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The Communist Party of Great Britain and its struggle against fascism 1933-1939

By Dylan Lee Murphy

Abstract

The sectarian tactics of the Comintern's Third Period\ud prevented the Communist Party of Great Britain from\ud articulating an effective response to the rise of fascism\ud during 1933. The CPGB leadership saw the main threat of\ud fascism in Britain coming from the National Government,\ud whose measures were portrayed as leading to the gradual\ud 'fascisation' of British society. This led to the Party\ud leadership ignoring the BUF as politically irrelevant.\ud However, sections of the CPGB rank and file felt\ud differently, linking up with their Labour movement\ud counterparts; organising activity on a mass scale to\ud prevent BUF activity on the streets of Britain.\ud \ud \ud In mid 1934, reflecting pressure from below and the\ud change in Comintern anti-fascist strategy as advocated by\ud Dimitrov, the CPGB leadership changed tack and sanctioned\ud counter-demonstrations to BUF meetings. In October 1934 it\ud offered a united front electoral pact to the Labour Party.\ud \ud \ud In 1935 the CPGB embraced the popular front policy\ud adopted by the Comintern at its Seventh World Congress. The\ud popular front movement was designed to change the 'profascist'\ud foreign policy of the National Government and\ud replace it with a people's government favourable to a\ud military pact with the USSR. This guiding principle lay\ud behind the popular front activity of the CPGB during 1935-\ud 39.\ud \ud \ud By 1939 after six years of hard work the CPGB had little\ud to show for its struggle against fascism. Despite a small\ud increase in membership, and a slight growth in influence\ud amongst the trade unions and intelligentsia, it had failed\ud to bring about a change in British foreign policy favourable\ud to an alliance with the Soviet Union or to emerge as a\ud significant force within the British Labour movement. This\ud failure can be largely ascribed to its pursuit of an antifascist\ud strategy determined mainly by the requirements of\ud Soviet foreign policy and not by the concerns of British\ud workers

Topics: JN101, HX, D731
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.hud.ac.uk:4855

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