Communist Party of Great Britain
Source: Report to the Central Committee to the Fifteenth Party Congress, September 16th-19th, 1938
Publisher: Communist Party of Great Britain
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.
II. The Fight Against the National Government
III. Towards Unity and the People’s Front
IV. Spain and China
V. William Gallacher, M.P., and Parliament
VI. Local Government Activties
VII. The Peace Movement
VIII. Propaganda and Education
IX. Trade Unions and Industry
X. Work Amongst Women
XI. The Co-operative Movement
XII. Anti-Imperialist Work
XIII. Work in the Countryside
XV. The Youth Movement
XVI. Party Organisation
XVII. Work Amongst the Middle Class and Professional Sections
XVIII. Sports Commission
IXX. The “Daily Worker”
THE 14th Congress of the Communist Party which took place at Battersea from May 29th to 31st last year was undoubtedly the best that the Party has yet organised. It gave a tremendous fillip to the whole of the Party’s struggle against the National Government, for improving the position of the mass of the people and fighting to preserve peace and democracy, while developing every means of support for those people who are directly attacked by the fascist aggressors.
We desire at the very outset to place on record our appreciation of the magnificent response that the members of the Communist Party have given in time and money to the many calls made upon them during fifteen months of unceasing political activity and struggle.
The results, in spite of recognised weaknesses and mistakes, are reflected in the strengthening of the mass movement against the National Government, in the increasing support for working class unity and the People’s Front, in the practical forms of aid for the Spanish and Chinese people, in the growth of the Communist Party and in the increased circulation of the “Daily Worker.”
The 14th Congress laid special stress on the fact that Britain occupied the key position in the world situation, and that the existence of the National Government constituted the main obstacle to any improvement in conditions for workers at home, and the buttress for all acts of fascist aggression abroad.
Every subsequent event has proved the truth of this contention. The rise in the cost of living; the increased taxation on tea; the threat to abolish the Rent Restriction Act; the refusal to introduce the 40-hour week and holidays with pay; the growth of unemployment; the application of the U.A.B. Scales of Relief; the refusal to provide adequate protection for the working class against air raids; the limitation of workers’ freedom in connection with meetings, political marches and demonstrations, are examples of the record of the National Government.
Abroad this Government has encouraged every act of fascist brutality. British citizens have been bombed and drowned by Japanese, Italian and Nazi assassins; Halifax sent to Hitler to receive instructions; a Pact made with Mussolini; the Spanish and Chinese peoples subjected to a series of bombardments from the air which have shocked the peoples of the world. But Chamberlain remains unmoved; his Government which represents the interests of the Cliveden Set “will not burn its fingers” by ceasing its intervention on behalf of the fascists in Spain.
The National Government has pursued a policy of repression, imprisonment and killing in Jamaica, Trinidad, India and other colonial countries, showing in deeds how closely in practice it is with the fascist countries, both in method and ideology.
With De Valera it has concluded an Agreement. which, whilst granting certain concessions, in actual fact aims to draw Ireland still closer into British Imperialism’s war block.
It betrayed the Austrian people in their fight to preserve their independence, and has exercised the utmost pressure on the democratic government of Czechoslovakia to force it to submit to the demands of Hitler and Henlein. It has also utilised all its influence to make the French Government completely subservient to the interests of British Imperialism, particularly in regard to its efforts to weaken the Franco-Soviet Pact, and to force France also to betray the struggle of Spanish democracy.
This is the Government against which the Communist Party has led the fight. Our slogan—“Chamberlain Must Go”—is now the accepted slogan of the whole Labour and democratic movement which understands by it that not merely Chamberlain is involved, but all his colleagues. We place on record our opinion that if unity had been achieved in the Labour Movement, the National Government would have been forced long ago to modify its policy. This would have considerably helped those in opposition to the Government and hastened the achievement of a Government of the people in which the Labour Movement would have been the leading and directing force.
It is this conviction which must spur us all on to greater efforts towards unity.
Since our last Party Congress great changes have taken place in the character of the fight for unity. On the very day that the 14th Congress terminated the Central Committee had to give serious consideration to the new situation which arose out of the threat to expel those Labour Party comrades who were associated with us in the Unity campaign. We suggested alterations in the campaign which would avoid any possibility of expulsions, and show that the fight for unity could be accomplished without any tendency towards splitting the ranks. Our proposals were adopted, and the work subsequently carried on by the Labour Unity Committee had its reward at the Bournemouth Labour Party Conference, when those leaders who stood for unity were elected on to the Executive Committee.
This resulted in increased activity on the part of the Labour Party for aid for Spain, the demands of the Youth, and for the distressed areas.
The propaganda for working class unity has steadily increased, together with the recognition that the affiliation of the Communist Party to the Labour Party is essential for the achievement of this goal. Resentment is spreading against the dominating Labour leaders who refuse to enter into conversations with representatives of the Communist Party but tumble over themselves to meet Chamberlain and offer their co-operation.
But a new factor has now entered British politics. This is the People’s Front. At our last Party Congress we were only able to deal with the People’s Front issue in a general way, because the conditions for its development had not yet matured. But so rapid has been the development of political issues, so acute the political situation, that this question now occupies the central place in every discussion within both the Labour movement and all sections of the Peace and democratic movements in Britain.
The growing menace of a new world war, the horror aroused by what has taken place in Spain and China, the whole foreign policy of the Chamberlain Government, the events leading up to the resignation of Eden, the invasion of Austria, the Anglo-Italian Pact, the threat to Czechoslovakia, the colossal expenditure on rearmament and complete neglect of the welfare of the mass of the people, have all contributed to a tremendous new political awakening. Many hitherto complacent people have come to realise that the National Government provides no hope of social advance or of world peace and democracy. At the same time there is a growing understanding that any advance towards Socialism is inevitably bound up with the change of government responsibility in Britain now. This is the cause of the new interest in the People’s Front.
On March 19, our Party, responding to this situation, gave the call for the co-operation of all labour and democratic forces under the leadership of a united Labour Movement to defeat the Chamberlain Government and bring into existence a new Government capable of defending peace and democracy, and the urgent interests of the people. The campaign launched by Reynolds News on March 20th for a United Peace Alliance and the subsequent vote of the Co-operative Party Conference, representing two million co-operators for this policy, brought this issue into the forefront of the Labour Movement. Although the vote of the Co-operative Union Congress in June partially reversed this decision, nevertheless the recording of over two million votes for the United Peace Alliance showed the powerful hold which this policy has already won within the working class movement.
It is this issue which will also occupy the main place in the discussions at our coming Party Congress. We shall give careful attention to all the new problems that have arisen in connection with it, the arguments for and against, the genuine doubts that comrades in the Labour Party feel about it from the point of view of it endangering the independence of the Labour movement. At the same time we shall deal hammer blows at the hypocritical arguments of those Labour leaders whose talk about “independence” and “socialism” is only the cloak to hide their real aim which is to avoid the responsibility of defeating Chamberlain and forming a new government, because they are more concerned with seeking a basis of co-operation with the National Government.
We wish to emphasise our conviction that in spite of the difficulties and the character of the opposition which has yet to be overcome, our 15th Congress will give further impetus to the drive for working class unity, and out of it the People’s Front will win victory over the enemies of the people.
We have tried in every possible way to help the people of Spain and China. Through meetings, demonstrations, leaflets, pamphlets, medical supplies, work inside the Trade Unions, we have done our best to obtain substantial forms of concrete assistance.
Our Party has given its best Comrades to the British Battalion of the International Brigade. They have been proud to fight side by side with other comrades from the Labour Movement and with the heroic Spanish People’s Army. Their deeds of valour at Jarama, Belchite, Brunete, Teruel, Gandesi, will be remembered for ever amongst the greatest contributions in the fight against fascism.
But the struggle has exacted its toll. To glory in heroic deeds is not enough.
We must help those comrades who come back wounded and, when they are fully recovered, find them jobs, as we shall have to help all the comrades in a similar way when the victory is won and they return to Britain. We must make certain that the Fund for the maintenance of their families is sufficient for the need, which is not the case at present.
For these men, bound to us by ties of love and friendship, have a record of bravery and self-sacrifice unequalled in the history of the world. They must be free from economic anxieties. They are our people. We have a right to be proud of them and exalt their achievements to the skies to inspire us all in our struggle for the People’s Front and the final victory of peace and democracy.
In the year since the last Party Congress, Comrade Gallacher’s Parliamentary activities have been unabated. During the period ending June 1st (which represents only seven months of Parliamentary time) he has made 45 major Parliamentary speeches, apart from numerous interventions in the Scottish Committee, of which he is a member. At question time he has also been to the fore. At the end of last session (October 1937), he came fourth among the M.P.’s in the number of questions asked. None of the three first M.P.’s in this field (one Labour, one Liberal, one Tory) spoke half as frequently as Comrade Gallacher. In the columns of Hansard spoken, Comrade Gallacher was only exceeded by Party leaders and some Cabinet Ministers (all of whom have unlimited time and opportunity for intervention at their disposal).
As the sole mouthpiece of our Party, Comrade Gallacher has had to cover a wide range of subjects in his speeches. They include the following:—
Agriculture, China and Japan, Pithead Baths, Estate Duties, Factory Bill, the Budget, Spain, the Herring Industry, Milk Supplies, National Defence Contribution Tax, Palestine, Scottish Health, Unemployment Assistance, Distressed Areas, Harworth Prisoners, Old Age Pensioners, A.R.P., Coal Bill, Conditions of the People, Cost of Living, Scottish Housing, Blind Persons, Spinsters’ Pensions, Import Policy, Army Estimates, Colonial Estimates (Trinidad), Prison Administration, Air Pilots’ Conditions, Air Estimates, etc.
At question time, Comrade Gallacher’s questions have covered the same wide ground. A great deal of his time has to be devoted to constituency questions, many of which are raised by correspondence or personally with the Departments concerned, in addition to those ventilated on the floor of the House. Many of the points raised by him in Parliament have brought him world-wide correspondence from people who have come to realise that the Communist M.P. is the champion of all who are oppressed.
Comrade Gallacher has won for himself the virtual leadership of the Old Age Pension movement in Scotland, where it originated and where it is exceptionally strong. As a result, Old Age Pensioners’ Committees all over the country now look to him for guidance and assistance.
Not having been lucky in the ballot for the right to introduce a Bill, Comrade Gallacher’s draft Bill on the Mining Industry still awaits presentation.
Comrade Gallacher has shown what one man can do in Parliament, when he has our Party behind him and the confidence of the masses. But the Party can help to make his work still more effective when every Branch and every District co-operates by sending him material for use in his speeches and for raising in questions.
In areas where there are Labour M.P.’s, pensions cases, unemployed cases, and similar things should be taken up direct with them. In the first place these members have a much better opportunity of investigating such cases, and secondly they resent outside M.P.’s poaching, which does not help in creating a spirit of unity. But up and down the country there are always things happening which are not of purely local significance. These should always be reported to Comrade Gallacher, who can be relied on to make effective use of them in the House.
A case in point concerns the training ship “Caledonia.” From various parts of the country, complaints concerning conditions on board this ship came to Comrade Gallacher from parents. He took the case up vigorously and won the support and friendship of people up and down the country, many of them living in places where a Communist has never been seen.
In the same way, many grievances of serving soldiers and sailors have been forwarded to him; questions concerning the bad attitude of local authorities to strikers; questions about victimisation of workers; about foreign fascist activities, etc. All those have been used effectively in such a way as to increase the prestige of our Party throughout the country.
Parliament offers one of the most effective platforms for our Party, but to secure maximum results from its use means the close and active participation of every unit of our Party with Comrade Gallacher.
The progress in Local and County Government work which was noted at the 14th Party Congress is being maintained. The representation, fifty-four, is still the same, although there have been gains in Felling, Leiston, and London. The losses of seats were in South Wales, where there are still tendencies of sectarianism. We have Communist Councillors in Scotland, South Wales, N.E. Coast, North Staffs, Suffolk, London, East Kirkby, and South Normanton.
The gradual awakening of the Party to the importance and potentialities of Local Government has necessitated the formation of a National Bureau in order to co-ordinate the Party work in this sphere.
Our increasing participation in Local Government affairs and the new responsibilities which fall on Communist Councillors has resulted in numerous requests for special information on such matters as rating, public health, Block grants, Education, etc. To meet this a Municipal Research Bureau has been set up consisting of comrades who are authorities on these subjects. The formation of this Bureau was specially welcomed at the 2nd National Conference of Communist Councillors recently held in London, when very useful discussions took place. In particular it was stressed that our Party must study the powers of Local Government more effectively and realise that the National Government was attacking the people through this institution. The well-being of everyone is closely linked up with such questions as Housing, Health, A.R.P. and P.A.C., which come under the jurisdiction of local Government. It is essential that mass concern in these matters must be harnessed to the general struggle against the National Government and the forces inside and outside the Council Chamber must combine in common action to drive it from office.
Hitherto it has been a cardinal weakness in our Local Government work that we have failed to realise all this.
Another weakness is the failure of the Party to show its face. Too much is done by Communist Councillors as individuals and not as members of the Communist Party. The tendency has been to allow Local Government to be done by the Councillors and not by the Party as a whole.
Since A.R.P. has become a major issue in most Councils, the National Bureau has drafted a statement for the use of Party Branches. The activities round this document have to be conducted irrespective of whether there are Communist Councillors or not in the Council Chamber. On A.R.P. our Communist Councillors have been weak, except in Leiston, and have shown much poorer results than in Housing. It is hoped that this will be rectified as a result of the Councillors Conference.
Mention must be made of the fine work in Scotland. Here a Councillors Bureau has been functioning for some months. On the initiative of one of the Councillors, a conference of all Local Authorities was organised, where the whole work of Local Government was discussed in relation to the policy of the National Government, and where the Party line on Old Age Pensions was adopted. This is an example of what can be done.
Even more important is the activity on Local Government issues in those parts of the country where we have no Communist Councillors. The few places where we have Councillors is a mere fraction of the country as a whole, and we cannot influence the course of local Government policy unless the Party as a whole is brought into action.
More and more the local authorities are being hindered from going ahead with public work schemes and the extension of social services. From all parts of the country indignation is being expressed against the attitude of the National Government.
But while in London, and in a number of towns and cities throughout the country, we have a number of local Communist programmes, there is a serious neglect to undertake systematic activity on the issues which affect the lives of millions of people.
The main role of the Party in the sphere of the fight for Peace, has been to work for the unity of all forces supporting Peace on the basis of a common positive policy. It has been directed against the National Government’s betrayal of the principle of collective security and assistance to Fascism abroad, and its policy of mobilising the people at home for war through movements towards national service and industrial conscription.
Our Party has worked consistently for the formation of a Peace Bloc among the democratic powers, for the ending of the “non-intervention” scheme which has deprived Republican Spain of the right to buy arms for assistance to the Chinese people; and for the non-recognition of the Italian occupation of Abyssinia.
During recent months it has been a firm advocate of the Peace Alliance, which it believes can radically alter the situation in this country, and which in this critical and dangerous position, could ensure the removal of the National Government and its replacement by one pledged to collective security.
In furtherance of this policy the Party has both carried on independent mass campaigns and propaganda and has also participated in the work of the Peace movement. It has assisted in the work of the local Peace Councils, League of Nations Union branches, and the International Peace Campaign.
In pursuit of this policy, we have found it necessary to carry on a sharp ideological struggle against those tendencies in the Peace Movement who oppose collective security and seek reconciliation with Fascist countries, specially shown in the leadership of the Peace Pledge Union. This has led them to support such measures as the Van Zeeland report, the Chamberlain agreement with Italy, to consider Hitler’s claims for Colonial territory and to refuse to support the demands of the Spanish Government for the right to purchase arms.
In our opinion, such a policy, far from furthering the interests of peace, bolsters up the National Government and encourages fresh Fascist aggression.
The Bristol Peace Congress: The Party was represented at the Congress at Bristol where the main discussion centred around the question of the Peace Bloc. Our delegates emphasised the necessity of a clear and realistic policy based on the Peace Alliance at home and a foreign policy which would unite us with other democratic countries in support of collective security and resistance to aggression.
At the same time the Party issued a statement on “Peace and the Colonial Question” which is printed in the Appendix.
In the final session of the Congress a manifesto was placed before the delegates by the General Purposes Committee which was not open to amendment but had to be either accepted or rejected. The manifesto showed a marked advance on statements of previous years but was in many places ambiguous and reached no clear position on the question of the Peace Bloc. Following a declaration by delegates of organisations representing one quarter of a million members that, in view of the refusal of amendments, the only way to express support of the Peace Bloc was to reject the Manifesto, the Manifesto was rejected by the Congress. This negative result, though unsatisfactory, is a step towards clarification of policy in the Peace Movement.
The International Boycott Conference: In February, 1938, an International Boycott Conference was held in London called by the International Peace Campaign at which there was a very broad representation divided into commissions and the whole question of boycott and how it could be carried out by different sections of the people, was discussed.
Since the autumn of last year the I.P.C. has moved from a position of abstract propaganda around the 4 points to their concrete application to current events. The original slogan of “Boycott Japanese Goods” led to the British Committee initiating the International Boycott Conference in February, 1938. This development reached a high level at the time of the resignation of Eden when the I.P.C. called for mass protests against the open expression of the Government’s abandonment of collective security. At the time of the annexation of Austria, the I.P.C. organised a campaign for support of Austrian independence. This was followed by expressions of support for the stand of Czechoslovakia against Hitler’s aggression. During recent months, mass meetings have been organised in support of the right of the Spanish Government to arms, which has developed into a campaign against all aggression and the linking together of the struggle for freedom of the people of China, Spain and Czechoslovakia.
Air Raid Precautions: Ever since the first details of the Air Raid Precaution plans of the Government have been issued, the Party has exposed these as being merely an attempt to give to the people of the country, at the lowest possible financial cost, an illusion that they are being protected, whereas in fact, the whole scheme is both technically unsound and organisationally dangerous.
We have emphasised continually that there can be no real protection for the people of this country except through the maintenance of peace, but if protection is to be given it must be adequate. All experience in Spain and all military and scientific opinion, goes to show clearly that the danger in modern warfare is not primarily from gas, but from high explosive and to a lesser degree, from incendiary bombs.
We have shown that the Warden Organisation if left unchanged, is a powerful weapon in the hands of the National Government, by which people can be mobilised for war and, at the same time, deluded into believing that the civilian gas mask can protect them. More than this, the Wardens, if allowed to become the monopoly of the reactionary supporters of the National Government, will form, in alliance with the police in time of war, a most dangerous organisation for the suppression of any opposition to the continuance of war.
For this reason, we have urged all democratic individuals and organisations to participate in Air Raid Precautions rather than encourage a boycott. Thus they will be in a better position to demand a complete transformation of the whole system by eliminating police control and by broadening the existing committees through the inclusion of delegates from democratic organisations and the election of head and sub-wardens. It is also important to secure complete freedom of access to all plans and full discussion of them by the public.
During recent months there has been an enormous amount of activity initiated or supported by our Party on questions of peace in relation to Spain, China, Air Raid precautions and so forth. The mass meetings organised by the Left Book Club, Spanish Medical Aid, and the International Peace Campaign have shown that the large mass of working class opinion and many elements from other sections of the country firmly supports the principle of collective security.
Nevertheless we must say that the aim of our Party in assisting in the development of a powerful and united peace Movement in this country has not yet been achieved. There are many important Centres where there is not even the beginning of an organised broad peace movement. In very few areas where Peace Councils exist are they the effective and authoritative bodies necessary to the present situation. The L.N.U. has not fulfilled its role of leading support for Collective Security in this country. The tendency of certain sections to betray its principles, unless combated, will lead to its speedy disintegration. The movement as a whole still lacks a concrete policy and is not yet rooted in the mass organizations.
In particular, if the movement is to become a powerful force it must have its roots firmly in the trade union and Labour movement. Because of the lack of a concrete policy, concentration on general issues and propaganda, and to some extent a divorcement of the questions of China and Spain from the issues of the Peace movement, it has failed to attract those very forces without which it cannot go forward.
During the past year we have continued to develop our propaganda activities in new forms which reach out to increasingly wide sections of the people of Britain.
The Communist Crusade in the Spring of this year was remarkable for the character of the meetings. In many towns the largest hall was too small, and other very large halls had to be used for overflow meetings. There was an extensive use of films, plays, music and community singing in these meetings, with extremely good results.
The use of popular forms of propaganda has also been a feature of the Party’s summer campaign of open air meetings.
During the period since the last Congress the Central Propaganda Department has issued 17 1d. pamphlets, with a sale of over 300,000 copies—the pamphlet on Austria reached a sale of 65,000 copies. In addition there were 5 pamphlets issued at 2d. and the report of last year’s Congress “It Can Be Done” at 6d. Thirteen of the pamphlets issued dealt with high prices, industrial questions, rents, air raid precautions and other home issues, and nine with Spain, China, Austria, Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union.
In addition to pamphlets issued centrally, there has been a big development of District and Borough publications. In connection with the Borough Council elections in November, 1937, twenty-seven Branches of the Party in London issued municipal programmes in pamphlet form. Similar programmes have been issued in Tees-side, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds and in a number of other provincial towns.
In the Lancashire District, pamphlets have been published in connection with Historical Pageants at Manchester, Liverpool and Burnley; a pamphlet in connection with the Manchester Centenary (100 Years of Struggle), and. others. The sales of pamphlets issued in Lancashire totalled over 40,000. North Midlands have published three pamphlets, dealing with the Harworth Prisoners, the Notts Coalfield, and A.R.P.
During the year, 5,875,000 leaflets issued centrally were distributed, as well as several millions issued by District organisations and Branches.
The historical Pageant has become an important feature in the Party’s propaganda; in addition to those held at Manchester, Liverpool and Burnley already mentioned, pageants were held in Glasgow, Dundee, Newcastle and other towns. Our Party’s initiative in this field, and in the use of decorations and music, described above, is being taken up through the Labour Movement; the May Day demonstrations this year, for example, were of a new and most impressive character.
Courses of public lectures on Communist theory were held last winter in 60 towns, attracting large audiences. In addition to these, many study courses on various aspects of Marxism and Leninism have been organised by branches of the Party, and special week-end courses of a more advanced character have been arranged by our District organisations.
We are determined to strengthen our educational work, both to equip our own members to be of greater service to the movement, and to brim; the knowledge of Marxist and Leninist theory to far wider circles in the Labour movement as a whole. The political situation at home and abroad is leading to increased eagerness for this knowledge, which is becoming recognised as essential to everyone who desires to play an effective part in the struggle for Socialism.
The Central Committee is determined to end the under estimation which prevails throughout the whole Party in regard to Marxist education, and will take steps to ensure the fullest facilities being made available by the Party Centre for the provision of Classes, Text Books and Syllabuses.
The 14th Party Congress called upon “all Communist Party members and sympathisers to intensify their daily work in building up the Unions, in organising the unorganised, in being the foremost in performing that voluntary unpaid service without which an effective Trade Union movement, will not be possible.” It called upon them to “work unceasingly to win the mass of Trade Unionists, officials and members alike to a recognition of the need for combined action between the unions and a united political Labour Movement for the purpose of bringing down the National Government, thus creating conditions which will facilitate further growth of working class unity and political understanding, and will accelerate the advance to working class power and the building of the classless Socialist society.”
On the direct initiative of many of our members, recruiting campaigns were conducted by the Trade Unions and we can record several examples of the splendid work done by our members which resulted in 100% organisation in factories that were previously unorganised.
Our members played their part in striving to bring about closer unity between the Unions.
Our members supported the proposals made at the Shop Assistants and the N.U.D.A.W. Conferences for continuation of the negotiations for amalgamation. In the steps that are being taken to unite the three Unions in the clothing industry, and in the negotiations between the two clerical Unions for amalgamation, our members are giving their whole-hearted support, also in bringing together the five Hosiery unions into one union.
Our members took the lead in the fight against the breakaway by a section of the London Busmen from the Transport and General Workers’ Union. Our Party issued an appeal to the busmen which was signed by three of our well-known bus comrades, showing what the breakaway would mean to the busmen. The appeal was published in leaflet form and circulated in all garages throughout the country where there was a danger of the men leaving the T. & G.W.U. This appeal undoubtedly helped to prevent the London Busmen in particular from leaving the T. & G.W.U. as a protest against the mishandling of the London Bus Strike by the Executive.
In the wave of youth strikes which broke out in the engineering industry in early September, spreading from Manchester right down to London, our members in the Branches worked for the backing of the adult workers for the youth. Every possible assistance was given by the Party to the youth and full support was given to their charter of demands. As a result of the help of the Trade Union movement as a whole, the youth not only won wage increases, but also the right to belong to Trade Unions, and forced the employers to agree to the Trade Unions negotiating on behalf of the juveniles in the Engineering and Shipbuilding industries.
In every industry our members have made a contribution to building and strengthening the Trade Union movement and in the fight for improved conditions. This work has been appreciated by all the Trade Unionists who have come into contact with our members, and has resulted in a very large number of well-known Communists being elected to responsible positions in many Unions.
There is an increasing support for the affiliation of our Party to the Labour Party by active Trade Unionists who know by their experiences that affiliation would be a tremendous source of strength to the whole movement. This support was strengthened in the course of the Crusade Campaign when it was clearly shown that by combined action between the Trade Unions, we could force up wages and salaries, particularly of the low paid women and youth, that the fight against the intensive speed-up in industry was coupled with the winning of the forty-hour week, and that by united action we could win holidays with pay for millions of workers.
The campaign proved to many workers that the way to fight the threatening slump is by forcing these measures while at the same time, we strive to defeat the National Government.
The number of workers who won holidays with pay was increased to three million during the year, and our campaign now aims to extend this provision immediately to embrace every worker.
The demands for increased. wages resulted in five million wage-earners receiving advances, but in every union and every industry we must keep up the fight for the long overdue wage increases for the seven million who got no increases, and for the full wage demands of the Unions, which have only been partly met.
In each industry, owing to the experience and abilities of our members, we have been able to advance proposals in every situation of a practical character. Our endeavours are thus winning many new people to the Party and to more active participation in the working class movement.
The co-ordination of our work is rapidly improving, and there has been a very big extension of our industrial activities. There are very few unions or industries now in which there are no Communist Party members or sympathisers.
It needs to be recorded however, that there has not been the requisite drive made for trade union unity either on a national or international scale. The important proposals made by the General Council of the Soviet Trade Unions for International Trade Union Unity have been insufficiently popularised, and the sabotage of the movement towards unity carried out by Citrine at the Oslo Conference of the International Federation of Trade Unions has not been exposed on a mass scale inside the trade union movement of Britain. It is necessary to make a sharp turn in this work so that the ranks of the organised workers can be united both at home and abroad.
Organisation: Since the 14th Congress there has been a distinct improvement in the attitude of the Party towards work among women, but there are still too many comrades who do not realise the fundamental importance to the victory of the working class. It is a task which must be undertaken in as systematic and organised a way as any other branch of Party work in which we mean to succeed, with as clear an understanding of its own special problems, and with the necessary personnel giving proper time and attention to it. The obligation has not yet been fulfilled on the part of all Districts to appoint a District leadership, nor on the part of all branches to organise Women’s groups, but where this has been carried out some excellent work has been done.
Activities: Campaigns have been carried through against the rising cost of living and in Lancashire the Maternal Mortality Committee has recently produced a line exhibition on Food and Fitness.
Of the campaign around International Women’s Day, it must be pointed out that for the first time we were able to get the support of a number of Women’s organisations in the London meeting.
Mention must also be made of South Wales, where a march of women, and big meetings and entertainments were organised throughout the area, with splendid collections and sales of literature, many recruits being gained.
In many branches, active groups have been formed to raise funds and do knitting for Spain or “Daily Worker” Bazaar work, etc. These have generally introduced political education, and in other cases, discussion groups as such have been formed. In whichever way the start is made it must be remembered that the objective should be to combine theoretical study with suitable application to practice, realising that a sociable and comradely atmosphere is itself part of an education in Communism.
Our comrades who are housewives are taking much more seriously their responsibilities in building and strengthening the Co-operative Movement and the Women’s Guilds. With yet more concentrated work the women could be a decisive influence for acceptance of the Peace Alliance. While our Party women have been as yet unable to make any appreciable contact with the Labour Party Women’s Sections, the opportunities of building friendships with the Labour Party women in the Guilds should provide a sound basis for development, if we turn our attention to improving our work among this important section of the organised women.
The readiness of women to sink party differences in their common antagonism to war was proved during the Austrian crisis when united peace meetings of women of all parties were held in many places and with striking success in London and Lancashire.
Social welfare problems have not yet received sufficient attention from the point of view of the women, who, with their children, are mainly affected by such issues. Our weakness in this work is chiefly due to insufficient study by the whole Party of the complicated machinery of local government. Women must, therefore, become pioneers in the work, not forgetting to commandeer the full forces of the Branch for the prosecution of campaigns selected. Many of these, such as Tenants Committees, are normally most successful where there is combined action of men and women, and in other cases, advantages can be gained by co-operation with certain Trade Unions, etc.
A serious weakness is our negligence of organising women in industry. Some fine work is being done, but in the main our Party women are not tackling this in any organised fashion. Here again some of the weakness is due to insufficient study of the problems of women in industry, but more especially it is due to an unreasoning acceptance of the very superficial statement that women are difficult to organise and “Won’t stick together.” Women must fight against the indifferent attitude to organising women—all too common even among Party members. With care and common sense, industry can be one of the most promising fields of work among women.
Education and Propaganda: It will be seen that throughout this report, the necessity of education and study of the specific problems of women has many times been emphasised, and the Central Women’s Department is endeavouring to forward this part of the work as rapidly as possible by supplying “Speakers Notes,” “Guides to activity,” specific information and speakers. It is necessary to develop more comrades who speak expertly on women’s problems. A training syllabus has peen prepared for use among Party women, which will he adapted for more popular use. More and more leaflets and pamphlets of all kinds are required for local and central production. Our propaganda must be made colourful and directed to women’s interests and struggles far more than at present. But the most important factor in our Women’s groups is their own practical experience, this more than anything, will develop a mass movement. It must be based on careful study of our Party line and theory, and moulded by the sympathy and understanding which will overcome the difficulties met in the day-to-day application. Our best and most rapid education, therefore, demands one simple thing which is sadly lacking in all but rare instances. Comrades must report and report regularly, to the Central Women’s Department without waiting for the regular report forms (though these should also be used), all new activities, successful or otherwise, in order to assist the accumulation of experience which can benefit everybody and guarantee our future success.
At the last Congress, we reported that an immediate advance had been made in our work in the Co-operative Movement, and we are in a position to record that that advance has continued.
Indeed, it can be stated that the attitude of indifference towards the Co-operatives previously held by numbers of our members has largely disappeared and that the work is gradually being taken up with as much energy and seriousness as is given to other forms of activity.
Our basic task has been to carry into effect the terms of the Resolution of the 7th World Congress:
“The most active assistance must be rendered by the Communists in the struggle of the Co-operative Societies for the urgent interests of their members, especially in the fight against high prices . . . new taxes . . . and their destruction by the Fascists.”
and the working out of this in actual practice has meant that the Party has obtained prestige within the Co-operative movement as a whole. In proof of this we are able to record that during the past year Communists have been elected on to Management Boards, Education and Political Committees and positions in the Guild organisations.
Since the last Party Congress, the drive on behalf of the Spanish people has continued. As a result of this drive on the part of our Party, the Movement responded quickly to the suggestion for the sale of milk tokens through the Societies as put forward by the Labour Joint Committee, and in the early stages this form of help proved of great service. It is extremely regrettable that the pressure in the sale of these tokens has not been maintained.
The Co-operative movement plays a large part in the education of the people, and bearing this in mind, the Co-operative Committee issued a special document for the guidance of our Party members engaged in this work. We believe that this statement will be of real assistance in winning the Co-operatives to provide real Marxist education.
The greatest single advance made in our Co-operative work has been in the development of the Women’s Co-operative Guild. The good work of our members in the Guild Branches has very greatly helped the development of the Branches, and the increased understanding of the serious character of our work for the Guilds is reflected in the decisions of the Women’s Co-operative Guild Annual Congress. Rule 5 of the Model Branch Rules, under which Communists and members of other Left organisations, had been prevented from holding office in the Guild, was amended so that “those who are prepared to support the Co-operative Party, and at both parliamentary and municipal elections work to support Co-operative and Labour candidates” are eligible to hold office.
A considerable advance was also made in the understanding by the Guilds of the need to change their attitude to absolute pacifism, the resolution for collective security receiving 623 votes as against 897 for the pacifist line of the Central Committee of the Guilds.
Reference must be made to the initiation and progress of the United Peace Alliance throughout the British Co-operative movement. From the first appearance of the proposals in “Reynolds News,” many Co-operative organisations have rallied in their favour, and here is no doubt that the Party’s sincerity and determination to achieve unity of all progressive forces in the country has lead considerable effect.
If we continue our work in a correct manner, we can he sure that the British Co-operative movement will present no ultimate opposition to the formation of a People’s Front in this country.
The year under review has been marked by continued and deepening unrest in the colonial countries, particularly the West Indian Islands, India and Palestine, and coupled with this we have seen an unprecedented growth of organised resistance in spite of the repressive measures employed by British Imperialism to crush these movements. We place on record our full appreciation of the heroic stand which is being taken by our colonial comrades under extremely difficult conditions.
At the Fourteenth Congress of the Party our tasks on the colonial question were clearly indicated. We emphasised that unity against the National Government must be unity of British and colonial workers, and that the building of solidarity with the colonial workers in their growing struggle for trade union rights and conditions was our definite responsibility, and that the fight for peace was inseparably linked up with the fight of the colonial peoples for independence from Imperialism.
Strong efforts have been made to implement these decisions and to strengthen and improve our colonial work through the working class and peace movements; the organising of meetings and demonstrations; questions asked in the House of Commons by our Comrade W. Gallacher and other Members; our educational work; the maintenance of contact with brother parties in the colonies and dominions, also national liberation movements and working class organizations—but we have still a long way to go.
During the period under review there has been an improved functioning of the Colonial Committee, more regular meetings and careful consideration given to various questions such as the West Indies, Palestine, India, South Africa, Cyprus, etc.
Colonial Information Bulletin: The Colonial Information Bulletin has been issued regularly every fortnight. Every D.P.C. and Party branch receives a copy; it has a substantial list of subscribers and provides a practical link between ourselves and organisations and publications in the colonies. The Colonial Information Bulletin carries information about current events in the colonies and dominions, particularly in connection with the economic and liberation struggle around which our campaigns should be organised. This publication should be made available to all comrades for reading and efforts should be made to increase its sale inside the Labour and Peace movements.
West Indies: There has been considerable unrest throughout the year in the West Indian Islands.
In Trinidad the strike of Sugar-cane and Oil workers was ruthlessly suppressed. British warships and military were brought to the aid of the bosses, and workers were shot down. The workers’ leader, Uriah Butler was arrested and subsequently sentenced to two years’ imprisonment, and large numbers of people were arrested. A Commission of Enquiry was dispatched, and the reactionary findings of this Commission condemned by the Communist Party. Our Party also called for resolutions of protest against the barbaric methods used by the authorities in Trinidad.
A strike movement in Barbados resulted in the shooting down of strikers and wholesale arrests.
More recently we have seen practically a general strike in Jamaica. Among the workers involved were street cleaners, bus and tram drivers and conductors, hospital cooks, match and shoe factory workers, sewage farm workers and the fire brigade. Many people, mostly women and children were killed and wounded, and hundreds of arrests made, including the strike leaders.
A deputation to the Colonial Office was organised to protest against this outrage, in which the Party participated. A resolution was sent by the Central Committee to the Colonial Office condemning the use of force against the Jamaican workers, and calling for urgent action by the Labour and Trade Union movement to protect our brother workers in the West Indies, also demanding a Commission of Enquiry into the conditions in the Island, with adequate Labour and Trade Union representation. At the Empire Day meeting organised by the London District Committee a similar resolution was passed.
India: The outstanding development in India during the past year has been the tremendous growth of the peasant movement. At a recent All-India Conference of peasant organisations it was reported that over half-a-million peasants are now organised. Huge peasant demonstrations and marches have been held throughout India.
In the political field the sharpening of the struggle has brought the question of the united national front in India to the forefront; and in the international sphere there are clear indications that the great mass of Indian people desire to be free in order to give their support to the world struggle against fascism and war.
The Party has given its full support to Conferences and Demonstrations in support of the Indian struggle. Outstanding examples are the Conference organised by the Congress Socialist Party and the Sama Samaja Party of Ceylon in June last year, and the India Independence Day demonstration held in Trafalgar Square in January. The visits to this country of several well-known Indian leaders during the year, including Jawaharlal Nehiu, has undoubtedly drawn the peoples of the two countries closer together.
On behalf of the Central Committee a special statement was prepared just prior to the Haripura Session of the Indian National Congress, which helped considerably in strengthening the forces supporting the united national front.
Cyprus: We have endeavoured to give every assistance to our comrades in Cyprus, and this year has seen the re-organisation of the Communist Party in Cyprus, which practically went out of existence when it was declared illegal 7 years ago.
South Africa: Here again every possible assistance has been given to our Brother Party in their difficult task.
Palestine: The Colonial Committee has given close attention to the struggle in Palestine against Partition, and a booklet making clear the position of the Party on this important question is in course of preparation.
The growth of anti-semitism in this country clearly indicates the need for the Party, in the areas where Jews reside, to rally the Party in vigorous opposition to this alarming development.
Ireland: Here again there is need to strengthen our work. Large numbers of young Irish workers are leaving Ireland and coming to this country, and the question of organising them must receive the prompt attention of our Party.
East and West Africa: Whilst we have only irregular contact with these colonies, the recent cocoa war in the Gold Coast and the coffee trouble in Tanganyika indicates that here also the movement is gaining strength.
China: The magnificent resistance of the Chinese people to the Japanese aggression has been one of the most important factors in stimulating the movement of the colonial peoples in their struggle for freedom. In April the Central Committee passed a resolution of support, calling on the working class of this country to redouble their efforts in support of China by organising the boycott of Japanese goods, support to the dockers in their refusal to work Japanese ships, and for medical aid for the Chinese armies.
The Party has given support to the China Campaign Committee which has raised thousands of pounds, sent medical supplies, and carried on a general campaign of boycott, individual and trade union, and propaganda. More must still be done, particularly outside London.
Struggle for Peace: Concerning the Fascist demands for colonial expansion, the Central Committee has issued an important statement, “Peace and the Colonial Question.”
The Colonial Committee has under consideration the preparation of a much-needed text-book on the Empire.
The report of the Central Committee to the Fourteenth Congress stated:
“The Fourteenth Congress must insist on the Party recognising its duty to the workers of the countryside, and give greater support to all the comrades working in these areas.”
In his concluding speech, Comrade Pollitt reminded the Congress that:
“Unless we can penetrate the agricultural areas, don’t let us too readily assume there will ever be a Labour Government in this country again.”
The Party has prepared and published proposals for an immediate policy for the land, to rebuild our agricultural industry, to fight against the landlords and monopolies which are strangling agriculture, and to bring assistance to the land-workers and working farmers. This policy was widely popularised in Norfolk during a one-week campaign at the end of June, in the course of which over 1,000 copies of the pamphlet “Plan for Britain’s Agriculture” were sold, and nearly 10,000 farm workers and country people heard for the first time the message of the Communist Party. The Communist Party’s campaign received the warmest welcome in over 50 Norfolk villages, and suspicion and opposition was confined to a very few individuals. During the same week, Harry Pollitt addressed an enthusiastic meeting of horticultural workers, agricultural workers and country people in Bedfordshire, who warmly applauded the land policy of the Communist Party.
The popularising of the Party and our policy will continue in the rural areas of the Eastern Counties and other agricultural districts during the summer, and on the basis of this work efforts must be made to lay the foundations for the building of Party membership amongst the agricultural workers.
There has been an increase in the Party membership in the small country towns and villages of the Eastern and Southern Counties, where our members have worked hard to strengthen the rural Labour Movement. But the growth of the Party, and the volume of Party activities, are not yet nearly sufficient to meet the demands of the situation. Every effort must be made by the Central Committee and by the Districts concerned to develop our work and policy in the countryside.
One notable success was achieved by the Party in the small country town of Leiston, in Suffolk, where Paxton Chadwick was returned as Communist Councillor to the local Council with 565 votes.
We are compelled to record a decline in the activity of the Party in the fight against unemployment. This is all the more regrettable because very carefully-thought-out attacks are now being made on the unemployed in connection with the operation of the U.A.B. scales of relief, and the mass movement of resistance is very unevenly being organised. Certain Districts of the Party have taken the initiative in producing local plans of works schemes, but in the propaganda of the Party as a whole, not sufficient is being done to rouse the employed and unemployed workers to demand the application of works schemes of social value.
There is also insufficient support for the N.U.W.M. Largely because of a misunderstanding of Party policy in relation to organising the unemployed. We fight to defend the standards of the unemployed to secure increases in benefit and relief scales, to popularise works schemes, but this can only be done by effecting the closest unity of action between the Local Unemployed Associations and the N.U.W.M. This again can be made the medium for developing the complete unity of all existing unemployed organisations and their ultimate affiliation to the Trades Union Congress. At the same time we aim to bring about the closest co-operation between the unemployed organisations and the local trade union and trades council movement.
This has given rise in some cases to the false interpretation that we do not take any active steps to build up the N.U.W.M. which has hitherto always played a leading rôle. Therefore the Party Congress will have to give serious consideration to the best method of both strengthening the N.U.W.M. and the local Unemployed Associations and of helping forward the movement for one united organisation. The steady growth in unemployment now makes it imperative that the Communist Party should give increased attention to the problems of the unemployed.
The membership of the Young Communist League at June 1st, 1938, was 4,602. Whilst these are the highest membership figures ever reached by the League, it must be noted that the rate of recruitment is still low.
At June lst, 1938, there were 121 branches. Nearly half of the total membership (2,243) and more than a third of the branches (49) are in London. The second strongest area is Scotland with 830 members in 18 branches. Lancashire has 292 members in 11 branches and Merseyside 243 members in six branches. In Yorkshire there are 327 members in nine branches.
The distribution of the branches is very uneven. The League is very weak or even non-existent in some of the main industrial areas. In the whole of the South Wales area we have only 13 members in two groups—Newport and Llansamlet. In the whole of the Lanes. cotton area we have only 21 members in three branches; in the Yorks woollen area, nothing; in the N. East Coast, six branches with 155 members. In the Lanarkshire and Fife coalfields there is no Y.C.L. though there are some groups known as the United Youth League.
“Challenge”: The circulation of “Challenge” shows a steady increase. From 10,000 per week in January 1937 it rose to an average of 15,500 per week in that year and is now standing at an average of over 20,000. So far as its character is concerned, “Challenge” has become still more broad and popular.
The Young Communist League is steadily developing and becoming a mass educational organisation of democratic and anti-fascist youth. While this is evident in the policy of the League and in “Challenge” there is still insufficient improvement in the activities of the branches.
The British Youth Peace Assembly: The Y.C.L. continues to play an active part in the B.Y.P.A. to which 30 national organisations of youth are now affiliated. The number of local youth peace assemblies, however, grows very slowly.
Arrangements are now being made to broaden still further the B.Y.P.A. as a medium for collaboration of all non-fascist youth organisations and also the local councils as forums of youth.
The Youth Charter Campaign of the B.Y.P.A. is gathering momentum. The Charter is being studied in many youth organisations.
The main line of work of the B.Y.P.A. in the next period will be preparation for the National Youth Parliament to be held early next year.
Emergency Peace Campaign: This united the Y.C.L. with the L.N.U. Youth Groups, Young Liberals, U.L.F. and L.L.Y. on a more advanced peace and anti-fascist policy than can be adopted by the B.Y.P.A. While the Empress Hall Rally was the outstanding event, there were also many other fine rallies. The first round is over, but the committee remains in existence to discuss further developments.
The Trade Unions: There is now a small, but important and growing network of youth committees and advisory councils of Trade Unions and Trades Councils. The rapid development of these is hampered by the very formal character of the T.U.C. campaign for the Youth Charter. Whilst we cannot give figures of the numbers of Y.C.L. members in Trade Unions, 80 per cent. of the delegates to the National Conference were trade unionists.
Unity with Labour Youth: The attitude of Labour Party leadership still prevents a formal united front between the L.L.Y. and the Y.C.L., but it is true to say that the branches of both organisations have in general found ways to maintain close friendly relationship and joint work.
Campaigns of the League: Among industrial youth the main campaigns were connected with the great apprentice engineers strikes of last year, the railway van-boys strikes, the Woolworth shops and the campaign for the Youth Charter.
Propaganda for aid for Spain has been continuous. In addition to all the humanitarian work done through the Youth Foodship Committee and the competition with the French Youth, the League has at many stages of the war conducted intensive political campaigns.
The work for China has been weaker, but very big efforts were made in connection with Austria and Czechoslovakia, particularly around the Emergency Youth Peace Campaign.
The growing influence and prestige of the Party is revealed in the further increased membership.
The present membership is 15,750. This represents an addition of 3,500 since the 14th Party Congress.
The growth of the Party during the past three years is indicated by the following figures:
13th Party Congress (1935) ... ... 6,500
14th Party Congress (1937) ... ... 12,250
15th Party Congress (1938) ... ... 15,750
The proportion of unemployed among the membership is comparatively small. The overwhelming majority of the membership are employed and are also members of Trade Unions, Co-cps and professional organisations.
In most of the Districts there has been an increase in Party membership. The growth of the Party as a whole, however, still proceeds far too slowly.
The picture which the various Districts present is a very uneven one.
Good advances in Party recruitment have taken place in London and Scotland, but even in these Districts the advances made are far from being commensurate with what is possible and necessary.
In South males an increase in membership has been registered, but this is very small and out of all proportion to the wide influence which the Party has in this area.
In the important North Midlands District there has actually been a certain decline in membership. Special measures are being taken to try and remedy this.
Since the 14th Party Congress, greater attention has been given to the question of consolidating the Party. In order to assist this, a Central Organisation Department has been set up at Party Centre.
In addition the Central Committee has issued the Party Organiser as a new monthly journal.
In a number of the rural areas, new branches have been formed. New District Area Committees have also now been established. for bent, Sussex and Hampshire.
Our ability to win recruits is shown by the results of the Crusade Campaign conducted in the earlier part of this year.
As a result of this campaign over 1,500 joined. The composition of these new recruits has been very good.
In the main they consist of men and women active in the factories, the Trade Union and Labour Movement, and also an increasing number of those who are engaged in the various professional organisations.
As yet, however, the increase of members in industry and the factories, does not keep sufficient pace with the general growth of the Party as a whole. This is a problem which requires very careful attention. A certain measure of progress has been made in training and developing new leading figures and personnel in the Party organisations, but this still remains inadequate.
The same applies to the question of the retention of new recruits; in some of the branches and areas, too high a degree of fluctuation still prevails. Recent improvements, however, in the political life and work of the branches, especially in regard to Party education, should lead to a more systematic consolidation of the membership.
The problem of more effective and rapid Party building, however, constitutes one of the most important issues confronting the delegates to the 15th Party Congress.
The main obstacle which is still preventing the growth of me Party on a larger scale is the failure in many cases to realise that the changed character of the situation now facing us demands a decisive change in the Party’s methods of approach to the masses, and in its methods of work.
There is still a failure to realise the importance of the rôle which the Party has to play and too often insufficient attention is given to vigorously replying to that type of propaganda which asserts that the trade unions and the Labour Party are sufficient and deny the necessity for the Communist Party.
These defects together with the weaknesses shown in the political life and organisation of many of the branches, inadequate political education, and the failure to give consistent attention to the work of testing, promoting and properly distributing the Party personnel, are holding back the Party from advancing and building at a more rapid pace.
Notwithstanding the decisions of previous Party Congresses regarding the necessity for developing and bringing forward new comrades who have proved their loyalty and capability in the practical struggles and who have close connections with the masses, this question has been considerably neglected.
The rooting out of these weaknesses and shortcomings is one of the most important tasks confronting the Party leadership and the entire membership.
Since the last Congress the influence of our Party has grown considerably amongst wide sections of middle class and professional people. The main problem now, however, is to secure adequate forces both at the Centre and in the Districts to direct and co-ordinate the progress of this work.
Concurrently with the 14th Party Congress a meeting of delegates from the professional sections was held which worked out the basis for a very successful National Conference held later in the winter, when our aims and proposed methods were clarified. Similar District Conferences were held in Scotland and Tyneside to hear a report of the London Conference and to elaborate plans for district work. We hope to hold conferences in other areas. The main points already brought out were the importance of the work for the Party as a whole and not for a few “specialists”—the need for our comrades to mobilise the middle class and professional people on the basis of their own professional interests, to work for unity with the working class in defence of these interests, and to transform the general political awakening manifest among such sections of society into concrete channels of aid for Spain, China, the building up of a strong and effective Peace movement, etc.
Our Party has continued to grow among University Students, and is now firmly entrenched in the most important Universities in the country. The work of our Student Groups is directed towards building the University Labour Federation as the single, united mass organisation of all Socialist, Communist and anti-fascist students, in mobilising the majority of students for the broad Student Peace movement which is now developing, and in strengthening the fight for the academic and economic interests of the students.
While these successes can be noted, the Party as a whole, in order to carry out the line of the Congress, must pay more attention to the problems of the middle strata of society, artists, teachers, writers and also shopkeepers, and small farmers.
During the past year the Central Committee has given careful attention to the problems raised by the growth of nationalist movements in Scotland and Wales. For many years the Party has under-estimated the importance of the Scottish Nationalist Movement and the Welsh Nationalists, and also the fact that their influence is much greater than their numbers.
It has been made clear that our Party stands for a policy which preserves the best traditions of the Scottish people and the Welsh people, resists every attempt to encroach upon their national rights, and demands the fullest opportunities for the development of self-government.
Before the end of the year it is expected that a popular pamphlet giving the Communist attitude on this problem will be published in Scotland, and also one in Wales.
The Central Committee set up a Commission at the end of the year, to examine the work of our members in relation to the Sports movements in this country. This was necessitated by the obvious neglect on the part of our members of this very wide field of social activity which embraces many millions of people in this country.
The first work of the Commission was to examine the extent and influence of the organised sports movement, amateur and professional, and a preliminary statement was sent to all Branches of the Party giving a brief survey of the main sports organisations in Britain.
On the passing of the Physical Training and Recreation Act a letter was sent to all Party Branches explaining the Act and indicating how our members should work out the proposals in relation to swimming pools, gymnasiums, playing fields, camping sites, etc., getting the support of the whole Labour movement for the resolution of the Trades Union Congress on Physical Training and thus helping forward the unity of the working class, which will gain strength and confidence through these schemes to fight against capitalism, and not for it.
Neither the Party, nor it must be added, the members of the Sports Commission, have yet realised that sport in Britain has reached a stage when it is one of the greatest relaxations of the people, bringing into activity more people than any other form of social activity.
The tremendous interest in sport is evident in the, response to the sporting page in the “Daily Worker,” That is one of the most popular features in our paper,
Steps are now being taken to ensure that every section of our Party realises the need to actively associate with all sporting activities and bring the millions of sportsmen and sportswomen closer together in a broad people’s sports movement and end the domination of vested capitalist interests in British sport.
During the past year the Central Committee has paid close attention to the “Daily Worker” in accordance with the decisions of the 1937 Congress to improve and develop it into a much more popular daily Communist newspaper.
A considerable improvement was made with the change-over in the layout of the pages on January 1st, 1938, which aimed at making provision for more general news items ranging over a wider field of interests than formerly. There is still a lot to be done, which can only come, however, with better co-operation between Party members and readers generally, in the provision of more prompt and effective reporting of news, offering a wider and more popular appeal.
The excellent and vivid despatches sent by William Rust from Spain have enabled us to keep our readers well informed of every new change and development in the military and political situation in Spain, and in addition, his intimate accounts of the magnificent work of the British Battalion of the International Brigade have helped considerably both to sustain a close interest and support of the work of the Battalion amongst wide sections of the Labour and democratic movement and to strengthen the political campaign and solidarity actions in support of the Republican Government.
Frank Pitcairn was immediately sent to Czechoslovakia to report the situation when it sharpened on the eve of the elections.
His messages fully reporting upon all stages of the election fight and the resistance of the Czechoslovakian people to the menace of its internal and external Fascist enemies were followed with close interest and were of great assistance in mobilising public attention on the grave issues involved.
The feature articles have considerably improved in quality, and in the rank of their appeal to new and wider sections of the population. In this connection, there has been nothing but universal praise for the scientific articles contributed by Professor J. B. S. Haldane. Similarly John Strachey’s commentaries are still well liked, and W. Gallacher’s weekly review of Parliament is a much appreciated new feature. Arrangements are now well advanced for other well-known public men and women to become regular contributors. Popular interest was aroused by the commencement of the “Answers to Questions” so ably introduced by J. R. Campbell and continued by Emile Burns and R. P. Arnot. In response to widespread requests, a weekly Photo page has been introduced and warmly welcomed. The various 12-page special issues were valuable to the highest degree, and with the help of the Party, Readers’ Leagues and our regular daily readers, sold out in record-breaking quantities. The Emergency Sunday edition dealing with the Czechoslovakian crisis contributed effectively towards equipping the Labour movement with a knowledge of the acute dangers inherent in the situation, and in arousing sharp vigilance. Sports features have been consistently improved, and have won firm support amongst many sections of the sporting world. Recently a Magazine Page has been introduced though at the present moment it is only in its initial stage and will, we are confident, become one of the paper’s most interesting items. We would like to draw attention to the fact that, taking into consideration the relative size of the “Daily Worker,” it publishes regularly each week more features of both special and general interest than any other newspaper.
The changes introduced in the lay-out in January, enabled us to issue a daily Scottish edition, which we can now place on sale throughout Scotland, simultaneously with all other newspapers for the first time. It is moreover almost exclusively distributed through the normal newspaper agencies. As a result of recent discussions with the Party leadership in Scotland, steps have been taken which, we are sure, will result in big improvements in the Scottish news-service, such innovations as well-known Scottish leaders of thought acting as contributors, will certainly affect our circulation.
A weekly review of Irish political life has also been commenced. It can confidently be stated that since the last Congress, the “Daily Worker” has won for itself an enhanced position as a national newspaper, and as an important political factor. Its able treatment and interpretation of foreign news has won wide recognition as has its industrial news. The paper has been the recipient of a number of tributes from Trade Union bodies, for its reporting of conferences, inquiries and various developments in the industrial world.
The general effectiveness of the paper remains seriously limited by virtue of its small number of pages and latterly of its reduced size, and also because it is the one national daily that is still subjected to boycott by the newspaper wholesale agencies. The wholesalers’ boycott is the largest single obstacle to its development into a bigger and better newspaper commanding a mass sale. Efforts to overcome this boycott have never been relaxed, and we are very hopeful that, in the early future, this serious handicap will be surmounted. These difficulties have seriously hampered increased circulation, and although an increase can be recorded, it is completely out of accord with the possibilities even under existing conditions.
A more recent step has been the development of advertising within its columns. We now have a growing number of the most important national advertisers taking up contracts with the paper, and we are sure that everyone will recognise the need for continued development in this sphere.
The response of the readers to the paper’s Fighting Fund reflects the increasing confidence of our readers in the paper. Since the last party Congress, a total of £7,882 has been contributed as compared with £4,845 during the previous year. We are compelled to continue to appeal for the increased understanding of readers to the need for financially supporting their paper.
Thirdly, there is the very promising growth and development in the activities of the “Daily Worker” Readers’ Leagues. Experience has now enabled us to develop these on the basis of organising social activities for a growing army of our readers in such a way as to provide for a whole variety of interests. It is of the very greatest importance that a network of these Leagues be established throughout the entire country.
Whilst we are glad to be able to report a considerable progress in these directions, none the less, we must return to the cardinal fact, that a constantly growing circulation is the life-blood of any newspaper, and to stress that it is in this direction that we need to turn our attention above all else. A mass circulation for our paper means a great increase in the political influence of our party—a factor which is the most vital political task of the day. This is a task which can be effected with the fullest support of the party and the Labour and democratic movement, and we look forward confidently to its early realisation.
The Central Committee in presenting this Report calls for the fullest discussion upon it in all party organisations. Especially do we direct your attention to the Appendix which contains all the principal statements issued by the Central Committee since the last Party Congress.
If there are any doubts or differences upon the line of these statements, or certain points are not clear, they should be fully brought out in the course of the Congress discussion.
We must all aim to make our 15th Congress one of the most important political events in the life of the British people. A Congress that can help guide the whole Labour, peace and democratic movements towards unity, the defeat of the Chamberlain government, and thus transform the situation at home and abroad.
This will demand from every Communist more patient and persistent work in overcoming the obstacles and difficulties than at any other time.
Our 15th Congress should be inspired by the recognition of this fact, together with the personal responsibility that we all occupy to the people of the whole world.