Communist Party of Great Britain CPGB

Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB)

 

a party founded at a constituent congress held in London from July 31 to Aug. 1, 1920, as a result of the amalgamation of the left wing of the British Socialist Party, the socialist organizations of South Wales, and certain local socialist organizations. It joined the Comintern in 1920. In 1921 the party was joined by representatives of the revolutionary movement of shop stewards headed by W. Gallacher, who was chairman of the Executive Committee from 1943 to 1956, president of the CPGB from 1956 to 1963, and honorary member of the Executive Committee of the CPGB from 1963 to 1965.

The CPGB led the Hands Off Soviet Russia movement that unfolded throughout the country. It waged a tireless struggle for the creation of a united workers’ front and against the antiworker policies of the Laborite elite, which supported collaboration between classes. During the general strike of 1926, Communists showed themselves to be staunch fighters for the fundamental interests of the working class. In the late 1920’s the Communist Party concentrated on the struggle to reinforce its ranks and to combat the rightist and leftist revisionist elements who were pushing the party out of touch with the working masses. The Eleventh Congress of the party (1929) played an important role in the expansion of the struggle of the British Communists for unity of action of the working class. H. Pollit was elected general secretary of the Communist Party, a post he occupied until 1956; from 1956 to 1960 he was chairman of the Executive Committee of the CPGB.

During the world economic crisis of 1929–33, the Communist Party initiated working-class resistance to the offensive of the bourgeoisie, which was seeking to shift the burden of the crisis to the workers. In the early 1930’s, the Communists organized huge “hunger marches” of the unemployed, including the national hunger march to London in 1934.

Under the leadership of the Communists, mass protest meetings and demonstrations against the onslaughts of Mosley’s fascists were held during 1934–36. More than 400 British Communists fought in the International Brigades in Spain. The party fought resolutely against the policy of collusion with the fascist aggressors carried out by the British government; it stood for friendship with the USSR, the organizing of a collective rebuff to fascist aggression, and the creation of a united antifascist front in the country. It was active in the trade unions.

During World War II the Communists strove to bring Great Britain’s military might to bear against fascism and sought to get a second front opened in Europe as fast as possible.

The selfless struggle of the British Communists against fascism led to an increase in the influence of the party. In 1947 it advanced a three-year plan for the development of the British economy (the Plan for Britain’s Prosperity), which proposed the abolition of the sway of the monopolies, the implementation of genuine nationalization, and the technological reconstruction of the most important sectors of the economy. The Communists were active in the peace movement. They demanded the establishment and development of amicable relations with the USSR and other socialist countries.

In 1951 the Executive Committee of the CPGB adopted the program Britain’s Path to Socialism approved by the Twenty-second Congress in 1952; the Twenty-fifth Congress in 1957 confirmed a modified draft of the program, and in 1967 the Thirtieth Congress introduced a number of new changes and additions to the program. The program notes that Great Britain’s foreign policy must be based on the principle of peace and friendship with all peoples. A broad alliance of the people is regarded as the main force for the socialist transformation of British society. The CPGB envisions the possibility of the transition to socialism in the country without armed struggle, through the transformation of Parliament into an instrument of the alliance of the workers, headed by the working class. The philosophy of the party is based on the possibility of profound changes in the relation of class forces that will result from the strengthening

Table 1. Congresses of the Communist Party of Great Britain
 PlaceDate
First ...............LondonJuly 31–Aug. 1, 1920
Second ...............LeedsJan. 29–Feb. 1, 1921
Third ...............ManchesterApr. 23–24, 1921
Fourth ...............LondonMar. 18–19, 1922
Fifth ...............LondonOct. 7–8, 1922
Sixth ...............ManchesterMay 17–19, 1924
Seventh ...............GlasgowMay 30–June 1, 1925
Eighth ...............LondonOct. 16–17, 1926
Ninth ...............SalfordOct. 8–10, 1927
Tenth ...............LondonJan. 19–22, 1929
Eleventh ...............LeedsNov. 30–Dec. 3, 1929
Twelfth ...............LondonNov. 12–15, 1932
Thirteenth ...............ManchesterFeb. 2–5, 1935
Fourteenth ...............LondonMay 29–31, 1937
Fifteenth ...............BirminghamSept. 16–19, 1938
Sixteenth ...............LondonOct. 7–9, 1939
Seventeenth ...............LondonMay 30–June 1, 1943
Eighteenth ...............LondonNov. 24, 1945
Nineteenth ...............LondonFeb. 22–24, 1947
Twentieth ...............LondonFeb. 21–23, 1948
Twenty-first ...............LondonNov. 26–28, 1949
Twenty-second ...............LondonApr. 11–14, 1952
Twenty-third ...............LondonApr. 16–19, 1954
Twenth-fourth ...............LondonMar. 30–Apr. 2, 1956
Twenty-fifth ...............LondonApr. 19–22, 1957
Twenty-sixth ...............LondonMar. 27–30, 1959
Twenty-seventh ...............LondonMar. 30–Apr. 3, 1961
Twenty-eighth ...............LondonApr. 12–15, 1963
Twenty-ninth ...............LondonNov. 27–30, 1965
Thirtieth ...............LondonNov. 25–28, 1967
Thirty-first ...............LondonNov. 15–19, 1969
Thirty-second ...............LondonNov. 13–16, 1971
Thirty-third ...............LondonNov. 10–12, 1973

of the working class and middle strata vis-à-vis the capitalist strata. In the struggle against the monopolies and the elitist policies of the ruling circles of Great Britain, which are contrary to the interests of the people, the Communist Party has defined as one of its main tasks the achievement of unity among the leftist forces of the country, a unity that would make it possible to put an end to the rule of the right wing in the workers’ movement. The Thirty-third Congress (November 1973) has set the task of working for qualitative political changes in the workers’ movement, for further strengthening the links between the party and the working class, and for enhancing the role of the party in the country’s political life.

Delegations of the CPGB have taken part in the international Conferences of Communist and Workers’ Parties in Moscow in 1957, 1960, and 1969. The party approved the documents of these conferences.

Under its rules, which were adopted at the Twenty-sixth Congress of the CPGB in 1959, the party is built on the principles of democratic centralism. The party’s highest body is the Congress, which elects the Executive Committee. The party has about 30,000 members (1974). Its general secretary is G. McLennan, and the chairwoman of the Executive Committee is I. Swan. The central organ of the party is the weekly Comment; its theoretical organ is Marxism Today. (See Table 1 for a list of the congresses of the CPGB.)

REFERENCES

(Chrezvychainyi) s”ezd Kommunistich. partii Velikobritanii. Moscow, 1958. (Translated from English.)
XXVI s”ezd Kommunistich. partii Velikobritanii. Moscow, 1959. (Translated from English.)
XXVII national’nyi s”ezd Kommunistich. partii Velikobritanii. Moscow, 1961. (Translated from English.)
Pollit, H. Gody politicheskogo uchenichestva. Moscow, 1960. (Translated from English.)
Klugmann, J. History of the Communist Party of Great Britain, 2 vols. London, 1968–69.

N. V. MATKOVSKII

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