Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Useful Idiots

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Useful Idiots

Article excerpt

Of all the places in the world, communism should have triumphed here. Victorian Britain, an advanced industrial state riven by class conflict, was a country ripe for revolution. Above all, it contained a huge, exploited proletariat who had their hands on the means of production. So why did the Communist Party fail so spectacularly in Britain? Why did it have to endure the humiliation of being trounced by the Monster Raving Loony Party in a by-election in 1981, finally atrophying into nothingness in the early 1990s?

Under the Red Flag attempts to answer that question. The authors make clear that vital opportunities were missed early on in the movement's history. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when the ideology could have mushroomed into a powerful movement, a combination of political infighting, isolationism and a flippant attitude to the emerging trade unions and democracy all meant that the Social Democratic Federation (later renamed the British Socialist Party) never gained the formidable working-class support of the Independent Labour Party.

The Communist Party of Great Britain had an uneasy and constantly changing relationship with the Labour Party. Lenin initially wanted the British communists to unite with Labour, but his death and the ascendancy of Stalin led to fatally contradictory policies. In 1928, the CPGB adopted the "class against class" policy, which led to a rejection of a united front with the social democratic parties. It endeavoured to step up the fight against the bourgeois leadership of the Labour Party and believed that it could establish itself as an independent party at the coming elections.

It was only the United Front Against Fascism that saved a dying party from descending into the political abyss. Hitler's rise to power led to the abandonment of revolutionary policies as the party attempted to unite with the anti-fascists. Most notably, party members (although not the official party itself) were instrumental in fighting off the black-shirted fascists who supported Oswald Mosley. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.