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Crimes of Stalin

Lydia Beidel

The Crimes of Stalin

Stalin Wrecks the British Communist
Movement – 1925–26

(8 November 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 45, 8 November 1941, p. 6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Background of the 1925–26 Events

In the Communist International: Under the pressure of world capitalism, reflected in the USSR by the rich peasant (kulak), Stalin moved to the right. Politically, this turn manifested itself within Russia in a great campaign against “Trotskyism” and the enunciation of the theory of Socialism in one country; in other countries, it appeared as a desperate courting of bourgeois elements.

In England: November 1924 – Hardly a month after the official birth of Stalin’s theory of Socialism in one country, a delegation of British trade union leaders, headed by A.A. Purcell, president of the Trade Union Congress, visited the USSR and returned to write a glowing report of conditions there.

May 1925 – A Russian delegation, headed by M. Tomsky, chairman of the Central Council of the Russian trade unions, returned the British T.U.C. visit by attending the Hull Trades Union Congress.

May 14, 1925 – A protocol was signed by the leaders of the British and Russian trade unions, dedicated to the furthering of international trade union unity, the struggle against capitalist reaction, and the fight against a new war. Thus was the Anglo-Russian Committee formed, with equal representation from each country.

The Committee, from the standpoint of the Soviet Union, might have performed a useful function to the working class, if the Russian trade union leadership and the British Communist party constantly warned the British working class of the character of the reformist trade union bureaucracy.

Anticipating the disaster to come from Stalin’s opportunism, Trotsky wrote a bitingly critical work entitled Whither England, in which he warned against every move which was to come in the ensuing disaster; it was condemned by Stalin as more evidence of “criminal Trotskyism”.

General Strike of 1926

May 1, 1926 – After a year of wide-spread local strikes of increasing seriousness, the British trade unions, by a vote of 3,653,529 to 49,911, declared a General Strike in support of certain miners’ demands.

The British Communist party, poised at a turning- point in its history, threw its support (following the line of its guide, the Anglo-Russian Committee) wholeheartedly behind the bureaucracy of the T.U.C.

The General Council of the T.U.C., meanwhile, in the persons of Arthur Pugh (later Sir Arthur), Walter Citrine (later Sir Walter) and J.H. Thomas, grovelled on the doorstep at 10 Downing Street, begging to be allowed to betray the strike to the Prime Minister, who was so frightened by the solidarity of the British workers that he feared even their misleaders.

Tension increased; the Prime Minister gave orders to the troops to fire if necessary; the workers raged at the signs of capitulation on the part of their leadership.

In a few days the General Strike was called off by the General Council. The workers of England, in a mood of political rebellion, were leaderless and the Communist party found itself bound and gagged by the bonds of the Anglo-Russian Trade Union Committee.

Problem Facing the British

The Left Opposition in the Russian Communist party immediately demanded of Stalin-Tomsky that they withdraw at once and demonstratively from the Anglo-Russian Committee, in order to permit the British C.P. to raise its voice and organize the workers against the betrayal.

Stalin’s Policy

From the day the Anglo-Russian Committee was formed until the British labor bureaucrats broke it up, Stalin looked upon the Committee and the General Council of the T.U.C. as a “bulwark against capitalism.” He stubbornly refused to admit bureaucrats were basically instruments of the bosses.

In July 1926, at a meeting of the Central Executive Committee of the Russian Communist Party, Stalin summarized his attitude: “If the reactionary English trade unions are willing to enter a bloc against the counter-revolutionary imperialists of their own country – then why not make this bloc? ... And so, the Anglo-Russian Committee is the bloc between our trade unions and the reactionary trade unions of England ... for the purpose of struggle against imperialist wars in general, and against intervention in particular ... Comrades Trotsky and Zinoviev should remember this, and remember it well.”

At the end of July, the Committee met in Paris. The Russian unions issued a criticism of the conduct of the General Strike; the General Council protested against it, refused to discuss the strike and rejected an offer of monetary assistance for the British miners’ strike from the Russian unions on the ground that the offer constituted meddling in British affairs. The Russian criticism was promptly modified and the betrayal became simply a display of “unforgivable tactics”. The General Council retaliated by passing a resolution accusing Russia of “intolerable interference in the domestic affairs of the British trade union movement.”

In May, 1927, Chamberlain raided the Soviet Trade Commission (Arcos) buildings in London and broke off relations with the Soviet Union; the General Council withdrew from the Anglo-Russian Committee and handed over the corpse for Stalin to bury.

Effect upon the British

For three critical years in British history, the Communist Party had been hamstrung. It could not strike out for independent leadership of the working class; it could not even criticize the treacherous policies of the British labor bureaucracy.

Because of the false theory of Socialism in one country and Stalin’s cowardly belief that the Soviet Union could be saved from intervention by a policy of placating bourgeois elements in the capitalist countries, the British Communist Party was fatally compromised and crippled. Stalin, the great “organizer of proletarian defeats”, already in 1927 had betrayed the British revolution.

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