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The Militant, 10 September 1932

Balham Group

British Left Comes Out Openly
in Fight For Leninist Policy

(September 1932)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 37 (Whole No. 133), 10 September 1932, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The great historic events shaking our planet these days do not remain without their effects on the cadres of the Communist International. Everywhere in the world party of Communism, the militant, conscientious, Left wing elements are coming to the fore, alarmed by the discrepancy between the objective situation and the lethargy of the leadership, pressing forward along the road of the Left Opposition.

Among the latest of these movements within the Comintern is the struggle of the well-known “Balham Group”, a group long active in the very forefront of the struggles of the British Communist Party and constituting one of the decisive party nuclei in the London district. The group at Balham has recently come to clashes with the bureaucracy under Pollitt over the question of the attitude of the Stalin regime toward the pacifist anti-war congress of the petty bourgeois intellectuals headed by Rolland-Barbusse as well as on the German question. The Pollitts have retaliated with an “ideological” campaign which begins with the expulsion of the outstanding comrades of the Balham Group!

These tried and tested methods or the Stalinist bureaucracy have proved of no avail in the past, they will help even less in the future. The Leninist ideas will not be suppressed! Nothing can stop their victory. We greet our British comrades as fellow fighters and extend our hands to them in international solidarity. Their fight is our fight. In spite of the bureaucracy, in spite of all its headless and desperate tactics against the Left. The Bolshevik-Leninists will not be deterred. Together, we will redouble our offensive!

The declaration of the Balham comrades follows below:

To Our Comrades In The Communist Party From The “Liquidated” Balham Group

Dear Comrades:

“No other party or working class organization provides such opportunity of full and open discussion by all workers.”

With these words the Party pre-congress discussion was opened in last Monday’s Daily Worker.

Two days later the London District Party Committee “liquidated” the Balham Group; expelled Reg Groves and Harry Wicks, and suspended Henry Sara. The principal charge against the group and against these comrades is that of “Opposing the line of the Party in relation to the World Anti-War Congress.”

Demanded Party Congress

As part of our group work we have discussed such vital issues as the German position, the anti-war campaign and the state of our party; we have reached conclusions and have fought for them as a group. We have for some long time urged the opening of a party discussion and the holding of the long overdue party Congress. Now that the discussion has been opened, and the party Congress fixed for October, the Balham Group has been “liquidated”, and its leading members expelled and suspended.

“Free and Full Discussion” – Phrase and Fact

What a contrast of words with deeds! Reassuring phrases about “ full free and open discussion,” but drastic action against those who advance serious criticism of the party’s policy. The great tradition of Bolshevism, the method of Lenin – that of open discussion preceding party decision – is being replaced by orders from above, phrase-mouthing and bureaucratic stifling of criticism. Bureaucracy has already weakened our Party: if persisted in, it will smother real Congress discussion and prevent our party achieving the clarity necessary for struggle.

On our position to the World Anti-War Congress we stand firm. There is danger of a new world war: the lives of millions are at stake. Full and serious consideration of every stage of the struggle against war is imperative. Yet the criticism of this Congress advanced by this group has been refused publication, and even our right to voice such criticism denied. Because we maintain this right they attempt to drive us from the party.

On the Anti-War Congress

This World Anti-War Congress has been convened by Barbusse – the advocate of fusion between Amsterdam and the Comintern, and Rolland, the devotee of Gandhi. Around these two have gathered intellectuals, pacifists and Left socialists, the parlor defenders of the U.S.S.R. To seek allies among the most sincere and courageous of the petty bourgeois pacifists is one thing; to entrust to them the leadership of the struggle against war, is quite another. Yet this is what Pollitt, by signing the manifesto, has declared the Party agrees to do. Our group holds that the first task of the party is to build the workers’ united front against war; for upon the international proletariat rests the defense of the U.S.S.R. A world anti-war congress must be a workers’ congress initiated by the Comintern with the aim of bringing to our side the masses of the workers now organized under the banner of the Second International. But the present Congress is based upon a united front from the top, on a pacifist slogan of “resistance to war.”

For this anti-war campaign our Party is distributing, not the message of Lenin but the Rolland-Barbusse appeal. The message of these two conveners of the Congress invoking the aid of all classes – this pacifist poison-gas – is distributed to workers by Communists all over Britain. Congress social-patriots are given advertisement as genuine anti-war fighters; and new victims are thus taught to trust old and proven traitors. Pollitt appears united with Maude Royden and all the other peace time war resisters. For the sake of “unity” with pacifists, careerists, humbugs, and politicians, Lenin’s way of fighting war is pushed out of sight. For appealing to Lenin’s method against Rolland and Barbusse at this time, on the eve of war, the Balham Group is liquidated and its point of view suppressed.

On Germany

While this criminal farce at Amsterdam is described as the fight against war, the actual danger grows greater. The growth of Fascism in Germany menaces the existence of the party and the workers’ organizations and brings Germany nearer to the anti-Soviet bloc. What happens in Germany will decide for years ahead the fate of the European workers. Our group discussed the German situation, organized, through the local anti-war committee, solidarity meetings; demanded discussion throughout the party, and a wide campaign amongst British workers. But the party remained silent on the German events. Not until the von Papen coup d’état in July did the party move; and then it only hurriedly organized week-end meetings. Even today the party fails to respond to the march of events in Germany. There are still no leaflets, no pamphlets, no solidarity meetings on this question.

On these and other issues we feel that we are justified in breaking the ban on real discussion. The falling party membership, the declining Daily Worker circulation, the absence of Minority Movement influence, proves a real discussion to be imperative. By discussion we mean, not formal acknowledgments of the correctness of the party line, but a critical examination of the line, and particularly of its operation during the later part of 1931. We hold that wrong party policy and bureaucracy in the party are responsible for its unsatisfactory position.

Answer to Threat of Expulsion

Unless we give up our point of view, we are threatened with expulsion. But we joined the Party believing it to be the only party for the workers; we still think this, and we shall hold both to our point of view and to the party. We shall not be harassed, as was Murphy, into deserting the party. We shall work to win the membership to our point of view. Expulsions and “liquidations” will not be the last word in this struggle. We shall fight within the party for reinstatement, we shall appeal to the Central Committee, to the party Congress, to the Comintern. Meanwhile, we shall constantly put before the party our criticisms and suggestions, and shall – in this area – keep on working for Communism and for the party, side by side with all other party members.

We do not want to return in order to “vote and keep quiet,” we want to play our part in the struggle against wrong policy, against bureaucracy, and for the correct policy essential for Communist work for the revolution. Only by struggle can the party be changed from a paper-distributing, phrase-mouthing, resolution-passing machine, into a live and vigorous section of the International. We want to help with this job. We ask you, comrades, to demand our reinstatement as a group.

We are, comrades, yours fraternally,


              THE BALHAM GROUP


Steve Dowdall

11 years’ membership

Jim Barrett

  8 years’ membership

D. Groves

  6 years’ membership

F. Chalcroft

  8 months’ membership

I. Mussi

  8 months’ membership

C. Whiting

  8 months’ membership

Harry Wicks

11 years’ membership

Henry Sara

  9 years’ membership

Reg. Groves

  5 years’ membership

N. Dowdall

  6 years’ membership

M. Simmonds

  8 months’ membership

W. Pyne

  9 months’ membership

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