Serious Mistakes and Shortcomings in the Activities of the Communist Party of Great Britain

M. Mitin


The Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolshevik) carefully followed the course of developments in the Communist Party of Great Britain in the time of Lenin and Stalin. As is known Stalin played a cardinal role in working out the party programme known as the British Road to Socialism in his discussions with its leader Harry Pollitt.(1) Between 1950 and 1953 the programmatic concretisation of this can be scrutinised in the major CPGB party documents.(2) The report by M. B. Mitin has to be seen in this context.

M.B. Mitin (1901-1987) was a leading theoretician of the CPSU(b). He was a member of the Central Committee from 1939 to 1961. In the years between 1930 and 1944 he was the main editor of the journal ‘Under the Banner of Marxism’. In the years 1939-1944 he was the Director of the Institute of Marx-Engels-Lenin under the CC of the CPSU(b). And in the period 1950-1956 he was the chief editor of the  Cominform journal ‘For a Lasting Peace, For a People s Democracy’ and it was in this capacity that this document was written.(3)

In his report Mitin argues that the CPGB under Harry Pollitt had side-lined the party programme the British Road to Socialism and projected it into the future. The party had misjudged the attitude to be adopted vis- a-vis the Labour Party and it had not faced the question of the national independence of Britain from US imperialism. Mitin noted that organisationally the party in its party-building had dropped the territorial-productive basis. The CPGB had not become a Marxist Leninist Party, it considered that socialism would come about peacefully, it had not engaged in building up the peace campaign. Mitin s report is a serious indictment of the CPGB in the 1953period and will be of value in tracing the origins of the development of rampant revisionism in the party. Although British Marxists such as Michael McCreery sought to comprehend the reformism of the CPGB, and even correctly pinpointed the refusal of the party to organise at the point of production(4) their evaluations were far removed from the Leninist-Stalinist framework. Today there are no parties in Britain which stand by the understanding of Stalin on the British Road to Socialism.

Vijay Singh

(1) J.V. Stalin, On the British Road to Socialism’,

(2) People’s Democracy in Britain: ‘The British Road to Socialism’ (Britain, January, 1951); Britain Arise, Report to the 22nd National Congress of the Communist Party, Harry Pollitt; ‘People’s Democracy for Britain’, Report to the 22nd National Congress of the Communist Party, John Gollan (Britain, Easter, 1952) in Archival Materials at

(3) Yu.V. Goryachev: Central”nyye Komitet 1917—1991, Istoriko-biograficheskiye spravochnik, ZAO ”Parad”, Moskva, 2005, ctr. 300.

(4) Michael McCreery, ‘Organise at the Place of Work’.

To the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU,
Comrade Khrushchev N.S.

To the Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU,
Comrade Suslov M.A.

In the post-war years, the political influence of the Communist Party among the English workers has been falling. One of the indicators of the serious weakening of the party’s influence among the masses are the results of parliamentary and municipal elections. Whereas in the parliamentary elections of 1945, 102,780 votes were cast for 20 candidates of the Communist Party, and the party won two seats in the parliament, only 91,815 and 21,610 votes were cast for 100 candidates in 1950 and for 10 candidates in 1951, respectively. In the same eight constituencies for parliamentary elections, 26,923 votes were cast for candidates from the Communist Party in 1950 and 17,974 in 1951. Since 1950 the party has not had representatives the parliament.

In the municipal elections of 1946, the Communist Party won 206 seats in municipal councils of all levels. At the municipal elections in 1953, the party not only did not receive a single new place, but also lost all its seats in London. Currently, there are only a few municipal councilors among the communists throughout the country.

The fall in the party’s influence among the masses is also evidenced by the stagnation of growth in party ranks over recent years, as well as by the reduction in the Daily Worker newspaper circulation.

Meanwhile, favourable conditions for the work of the Communist Party are increasingly growing.

In the postwar years, British imperialism weakened further. The growth of the national liberation movements of the colonial peoples and the penetration of American capital into the British Empire have caused a sharp reduction in general revenues from the investments of British monopolies in the colonies of the empire, which constitute one of the main sources of strength of British imperialism. Thus, in 1949, for example, these revenues amounted to 112 million pounds sterling, compared with 205 million pounds sterling in 1938. At the same time, the costs of retaining the colonial countries in the subordination of British imperialism increased in the postwar years to 200 million pounds sterling a year, against 16 million pounds a year in the pre-war period. It is also necessary to add the military expenses on top of the costs of British imperialism, which considerably exceed the pre-war level.

One of the most important consequences of the general weakening of British imperialism is the actual loss of England’s national independence. An increasing number of Englishmen of all political convictions are outraged by the fact that for the first time in the history of England, the troops of a foreign state - the USA and their military bases - are located on its territory in peacetime, that the country can not freely conduct its own independent political course, nor conduct trade with other countries at their own discretion.

An important consequence of the general weakening of British imperialism is a reduction in the possibilities for traditional “bribes” of the so-called labour aristocracy, “bribes” that over a long historical period were the economic basis of opportunism in the English labour movement.

A serious factor contributing to modern conditions in England is the continuing decline of the living standards of the working people after the Second World War. This is evidenced, among other things, by the fact that in the post-war years the general consumption in England decreased considerably compared to the pre-war level. In the country, prices are rising and taxes are increasing in larger amounts than in the pre-war years. The real wage of workers in 1952 was 20 percent lower than the pre-war level. For the period from 1946 to 1950 indirect taxes grew by 355 million pounds sterling.

An undoubted favourable factor for the work of the Communist Party is the desire of the working class of England to achieve fundamental changes in the political and social structure of English society. The sentiments of the main body of the organized workers of England - miners, workers of the steel industry, machine builders, shipbuilders, railway workers and other transport workers, builders - are absolutely determined: they firmly and categorically oppose all the Conservatives in all elections. By voting for the Labour Party, they hope to liquidate capitalism in England and carry out serious socialist reforms.

In the postwar years, the workers have been increasingly determined to fight for their vital interests. Whereas in the pre-war five-year period, there was an average of 660 strikes per year in England, in the postwar five-year period their number increased to 1,880. The fighting mood of the masses is also evidenced by the recent powerful strike of workers in the machine-building and shipbuilding industries, which swept over two million workers.

Along with the people’s desire to end capitalism and defend their economic interests, there is a determined desire for peace, a desire to ensure normal relations with the Soviet Union and the countries of people’s democracy. The policy pursued by the government of the Conservatives, as well as the Labour Party, is fundamentally contrary to this desire of the masses.

Finally, in the post-war years, the Communist Party of Great Britain for the first time in its existence received a clear Marxist programme, which gave answers to all the questions of the party’s politics in the past. The programme clearly defined both the prospects for the development of the labour movement in England, and the conditions necessary for the implementation of this programme.

The fall of the political influence of the Communist Party among the masses in the presence of such favourable objective conditions for its work testifies to the presence of serious mistakes and shortcomings in the activities of the Party. What are these mistakes and shortcomings?

I. Mistakes and Shortcomings in the Political Course of the Party

In the programme The British Road to Socialism published in January 1951, a clear description of the party’s general line is given in the current historical conditions. The most important condition for the establishment of the people’s power in England, as indicated in the programme, is the formation of a broad popular coalition, an alliance of all strata of the working people, which can be created on the basis of a united working class as the decisive and leading force of this coalition.

The experience of communist parties in countries with people’s democracy, as well as the Communist Parties of France and Italy, shows that the people’s coalition and serious success in the struggle for the unity of the working class can be achieved only if the Communist Party is active among broad sections of the people.

The struggle for the unity of the working class in England and for the creation of a popular coalition based on a clear political platform can be successful only as a result of the active participation of the broad masses in the struggle against the current policy of the reactionary leadership of the Labour Party. One of the main slogans around which a broad popular coalition could arise is the struggle for national independence against American domination in England.

All this requires the Communist Party of England to develop an active and daily struggle for the implementation of its programme, which outlines present and future tasks. However, the leadership of the Communist Party immediately characterized its programme mainly as a “future programme.” In August of last year Harry Pollitt wrote in the magazine World News and Views that The British Road to Socialism is a programme that “will especially respond to the interests of the youth, for it is precisely these young people who will devote most of their life to the cause of its implementation.”1 By assigning The British Road to Socialism the role of some “future” programme while putting forward various works of Harry Pollitt as the “current” programme, the party leadership thus takes a very ambiguous stance regarding the struggle of the present time for the political course outlined in the programme.

As many active members of the party admit, this can explain the absence of any serious work around the programme in the party, as well as a lack of understanding that the party, if really guided by the programme, could work with zeal that “would encourage many thousands with hesitancy to join the party now.”2

The party leadership is not fully aware of the need to transform CPGB into a political leader of the workers’ movement in the country in its day-to- day practical activities. While recognizing in words the need to achieve the leading role of the Communist Party in the working class, the Communist Party’s Executive Committee clearly overestimates the role of the Labour Party and in fact gives the Communist Party only an auxiliary role. Thus, in April 1953, Harry Pollitt wrote that the task of the British working class and, consequently, of the Communist Party is to “turn the Labour Party into a genuinely class party.”3

The same idea was reflected in a number of documents of the Executive Committee of the Communist Party. In a statement of September 26, 1953, in connection with the Labour Party conference, the Executive Committee stated that “the eyes of the whole world are turned to the Labour Party conference,” which “can have a decisive influence in the struggle for peace,” and that “the conference in Margate should speak from the name of England and end a situation when our country resembles a ship without a rudder.”

Such statements have nothing to do with the programme of the Communist Party and mean nothing more than planting harmful illusions about the leaders of the Labour Party in the working class.

As is known, the programme of The British Road to Socialism notes that “the talk of Peace and Socialism by the Labour leaders has proved to be a fraud and a deception,” that the Labour leaders “have nothing in common with Socialism or the interests of the working people,” that they are “in reality only a left-wing of the Tories.” “If the people are to advance”, the programme says, “both the Tories and their allies in the Labour Movement, the right-wing Labour leaders must be fought and defeated.”

Even at the February plenum of the Executive Committee in 1949, Harry Pollitt admitted that as a result of the reassessment of the role of the Labour Party, the Communist Party, after the war, was in captivity among people like Ernest Bevin and other “centrist preachers.” However, no serious conclusions were drawn from this recognition, and the Communist Party continued reassessing the possible role of the Labour Party in the matter of serious social transformations in England. Such a line does not in fact mean nominating the Communist Party for the role of political leader of the labour movement, but rather reducing the role of the Communist Party either to the left wing of the Labour Party, or to the role of the opposition to the leadership of the Labour Party. The Communists of England do not understand the independent role of the Communist Party and its special tasks. The Labour Party becomes for them, as it were, the centre of all their aspirations, as a result of which part of the communists view the Communist Party as “a necessary group working from the inside, in order to win the Labour Party to the side of progressive politics so that it can lead England to socialism.”4 This, in turn, does not draw the masses closer to the Communist Party, does not involve them in the Communist Party, but, on the contrary, forces them to withdraw from the Communist Party, to see power only in the Labour Party, and creates illusions among the masses about the Labour Party and its leaders. That is why in their practical activities, aimed at ensuring unity of action with members of the Labour Party, the organisations of the Communist Party continue to concentrate their efforts only on the adoption of critical resolutions of the Labour Party and some trade unions. There is no persistent, systemic work with labour-workers on factories and enterprises. Calls that some Labourists use for peace, against the arms race and the policy of subordinating England’s national interests to US dictates are not used enough in the political work of the party.

As a result, a broad political working class movement directed against the treacherous line of the top leadership of the Labour Party, disappears in the country.

The current campaign for a “new Labour government that would conduct a working internal policy”5 and “in support of a group of communist parliament members (it is unlikely that they will get any seats in the parliament, considering the current course of the Communist Party) would be in charge of a policy and programme that would remove England from the American-conservative path leading to destruction, and send it along a broad path to peace and socialism”6. This also objectively means nothing more than an intensification of illusions in the working class in regards to the Labour Party. Such a slogan only plays into the hands of the leadership of the Labour Party, for it helps to keep the working class and the broad masses under its influence.

The erroneous position of the Communist Party against the demands of the programme in relation to the Labour Party leads to the consolidation of the broad masses of the working class not around the Communist Party, but around the reactionary leadership of the Labour Party. This is also confirmed by the fact that the size of the Labour Party has been growing in recent years.

The national organizer of the Communist Party, M. Bennett, points out in the World News and Views magazine that there are only a few examples where the party leads an active struggle of the masses, that “our proposals for the deployment of the struggle are often routine and inadequate and sometimes do not have any connection with reality.” He also claims that the party “does not understand what is happening in the minds of the people enough.... Too often we ask general appeals to our members to do this and that, but at the same time we do not think and help develop the mass struggle.” “Instead of trying to consistently move from one stage to another, we often invent such forms of struggle that absolutely do not correspond to the situation.”7

The separation of the party from the struggle of the masses is evidenced, for example, by this clear fact. In recent months, the movement against rising prices has intensified in the country. Women’s cooperative guilds collected signatures under a special petition to members of parliament, demanding measures to reduce the cost of living. Over two million signatures were collected. The cooperative movement unites about 11 million people, yet the party organisations did not direct their efforts to support this movement.

The party does not fulfill the other basic political requirement of the programme - to work to rally all the democratic forces of the country around the working class. The party did not deploy a purposeful and persistent campaign in defence of national independence, against the American occupation of England. None of the Executive Committee’s decisions have a clear indication of the need to deploy work with the middle strata of the population, which should constitute the bulk of the democratic strata unified around the working class in the popular coalition.

Meanwhile, discontent with US dominance over England and British hostility towards US troops stationed in different parts of the country are well known. The absence of any addresses of the party leadership on this crucial issue led to the fact that the anti-American sentiments of the British people are rather heavily used by such demagogues as Bevin, Attlee and other leaders of the Labour Party, who are trying to channel these sentiments into a safe channel for the Americans.

Thus, serious mistakes in the political course of the party. The actual departure from the most important provisions of the programme hinder the transformation of the party into a mass organisation, into the political leader of the working people of England.

II. Errors and Shortcomings in the Organizational Work of the Party

The most important condition for fulfilling the tasks set in the programme of The British Road to Socialism is strict adherence to the Leninist organizational principles of building a Marxist party and the norms of party life.

The present organisational condition of the Communist Party is largely determined by mistakes made by party leadership in the first years after the end of the war due to a misunderstanding of the role of the Labour Party in the labour movement. The erroneous course taken by the 18th Congress of the Communist Party (to abandon the territorial-production criterion for party building and to replace it with an administrative-territorial criterion) was the result of a Social-Democratic deviation in the party.

Structuring the party based on the place of residence was conducted under the slogan of strengthening the influence of the party in the electoral districts, led to the almost complete liquidation of party organisations on the prefronts. So, in 1949, the party had only three out of 1,300 party organizations located in factories. In 1952, the number of factories increased to 200. In addition, there were about 800 industries with three party members in each of them.

The Executive Committee of the Communist Party of Great Britain declared in February 1949 that it was necessary to return to the territorial and production criteria of party building. However, the Executive Committee began to implement practical measures to eliminate the mistakes made in the organisational structure of party organizations only in 1952, after the 22nd Party Congress. By the beginning of 1954, the number of party organizations had reached 476 even though there were about 200,000 industrial enterprises in the country.

The transfer of the centre of gravity of all Party work to the Party organisation, created on the basis of the residence of Party members, led to the fact that in some large industrial regions, the Communist Party still does not have its own organizations and enterprises. For example, in Lancashire, the centre of the cotton industry, factories have almost no party organisations. Until recently, there were no party organisations in Yorkshire steel foundries, nor in the factories in the woollen industry.

The erroneous attitude of the party leadership towards the organisational question led to the separation of the first party organisations from enterprises, and to a significant weakening of the political influence of the Communist Party in the working class of England. If before the war the party consisted mainly of workers in the main branches of industry, then, according to the composition of the delegates of the 21st and 22nd Party Congresses, as well as the London District Conference of 1953, the workers of the main branches of industry in England comprised only about 50 percent of the total number of delegates.

The table below shows the dramatic changes that have occurred in the numerical composition of the party during its existence.

Year Members

The number of members increased due to events such as the general strike of 1926, the Spanish Civil War, the Second World War, and the struggle of the party for the opening of the second front. However, the party did not consolidate the successes achieved in the growth of the party and each time after this growth, experienced a decline in its numbers.

Currently, the party has about 35 thousand members, which is 15 thousand less than 10 years ago.

Despite the unsatisfactory situation with the numerical composition of the party and the great fluidity, the Party has an incorrect, sectarian attitude toward the tasks of party growth. Many members of the party believe that “the new members of the party are a burden who must be pampered, attended, registered and re-registered.”8

The weakening of the party’s influence among the masses is also due to the fact that inner-party life in the primary party organisations does not ensure the upbringing and training of Communists as active fighters for the political line of the party. Thus, in May 1951 the Executive Committee noted “the absence of a struggle for party policy” and “an underestimation of the importance and misunderstanding of the essence of communist politics” as general shortcomings in the work of all Party organisations.

The nature of the current practical activity of party organizations gives grounds to conclude that many party organizations are still in fact purely propaganda organisations. “Many primary party organisations conduct active propaganda work, distribute Daily Worker and other literature, are active in industrial enterprises, but still do not lead workers on all issues, both local and national, but only conduct some agitation in connection with these issues. In other words, these party organisations have not yet achieved the self-realisation as the leader of the workers.”9

Despite the instruction of the 22nd Congress on the need to transform the meetings of primary party organisations into genuine centres of political education for the Communists, these meetings in a number of party organizations are of an abstract nature, they are not connected with the vital interests of the working masses. As a result, the role of assemblies is diminished, many party members do not even consider it mandatory for them to regularly attend party meetings. Because of the lack of proper organisational ties between party members in most factory party organisations and the underestimation of the importance of the collective work of Communists among the masses, many party members work alone as “lone soldiers”.10 In a number of primary party organizations, the whole work boils down to discussions on trade-unionist work. As a result, in September 1953, when the struggle of workers for increasing wages was growing in the country in the Scottish district organisation (one of the largest in the party), according to the secretary of the county of Locken, “an insufficient number of Communists and primary party organisations was won over by this campaign”.11

The weak work of primary party organizations is due primarily to the fact that the leaders of district party committees do not have a permanent, lively connection with the factory party organisations and party groups, and poorly manage their work. The secretaries of the primary party organizations do not receive adequate assistance in practical work: “there are many requirements but too little practical advice.”12 Hundreds of party organisations, according to the national organiser of the Communist Party, Bennett, do not attend members of the district party committees for several months. Regional committees substitute bureaucratic correspondence to live communication with grassroots organisations in a number of cases.13

The decision to move the most active workers of the party to supervising work in the factory Party organisations is not being carried out. Instead of actively assisting the work of the factory Party organisations in their own areas, some of the district committees are indifferent to their activities, and in some cases even inhibit the activities of the factory party organisations by transferring the promoted cadres into the districts without taking into account local conditions.

The work on the upbringing and growth of party activists in the party is unsatisfactory. At its plenary sessions, the Executive Committee hardly considers these issues. So, the February plenum of the Executive Committee in 1953 did not draw the Party’s attention to the need to cultivate the party asset when considering the question of strengthening the party and increasing the circulation. In his speech at this plenum, John Gollan was forced to say: “It’s amazing how few people talked about cadres here.”14

The Party leadership does not pay due attention to the education of secretaries of grassroots party organisations. “Our attitude towards the secretaries of factory party organisations is directly criminal,” the member of the Executive Committee Finlay Hart said in his speech at the February plenum.

The mistakes made by the Communist Party after 1945 in matters of party building, as well as in connection with the misjudgement of the role of the Labour Party in the working-class movement in England, led to the fact that the Communist Party did not conduct serious work to ensure the unity of the working class and the conquest of the masses of the working people to their side which, as indicated above, is evidenced by the results of the parliamentary elections in England in 1950 and 1951.

The weakening of the party’s influence among the masses is explained not only by the insufficient work of the party to ensure the unity of the working class in the course of the mass struggle, but also the shortcomings in the work of the party in the electoral circles. Many local party organisations, capitulating when faced with difficulties, are against the proposals for nominating candidates from the Communist Party in their regions. Factory party organisations, having experience of mass work, are hardly connected with the party’s electoral activities.15

Despite the presence of about 8 million working women in England, the Communist Party does not pay due attention to political work among working women and does not use this great power in the struggle for peace and in the protection of the vital interests of the working people.

Party organisations continue to underestimate the value of work among young people. As a result, the English Komsomol, currently numbering only about 4,000 people in its ranks, does not actually influence the character of the youth movement in England.

The Executive Committee’s underestimation of the value of the peace movement certainly did not help to strengthen the party’s influence among the masses.

For a long time the Communist Party did not consider the struggle for peace as its central task despite the clear emphasis on it in the programme of The British Road to Socialism. The Communist Party did not develop the struggle for peace at workplaces and did not create a group of supporters of peace there. “We did not fight where we needed, because we could not base the struggle for peace in factories and trade unions, where there is a huge working class force and where military products are actually being created.”16 As noted during the pre-Congress discussion in 1952, the party as a whole was not convinced that the collection of signatures under the Appeal for the Peace Treaty between the five great powers was of paramount importance, and therefore the party did not show the necessary activity in this sphere.17

One of the reasons preventing the Communist Party from strengthening its influence among the masses is the erroneous orientation of the Executive Committee towards the backward sentiments among the workers, and not the advanced, most conscious part of the working class, in order to fight for influence over the entire working class with the help of this part. The above orientation prevents party leadership in time to discern internal processes in the labour movement, in time to notice new phenomena in the mood of the working class and, accordingly, to build their daily activities.

An important reason for the stagnation in party work is also the fact that throughout the history of its existence, the Communist Party of Great Britain has never been the undivided political leader of any national movement. Because of mistakes in its political course, the Communist Party, in the eyes of the masses, is not a very serious political force, which is skillfully used by the leaders of the Labour Party, as well as the Conservatives. The working masses of Britain exert a certain confidence in the Communists for the most part only in trade union work. But as soon as it comes to some general political issues, they prefer to give their votes to the Laborites.

This is confirmed, in particular, by the statements of the Labour leaders and the bourgeois press. They recognise some political weight of the party and its influence only in the trade unions. That way, The Daily Herald most often expresses fears in connection with the work of the Communist Party in trade unions and in connection with the activities of communist workshop supervisors at the enterprises. The Manchester Guardian in the issue of November 14, 1953, characterizes the Communists of England as “harmless English Communists.” The newspaper Times in a special article in the issue of November 20, 1953 wrote that in England “communism has no significance in the political sphere, but has some influence in the trade union movement.”

There are significant manifestations of sectarianism in the activities of the Communist Party of Great Britain, which have found their expression in the party’s separation from the working masses. Speaking at the meeting of the Executive Committee in November 1952, Harry Pollitt pointed out that the struggle for unity of the working class will be successful only when “we can destroy all remnants of right opportunism and sectarianism that still exist in our party.”18

A serious obstacle to overcoming all the above-mentioned shortcomings is the presence in the party of an atmosphere of complacency, the absence of a principled, effective self-criticism and, most importantly, the absence of a genuine struggle of the whole party for eliminating the revealed shortcomings.

The articles published recently in World News and Views on the work of district party organisations do not contain an expository criticism of the serious shortcomings in the activity of these circles, based on the results of the discussion by the Political Committee of the reports of secretaries of district committees. The articles note only some shortcomings and simultaneously express gratitude to the Political Committee for the district committees “for the excellent report and for the year of the beautiful selfless work for peace and socialism.”

The presence of elements of smug complacency in the party is also evidenced by the following. During his presentation at the February plenum of the Executive Committee in 1953, Harry Pollitt spoke of the “striking achievements” of the Communist Party in 1952. This evaluation of the party’s activity is clearly exaggerated.

During the campaign for re-registration of members of the party in 1953, some senior officials from the Executive Committee and the newspaper Daily Worker announced a significant increase in the party membership last year, in 1952. However, after the end of the registration campaign, World News and Views announced the membership of the party of 35,054, that is, less than last year .

It is known that the newspaper Daily Worker has a number of significant deficiencies, but the executive officers of the Executive Committee call it “our beautiful newspaper” only, suppressing its shortcomings.

Along with this, it should be noted that collective leadership, the highest principle of party leadership, is violated in the activities of the Executive Committee of the Communist Party. There are manifestations of personality cult in the party, as evidenced by the fact that the programme of the party for the next period was Harry Pollitt’s brochure Which Way for the Workers?19

In the party press, as well as in the speeches of party leaders, the decisions of the congresses and the plenary meetings of the Executive Committee are rarely mentioned, and most of the quotations come from the reports or speeches of Harry Pollitt. Pollitt himself rarely mentions the decisions of the party in his reports and speeches, more often referring to his own statements.

The party leadership constantly notes shortcomings in the party’s activities, but as a rule, it does not take decisive and timely measures to eliminate them.

The analysis of errors and shortcomings in organisational work testifies to the gap between word and deed in the activities of the party, which is one of the indicators of the deep-rooted social democratic, reformist remnants in the Communist Party of Great Britain.

III. Errors and Shortcomings in the Ideological Work of the Party

One of the reasons for the stagnation in the Communist Party of Great Britain is the low ideological-theoretical level of its members, the level which does not correspond to the tasks facing the party, and seriously hampering the implementation of the programme of The British Road to Socialism.

The English workers’ movement is deeply rooted in social democratic “ideas” that socialism will be achieved peacefully, that the class struggle must be rejected, that the state is a neutral organism standing above class that can serve any party that comes to power; that workers will always depend on entrepreneurs; that foreign policy is a “national” issue facing the classes, and that the goal is to “continue” the foreign policy of liberals and conservatives; that in order to preserve the living standards of the working people, it is necessary to continue to dominate and exploit the countries of the empire.20

Mistakes committed by the Communist Party in relation to the Labour Party, as well as errors in the organisational construction of the party are largely due to the insufficiently high ideological, political and theoretical level of the leadership of the party itself. The current illusions of the Executive Committee of CPGB regarding the “new Labour government” that can allegedly be forced to carry out a truly socialist policy, an underestimation of the movement of the supporters of peace, a weak struggle for the implementation of the party’s programme show that the party leadership itself has not yet been freed from the remnants of social democracy.

Until now, the leadership of the Communist Party has not deployed any serious ideological struggle against the social-democratic ideology. Moreover, there is an underestimation of the importance of raising the ideological and theoretical level of party members, which is inherent in social-democracy. Only in October 1950, the Executive Committee discussed at its plenum the state of party enlightenment in the party and outlined measures aimed at improving this work, for the first time after the war.

However, up to the present time there has been a tendency to ignore political studies in the party.

The leading workers of the party disregard independent study. In the past, during the 1952-1953 school year, many party leaders who joined in independent study under the programme of the drafted type did not finish their studies, and some of them did not even begin.

The Executive Committee, noting this shortcoming, instead of resolutely fighting the disregarding attitude of some leading Party workers to study, suggests that “the advanced programme for the new school year should not be issued; instead more developed comrades should advise those engaged in the beginner programme”.21

As before, the level of study in the primary party organizations is low. There are some organisations where classes are conducted irregularly, from time to time only.

There are shortcomings in the party classes as well. The term duration of classes is extremely small - all central party courses function only one week. Classes are conducted in a hurry, students are deprived of the opportunity to devote sufficient time to independent reading and preparation for classes. The term of study in district Party organizations is very short - not more than a week; part of these courses are only functioning one or two days.

Party press is used weakly. The pages of the party press rarely publish articles on the issues of party enlightenment. Rarely are there any articles exposing the ideology of the leadership of the Labour Party.

The political level of the newspaper Daily Worker currently does not meet the requirements for the central organ of the Communist Party. While giving a significant place to the sports chronicle and various reports of a sensational nature, the newspaper still does little to illuminate and analyze the struggle of the working class in England. The Daily Worker very rarely talks about the life and activities of the party. There is no coverage of the tasks of party building. Often, Daily Worker publishes messages that do not correspond to the party’s political line, which indicates that the Executive Committee has no permanent political control over Daily Worker.

The Executive Committee does not criticize the shortcomings in the newspaper’s work during its meetings. Thus, at a meeting on November 14­15, 1953, after hearing the report of the editor Daily Worker, the Executive Committee adopted a special resolution to increase the circulation of the newspaper, but the issues related to raising the political level of the newspaper were completely avoided.

The unsatisfactory ideological and political work of the party among the masses is also evidenced by the following fact:

Immediately after the publication of The British Road to Socialism in January 1951, the party began its explanatory work among the masses, but at present the popularisation of the programme’s ideas has almost ceased. Insufficient work on explaining the programme and underestimation of this work are the result of the fact that many members of the party do not understand the programme, do not understand its role and significance. “The entire party organization, from top to bottom, did not fully understand the role and significance of our prospects and of The British Road to Socialism for a long time.” However, the programme was met with enthusiasm at first, and more than 15,000 copies of the programme were distributed, but then the recognition of the role of the programme declined.22

By pushing the so-called “short-term programme”, the party leadership thereby introduced disbelief in the possibility of implementing the programme of The British Road to Socialism, which weakened the struggle of the party for its programme and the struggle for introducing the Marxist- Leninist ideas set forth in the programme to the masses.

IV. Conclusions and Suggestions

Analysis of the situation in the Communist Party of Great Britain after the adoption of the programme of The British Road to Socialism leads to the following conclusions:

1. The leadership of the party underestimated and abandoned some of the programme’s most important features of practical activities. As a result, the political attitude towards the Labour Party is essentially old and opportunistic. The leadership of the party is not thinking about an active mass political struggle leading to the unity of the Communist workers and the Labour Party. Instead, it adopts a “top-down” process of unjustified hopes of the possibility of adopting the slogan of unity by the leaders of the Labour Party and trade unions. This also explains the fact that the party does not conduct an energetic struggle on two fronts - against the Conservatives on the one hand, and against the top leadership of the Labour Party, on the other.

2. The Party in fact has not become a Marxist-Leninist party, a party of a new type, a militant avant-garde of the working class. Party organisations are absent in most of the country’s biggest enterprises. Those that exist are poorly connected with the working masses, and all their inner-Party work does not ensure the proper training of active Communist members struggling to carry out party policy among the masses.

3. The strong remnants of Social-Democracy on the one hand and sectarianism on the other are deeply rooted in the activity of the Party. The fact that for its more than thirty years of existence, the Communist Party has achieved a certain very limited recognition of its role only in trade union activities speaks of the party’s forgetfulness of serious political activity among the masses.

4. The party experiences a violation of the Leninist norms of party life and party leadership. There is a separation of the party’s central organs from the lower-level party bodies and primary organisations. Criticism and self-criticism are not developed. The principles of collegial leadership are violated. There are manifestations of the cult of personality.

5. The low ideological and theoretical level of party members, as well as the underestimation by the party leadership of serious and systematic work on the Marxist tempering of party cadres and the education of party activists, is one of the main reasons for the unsatisfactory struggle against the social- democratic remnants and sectarian sentiments in the party.


The Communist Party of Great Britain will be able to accomplish its tasks successfully only if there is a radical restructuring of all the Party’s activities accompanied by resilient elimination of serious mistakes and shortcomings.

The 23rd Congress of the Communist Party of Great Britain is to be held in the near future. In order for this congress to play its role and turn out to be a turning point in the activity of the party, it is necessary on the eve of the congress and at the congress itself to strongly criticize the existing mistakes and shortcomings in the activity of the party and work out the necessary measures to overcome them.

To render practical assistance to the party, in our opinion, it would be expedient to carry out the following measures:

1. To discuss the situation in the party with the leadership and recommend them to come forward with detailed criticism of mistakes and shortcomings in the work of the party at the plenum of the Executive Committee before the upcoming congress and at the congress itself.

2. In connection with the fact that one of the most important issues in the activity of the Communist Party today is the struggle for the national independence of Britain, for domestic and foreign policy independent of American imperialism, for the policy of peace, against the arms race, it is advised to recommend to the Executive Committee of the Communist Party to express itself on this issue with an appropriate political statement or declaration. Such a document, drawn up on the basis of the programme of The British Road to Socialism, containing a correct political evaluation of England’s international and domestic situation and raising issues of relevance to the broad masses, could be the basis for uniting the broad strata of the population of England to fight the subordination of the economic and political life of England to American dictates.

3. In order to facilitate and intensify all practical activities of the Communist Party, it is advisable to instruct the Executive Committee to involve more new, young, and capable party cadres in the leadership who, if correctly combined with the old cadres of the party, could materially assist the Executive Committee in carrying out the necessary restructuring of the party’s work.
M. Mitin
January 21, 1954

RGASPI F. 575. Op. 1. D.290. LL. 1-20.

Translated from the  Russian by Polina Erik and edited by Leonard Zorfass


  1. World News and Views, Issue 35, August 22, 1953
  2. World News and Views, Issue 40, October 10, 1953
  3. Communist Review, April 1953
  4. From a letter of the Secretary of the Yorkshire District Party Committee of December 5, 1952, addressed to the leading party workers.
  5. See the Statement of the Executive Committee of September 26, 1953 in connection with the Labour Party Conference. World News and Views, Issue 39, October 3, 1953.
  6. See Harry Pollitt, Which Way for the Workers?
  7. World News and Views, Issue 40, October 10, 1953
  8. From the speech of John Gollan at the February plenum of the Executive Committee in 1953, see World News and Views, Issue 9, February 28, 1953
  9. An article by John Gollan in World News and Views, Issue 39, October 3, 1953
  10. World News and Views, Issue 11, March 14, 1953
  11. From the article “For a Lasting Peace, For a People’s Democracy!” by Locken, sent to the newspaper
  12. From Finlay Hart’s speech at the plenum of the Executive Committee in February 1953.
  13. World News and Views, Issue 9, October 10, 1953
  14. World News and Views, Issue 9, February 29, 1953
  15. From the article by John Gollan in World News and Views, Issue 39, October 3, 1953
  16. F. Welsh’s article in World News and Views, Issue 14, 1952
  17. The article of K. and B. Thomas in World News and Views, Issue 11, March 15, 1952
  18. World News and Views, Issue 45, November 15, 1952
  19. See World News and Views, Issue 20, May 23, 1953, Bennett’s article “The Party and Daily Worker”, based on his report at the Executive Committee plenum on May 10, 1953.
  20. See Harry Pollitt’s Report at the XXII Congress of CPGB.
  21. Communist Review, October 1953
  22. From the materials of the conference of the Lancashire District Organisation, held from February 28 to March 1, 1953. The materials of the conference are published separately as a brochure entitled “Lancashire and Cheshire are Looking to the Future”
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