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Workers’ International News, December 1940


The “People’s” Convention


From Workers’ International News, Vol.3 No.12, December 1940, December 1940, pp.5-7. [1]
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The Six Point Programme

The agitation for the People’s Convention on the part of the Communist Party is reaching its climax in preparation for the National Convention in January, 1941. A six point programme has been issued round which the Convention is to revolve. Wherever the Communist. Party has any influence it is energetically propagating this programme. In order to understand where it is that Stalinism, with its new twists and turns, is attempting to lead the working-class, let us examine the formal programme itself.

Points 1, 2 and 3 call for “Defence of the people’s living standards,” “Defence of the people’s democratic and trade union rights,” and “adequate air-raid precautions, deep bomb-proof shelters, rehousing and relief of victims.” How these laudable objects are to be achieved is not explained at all. The necessity for stern and bitter class struggles through the trade union and factory committees, as the indispensable and only means of fighting back against the attacks of the employers, is not indicated at all. The necessity to link up the needs of the small farmers, shop keepers and middle class generally with the struggle of the working-class, through committees of their representatives, linked with consumers’ and factory committees, is not even understood.

These three points are merely bait to fool those sections of the working-class who are disillusioned with the war and its consequences. The appeal around these demands is intended to draw them round the rest of the programme of the Communist Party.

Point 4 calls for “Friendship with the Soviet Union.” Presumably on the lines of the Franco-Soviet Pact of the good old days of the Popular Front, or – on the lines of the German-Soviet agreement. Instead of explaining that there can never be genuine “friendship” between the Soviet Union and any capitalist state, and that the only “friend” which the Soviet Union possesses is the revolutionary working-class, this meaningless phrase is thrust forward. Moreover, “friendship,” the word chosen, is in itself an indication of the ideology of those who put it forward. For the defence of the conquests of the October Revolution, and “friendship” with the Soviet bureaucracy, (which is what they mean) are two entirely different things. The Kremlin and its agency, the Communist Party, through whom it acts in the working-class movement, conceive that movement as a pawn to be used in the interests of Soviet diplomacy. For the Communist Party this is the key to the whole sham which it is busily erecting. Any influence it might gain would be a bartering counter in the deals between Stalin and British Imperialism or its rivals. Yes! For the defence of the Soviet Union against Imperialism, but not by the abandonment of the independent proletarian policy in the Imperialist states. That is how the problem must be posed by advanced workers.

Point 3 says “A people’s government truly representative of the whole people able to inspire the confidence of the working people of the world.” In agitating for this Convention, in speeches and in articles, the Communist Party and those elements close to it, sometimes interpret their policy as a call for a “Socialist” Government, sometimes a “People’s” Government in accordance with the class nature of the audience. Nowhere, and in no way is its nature and class constitution analysed. Very conveniently for these skilful deceivers of the masses, the “People’s” Government will mean different things at different times for different purposes.

Point 6 concludes with the grandiose scheme for “A people’s peace that gets rid of the causes of war.” Very nice and very vague and ambiguous. Occasionally, nowadays the Communist Party leaders let slip their “rediscovery” of the teachings of Lenin: that war is caused by the clashes between the rival Imperialisms for markets, colonies and raw materials, and that only the overthrow of the capitalist system can bring peace. That this overthrow can only take place through civil war and the seizure of power by the workers, is very rarely and casually hinted at, but no consistent and “patient explanation” of the elementary axioms of Leninism is given to the workers. That is the road they do not wish for and cannot travel.

Who Supports the People’s Convention?

Insofar as this Conference has any real backing, it is composed of supporters and sympathisers of the Communist Party who sincerely, believe that it is a step on the road to workers’ power, and some militants disgusted with the Labour leaders, who are seeking an alternative, leadership. Unfortunately, although the mass influence of Stalinism is negligible, they maintain a hold upon a section of the leading militants in the factories and the trade unions who will be represented at this Conference. It is for them that the occasional references to Socialism are made by the Communist Party leaders. Precisely because of this, the movement represents a real danger to the working-class.

Pritt & Company, GPU agents in all but name, who actually are the nominal sponsors of the movement played no great part in setting it. in motion. Without the powerful apparatus of the Communist Party, the so-called “People’s movement” would not exist. The mechanics of “the spontaneity with which this movement has sprung up” (Pritt, Labour Monthly, October 1940) is crystal clear. It is the local organisations of the Communist Party with their fraction workers in the mass organisations of the Labour movement, that has given the semblance of a following to this Convention. Without it, and with it too, in the long run, the whole elaborate procedure would collapse without arousing a ripple among the broad masses. This is demonstrated by the fact that the Communist Party refrain from measuring their support among the “people” by putting up candidates in the by-elections. Thus is revealed clearly the nature of the Communist Party’s attempt to deceive their militants by utilising as the excuse for their ambiguous and impotent programme, the support of the broad strata of the “people.”

Revolutionary workers are being lulled by speeches such as that of Pritt to the militant workers of South Wales: “The only chance for humanity is that this Government be replaced quickly by a government of the working-class.” (Daily Worker, October 7). When this is used as part of the propaganda for a “People’s Government” it must be exposed as sheer demagogy leading the working-class on the road to disaster. The danger is that a large section of the leftward moving workers groping for the revolutionary alternative to that of the Labour Party will be swung off their course and led into mere adventures or a new support for some more pernicious version of the “Popular Front,” some new coalition with the capitalist class – depending on the direction of Soviet diplomacy.

The Popular Front in Disguise

Still the problem remains unsolved: what is the difference between the so-called “People’s Government” and a “Workers’ Government”: between a “People’s Government” and a “Capitalist Government?” Even the moderate demands listed by the Communist Party are impossible of achievement under any form of capitalist government whatever in the present stage of the decline of capitalism. No more than a People’s Front in Spain, or France, or the Kerensky Government in Russia can any combination of forces except the working-class in power, supported by the other exploited sections of the population, solve the problems that hang over society like a malignant nightmare.

The disastrous class collaboration policy which led to the defeats in France and Spain is being perpetrated once again in Britain, but under conditions which guarantee even more disastrous consequences, while not event the shadow of an argument exists for the pursuance of such a policy. The People’s Convention is the inheritance of the policy of the Popular Front – of an alliance between a section of the Conservative Party, the Liberal, Labour and Communist Parties, palming itself off as an alliance representing the “people.” God knows with whom the alliance is supposed to be now. The alleged representatives of the people are all in the Government. It is a shadow of a shadow with whom the workers are to unite. The “Popular Front” is dead – so long live – the “People’s Convention.”

Nevertheless, if any worker airs his doubts, the miserable Communist Party leaders retort with lofty superiority over the “sectarian Trotskyists”: “the masses are not interested in revolution at present, we must find a way to rouse them from their apathy and despair, we must cater for their immediate needs, as our programme does.” Yes! together with their social democratic brothers, they demoralised, confused and betrayed the masses into this war. Their betrayals have led to this situation resulting in the present mood of the masses. The task of the revolutionaries is to develop and awaken the consciousness of the masses which cannot but bring them into collision with their oppressors. But the sham and the burlesque of the People’s Convention is not necessary for that, and indeed it constitutes au obstacle. Lenin’s teachings are there to give a simple guidance for those who wish to see.

The Labour Leaders

The toilers at present cannot see any alternative to the present regime but the victory of Hitler, and naturally, they will not accept that as a solution. This possibility cannot but provoke shudders of dread among the masses. That is why Bevin, Morrison and the other Labour leaders have been enabled to consummate their treachery so easily by entering the Government. This is a fine example of the Popular Front – that Popular Front Government of Churchill, Sinclair and Attlee, which Pollitt, Gallagher, Palme Dutt and the other Communists Party leaders shouted themselves hoarse for, before and during the early days of the war, and which they would be supporting even to-day if the dictates of Stalin’s diplomacy required it.

The Communist Party has pointed out that the Labour bureaucracy remains the “main prop of British Imperialism.” How can this prop be knocked from under it? Only by winning away the masses of the workers who acquiesce in their leadership. This cannot be accomplished by mere verbal denunciations. The way to expose the Labour leaders is to put forward a series of demands which affect the day to day needs of the working-class. In order to expose them, revolutionists put forward the demand that the Labour leaders break completely with their collaboration with the capitalist government and take power on a platform of demands necessary to the tolerable existence of the masses in war; a programme of demands which finds its solution only through the expropriation of the capitalist class and the coming to power of the proletariat. Stalinism by its very nature cannot take this path because the Stalinist bureaucracy uses the British and other workers merely as tools of Soviet foreign policy and nothing else. This is why the People’s Convention contains both sectarianism and opportunism.

The emphasis on the “people” as a homogeneous mass is completely incorrect. The “people” is divided into classes with their sub-strata. In Britain more than in any other country in the world, the working-class constitutes the decisive and overwhelming mass of the population, socially and numerically. The task of the revolutionaries is to sharpen the class consciousness of the workers by showing them the antagonisms between their own interests and those of their exploiters. The tradition of the independence of the Labour movement in Britain, which painfully and over a great period of time, broke away from collaboration with the Liberals and the Tories under mass pressure, is still strong, especially within the ranks of organised labour. While passively accepting Labour’s entry into the Tory Government, the workers are uneasy about such a policy. The axis of our policy must be to appeal to the workers as a class, consistently, untiringly and clearly. Using this as the basis of agitation the Labour leaders will be put to the test and unmasked in the eyes of the masses. If the phrase that the Labour bureaucracy remains “the main prop of British Imperialism” has any meaning at all, it is that their collaboration with the capitalists is necessary for the smooth functioning of the present regime. Starting with the clear analysis of the class relations, the whole basic assumption on which the “people’s” movement will be built, is immediately destroyed. It is in this failure to appeal to the workers on a class basis that, the treachery of the Communist Party leadership is exposed. That they recognise its significance is demonstrated by the occasional demagogic phrases directed to the instinctive class outlook of their worker element.

The agitation for independent policies as a class, fighting also for the needs of the other strata of the exploited section of the population – that always was the starting point for Lenin, even in an overwhelming middle class country like Russia. How much more so in a country like England where the working-class constitutes two-thirds of the population.

The People’s Convention is a bastard hybrid with the bad features of an attempt to isolate and mislead the genuine revolutionary elements and the continuation of the old Popular Front line on the other. The advanced Communist Party workers must break with this conception, or they will be broken like their comrades in other countries.

Taking the situation as it is at present it is necessary to expose the Labour leaders who still retain the confidence of the large majority of the working-class. We demand that they cease all collaboration with the Churchill Government and assume full power on a platform of demands which culminates in the expropriation of the mines, banks, railways and industry and placing them in the hands of the workers; the right to self-determination of the colonial possessions of Britain; and an appeal to the German workers, on the basis of this complete destruction of the power of British Imperialism, for the overthrow of Hitler and German imperialism and for the co-operation in the construction of the Socialist United States of Europe. This is Lenin’s way of posing the problems of peace and war. Thus the way will be prepared for the development and extension of Soviets and the seizure of power through a revolutionary party.


Transcriber’s Note

1. Clearly written by a French speaker. P. Frank?

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