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British Crisis Sharpens

Militant Correspondents Describe Moods of the Workers

(September 1931)

From The Militant, Vol. IV No. 26, 10 October 1931, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

LONDON. – The position here grows more and more unsatisfactory: it seems that as the crisis grows more acute so the uncertainty and confusion of the Party leadership increases. Their failure to state a concrete policy right at the beginning has led the Party into making blunder after blunder: even now the lead being issued is half-hearted and unreal.

The strong feeling aroused amongst the working-class shows no sign of diminishing: indeed it grows daily and has been strengthened by the sailors’ splendid stand against the economies to be effected in their pay – a stand which has already brought promises from the government of possible readjustment. But precisely because there exists no capable Communist leadership the movement seems likely to come to nothing.

It was necessary for the Party to enter this struggle perfectly clear about two things; the immediate steps to be taken by the workers, led by the party, to meet the Government’s attack; the organization necessary and the ways of fighting; and the role of a revolutionary party in such a situation. On both these points the party blundered – it still avoids any clear answer to the question being asked by all workers “How are we to fight!” There can only be one reply since in such a situation the workers have only one weapon to commence such a fight with – general strike action. The party leadership asked whether strike action is their policy reply that strike action is a “weapon that needs to be used ‘wisely’.” True enough – but coming from those who for the last four years have sought strikes on every little protest, have held up ridiculous “immediate” demands for the workers to strike for, who have used the strike weapon on very “unwisely” and mainly to impress their Stalinist pay-master, it signifies a cowardly running away from the issues of the day. For the present Party campaign of demonstrations is meaningless and merely a parallel campaign to that of the I.L.P. if it is not run for the purpose of securing general action by the workers. When this is pointed out and when the results of this policy are seen in secret maneuvers with Maxton, Kirkwood and Brockway, the reply of the present leadership is to attack the party comrades of the “Left” and allow numerous right errors to go unchecked. Probably nothing could show the essentially reformist attitude of the Party leadership more strikingly than their attitude towards the sailors. The cuts in pay of the sailors received no attention from the Party and were ignored in their slogans: then the Atlantic Fleet went on strike and the Daily Worker filled its front page with babblings about the Atlantic Fleet but avoided any definite appeal to the sailors: that is they did not urge any form of organization or action upon the sailors but merely applauded their action. The German Communist Paper has been suspended for four weeks for a direct appeal to the English sailors whilst the English Communist Daily avoids this and beyond sending “greetings” plays no part in the sailors’ struggle whatsoever.

The need is for effective organization of all the workers for mass demonstrations and for strike action; for a real revolutionary leadership; for courage and determination. Indecisiveness, hesitation avoidance of direct and clear preparation for widespread strike action, friendly overtures to the “Left” of the I.L.P., talk of the General Election, hiding of the revolutionary implications of the struggle, these things are helping to confuse and weaken the workers and to prevent real resistance to the economy cuts and to the heavy wage-reductions threatened. Whether such a leadership can come forward in the party it is impossible to say, but there are signs that efforts are being made to force the issues into open Party discussion.

* * *

The full extent of the National Government’s economies are now known: it is beginning to be clear that this attack is preliminary to widespread wage reductions, affecting all sections of the working class. Talk of “balancing the budget” has now given place to talk of the need to revive industry and trade. For the financial crisis is only the reflection of the existing industrial crisis: the outflow of gold is due to the increasing excess of imports over exports, so great that the enormous tribute levied by British capitalism from foreign investments cannot cover it, and only a revival of industry and increased exports can save the whole of British imperialism. Because under capitalism present methods must go ton the only “solution” possible for the ruling class is wage-cuts. The Budget has been “balanced” by reducing the wages of state employees and by cutting the benefits of the unemployed: trade can only be revived by heavy wage reductions in the principal industries.

Arthur Hayday, M.P., in his presidential address to the Trades Union Congress said: “To restore our export trade to equilibrium, if the wage-cutting policy were adopted, would involve wage reductions of 20 to 30 per cent”. That the wage-cutting policy will be adopted we need not doubt: it is as certain as the fact that the trade union and labor leaders will not offer any real resistance to the Government’s economies. For the extent of the wage reductions and of the strength of the workers’ resistance to these demands depends very much upon the nature of the opposition to the National Government’s economies.

Parliamentary Opposition

The Labor Party’s “opposition” has been revealed as one of words and very weak “words” at that! Indeed, there is widespread suspicion that the whole affair has been “rigged”: this instinctive feeling is very widespread among the workers.

The role of the Labor opposition is clear enough: it is to divert the growing fury and revolt of the workers into “safe” parliamentary channels. More than ever before is the parliamentary deceit clear to all and the uselessness of the Labor Party’s opposition opens the way to the development of a powerful mass movement led by the Communist party.

In .the weakness and cowardice of the Party leadership lies groat danger for the workers of England. Hesitant for days, unwilling to move without sanction from Moscow; locals, all initiative destroyed by the suppression of discussion and by the attacks on critical comrades, did nothing save run meetings, and the party as a whole could return no answer to the question of the workers “what do you suggest we should do?” This remains unchanged: the party has no definite policy and even distorts and alters resolutions passed by militant trade union branches in order to avoid being committed too definitely. Where steps have been taken by locals, results have followed but in the vast majority of districts the workers are being offered denunciations of the T.U.C., of the Labor Party, of the I.L.P., and nothing beyond that. The need of the hour is the uniting of the organized and unorganized workers together with the unemployed in each district for action; mass demonstrations and preparation for widespread strike action. No other course is possible save confusion.

The Party

The implications of widespread action against the economies are obvious: any real and effective struggle would intensify the crisis and line up openly the two classes for warfare with the state forces at the disposal of the employees. A revolutionary party should face the implications, prepare the workers to face them and lead into struggle a conscious working-class; to avoid clear explanation and preparation is treachery. The party is avoiding it and is thus almost indistinguishable from the Independent Labor Party. Time is all important but the signs are that the leadership of the English party will fail to utilize this great chance and that their failure will be paid for heavily by the English workers. It is the task of Left Oppositionists in England to rouse the party membership against the present policy and methods of the party leaders; to force discussion and full consideration of the position immediately and to win to the party workers who will fight inside it for a return to the Communism of Lenin and Trotsky.

London, September 15, 1931


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