Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Prof. George Thomson, Member, Central Committee, Communist Party of Great Britain

Sharpening of Ideological Battle in Britain

Published:For a Lasting Peace, for a People’s Democracy!, [Organ of the Information Bureau of the Communist and Workers’ Parties (Cominform)], No. 16 (43) August 15, 1949.
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A special responsibility rests on the Communist Party of Great Britain to mobilise the British people in defence of peace, democracy and national independence, and particularly to expose the treacherous role of social democracy in the present situation in Britain.

The economic basis of British opportunism was laid in the last century, when the bourgeoisie used the super-profits of colonial exploitation to build up and bribe a “labour aristocracy” within the labour movement. Social democracy in this period saw its role as winning concessions for the working class within the capitalist system; and, just as the growth of British imperialism was exceptionally rapid and extensive, so the exponents of opportunism and reformism, already deeply rooted in the labour movement, were able to establish themselves in an exceptionally strong position.

Having no intention of making decisive inroads on capitalism, the Labour leaders put forward their theory of the “middle way”, implying that there is another way to Socialism besides the way of class struggle. Some of them have come out openly in defence of capitalism. Thus, Douglas Jay, Economic Adviser to Attlee, has written: “Profit is a payment for risk bearing in just as real a sense as wages are for work, and risk bearing is just as necessary as work for the production of goods and services.” On the other hand, they tell us that since 1945 we have had a “socialist Britain”, and some of the Labour leaders go so far as to declare that “the proletariat as such has ceased to exist in Western Europe”.

To-day, faced once more with the prospect of a slump, the British capitalists are attacking the liberties and living standards of the workers and preparing for war against the Soviet Union.

The capitalist policy of wage cuts and war preparations is meeting with growing resistance from the militant sections of the working class, led by the Communist Party. The anti-Communist drive launched by reaction has encountered severe rebuffs, and the ideological offensive against Communism has aroused in the minds of the workers some fundamental questions to which only Marxism can provide the answer. It is becoming increasingly clear that the only guarantee of peace, without which everything is in jeopardy, lies in friendship with the Soviet Union and the New Democracies. The rapid progress of those countries, and the heroic victories of the Chinese people, contrast with the creeping paralysis of the approaching economic collapse in the imperialist camp. In the face of these developments the British worker’s traditional indifference to theory is breaking down. Published only recently, Comrade Gallacher’s book, “The Case for Communism”, has already achieved a mass sale. The sharp battle of ideas is revealing itself as a battle for and against Marxism-Leninism.

In this battle the reactionaries possess considerable material advantages. The educational system, the radio, cinema, theatre, and almost the whole of the press are at their disposal. They control the key positions in the professions, which are occupied by specially trained members of the ruling class selected from the older universities. But what have the bourgeois intellectuals to offer? In economics, the idea that a planned economy is incompatible with individual liberty (Hayek): in history, the idea that the heritage of classical antiquity is embodied exclusively in “Western civilisation” (Gilbert Murray): in art, the idea that, drawing his inspiration from some unknowable source, the artist lives for himself alone, indifferent to the aspirations of the people (T. S. Eliot): in science, the reactionary idea that man’s attempt to impose his power on the world of nature is an act of “cosmic impiety” and so doomed to failure (Bertrand Russell). They have nothing but a message of despair. They have lost all faith in themselves and are animated only by fear and hatred of the people.

These idealists, who fix their gaze so intently on the “eternal values” of “Western civilisation”, are blind to the imported filth which day by day is destroying the heritage of British culture. It is estimated that nearly 80 per cent of the fiction and 55 per cent of the films circulating in this country come from America, all portraying the “American way of life”, which consists, if one were to judge from these products, of kidnapping, theft, horror, rape, and murder. Such are the cultural benefits of Marshall Aid. Meanwhile British authors cannot find a publisher and British film actors are out of work.

These reactionaries have betrayed that very heritage which they claim to hold so sacred – the heritage of our national culture. But life moves on making place for the new. That is why the scientific obscurantist’s, full of disgust and self-contempt, vilifying human nature are insulting the dignity of man. They want to turn back to fascism which destroys all culture, destroys life itself. They tried to fill the minds of the British people with the idea that only subordination to the American dollar can save Britain. Under these conditions the Communist Party is combating reaction in ideology as the most dangerous enemy of the British people.

This year is the 300th anniversary of the English Revolution. Our Party is commemorating it in a series of special articles, lectures, meetings and pageants. Our aims are: first, to reveal the English Revolution of 1649 along with the French Revolution of 1789 and the Great October Socialist Revolution of 1917 as stages of human progress and emancipation advancing toward the goal of Communism; secondly, to demonstrate the Marxist-Leninist theory of the state by showing how our own bourgeoisie in the days of its youth attacked the old feudal monarchist slate and smashed it; thirdly, to demonstrate the Marxist-Leninist theory of democracy by showing how, as it developed, bourgeois democracy revealed its inherent limitations, which can only be transcended by the socialist revolution; and fourthly, by reminding the people of past achievements, which the contemporary bourgeoisie had distorted or suppressed, to show that Marxism, the theory and practice of the Communist Party, embodies, preserves, and develops all that is most precious in our national tradition.

The battle of ideas calls for the participation of all Party members, workers and intellectuals alike; and in order to participate effectively, each of them must be constantly waging the battle to master Marxism.

For these reasons our intellectuals are required to work in their local branches, which are basic units of the Party.

Our intellectuals are also organised in professional groups for the purpose of discussing their special problems and carrying out their two special tasks, which are, first, to make original contributions to Marxism, and, secondly, to maintain a running fire of polemics against the barrage of bourgeois propaganda.

The successes of the Communist Party in polemics with bourgeois ideologists on questions of culture and art cannot satisfy us. In April last year the National Cultural Committee, which supervises the work of the professional groups, convened a national conference on the battle of ideas, attended by delegates, industrial and professional, from all parts of the country; this has been followed by a number of district conferences of the same character. The National Cultural Committee has also organised discussions on the resolutions of the C.P.S.U.(B.) on questions of culture. But this side of our work is still weak. In his report to the Central Committee in February, Comrade Pollitt said: “We should be lacking in our duly if we did not also draw attention to another important task. That is the urgent necessity of combating the capitalist attacks on Communism in the scientific and cultural field. On these questions it must be admitted we have shirked our responsibilities, and we have been far too slow to take the offensive, strengthened as we well could be by our knowledge of the scientific and cultural achievements of the Soviet Union.”

It is essential to reveal the ideological basis of the predatory, aggressive policy pursued by the U.S.–a policy which finds clearest expression in the Marshall Plan and in the North-Atlantic Pact.

Giving utterance to “progressive” phraseology, the ideologists of U.S. imperialism are continually attacking the idea of national sovereignty, claiming that national sovereignty has outlived itself. The bourgeoisie of the countries now within the U.S. orbit need the defeatist doctrine of “world” government and the abandonment of national sovereignty as justification for their treachery. In dread of their people, the capitalist governments entertain the hope of maintaining their exploitation of the people under the aegis of U.S. imperialism.

While combating the anti-patriotic policy of the capitalist governments, the Communists will continue to fight for the interests of their people and for the cultural heritage of their people. Defending proletarian internationalism, the Communists remain staunch champions of national sovereignty.

In carrying forward the battle of ideas our other tasks include: first, to expose the reactionary propaganda of the capitalists, and especially of the right-wing leaders of the Labour Party, who are leading the country into war; secondly, to improve and extend the organisation of our professional groups, so that the Party may mobilise all its force for the ideological struggle; thirdly, and above all, lo deepen our own understanding of Marxism, so that we may convey its message simply, confidently and thereby help to build a mass Party in Britain.