“FREE HARICH, SACK HARRY,” painted with true Communist zeal in large white letters on the roadway greeted the faithful as they entered Hammersmith Town Hall over the Easter week-end to receive their annual dose of dogma from the cardinals of King Street, and to indulge in some public confessions of political sins. This slogan was not a rabble-rousing challenge to strike fear into the hearts of Yankee capitalists or warmongering Tories; it was directed not outwards, but inwards, to the heart of the Workers’ Mass Party itself. Harich is the young intellectual imprisoned by the East German government, and guess who Harry is? Yes, none other than Cardinal Harry Pollitt. Alas! we confidently predict that this slogan will have as little effect in altering the status quo as others which have appeared on walls from time to time to enliven the working-class scene have had (e.g., “Hands off Guatemala,” “End Eden’s War,” “Chuck The Tories Out,” etc.). Harry is still there, and so, presumably, is Harich – but in a different place.
The irreverent slogan was, however, a sign of a definite air of revolt which hung over the proceedings, a revolt which, if not quite amounting to “ruthless self-criticism,” was at least an indication of a fairly advanced state of political masochism. Cardinal J. Gollan, the Party secretary, had to announce that 7,000 of the faithful had left the flock during the preceding year: others were all too ready to voice their doubts, especially about the Russian intervention in Hungary. One delegate remarked that in 22 years he had never known a Congress that had such a ‘ type of discussion getting down to it.'” (Observer, 21/4/57). The college of cardinals, including Gollan, Matthews, Mahon and Pollitt, struggled manfully with incantations and holy writ to exorcise the devils of heresy.
Representatives of the Labour press were excluded from the conference. Could this be because Mr. Peter Fryer (who resigned from the Daily Worker over the treatment of his reports from Hungary and who was later expelled from the C.P.) was the would-be representative for Tribune‘?
Although the hierarchy’s policy obtained an “overwhelming majority” of votes in its support from the Congress, there were some rather frank things said about the Russian intervention in Hungary. For instance, Mr. J. McLoughlin, the famous Dagenham campanologist, was most vociferous: “Don’t dig your heads in the sand,” lie said “and ignore Hungary. Terrible things have happened.” And, he added, in a final fling at the platform, “I want to come to the next Congress and see at least a partially new front bench – not the Dutt-Pollitt-what’s-his-name axis.” (Observer, 21/4/57.) Tut, tut, John. flattery will get you nowhere.
J. McLachlan (Scotland); “The Daily Worker told us that there was black counter-revolution in Hungary, but, in fact, there were popular demonstrations against a bureaucratic regime,” he said. “I agree that these were used by reactionary forces, and I agree that the final intervention by Soviet forces was necessary. But terrible mistakes had been made by the Soviet and Hungarian leaders and we should condemn those mistakes at this ingress.” (Daily Worker, 22/4/57.)
Another outspoken critic was Mr. Brian Behan. “At meeting of the executive,” said Brian Behan, “he had moved an amendment that they should dissociate themselves from the crimes of the Hungarian Communist Party. but this had not been printed in the Daily Worker. He had been told that this was due to a technical error (!) and accepted this, but he believed that his amendment should have been reported to Congress.” (Daily Worker, 20/4/57.) Readers who may be prematurely rejoicing at the thought of free speech pervading the upper layers of the Communist hierarchy will no doubt be saddened to learn that Mr. Behan did not gain a place on the new executive: the above statement, and others we shall be reporting later in this article, may offer slight clues as e cause of his unfortunate political demise.
Mr. Fryer was not permitted to put his case before Congress, but copies of a speech he would have made were distributed. A portion of this speech (reported in the Manchester Guardian of 22/4/57) is most revealing, and is worth reproducing here: “You can cross out my name from the membership list with a stroke of the pen. But you cannot cross out the truth about Hungary with a stroke of the pen. The truth about Hungary is known perfectly well to many of you who will vote for the rejection of my appeal. In the privacy of his office J. R. Campbell (editor of the Daily Worker) speaks of Kadar as a puppet. I am expelled for blazoning abroad what Campbell knows to be the truth.”
The Bomb, and Conscription
Male Communists are capable of making some monumentally fatuous remarks, but it takes a female Communist (Comrade Frances Silcocks, from Yorkshire) to reach the ultimate low in fatuity. After dilating on the struggle of working-class women against the horrors of the H-bomb, this Diana of the barricades said: “Now we are told that the Soviet Union is testing the bomb, and we are asked what we say about that,” she said. “We are opposed to tests in any country, including the Soviet Union. But what is the Soviet Union to do? Is it to sit on the fence until we throw bombs at them and they have none to throw back?” (Daily Worker. 20/4/57.) Certainly not, Comrade Frances, we hero mothers of the Communist Party would consider it an honour and a privilege to be liquidated by a real, class-conscious, Soviet H-bomb.
“There was a short, sharp debate on conscription. By 321 votes to 135 Congress defeated a proposal that the Party should fight to end conscription.” (Daily Worker, 22/4/57.) The ubiquitous Mr. McLoughlin also had some words to say on this subject: “The Tory Government had announced a new policy on conscription, but the Communist Party was still committed to it. Why?” he asked. “Perhaps because the Russians have got conscription.” “Don’t be provocative,” called out a delegate. (Daily Worker, 20/4/57.)
The election of the executive committee was democratic in the extreme; 42 members were “recommended” for election, and, would you believe it, “a party spokesman said . . . that there would be 42 members on the new executive.” (ManchesterGuardian, 20/4/57.) How convenient! As we mentioned before, careless talk cost Mr. Behan his seat on the band-wagon.
Lest we appear too harsh on the comrades, we should mention that they stage-managed quite a nice little show of “democracy” during the congress. The minority formulation in the draft revised text of The British Road to Socialism relating to “fraternal relations between Socialist Britain and the countries of the British Empire” received a majority of votes over the majority (executive committee) version. However, we defy anyone to show us any fundamental difference between the two drafts as reported on the front page of the Daily Worker of 22/4/57. The debate was, as the immortal bard said, “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
A final indication of the degree of democracy which pervaded the congress is that 57 general resolutions submitted by branches were not discussed, and “before delegates had seen them they were asked to agree to remit them to the National Executive, and in the end they did so.” (ManchesterGuardian, 23/4/57.)
Cardinal Gollan admirably defined this fine old Bolshevik euphemism for criticism of official party policy in his weighty address to his flock (Daily Worker, 20/4/57). “We use the word ‘revisionist’ advisedly, not as a bit of name-calling, but to describe objective tendencies. These were the contributions attacking the essential basis of the Party, democratic centralism and its leading role.” He later said (Daily Worker, 22/4/57): “Lenin and the Bolsheviks had to fight revisionists all their lives.” Exactly; the modern disciples of Pope Lenin have to carry on the good fight – no wonder they don’t have any time to discuss Socialism.
Another outspoken delegate was Professor Hyman Levy, who denied that the loss of 7,000 members was due to “revisionism,” “but to the attitude of the leaders to events in Russia and Eastern Europe.” (ManchesterGuardian, 22/4/57.) Professor Levy “challenged his chairman, Mr. Harry Pollitt, to explain his silence about ‘a gangsterism’ in the Soviet Union. How often has Harry Pollitt been told about this? How often has he told people to keep their mouths shut?” Need we add that Professor Levy’s utterances were nowhere reported in the pages of the Daily Worker! Much prominence was, however, given to a “reply” by Andrew Rothstein, a reply deeply embedded in party dogma. (Daily Worker, 23/4/57).
The recent coming to power of a “communist” government in the State of Kerala in India received much plaudits from the assembled comrades. Cardinal George Matthews said (Daily Worker, 22/4/57): “The victory of the Communist Party of India in the State of Kerala is a portent of far-reaching political developments which will take place among the teeming millions of India.” No one outside the Communist Party phantasy world, however, will be surprised to learn that business in Kerala continues much as before, on sound capitalist lines, and the revolutionary Communist ministers’ ” deeds and sayings in one single day are too bourgeois for words,” according to Miss Taya Zinkin in the Manchester Guardian (24/4/57). ‘She continues: “The Chief Minister attended Acharya Vinoba Bhave’s prayer meeting yesterday, bought a copy of his book on the Gita (Hinduism’s Bible), and asked for an autograph of India’s walking saint . . . Meanwhile the Health Minister, Mr. R. A. Menon . . . told the Palghat Poor Home Society that the beggar problem must be solved by private institutions because the Government can do very little,” etc.
“The British Road to Socialism”
Some heretic voices were even raised against this blueprint for revolution (1957 version, with all the latest tactical amendments and deletions to match the day-today, struggle. E. & O.E.). A genuine, old-fashioned kind of Bolshevik is T. Connor who “opposed the draft as a revisionist (ouch; that word again) programme, and he was fighting for a return to revolutionary Socialism. He moved an amendment calling for the formation of workers’ councils and councils of action through which power would be seized.” (Daily Worker, 22/4/57.) Cardinal J. R. Campbell rebutted this idea, evocative as it is of sterner, ruder, Bolshevik days. “The amendment put forward by Huyton, suggesting that workers’ councils and councils of action would elect a Socialist Government, proposed to substitute for the pure milk of Marxism the skimmed milk of Trotskyism,” he said. (Laughter). May we remind the reverend Cardinal and all the sheep who laughed so heartily at his witticism, that once upon a time “councils of action,” “workers’ councils,” “united fronts,” etc., were all the rage on the revolutionary front. For instance, a circular issued by the “Red International of Labour Unions” came into our hands (SOCIALIST STANDARD, March 1923) before the word “Trotskyism” (one of the foulest swear-words in the Communist vocabulary) was invented. This circular advocated the concentration of “all available strength” by the formation of “councils of action through the medium of conference composed of delegates from trades councils, trade union branches, and district committees, working class local and national political organisations, unemployed organisations, co-operative societies and guilds.” Stick that in your milk and skim it, Campbell. Cardinal Campbell opposed the nationalisation of certain types of land, not because it is not Socialism, but because “it would also lead to endless complications pushing masses of people on to the wrong side of the class struggle.” (Daily Worker, 22/4/57). Yes, but which side? With true revolutionary zeal the good Cardinal also opposed the policy of “no compensation,” because it “would alarm those we are seeking to neutralise, would create the maximum opposition and make most difficult a peaceful transition.”
To prove that the female of the Communist species is more deadly than the male, Mrs. Gwen Shield moved an amendment to reject the draft’s proposal to compensate former owners of nationalised industries. “She wanted them to get only the opportunity to work and when prevented by physical incapacity to get National Insurance benefits.” (Daily Worker, 22/4/57). Good news for all you capitalists!
What of the Future?
Thousands of members have left the Communist Party during the past year, and many more may do so after this year’s conference, which has conclusively proved the party hierarchy’s refusal to budge one inch from its rigid pro-Russian line. But the “hard core” will carry on, for, in Cardinal Pollitt’s own words, “We all owe everything to the party, whatever we do and whatever our job” (Daily Worker, 23/4/57).
Professor Levy summed up the Communist Party’s political influence thus: “The working class of this country have constantly rejected the Communist Party,” he said. “You keep on talking as if you were the leading group.” (ManchesterGuardian, 22/4/57). Whatever future party line the diehards adopt in following the tortuous changes in the policy of the Russian ruling class, it will inevitably be anti-working-class and anti-Socialist. The Communist Party’s past history has been a chapter of misrepresentation, trickery, deceit and humbug. Its future is likely to be no different.