Under the Banner of Marxism

Opposition in England

Party Members Form Nucleus to Fight for Leninism

(January 1932)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 2 (Whole No. 98), 9 January 1932, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

On December 19 of last year, a group of members of the Communist Party of Great Britain who have been active in it for years, met in London to constitute formally the English section of the International Left Opposition.

The absence of such a formally organized and active group of Oppositionists in England has always been felt acutely in our ranks, not only because of the general need of extending the influence and strength of the Marxian wing in all countries, but because in England specifically the official Communist party has, in relation to its strength and to the magnificent possibilities for revolutionary growth that the situation has offered, outdone itself to pile defeat upon error and error upon defeat. More than ten years of official British Communism have elapsed today without the party having yet made a deep impression upon the proletariat. The striking decline of British imperialism has barely, if at all, been accelerated by the revolutionary activity that the British party should have displayed. The unexampled movement of the British workers in the coal and general strikes of 1926 simply swept over the English party without depositing anything but the thinnest layer of new strength upon it, a layer which, moreover, it promptly proceeded to lose. From the disgraceful record of the first and even the second Labor government, the party has been able to make only the smallest minimum of capital among the working class. Even now, when a section of the British workers are being driven by the contradictions of capitalism, driven by the hundreds to join the party, indicating by the flow to Communism which takes place in spite of the Stalinist bureaucracy that the revolutionary standard is capable of attracting the most advanced workers – even now, the party acts largely as a sieve into which the hundreds of new Communist workers come only to drop out in almost equal numbers after a brief stay.

The grave crisis of the ruling class and its institutions is convulsing the latter in every one of its parts. And in this process, such institutions as the Labour party and the Independent Labour Party show themselves to be very quickly affected. In both of them, and particularly in the last-named, there is a growing discontentment with the leaders and their policies. Especially in the I.L.P. are there now tremendous possibilities for winning thousands of good revolutionary militants who are in its ranks. But in face of these possibilities, the Communist party, held in the straitjacket of Stalinism by its Rusts and Pollitts, merely skims the very thinnest surface and disdainfully ignores the real opportunities which are offered it.

With the British situation as a whole, and with the position of the British party, we shall soon have occasion to deal in greater detail. But even these brief and sketchy comments, together with what is now general knowledge about the state of affairs, demonstrate plentifully the need and the prospects for growth of a well-knit section of the Left Opposition in England.

Small as our young British section is at its commencement, the Left Opposition has been signally fortunate in winning to its banner a good group of active militants who do not seek in the ranks of our movement a safe refuge from the class struggle, as have many in the past who sought to cover up their own retirement from the revolution with the prestige and the great tradition of our movement. On the contrary, our English group is composed of party members who are not only well known for their activities in the movement but whose adherence to the Opposition is a continuation on a higher plane and in an organized manner of a struggle against bureaucratism and opportunism which they have conducted, under other forms, in the recent past of the party.

Every one of the comrades who came together to constitute the group – with perhaps one exception – is a member of the party and, without fearing the consequences which the Stalinists nowadays impose upon the struggle for the ideas of Marx and Lenin, they are determined to carry on the fight within the party and, at all events, as a faction of the Communist party. By this alone, the English Opposition describes a clear line of demarcation between itself and those dilettantes and children of fantasy who have, in England, sometimes taken the name of the Opposition, for a thousand and one reasons, but not for a single one which justified the assumption. On the fringes of the movement in England – as everywhere else – are a number of tiny little sects, stewing hopelessly and in quiet isolation in the stale juice of their own superiority; individuals and individualists; in short, opportunists, do-nothings, sectarians of all kinds who have painted themselves up with the colors of the Opposition in the expectation that it would not only obligate them to nothing serious but that it would relieve them of a slashing criticism and separation from the Left Opposition. Of this loo we shall have another occasion to speak.

The group has decided to issue n bulletin immediately, in preparation for the printed paper to come. The group, which was constituted with the aid of a representative of the International Secretariat who was present decided to establish relations with the latter body immediately.

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