Class against class: the Communist Party of Great Britain in the third period, 1927-1932

Worley, Matthew (1998) Class against class: the Communist Party of Great Britain in the third period, 1927-1932. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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This thesis provides an analysis of communism in Britain between 1927 and 1932. In these years, the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) embarked upon a 'new period' of political struggle around the concept of class against class. The increasingly draconian measures of the Labour Party and trade union bureaucracy between 1924 and 1927 significantly restricted the scope of communist influence within the mainstream labour movement. As such, the CPGB - in accordance with the Communist International - attempted to establish an 'independent leadership' of the working class.

The decline in Communist Party membership that accompanied the 'New Line' has led historians to associate an apparent collapse in CPGB influence with the political perspective of class against class. Similarly, the CPGB's initial resistance to the line has been interpreted as evidence of the Party's willing subservience to Moscow. In this thesis, such a portrayal of communist motive and experience will be challenged. Instead, a more multifaceted approach will endeavour to show that: i) the 'left turn' of 1927- 28 complemented attitudes evident in Britain since at least 1926; ii) the simultaneous collapse in CPGB influence related primarily to the structural changes afflicting Britain (and the British labour movement) between the wars; iii) the period was a difficult but not completely disastrous time for the Party. Rather, the years should be seen as a transitional period, in which the focus of communist activity moved out of the workplace and onto the streets. Thus, the Party's successful mobilisation of the unemployed, and the development of an idiosyncratic communist culture, were 'positive' factors. And finally; iv) that the political line pursued by the CPGB was more flexible and changeable than has hitherto been recognised. The Party continually modified its political strategy and objectives throughout the Third Period. Moreover, the 'sectarian excesses' that characterised class against class were due in part to the will of the Party rank and file. Many in the Party embraced the exclusivity of the New Line, and were responsible for interpreting the policy 'on the ground.'

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Keywords: Communist Party of Great Britain
Subjects: J Political science > JN Political institutions (Europe) > JN101 Great Britain
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Arts > School of History
Item ID: 11061
Depositing User: EP, Services
Date Deposited: 07 Jan 2010 15:16
Last Modified: 15 Oct 2017 00:29

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