Communist Party of Great Britain
Source: Speeches & Documents of the Sixth (Manchester) Conference of the Communist Party of Great Britain, May 17-19, 1924
Publisher: Communist Party of Great Britain
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Proofreader: David Tate
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.
The rapid growth of the Labour Party and its parliamentary success, which led to the formation of a Labour Government, is a sin of the recovery of the working masses from the depression and demoralisation caused by their defeats between 1921 and 1923. It is a sign that the workers of Britain are developing a revolutionary class-consciousness for the first time, and breaking definitely with the old belief in the capitalist political parties. But their awakening is not yet complete. They still believe in the usefulness of parliament as a machine for accomplishing their emancipation. They still believe that their emancipation can be brought about by methods of gradual evolution, by a series of partial and peaceful reforms which offend no one. And these illusions of theirs are skilfully used by the capitalist class to maintain its power, and in its tasks the capitalist class is directly assisted by the so-called Labour Government.
The workers are deceived when they believe that Parliament is an instrument which can bring about their emancipation. Parliament is not the seat of power; and even an absolute parliamentary majority would not change the relations between the workers and their exploiters. The capitalist class retains its domination thanks to its control of the means of production and its State machinery. When the workers reach the point of attempting to seize power completely, they will find all that machinery—the army, the police, the technical experts, the press—mobilised against them. They will have to break down or crush each of these parts of the apparatus; and that struggle can take place only outside the walls of Parliament.
The workers’ belief in evolution, in the gradual and painless tactics of small reforms, is an illusion which serves the ends of the capitalist class. The whole of history, particularly the history of the capitalist class, shows that power is gained, maintained and retained by methods of the most brutal violence on the part of the dominant class in each epoch. The history of the last five years shows that the British capitalist class is no exception, and will be ready to use the methods of terror and civil war against the revolt of the workers. This is the lesson of the great industrial struggles of 1919, of the Emergency Powers Act, of the slaughter of Indian and Egyptian peasants, of the bombing of Mesopotamian unarmed villages—and of the utilisation of all these methods, on behalf of the bourgeoisie, by the so-called Labour Government.
The so-called Labour Government is only a part of the capitalist strategy in concealing these facts from the workers. Terrified at the growing revolutionary class consciousness of the workers, the capitalist class has devised this plan for keeping the workers quiet with the belief that they hold in their hands the substance of power, while in reality they hold only the shadow of a shadow. And in this diabolical stratagem the present leaders of the Labour Party, grouped in the royal and loyal Labour Government of His Majesty King George, are playing an active part, as the willing tool and accomplice of the exploiters. A real Labour government must fight the exploiters, and realise the dictatorship of the working class, founded, not in Parliament, but in the mass organisations of the workers.
At home and abroad it is doing their work. By approving the report of the bourgeois experts and endeavouring to apply the Treaty of Versailles, the Labour Government is continuing the capitalist policy of enslaving the German workers. In India the workers are officially denied a vote, forbidden political rights, shot down during their industrial struggles, bombed and starved. In the other colonial and semi-colonial countries—Egypt, Mesopotamia, Kenya—the same conditions prevail, and the toiling masses feel no change from the appearance of the Labour Government. In its negotiations with the Soviet Republics, the Government of Mr. MacDonald has entirely adopted the claims and the phrases of its capitalist predecessors on behalf of the bondholders and factory owners. At home, every trade union dispute brings the intervention of the Labour Government to prevent a fight to a finish. The miners have been left without a minimum wage, without nationalisation of the mines. The London vehicle workers were openly threatened with military force. The unemployed continue to be starved, imprisoned and treated as outcasts. The Government spying on labour organisations continues. The army is still left entirely in the grip of the reactionary clique of aristocratic officers, and the worker loses all his rights when he enters its ranks.
All these instances only point to one conclusion-the utter faithlessness and treachery of the “Labour Government” to all its collective and individual promises to the working class. Such a Government can have before it a future only of still blacker treachery. The Communist Party is under no illusions about this. It has not the slightest confidence in any of the leaders of the Labour Government, and it warns the working masses especially of the corrupting influence of the middle class ideology of the I.L.P. regarding these things. Nevertheless, in the eyes of the masses the Labour Government is still a government of the working Mass, and has not yet been completely understood by the masses as a government of treachery to the working class. Therefore, while the Communist Party will continue its efforts to force the Labour Government to further the interests of the working masses, it will criticise, attack and expose every act of the Labour Government which betrays the interests of the working class.
The Communist Party will not content itself with a press campaign, with speeches and leaflets, in its exposure of the Labour Government in the eyes of the workers. It will use every energy in leading the masses themselves in determined and ruthless pressure upon the Labour Government, demanding that it should fulfil its promises and serve the interests of the working class. By mass demonstrations and processions, by putting forward resolutions in factories and trade union branches, by organising the homeless and the unemployed, by leading deputations to local and national authorities, by persistent and fearless action in every field of working class life, the Communist Party will prove to the masses, by their own living experience, that the task of their emancipation is one which they alone can carry out, and which their so-called leaders in the Labour Government will not and cannot carry out.
Not content with leading the masses in a challenge to the Labour Government on its daily acts of treachery, the Communist Party will make itself the voice and mouthpiece of the suffering toilers by pushing forward its programme of immediate demands, reflecting the desires and pressing necessities of the workers.