Tony Cliff & Donny Gluckstein

The Labour Party

9: From Socialist Dictatorship to National Unity:
Labour in the 1930s

IT IS A COMMON FEATURE of Labour’s history that it swings leftwards after severe electoral setbacks, only to ‘recover its senses’ and return to its traditional stance in time for the next election This was true of Bevanism which grew up after the 1951 defeat, and of Bennism, which was stimulated by Tory victories in 1970 and 1979. But both movements seem pale in comparison with tin radical images conjured up by the left in the 1930s.

The circumstances of the time powerfully contributed to this mood. The collapse of the second Labour government and disastrous election result had been engineered by international finance and clearly put into question the notion of a peaceful constitutional transition to socialism. Doubts were reinforced by the destruction of German bourgeois democracy by the Nazis, and by the slump. As Frank Wise, a leading left-winger, told the 1933 Labour conference: ‘we are at the parting of the ways. We have either to go forward to Socialism or acquiesce in Fascism.’ [1]

Unlike earlier radical postures, the leftism of the 1930s was not adopted to contain mass pressure from without. Even the right which had for years supported MacDonald, felt suddenly robbed of the old certainties, and toyed with new ideas. Although for the mainstream the political spasm was short-lived, it produced language far stronger than anything uttered since.

Thus Clem Attlee promised to deliver a death blow to capitalism:

The moment to strike is the moment of taking power when the Government is freshly elected and assured of its support. The blow struck must be a fatal one and not merely designed to wound and to turn a sullen and obstructive opponent into an active and deadly enemy. [2]

He even moved towards the concept of a revolutionary party: ‘The most urgent job of every socialist now is to ... create advance guards of the revolution, and to create them now. For when the revolution comes it will be too late.’ [3] He suggested they ‘should train people to take over the commanding positions in the army and navy in the event of a revolution.’ [4]

Herbert Morrison, a right-winger whose first reaction to the collapse of the second Labour government was to seek a place in the new National Government [5] swung sharply to the left. His Initial reaction to the 1931 election result was:

Labour must move to the Left in the true sense of the term – to the real Socialist Left. Not the spurious left policy of handing out public money under the impression that we are achieving a redistribution of wealth under the capitalist system. That is one of the illusions of reformism ... The brain and manual workers ... must be organized for the mutual service of the Commonwealth and not merely to collar the crumbs from the rich man’s table. [6]

The most Christian R.H. Tawney now argued that capitalism could not be abolished gradually: ‘onions can be eaten leaf by leaf, but you cannot skin a live tiger paw by paw; vivisection is its trade and it does the skinning first.’ [7] Drunk with rhetoric, Hugh Gaitskell wanted to:

smash the economic power of the upper class. When they had the power he believed they would be in a position to carry into action measures which were essentially revolutionary ... [8]

Exit the ILP

The collapse of the second Labour government produced a new alignment on the Labour left. An opening for new forces had appeared because the ILP had broken away.

During 1929–31 the ILP had had 142 members among 17 of whom were financially sponsored by the ILP. Each was asked to accept ‘the policy of the ILP as laid down by of the Annual Conference’ [9] – apparently a modest and reasonable request. Only eleven ILP-sponsored MPs agreed, along with seven others! When the government collapsed in 1931 the ILP tore itself apart. Its conference voted to quit Labour in despair, while the majority of MPs left to stay with the Labour Party.

From this point on the ILP was in serious decline. It had not split in order to build a new movement on the basis of separate politics, but chiefly to preserve the independence of its left reformist parliamentarians. With shallow roots in the working class, the ILP found itself living off past accumulated capital that dwindled quickly. Membership plummeted – from 16,773 in 1931 to 11,092 in 1932 and just 4,392 in 1935. [10]

Cripps – A Jacobin in the ranks?

The collapse of the 1929–31 government had its strongest impact on Stafford Cripps, who became the most prominent front bencher after George Lansbury. Cripps was a very new recruit to the Labour Party, having joined it as recently as May 1929. He became an MP straight away, his path being smoothed by Morrison and his uncle and aunt – the Webbs. Cripps was offered a place in the National Government by MacDonald, and because of admiration for the man, it took him some time to make up his mind to reject the offer. [11]

But after the 1931 election he became a new person, turning the famous Fabian statement on its head: ‘It is not now a question of the inevitability of gradualness. The one thing which is not inevitable now is gradualness.’ [12] Reformists did not understand how false was the old belief ‘that the capitalists will permit the change to be made within capitalism. The whole history of the Social Democratic movement in Europe negatives any such idea.’ [13]

Cripps predicted the need to thwart the opposition not only of international capitalism, but ‘Buckingham Palace’ and the army! He wrote of the first: ‘I cannot imagine the Labour Party coming into power without a first rate financial crisis. That is why we ask for full emergency powers.’ [14] On the second He said: When the Labour Party comes into power we shall have to overcome opposition from Buckingham Palace and other places as well.’ [15] He finished by arguing: ‘We have to face the problem of dealing with the armed forces of the Crown. The Labour Party has to be prepared to take steps more forceful than the steps taken at the time of the Ulster rebellion.’ [16]

His position was summarised in his essay Can Socialism come by Constitutional Means?, where he argued that to defeat its enemies a future Labour government would have to resort to draconian measures:

The Government’s first step will be to call Parliament together at the earliest moment and place before it an Emergency Powers Bill to be passed through all its stages on the first day. This Bill will be wide enough in its terms to allow all that will be immediately necessary to be done by ministerial orders. These orders must be incapable of challenge in the Courts or in any way except in the House of Commons ... the Socialist Government would make itself temporarily into a dictatorship until the matter could again be put to the test at the polls. [17]

We have no more challenging statement from Labour leaders than this. However it is essential to separate oratory from serious intent There is a simple test. Is the politician ready to will the means as well as say the words? Cripps never dreamt of going beyond parliamentarism, which meant his statements remained little more than daring oratory.

Thus when the National Government, the Labour leadership and the press attacked Cripps for his slur on the monarchy, his defence was that he was ‘most certainly not referring to the Crown.’ He had used the words Buckingham Palace as ‘a well-known expression used to describe Court Circles and the officials and other people who surround the King.’ Anyway, he wanted the monarchy retained! [18]

On another occasion Cripps was attacked by the attorney-general who accused him of advocating violent revolution. This was too much for Cripps, who replied: ‘I have always condemned revolutionary means and the Communist movement which relies on such means. I have stated that I believed in a very rapid change in the system by the method of Parliamentary Democracy.' [19]

In Cripps’ writings and speeches at the time there was never a hint that workers’ industrial power should be mobilised for political ends. His radical suggestion for the next Labour government to introduce Emergency Powers was encased within Labour’s parliamentary tradition.

Rise and fall of the Socialist League

In October 1932 the Socialist League was founded to fight for the sort of radical policies Cripps advocated. It was a small organisation which at its peak in March 1934 claimed 74 branches and about 3,000 members. [1*] It brought together a number of left MPs and intellectuals, including Frank Wise, Aneurin Bevan, George Strauss, Clem Attlee, Sir Charles Trevelyan, William Mellor, Ellen Wilkinson, D.N. Pritt, Harold Laski and H.N. Brailsford. Cripps was chairman while J.T. Murphy, who quit the Communist Party in 1931, was its secretary. Murphy saw the League as ‘the organisation of revolutionary socialists who are an integral part of the Labour movement for the purpose of winning it completely for revolutionary socialism.’ [20]

As long as the Labour leadership was stunned by ‘MacDonald’s betrayal’ the League was an effective ginger group. For a couple of years – 1932 and 1933 – it was given free rein and enjoyed an influence out of proportion to its size.

At the 1932 Labour Conference Frank Wise defeated the platform with his proposal to go beyond nationalisation of the Bank of England to take other banks into public ownership on the grounds that control of them would be essential for real socialist planning. [22] Another successful League resolution laid down ‘that the leaders of the next Labour Government and the Parliamentary Labour Party be instructed by the National Conference that, on assuming office ... definite Socialist legislation must be immediately promulgated ... we must have Socialism in deed as well as in words.’ [23]

Henderson warned conference against tying the Parliamentary Labour Party’s hands. But Attlee supported the resolution, on these grounds:

we are bound in duty to those whom we represent to tell them quite clearly that they cannot get Socialism without tears, that whenever we try to do anything we will be opposed by every vested financial, political, and social, and I think we have got to face the fact that, even if we are returned with a majority, we shall have to fight all the way. [24]

So clear was the sentiment of the delegates for the resolution that it was carried without a card vote. [2*]

At the 1933 conference, the left resumed its offensive. Cripps wanted an assurance that the next Labour government would immediately abolish the House of Lords, and pass an Emergency Act ‘to take over or regulate the financial machine, and to put into force any measure that the situation may require for the immediate control or socialisation of industry and for safeguarding the supply of food and other necessaries.’ [25]

However this important motion was not voted on. Despite all its verbal radicalism, the left had an Achilles heel, which showed when Cripps announced his willingness to grant the executive a year to consider the problems raised by their resolution. He thus avoided a vote and direct confrontation.

The victories of the left at the 1932 and 1933 Labour Party Conferences were victories on paper. It remained to be seen whether the millions of votes cast for the League at conferences represented any genuine shift of opinion among the working class.

The panic engendered in 1931 began to subside by the middle of the decade. The empire cushioned British capitalism from the worn rigours of the slump: Britain did not have 33 per cent unemployment, like the US, or six million out of work, as Germany did when Hitler took power. Bourgeois democracy survived and Labour leadership discovered that reformist business could go on. The blood and thunder of the Socialist League need be tolerated no longer.

The right reasserted its dominance at the 1934 Labour Conference. The political perspective and language of the Socialist League still had great influence, but once the official juggernaut began moving even the most brilliant arguments on the conference could not stop it. The Socialist League was thrashed.

The main debates centred around the general document For Socialism and Peace. Subtitled ‘The Labour Party’s Programme for Action’, the executive described it as ‘a comprehensive and concise statement of policy.’ For Socialism and Peace was far more incisive and definite than Labour and the Nation (1928). But it was vague about the time scale for public takeovers and emphasised ‘the achievement of change by the process of consent.’ The Labour Party ‘sees no reason why a people who, first in the world, advanced through Parliamentary institutions their political and religious freedoms should not, by the same means, achieve their economic emancipation.’ [26]

For Socialism and Peace challenged the idea of drastic emergency powers against capitalist obstruction. The Socialist League was not about to let such statements go, and it put down no fewer than twenty-two amendments to the draft – but lost all along the line.

The Communist Party moulds the Labour left

By 1934 disastrous defeats at Labour conference had cruelly exposed how shallow the League’s base really was. To discover new sources of influence, it therefore turned to the Communist Party. Although both bodies shared common characteristics the contrast between them is instructive.

The fundamental weakness of the Labour left was lack of real links with the working class. It could mobilise constituency support, but when it came to the union block vote at conferences, the Labour left could only act indirectly, through the medium of the Communist Party. Cripps, Bevan or Pritt did not derive their political influence as representatives of workers in collective struggle, but from their standing in parliamentary politics; from oratorical brilliance, not the ability to lead activity. They occupied roles which gave them much more publicity than influence. So they were ready to quarrel with the leadership of the Labour Party, but not to break decisively with Labourism, as that would have meant undermining the element in the situation that gave them prominence.

The Labour Left was very heterogeneous, since left-wing criticism of the leadership could reflect a multitude of varied motives. Thus the National Council of the Socialist League, included D.N. Pritt, the most ardent Stalinist, and the ex-Liberal Sir Charles Trevelyan, an enthusiastic supporter of the League of Nations.

The Communist Party was quite different. It was a tightly organised body, but alas no longer the revolutionary party Lenin had helped to establish. After 1926 it uncritically followed every twist and turn made by the Comintern, itself a tool of the new Russian bureaucracy. However the Communist Party had one great advantage over the Socialist League. It still rejected Labour parliamentary cretinism and stressed workers’ collective organisation, even if this was ultimately subordinated to the diktat of Stalinism. It had direct roots in the working class. This was demonstrated when the labour movement, practically dormant since 1926, re-awoke.

A low point had been reached when, from 1929 to 1933, the slump had dealt a further blow to trade union organisation, workers’ confidence and the ability to fight. However from 1934 onwards things started changing. The number of trade unionists rose from 4,392,000 in 1933 to 6,298,000 in 1939. The number of strikes also rose from 359 in 1933 to a pre-war peak of 1,129 in 1937. [27]

This owed nothing to the Labour left, and still less the Labour Party as a whole. Labour can reflect the movement in distorted form but it never initiates.

Richard Croucher’s book, Engineers at War, explains some reasons for the revival:

From about the beginning of 1934 there was a real change in the nature and tone of industrial relations in the engineering industry ... The effect of seeing old mates, even in ones and twos, coming back into the shops, was out of all proportion to the numbers involved. [28]

The aircraft industry led the way, the number of workers leaping from 17,600 in 1930 to 140,000 in spring 1939. [29] Within the industry militant strikes were organised by a Communist-led shop stewards’ movement – the Aircraft Shop Stewards’ National Council and its paper, The Propellor.

1937 witnessed two strike waves of engineering apprentices which spread through the north and down to London. [30] Croucher writes that the movement ‘for sheer enthusiasm and Minimisation invites comparison with the industrial upsurges in France and America in the same year’. [31] Once more the Communist Party was in the lead, the chairman of the central strike committee being in the Young Communist League.

The same pattern was repeated in mining. To resist both the breakaway scab union run by George Spencer and the pressure towards ‘non-political’ unionism, the rank and file developed a new weapon, a stay-down strike. The main battle came in 1937 when miners at Harworth, who had overwhelmingly voted to join the Miners Federation, were compelled by the company to continue in subscribe to the Spencer union. Six miners were sentenced to terms of hard labour for picketing offences under the 1927 Trades Disputes Act and strikers were threatened with eviction from company-owned houses. The Miners’ Federation voted for national strike action in Harworth’s defence and management backed down. The Spencer union and its officials were then absorbed into the Federation, which now became the negotiating body for the industry. Once more Communists were in the forefront of the fight. [32] Indeed in practically all the significant strikes of these years Communist Party members played a prominent part.

Besides its own organisation in industry, the Communist Party relied on some ancillary organisations. First there was the National Unemployed Workers’ Movement, which had considerable support. In contrast, throughout the 1930s the Labour Party did nothing practical about unemployment. It approved only of moves that assisted parliamentary opposition, believing little could be done until it was itself returned to office.

To fight the evil of unemployment ‘the TUC promoted only the one demonstration, in February 1933, while the Labour Party remained opposed to demonstrations because of the threat to public order.’ [33] The TUC demonstration was organised in complete collaboration with the police. This passive approach was significant. It presented the unemployed as helpless victims pleading for charity from society. A serious campaign against unemployment, for which the only solution was the abolition of capitalism, wan bound to challenge law and order. That was why mass march supported by the Communist Party were regularly met with brutality by the police.

The attitude of the Labour Party to the active unemployed movement was summed up well by John Saville:

What was not lacking in vigour was the denunciation by the Labour leadership of bodies outside the Labour Party who were engaged in agitation on behalf of the unemployed. The most important was the National Unemployed Workers’ Movement, who organised national hunger marches to London on four occasions: 1930, 1932, 1934 and 1936. Not one of these marches was officially supported, and in the first two the local Labour parties and trades council specifically instructed to offer no help. The reason was that the NUWM was led by Communists. Only in 1936 – and to a lesser extent in 1934 – were the bans imposed widely disregarded. In the 1936 reception in Hyde Park Attlee was among a number of leading Labour personalities who spoke from one of the platforms. [34]

Saville chooses the Jarrow march as the best example of Labour’s ‘stupid, reactionary and politically self-destructive’ attitudes. [35] Though one of the smallest hunger marches during the 1930s, it became legendary because it tamely obeyed the rules and did not seek to challenge the authorities. This self-styled ‘non-political’ march excluded known Communists and set off after every church and chapel in Jarrow had said prayers for it and the Suffragan Bishop had blessed it. [36] It sent the respective Tory and Labour agents for the constituency ahead to make arrangements.

In London, instead of the usual welcome for the unemployed – the end of a police truncheon, the Commons provided tea for the marchers and they were given the opportunity of ‘cheering lustily’ as the king passed their vantage point in the Mall. [37]

Ellen Wilkinson, MP for Jarrow, takes up the story. When she reached the 1936 Labour Party Conference things changed:

I went from the warm comradeship of the road to an atmosphere of official disapproval. The Trades Union Congress had frowned on the marches, and the Labour Party Executive followed the lead ... The Labour Party drew out, and the TUC circularized the Trades Council advising them against giving help. So in places like Chesterfield, where the Trades and Labour Council obeyed the circular, the Conservative Party weighed in with hot meals and a place to sleep. Mostly, of course, the comradeship of the trade unions and the Labour Movement was circular-proof on such an occasion ... [38]

She was denounced from the conference platform for ‘sending hungry and ill-clad men across the country on a march to London.’ Her reply:

You cannot expect men, trapped in these distressed areas, to stay there and starve because it is not convenient to have them coming to London. What has the National Council done? It disapproved of it. What has gone from the General Council? Letters to the local areas in fact saying, in the politest language, ‘Do not help these men.’ Why? Because some of these marchers might be Communists. I hope when Sir Walter Citrine gets to the pearly gates St Paul will be able to assure him there is no Communist inside.

The executive ‘would not even let us take a collection for these Men.’ [39]

Another striking contrast between the attitudes of the Communist Party and the Labour Party to the primary issues of the 1930s was the question of Mosley’s fascists. The Labour leaders may genuinely detest fascism and all its works. They have good reason, for fascism tries to annihilate all workers’ organisations, upon which the reformists rely. However it is one thing to hate an enemy, it is another to know how to fight him. Precisely because fascists do not accept the rules of the parliamentary game, using terrorism and intimidation on the streets rather than the ballot box, the Labour Party finds it difficult to offer any practical resistance.

Thus in the 1930s the Labour Party was neither active nor effective, doing nothing to stop the march of the fascists, and not daring to go beyond passive protest against fascism.

When the Communist Party and ILP issued a call to demonstrate against the supporters of Mosley gathering at a mass rally in Hyde Park on 9 September 1934, the Labour Party executive declared that the counter-demonstration ‘would almost inevitably lead to widespread disorder,’ and Labour supporters should ‘refrain from having anything whatever to do with the proposal.’ [40]

Labour leaders’ cynicism reached its height over the Battle of Cable Street of 4 October 1936. Mosley’s Blackshirts decided to march through Stepney, at the time the centre of London’s Jewish population. The Communist Party and ILP called for a mass demonstration to stop them and called on the local union branches, trades councils and Labour Party to support a counter march. Between 100,000 and 150,000 people took to the streets to stop 3,000 fascists. Notwithstanding the protection of 6,000 policemen plus all London’s mounted police, the fascists could not pass through Cable Street.

What was the reaction of the Labour Party leaders? George Lansbury, whose pleas to the Home Secretary to divert the march failed, issued a statement urging people to stay away; the Daily Herald and the News Chronicle on 1 October implored readers to follow this advice, the latter saying ‘The Communist has no more right to break up a Fascist meeting than the fascist has to break up a Communist demonstration.’ [41]

The day after the Battle of Cable Street Morrison declared at the Labour Party Conference: ‘I have no more sympathy with those who desire to stimulate disorder from one side as I have with those who desire to stimulate disorder from the other ...’ All he did was move an executive resolution to prohibit the wearing of political uniforms. This was approved unanimously. [42]

John Saville summed up the role of the Labour Party thus:

All the major political initiatives and campaigns for which the 1930s are remembered were conducted either against the expressed wishes of the Labour leadership or without their approval. [43]

Given the contrast between the complete passivity of the Labour Party and the energy of the Communist Party it was no surprise that Cripps and Co. should become increasingly dependent upon the latter. This was notwithstanding the tiny membership of the Communist Party, which, though it rose from 6,500 in 1935 to 12,250 in 1937, was dwarfed by the Labour Party.

Political dependence

The Labour left in the 1930s was dependent on the Communist Party both for links with extra-parliamentary activity and for its ideas.

Keir Hardie’s ILP had been an amalgam of ethical arguments, Liberalism and above all Fabianism – all three originating from within the ruling class. Maxton’s ILP leant heavily on the ideas of the former Liberal J.A. Hobson. Soon the Liberals Keynes and Beveridge would gain ascendancy. It might appear that the Socialist League was an exception, since it rejected all of these trends, as symbolised by Cripps’ repudiation of ‘the inevitability of gradualness’. Its close relations with the Communist Party led it to talk about Marxism.

But the Communist Party was now a thoroughly Stalinist organisation. Was Stalinism based on a different social class from Fabianism or Liberalism? [3*] Although Stalinism had completely different origins – in the strangulation of the spirit of 1917, in the physical elimination of Bolsheviks and in the breakneck accumulation of capital through the exploitation of the peasantry and workers––in fact it represented just another ruling-class theory, that of state capitalist bureaucracy. It still employed the rhetoric of Marxism but only to cloak its intentions. So the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ had been transformed into the dictatorship of the bureaucracy, the socialist planned economy had been changed into five year plans for the forced industrialisation of a new capitalist state.

Of course when Cripps and the Socialist League talked of the need for a period of Labour government dictatorship and centralised economic planning they believed the Russian model represented a real socialist alternative to the chaos and looming fascism they saw in Western Europe. Nor was the Socialist League alone. The belief that planning and other Stalinist measures in themselves equal socialism was only seriously resisted by tiny groups of Trotskyists. Nevertheless, whether consciously or not, the League fell into the familiar trap of even the most extreme left reformists, and by relying on a ruling-class theory paid the political price.

So long as the marriage held, it was the Communist Party that overwhelmingly dictated terms. This becomes crystal clear if one reads Left News and above all Tribune, the weekly paper launched by Cripps on 1 January 1937. Many Socialist Leaguers practically became mouthpieces of Stalinism. Harold Laski, for example, relished the vile prosecution of Trotsky, whose supporters he described as ‘strong allies of Nazi Germany in her militarist plans.’ [44] John Strachey had no doubt that the Moscow Trials were absolutely fair. He was:

wholly convinced of the authenticity of the confessions. I can only say that no man can advance his political education more than by studying this supreme historical document of our time. [45]

The solid wall of support for the Moscow Trials was breached for a time only when Marshal Tukhachevsky and other top officers of the Russian army were executed. The outcry in the Labour movement was far too great for Tribune to remain untouched. A number of trade unions that had supported the Socialist League-Communist Party alliance in 1936 now reversed their position including the engineers and the miners.

Until that time practically every issue of Tribune was adorned with pictures of smiling Russian children. Seven consecutive issues of the paper had a whole page on Women in the Soviet Union, by Barbara Betts, later better known as Barbara Castle. An entire page of the paper was devoted to Stalin’s unscrupulous History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks), the superlative ‘book of the hour’. [46]

When Russian foreign policy made a sharp turn with signing of the Hitler-Stalin pact in the summer of 1939 the marriage was put in jeopardy. Even then Tribune’s initial reaction was to praise the Russians:

A pact of non-aggression between Russia and Germany, if it is signed, will be a great reinforcement for peace in Eastern Europe. At the same time it is a lie to suggest that it leaves Germany a free hand against Poland or anyone else. [47]

Even after the Russian invasion of Poland on 17 September, articles appeared in Tribune justifying Russian foreign policy. This only stopped in November with the outbreak of Russia’s war on Finland. From then onwards only the Communist Party slavishly followed the Moscow diktat, while the Labour left adopted a policy of the defence of Britain.

Foreign policy

This brings us on to the dominant issues of the 1930s: foreign affairs and the approach of war. The mainstream of the Labour Party soon settled into its customary position––supporting the traditional policies of the capitalist state and perhaps putting a vague reformist gloss upon them. For the most part Labour’s slogan was ‘collective security under the League of Nations’. However there were some who disagreed, including Lansbury, who was party leader after MacDonald’s desertion and the defeat of his heir, Arthur Henderson, in the 1931 election.

The issue of foreign policy came to a head at the 1935 party conference, which coincided with Mussolini’s attack on Abyssinia. The conference had before it an executive resolution pledging ‘firm support of any action consistent with the principles and statutes of the League [of Nations], to restrain the Italian Government and to uphold the authority of the League in enforcing peace’. [48]

As a Christian pacifist, Lansbury’s opposition to fascism took the form of turning the other cheek. Abyssinia was wrong to resist the Italians. ‘If mine was the only voice in the conference, I would say in the name of the faith I hold, the belief I have that God intended us to live peaceably and quietly with one another – if some people do not allow us to do so, I am ready to stand as the early Christians did and say, “This is our fate, this is where we stand and it necessary, this is where we will die”.’ [49]

This was followed by Ernest Bevin, who attacked Lansbury savagely. He accused him of ‘hawking your conscience around from body to body asking to be told what you ought to do with it.’ The resolution was carried overwhelmingly, by 2,168,000 votes to 102,000. [50] Since the alternative to the traditional policy of supporting the capitalist state was Lansbury’s impractical pacifism, there was no real contest. Lansbury resigned from the leadership and was replaced by Attlee.

Lansbury’s Christian pacifism was symptomatic of the intellectual dependence of Labour leaders on conservative ideas, and is therefore worth expanding on. His solution to the approaching war was:

An international conference of the Heads of States ... to provide funds for investment in backward areas, to stabilise currencies, to lower tariffs, and so set going again the wheels of industry all over the world. The sacrifices would be almost nil; the reward would be such a prosperity that no nation would be driven by despair into war-like preparations.

Lansbury decided to act on this suggestion. He visited the conventional statesmen and the unconventional ones, his travels including a meeting with Hitler which he described as ‘a triumph’. ‘He will not go to war unless pushed by others,’ wrote Lansbury, describing Hitler publicly as ‘one of the greatest men of our time’. Privately he described him as a distressed and lonely man. Lansbury believed quite honestly that if he had been able to speak German and could have stayed with the Fuhrer a short while at his country retreat in Berchtesgaden he could have calmed him and perhaps converted him to ‘Christianity in its purest sense’. After this the warm reception he got from Mussolini caused no sensation.

Lansbury’s later visits included Dr Schushnigg, the dictator of Austria, King Carol and his ‘patriarch-premier’, Myron Christen in Romania, and the butcher of Hungary, Admiral Horthy. All these dictators enthusiastically desired a Christian peace. At the time of the Munich Agreement, when Chamberlain returned from his meeting with Hitler waving a piece of paper and declaring it meant ‘peace in our time’, Lansbury was one of his ardent supporters. [51]

It is difficult to think of any other working-class party in the world that could produce a leader with the muddleheadedness and reactionary ideas of Lansbury.

After Abyssinia another crisis in foreign affairs faced the Labour leaders – the civil war in Spain. Franco launched this in June 1936 against the recently elected Popular Front government It became at once a central issue facing the working class movement.

The British government, in association with other leading powers, advocated ‘non-intervention’, which was supposed to mean an agreement not to supply arms to the combatants on either side. In fact behind the screen of ‘non-intervention’ the Germans and Italians sent planes and supplies to help Franco. Later the Italians even sent whole armies to Spain.

At the Labour Party Conference in October 1936 the main argument used by the supporters of ‘non-intervention’ was the fact that it was advocated by the French Popular Front government. There was not a word about the pressure the British government exerted on the French to adopt non-intervention; not a word of criticism of the spinelessness of the French Socialist prime minister Leon Blum in the face of British pressure.

In the conference debate Aneurin Bevan exposed the fraud of non-intervention:

Is it not obvious to everyone that if the arms continue to pour in to the rebels in Spain, our Spanish comrades will be slaughtered by hundreds of thousands? Has Mr Bevin and the National Council considered the fate of the Blum Government if a Fascist Government is established in Spain? How long will French democracy stand against Fascism in Germany, Fascism in Italy, Fascism in Spain and Fascism in Portugal? [52]

Support for non-intervention was carried by 1,836,000 votes to 519,000.

Although doubts about the wisdom of this policy grew, the Labour Party did not go beyond passive protest. True, the following year’s Labour Conference decided unanimously to oppose non-intervention, [53] but this led to nothing more than a few speeches in parliament, not the organisation of mass movements in the streets, factories or mines.

To salve their consciences the Labour leaders organised relief measures and Red Cross services for the Spanish Republicans. But even this was done on a miserable scale. Thus the 1937 Labour Party conference was informed that from 1 August 1936 to mid-July 1937 £126,000 was collected for the International Solidarity Fund. The British trade unions contributed £37,000 of this. [54] Two years later the 1939 conference was told by the national executive that ‘approximately £53,000 had been raised by the National Council of Labour in the country for the International Fund’. [55]

The left alternative

If the Labour leadership’s record on foreign policy was summed up by its appalling abandonment of Republican Spain, the left at least began with quite a distinct and radical policy. Thus Cripps’ Can Socialism come by Constitutional Means? included a chapter entitled: Permanent Peace Impossible with Capitalism. In 1933 the Socialist League won executive acceptance of discussions as to ‘what steps, including a general strike, are to be taken to organise the opposition of the organised working-class movements in the event of war or threat of war.’ [56]

Once the tide turned against the League, however, this decision became meaningless and within a year the Labour Party openly and completely repudiated the resolution on the general strike and war.

Argument also raged over the League of Nations. A 1934 Labour statement on War and Peace took a strong line in support of the League of Nations and proposed a ‘Peace Pact’ to embody the obligations derived from the League Covenant. War and Peace wanted ‘to abolish all national armed forces maintained for the purpose of self-defence against other nations’, and to substitute ‘the international police force under the League’s authority.’

At the 1934 conference the Socialist League had denounced the League of Nations as indissolubly bound up with the Treaty of Versailles, which had concluded the First World War, and as a defender of the status quo. ‘The League of Nations inevitably reflects the economic conflicts of the capitalist system [and] cannot end war.’ Instead a Labour Government should ‘seek to establish the closest political and economic relations with the Soviet Union and with all other countries where Socialist Governments are in control.’ In 1933 this might have passed. In 1934 it stood no chance, gaining 269,000 against the right’s 1,953,000. [57]

Another issue was a united front against fascism. In January 1933 Hitler came to power. In February 1934 the executive of the Second (Socialist) International declared the need for united working-class resistance to fascism and its readiness for common action with the Comintern. The latter responded with a call to Communist Parties in each country to seek to convene a conference to form a united front. The Communist Party of Great Britain there-upon approached the Labour Party, the TUC and the Co-operative Party on the question. The ILP also issued an appeal for a united front, and in March arrived at general agreement with the Communist Party to bring it about.

What was the reaction of the Labour leaders? The Labour National Joint Council declined the proposal of the Communist Party and ILP, and issued a manifesto, Democracy versus Dictatorship, in which it coupled a denunciation of Nazi dictatorship in Germany with Communist dictatorship in the Soviet Union, and argued that Nazism was a reaction to the dictatorial ‘reaction of the Left’. It said in effect that Nazism and Communism were much the same, and so rejected any notion of a united front.

The Labour Party executive adopted strong measures against bodies influenced by the Communist Party’s call for a united front and issued a general circular urging its affiliates to have no dealings with such bodies. It also published a pamphlet, The Communist Solar System, which aimed to expose the tactics of the Communist Party in working through front organisations.

At the 1934 Labour Party conference Ernest Bevin argued that the activities of the Communists had brought about the fascist menace: ‘... if you do not keep down the Communists you cannot keep down the Fascists.’ [58] The Left was badly routed. The vote was 1,820,000 against the united front, and 89,000 for. [59]

Although the united front was far better than the Labour Leadership’s do-nothing attitude, there were difficulties with it. The Labour left sought the united front as a means of utilising the Communist Party’s connections with workers. The Communist Party, on the other hand, wanted the Labour left leaders for its own purposes. For a time the marriage of convenience held. It was helped by the fact that the two parties shared a common view of the united front, seeing it as largely parliamentary. This was miles away from the concept of the united front put forward by Lenin and Trotsky. Trotsky’s words on the united front were a book closed with seven seals to them, when he wrote: ‘The united front opens up numerous but nothing more. In itself, the united front decides nothing. Only the struggle of the masses decides.’ [60]

At the 1936 Labour Conference the proposal for a united front was lost by 1,805,000 to 435,000. [61] A few months later, in January 1937 the Communist Party, ILP and Socialist League signed a Unity Manifesto calling for ‘Unity in the struggle against Fascism, Reaction and War, and against the National Government ... in the struggle for immediate demands and the return of a Labour Government, as the next stage in the advance to working-class power.’ The Labour Party executive reacted at once with a statement on ‘Party Loyalty’ which reiterated conference’s decision making united action with the Communist Party ‘incompatible with membership of the Labour Party’.

In January the executive disaffiliated the Socialist League, after attempts at delaying action had been lost by fourteen votes to nine. Ernest Bevin was in a nasty mood: ‘I saw Mosley come into the Labour Movement and I see no difference in the tactics of Mosley and Cripps.’ [62] Soon membership of the Socialist League was made incompatible with membership of the Labour Party. [63]

The Socialist League faced an impossible position. First, not all its members solidly supported the Unity Manifesto. Its specially convened conference had voted by 56 delegates for, 38 against, with 23 abstentions. [64] Secondly, and above all, the raison d’etre of the League was its being part and parcel of the Labour Party. Membership of the League was confined to Labour Party members; its first rule stated that ‘all members are expected to become individual members of their Constituency Labour Parties.’

So the League had little alternative but to disband, doing so at its Whitsun conference in 1937. It decided:

This conference ... having determined to do its utmost to prevent any splits or breakaways from the Labour movement, is prepared to sacrifice its own organisation rather than allow its continued separate existence to be made an excuse for further disunity in the ranks of the workers. [65]

In the meantime, the Unity Campaign Committee continued an active propaganda campaign of meetings throughout the country, first under the auspices of the three bodies, the Communist Party, ILP and Socialist League, and then of only the first two, with the participation of some ex-Leaguers as individuals. In addition, ex-Leaguers formed a ‘Committee of Party Members Sympathetic to Unity’ which carried on a separate campaign of its own. Michael Foot remembers the meetings organised were ‘on a scale that dwarfed anything known for years.’ [66]

The Labour Party executive duly banned the ‘Committee of Party Members Sympathetic to Unity’, and prohibited any members from campaigning for the cause of unity with the Communists and the ILP. A number of affiliated organisations sent in resolutions for annual conference on the united front and the position of the Socialist League, but the executive used its power to disallow all of them.

The only way to get round this was by reference back of the executive report. Cripps, who moved the reference back, pointed out that the ban imposed on association with the Communist Party and ILP was ‘not extended to those who associated themselves with members of opposing capitalist parties.’ Harold Laski, seconding, said that if he had to choose between appearing on the same platform with Winston Churchill or Harry Pollitt, he had no doubt at all that his proper place was with Pollitt. In the debate Herbert Morrison used the disarray between the Communist Party, ILP and Labour Left most effectively:

I understand Sir Stafford to say that you must never appear with well-to-do persons on a platform, or a person of another Party, and that you ought to appear on a platform only with working class representatives ... Would Mr Pollitt appear on a platform with Socialist, working-class Trotsky? He would not. If some of the leaders of the POUM in Spain and a working-class Party came to London and the ILP wanted another united front platform with them and Mr Pollitt, Mr Pollitt would not appear. But Mr Pollitt will appear with the Duchess of Atholl. [67]

Two votes were taken, one on the issue of banning the Socialist League, the other on the executive’s action on the united front. In both cases the reference back was heavily defeated. [68] Even among constituency delegates no more than one vote in three was cast for the united front. [69] But the left was still not completely on its back. In the elections to the executive Pritt, Laski and Cripps were among the seven elected for the constituencies, while Ellen Wilkinson secured her place in the women’s section.

Sliding towards the Popular Front

Although the demand for an ‘Anti-Fascist Front’ had its problems, at least it called for working-class unity. Despite the movements parliamentary emphasis, its class character still had some role. However, the Labour left abandoned even this position. Events were precipitated by the foreign minister, Anthony Eden, who resigned over government appeasement of Germany after Hitler’s annexation of Austria.

In the same month that Austria was occupied, March 1938, the Communist Party’s Daily Worker called for the formation of a ‘Peace Bloc’ headed by Winston Churchill. The party was slavishly following orders from Moscow.

Cripps, who at that time still opposed co-operation with capitalist elements, executed a complete somersault. Within three weeks he was preaching the Popular Front. It was ‘necessary to reconsider one’s opinions and decisions in the light of changing events,’ he said. [70] An example of his ‘reconsidered opinion’ was his presiding over a rally for Spain which included speakers such as the Duchess of Atholl, a Conservative MP, Harry Pollitt of the Communist Party and D.N. Pritt.

The new line consisted of calling for a Popular Front. This meant workers allying with openly capitalist forces in the widest possible coalition of anti-government organisations. The object was to topple prime minister Chamberlain, stop appeasement and curb the expansionism of Hitler and Mussolini.

The ‘anti-government’ elements which were supposed to combat fascism included people like Winston Churchill, the arch reactionary of 1926 and a man who uttered admiring statements about Mussolini’s Italy. Popular Front supporters ignored the fact that politicians like Churchill or Eden opposed appeasement not because they stood for the rights of small nations or workers’ freedom to organise, but solely because they were concerned with a militant defence of British imperialism.

The new policy had catastrophic implications. Fascism had no respect for passive paper alliances. If the working class was to defeat fascism, it had to mobilise its economic, political and physical might. This was precisely what the Popular Front prevented. The price of the alliance with the ‘democratic bourgeoisie’ was the undermining of independent working-class struggle. The politicians who had stood by and watched the Spanish workers defeated by Franco were now expected to take the helm in the anti-fascist struggle.

The transition from the united front to the Popular Front was rapid but not always smooth. The ILP repudiated the turn towards the Popular Front and broke with the Communist Party and Labour left. But the ILP was a wasting force, both in numbers and political direction. Though it had left the Labour Party in 1932 it wanted to remain a left reformist organisation. This did not fit the situation at all. It was neither a serious alternative to Labour, nor did it have the authority of Russia behind it as the Communist Party did. In the face of the crisis posed by fascism it was crushed between these two millstones.

William Mellor, editor of Tribune, was shocked by the fact that with practically no internal discussion, Cripps and his friends on the Labour left could move from the united front to the Popular Front, from advocating the overthrow of capitalism as a prerequisite for peace to favouring class collaboration in order to oppose fascism. When Mellor, refused to swallow the new line he was removed unceremoniously from the editor’s chair without one word of explanation. The change from united front to Popular Front was settled behind the scenes. Suddenly Tribune announced: ‘Today we have a Government of national capitulation. We must replace it with a Government of national regeneration.’ [71]

In the Labour Party the right-wing foreign policy of the Popular Front had no more success than the united front, a left-wing foreign policy. The labour bureaucracy was at this stage no more willing to sink its independence into an alliance with the capitalist class than it was prepared to stimulate grassroots activity against it. The issue of class and nation had still not been posed sharply enough. It was the war that led the labour bureaucracy to make its usual response to crisis – rushing to the defence of the capitalist status quo.

In January 1939 Cripps sent a memorandum to the secretary of the Labour Party, calling for a Popular Front open to every opposition group. At the executive Cripps’ proposal was defeated by 17 votes to 3. (The three who voted for the memorandum were Cripps, Wilkinson and Pritt). [72]

Cripps’ boomerang from class politics to an all-class alliance was ridiculed by Attlee. He was bemused by the ‘remarkable’ turn from ‘the advocacy of a rigid and exclusive unity of the working classes to a demand for an alliance with capitalists, and from insistence on the need for a Government carrying out a Socialist policy to an appeal to put Socialism in cold storage for the duration of the international crisis.’ Attlee penned this scurrilous verse:

The people’s flag is palest pink.
It is not red blood but only ink.
It is supported now by Douglas Cole
Who plays each year a different role.
Now raise our palace standard high
Wash out each trace of purple dye,
Let Liberals join and Tories too
And Socialists of every hue. [73]

After the executive rejected Cripps’ memorandum he circulated it widely under the auspices of an ad hoc National Petition Committee. The executive took strong objection to his action, and demanded that Cripps withdraw the memorandum. He refused and the executive expelled him by 13 votes to 11. [74]

Despite protest in the Labour ranks the May 1939 Labour Conference confirmed Cripps’ expulsion by 2,100,000 votes to 402,000 [75] and rejected the Popular Front by 2,360,000 to 248,000. [76] Cripps had not even rallied the constituency vote. More than three-fifths of the constituency delegates apparently voted against him on the expulsion issue, and fewer than one in six backed the Popular Front. [77] [4*]

Expulsion did not stop with Cripps. At the end of March the executive expelled Bevan, Strauss, Trevelyan and a number of others who refused to withdraw their support from Cripps’ campaign. [79] Bevan came under pressure from the executive of the Miners’ Federation to accept the conditions laid down by the Labour Party executive and seek readmission. This he did in December 1939, and was accepted.

The extraordinary contortions that the Labour left achieved showed how completely disoriented and fuzzy was their thought. Lacking any theoretical foundations, revolutionary traditions or clear programme, the Labour left disintegrated in the fever of the threatening war.

Yet another acrobatic feat was performed by the Labour left when Britain entered the war in late 1939. The Hitler-Stalin pact in August completed the political transition to support for a war which not so long before it had vowed to oppose. Once more Tribune’s editor was the sacrificial lamb. H.J. Hartshorn, who stuck closely to the Communist Party line, and had got his job just for that reason in 1938, was unceremoniously kicked out. Again Tribune did not explain. With the Russian attack on Finland in November, the paper abruptly became a vociferous opponent of Russia and the Communist Party. Thus an editorial on the attack stated: ‘It is useless to conceal from ourselves that this action of the Soviet Union has profoundly shocked Socialist opinion throughout the world. The diplomatic preparation for the invasion smelt more of Mein Kampf than of the Communist Manifesto.’ [80] In the stampede towards nationalism, former principles were trampled underfoot. In 1933 the Socialist League had resolved:

that war between nations arises directly from the necessities of capitalism and imperialism, [we] pledge ourselves neither to fight nor in any way actively to help in such a war, nor to support any policies or actions that put the interests of a miscalled patriotism before those of the workers throughout the world. [81]

The League’s 1935 conference reiterated: ‘the Movement must declare that under no circumstances will it assist in a war waged under capitalist rule’. [82]

But for the Labour left the four years that separated 1935 from 1939 were ‘a very long time in politics’. Trotsky said that the revolutionary party is the memory of the class. Cripps and his friends suffered from amnesia and were now beating the war drum as enthusiastically as anyone.

Disciplining the youth

Time and again, the Labour Party leadership has conflicted with its various youth movements. Labour’s youth movements are classic examples of activism without power. Youthful energy is handy when canvassing, but since young people do not have the vote, and tend anyway to ‘extremism’, they should ‘be seen but not heard’.

In the 1930s the Labour Party League of Youth was officially described as

an integral section of the Labour Party organisation [but] it does not deal with questions of Party policy. The Annual Conference of the Party alone deals with these. The League of Youth activities should be mainly recreational and educational. [83]

It was an impressive organisation with more than 15,000 members. Its conferences repeatedly asked for the right to discuss party policies. The executive consistently refused. The 1936 Conference of the League of Youth

demanded complete freedom for The New Nation [the Youth monthly], including the right to use the paper to criticise Party policy; demanded the right to reach decisions upon policy matters and to give full publicity to decisions reached without any regard to decisions already reached by Party Conference; asked that the Advisory Committee should be given Executive powers and not be responsible to the National Executive Committee; and passed a resolution in support of a ‘United Front’ of all working-class Youth Organisations. [84]

Only one delegate in the League of Youth Conference supported the stance of the party executive. [85]

The reaction of the executive was swift and harsh:

The National Executive Committee have ... decided to:

a) disband the National Advisory Committee of the League of Youth;

b) not to convene the Annual Conference of the League next Easter;

c) suspend publication of The New Nation. [86]

But the resistance continued, so the 1937 party conference decided to remove the youth representative from the executive. [87]

In 1939 trouble started all over again. The executive alleged that the League of Youth’s National Advisory Committee was again exceeding its function. Its secretary, Ted Willis, had committed the heinous crime of ‘condemning the National Executive Committee and supporting Sir Stafford Cripps’s Popular Front Campaign ...’ [88]

If the youth demanded they be heard, Labour decided they would not be seen. In March the party executive wound up the League’s National Advisory Committee, disbanded its local committees, cancelled its conference and closed down its paper, now renamed Advance, even though – or perhaps because – its circulation had recently risen from 9,000 to 15,000. [89] It is not accidental that the same meeting of the executive which passed these draconian measures was the same one that expelled Cripps from the Labour Party.

Right-wing Labour repels the youth. The conservative bureaucracy of the Labour Party always tries to stifle its youth movement, which reflects the hopes, aspirations and impatience of the young. As it was in the 1930s, so it has been in the 1980s, when the crushing of the left includes the breaking of Labour’s youth organisations.


The change that the Labour Party underwent in the immediate aftermath of the 1931 debacle and the radicalisation of the Labour Left in the following years were practically restricted to resolutions and speeches. Fine oratory at Westminster and in conferences was accompanied by no action outside at all. The left leaders shone as public speakers, but not as organisers of workers in struggle. Ultimately they proved unable to break with Labour’s right-wing leadership, because that would have meant rejecting precisely those elements in the situation that gave them personal prominence. So they were unwilling, even resentful prisoners of the parliamentary right which in a bloc with the trade union bureaucracy, controlled the Labour Party.

On the face of it. Labour seems capable of great transformations. Because it is based on a combination of two incompatible elements, class and nation, it can dramatically switch emphasis from one to the other. An important factor in this is whether Labour is in office or not. Thus as a governing party from 1929–31 it acted as the loyal manager of capitalism; when it was hurled into opposition it was for a couple of years intoxicated with revolutionary rhetoric. This apparent instability, however, conceals a rock-hard and consistent trend which is impervious to change because it is bound up with the fixed social interests of a particular group – the labour bureaucracy. It might seem that there was nothing in common between MacDonald and Bevan, or indeed between Cripps in 1932 and Cripps the ‘Chancellor of Austerity’ in the 1945 Labour government after the war, but surface appearances are in these cases highly misleading.


1*. The agenda of the important 1937 Socialist League conference contained twelve motions and nineteen amendments, only one of which was moved by a branch from outside London. The historian of the League, Patrick Seyd, drew the conclusion: ‘the Socialist League, notwithstanding its national structure, followed a pattern which has since prevailed for most Labour left factions, namely, of being London-based with little organisation elsewhere. [21]

2*. The policy decisions of the 1932 conference favoured the left. Few noticed that the elections to the national executive failed to reflect this trend. The right-wingers Dalton and Morrison were easily returned for the constituency section, while Frank Wise and Clem Atlee trailed far behind. (Until 1937 the whole conference, including the trade unions, voted for the constituency section.)

3*. It should be remembered that the Webbs themselves renounced the ‘inevitability of gradualness’ in the wake of the 1931 crisis and became ardent supporters of Stalin and all his works.

4*. Outside the Labour Party Cripps indulged in general politicking: he tried to convince individual Tory leaders to join forces against Chamberlain and establish a government of all parties. On 28 June 1939 he wrote in his diary: ‘I had an hour with Oliver Stanley [a Conservative MP] and completely convinced him of the urgent need of an all-in Government. I told him who I had already seen and begged him to start doing something.’ [78] Cripps approached Churchill, Baldwin and Halifax, who was at the time foreign secretary in the Chamberlain government.


1. Labour Conference 1933, p. 166.

2. Quoted in W. Golant, The emergence of C.R. Attlee as leader of the Parliamentary Labour Party in 1935, in Historical Journal, number 13 (1970), p. 320.

3. New Clarion, 17 December 1932, cited by Pimlott, The Socialist League: Intellectuals and the Labour Left in the 1930s, in Journal of Contemporary History, No. 3 (1971).

4. SSIP News, August 1932, cited by Pimlott, in Journal of Contemporary History, No. 3.

5. Donoghue and Jones, pp. 182–3.

6. See Donoghue and Jones, pp. 162–8.

7. R.H. Tawney, The Choice before the Labour Party (London 1932), p. 9.

8. P. Williams, Hugh Gaitskell (London 1982), p. 47.

9.Quoted by Wheatley, in Glasgow Evening Times, 15 May 1930.

10. Miliband, p. 195.

11. A. Cooke, The Life of Richard Stafford Cripps (London 1957), p. 127.

12. Labour Conference 1931, p. 205.

13. New Nation, September 1934.

14. Daily Herald, 5 November 1934.

15. Manchester Guardian, 8 January 1934.

16. Manchester Guardian, 28 May 1934.

17. S. Cripps, Can Socialism Come by Constitutional Means?, in C. Addison Problems of Socialist Government (London 1933), pp. 43, 46 and 66.

18. Cooke, pp. 159–60.

19. E. Estorick, Sir Stafford Cripps (London 1949), pp. 122–3.

20. Quoted in B. Pimlott, Labour and the Left in the 1930s (Cambridge 1977), p. 52.

21. P. Seyd, Factionalism Within the Labour Party: The Socialist League 1932–37, in A. Briggs and J. Saville (eds.), Essays in Labour History 1918–1939 (London 1977).

22. Labour Conference 1932, pp. 182–94.

23. Labour Conference 1932, p. 204.

24. Labour Conference 1932, p. 205.

25. Labour Conference 1933, p. 159.

26. For Socialism and Peace (London 1934), p. 12.

27. B.R. Mitchell and P. Deane, Abstract of British Historical Statistics (Cambridge 1971), pp. 68 and 71.

28. R. Croucher, Engineers at War (London 1982), p. 26.

29. Croucher, p. 27.

30. Croucher, pp. 47–56.

31. Croucher, p. 364.

32. N. Branson and M. Heinemann, Britain in the Nineteen Thirties (London 1973), pp. 122–5.

33. J. Stevenson and C. Cook, The Slump (London 1977), p. 159.

34. J. Saville, May Day 1937, in Briggs and Saville, p. 240.

35. Saville, in Briggs and Saville, p. 240.

36. Details in Stevenson and Cook, pp. 185–7.

37. Stevenson and Cook, pp. 185–7.

38. Stevenson and Cook, pp. 204–6.

39. Labour Conference 1936, pp. 228 and 230.

40. Labour Conference 1934, p. 18.

41. Branson and Heinemann, p. 318.

42. Labour Conference 1936, p. 164.

43. Saville, in Briggs and Saville, p. 241.

44. Left News, August 1937.

45. Left News, July 1938.

46. Tribune, 24 March 1939.

47. Tribune, 25 August 1939.

48. Labour Conference 1935, p. 153.

49. Labour Conference 1935, p. 177.

50. Labour Conference 1935, p. 193.

51. R. Postgate, The Life of George Lansbury (London 1951), pp. 309–317.

52. Labour Conference 1936, p. 177.

53. Labour Conference 1937, pp. 212–5.

54. Labour Conference 1937, p. 15.

55. Labour Conference 1939, p. 6.

56. Labour Conference 1933, p. 186.

57. Labour Conference 1934, p. 178.

58. Labour Conference 1934, p. 140.

59. Labour Conference 1934, p. 142.

60. L. Trotsky, Whither France? (New York 1936), p. 25.

61. Labour Conference 1936, p. 257.

62. Daily Herald, 15 February 1937.

63. Labour Conference 1937, p. 27.

64. Labour Conference 1937, p. 26.

65. Tribune, 21 May 1937.

66. Foot, Bevan, Vol. 1, p. 246.

67. Labour Conference 1937, p. 163.

68. Labour Conference 1937, p. 164.

69. Manchester Guardian, 6 October 1937.

70. Tribune, 14 April 1938.

71. Tribune, 23 September 1938.

72. Labour Conference 1939, p. 45.

73. Daily Herald, 22 February 1939, quoted in K. Harris, Attlee (London 1984), p. 159. The Douglas Cole referred to is G.D.H. Cole.

74. Foot, Bevan, Vol. 1, p. 291.

75. Labour Conference 1939, p. 236.

76. Labour Conference 1939, p. 299.

77. Pimlott, Labour and the Left in the 1930s, p. 181.

78. Estorick, p. 174.

79. Foot, Bevan, Vol. 1, pp. 291–2.

80. Tribune, 8 December 1939.

81. Socialist League Annual Report 1933.

82. The Socialist, September 1935.

83. League of Youth Monthly Bulletin, February 1931, in J. Jupp, The Left In Britain 1931–41 (MSc Econ thesis, London 1956), p. 214.

84. Labour Conference 1936, p. 75.

85. Labour Conference 1939, p. 241.

86. Labour Conference 1936, p. 75.

87. Labour Conference 1937, p. 155.

88. Labour Conference 1939, p. 379.

89. Labour Conference 1939, p. 323.

Last updated on 31 March 2017