-class movement, the process of differentiation in the Tory and Liberal Parties which may lead to new political combinations and groups against Chamberlain is only beginning.

But, as the whole situation develops, as dissatisfaction with the Chamberlain policy grows, if the labour movement is united and actively fighting Chamberlain, then the differentiation amongst millions of people not organised in any political party, as well as in the Liberal and Tory Parties, will increase and take a more crystallised form that will place the organisation of the People’s Front as a practical and immediate proposal.

Meantime, we Communists, while explaining patiently the nature of the People’s Front which will take a particular British form in this country, only when the conditions for it are ripe, will unhesitatingly advance our immediate proposals to meet situations as they arise. This is why during the March crisis, [40] when the opposition to Chamberlain was at its height, we proposed that all the labour and democratic organisations should get together and defeat Chamberlain and form a People’s Government.

This is why we supported the proposal of a United Peace Alliance as advocated by Reynolds News. [41]

Neither the proposal of a People’s Government nor United Peace Alliance constituted a People’s Front such as was definitely constituted in France and Spain, before their present governments came to power.

They were based on the need for the coming together of all lovers of peace in a mighty alliance to defeat Chamberlain.

It was not the People’s Front; but it may be one of the forms through which the People’s Front could be achieved in Britain.

An electoral bloc between the labour movement and other democratic forces could also extend its basis and help forward the movement towards a definitely constituted People’s Front.

There has already been a great deal of discussion both inside and outside the labour movement on the question of the United Peace Alliance and the People’s Front. This is all to the good, but it needs to be accompanied by action now.

No opportunity should be lost in any locality in the country to develop forms of cooperation in all kinds of issues which concern the most diverse sections of the people. For in this way the basis can be laid for the wider national movement.

It is not easy to bring this about. All kinds of difficulties have to be overcome. Powerful vested interests stand in the way. Prejudices and doubts strongly assert themselves. There are tendencies to be combated which see only the past and not the terrible menace of the present situation.

Unity both inside and outside the labour movement has to be fought for patiently and persistently. The vanguard of the working class has to lead this fight. To steel itself against disappointment and defeat.

The enemies of unity are strong. But we are stronger still if we but realise our power and act in a spirit of confidence.

It is no light responsibility which history will place upon those labour leaders for hindering the unity of the working-class movement, and its development into the wider combination of all the democratic and peace forces in Britain.

VII: Communists and Democracy

It is said that democracy, so long as it rests on the basis of capitalist economy, is not worth defending. It is worthwhile dealing with this in some detail.

Democracy is not, and cannot be, simply a resounding phrase used to cover up every sort of roguery and deception as the Fascists and pro-Fascists pretend. It was Lenin who recalled to a generation that had forgotten Marxism that democracy was always class democracy; further, that democracy under the conditions of a capitalist economy was immeasurably inferior to the democracy of the Soviet, to democracy under conditions of a Socialist economy. Nevertheless he pointed out that the best state form under capitalism was democracy, precisely because it gave the best conditions for the development of the workers’ struggle for emancipation.

Yet in these last few years we have witnessed a complete vulgarisation of what Lenin said. The question has been put as though democracy, democratic rights, democratic liberties, did not matter at all to the working class or to the mass of the people. There have even been some in the Communist ranks who have talked as though we were indifferent to the form of capitalist rule; while others, not Communists, have said that since both Britain and Germany are capitalist countries, there is not a ha'porth to choose between Fascism and bourgeois democracy.

This vulgarisation and downright distortion of the standpoint of Marxism has been aided by the anti-democratic propaganda carried on from within the ranks of the Socialist parties during the last thirty years. In this, Bernard Shaw [42] is one of the most serious offenders. This old Fabian, unlike his teachers the Webbs, [43] began his attack on democracy by pretending it was merely a device of the rich to rob the poor, and has ended by stretching out his hand to Hitler and Mussolini.

Shaw could fall into this utter confusion and drag others into it, because he denied the class-struggle basis of Socialism.

Now we have modern vulgarisers of Lenin, mouthers of so-called revolutionary phrases, reaching the same standpoint as the last degenerate phase of Shaw’s opportunism. In the theoretical field the right-wing and the ‘leftist’ standpoint have concurred, just as on the political field the right wing of the Labour Party are wooing the ‘leftist’ ILP. [44]

Let us repeat it, and never forget it, that democracy, even under capitalist economy, offers the best field for the development of the class struggle.

We think the British machinery of government is anything but perfect; it gives any amount of opportunity for a small group of the very rich to put their will across as the will of the people. But it also gives the people opportunities, and therefore we must defend it and use it to the utmost. Democracy does not mean the abandonment of the class struggle, but freedom to carry the struggle forward.

Democracy in Britain has always been a bread-and-butter question. The demands of the Chartists were democratic demands for one vote for every man, for annual parliaments, and so on; but the Chartist leader Stephens [45] was right when he said the Charter was a ‘knife and fork question’. The workers who rallied behind the Charter wanted the vote, because they wanted to end their economic slavery, their twelve-hour day, to end child-labour in the cotton mills and women’s labour in the mines.

Having won the vote in 1867, the workers in further struggles were able to force through laws giving better conditions to miners, to factory workers, to seamen; in 1875 they won the right to picket. And after they had gained a firm legal position for the unions in 1905, British workers were able to win big strikes for wage increases and shorter hours in the year before the war.

Democracy is not abstract. It means that the people have definite rights – the right to organise, the right to strike, the right to vote, the right to free speech. These rights are weapons without which the British people would be no better off today than they were a hundred years ago.

These rights did not drop from heaven. Men died to win them. Today the people hold big demonstrations in Trafalgar Square. Only fifty years ago, in 1887, a worker named Alfred Linnel was killed by the police in the fight for free speech and the right to hold meetings in the Square. Britain’s great tradition of freedom was won in the teeth of Britain’s rulers. The town workers won the vote in 1867 after a fierce battle in which they were led to victory by the British section of the First International. ‘Without us’, Marx wrote proudly, ‘the Reform League would never have been founded, or would have fallen into the hands of the middle class.’ [46]

Many fell in the fight for free trade unions. The Tolpuddle Martyrs were sent to Botany Bay in 1834; the London gas stokers went to prison in 1872; William Gallacher [47] and the Clyde leaders in 1916; Mick Kane and the Hayworth miners in 1937.

Nor can we say that once these rights are won by struggle they are safe for ever. They always represent a concession which the capitalists would like to take away. After the General Strike, the capitalists, led by Stanley Baldwin, [48] took advantage of the opportunity to attack trade-union freedom. In 1927 they cut down the right to picket, outlawed most forms of sympathetic strikes, and took away the right of government servants to organise in free trade unions.

The right of the unemployed to be maintained had to be defended in a series of bitter fights against the threat of compulsory labour camps, and the fight is still in progress.

And not only nationally, but locally, the struggle for democracy is always going on. In this city of Birmingham in 1936, the Lucas factory owners had succeeded in getting an effective police ban on the distribution of trade-union leaflets at that factory. It was our party which broke that ban, challenged the police at law, and established the right of trade unionists to use this important method of organising against the speed-up and sweating in this town.

Democracy means the rights won in the factories and pits for trade-union and workshop organisation.

As our comrades who remember wartime conditions on the Clyde and in the engineering shops well know, democratic rights and control of shop stewards to stop slave conditions were fought for bitterly. Nowadays again they are threatened.

This is the frontier of working-class democracy which lines up with the lines of the Ebro and of the Soviet Union.

Again traitors are at work in high places and in our movement. We will defend our rights, until we have at last complete democracy, Soviet democracy.

The people of the Empire are making history today in tremendous battles against British imperialism. They are fighting only for a less miserable life and the elements of democracy. Chamberlain has met them with prisons and guns.

Those that tell us there is nothing to choose between Fascism and bourgeois democracy should take the trouble to find out what the workers suffer in Fascist countries. Facts leak out even in the official figures. In 1936, the Italian people ate one-third less sugar, one-fifth less cereals, one-fifth less fruit and vegetables than in 1926-30. In Germany, 3.5 million workers earned less in 1936 than the unemployment benefit of 1932. On government building schemes the Nazi factory inspectors report that a twelve-hour shift is often worked, and sometimes even fifteen or sixteen hours a day. In the metal industry they report the working day is ten hours now. That is what can happen when the working-class organisations are smashed; you can go back in two or three years to the labour conditions that existed a hundred years ago!

Today, Germany is mobilised for immediate war, but comrades in Germany are carrying on a heroic fight against war under conditions of Fascism. The people can only read the Nazi press which screams about ‘Czech Bloody Terror Gangs’. Unless they will risk imprisonment, they can only listen to the Nazi wireless, which tells them that Czechoslovakia is attacking Germany. It is illegal for them to hold meetings against the war, to demonstrate against it, to strike against it. That is what the destruction of democracy has meant for Germany.

Does anyone think that the members of the British Battalion, to whose imperishable memory we have paid tribute, went to Spain to fight for democracy in any other sense than this? Does anyone imagine that they went there and gave up their lives for some abstract democracy, or for some sham version of democracy as practised by our ruling families? Did they die to make ‘democracy’ safe for millionaires, for the Rothermeres, [49] Londonderrys, and the rest of the ruling families?

They gave their lives in the service of a democracy that meant concrete things, economic and political rights and liberties for the workers and the mass of the people – in a word, for those things which Fascism destroys and which the millionaires are daily attempting to filch away from us.

And our party, too, can take its stand in the forefront of the fight for democracy against Fascism, because we defend each democratic right, whether economic or political; because we know how to combine the fight for each demand of each section into a common struggle; and because beyond the fight for maintaining democracy, we see clearly and point the way, on this basis to the struggle for Socialism.

VIII: British and French Solidarity

Is it not clear that in the present world situation the development of all forms of international solidarity between the people of the world takes on a specially urgent significance?

The cooperation of the working-class movement of Britain and France against the Fascist menace could give us a perspective that would soon make itself felt in every capitalist country in the world.

Is it not one of the ironies of modern politics that although only a narrow channel divides Britain and France, a great gulf exists so far as practical fraternal relationships are concerned, which prevents the cooperation that should draw in common association the rank and file of the two labour movements?

We really must end this. We are bound to the French people by historical and revolutionary traditions. Think of the effect of the French Revolution of 1789 on the British people. Not on those who were represented by the Chamberlains of that time, but on those influenced by Tom Paine’s Rights of Man and Dr Richard Price’s Love of Country. Those who founded the historical London Correspondence Society, [50] and who, while fighting for the betterment of their own lives, organised and gave full support to the French Revolution. Those who, in Scotland, formed the ‘Society of the Friends of the People’ [51] and those who sent fraternal delegates to the great French National Convention.

Think of the influence of the French Revolution on Shelley, Godwin, Robert Burns, [52] on all forms of English radicalism.

There are other and perhaps to thousands of British families even more recent and sacred ties. They are represented by those countless white crosses with which the north of France is dotted, marking the graves of those British soldiers who died in the last World War so that ‘German militarism could never again threaten the peace of Europe’.

The unity of the French trade union movement; the United Front agreement between the Socialist and Communist Parties of France, the development out of this of the People’s Front, has had a profound effect in Britain. For it is freely recognised that the forward policy of the French people has helped so far to prevent a new European war.

Is it not then time, now, when the hot flames of war have broken out in some countries, without even war being officially declared, that the peoples of Britain and France get closer together?

I do not mean a cooperation that brings a few full-time officials and bureaucrats on a visit to London and Paris, but a cooperation between the respective trade-union branches and Cooperative guilds of the two countries, arranged by the exchange of correspondence and information, by sending elected fraternal delegates to our various annual trade-union conferences, and to the Trades Union Congress.

Such forms of British and French trade-union solidarity would break through the opposition of the Citrines of the two countries in no uncertain manner. It would weaken their power and frustrate their policy, which only tends to help, and not fight, Fascism.

If the British workmen were able to send fraternal delegates on a hazardous journey during the French Revolution, why not now in these days of express trains, steamers and aeroplanes? When did a delegate from the great French Trades Union Congress last address a British Trades Union Congress? When did a delegate from the Socialist Party of France last address a Labour Party Conference? You will have to go back a long time to find any record.

The organisation of such forms of trade-union cooperation would be the basis for similar development between the political parties of Britain and France. Did not the recent visit of a French delegation of Socialists, Liberals and Communists, although of a most informal character, have very beneficial results?

One of the decisions of the Blackpool Trades Union Congress which did not comfort the reactionaries was the decision for a joint approach of the French and British trade-union movements to their respective governments in order to demand the lifting of the arms embargo on the Spanish government.

That is a good beginning. But why not a joint campaign with an interchange of speakers? Why not a contest between the two trade-union movements as to who will raise the most money to supply food to the Spanish people?

This political narrowing of the gulf between the two countries could lead in turn to the systematic organisation of tours for close contact between our British and French writers, singers, poets, youth and sports organisations.

The situation today demands that the type of alliance we are describing should be cemented between the British and French people before war breaks out, not after.

We cannot leave it to be brought about by Royal visits, but only by the common people. If we can accomplish this cooperation it would attract attention, for example, in America, and would lead to international cooperation along the same lines between the British, French and American labour movements and people.

Think what a force such a Triple Alliance would mean in the world today. The Fascists talk about their Berlin-Rome-Tokyo Pact, but what a power for peace would be an agreement between the workers of London, Paris and New York.

What a mighty stimulus it would give to the people of Germany, Italy and Japan, and help forward their mass movement against their Fascist enemies.

For we share common interests with the people of Germany, Italy and Japan. We understand their difficulties and join them in their hatred of their brutal despots. We recognise also that before the present regime came to power these nations contributed to our political, cultural and scientific development, and we are anxious to help them as they to help us to rid the world of Fascism.

May I recall here the sympathy of the British people with Garibaldi’s fight for liberty in Italy? How in 1864 the London Trades Council organised great popular demonstrations in his support? How Colonel Dunne [53] formed ‘An English Regiment’ composed of Britishers and Italians to fight beside him? And how, when Garibaldi came to London in 1864, the people greeted him with so much enthusiasm, he exclaimed: ‘I like to be called the brother of the working man in every part of the world.’

Those are our own sentiments today. Let me just quote the historian Trevelyan: [54]

After the long interval following the Chartist collapse, the tide of British democracy was just beginning to stir. The successful emancipation of Italy and the visit of Garibaldi had their part in stimulating this movement in England. To the common people it was an unexpected privilege to carry one of themselves in triumph through the London streets.

The same support will be given again when it is needed, because for us Italy does not mean Mussolini, but Gramsci; Germany does not mean Goering, but Thälmann. [55]

We must rouse the whole labour movement of Britain so that it is eager to weave these indestructible bonds of solidarity.

IX: The Struggle Against Trotskyism

The fight for unity also demands a struggle against the sectarian phrase-mongering and disruptive activity of the Trotskyists in the Labour Party, the trade unions, the National Council of Labour Colleges, the peace movements, and whatever other organisations they have penetrated.

Whilst the Trotskyists have no mass basis – indeed you cannot name one who has any record of consistent activity and leading mass struggles in Britain – their propaganda screening itself behind ‘revolutionary’ phrases and slandering the governments of China, Spain and the Soviet Union, causes a certain confusion which can, unless combated, impede the progress of unity in the struggle against the National Government and Fascism. This is why it is necessary to deal with them and to warn the labour movement against them.

The confusion created becomes the basis on which the Trotskyists try and paralyse the activities of the working-class and progressive movements against the National Government. Countless cases could be given to show this. Efforts to impede support for the glorious International Brigade as it was fighting for a ‘capitalist’ Spanish government; efforts to impede in every possible way the wide movement for food and medical aid to Spain; attacks upon and efforts to disrupt the local Peace Councils as they support ‘bourgeois’ collective security; a well-organised effort to wreck the Peace and Empire Conference presided over by Nehru – all are instances of the disruptionist activities of the Trotskyist elements and show the truth of the statement that they no longer represent an honest trend in the working-class movement.

Working-class organs with a previous record of struggle like the Glasgow Forward [56] have, under Trotskyist influence, ceased to be newspapers rallying the masses of the people for united struggle against the government, but have become slander sheets spreading disruption and helping to confuse the issues of the struggle.

Branch after branch of the Labour League of Youth has been ruined by sterile arguments; keen working-class youths have been driven away from the struggle by the efforts of these people. [57]

Their activity receives support from bourgeois newspapers, book publishers and publicists, because they recognise the value of this disruptive force inside the labour movement impeding activity from within. Even the Fascists quote with approval Trotskyist arguments.

It is worthwhile mentioning these things because, as you know, it can take thousands to construct a bridge, but a handful can blow it up and destroy it. That is their aim inside the labour movement. Not to construct, build up and unify, but to destroy. That is why they joined the Labour Party.

Studying the activity of these elements abroad, no one is surprised at the support and agreement between the Trotskyists and the right-wing of the Labour Party. Those sections of the Labour leadership adamant in their refusal to work with the Communists, seek the support of the Trotskyists to help them to fight against the growing mass movement for unity and affiliation of the Communist Party to the Labour Party. The labour movement needs to note that the fight against Trotskyism is not the private affair of Communists – it is the interest of the whole labour movement.

The disruption carried out by the Trotskyists in China, Spain, France and the Soviet Union, is not accidental. It is deliberate and organised. It is their line. It serves only the interests of the Fascists who encourage them, support them, and, in some countries, finance them.

The answering of honest doubts and questions is at all times an obligation we must never shirk. Neither must we ever neglect the duty of driving known Trotskyists out of the labour movement. It can only lead to greater effectiveness in the struggle against the National Government.

But vigilance must also be exercised inside our own party, for we should be under no illusions about this. It is inevitable that in order to wreck the great aims we have set ourselves to achieve, spies and Trotskyists will attempt to penetrate our ranks. We need, therefore, to check up and guard against such counter-revolutionary elements.

The difference between the Trotskyists and the Communists can be put in a sentence.

They stand for wrecking and destroying the labour movement and helping Fascism.

We stand for strengthening the labour movement, the defeat of Chamberlain, and the advance to Socialism.

X: Britain and the USSR

Never was the unity of the people of Britain and the Soviet Union so vital as now. Anybody who tries to keep them apart is committing a criminal act against the whole future of mankind.

This is why now, as never before, it is so necessary to encourage and organise every possible means of friendship between the two people. It is noteworthy that in recent discussions on the Moscow Trials, all the slander and spleen fomented by a few ‘Left’ and ‘Liberal’ intellectuals and by certain elements in the Labour Party, completely failed to secure any mass support from the workers in mines, engineering factories and docks.

There is a reason for this, and it is a simple one. The British workers have been betrayed so often themselves, that they are glad and proud when they see workers in the Soviet Union so strong that they can mercilessly pluck out the cancer of Trotskyism and deal with traitors and betrayers as they deserve.

Now that the Soviet Union has unmasked these traitors, its tempo of development is proceeding at an amazing rate. In industry, in state institutions, in the defence forces, the pace of progress is positively astonishing.

A new world is being built and joyous life created for the Soviet people. Is it not true to say that the whole world benefits by this? Of course it is. And it is equally true that the resolute action of the Soviet Union against treachery, contributes to the benefit of everybody, especially the workers all over the world.

If the traitors had not been eliminated, how could the Soviet Union have dealt so successfully with Japan at the time of the Chungkufeng crisis? [58]

That action has re-echoed throughout the world. It has reverberated in the hearts of all those anxious to terminate the present aggression of the Fascist dictators. It has struck a blow for peace, better understood in Berlin, Tokyo and Rome than in 10 Downing Street, [59] Transport House [60] and Odham’s Press. [61]

And it provides an additional reason why the closest friendship and solidarity should exist between the people of Britain and the Soviet Union for their mutual defence.

Let those who attack the Soviet Union, who foment propaganda against it and spread discrediting rumours, understand that in so doing they undermine British defences against Fascism.

When in 1920 the London dockers stopped the Jolly George they struck a blow for the Soviet Union that had world-wide consequences. A blow so powerful that it played a decisive part in saving the Russian Revolution – fact which Comrade Lenin did not fail to recognise and refer to many times in his speeches.

If the British and Soviet people were able to stand side by side in 1920, why not now in 1938 when the Soviet Union is a power of strength with its new Socialist construction, its happy people, its will for peace, backed up by a mighty defence force on land, sea and air?

The help given by the British people in 1920 could be more than repaid by the Soviet people today if the need should arise.

Our congress will pledge itself to do all in its power to bring the British and Soviet people together in a common bond of solidarity and friendship. It will also express its appreciation of the work of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and its great leader Comrade Stalin, whose genius and faith in the masses and the revolution has enabled the people of the Soviet Union to be on top of the world.

XI: Strengthening the Communist Party

In this report we have emphasised the urgency and gravity of the moment and the dangers which threaten the labour movement and all democratic and socially-minded people.

How shall we guarantee that the tasks before us will be carried out? By the strengthening of the Communist Party.

The Communist Party is the political party of the working class. It has no separate aims or organisation apart from the rest of the workers or the mass of the people generally. It is the common organisation of all those who, trained in the school of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin, take their place in the forefront of every struggle, whether it be on local, national or international issues.

We see every struggle as part of the common fight in relation to the final aims of the workers, and we build on the rock of Marxism, so that we can march as an organised force.

The Communist Party holds out the hand of friendship to all those, regardless of their political and religious convictions, who are willing to cooperate in the building up of a common front, for economic security, peace and democracy.

The Communist Party declares that there is a way out of the increasing poverty and hopelessness in Britain and that it is possible to set every idle pit, factory, shipyard and mill once more in action, to set every form of transport in motion and to bring every acre of idle land into fruitful cultivation.

It can be accomplished by planned production and the organised exchange of raw materials and foodstuffs with the Soviet Union and other Socialist countries.

This is the Socialism we stand for and which, when once achieved, will free the colonial peoples and give great countries like India, China, Africa and Ireland the opportunity to advance towards Socialist industry and agriculture and lead to an ever-increasing standard of happiness.

If we, the workers who hew the coal, weave the cloth, build the ships and engines, unite our forces against those who rob us, no power on earth can prevent us from taking these things for the use of the people, instead of making more profits for the rich.

In view of the magnitude of the issues that face the people, in view of the responsibility of the Communist Party, we must recognise that our present position is entirely inadequate to meet the needs of the situation.

We have only 15,750 members with which to lead millions. Our influence can still only reach a small minority. There are vast areas, especially in the agricultural districts, which know nothing of our policy and our aims.

There are important sections of industry and big factories where the work of the Communist Party is hardly felt, and where we have only a few members who feel weak and isolated. This raises urgent problems not only for the Communist Party, but for the whole labour movement.

Why does this position prevail? It is because we have not yet succeeded in convincing the masses of the workers, even those most active in the movement, most sympathetic to our policy, that an organised party such as ours is essential in the fight towards the realisation of our common needs.

Another of the principal reasons why the Communist Party does not grow more rapidly, is because we still fail to relate our basic propaganda to all the immediate campaigns in which we are engaged. That is to say, we do not awaken class understanding of the need of the fight against capitalism as a whole, in the course of our daily work. This means we fail in deepening class consciousness, in popularising our final aims, and consequently there is no serious understanding that it is a matter of concern to all to build up a more powerful Communist Party.

This is one of the most important tasks which cannot be emphasised too often – the popularising of the idea that the Communist Party is performing a vital role in the advance towards Socialism.

Many times recently we have been asked: ‘Why don’t you dissolve the Communist Party and join the Labour Party?’ This question is put from two sides. It is asked by our enemies who are antagonistic to everything for which the Communist Party stands, and whose only desire is to prevent us from carrying through a successful fight; and it is asked by certain types of well-wishers who are eager to see the Communists united with the Labour Party as speedily as possible.

What is our answer? To our enemies we say, your only interest is to weaken our organised struggle for militant working-class policy and to secure passivity under the domination of reactionary leaders.

To our friends we say, we should be only too happy to see one political party of the working class in Britain. If the Labour Party fulfilled the tasks of leadership in every field, or if they were energetic in training and organising the workers on the basis of the class struggle and revolutionary Marxism. [62] But so long as this is not yet the case, it is absolutely essential for us to continue our work as a driving force within the wider labour movement, and to fight for the permanent interests of the working class in every immediate issue.

Consider what would be the political situation in Britain if there had been no Communist Party during the last two years.

Who would have led the fight against the National Government? Who would have initiated the mass struggles against the Means Test and the UAB? Who would have supported the Harworth miners and London Busmen? [63] Or the great youth strikes and Youth Charter? It was the Communist Party who checked the Breakaway Busmen’s Union; it was the Communist Party who bore the brunt of the resistance to Mosley; [64] it is the Communist Party who leads the fight for unity, economic security, liberty, peace and Socialism. It was the Communist Party who was, and is, most active in support of Spain and China.

We have worked hard, but how much more effective would have been our struggles if the Communist Party were more powerful?

The main drive of the Communist Party must be in the factories and trade unions. The political effectiveness of the Communist Party depends on its really leading, and at the same time understanding the needs and aims of the decisive sections of the working class. This is the basis of our strength.

In much of the party’s mass work over the last period there have been tendencies to forget this; so much so, that amongst many party members there is a feeling that our propaganda and work for unity and the People’s Front is being conducted at the expense of the work in the key factories, industries and unions.

Our success depends on how far our party membership is representative of the best and most militant workers in the industrial fields and organisations.

If the party is strong in the factories and trade unions, it means the difference between impotence and real political life and influence – between temporary enthusiasm and real power on a lasting basis.

We see proof of this all over the country. Where the party is strong in the factories and trade unions there are mass campaigns to defend or improve conditions, support for unity, help for Spain, a steady increase in the circulation of the Daily Worker and recruitment to the Communist Party. Comrades feel alive, and are alive. They are free from pessimism and apathy. They feel themselves active partners in the struggles of the workers.

Where branch members are divorced from factory and union, where work is confined to sporadic street-corner meetings and occasional special sales for the Daily Worker, there we find passivity, isolation and a defeatist attitude towards opposition to unity.

In these branches, recruitment is slow. The same half-dozen members turn in on themselves and fail to appreciate that their work is hampered by their complete divorce from the daily struggle and life of the workers.

At the same time this definite concentration on the factories and trade unions should not be treated, as there is sometimes a tendency, as if it were in opposition to the importance of winning recruits from the professional and other sections who reach the understanding to join our fight. On the contrary, as the crisis increases, as the political leadership and role of the party develops, increasing numbers of the most enlightened members of these classes will come to us upon the common basis of Marxism and the struggle for working-class power. We welcome them, the contribution they can give is vital and of the highest value for the whole work of the party.

The victory of Socialism would mean the end of economic anxiety and insecurity for the professional classes, the technicians, scientists, administrators and small business people and give them an opportunity to realise a full, active life for themselves, for their children, and scope to exercise their special abilities in creative work.

Political Education: Besides the question of strength of membership, comes the importance of the need for raising the political level of the Communist Party and labour movements, so that by a more fundamental understanding of Marxism and Leninism we are able in every situation to combine theory with practice in a way that is continually strengthening the whole movement.

Let me draw your attention to this extract from the report of Comrade Dimitrov at the Seventh World Congress of the Communist International. It bears on the point we are now making:

It must not be forgotten that the more the People’s Front movement extends, the more complicated become the tactical problems of the movement, the more necessary is a really Marxist analysis of the situation and the correlation of the fighting forces, the more necessary it is to hold in one’s hand the reliable compass of Marxist-Leninist theory. [65]

That is why we are now carrying through a great change in the whole method of party education, and why we are trying new forms, training classes, study circles and public lectures.

We welcome the growing evidence of the realisation of the necessity of raising the political knowledge of the labour movement as shown in the increasing support given to the lectures and study courses organised by the Marx House in London.

In this connection, too, we must stress the importance of the Labour Monthly and give a definite lead for its support. We have in the Labour Monthly a theoretical organ for which many other parties look to us with admiration, and which has a circulation outstanding among theoretical organs. Our party should utilise the Labour Monthly much more for helping to develop Marxist-Leninist understanding of current problems and our policy.

Also we emphasise the necessity for bigger sales and more intense study of the Marxist classics published by Lawrence & Wishart without which no effective raising of the political level of the Communist Party and whole labour movement is possible.

The Importance of Literature: Our forefathers who built up the labour movement had no doubts about the value of literature. From the Northern Star and the other Chartist papers through the time of Blatchford with his Merrie England, [66] which sold a million copies, to the days before the War, when gradually there was being built up with great difficulty and expense a core of Marxism in this country, the progressive forces in Britain have given the lie to the reformist slogan that the British people were not theoretical.

Theory has always been the guide to revolutionary struggle. Think, for instance, of Milton’s work on our revolution of the seventeenth century, of the Encyclopaedists in the French Revolution; of Thomas Paine; and, coming to our time, of the work of Lenin, Stalin and Dimitrov.

We must destroy the idea that literature is a separate, almost outside, activity of the party. It must be interwoven into its general life.

Whatever organisational methods we adopt, they will not solve these problems unless we have political conviction in the value of literature. Literature sellers are as vital as Pollitt or Gallacher. They should not be looked on as comrades with a kink or merely a hobby, but among the most important comrades in their branches. They have the means of influencing other comrades and eventually attracting them into the party.

But the matter goes further than this. Our Socialist literature is not a preserve of a few righteous scholars, nor, though bitter controversies can take place on the written page, does it belong to particular sects. It is the heritage of the whole movement. A wider and deeper understanding of our literature means a wider and deeper basis for working-class unity and the People’s Front. This position has its corresponding responsibilities.

Comrade Dimitrov puts it in the following way:

Literature plays an enormous role in the education of the revolutionary generation. We must place literature more resolutely at the service of the proletarian revolution, in the struggle against Fascism, against capitalism, for the mobilisation and revolutionary education of the masses. Your books must radicalise the millions of unpolitical or Social-Democratic workers, popularise Socialist construction and the great achievements of the Soviet Union. Literature must serve the great revolutionary idea of millions of workers.

The Daily Worker: Without doubt the most powerful weapon we have for leading and popularising the policy of the Communist Party, and through this uniting and strengthening the whole labour and democratic movement, is the Daily Worker.

Every one of us here has known the thrill of waiting at our usual newsagent or street corner to buy a specially important issue of the Daily Worker. But I am afraid on the whole we take the daily miracle far too easily, treat it as an ordinary daily occurrence.

There may be things wrong with the Daily Worker. It sometimes does not give all the news that its five-times larger rivals give – if you like that kind of news. It sometimes neglects to put in your particular item of news. It sometimes neglects to follow up news items from one day to another. Sometimes, perhaps, it appears to be shouting ‘Wolf, Wolf’ with crisis news. Occasionally one hears grumbles that it has long resolutions or reports in it dealing with Communist policy. These are the chief objections. We say that they show in the minds of those that make them touches of that cynicism and corruption daily spread by the Fleet Street millionaire press. Do we realise how foul that press is? That it jumps, in the words of one commentator, at the instruction of jacks-in-office, who would not, half a century ago, have been allowed in any decent club?

That it simply does not print the news? That its financial pages reek? That it is censored and garbled and made ridiculous? That its degeneracy is a byword, its rapid decline from its former high reputation a commonplace?

Has the Daily Worker cried ‘Wolf, Wolf'? Who was right about the deepness of the crisis, the Daily Express and Daily Herald or us? We are small, but we are responsible for keeping a tidy proportion of such honesty in the press as there is. Publication in the Daily Worker has its repercussions. We are proud when a decent journalist like AJ Cummings [67] praises the line and tone we have taken. We do not take enough credit for ourselves for our news. Who started after the Cliveden Set? Who consistently warned on Hitler’s armies? On ARP? Who started up on the Horsham scandal? Where else have such correspondents written from Spain?

We are aiming to be the voice not only of the labour movement, but of all that is decent and progressive in Britain. A free voice, a clarion voice. We give the news – that’s dynamite enough! Our news, our specials, our line in a crisis does affect the government. Of course we aim at improvements and welcome criticism. But one thing we do not propose to ‘improve’, and that is that the words of the great leaders of our movement shall not find a place. Those who say that we should eliminate these should pay attention to what they say and act upon it. If they did Britain would not be in its present position. The whole movement must help to carry its own paper.

We express our heartfelt appreciation of all those whose financial support in pennies and pounds alone enables the Daily Worker to carry on. We express our thanks to those retail newsagents and sellers who help us to reach out to new readers and to break through the anti-democratic boycott placed upon our paper by the government and wholesalers’ association. But we have also to record that while we have found new methods of increasing our circulation in shops and stands, there has been a tendency for the branches of the Communist Party to slacken their own efforts to distribute the Daily Worker. This is a weakness in our work that at all costs must be overcome, and our congress must insist upon a revival of the previous forms of concentration of Daily Worker sales, especially in the factories, streets and local labour organisations.

What our party can do when it sets its mind to it is tremendous. Doubling the circulation of the Daily Worker would be easy compared with some of the things we do.

Future history will judge us by what we do now. We can and will build our revolutionary Communist Party, strong in principle and clear in action, that can ‘gather the drops and streamlets’, as Lenin said, ‘into a single gigantic flood’: [68] streamlets coming from all sections of the people, without wavering on questions of principle, but without being stubborn on details which are not questions of principle. We can and will bring them together in a mighty mass movement, able to defeat Chamberlain and all who support him, and advance along the road to Socialism.

A strong Communist Party and increased circulation for the Daily Worker in Britain are a necessity for its people and the people of the world.

XII: Conclusion

And so now we come to the end of this report and the beginning of our work here, and of the year to come.

We meet under the shadow of war, a near shadow that has struck home to all the people of Britain what this country means to us. Too long have we let the rich pretend the country was only theirs, that when we said Britain, we meant them. Why, their idea of country is the Stock Exchange, a town season with importations from Paris, shooting and fishing, and long spells in the South of France, though we hear that the French workers are now elbowing them out of these retreats. Our idea of the country can be explained by the pride that we feel, and they themselves feel, in the British soldiers in the International Brigade. It can be explained in quite another way by recalling our heroes of the past. Boadicea’s fight against the Roman legions means more to us now that we have seen the Abyssinians’ fight against the modern legionaries. There is a valley in Cumberland where for two centuries the Norman conqueror was resisted, a place with no entry in the Domesday Book, [69] a centre of resistance for the British, defended with endless courage against the ravaging and torturing invaders. No prisoner divulged the secret ways through the mountain passes. The long struggle of the peasants and workers which is the real history of Britain needs no recital here. It belongs to us. It is part of our Britain. Wat Tyler, John Ball, George Lovelace [70] – these are our people whose traditions and struggles we should always strive to emulate. We are glad that our people are beginning to do a record of it.

Who is it that enjoys the countryside from which their fathers were driven? Not the rich who rush from a five-shilling lunch to a ten-and-sixpenny dinner, and potter around a golf course. But it is the long army of young hikers who march from Manchester and Sheffield to the Peak, the Glasgow lads and lasses who scrap with the gillies round Loch Lomond, the East Enders who hitch-hike to Essex and the sea. Who has that pride in the long streets with every doorstep, every pot and pan shining clear, which so astonishes welfare workers who ‘Never could live in a slum like that, my dear'? Whose fights do the squares and market-places – like the Bull Ring here – remember? In the club rooms of the local public-houses, who met to decide on strikes, on forming trade unions and starting a Co-op? Who enjoys our British sports and pine to take a full part in them? Our people.

We want a grip on our land. Who can reconstruct our land, its industry, its derelict areas, those insults piled up by Mammon to make a mock of us? Who can do it better than the craftsmen of Clyde and Tyneside, of Manchester, Sheffield, Birmingham and South Wales? In the agriculturist, as in the latest young aircraft designer, we have behind us a tradition of craftsmanship, of loyalty to the job (though not to the boss) that will be the mainspring of our future Britain.

The people of this country are moved by intelligence and reason. On the facts they will make up their minds. When their minds are made up, they are a formidable, overpowering force.

What is our difficulty? That we cannot reach them quickly enough with the truth, with facts. The menace that the truth is to the ruling class, is shown by their endless endeavours through the press, through advertising, through the cinema and the BBC, to turn us into robots. It always has been so. The ruling class has never liked the truth. The truth hurts. Voltaire hurt the French feudal lords, Defoe [71] hurt the great Whig system, Robert Burns and Cobbett [72] hurt a lot of people in their time, Lenin hurt the Tsarist landlords and magnates, Dimitrov hurt Goering.

And the ruling class does not like reason; it prefers cloudy, muddy, regimented minds. But we do rely on reason and understanding as a basis of action. There are millions of our fellows who when they understand, as events are forcing them to understand, what is happening, what can be done, will make the most inspiring and tremendous force in history.

We, and history, have had enough of them. They have done their best to stop any upward rising as a result of our using twentieth-century culture and science. But we have our hands on them. Our people are equipped nowadays, not as much as we shall be, but more than they. We can run industry, we can produce planes better than they, our diplomacy would be honest and effective. The resources of our people are as capable of development as those of the USSR. Our people are now too educated and too capable to be insulted by these decadents’ rule. Dare they tell the truth about how jobs are given in the higher civil service, about how the press is controlled, about how diplomats are nobbled, how finance is run, how industrialists actually behave? There are traitors in the camp. Dare they name them?

We have plenty of room and plenty of jobs for people in this fair country of ours. But we have no room and no place for the tiny minority of vain and greedy families who have betrayed us into war and into poverty. For them, and for those in the movement who treat with them as permanent and important, we have no time.

We build on the sturdy fighting democratic traditions of the British people, on their love of country, on their craft and skill, and unity.

When a case based on reason and fact is put to them, no nation is so willing, so ready to act. We say that it is time that reason shall prevail in Britain.

Then the people will move towards economic security, peace and democracy and Socialism.

We have the loveliest natural country in the world. Its hills and dales, its mountains and seas, together with the genius of its working people, call aloud to us to unite the common forces, and make Britain a paradise of joy on which the sun will never set.

I conclude by a quotation from one of the greatest fighters for the liberty and democratic rights of the people – Ernest Jones [73] – believing that his words have a specially pregnant meaning for all British people who have a common aim in these serious days:

They think us dull, they think us dead,
But we shall rise again.
A trumpet through the land shall ring,
A heaving through the mass,
A trampling through their palaces
Until they break like glass.

II: Reply to Debate

While drafting this reply last night, I heard a man say in the hotel: ‘Isn’t the situation terrible? I'm afraid to listen in to the wireless.’

Our congress was meant to dissipate that feeling of despair.

It has aimed to give a clear lead and policy on the immediate issues of the day, and relate them to our final aims.

Our congress has been one of hope and confidence at a moment when fog and darkness was being organised by those whose policy will not stand the light of day.

Like the burglars they are, the monopoly capitalists prefer to work in the dark.

Our congress has been one of unity and struggle to secure economic security, peace and democracy for the workers and people of Britain.

We have sounded the alarm that the National Government is not only leading us to war, but to the most terrible economic crisis that Britain has yet faced. A crisis we must fight; a crisis that can be averted.

The sufferings of millions through lack of work and bread; the hopelessness of unemployment; the placing of the burdens of a crisis of capitalism on the backs of the workers and millions of the people, must all be fought against.

Our congress has adopted a programme of advance, which if the organised workers in the first place give the lead, can avert any repetition of the 1931 years.

We stand for united action against wage cuts and high prices. For shorter hours and holidays with pay. To stop evasion by the rich of their legitimate taxation. For schemes of public works that are in the interests of the well-being of the majority of the population.

For the unity of the employed and unemployed, not as a paper unity, but one consistently fought for with conviction and understanding, without counterposing one organisation against another, but rallying all the unemployed together, and bringing them into closer relationship with the trade unions, trade councils and Trade Union Congress.

We stress again that the economic crisis cannot be really fought unless now, at this moment, the Communist Party sets the example of the way it campaigns for the immediate needs of the unemployed, and advances its positive demands to meet the deepening economic crisis.

Our congress is for trade-union unity. For building up the most powerful trade-union movement in the world. For every worker, in whatever occupation, being in a trade union or professional organisation. For helping civil servants break through reactionary legislation that keeps them isolated from the labour movement.

For effective factory committees and shop stewards organisation. And all of us can take as an example the way the aircraft workers have carried this out in practice, so that today, they are undoubtedly the best organised section of the trade-union movement. Not an aircraft factory of note is without its elected shop stewards and factory committees.

Our congress has been one that has understood every right and liberty won in the past by our forebears needs to be defended today. That the right of free speech, press and meeting must be jealously guarded, and extended, at the same time as we have pledged ourselves to help win what we already have for the peoples in the countries oppressed by British imperialism.

The defence of democracy and peace demands increasing attention to the whole character of the National Government’s Air Raid Precautions. To guard against the militarisation of the civilian population. To popularise our general line and proposals and adapt them in accordance with local conditions.

We stress the importance of our comrades participating as Wardens in the Air Raid Organisation, carrying out appointed duties, and popularising our proposals and winning mass support for them in the same way as comrades do in trade union and Cooperative work.

There are many opportunities for doing this because of the strong feeling of resentment at the whole character of the government measures, on the part of thousands of Air Raid Wardens.

Congress gives the call now for the full mobilisation for municipal elections as a means of fighting for the immediate needs of the workers and against the whole policy of this pro-Fascist National Government.

The unity we stand for, whether it expresses itself in a United Front, or a People’s Front, the unity we stand for is not only on questions of foreign policy. It is to advance the economic and social position of the mass of the British people now.

Despite all difficulties and opposition, the economic, social and cultural position of the French people is, through the unity they have achieved, better than it has ever been.

Our congress has been a congress of peace. We have adopted a peace policy that is not based on the personal and property relations of monopoly capitalism.

Not a policy manipulated by gamblers who throw dice or make moves in which the pawns are killed and mutilated men, broken homes, cities and people sleeping uneasily and in terror from air raids.

That is what the policy of Chamberlain means.

Our peace policy is for the people with the same interests, who meet on common ground with common ends. Collective security is dependent on them and the types of governments they support.

Such people – the common people – exist now, in Britain, France, Spain, Czechoslovakia, the Dominions, America and the Soviet Union.

Such people exist in Germany, Italy and Japan. With our support they, too, will find ways and means to fight for peace, and to replace Fascism by a democratic regime.

We aim to bring them all together now. But time is the essence of the contract. Today, the papers are full of the pressure that is being brought on Czechoslovakia to capitulate to Hitler.

The reports appearing in the Paris press of an alleged agreement over Czechoslovakia, brings us face to face with the biggest crisis in the whole struggle for peace.

It is stated in Paris that an agreement has been reached which formulates the following proposals:

All these disclosures are made by French reporters in despatches from London to Paris.

If this agreement is allowed to go through it means not only the sacrifice of Czechoslovakia, it means the destruction of the peace system based on the Franco-Czech Treaty and the Czech-Soviet Treaty which has held the peace in Europe so far. It means the open incitement to Hitler to march on Czechoslovakia.

The people of Czechoslovakia will resist.

We put to this congress, are they to be allowed to become a second Spain?

It is for us to see that the united stand of Britain and France shall save them from being subjected to this fate, this suffering and this holocaust.

The peoples of Britain and France must destroy this infamous agreement. This is the supreme fight now.

Those who are capitulating to Fascism, instead of a common peace policy that can restrain Fascism, are as surely helping to make bombs for dropping on London, as those whose bombs already fall on women and children in Barcelona.

Let me again repeat here some of the points we make in regard to our peace policy.

1. Peace is based on the unity and strength of the working class and democratic forces in Britain and in Europe for the defeat of the pro-Fascist National Government and Fascism.

2. This represents the interests of the people at home and abroad, whatever form the crisis takes.

3. The Communist Party realises that war is inseparable from capitalism, but we also declare that war is not inevitable.

4. The strength and unity of the mass movement for peace amongst the millions of the people can decide this question in the last analysis.

5. Our peace policy, popularised and fought for with conviction, can rally the labour and democratic forces to its support. Our party, if it will, has the strength and capacity to do this.

6. In the present crisis, the Communist Party will with an energy, conviction and determination unexampled in its history, continue and intensify its fight against the National Government, at the same time as it will mobilise every means of practical support for those directly attacked by Fascism.

7. It will show that in peace or war, the democratic forces in Britain and Europe will be betrayed by the pro-Fascist National Government in the interests of imperialism and Fascism.

8. Our party will never carry out a policy in peace or war, that strengthens this National Government.

9. The stronger our fight for peace and against Chamberlain, the stronger is our support of the peoples of Spain, Czechoslovakia and China, then the stronger will become the fight of the German and Italian people against Fascism in their countries.

We know our party, by popularising our peace policy in factory, mine and workshop, in all local organisations of the labour, democratic and peace movement, by meetings, and conferences, by a million sale for our new peace pamphlet, and by cooperation and unity with all who are for peace, can carry forward this peace policy for the people to triumph.

Our congress has been one of comradeship and friendship with all working-class organisations and progressive people, irrespective of race, creed or colour.

Here it is necessary to draw attention to the growth of anti-Semitism. It is again breaking out with renewed violence in the East End. [74] It will be intensified as either the economic crisis or the danger of war develops.

It is the sign of the degeneracy of monopoly capitalism, and has as its objective the side-tracking and disruption of the common fight against the National Government.

The struggle of the working class and the Jewish people is a common struggle, and is interwoven both in its consequences and successes.

The Communist Party stands for the unity of the Jewish and Gentile population in the struggle against Fascism and in support of the victims of Fascist aggression.

We support the welding of the strongest possible alliance between the Jewish people and all sections of the labour and progressive movement.

Comrades, is it not clear that the issues our congress has raised can only be carried through in the way that our Report outlined?

They demand a united and powerful labour movement, but they demand also the cooperation of all who are affected by the economic crisis and war situation at home and abroad.

Of course there are snags and obstacles. Of course there are weaknesses and doubts, and waverings and vacillations to be overcome.

But don’t let us be side-tracked by the opponents of unity.

Liberalism is one of their bogies. [75]

No one is proposing a love match or permanent marriage with Liberalism or any other creed whose basic principles differ from our own.

What is proposed is what we outlined in the Report, and will repeat again:

It is necessary to recognise that at the present decisive moment, neither the working class alone nor these other sections of the people are able by themselves, with their present divided forces, to bring about the immediate changes in policy that are required and that can lay the sure basis for defeating Chamberlain.

The ruling class in Britain has always carried through the policy of ‘divide and conquer’. Once again the most reactionary sections of monopoly capital are trying to carry through this policy in order, gradually, to establish Fascism in Britain.

The chief task of the moment is to put an end to the policy of the Chamberlain clique, and to reach an understanding over a common programme in the interests of all who are directly affected. We should regard them all as equal comrades-in-arms against the common danger, the common enemy, and in the struggle for their common interests.

The labour movement, which is better organised than other sections of the population, is also more experienced in struggle and therefore should recognise as a duty the bringing together of all useful forces. The best method to accomplish this goal is to unite as many sympathetic people as possible within the labour movement itself.

If we could achieve this, it would completely transform the entire situation.

Britain and Europe would be places in which war tension would disappear and the air be easier to breathe.

It would mean that in any new situation that the coming months may bring, such as a reorganised National Government, or a general election, we would all be in a stronger position to meet that situation.

Any difficulties that would arise in the carrying out of our programme, would be met as our French Party meet them.

And here let me say, that the People’s Front in France is meeting with difficulties, is disappointing in many ways the hopes of the French people, but despite this, it is better for Europe and the people of this country that we have a People’s Front in France rather than a reactionary government.

We should not point to these difficulties of the French Party and the French working class, however, without recognising at all times that it is the pressure of ‘perfidious Albion’ that is the main cause of the difficulties, and with the establishment of a People’s Front in Britain the situation in France would be entirely different.

Here let me emphasise what we have always pointed out in all our campaigns for the United Front and the People’s Front.

This is that the basis of it must rest on a united labour movement.

At our Fourteenth Party Congress [76] we had not then reached a position where we could declare that the conditions for a People’s Front existed in Britain. They do not yet fully exist as we pointed out in the Report. But between the Fourteenth Congress and the March crisis this year, many important developments had taken place, that despite the fact that unity had not yet been established in the labour movement, there was such a movement of the people against Chamberlain, that if the Labour Party gave the lead, it could have been brought down, and a People’s Government, with Labour as the main base, established.

This was the line of our 19 March manifesto, but this manifesto also clearly stated that ‘the one all-important weapon is unity – unity of all labour, democratic and peace forces’.

Comrades must know our fundamental line, and must not assume that we have to restate it on every occasion a manifesto is issued.

When we issue a manifesto, we concentrate on those points which will capture the imagination of the people at that moment. On 19 March we concentrated on the popular movement, because the situation demanded it, but we made it clear that the organised labour movement and unity must be the basis.

When Reynold’s News on 20 March put forward the United Peace Alliance proposal, this also was a proposal that corresponded with the situation, and we supported it.

In our Congress Resolution we again lay stress on unity of the labour movement, because that is the only basis for a real People’s Front.

But a situation may arise, as I said in my report, when the United Peace Alliance or even an electoral agreement may be the immediate issue that corresponds with the situation, and we will support it.

This does not change our objective of the United Front and a real People’s Front, it merely means that we seize the link in the chain which can bring the whole chain to us.

Our congress has gained a new understanding of the role of the Communist Party and the urgent need to strengthen it. That the main drive for this is in the factories and unions, at the same time as we utilise to the full every opportunity to win recruits from all sections of the people who subscribe to our aims.

The realisation is now deeper than by a correct relation of the immediate issues to our final aims, we serve and advance the permanent interests of all who stand for Socialism.

And the party will undoubtedly carry out the splendid suggestions made by Comrade Springhall [77] in regard to the Daily Worker, as the best guarantee that what we are striving for shall be achieved.

Our congress has seen for itself the many new and attractive ways in which propaganda for unity, peace and Socialism can be got across. The decorations in this hall, the community singing and People’s Songs, the play, Plant in the Sun, all help to create feeling and thought.

The literature exhibition, too, has aroused a keen interest. Who could have failed to have been impressed by the progress that has been made? The variety, content and make-up of our literature?

It was correct for our congress to have its attention drawn to the need for simpler and more popular language, this is more vital than ever before when the problems are so varied and complicated.

I am sure we shall see our party now try and emulate what has been seen in Birmingham, all over the country, and especially in regard to increased sales of literature. In this respect, it becomes more necessary than ever for our party branches to popularise all literature dealing with the Soviet Union. Russia Today [78] gives splendid opportunities not only for stressing the achievements of the Soviet Union, but strengthening all forms of friendship with the Soviet people.

Here, Comrades, I want to appeal to the congress for Spain. Who can forget the impassioned appeal that was made to us by the fraternal delegate from the Communist Party of Spain, last night?

It demands a practical response. You know our demands for arms, for international rights, etc.

We now make a plea for food.

The military and political problems of the Spanish government have been solved. The food problem has not.

Republican Spain fights on, but it is hungry. The winter is coming on. Women and children not only look at the sky in dread, they look on tables that lack food.

Workers faint at their lathes and machines, exhausted for the lack of food.

Republican Spain is getting one-fifth of the food supplies it needs.

Queues form up for meals, and many are turned away, the food is exhausted.

Women search dustbins for scraps.

Malnutrition takes its toll.

The loveliest babies ever born, pine and die for lack of milk.

I have received an appeal from Pasionaria, [79] asking me to use my influence in our party to see that this great international campaign for food for Spain should find a great response in Britain, as well as care of the Spanish children.

Comrades, there has been a tendency to believe that food does not matter. I beg you to believe me, that it does. Think for one minute of how easy it is for the Fifth Column to do its nefarious work in such conditions of hunger. We must help.

There is going to be a great International Food Campaign organised. See that you support it.

When the first food-ships went to Dublin in the 1913 strike, [80] they put new life into the Irish strikers.

When the first British foodstuffs go to Barcelona and Valencia, they will put new and inspired life into Spanish fighters.

This, therefore, comrades, is the appeal that we make, and hope that it will find a response.

Also we wish to draw your attention, it has already been said in this congress, about our obligations and responsibilities to the families and the comrades who are in Spain.

The Dependants Aid Committee is launching a Memorial Fund of £50,000. We want every member of our party to try and guarantee that they can collect in their workshops and various organisations at least £1 each in order to give that £50,000 Fund a tremendous kick-off, so that, by the time the Albert Hall Memorial Demonstration is held, our party will not only have a proud record in regard to men going to Spain, but will have the proudest record of any in fulfilling its obligations to their families and those who have been wounded.

Our congress has been one of men and women from factory, office, laboratory and school.

Of purposeful, determined men and women who, armed with Marxism, are determined to conquer.

The report of the Credentials Committee stresses the very young composition of the congress. Also that the majority of the delegates have not been very long in the party.

This means there is a danger they may want stereotyped answers and tactical lines all worked out for them.

Our party is not led in that fashion now. We have learnt to swim for ourselves, but not yet good enough, but a remarkable advance on the time when we were afraid to place our feet in the water.

Things change too quickly for cut and dried schemes. All our members must act as leaders, organisers and educators.

This is why we have stressed education and the study of the classics of Marxism, and the better use of our pamphlets and the magazine the Communist International.

Did not Jock Kane give a striking example of how a pamphlet can be used to build the labour and trade-union movement? Every party member can emulate this example.

The party members should not be afraid to take the initiative to think for themselves, to act and to lead.

We are not a party of ‘Yes Men’. Our party is not an elementary school, but we use the Marxist classics and the decisions of this congress as guides to action.

If we do this we can face boldly, clearly and confidently, any situation that arises.

How shall we popularise and win support for our congress policy?

1. By the most effective reporting back to the branches, public meetings, and all local labour and progressive organisations we have ever undertaken.

2. By ensuring every member of our party and organisation understands, and is convinced, on our policy.

3. By achieving a mass sale of the Congress Report: Speeches and Resolutions. These must be got into the hands of the masses on a scale that we have never set ourselves before.

We must mobilise every artist, literature-seller and bookshop for this work.

4. We must immediately approach every local labour organisation for cooperation in the struggle against capitalism and the National Government on the basis of their local conditions.

We have 38 Foundation Members of our party at this congress. They must have thought about the changes they have seen. Of past congresses not as large as the London Delegation here.

They must feel proud that their pioneering work is coming to fulfilment.

We appeal now, with all the earnestness and sincerity of which we are capable, to our comrades in the Labour Party, that in these fateful days we should get together before it is too late.

We pledge to them a loyalty and activity that will help us all to realise the needs of the moment – economic security, peace and democracy.

We proclaim our faith in Communism, the grandest and noblest principles the world has known, that have inspired all that is best in world humanity.

That steels all who embrace it; that inspires all who accept it.

We are a mighty force. We are part of a world army. We are with millions of organised Communists.

We carry forward the work of the Walter Tapsells and Ralph Foxes. [81]

We are with the Sam Wildes and Bob Cooneys. [82]

We are with the Thälmanns and Dimitrovs.

We are a deathless army. We go from Birmingham, united and confident that we will yet conquer.

That what we stand for will triumph. And that the glory and grandeur of Communism will radiate the world with its flashing beams.

Our flag is there – the Red Flag – unsullied by the living or the dead. The symbol of our struggle, our aim, our power.

Long live the unity of the working class!

Long live Peace and Friendship between the peoples of the world!

Long live Communism!


All notes have been provided by the MIA.

1. Neville Chamberlain (1869-1940) was a Conservative MP during 1918-40, Minister of Health during 1923, 1924-29 and 1931, Chancellor of the Exchequer during 1923-24 and 1931-37, and Prime Minister during 1937-40, heading the coalition National Government which declared war on Germany in September 1939.

2. 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.

3. Robert Anthony Eden (1897-1977) was a Conservative MP during 1923-57, and Foreign Secretary during 1935-38, resigning in protest at the National Government’s attitude towards Nazi Germany. He was Foreign Secretary during 1940-45 and 1951-55, and Prime Minister during 1955-57, resigning in the aftermath of the Suez débâcle.

4. The Distressed Areas were the old industrial heartlands of South Wales, the West of Scotland, Lancashire, Tyneside and West Yorkshire, which were suffering particularly badly from economic decay and unemployment during the 1930s.

5. The Unemployment Assistance Board was set up in 1934 in order to help regulate welfare payments. More people were eligible for payments, but they remained means-tested.

6. Dilution is the introduction into a skilled industrial workforce of people who have not completed the customary apprenticeship.

7. Benjamin Seebohm Rowntree (1871-1954) was an industrialist and social reformer and was heavily involved in sociological studies of poverty in Britain. A prolific author, The Human Needs of Labour was published in 1918.

8. The pre-1971 British currency consisted of 12 pence (d) to the shilling (s), 20 shillings to the pound (£).

9. Jürgen Kuczynski, Hunger and Work: Statistical Studies (London and New York, 1938). Jürgen Kuczynski (1904-1997) was a German economist, a member of the German Communist Party from 1930, and at this point living in Britain. He later became an academic in East Germany, and a prolific author in the fields of economic and history.

10. Cwt: hundredweight, that is, 112 pounds weight.

11. The Incitement to Disaffection Act of 1934 makes it illegal for anyone to encourage a member of the British armed forces to disobey his orders.

12. Air Vice-Marshal Sir Philip Game (1876-1961), a career officer, was Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police during 1935-45.

13. Edwin Duncan Sandys (1908-1987) was a Conservative MP who was threatened in 1938 under the Official Secrets Act for revealing confidential information about Britain’s air-raid precautions.

14. The Hooded Men, Cagoulards: Comité secret d'action révolutionnaire (Secret Committee of Revolutionary Action), a fascist group led by Eugène Deloncle and financed by the perfume magnate Eugène Schueller. They engaged in provocations, assassinations and sabotage in their quest to overthrow the French Republic.

15. John Burdon Sanderson Haldane (1892-1964) was a geneticist, and member of the CPGB during 1942-50. His book ARP (London, 1938) drew upon his experiences of bombing in the Spanish Civil War.

16. The Left Book Club was set up in 1936 by publisher Victor Gollancz, Labour MP Stafford Cripps and John Strachey, a theoretician then close to the CPGB. It published a broad range of left-wing books of varying quality, and its membership peaked at 57 000 in 1939. It suffered badly when the proprietors disagreed with the CPGB’s anti-war line in 1939, and it continued in a reduced manner until 1948.

17. George Gordon Byron, Sixth Baron Byron (1788-1824) was a romantic poet and adventurer; he spoke in favour of social reform, and was involved in the Greek wars of independence.

18. On 10 May 1920, dockers in London refused to load the Jolly George with munitions bound for Poland to be used against the Soviet Republic.

19. Herbert Stanley Morrison (1888-1965) was a Labour MP during 1923-24, 1929-31 and 1935-59, and was Home Secretary in Churchill’s wartime National Government.

20. Walter Citrine (1887-1983), by trade an electrician, was General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress during 1925-46.

21. George Lansbury (1859-1940) was a Christian socialist and pacifist on the left of the Labour Party. He was an MP during 1910-12 and 1922-40, and leader of the Labour Party from 1932 to 1935.

22. The Black Country is an industrial area between Birmingham and Wolverhampton, and its name was given on account either of its dark soil or the high levels of pollution. Neville Chamberlain’s father Joseph (1836-1914) was an industrialist in Birmingham and the city’s Mayor prior to embarking on a career in national politics.

23. Edward Montagu Cavendish Stanley (1894-1938) was a Conservative MP during 1917-18 and 1922-38, and held ministerial posts in the National Government. Oliver Frederick George Stanley (1896-1950) was a Conservative MP during 1924-50, and held ministerial posts in the National Government. Edward George Villiers Stanley, Seventeenth Earl of Derby (1865-1948) was a career officer, diplomat, Conservative MP during 1892-1906, and held ministerial posts in various National and Conservative Governments. Charles Stewart Henry Vane-Tempest-Stewart, Seventh Marquis of Londonderry (1878-1949) was a Conservative MP during 1906-15 and held ministerial posts in various National and Conservative Governments; sympathetic to Hitler, he was a leading member of the pro-Nazi Anglo-German Fellowship.

24. Edward Frederick Lindley Wood, First Earl of Halifax (1881-1959) was a Conservative MP during 1910-25, and held ministerial posts in various Conservative and National Governments, including Foreign Secretary during 1938-40, favouring a conciliatory stance towards Nazi Germany. Edward Turnour, Sixth Earl Winterton (1883-1962) was a Conservative MP during 1904-51, and held ministerial posts in various Conservative and National Governments. Ivor Miles Windsor-Clive, Second Earl of Plymouth (1889-1943) was a Conservative MP during 1922-23, and held several ministerial posts in various Conservative and National Governments.

25. Samuel John Gurney Hoare, First Viscount Templewood (1880-1959) was a Conservative MP during 1910-44, and held ministerial posts in various Conservative and National Governments, including Home Secretary during 1937-39. Sir Philip Albert Gustave David Sassoon, Third Baronet (1888-1939) was a Conservative MP during 1912-39, and held ministerial posts in various Conservative and National Governments. Douglas McGarel Hogg, First Viscount Hailsham (1872-1950) was a Conservative MP during 1922-28, and held ministerial posts in various Conservative and National Governments, including Lord Chancellor during 1935-38. Isaac Leslie Hore-Belisha, First Baron Hore-Belisha (1893-1957) was a Liberal MP during 1923-45, and held ministerial posts in various National Governments.

26. Edward William Spencer Cavendish, Tenth Duke of Devonshire (1895-1950) was a Conservative MP during 1923-38, and held ministerial posts in various National Governments.

27. Walter Runciman, First Viscount Runciman of Doxford (1870-1949) was a Liberal MP during 1899-1900, 1902-18, 1924-37, held ministerial posts in various Liberal and National Governments, and his report to the government on Czechoslovakia in 1938 recommended the secession of the Sudetenland to Germany.

28. Josiah Charles Stamp, First Baron Stamp (1880-1941) was a British civil servant (Inland Revenue), industrialist, economist, statistician, writer and banker. He sat on many government commissions of enquiry, and was a Director of the Bank of England and Chairman of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway.

29. That is, the Norman Conquest that started in 1066.

30. The Cliveden Set was a nickname, penned by the communist journalist Claude Cockburn, of a group of wealthy right-wingers around Nancy Witcher Astor, Viscountess Astor (1879-1964), a very right-wing figure and Conservative MP during 1919-45, at her family country house of Cliveden, and who were widely considered to be amenable to Hitler and the Third Reich.

31. In 1928, 90 per cent of the miners at Harworth pit in Nottinghamshire voted to remain in the Miners Federation of Great Britain, but the owners recognised only the scab ‘Spencer Union’. In 1936, the MFGB members at Harworth struck for six months for recognition. The strike was successful, but state repression was severe, and the MFGB branch President Mick Kane, a CPGB member, was sentenced to two years’ hard labour.

32. This was a rent strike in the summer of 1938 in a block of 346 dilapidated flats in Bethnal Green, East London. For two weeks, the tenants refused to pay any rent, and harassed the housing company’s rent collectors. The company gave in, reducing the rents and promising to carry out repairs.

33. Ernest Bevin (1881-1951) was a right-wing trade union leader, Labour MP during 1940-51, Minister of Labour and National Service in Churchill’s wartime cabinet, and subsequently Foreign Secretary in Attlee’s Labour Government during 1945-51.

34. Hugh Dalton (1887-1962) was a Labour MP during 1924-31 and 1935-59, Minister for Economic Warfare and then President of the Board of Trade in Churchill’s War Cabinet, and held Cabinet posts in Clement Attlee’s Labour government after 1945.

35. James Middleton (1878-1962) was a journalist and Labour Party official, and as its General Secretary during 1935-44 was hostile to attempts by the CPGB to establish a Popular Front.

36. Tom Mann (1856-1941) was a trade unionist and socialist, and was centrally involved in many militant workers’ struggles, including the London dock strike of 1889. A member of, in turn, the Social Democratic Federation, the Independent Labour Party and the British Socialist Party, he was a foundation member of the CPGB and headed its National Minority Movement in the 1920s.

37. The National Unemployed Workers Movement was set up by the CPGB in 1921. The right-wing labour leaders were hostile to it, but despite official obstruction it organised, amongst its other activities, several large ‘hunger marches’ during the 1930s.

38. That is, Walter Citrine, who was knighted in 1935.

39. Samuel Gompers (1850-1924) was President of the American Federation of Labor during 1886-94 and 1895-1924. Matthew Woll (1880-1956) was the AFL Vice-President during 1919-55. Both were virulently anti-socialist and believers in business unionism.

40. That is, the international crisis provoked by the German invasion of Austria on 11 March 1938, to which Chamberlain gave only a muted protest, the upsurge of Nazi agitation in the Sudetenland and the statement by Chamberlain that Britain would not give a guarantee to Czechoslovakia.

41. A Sunday newspaper that ran from 1850 to 1967. At first Liberal in outlook, it was acquired by the National Cooperative Press on behalf of the Labour Party.

42. George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) was an Irish playwright, author and journalist. Politically a Fabian, he had a decidedly authoritarian approach, and showed sympathies for Stalin’s Soviet Union and Mussolini’s Italy.

43. Martha Beatrice Webb, Lady Passfield (née Potter; 1858-1943) and Sidney James Webb, First Baron Passfield (1859-1947) were Fabian socialists and prolific writers on social reform and welfare. Hostile to Bolshevism, they became greatly enamoured with the Soviet Union in the 1930s.

44. The Independent Labour Party was formed in 1893, played a key role in the Labour Representation Committee, and affiliated to the Labour Party when it was formed in 1906. It provided much of the Labour Party’s individual membership, and many of its MPs. It disaffiliated from the Labour Party in 1932, and shifted considerably to the left during the 1930s, whilst declining in size and influence.

45. Joseph Rayner Stephens (1805-1879) was a clergyman and leading activist in the Chartist movement.

46. Marx to Engels, 13 May 1865, Collected Works, Volume 42 (Moscow, 1976), p 157, available in Marx-Engels Archive. The Reform League was established in 1865 to campaign for adult male suffrage.

47. William Gallacher (1881-1965) was a member of the SDF and President of the Clyde Workers Committee during the First World War, and was sentenced to six months’ jail for publishing an anti-war article in the CWC’s journal. He joined the CPGB in 1921, was an MP during 1935-50, and was President of the party during 1956-63.

48. Stanley Baldwin (1867-1947) was a Conservative MP during 1908-37, Prime Minister during 1923-24, 1924-29, and, at the head of the National Government, 1935-37.

49. Harold Sidney Harmsworth, First Viscount Rothermere (1868-1940) was the founder of several newspapers, including the Daily Mirror, and he took over the Daily Mail from his elder brother, Alfred Charles William Harmsworth, First Viscount Northcliffe (1865-1922), upon his death. The Daily Mail was notorious during the mid-1930s for its friendly attitude towards Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, and it gave fulsome backing to Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists. It remains a popular right-wing agitational middle-class paper to this day.

50. The London Corresponding Society (Pollitt made a slip in respect of its title) was formed on 25 January 1792 in order to call for the reform of the British Parliament. It set up branches in other English cities, its agitation proved popular, and brought down upon its members the full force of the state.

51. The Friends of the People Society was founded in Edinburgh in July 1792, calling for parliamentary reform. It too proved popular, and was severely repressed by the state.

52. Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) was an English romantic poet and radical. William Godwin (1756-1836) was a philosopher, novelist, journalist and anarchist pioneer. Robert Burns (1759-1796) was a Scottish radical poet and lyricist.

53. Colonel John Dunne was a leader of the British contingent of the International Legion that was formed by Giuseppe Garibaldi in 1860 with the intention of liberating Italy and carrying on the fight for national liberation in other countries of Europe.

54. George Macaulay Trevelyan (1876-1962) was a British historian, at this point Regius Professor of Modern History at the University of Cambridge.

55. Ernst Thälmann (1886-1944) joined the German Communist Party in 1921, became a Reichstag deputy in 1924 and Chairman of the party in 1925. Arrested soon after the Nazis won power, he was imprisoned and was executed in Buchenwald concentration camp.

56. Forward was the paper of the Glasgow branch of the ILP.

57. The CPGB was also running a large-scale entry operation into the Labour League of Youth, the Labour Party’s youth wing, during this period.

58. The Chungkufeng Incident or the Battle of Lake Khasan was a series of clashes between Soviet and Japanese forces during 29 July to 11 August 1938 as a result of a border dispute in respect of territory in Manchuria claimed by the Soviet Union.

59. Downing Street is a popular term for the British Government, the Prime Minister’s office being at 10 Downing Street.

60. Transport House, in Smith Square, London SW1, served as the headquarters of both the Labour Party and the Transport and General Workers Union.

61. Odham’s Press was a prominent British publisher of newspapers and magazines; it is possible that Pollitt picked on this particular firm because it published the Daily Herald, which was close editorially to the right-wing leadership of the Labour Party and very critical of the Stalinists’ Popular Front and the Moscow Trials.

62. This sentence is incomplete in the original report.

63. A strike for shorter hours by 25 000 London busmen started on 1 May 1937. The TGWU leadership recommended taking the matter to an official enquiry; this was rejected by the strikers. The TGWU refused to call out the tram and trolley-bus men, and after four weeks it called for a return to work. Several of the strike leaders were expelled from the union or barred from holding office, and some of the non-CPGB strike leaders attempted to set up a separate union, a move which the CPGB opposed.

64. Sir Oswald Ernald Mosley, Sixth Baronet of Ancoats (1896-1980) was a Conservative MP during 1918-22, an Independent MP during 1922-24, and a Labour MP during 1926-31. In 1930, he proposed a radical programme for the Labour Party, calling for increased state intervention, which was rejected. This programme formed the theoretical basis of the New Party, which he formed in February 1931, and which moved rapidly towards fascism. Mosley formed the British Union of Fascists in October 1932, which became Britain’s main fascist party of the 1930s.

65. Dimitrov’s speeches at the Seventh Comintern Congress can be found on the MIA in Dimitrov Archive and Dimitrov Archive. However, this and the following quote from Dimitrov do not appear to be from his speeches at that Congress.

66. Robert Peel Glanville Blatchford (1851-1943) was a socialist activist and journalist most famous for writing the popular introduction to socialism Merrie England, which sold over two million copies, and for inspiring the Clarion propagandist movement. He was also strongly nationalistic and an outright jingo during the First World War, and drifted away from any form of socialism after then.

67. AJ Cummings was the political editor of the News Chronicle, a liberal newspaper.

68. VI Lenin, ‘What Is To Be Done?’, Collected Works, Volume 5 (Moscow, 1970), p 420, available on the MIA in the Lenin Archive.

69. The Domesday Book was a survey of the resources of England and Wales compiled for William I in the years following the Norman Conquest. It was completed in 1085, but omitted London, parts of Northern England, and much of Wales.

70. Walter ‘Wat’ Tyler (1341-1381) and John Ball (c1338-1381) were leaders of the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. George Lovelace (or Loveless) was one of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, six members of the Friendly Society of Agricultural Labourers who were prosecuted in 1834 for forming a trade union.

71. Daniel Defoe (ca 1660-1731) was a radical English novelist, journalist and pamphleteer.

72. William Cobbett (1763-1835) was an English pamphleteer, journalist and advocate of parliamentary reform.

73. Ernest Jones (1819-1869) was a prominent Chartist, a poet and writer, and editor of several Chartist newspapers.

74. That is, the East End of London, which at that juncture was a heavily Jewish area.

75. This was one of the objections made by both left-wing and right-wing opponents of the Popular Front in the labour movement: that the Popular Front would mean an alliance with the Liberal Party and other bourgeois organisations.

76. The CPGB’s Fourteenth Congress was held on 29-31 May 1937.

77. Douglas Frank ‘Dave’ Springhall (1901-1953) was Editor of the Daily Worker in 1938, having previously served in the International Brigade in Spain. He was subsequently the CPGB’s National Organiser, but was expelled from the party after being convicted in 1943 of spying. He later moved to China, where he died.

78. Russia Today was the magazine of the Russia Today Society, an organisation set up to provide a popular presentation of the Soviet Union.

79. Isidora Dolores Ibárruri Gómez (1895-1989), known as La Pasionaria, was a leading member of the Spanish Communist Party during the Civil War, and its General Secretary during 1942-60.

80. The Dublin Lock-Out of August 1913 – February 1914 was an intense class struggle, centred upon the right of workers to join trade unions, and centrally involved the Irish Transport and General Workers Union. Workers in Britain gave considerable financial support to the strikers, although a plan to billet strikers’ children with British families for the duration of the strike was scuppered by the Catholic Church.

81. Walter Tapsell and Ralph Fox were both CPGB members who fought in Spain with the International Brigades. Tapsell was a former leader of the Young Communist League, and was killed in Aragon in April 1938; Fox was a writer, and was killed in Córdoba, in January 1937.

82. Sam Wilde and Bob Cooney were both CPGB members who fought in Spain with the International Brigades.