The Communist Party of Britain, Lenin & the Labour Party
Following on from the previous theme of CPB distortions of Marxism-Leninism, the purpose of this work is to elucidate the ideological betrayal committed by the CPB on the question of the Labour Party. The approach will be to compare and contrast, in the first instance, the CPB's programme 'Britain's Road to Socialism' , with the classics of Marxism-Leninism.
That there is a contradiction between the CPB and Lenin should be of no surprise to anyone vaguely familiar with the BRS. However, there will certainly be those within that party, often younger, if naïve, well-intentioned people who are unaware of the basic contradiction. Those who trusting in the apparent practical experience and theoretical understanding of their senior comrades, will allow themselves to be guided and moulded by them. In this failing to realise that what experience their elders do have is of abject failure.
Having learned from their senior comrades they will voice views like "I support Lenin's line of affiliation to the Labour Party", or "as Lenin said the Labour Party is a very different type of party and we need to work with it." Of course these words are an insult to Lenin, and it will be shown that they are a total distortion of theory.
Beforehand, and as a side-point it is worth noting what happens when CPB members make such statements and are confronted with the reality, the same reality which this article seeks to highlight. Invariably a CPB’er will say to the effect that they agree with Lenin that Labour are a different sort of party, communists should seek to affiliate to it, work with it and return them to government, due to the link with the trade unions. Someone interjects and confronts them with the points this article will make. Only to be met with the attack of dogmatic adherence to Leninism, by the same person who has just attempted to justify their support for the imperialist Labour Party by appealing to the authority of Lenin. Maybe they really don’t recognise contradictions too easily. It would seem some can indeed have their cake and eat it too.
A Tale of Divergence
“Since its formation, the Labour Party has been the mass party of the organised working class (BRS 2011: p24).
It is of course true that the majority of the working class have tended to vote for Labour. But does this make them the party of the working class? No more so than Christianity is the religion of the working class. No more so than white is the colour of the working class. That is to say it is not in the slightest the party of the working class.
In contrast to the CPB, Lenin tells us
“Of course, most of the Labour Party’s members are workingmen. However, whether or not a party is really a political party of the workers does not depend solely upon a membership of workers but also upon the men that lead it, and the content of its actions and its political tactics. Only this latter determines whether we really have before us a political party of the proletariat. Regarded from this, the only correct, point of view, the Labour Party is a thoroughly bourgeois party, because, although made up of workers, it is led by reactionaries, and the worst kind of reactionaries at that, who act quite in the spirit of the bourgeoisie. It is an organisation of the bourgeoisie, which exists to systematically dupe the workers (Lenin 1920: Chapter 6, para2).”
With only the input of the BRS we ought come to the conclusion that Labour were once some sort of internationalist revolutionary socialist group. But the input of history and more importantly Lenin, tells us this is a blatant falsehood. The ideology of the Labour Party has never been socialism. It is simply not the case, that as the BRS would have us believe, that the Labour Party were some kind of socialist progressive force, or a party dominated by socialists prior to the rise of New Labour and Tony Blair.
Instead it was and is a thoroughly bourgeois party. Even the slightest most cursory of glance at British history reveals this. In Lenin’s time when the Marxist James Connolly was executed in Ireland, the news was met with rapturous applause at Westminster by the Labour contingency.
They were among the so-called socialist parties of Europe who enthusiastically rushed to enlistment in defence of the Fatherlands, in the first World War. All throughout their existence, and most glaringly, at times of acute crisis, the Labour Party is found as the staunchest defender of the bourgeoisie.
In the aftermath of World War 2, the NHS and other welfare measures were introduced domestically. While the Labour Party have lived off the back of this since, this dose of welfarism should not be mistaken for socialism. In the first instance, it had much more to do with insulating capitalism and protecting it from the rising wave of communism seen through Europe. The period also saw a wave of capitalist nationalisation, so described by the old CPGB.
Further indicative of this fact is the foreign policy which coincided with it. The horrors of World War 2 had not brought about some kind of socialist internationalism, or even liberal pacifism from the Labour Party. Instead it plunged into new anti-worker conflicts. It launched a military attack in the so-called Malayan Emergency. This was a strictly anti-communist affair.
Finally, the ethnic cleansing of Diego Garcia was overseen by a Labour cabinet, not a Tory one.
Despite all of this and more, CPB literature would happily have us believe the myth that the anti-worker imperialism is simply a recent strain within in the Labour Party. They would have us believe this is all a characteristic of New Labour only. Rather than recognise that the experience of Serbia, Afghanistan and Iraq are merely an extension of Old Labour politics. For instance
“The New Labour faction, which seized control of the party in the mid 1990‘s, represented the emergence of a new trend from within social-democracy (BRS 2011: p25).”
Reclaiming the Labour Party/A Party for Communists
“For as long as many of the biggest trade unions are affiliated to the Labour Party, the potential exists to wage a broad-based fight to reclaim the party for the labour movement and left-wing policies (BRS 2011: p25).”
So deluded must the CPB leadership be to not realise there is nothing to reclaim. One cannot reclaim what was never theirs. Socialists reclaiming the Labour Party makes as much sense as Hindus reclaiming the church of scientology.
As a side point of enquiry some may ask if it is not more relevant for communists to reclaim the CPB. That rather than seeking to push the Labour Party to the left, it is the so-called Communist Party which needs pushing to the left. However, it is the view of the writer that so entrenched is the social-democratic ideology, so far back does it stretch as the dominant ideology of the party (to the days when the CPGB abandoned revolutionary Marxism and adopted revisionism with the first BRS in 1951), that any attempts to reclaim the party by communists must be considered futile. Moreover, such a struggle would ignore the reality that such a vanguard party, in the spirit of the 1920s and 30's CPGB, already exists: The Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist).
Lenin at the Comintern 1920
We have already noted that for Lenin the Labour Party is a party of the bourgeoisie. Its capitalist essence is entirely recognised. So it is only right to be puzzled as to how the conclusion that Lenin was pro-Labour Party, that communists should affiliate, support, work with and elect a Labour government, has been reached by apparent communists.
Firstly, we must note the CPB only tell half the story, that their politics are a tale of wilful neglect. Within the CPB, only those comrades with the gumption to actively investigate for themselves would be aware of this. If they are to study, this article stresses and asks that they should read the minutes of the 1920 Comintern Congress. Knowledge is a fantastic weapon, and in such study the CPB distortions and lies will profoundly reveal themselves. In this endeavour the alien essence of CPB policy in the field of Marxism-Leninism becomes undeniable.
“The Labour Party has let the British Socialist Party into its ranks, permitting it to have its own press organs, in which members of the selfsame Labour Party can freely and openly declare that the party leaders are social-traitors. Comrade McLaine has cited quotations from such statements by the British Socialist Party. I, too, can certify that I have seen in The Call, organ of the British Socialist Party, statements that the Labour Party leaders are social-patriots and social-traitors. This shows that a party affiliated to the Labour Party is able, not only to severely criticise but openly and specifically to mention the old leaders by name, and call them social-traitors. This is a very original situation: a party which unites enormous masses of workers, so that it might seem a political party, is nevertheless obliged to grant its members complete latitude. Comrade McLaine has told us here that, at the Labour Party Conference, the British Scheidemanns were obliged to openly raise the question of affiliation to the Third International, and that all party branches and sections were obliged to discuss the matter. In such circumstances, it would be a mistake not to join this party (Lenin 1920a: Chapter 6, Para5).
We can clearly see that these circumstances which Lenin noted are no longer the case. For instance, the 2003 expulsion of their own MP George Galloway indicates the length to which they will go to silence their critics. This entirely independent of their anti-communism.
“In such circumstances it would be highly erroneous for the best revolutionary elements not to do everything possible to remain in such a party. Let the Thomases and other social-traitors, whom you have called by that name, expel you. That will have an excellent effect upon the mass of the British workers party (Lenin 1920a: Chapter 6, para6).”
The Labour Party have been shown for the past century to have no interest in socialism, let alone on a relationship with ‘communists‘. As Harpal Brar eloquently put it
“After trying to marry someone for 69 years, is it not time to give up the attempt?”
But even if the Labour Party were so inclined, it would certainly not mean that parliament can act as a substitute for revolution, that the Labour Party can exercise proletarian dictatorship. Such a stance is the gravest error and grossest insult to the marvellous legacy of Lenin.
The CPB, unlike Lenin, would not have us support the Labour Party like the hang man supports the noose. They do not call for us to support them in order that we may expose their reactionary nature, as Lenin makes clear. Most importantly they entirely ignore Lenin's conditions regarding Labour. Indeed the Labour Party have been exposed for over a century as traitors and wreckers within the workers movement. The very thing Lenin asked for. The Labour Party expose themselves by their own treacherous deeds. This despite the total failures of CPB 'communists' to expose the LP as Lenin would ask of them.
Unity of the Working Class?
Lets be clear, the implicit CPB maxim in all of this is “unity of the working class at all costs“. And often they will very publicly speak of unity of the working class and not dividing the workers. While a nice sounding ideal, the real existing world does not operate on such ideals.
The effect of these slogans is slavish submission of communists to social-democracy, and the domination of the advanced sections of the working class to their most reactionary and degraded elements. The end is the blunting of the weapons of the proletariat.
“Hence the task of intensifying the fight against Social-Democracy, and, above all, against its “Left” wing, as being the social buttress of capitalism.
Hence the task of intensifying the fight in the Communist Parties against the Right elements, as being the agents of Social-Democratic influence.
Hence the task of intensifying the fight against conciliation towards the Right deviation, as being the refuge of opportunism in the Communist Parties.
Hence the slogan of purging the Communist Parties of Social-Democratic traditions.(Stalin 1929: para24).”
Such unity as aspired to by the CPB can pass as Marxism to only the most elementary, very baseline of novice, or perhaps one who has lost use of all senses and reason. Indeed such unity is wholly anti-Marxist.
“Speculating on the slogan "unity", the revisionists sacrifice the principles, level off the distinction between communists and social-democrats, trample upon and sacrifice the basic interests of the working class. This is sham unity, unity in favour of the bourgeoisie and their agents in the workers movement, which aims at submitting the workers movement wholly to the bourgeois and reformist influence, at liquidating the revolutionary spirit and the revolutionary party of the working class. This is high treason to the cause of the working class and of socialism.
All of these things give rise to an important conclusion: full unity on sound basis of the workers movement can and will be achieved through bitter combat not only with the right-wing leaders of social democracy but also with the modern revisionists, against the workers movement to the poisonous and counter-revolutionary influence of social democracy and of its treacherous right-wing leaders (Hoxha 1964: Chapter 6, Paras 15 & 16).”
In contrast, in the world of the CPB, the Labour Party can even exercise, with the CPB in its rearguard, the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. This is made painstakingly clear in the BRS. Unlike Lenin who says
“the dictatorship of the proletariat cannot be exercised through an organisation embracing the whole of that class, because in all capitalist countries (and not only over here, in one of the most backward) the proletariat is still so divided, so degraded, and so corrupted in parts (by imperialism in some countries) that an organisation taking in the whole proletariat cannot directly exercise proletarian dictatorship. It can be exercised only by a vanguard that has absorbed the revolutionary energy of the class (Lenin 1920b: para5).”
While the CPB claim to be the successors of the old Communist Party of Great Britain and its revolutionary history (prior to the 1950’s it was a revolutionary party), in reality they are an affront to the great history of that organisation. It was after all the Communist Party of Great Britain who declared in 1929 “The Labour Party. This is the third capitalist party”, in its very real revolutionary programme Class Against Class.
Although we have witnessed an ever-increasing tendency of increasingly right-leaning social democracy, manifested most notably by the Blairite New Labour project (the logical conclusion and mere continuation of Old Labour social-democracy), and rather than pushing social-democracy to the left, CPB policy results in the left-elements of social-democracy pushing ‘communists’ to the right, but despite all of this workers of Britain should not despair. For a revolutionary party steeped in the spirit of Gallagher and the early CPGB, not only exists but gains new ground and grows in strength by the day: the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist). This is the only home for those seeking a Communist Party in the spirit of Gallagher, Lenin & Stalin. It is the home for those who defend our socialist history and the Soviet experience. But for those seeking a party steeped in the ideology of Khrushchev, Gorbachev and Old Labour, there is always the CPB, until that grouping is faced with the logical consequence of their liquidationism.
“It is precisely because the social-democrats are agents of the bourgeoisie in the workers movement that the Marxist-Leninists have always had it clear that without a determined struggle to unmask and smash the social-democrats ideologically and politically, the working class cannot wage its struggle and carry it on to victory (Hoxha 1964: Chapter 3, Para 16).”
Down with Social-Democracy
Long live Marxism-Leninism!
CPB. 2011. Britain's Road to Socialism.
Hoxha. E., 1964. The Modern Revisionists on the Way to Degenerating into Social-Democrats and to Fusing with Social-Democracy. Available at
Lenin. V.I., 1920a. The Second Congress of the Communist International. Available at https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1920/jul/x03.htm
Lenin. V.I., 1920b. The Trade Unions, the Present Situation and Trotsky’s Mistakes. Available at
Stalin. J.v., 1929. Right Deviation in the CPSU. Available at http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/stalin/works/1929/04/22.htm
© 2014 Comrade Joe