Communist Party of Great Britain


A Course for Branch Secretaries and Branch Officials

Published: 1955
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Proofreader: Chris Clayton
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The aim of this syllabus is to assist in the education and training of the leading cadres in the Party branches, particularly of the Branch Secretaries.

It is proposed: —

(1) That all present Branch Secretaries should attend schools on this syllabus.

(2) Districts should arrange that schools on this syllabus should be organised periodically for all new Branch Secretaries who should attend such schools as soon as possible after taking up their duties.

(3) That these schools should, where possible, be week-end schools of three sessions (where this is not possible they should take the form of day schools or of three successive evenings).

(4) That this syllabus should normally serve as the basis for three meetings and discussions, but that wherever it is found necessary further discussion meetings should be held to complete the syllabus.

(5) That the Handbook for Members of the Communist Party (Forging the Weapon) should be closely studied in relation to the syllabus.

Comments and criticisms on the syllabus and reports from schools held on it, together with salient problems which arise in the discussions, would be very welcome and would enable us to prepare a revised and improved version of the syllabus. This is particularly important as it is intended that such a syllabus should be a regular and permanent part of our Party work.



All those attending the Schools should be asked to prepare by reading: —

J. V. Stalin: Foundations of Leninism, Section 8 : “The Party.”

J. V. Stalin: On Organisation (Little Stalin Library).

John Gollan: Building the Communist Party, C.P. 2d.

Forging the Weapon: A Handbook for Members of the Communist Party, 6d.



Study of the British Labour movement shows that the Communist Party emerged as a historic necessity for the British working class in order that the British people should advance to Socialism.

The British Labour movement is the oldest in the world. Britain had the first trade union organisation, but a study of labour history shows some important weaknesses in our Labour movement:

(a) That often the mass organisations (trade unions, Co-operatives, and later the Labour Party) lacked a conscious, scientific, socialist leadership,—and tended to be led by non-socialists or reformist socialists.

(b) The Marxist socialist organisations which came into existence in the 1880s tended to restrict their activities to those of propaganda, and were often cut off from the mass movement, were often sectarian.

Therefore the position was of mass labour organisations without a socialist leadership, and socialist organisations without deep roots in the mass movement.

The historic necessity therefore arose for anew type of Marxist party which at the same time would have deep roots in the organised mass movement, would lead the workers in the defence of their immediate conditions, and yet would consciously and continually educate them in Socialism and put forward a socialist perspective before the people. The historic need was for the unity of Socialism and the mass movement, and it was to meet this need that the Communist Party was founded in 1920.


It is the role of the Communist Party to lead the working class and its allies on all the immediate issues that confront them, to give them a socialist consciousness, and to provide their leading section with a revolutionary form of organisation. To give effective political leadership the Communist Party must carry out at one and the same time all these three tasks. This means that it must work:

(a) To give leadership to the working class and working people on all the issues which confront them at any given moment: wages, prices, social services, rents, issues of peace and national independence.

The Communist Party has the task of leading, guiding and coordinating these struggles.

The Communist Party works for the unity in action of the whole working people, and whilst leading them in all the immediate issues which confront them, it supports and respects the internal democracy of all specific organisations set up by the working people to defend their interests.

(b) To give the working class a socialist theory, socialist perspective, socialist consciousness, based on Marxism. It is the task of the Communist Party to educate the working class and working people in Scientific Socialism, explaining to them the nature of capitalism, imperialism, capitalist crises, the need for and nature of Socialism, and how the transition from capitalism to Socialism can be made in Britain. The Communist Party has to give the working class and people the vision of the new socialist society in British terms, and taking into account British traditions and traditional organisations. It does this on the basis of the Party programme, The British Road to Socialism.

(c) To provide the vanguard, the most class-conscious section of the British working class, with a new sort of organisation, a revolutionary organisation which can enable them to lead the struggles of the British workers and people, right up to the winning of political power and building of Socialism. This necessitates a new type of organisation; the old reformist organisations, based on electoral activity only, cannot suffice. The aim and role of the electoral work of the Communist Party is different from that of the reformists, just as the work and role of the Communist M.P.s is different from that of reformist M.P.s. The new organisation is based, above all, on the building of strong Party branches in the factories and areas, branches which are firmly linked with the workers. The new Communist organisation is based on democratic centralism, i.e. on the voluntary discipline which alone can ensure the victory of Socialism.

Only when the Communist Party carries out all these three aspects of political leadership at one and the same time can the full significance of the role of the Party be understood. Only then is the Communist Party seen not as a ginger group but as a Party whose function it is to give an all-round political leadership to the working class and people—a Party without which the victory of Socialism in Britain is impossible.

The Daily Worker plays an essential part in all these aspects of the role of the Communist Party. It acts as a mobiliser for the whole people, showing them the path of struggle on all the immediate issues which confront them. It is one of the main weapons in providing the whole working class and people with a socialist consciousness, a socialist perspective. It acts as an “organiser” for the Communist Party and the working class. It is the daily organised link between the Party branch and the non-Party workers, and it is among Daily Worker readers that the most fruitful field of Party recruitment is to be found.

As organiser, agitator, propagandist of Socialism, the Daily Worker is an essential weapon of the Communist Party in all aspects of its work and struggles.


Why is it not sufficient to work inside the Labour Party? The development of a Left in the trade union and Co-operative movements and in the Labour Party is very important, but it does not and cannot replace the role of the Communist Party and its organ, the Daily Worker. The “Left” contains very many fine people but it cannot give the working class socialist theory, consciousness and perspective for it is not based on socialist principles. It has no short- or long-term programme to put before the workers. It does not provide them with the necessary organisation, press, education. Above all the “Labour Left” is not a political party and is not and cannot be organised as a party. Only a political party with a revolutionary theory and organisation can lead the working people to the victory of socialism. It is the Communist Party which is the most decisive single factor which has given rise to the development of the Left within the Labour movement and Labour Party, and only the further development of the Communist Party can secure the victory of the Left over the right-wing policy and leadership within the Labour movement.


Today we see

(a) A powerful trend to the Left inside the Labour Party, trade unions and Co-operatives on issues of wages, rents, German rearmament, H-Bomb, peaceful co-existence, independence from U.S. domination. But this Left movement lacks leadership. Bevan and his group provide no alternative short- or long-term policy. Therefore without Communist leadership there can be no advance to Socialism.

(b) The Labour movement is today, up to a point, confused and immobilised by the Right-Wing leadership despite the important trend to the Left which is taking place within it. There is therefore danger of apathy and disillusionment. Hence, for the defeat of the Tories and further advance of Socialism, the whole Labour movement needs the leadership which only the Communist Party can provide.


Stalin: “The Party cannot lead the class if there is no bond between it and the non-Party masses, if these masses do not accept its leadership, if it enjoys no moral or political credit among the masses. The Party is the political leader and an inseparable part of the working class.”


(a) Political Leadership

The Communist Party is made up of its basic units—factory and area branches. Success of the Party depends on the work of its branches, which must give an all-round political leadership in the factory and area, just as the Executive Committee of the Party has to give an all-round political leadership to the British working class and people as a whole. All-round political leadership means winning the working people in the factory and area for the short-term and long-term programme of the Communist Party, rallying and organising them in the fight for these aims. It means giving them both political understanding and leading them into action.

The effort of the Party branch to win the all-round political leadership of the workers in factory or area demands a continuous attention to electoral activity and to winning representation on the councils.

The Party Branch, therefore, must work to become the most important organisation of the working class in any factory or area. Without strong Party Branches there can be no strong Communist Party and no successful advance to Socialism in Britain.

(b) Know your Factory and Area

The first task of the Branch is to know the factory or area, what are the key sections of workers or people in it: what are the organisations—trade unions, Co-operatives, Labour Party, other political parties, British Legion and other ex-Service organisations, sports and cultural groups, Church organisations etc.—existing in the area; the local press. Who are the main political personalities? What special problems affect the workers in the factory or area? What is the local council doing and who are the main people in it?

The Branch is responsible for the leadership of the whole of the people in its area or factory. It cannot function properly unless it knows the full scope of its work and not a small section of it. It is not, moreover, just a question of knowing in general the people in an area or factory. It is necessary to know which are the key sections of the working people, which exert the most influence on the rest of the people, which are the key industries of an area or the key shops of a factory. The first task of a Party Branch is to win an influence amongst these key sections.

The position of leadership has to be fought for and won, step by step. This means that the Party Branch must engage in consistent work. It must be seen, be known, by the people; and its work appreciated. It must be linked with the people and lead them on all matters which concern them.

The task of the Branch in the factory or area is to win the people for support of Party policy, and at the same time to infuse socialist consciousness into the Labour movement, to strengthen the organisations of the working class and working people and help them to act in, the interests of the people and, above all, to build a strong Party Branch in the factory and area.

(c) Winning Supporters for the Party

The Party Branch in its work should not depend on its own forces alone. It should aim to build up around itself a strong body of supporters and sympathisers (Daily Worker readers, factory supporters, trade union, Labour Party and Co-operative supporters).

The Branch should systematically review and extend its circle of supporters and aim at bringing them into the struggle for Party policy.

(d) Translate Directives into Local Terms

It is not enough for the Branch leadership mechanically to pass on to its members the directives it receives from District or Area, but it needs to translate them into local terms. What does the campaign for peace mean in terms of the local Peace movement? What will the British Road to Socialism mean in terms of the particular factory or area? What is the wages movement in the particular factory or area? What are the main social issues in a particular area or factory? In addition, the Branch needs to bring to the tore, within the framework of Party policy, the special problems of the particular sphere or area in which it is working.

Good Branch leads are always concrete and applicable locally.


(a) The Factory Branch

For the Communist Party, the organisation of Factory Branches is a question of principle. Factory Branches organise the vanguard at the point of production—the factory is the best centre for the mobilisation of the working class and for the effective struggle against the ruling class; the best centre for achieving unity of the working class, skilled and non-skilled, male and female, young and old. Often a large factory can be a centre for rallying the people in a whole area.

It is necessary to make clear the difference between the stewards committees and the Factory Branch of the Communist Party—the Factory Branch is the leader not only of immediate struggles, but is the all-round political leadership. (See John Gollan: Building the Communist Party, p. 4.)

The Factory Branch is responsible for carrying to the workers in the factory the short-term and long-term programme of the Party. It must conduct public meetings, above all at the factory gates. It carries out campaigns in the factory (peace, social issues, etc.). It organises the sale of Party and progressive literature and, above all, of the Daily Worker. It is responsible for the political education of its members and their sympathisers, and therefore organises regular classes and discussion groups. It has the constant responsibility of recruiting new members to the Party and of helping their political development.

An important job for a Factory Branch when it reaches the necessary stage of ability and experience is to work out a policy for the factory based on the Party’s policy for the particular industry with which it is concerned. Such a policy is the best way of relating the immediate demands of the workers with the general national policy of the Party.

(b) Area Branches

The Area Branch also must aim at achieving all-round political leadership of the area. To do this it needs to couple consistent political propaganda with struggle on all the immediate social issues which concern the workers in the area. This means an intimate knowledge of all problems, however humble, rents, health, education, smog, drains, transport, etc., etc. The Area Branches have a special responsibility of helping the development of Factory Branches within and around their area.


Winning leadership means a consistent public appearance by the Party Branches. People will not follow a Party which they cannot see in action. This means:

(a) A consistent public appearance by the Branch on all the issues which concern the people in the factory or locality.

(b) A consistent public appearance by the Branch, putting the political policy of the Party on peace, independence, economic issues and the advance to Socialism. It means putting a socialist perspective before the factory and area, putting as concretely as possible what socialism will mean for the given factory or area. This means regular factory-gate meetings, indoor and outdoor propaganda meetings, issuing of special printed or duplicated leaflets, applying the general line of the Party to local conditions.


(See John Gollan: Build the Communist Party, pp. 4 and 5.)

It is only through a consistent public appearance and public work that the Communist Party can win successes in local and national elections. However well the Branch works at the time immediately preceding elections, it cannot hope to succeed by that alone. Election of candidates is only achieved where Branches are seen as the continuous leader of the struggles of the people in the factory and area.

Successful election work therefore means a consistent study of local conditions, agitation on these conditions, the building up of candidates who are acknowledged leaders of the workers in the locality, who are known and respected in an area, and continuous and consistent propaganda.

Need for careful selection of candidates, for education and continuous help for comrades, for publicity for the work of the candidates, in the local press both inside and outside election times.


After the correct political line has been laid down, success depends on how the work is organised, on the organisation of the struggle for the Party line; on the proper selection of personnel; and on the way a check is kept on the fulfilment of decisions.”—J. V. Stalin.

There are some 1,500 branches throughout the country. Some are in small villages, some in big industrial cities, some in pits, factories, and bus garages. Some are well established and numerically strong, some are very small and new.

Right from the start, therefore, we must make it clear that there is no organisational blueprint which will give the right answer for all these Branches. Therefore we have to emphasise the importance of the relations between the Branch and the District or Area Committee which is responsible for giving it guidance.

If the higher committee is in the habit of giving general directives to all its Branches, demanding a reaction and results on many different aspects of work, without sufficient discussion and help to the Branch to decide what is the next step, then it will never be possible to build up capable Branch leadership.

We must be on our guard, then, against building up a picture of an ideal Branch Secretary, and using this as a measuring rod. The way in which the Branch Secretary develops will depend to a very great extent on the way in which he and his Branch Committee are helped by the leadership of the higher committee.

This session, therefore, is in the main concerned with certain problems and methods of work which are common to all Branches, whatever their special conditions.


(a) The Branch Committee

To work properly a Party Branch requires a Branch Committee meeting weekly to organise its activities.

The Branch Committee should be a team collectively responsible for leading all aspects of the work of the Branch. It should be made up of the most capable and experienced members of the Branch, those with a standing among the people, the factory workers, the Labour movement. It should always aim to have as members some new, developing comrades.

The Branch Committees are the decisive link in our whole Party organisation.

The Committee should keep well informed on local affairs of a political, industrial and social character through the local press, its contact with the local Labour movement, the proceedings of the local council and its publications. In addition it should keep abreast with national and international affairs through our press and literature. The size of the Committee, the way in which its work and responsibility are allocated, the number of officials needed, all depend to a large extent on the stage of development of the Branch.

(b) The Branch Secretary

The Branch Secretary is responsible for calling meetings, preparing agenda and seeing that the decisions of the Branch Committees are carried out. He or she works closely with the other Committee members and other comrades carrying out any leading responsibility for the Party in the Labour movement or among the people.

In our best Branches the Branch Secretary is the key comrade in the Branch and the person around whom the collective leadership is built. He or she keeps abreast with local and national events; is familiar with Party policy; knows the leading people in the local Labour movement and the principal civic personalities (Mayor, Councillors, etc.). As a result the Branch Secretary comes to be regarded as the public representative of the Party, speaks at its meetings, on occasion leads deputations to the various authorities, writes to the press on behalf of the Branch, etc.

This position can only be achieved if the Branch makes a point of electing its best and most capable comrade as Secretary, if the Branch Secretary and Branch Committee work as a collective leadership, and if District and Area Committees give every possible assistance, encouragement, training.


Arising out of all its work and activities, it should be the consistent aim of the Party Branch to develop into a mass organisation. This makes necessary the consistent examination of Party organisation, the recruitment and development of new members.

(a) The Admission of Members

Our Party rules lay down in some detail a procedure for the admission of members. This is of tremendous importance for it means that right from the start the Branch Committee will know something about the new member—he will not just be a name on a form but his circumstances will be known.

It is important for Branch Committees to understand each comrade’s personal position, especial interests and capacities. The more this is done the less often will an artificial division be made into “active” and “inactive.”

(b) The Collection of Dues and Regular Contact (See Resolution on Building the Party adopted by the Executive Committee on July 8-9, 1955, in World News of July 16, 1955.)

This is a priority question for every Branch of the Party. The collection of Party dues is a political activity, and will only be solved when the members of the Party understand what the Party is fighting for and what the dues are needed for.

It is essential to build up a system of Dues Collectors who ensure that no comrade gets into arrears. If this question is boldly and systematically tackled the whole position of Party membership can be improved and the financial basis of the Party greatly strengthened.

The Executive Committee Resolution of July 8-9, 1955, states:

“While asking all branches to take the necessary organisational steps (with the appointment of additional Dues Collectors, etc.) to overcome this position, the Executive Committee calls for a political campaign within every Party organisation on dues payments and for clear cards. Regular payment of dues and a clear card is a political recognition of pride in the membership of the Communist Party.”

(c) Development of People (Cadres)

The Branch Committee needs to give continuous attention to helping the development of Branch members who show potentialities of leadership by drawing them into suitable activity and helping their political understanding (classes, advice on reading, etc.). Development of people means:

Allocation of definite political responsibilities. Regular assistance—discussion of experiences: development is a long-term process—not a matter of weeks or even months. All cadres should be continuously developing and helping to develop new ones.

(d) New Members

It is especially important to help new members of the Branch to become active Branch members. This means explaining the role and organisation of the Party they have joined, giving them the folder Welcome Into the Communist Party, finding them correct forms of activity, bringing them to new members’ classes, and whilst helping them to activity, not imposing on them forms of action for which they are not yet ready.

(e) Retaining Members

Gollan’s report on “Building the Party” showed great fluctuations in Party membership due to losses. Although very few of those who leave the Party do so through any deep political differences, most of them leave because they are not really in it, i.e. have not been drawn into Party activity or brought to understand the role and aims of the Party. It is only at Branch level that the problem of fluctuation of both new and older members can possibly be tackled.

Every member of the Party is valuable. It is people who make up our Party and its members, the people in it are its greatest capital. Workers make a great and important decision when they join our Party. They do not automatically become fully fledged Marxists and Communists on the day they first receive a Party card. It is our responsibility to help them to become good Communists, zealously to help them to develop their capacities, to help draw them into suitable activity. The Party membership is the property of the whole working class and people, and nothing is more important than the work of helping them to develop into leaders of the working-class progressive movement.


(a) Branch Meeting

This is the key meeting. It should normally be held not less than once a month and should be opened by a carefully prepared statement which not only raises general political problems, but shows their local application. Proper time should be allowed for questions, discussions and reply.

(b) Agenda and Minutes

The importance of a carefully prepared agenda which gives time for the main problems under discussion. Danger of over-loading the agenda or of filling it with trivial points or with points which properly belong to Committee meetings. Use of minutes for checking of decisions.

(c) Branch Committee Meeting

The importance of carefully prepared Committee meetings with concentration on one or two important problems; careful assignment of responsibility and check-up of former decisions.

(d) Checking up on Decisions

This is a political question, not just a matter of statistics. What is happening to the political decisions (what are the workers saying and doing about them—what difficulties are being met—what successes—how are they achieved)? How is the Party influence and membership growing (members, Daily Worker etc.)? Check is usually in meetings, and lessons drawn there.

(e) Education

The importance of regular education classes, especially of new members’ classes. But education should not be confined to the special classes. Regular Branch meetings, if properly prepared and organised around a main report and discussion, are of great educational value. Education is not something abstract which draws comrades away from action, but on the contrary, education is needed to show the political purpose of all types of Party activity.

(f) Branch Life

What do we mean by Branch life? Branch life is not only socials, outings, education classes, films, etc., although these have an importance, but it means that regular Branch meetings become interesting. Above all that the Branch Committee should know its members, be in contact with them and help them not only on political issues, but also at times of illness, domestic problems, etc.

The essence of Branch life is that action, discussion, study, is carried out collectively, that a number of cultural and recreational activities are collectively organised, that the members of the Branch feel that they are not living and working in isolation, that they help one another with their problems whether political or individual, that they feel they are part of a team with a common purpose.


Experience shows that we can recruit when we set out to do so. The conditions were never more favourable. What are the obstacles to recruiting?

Insufficient conviction of the need for a bigger Party which leads us to miss opportunities of recruiting through campaigns in which masses of workers are involved. Insufficient understanding of the role of the Party amongst ourselves. The continued belief that workers will find their own way into the Party. The failure to make propaganda for Socialism (reflected in sales of Daily Worker, literature, etc.).

How can we correct this?

(a) By personal contact—discussions and preparations of lists of sympathisers, regular Daily Worker week-end readers, etc.

(b) By carefully prepared selective meetings and monthly open Branch meetings.

(c) By public activity.

The real basis for recruiting is activity of a public kind. A Branch which is a public force in its factory or locality is laying the basis for recruiting. This needs to be followed by a conscious drive constantly to win into the Party the supporters gained by its activity.

Of key importance is the systematic check-up of supporters. Branches should prepare lists of all those who in any way express or show support for the Party. These should be regularly checked at each meeting, comrades allocated to follow up contacts and to help bring them closer to the Party. Regular recruiting to the Party can only be done on a systematic basis and never be achieved by spasmodic efforts in special campaigns.