The Plenum of the Central Committee
of the Communist Party of Great Britain

Source: The Communist International, Vol. IX, No. 4/5 (Special Double Number), March 15, 1932, pp. 155-157
Transcription\HTML Markup: Brian Reid
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AT a special session of the Central Committee of the British Communist Party the whole work of the Party was subjected to a serious and searching examination in the spirit of vigorous self-criticism. This self-criticism was necessary because the tremendous tasks which face the British Communists cannot be fulfilled, unless the party makes a really decisive turn to mass-work and develops such methods in its activities that will bridge the gulf of isolation dividing it from the broad masses of the British workers.

The British capitalists are attacking along the whole front. The wage-cutting offensive is aimed at the workers in all branches of industry. The dockers and seamen, the textile and transport workers are already under fire; while wage-cutting measures are being prepared against the miners and metal workers and those employed in other branches of industry. The number of unemployed has increased by nearly 200,000 during the last month; the bosses are continually striking off fresh hundreds of thousands from the list of those entitled to benefit by the operation of the Means Test. The fall of the pound has brought about a rise in prices, and at the same time the British imperialists have extended the general attack on the working class standard of living by the introduction of tariffs, which must result in a tremendous increase in the flood prices. Hundreds of revolutionary workers are being thrown into prison by the five thousand pounds a year British judges; Communists are being condemned to years of penal servitude for their solidarity with the Invergordon sailors’ strike. What these sentences mean, can be seen by the desperate revolt which the Dartmoor prisoners have made against a barbarian penal system.

Hand-in-hand with the offensive against the British workers, the British imperialists are sharpening their imperialist policy. With the aid of tariffs they are attacking their imperialist rivals. With their army and navy they are atrociously and brutally repressing the Indian workers and peasants. Under cover of empty “protests” (?) they are backing up the Japanese imperialists in their war against the Chinese people, and working with feverish energy to transform this war into a war against the Soviet Union.

The English social-fascists of all shades are supporting the policy of their bourgeoisie. The trade union bureaucrats openly try to thwart the workers in their every struggle; witness Bevin and the dockers, or the textile workers in Burnley. Where they cannot stop them from fighting, they place themselves, at their head, in the struggle, with a view to betraying it. The leaders of the Labour Party are trying to shatter the broad unemployment movement, under the leadership of revolutionary unemployed organisations, by forming a rival organisation to fight them. In the question of tariffs, the suppression of the Indian people, and the support given by the British Government to Japanese imperialism, the English social-fascists employ cheap deprecatory phrases to conceal the general offensive of the British bourgeoisie and do their best to hinder the advance of the powerful class-front of the British working class.

The radicalisation of the broad masses of English workers grows and develops apace. This fact is shown by the great wave of strikes which took place during last year also continuing in the past few months. It is further shown by the mighty demonstrations, the severe clashes between demonstrating workers and police, and further by the strike of the sailors of the Atlantic Fleet. Among broad sections of the English working class the confidence once placed in the English social-fascists has been deeply shaken. But despite the most favourable circumstances for revolutionary work the British Communist Party has not yet understood how to transform the workers’ loss of confidence in the social-fascists into a confidence in the correctness of the Communist policy, and of the guidance of the Communist Party in the struggle of the workers. This fact is shown not only by the parliamentary elections where, despite the fact that for two whole years the Labour Party’s policy had been openly hostile to the workers, the English social-fascists succeeded by the aid of “left-wing“ manœuvres, in winning over decisive masses of the English workers to support their candidates; but first and foremost by the fact that most of the strikes have occurred without preparation, participation or guidance by the Communists, that the Communists have up till now, achieved no serious work in the factories and that the British Communists have not as yet learned how to build up a really broad revolutionary trade union opposition.

The resolution adopted by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of England correctly characterised the position of the English Communist Party, in declaring that the British Communists have not yet learned how to pursue a policy which will systematically develop the awakening class-consciousness of broad masses of the English workers, organise and direct broad sections of the workers for the fight against the capitalist offensive, and inseparably link the Communist vanguard with ever-growing masses of the British workers.

The Communist Party of Great Britain has not yet understood how to develop such methods of work as will enable it to really take root in the enterprises, and among the broad masses within the reformist trade unions, and systematically unmask and thwart, in all its work, the policy of the English social-fascists in general and of the Independent Labour Party in particular. Only by means of day-to-day work in the enterprises, and trade unions, will the Communists be enabled to vein real confidence among the workers, as leaders of the working class, and to undermine the influence of the reformists. Only when the Communists undertake this everyday work in the enterprises and trade unions; when they get to know the conditions of life and struggle under which the workers live; when they understand how to give correct guidance in every question, great or small which concerns the workers; only then, and not till then will the Communists be able to organise the workers’ mighty struggle of resistance against the capitalists to an ever-increasing extent, and extirpate the reformist influence from the working class camp.

The decisions of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of England rightly emphasised the need for a complete change in the policy of the Minority Movement. The Minority Movement is a small, self-absorbed organisation of leaders who have nothing to do with the real struggle of the workers, and who, instead of going to the workers, working among them and fighting against the reformist leaders in the trade unions, simply approach the workers with the invitation to take part in a highly “elaborate” organisational structure. At the session of the English Central Committee all tendencies towards liquidating the Minority Movement were rightly rejected. It is not a question of liquidating the Minority Movement, but of ruthlessly sweeping away all sectarian methods which prevent this Minority Movement from developing a really broad trade union opposition in the reformist trade unions and in the factories. The decisions of the Central Committee are absolutely correct in declaring that, without a concentration of the work in the trade unions, the Communist Party of England cannot wage a successful struggle against the influence of the reformists, that without such work it is impossible to systematically undermine the influence of the reformists and that without such serious work it is impossible for the Communist Party to develop into a genuine revolutionary mass-party.

Correct mass-work is impossible if the Party does not understand how to make good what wrong in its press, in its day-to-day propaganda and agitation, and in its entire activities by actual exposure of the policy of the English social-fascists, above all of that especially dangerous enemy, the Independent Labour Party. The lessons of the past month, show that the Party has not only absolutely failed to sufficiently show up before the workers the various manœuvres and proposals which the reformists have made, but also that within the Party there were often numerous vacillations, dangerous deviations and mistakes in the struggle against the I.L.P. Without mass-work there can be no successful struggle against the policy of social-fascism, but without a struggle against social-fascism, especially against the dangerous “left” manœuvring of the I.L.P., there can be no revolutionary mass-work.

In this situation, when the attack of the English imperialists on the British proletariat is being extended, when the Indian people are being mercilessly oppressed, when Japan’s campaign against the Chinese people is being cynically supported and an intervention against the Soviet Union is being deliberately prepared, the English Communists bear a tremendous responsibility as revolutionaries. In such a situation it is less than ever a question of mobilising hundreds and thousands. It is a question of mobilising hundreds of thousands, of millions of English workers against the policy of English imperialism. Less than ever can it suffice now to assume the title of the vanguard of the proletariat. It is necessary to act as such, and to stir the broad masses into movement. It is necessary for the British Communists to shore up the whole policy of the British imperialists and their social-fascist agents. It is necessary to awaken the slumbering hatred of the proletarian masses and to mobilise it against the instigators of imperialist war. It is necessary to make it plain to the masses that those who are cutting their wages, leaving them to starve without relief, and plunging the country deeper and deeper into crisis and into misery, are the same people who are turning the guns upon Indian workers and peasants and who stand behind the Japanese militarists, who are massacring thousands of workers, women and children in Shanghai and Manchuria. Almost every day the British imperialists are sending arms, munitions and ships to China. The English general Fleming said, “Shoot them down,” if the Chinese soldiers did not let themselves be cut to pieces, without resistance, by the Japanese, who are using the International Settlement as the base for their attacks.

The Manchester Guardian itself was compelled to expose the true policy of the British Government:

“It must be admitted that the League of Nations is doing everything in its power to help the Japanese to break treaties-that the British Government is doing all in its power to help Japan to violate the Nine-Powew Pact in a respectable way.”

What is the attitude of the English social-fascists towards the policy of the British Government? Lansbury declared in the House of Commons:

“Is there no means by which the League of Nations or the signatories to the Nine-Power Pact can convince the Japanese that they should employ another part of China in order to attack the Chinese?

The British Government is actively supporting the massacres perpetrated by the Japanese imperialists on the masses of the Chinese people. The English social fascists, however, simply declare: We don’t object, but the Japanese must take care that no harm comes to the property of English capitalists in China. They must slaughter the Chinese workers, women and children so neatly with their bombs, their artillery and their machine-guns that, e.g., the Shanghai-Hong-Kong Bank on the Bund in Shanghai shall sustain no damage.

The British imperialists and their social-fascist agents, under the mask of empty protest, are actively supporting the war which the Japanese imperialists are waging against the Chinese people. This fact must be made plain to every worker. The British imperialists are feeling their way; they want to see how they can go on promoting the development of this war which is to lead to an intervention against the Soviet Union. With the aid of the English social-fascists they are trying to get the English workers accustomed to the thunder of the guns in the “far distance.”

Must not every Communist now understand that danger is facing the working class of the entire world, that the guns, the aeroplanes, the bands of Russian White Guardists and the imperialist armies may advance to-morrow against the Soviet Union? Must not every British Communist understand that, if we have ever taken the watchword of defending the Chinese people and the Soviet Union seriously, the time has come now to mobilise the workers, factory by factory, pit by pit, and house by house, against the imperialist war? Must not every Communist understand that the time has come to mobilise the railwaymen, the dockers and the seamen against the sending of troops and munitions? Must not now the broad masses of the workers be put on their guard against the secret transport of munitions? Must not Communists evoke an even mightier wave of protest, of demonstrations, of preparedness on the part of the masses to fight the imperialist war, the war against the Chinese people, the menace of war against the Soviet Union, with every means in their power? Must not millions of leaflets be distributed among the proletarian masses, exposing the horrors of imperialist war and thoroughly showing up the plots of the imperialists and their social-fascist agents? Must not the Communist press now become the organiser of the struggle against the danger of war, which wakens, directs and guides the fighting spirit in hundreds of thousands of workers?

These are great and difficult tasks! The Central Committee of the Communist Party of Great Britain has subjected its work to a correct self-criticism. Mobilisation against the imperialist war—that is now the chief task with which the Communist Party of Great Britain is faced, that is the task for revolutionaries at a time when the guns have begun to thunder, and the aeroplanes destroy whole cities.