1930s >> 1930 >> no-309-may-1930

Party News: A Debate

A debate took place on Friday, March 28th, at the A.E.U. Institute, Sheffield, between J. T. Murphy, representing the Communist Party of Great Britain, and our representative, E. Boden, of the Sheffield Branch.

Our Case.

The subject of the debate was: “Which Party should the workers support—the S.P.G.B., or the C.P.G.B.?”

Comrade Boden, who opened the debate, outlined the subject position of the working class in capitalist society, and showed that this subject condition could only be abolished by converting the means of living from being the private property of the capitalist class into the common property of society. This conversion could be carried out only after the capture of the political machinery by the workers, organised in the Socialist Party. Comrade Boden laid stress on the fact that the state control of capital (as in Russia) and the administration of capitalism by so-called “Labour” representatives (as in Great Britain) are not Socialism.

The Case Of The Communist Party.

In his reply, Mr. Murphy described this as the “most hopeless message he had ever listened to.”

He said that our representative had outlined some very simple facts concerning the class division in society which he did not dispute, but had not told the workers what they were to do to-morrow morning. The Soviet Union was the one exception to the general statement that the capitalists owned the means of living. The S.P.G.B. maintained a counter revolutionary attitude towards the Soviet Union. (Mr. Murphy did not venture to offer any evidence for this statement but merely contented himself with making it.) Definitions of capital were of minor importance. The burning question was how to establish Socialism!

The S.P.G.B. had a wonderful philosophy. They regarded the workers as a lot of fools who were no further advanced than they were ten years ago.

The Communist Party held that Marxists must be in the struggle consciously; but the S.P.G.B. stood society on its head. They told the workers not to strike or organise in the factories, but to be quiet. The Communist Party regarded strikes and unemployed marches as part of the political struggle leading up to the smashing of the State machine. Parliament was a capitalist machine, which could not be used by the workers; but the S.P.G.B., like the I.L.P., held that the workers could get Socialism by simply voting for it.

Second Speech For The S.P.G.B.

In his second speech, Comrade Boden pointed out that Mr. Murphy had made a series of false statements. The S.P.G.B. did not tell the workers not to strike, and to be quiet. What they did say was that strikes failed either to remove the cause of poverty or to change the general direction of capitalist development. Hence the necessity for political action. Mr. Murphy’s statements regarding Russia were not in accordance with the facts. Lenin’s “Preparing for Revolt” was quoted as evidence that the Bolshevists had no intention of dispossessing the capitalists as a class, and further quotations from the Soviet Union Year Book, 1929, were read to show that capitalist property in the form of State loans was rapidly developing in Russia. Comrade Boden pointed out that the workers there were exploited by means of the wages system as in other countries.

Communist Reply.

Mr. Murphy, in his reply stated that the attempt by revolutionary workers in Italy to capture Parliament was met by Fascism. The workers would have to crush the capitalists on the streets. The Russian Revolution had shown the way in which the workers should come to power. The S.P.G.B. said there had been no Revolution in Russia, but the workers owned the means of living there. True, they did not receive the full fruits of their labour individually, but they did so collectively through their control of the State. They talked of their “wages,” but that was only a convenient expression for the benefit of people with only average intelligence. Really, another word should be used to describe the arrangement. The workers ruled in Russia, but the S.P.G.B. talked the language of counter-revolution. Mr. Murphy said that the S.P.G.B.’s case had vanished and in its place stood a diatribe against Russia. The S.P.G.B. took its stand alongside the Archbishop of Canterbury. Our speaker had accused the Communists of supporting the Labour Party, but Mr. Murphy asserted that this was only because its leaders were at the head of the Trade Union movement in the General Council during the General Strike. True, they were only there to betray it, but what were the Communists to do—become strike-breakers ?

Final Speech For The S.P.G.B.

In his concluding speech, Comrade Boden said that Mr. Murphy seemed unable to distinguish between taking part in a strike against the employers, and supporting the Labour Party (a party admitted by the Communists to be a capitalist party) during an election.

To a Socialist the difference between a strike and a demand for reforms of the capitalist system is obvious.

Mr. Murphy’s statement that in Russia the workers are the rulers is not in accordance with the facts. The assistant secretary of the Russian Communist Party, V. Molotov, in his book, “The Communist Party of the Soviet Union,” states that less than half of the Party members are workers, and they constitute a small minority of the working class of Russia. Further, the reactionary elements who were supposed to have been suppressed 10 years ago are active inside the Russian Communist Party, as is shown by the repeated “purgings.” This fact alone disposed of the claims made on behalf of the dictatorship in Russia.

Finally, the three principal pillars of the State which the Bolsheviks were alleged to have smashed (i.e., the political police, the bureaucracy and the standing army) remain intact according to Molotov. They would do so while capitalism lasted in Russia.

Mr. Murphy Winds Up The Debate.

In winding up the debate, Mr. Murphy asserted that the army in Russia is “ours.” It was only natural that reactionary elements should force their way into the ruling party in any country. It had happened in Ireland, but in Russia these elements were being discovered and expelled.