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

By Noreen Branson | Go to book overview

23
WHICH ROAD TO SOCIALISM?

It was during the Labour Government’s last term of office that the Communist Party drafted a new programme outlining the kind of socialist society for which it aimed and discussing how such an aim could be achieved. The proposal for such a programme was first mooted in the summer of 1950 following a visit by Harry Pollitt to the Soviet Union, during which he had a discussion about the British political situation with Stalin who had suggested that the British Party needed a long-term programme. In a report to the executive committee on 8 July 1950 in which the implications for the party of the general election results earlier that year were examined, Pollitt said: ‘immediate issues and generalisations about socialism are not enough. Thinking people want a perspective. They want to see the line of march and the path ahead. We have to outline a programme for such people.’ The report was endorsed by the executive committee and circulated for discussion by all party organisations.1 Meanwhile, work on the new programme had begun.

Over the previous 15 years, the party’s views about the way forward had greatly changed. Thus, in its programme For Soviet Britain adopted in 1935, it had been assumed that, if a socialist society was to come about, the existing parliamentary structure would have to be abolished and replaced by workers’ councils or Soviets. But, as noted in chapter 8, the idea that parliament must be abolished had been discarded in 1944 in the party’s programme Britain for the People in which it was argued that the aim should be to change parliament and to democratise the state machine.

However, Britain for the People had been chiefly concerned with immediate post-war problems. It had been followed after the war ended by a book Looking Ahead by Harry Pollitt. Published in 1947, this contained a special chapter entitled ‘The British Road to Socialism’ which raised the possibilities of ‘transition to socialism by other paths than those followed by the Russian Revolution’. ‘The path, in any case,

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