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The I.L.P. and British Communism

(June 1932)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 23, 4 June 1932, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

In the last few months, the question of the attitude of the party towards the Independent Labor Party has occupied the attention of the party and the C.I. The absence of a clear policy on this matter has led to frequent disasters: the bloc with the ‘Left’ reformists from 1925–1927, the support of the Maxton-Cook movement of 1928, and the confusion on this question as recent as last Autumn, all these blunders are due to the essential weaknesses in the policy of the leadership of the C.I. and the British Party, Today, after they burned their fingers

many times, the party declares on order from the C.I. that between it and the I.L.P. there is “war to the death”. A very noisy resolution signifying absolutely nothing.

The resolution issued by the C.I. and accepted by the party leadership last January declares that during the struggle of last September one could only notice the slightest difference between the party and the I.L.P. This fact, which is due to the “Left” reformist policy pursued by the party in the time prior to and during last year’s crisis, was pointed out by party members among whom this viewpoint was stifled and denounced. Now that one can perceive it, what is the remedy? As for the party leadership, it is “war to the death”. But such an attitude reflects only a weak revolutionary policy, whereas a clear demarcation between the policy of the C.P. and that of the I.L.P. makes such declarations superfluous. The difference is clear in itself. The revolutionary party has a special role to fulfill and between it and “left” reformism there is a great difference, but the leadership of the party is afraid of repeating its past errors and lumps together the leaders of the Labor Party, those of the I.L.P. and at the same time, those workers in the ranks of the I.L.P. who are orientating themselves towards a revolutionary policy, and calls them all “social fascists”.

What Is the I.L.P.

The I.L.P. occupies a rather important position in the British working class movement, not because it has a formidable following, but because the impotence of the party has fortified the idea among the workers that it is becoming a real center of opposition against the Labor Party. On the other hand it has a large number of individual adherents, and especially of late, it is attracting those young workers who are entering the movement for the first time.

Until now the I.L.P. has always been a reform party. It has grown with the neo-trade unionism of the unskilled workers and has played a big role in pushing large masses of workers towards an independent workers’ policy. The Social Democratic Federation which characterized itself as Marxian but which Engels repudiated as sectarian, failed in this task; the I.L.P. was infected by the doctrines of radical liberalism and based its socialism on ethical conceptions and not oil Marxism. Consequently it grew as a reformist party organized on this basis and it never has been otherwise During the war it adopted the pacifist point of view, and after the war it continued to support the Labor Party and the leadership of MacDonald who up to several months ago was a member of the I.L.P. Its differences with the Labor Party began in actuality to manifest themselves during the last Labor Government. But these were always differences in words only; behind all the criticism was always to be found the implied support of the Labor Government.

But in the ranks of the I.L.P. the criticism had an effect which tended to carry it beyond the realm of words, and toward the struggle for a break with reformism. The young members criticized the Labor Party leaders more and more and had little inclination to be satisfied with parliamentary maneuvers. This year we have seen the growth of unofficial committees constituted to bring about a repudiation of the reformist doctrines and to work for the adoption of a revolutionary policy by the I.L.P. The I.L.P. leaders immediately transformed this movement into one for a formal break with the Labor party and the principal discussion has been for or against the breaking off of relations with the Labor Party. The leaders of the I.L.P. asked for the right to vote in the communes according to the dictates of their conscience. The Labor party refuses this right and on such a question these revolutionary leaders spend hours of babbling, filling the columns of newspapers and holding record-breaking meetings!

The Party must struggle against such leaders but it should distinguish between them and the members who are trying to point the way toward a revolutionary policy. Nevertheless the party adopts an attitude which signifies in reality “all those outside our ranks are enemies of the working class” an attitude which makes it impossible for the Party to win over the most militant sections within the reformist ranks.

The British Left Opposition group is fighting against this policy; it demands that the party while showing the weaknesses of the policy advanced by the unofficial committees; for example, their inability to give clear expression to the relation between the present struggles of the workers and the struggle for power, their lack of understanding of the role of a revolutionary party in the daily struggles and in the struggle for power, their equivocal statements on the subjects of civil war; should be ready to struggle with them against the I.L.P. leaders and on questions of the daily struggle. Already some progress has been made in this direction and several I.L.P. militants have been won over to the support of the viewpoint of the Left Opposition.

On this question as on others members of the Left Opposition in England will carry on a consistent struggle against the false policy of Stalinism.


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