The Communist Party and the General Election
As usual, the Communist Party is trying to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. Since its formation it has repeatedly denounced the Labour Party leaders and programmes, and at the same time, in obedience to its Russian paymasters, has alternately supported and opposed Labour Party candidates. In 1921 it ran a candidate at Caerphilly against the Labour Party candidate, and opposed MacDonald at Woolwich. At the 1922 election it first put forward candidates in opposition to Labour Party candidates; then withdrew them at the last moment and told the workers to vote “Labour.” That year at Gorton Mr. Harry Pollitt was put forward as Communist candidate against Mr. John Hodge. Mr. Pollitt denounced the Labour candidate and his programme, but in due course he withdrew and “held large and successful meetings in the constituency, urging the workers to vote for Mr. Hodge.” (See the “Communist Daily,” November 13, 1922).
In their official Election Manifesto this year (“Class against Class”) they admit that their attitude has again changed.
Prior to the formation of the Labour Government in 1924, the Communist Party, although the leaders of the Labour Party were as treacherous then as now, advised the working class to push the Labour Party into power. . . (page 9).
Now, although they describe the Labour Party as “the third Capitalist Party” (p. 8) and say “no Party can serve two masters” (p. 7) they have already declared their willingness to support that Party, i.e., to serve two masters.
In a statement issued to the Press on April 13th of this year, the Political Bureau of the Communist Party made the following declaration (“Sunday Worker,” April 14th).
A Labour Government at the present day would be a Government of capitalist rationalisation, only differing from the Tory and Liberal Parties as to the best methods whereby rationalisation could be brought about at the expense of the workers.
It is, therefore, no longer possible for the Communist Party to advise the workers to give unconditional support to Labour candidates, even in constituencies not being contested by the Communists.
The Communist Party is advising the workers only to vote for such Labour candidates as are prepared to accept a policy of minimum working class demands, involving the repudiation of Mondism, of imperialism, and of the policy of trade union disruption now being actively operated in the trade union movement.
Unless these demands are accepted the Communist Party will advise the workers to refrain from voting.
The policy of asking a Labour candidate to endorse “a policy of minimum working class demands, etc.,” as a condition of giving him their vote is a piece of the pettiest election trickery. If the candidate wants their votes and chooses to give a pledge in order to get them, he can do so without the least danger of ever being compelled to carry out the pledge. The pledge itself in its terms is so general as to be largely meaningless.
But to see how dishonest or foolish the Communist Party is we need only consider the result of their applying a similar face-saving expedient in earlier contests.
This same policy was applied at the 1922 General Election. When Mr. Pollitt withdrew from the contest at Gorton, the Openshaw Branch of the Communist Party put a series of questions on unemployment to Mr. John Hodge in order to decide whether or not they could support him. The official organ of the Communist Party (“Communist Daily,” 13th November, 1922) reported that “It is not clear from the Labour candidate’s reply whether he agrees with this point in the Communist Party’s programme or not.” Nevertheless they supported him.
In other words, their attempt to excuse their support of Hodge and their betrayal of the workers by seeking a pledge from him broke down because he did not want their support and refused to give the pledge. They had then, as now, to act not in accordance with some settled principles but as Moscow may from time to time dictate.
And even where they did endorse some Labour M.P.’s who were willing at the time to accept their support, the result has clearly shown how little control they have over the men in question. After the 1923 election Mr. Tom Bell, Editor of the “Communist Review” (January, 1924) stated that the Labour M.P.’s on whom would fall the task of maintaining “the proletarian opposition” to the leaders of the Labour Party, were “Wheatley, Maxton, Johnston, Kirkwood,” and others unnamed. Every one of these four stalwarts they have since roundly denounced as “traitors to the working class.”
The Communist Party A Reform Party.
Knowing full well that in spite of their liberal supplies of money they do not stand any chance whatever of getting a candidate returned by Communist votes on a Communist programme, their Election address consists largely of a long list of reforms. Under the title “Our Immediate Programme of Action” the number of reforms listed is no fewer than 94, in addition to a large number of other reforms included in its “Programme of the Revolutionary Workers’ Government.”
Among the “revolutionary” demands in the list of 94 are such ancient and (to the workers) useless Liberal panaceas as the “abolition of all indirect taxes” (p. 30). As they know full well, cheapening the cost of living is reflected automatically in a lowered cost of living bonus throughout the Civil Service and the Municipal services, and in many other industries, and is rapidly followed by lowered wages throughout the country generally. The great fall in prices since 1920 has brought no improvement in the condition of the workers.
Other reforms, such as “non-contributory pensions at 60,” are the common stock-in-trade of all the Parties advocating the reform of Capitalism.
It is amusing to notice that the Communist Party has now been outbidden by its » reformist rivals in the I.L.P. For while the I.L.P. is proposing that the unemployed be given pay equal to that of an employed man, the Communists are more moderately asking for only 30s. (p. 21).
This also represents a very big decrease on the claim made by the Communist Party at the 1923 General Election. At that time they were demanding “£4 a week for all . . . employed and unemployed.” (See “Workers’ Weekly,” 30th November. 1923). They are also supporting the demand for children’s allowances (p. 24), a reform which has the backing of prominent members of each of the Parties—Liberal, Tory, Labour, and I.L.P.—and has been applied by numerous Capitalist Governments.
The Policy of Armed Revolt.
Lastly, the Communists are repeating their dangerous nonsense about the armed overthrow of the Capitalist State. They say (p. 5) the Communist Party recognises
that the working-class can only conquer capitalism and become the ruling class by the creation of its own instruments of power (i.e., workers’ councils, composed of delegates from the factories and the mass organisation of the workers), and the impossibility of the working class capturing and utilising the capitalist State apparatus for the exercise of its own class powers for the building of Socialism.
They say further
. . . It is only possible to conquer this class domination when . . . the majority of the workers are prepared forcibly to throw off the capitalist class control. . .
This policy of unarmed workers attempting the forcible overthrow of the capitalist state with its armies, navies and other organised forces of destruction, would lead only to the slaughter of thousands of helpless communist dupes.
The simple truth, here ignored by the Communists, is that it is not only the capitalist minority, but the working-class majority which keeps Communists out of the House of Commons unless they creep in under false pretences. It is useless, they say, for the workers to try to capture and utilise Parliament. But so anxious are they to get inside this institution, which they say is useless, that, rather than fight and lose elections as Communists, they descend to the electioneering devices of the other vote-catching parties and fight the election on this programme of capitalist reforms.
Control of Parliament by persons returned on such a programme and by the kind of votes which such a programme will receive, is indeed useless for the purpose of achieving Socialism. Socialism, as a system of society, cannot be carried on, nor can power for Socialism be obtained without first securing a Socialist majority. The Communist short and crooked cuts lead not to Socialism, but to disillusion and despair.