Communist Party of Great Britain
Source: Communist Party 25th Congress Report, 1957
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.
I. THE POSITION IN BRITAIN AND OUR TASKS
1. The Tory Attacks and How to Meet Them
2. Britain and the World
3. Unity of the Labour Movement
II. THE EVENTS SINCE THE TWENTIETH CONGRESS OF THE C.P.S.U. AND THE POSITION OF THE PARTY
1. Historical Significance of the Twentieth Congress
2. The Changes in Eastern Europe and in the Relations between Socialist States since the Twentieth Congress
3. The Discussion in the Communist Parties
4. The Discussion in our Party
5. Wrong Tendencies in the Discussion
III. THE COMMUNIST PARTY
Our Twenty-Fifth Congress faces a challenge and an opportunity. The challenge is the continued existence of the Tory Government when the interests of the British people demand its rapid removal.
The opportunity arises from the fact that all the conditions exist for defeating the Tories, provided the Labour movement can be rallied to compel a General Election.
The Tory Government’s Suez adventure was a disaster for Britain.
It was the climax of an imperialist policy which has vainly tried to hold back, by armed force, the national liberation movements, which has sought assistance from American imperialism to the detriment of Britain’s national interests, and which has been bitterly hostile to the socialist countries.
It brought world-wide condemnation on our country. It added to every political and economic problem which Britain faces. It roused against British imperialism the hatred of progressive peoples, and the contempt of Britain’s imperialist rivals.
In Britain itself it aroused a storm of protest voiced by men and women of widely varying political persuasions including many outstanding people from all sections of the Labour movement, despite some confusion produced by the efforts of reaction to divide the movement on the issue of Hungary.
But the invasion of Egypt ended in a fiasco, a crisis in the Tory Party, and Eden’s resignation. A General Election could have taken place then which would have swept the Tories from office. But this would have required the full strength of every section of the Labour movement in a great and united political effort to force the Tory Government to resign. Instead there was a formal call on the part of the official leadership, followed by the virtual acceptance of the Macmillan Government on the defeatist view that Labour should not take office in the midst of the aftermath of the Suez crisis.
The Tories put in the Macmillan Government, which comprises extreme right-wing capitalist elements, to solve the problems created by their own attacks on the people at home and their aggressive policy abroad.
The effects of the Tory policies of wage and credit squeeze, short time rind unemployment, rising prices and rents, attack on workshop conditions and trade union rights are being felt by increasing numbers of the working class as well as professional workers and small business people, including many who previously voted Tory. Hence dissatisfaction with the Tory Government and opposition to its policy has grown amongst all these sections and been reflected in successive by-elections.
The Tory attacks on the people are the most ruthless and on the widest scale that our people have faced for many years.
But they have not remained unanswered. The year that has passed since our Twenty-Fourth Congress has seen growing mass action against Tory policy. The strikes of the motor-car workers have shown this determination not to submit without a fight to the threat of unemployment.
Engineers and shipyard workers have moved into struggle on the wages front. Big sections of the tenants have actively opposed rent increases. Important activity has developed for raising the old age pension. A great popular movement developed against the Suez war, with an impressive lobby of Parliament and a huge Trafalgar Square demonstration.
These actions show what can be achieved when correct leadership is given. They inspire us to strengthen the united struggle. In all these actions our Communist Party has played an important and creditable part, though we openly recognise that in the course of a necessary inner-Party discussion we have at times lagged behind our opportunities and responsibilities in the campaign against the Tories.
Yet there are still many who, while opposed to particular aspects of Tory policy, do not see the need to get rid of the Tory Government itself. As the Suez crisis showed, there were many workers amongst those confused by imperialist propaganda.
The scale, character and determination of the movement that develops depends on the united struggle of the working class and its leadership of all sections of the people. This essential unity and leadership depend above all on our Communist Party.
The advance of the Left in the Labour movement, an advance that we warmly welcome, and that was reflected in the Trades Union Congress and Labour Party Conference, was further seen in Labour’s opposition to the Suez war and the new Rent Bill. But the Left forces, lacking a common programme, not yet acting in unity, and weakened at times by anti-Communist propaganda, have been unable to bring about major changes in Labour’s policy, and an all-out challenge to the Tories.
It is the lack of leadership in the fight against the Tories that is at the heart of the present political situation in Britain. The Labour leaders do not put forward a clear-cut, working class alternative policy to that of the Tories, and are reluctant to develop a real campaign against them.
Thus, though the anti-Tory movement grows, discontent with the Tory Government is not yet sufficiently translated into enthusiastic and active support for Labour and the determination to force an immediate General Election.
The most important job our Congress has to do is to decide how our Party can help to develop working class unity in action, how it can help to develop unity for the defeat of the Tory Government and the return of a Labour Government, pledged to a policy of peace and social advance.
The need for our Party in the Labour movement is underlined by events since the Twenty-Fourth Congress. The British people need a still stronger Communist Party. But it is only to the extent that we come forward as the champions of the fight against the Tories, as the defenders of the people against Tory attacks, and as the best workers for the unity of the Labour movement and for Socialism that we shall fulfil our responsibilities to the British people and win new members for our Party.
The Tory Attacks and How to Meet Them
The Tories are making a desperate effort to save British imperialism. But because their class interests conflict with the national interests of Britain, they are bringing the country to the verge of ruin. Macmillan has turned to the United States for nuclear weapons and military “aid”. But such deals increase Britain’s political and military dependence on the United States, and thus Tory policy still further endangers Britain’s national independence. It enables the American imperialists to strengthen their position at the expense of Britain.
By reducing purchasing power at home through the credit squeeze, by high prices, high rents and the removal of subsidies, the Tories increase unemployment and the danger of slump.
Their foreign policy has created hostility towards Britain, caused loss of markets and has damaged our trading relationships. Competition from West Germany and Japan and the United States is increasingly threatening British exports.
Britain’s inclusion in the proposed European Common Market would strengthen further the position of West German capitalism and American imperialism at the expense of British trade. It is aimed to strengthen N.A.T.O. and intensify the cold war.
Yet, by retaining dollar dependence and the ban on East-West trade, the Tories deliberately restrict the development of new markets abroad. Under Tory rule, Britain is falling more and more behind her principal capitalist competitors in the technical development and technical education.
The Tory Government’s suicidal policy set out in the Defence White Paper is to concentrate Britain’s strategy on the aim of nuclear war and to reorganise the armed forces for the purpose of nuclear war.
A huge arms programme, greater in proportion to the national income than that of any other Western country, continues to cripple our economy. Automation, which under Socialism would make life better and easier for the workers, is today, under capitalist conditions, a threat to their jobs, and results in greater speed-up and exploitation.
The future of the whole nation, therefore, demands the struggle for an immediate economic policy which will:
l. Drastically reduce military expenditure.
2. Raise wages, benefits and pensions, introduce equal pay for women workers, lower prices and restore the food subsidies; end the credit squeeze and abolish all restrictions on hire purchase.
3. Reduce taxation on lower incomes and cut indirect taxation. Increase the taxation of the rich and tax capital gains.
4. Maintain full employment, end sackings, and reduce the working week without loss of wages.
5. As automation is introduced, safeguard the workers’ interests and their jobs and ensure that the workers benefit from technical advances.
6. Withdraw the Rent Rill and stop all rent increases; empower local authorities to take over privately-owned rented houses so that they can be repaired, improved and let at reasonable rents: build more council houses; restore the housing subsidies to the 1946 values and reduce rates of interest to councils to 2 per cent so that they can bring down council rents and offer mortgages to owner-occupiers at low rates of interest. Guarantee security to all tenants; end the tied cottage system. Abolish the derating of industry and business premises.
7. Nationalise all key industries and radically improve those industries already nationalised. Nationalise the land of the big landowners.
8. Implement the 1944 Education Act, establish comprehensive schools and abolish the selective examination; train more teachers and build new schools. Reduce the price of school meals.
9. Abolish prescription charges and all other health service charges. Improve the Health Service by building health centres and new hospitals. Introduce. an occupational health service. Reduce the national insurance contribution payable by workers.
10. Expand the Service of Youth.
11. End the bans on East-West trade and work for a general expansion of trade through long-term trading agreements.
Britain and the World
The last year has confirmed the decisive change in the balance of world forces, of which our Twenty-Fourth Congress spoke.
The forces of imperialism have been weakened, and those of socialism and colonial liberation strengthened by the past year’s events, despite some temporary setbacks.
The imperialists in this period embarked on aggressive actions and heightened international tension. Though previously forced by the strength of the world peace movement to take part in the Geneva Conference of Heads of State and to pay lip-service to the idea of peaceful co-existence, they rapidly became terrified at the results of the Bandung Conference and the advance of the national liberation movements, and the prospect that Socialism would still further demonstrate its superiority over capitalism in peaceful competition between the two systems.
Thus in Egypt the British and French imperialists launched aggressive war. In Hungary, imperialism took advantage of grave internal difficulties to attempt long-prepared counter-revolution. But in both areas imperialism was decisively rebuffed. It was, forced to retreat by the strength of the world peace forces by the national liberation movements, and particularly by the firm stand of the Soviet Union.
This was a decisive stage in the fight for peace, and will profoundly affect the future course of events.
The Suez war also showed the growing conflict between the imperialists, and the determination of the U.S. to take advantage of the difficulties of Britain and France to further its plans for world domination.
This has been further demonstrated by the announcement of the Eisenhower doctrine for the Middle East which aims at further replacing the influence of British and French imperialism in that area by American imperialist domination over its oil resources and strategic bases.
But if the past year has shown the strength of the peace forces, it has also shown how wrong it is to under-estimate the danger of a third world war arising from imperialist policies.
Events have emphasised that peaceful co-existence will not be achieved without vigilance and hard struggle on the part of the people of the world. Imperialist policies in the Middle East, the rearming of West Germany, and the attempts to revive the cold war, require the most vigorous fight by the people to win recognition of the principles of peaceful co-existence as the basis of Britain’s foreign policy. The following immediate pleasures, necessary to secure peace must be carried into effect:
1. Stopping all further tests of atomic and hydrogen bombs.
2. A European security system, leading to the withdrawal of foreign troops from both East and West Europe and to a settlement of the German problem and the end to aggressive war pacts.
3. A Middle East settlement based on an end to imperialist interference in the area and respect for the national sovereignty of the Middle East countries.
4. International agreement on disarmament, including a ban on atomic and hydrogen weapons, and an immediate cut in the call-up to twelve months, to be served at home.
5. Ending all colonial wars, the immediate withdrawal of British troops from Cyprus, Kenya, Malaya, and Northern Ireland. The freeing of political prisoners in all colonial possessions; the support for national independence movements and the encouragement of democratic movements in these countries. Solidarity action to raise living standards and to defend trade union rights in the colonies. The outlawing of racial and religious discrimination.
6. Strengthening the United Nations by the admission of People’s China.
7. The withdrawal of all American forces from Britain and an end to all foreign bases and of N.A.T.O., S.E.A.T.O. and the Baghdad Pact.
Such a policy would lead to a great relaxation of international tension and ensure that Britain played a leading part in bringing about peaceful co-existence between the capitalist and socialist systems.
Unity of the Labour Movement
The immediate aim of our Party is the defeat of the Tory Government and the return of a Labour Government pledged to a new policy of peace and social advance.
This aim corresponds to the desire of millions of the British people, but can only be realised as a result of mass struggle against every aspect of Tory policy outside as well as inside Parliament.
Full support should be given by every section of the Labour movement to workers fighting against unemployment and short time.
Action should be organised to win the wage demands of the workers and professional people; the employers and the Tory Government will only make concessions if faced with a determined movement.
The fight must continue for 100 per cent trade unionism; working class solidarity must be fostered, so that a struggle of any section of the workers is regarded as the concern and receives the support of all.
To defeat the Rent Bill and all rent increases, unity can be established between tenants of council and privately owned houses and flats.
The old age pensioners need the support of the whole Labour movement in their fight to wring higher pensions out of the Tories.
Working women and housewives, deeply hit by Tory attacks, must be drawn into the struggle, particularly on rising prices.
The young people also need the help of the whole Labour movement. The fight against the Tories cannot succeed unless it has the support of the youth. That is why the Labour movement, including the Communist Party, must redouble its efforts to bring young people into action against the Tories.
Professional workers should be given support in their struggle to maintain their living standards. Small shopkeepers and traders should be shown that their prosperity depends on a high standard of life for all, and that their livelihood is threatened by Tory economic policy.
The demands for the withdrawal of all bans on East-West trade, for an immediate cut in the call-up and in all forms of military expenditure, and the ending of colonial wars, are widely supported in the Labour movement, and can be the basis for united action that will rally all progressive sections of the people against the Tories.
But what is necessary above all is a united movement of all working people, industrial and professional, with the conscious political aim of bringing about the downfall of the Tory Government.
The achievement of this aim depends on the rallying of the Labour movement for a determined fight, which will make it impossible for the Tories to cling to office. It is the task of our Party, acting in unity with the forces of the Left, to win the movement for a real anti-Tory policy which will prevent the Tories from regrouping their forces, recovering from the reverses they have suffered, and remaining in office, to carry through further attacks on the people.
Success in achieving a militant policy in the Labour movement is bound up with ending the bans and proscriptions which divide it. The right-wing Labour leaders try to maintain the barriers between Communist and Labour workers; not, as they claim, because our policy is “anti-Labour”, but because we take our stand on the basis of the class struggle and oppose all policies which seek to hold back the workers’ struggle and line up the Labour movement with the Tories.
This is why the ending of the bans is not something which is the concern only of the Communists; it would strengthen the fight of the whole Labour movement against the Tories.
Of key importance is the role of the trade unions. Last year’s Trade Union Congress showed great progress by those who demand a more vigorous stand by the trade unions against Tory policies. Trade unions taking a militant stand together with the progressive Constituency Labour Parties are therefore in a powerful position to influence the Labour Party, winning it for a new policy.
The progressive influence already being exerted on the Labour Party by the Co-operative Party can be strengthened by increased pressure from Divisional Co-operative Parties and the Guild movements.
Our Party, in seeking to end the present divisions and to take its rightful place in the Labour movement, has only one motive—to strengthen the Labour Party, the trade unions and the co-operative movement, so that they use their power as their founders intended.
We see the development of unity stage by stage:
First, unity on every possible issue in every locality to the greatest possible degree.
At the same time we fight for an organised association with the Labour Party. The present stage here is the fight for the removal of bans and proscriptions.
The achievement of this aim would pave the way for bigger changes later, including the possibility of affiliation.
The stage of closer political unity possible, for example, in affiliation means that the Marxist view would still be in a minority in the movement. The eventual winning of the majority in the movement for that view will then open up the possibility of a single working class party based on Marxism.
The achievement of this aim will be hastened to the extent that we build and strengthen the Communist Party, the Young Communist League and the Daily Worker.
In the struggle against capitalist ideas, in fostering the class consciousness and militancy of the working class, in the struggle to win the Labour movement for a policy of advance to Socialism, Communists on the local councils and in Parliament can, alongside their Labour colleagues, play a vital part.
Such Communist representation is essential for the transition to Socialism and the transformation of Parliament.
Communists desire the maximum unity in the fight to defeat the Tories in general and local elections. We pledge ourselves to make every effort to bring about common action and agreement on electoral contests.
Because we consider that the full development of united action against capitalism makes Communist representation a necessity, we work to return Communists as councillors and Members of Parliament. Congress calls on the whole Party to give the greatest backing to candidates in the local elections this year.
Our electoral policy is not an end in itself. It must be decided on the basis of our main aims of winning the unity of the working class in the struggle for a Socialist Britain.
The British Labour movement is the oldest in the world, and the most powerful and well organised of any capitalist country. But its strength is not fully used in the interests of the workers and the fight for Socialism because of the influence of the right-wing ideas that arise out of the historical development of imperialism.
A condition for the advance of the Labour movement, therefore, is the struggle against capitalist ideas and for the victory of Marxist ideas. Guided by Marxist ideas and principles the great mass organisation of the British working class would be invincible.
That is why the Communist Party, based firmly on the principles of Marxism-Leninism, is indispensable to the British working class, and why its strengthening is the key to working class unity and the advance to Socialism.
(a) Historical Significance of the Twentieth Congress
The Sixth Five-Year Plan opened up a period of great new advance for the Soviet people, consolidation of the Socialist system of society, strengthening of co-operation between Socialist states, and aid towards the economic development of nations freed from imperialist rule.
On the basis of changes in the relation of world forces, the Twentieth Congress declared that world war could be prevented.
The Twentieth Congress also declared that because of these changes and the development of the working class movement in the capitalist countries, there was now the possibility of a peaceful advance to Socialism; and it made an appeal for the restoration of working class unity to safeguard peace and win social progress.
It took steps to overcome the consequences of the cult of the individual. These consequences included mistakes and failures in the operation of State and Party democracy, unjust treatment of a number of national minorities and a number of Jewish people, breaking of Socialist legality, and errors in the relations between Socialist states. Most vigorous efforts are being made to put right all these errors and injustices.
The errors and abuses which were revealed came as a profound shock to our Party which rightly condemned them as alien to Socialism. Building upon the achievements of the Soviet people and on what was positive in Stalin’s work, but at the same time exposing and rectifying Stalin’s errors, the Twentieth Congress was of fundamental importance for the development of the whole Communist movement.
(b) The Changes in Eastern Europe and in the Relations between Socialist States since the Twentieth Congress
It was clear that the process of repairing these errors would not be easy.
The restoration of state and Party relations between the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, with the Soviet withdrawal of unfounded charges against the Yugoslav leaders, was an important step.
But while boldness and initiative were shown by the Soviet Union in the case of Yugoslavia, there was not the same speed in overcoming errors in the relations between the Soviet Union and other East European socialist states.
In Poland the Party courageously faced up to and began to correct previous mistakes, and, fighting sectarian and revisionist trends that arose inside the Party, maintained the unity of the Party, and won the support of the masses of the people as shown in the recent elections.
In Hungary, where there had previously been an exceptionally strong background of fascism, where the mistaken policies and illegal actions of the former Government had aroused widespread discontent, where the former Party leaders did not make the necessary changes, and where there was division and disruption in the Party leadership, a tragic situation developed.
Peaceful demonstrations of the people were exploited for purposes of armed action by counter-revolutionary and fascist elements linked with Western imperialist agencies, whose aim was to restore capitalism and landlordism and take Hungary into the imperialist camp. This challenge was met by the formation of the Kadar Government which, with the requested aid of the Soviet forces, defeated the counter-revolution, preserving the gains of the Hungarian people and safeguarding world peace.
Congress endorses the general line of the Executive Committee on the events in Hungary.
The Soviet statement of 30 October 1956, on relations between Socialist states, played a big part in rectifying previous mistakes in these relations. It has formed the basis for the subsequent agreements between the Soviet Union and Poland and other Socialist countries, agreements firmly based on the sovereignty and national independence of the states concerned.
In defending the people’s democracies against slanders and in recording their many achievements, we tended to lose sight of the fact that the path to socialism in these countries was necessarily a long process, beset with difficulties in which reaction had to be defeated step by step; and we failed to note actions and tendencies which were alien to Socialism. Despite, however, the serious problems which all these countries have still to face, the changes initiated by the Twentieth Congress have been of enormous help in speeding up their advance.
(c) The Discussion in the Communist Parties
All of these events have given rise to widespread and necessary discussion in the international Communist movement and in our own Party, in the course of which questions have been raised concerning the attitude of other Communist Parties to the experience of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in the building of Socialism in the U.S.S.R. and the role of the Soviet Union in the Socialist camp.
While the advance to Socialism must have special features in accordance with the conditions in each country, there are certain essential features which apply to all countries. These are:
That power must be taken by the working class, supported by other progressive sections of the people.
That there must be a Party based on Marxism-Leninism and democratic centralism, capable of giving leadership to the working class and their allies in the day-to-day struggle against capitalism and in the struggle for Socialism.
That a Socialist Government, backed up by the working class and the people, carries through the measures necessary to end exploitation, raise living standards, develop a planned socialist economy and prevent obstruction and sabotage by the capitalists and landlords.
That there is a common interest between all those opposed to imperialism and the necessity for international solidarity of working and, progressive people to defeat it.
The foreign policy of a Socialist country is a policy of peace; it recognises the independence and equal rights of all nations, is based on working class internationalism, and gives help to industrially backward countries and to the efforts of subject peoples to end imperialist rule and establish their independence.
These are all basic features of the Soviet experience and have general validity in all countries as the principles of the working class struggle against imperialism, for the winning of political power by the working class and the building of socialism.
Marxism-Leninism should be applied in accordance with the specific national, social and historical experiences and traditions of each country. What has been called “national Communism” denies that the Marxist-Leninist principles outlined above apply to every country. It is the denial of working class internationalism, counterposes the interests of the workers of a particular country to the common interests of the international working class and the Socialist countries and weakens the unity of the Socialist countries headed by the Soviet Union.
It is the aim of those who want to revise Marxism to repudiate these principles, and to repudiate all the experiences of the Soviet revolution. In the propaganda against these principles of the Socialist advance, the terms “Stalinism” and “anti-Stalinism” have been spread by enemies of Communism, and found echoes amongst some Communists.
The mistakes made by Stalin, grievous as they were, must not be seen in isolation from the great services he rendered to the Socialist development and immense human advance of the Soviet people; in spite of these mistakes, and the crimes to which they led, the Soviet Union has opened up a new future for the whole world.
Stalin defended the unity of the Party against factional disruption after the death of Lenin, and conducted a victorious fight for the principles of Marxism-Leninism against tendencies which would have destroyed the Party and the Soviet Union. He carried forward Lenin’s policy of Socialist industrialisation and collective agriculture with determination because he believed in the possibility of building Socialism in one country. These triumphs created the conditions for victory over Hitler fascism, a victory decisive for the future of all progressive mankind, and laid the basis for the great advance of the socialist forces and the national liberation movement in the twelve years since the war.
The mistakes made under Stalin’s leadership should be seen against the background of the specific difficulties in which the first Socialist state was built up. But these mistakes, in domestic and foreign policy and in violation of socialist legality, were not inevitable. They arose out of widespread departure from the principles of democratic centralism. for which were substituted Stalin’s arbitrary methods. This led to a violation of collective leadership, to personal decisions instead of collective Marxist analyses, and a consequent isolation from the masses.
Stalin stood for and defended the basic principles of Socialism. That was his great positive achievement, while his errors, alien to Marxism, were his negative, secondary side. Those who use the term “Stalinism” in attacking the abuses, in effect repudiate the whole of Stalin’s work and the achievements of the Soviet Union under his leadership. The term is used by those who would like to assert that the whole Socialist system was wrong, instead of analysing mistakes due to specific causes.
Of the greatest importance to the working class and Communist movernent is the application of the principles of working class internationalism. Today one-third of the population of the world live in socialist states. Another six hundred million have thrown off imperialist rule, and are building up their countries as independent, peaceful, progressive states. The working class movement in the capitalist countries has developed great industrial and political strength, and in some countries powerful Communist Parties have been built up. These are parts of a single world fight against imperialism.
The prospects of the world advance to socialism are extremely favourable. But imperialism is still strong. The class struggle in each capitalist country and on a world scale continues and in its light every development must be seen; imperialism developing its aggressive alliances, huge armaments, repression in the colonial countries and subversion in the Socialist countries.
It is equally necessary to see that in addition to using force, imperialism seeks to exploit every opportunity of dividing the supporters of Socialism and peace, of undermining confidence in Socialism and in the Communist Party.
In the common struggle against imperialism, the Soviet Union, as the centre of the Socialist camp, is the main force. After nearly forty years of Soviet power, the Soviet Union is the most powerful and experienced country in the Socialist camp. It has been in the forefront of the fight of the international working class, and the main target of attack by imperialism. The Soviet Union has fulfilled the foremost international role in the fight for peace, for the defeat of fascism, and for the support of the national liberation struggles, and has given immense aid to the other countries which have won their independence from imperialism.
The common struggle against imperialism and for Socialism demands the strengthening of working class internationalism with the Soviet Union as its centre. This in no way affects the responsibility of the Communist Party in each country for working out its own policy, and applying the general principles of Marxism-Leninism to the conditions of that country. This is what our Party has done in Britain, and will continue to do.
Differences that arise between Socialist countries, or between Communist Parties, should be settled by comradely discussions between them. Frank and comradely mutual criticism on the basis of the facts is necessary in such cases. But such differences are subordinate to the fundamental antagonism between the Socialist world and the imperialist world, and must not be allowed to weaken the common front against the imperialists.
Periodic consultations and exchange of information and ideas between Communist Parties, for which our Party has called, would help towards mutual understanding.
(d) The Discussion in our Party
The positive lines of development on which the Party has concentrated, in view of the serious lessons of the Twentieth Congress for us, have been:
(1) Our Twenty-Fourth Congress made criticisms of a certain dogmatism, rigidity and sectarianism in our approach and thinking, which created unnecessary obstacles to united work and discussion within the Labour movement, and called on the Party to put this right.
This weakness still persists. We must do all in our power to find agreement and common ground with the members of the Labour Party and other sections of the Labour movement, and listen to and learn from people outside the ranks of the Communist Party.
The main political line adopted at our Twenty-Fourth Congress—to work for united action of the Labour movement, and the removal of the bans which hamper unity, in order to defend peace and defeat the Tory Government—was correct, and recent events reinforce the importance of fighting for its policy.
(2) Our programme The British Road to Socialism, adopted by our Congress five years ago, was a great advance in the application of the principles of Marxism to the conditions of our country. In the light of our experiences since, and especially in view of the lessons of the Twentieth Congress of the C.P.S.U., the time has come to consider a further development of our Programme.
This has been done by the Commission appointed by the Executive Committee, whose report has been submitted to the Party organisations and to Congress. The main features of the revised draft are:
The conception of a People’s Government has been replaced by that of a Socialist Government, while retaining the idea of an alliance of all working people, led by the working class, as the basis of the movement that can win a Socialist majority in Parliament and a Socialist Government to carry through the change to socialism. Stress has been laid on the necessity for mass struggle and the strength of the movement as the guarantee of the peaceful transition. The role of the present common struggle of the peoples of the Empire against imperialism has been more clearly brought out as the basis for our future perspective. The principles of Socialist democracy and liberty have been set out, and the independent role of the trade unions emphasised. The sectarian treatment of the Labour Party has been removed, and our Party’s relations with other sections of the Labour movement and its role in the development of the struggle set out. As amended with the decisions and suggestions of Congress it will be a document of the greatest value to the Party and the Labour movement.
(3) Much thought has been given throughout the Party to every aspect of inner-Party democracy. In Party organisations and in the Party press, as well as in material submitted to the Commission on Inner-Party Democracy and in communications to the Executive Committee, many important points have been raised and valuable suggestions made for improving the work of the Party.
Our Party did not share the specific weaknesses in the functioning of Party democracy that the exposure of Stalin’s mistakes revealed in the C.P.S.U. We have held regular Congresses and elections of all leading committees; there has been collective leadership and full discussion in the Executive Committee, in which all members have participated.
Nevertheless, the leading committees of the Party have been and are far too prone to neglect discussion of the principles on which immediate decisions and tactics must be based. There has been insufficient effort to stimulate discussion and controversy throughout the Party on policy and the experience of its application, and there has been a big gap between the Executive Committee and the branches. Leading committees have not taken adequate steps to ascertain the views of members and to draw on their suggestions and initiative. There has been inadequate response to criticism, and little effort to find out why questions were being raised. In practice, there has been a tendency to under-stress democracy and over-stress centralism.
Since the Twentieth Congress the steps taken to encourage discussion in the Party branches and press have been helpful, and Congress approves the proposal to issue a monthly theoretical and discussion journal of the Party.
The Report of the Commission on Inner-Party Democracy which has been before the Party branches and submitted to Congress, while upholding the principles of democratic centralism as the essential basis of a revolutionary Party, and rejecting proposals to undermine these principles, contains a number of suggestions for strengthening the democratic functioning of the Party. Recognising the right and duty of the Executive Committee of the Party to take decisions when necessary without prior consultation with the membership, the report recommends such consultation wherever possible. It also urges the systematic encouragement of discussion in Party organisations and in the Party press, and suggests improvements in the procedure of the election of the Executive Committee. These, and other proposals in the report, as amended by Congress, will help to improve the democratic functioning of the Party organisations and ensure increased participation by the membership in the life of the Party.
(e) Wrong Tendencies in the Discussion
The development of discussion in the Party organisations and press has been an important step forward and a great many positive ideas were advanced which have been incorporated in the Commission Reports and resolutions. But certain trends have developed in the discussion which Congress rejects as harmful to the Party and the working class struggle.
In the course of the discussion on The British Road to Socialism there has been evidence of certain liberal-reformist tendencies and illusions. The peaceful advance to Socialism has been presented in some cases as if it meant the absence of class struggle and the absence of the need to defeat the monopolies by the mass action of the people. Such an approach overlooks the class basis of democracy and the fundamental fact that every advance by the working class has to be won against the resistance of the ruling class. We have therefore to stress the need for mass struggle as the guarantee that attempts to block the democratic advance will be defeated and the peaceful transition assured.
The need to do everything possible to overcome sectarianism in our relations with the Labour Party and our joint work with Labour Party members has been recognised and valuable contributions made on this question. But there have also been some illusions about some fundamental change having taken place in the nature of the Labour Party, which would enable it to lead the working class struggle without the defeat of the right wing and its ideas; or some idea that the Labour Party could lead the British working class to Socialism, with the Communist Party outside it; and even arguments for outright liquidation, the denial of the need for the Communist Party.
Tendencies have also been expressed which would capitulate to the right wing bans against the Communist Party, and seek unity through the abandonment of the independent role of the Communist Party.
There have also been arguments that a future united Party of the working class could be built on some basis other than the principles of Marxism. This would mean handing over the working class and the cause of Socialism to a reformist ideology. The achievement of a broader basis within the Labour Party through the ending of bans and recognition of the rights of Communists within it would be a very great step towards a united working class front, but the fulfilment of the aim of a single united political party of the working class requires the basis of Marxism-Leninism. Congress condemns all these wrong tendencies, which arise from inadequate study and understanding of the nature of British imperialism, of class society and of the class struggle, and inadequate appreciation of the need for revolutionary leadership in the fight to transform society. In the discussion valuable contributions have been made in connection with the improvement and development of democracy in all aspects of the life of the Party. But there have also been political arguments attacking the essential basis of the Party, democratic centralism, and the leading role of the Party in the working class struggle for Socialism. Ideas have been put forward in the name of freedom of discussion that would lead to the disintegration of the Party. Tendencies to factionalism have also developed, seeking to ignore the duties of Party members and the rights of Party organisations, and to establish alternative forms of grouping and leadership.
Congress condemns any narrow sectarianism in our Party that expresses itself in anti-intellectual attitudes and calls for the fight against all efforts of the class enemy and its press to provoke rifts in the unity of the Party. Our Party intellectuals can play a part of the greatest importance in both the theoretical and practical work of the Party. We have a wonderful record of Marxist intellectuals in Britain who have made important contributions in many fields of study, whilst they loyally gave their energy and effort to the Party.
What we have opposed and will oppose is any attempt to introduce petty-bourgeois ideas and practices into our Party theory and life. We oppose any demands for special privileges for any section of the Party and any attempts to undermine the discipline that is necessary in a revolutionary Party.
Congress rejects political arguments against the fundamental principles of Marxism-Leninism. Such arguments, which must not be confused with study of these principles, their enrichment and their application to particular conditions, can only lead to the disintegration of the Party.
It notes that these tendencies do not represent the view of the overwhelming majority of the Party, but are an expression of the right opportunist and liquidationist outlook which constitutes the main danger facing the Party at present.
Such tendencies should be and can be quickly overcome, and the unity and Marxist outlook of the Party strengthened by the rejection of ideas that are fatal to the Party and to the working class struggle.
At the same time, Congress rejects those serious sectarian tendencies which have been expressed in reaction to the liquidationist tendencies, and all attempts to retreat from self-criticism and serious examination of our work and our problems called for by the Twenty-Fourth Congress. Unless we do this the Party will not play the unifying role in the working class struggles that are now developing.
Patience and a comradely attitude, not automatic labelling, are required when countering wrong ideas.
There can be no effective advance except on the basis of clear decisions by this Congress on the issues which have been raised, so that the whole Party can go unitedly into action.
At a time when our responsibilities to the British people, and the favourable opportunities for mass political action against the Tories are greater than ever before, we express our confidence that following the Congress, the Party will overcome the difficulties which have been holding it back, and work unitedly to carry out the Congress policy.
The achievement of the aims in this resolution will be hastened to the extent that we build and strengthen the Communist Party, the Young Communist League and the Daily Worker.
The British working class needs the Communist Party:
(i) To give the Labour movement a Socialist consciousness, a scientific Socialist theory, a perspective of advance to Socialism.
(ii) To lead the workers and their allies in all the struggles which confront them—from the immediate struggles under capitalism right up to the struggles for political power and the building of Socialism.
(iii) To provide the organisation for the vanguard of the working class and working people capable of carrying out these two tasks.
To be able to give the leadership and service needed by the working class and people, the Party has not only to be united and capable of sustained action, inspired by its Socialist aims. It must become a much bigger and more powerful Party of the working class.
Our Twenty-Fourth National Congress took the first modest step towards checking the decline in our membership that had been taking place and brought about a small advance, although we have not been able to check the decline in the sales of the Daily Worker. The Congress adopted a political line of mass united struggle against the Tories which could have led to further development.
But in spite of the efforts made on the issues of wages, rents and the Suez policy of the Tories, during several months the Party increasingly turned in on itself in discussion, neglecting the immediate issues facing the working class.
This, together with the difficulties arising from the treatment of the events in Hungary in the press and wireless, and by the Labour leadership, and insufficient basic class understanding, resulted in a fall in the membership of the Party and in the circulation of the Daily Worker, creating a serious setback which must be overcome as rapidly as possible.
It should be a matter of pride, however, that the great majority of the Party membership stood firm, and fought under the most difficult conditions, in face of an unprecedented capitalist press barrage and right wing Labour attack. We are confident that many of those who have left us will return as a result of political experience, and such comrades will be welcome.
The Executive Committee called on the Party to maintain its activity, while at the same time it encouraged discussion throughout the Party organisations and in the Party press. But it did not do enough in continuously leading the discussion and helping to clarify the issues.
At the same time the political experience we have gone through reveals serious weaknesses at all levels in the work of the Party leadership in the basic political training of our members. Weaknesses in organisation have also hindered the effective. integration of many Party members in the main stream of Party life.
A determined effort is needed to overcome these weaknesses. The strengthening of the Communist Party is vital for the advance of the whole working class for unity and for the cause of Socialism. Our advance in the factories among the key industrial workers is of outstanding importance and must be our immediate concern. To bring this about requires an expansion of our public work within the factories and the localities, alongside greatly increased attention to the education of our members.
Experiences during the year since our Twenty-Fourth National Congress show that new members have been won, in spite of difficulties, where a confident and consistent effort is made. But the revival of Party building in a big way depends on the extension of our public work. The main aims set by the Twenty-Fourth National Congress remain valid for the development of our Party.
The Daily Worker is indispensable for the achievement of this objective, as it is for the development of working class struggle and the development of unity of the Labour movement.
The continued decline in the circulation of the Daily Worker should therefore give cause for alarm, and must be halted. A minimum increase of 5,000 copies per day is absolutely essential to safeguard the paper.
The responsibility for this rests squarely on our Party, and Congress calls on every Branch to put the Daily Worker in the centre of all activities, to campaign immediately and consistently to win new readers in the factories and localities, and to regard this activity as the first obligation of every organisation and member.
In view of the urgent new tasks and opportunities now opening out, it is imperative that we bring about a radical improvement in our Party organisation. It is this that will decide the extent to which our policy will be effectively carried to the working people of Britain.
The Branches are the basis of our organisation; they are the main Party organisations for public work among the people, developing all the varied struggles, winning each locality, factory and the Labour movement for the defeat of the Tories. They should provide many and varied opportunities for our members to meet and associate, take part in activity, with the regular Branch meeting as the hub of it all.
We must make a determined effort following this Congress to raise the political level of the Party, to improve Party education. Special efforts must be made to improve our educational work in the basic unit of the Party and amongst new recruits. Regular political education and discussion is essential in the Branches embracing fundamental Marxist theory as well as questions of current policy.
In this connection it is necessary to repeat and emphasise that every comrade should take part in the life of his Branch to the fullest possible degree.
Special steps should be taken to draw our women members into more discussion and activity.
Our Party is not seriously facing the question of winning the youth for Socialism, not applying the decisions of our last Congress concerning help to the Y.C.L. We need to take radical steps to change this and Congress supports the proposal of the E.C. to draw 500 Party comrades into the Y.C.L.
In bringing about these improvements in the work of our Party we shall be making a most important contribution to the fight of the British people and the cause of Socialism.
For every development underlines the need for our Party, and shows the indispensable role it has to play.
Because our policy is based on scientific Socialist principles we were able to give correct leadership during the Suez crisis and at all important stages of the struggle over the past year.
The patient work of the Communist Party among trade unionists and in the factories and localities was a major factor helping to bring about the advances in the 1956 Trades Union Congress and Labour Party Conference.
It is the Communist Party and the Daily Worker which have consistently exposed Toryism and initiated the movement to force a General Election without delay, to drive the Tories out of office, and secure the election of a new Labour Government pledged to a policy of peace and social advance.
Above all, the Communist Party has continued to explain the principles of socialism against all efforts to put forward false theories and ideas within the Labour movement. It is the only Party which has published a Socialist Programme for Britain’s future.
The Communist Party has been able to do its work because its Marxist theory enables it, in the struggles of the working class, to show the general line of advance to Socialism; to bring a class approach to all the many and complicated questions facing the Labour movement, and, as a result, to display initiative in helping to organise and develop the struggle for the workers’ demands.
The struggle for Socialism can only succeed if the working class and its allies have consistent leadership and direction. The Communist Party is the means of unifying and co-ordinating the efforts of all who strive to give leadership to the working class in its struggles for Socialism.
It is because of this that Congress resolves to build and strengthen the Communist Party so that it can fulfil with honour its obligations to the British people.