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

By Noreen Branson | Go to book overview

1
1941–2. A NEW STAGE
IN THE WAR

In May 1942, the Communist Party of Great Britain held a national conference at the Stoll Theatre in London. The war had been raging for over 2½ years and the conference was called to discuss how victory over the fascist enemy could be won. It was fully understood that the defeat of the fascist powers – Germany, Italy and their ally Japan – was essential if the party’s long term aims for the socialist transformation of society were ever to be achieved.

In previous months, membership of the party had shown a dramatic rise – from 22,000 at the end of 1941 to 53,000 four months later. There were 1,323 delegates at the conference representing branches and factory groups. Onlookers were struck by the youth of those involved; over 500 were in their twenties and around another 500 in their thirties, only a handful were over 50.

‘We are proud to welcome the new members’ said Harry Pollitt, the party’s general secretary. ‘But we are proud of the old guard, who were in at the birth of this party.’ He urged that there should be no counterposing of the new members to the old. ‘We are all members of the same great party’ he said. ‘We have all the responsibility of helping each other, exchanging our experiences, of assisting in reading and studying, of giving our arguments freely and gladly for other comrades to use. The essence of communism is its ability and capacity for collective work.’1

The occupations of the delegates highlighted the party’s industrial roots. Nearly 700 came from the key war industries: engineering, mining, railways and transport, shipbuilding, electrical and building trades. Topics discussed included the campaign to open a second front in Europe, the need to increase war production, the demand for freedom for colonial countries and the fight to lift the ban on the party’s newspaper, the Daily Worker.

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