Guy A. Aldred Archive

Communism : Story of the Communist Party
Chapter 5
The British General Strike, 1926

Written: 1935.
Transcription/Markup: Andy Carloff
Online Source:; 2021

Stalinism continued its rake’s progress of German debacle and “ Socialism in One Country,” by pursuing a policy of studied disaster in connection with the British General Strike of 1926. This British policy was the inevitable consequence of the Comintern’s German fiasco and its Russian absurdity.

Supporting Stalin’s statement that the German proletariat had suffered no defeat, Zinoviev advised the 5th Congress of the Comintern, 1924, that Germany was “ approaching a sharpened civil war.” This was not a discredited prediction, but a braggart’s gesture of bad faith; for the time of prediction had passed and the facts told their own tale of counter-revolutionary triumph. It was not possible for the leaders of the Comintern to save their faces by crying in more trenchant tones their slogan of hysteria: ” Socialism in One Country.” To maintain their hold on the Russian proletariat, and to ramify their position in other countries, the Russian leaders had to invent revolutionary phenomena and to paint in revolutionary colors movements and men who had nothing in common with the revolution. Judas moved in the direction of Judas; and they had to identify themselves with the discredited Labor politicians left over from the Second International and petty bourgeois thinkers who were regarded as the literary messiahs in garden cities and “ so-correct “ intellectual centers. The World League Against Imperialism was formed by the Comintern as a refuge for the members of this intriguing alliance, and the Anglo-Russian Committee was called into existence to prop up the fantastic edifice of the 5th Congress. The liquidation of Communism proceeded.

The Anglo-Russian Committee was formed as a result of the British Trade Union Delegation visit to the Soviet Union at the end of 1924. It was composed of the Councils of the Trade Unions of Britain and Russia. For a year prior to the British General Strike, the Communist Party of Great Britain proclaimed the imbecile slogan : “ All Power to the General Council.” Sunday after Sunday, the Sunday Worker popularized the slogan and it was the watchword of the Communist Party meetings. The reason for this slogan was the reason for the alliance itself. Stalinism had converted the Communist Party into a Soviet Border Patrol and the world revolution, and the struggle of the British proletariat, were subsidiary to the “ Socialism in One Country “ ideal, to the entrenchment of the Soviet bureaucracy.

As I write, I have before me a copy of the Sunday Worker for May 24, 1925. It commences a series of articles, entitled falsely, “Leaders of the Left,” and “ No. 1” is “ A. B. Swales,” then President of the Trades Union Congress, a member of the General Council, and also E.C. Member of the A.E.U. In 1924, he was British Fraternal delegatc to the A.F.L. The Moscow subsidized Sunday Worker said :
” It will be seen that he had held every high office in the trade union movement. And yet — and this is his strongest point as a Labor leader — he is still an ardent rank and filer and views every big problem from the angle of the Worker at the bench.
“ Many superficial people when they are dressed ‘ in a little brief authority ‘ become very ‘ uppish ‘ and begin to ape the mannerisms of ‘ society.’ Not so our friend Swales. He is at one with the Workers, body and soul, in their everyday struggle. And he has nothing but contempt for those leaders who, when they leave the workshop, forget the masses and their struggle....
“ At the Trades Union Congress to be held in September at Scarborough he will deliver the Chairman’s speech. Knowing him as we do we prophesy that this will not be a thing made up of rhetoric fireworks — it will be something much more important. It will be something stated in plain blunt language, and it will give the whole movement a bold and clever lead. It will personify the simple and rugged strength of a far-seeing and courageous leader.
“ Swales is not one of your ‘ standoffish’ kind. At a social gathering he is the soul of merriment and can sing a good song, in a splendid resonant voice, with the best of them.”

Stalin and Bucharin endowed the Anglo-Russian Committee with capacities and objectives that were not only beyond it, but alien to its very nature. ln 1926, its year of collapse and patriotic failure, Stalin depicted it as the staunch bulwark of the world-proletariat against “ Imperialist war in general,” which it most clearly was not. Stalin added ” and against an intervention in our country especially on the part of England, the mightiest of Imperial States of Europe.”

This phrase is the real explanation of Stalin’s belief in the Anglo-Russian Committee, this “ organization of broad movement of the working-class “ — for what?

Hymns of praise were sung to Purcell, Cook, Hicks, Swales, Tillet, and Citrine, as the revolutionary organizers of the proletariat in all the languages of the Comintern. The Trotskyist Opposition maintained that it was a false idea to set these British Labor Lieutenants of Capitalism on a revolutionary pedestal. The Opposition added, with a scathing accuracy, that the “ more acute the international situation becomes the more the Anglo-Russian Committee will be transformed into a weapon of English and International Imperialism.” Stalinism denounced this attitude as antagonism to the United Front, and paid servitude to Sir Austen Chamberlain !

Purcell needed the alliance of the Soviets as a shield from the attacks of the revolutionists in Britain. The Soviets hailed him as one of the organizers of the struggle against the military intervention which alone could prevent Russia from building the Socialist Society. The Trade Union bloc quickly became a political bloc between the reformists of England and the Russian party bureaucracy. This bloc lasted not for a moment but survived the collapse of the General Strike and was maintained by Stalin until well after the Berlin Conference of the Anglo-Russian Committee, held in April 1927.

Into the details of the General Strike of 1926, which was brought about by the Miners’ Strike, one need not go in the present pamphlet. That has been dealt with by the present writer fully elsewhere. After nine days of resistance on the part of the workers, that darling of the C.P., the General Council of the Trade Unions, betrayed the struggle and its members made one mad collective rush to Whitehall to confer with the Baldwin Government on how to crush the strike. With patriotic frenzy, these “ Left Labor Leaders “ hastily wiped off the red veneer with which the Comintern had coated them. The financial aid from the Soviet Union was rejected with indignation as “ that damned Russian gold.” Purcell and Swales dropped the Red Flag with ungracious haste in favor of the Union Jack. Instead of being “ the organisatory center that embraces the international proletariat for the struggle “ they proved to be the reliable prop of the British ruling class against the starving and struggling workers. The only illuminating event of the struggle was Zinoviev’s excellent analysis of the position of Cook; and this analysis was in direct opposition to the views advanced by all members of the Stalinist faction and to the policy of the Communist Party in Great Britain. It was one of Zinoviev’s brilliant deviations.

During the General Strike days of struggle and treachery, it may be said that the Anglo-Russian Committee was as certainly worthless to the cause of Socialism in Russia as it was to the cause of Socialism in Britain. It had a distinct value only for the British Trade Union leaders and for the British ruling class. Purcell, Swales and Hicks utilized to a maximum the prestige accruing to them out of their formal and inexpensive collaboration with the Bolshevik representatives on the Anglo-Russian Committee. Even when the General Strike had proved a disaster, Stalin and Bucharin still refused to break with these betrayers of the working class. When at last the Stalinists did oppose the Purcells, thcy then denounced not only the leaders but also described Social-Fascists the workers who had been betrayed into following these leaders by the policy of the Comintern and the Anglo-Russian Committee.

The Anglo-Russian Committee made no protest against the bombardment of Nanking by British gunboats; against the police raid upon the Arcos, the Soviet trading organization in London; against the treachery of the betrayal of the General Strike; but it did adopt a resolution in which the Russians and Englishmen declared that the only representatives and spokesmen of the Trade Union movement were the Congress of the British Trades Union and its General Council: and that the fraternal union incorporated in the Anglo-Russian Committee could not and must not violate or restrict the rights and autonomy of the respective Trade Union movements of each country; nor interfere in any manner whatsoever in their internal affairs.

The Anglo-Russian Committee was a proletarian classic failure. It defended Labor Fakirism in England; identified itself with bureaucracy and despotism in Russia, and proved the natural prelude to the tragedy of the Chinese Revolution.