Leon Trotsky’s Writings on Britain
Volume 2

The Anglo-Russian Committee

The Anglo-Russian Committee
and Comintern Policy

1. The plenum states that for the whole direction of our work in the British labour movement, especially for the correct understanding and carrying out of the tactic of the united front, the question of the Anglo-Russian Committee at the present moment has a decisive significance. Without a clear principled attitude to this question, the Comintern and above all the British Communist Party will be condemned to ever newer mistakes and vacillations. In the struggle against the war danger, the resolution of the question of the Anglo-Russian Committee is the basic prerequisite for resolving all other questions, just as (by way of example) in the year 1914, no step forward could be made without first resolving the question whether Social-Democratic deputies could vote for the war budget.

2. In the British trade union movement, just as in the Labour Party, the leading role is played by reformists of different varieties, the majority of whom are liberal Labour politicians. In view of the profound leftward development of the working masses, it must be acknowledged that the most dangerous variety of the liberal Labour politicians are politicians of the type of Purcell [1], Hicks [2], Brailsford [3] and Co. The tottering structure of British imperialism is being supported at present not so much on Thomas [4] and MacDonald [5] as on Purcell, Brailsford and the like, without whom politicians such as Thomas and MacDonald, despite the fact that they are supported by the bourgeoisie, would no longer be able to maintain their leading position in the workers” movement. The irreconcilable and relentless struggle against the left lackeys of imperialism, both in the trade unions and in the Labour Party, is becoming especially urgent now, when the sharpening international and domestic situation will strike mercilessly at every indecision and hypocrisy.

3. The trade unions and the party have without doubt their special characteristics, their special methods of work, in particular their special methods of carrying out the united front. But it is precisely on the question of the political bloc with the reformist leaders that the distinction between the trade unions and the party is completely effaced. In all important and critical cases, the General Council proceeds hand in hand with the Executive Committee of the Labour Party and the parliamentary fraction. In calling off the great strike, the leading politicians and trade unionists went hand in hand. In such conditions, not a single honest worker will understand why Purcell is said to be politically a left lackey of the bourgeoisie, while on the other hand with respect to the trade unions we stand in “cordial relations,” “mutual understanding” and “unanimity” with him.

4. In particular cases, the tactic of the united front can lead to temporary agreements with this or that left group of reformists against the right wing. But such agreements must not in any circumstance be transformed into a lasting political bloc. Whatever concessions of principle we make for the purpose of artificially preserving such a political bloc must be recognized to be contrary to the basic aim of the united front and to be extremely harmful for the revolutionary development of the proletariat. During the last year the Anglo-Russian Committee has become just such an extremely harmful, thoroughly conservative factor.

5. The creation of the Anglo-Russian Committee was at a certain juncture an absolutely correct step. Under the leftward development of the working masses, the liberal Labour politicians, just like the bourgeois liberals at the start of a revolutionary movement, made a step to the left in order to maintain their influence among the masses. To reach out to them at that time was absolutely correct. However, it had to be clearly kept in mind that, just like all liberals, the British reformists would inevitably make a leap backwards to the side of opportunism, as the mass movement openly assumed revolutionary forms. This is just what happened at the moment of the General Strike. From the time of this gigantic event, the temporary agreement with the leaders had to be broken. and the break with the compromising of the “left” leaders used to advantage among the broad proletarian masses. The attempt to cling to the bloc with the General Council after the open betrayal of the General Strike, and even after the betrayal of the miners” strike, was one of the greatest mistakes in the history of the workers” movement. The Berlin capitulation is a black mark in the history of the Comintern and represents the inevitable consequence of this false line.

6. One must be blind or a hypocrite to see the “main defect” of the Berlin decisions in the fact that they narrowed the competence of the Anglo-Russian Committee instead of broadening it. The “competence” of the Anglo-Russian Committee during the last year consisted of this: that the All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions [AUCCTU] was trying to support the General Strike, while the General Council was breaking it. The AUCCTU was helping the miners” strike on a broad scale, while the General Council was betraying it. If one talks about the broadening of the activity of the Anglo-Russian Committee (cf. no. 29 of the Resolution of the Commission), one is hypocritically pretending that this activity served some real interest of the workers, while in reality the Anglo-Russian Committee merely shielded and covered over the base and treacherous work of the General Council. To broaden this “activity’ contradicts the basic interests of the working class. Ridiculous and disgraceful is the attempt to get free from the Berlin decisions simply by appealing to the fact that the General Council bears responsibility for them (cf. again no. 29 of the draft Resolution). That strike-breakers who descend lower and lower, seek to protect their strike-breaking work from outside intervention; that strike-breakers take pains to cover over their strike-breaking with the capitulation of the All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions; all that is quite in the order of things. But all that does not justify our capitulation one iota.

7. The plenum indignantly rejects the vulgar, philistine, thoroughly Menshevik argument that Chamberlain [6] “also” wants the break-up of the Anglo-Russian Committee. The very attempt to determine our revolutionary line according to the arbitrary guidance of the enigma of what at every given moment Chamberlain wants or doesn’t want is nonsensical. His task consists in getting the left lackeys, as far as possible, into his hands. For this purpose he squeezes them, unmasks them, blackmails them, and demands they break with the Bolsheviks. Under the influence of this pressure and this blackmail, the General Council blackmails the All-Union Council of Trade Unions and, for its part, threatens it with a split. Under the pressure of the General Council, the AUCCTU agrees to capitulate. In, this devious way Chamberlain’s task has been completed, for his blackmail has led to the capitulation of the AUCCTU.

8. If we were to break with the General Council in order to discontinue all intervention in the affairs of the British working class; if, after the break, we were to confine ourselves to our internal affairs, while the British Communist Party was not developing with redoubled energy its campaign against the General Council; then Chamberlain would have every cause to be satisfied with this state of affairs. But the break-up of the Anglo-Russian Committee ought to mean the very opposite. Since we flatly reject the Berlin principle of non-interference as the principle of chauvinism and not of internationalism, we must support with redoubled energy the British Communist Party and the Minority Movement [7] in their redoubled struggle against the left lackeys of Chamberlain. In the presence of such a policy, Chamberlain will very soon be convinced that the revolutionary wing of the movement grew stronger after it shed the reactionary connection with the General Council.

9. The plenum therefore considers it absolutely necessary to break up in the shortest space of time the political bloc, which carries a disastrous ambiguity into our whole policy towards British reformism. The plenum is of the opinion that the British Communist Party must at once openly pose the question of the mutual relationship between the AUCCTU and the General Council. The British Communist Party, as well as the left-wing trade union Minority Movement, must demand the immediate summoning of the Anglo-Russian Committee in order to develop, in the name of the AUCCTU, a clear revolutionary programme of struggle against war and the offensive of the bourgeoisie against the proletariat. The programme must be so formulated that it provides no scope to the charlatan trickery of Baldwin’s [8] pacifist party. Refusal of the General Council to summon the Anglo-Russian Committee, or refusal of its delegation to accept the programme of struggle, is to lead to immediate breaking up of the bloc from our side and to a broad campaign against the reformists, especially the left variety who, better and on a wider scale than all the rest at the present moment, are helping the British Conservatives drag the British working class into war, without themselves being aware of it.

10. While giving all-round support to the movement of the truly revolutionary minority and particularly while giving support to acceptable candidacies of representatives of this minority for this or that position in the trade union movement (always on the basis of a specific practical programme), the British Communist Party must not in any circumstances or under any conditions identify itself with the Minority Movement or merge the organizations. The British Communist Party must maintain full freedom of criticism with respect to the Minority Movement as a whole as well as with respect to its individual leaders, their mistakes and vacillations.

11. The sharpening class struggle in Britain and the approaching danger of war are creating conditions under which the policy of the particular “labour” parties, organizations, groups and “leaders” will quickly be put to the test by the course of events.

The inconsistency of word and deed should manifest itself in the shortest space of time. In such a period the Communist Party can rapidly enhance its revolutionary authority, its numbers, and especially its influence, provided that it conducts a clear, firm, bold, revolutionary policy, calls everything by its right name, makes no concessions of principle, keeps a sharp eye on its temporary alliance partners and fellow travellers and their vacillations, and mercilessly exposes trickery and above all direct treachery.

Amendments to the ECCI resolution on the situation in Britain,
first published in Documents de l’Opposition de Gauche
de l’Internationale Communiste
, October 1927

Volume 2, Chapter 2 Index


1. Alfred Purcell, left-wing member of the General Council of the TUC; president of the TUC 1924.

2. George Hicks (1879-1954), British trade unionist; originally a lewft-winger, but moved to the right during the 1920s; member of General Council of the TUC 1921-1941. Labour MP 1931-1950.

3. H.N. Brailsford (1973-1958), British left-wing journalist; editor of the New Leader, the ILP paper, 1922-26.

4. Jimmy Thomas (1874-1949), British trade unionist and Labour politician; General Secretary of the National Union of Railwaymen 1917-31; member of first (1924) and second (1929-31) Labour governments; supported MacDonald in the split in the Labour government over the reduction of unemployment benefit and went with MacDonald and Snowden into the National Government with the Conservatives; as a result he was expelled from the Labour Party and the NUR.

5. Ramsay MacDonald (1866-1937), Scottish Labour politician, member of Independent Labour Party (ILP), adopted pacifist position during World War I, prime minister in the first (1924) and second (1929-1931) Labour governments, defected in 1931 with Philip Snowden and Jimmy Thomas to form National Government with the Conservatives after the Labour government split on the question of cutting unemployment benefits, served as prime minister until 1935.

6. Austen Chamberlain (1863-1937), British Conservative politician; Foreign Secretary 1924-1929.

7. This body of trade unionists was organized under the leadership of the Communist Party of Great Britain in 1924 from the militant rank and file in many industries. It built up support and its conferences secured increasing representation up to the 1926 General Strike. However, it never really broke from its syndicalist antecedents and came under the control of Stalinist policies, collapsing in the suicidal dual unionist policies of the Comintern in the late 1920s.

8. Stanley Baldwin (1867-1947), British Conservative politician; prime minister three times 1923-1924, 1924-1929 and 1935-1937; prime minister during the General Strike.

Volume 2 Index

Trotsky’s Writings on Britain

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Last updated on: 2.7.2007