LETTER FROM THE ECCI SECRETARIAT TO THE
INDEPENDENT LABOUR PARTY
17 September 1933
Communist International, 15 October 1933, p. 673
After we had given a clear answer to the question put by your Party Conference as to how the ILP may assist in the work of the Communist International we received a letter from the National Administrative Council which made a series of absolutely unfounded charges against the Communist International, and brought forward a proposal to 'call a world congress of all organisations which are prepared to cooperate
on a revolutionary socialist basis'.
. . .
We consider that nothing useful can come out of such a proposal. If the National Administrative Council of the ILP, together with the independent fragments of social-democratic parties, calls a world congress, as stated in its letter, nothing will come of this except an attempt, foredoomed to failure, to resurrect the inglorious Two-and-a-Half International, as was proved by the recent Paris Conference of these organizations. We doubt if this idea will be received with any enthusiasm even by the members of the Independent Labour Party itself. At the Derby Conference, the representative of the National Administrative Council advocated the idea of an 'allembracing
international' as against the resolution to approach the Communist International. But the majority decided for the latter. We believe that the members of the ILP wish to adhere to the decision of their Party Conference, and do not wish to be dragged into new internationals with old bankrupt policies.
The idea of a 'left socialist' world congress, which is advanced by the National Administrative Council, is basically the old idea of the ILP which dates back to 1920.
. . .
Experience soon showed where this 'left' idea would lead. In 1921 the ILP participated in the formation of the Vienna organization of 'left' socialist parties, and two years later, in 1923, this Two-and-a-Half International brought back to the fold of the Second International those radicalised workers who had left this treacherous International.
At that time, by means of this manoeuvre with the Two-and-a-Half International, the left workers in a number of European countries were kept back for a long time from the common fighting front with the Communist International against the
bourgeoisie. In Great Britain, this manoeuvre guaranteed support for the bourgeois imperialist policy of the Labour Government from those workers who were under the influence of the ILP, and made it easier for the leaders of the reformist trade unions to betray the General Strike in 1926.
. . .
At the present time, the radicalization of the working masses in Britain is a fact, from which practical political conclusions should be drawn. We communists put forward the task of organizing the mass struggles for the defence of the vital
everyday interests of the workers, for the liberation of the majority of the workingclass from the influence of the reformists, for rallying together the fighting front of the proletariat, and organizing international united front actions against fascism, the war danger, and the bourgeois offensive against the living standards of the working class. But what could a joint congress of social-democratic and communist parties such as proposed by the leadership of the ILP, give to the poverty-stricken working masses at the present time ? Nothing but illusions. The leaders of the socialdemocratic
parties do not want to struggle against the capitalist offensive. They want to continue their class collaboration with the bourgeoisie, and a joint congress with them could only distract the attention of the workers from the necessity of a mass
struggle in defence of their interests.
. . .
For the carrying through of these most important tasks of the revolutionary working-class movement, the assistance of the ILP in the work of the Communist International could be of exceptional value. But some parts of the letter of the NAC to us, and statements of prominent members of the NAC (Brockway, Sandham, Jowett, etc.) during recent months, the breaking-off of the united front with the communists by some leading functionaries of the ILP, give grounds for fearing that
the intention of the Derby Conference to assist in the work of the Communist International may be frustrated.
. . .
It seems to us that in your party there are two distinct tendencies, two political lines. Many members of the party are for the new line outlined by the Derby Conference, but many leaders are for the old reformist line. Many members of the
party are for an uncompromising fight against the bourgeoisie and the Labour Party, but many leaders are sabotaging the fight against both one and the other. Many members of the party are firm supporters of the USSR, but many leaders are against
the USSR. Many members of the party want to get nearer to the Communist International and to co-operate with it, but many leaders want to get further away from it.
In short, many members of your party are revolutionaries, but many leaders are reformists. To be more exact, they are 'left' reformists. The latter are not quite the same as right reformists, the leaders of the Labour Party or 'National Labour'. What do the 'left' reformists stand for? They are in favour of a revolutionary policy in words, but in practice they are against it. They can accept a much more radical programme than the right reformists, but they do not cease their resistance to the
revolutionizing of the practice of the party. They talk loudly about the united front of the proletariat, but act along the lines of conciliation with the Labour leaders and continue their co-operation with the saboteurs of the united front, such as Mr.
Sandham, and in this way also helping the National Labourists and the National Government. Formally, they are for cooperation with the Communist International but actually, they are assisting its bitter enemies in the setting up of a new
international body, for the purpose of holding back the masses from the revolutionary class struggle, by means of deceptive phrases and left manoeuvres which are essentially directed against the communist movement.
. . .
'We also want socialism', say the 'left' reformists, 'but by a pacifist technique of revolution.' In other words, this means we do not actually want revolution, which brings all kinds of dangers. But if socialism could be brought in without dangers and fights, either by a democratic vote in Parliament for a suitable Bill, or by means of the peaceful organization of legal workers' councils, then we would have no objection to socialism.
But the British bourgeoisie are emphatically against the fate of capitalism being decided by peaceful means. It is strongly armed and is in favour of using the most merciless violence against the proletariat. Its policy is a bloody one and its
'democracy' is shown up as a class dictatorship. Its State is shown up as the apparatus of class violence.
Bourgeois class violence cannot be broken by 'pacifist technique', but only by the class violence of the proletariat. The British working class will be strong enough to do this, if its vanguard, its revolutionary movement and the united front will be strengthened. For this purpose it is necessary to take advantage of all actual possibilities and practical means, including the election campaigns and the Parliamentary tribune, to activize, to educate and organize the working class and to
win its decisive strata over to the side of the revolution.
Such is the line of a genuine revolutionary policy.
The reformists complain that the present political situation is 'disastrous'. Some of them resign (Mr. Paton, secretary of the ILP), or seek a place in the camp of open reformism. Others twist and manoeuvre desperately so as to hang on somehow, until the old times of stable capitalism return. But their calculations are mistaken. The capitalist system is bankrupt.
We say that the political situation is favourable for revolutionary work. A period of great class battles for power is approaching with the inevitability of historic law.
This signifies the possibility of great victories for the proletariat. But everything depends on how the conscious revolutionaries carry on their work at the present time to prepare the working-class for these struggles for power.
For this purpose it is necessary, above all, to have a clear political line.
The path of the ILP lies forward and not backwards! Backwards means to bankrupt reformism. Forward means to communism, which is already leading the working class on one-sixth of the globe from victory to victory, and which will grow and conquer in all countries.
We propose that the following questions be raised for discussion in all the organizations of the Independent Labour Party:
1. What concrete mass actions on the basis of the united front of the CPGB and the ILP can and must be carried out in the near future, with the aim of a successful struggle for a 10 per cent wage increase, against the Means Test, and other similar
demands advanced by the CPGB and the ILP?
2. Is it desirable for the Independent Labour Party to join the Communist International as a party sympathizing with communism, with the right to a consultative vote, according to paragraph 18 of the Statutes of the Communist International?
We are aware that the latter question has been advanced by some members of the Independent Labour Party. We consider it timely for the party to discuss this question fundamentally.