Communists unite

While the 1st Congress of the CPGB brought together the British Socialist Party, the Communist Unity Group from the Socialist Labour Party, the South Wales Communist Council and others, the job of forging a single Communist Party in Britain was only half completed.

Outside the Party were various revolutionary groupings which de­clared loyalty to the Communist In­ternational but were reluctant to lose their separate identity. The Comin­tern would have none of this sectari­anism and demanded the calling of a second unity congress - a further opportunity to weld the strongest possible party.

Sylvia Pankhurst's ill named 'Communist Party - British Section of the Third International' eventually accepted the position of the Comintern EC and attended the unity convention, as did the Communist Labour Party. The CLP included members of the Socialist Labour Party rump, which had refused to join the previous year.

The National Shop Stewards and Workers' Committee Movement, born out of the wartime industrial struggles, was also present, along with the Left Wing grouping of the Independent Labour Party, whose comrades remained in the ILP, fighting to win it over to communism.

The following items from the CPGB's weekly paper, The Communist, illustrate the Party's constructive attitude towards the renewed unity efforts - and the eventual fruits of their labours in the form of the Leeds conference at the end of January 1921.

Thoughts on unity

Why does the EC of the Communist International insist on a new unity conference? Because in the first place it is devoting its energies at present to the realisation in every country of the world of the principle laid down at the 2nd Congress - that one powerful Communist Party, or rather one section of the Communist International, and one only, should exist in each country. Its efforts are causing at present a radical cleansing of the Italian Social­ist Party; they are driving the French Socialist Party towards a definite break with its ambiguous and opportunist past; they have split the great Independ­ent Social Democratic Party of Ger­many from top to bottom, and have created, with one hammer blow, the largest Communist Party in the world. It is obvious that where the party alle­giance of hundreds of thousands is being thrown into the melting pot else­where, the comrades at the centre of the International are justifiably impatient at what appear to them to be the petty squabbles, petty bickerings, petty re­gards for prestige, which keep the British communists divided into sev­eral groups. Secondly, while they recognise that, all things taken into consideration, our Communist Party is the 'orthodox' organisation for Britain, they insist that no stone must be left unturned, even at the expense of our own self-love, to bring onto the right track other ele­ments that are not so orthodox, but none the less are sincere revolutionar­ies and genuinely devoted to the cause of communism. To quote Zinoviev, "We have to fight against both right and left, but not at all in the same way or with the same methods."

The first are our class enemies, with whom there can be no compromise; the second are 'commu­nists of tomorrow', who only mistak­enly call themselves 'left' because they do not understand that nothing can be more 'left' than communism. In Bukharin's words, "If there are only 30 of them and you bring them in, it will be worthwhile." In this re­spect, of course, we at any rate are under no illusions as to the numbers in question. The problem, however, is one not of numbers, but of principlesl

The Communist November 25 1920

Unity conference

One hundred and seventy delegates representing the branches of the Com­munist Party of Great Britain (BSTI), and various independent communist groups assembled at the Victory Hotel, Leeds, on Saturday and Sunday, with the object of merging the various or­ganisations into a united Communist Party. Jack Tanner (National Shop Stewards and Workers' Committee Movement) was voted to the chair. Certain preliminary matters, such as the appointment of a standing orders committee, having been disposed of, the chairman briefly addressed the delegates, telling them they were as­sembled to carry out the first duty to the international communist move­ment and to the working class of Brit­ain in particular. They were proposing to bring about a united Communist Party. The work of the conference was to construct a machine, and there should be no question in the mind of any delegate as to what the purpose of that machine was. It must be con­structed to carry on an intensive and ruthless fight against capitalism and reaction wherever they manifested themselves. This was probably the must important task that the revolution­ary movement in this country had yet to face, and he trusted delegates would concentrate as never before their efforts on the task before them. The conference would be an index from which comrades in all parts of the world would be able to judge the earnestness, determination and understanding of the communist movement in this country. JV Leckie (CLP) moved the adop­tion of the Unity Committee's report, taking the occasion to speak of the position of the CLP. T Watkins (CP-BSTI) seconded the resolution. As representative of his party he would say they had been actu­ated throughout with the spirit of unity that was necessary so make the confer­ence a success. A MacManus (CPGB) supported the resolution. He said that his Party had to all intents and purposes wound up its affairs; its members would be party to any decisions arrived at by the present conference. The resolution was then put and carried, and, on the suggestion of the chairman, certain other matters of a rather formal nature were included in it. GH Brown (fraternal delegate from the Left Wing of the ILP) then con­veyed hearty greetings from the communists he represented to the confer­ence. He said that a fortnight or three weeks ago the national committee of the Unity Convention Arrangements Committee had carried a resolution that the left wing should continue to work inside the Labour Party until Easter, and that if then the communists lost on the floor of the conference at Southport, they should come for advice to the executive committee of the united Communist Party. If that advice should be to the effect that the left wing should leave the ILP and come into the Communist Party, he along with a great many others were determined to take that advice. JT Murphy (fraternal delegate from the Shop Stewards and Workers' Committees) said that he wanted to do more than merely welcome the congress: he wanted this to be the introduc­tion to the practical task which the Communist Party had before it in rela­tion to the rest of the movement in this country. The NAC of the shop stew­ards' movement had played an impor­tant part in the negotiations which had culminated in the present conference, yet the movement itself was not in the same category as a political party, but embraced workers who were not communists. The fact that the NAC of the shop stewards had played the part it had done with regard to the develop­ment of the Communist Party arose out of the fact that the movement had come into being as a result of the revolutionary impulses which had been given to the industrial movement. Revolutionists had dominated the situation throughout, and now practically every member of the national committee of the shop stewards was a member of some Communist Party. It was because the national committee was of the charac­ter it was that it was possible for it to play the part it had done in helping on the negotiations for the development of a united Communist Party. It would stress the necessity for its active members to join the Communist Party and reciprocally would expect all indus­trial workers who were members of the Communist Party to participate in the work of the shop stewards' movement. Many people who did not understand communism were being impelled to move in that direction, and it was our duty, while clearly organising our own party, to see that we harmonised on every point we could all those tenden­cies in a revolutionary direction which manifested themselves inside the work­shop ... When the congress reassembled in the afternoon, the first business before it was the resolution to merge the Communist Party of Great Britain, the Communist Labour Party, the Commu­nist Party (BSTI) and the independent communist groups represented at the congress into a united Communist Party. William Gallagher (CLP) moved this resolution. He said there had been numerous delegates from Britain at the Moscow conference, but the British communists there had not made a creditable display. Each section had seemed more anxious to impress the congress with its own revolutionary fervour than to get together with the other sections and do something really valuable. Thus the unfortunate position had been arrived at where the execu­tive committee of the Communist International had been obliged to take matters out of the hands of the British delegation, and make arrangements for bringing the communists of this coun­try together and getting a definite and well organised party started. We had failed in the past because so many of us had been too concerned with personali­ties rather than with principles; but from now onwards the one thing that must count was the world movement. William Paul (CPGB) seconded the resolution, saying that at that confer­ence we had forged a weapon which we were going to use in the near future in order to upset and eliminate the capi­talist class. We thanked our comrades in Moscow for showing us that not only could communists fight success­fully in the industrial battlefield, but for showing mental courage in the realms of international policy and social recon­struction. On the battlefield the Russian communist had shown a heroism out­shining that of any army ever raised in the past. A lengthy discussion was naturally anticipated by some, but the general feeling of the Congress was that further speech upon this resolution was unnec­essary. It was agreed that the vote be taken at once; the whole assembly rose, sang the Internationale and cheered; and, the vote then being formally taken, the resolution was carried unanimously with renewed applause. " [Then] came the most dramatic moment of the conference. From the chair it was announced that Comrade Friis, a fraternal delegate from the executive of the Third International and representing also the Norwegian comrades, had arrived in Leeds despite the fact that a passport had been re­fused him. Friis immediately mounted the plat­form and was greeted by a volley of cheers and the singing of the Interna­tional, then after he had spoken in terse, effective sentences of admirable Eng­lish he left the hall, and, by the way he came, set out again to Norway. He said: "I come here in a double capacity. First at the instruction of the executive of the Communist Interna­tional. From it, I carry hearty greetings and congratulations. I come also as a delegate from the Norwegian party to offer fraternal salutations. The fact that I'm here is a proof of our determination to defy and our ability to overcome bourgeois laws and regulations. This movement of ours has friends at every frontier, comrades on every ship, helpers at every station. "By your resolution you have become a living link with the revolution­ary movement all over the world - with Moscow and Norway." As he left the hall at the end of his speech, Friis was again given an ova­tion, and again the Internationale was sung.

The Communist February 5 1921