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Ian H. Birchall

The British Communist Party: 1945–64

(January 1972)

From International Socialism (1st series), No.50, January-March 1972, pp.24-34.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Any Marxist concerned with the building of a revolutionary party in Britain today must give serious attention to the question of the British Communist Party. The party has been, from its foundation, marginal to the mass organisations of the British labour movement, and it has made little impact on national political life; but at the same time it has been the only organisation that has borne Marxist ideas – in however distorted a form – into significant sections of the British working class, and the only organisation that has been able to offer some kind of national framework to industrial militants.

Yet the materials for such a serious study are largely lacking. Recent years have seen the publication of weighty volumes by Kendall, MacFarlane and Klugmann on the early years of the Party’s history. But on the equally interesting question of the Party’s evolution since 1945 there is virtually no useful literature. [1]

In the absence of an adequate analysis, one-sided views of the Party flourish on the revolutionary left. On the one hand there is the approach which sees Stalinism as a static phenomenon, and therefore considers any critique of the Party must begin from a full historical examination (and in particular a settling of accounts over the Moscow Trials); this is to disregard the important changes that have taken place in the Party since 1945, and the ambiguous and defensive attitude that the Party now has to its own traditions. The opposite approach concentrates on the flabbiness and passivity of the Party’s current practice; but the attempt to challenge the Party on the level purely of activism neglects the fact that the Party’s lethargy derives directly from its politics.

What follows is merely an outline sketch of the Party’s history from the end of the Second World War to the advent of the Labour Government in 1964, attempting to locate this history both in the development of the world communist movement, and in the specific circumstances of the British class struggle.

From Stalinism to Social Democracy

The Communist International, created by the revolutionary upsurge which followed the First World War, was inherited by Stalin and transformed into an instrument of his politics. The logic of the theory of ‘socialism in one country’ implied that the requirements of Russian internal and foreign policy must take precedence over the interests of the world’s workers. Loyal communists successively followed the changing line – class against class, alliance with the progressive bourgeoisie, opposition to imperialist war, defence of the Soviet Union. Even in those countries where the Communist Parties had mass working-class support their political line was essentially determined by an international strategy.

The situation in 1968, when most of the world’s CPs denounced the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia, was not an overnight transformation, but the culmination of a long process. For the British Party this process began during the latter part of the Second World War. Not only was the Party able to demonstrate its patriotic loyalty by backing up the war effort and encouraging production, but the general popularity of the Soviet Union was such that even the right-wing press rarely ventured to criticise it. After decades as a persecuted minority the Party had at last broken out of the ghetto.

But it was still clear to the Party’s friends and enemies alike that this new-found respectability was conditional upon a temporary convergence of British and Russian war-interests. In the period after 1945 a much more fundamental transformation began to make itself apparent. The following seem to be the main factors which led to this change:

  1. After about 1950 the Stalinist parties were no longer a central instrument of Russian foreign policy, as they had been, for example, at the time of the Popular Front. Russia now essentially relied for her defence on the balance of nuclear terror.
  2. The working class in Britain experienced very different conditions in the fifties and sixties than those it had known before the war. With full employment and relatively prosperous living standards, and above all with the knowledge that gains were to be won, not through Parliament, but through strength and organisation on the shop-floor, workers felt much less need to identify with a socialist paradise far away. Moreover, until the mid-sixties at least, there seemed no obvious link between industrial and political questions; Communists who were accepted as shop-floor leaders got a derisory vote in municipal or Parliamentary elections.
  3. By 1950 there were about a dozen countries in the so-called ‘socialist bloc’. But this bloc showed itself obviously incapable of achieving harmonious economic and political integration. Deep splits, based on economic and ideological factors, emerged first between Russia and Yugoslavia, then Russia and China. The loyalty and discipline that could be demanded in a monolithic International was no longer possible when several leaders were in open competition.
  4. Stalinism in the thirties had already transformed Marxism from a critical revolutionary science into a set of sterile and conservative dogmas. This was disastrous in a postwar world which was confronted with new social phenomena which required the full resources of scientific analysis. In particular, the Stalinist identification with Soviet Russia made it impossible to develop an adequate theory of the state, and especially to understand the nature of nationalisation and planning in modern capitalism. [2]

The choice facing the CPs in the West from the fifties on was between continuing as Stalinist parties or transforming themselves into some kind of social democratic party. The former choice, involving unswerving loyalty to Moscow, was particularly appealing to small parties with no native base, which rapidly came to function as extensions of the Soviet Embassies. For parties with some base, the latter alternative was more attractive. In France, for example, where the traditional social democratic party was corrupt, fragmented and denuded of many working-class base, the CP could, in the long term, hope to establish itself as a replacement.

In Britain, where the CP was always overshadowed by the Labour Party, the ambition to become an alternative social democratic party met with little success. The Party’s electoral performance showed a slow but irreversible decline. The average total of votes per candidate put up fell as follows:









      917 [3]






A particularly striking example is the case of West Fife, where Gallacher was elected MP in 1945. The following were the percentages of the poll gained by CP candidates:















The decline in political impact was accompanied by a change in tone. In the forties, whatever the Party’s politics, its language was still the language of Marxism; by the sixties it was all set for respectability, Christian-Communist dialogues, etc. To take one example. The British Road to Socialism was always a reformist programme; but the original version did have some echoes of the class struggle. For example: The large country houses of the rich will be taken over for use as holiday rest homes, sanatoria for adults and children, and similar social purposes’. [4] In later editions this is missing, replaced by generalities about the nationalisation of land.

The Post-War Carve-Up

As the Second World War drew to a close, the leaders of Britain, Russia and the USA – Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt – met to share the booty. The haggling was consummated in the Yalta Conference of February 1945. In return for a free hand in most of Eastern Europe, Stalin renounced any attempts to spread ‘socialism’ to the rest of the world. [5]

However, the workers of Western Europe had no fought a long war against fascism in order to go back to the social and economic order of the thirties. In France and Italy, the Communist Parties had substantial influence in mass armed Resistance movements. Factory and local committees sprang up. But as the French Communists entered de Gaulle’s government, and the Italian CP agreed to serve under Marshal Badoglio, who had been one of Mussolini’s military commanders, the upsurge was held in check.

The British CP was, of course, in no position to either launch or hold back a revolutionary upsurge. But the Party had grown very considerably in size and influence since Russia entered the war in 1941. Its membership had reached around 56,000 in 1942 and was still over 45,000 in 1945. The Party’s line of total support for the war meant that it could make no substantial criticism of the policies of the coalition Government; but at the same time, since it had to preserve its base among industrial workers and servicemen, it had to use the language of militancy and class struggle. The Party had rendered valuable service to the war effort by participation in Joint Production Committees, and until the end of hostilities it opposed any strike action. This opposition, however, had to be expressed in guarded terms, usually in the form of putting ‘political’ considerations before the requirements of particular struggles. Thus the Daily Worker on 7 March 1945, told London dockers on strike against the disciplinary methods of the Dock Labour Corporation: ‘Every striker should therefore be conscious of the fact that the strike is playing into the hands of that bad type of employer who wants to dissolve the corporation and return to the bad old days of unemployment, casual labour and the victimisation of militant workers.’ Likewise, on 6 April, commenting on a strike by 11,000 A.V. Roe workers over falling bonuses, the Worker said:

‘This question, however, can only be completely solved on the national plane. Having called attention to this burning grievance, the workers should now return and leave the matter to be negotiated by the trade unions ... a series of local strikes ... can only exhaust the workers without attaining any positive results.’

The CP’s industrial penetration had been assisted by the fact that, in gratitude for its contribution to wartime production, the 1943 Trades Union Congress at Southport had withdrawn, on the recommendation of the General Council, the Black Circular which banned Communists from serving as Trades Council delegates.

The CP of course approved the international policies agreed between Churchill and Stalin; in particular they endorsed the use of nuclear weapons on Hiroshima. On 14 August 1945 the Worker actually criticised the Allied Powers for being too soft, under the heading ‘Japs still trying to haggle’. (The semi-racialist term ‘Japs’ was used almost invariably in the Worker at this time). In 1952, the Worker of 7 August called Hiroshima a ‘bestial action’.

These were not merely tactical concessions. In April 1945, Emile Burns, one of the Party’s chief theoreticians, wrote arguing that the whole Marxist analysis of capitalism as a system required modification: ‘In these circumstances, the “laws of capitalist development” cannot operate as if the whole world was still capitalist. Of course, they are there as a tendency, and a very strong tendency. But they are not “inevitable”. They are being checked, and can be further checked, by the power of the people.’ [6]

It is in this context that the CP’s rather grotesque manoeuvring before the 1945 General Election must be understood. The Party leadership, with its sights set on the kind of broad coalition with Communist participation that had taken office in several European countries, made the mistake both of underestimating the strength of pro-Labour feeling, and of overestimating its own potential. The main slogan was therefore the demand for a ‘Labour and progressive majority’. The hope was that Labour would stand down in a number of constituencies to let Communist members be elected, some of whom might aspire to Ministerial office. (The word ‘progressive’ was a key item in the Party’s vocabulary at the time. One might think it referred to all left wing parties. But although it might sometimes be stretched to include the Liberals, if was clearly designed to exclude the Independent Labour Party. At the time of the Newport by-election in May 1945, the Daily Worker correspondent recommended abstention in face of a choice between ‘the black record of the Tory Party and the equally black record of the Independent Labour Party.’) [7]

For a time even the Tories were in the happy family. On 155 March, Churchill, sensing possible defeat, had proposed a post-war coalition to Labour. On 20 March, the Daily Worker carried a statement by the Party Executive under the headline ‘All Party National Government Is Essential after the Election’. A London District Committee pamphlet in April spelt this out, saying ‘... the Labour Party should then form a new National Government and invite others, including Tories like Churchill and Eden, to participate’.

In the event the Labour Party rejected both Tory overtures and alliance with the CP, and was returned with a massive majority. The CP was left with two MPs only. One of these, Gallacher, made his first contribution to the new Parliament by thanking the Speaker for his fair treatment of minorities.

The Labour Government

The 1945 Labour Government was brought to power by working-class aspirations to a better life after the war; its main task was to modernise British capitalism. It introduced significant welfare reforms – notably the National Health Service, but showed a brutal face to working-class demands and direct action. Clearly a Marxist Party would have to show an intelligent strategy; to avoid both sectarianism and tail-ending and to stand firm on class issues. The CP failed the test.

The Labour election victory was announced on 26 July. Five days later, on 31 July, troops were sent into the Surrey Docks to break a ten-week-old go-slow by dockers demanding a 25-shilling-a-day basic rate. In the Daily Worker of 1 August one quarter of one of the six columns on the front page was devoted to a piece headed ‘Troops take over in London Dock’. It was a factual report only, expressing no condemnation.

This set the tone for the first two uneasy years- of Labour rule. Once the war was over the CP no longer followed a line of opposition to strikes and other militancy. The period saw Party militants taking a lead in strikes and in the squatters movement; the Party was active lobbying councils for the requisitioning of empty houses, in defending servicemen imprisoned for mutiny, etc. But despite this activity the Party was still concerned to preserve its image of respectability and responsibility. Its leading trade unionists – notably Arthur Horner of the NUM – did much to encourage a ‘responsible’ approach to productivity. The editorial of the Worker on 4 November 1946 set out the issues clearly: ‘Increased production necessitates closer cooperation between workers and managements in the various industries. Everyone pays lip service to this principle – employers, unions and Government – but nobody does anything about it. Is the Government going to do anything positive to bring both sides together so that they can get on with the job?’ And in his pamphlet A Wage Based on Human Needs (1946) Reg Birch wrote:

‘Years and years of necessary work stare us in the face. The engineering workers are willing to cooperate. Nothing must be allowed to stand in the way.’

In particular the whole question of the Labour nationalisations presented problems to the CP. The Party’s theoreticians made a distinction between ‘capitalist’ and ‘socialist’ nationalisation. But for those who took Russia as a model the distinction was hard to draw. Will Paynter recalls that on the first day of nationalised coal-mining he made ‘an enthusiastic speech about “the dawn of a new era” ... the significance of the day being one where the “workers were moving forward to the control of their own destinies”.’ [8]

The notion of ‘workers’ control’ was absent from CP thinking [9], and criticisms of nationalisation largely centred around the nature of the administrative personnel. Thus Pollitt’s comments on the National Coal Board:

‘Just as the leopards cannot change their spots, neither can former coal-owners or directors ... If the problems are to be rightly tackled, the National and Divisional Coal Boards must be completely reorganised so that the majority of the members are drawn from Labour and trade union circles.’ [10]

Likewise, a Worker editorial of 29 October 1946 replied to Stafford Cripps’ charge that few workers were capable of running industry:

‘When Sir Stafford uses the term worker, does he include the supervisory grades in industry, who have daily experience of the practice of management ... Many of those supervisory workers are keen trade unionists, are anxious to see nationalisation succeed and should be given a chance in the higher ranges of management.’

In 1947 the honeymoon went sour. A report written by Zhdanov for the newly formed Communist Information Bureau declared that the right wing of the Labour Party ‘remain in all respects loyal supporters of the imperialists’. [11] In face of this theoretical discovery the British Party could not remain silent. A new period had opened.

The Cold War

On 12 March 1947, President Truman, announcing US intervention in Greece, established what became known as the Truman Doctrine; in effect it committed itself to intervene against any revolution believed to be ‘communist’. The stick was followed by a carrot. On 5 June the Marshall Plan for economic aid to Europe was announced. It was an open secret that the French and Italian Governments had been told that the price of Marshall Aid was the exclusion of the Communist ministers.

This was a clear challenge to the balance of forces established at the end of the Second World War, and Stalin could not lie down to it. On 2 August Russia rejected the Marshall Plan and the CPs of East and Western Europe followed suit. On 5 October the Communist Information Bureau (Cominform) was founded. This was not a revival of the Communist International. The only parties outside the communist bloc to be included were the French and Italian. The British CP got its ‘information’ via France. The CPs took the lead in massive struggles in France and Italy. The Cold War – to be fought out in not-so-cold form in Korea from 1950 to 1953 – had begun.

In the spring of 1948 Sir Stafford Cripps, Chancellor of the Exchequer, told the House of Commons in his budget speech ‘the country cannot now afford any general rise in personal incomes of any sort’. In 1948 wage increases were held to 4 per cent (while the cost of living rose by just under 5 per cent); in 1949 wages rose by 2 per cent, the cost of living by 4 per cent.

Internal and external factors both required a turn to the ‘left’. The Party took it loyally enough, and even showed a touch of sectarian enthusiasm. The essence of the turn was, of course, a change in the line on cooperation in production. J.R. Campbell set out what this involved:

‘The essence of Harry Pollitt’s thesis on production is that we cannot obtain sufficient production to guarantee national recovery and independence unless there is a complete change in the policy of the Government. “Without a decisive change in Government policy no solution to the crisis is possible, however hard the workers strive. Any tendency to separate the issue of production from the main issue of the change of policy necessary can only result in trailing behind the Government’s reactionary policy”.’ [12]

Such a course naturally meant a rapid loss of the Party’s respectability. There was no real parallel to McCarthyism in Britain, though there were some cases of victimisation – for example Andrew Rothstein was dismissed from the London School of Slavonic Studies, ostensibly for ‘inadequate scholarship’ and Communists were banned from becoming head teachers in Middlesex. But the main attack came in industry.

In November 1948 the TUC General Council issued a document called Defend Democracy in which it urged unions to consider banning Communists from holding union posts and acting as union delegates. The proposal scored a victory in the Transport and General Workers Union, which in 1949 voted to ban Communists from holding office. Nine full-time officials were dismissed, including Bert Papworth, the only Communist on the TUC General Council who lost his seat thereby. Though similar moves in the AEU, CAWU and Civil Service Clerical Association did not establish complete bans on Communist office-holders, strong anti-Communist currents emerged which limited CP’s activity. In 1950 the TUC issued warnings to the London Trades Council, also substantially under Communist influence; and in 1952 it was disaffiliated.

As if all this were not enough, the Cominform, meeting in June 1948 denounced the Yugoslav Communist Party, the only one in Eastern Europe that had come to power by its own struggles rather than with the aid of the Red Army, accusing it, among other things, of ‘breaking with the Marxist theory of classes’. For the first time since the twenties there was an open dispute between major Communist leaders. It was a disconcerting development for British CP members, in many of whose homes portraits of Tito had hung next to those of Stalin.

‘Men make their own history, but ... they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves.’ The British CP had not chosen the circumstances of the period from 1948 on, but it must certainly bear the responsibility for its sectarian response to them. At this time the Party needed above all to regroup its forces and strive for a united front against an attack that was aimed not just at ‘Communists’ but at all industrial militants and at workers’ living standards. Instead it not only found time to publish two books – Derek Kartun’s Tito’s Plot Against Europe and James Klugmann’s From Trotsky to Tito – whose untruthfulness was exceeded only by their irrelevance to the struggle in Britain, but it also broke its links with one of the most strongly pro-Russian Left Labour MPs, Konni Zilliacus. In 1949 Zilliacus was expelled from the Labour Party for his uncompromising opposition to the Attlee leadership. Instead of waging a vigorous campaign against this as being part of the anti-left witch-hunt, Ivor Montague preferred to proclaim: ‘those who thought to keep their shirts clean of “real” communism by holding Tito’s hand as well as that of the world progressive movement ... like Zilliacus, are left frantically treading water in an ocean of lies.’ [13]

Just at a time when new ideas and new analysis was badly needed, the CP’s sectarianism drove it into a ghetto of intellectual sterility. Almost any historical or social problem of real interest was too sensitive to be touched. Instead the Party’s journals carried articles with titles like: T.S. Eliot – An Enemy of the People. [14] Of course the fact that the Party’s Marxism, however bastardised, gave it something to say on every aspect of ideology and culture was one of its strengths. J.B.S. Haldane’s science column was one of the most popular features in the Daily Worker. But the price that the Party was prepared to pay in defence of doctrinal orthodoxy, even in an apparently non-political field, was shown in the ‘Lysenko affair’ of 1948–9. The acceptance of Lysenko’s theories of genetics as official orthodoxy in Russia was loyally followed by the Party’s leading intellectuals – but unfortunately not by the Party’s geneticists. A controversy which engaged wide interest among the membership ended with the resignation of several geneticists and the withdrawal from activity of Haldane, probably the Party’s most distinguished scientist.

The period 1948–53, then marked a ‘left’ turn with strong elements of sectarianism and ultra-leftism. But it was not a repeat of the ‘Third Period’ of 1929–34. Despite the Korean war, the Russian leaders still had a long-term perspective of ‘peaceful coexistence’; the British Party leadership were still concerned with integration into British political life. The clearest evidence of this is the emphasis put on the building of the peace movement throughout this period. The British Cultural Committeee for Peace (later the British Peace Committee) was formed in 1948, and surrounded by a cluster of satellites (Teachers for Peace, Artists for Peace, etc.). The Stockholm Conference of 1950 launched a peace petition which became a focus for activity for the British Party and in particular gave an important field of activity to the non-industrial branches. The claimed total of one and a half million signatures is probably not too much of an exaggeration. Of course, in the frenetic atmosphere of the American cold – and hot – war offensive against the Russian bloc, ‘peace’ was far from being an uncontroversial demand, and the CP were just about the only organisation fighting on this slogan. Nonetheless the strategy for the peace movement was for a broad front on minimum demands, and prefigured the Party’s line on peace later in the decade.


But it was not only the Party’s political line that developed throughout this period; it was also the nature of the organisation. The influx of members during the war had led to a lower level of active commitment; Peter Kerrigan in 1945 outlined the new attitude to recruitment and membership:

‘Are we in the position to take full advantage of the new atmosphere and greater willingness to listen to our views? We are, if we get rid not only of the sectarianism which still acts as a brake and barrier between ourselves and those we have to win, but also if we adapt our organisation so that it can cater for the thousands upon thousands of new members who will join our Party as our fight for the application of the Crimea decisions succeeds. It is in this light that we are asking the Party to carry into effect the organisational proposals now decided upon by the Party. The proposals have been worked out in great detail, full directives issued as to their application and more material is in preparation. Everything, however, depends on the understanding with which they are operated. The change to a residential basis of Party membership, the new methods of factory organisation, the concepts about responsibilities of members, and the new kind of monthly branch meeting we envisage, all have one principal objective. It is to make entry into the Communist Party easier; to ensure we retain members who join; to organise the activities of our members in the best way where they want to be active as Communists; to make our Branch meetings places where members eagerly attend because of what they gain from such attendance; to educate our members in Marxism and Leninism.’ [15]

Although membership was not in fact growing in this period, members were always conscious of the fact that, by the side of either the Labour Party, or the French and Italian Communist Parties, the British CP was a very small organisation; and the main task facing it was to grow into a mass organisation as rapidly as possible.

Yet for a small party of around 40,000 members in the late forties and early fifties, the Party had a fairly high level of activity. [16] The Daily Worker had a circulation of 100,000 a day in 1945, rising to 118,000 in 1947–8. In 1950 Brian Behan claims 180 Workers per day were sold on the Festival of Britain site. [17] In general the sale of literature reached a high level of intensity, though figures are hard to judge, since morale was such that comrades were accustomed to paying for unsold literature.

There was little real internal life or debate in the Party in this period; what discussions of inner-party democracy there were hinged mainly on formal questions such as the mode of electing the Executive. But the ‘Stalinist’ regime in the Party was in no way comparable to a Stalinist state, nor even to the physically-imposed discipline of, say, the French Communist Party. Some branches, indeed, did have the regular annual institution of a self-criticism session. But the main basis of loyalty and discipline in the Party was the fact that the Party, however small, was part of a world movement that contained mass parties and ‘socialist’ countries; plus the fact that the Party could still plausibly claim a monopoly of ‘Marxism’ in Britain.

The Cold War atmosphere of the early fifties, intensified by hysterical reaction to the Eastern European purges, did nothing to help the internal life of the Party, as is shown by the following advice from Betty Reid:

‘There is a tendency to believe that vigilance merely means keeping ears and eyes open for disruptive activities, and reporting them to the Party committee. This is one of the serious weaknesses we have to fight. It is the immediate challenge, the fight openly in the basic units of the Party, against statements or conduct we consider harmful, which is the most effective way of dealing with a situation, and not weeks afterwards when the issues have become obscure. Political differences, if they are not challenged and thrashed out, can over a period become so deep that in the end disciplinary action is the only solution.’ [18]

Association with a world movement had other effects on the Party. Embassy visits and trips to ‘socialist countries’ helped to create a situation in which militants, even workers, became increasingly remote from the preoccupations of the day-to-day struggle.

The Working Class in the Fifties

The British working class in the early fifties had not suffered a major defeat since 1926. The arms economy was permitting an extended period of full employment, and a degree of relative prosperity for most workers. The Tory slogan ‘you’ve never had it so good’ had a certain plausibility, and the Tories were elected with increasing majorities in 1951, 1955 and 1959, while active membership in the Labour Party and trade unions declined.

But working-class self-confidence was on the increase. There was a rapid growth of shop steward organisation, especially in the engineering industry; the strike level rose from the mid-fifties, and the election of Cousins in place of Deakin at the head of the TGWU was symptomatic of a new mood of militancy.

The consequence was a growing gap between the political and the economic. This was not the Party’s fault, though its definition of ‘polities’ in a narrow electoral sense helped to aggravate the situation. Communists continued to be elected, both as union officials and as shop stewards. But Gramsci’s statement that ‘if the trade unions have spontaneously chosen a member of the party as their leader, it means that the trade unions freely accept the directives of the party’ was decreasingly true, on either the national or the local level. It followed that the contesting of union elections became less and less what Lenin had defined it as in Left-Wing Communism, one means to the development of political consciousness, and more and more an end in itself.

Despite the witch-hunt of the late forties the CP maintained its industrial base during the early fifties. In some unions, notably the ETU, it had had a controlling influence since the end of the war, and a number of Communists won leading positions in the NUM, FBU etc.

But more important than particular areas of influence is the fact that, until 196, the whole orientation of the Party was to the point of production. Industrial comrades were discouraged from becoming involved in local activities at the expense of factory and union work, and the factory branch was still a major unit of organisation. As Pollitt told an Extended Executive Committee in February 1949:

‘There can be no substitute for factory organisation. To underestimate the key role of the factory branch is a Social-Democratic attitude.’

The depth of the Party’s penetration in the class (and its misuse of it) can be judged from a feature which used to appear regularly in the Party journal World News, entitled Around the Districts. The following extract from the column that appeared on 12 May 1956, even allowing for exaggeration, gives an impressive picture. Nothing comparable is to be found in the Party press after 1956:

‘In Yorkshire David Brown’s shop stewards, Huddersfield, have met their MPs and have called for the lifting of restrictions on trade (i.e. East-West trade – IHB). Holmes Mill have put forward a resolution for the Sheffield District Conference of BISAKTA on the same question.

‘David Brown’s shop stewards in Leeds have received a reply to their letter to the Chinese Embassy, in which the Embassy expresses its eagerness for trade. The letter has been displayed, with permission, on the firm’s notice-board, and has created considerable discussion.

‘In Lanarkshire, over 100 delegates have already been elected to a jobs conference, coming from wide sections of the Labour movement, including Labour Parties. North Lanarkshire Labour Party has admitted a resolution on East-West trade and also called for a forty-hour week. A trade union deputation has visited MPs and the Lanarkshire County Council on the question of jobs for Lanarkshire.

‘In Wales, the Forest of Dean Trades Council has demanded trade with China. A packed meeting of 500 engineers, in the Rhondda, held to discuss redundancy, passed a strong resolution on East-West trade. Aberdare Branch of the Communist Party has issued an excellent local leaflet against the transfer of Hirwaun factory to England. Strong pressure, including strike action, at Dialoys foundry, in Cardiff, reduced the number of sackings and forced an agreement on re-engagement procedure.’

The British Road to Socialism

The British Road to Socialism – issued by the Executive Committee of the CP in February 1951, and revised and adopted by the 22nd Congress in April 1952 – provides the best summary of the Party’s post-war strategy, but it does not in itself mark a turning-point in the Party’s development. As John Gollan pointed out, not only was it published in Stalin’s lifetime, but it was printed in full in Pravda with Stalin’s approval. [19] The basically nationalist and reformist framework which it made explicit had been implicit in the Party’s politics in the Popular Front, and even more so during the latter part of the Second World War (when World News and Views had carried a regular forum on Our National Traditions, in which readers had complained at the use of ‘foreign’ words like comrade, and claimed the CP as a successor of ‘Queen Elizabeth and her pirates’.)

The nationalistic strain was given full play in the British Road. Demands – such as withdrawal from NATO – which were in themselves unexceptionable, were phrased in terms apparently designed to appeal to patriotic elements and to mark an open break with the traditions of Communist internationalism. Thus ‘The Communist Party would ... restore the command of the British Armed Forces to British commanders.’ Or again ‘The enemies of Communism declare that the Communist Party, by underhand subversive means, is aiming at the destruction of Britain and the British Empire. This is a lie.’ [20]

Similar denunciation faced those who suggested the CP might still be a revolutionary party accepting the Leninist theory of the state.

‘The enemies of Communism accuse the Communist Party of aiming to introduce Soviet power in Britain and abolish Parliament. This is a slanderous misrepresentation of our policy ... British Communists declare that the people of Britain can transform capitalist democracy into a real People’s Democracy, transforming Parliament, the product of Britain’s historic struggle for democracy, into the democratic instrument of the will of the vast majority of her people.’ [21]

After Stalin

In March 1953 J.V. Stalin departed this life; in August of the same year Russia exploded its first H-Bomb. The two events between them were to have enormous repercussions for the world Communist movement. Stalin’s passing was of course greeted with sickening effusions on all sides [22], but the disappearance of the one man whose prestige in the movement had been unquestioned for two and a half decades struck at the very heart of the Stalinist monolith.

For Khrushchev, who eventually emerged from the power struggle, the possession of nuclear parity with the West meant that the world communist movement was of decreasing relevance to him. Slowly, by fits and starts, a new pattern of international relations emerged – in 1953 peace in Korea, 1954 peace in Vietnam, 1955 reconciliation between Russia and Yugoslavia, 1956 dissolution of the Cominform.

But Stalin’s heirs had to move cautiously. Within three months of Stalin’s death revolts broke out in Eastern Europe, first in Czechoslovakia and then, on a wider scale, in East Germany. The notion of ‘separate national roads to socialism’ obviously had dangerous implications if taken up in the wrong quarters. Only in 1956 did Khrushchev feel sufficient confidence to start making a break with the past. At the Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in February 1956, Khrushchev made two speeches; in the first, public speech, without naming Stalin, he denounced the ‘cult of the personality’; in the second, ‘secret speech’ he gave a detailed account of Stalin’s crimes. This provoked the beginning of a differentiation between the Communist Parties of the world. The French and the Chinese were the most anxious to defend Stalin’s reputation; the Poles and the Italians were keenest to follow through the logic of ‘destalinisation’. The Italians in particular began to develop the idea of ‘polycentrism’ – the view that world communism should not have one centre, but that the various national parties should enjoy greater autonomy. The problem was obvious. National leaders who had identified their own small-scale personality cults with Stalin were anxious to jump when Russia jumped, yet were aware of the logic of liberalisation -as Sartre put it – ‘Destalinisation will end up by destalinising the destalinisers’. Moreover, it was clear that, in Western Europe at least, the CPs would be able to integrate themselves into national political life, and even make electoral agreements with other parties, only to the extent that they could show themselves to be independent of Moscow.

The choice that confronted the CPs throughout the period -Stalinism or Social Democracy – was now posed in a particularly acute form. In France and Italy the perspective was electoral alliances with the socialist parties; in Britain the whole question of the Party’s relation to the Labour Party aroused considerable discussion, with many members urging renewal of the campaign for affiliation to the Labour Party or even liquidation into the Labour Party.

The CP destalinised itself-slowly, and without enthusiasm. Pollitt, who had attended the 20th Congress of the CPSU, though apparently not Khrushchev’s “secret speech’, told the CP Congress in April 1956 that the Party leadership had been ‘misled’ over Yugoslavia, and recounted some criticisms of Stalin. [23] Dutt, on the other hand, wrote shortly afterwards that Stalin’s errors were mere ‘spots on the sun’. [24] Disquiet in the Party had not yet crystallised, but some changes were clearly called for. Pollitt was replaced as secretary by John Gollan and took the higher but less central position of chairman, and a ‘Commission on Inner Party Democracy’ was set up.

Hitherto opposition within the Party had been minimal. There was of course no right of faction. But in July two Yorkshire intellectuals, E.P. Thompson and John Saville, launched an opposition journal, the Reasoner, in cyclo-styled form. Despite the intervention of the Yorkshire District Committee, then the Political Committee, they refused to close down.

Even if events had been left to run their own course the Party was clearly in for the biggest internal crisis since the twenties. But the initiative now passed to the Hungarian working class.


On 23 October a demonstration of workers and students in Budapest assumed insurrectionary proportions. Workers’ councils began to be set up throughout Hungary. Russian troops intervened almost immediately to ‘restore order’, but on 29 October, it was announced they would withdraw. On 30 October, Nagy, the Hungarian Premier, formed a National Government, and withdrew Hungary from the Warsaw Pact. On 4 November, Russian troops intervened again, in much more brutal form, and in the ensuing fighting some 30,000 Hungarians were killed before the rising was finally crushed. The British CP leadership were able to appreciate the full implications of the Hungarian events, for the Daily Worker Budapest correspondent was a man of integrity and considerable journalistic ability, Peter Fryer. Such were his reports that the Worker first mutilated them, then suppressed them altogether. Dutt’s comments in the Worker of 10 November, stressed the fact that ‘the Soviet armed forces were legally in Hungary by agreement under the Warsaw Pact’.

The simmering opposition in the Party now had a focus. Some opponents of the Party leadership resigned immediately – John Horner, secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, Alex Moffat, of the Scottish Miners, and, after writing to Gollan urging the dissolution of the Party, Les Cannon followed. Other more determined elements tried to fight in the Party. Saville and Thompson issued a further number of the Reasoner denouncing the repression in Hungary, and were suspended, whereupon they resigned. Peter Fryer published his book Hungarian Tragedy and addressed public meetings; for this he was expelled. The Daily Worker refused to publish a letter received on 20 November criticising its line on Hungary on the grounds that this, contrary to normal practice, was ‘signed by a whole number of comrades living in different parts of the country.’ [25]

The leadership was forced to hold a special Congress at Easter 1957, and here, though the membership was disintegrating between its hands, it maintained the apparatus intact. The official line was supported by a considerable majority, and the only oppositionist on the Executive, Brian Behan, was removed.

The debate leading up to this Congress was not only about the events in Hungary. It was also about democracy in the Party itself. The Commission on Inner Party Democracy, set up the previous summer, reported in December 1956. It consisted of 10 Party full-timers and five rank-and-file members. Three of the five rank-and-filers – Christopher Hill, Malcolm McEwen and Peter Cadogan, all subsequently to leave the Party – issued a Minority Report, in which they called into question ‘democratic centralism’ as practised by the British Party.

The debate on democratic centralism was in general turgid and confused. Such had been the theoretical sterility of the Party that it was necessary to start almost from scratch in rediscovering the Leninist traditions. For the most part the debate hinged around rather crude antitheses. The Majority Report stressed the need for monolithic solidity in the organisation: ‘The common interest demands that fractional groupings be not permitted, that they should be one, not two or many, centres of leadership.’ The opposition, however, tended to draw on liberalism rather than Leninism – in his first polemic E.P. Thompson quoted Milton and invoked the British democratic tradition. And the Minority Report rejected the obligation to accept majority decisions in public. ‘How can it be suggested that Party members, who have publicly expressed their disagreement with the Party policy on Hungary, have a duty to support that policy in their trade union branch? How can they do so without exposing themselves as hypocrites?’ [26] Only a very few individuals – Cliff Slaughter, E.J. Hobsbawm – attempted to defend democratic centralism while breaking with the Stalinist model.

Destalinisation and the Hungarian revolution led to a sharp setback for the Party’s membership, which slumped as follows:

March 1955



February 1956


February 1957


February 1958


Of course not all who left were revolutionaries whose faith in workers’ councils had been fired by Hungary. Many were people for whom CP membership had long been an embarrassment in their academic or trade union careers. Such elements moved rapidly to the right; an obvious example is Les Cannon of the ETU.

But other elements moved to the left and provided the basis for a regeneration of socialist thought and activity in Britain. The main groupings were some two hundred ex CPers – half of them workers – who joined the small Trotskyist group around G. Healy, leading to the launching of the Newsletter (edited for a time by Peter Fryer) in May 1957. The grouping around the Reasoner, mainly academics, founded a printed journal The New Reasoner, which in 1960 merged with the Universities and Left Review to form the New Left Review. [27]

It was the claim of the Party, and often accepted by those with faith in the ‘middle class conscience’, that the great majority of those who left the Party over Hungary were intellectuals, while the industrial membership stayed loyal. Brian Behan (a building worker and the only member of the Executive to leave over Hungary) attacked this notion early in 1957 in a letter to World News: ‘The myth of a rock-like working class and the wobbly intellectuals should be thrown out once and for all. Many industrial comrades are worried about Hungary. Some very good ones have left.’ [28] While it is impossible to give direct statistical evidence, the Credentials Reports for National Congresses support Behan’s view:























           9% [29]

Trade Union Strategy After Hungary

But Hungary did not just mean a loss in numbers; much more crucially it involved a decline in the Party’s credibility, a loss of self-confidence which made it less and less willing to seek confrontation, more and more entrenched in electoralism. Taken in conjunction with the evolution of the industrial struggle during the fifties, this plunged the Party deeper and deeper into difficulties.

For on the one hand its members had achieved a number of official positions in the unions; on the other hand, the growth of decentralised bargaining and the shop stewards’ movement meant that many Communists were elected as stewards, just because they were the best and most conscious militants. The result was a serious contradiction:

‘But for the industrial militants, perhaps the most important factor of all is the growing division between the rank and file and the full-time officials in the unions. This division has important implications for the Communist Party, which has many union officials within its ranks. For Party members and non-Party lefts alike, the Party has provided a career structure within certain unions, in line with its essentially reformist emphasis on getting “left” candidates into office. Once in office, many of these “left” officials have succumbed to the pressures of their positions and have lost the militancy that gave them their support while they were on the shop floor. A whole series of minor betrayals, failures to give adequate support, ineptitudes, petty bureaucratic attitudes and so forth have tended to embitter many of the Party’s loyal militants. But the Party is committed to its current line on getting “left” officials elected and will defend its officials against criticism from dissatisfied rank-and-file militants’. [30]

Examples could be accumulated. In 1960 Frank Foulkes, CP President of the ETU, denounced the unofficial Power Workers’ Combine, of which the secretary was CPer George Wake. [31] In the Ford strike of 1962, where the Communist Party had a long-standing organisation, the orientation towards reliance on full-time officials led to eventual demoralisation and the halving of Party membership in the factory. As a result, time after time the CP found itself supporting policies that were at best dubious and at worst positively dangerous. The CP-led ETU and individual CPers played an important role in carrying through the Fawley agreements of 1960, which pioneered productivity bargaining in Britain. [32]

The smouldering contradictions in the CP’s industrial strategy exploded in 1961 with the ETU case. CP members had controlled the ETU since the end of the Second World War; however, after Hungary two leading CPers, Les Cannon and Frank Chapple joined the already existing right-wing current in the union. The union had in general had a militant line – in the London bus strike of 1958 the ETU had been the only union to pledge positive assistance in the form of power cuts.

The climate of the early sixties – with a tired Tory Government faced with rising industrial unrest – was ripe for a witchhunt. Unfortunately the CP elements in the union made the attack easier. Not only had they not used their period of control to extend democracy in the union – they never changed the rule which gave the conference power only to make ‘recommendation’ to the Executive Council – but, in face of the disarray of their own ranks, certain CPers indulged in ballot-rigging. In the summer of 1961, the High Court found Foulkes, Haxell and three others guilty of fraudulent conspiracy in respect of the 1959 election for the general secretaryship, and replaced Haxell by Byrne as general secretary. The General Council of the TUC then followed up by demanding that Foulkes submit himself to a ballot. When the demand was refused the TUC expelled the ETU; in the executive elections shortly afterwards a right-wing majority was won. and in 1962 the ETU returned to the TUC. Instead of waging a political fight the CP allowed Haxell – who in the 1959 CP Executive elections had had the top vote (five more than Pollitt himself) – to be made a scapegoat and accepted his resignation.

Of course ballot-rigging was never central to the CP strategy; it was a temporary and foolish lapse, but one that was. symptomatic of an electoral orientation. Slowly but significantly the Party was being weakened in industry.

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

Having settled accounts with the Hungarian working class, Khrushchev was anxious to achieve better terms with the American rulers. There followed a long and uneven process of scaling down of the Cold War, which reached its high-point with Khrushchev’s amicable visit to the US in the autumn of 1959. The collapse of the 1960 summit conference following the shooting down of an American spy-plane over Russia marked a temporary turn in the opposite direction, though ‘peaceful coexistence’ was still undoubtedly central to Russian policy.

But if Khrushchev and Eisenhower found a balance of nuclear terror, in which each side was ‘defended’ by its capacity to destroyed the other side’s population, a suitable basis for understanding, thousands of people were less happy about the state of affairs. In February 1958 the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament was founded, and at Easter 1958 5,000 marched to Aldermaston. The Campaign’s politics were confused, and its leading sponsors a wierd mishmash of Christians, old-style pacifists, liberal academics and Labour lefts. But it responded to a very deep concern about the possibility of nuclear war. At Easter 1960 and 1961 some 100,000 people inarched in support of CND – many students and middle-class elements, but with a good representation of trade union delegations and ordinary workers. In October 1960 the Labour Party Conference, in defiance of Gaitskell and the Parliamentary leadership, voted for a policy of unilateral disarmament. This was the biggest mass movement Britain had seen since the thirties, and it arose outside the framework of traditional organisations.

The job of Marxists was clear; to help build the campaign, to clarify politically the questions of NATO and the relation of arms production to the capitalist economy, and to channel the newly radicalised youth towards the Labour movement. The CP saw things differently. Just after the founding of the Campaign, World News commented:

‘Whatever one’s views about the manufacture of the Bomb by Britain, there can be no substitute for pressure on the Government to change its attitude on international agreement ... The most disastrous aspect of the present situation is not that there is no campaign by Labour for unilateral renunciation of the Bomb but that there is no campaign for Summit talks’. [33]

The 26th Congress in 1959 took a similar position. Marxism Today reported: [34]

‘Congress cleared up some mistaken ideas about our attitude to the demand for the unilateral banning of the H-Bomb. John Gollan pointed out that the Communist Party had always been against the bomb ... Experience has shown that unilateralism only divides the movement, and diverts attention from the real issue, namely, international agreement to ban nuclear weapons. This is the only way to banish the menace of nuclear war and also the issue on which the greatest number of people agree’.

In 1960 the CP changed its line. It participated in the 1960 Easter March and in May 1960 formally urged all its members to join CND. The main cause for the shift was undoubtedly the fear that otherwise its members would participate without Party blessing and that the Party’s influence would be thereby weakened. The changing international climate with the collapse of the Summit Conference also made it even harder to rely on a consensus support for ‘peace’.

Contact with a living movement did the Party some good. From 1961 on its membership began to creep upwards again, though CND was more likely to increase the proportion of middle-class members. But the CP was not able to halt the decline in CND which was accompanied by a growing reformism in its political perspective. On the contrary, the CPs concern for ‘broad unity’ survived, and it supported most tendencies to water down CND’s programme. Moreover, the CP’s preference for opportunistic slogans, plus the current of nationalism that had long been present in its propaganda, led it to encourage support for slogans and campaigns which suggested that the participation of West Germany in nuclear alliances was inherently more pernicious than that of other countries.

The Sino-Soviet Split

In the autumn of 1962 a crisis over Russian missiles in Cuba led to a full-scale confrontation; for a week nuclear war seemed imminent. It was the gravest of a series of such crises over the preceding decade, but it was the last. ‘Peaceful coexistence’ had no come out on top and was to survive even the American slaughter in Vietnam. At roughly the same time fighting broke out between India and China. Russia declined to give any support to China, and the British CP called for ‘friendly negotiations without prior conditions from either side’. [35]

These events led to the dispute between Russia and China, which had been developing in secret since at least 1958, breaking into the open. The world communist movement now contained a spectrum of views; on the one hand the Italian Party was making more extensive concessions to liberalism than the official Moscow line recommended, while on the other the Chinese Party was denouncing Moscow’s revisionism. The central feature of Maoism was its voluntarism, the fact that it stood for a break with the cautious ‘realism’ and adaptation to existing institutions that had dominated orthodox communism since the early fifties.

The British leadership sprang to the defence of the Russian line. This was more in order to justify their own practice than because they were seriously threatened by Maoist elements in their own ranks. In 1963 a group of Party members split to form the ‘Committee to Defeat Revisionism for Communist Unity’, under the leadership of Michael McCreery. Maoism held an appeal both to industrial militants who looked back to the greater activism of the early fifties, and to those who felt the CP did not give adequate support to the colonial revolution – in short to those who rejected the social-democratic path being followed by the Party leadership. But the only epitaph on Maoism as an attempt to relive the experience of classical Stalinism is Marx’s phrase: ‘the first time as tragedy, the second as farce’.

Results and Prospects

Membership in 1964 was 34,281, well up on the post-Hungary 26,742, but still well behind the 1945 figure of 45,435. But the level of commitment required of members had fallen, and th; activity was in no way comparable to that of the pre-Hungary period. The Political Resolution for the 26th Congress in 1959 stated:

‘Our main weaknesses were an inadequate public fight for the Party’s policy and completely insufficient efforts to develop united action in spite of all the obstacles; little or no recruitment to offset losses; failure to significantly develop our Branches as political campaigning bodies and as a result not bringing enough of the members into the work; and, despite big efforts, failure to stop the decline in Daily Worker circulations’.

Despite efforts the overall picture remained similar. The 28th Congress in 1963 was told that Daily Worker sales in Britain had fallen to such an extent that many Party members were not even readers, let alone sellers. One left-wing critic of the Party claimed that by 1963 the Party had only 15 per cent of its members in factory branches. [36]

The only answer that the leadership could offer .without calling the whole history and politics of the Party into question was to intensify the Party’s electoral activity. The Draft Resolution on Electoral Work for the 27th National Congress in 1961 stated:

‘It is absolutely essential to bring about a fundamental change hi our electoral position; in order to do so we must make more strenuous efforts to overcome the serious under-estimation of the importance of electoral work throughout the Party, the succumbing to the difficulties created by the electoral system, insufficient all-round mass local leadership and our inconsistent electoral record, to which the Electoral Commission drew attention in 1953. While there has been an improvement in our work since then, these weaknesses remain and we will not make a basic change in our position until they are overcome’.

Symptomatic was the decision in 1964 that the National Congresses of the Party, which since the early fifties had been held at Easter, should henceforth be held in the autumn so as not to interfere with work in the municipal elections.

More and more the Party covered up for its own impotence by charting strategies of alliance with other bodies, not in the traditional line of the united front, but around a vague notion of unity, which if anything went even further than the classic line of the Popular Front. This was spelt out in the 1958 edition of the British Road:

‘A united labour movement ... would win the support of men and women and young people who are at present not associated with Labour but who are striving for progressive social aims and a better life through tenants’ and residents’ associations, youth organisations, women’s institutes, British legion sections, church organisations and many other national and local bodies of this kind. It would win the support of many professional workers, small farmers and business people who now support the Tories’.

The 25th Congress in 1957 elaborated a strategy towards the Labour Party which implies that all the weaknesses of that organisation can be ascribed to its right-wing leadership:

‘We fight for an organised association with the Labour Party ... The stage of closer political unity possible, for example, in affiliation means that the Marxist view would still be in a minority in the movement. The eventual winning of the majority in the movement for that view will then open up the possibility of a single working-class party based on Marxism’.

The 27th Congress (1961) offered an even more naive perspective:

‘Today it is becoming increasingly clear that the struggle opened up by Scarborough must be carried forward to the final elimination of right-wing capitalist influence and leadership in the Labour Party’.

In October 1964 a Labour Government was returned to power. It proceeded to freeze wages and attempt to legislate against trade unions, to make immigration control more stringent and to acquiesce cringingly in the US massacre in Vietnam. Social Democracy had demonstrated that it could no longer deliver even minimal reforms, and the need for a revolutionary Marxist party, firmly committed to the defence of working class interests, became clear. The British Communist Party, which had irrevocably opted for the vain attempt to become an alternative social democratic party, had disqualified itself for the task.


The Party’s own plans for writing its history were disrupted by the Hungarian Revolution, and it looks as though it will be some time before it publishes any detailed treatment of the post-war period. Henry Pelling’s The British Communist Party (Black, 1958) is the only coverage of the whole length of the Party’s history; it gives a useful narrative account, though written from a cold war viewpoint which sees the Party as being in ‘the service of a dictator ship in another country’; and it does not go beyond the aftermath of Hungary. Robert Black’s Stalinism in Britain (New Park, 1970) contains some valuable documentation, but is appallingly weak on analysis and has little to say about the practice of the Party as opposed to the zigzags and absurdities of this press. Kenneth Newton’s The Sociology of British Communism (Allen Lane, 1969) is a text-book example of the inadequacy of academic sociology to deal with real social forces; it veers from naivety to irrelevance, and the only section of any value is the statistical appendices.

2. True, Derek Kartun, in Tito’s Plot Against Europe (1949) did write: ‘Yugoslavia’s industry has been largely taken over by the State. But these nationalisations, without democracy and genuine popular control, become State capitalism. Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, after all, nationalised or controlled decisive sectors of their industry.’ But this was polemic, not analysis; it would have been impossible to draw the conclusions.

3. The low figure here was because the Party put up a 100 candidates, many in areas where there was no real base.

4. 1952 edition, p. 17.

5. For the international background to this period, see R. Challinor, The Origins of the Cold War, IS 44.

6. World News and Views, xxv, 121.

7. Daily Worker, 16 May, 1945.

8. British Trade Unions and the Problem of Change, p. 30.

9. For an example of the CP’s attitude to ‘workers’ control’, see Bert Ramelson’s article in Marxism Today, October 1968.

10. The Miners’ Next Step, September 1948.

11. World News and Views, xxvii 463ff.

12. Labour Monthly, 1948, p. 49.

13. Labour Monthly, December 1949.

14. World News and Views, xxix 115.

15. World News and Views, xxv 90.

16. Though when Bob Darke, a Hackney militant who left the Party in 1951, claims ‘for every hour I put in as a bus conductor, I sometimes put in two for the Party’ he is certainly exaggerating. (The Communist Technique in Britain, pp. 20–21)

17. With Breast Expanded, p. 134.

18. World News and Views, xxxii, pp. 126–7.

19. Daily Worker, 18 September 1963.

20. 1952 edition, pp. 8–9. It should be recalled that throughout most of the fifties the CP demanded, not abolition of conscription, but its reduction to 12 months, on the grounds that this was preferable to a professional army

21. ibid., p. 12.

22. Thus Monty Johnstone: ‘In the passing of J.V. Stalin the working people of the whole world have suffered an irreparable loss.’

23. World News, iii 246, 248.

24. Labour Monthly, May 1956.

25. World News, iii 781.

26. World News, iii 408&ndsh;9, iv 279.

27. For the benefit of those familiar with the Newsletter (or Workers Press) and New Left Review only in the last few years, it should be added that both are shadows of their former selves. If the SLL could always be criticised for its crisis perspective, and the ‘New Left’ for its over-emphasis on the cultural, both produced lively and readable publications which made a genuine contribution to the rebirth of serious Marxist analysis in Britain.

28. World News, iv 77.

29. Newton, op. cit., pp. 162–3. The 1957 figures may be misleading, for an attempt was made to ‘pack’ the Congress; but it shows where the loyalists were to be found.

30. Colin Barker, The British Labour Movement, IS 28.

31. T. Cliff, The Employers’ Offensive, p. 189.

32. Ibid., p. 168.

33. 15 March 1958.

34. May 1959. This use of ‘broad unity’ as the basis for a sectarian rejection of a real movement was repeated some years later with the Vietnam Solidarity Compaign.

35. World News, 1962, p. 560.

36. Forum, July 1965.

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Last updated: 12 February 2020