A Winter’s Tale
Well! well!! well!!! Thank goodness, Christmas is over. Everybody has spent more than they should, everyone has bought presents for everyone else, and everyone is worse off except the children and the shopkeepers. The pantomimes are in full swing, and the opening of Parliament will add to their number. J. H. Thomas is ordering a new dress suit—all British—to help the trade of the Empire, and Ramsay is engaged in converting two and a half miles of his dinner speeches into gramophone records. With machines erected at convenient intervals along our coast, it is thought they will be wonderfully efficacious in keeping the east wind off our unemployed. The Mace was found to have vanished during the Recess, but Mr. Beckett explained he had only borrowed it to stir his pudding and would replace it in time for the opening performance. The sensitive heart of Mr. Lansbury has been riven by the spectacle of the ducks on St. James’s Park lake being divorced from their natural element by a thin sheet of ice. Ever practical, ever sympathetic, he has directed that holes shall be pierced at appropriate intervals in the ice, and that the pelicans shall be fitted with (British) skates. That is all the news that our ill-informed Parliamentary Correspondent can think of for the moment. But, looking over the outstanding events of 1930, he has reminded us that there was one item of world-shattering import overlooked by the regular Press. Future historians will record their gratitude to us for rescuing from undeserved oblivion the following moving story.
Let us tell the tale from the beginning. The Communist Party has been having a thin time. Apart from the general apathy due to the discovery of the fraudulence of the Labour Party, the C.P. suffers from private bogies of its own. Among them there is what is called the “right” danger. They seem to be a bit foggy upon the precise meaning of the term, due to the Communist Pope and Cardinals not having explained the danger to the faithful membership. The result was unfortunate. As J. T. Murphy explained in the Communist Review for last June:—
Because of a lack of understanding of the new methods of work and a desire to eradicate the “right danger,” there has been by many comrades, indeed, whole district party leaderships, a leap into “left” sectarianism, which has isolated the party more than ever from the workers. The independent leadership of the party has become in these districts the isolated leadership, dashing about with revolutionary sounding propositions, accompanied by the transformation of revolutionary terms which mean something, into revolutionary jargon, which drives the workers away from us.
This is very sad, not to say serious. In fact, Mr. Murphy says:—
In order that the seriousness of this situation can be realised . . . it is necessary to analyse some of these experiences which have led to serious struggles between the Political Bureau and the comrades concerned, though these comrades finally admitted their mistakes.
Some instances follow of the faithful Communists fighting the “right” danger by barging into “left sectarianism.” All are pathetically amusing. We select the following for seasonable reading, and wish we could add a reliable description of the “serious struggle ” referred to.
Attend, then! Turn the kids out of the armchair, draw up to the fire, and prepare to be thrilled by the ghostly tale of the
Battle of Burnley Barracks
‘Twas a wild night in March, and the early equinoctial hurricane moaned menacingly among the chimney stacks of Manchester. “Just the night for right-wing treachery,” said Al Capone to his — But no, we’ve got the wrong extract. This is the one, from the Communist Review:—
In the preparations for March 6, the Manchester Working Bureau put forward, among other proposals, that a number of leading comrades should on March 6 lead a march of the workers on to Burnley Barracks, and call on the soldiers in uniform to demonstrate with the workers in the streets. Now, no member of our Party will question the desirability of propaganda amongst the troops. But when it is realised that in Burnley we had not a single Party cell in the mills, that the whole Party membership in Burnley did not muster a dozen members, that there had not been the slightest preparation for mass action of the workers, no preliminary work amongst the soldiers, indeed, that there are no Burnley barrarcks and no soldiers in Burnley, then the absolutely unreal and romantic line of approach by the Bureau can be seen at a glance. Once upon a time, there were barracks in Burnley, but so realistic was the approach of the Manchester leadership to Burnley, that they had not discovered that these barracks had long ago been transformed into slum property.
It is good to learn that, as a result of “ serious struggles,” these comrades finally admitted their mistakes. Let us recollect that it is only as a consequence of similar serious struggles that Don Quixote is known and endeared to us. Perhaps the Manchester Working Bureau’s claim to immortality is greater than his, for whilst the Don mistook real windmills for fictitious giants, they planned a spectacular march upon the non-existent. However, no need for depression. That will come soon enough when they hear of the death of Queen Anne.
W. T Hopley