Category Archives: History

Moshé Machover: Zionist colonisation and Armageddon

As Israel moves further and further to the right, Moshé Machover says religious fanatics are becoming increasingly influential

Binyamin (‘Bibi’) Netanyahu’s motive for calling an early election to the Knesset (Israel’s parliament), on April 9, one year before the end of its term, was purely personal: it was his ‘stay out of jail’ card. His former friend and appointee, attorney general Avichai Mendelblit, could not endlessly procrastinate, and would eventually feel bound to indict him for multiple, firmly attested charges of bribery and corruption. 1)Haaretz February 28 2019 Netanyahu calculated that, if he managed to win an election before being indicted, he would be able to breathe freely for the next five years at the very least.

Winning, in Israel’s system of party-list proportional representation, does not mean getting a majority, or even the largest number, of Knesset seats, but being the only party leader able to form a ruling coalition. Netanyahu reckons that if he puts together a coalition with the two main religious parties and two or three small extreme-right parties, then he can get through the Knesset a bespoke law giving him immunity from prosecution.

Netanyahu knew that his chances of winning the election were pretty good. In this he could count on more than his mastery of rightwing, populist rabble-rousing, fabrication of ‘facts’ and whines of persecution by a hostile elite and ‘leftist’ media. Propaganda apart, Israel’s economy is buoyant and, although inequality remains very high, even the poorest sections of the population – those on minimum wages or social benefits – have experienced some improvement. Unionisation of workers has been increasing, and consequently the number of workers benefiting from improved pay and conditions thanks to collective bargaining has been rising.

Also, since the last elections (March 2015), Netanyahu has avoided large-scale military adventures that exact a toll in Israeli military and civilian casualties; so Jewish Israelis have not felt they were paying a high cost – in human losses or insecurity any more than in economic terms – for ruling over the Palestinian occupied territories. As far as foreign relations are concerned, Netanyahu could count on more than a little help from his friends, including Trump 2)Haaretz March 25 2019 and Putin. 3)Haaretz April 4 2019 Not many national leaders can boast of warm personal relations with both Donald and Vladimir Vladimirovich.

But, leaving little to chance, Netanyahu took several steps to secure his electoral victory and the subsequent prize of immunity from criminal prosecution. In order to make sure that his preferred prospective coalition partners – those of the extreme annexationist and ultra-racist right – would reach the threshold of 3.25% of the valid votes required to win any seats, he acted as match-maker between two such parties, each of which may not have reached this threshold individually, and persuaded them to form a bloc. This ran as the Union of Rightwing Parties, duly passed the threshold and won five seats. In exchange for their complicity in passing a law keeping him out of prison, Netanyahu had promised to accede to their hearts’ desire: annexation of parts of the West Bank.

The most serious rival of Netanyahu’s Likud party in the elections was the newly formed centre-right bloc, Kahol-Lavan (Blue and White – colours of the flag of the Zionist movement and the state of Israel), led by retired general Benny Gantz, two other retired generals and a civilian windbag, Yair Lapid (the only one of the four with some political experience, having served as minister of finance in a previous Netanyahu-led government).

Lacking any coherent programme, it attracted many voters disgusted with Netanyahu’s corruption and rightwing populism. Netanyahu’s way of fighting off the potential threat represented by this nine-day wonder was to point out that it would not be able to block a Likud-led government (let alone form a ruling coalition) except in collaboration with Arab parties. The three generals and the windbag, bowing to popular Israeli-Jewish racism, duly vowed that they would never collaborate with Arabs, thereby confirming that they pose no real danger to Netanyahu.

Many Arab citizens, feeling alienated and excluded, were clearly going to boycott or ignore the elections. But to ensure low Arab participation, Likud resorted to intimidatio. 4)Haaretz April 10 2019

In the event, Netanyahu’s Likud won 35 out of 120 Knesset seats, the same as the Blue-and-White contender. But the latter’s 35 elected MKs have little to hold them together. The hastily assembled, disparate quasi-party may well fall apart before long. Its main contribution to Israel’s political history is to have sucked voters away from the bloc formerly led by the Israeli Labor Party, and reduce Labor, with its pitiful six seats, to a mortally wounded relic, crawling towards a well-deserved demise.

Messianic fanatics

Evidently, the outcome of Israel’s elections is part of a worldwide shift to rightwing authoritarian regimes led by elected illiberal demagogues. Netanyahu has much in common with Trump, Putin, Erdoğan, Orbán, Bolsonaro and their ilk. But equally obviously, Israel’s rightwing populism comes with a special Israeli twist: that of a Zionist colonising regime, increasingly inspired by a creepy messianism. This growing importance of eschatology in Israeli politics has not received sufficient attention.

Religions tend to have their lunatic fringes – crazed zealots lurking in the obscurity of the relatively harmless margins – who under certain political and social circumstances may emerge as if out of nowhere and shock the world with horrific and dangerous acts. Judaism is no exception to this rule. In my article ‘Israel and the Messiah’s ass’ (Weekly Worker June 1 2017), I called attention to the emergence in 1967 of messianic religious Zionism. Extremist forms of this political theology or theological politics have steadily grown in importance. Following the recent elections, its most fanatic true believers are openly represented in the Knesset, as members of the Union of Rightwing Parties, and will no doubt be part of the ruling coalition.

The size of this bloc – a mere five seats in the Knesset – understates the real influence of messianic fanaticism. A significant number of supporters of this ideology must have voted tactically for one of the larger and well-established religious parties (Shas and United Torah Judaism), or for Likud.

Messianic activists differ in one crucial respect from other followers of orthodox Judaism: they are determined to take actual steps to bring about the establishment of a renewed biblical Jewish kingdom. A key part of this plan is the building of a third Jewish temple on the old hallowed hill (the first two were destroyed respectively by the Babylonians in 586 BCE and the Romans in 70 CE). An obvious obstacle in the way of the third temple is that the Jews’ Temple Mount happens to be the Muslims’ Haram al-Sharif – Islam’s third holiest place, site of al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock. These will have to be demolished to make way for the third temple.

Plans to bring this about are by no means new. From 1979 to 1984 a secret cabal of settlers, known as the Jewish Underground, engaged in terrorist actions against Palestinian civic leaders. It also hatched a plot to blow up the Dome of the Rock; but just in time members of the group were arrested and brought to trial on charges of terrorism. Most served short terms, and the ringleaders were pardoned in 1990. 5)Haaretz April 10 2019 Unrepentant, the zealot leader, Yehuda Etzion, and his mates continued to make plans for the third temple. But now they have moved from the margins into the centres of political power. And their numbers have multiplied. A recent TV documentary series has drawn attention to an extensive network of activists making practical preparations for building the third temple and performing the rituals in it. 6)The very revealing first part of this series can be seen – unfortunately without English subtitles – on These include detailed architectural drawings and models for the temple itself, sewing and embroidering vestments for the priests that will officiate in it, and practising animal sacrifices in the vicinity of the holy site. In order for the priests to be allowed to enter the temple and perform their rituals, they must first be purified with the ashes of a burnt, unblemished red heifer. Red means totally red – even two black hairs disqualify it. A cattle rancher in the Israeli-occupied Golan, by the name of Menahem Urbach, has been commissioned to produce a red heifer by selective breeding. Interviewed on TV, he claimed that the desired animal is expected to be delivered quite soon.

It will be televised

Explosives are easily accessible to the activists, who reside in armed settlements; and some are no doubt stashed away for use, as and when required. Of course, the Muslim world is likely to react violently to the destruction of the holy mosques. This can easily escalate to a major conflagration in the entire region, and possibly beyond.

The messianic zealots are not particularly bothered by this prospect: they regard it with the same kind of hopeful anticipation that extreme Christian evangelicals have for Armageddon.

In fact, both bunches of dangerous nutters, whether Jewish or Christian, share many beliefs (except that the former are expecting the first coming of the messiah, while for the latter it is going to be the second – following which the Jews will have to convert or die). As the Daily Express reported recently:

Biblical conspiracy theorists believe the construction of a third Holy Temple in Jerusalem will precede the imminent return of Jesus Christ. Jewish eschatology concerning the end times claims the Holy Temple will rise up from the ground for the third time when the apocalypse nears. Talk of a third temple being built emerged this week in response to a letter penned by the powerful Jewish assembly of rabbis known as the Sanhedrin.

Jerusalem is heading into a mayoral election next week and the Sanhedrin urged both running candidates, Ofer Berkovich and Moshe Lion, to rebuild the temple. …

The Holy Temple plays a crucial role in Jewish tradition and is a central player in prophecies and tales concerning the apocalypse.

Christian pastor and doomsday preacher Paul Begley has now claimed the signs of the end times are coming to fruition. The Indiana-based preacher said: “The rabbis of the Sanhedrin court are calling both mayor candidates to include in their plans for this city the rebuilding of the third temple …”

According to Irvin Baxter of the End Time Ministries, the third Holy Temple will be rebuilt in the last seven years of the world’s existence. The doomsday preacher said this will happen in the first three years of the end times and will be the “most visible sign” of the end times finally arriving.

Mr Baxter said: “As that cornerstone is laid on the Temple Mount, every network on Earth will be televising this incredible event.”7)Daily Express March 18 2019

Will Israel’s security services act in time to prevent an explosion on the sacred site, as they did back in 1984? I do not wish to sound too alarmist, but, when watching Israel careering to extremes of racist populism and annexationism, we should also keep an eye on the movement of messianic fanaticism.

I would like to thank comrade Ehud Ein-Gil for his help in researching this article.


1 Haaretz February 28 2019
2 Haaretz March 25 2019
3 Haaretz April 4 2019
4 Haaretz April 10 2019
5 Haaretz April 10 2019
6 The very revealing first part of this series can be seen – unfortunately without English subtitles – on
7 Daily Express March 18 2019

Marx and Jewish emancipation

this article first appeared in the Weekly Worker

By citing a few thoroughly decontextualised phrases, the establishment finds Marx – and therefore contemporary Marxism – guilty of anti-Semitism. Jack Conrad puts the record straight

As a young man Karl Marx studied and thoroughly absorbed the materialist and atheist ideas of Ludwig Feuerbach (1804-72). However, he soon became convinced that, while atheism was a vital intellectual premise, historic processes, developments in the means of production, social relations and crucially revolutionary practice had to be made the real starting point of “our criticism”.1)K Marx and F Engels CW Vol 3, London 1975, p144.

Inevitably, that necessitated further, deeper, endless investigations – not least into the “inverted reality” of the bourgeois world. Hence the first of two articles which Marx wrote in what was a seminal period spent in the snug little Rhineland town of Kreuznach between March and October 1843 – just prior to his enforced move to Paris.

On the Jewish question was published in the first and only edition of the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher journal (February 1844). A very early work: concepts such as capital, exploitation and surplus value are not there yet. Concrete history hardly gets a look in. Nor does the proletariat.

Nonetheless, On the Jewish question constitutes a devastating rebuttal of Bruno Bauer – the Young Hegelian radical, atheist firebrand and a former collaborator and friend. More importantly – not least because of Bauer’s present-day status as a mere footnote – On the Jewish question established a profound critique of the limited way liberals typically treat demands for equality, freedom, rights, etc.


Protestant Christianity was the only officially recognised religion in Frederick William IV’s Prussia. Jews in particular faced a whole raft of laws which humiliatingly discriminated against them. Bauer – barred from teaching in 1842 for daring to show that biblical stories were full of human invention – argued, in his book, The Jewish question (1843), that Jews can achieve political and civic emancipation only if they renounce their religious allegiances, religious modes of thinking and religious practices. 2)Unfortunately, Bauer’s Die Judenfrage is still unavailable in English. For the German original, see here

He barbedly asks, if no-one in Germany is politically emancipated, how are we going to free you Jews? Demands for Jewish emancipation were, therefore, dismissed as a demand for special treatment. Those who continued to make such selfish claims on the Prussian state were branded “egoists”.

Moreover, Jews who appealed to what was an explicitly Christian state for equality were inexcusably legitimising the regime of general oppression. The Christian state can only grant privileges. Without showing the least blush of shame, Bauer then proceeded to argue that in Prussia, Jews have the privilege of being a Jew. Therefore Jews have rights not enjoyed by Christians. Why should Jews be granted rights which only Christians enjoy? Therefore, in the name of bringing about general freedom, he felt fully justified in rejecting demands for Jewish equality in a Christian state.

Bauer went further. He maintained that granting Jewish rights would be incompatible with either the political rights of citizens (eg, the 1787 US constitution) or general civic rights (eg, France’s 1789 ‘Declaration of the rights of man’). According to Bauer, an atheist state was alone the only conceivable solution … and for him that meant Jews, Lutherans, Catholics – everyone – divesting themselves of their religion. He wanted to free the state from Judaism, Lutherism, Catholicism and religion in general. But, of course, that still left the state.

Note, Bauer drew a sharp theological line of distinction between Judaism and Christianity: in the process he depicts Judaism as narrow and tribal; Christianity as universal and superior. Sadly, after the failure of the 1848 German revolution, Bauer swung violently to the right and began to promote an ever more vile anti-Semitism: these Jewish “white Negroes” should be “shipped to the land of Canaan”. 3)J Carlebach Karl Marx and the radical critique of Judaism London 1978, p147.

As a militant champion of genuine human liberation, Marx rejected Bauer’s ‘solution’ as theoretically flawed and totally inadequate. Bauer was trying to solve a social question as if it were purely theological. He failed to see that religious inequalities were not the cause of social inequalities – merely their symptom. Bauer’s critique was also misdirected because it was aimed at the Christian state, not the state as such.

Bauer’s problem – and that of bourgeois radicals in general – was that he mistook political emancipation, embodied in declarations, constitutions, etc, for human emancipation. Simply decreeing the separation of church and state, while needed, could not ensure the disappearance of religion (and its associated prejudices). The original 13 American states, for example, had written separation of the state from organised religion into their constitutions, and yet the US remained “pre-eminently the country of religiosity”. 4)K Marx and F Engels CWVol 3, London 1975, p151.

Bauer was still using the criticism of religion as his basis for the criticism of politics, but, as Marx insisted:

[T]he existence of religion is the existence of a defect … We no longer regard religion as the cause, but only as the manifestation, of secular narrowness … History has long enough been merged in superstition; we now merge superstition in history. The question of the relation of political emancipation to religion becomes for us the question of the relation of political emancipation to human emancipation. 5)K Marx and F Engels CWVol 3, London 1975, p151.

So it is not that Marx rejects demands for political and civic equality. Quite the reverse. He considers the political emancipation of Jews perfectly feasible … even without them renouncing their religion completely and irrevocably. However, the achievement of political emancipation is not human emancipation. Political emancipation in and of itself can only go so far.

Taking issue with his own earlier reliance on universal suffrage, for example, Marx points out that some American states had abolished property qualifications for (male) participation in elections. From the liberal standpoint, it could be said that “the masses have thus gained a victory over the property-owners and moneyed classes”, that the “non-owner had become the law-giver for the owner”.6)K Marx and F Engels CWVol 3, London 1975, p151. This victory, however, was only partial, because there is a world of difference between everyone getting the vote – desirable and necessary as that is – and getting everyone real and effective power over their lives.


Unsurprisingly, On the Jewish question reiterates the ethical postulate Marx presented in ‘Debates on freedom of the press’ – a six-part supplement carried by the Rheinische Zeitung back in May 1842. Here Marx lambasted Prussian press censorship – “a perfumed abortion”, he called it. Prometheus-like, he defiantly proclaims: “only that which is a realisation of freedom can be called humanly good”.7)K Marx and F Engels CWVol 1, London 1975, pp158-59.

Since organised religion, by its very nature, makes human beings into slaves of an imaginary deity, conceding them merely a specious sovereignty in alienated form, it cannot, in Marxist terms, be a force for human good in any meaningful sense. Religion and ‘morality’ (ie, bourgeois morality) exist in the abstract sphere of ‘public life’, the realm of illusory collectivity and illusory sovereignty represented by the state, whereas the concrete sphere of ‘everyday life’ – civil society – remains dominated by individual antagonisms and by all the kinds of inhuman domination, bondage and debasement implicit in the category of alienation.

Bruno Bauer’s mistake was to imagine that religious emancipation in and of itself could free humanity, whereas, for Marx, even the most far-going version of (bourgeois) political emancipation cannot succeed in achieving freedom. Religious emancipation gives freedom of religion, but it does not give freedom from the rule of religion, property or trade: it just gives us the right to profess the religion of our choice, hold property and practise trade as individuals in a civil society dominated by the bellum omnium contra omnes (war of all against all).

Just as religion, though constituting an illusory collectivity of humanity in relation to god, actually renders us into alienated, atomised individuals in relation to an imaginary creator, so political emancipation, while endowing us with an illusory sovereignty as citizens of the state, renders us into alienated, atomised individuals in a civil society dominated by property and the power that flows from it. Marx writes:

“Only when the real, individual man reabsorbs in himself the abstract citizen, and as an individual human being has become a species-being in everyday life, in his particular work, and in his particular situation; only when man has recognised and organised his own ‘forces propres’ [own powers] as social forces, and consequently no longer separates social power from himself in the shape of political power; only then will human emancipation have been accomplished.”8)K Marx and F Engels CWVol 3, London 1975, p168.

The central idea is that humanity can achieve real emancipation by rediscovering its identity in and through community, but not through the imaginary community represented by either religion or the state.

In the second part of On the Jewish question, the category of religious alienation appears in another guise – strikingly adapted in order to illustrate the significance of money and commodities in capitalist society – in a way that foreshadows some of Marx’s fundamental ideas about commodity fetishism and the alienation inherent in the capitalist mode of production. Hence the following passage:

“Selling is the practice of externalisation. Selling is the practical aspect of alienation. Just as man, as long as he is in the grip of religion, is able to objectify his essential nature only by turning it into something alien, something fantastic, so under the domination of egoistic need he can be active practically and produce objects in practice only by putting his products, and his activity, under the domination of an alien being, and bestowing the significance of an alien entity – money – on them.”9)Ibid p174.

Feuerbach’s ‘inverted reality’ – a world in which the essence of everything is externalised (entäussert), or objectified (vergegenständigt) into an alien, imaginary entity, a process whereby all values are turned upside-down – could not be more clear. Both notions, of course, appear – in a richer, more profound and dialectical form – in Marx’s later critique of political economy.

But – some may ask – how can the social role of money and commodities be equated with religion? Is this not stretching a point? No, it is not, for by ‘religion’ and ‘religious’ in this context Marx refers not to the cultic beliefs or observances of this or that religion, but to the subordination of human beings to a thing of their own making. Hence, in Capital Marx says: “in religion man is governed by the products of his own brain”. He elaborates:

“A commodity is, therefore, a mysterious thing, simply because in it the social character of men’s labour appears to them as an objective character stamped upon the product of that labour; because the relation of the producers to the sum total of their own labour is presented to them as a social relation, existing not between themselves, but between the products of their labour … [the commodity is] a definite social relation between men … [and] assumes, in their eyes, the fantastic form of a relation between things. In order, therefore, to find an analogy, we must have recourse to the mist-enveloped regions of the religious world. In that world, the productions of the human brain appear as independent beings endowed with life, and entering into relation both with one another and the human race. So it is in the world of commodities with the products of men’s hands.”10)K Marx Capital Vol 1, London 1970, p72.

It is precisely the analogical, paradigmatic role of religious alienation in unravelling the “mysterious” nature of commodities, money and much else in the world of political economy that is of central importance to an understanding of the development of Marx’s thought. Commodities are the products of our hands and brains, which exert an alien power over us, at least exist in actuality, whereas god or gods are entirely a figment of the human imagination, with no existence in objective reality. It is precisely the ‘purity’ of religious alienation in this respect that endows it with a prototypical value when considering alienation in general.

The point is, of course, that the relationship between religious alienation and its ‘secular’ counterpart in the world of humanity’s productive activity rests on the same basis of a fundamental inversion of subject and object, a radical confusion between appearance and reality at every level:

The religious world is but the reflex of the real world … The religious reflex of the real world can … only then finally vanish when the practical relations of everyday life offer to man none but perfectly intelligible and reasonable relations with regard to his fellow men and to nature. 11)K Marx Capital Vol 1, London 1970, p79.

Feigned horror

While Bauer argued in terms of the emancipation of “the Sabbath Jew” – Jews seen purely in terms of their religion 12)K Marx Capital Vol 1, London 1970, p169. – Marx extends the notion of emancipation by focusing on the oppression of Jews in an actual socio-economic context:

“Let us not look for the secret of the Jew in his religion, but let us look for the secret of his religion in the real Jew. What is the secular basis of Judaism? Practical need, self-interest. What is the worldly religion of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly god? Money. Very well then! Emancipation from huckstering and money – consequently from practical, real Judaism – would be the self-emancipation of our time.” 13)K Marx Capital Vol 1, London 1970, p169-70.

Why, for Marx, is “Emancipation from huckstering and money, consequently from practical, real Judaism” rated as the “self-emancipation of our time”? Because it is money that dominates all social relations, money and the power that flows from it is that constitutes the material base of capitalist society:

“Money is the jealous god of Israel, in face of which no other god may exist. Money degrades all the gods of man – and turns them into commodities. Money is the universal, self-established value of all things. It has therefore robbed the whole world – both the world of men and nature – of its specific value. Money is the estranged essence of man’s work and man’s existence, and this alien essence dominates him, and he worships it.” 14)K Marx and F Engels CWVol 1, London 1975, p172.

Biased, purchased or merely worthless opinion reacts with feigned horror to such passages, denouncing them as irrefutable proof of Marx’s deep-seated anti-Semitism. Here are three professional Marx bashers:

  •  Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian’s resident Zionist, writes that, given the “2,000-year-old” practice of equating “Jews and the wickedness of money, it absurd to imagine any one of us would be immune to [anti-Semitism]. Inevitably, plenty of Jews have themselves internalised it – including no less than Karl Marx, whose writings are peppered with anti-Jewish sentiment.” 15)J Freeland, ‘For 2,000 years we’ve linked Jews to money. It’s why anti-Semitism is so ingrained’ The Guardian March 9 – online here
  • Nothing compared to Jonah Goldberg, the rightwing US commentator and author of Liberal fascism (2007). He insists, that for Marx, “capital and the Jew are different faces of the same monster …. Marx’s writing, particularly on surplus value, is drenched with references to capital as parasitic and vampiric …. The constant allusions to the eternal wickedness of the Jew, combined with his constant references to blood, make it hard to avoid concluding that Marx had simply updated [medieval anti-Semitic imagery] and applied it to his own atheistic doctrine. His writing is replete with references to the ‘bloodsucking’ nature of capitalism. He likens both Jews and capitalists (the same thing in his mind) to life-draining exploiters of the proletariat.”16)J Goldburg, ‘Karl Marx’s Jew-hating conspiracy theory’ Commentary March 2018 – online here.
  • Despite his status as a celebrity professor, Simon Schama displays exactly the same rigour and intellectual honesty: “Demonstrating that you do not have to be a gentile to be an anti-Semite, Karl Marx characterised Judaism as nothing more than the cult of Mammon, and declared that the world needed emancipating from the Jews.” 17)S Schama, ‘The left’s problem with Jews has a long and miserable history’ Financial Times February 21-22 2016.

In other words, Marx was a ‘self-hating’ Jew. However, such a claim could not be more wrong. Few of Marx’s detractors go to the bother of explaining that he was combating the malign anti-Semitism of Bruno Bauer and advocating Jewish emancipation.

Put aside Marx’s own Jewishness, a religiously pious mother and rabbinical lineage: a good case can be made for his communism being connected, consciously or otherwise, with messianic Old Testament prophets, such as Amos, Micah and Habakkuk.18)E Fromm Marx’s concept of man London 2004, p52. Possibly this came through his personal acquaintance with the proto-Zionist Moses Hess (1812-72), who likewise condemned the “Judeo-Christian huckster world”; a line of thought that surely came via Spinoza, Goethe and Hegel. In turn their passionate commitment to human freedom recognisably descends from the Christian utopias of the 16th and 17th centuries.

Not that I would go along with Erich Fromm (1900-80), when he describes Marx’s communism as “the most advanced form of rational mysticism”.19)E Fromm Marx’s concept of man London 2004, p52. Such a paradoxical formulation, while having the virtue of counteracting the dismal technological determinism of the Stalinites, runs the risk of appearing to reconcile Marxism with religion.

Either way, Marx’s actual argument in On the Jewish question, can neatly be summarised:

  • Since the rights of man and citizen include freedom of religion, what grounds can there be for excluding Jews because of their religion?
  • Since the rights of man include rights of egoism, what grounds can there be for denying civil rights to Jews because of their alleged egoism?
  • Since the rights of citizens abstract ‘political man’ from their social role, what grounds can there be for excluding Jews because of their allegedly harmful social role?
  • Since money in modern society is the supreme world power, what grounds can there be for denouncing Jews for allegedly turning money into their god? 20)See R Fine and P Spenser Anti-Semitism and the left: return of the Jewish question Manchester 2017, p37.

While Bauer represents the Jew as a “financial power”, Marx responds that society now revolves around huckstering, trading and making money. While Bauer imagines that money is “the practical spirit of the Jews”, Marx responds that money has also become “the practical spirit of the Christian nations”.21)K Marx and F Engels CW Vol 3, London 1975, p170. While Bauer says that money is the “jealous god of Israel”, Marx responds that the god of the Jews has “become the god of the world”.22)K Marx and F Engels CWVol 3, London 1975, p172.

Nor did Marx and Engels hold back from combating German or ‘true’ socialism that was capable, as they put it in the Communist manifesto, of little more than “hurling the traditional anathemas” against liberalism, against representative government, against bourgeois freedom of the press.23)K Marx and F Engels CW Vol 6, New York 1976, p511.

Amongst those traditional anathemas was, of course, that Jews constituted “a secret world power which makes and unmakes governments”, a “secret force behind the throne”, a “secret force which holds Europe in its thrall”.24)H Arendt The origins of totalitarianism London 1976, p24. ‘True’ socialism’s most noted representative was Karl Grün and, naturally, he expressed his profound dislike of the class struggle and the “men of destructive tendencies, the levellers”: ie, Marx’s party.25)Quoted in J Strassmaier, ‘Karl Grün: the confrontation with Marx, 1844-1848’ Dissertations paper 1059, Chicago 1969, p61 – online here Objectively, ‘true’ socialism served to defend the interests of the reactionary petty bourgeoisie: parsons, university professors, country squires and government officials.

Sense and sensibilities

Fewer still of Marx’s detractors show any appreciation of the fact that it is thoroughly misleading to read present-day sensibilities back onto 19th century language. A telling example is Marx’s race banter contained in private correspondence with Frederick Engels (amongst others).

In 1862, infuriated by what he saw as a visiting Ferdinand Lassalle’s meanness, ostentation and political shallowness, an impoverished Marx wrote to Engels cursing him as a “Jewish nigger”.26)K Marx and F Engels CWVol 41, London 1985, p389. Needless to say, such rages cooled. Given news of Lassalle’s untimely death, just two years later, Marx expressed his “great sorrow” to Lassalle’s lover, Sophie von Hatzfeldt: Lassalle “was one of the people by whom I set great store”. He went on to compare him to a triumphant “Achilles”.27)K Marx and F Engels CWVol 41, London 1985, p563.

Paul Lafargue, his future son-in-law, got called his “medical Creole”.28)K Marx and F Engels CW Vol 42, Moscow 1987, p303. Marx was a possessive father. He urged Lafargue to curb his “Creole temperament” till after his marriage with Laura. Within the Marx household Lafargue was also called the “African”. Such references were not a sign of prejudice, but were “couched in affectionate and joking terms and were seen as a source of amusement, not concern”.29)L Derfler Paul Lafargue and the founding of French Marxism, 1842-1882 Cambridge MA 1991, p46. Not that any of this seems to have offended Lafargue. He went on to be one of the leaders of the French Workers Party (an implicitly Marxist organisation). Again in terms of race language, when fellow socialist Daniel De Leon asked him about his origins, Lafargue promptly replied: “I am proudest of my negro extraction.”30)L Derfler Paul Lafargue and the founding of French Marxism, 1842-1882 Cambridge MA 1991, p15.

Because of his dark complexion and wild hair, Marx’s closest friends and family nicknamed him “Moor” – a racial tag he happily embraced. True, Marx, to his discredit, suffered a brief infatuation with Pierre Trémaux and his now totally obscure book, The origins and transformation of man and other beings (1865). He momentarily credited this work of biological racism as a “very significant advance over Darwin”.31)K Marx and F Engels CWVol 42, Moscow 1987, p304. Engels, it should be added, did not share his enthusiasm: Trémaux’s “evidence” for his “hypothesis” is nine-tenths based on “erroneous or distorted facts and the remaining 1/10 proves nothing”.32)K Marx and F Engels CWVol 42, Moscow 1987, p323.

As might well be expected, other contemporary Jewish progressives wrote in exactly the same terms as Marx: eg, Ferdinand Lassalle and Henrich Heine. And the fact of that matter is that Marx was criticising not Judaism alone, but what he saw as a “Judeo-Christian complex”. A complex which elevates money-making above every human value, relationship and instinct.33)H Draper Karl Marx’s theory of revolution Vol 1, New York 1977, p593. Eg, Marx writes: “Judaism reaches its highest point with the perfection of civil society, but it is only in the Christian world that civil society attains perfection.”34)K Marx and F Engels CWVol 3, London 1975, p173.

Needless to say, it is political programme, political statements and political actions which really matter. Leave aside his advocacy of Jewish emancipation. Marx savaged American slavery with a passion, fought to ensure that the British government did not intervene in support of the southern slavocracy in the US civil war and, crucially, through his leadership of the First International, championed the northern cause. Again and again he urged Abraham Lincoln to take up the call for abolition. August Nimtz argues that, in practical terms, Marx and Engels, in conjunction with their co-thinkers in America, had an “enormous influence” on what amounted to the second American revolution.35) AH Nimtz Marx, Tocqueville and race in America Lanham MY 2003, p129. And, famously, in Capital volume 1, Marx coined this memorable aphorism: “Labour cannot emancipate itself in the white skin, where in the black skin it is branded.”36)K Marx Capital Vol 1, London 1970 p301.

When it comes to race-language, Hal Draper convincingly shows that Marx was merely following the near-universal practice of his day. One could make the same point about his male-dominated language too: ie, the word ‘man’ is used more or less unremittingly as synonymous with ‘humanity’. Hence, ‘Jew’ is sometimes treated as being synonymous with ‘usury’.37)See H Draper Karl Marx’s theory of revolution Vol 1, New York 1977, pp591-608.

This is a relational join with well documented material roots in the Christian economics of European feudal society. Jews were barred from either working the land or holding the land. Hence, they had no other socio-economic niche open to them apart from trade, brokering and lending money for interest. Jews were, as a result, widely reviled. Peasants, artisans and nobles alike despised them with a passion.

Not that hatred of the Jews began with Christianity, as Jonathan Freedland implies. Seneca considered Jews to be a criminal race. Juvenal thought that Jews existed only to cause trouble for other peoples. Quintilian regarded Jews as a curse to all other peoples. The aristocratic classes in classical antiquity upheld an elitist disdain for any form of economic activity other than that based on agriculture.38)The best known 20th-century Marxist studyof anti-Semitism being Abram Leon’s The Jewish question (1946). After suffering torture at the hands of his Nazi captors, he died in Auschwitz in September 1944. He was just 26.

However, despite the widespread hatred of Jews, feudal monarchs both protected the Jewish population and exploited them. They were needed for loans and subject to high levels of taxation. Hence the widely acknowledged antagonism between the Jews and feudalism – but likewise the widely acknowledged bond between the Jews and feudalism.

So historically Judaism survived not because of the loyalty of Jews to their religion. No, Judaism survived because Jews constituted a distinct economic caste within the feudal nexus. And, though Jews were subjected to occasional bouts of persecution and ongoing oppressive provisions, they were vital to the working of the system.

And as transcontinental intermediaries between the Muslim east and the Christian west Jewish merchants could amass very considerable fortunes. The Catholic church preached against Jewish usury, but did not demand extermination. That privilege was reserved for pagans and the ever more luxuriant outgrowth of Christian heresies.

Proudhon and Bakunin

When it comes to the left, for a hatred of Jews of a kind that really does resemble the Nazis, one must look not to the writings of Marx or Engels, but Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809-65). Though never one to let facts get in the way of a good libel, Simon Schama has him echoing Marx’s “message”: “blood-sucking, whether the physical or the economic kind, was what Jews did.”39)S Schama, ‘The left’s problem with Jews hasa long and miserable history’ Financial Times February 21-22 2016. So Marx is held morally responsible for this notorious passage written by Proudhon in his private notebook:

December 26, 1847: Jews. Write an article against this race that poisons everything by sticking its nose into everything without ever mixing with any other people. Demand its expulsion from France with the exception of those individuals married to French women. Abolish synagogues and not admit them to any employment. Demand its expulsion. Finally, pursue the abolition of this religion.

It’s not without cause that the Christians called them deicides. The Jew is the enemy of humankind. They must be sent back to Asia or be exterminated. H Heine, A Weill, and others are nothing but secret spies; Rothschild, Crémieux, Marx, Fould, wicked, bilious, envious, bitter, etc, etc, beings who hate us. The Jew must disappear by steel or by fusion or by expulsion. Tolerate the elderly who no longer have children. Work to be done – What the peoples of the Middle Ages hated instinctively I hate upon reflection and irrevocably. The hatred of the Jew like the hatred of the English should be our first article of political faith.

Moreover, the abolition of Judaism will come with the abolition of other religions. Begin by not allocating funds to the clergy and leaving this to religious offerings. And then, a short while later, abolish the religion.40) economics/proudhon/1847/jews.htm.

Sad to say, Mikhail Bakunin (1814-76) held closely related views. And note, one again, that Marx is counted amongst the Jews to be hated:

“This whole Jewish world, comprising a single exploiting sect, a kind of blood-sucking people, a kind of organic, destructive, collective parasite, going beyond not only the frontiers of states, but of political opinion – this world is now, at least for the most part, at the disposal of Marx, on the one hand, and of Rothschild, on the other … This may seem strange. What can there be in common between socialism and a leading bank? The point is that authoritarian socialism, Marxist communism, demands a strong centralisation of the state. And, where there is centralisation of the state, there must necessarily be a central bank, and, where such a bank exists, the parasitic Jewish nation, speculating with the labour of the people, will be found.”41) Bakunin#Antisemitism.

Not that the followers of either Proudhon or Bakunin, at least to my knowledge, have a record of chanting ‘Death to Jews’, ‘Death to reds’, as they burn, beat and massacre. That ‘honour’ goes to the Orthodox Christian Black Hundreds in Russia; to Polish nationalists, egged on by a bigoted Catholic church, in 1918-38; and to the Nazi Third Reich (blessed by the German Christian Movement and leading Protestant and Catholic bishops alike).

Today, once again, anti-Semitism is on the rise: in Poland, Hungary, Austria and Germany. Once again “traditional anathemas” are being hurled. George Soros serves as the living embodiment of the Protocols of the elders of Zion. He is the “secret force” that explains miserable living standards, mass migration and the spread of corrosive liberal values. But it is Muslim migrants, freedom of expression, women’s rights, leftwing activists and workplace conditions which bear the brunt of current attacks.

Meanwhile, Israel, with the full support of Donald Trump, plunges ever further to the right. The conditions are in place for yet another bout of ethnic cleansing of the native Palestinian population. Zionist demonstrators in Jerusalem chant ‘Death to Arabs’. And here in Britain the likes of Freedland and Schama play their chosen role in a witch-hunt designed to silence pro-Palestinian voices, demonise the left and prevent a radical Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn.

The danger is obvious. A British version of Jarosław Kaczyński’s Law and Justice Party, Viktor Orbán’s illiberal democracy, Heinz-Christian Strache’s Freedom Party, Germany’s AfD … and the return of real anti-Semitism.


1 K Marx and F Engels CW Vol 3, London 1975, p144.
2 Unfortunately, Bauer’s Die Judenfrage is still unavailable in English. For the German original, see here
3 J Carlebach Karl Marx and the radical critique of Judaism London 1978, p147.
4 K Marx and F Engels CWVol 3, London 1975, p151.
5 K Marx and F Engels CWVol 3, London 1975, p151.
6 K Marx and F Engels CWVol 3, London 1975, p151.
7 K Marx and F Engels CWVol 1, London 1975, pp158-59.
8 K Marx and F Engels CWVol 3, London 1975, p168.
9 Ibid p174.
10 K Marx Capital Vol 1, London 1970, p72.
11 K Marx Capital Vol 1, London 1970, p79.
12 K Marx Capital Vol 1, London 1970, p169.
13 K Marx Capital Vol 1, London 1970, p169-70.
14 K Marx and F Engels CWVol 1, London 1975, p172.
15 J Freeland, ‘For 2,000 years we’ve linked Jews to money. It’s why anti-Semitism is so ingrained’ The Guardian March 9 – online here
16 J Goldburg, ‘Karl Marx’s Jew-hating conspiracy theory’ Commentary March 2018 – online here.
17 S Schama, ‘The left’s problem with Jews has a long and miserable history’ Financial Times February 21-22 2016.
18 E Fromm Marx’s concept of man London 2004, p52.
19 E Fromm Marx’s concept of man London 2004, p52.
20 See R Fine and P Spenser Anti-Semitism and the left: return of the Jewish question Manchester 2017, p37.
21 K Marx and F Engels CW Vol 3, London 1975, p170.
22 K Marx and F Engels CWVol 3, London 1975, p172.
23 K Marx and F Engels CW Vol 6, New York 1976, p511.
24 H Arendt The origins of totalitarianism London 1976, p24.
25 Quoted in J Strassmaier, ‘Karl Grün: the confrontation with Marx, 1844-1848’ Dissertations paper 1059, Chicago 1969, p61 – online here
26 K Marx and F Engels CWVol 41, London 1985, p389.
27 K Marx and F Engels CWVol 41, London 1985, p563.
28 K Marx and F Engels CW Vol 42, Moscow 1987, p303.
29 L Derfler Paul Lafargue and the founding of French Marxism, 1842-1882 Cambridge MA 1991, p46.
30 L Derfler Paul Lafargue and the founding of French Marxism, 1842-1882 Cambridge MA 1991, p15.
31 K Marx and F Engels CWVol 42, Moscow 1987, p304.
32 K Marx and F Engels CWVol 42, Moscow 1987, p323.
33 H Draper Karl Marx’s theory of revolution Vol 1, New York 1977, p593.
34 K Marx and F Engels CWVol 3, London 1975, p173.
35  AH Nimtz Marx, Tocqueville and race in America Lanham MY 2003, p129.
36 K Marx Capital Vol 1, London 1970 p301.
37 See H Draper Karl Marx’s theory of revolution Vol 1, New York 1977, pp591-608.
38 The best known 20th-century Marxist studyof anti-Semitism being Abram Leon’s The Jewish question (1946). After suffering torture at the hands of his Nazi captors, he died in Auschwitz in September 1944. He was just 26.
39 S Schama, ‘The left’s problem with Jews hasa long and miserable history’ Financial Times February 21-22 2016.
40 economics/proudhon/1847/jews.htm.
41 Bakunin#Antisemitism.

Jeremy Corbyn’s staff: What was Straight Left?

Lawrence Parker investigates the political origins of Jeremy Corbyn’s director and deputy director of strategy and communications

When Jeremy Corbyn’s campaigns chief Simon Fletcher quit last month, it was widely interpreted as a victory for Seumas Milne. Fletcher was known to have heated exchanges with Corbyn’s director of strategy and communications on a range of issues, including Brexit. Now, Corbyn has signed up Steve Howell to be Milne’s deputy. Howell’s official job description is to help “oversee the leader’s media strategy and to implement the communications grid”. He is taking an indefinite leave of absence from his lobbying agency, Freshwater, to take up his role in the Labour leader’s office.1)Howell founded Freshwater in Cardiff in 1997 after working as a news reporter and producer for BBC Radio Wales. The 19-strong public affairs and PR agency now has offices in Cardiff and London. According to the APPC register, the firm’s most recent clients include the multinational building materials company Tarmac and the personal injury lawyers Thomsons.

There are unlikely to be heated exchanges between Milne and Howell not least because they are old friends and old Straight Leftist comrades. Andrew Murray, chief of staff for Unite and yet another former SL member, recently left the Morning Star’s Communist Party of Britain to join Labour and is also thought to be in Corbyn’s inner circle.


Straight Left’s origins lie in the left, pro-Soviet oppositions that emerged in the Communist Party of Great Britain in the 1960s. In this period, a definite ‘party within a party’ existed, with figures such as Sid French, district secretary of Surrey CPGB, becoming key leaders. The general critique that came from this faction was a concern over the CPGB leadership distancing itself from the Soviet Union (such as around the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968) and other ‘socialist’ countries; a preference for a more ‘workerist’ identity (for example, the faction would have been happy with the CPGB’s paper remaining as the Daily Worker in 1966) and a concentration on workplaces/trade unions; and a sense that the party was squandering its resources in futile election contests and alienating the left of the Labour Party, with whom it was meant to be developing a close relationship on the British road to socialism (BRS), the CPGB programme.

However, a significant part of the faction felt that the BRS was ‘reformist’ and ‘revisionist’ in all its guises from 1951, counterposing a revolutionary path to the parliamentary road to socialism envisaged in the CPGB’s existing programme. This stance was clouded in ambiguity in many sections of the CPGB’s left, with the default position usually being expressed in a preference for the 1951 version of the BRS that had been overseen by Stalin, as opposed to later versions modified by a ‘revisionist’ CPGB leadership. This opposition suffered a major split in the run-up to the CPGB’s 1977 congress, with Sid French taking away 700 or so supporters to form the New Communist Party (after French realised that the CPGB’s leadership was intent on a reorganisation of his Surrey district, which would have deprived him of his organisational bridgehead).

The rump left opposition in the CPGB coalesced around Fergus Nicholson (other key figures were John Foster, Brian Filling, Nick Wright, Susan Michie, Pat Turnbull and Andrew Murray), who had been the CPGB’s student organiser until 1974. The Straight Left newspaper was launched in 1979, it was edited by Mike Toumazou and had Seumas Milne as business manager. Later a theoretical magazine, Communist, appeared. Membership figures are impossible to guess. However, judging from Communist, the faction did have a wide national infrastructure beyond London through the 1980s and was certainly on a par with, if not in some places more deeper rooted than, the other oppositional stream around the Morning Star (see below).

Factional infighting

The Straight Left group provoked a lot of enmity from its factional rivals in the CPGB. Thus, Mike Hicks, who was involved in the Communist Campaign Group (CCG), set up after the rebellion of Morning Star supporters against the CPGB leadership in the mid-1980s, and later the first general secretary of the 1988 Communist Party of Britain split (both criticised and opposed by the Straight Leftist faction), said in the late 1990s: “Straight Left was neither straight nor left.”2)F Beckett Enemy within: the rise and fall of the British Communist Party London 1998, p234. The accession of a group of ex-Straight Leftists (including Andrew Murray and Nick Wright, who had split from Straight Left to form Communist Liaison in the early 1990s) into the ranks of the Communist Party of Britain contributed to a bitter faction fight in the organisation, in which Hicks was eventually deposed as general secretary, and a strike by Morning Star staff.

Similarly, a CCG document complained: “The individuals grouped around Straight Left have their own newspaper, their own organisation and their own objectives.”3)Communist Campaign Group The crisis in the Communist Party and the way forward (no date but circa 1985). I have been told anecdotally by CPGB activists of the time that Straight Left was thought to have three circles: an inner ‘Leninist’ core; a broader circle of sympathisers in the CPGB; and the ‘softer’ Labourite and trade unionists grouped around the Straight Left newspaper (non-CPGB trade unionists such as Alan Sapper and Labour MPs such as Joan Maynard were on its advisory board). Certainly, the majority of the content of the newspaper was hewn from the same, dry ‘labour movement’ template used by the Morning Star, with little indication that it was the work of communists, apart from its commentary on the Soviet Union and other international matters. (The Communist journal, obviously aimed at CPGB sympathisers, was much more orthodox and harder Marxist-Leninist in tone, with a lot of very interesting commentary on inner-party CPGB matters.)

So Straight Left was a faction and did indulge in political camouflage, but in this it was merely of its time. For example, the CCG’s disavowal of Straight Left’s factionalism was merely an attempt to throw people off the scent from the CCG’s own factionalism (the CCG unconvincingly complained it was not a faction at all; just a group that wanted to follow the CPGB’s rules – which fooled nobody). The CPGB was riddled with factions in the 1980s, not least those grouped around Marxism Today and the party machine.

Similarly, on Straight Left’s broad left camouflage in its newspaper and other forums, this was the modus operandi of nearly the whole far left, from the Morning Star to various Trotskyist groups: ie, communists clothing their politics in everything from trade unionism to feminism and concealing their true aims in the pursuit of mass influence. Again, in hindsight, Straight Left does not strike one as very exceptional in this regard. In retrospect, the enmity aimed at it on these counts stands revealed as the product of mere factional rivalry.

However, another area of criticism aimed at Straight Left may have more mileage in terms of a lasting judgement. The group was deemed by its CPGB factional rivals (both in the CCG and the small group around The Leninist, forerunner of the Weekly Worker) to have a ‘heads down’ approach to CPGB work. In the words of the CCG, such an approach

counsels caution and compliance with the authority of the [CPGB’s] executive committee. It says that if there is disagreement and dissatisfaction with the Eurocommunists [the faction then dominating the party’s leadership], then opposition must be expressed and conducted via the normal party channels. That is to say, we must try at successive congresses to defeat and remove the Eurocommunists.4)Communist Campaign Group The crisis in the Communist Party and the way forward (no date but circa 1985).

This led to such notorious moves as Straight Leftists walking out with the CPGB leader, Gordon McLennan, when he closed down a London district congress in November 1984 that threatened to become a point of opposition to the party leadership. Mike Hicks, in the chair of this meeting, later contemptuously observed that Straight Left “ended up selling Marxism Today [the CPGB theoretical journal much despised by the party’s left in the 1980s for its Eurocommunist proclivities] instead of the Morning Star because the executive told them to”.5)F Beckett Enemy within: the rise and fall of the British Communist Party London 1998, p234

However, what this Straight Left strategy of avoiding open conflict eventually led to, in the context of a CPGB that was being set on a liquidationist course, was it being left somewhat high and dry. SL had built a considerable base in London by the end of the 1980s “by showing a willingness to take on responsibilities at a time when few candidates were to be found”.6)W Thompson The good old cause: British communism 1920-1991 London 1992, p205. This was to be a very hollow victory indeed, given that the CPGB was soon to pass into oblivion and the succession of congresses to win was coming to an end.

Labour Party

In terms of the Labour Party, Straight Left took the BRS injunction of developing an alliance with Labour to effect radical changes to its logical conclusion by arguing that the CPGB should affiliate to the Labour Party and – more controversially for both the left and right of the CPGB – that the party should end its independent electoral work. Thus a typical article in Communist argued:

… it is difficult to see there being much movement against the exclusion of communist trades unionists from the Labour Party until our electoral strategy is based on non-sectarian principles and imbued with a thoroughly consistent and positive attitude to the Labour Party.7)‘40th congress of the Communist Party’ Communist September 1987

Thus Straight Left picked up clearly on the attitude of the pro-Soviet CPGB opposition of the 1960s, which consistently drew attention to the political impact of declining electoral votes on the avowed Labour-communist strategy of the party. However, this opened up Straight Left to jibes of ‘liquidationism’ from both left and right in the CPGB8)For the right wing of the CPGB, see Dave Cook in the pre-congress discussion of 1981(Comment October 17 1981); and, for the left, see Alan Stevens in the same context (ibid). and, in retrospect, isolated the group further.

Soviet Union and ‘socialist’ countries

The Straight Left group, again showing its origins in the CPGB’s pro-Soviet left of the 1960s, took an extremely uncritical view of the Soviet Union and other ‘socialist’ countries, and regarded the actions of the CPGB as a ‘national’ sin against the ‘internationalist’ probity of the Soviet Union’s camp. Straight Left publications were filled with reprints from Soviet agencies such as Novosti and other agencies from the eastern bloc.

Thus, an article in Communist argued:

Communists in the capitalist world are not, in general, in a position to make the judgements that the CPSU is obliged to. Was it right or wrong to intervene in Afghanistan in 1979 to block the spread of counterrevolution? Is it right or wrong to withdraw the Soviet army from there today? The CPGB does not have to answer those questions. Our views are unimportant, and we do not have to live with the sharp consequences of the answers. The CPSU has to make those judgements, and it has the right to expect support and understanding in making them.9)H Sanderson, ‘Socialism today’ Communist September 1988

Neither did this stance seemingly allow criticism of even the most crisis-stricken and sickly military dictatorships of countries such as Poland in the early 1980s. Straight Leftist Charlie Woods, complaining bitterly of CPGB criticisms of the Polish regime in 1983, said:

After all, how would our [CPGB] leadership take it if the over two-million-strong Polish United Workers Party took time off from trying to solve the problems of socialism to remonstrate with our 16,000-member party’s failure to achieve it at all?10)C Woods The crisis in our Communist Party: cause, effect and cure 1983. Woods was a miner and party veteran from county Durham, who was expelled for writing this pamphlet – although he was very much viewed as a ‘fall guy’, with Fergus Nicholson or Brian Topping thought of as the more likely authors

The implication of this little homily being, of course, that those British communists really should not venture to criticise their Polish brethren at all.

Straight Left and gays

The group does not appear to have produced any significant material or statement on what would now be called LGBT questions (and an appeal from myself to its members to produce such a statement to clear this issue up, when this article originally appeared online, yielded nothing).11)This article originally appeared on the Hatful of History blog in October 2015. We are reproducing it here – in slightly amended form Members of the group have claimed that calling their newspaper Straight Left was a boxing metaphor (and some of its members certainly knew a thing or two about physical tussles with gay protestors); while others have suggested that it was recycling an old Sunday Worker slogan from the mid-1920s, when the CPGB was involved with the National Left Wing Movement: ‘Labour’s Straight Left’.

If it was the latter, it was a significant abuse of the slogan. The CPGB had this slogan to differentiate itself from traditional Labour lefts such as George Lansbury and the like: ie, those who were not ‘straight’, who would potentially disown communist allies and cosy up to the Labour right. It was not a slogan that covered the kind of homogenous ‘broad left’ that the likes of Straight Left advocated.

However, slogans can change their meaning with time. To call a newspaper Straight Left when your main factional opponents in the CPGB, the Eurocommunists, are keen on promoting gay rights, only invites some uncomfortable questions about your modus operandi on such issues. It is quite inconceivable that Fergus Nicholson and company were not aware that the name would be interpreted in this negative sense, particularly when it was the production of staunch advocates of the Soviet Union – a state with a problematic relation to homosexuality, to put it mildly.

To call all Straight Left members homophobic would be over-egging the pudding; to state that this group was one that had pronounced problems with homosexuality would not be stretching the truth l



1 Howell founded Freshwater in Cardiff in 1997 after working as a news reporter and producer for BBC Radio Wales. The 19-strong public affairs and PR agency now has offices in Cardiff and London. According to the APPC register, the firm’s most recent clients include the multinational building materials company Tarmac and the personal injury lawyers Thomsons.
2 F Beckett Enemy within: the rise and fall of the British Communist Party London 1998, p234. The accession of a group of ex-Straight Leftists (including Andrew Murray and Nick Wright, who had split from Straight Left to form Communist Liaison in the early 1990s) into the ranks of the Communist Party of Britain contributed to a bitter faction fight in the organisation, in which Hicks was eventually deposed as general secretary, and a strike by Morning Star staff.
3 Communist Campaign Group The crisis in the Communist Party and the way forward (no date but circa 1985).
4 Communist Campaign Group The crisis in the Communist Party and the way forward (no date but circa 1985).
5 F Beckett Enemy within: the rise and fall of the British Communist Party London 1998, p234
6 W Thompson The good old cause: British communism 1920-1991 London 1992, p205.
7 ‘40th congress of the Communist Party’ Communist September 1987
8 For the right wing of the CPGB, see Dave Cook in the pre-congress discussion of 1981(Comment October 17 1981); and, for the left, see Alan Stevens in the same context (ibid).
9 H Sanderson, ‘Socialism today’ Communist September 1988
10 C Woods The crisis in our Communist Party: cause, effect and cure 1983. Woods was a miner and party veteran from county Durham, who was expelled for writing this pamphlet – although he was very much viewed as a ‘fall guy’, with Fergus Nicholson or Brian Topping thought of as the more likely authors
11 This article originally appeared on the Hatful of History blog in October 2015. We are reproducing it here – in slightly amended form

‘Progressive alliance’ adds up to defeat

Bad opinion polls have encouraged retrogressive thinking, argues James Marshall

Dismissing the Jeremy Corbyn leadership as less important than the latest ephemeral street protest, or urging comrades to stay aloof from the battle raging in the Labour Party, is the worst kind of sectarianism. Unfortunately, we have seen that from too many on the left: eg, Socialist Party in England and Wales, Socialist Workers Party, the Morning Star’s Communist Party of Britain and Left Unity.

On the other hand, adopting an uncritical approach to Corbyn, refusing to condemn the ‘anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism’ smear campaign, attempts to appease the Labour right, abandonment of one principle after another – that is the road to disaster; a road foisted on Momentum with Jon Lansman’s cynical, anti-democratic coup (with the active connivance of Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbott and Clive Lewis).

Frankly, the Labourite left has no viable strategy for socialism. Even the thought of it has become vanishingly small. Just like the Labourite right, the Labourite left is committed to a Labour government for the sake of a Labour government. ‘The worst Labour government is better than any Tory government’ runs their mutual slogan. In other words, managing capitalism, though it may entail vicious attacks on the working class, is preferable to resisting capitalism and organising the working class for the struggle for socialism.

On the contrary, as Kier Hardie famously said in 1910, we need Labour MPs, “not to keep governments in office or to turn them out, but to organise the working class into a great, independent political power to fight for the coming of socialism”.1)Independent Labour Party 1910 annual conference report, p59 That should be our motto; that should be our strategic objective. Hardie, note, was clearly influenced here by the likes of Karl Kautsky, August Bebel, Vladimir Lenin and the Second International majority. True, organising the working class into a political party committed to socialism, enlightening millions with the theory of Marxism, coordinating our actions internationally – means that the immediate prospect of a Labour government recedes. However, that is the only sure way to achieve working class rule and the global transition to communism.

Labour’s (eminently predictable) bad poll ratings under Corbyn’s leadership have catapulted disorientated leftwingers – eg, Paul Mason and Owen Jones – far to the right. Any kind of majority Labour government appears impossibly remote – especially with boundary changes, the continued UK Independence Party threat in the north of England, the near Scottish National Party monopoly in Scotland and the bulk of Labour MPs still in open conflict with Corbyn.

Polls can be wrong: eg, David Cameron’s May 2015 general election victory, the Brexit vote and Donald Trump. Nevertheless, the Tories are so far ahead, the margin is so wide, that, barring some unforeseen accident, we are surely heading for a Labour defeat of 1931 proportions. The most recent ICM poll for The Guardian shows the Tories extending their lead to 18 points (the Tories being on 44% and Labour on 26%).2)The Guardian February 20 2017

Corbyn’s lame response was to say that the Labour Party was “better” at getting its message across online and blaming the media for the poor ratings. As if the Labour Party can rely on the capitalist press, radio and TV. Obviously, Labour cannot get anywhere just through tweeting. It needs a full-spectrum alternative media.

Indeed Marxists – genuine Marxists, that is – are committed to a root-and-branch transformation of the Labour Party. Instead of the ‘next Labour government’, the priority must be a sovereign conference, a meaningful clause four, commitment to a programme of international socialism, automatic reselection of MPs, the subordination of MPs to the national executive committee, MPs on an average worker’s wage, the closure of the compliance unit, rooting CLPs in workplaces and communities, new trade union affiliates, ending the bans and transforming the Labour Party into a united front open to all socialist organisations.

It is not only the wretched Paul Mason and Owen Jones who have undergone a full-scale political collapse. Comrades in Socialist Resistance and the Labour Representation Committee are in effect advocating the slogan, ‘Any government is better than a Tory government’. Naturally, this is done under the banner of ending the ‘age of austerity’. Hence the siren call for “forming a government through a progressive alliance with other parties”: ie, a Labour-Green-SNP-Plaid Cymru alliance.3)Socialist Resistance October 15 2016 Writing in the Labour Representation Committee’s monthly journal, John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, echoes this council of despair. He says we must “start the work” of building the “progressive alliance”.4)Labour Briefing November 2016 Some even want to give an invite to the Liberal Democrats. The LRC’s Peter Bowing too calls for a “progressive coalition” and in that spirit urges Labour to “lead the Liberal Democrats, Greens and SNP in opposing Brexit”.5)Labour Briefing February 2017

A clear case of political regression. A return to Millerandism, Menshevism or the popular fronts of ‘official communism’. And, be warned, in the oft quoted words of George Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”.

In 1899 the French socialist, Alexandre Millerand, agreed to become a minister in Pierre Waldeck-Rousseau’s coalition government of ‘republican defence’ – this was at the height of the Dreyfus affair. Millerand took his cabinet seat alongside general Alexandre de Gallifet, the butcher of the 1871 Paris Commune. Inevitably, this provoked widespread indignation, both in France itself and internationally.

Yet the advance of the baying Catholic, royalist and military right was stopped and Millerand steered through a wide range of reforms, including the reduction in the maximum working day from 11 to 10 hours, the introduction of an eight-hour working day for postal employees, the prescribing of maximum hours and minimum wages for all work undertaken by public authorities, the establishment of arbitration tribunals and inspectors of labour.

Millerandism became the subject of heated debate at the congress of the Socialist International held in Paris over September 23-27 1900. Previously any participation in a coalition government with bourgeois parties had been regarded as a gross violation of elementary principle. Millerand was, of course, part of a growing trend, which included Peter Struve in Russia, Eduard Bernstein in Germany and Sidney Webb in Britain. This revisionist opportunism erupted into outright social chauvinism in August 1914.

In an attempt to smooth over divisions, Kautsky tabled a rotten, though successful, compromise motion. Class collaboration was roundly condemned … but there was a get-out clause: “Whether in a particular case, the political situation necessitates this dangerous experiment [of joining a coalition government with bourgeois parties – JM] is a question of tactics and not principle.”

Lenin sarcastically dismissed the resolution as being made from “caoutchouc” – that is to say, India rubber: it could be stretched in any direction. Hence, outrageously, Millerand could claim to be a good socialist, differing with other good socialists only in terms of tactical considerations.

Understandably then, Millerandism continued to be a source of fierce controversy. At the 1903 (Dresden) Congress of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, Kautsky supported the resolution condemning revisionism and, implicitly, Millerandism. So, while in Paris Kautsky was “running with the hares”, at Dresden he was “again to the fore, now ‘barking with the hounds’” (Daniel De Leon, 1904).

With a minor amendment, the SDP’s Dresden resolution was agreed at the Socialist International’s 1904 congress in Amsterdam. It deserves the closest attention:

The congress repudiates to the fullest extent possible the efforts of the revisionists, which have for their object the modification of our tried and victorious policy based on the class war, and the substitution, for the conquest of political power by an unceasing attack on the bourgeoisie, of a policy of concession to the established order of society.

The consequence of such revisionist tactics would be to turn a party striving for the most speedy transformation possible of bourgeois society into socialist society – a party therefore revolutionary in the best sense of the word – into a party satisfied with the reform of bourgeois society.

For this reason the congress – convinced, in opposition to revisionist tendencies, that class antagonisms, far from diminishing, continually increase in bitterness – declares:

1. That the party rejects all responsibility of any sort under the political and economic conditions based on capitalist production, and therefore can in no wise countenance any measure tending to maintain in power the dominant class.

2. The Social Democracy can accept no participation in the government under bourgeois society, this decision being in accordance with the Kautsky resolution passed at the International Congress of Paris in 1900.

The congress further condemns every attempt to mask the ever growing class antagonisms, in order to bring about an understanding with the bourgeois parties.

The congress relies upon the socialist parliamentary group to use its power, increased by the number of its members and by the great accession of electors who support it, to persevere in its propaganda towards the final object of socialism, and, in conformity with our programme, to defend most resolutely the interests of the working class, the extension and consolidation of political liberties, in order to obtain equal rights for all; to carry on more vigorously than ever the fight against militarism, against the imperialist and colonial policy, against injustice, domination and exploitation of every kind, and finally to exert itself to the utmost to perfect social legislation and to enable the working class to fulfil its political and civilising mission.6)

The positive reference to the 1900 resolution was an obvious attempt to correct Kautsky without criticising Kautsky. Not a good omen.
Popular fronts

The popular fronts of ‘official communism’ are in essence a continuation of Millerandism. In the name of combating fascism, fighting for peace, uniting against Thatcherism, ending austerity, etc, etc, the parties of the working class are urged to seek a ‘broad democratic alliance’ with the ‘progressive’ parties of the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie.

The result? The bourgeois and petty bourgeois parties set the limits of the political agenda and the parties of the working class are driven to the right … to the point of being prepared to suppress the working class. Of course, this leads, not to opening up the road to socialism, but to demoralisation and defeat. Why vote for those who refuse to support you against employers? Why vote for those who want to keep the capitalist state intact? No wonder Trotsky branded the popular fronts as a “strike-breaking conspiracy”.

This is what we saw in practice with popular front governments from Spain and France in the 1930s to Chile in the early 1970s. The socialist working class was constantly held back by the need to keep allies on board. Then it was betrayed. Mass strikes were sabotaged, manifestations of dual power wound down, militias disarmed.

The most disappointing thing about today’s calls for a “progressive alliance” is the sheer philistinism involved. In early 20th-century Russia, the idea of stages made a certain kind of sense. Eg, first an anti-tsarist revolution that unites all democratic forces; then, after a considerable historical delay, when capitalist economic development had finally created a working class majority, socialism comes onto the agenda. Such was the Menshevik reasoning. Though their strategy appeared to have a degree of logic, it assumed a Russia in isolation from the socialist revolution in Europe. Hence in 1917 the Mensheviks wanted state power not in the hands of the soviets, but a bourgeois-dominated provisional government, a “progressive alliance”, which would, by its very nature, continue Russia’s war against Germany.

In 2017 this caricature of Marxism has degenerated into a caricature of itself. Things are reduced to simple arithmetic – that is, addition: Labour, plus the SNP, plus Plaid, plus the Greens add up to a voter base that might beat the Tories in 2020. Such is the sum of their wisdom. However, arithmetic alone cannot suffice. At the very least we need to apply mechanics. Political parties move according to different trajectories, rely on different class forces and possess different social weights. Eg, Labour needs to rewin its traditional base in the central belt of Scotland, meanwhile the SNP is committed to a second referendum and Scottish independence. Hence either the Labour Party fights the SNP and its nationalist programme or, in the name of the ‘progressive alliance’, Labour dilutes its criticisms and reconciles itself to the loss of its MPs in Scotland and the permanent disunity of the British working class.

We do not oppose marching on protest demonstrations alongside members of the SNP, Plaid, the Greens, etc. Nor do we oppose rebuilding trade unions alongside members of the SNP, Plaid, the Greens, etc. Cooperation around single-issue campaigns and workplace terms and conditions can only be beneficial. But, obviously, a ‘progressive alliance’ based on the hope of forming a coalition government that manages capitalism stands in flat contradiction to the strategy of organising the working class into a “great, independent political power to fight for the coming of socialism”.


1 Independent Labour Party 1910 annual conference report, p59
2 The Guardian February 20 2017
3 Socialist Resistance October 15 2016
4 Labour Briefing November 2016
5 Labour Briefing February 2017

Jackie Walker, Norman Finkelstein and the new definition of anti-Semitism

Jackie Walker wandered into a political minefield when she innocently asked at a training workshop on anti-Semitism at Labour Party conference 2016: “In terms of Holocaust Day, wouldn’t it be wonderful if Holocaust Day was open to all people who experienced Holocaust?” She was robustly corrected by some right wingers in the room that formally the supposed ethos of the 46 governments who came together to create the Holocaust Memorial Day on January 27 2000 was to “remember the victims of Nazi persecution and of all genocides” (our emphasis). However, she really got into trouble with additional, uncontroversial observation that “In practice, [HMD] is not actually circulated and advertised as such.”

Ken Livingstone, another comrade who is also in trouble for making clumsy comments with a kernel of truth, made the incontrovertible observation that “I suspect you’ll find the majority of people in Britain didn’t know the Holocaust Memorial Day had been widened to include others,” he said.

Norman Finkelstein’s 2000 polemic described how the Nazi holocaust and the destruction of European Jewry became the “The Holocaust”: an “ideological representation” of this real historical event, that has is now presented as “categorically unique historical event” which “cannot be rationally apprehended … Indeed, The Holocaust is unique because it is inexplicable, and it is inexplicable because it is unique” (pp41-45).

And which, it must be added, via the ruthless battle for the ‘memory’ of the holocaust becomes a form of the class struggle itself. That, not the bilge about ‘anti-Semitism’ is the political significance of the attacks on comrades Walker, Livingstone and many others in the Labour Party.

LPM recommends Norman G Finkelstein, The holocaust industry: reflections on the exploitation of Jewish suffering (Verso 2000)

Norman Finkelstein
The new Anti-Semitism and the Holocaust Industry

A video of Norman speaking at Communist University 2016 on the issue is available here.

When Norman Finklestein’s The Holocaust Industry first hit the shelves in 2000, he must have anticipated that his punchy little polemic would stir the pot a little. You wouldn’t imagine he anticipated the shit storm that was about to break over him:

  • This book “provides considerable comfort to every holocaust denier, neo-Nazi and anti-Semite on the face of the planet” (Tobias Abse New Interventions autumn 2000).
  • Finkelstein comes “dangerously close to giving comfort to those who dream of new holocausts” (Alex Callinicos Socialist Worker July 22, 2000).
  • “How different is [Finkelstein’s] assertion that ‘the field of Holocaust studies is replete with nonsense, if not plain fraud’, from the holocaust revisionist David Irving’s rantings …?” (Socialist Worker July 22).
  • Finkelstein was “a Jew who doesn’t like Jews” and who “does the anti-Semites’ work for them” (Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian July 14, 2000),
  • “He’s poison, he’s a disgusting self-hating Jew, he’s something you find under a rock” (Leon Wieseltier, Zionist intellectual and literary editor of New Republic).

Holocaust industryOn the surface, Finkelstein has impeccable credentials to write on the horror of that broke over European Jewry in WWII. Both his mother and father were survivors of the Warsaw ghetto and the Nazi concentration camps. Apart from his parents, every family member was exterminated by the Nazis. In the words of Finkelstein, “My earliest memory, so to speak, of the Nazi holocaust is my mother glued in front of the television watching the trial of Adolf Eichmann (1961) when I came home from school” (p5).

It is also very ironic that Finkelstein’s project is rather moderate in its scope and its intentions – essentially, all he wanted to do is make the holocaust a subject of rational inquiry. This entails rescuing real history from the clutches of “holocaust correctness” (p65) and so-called ‘holocaust awareness’, which, to use the words of the Israeli writer, Boas Evron, is actually “an official, propagandistic indoctrination, a churning out of slogans and a false view of the world, the real aim of which is not at all an understanding of the past, but a manipulation of the present” (p41).

Finkelstein’s project is to strip away all the self-serving myths and falsehoods which envelop the holocaust, which can only mean stepping on a lot of very sensitive toes – some powerful, some just desperate for a crumb of ideological absolutism in an uncertain and disturbingly relativistic world. As he clearly puts it in his mission statement, “In this text, Nazi holocaust signals the actual historical event, The Holocaust its ideological representation … Like most ideologies, it bears a connection, if tenuous, with reality. The Holocaust is not an arbitrary, but rather an internally coherent, construct. Its central dogmas sustain significant political and class interests. Indeed, The Holocaust has proven to be an indispensable ideological weapon” (original italics – p4). In other words, Finkelstein wants to understand how the Nazi holocaust became “the Holocaust” – a “categorically unique historical event” which “cannot be rationally apprehended … Indeed, The Holocaust is unique because it is inexplicable, and it is inexplicable because it is unique” (pp41-45).

As a graphic example of the “sacralisation of the holocaust”, as the liberal scholar Peter Novick dubs it, some have been infuriated by Finkelstein’s blunt statement that “much of the literature on Hitler’s ‘final solution’ is worthless as scholarship. Indeed, the field of Holocaust studies is replete with nonsense, if not sheer fraud” (p55).

Finkelstein’s remit is to explain the way in which the ruling class and reactionary forces in general have managed to expropriate the ‘memory’ and discourse of the holocaust – to the extent that the almost unimaginable suffering endured by the victims of Nazi rule has become the virtual political-moral property of the reinvented, post-World War II bourgeoisie, which never tires of parading its new-found anti-racism/fascism.

The semi-hysterical reaction to Finkelstein’s birth described above illustrates the alarming climate of censorship that has grown alongside this ideological appropriation. It says it all that the Socialist Workers Party, former Finkelstein fans, issued a call for the works of David Irving to be prohibited from public libraries. If Finkelstein’s views also come “dangerously close” to Irving’s, as Alex Callinicos wrote in Socialist Worker (July 22 2000), then why not demand that The holocaust industry also be removed from public libraries? A very slippery slope.

‘The Holocaust’ – as opposed to the Nazi holocaust – is largely a retrospective construction by those with various (and sometimes rival) ideological and ‘special interest’ axes to grind. Indeed, ‘The Holocaust’ would not have been recognisable to most people who went through World War II and Nazi rule. In some respects, an anachronism (‘The Holocaust’) is being introduced as an alternative to understanding contemporary responses to real events. Substituting for a rational examination of the specific historical dynamics that led to the Nazi holocaust, we have the mystifying fog of ‘holocaust awareness’.

This is easily observed by the way that Martin Niemöller’s famous mea culpa (“First they came for the communists …”) has been radically doctored for political reasons. Infamously, Time magazine’s ‘new’ version promoted the Jews to first place and dropped both the communists and the social democrats. Al Gore publicly did the same too – and for good measure he dumped the trade unionists as well. Gore, Time and others have all added Catholics to Niemöller’s list – even though he did not mention them. In the heavily catholic city of Boston, they were added to the ‘quotation’ inscribed on its holocaust memorial.

Naturally, the establishment-sanctified US Holocaust Museum airbrushes out the communists from its roll call of official victimhood (but, interestingly, the holocaust bureaucrats decided to retain the social democrats as authentic, bona fide victims). Others have decided to include gays – the fact that Niemöller did not was obviously a mere ‘oversight’ on his part.

This footloose and fancy-free attitude to what should be a basic, easily verified and hence non-contested truth clearly demonstrates that the ruthless battle for the ‘memory’ of the holocaust is a form of class struggle – and a handy indicator of the current balance of class forces. Once upon a time, at least in the US, to ‘harp on’ about the Nazi holocaust was a sign of dangerous pinko-commie leanings. Now it is a badge of moral and bourgeois uprightness. Niemöller himself symbolises this shift in bourgeois ideology.

In the 1940s and 1950s the protestant pastor, who spent eight years in Nazi concentration camps, was regarded with grave suspicion by American Jewry in the shape of organisations like the American Jewish Committee and the Anti Deformation League. Niemöller’s instinctive opposition to the McCarthyite witch hunts made him persona non grata for America Jewish leaders who were desperate to boost their anti-communist credentials – to the point of joining, and partly financing, far rightist organisations like the All-American Conference to Combat Communism and even turning a blind eye to veterans of the Nazi SS entering the country. Indeed, the AJC enthusiastically joined in the establishment hysteria whipped up against the Rosenbergs, and its monthly publication, Commentary (November 1953), actually editorialised about how the couple – executed as Soviet spies – were not really Jews at all. (This tradition of toadying before the US establishment continues – the Simon Wiesenthal Centre made Ronald Reagan the winner of its ‘Humanitarian of the Year’ award in 1988.)

Another significant aspect to the debate is the so-called uniqueness of the holocaust, an idea heavily pushed in schools, colleges/universities, books, TV documentaries, films, etc. Banally speaking of course, every single event that has ever happened, and ever will happen, is ‘unique’. The evangelists for ‘uniqueness’ have a different agenda though.

Take Deborah Lipstadt, occupant of the holocaust chair at Emory University, an appointee to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council and author of the widely lauded, Denying the holocaust: the growing assault on memory and truth. Lipstadt became a liberal hero for successfully slugging it out with David Irving last year in the British courts, after the Hitler-admiring historian filed a doomed libel suit against Lipstadt for branding him “one of the most dangerous spokespersons for holocaust denial”.

What was not mentioned in the mainstream press coverage of the time, and which throws a different and less salutary light on Lipstadt’s motivations, is that she is on record declaring that if you do not accept the ‘uniqueness’ theory, you must be effectively classed alongside those who deny the very historical fact of the Nazi holocaust itself. We are all potential Irvings then. Thus, in Denying the holocaust, Lipstadt rages against the drawing of “immoral equivalences” with the Nazi holocaust – like the Armenian genocide. This has “intriguing implications”, according to Finkelstein, who observes: “Daniel Goldhagen argues that Serbian actions in Kosovo ‘are, in their essence, different from those of Nazi Germany only in scale’. That would make Goldhagen ‘in essence’ a holocaust denier. (The holocaust industry: reflections on the exploitation of Jewish sufferingLondon 2000, p71).

Inconsistencies, contradictions and paradoxes may abound in the ‘uniqueness’ school of Wiesel, Goldhagen, Lipstadt et al – but it is strongly recommended that you make loud, approving noises if you want to find yourself with your feet well under the table, and if you are non-Jewish it could also mean that you are actually feted (always nice). Reject the doctrine, however, and purdah beckons – doubly so if you are Jewish and thus an abominable ‘self-hater’.

Rattling the Labour right

Lawrence Parker spoke at Communist University 2016 on the National Left Wing Movement – an organisation that was active in the Labour Party during the 1920s. Chris Hill of Labour Party Marxists spoke to him

Labour Party Marxists has raised a flag in the Labour Party – a modest start. The comrades who have taken this initiative have drawn a lot of inspiration from the National Left Wing Movement, promoted by the Communist Party of Great Britain in the 1920s. Today rightwingers from Tom Watson down are talking of a ‘Trot plot’ to swamp the party, and the associated return of entryism. Was the NLWM an ‘entryist’ initiative by the CPGB of that time, in the way we have later come to understand the term?

The short answer is no. Obviously it did involve members of a specific Marxist organisation in the shape of the CPGB working in the Labour Party, although many of them would have been members prior to the NLWM’s formation in 1925, given the initial structure and culture of the party.

That is about as far as the similarities go with the generalised Trotskyist understanding of work inside the Labour Party. To my mind, the tactics advocated by the old Militant Tendency – and smaller competitors to its left inside the party in the 1980s and earlier – were a debased form of the work of the NLWM. This can be usefully illustrated by considering a Militant article by Tony Aitman published in 1986, looking at the CPGB’s role in the Labour Party in the 1920s. 1)‘Labour’s purge of the 1920s’ Militant April 18 1986

It is very interesting, of course, that the Militant grouping was trying to draw parallels between its experience of attacks and purges in the Labour Party of the mid-1980s and the CPGB’s from an earlier period. The article is broadly supportive of the NLWM initiative. However, it portrays the Militant group merely as a trend inside Labour and suggests the problem with the CPGB was its distinctness and separateness from the Labour Party of the time. Although Aitman’s article is pretty unsophisticated and cannot address the real historical dynamics of the NLWM, he did at least suggest the difference between the NLWM and a more debased ‘entryism’.

Militant felt it had to adapt itself to Labourism. This necessarily entailed a denial of its own independent existence as a specific formation with a distinct ideological and structural dynamic. The CPGB – although it occasionally seemed to want to pretend that non-CPGBers were running the NLWM show and was susceptible to some ‘rightist’ pressures – did not deny its own distinct organisation. Indeed, that separateness was the precondition for initiatives such as the NLWM. That logic also expressed itself programmatically.

I have many criticisms of the NLWM, but it was at least an attempt by the CPGB to bolster the Labour left and arm it with politics that cut against the grain of the militarism, monarchism and imperialism that had infected Labour. It could also be tough and uncompromising in its rhetoric. At the NLWM’s 1928 conference, non-communist chairman Will Crick promised: “We will purge the movement of every vestige of capitalism … and those who spend much of their time exploring the Sahara and cruising around the world, wining and dining with the most pronounced enemies of our class …”

To that end, it was very different to the type of Labour Party operation that I have been familiar with from my background in Trotskyism. Even in the mode of ‘shallow entry’ that I was exposed to, this involved an inability to tackle the thorny issues of ‘high politics’ relating to how we are ruled. Instead, there was an emphasis on lower-level campaigns, ‘struggles’ and actions – most with a set template of desiccated ‘transitional’ demands thrown in. Another example of ‘revolutionaries’ adopting the politics of left Labourism, in other words.

It is also worthwhile bearing in mind that the NLWM organised significant forces in the Labour Party. At its formal national launch in September 1926, it had official delegates from 52 local Labour parties, delegates from 40 other leftwing minority groups inside Labour and a weekly paper in the form of the Sunday Worker, with a claimed circulation of 80,000. It severely rattled the Labour right, which stepped up its persecution of leftwing activists, particularly those willing to associate with communists.

Why take on this project in the first place? You have looked in particular at the CPGB’s relationship to the first Labour government in 1924 – over 90 years ago now. Rather a lot has changed in political terms. The CPGB as was does not even exist any more. Is this project anything more than a historical curio?

That is a very difficult question to answer in some ways.

Direct parallels between then and today are mostly facile, and I am not very interested in that as a general method (although it is fine to draw certain limited parallels if the historical evidence warrants it). It seems to me that many on the left start from the opposite dimension. They begin with a parallel they wish to draw and try to find the evidence to support it.

Yes, a lot has changed in 80 years, but then a lot has not – the struggle between left and right in the Labour Party keeps recurring, for example. I suppose I am somewhat notorious in some circles for stubbornly chewing on historical curios, such as the CPGB’s post-war anti-revisionist movement. 2)See L Parker The kick inside: revolutionary opposition in the CPGB, 1945-1991 London 2012. So the ‘curio’ charge does not really bother me!

In a sense, the NLWM does have the status of a relative ‘novelty item’ in the history of the CPGB. If people are aware of anything about the CPGB in the 1920s, they know of Lenin’s ‘hanged-man’ advice on affiliation to the Labour Party;3) the party’s role in the General Strike of 1926;4)See and its adoption of disastrous ‘third period’ tactics in the late 1920s.5) Among Trotskyists there will also be a general narrative about ‘Stalinisation’ and the degeneration of the Comintern – some of which I share. Compared to this, the NLWM – and perhaps to a lesser extent the CPGB’s reaction to the first Labour government of 1924 – are relative blind spots.

I can understand this. On the surface, the General Strike and the debate inside the party over the third period are very dramatic. But, even where the NLWM does feature, it seems overshadowed by the ‘grander’ events around it. The Trotskyist, Brian Pearce – in many ways a pioneer of this kind of writing – authored The British Communist Party and the Labour left, 1925-1929 in 1957.6) In it, Pearce does not really deal with any of the practical difficulties the NLWM was clearly facing by 1928. These practical problems were distinct from the trajectory a minority of CPGB members around Harry Pollitt and Rajani Palme Dutt were on – this group began to tack leftwards, away from the NLWM and its perspective, at this time.

Instead, Pearce seems to paint the NLWM white to set against the looming darkness of the third period. Don’t misunderstand me: the NLWM was undoubtedly a healthier phase of CPGB activity than the idiocies of the third period. However, this approach scarcely allows the historian to reach an informed assessment of the real strengths and weaknesses of the NLWM. Similarly, Aitman, in the previously mentioned Militant article, suggests that some CPGB members were opposed to the NLWM in virulent, sectarian terms from the outset. I have not found any real evidence for this, although Dutt certainly tried to put a strong CPGB ‘stamp’ on the organisation from the start. This, in Aitman’s world at the time, would have been ‘sectarian’, because independent Marxist organisation outside the Labour Party was impermissible, according to Militant orthodoxy in the mid-1980s.

Aitman seems, in fact, to have been primarily concerned with guilt by association. He makes efforts to associate the NLWM with third-period sectarian lunacies. So the NLWM definitely has an element of curio, or the relative unknown, about it. I aim to fathom out the reason behind that.

You mentioned the programme of the NLWM. Could you expand on what the movement stood for?

The NLWM adopted a programme in 1926 that was not limited to the sort of tedious shopping list of narrow economic and minimal demands we have become used to from today’s left. Instead, it had a highly focused set of principled, ‘high politics’ demands. These would clearly delineate the Labour left from the monarchist and pro-imperialist practice of the right.

For example, the NLWM called for the abolition of the British empire and support for the struggles of the colonial masses; opposition to capitalist war credits; nationalisation of the banking and credit system; full political rights for police officers and those in the armed forces; full adult suffrage for both sexes; and the abolition of the House of Lords and monarchy. This was clearly an attempt to politically embolden the left of the Labour Party, not the CPGB adapting itself to the characteristic flakiness of Labour lefts. Also bear in mind that these would not exactly have been easy politics to fight for in the deferential and militaristic atmosphere of 1920s Britain.

Interestingly, I found a reference just the other day to Dutt in early 1929 characterising the programme of the NLWM as ‘centrist’. I had to laugh, considering how many ostensible revolutionary socialists today would consider such a programme to be wildly ultra-left!

What impact did the Comintern have on the CPGB in this period?

A fundamental one: I am not one of those revisionist historians seeking to prise apart the CPGB from its links to the Communist International and Moscow. If you do that, the history of the CPGB becomes largely inexplicable; it very obviously kept in broad step with shifts in the Comintern.

Also, there is clearly a process of Stalinisation going on from the mid-1920s. However, I do not have much patience with the idea – which has become a kind of unconscious common sense for many activists on the left – that things instantly went to pot after Lenin’s death in 1924. ‘Socialism in one country’ was a defining moment for the revolutionary potential of the Comintern; however, it took time for this degeneration to work itself through.

So, as I have written before, it is a positive thing that Zinoviev and the Comintern took the CPGB to task for its rightist and conciliatory attitude to the minority Labour government in 1924. This is true even if that advice may have been the result of other factors less directly related to keeping the CPGB on the straight and narrow, and more to do with factional manoeuvring in the Soviet party – eg, Moscow’s own disappointment with the MacDonald government; the fact that Trotsky had apparently been guilty of a right deviation in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and so on.

In a similar vein, I have found material in the Russian archives from the minutes of what it called the English Commission, where you can find Bukharin, as late as 1928, giving CPGB comrades reasonably sound advice on their relations with the Labour Party and the broader movement. I think this underlines a point about figures such as Zinoviev and Bukharin. Whatever disastrous choices they had made in the CPSU inner-party struggle of the 1920s, they were more than mere bureaucrats. Both had serious careers as revolutionaries. And, as far as I understand it, Zinoviev was a theoretical opponent of ‘socialism in one country’. However, this obscures a broader point.

The CPGB’s most disastrous inheritance from the Comintern in terms of its work in broader formations such as the NLWM actually came prior to Stalinisation. Specifically, the militarised and hyper-centralised conceptions of the party regime in the infamous ‘21 conditions’ agreed at the Comintern’s Second Congress in 1920.

How did this impact upon the NLWM?

Well, such martial conceptions of a political party are highly unlikely to breed organisations with a critical culture. Thus, when a party such as the CPGB interacted with the broader workers’ movement under the aegis of the united front in the 1920s, it was not able to sustain a consistent critical culture of ‘unity in diversity’ in relation to its prospective alliance partners. Attempts to do so would perforce destabilise its own party regime.

Therefore, early opportunist adaptation to the 1924 Labour government led to an ultra-leftist reaction from some members. Close proximity to the Labour Party disorientated CPGB members – spinning them in both rightist and leftist directions.

Unsurprisingly, this culture was transposed into the NLWM. For example, the minutes of the CPGB’s Holborn Labour Party fraction from February 1926 stress that CPGB members must maintain unanimity in Labour Party discussions. There were even arguments suggesting it was a problem if there was any disunity among the broader left wing at Labour Party meetings.

Keep in mind that in both cases we are probably only talking about discussions. Also that there would definitely have been political differences between CPGB members and other leftwingers in the NLWM. So we can see how problematic the CPGB found the practice of ‘unity in diversity’. The whole tendency was, ideologically at least, towards abstract unity, both internally and externally. Of course, the major dialectical irony was that these ultra-centralised concepts of party organisation engendered fragmentation and constant left/right flip-flopping. Plus endless bouts of corrective intervention from the CPGB leadership and the Comintern.

How did this flip-flopping concretely manifest itself in the ranks of the NLWM?

While the CPGB’s leadership was still arguing for the NLWM’s continued existence before its 10th congress in early 1929, it admitted that it had been difficult to counter the reformist illusions of non-CPGB members. In a similar vein, a huge debate in the Sunday Worker before and after the liquidation of the NLWM in 1929 shows that, while many Labourites had been prepared to work with the CPGB, some were actually quite prejudiced against the CPGB party organisation.

The original secretary of the NLWM, Tom Colyer, resigned with five others from the national committee at the end of 1926. They opposed the NLWM being tied to a CPGB-dominated Sunday Worker; so there were clear rightist pressures. When the NLWM was a fledgling movement in November 1925, a London meeting of Labour Party reps met to “discuss ways of bringing the Labour Party back to the idealism and fighting spirit of Keir Hardie”.

Now, clearly that could mean different things to different strands in the Labour Party. CPGB members could remember Keir Hardie primarily as an apostle of independent working class politics, while non-communist Labour members could read it as a more fundamental statement of identity. An instruction from the party’s London Trades Council and Labour Department in January 1926 told members working in the NLWM that they should be prepared to give and take on detailed matters of policy with non-communists. Also, that it was better for non-CPGB leftwingers to take the lead and that the communists should make them, the leftwingers, feel that they were running the whole show. So there was a certain tendency to soft-pedal CPGB politics and remain ‘hidden in plain sight’ so to speak.

The report in Workers’ Life – a CPGB weekly paper – of the NLWM’s September 1927 conference was keen to emphasise how few of the delegates were communists, which is actually quite delusional. There were also a number of complaints from inside the CPGB that its NLWM work was somewhat haphazard, and opposition to the right in the Labour Party was effectively being left to chance. Again, this kind of behaviour led to a leftist reaction from Dutt, in particular. Rather than sparing the NLWM the nuances and details of the CPGB, in 1925 he called for a far more ruthless approach to the left of the Labour Party and was obviously much more keen to emphasise a specific communist identity.

By October 1927, in a book entitled Socialism and the living wage, Dutt was predicting the imminent collapse of any basis for social democratic reforms and leadership. This posed, as he no doubt intended, questions for the future of the CPGB’s work in the NLWM. Also, I have found fragments of evidence that suggest some CPGB members did not bother themselves with the NLWM – a passive boycott. It is easy to imagine that these activists had the leftist sentiments of earlier unofficial tendencies in the CPGB, which reacted to rightwing deviations by disparaging work in the Labour Party. So there is a certain amount of evidence to suggest this classic right/left dichotomy.

To what extent would these political differences have been the common property of the movement as a whole? LPM believes in transparency and openness on political disagreements – it plays a role in the self-education of a working class that we want to see running society. What was the CPGB’s practice in this period?

I have talked about the negative consequences of the militaristic, top-down model of organisation in the Comintern and its affiliate parties. However, there was another trend operating in the CPGB – a relative openness towards the broader workers’ movement in terms of its ideological divisions. Of course, this could never be presented in terms of factional differences after the banning of factions in Soviet party in 1921, but rather as a matter of individual disagreements or those of small episodic groupings.

I am unsure as to the precise source of this healthier strain, although I was struck in this regard by Mike Macnair’s observation in his book Revolutionary strategy7) that much of what the Russians attempted to teach the Comintern in the 1920-23 period was orthodox Kautskyism. Also there were, of course, plenty of healthy examples from the history of Bolshevism to draw upon in this regard.

What this meant was that you could often read about the CPGB’s internal differences in its various open journals and, although this was less present in weekly papers such as Workers’ Weekly and Workers’ Life, you can occasionally see reports there of inner-party meetings and political differences being referred to. This was the case throughout the period of the 1920s. The broader, although still clearly communist, Sunday Worker also had major open debates, not least on the future of the NLWM in 1928-29, and had a genuinely lively letters page. This was not just filled with anecdotal observations to back up whatever the CPGB’s line was – in vivid contrast to the deathly dull letters pages in publications such as The Socialist and Socialist Worker, which one would only read out of mild desperation.

So, a rank-and-file CPGB member, or an interested reader in, say, the Labour Party, could fairly easily understand, with a little close reading, the political differences in the organisation and in the leadership at particular junctures. A few years ago, I think it was Ian Birchall, during his debate with the leadership of the Socialist Workers Party in the aftermath of the Martin Smith imbroglio, who raised the point that the CPGB had allowed open debate in its publications in its year of big crisis in 1956. If the Stalinist CPGB could allow this, why couldn’t the SWP?

However, this obscures the fact that the CPGB hosted open debates in its publications not just in 1956, but throughout the 1920s and in the post-World War II period. It was something normal for the CPGB, albeit such debate was hosted on the leadership’s terms and within its terms of reference. Either comrade Birchall was genuinely unaware of this or he wanted to save the SWP tradition from being even more compromised than it already was. Certainly, the CPGB in its ‘Leninist’ mode was much more open than the ‘Leninist’ SWP has been since the late 1980s.

Moving back to the NLWM, you talked at Communist University about how the orientation became something of a trap for the CPGB. How did the movement develop?

As I have suggested already, you did have various leadership figures such as Dutt reading smoke signals from Moscow and tacking left. But even if that pressure had not been there, I am extremely doubtful that the CPGB’s line on Labour Party work would have been unchallenged or unchecked, although I suspect it would not have taken the eventual absurd form of calling Labour members ‘social fascists’.

The NLWM, in particular, was turning into a partial trap for the CPGB. Conditions inside the Labour Party itself were pushing the CPGB to the left. At the beginning of 1928, the CPGB, as far as I can see, attempted to draw up a balance sheet of its activities in the Labour Party and the NLWM. When it did so it was obviously confronting a radically different terrain from, say, 1923. The right had been on the offensive since the mid-1920s. This meant, concretely, that CPGB members could not run as Labour election candidates without the sanction of the national Labour leadership – which was very unlikely; they could not enter the Labour Party openly as communists; CPGB trade unionists could not sit on the executive of a divisional or local Labour organisation; and no communist trade unionist could go to conference as a delegate from a local Labour Party.

However, CPGB members could go to the national conference as delegates from their trade unions – Harry Pollitt went to the 1928 Labour Party conference under the aegis of the boilermakers’ union; and CPGB trade unionists could attend general council meetings and conferences to select parliamentary candidates.

This was a much more difficult terrain for the CPGB to be working in to expand its influence. Also in the CPGB’s literature of the time appears the complaint that those local Labour organisations prepared to implement the decisions of its 1925 conference and exclude communists were having trouble mobilising their most active members due to demoralisation after the removal of the ‘best fighters’ (ie, the CPGB).

When I first came across this I was sceptical, but the complaint recurs on a number of occasions. I think that what it really suggests is that the CPGB was having problems mobilising its closer sympathisers in Labour. Witch-hunts are strange phenomena though – the examples I have personally experienced seem sometimes to have had a deflating and demoralising effect on the people doing the actual witch-hunting; and often the only thing uniting witch-hunters is hatred of witches. So after the witches are burned …

What specific impact did the right’s drive to disaffiliate those local Labour Party organisations that refused to expel communists have on the NLWM?

A very profound one, I think. By September 1927, the great bulk of the membership of the NLWM came from precisely those disaffiliated Labour locals who were unwilling to countenance the removal of communists from their ranks. There is a rider to this though, in that the NLWM, by its September 1928 conference, still represented, on paper, 21 official Labour parties, as against 15 disaffiliated parties, and 45 leftwing groups presumably existing as minorities in local Labour parties. Although the CPGB and thus the NLWM were formally determined to support the disaffiliated groups in remaining active and organised ­- in some cases they stood against scab candidates of the Labour right in London elections, for example – they were not internally gung-ho about this.

Evidence from the London district sees the CPGB talking about the disastrous consequences for certain branches caused by disaffiliation. Also there was a clear impatience shown with those in the Labour Party who seemed unprepared to do some basic manoeuvring to stay inside the official Labour structures. CPGB members also seem to have drifted away from disaffiliated leftwing groups on occasion. These disaffiliated branches were refused readmission to the Labour Party proper.

So inevitably the NLWM had become something of a political trap for the CPGB, meaning a large section of its militants were siloed off from the Labour Party proper. Because of this, it came to be seen by CPGB members on the left of the party as a kind of ‘shadow’ Communist Party, with its own leadership, structures and organisation. Idris Cox, himself a vice-chair of a disaffiliated Labour branch in Maesteg and CPGB South Wales organiser, called it, negatively, a kind of “special lane” and preparatory school for the CPGB – clearly implying that it was actually an impediment. Cox was arguing at the CPGB’s January 1929 congress and his words do have a leftist taint – but he had a point in relation to the circumstances of the NLWM at that time.

By early 1928, the CPGB clearly saw the NLWM as a problematic formation. If you read between the lines of a thesis from the central committee called ‘Ourselves and the Labour Party’ from February 1928, you can see the CPGB essentially conceding that the NLWM was an organisation of communist sympathisers and, in some ways, a ‘shadow party’. However it might be defined, it certainly was not thought of as a genuine mass organisation in the Labour movement. JR Campbell also wrote that, in relation to the 1927 Labour Party conference, the NLWM was not strong enough to get its own resolutions onto the conference floor; rather it was mostly fighting and reacting against the resolutions of the right.

So how did the end of the NLWM come about?

The NLWM looked to be a dead duck by 1928, with the rider that its paper, the Sunday Worker, was still an effective means of engaging a bigger Labour audience.

However, the struggle to reaffiliate the branches would have felt like banging your head against the wall. It was not plausible to simply carry on and loyally support and vote for all the scab Labour candidates in the circumstances of the Labour right’s offensive against the left. As JT Murphy rightly pointed out at the time, to carry on in an impassive, business-as-usual manner in those particular circumstances was not any sort of true united front – not that the CPGB would have been able to take part in any principled united front, of course. Rather, it just amounted to the subjection of the left and the CPGB to the right’s offensive.

The CPGB needed to continue its work in the Labour Party in 1929 in my estimation, but the NLWM as it existed by then had become a partial block to such activity. However, at the party’s January 1929 congress the CPGB’s executive committee recommended that the NLWM should continue as an organisation, but the rank and file defeated the resolution by 55 votes to 52. This was mainly, according to reports, on the grounds that the NLWM was thought of as redundant and the idea that it did nothing the CPGB could not do itself.

The national committee of the NLWM formally wound the body up in March 1929. There was, however, a significant coda to this outcome in the form of a major debate in the Sunday Worker, with many letters of complaint being printed against the NLWM liquidation. What this reflected was that there had been a significant number of left Labour activists who had been prepared to cooperate with the CPGB to fight the right. Although they were not likely to join the party, these comrades had been defined by their struggle alongside the NLWM. The CPGB was now effectively marooning this group, and confusing it at the same time. So one should not run away with the idea that the NLWM was merely the CPGB in another guise. It was more than that l


  1. ‘Labour’s purge of the 1920s’ Militant April 18 1986.
  2. See L Parker The kick inside: revolutionary opposition in the CPGB, 1945-1991 London 2012.
  4. See


Tottenham Labour Party, May Day 1928




1 ‘Labour’s purge of the 1920s’ Militant April 18 1986
2 See L Parker The kick inside: revolutionary opposition in the CPGB, 1945-1991 London 2012.
4 See

End the bans and proscriptions

Once the Labour Party was characterised by tolerance and inclusion, all working class organisations were welcome – no longer. James Marshall of Labour Party Marxists explores the history.

We in the Labour Party are in the midst of a terrible purge. Four examples.

  •   Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union general secretary Ronnie Draper has been suspended from membership and thereby prevented from voting in the Labour leadership election. Why? An unidentified tweet.
  •   Tony Greenstein is likewise suspended. A well known Jewish anti-Zionist, he faces baseless charges of being an anti-Semite. His real crime is to oppose the state of Israel … and Labour’s pro-Zionist right wing.
  •   Then there is Jill Mountford, an executive member of Momentum. She has been expelled. Once again, why? Six years ago, in the May 2010 general election, the comrade stood for the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty against Harriet Harman. A protest against the acceptance of Con-Dem austerity politics, albeit based on a stupid dismissal of the Labour Party as virtually indistinguishable from the US Democrats. However, since then comrade Mountford vows she has supported only Labour candidates.
  •   Perhaps the most ridiculous disciplinary case is Catherine Starr’s. Having shared a video clip of Dave Grohl’s band she ecstatically wrote: “I fucking love the Foo Fighters”. The thought police nabbed her under the ban on “racist, abusive or foul language, abuse against women, homophobia or anti-Semitism at meetings, on social media or in any other context.”1 Yes, using the word “fucking” in any context, can, nowadays be deemed a breach of the Labour Party’s norms of behaviour.

Unsurprisingly then, there are thousands of Drapers, Greensteins, Mountfords and Starrs. And it is clear what general secretary Iain McNicol, the compliance unit and the Labour right are up to. Create a climate where almost any leftwing public statement, past action or use of unofficial English can be branded as unacceptable, as threatening, as violating the Blairite ‘safe spaces’ policy. Then bar, ban and banish the maximum number of Jeremy Corbyn supporters. Swing things in favour of Owen Smith. True, the right’s chances of success are remote. The odds against citizen Smith are far too great. Nonetheless, this is clearly what the purge is all about.

Meanwhile, despite his massive £2.1 million donation to the Liberal Democrats in June, Lord David Sainsbury, a minister under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, is, at least as things stand today, free to vote in the leadership election. Nor are former Tory or Ukip members suspended or expelled. That despite their undisputed past support for non-Labour candidates. And, of course, there are those MPs who have been throwing one lying accusation after another against the left. They are Nazi stormtroopers. They are anti-Semites. They are Trot infiltrators.

The same MPs have attempted to undermine Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership at every turn. Now, having failed with the anti-Semitism campaign, they are furiously using the capitalist media to spread rumours of an imminent split and getting hold of the Labour Party’s name, offices and assets through the courts. They have gone untouched. A crime in itself.

Unlike John McDonnell we do not complain of “double standards”. We in Labour Party Marxists forthrightly oppose the suspension and expulsion of socialists, leftwingers, working class partisans. All of them, without exception, ought to be immediately reinstated. Whatever our criticisms they are assets who should be valued. It is the treacherous right, the splitters, who deserve to be purged.

There is surely nothing uncontroversial about a Marxist making such a case. After all, the ongoing civil war in the Labour Party is a concentrated manifestation of the struggle of class against class. Labour’s much expanded base faces an onslaught by the pro-capitalist apparatus of Brewer’s Green bureaucrats, MPs, MEPs, councillors, etc. Under such circumstances we Marxists are obliged to actively take sides.

What then should we make of Robert Griffiths, general secretary of the Morning Star’s Communist Party of Britain? He grovellingly wrote to Iain McNicol to assure him that the CPB “does not engage in entryism”.1)My emphasis – see More than that, comrade Griffiths parades his spinelessness:

According to reports in The Guardian and other media outlets … Labour Party staff have produced a research paper [that] links the Communist Party to ‘entryism’ in the Labour Party. In particular, that research paper cites a report made to our party’s executive committee [that] on June 25 declared that “defending the socialist leadership of the Labour Party at all costs” should be a priority for communists. Nowhere in that executive committee report … do we propose that our members join or register with the Labour Party. “At all costs” is a rhetorical flourish that cannot, obviously, be taken literally!

So the CPB should not be taken at its word. It will not defend the Corbyn leadership “at all costs”. And, prostrating himself still further before the witch-finder general, Griffiths continues:

Should you or your staff have any evidence that Communist Party members have joined the Labour Party without renouncing their CP membership, or engaged in any similar subterfuge, please inform me, so that action can be taken against them for bringing our party into disrepute.2)

Let us be clear about what is being said here: in the middle of a brutal civil war, with the Labour left facing a concerted witch-hunt, the CPB’s Robert Griffiths wants to be seen as standing shoulder to shoulder with Iain McNicol. He even offers to help McNicol out in hunting down any CPB member who has decided to become a registered Labour Party supporter. To my personal knowledge there are more than a few of them. Anyway, not to leave a shadow of doubt, Griffiths signs off “With comradely regards”. A giveaway as to where his true loyalties really lie.

Following Tom Watson’s dodgy dossier, alleging that “far-left infiltrators are taking over the Labour Party”, Griffiths issued a follow-up statement. Again this excuse for a communist leader reassures McNicol that membership of his CPB is “incompatible with membership of the Labour Party by decision of both party leaderships”.3)Morning Star August 12 2016


How exactly Griffiths’ organisation arrived at its ban on Labour Party members joining the CPB and the ban on CPB members joining the Labour Party need not concern us here. Presumably its roots lie in the constitutionalism embraced by the ‘official’ CPGB with its turn to the cross-class politics of the popular front. This was sanctioned by the 5th Congress of the Communist International in 1935 under Stalin’s direct instructions.

Yet the CPB claims to be the unbroken continuation of the ‘official’ CPGB, going back to its foundation in 1920. Nonetheless, as we shall show, it is clear that that a fundamental break occurred. No less importantly, the same can be said of the Labour Party.

From its origins our Labour Party was a federal party. A united front of all working class organisations with, yes, especially at first, decidedly limited objectives.

JH Holmes, delegate of the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants, moved this truly historic resolution at the 1899 TUC:

That this Congress, having regard to its decisions in former years, and with a view to securing better representation of the interests of Labour in the House of Commons, hereby instructs the Parliamentary Committee to invite the cooperation of all cooperative, socialistic, trade unions and other working class organisations to jointly cooperate on lines mutually agreed upon, in convening a special congress of representatives from such above-named organisations as may be willing to take part to devise ways and means of securing the return of an increased number of Labour members in the next parliament.4)BC Roberts The Trade Union Congress 1868-1921 London 1958, p166

His resolution was opposed by the miners’ union on the basis of impracticability, but found support from the dockers, the railway servants and shop assistants unions. After a long debate the resolution was narrowly carried by 546,000 to 434,000 votes.

The TUC’s parliamentary committee oversaw the founding conference of the Labour Representation Committee in February 1900. The 129 delegates, representing 500,000 members, finally agreed to establish a distinct Labour Party in parliament, with its own whips, policies, finances, etc.

An executive committee was also elected. It would prepare lists of candidates, administer funds and convene an annual conference. Beside representatives of affiliated trade unions, the newly formed NEC would also include the socialist societies: the Fabians, the Independent Labour Party and the Social Democratic Federation. In fact, they were allocated five out of the 12 NEC seats (one Fabian, and two each from the ILP and SDF). Given the small size of these socialist societies compared with the trade unions, it is obvious that they were treated with extreme generosity. Presumably their “advanced” views were highly regarded.5)BC Roberts The Trade Union Congress 1868-1921 London 1958, p167

True, for the likes of Keir Hardie the formation of the Labour Party marked something of a tactical retreat. He had long sought some kind of a socialist party. However, to secure an alliance with the trade unions he and other ILPers were prepared to formally limit the Labour Party to nothing more than furthering working class interests by getting “men sympathetic with the aims and demands of the labour movement” into the House of Commons.6)Quoted in R Miliband Parliamentary socialism London 1960, p17

The delegates of the SDF proposed that the newly established Labour Party commit itself to the “class war and having as its ultimate object the socialisation of the means of production and exchange” – a formulation rejected by a large majority. In the main the trade unions were still Liberal politically. Unfortunately, as a result of this vote, the next annual conference of the SDF voted by 54 to 14 to withdraw from the Labour Party. Many SDF leaders came to bitterly “regret the decision”.7)M Crick The history of the Social Democratic Federation Keel 1994, p97

It should be recalled that neither Marx nor Engels had much time for the SDF nor its autocratic leader, Henry Hyndman. The SDF often took a badly conceived sectarian approach. Instead of linking up with the trade unions, it would typically stand aloof. Eg, faced with the great industrial unrest of 1910-14, Hyndman rhetorically asked: “Can anything be imagined more foolish, more harmful, more – in the widest sense of the word – unsocial than a strike?”8)M Crick The history of the Social Democratic Federation Keel 1994, p230 Of course, it is quite possible to actively support trade unions in their struggles over wages, conditions, etc, and to patiently and steadfastly advocate radical democracy and international socialism. Indeed without doing just that there can be no hope for a mass socialist party here in Britain.

However, the SDF is too often casually dismissed by historians. Eg, Henry Pelling describes it as “a rather weedy growth in the political garden”.9)H Pelling Origins of the Labour Party Oxford 1976, p172 True, its Marxism was typically lifeless, dogmatic and with Hyndman mixed with more than a tinge of anti-Semitism. Thus for him the Boer war was instigated by “Jew financial cliques and their hangers on”.10)M Crick The history of the Social Democratic Federation Keel 1994, p159 Yet the SDF was “the first modern socialist organisation of national importance” in Britain.11)M Crick The history of the Social Democratic Federation Keel 1994, p8 Karl Marx disliked it, Fredrick Engels despaired of it, William Morris, John Burns, Tom Mann and Edward Aveling left it. But the SDF survived. There were various breakaways. However, they either disappeared like the Socialist League, remained impotent sects like the Socialist Party of Great Britain, or could manage little more than establishing a regional influence, as with the Socialist Labour Party on Clydeside. Meanwhile the SDF continued as the “major representative” of what passed for Marxism in this country till 1911, when it merged with a range of local socialist societies to become the British Socialist Party.12)M Crick The history of the Social Democratic Federation Keel 1994, p8

Not that sectarianism was entirely vanquished. The first conference of the BSP voted, by an overwhelming majority, to “seek direct and independent affiliation” to the Second International.13)M Crick The history of the Social Democratic Federation Keel 1994, p248 In other words, not through the Labour Party-dominated British section of the Second International.

However, despite that, the BSP began to overcome its Labour-phobia. Leading figures such as Henry Hyndman, J Hunter Watts and Dan Irving eventually came out in favour of affiliation. So too did Zelda Kahan for the left. Withdrawal from the Labour Party, she argued, had been a mistake. Outside the Labour Party the BSP was seen as hostile, as fault-finding, as antagonistic. Inside, the BSP would get a wider hearing and win over the “best” rank-and-file forces.14)M Crick The history of the Social Democratic Federation Keel 1994, p255

Affiliation was agreed, albeit by a relatively narrow majority. Efforts then began to put this into effect. The formal application for affiliation was submitted in June 1914. And in 1916 – things having been considerably delayed by the outbreak of World War I – the BSP gained affiliation to the Labour Party. Note, the BSP also in effect expelled the pro-war right wing led by Hyndman.

Labour debates

Interestingly, the International Socialist Bureau – the Brussels-based permanent executive of the Second International – meeting in October 1908, had agreed to Labour Party affiliation … and thus, given its numbers, ensured its domination of the British section. For our present purposes the exchanges between the dozen or so national party representatives gathered in Brussels are well worth revisiting.

According to the rules of the Second International, there could only be two types of affiliate organisations. Firstly, socialist parties “which recognise the class struggle”. Secondly, working class organisations “whose standpoint is that of the class struggle” (ie, trade unions).15)VI Lenin CW Vol 15, Moscow 1977, p233

During these times the Labour Party positively avoided calling itself socialist. Nor, as we have seen, did it expressly recognise the principle of the class struggle. However, despite that, the Labour Party was admitted to the August 1907 Stuttgart congress of the International. My guess would be that it had observer status. Why was it admitted? Lenin characterised the Labour Party as an “organisation of a mixed type”, standing between the two types defined in the rules. In other words, the Labour Party was part political party, part a political expression of the trade unions. Crucially, the Labour Party marked the break from Liberalism of the vitally important working class in Britain. That could only but be welcomed.

At the October 1908 meeting of the ISB, Bruce Glasier of the ILP demanded the direct recognition of the Labour Party as an affiliate. He praised the Labour Party, its growth, its parliamentary group, its organic bonds with the trade unions, etc. Objectively, he said, this signified the movement of the working class in Britain towards socialism. Meanwhile, as a typical opportunist, Glasier lambasted doctrinaire principles, formulas and catechisms.

Karl Kautsky, the Second International’s leading theoretician, replied. Kautsky emphatically dissociated himself from Glasier’s obvious contempt for principles, but wholly supported the affiliation of the Labour Party, as a party waging the class struggle in practice. He moved the following resolution:

Whereas by previous resolutions of the international congresses all organisations adopting the standpoint of the proletarian class struggle and recognising the necessity for political action have been accepted for membership, the International Bureau declares that the British Labour Party is admitted to International Socialist congresses, because, while not expressly accepting the proletarian class struggle, in practice the Labour Party conducts this struggle, and adopts its standpoint, inasmuch as the party is organised independently of the bourgeois parties.

Kautsky was backed up by the Austrians, Édouard Vaillant of the French section, and, as the voting showed, the majority of the socialist parties and groups in the smaller European countries. Opposition came first from Henry Hyndman, representing the SDF. He wanted to maintain the status quo. Until the Labour Party expressly recognised the principle of the class struggle and the aim of socialism it should not be an affiliate. He found support from Angele Roussel (the second French delegate and a follower of Jules Guesde), Ilya Rubanovich of Russia’s Socialist Revolutionary Party and Roumen Avramov, delegate of the revolutionary wing of the Bulgarian social democrats.

Lenin spoke on behalf of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party. He agreed with the first part of Kautsky’s resolution. Lenin argued that it was impossible to turn down the Labour Party: ie, what he called “the parliamentary representation of the trade unions”.16)VI Lenin CW Vol 15, Moscow 1977, p234 After all, the ISB admitted trade unions, including those which had allowed themselves to be represented by bourgeois parliamentarians. But, said Lenin, “the second part of Kautsky’s resolution is wrong, because in practice the Labour Party is not a party really independent of the Liberals, and does not pursue a fully independent class policy”. Lenin therefore proposed an amendment that the end of the resolution, beginning with the word “because”, should read as follows: “because it [the Labour Party] represents the first step on the part of the really proletarian organisations of Britain towards a conscious class policy and towards a socialist workers’ party”.17)VI Lenin CW Vol 15, Moscow 1977, pp234-35

However, Kautsky refused to accept the amendment. In his reply, he argued that the International Socialist Bureau could not adopt decisions based on “expectations”.

But the main struggle was between the supporters and the opponents of Kautsky’s resolution as a whole. When it was about to be voted on, Victor Adler, the Austro-Marxist, proposed that the resolution be divided into two parts. This was done and both parts were carried by the ISB: the first with three against and one abstention, and the second with four against and one abstention. Thus Kautsky’s resolution became the agreed position. Rubanovich, the Socialist Revolutionary, abstained on both votes. Lenin also reports what Adler – who spoke after him but before Kautsky’s second speech – said: “Lenin’s proposal is tempting, but it cannot make us forget that the Labour Party is now outside the bourgeois parties. It is not for us to judge how it did this. We recognise the fact of progress.”18)VI Lenin CW Vol 15, Moscow 1977, p235

The ISB dispute over the Labour Party continued in the socialist press. Fending off charges of “heresy” from leftist critics, Kautsky elaborated his ideas in a 1909 Neue Zeitarticle, ‘Sects or class parties’. Basically he argued that, unlike Germany and other mainland European countries, a mass workers’ party in Britain is impossible without linking up with the trade unions. Unless that happened, there could be nothing but sects and small circles.19)

In the Labour Leader, the ILP’s paper, Bruce Glasier rejoiced that the ISB not only recognised the Labour Party (which was true), but also “vindicated the policy of the ILP” (which was not true). Another ILPer, giving his impression of the Brussels meeting of the ISB, complained about the absence of the “ideal and ethical aspect of socialism”. Instead we “had … the barren and uninspiring dogma of the class war”.20)Quoted in VI Lenin CW Vol 15, Moscow 1977, p238

As for Hyndman, writing in the SDF’s Justice, he expressed his anger at the ISB majority. They are “whittlers-away of principle to suit the convenience of trimmers”. “I have not the slightest doubt,” writes Hyndman, “that if the British Labour Party had been told plainly that they either had to accept socialist principles … or keep away altogether, they would very quickly have decided to bring themselves into line with the International Socialist Party.”21)Quoted in VI Lenin CW Vol 15, Moscow 1977ibid p239

Lenin too joined the fray. He still considered Kautsky to be wrong. By stating in his resolution that the Labour Party “does not expressly accept the proletarian class struggle”, Kautsky voiced a certain “expectation”, a certain “judgement” as to what the policy of the Labour Party is now and what that policy should be. But Kautsky expressed this indirectly, and in such a way that it amounted to an assertion which, first, is incorrect in substance, and secondly, provides a basis for opportunists in the ILP to misrepresent his ideas.

By separating in parliament (but not in terms of its whole policy) from the two bourgeois parties, the Labour Party is “taking the first step towards socialism and towards a class policy of the proletarian mass organisations”. This, Lenin optimistically stated, is not an “expectation, but a fact”. A “fact” which compelled the ISB to admit the Labour Party into the International. Putting things this way, Lenin thought, “would make hundreds of thousands of British workers, who undoubtedly respect the decisions of the International, but have not yet become full socialists, ponder once again over the question why they are regarded as having taken only the first step, and what the next steps along this road should be”.

Lenin had no intention of laying down details about those “next steps”. But they were necessary, as Kautsky acknowledged in his resolution, albeit only indirectly. However, the use of an indirect formulation made it appear that the International was “certifying that the Labour Party was in practice waging a consistent class struggle, as if it was sufficient for a workers’ organisation to form a separate labour group in parliament in order in its entire conduct to become independent of the bourgeoisie!”22)Quoted in VI Lenin CW Vol 15, Moscow 1977pp235-36

The International, Lenin concluded, would undoubtedly have acted wrongly had it not expressed its complete support for the vital first step forward taken by the mass of workers in forming the Labour Party. But it does not in the least follow from this that the Labour Party “can already be recognised as a party in practice independent of the bourgeoisie, as a party waging the class struggle, as a socialist party, etc”.


The October revolution in Russia found unanimous and unstinting support in the BSP. A number of its émigré comrades returned home and took up important roles in the Soviet government. Bolshevik publications were soon being translated into English: eg, Lenin’s State and revolution. Money too flowed in.

The Leeds conference of the BSP in 1918 enthusiastically declared its solidarity with the Bolsheviks and a wish to emulate their methods and achievements. And under the influence of the Bolsheviks the BSP adopted a much more active, much more agitational role in the Labour Party and the trade unions. In the words of Fred Shaw, instead of standing aloof from the “existing organisations” of the working class, we should “win them for Marxism”.23)Quoted in M Crick The history of the Social Democratic Federation Keel 1994, p281

Needless to say, the BSP constituted the main body that went towards the historic formation of the Communist Party of Great Britain over July 31-August 1 1920. Given BSP affiliation, and the fact that in 1918 the Labour Party introduced individual membership, there can be no doubt that the bulk of CPGBers were card-carrying members of the Labour Party. Dual membership being the norm, as it was in the Fabians and ILP.

However, instead of simply informing Arthur Henderson, the Labour Party’s secretary, that the BSP had changed its name, the CPGB, following Lenin’s advice, applied for affiliation. Lenin thought the CPGB was in a win-win situation. If affiliation was accepted, this would open up the Labour Party rank and file to communist influence. If affiliation was not accepted, this would expose the Labour leaders for what they really were: namely “reactionaries of the worst kind”.

With 20:20 foresight it would probably have been better for the CPGB to have presented itself merely as the continuation of the BSP. After all, gaining a divorce is far harder than turning down a would-be suitor. Needless to say, upholding its commitment to British imperialism and thereby fearing association with the Bolshevik revolution, the Labour apparatus, along with the trade union bureaucracy, determined that the CPGB application had to be rejected.

The “first step towards socialism and towards a class policy” was thereby thrown into reverse. Instead of being a united front of the organised working class, the leadership of the Labour Party began to cohere a tightly controlled, thoroughly respectable, explicitly anti-Marxist Labour Party.

Henderson replied to the CPGB application for affiliation by saying that he did not consider that the principles of the communists accorded with those of the Labour Party. To which the CPGB responded by asking whether the Labour Party proposed to “exclude from its ranks” all those who were committed to the “political, social and economic emancipation of the working class”. Did Henderson want to “impose acceptance of parliamentary constitutionalism as an article of faith on its affiliated societies”?24)Quoted in R Miliband Parliamentary socialism London 1960, p87 The latter bluntly replied that there was an “insuperable difference” between the two parties.

A good many Labour Party activists rejected Henderson’s characterisation of the CPGB as, in effect, mad, bad and dangerous to know. Nonetheless, the Labour apparatus never experienced any difficulty in mustering large majorities against CPGB affiliation. Eg, in June 1921 there was a 4,115,000 to 224,000 conference vote rejecting the CPGB.

Not that the CPGB limped on as an isolated sect. Affiliation might have been rejected, but there was still dual membership. In 1922, two CPGB members won parliamentary seats as Labour candidates: JT Walton Newbold (Motherwell and Wishaw) and Shapurji Saklatvala (Battersea North).

Subsequently, Labour’s national executive committee was forced to temporarily drop its attempt to prevent CPGB members from being elected as annual conference delegates. The June 26-29 1923 London conference had 36 CPGB members as delegates, “as against six at Edinburgh”, the previous year.25)JT Murphy, ‘The Labour Party conference’ Communist Review August 1923, Vol 4, No4: Incidentally, the 1923 conference once again rejected CPGB affiliation, this time by 2,880,000 to 366,000 votes.

Nonetheless, the general election in December 1923 saw Walton Newbold (Motherwell) and Willie Gallacher (Dundee) standing as CPGB candidates. Fellow CPGBers Ellen Wilkinson (Ashton-under-Lyne), Shapurji Saklatvala (Battersea North), M Philips Price (Gloucester), William Paul (Manchester Rusholme) and Joe Vaughan (Bethnal Green SW) were official Labour candidates, while Alec Geddes (Greenock) and Aitkin Ferguson (Glasgow Kelvingrove) were unofficial Labour candidates, there being no official Labour candidate in either constituency. Despite a not inconsiderable increase in the communist vote, none were elected.26)J Klugmann History of the Communist Party of Great Britain Vol 1, London 1968, pp361-62

A ban on CPGB members standing as Labour Party candidates swiftly followed. Yet, although Labour Party organisations were instructed not to support CPGB candidates, this was met with defiance, not the connivance nowadays personified by Robert Griffiths. In the run-up to the October 1924 general election, Battersea North Labour Party overwhelmingly endorsed Shapurji Saklatvala; Joe Vaughan was unanimously endorsed by Bethnal Green SW Constituency Labour Party and William Paul similarly by the Rusholme CLP executive committee. And Saklatvala was once again elected as an MP.

The 1924 Labour Party conference decision against CPGB members continuing with dual membership was reaffirmed in 1925. And, going further, trade unions were “asked not to nominate communists as delegates to Labour organisations”.27)N Branson History of the Communist Party of Great Britain 1927-1941 London 1985, p5 Yet despite these assaults on the Labour Party’s founding principles, at the end of 1926 the CPGB could report that 1,544 of its 7,900 members were still individual members of the Labour Party.

Following the defeat of the 1926 General Strike, the Labour apparatus and trade union bureaucracy wanted the movement to draw the lesson that the only way to make gains would be through increased collaboration with the capitalist boss class – Mondism. As a concomitant there was a renewed drive to intimidate, to marginalise, to drive out the communists.

The struggle proved particularly sharp in London. In the capital city around half of the CPGBs members were active in their CLPs. And despite claiming that it was the communists who were “splitting the movement”, the bureaucracy strove to do just that. Battersea CLP was disaffiliated because it dared to back Saklatvala and refused to exclude CPGB members. Similar measures were taken against Bethnal Green CLP, where the communist ex-mayor, Joe Vaughan, was held in particularly high regard.

The left in the Labour Party fought back. The National Left Wing Movement was formed in December 1925. Its stated aim was not only to fight the bans on communists, it also sought to hold together disaffiliated CLPs.

The NLWM insisted it had no thought of superceding the Labour Party, but, instead, it sought to advance rank-and-file aspirations. In this the NLWM was considerably boosted by the newly established Sunday Worker. Despite being initiated, funded and edited by the CPGB, the Sunday Workerserved as the authoritative voice of the NLWM. At its height it achieved a circulation of 100,000. The NLWM’s 1925 founding conference had nearly 100 Labour Party organisations sending delegates.

Yet the right’s campaign of disaffiliations and expulsions remorselessly proceeded. The NLWM therefore found itself considerably weakened in terms of official Labour Party structures. Hence at the NLWM’s second annual conference in 1927 there were delegates from only 54 local Labour Parties and other Labour groups (representing a total of 150,000 individual party members). It should be added that militant union leaders, such as the miners’ AJ Cook, also supported the conference.

With the counterrevolution within the revolution in the Soviet Union, the CPGB was in many ways reduced to a slave of Stalin’s foreign policy. The CPGB’s attitude towards the Labour Party correspondingly changed. Leaders such as Harry Pollitt and Rajani Palme Dutt denounced the Labour Party as nothing but “a third capitalist party” (shades of Peter Taaffe and the Socialist Party in England and Wales).

As an integral part of this self-inflicted madness, in 1929 the Sunday Worker was closed and the NLWM wound up. In effect the CPGB returned to its SDF roots. Ralph Miliband regretfully comments that the CPGB’s so-called new line “brought it to the nadir of its influence”.28)R Miliband Parliamentary socialism London 1960, p153 Sectarianism could only but spur on the right’s witch-hunt. In 1930 the Labour Party apparatus produced its first ‘proscribed list’. Members of proscribed organisations became ineligible for individual membership of the Labour Party and CLPs were instructed not to affiliate to proscribed organisations. Needless to say, most of those organisation were closely associated with the CPGB.

However, what began with action directed against the CPGB-led National Unemployed Workers’ Movement and the National Minority Movement has now morphed into the catch-all ban on “racist, abusive or foul language, abuse against women, homophobia or anti-Semitism at meetings, on social media or in any other context”. Nowadays the Labour Party apparatus can, at a whim, expel or suspend anyone.

Surely, beginning with the Liverpool conference, it is time to put an end to the bans and proscriptions. We certainly have within our power the possibility of once again establishing the Labour Party as the united front of all working class organisations in Britain.


1 My emphasis – see
3 Morning Star August 12 2016
4 BC Roberts The Trade Union Congress 1868-1921 London 1958, p166
5 BC Roberts The Trade Union Congress 1868-1921 London 1958, p167
6 Quoted in R Miliband Parliamentary socialism London 1960, p17
7 M Crick The history of the Social Democratic Federation Keel 1994, p97
8 M Crick The history of the Social Democratic Federation Keel 1994, p230
9 H Pelling Origins of the Labour Party Oxford 1976, p172
10 M Crick The history of the Social Democratic Federation Keel 1994, p159
11 M Crick The history of the Social Democratic Federation Keel 1994, p8
12 M Crick The history of the Social Democratic Federation Keel 1994, p8
13 M Crick The history of the Social Democratic Federation Keel 1994, p248
14 M Crick The history of the Social Democratic Federation Keel 1994, p255
15 VI Lenin CW Vol 15, Moscow 1977, p233
16 VI Lenin CW Vol 15, Moscow 1977, p234
17 VI Lenin CW Vol 15, Moscow 1977, pp234-35
18 VI Lenin CW Vol 15, Moscow 1977, p235
20 Quoted in VI Lenin CW Vol 15, Moscow 1977, p238
21 Quoted in VI Lenin CW Vol 15, Moscow 1977ibid p239
22 Quoted in VI Lenin CW Vol 15, Moscow 1977pp235-36
23 Quoted in M Crick The history of the Social Democratic Federation Keel 1994, p281
24 Quoted in R Miliband Parliamentary socialism London 1960, p87
25 JT Murphy, ‘The Labour Party conference’ Communist Review August 1923, Vol 4, No4:
26 J Klugmann History of the Communist Party of Great Britain Vol 1, London 1968, pp361-62
27 N Branson History of the Communist Party of Great Britain 1927-1941 London 1985, p5
28 R Miliband Parliamentary socialism London 1960, p153