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Jock Haston

Crisis in the CP

Rank & File Want Militant Policy

(November 1945)

From Socialist Appeal, Mid-November 1945, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed by Iain Dalton.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).


In Party Branches, and district organisations, there is a growing criticism of the policy, particularly since the debacle of their line on the General Election when they called for a coalition with the capitalists.

Even at the recent Conference of the Y.C.L., held in London, Peter Kerrigan, spokesman for the Party leadership, came in for a measure of sharp criticism from numbers of delegates who spoke from the floor – which criticism was strengthened by the demands of fraternal delegates from Greece and Spain for a fighting policy against the Labour Government.

The pressure of criticism from the rank and file , and from the most conscientious local functionaries and factory leaders (in touch with the workers and the real desires of the membership), all this has finally compelled the leadership to sanction a small measure of internal democracy, and even public criticism in the columns of their periodical World News and Views.

The background to the crisis is the growing conflict in foreign policy between the Russians, the British and the Americans and its reflection in the policy of the Stalinist parties.

As with all previous switches in Stalin’s diplomacy, the leadership of the British Stalinists are not sure which way the conflict is going to resolve itself. Learning from the sad experience of their American brothers – Browder and Co., they are prepared for the possibility that they may have to come out into opposition to the policy of the Labour Government. Thus, while making concessions to the militant aspirations of the rank and file, they are preparing a bridge which they can cross over into downright opposition to the Labour Government, in the event that such a policy fits in with the needs of Stalinist diplomacy.

As yet no serious theoretical political opposition has found expression. In the main, it is an instinctive opposition arising out of the pressure of the workers upon the Party militants, and the unhappy experiences these latter are going through in putting the “line” over on their fellow workers who are to the Left of the C.P.

The distortion and debasement of Marxism, which for so many years has been palmed off under the “mysterious”, yet simple guise of “tactics”, no longer suffices to salve the conscience of troubled workers.

The questions: “How does the Party come to be pursuing the present policy?” and “Why has the Party policy suddenly switched so often, without preparation, catching the leaders and members unawares?” are being asked by the uneasy rank and file.

At the last Annual Conference of the C.P., the delegate from Abertillery, Morgan, opposed the policy of an electoral agreement with the Churchill, “Tehran” progressive Tories advocated by the leadership. The Abertillery delegate moved an amendment that progressive unity should exclude any section of the Tories. Summing up for the executive, John Gollan, asked the delegates to reject the Abertillery amendment because the C.P. could not afford to turn their backs on any allies, no matter from what source they came. There was one solitary vote for the Abertillery motion.

The opposition at that conference was not a principled opposition. It did not reject the “progressive” front as such or counterpose to it a workers’ front. It was prepared to have an agreement with the Liberals, who are as much a part of the capitalist political set-up as the Tories. The opposition sprang rather from the instinctive hatred of the Welsh miners for any bloc with the Tories, than from a principled understanding of the need for the independence of the working class organisations. But even that was a healthy sign. It was the first time for many years that opposition of such a character to the leadership had been voiced from the C.P. Conference floor. It is to be hoped that the Abertillery delegates will be able to go forward from the last Conference and make a really principled criticism of the development of the C.P. in the course of the war.

In the present discussion a letter to World News and Views (Oct. 20th) from the Marylebone branch of the C.P. “... rejects the Political Letter of the Executive Committee of August 8th,” and issued a summary of the branch discussions.

Interesting are the comments and criticisms made by the branch directed against tendencies to “bureaucracy” in the Party and the “stifling” of the “political life of the branches”; and “the social composition of the Party is unsatisfactory when a large proportion of the members are non-trade-unionists”.

“Although admitting errors”, the branch criticism explains “the Political Letter does not analyse the cause of these errors. Reference is made to the necessity of fighting against every liquidationist tendency, but it is not explained how such tendencies have come to exist in our party… the mere stating that errors have been made without an analysis of what led up to the errors, causes confusion amongst the membership, resulting in a lack of confidence in the Party and a reluctance to play a full part in the life of the Party. The handling of both the question of the post-war coalition and the question of the position of the American Party are further examples of this.”

This theme is repeated in other letters from various individual members in different parts of the country.

Unfortunately, neither the Marylebone Branch, not any of the critics, try to “explain how such tendencies have come to exist in our Party”, nor to make an “analysis of what led up to the errors”.

It is not incidental errors “of judgement on the part of the leadership that has caused these mistakes.” The root cause goes much deeper than that. The facts are that the C.P.G.B. has long broken with the programme and ideology of the class struggle, of communist internationalism and of world revolution. Following the Stalinised C.P. of Russia, and its brother parties in other countries, it has turned its back on all the fundamental teachings of Marx and Lenin, although some of the phrases of Marxism have been maintained as a blind.

The cynical disbandment of the Comintern was not an “error”, comrades! Lenin and Trotsky founded the Third International as the World Party of communist revolution. But Stalin traded the Comintern to American imperialism for a military and diplomatic agreement.

That is the key to the mystery of the changes in the Party “line”.

From being parties of the international working class revolution, the Stalinist parties have become puppets of Soviet diplomacy. How else is it possible to gain a clear understanding of the fantastic turns of Pollitt, Browder & Co., except on the basis of this theory?

When the Anglo-Russian-American alliance was riding high, the Comintern was ditched by Stalin as a gesture to Wall Street. Without a murmur of protest or criticism from a single national section; indeed with unanimous agreement of all the sections, it was decided that the workers don’t need an international, that the Third International has fulfilled all the tasks for which it had been brought into being.

This caused the first serious searching of souls on the part of the older Communist militants, who had been educated in the spirit of Internationalism. The newer members of the Party did not even know what the “Comintern” was or meant.

The best members of the C.P. have never been too happy supporting Churchill as the “leader of the nation” or breaking strikes of their fellow workers during the war. It was only their loyalty to the October Revolution, their fear that Russia might be defeated by the Nazis unless the British capitalists helped the Soviet Union, that kept them supporting the Party during the blackest days of the production committee campaign and breaking of any and every strike. The militants who did not drop out of the Party in disgust, clenched their teeth and hung on. They compensated themselves with the idea that once the Nazis were defeated, then we would really tackle the boss class here. But the continuation of the policy of class collaboration whilst the capitalists are on the offensive, sacking militants as redundant and while wages have tended to drop with the end of overtime etc., has been the last straw. Every party member who has not become completely corrupted and cynical, is in revolt against the present policy.

But if this revolt is to lead to a great step forward for the best members of the C.P. and of the working class, the militants have to work out a revolutionary and internationalist programme. The militants must study the lessons of October, why the rise of the bureaucracy in Russia, why the end of the Comintern, why the policy of the Communist Parties slavishly plods behind the Soviet foreign policy, why no extension of the revolution in Europe.

From the midst of this growing critical grouping in the C.P., many of the best elements will find their way out of the Stalinist morass into the ranks of the R.C.P. in the coming days of struggle. Pollitt and the leaders will try to stem and stifle this movement. But as the struggle of the workers grows into open battles, the militants and the working class fighters, thousands of whom still owe allegiance to the C.P., will form a common front with their Trotskyists comrades against the capitalist class. This will be the cement that Pollitt will find it difficult to loosen.

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