History of the Communist Party of Great Britain, 1941-1951 - Vol. 4

By Noreen Branson | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

The first two volumes of the history of the Communist Party of Great Britain were written by James Klugmann and published between 1968–9. From then on he was engaged in extensive research for a further work; however, he died before it could be written. Making much use of his research, I took responsibility for the next volume which covered the years 1927–41 and appeared in 1985. Soon after I began collecting material on the Party’s role in the 1940s, but while I was doing so the Communist Party of Great Britain came to an end and was replaced by the Democratic Left organisation.

During these years we have seen the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the collapse of socialist regimes in eastern Europe. Yet, as the peoples of these countries are discovering, reversion to capitalist market economies is not leading to a better life. On the contrary, many of their former gains have disappeared; they are seeing rising unemployment, poverty and insecurity; the growth of racial and religious conflicts; the rebirth of neo-fascist organisations; and nationalist controversies often leading to civil wars.

In such a situation, those on the Left who want to move forward to a socialist society which is both humane and democratic need to analyse what went wrong in the Soviet Union and the other socialist countries. But it is also necessary to look at the record of communist movements in capitalist countries, examine the beliefs and aims of their members; their achievements as well as their failures.

In Britain the Communist Party was never very large, yet it had influence much wider than its size would imply. For many decades it was portrayed as ‘the enemy’; though never officially classed as ‘illegal’ its members were subjected to much discrimination and harassment. Moreover, its aims and activities have been much distorted by some historians. In this book, I aim to set the record straight for the ten years between 1941 and 51, covering wartime activities, the period of the post war Labour Government, and the start of the Cold War.

Four people read my initial draft – Jim Fyrth, Monty Johnstone, Betty Lewis and George Matthews. I am more than grateful to them for their expert help and suggestions. I received valuable information

-vii-

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