8 The Hippopotamus and the Giraffe Bolshevism, Stalinism, and American and British Communism in the 1920s
John McIlroy and Alan Campbell
Bryan Palmer’s interest in Communism in North America stretches back to the 1970s. Through his links with European labour historians, enthusiasm for the work of Edward Thompson, and friendship with the great English historian, he kept abreast of the historiography of the left in Britain.1 Embarking on research into American Trotskyist leader James P. Cannon in the mid-1990s, Palmer read widely in the historiography of Communism in the United States and Europe, which had developed from the 1950s and gathered momentum after Western scholars gained access to Soviet archives in the 1990s. Disputation resulted over the degree to which new documentation confirmed or challenged contested interpretations of the role of national Communisms and their relationship to the Third International (Comintern) and the Soviet state. Palmer registered a noteworthy contribution to both these wide-ranging debates and the substantive historiography. Penetrating essays explored contentious issues in American Communism, while the first volume of the Cannon triptych qualitatively extended our knowledge and understanding of its first ten years. Palmer also contributed, insightfully and trenchantly, to related discussions in Britain, and recently offered comment on Canadian Communism, where difference and debate has been decidedly less robust than elsewhere.2
Perhaps the most important aspect of Palmer’s engagement was a powerful reassertion of the significance of Stalinism in moulding Communist history during the 1920s. Most students of national Communisms conflated Bolshevism and Stalinism or employed Stalinism as an epithet denoting a historical period or dictatorial misdeeds—or passed over it as a distinctive political phenomenon. In like fashion, Stalinization was used as a depoliticized synonym for subordination and Soviet domination. Taking issue with orthodoxy, Palmer argued that the absence of Stalinism as an explanatory concept debilitated the historiography and impoverished comprehension of what happened to the Soviet Union, the Comintern, and Communism in the United States and Canada. He emphasized its distance from Bolshevism and its role in the degeneration of the Russian revolution, a defeat “conditioned and nurtured in specific material conditions predating Stalinism proper, but structuring its later development.”3 Palmer’s treatment of the roots and trajectory of Stalinism, particularly in his study of Cannon and the origins of the American revolutionary left, was nevertheless relatively terse, and the body of this chapter expands on it.4 Our essay discusses how Stalinism emerged, conquered the Soviet Union and the Comintern, and influenced the politics of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) and its American counterpart, the Workers’ Party (WP).5
Sixty years after the publication of his twin monographs chronicling the first decade of US Communism, Theodore Draper looms large in its historiography. The Roots of American Communism (1957) and American Communism and Soviet Russia (1960) concentrated on the WP leadership and the interplay between Russian and American politics mediated through the Comintern. Draper’s conclusion—straightforward but meticulously documented—was that this interaction entailed American subordination to Moscow. The hegemony of the Comintern, and hence the Russian state, was sown in the initial encounters of 1919, effective by 1921, and formalized in 1929. Every change of line emanated from Moscow and was accepted and applied in New York. Internalizing the policy of the Comintern and an anti-capitalist state ensured American Communists were disabled in grappling with the politics of a modern capitalist democracy.6 The fundamentals of Draper’s approach were elaborated beyond the 1920s by Harvey Klehr and John Earl Haynes. They described Comintern management—albeit expressed lightly in the 1920s—of a political satellite. Like Draper, they did not explore the relationship of Bolshevism to Stalinism but assumed substantial identity between the two and exhibited a preference for liberal democracy over “official Communism.” Their work in the Soviet archives filled out the detail of the domination the Russians exercised over the American party, the extent of Soviet finance, and later involvement in espionage conducted in the interests of the rulers of Russia. The result was a depiction of the WP and its successor, the Communist Party of America, as subservient, its subordination to Moscow pervasive but voluntary.7
In studying bureaucratic centralist parties, it is reasonable to start with leaders and policy and tentatively assume most members ultimately toed the line. The approach of Draper, Klehr, and Haynes, subsequently designated “traditionalist,” rarely went further. Yet it is difficult to understand the role of leaders unless we look at the led, at second-level cadres and the grassroots, and their interaction. This insight would animate much of what would be designated “revisionist” scholarship, often consciously posed against Draper and his followers. From the 1980s, scholars influenced by “the new labour history,” the politics of the New Left, and a desire to recuperate a useable socialist past, researched the 1930s and 1940s and recollected preoccupations of second-level leaders and rank-and-file activists. Episodic local studies explored the role of Communists in building trade unionism, contesting exploitation, combatting racist and sexist oppression, and radicalizing the cultural field.8 “Revisionist” writers were sympathetic, even at times asserting that hostility disqualified understanding. Many admired Popular Front and wartime Communism—although it constituted a relatively small proportion of party history—and reconstructed these periods as Communists had presented them, as embodying an indigenously generated radicalism. Stalinism and Comintern control were frequently displaced and marginalized—rather than evidentially dismantled. “History from below” and narratives sanitizing Soviet-inspired politics cast Communists as standard-bearers of an authentic American anti-capitalism. The new history, one revisionist scholar claimed, “depicted the Party as at certain times and places, flexible, imaginative, principled, rooted in neighbourhoods and workplaces and enjoying genuine popular support.”9 In the face of findings from the Moscow archives buttressing the traditional case, some reacted constructively; others attempted to explain away inconvenient discoveries.10
Early British literature was influenced by the US historiography: the pioneering scholar, Henry Pelling, was almost more Draperesque than Draper. CPGB adhesion to the Comintern, its acceptance of international discipline, and its break with earlier socialist politics determined its development. Long-term subordination to the Soviet state was accomplished via “Bolshevization” (1921–24) and “Stalinization” (1924–29).11 A more detailed study of the 1920s by Leslie Macfarlane similarly located CPGB history in a political-institutional and Russian paradigm. Policy flowed from Moscow and, by 1929, the requirements of “socialism in one country”; Comintern hegemony was “in the main accepted by the British party without question.”12 For Walter Kendall, CPGB failure stemmed from the party’s desertion of a fecund pre-1917 socialism: the establishment of a Communist Party in the United Kingdom was a mistake.13 In contrast, the best writing from a revolutionary perspective endorsed the establishment of a Moscow-affiliated party, explaining its lack of impact in the 1920s as a consequence of unrealistic ambition in an attritional environment.14
Following their American forerunners, later historians were frequently sympathetic to British Communists, marginalized Stalinism, and embellished Popular Front politics in pursuit of British autonomy. They were sometimes influenced by “history from below” and testimony from survivors anxious to ensure their and their party’s legacy. As in the US, there was approbation of “local initiatives” and “autonomized” rank-and-file campaigns. On the basis of selective activity in unions, community, and cultural arenas, and without weighing in the calculus the politics of Stalinism, the CPGB of the Popular Front years was adjudged superior to its political competitors.15 Studies of activity in trade unions in the 1930s, advertised as extending US revisionism, were disdainful of the revolutionary politics the party was created to pursue and passed over Stalinism with perfunctory examination. Such work portrayed CPGB leaders as initiators rather than executors of moves toward reformism, and as exhorting activists to embrace economism and disregard centralism. Eurocommunism was furnished with a historical pedigree and reformism depicted as the desirable destination of British Bolshevism.16
Even scholars who criticized “history from below” and took a political-institutional approach, like Andrew Thorpe, infused their writing with similar sensibilities. Thorpe emphasized the “active agency” of CPGB leaders, presenting figures such as Harry Pollitt and J. R. Campbell as independent-minded pragmatists, uncomfortable with, and frequently resistant to, Comintern policy. Thorpe went so far as to claim that Pollitt was “clearly able, for most of the time that he was secretary of the party, to run his own show.”17 The weight of interpretive commentary amplified his conclusion that “the influence of Moscow has been on the whole exaggerated . . . the party was to a large extent the master of its own fate. [The Comintern] did not hinder it too much, most of the time, in providing its own solutions to the problems it faced.”18 But the documentary evidence adduced for such novel propositions failed to justify them. Thorpe decentred CPGB leaders’ existential commitment to the Comintern, diminished their theoretical and practical dependence on it, and elided the distinction between making policy and administering it. Social histories of British Communism likewise yielded new information, but tended to downplay politics and bureaucratic centralism, their conclusions often flawed by methodological inadequacies. Presenting an array of findings, an avowedly prosopographical survey concluded: “No attempt was made to identify a representative sample . . . the information in many cases is fragmentary, sometimes relating to a single aspect of an individual’s life . . . Simple statements that we have identified groups of cases sharing particular characteristics have no quantitative significance.”19
Our own work has argued differently: politics must remain pervasive and pivotal, structuring multi-dimensional analysis of a political party that was part of a global political movement. Social histories should acknowledge the importance of relating prosopographical and personal material to the political raison d’être of the movement, rather than segregate the two; articulate “history from below” with “history from above”; measure memories against the documentary record; and delineate the character of fissures between leadership and led on a spectrum running from organized opposition to individual apathy. Our studies demonstrated that the evidence from the archives confirmed the controlling role of the Comintern, the lack of significant political deviation from the Moscow line in the CPGB before 1956, and the absence of meaningful political autonomy at the grassroots. Soviet funding, espionage, and infiltration of other parties, we insisted, constituted relevant aspects of Communism as a movement and merited recuperation and analytic engagement. Nonetheless, the traditionalists’ neglect of social history requires redress, as does conflation of “official Communism” with revolutionary socialism and “the straight line” continuity thesis that pervades many studies and fails to distinguish Bolshevism from Stalinism. Stalinism developed from Bolshevism, we argued, but it evolved into a distinct political species. The two were as different as swans and geese. And Stalinism was as different from socialism as the hippopotamus from the giraffe.20
Our quarrel with revisionist approaches centred on the silences and evidential inadequacies with which they evaded such distinctions and their impact and subverted established understandings. Analysis of transactions between the Comintern and the CPGB disclosed no instance where political strategy or important tactics were initiated by the CPGB, and no instance where the CPGB successfully opposed Comintern initiatives of any strategic or tactical significance. Opposition or sustained resistance is constructed by elevating differences aired in discussions preliminary to setting the line and inflating secondary, tertiary, and, it has to be said, trivial issues. Developments attributed to the agency of CPGB leaders—economism, the failures of centralism—are better explained by objective constraint, the fallibilities of democratic centralism, and caution and weakness when faced with hostility.21 Popular Front politics were Stalinist politics in which anti-fascism and revolution were secondary to the security of Stalin’s dictatorship. Far from representing a carnival of autonomy, Anglicization, and ecumenism, they were licensed and monitored from Moscow. The decisive influence of Soviet imperatives survived the discarding of anti-fascism when it no longer met Stalinism’s requirements; the pro-Hitler line of 1939–40; the exclusion of the British party from the Cominform; and the invasion of Hungary.22 The conclusion is undeniable: CPGB leaders followed Comintern initiatives rather than resisting them, while impressionistic stabs at social history rarely negotiated the rapids of political contextualization and methodological rigour.23 The WP and CPGB were not unique and other literatures were marked by similar developments and debates.24
Palmer’s contribution to this conflicted historiography re-balanced the narrative of American Communism and restored, albeit in a different way, Draper’s emphasis on the significance of the 1920s. He provided an overdue corrective to histories that implied the story really began in 1935, and in extreme cases offered Stalinists, suitably sanitized, as role models for contemporary left-wing practice.25 Recuperating a forgotten left, Palmer rehabilitated lost leaders: Cannon received a justice last extended to him in Draper’s foundational texts almost fifty years earlier. Innovative employment of an eye-opening swathe of sources and deft analytical fusion of protagonists and context, agency, and circumstance rendered James P. Cannon and the Origins of the American Revolutionary Left, 1890–1928 an achievement as biography and history. It stands as a rebuke to those who dismiss history written from the revolutionary viewpoint of its subjects. Centrally, and in contrast with both traditionalists and revisionist historians, Palmer’s book and the related essays presented Stalinism as a far from inevitable phenomenon, central to the history of national Communisms, “a lever” used to “pry open a conceptualization of revolutionary degeneration.”26 In contrast with revisionist historians, Palmer portrayed developments in Russia as moulding events in the United States. Before the ascendancy of Stalinism, he argued, the alignment of Bolshevism and native socialism promised a vibrant American Communism. The early Comintern acted with flexibility and respect for affiliates to purvey an essentially healthy politics. From 1926, and decisively from 1928, “the age of innocence” of American Communism ended with the encroachment and conquest of Stalinism.
What was unusual was the power with which a case, about which some historians will have reservations, was constructed, the quality of the evidence assembled to support it, and its location in a critique of the literature. Recognizing the centrality of Soviet domination and acknowledging Draper’s outstanding scholarship and partial recognition of the early give-and-take between Bolsheviks and US Communists, Palmer distanced himself from a determinism he perceived as afflicting Draper’s account after 1923. Draper, he argued, downplayed both the continuation of dialogue and contention in the relationship and the transformative impact of Stalinism—a criticism Palmer applied more vigorously to Klehr and Haynes. Deprecating the latter’s neglect of the party’s interventions in industry and society, Palmer took the New Left historians to task from a position of socialist commitment. He analyzed their disregard of the 1920s and absorption with the Popular Front, as well as depoliticized local narratives and the sidestepping of Stalinism, perceptively critiquing Denning’s Cultural Front and Schrecker’s reconstruction of McCarthyism.27 He brought history and politics—scholarship and reconstruction of the past to serve construction of the future—into alignment. Historiographical progress and debate, he argued, are indispensable, “especially if the history of Communism is ever to play a role in the revived political mobilization of the revolutionary left.”28
As noted earlier, the format of Palmer’s work, historiographical essays, and biography constrained extended examination of the evolution and nature of Bolshevization and Stalinization, their differences and similarities, and their impact—questions that deserve more considered attention than they have recently received in books and articles examining Communism in America.29 Similar judgment might be passed on literature assessing these questions in relation to the CPGB.30 If such issues are to be meaningfully addressed, however, historiographical debate must be permitted to develop. Palmer noted: “All of us on the anti-Stalinist left can recount tales of book manuscripts reviewed, grant applications assessed and teaching posts interviewed for where our political engagements became the object of caricature and unfairness.”31 Other protagonists in the contested historiography of Communism claimed: “the gatekeepers of the historical profession have effectively silenced this debate in the Journal of American History and the American Historical Review.”32 The role of Palmer, Dan Leab, and Haynes in facilitating properly conducted discussion in journals such as Labour/Le Travail and American Communist History has not always been replicated, certainly not in Britain. In one case, a paper Palmer submitted to a journal debate remained unpublished without reasonable explanation.33 In another case, difficulties with Twentieth Century History, an Oxford University Press journal, culminated in its editors informing us that they had rejected our submission on the basis of referees’ reports, which, in violation of the fundamentals of transparency and peer review, they refused to let us see.34 Historiography develops, inter alia, through disputation between historians. That process suffers if debate is illegitimately stifled, something Palmer has long opposed.
Communist leaders such as Jay Lovestone acknowledged at the end of the 1920s that “unquestioned and unquestionable loyalty to the Communist International” was mandatory for WP members.35 Rajani Palme Dutt remarked of the CPGB in 1923 that ordinary members would “agree to any Thesis that comes from the International without being able to judge” even if it contradicted another directive. Dutt conceded this was a “brutal” verdict but regarded it as the political reality of the time.36 The paramount influence on the Comintern was the Soviet party and the situation in Russia. Conditioning developments was the contradictory nature of 1917: it was a workers’ revolution restricted to particular regions of a peasant empire whose autocracy, limited industrialization, and tiny working class rendered it ripe for a bourgeois revolution. This circumscribed socialist progress and advance was further limited by capitalist encirclement, civil war, depletion of proletariat and party, the social weight of the peasantry, and, crucially, from a Bolshevik perspective, the failure of revolution in Europe and the consolidation of world capitalism, however crisis ridden. The evolution of the Comintern has to be situated in the domestic and foreign policy of the Soviet Union, located in the responses of the party/state to these challenges as Bolshevik ideology—based on adapting Kautskyian social democracy to pre-1917 Russian realities—collided with post-revolutionary Russian realities and the absence of viable prototypes for constructing socialism in intransigent circumstances. From the interventionism, nationalization, and coercion of War Communism, through the New Economic Policy (NEP), moderation of intervention in agriculture and industry, and moves to a mixed economy, to Stalinism, Comintern policy was inextricably linked to developments within the Russian party.
Landmarks included the initial primacy of Lenin; the appointment of Stalin as general secretary; the prohibition of factions; the emergence of diplomacy and foreign policy interacting with Comintern policy, marked by agreement on cooperation with the Weimar republic at Rapallo (1922); Lenin’s disabling illness; the ascendancy of the triumvirate of Zinoviev, Kamenev, and Stalin; the subsequent partnership of Stalin and Bukharin; and finally, the climactic “revolution from above” which, we shall argue, marked the passage from Bolshevism to Stalinism. These events were accompanied by changes in the composition and cadre of the party, social mobility, and the growth of party/state bureaucracy and professional and managerial elites.37
Classifying events into discrete periods, allocating political ideas and practice to different categories, and weighing continuities against disjunctures can be a problematic process. That applies to the following periodization and the argument developed in this section for distinguishing Bolshevism from Stalinism. The Comintern’s first period, 1919–22, reflected a decline of belief in the short-term possibility of revolution in the West, War Communism, and the active, if limited, engagement of Lenin. Russian hegemony, flowing from the fact that the Bolsheviks alone had made a revolution, maintained state power, and thus constituted a model for emulation, was underpinned by the other sections’ political and economic dependence on the unique Russian affiliate and their difficulties in advancing revolution at home. National parties, often with tiny resources, suffered from a power imbalance in interacting with a party/state whose dealings with other states could be compromised by encouragement of revolution. This first phase witnessed acceptance of the universality of the Bolshevik experience and the as yet incompletely realized necessity for national parties to adopt contemporary Bolshevik politics, organizational norms, and disdain for left reformism, Left Communism, and syndicalism. As “the general staff of world revolution,” the Comintern was modelled on post-1917 Bolshevik organization. The “21 Conditions” for affiliation demanded that constituent parties be built “in the most centralized way possible . . . governed by iron discipline.” They gave a decisive role between congresses to the executive (ECCI), on which Russian representatives outnumbered all others. Acquiescence was preceded by debate drawing on the experience of national parties; outcomes invariably met Soviet objectives.38
If the constitutional tendency was centralist and power was crystallizing in the executive and in a developing bureaucracy, the ethos in an inexperienced Comintern was democratic. Decisions were made at the ECCI level. But they were open to critical debate at the frequently disputatious first four congresses.39 Factions, defined by Lenin in 1921 as “the formation of groups with separate platforms striving to a certain degree to segregate and create their own group discipline,” were tolerated.40 Bolshevization, in the sense of more specific insistence on remoulding the national parties in the current Russian image, climbed the agenda. However, congress delegates—and Lenin—countenanced against too pervasive an emphasis on the Russification of the world movement.41 Lenin had other concerns and diminished physical resources; Russian developments and lesser minds moulded Comintern initiatives. September 1922 saw Zinoviev instructing the French party to execute an “immediate and complete dissolution of all factions.”42
The Comintern’s second phase ran from 1923 to 1927, with important changes within that period. Its beginning saw “Bolshevization” take central stage. The idea was frequently expressed in rhetoric and broad formulae susceptible to interpretation: national parties must become centralized, eliminate factionalism, get close to the masses, and eschew both sectarianism and opportunism. More concretely, it demanded a rupture with the federalism, local autonomy, and propaganda approaches that had characterized the predecessors of the CPGB and WP and a decisive break with reformist politics. Based on Comintern theses, “Bolshevization” may be broadly defined as the assimilation of affiliates to the prevailing politics, norms, structures, and culture of the Soviet party-state in order to permeate society with Russian politics through organized intervention in all spheres. Comintern sections were required to adopt Russian conceptions of revolution and democratic centralism, with the decisions of higher bodies binding lower organs, subordination of minorities to the majority, prohibition of factions, and election of the leadership by the membership, and with professional revolutionaries directing the party. All members were to be active in workplace and street units, with “fractions” reporting to higher bodies that controlled party work in parliaments, unions, reformist parties, and social and political institutions, with a press written by and for workers. All affiliates were bound by Comintern decisions.43
It is necessary to emphasize that the 1924–25 “Bolshevization” did not entail generalization of a timeless Bolshevism propounded by Lenin in 1902 or 1917 that led remorselessly to Stalinism. Bolshevism was far from a monolithic ideology that determined Soviet policy through the 1920s. As David Priestland has shown, it contained a range of ideas that suggested and legitimated a spectrum of strategies. His account unpacks the complex, conflicted, and dynamic ideas, politics, and programs that informed the shifting practice of Bolshevism.44 Long ago, Marcel Liebman documented how Lenin’s conception of revolutionary organization changed between 1902 and 1923. The internal ideological struggle and democracy of 1905 gave way to a more monolithic party, an approach relaxed in 1914 and reversed in 1917 when hierarchy and discipline yielded to open controversy and the clash of factions.45 This, in the view of Alexander Rabinowitch, explains the “phenomenal Bolshevik success” of 1917, with the party “internally relatively democratic, tolerant and decentralized . . . essentially open [in its] mass character—in striking contrast to the traditional Leninist model.”46 It is instructive to compare the party in 1917 with the governing party and Comintern in 1924.
Before 1921, Lenin’s stance on party democracy was flexible and pragmatic. Internal groups and debates should be curtailed if they disrupted organization, compromised unity, and hindered struggle—formulae transparently open to conflicting interpretations. Nonetheless, factional activity remained legitimate after the Bolsheviks took power, and the Democratic Centralism group and the Workers’ Opposition remained active and articulate until March 1921. Only at the Tenth Party Congress were factions outlawed, although there are grounds for believing this was considered a temporary expedient.47 It was a crucial rebuff to democracy, arguably efficiency, and, in retrospect, the continuity of Bolshevism. The political monopoly the Bolsheviks enjoyed was now complemented by restriction of freedom within the party. “The freewheeling debates and groupings of prewar Bolshevism,” Lars T. Lih observes, “shifted fairly rapidly to a new emphasis on monolithic unity and strict disciplined centralism.”48 The accent on democratic centralism between 1905 and 1907 and through 1917 was replaced by democratic centralism as power accumulated above in the context of exercising state power within a hostile world in which internal “factionalism” was perceived as dangerous. By the Fifth Congress of the Comintern in June 1924, “Bolshevization” meant acceptance of the ruling orthodoxy in Russia, the domination of the triumvirate, and, as the Comintern theses and Stalin and Zinoviev’s actions made explicit, the struggle against Trotsky and the Left Opposition. Democratic centralism, a model of organization functional for running an undemocratic state, but a model distanced from the party that led the October Revolution, was to be exported to the United States and Britain, where revolutionaries were instructed to replicate the practice of a party in power rather than its experience of winning it.49 Even if one accepted the arguments for universalization, this monolithic, undemocratic “Bolshevization” was dysfunctional.
In relation to inner-party democracy, a distinction may be made between temporary factions as political platforms—established to clarify problems and facilitate decision making and united action—and permanent factions in which politics may become secondary and differences more rigid, impoverishing internal exchange and political clarity. “Bolshevization’s” blanket prohibition of both types and suppression of members’ right to publicly dissent restricted the development of ideas—while undermining free exchange with protagonists of other parties and the openness and honesty necessary to secure a united front with reformists. For some, restricted democracy circumscribed motivation and commitment. Moreover, the specific objective of the 1924–25 “Bolshevization,” Soviet-style bureaucratic centralism, cannot be divorced from the triumvirate’s attempts to mobilize the national parties for their crusade against the opposition. Factionalism was banished in the interests of factionalism. It is hard to see “Bolshevization,” in this context and with this purpose, as a “double-edged sword,” as Palmer and Zumoff suggest. Cui bono? Like Stalin’s “Leninism,” “Bolshevization” “laid the basis for further degeneration” and the Stalinization of the world movement.50
Comintern policy developed against the background of a besieged, increasingly undemocratic Soviet state, society and party; the NEP, recognition of capitalist resilience, and the united front pitch to reformists. By 1927 the attitude to social democracy had hardened. The Comintern became more centralized and Russified. Revised statutes introduced biennial instead of annual congresses; stressed the binding nature of ECCI directives; and granted the executive power to amend or dispense with decisions of congresses of national parties and expel their members. Discussion and timely addressing of policy were sidelined as delays in convening congresses—four years between the Fifth and Sixth World Congresses and seven years between the Sixth and Seventh World Congress in 1935—became commonplace. Zinoviev utilized the right to reconstruct the executive committees of national parties, a prerogative exercised in relation to the French, Finnish, German, and Polish sections. Stalin presided over Comintern removal of Polish leaders who protested the treatment of Trotsky. Zinoviev threatened the deposed revolutionaries: “If you attempt to stand against us we will break your bones.”51 The defeat of the 1923 German revolution, the demise of Lenin, the appearance in 1924 of the first drafts of “socialism in one country” and “social fascism,” and the struggle between the triumvirate and the Left Opposition with the former triumphant all contributed to the ongoing centralization of the Communist International and its subordination to Zinoviev and Stalin.52
Support for the NEP remained axiomatic. Stalinism remained embryonic. Born out of Bolshevism, it would with time subvert it. In terms of ideology, Stalinism represented a shift away from the strategic primacy of revolution outside Russia. This was not excluded, particularly outside Europe. But the accent was on action in Russia, defending “the gains of October,” not extending them internationally. Constructing socialism at home became central, and the security of the degenerating Russian state became the main consideration infusing Soviet diplomacy and Comintern policy, despite the rhetorics of revolution.53 The canon of authoritative thinkers was reduced, and Trotsky, Bukharin, and Rosa Luxemburg excommunicated. Future change in the ideas and politics of Comintern affiliates was now Stalin’s prerogative, his stature as interpreter of Marx and Engels elevated to an infallibility Lenin never enjoyed in his lifetime. Stalinism, packaged as “Leninism,” would stifle creative thinking. On the policy level, the rupture with Lenin’s approach to social democracy and trade unionism, pivoting on a one-sided assertion of reformism’s bourgeois nature at the expense of its working-class base and a similarly mechanical declaration of the union bureaucracy’s integration into the capitalist state, was inserted into a catastrophic theory of capitalist crisis and proletarian radicalization. On this basis, Stalinism demanded termination of the united front—only unity from below with reformist workers to oppose social democratic leaders was now permissible—and formation of alternative revolutionary unions. On the organizational level, Stalinism built on the Bolsheviks’ 1921 innovations. It beat the drum for “iron discipline,” rooting out factionalism and purging national leaderships to install cadres of “the Stalin generation” and replace or re-educate those identified with the old policies.54
Although 1924 has been considered “as marking the end of Bolshevism,” Stalinism and Stalinization were not, at that point, ready to replace it.55 It might be better characterized as “the beginning of the end,” for until 1928 the process remained conflictual and gradual. In Russia, the Left Opposition and then the United Opposition fought Stalin, but they did so backed up against particular walls of resistance. Zinoviev declared at the 1923 Congress of the Russian party that, “Every criticism of the party line” was “now objectively a Menshevik criticism.”56 Disputation and argument continued within the Comintern, albeit within the arc of a power imbalance countenancing intimidation and coercion. Surveying the events of 1923–24, culminating in the Fifth Comintern Congress and the demands from German disciples of the “Bolshevizers” for a world party that placed discipline above democracy and adhered rigidly to the Russian road, Isaac Deutscher asked, “What accounted for the change that had come over the International?” Noting that only months earlier the leaders of the now chastened German, French, and Polish Central Committees had “had enough courage and dignity to rebuke the triumvirate,” Deutscher pointed out that they had guided their parties from their inception, enjoying high moral authority among those committed to the anti-capitalist cause. In the face of the orchestration of “a complete upheaval in the entire communist movement,” all was now “a spectacle of submission and self-abasement.” Nowhere, Deutscher observed, did “the rank-and-file stand up” for the Central Committees of their parties, “shuffled, displaced, or broken up at will” as they were. The ease with which Zinoviev accomplished this drastic change “indicated a deep-seated weakness in the International,” declared Deutscher. “Only a diseased body could be thus subdued at a stroke.”57 Guarding against inevitability and mechanical retrospection, “the disease,” we would argue, can be traced to the Comintern’s DNA, constituted in part by the disparities distinguishing the Russian party, which controlled a state, and other national sections of the International struggling to challenge their rulers with scant success.
Despite Zinoviev’s visibility, recent research suggests that by 1924 Stalin was the strongest force in the Russian party, and there is some evidence that he was already controlling Comintern decisions. The leading functionary, Otto Kuusinen, who regarded Zinoviev as a far from impressive figurehead who devoted too little time to Comintern work, reported all serious matters directly to Stalin.58 The latter’s latest biographer posits that even as Zinoviev and Bukharin ran sessions of the Comintern, it was Stalin who was paramount. He quotes a letter of Zinoviev invoking Lenin’s critique of Stalin in his Testament: “Stalin arrives, glances around and decides. And Bukharin and I are ‘dead bodies’—we are not asked anything . . . in practice there is no ‘triumvirate,’ there is Stalin’s dictatorship. Ilich [Lenin] was a thousand times correct.”59
It seems arguable that we can talk of the “Stalinization” of the Comintern at least from 1926 when Zinoviev was replaced by Bukharin, Stalin’s confederate, as ECCI chair. Subsequently, Stalin and Bukharin were empowered by the ECCI to “decide all urgent questions themselves,” a license they exercised immediately in reconstituting the leaderships of the German and French sections.60 With the benefit of hindsight, and acknowledging that outcomes were not inevitable, it seems evident that the process by which Stalin captured the Comintern was underway earlier, by late 1923. However, considering developments in the three intersecting loci of party/state, Comintern, and affiliates, it is more exact to talk of “incipient Stalinization” between 1923 and 1928. Hermann Weber’s characterization of 1921–22 as “the pre-history of Stalinization” passes muster. But it is premature and too sweeping to label the mid-1920s as years of Stalinization per se.61 It was rather a period during which its preconditions—the Stalin faction’s control of the three arenas—were put in place. However, the core policies of Stalinism, coercive industrialization, and the Third Period were not yet on the agenda. Nonetheless, it is important to note that from 1923 notions of Russian self-reliance and the possibility of survival in isolation were burgeoning. Stalin’s political role in Russia and internationally was increasingly dominant and the direction of travel was away from Bolshevism. Broué has a point when he argues that to use the term “Bolshevization” to denote what was happening by 1924 is “an abuse of language,” for this designation conflates Bolshevism with “incipient Stalinization.”62 That matters in the Comintern, and in Russia, remained contested complicates attempts to see the road to Stalinization completed by 1924; Zinoviev continued to be a force if a declining one, and Trotsky a player, although an increasingly ineffective one. “Incipient Stalinization” seems more suitable to denote these years of conflict and transition, during which Stalin continued to defend the NEP and Bukharin against their left critics.
From 1928, with the defeat of the Right Opposition and turn from the NEP, Stalinization was taking wing. The “revolution from above,” with its base in the apparatus, party activists and the new bureaucrats, and the demotion of Bukharin after the Sixth World Congress—he was replaced by Molotov in July 1929—signified the decisive break with Bolshevism. Bolshevism provided the cocoon in which Stalinism incubated. The party/state, the party’s monopoly of political life, the restriction of party democracy, the primacy of the leader, institutionalized violence, the emergence of bureaucracy, balancing the security of the new state and diplomacy to achieve that against the need for foreign revolutions—all this and more, particularly what Luxemburg had earlier criticized as the tendency to turn necessities into virtues, were present while Lenin lived.
The germs were incubating in State Bolshevism. However, the crystallization of Stalinism was influenced by a number of factors of which Bolshevism was only one. It remains difficult to dispute the verdict that “it is hard to exaggerate the essential differences underlying the basic incompatibility of Leninism and Stalinism.”63 Or, we might add, socialism. Lenin never advocated anything like Stalin’s version of socialism in one country, social fascism, or, for that matter, Popular Fronts.64 Lenin fought to combat, not accommodate, burgeoning bureaucracy. Lenin prevailed through the exercise of argument and authority, not autocracy. The structures of Bolshevik power certainly favoured a single, authoritative leader and top-down control, facilitating Stalinism. Yet, as Stephen Smith observes, “if Bukharin or Trotsky had become general secretary, the horrors of Stalinism would not have come to pass, although economic backwardness and international isolation would still have critically constrained their room for manoeuvre.”65
Before his death, Lenin recognized that Bolshevism did not provide a blueprint for moving toward the construction of a socialist economy and society in a backward, beleaguered country. Rather, he maintained “the elementary truth of Marxism that the joint efforts of the workers of several advanced countries are needed for the victory of socialism.”66 Uncharted territory required realism, patience, education, regenerating the working class, rebuilding the party, and, crucially, a concordat with the middle peasants.67 This was the Leninist conception of socialism in one country. Moves could be made in a socialist direction in Russia while working simultaneously toward revolution in the west. For all the difficulties of building socialism in the Soviet republic, Lenin never countenanced anything resembling Stalin’s “great leap forward”; he never advocated violent enforcement by the state of a new form of economy and society along the lines implemented from 1929 to 1933 or later.68 As Stephen Cohen suggests, these were years of “great change” and political, programmatic departure: “No Bolshevik leader or faction had ever advocated anything akin to imposed collectivization, the ‘liquidation’ of the kulaks, breakneck heavy industrialization and a ‘plan’ which was of course no plan at all . . . These years of ‘revolution from above’ were historically and programmatically the birth period of Stalinism.”69
In short, it is both compelling and useful to avoid determinism and distinguish Bolshevism and Stalinism: “although the institutions of rule did not change, personal dictatorship, the unrestrained use of force, the cult of power, paranoia about encirclement and internal wreckers, and the spiralling of terror across an entire society, all served to underline the difference between Stalinism and Leninism.”70 Developing through distinctive phases from the 1920s to the 1950s, Stalinism and its application, Stalinization, was characterized in broad terms by the subordination of world revolution to “socialism in one country”; state planning, a nationalized economy, and state control of foreign trade; forced industrialization and the destruction of the peasantry; intensified state terror and controlled mobilization from below to eradicate recalcitrance and subversion; autocratic control of state and party; emphasis on hierarchy and discipline; social mobility that enabled the development of new political, administrative, and intellectual elites; state control of working-class institutions, supervision of culture, and regression to a repressive social and cultural conservatism; cultivation of a siege mentality and “the war danger”; revival of Russian nationalism and xenophobia; and conviction that the class struggle and bourgeois resistance intensified in tandem with progress toward socialism, so the “workers’ state” could not “wither away” but must be strengthened. Stalinism drew the line with Bolshevism in its sidelining and eventual destruction of the old Bolshevik cadre.71 It was capable of taking ultra-left adventurist turns between 1929 and 1933 and reformist realignments between 1935 and 1939. Rooted in control of the party/state apparatus, Stalinism overcame resistance, encountered constraint, and built, cultivated, and mobilized popular support from below.72
The overriding mission of Comintern affiliates became defence of the Soviet Union in the context of the development during and after the Sixth Congress in September 1928 of the “Class Against Class” politics of the Third Period.73 After 1929, Stalinism in Russia had little to do with socialism as previously understood, and the Comintern abandoned Bolshevik internationalism to become decisively an instrument of the foreign policy of the Soviet state. The veteran German Communist Clara Zetkin concluded: “the Comintern has turned from a living political body into a dead mechanism which on the one hand is capable only of swallowing orders in Russian and on the other regurgitating them in different languages.”74
How far did these developments influence relations between Moscow and the WP? Were significant changes in the Comintern reflected in its American affiliate? Was the role of the International beneficial or detrimental to revolutionary progress in the United States? Was the WP Stalinized?
Some introductory comment is necessary. First, the WP remained small. If it punched above its weight and was financially resourced from Moscow, it remained politically marginal. Second, in assessing its precise size, accurate membership figures are difficult to arrive at, as noted by Draper and Palmer. Some estimates of the underground parties’ enrolment posit a certainly exaggerated figure of 40,000 in 1920. The WP, established in 1921, had a membership of about 16,000 by 1926, declining to roughly 10,000 members at the end of the decade. The precipitous decline was partly explained by “Bolshevization” and an exodus of foreign-language federation members as well as the end of “the dual stamp system,” which allowed married couples to purchase a single dues stamp while declaring themselves as two members. Compounding this complexity, the WP was plagued by high turnover throughout the 1920s.75 Third, the party only emerged in a meaningful sense as a political actor in 1923. Draper concluded: “1920–22 may be called the dark age of American Communism . . . it seemed to leap from a promising beginning to premature senility.”76 Fourth, as Palmer emphasizes, the WP was faction ridden throughout the 1920s, with contending groups at loggerheads until a fully fledged Stalinism imposed party “unity” in 1929.77 Fifth, unlike many sections of the Comintern, the party contended with an ethnically and culturally divided membership, and the issue of racism was ever present. The preponderance of non-English speakers and the power of the language federations no doubt enriched American Communism, but presented unique challenges. Sixth, as we have observed, the WP exhibited a fundamental faith in the leadership of the Comintern.78
WP policy, like that of the CPGB, was monitored by the Anglo-American Colonial Bureau, which became in 1924 the Anglo-American Secretariat (AAS). It was subject to the ECCI, supplemented by periodic national commissions involving party leaders, ECCI potentates, and Comintern functionaries. The conditions Moscow attached to party funding and the training of cadres at the Comintern’s International Lenin School constituted further control mechanisms.79 A permanent representative to the Comintern was regularly appointed by the WP, indicative of the authority the American party invested in the Moscow-based International. The ECCI received minutes of party bodies, party leaders frequently travelled to Moscow, and Comintern staff and affiliates visited the US, sometimes entrenching themselves within the WP apparatus and playing a decisive role, as Palmer emphasizes with respect to peripatetic Hungarian Joseph Pogany/John Pepper.80
We have noted that Bolshevism was decomposing by 1924–25 and that “incipient Stalinization” may be more appropriate for designating developments. The Fifth Congress of the Comintern formalized “Bolshevization” in 1924, and its policies were readily adopted by the WP. Yet there were limits. The language federations were dissolved, factions were not. An initial attempt to reorganize the party in workplace units was unsuccessful. Nonetheless, Russian hegemony was reinforced and proved permanent; the WP was gradually remodelled in the spirit and, to a great degree, practice of centralism, hierarchy, and discipline; the system of workplace units and fraction work was adopted, although a pattern emerged of relapse—renewal—relapse in the face of a recalcitrant industrial and political environment. If the WP failed to replicate the Russian prototype with exactitude, it was distinctive and quite unlike other American parties.
The journey from Bolshevism through incipient Stalinization to the triumph of the new politics in 1929 can be traced in Comintern–WP relations. The events of 1925 are sometimes considered a turning point, a transition from more equal transactions to subordination.81 Through 1924, the faction headed by William Z. Foster maintained a precarious majority, although oppositions remained intact. A commission in Moscow in spring 1925 failed to resolve matters, with Zinoviev favouring Foster and Bukharin inclining toward Charles Ruthenberg and Lovestone. The issue was postponed until the WP convention in August, supervised by the Comintern emissary, Sergei Gusev. It became clear as the convention opened that a majority of delegates supported Foster. Gusev then produced a cable from the Comintern awarding control of the party to the Ruthenberg faction, on the grounds that it stood closer to Moscow and demonstrated greater loyalty. Gusev presided over the installation of the new leadership and savaged its critics.82 By 1925, the ascendant Stalin faction in the Russian party was prepared to ride roughshod over the democracy of the American party. Equally noteworthy was the reaction of American Communists. An unhealthy loyalty to Soviet authority trumped everything. For the demoted Foster faction, as much as for its triumphant opponents, fealty to Moscow took precedence. As Palmer notes, it was a severe test, but it was one Cannon passed. Foster’s fury subsided into abject acquiescence: “I am for the Comintern from start to finish . . . if the Comintern finds itself criss-cross with my opinions there is only one thing to do and that is to change my opinions to fit the policy of the Comintern.”83
The WP’s subaltern position by mid-decade seems unarguable, but were things significantly different before 1925? Between 1919 and 1922, the Comintern of Lenin weaned the Americans away from leftism, insurrectionism, purist fundamentalism, and clandestine organization, pointing them toward the necessity of a united party, the united front, the American Federation of Labor (AFL), and the need for a Labor Party. It achieved these results largely through argument and persuasion backed by the political authority earned in 1917. There was genuine dialogue: Ruthenberg, admittedly a practiced diplomat, was expressing the sentiments of the majority of American leaders when, at the Fourth Comintern Congress in 1922, he credited progress to “the persistent effort and tactful guidance of the International.”84 There was, nonetheless, disequilibrium in the power of the two actors and the Comintern had to occasionally resort to administrative measures, such as the dispatching of Fraina to Mexico and the detention of Nicholas Hourwich in Moscow. Authority was not typically backed, as in later times, by diktat and coercion. However, we must register the discordant views expressed as early as 1922 by John Ballam, who observed of Zinoviev and Comintern functionaries: “They care nothing for majorities. They will support a minority who will carry out their policies against a majority that is opposed to them.”85
Cannon, a convinced Cominternist before 1928, remembered a healthy situation in 1922 but a sea change from 1924:
I never was worth a damn on a mission to Moscow after my first trip in 1922. Then everything was open and above board. A clear cut political issue was presented by both sides in open debate and it was settled straightforwardly on a political basis without discrimination or favouritism to the factions involved . . . But after 1924 everything was different . . . by the time the Commission meetings got under way they were mere formalities. Everything had been settled behind the scenes; the word had been passed and all the secondary leaders and functionaries in the Comintern were falling into line.86
Yet the Comintern’s involvement from 1923 in WP attempts to short-circuit progress toward a Labor Party constituted neither an exercise in education nor ultimately an essay in egalitarian exchange. Responsibility for the WP delegates overplaying their hand and packing the convention that founded the feeble Federated Farmer–Labor Party (FFLP)—provoking a breach with the Communists’ trade union allies—lay with the Americans, not the Russians. However, as Palmer shows, the Comintern emissary, the incipient Stalinist, Pepper, was a key architect of the FFLP fiasco.87 The Comintern did nothing to arrest WP opportunism. The follow-up was “the senseless and infamous adventure of creating a ‘farmer-labor party’ around [Robert] La Follette in order to overthrow quickly American capitalism.”88 Underlying convoluted attempts to insert the FFLP, and hence the WP, into the Republican senator’s 1924 presidential campaign and split proletarian from bourgeois elements was the un-Bolshevik idea of a “two-class” party. Before pulling the plug on a blunder that ended with La Follette denouncing the WP, the Comintern exhibited limited knowledge of the United States and class politics, while its own factionalism precluded dispassionate evaluation of mistakes.89 Nonetheless, its decisions were endorsed by the Americans. The party’s obedience was further illuminated in the anti-Trotsky campaign of 1924. The WP moved for condemnation of Trotsky at the Fifth Congress of the Comintern. Support for the Russian party’s démarche was endorsed by the WP executive, with only Ludwig Lore voting against.90
If it is possible to discern a healthier relationship between Moscow and the WP before 1923, most of that period may be considered as the prehistory of the party, a time when the Comintern was itself in the making. Like its British counterpart, the WP was only up and running in a meaningful sense by 1923. The days of egalitarian dialogue were fleeting, and one protagonist was always more powerful and influential than the other.
Finally, can we detect any difference in the character of the relationship between 1923 and 1928 and during and after Stalinization in 1929? The Stalinization of American Communism was incarnated in the meeting of the Presidium of the ECCI in May 1929, which legitimized Stalin’s dismissal of the Lovestone group’s leadership of the party. The refusal of Lovestone and his key confederates to bow the knee should not be glossed over. Nonetheless, the psychology of most of the leaders and their obeisance to Russian rites of recantation and self-criticism were articulated by Ruthenberg’s old lieutenant, Max Bedacht. Bedacht recognized the right of the Americans to argue matters out with the Comintern, but after differences were “settled by a definite decision,” he insisted on accepting “the correctness of the decision as a means of recognizing the international and ideological superiority of the Comintern over ourselves.”91
The nature of interaction between Stalin’s Comintern and the WP was thus not qualitatively distinct from the relationship between Zinoviev’s Comintern and the WP; there was not a great deal of difference between the initial defiance and speedy subservience of Foster in 1925 and Bedacht in 1929. If from 1919 to 1922 the Russians acted substantially through advocacy and soft power, their superior authority was typically accepted in this period of prologue. Parity was never real and events from 1924 should have dissipated illusions—had these been based on ratiocination rather than faith. The lingua franca was still argument, but if that failed the Russians utilized intimidation. Stalinization represented a watershed in running Russia. In the Comintern, it represented to a greater extent the consolidation of tendencies already apparent, albeit contested, rather than a rupture.
An intriguing point is why it took the Comintern so long to terminate American factionalism, given its interdicts on organized, semi-permanent dissension—although it should be remembered that no faction challenged the Comintern; with the possible exception of Ludwig Lore’s group, all competed for its favour and exuded fidelity. As Cannon remarked in 1927, demonstrating scant awareness of earlier Bolshevism, “It is anomalous for a Bolshevik party to have factional groupings.”92 One explanation may be that Moscow’s attempts to stimulate a united, legal party before 1923 and the WP’s particular difficulties—witness the language problem—alerted the Comintern to the embedded nature of difference and the fragility of compromise. One reason for prevarication may lie in the recognition that avoidance of splits demanded patience. A related answer may be that the Comintern was overburdened with problems, while inter-factional competition for favour may have been perceived as facilitating manipulation and eliciting compliance in Comintern decisions, a view congruent with Palmer’s understanding of how Stalin eventually juggled the leadership contingents within the WP, from 1925–27, to consolidate power inside the Soviet Union.93
However, the party membership and the majority of leaders experienced few problems embracing Stalinization and the liquidation of factionalism. The new turn commenced with the establishment of red unions in the mines, the needle trades, and textiles, excoriation of “the fascist AFL,” and Stalin’s demand for a black republic in the southern states. Change encountered resistance and, ultimately, dissent as Cannon led a small Left Opposition expelled from the WP. Lovestone’s protestations of loyalty were outweighed by his past support for Bukharin and his perceived untrustworthiness. After refusing to accept demotion and exile, Lovestone, Gitlow, and Wolfe were expelled, although the Foster group was not permitted to replace them, marginalizing the most significant WP proletarian leader with a demonstrated capacity to galvanize mass struggles. Earl Browder was elevated by the Comintern to fill the leadership vacuum, and by 1932 had emerged as the supreme head of a party without factions, dedicated to the politics and organizational practices of Stalinism.94
Judged by contemporary conditions and its Marxist mission, the Comintern performed a constructive role in constituting American Communism and equipping it with ideological and material resources and organizational acumen. Doubts must remain, however, as to the relevance of some of its ideas for revolutionizing American society and the value of much of its guidance from 1923. After 1929, it was evident that the Comintern’s politics deviated from both American realities and Leninism, and that continuing to harness the fortunes of revolutionaries to the Stalinized Russian party represented a fundamental error. Cannon’s eleventh-hour conversion to Trotskyism in Moscow in 1928 confirmed that opposition to Stalinism could develop and revolutionary socialism had not been extinguished.95 Yet the incompleteness of the Trotskyists’ break with the Soviet Union, and the negative reaction of most WP leaders and members to the rebellions of Cannon and Lovestone, emphasized the limits of resistance to Comintern policy and the degree to which American Communists remained firmly attached to the politics of the Soviet elite.
The British party required less dramatic Comintern intervention. In terms of both membership and factional intrigue, it could not rival its US counterpart. At its foundation in 1920, the British party claimed around 5,000 members, with this falling to roughly 2,500 in 1923, and increasing to 10,000 in 1926, before plummeting to about 3,000 in 1929.96 Nor was it initially esteemed in Moscow. In 1923, Zinoviev dubbed it the “Achilles Heel” of the International, while party chair Arthur MacManus considered members’ understanding of “the implications of the revolutionary movement” rudimentary.97 Jack Murphy recalled that few CPGBers “had more than a nodding acquaintance with the writings of Marx,”98 and through the 1920s, education was rarely organic to branch life; where it existed, it was Russian inflected and catechetical.
In the summer of 1923, a commission in Moscow resolved, with some success, factional problems prevalent from the CPGB’s inception. Bolshevization, although the term was not in general use, was central. It had been initiated in 1922—well before the drive in America—as a response to the party’s disarray and promptings from the Comintern. The Report of the Party Commission on Organization was based on the Theses on Organization adopted by the Third World Congress in July 1921 and endorsed by the Fifth CPGB Congress in the fall of 1922. Implementation was plagued by a lack of understanding and suspicion among members, and the conservatism of “the old gang” around MacManus and their resentment of the emerging Dutt circle.99 Given the CPGB’s inability to overcome its weaknesses, the Commission reconstructed the leadership, provided new directions for work in the unions and the Labour Party, and stressed the need to transcend conservatism but restrain impatience in implementing Bolshevization.100
This contributed to the advance in the labour movement between 1924 and 1926. But difficulties with “Bolshevization” persisted. The establishment of an interventionist press proved successful, but the factory branches established in 1924 proved ephemeral. There was, moreover, concern that the new, elaborate structure with its workplace/geographical fissures was fragmenting the party, isolating members, and sacrificing debate and education on the altar of an inadequately informed activism.101 This proved an enduring problem. Like Zinoviev, Stalin favoured a submissive, permanently mobilized membership obedient to the cadre. Those who demanded more discussion and reviews of the party line stood for “the freedom to weaken party discipline, the freedom to turn the party into a discussion club.”102 Arguments about centralism, with the membership organized primarily for sectional combat in a top-down manner by professional commanders—an approach that overrode more democratic conceptions of a party characterized by debate and education, with the ranks trained for informed action—persist until this day. However, by 1925 Zinoviev declared the CPGB one of the best parties in the Comintern as it executed Comintern directives “most conscientiously and successfully.”103 The following year, fresh from exorcizing heresy in other parties, he was praising the CPGB for the absence of “fractionalism.”104 British leaders and their members invariably followed the Russian leaders and guarded against the danger that differences could transmute into factionalism.105
Resistance to Moscow’s policy initiatives remained slight throughout the 1920s. No section of the CPGB maintained an independent, evidence-based position on issues fundamental to the future of world Communism. The leadership uncritically accepted the changing line of the Soviet party and its suppression of internal dissent. Publication of an article by Kollontai outlining the politics of the Workers’ Opposition in Sylvia Pankhurst’s Workers’ Dreadnought in 1921 helped spark Pankhurst’s expulsion. A year later, MacManus registered no protest at the ECCI as the Russian leaders denounced their party critics.106 At the Fifth World Congress, the British delegates reacted to protests in the French, German, and Polish parties by confirming their unconditional backing for international discipline and the anathema against Trotsky and the Left Opposition. When Stalin and Zinoviev returned to the attack in late 1924 and early 1925, the CPGB’s resolution of support was drafted on the basis of a statement prepared by Comintern emissaries in Britain. They remarked on the British leaders’ ignorance of events in Russia and lack of understanding of the issues involved.107 Going further, the party published a massive Russian compilation, The Errors of Trotskyism, while its leading bodies professed “solidarity and implicit faith” in the Russian party leadership and the ECCI, dedicating themselves to “carrying through the accepted policy of the International.”108 Stalin’s German acolyte, Ernst Thälmann, reflected: “the British Communist Party was the one major party which had no differences with the Executive of the Communist International.”109
Comintern representatives visited Britain frequently to counsel and supervise a faithful congregation that only rarely questioned, still less resisted, the map of travel, focusing on the details of the journey. The permanent representatives were Mikhail Borodin, who pushed Bolshevization before his deportation in 1922, and Max Goldfarb, who, like Borodin, had spent time in America and resided sporadically in Britain between 1921 and 1928. Both were subsequently executed by Stalin. Party leaders MacManus, Tom Bell, Jack Murphy, and Bob Stewart represented the CPGB at the Comintern, but so did second-level personnel such as Ernest Brown, Alex Hermon, and Patrick Lavin. The brief tenure in unfamiliar territory, limited knowledge, and attractions to prestige and power restricted their roles, and, overall, they acted to transmit Comintern positions to the CPGB.110 Internalization of Moscow hegemony ensured successive changes of line were accepted after clarification and discussion and no transformation in the nature of the relationship occurred as Bolshevism gave way to the “incipient Stalinization” of the Comintern. Between 1923 and 1927, there was substantial continuity in the interplay between an initiatory, directive Comintern and a responsive, typically positive, but occasionally uncomprehending and critical, CPGB. A pattern of formulation of the line after discussion with the Comintern, attempts at application by the party, Comintern correction, new emphases, additional initiatives, application, and amendment continued through the decade.
The CPGB’s industrial work reflected the process. The party accepted Russian insistence on working in the existing unions and establishing a British Bureau of the Red International of Labour Unions (RILU), despite the improbability of convincing labour organizations to break with the International Federation of Trade Unions. Zinoviev’s initial emphasis on revolutionizing the unions was ephemeral but disorientating.111 However, in 1923–24, the Comintern performed an exemplary role in prodding the CPGB toward forming the National Minority Movement (NMM) as an oppositional grouping in the unions, overcoming resistance from elements who considered the initiative premature and others who believed it would create an alternative to the party. Zinoviev, Bukharin, and Borodin insisted it would end the CPGB’s isolation: the NMM should focus on the unions and winning their left wing to the united front.112 Complicating matters was Zinoviev’s search for shortcuts, toying with the opportunist idea that left reformist union leaders might play a part in revolutionizing Britain, and luring these functionaries into the RILU via diplomacy and the Anglo-Soviet Trade Union Committee.
Nonetheless, as tensions mounted in the run-up to the general strike, the Comintern attempted to restrain tendencies to soft-pedal criticism: “To over-estimate the left-wing, to ignore its timidity and inconsistency, would be a grave error.”113 This was echoed by the CPGB: “It would be a suicidal policy for the CP and the Minority Movement to place too much reliance on the official left-wing . . . [they should] criticize its weakness ruthlessly.”114 Through 1925–26, however, the party strayed from Comintern directives, bowing to the pressure of a difficult objective situation and understating clear evidence of the unreliability of the trade union left-wing. On the eve of the strike, the Comintern emphasized the inability of both left- and right-wing bureaucrats to advance a struggle that it conceived as posing the question of state power—at the very time when the CPGB was boosting the left leaders’ credentials.115 In the aftermath of the confrontation, the CPGB offered criticisms of the left but reserved its main fusillades for the right, citing the need to maintain support for the locked-out miners and left-wing leaders’ advocacy of unity with RILU. Slowly, with foot-dragging, dissension from party leaders, recrimination, pressure from Moscow, and some manoeuvring—notably Stalin’s initiative to instruct the party to publish the manifesto of the Soviet unions, which was critical of the CPGB—London was brought into line. By 1927, the party fully accepted the Comintern credo: the fundamental conflict in the unions ran between a militant rank and file and “a consolidated bureaucracy.”116
A similar pattern was evident in attempts to apply Lenin’s orientation to the Labour Party. In 1923, Dutt informed the British Commission that the only real political difference within the CPGB leadership centred on the degree of criticism to be mounted against Labour while working to engage it in a united front and secure affiliation. Despite Comintern directives, leaders such as Albert Inkpin believed criticism should be toned down to achieve the latter objective.117 With the advent of the 1924 Labour government, however, Dutt himself came under fire for claiming the MacDonald administration opened the road to a struggle for power, while sympathetically observing its limitations and advising Communists to be patient.118 Disputation provoked a further British commission in Moscow, which stressed MacDonald’s was not a government of class struggle: it would betray the working class and the CPGB must maintain a resolutely critical position, expose Labour’s leaders, and assail the bourgeoisie.119
This motivated a turn to the left. But intractable issues of working simultaneously inside and outside reformist Labour to further revolutionary politics, while resisting the pressures of reformism and condemning the party whose members it was courting, persisted. Comintern instructions concerning the CPGB manifesto for the 1924 general election centred once more on exposing the reformists’ vacillations, Labour leaders’ imbrication with the state, their support for imperialism, and the need to resist attempts to expel Communists from the Labour Party.120 Lack of success prompted another Moscow Commission at the turn of the year. Much of its prescription was formulaic: Communists should collaborate with the Labour left to accentuate divisions within Labour, while at the same time criticizing their collaborators and clarifying their politics. There was, however, a new emphasis on the need to organize a Marxist movement embracing Communists and left reformists moving toward Communism in and around the Labour Party. Despite divisions on the party executive, Comintern advice produced the Communist-edited Sunday Worker and eventually the National Left Wing Movement (NLWM).121 A great part of the traffic between Moscow and London at this time consisted of Comintern instructions and CPGB requests for clarification and direction.122 An impression of equal debate in Comintern commissions is belied by Zinoviev, Bukharin, Radek, even Borodin and Pepper—who interested himself in British as well as American affairs—speaking with greater assurance and authority than their counterparts in the United Kingdom, despite lack of knowledge of British conditions.123 Dialogue may be viewed as Socratic: Comintern authority is based on the pedagogue’s superior experience and respect accorded those who have earned the right to be heeded.
Moves toward Stalinization were modulated. Events in and around the British Commission in Moscow in late 1927 demonstrated the beginning of change in the Labour Party orientation that would see Lenin’s characterization of Labour and prescription of the tactics necessary to undermine its hegemony discarded. The CPGB, the Commission directed, should stand as many candidates as possible against Labour in the next general election and ratchet up criticism of its leaders and policies. Those who questioned the turn were worked on. Willie Gallacher, who accepted “the whole line of the Comintern [resolution] except that one particular sentence” (advocating Communists standing against Labour), succumbed to the powerfully expressed arguments of Bukharin, Kuusinen and Petrovsky.124 Pollitt, who quickly became an advocate of the new line, was interviewed by Stalin and Bukharin and endured “a hammering from one fellow which lasted 8 hours.”125 As the doctrine of social fascism, the branding of Labour as the third capitalist party, and the dismantling of the united front perspective unfolded at the Ninth ECCI Plenum in February 1928, the Sixth World Congress, and Open Letters to the CPGB leadership, British reservations elicited more forceful Comintern directives. Crucially, the dissidents came into line. As the CPGB leadership was reformed, nobody openly challenged the Comintern.126
Given the importance Labour held for CPGB strategy, the new line was queried by skeptics citing Lenin’s Left-Wing Communism. Pressure from Moscow tapped into and orchestrated leftism among the rank and file and cowed “right-wing” recalcitrants. Despite brief resistance, the united front and the NLWM—already on the rocks—were abandoned. Moves to split the labour movement by forming Red Unions produced dissatisfaction and doubts, but no frontal opposition.127 Stalin’s elaboration of “social fascism” in summer 1929 sealed matters. Comintern leader, Dmitry Manuilsky, chastised the British leadership’s long-term disinterest in international issues. Comparing the CPGB unfavourably with other affiliates, he observed: “in the British party there is a sort of special system which may be characterised thus: the party is a society of great friends.”128 In contrast to the strong factionalism in the American and other parties, the CPGB had been marked largely by shifting individual, political, and personal differences.
If the reconstitution of the leadership was milder than in some other parties, it was more thoroughgoing than in 1923. Bell, Ernie Brown, Helen Crawfurd, Campbell, Arthur Horner, Wal Hannington, Inkpin, Tommy Jackson, Andrew Rothstein, Bob Stewart, and Jock Wilson were culled or demoted. None questioned Stalin’s course in Russia. Pollitt was installed as general secretary with Stalin’s benediction: “You have taken a difficult job, but I believe you will tackle it all right.”129 Russian rituals of self-criticism, confession, and recantation developed, accompanied by demagogy and public persecution of dissidents. Stalin’s writings took pride of place in the party press and his pre-eminence as the guardian of “Leninism” was proclaimed.130 Pelling concluded: “A new Stalinist leadership had come to power.”131 The conditions for its entrenchment had been established and the limits of resistance tested. Nobody emulated Lovestone in his defiance of Stalin, and when a Trotskyist opposition developed in 1932 it was tiny even in comparison with its American counterpart.132
From the CPGB’s creation, the Comintern had been the dominant player. Its hold hardened in 1926–27, but 1928–29 represented a watershed. In its early years, the relationship of the British party and the Comintern achieved success in educating revolutionaries out of syndicalism, anti-parliamentarianism, leftism, and federalism. Practical attainment proved more elusive. It was easier to develop formulae than to apply them. Accepting capitalist stabilization, the Comintern was too eager to revert to visions of radicalization at the first sign of an upturn in struggle. Its analysis of the main obstacle, the hegemony of labourism and the marginality of revolutionary ideas, was superficial. With few exceptions, the CPGB never rooted education and creative thinking in its ranks; its best minds functioned within the confines of Comintern doctrine. The context constrained success. But the final blow to its prospects, acquiescence in the pioneering Stalinism of 1929, flowed from its already ingrained subservience. Like the WP, the CPGB never made any significant breakthrough in this decade. By 1930, it was an ultra-left sect, isolated, and, with three thousand members, weaker than at its birth.
A survey of Comintern activists by Brigitte Studer touched on whether “Stalinization” constituted a valid conceptualization of the International’s trajectory. Studer inquired if what happened is best understood as “an intensification and further development of Bolshevization, or a distinctive ‘Stalinization,’ a qualitative change occurring in the late 1920s. In favour of the first it may be said that there are unambiguous continuities in patterns of thinking between the 1920s and 1930s, particularly in the attitude towards social democracy.”133 Declaring, but not explaining, her own preference for recognizing “a step change in the dismantling of internal democracy rather than the simple continuation of an existing steady process,” Studer claimed that the view there was no distinctive Stalinization “prevails for the most part in British scholarship, perhaps because the CPGB did not in the late 1920s and 1930s experience as brutal a change of leadership as many other parties.”134 As elaborated in this essay, Stalinization was not simply subordination—it infused subordination with a new, distinctive political content—and it involved more than suppression of internal democracy, important as that was. Few historians would deny continuities in “patterns of thinking” between the 1920s and 1930s; the astute would acknowledge discontinuities were more significant. If we consider Lenin’s, and the Comintern’s, thinking about social democracy in the first half of the 1920s and then consider the Comintern’s adoption of Stalin’s conflicting analysis of social democracy as social fascism, what strikes us is change, rupture, and discontinuity. If we look at everything Stalinism entailed, the “brutality” or otherwise of the purge of the CPGB leadership hardly seems an adequate peg on which to hang rejection of “Stalinization.”
Significant differences in context and history make it unhelpful to simply transpose Weber’s analysis of the KPD’s subordination to the CPGB or WP, however convenient this may appear. The applicability of some of Weber’s terminology—“absolutist integration,” “complete obliteration of all traces of democracy”—may be queried in relation to the CPGB and WP as redolent of automaton-like obedience. Weber’s periodization is questionable in relation to America and Britain: in these cases, the web of subordination was woven from 1919 and was in place by 1923, while Stalinization in the proper, political sense of the term triumphed in 1929. What is undeniable is that by 1930 all three parties were “Stalin’s instruments” and that “party policy was implemented exclusively in the spirit of the Stalinist CPSU [Communist Party of the Soviet Union].”135 Weber’s discussion of how this transpired remains an indispensable, if incomplete, reference point in examining the Stalinization of the CPGB and WP.
Both internalized Stalinist politics with minimal resistance—insignificant in the CPGB, fleeting in the WP. Reducing Stalinization to subordination simpliciter, refusing delineation of the political content and break with Bolshevism of this subordination, and asserting its impact was slight—because CPGB branches had different kinds of members, priorities, and approaches—neglects the uniform political framework in which these branches operated. It depoliticizes Stalinization and overlooks the evidence for adherence to it, whatever members’ interests and commitment. Whether a branch focused on union activity or anti-imperialism within the common Stalinist framework is secondary. If we put aside templates of members as robots and readings of “total” that transcend politics, then to reject Stalinization on the grounds that “new members, new policies, new problems and new priorities ensured that ‘total’ control remained a chimera,” as do Taylor and Worley, is simply to reject a chimera of their own making.136
Stalinism remains indispensable to understanding the path revolution, the Comintern, and its affiliates took. Its triumph represented, as Palmer noted, degeneration, an adverse resolution of the tensions between international revolution and “socialism in one country” that emerged in State Bolshevism.137 Without revolution beyond the Soviet Union, constructing socialism in a backward, besieged country remained a utopian project. A different regime, undemocratic but far from Stalinist, was in the realms of possibility—until Stalinism put paid to its prospects and protagonists. Establishing points de scission involves intervening in the unceasing flow of events and ideas, and is always, to some degree, problematic. But defeat in Germany and the death of Lenin marked the onset of a struggle between a declining Bolshevism and an ascendant Stalinism that did not dare to speak its name. That battle culminated in the revolution from above and, by 1933, the consolidation of an ever-evolving Stalinism.
Our critical development of Palmer’s brief account affirms his insistence on the centrality of Stalinism as politics while disclosing differences of emphasis—for example, over the periodization and over the meaning of “Bolshevization.” The Russian party/state dominated the Comintern from the beginning. Soviet foreign policy, which did not always prioritize, although it did not always exclude, revolution, became increasingly important from 1922. For both the CPGB and WP, the essentials of the hegemon–subaltern relationship were developed from 1919, in place by 1923, institutionalized by 1924, and reinforced, with a radical change in its political content, between 1926 and 1929. Through the decade, Moscow achieved its goals through its standing as a superior ideological, political, and material force. When necessary—and often it was not—domination was exercised through argument, cajoling, bullying, sporadic coercion, and restriction of democracy. The Comintern’s posture, in what remained essentially an exercise in voluntary acquiescence and soft power, hardened through the decade; direction of affiliates became more insistent. Using the term “negotiation,” as Andrew Thorpe does, to characterize the relationship, is so general and blind to power as to be unhelpful.138 If the form of dependence was refined and reinforced, its political content changed more dramatically. The politically changing subordination of the CPGB and WP stemmed from the nature of the relationship, which ensured from 1919 that all significant political initiatives came from Russia and were accepted in America and Britain.
Bolshevization remains an appropriate, but diminishingly appropriate, term to describe the development of the Comintern in Lenin’s last years, because Bolshevism was already under threat. The “Bolshevization” of 1924–25 reflected a move away from Bolshevism and sealed the turn from democratic to bureaucratic centralism. Stalin was already rehearsing “socialism in one country”; he was well advanced in the control of the party machine and thus the Comintern. With the benefit of hindsight, “incipient Stalinization” seems a better way to designate a transition period than Stalinization per se, which conveys connotations of completion. The uncritical acquiescence of the CPGB and WP was encapsulated in their endorsement of anathemas against successive Russian oppositions. Stalinization, the most persuasive designation of change from 1928, should not be considered in purely organizational terms; it embodied a unity of politics and organization. It underwent dramatic development, moving from the policy of “Class Against Class,” through Popular Front politics, to the pro-fascist line of 1939–40. Its power is clear from its continuing support in Russia and beyond. That there were limits to the Stalinization of small revolutionary groups operating in liberal democracies is hardly at issue. What is more remarkable is the degree of control the Russian state exercised over the politics and political behaviour of the membership of the CPGB and the WP.
Palmer argued, like his subject of study, James P. Cannon, that the Comintern made an early and important contribution. However, this was limited and fleeting. As Russia changed and the Comintern got its act together, the fundamental problems with the organization became apparent. An association in which constituent sections are dependent on a more powerful section answerable to a state that possessed and articulated its own interests, a relationship where democracy was restricted from the start and swiftly shrank, was likely to prove unfruitful for the subordinates. It should surely have become unacceptable to Marxists. After 1923, the Comintern was incapable of providing an honest account of the Russian experience, or understanding that revolutionary success should not trump equality and democracy and could not be exported wholescale to different environments.139 Overall, as an Italian Communist reflected in the early 1920s: “Russian development does not provide us with an experience of how the proletariat can overthrow a liberal-parliamentary capitalist state that has existed for many years and possesses the ability to defend itself. We must, however, know how to attack a modern bourgeois democratic state. . . .”140
Stalinism and Stalinization supplied the CPGB and WP with inadequate answers to such problems. Along with Palmer, we believe too many historians gloss over critically important aspects of Communist historiography, conflating Bolshevism and Stalinism and confusing Stalinism and socialism. Naming reflects understanding. As Moshe Lewin, scholar and socialist, who devoted much of his life to comprehending the Soviet Union, concluded: “If, confronted with a hippopotamus, someone insisted it was a giraffe, would he or she be given a chair in zoology? Are the social sciences really that much less exact than zoology?”141
- 1. See, for example, Bryan D. Palmer, ed., A Communist Life: Jack Scott and the Canadian Workers Movement, 1927–1985 (St. John’s, NL: Canadian Committee on Labour History, 1988); Bryan D. Palmer, E. P. Thompson: Objections and Oppositions (London: Verso, 1993); Bryan D. Palmer, “Reasoning Rebellion: E. P. Thompson, British Marxist Historians, and the Making of Dissident Political Mobilization,” Labour/Le Travail 50 (Fall 2002): 187–216.
- 2. Bryan D. Palmer, “Rethinking the Historiography of United States Communism,” American Communist History 2, no. 2 (December 2003): 139–73; Bryan D. Palmer, “Communist History: Seeing It Whole. A Reply to Critics,” American Communist History 2, no. 2 (December 2003): 203–14; Bryan D. Palmer, “‘Who ARE These Guys?!’ Politics, Passions, Peculiarities, and Polemics in the Historiography of British Communism,” American Communist History 4, no. 2 (December 2005): 187–97; Bryan D. Palmer, “American Communism in the 1920s: Striving for a Panoramic View,” American Communist History 6, no. 2 (December 2007): 139–49; Bryan D. Palmer, James P. Cannon and the Origins of the American Revolutionary Left, 1890–1928 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2007); Bryan D. Palmer, “How Can We Write Better Histories of Communism?” Labour/Le Travail 83 (Spring 2019): 199–232.
- 3. Palmer, “How Can We Write Better Histories of Communism?” 220.
- 4. We have engaged elsewhere with other aspects of Palmer’s position. See John McIlroy, “Rethinking the Historiography of United States Communism: A Comment,” American Communist History 2, no. 2 (December 2003): 195–202; John McIlroy and Alan Campbell, “Some Problems of Communist History,” American Communist History 4, no. 2 (December 2005): 199–214.
- 5. The United States party/parties operated under various names before becoming the Communist Party (USA) in 1929. In the underground years prior to 1921, American Communists were affiliated with the Communist Party (CP) and the Communist Labor Party (CLP). A united “legal” party, the Workers’ Party, was formed in 1921, although it later went by the name of the Workers’ (Communist) Party. To simplify matters we have used WP throughout.
- 6. Theodore Draper, The Roots of American Communism (New York: Viking, 1957); Theodore Draper, American Communism and Soviet Russia (New York: Viking, 1960). Another pioneering study is sometimes overlooked: Irving Howe and Lewis Coser, The American Communist Party: A Critical History (Boston: Beacon Press, 1957; New York: Frederick Praeger, 1962).
- 7. See, for example, Harvey E. Klehr, The Heyday of American Communism: The Depression Decade (New York: Basic Books, 1984); Harvey Klehr and John Earl Haynes, The American Communist Movement: Storming Heaven Itself (New York: Twayne, 1992); Harvey Klehr, John Earl Haynes, and Fredrikh Igorevitch Firsov, The Secret World of American Communism (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1995); Harvey Klehr, John Earl Haynes, and Kyrill M. Andersen, The Soviet World of American Communism (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998).
- 8. See, for example, Maurice Isserman, Which Side Were You On? The American Communist Party During the Second World War (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1982); Mark Naison, Communists in Harlem During the Depression (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1983); Michael Denning, The Cultural Front: The Laboring of American Culture in the Twentieth Century (London: Verso, 1997); Ellen Schrecker, Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America (Boston: Little, Brown, 1998); Fraser M. Ottanelli, The Communist Party of the United States: From the Depression to World War II (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1991).
- 9. Isserman, Which Side Were You On, ix–x.
- 10. For the former response, see Maurice Isserman, “Open Archives and Open Minds: ‘Traditionalists’ versus ‘Revisionists’ after Venona,” American Communist History 4, no. 2 (December 2005): 215–23; for denial, see Paul Buhle, “Secret Work,” in Encyclopedia of the American Left, ed. Mari Jo Buhle, Paul Buhle, and Dan Georgakas (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 736–37. John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr’s In Denial: Historians, Communism, and Espionage (San Francisco: Encounter Books, 2003) presents a traditionalist critique of revisionist historiography.
- 11. Henry Pelling, The British Communist Party: A Historical Profile (London: A and C Black, 1957), 15–53.
- 12. L. J. Macfarlane, The British Communist Party: Its Origins and Development Until 1929 (London: MacGibbon and Kee, 1966), 276.
- 13. Walter Kendall, The Revolutionary Movement in Britain, 1900–1921 (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1969).
- 14. James Hinton and Richard Hyman, Trade Unions and Revolution: The Industrial Politics of the British Communist Party (London: Pluto Press, 1975).
- 15. Kevin Morgan, Against Fascism and War: Ruptures and Continuities in British Communist History, 1935–1941 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1989).
- 16. Nina Fishman, The British Communist Party and the Trade Unions, 1933–1945 (Aldershot: Ashgate, 1995); Nina Fishman, “Essentialists and Realists: Reflections on the Historiography of the CPGB,” Communist History Network Newsletter 11 (August 2001): 7–16.
- 17. Andrew Thorpe, The British Communist Party and Moscow, 1920–1943 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000), 279.
- 18. Andrew Thorpe, “The Communist International and the British Communist Party,” in International Communism and the Communist International, 1919–1943, ed. Tim Rees and Andrew Thorpe (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1998), 9, 68, 81.
- 19. Kevin Morgan, Gidon Cohen, and Andrew Flinn, Communists in British Society, 1920–1991 (London: Rivers Oram Press, 2007), 279, 280, 282.
- 20. See, for example, John McIlroy and Alan Campbell, “Histories of the British Communist Party: A User’s Guide,” Labour History Review 68, no. 1 (April 2003): 33–59; John McIlroy and Alan Campbell, “A Peripheral Vision: Communist Historiography in Britain,” American Communist History 4, no. 2 (December 2005): 125–57; John McIlroy, “The Establishment of Intellectual Orthodoxy and the Stalinization of British Communism, 1928–1933,” Past and Present 192 (2006): 187–226; John McIlroy, “British Communists and the 1932 Turn to the Trade Unions,” Labor History 56, no. 5 (December 2015): 541–65; Alan Campbell and John McIlroy, “‘The Trojan Horse’: Communist Entrism in the British Labour Party, 1933–43,” Labor History 59, no. 5 (October 2018): 513–54; John McIlroy and Alan Campbell, “Bolshevism, Stalinism, and the Comintern: A Historical Controversy Revisited,” Labor History 60, no. 3 (2019): 165–92; Moshe Lewin, The Soviet Century (London: Verso, 2005), 379.
- 21. John McIlroy and Alan Campbell, “‘Nina Ponomareva’s Hats’: The New Revisionism, the Communist International and the Communist Party of Great Britain, 1920–1930,” Labour/Le Travail 49 (Spring 2002): 147 and 187; John McIlroy and Alan Campbell, “‘For A Revolutionary Workers’ Government’: Moscow, British Communism and Revisionist Interpretations of the Third Period,” European History Quarterly 32, no. 4 (October 2002): 535–69. See also John Newsinger, “Recent Controversies in the History of British Communism,” Journal of Contemporary History 4, no. 3 (2006): 551–72; John Callaghan, “National and International Dimensions of British Communist History,” Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics 24, no. 3 (2008): 456–72.
- 22. See, for example, John McIlroy, “Restoring Stalinism to Communist History,” Critique: Journal of Socialist Theory 41, no. 4 (2013): 594–622; Paul Flewers and John McIlroy, eds., 1956: John Saville, Edward Thompson and the Reasoner (London: Merlin Press, 2016).
- 23. John McIlroy, Barry McLoughlin, Alan Campbell, and John Halstead, “Forging the Faithful: The British at the International Lenin School,” Labour History Review 68, no. 1 (2003): 99–128; Gidon Cohen and Kevin Morgan, “Stalin’s Sausage Machine: British Students at the International Lenin School, 1926–1937,” Twentieth Century British History 13, no. 4 (2002): 227–55; Alan Campbell, John McIlroy, Barry McLoughlin, and John Halstead, “The International Lenin School: A Response to Cohen and Morgan,” Twentieth Century British History 15, no. 1 (2004): 51–76, and the exchanges in subsequent issues.
- 24. Space precludes discussion of the European historiography. See, especially, Hermann Weber, Die Wandlung des deutschen Kommunismus, 2 vols. (Frankfurt: Europäische Verlagsanstalt, 1969), which addressed the Stalinization of the German party (KPD); Hermann Weber, “The Stalinization of the KPD: Old and New Views,” in Bolshevism, Stalinism, and the Comintern: Perspectives on Stalinization, 1919–1953, ed. Norman LaPorte, Kevin Morgan, and Matthew Worley (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), 23–25. We refer to Weber later and have elaborated on the historiography in McIlroy and Campbell, “Bolshevism, Stalinism, and the Comintern.” Weber’s important studies have, like Draper’s, elicited revisionist comments, which, in turn, have been responded to critically. See Richard Croucher, “Shifting Sands: Changing Interpretations of the History of German Communism,” Labour History Review 68 (April 2003): 11–31.
- 25. The 1920s sometimes lost their historical integrity and significance. The decade was recast as a period when, in an inventive leap, the potential for a Popular Front was squandered by Leninism. Paul Buhle’s Marxism in the United States: Remapping the History of the American Left (London: Verso, 1987) characterizes early American Communism in terms of “self-destructive behaviour,” the “incessant cant of ‘Democratic Centralism’ . . . unchallenged authoritarianism and the wild factionalism of the 1920s” (127, 134). Communists “arguably lost the opportunity to put together a ‘Popular Front.’” Nonetheless, cynical about their leaders “local activists followed their own instincts” (128). This sketch may usefully be compared with Palmer’s reconstruction of the times in James P. Cannon.
- 26. Palmer, James P. Cannon, 13. For Palmer’s observations on historians who circumvent Stalinism, see “Rethinking the Historiography,” 170–71 and n. 71; James P. Cannon, 4–7 and n. 12; and “How Can We Write Better Histories of Communism?”
- 27. Palmer, James P. Cannon, 8–15; Palmer, “Rethinking the Historiography,” 157–66.
- 28. Palmer, “Communist History,” 214.
- 29. Jacob A. Zumoff, The Communist International and US Communism, 1919–1929 (Leiden: Brill, 2014) is a welcome addition to the literature. On many points of analysis, particularly in its recognition of the role of Stalinism, the book follows Palmer. But it is noteworthy for its employment of newly available Comintern material and other unexploited archival resources; its adept handling of the Farmer–Labor Party issue; and its extended discussion of “the Negro Question.” As the author acknowledges: “At bottom, the Comintern archives provide nuance and detail to the history of early American Communism, but they do not change the broad outline of Draper’s history” (Zumoff, Communist International, 12). There is, moreover, a tendency to overstate the health of the Comintern during Lenin’s lifetime and counterpose it to what came after. Its beneficial influence was mixed and brief, spanning 1919 to 1922. The benefits did not last, but the subordination seeded in the early years did. See John McIlroy, “American Communist History: A Comment,” American Communist History 2, no. 2 (December 2003): 195–202.
Randi Storch’s “‘Their unCommunist Stand’: Foreign Language-Speaking Communists and the Question of Stalinization, 1928–1935,” in LaPorte, Morgan, and Worley, Bolshevism, Stalinism, and the Comintern, 263–82, explores Stalinization in one locality with reference to foreign-language groups—whose introversion and relative insulation from the party is well established in the historiography. Storch notes breaches of party rules, defiance of disciplinary decisions, and the persistence of independent subcultures. She concludes from this that party leaders were unable to “subordinate their members to total democratic centralism” so that there was not a “completely Stalinized movement” (264 and 278). While the small, negative deviations observed here are noteworthy, they hardly invalidate the reality of Soviet control of politics (which Storch accepts; see 265), or the characterization of the party in terms of its politics and structures as Stalinized.
- 30. Kerry Taylor and Matthew Worley’s “Testing the Limits: Stalinization and the New Zealand and British Communist Parties,” in LaPorte, Morgan, and Worley, Bolshevism, Stalinism, and the Comintern, 226–44, explores neither Bolshevism nor Stalinism and fails to engage with the extant literature. The introduction to the collection in which this essay appears is light on empirically grounded argument and ambiguous in its conclusions: Norman LaPorte, Kevin Morgan, and Matthew Worley, “Stalinization and Communist Historiography,” in LaPorte, Morgan, and Worley, Bolshevism, Stalinism, and the Comintern, 1–21. For a critique, see McIlroy and Campbell, “Bolshevism, Stalinism and the Comintern,” 171–72.
- 31. Palmer, “Who ARE These Guys,” 197.
- 32. Haynes and Klehr, In Denial, 79.
- 33. For some background, see Alan Campbell and John McIlroy, “Is Communist History Important? A Reply to Harriet Jones,” Labour History Review 68, no. 3 (December 2003): 385–90; Alan Campbell and John McIlroy, “The Last Word on British Communism,” Labour History Review 70, no. 1 (April 2005): 97–101; and Keith Laybourn, “A Comment on the Historiography of Communism in Britain,” American Communist History 4, no. 2 (December 2005): 156–66.
- 34. The article was eventually published in another journal. The case for non-publication and refusal of access to referees’ reports may thus be evaluated. See John McIlroy and Alan Campbell, “‘The Last Chance Saloon’: The Independent Labour Party and Miners’ Militancy in the Second World War Revisited,” Journal of Contemporary History 46, no. 2 (October 2011): 871–96. We could cite further examples of attempted suppression of criticism of the existing historiography.
- 35. Quoted in Draper, American Communism and Soviet Russia, 400.
- 36. English Commission of the ECCI, Transcripts, June–July 1923, 495/38/1, Comintern Archives, Russian State Archive of Social and Political History (hereafter RGASPI).
- 37. See E. H. Carr, The Bolshevik Revolution, 1917–1923, vol. 3 (London: Macmillan, 1953); E. H. Carr, The Interregnum, 1923–1924 (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1969); E. H. Carr, Socialism in One Country, 1924–1926, 3 vols. (London: Macmillan, 1958–64); E. H. Carr and R. W. Davies, Foundations of a Planned Economy, 1926–1929, 3 vols. (London: Macmillan, 1969, 1971, 1976). Soviet foreign policy and its relationship to Comintern policy and the development of “socialism in one country” requires more attention than we can afford it here. See Jonathan Haslam, “Comintern and Soviet Foreign Policy,” in The Twentieth Century, vol. 3, The Cambridge History of Russia, ed. Ronald Grigor Suny (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 636–61.
- 38. As examples only, see Pierre Broué, Histoire de l’Internationale Communiste, 1919–1943 (Paris: Fayard, 1997), 76–292; John Riddell, ed., Founding the Communist International: Proceedings and Documents of the First Congress, March 1919 (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1987); John Riddell, ed., Workers of the World and Oppressed Peoples Unite: Proceedings of the Second Congress, vol. 2 (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1991), 765–61; John Riddell, ed., Towards the United Front: Proceedings of the Fourth Congress of the Communist International, 1922 (Leiden: Brill, 2011).
- 39. For a succinct account, see Marcel Liebman, Leninism Under Lenin (London: Merlin Press, 1980), 385–416.
- 40. Ibid., 401–2.
- 41. At the Fourth Comintern Congress in 1922, Lenin warned against foreign parties embracing Russian experience too readily, reverentially, and religiously. See V. I. Lenin, August 1921–March 1923, vol. 33, Collected Works (New York: Foreign Language Press, 1966), 418–31.
- 42. Jules Humbert-Droz, De Lénine à Staline: Dix ans au service de l’Internationale Communiste, 1921–1931 (Neuchâtel: La Baconnière, 1971), 95.
- 43. See Jane Degras, ed., 1923–1928, vol. 2, The Communist International, 1919–1943: Documents (London: Oxford University Press, 1960), 153–54, 195; Kevin McDermott and Jeremy Agnew’s The Comintern: A History of International Communism from Lenin to Stalin (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1996) dates the slogan of Bolshevization and the process from the Fifth Comintern Congress, June–July 1924. However, Bolshevization was inherent in the Comintern’s founding theses and attempts at implementation were pushed, as in Britain, from 1922. In dealing with “Bolshevization”—and Stalinization—concepts some accounts treat in largely organizational terms—it is important to remember that “organizational questions are inseparable from questions of program and tactics.” See Leon Trotsky, “The Draft Program of the Communist International: A Criticism of Fundamentals (1928),” in The Third International After Lenin (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1966), 71.
- 44. David Priestland, Stalinism and the Politics of Mobilization: Ideas, Power and Terror in Inter-War Russia (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007); McIlroy and Campbell, “Bolshevism, Stalinism and the Comintern,” 177.
- 45. Liebman, Leninism, particularly 25–52, 57–61, 147–54. See also Paul Le Blanc, Lenin and the Revolutionary Party (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1990); Lars T. Lih, Lenin Rediscovered: What Is to Be Done? In Context (Leiden: Brill, 2005); Lars T. Lih, Lenin (London: Redaktion Books, 2011).
- 46. Alexander Rabinowitch, The Bolsheviks Come to Power: The Revolution of 1917 in Petrograd (New York: W. W. Norton, 1976; London: Pluto Press, 2017), 311.
- 47. Liebman, Leninism, 298–304.
- 48. Lars T. Lih, “Bolshevik Roots of International Communism,” in World Revolution and Socialism in One Country, 1917–1941, vol. 1, The Cambridge History of Communism, ed. Silvio Pons and Stephen A. Smith (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017), 160; Degras, Communist International, 198.
- 49. Degras, Communist International, 188–200.
- 50. Quotes from Zumoff, Communist International, 152–53. Palmer discerns in the 1924–25 “Bolshevization” “positive aspects” and “attempts to address genuine problems.” See Palmer, James P. Cannon, 5–6, 228. The insular language federations were assailed and party discipline tightened, but this was an essential part of the centralization and de-democratization of the International and its sections and a further step in the installation of bureaucratic centralism.
- 51. Alexander Vatlin and Stephen A. Smith, “The Evolution of the Comintern, 1919–1943,” in Oxford Handbook of the History of Communism, ed. Stephen A. Smith (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 190–91; Fridrikh Firsov, “Mechanisms of Power Realization in the Comintern,” in Centenaire Jules Humbert-Droz: Colloque sur L’Internationale Communiste (La Chaux-de-Fonds: Fondation Jules Humbert-Droz, 1992), 449–66; English Commission, 495/38/1, RGASPI; Broué, Histoire de l’Internationale, 378.
- 52. Isaac Deutscher, The Prophet Unarmed: Trotsky, 1921–1929 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1959), 75–163.
- 53. As Trotsky put it at the time: “The task of the parties in the Comintern assumes, therefore, an auxiliary character; their mission is to protect the USSR from intervention and not to fight for the conquest of power. It is, of course, not a question of the subjective intentions but of the objective logic of political thought.” See Trotsky, “Draft Program,” 79–80. The overriding influence was foreign policy with its goal of peace rather than revolution. See MacDermott and Agnew, Comintern, 94–98; Haslam, “Comintern,” 643–52.
- 54. Alec Nove, ed., The Stalin Phenomenon (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1993); Michael Reiman, The Birth of Stalinism: The USSR on the Eve of the Second Revolution (London: I. B. Tauris, 1987); Erik van Ree, The Political Thought of Joseph Stalin (Abingdon: Routledge, 2002); MacDermott and Agnew, Comintern, 90–107; McIlroy and Campbell, “For A Revolutionary Workers’ Government.”
- 55. Lewin, Soviet Century, 308.
- 56. Quoted in Deutscher, Prophet Unarmed, 95–96.
- 57. Ibid., 147–48. The Fifth Congress formalized Russian domination, reiterating that all Comintern affiliates required “a centralized party permitting no fractions [sic], tendencies or groups; it must be fused in one mould.” See Degras, Communist International, 153–54.
- 58. Stephen Kotkin, Paradoxes of Power, 1878–1928, vol. 1, Stalin (New York: Penguin, 2015), 609–10; Aino Kuusinen, Before and After Stalin (London: Michael Joseph, 1974), 78.
- 59. Kotkin, Stalin, vol. 1, 506–7.
- 60. Peter Huber, “The Moscow Headquarters of the Comintern: Departments, Leading Organs, Soviet Influence and Decision Making,” in Mechanisms of Power in the Soviet Union, ed. Niels Erik Rosenfeldt, Bent Jensen, and Erik Kulavig (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 2000), 74; Serge Wolikow, “The Comintern as a World Network,” in Pons and Smith, Cambridge History of Communism, vol. 1, 237.
- 61. Weber, “Stalinization of the KPD,” 22–26.
- 62. Broué, Histoire de l’Internationale, 385. For work that characterizes the 1924–25 “Bolshevization” as a prelude to Stalinization, but depicts the two as sharing a great deal in common, see, for example, Emile Fabrol, “The Prelude to Stalinism,” in Trotsky and the Origins of Trotskyism, ed. Al Richardson (London: Francis Boutle, 2002), 20–34; Antoine Clavez, “The Bureaucratization and Destruction of the Party,” in Trotsky and the Origins of Trotskyism, 35–48.
- 63. Liebman, Leninism, 433.
- 64. The best contemporary dissection of Stalin’s attempts to cover his tracks and trace his own ideas—particularly socialism in one country—back to Lenin, is Trotsky’s “Draft Program.”
- 65. Stephen A. Smith, Russia in Revolution: An Empire in Crisis, 1890–1928 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), 388.
- 66. V. I. Lenin, “Notes of a Publicist,” in Lenin 2017: Remembering, Repeating, and Working Through, ed. Slavoj Žižek (London: Verso, 2017), 32.
- 67. Ibid., 32; V. I. Lenin, “On Cooperation” and “Better Fewer But Better,” in Žižek, Lenin 2017, 127–36, 149–61.
- 68. The less than sympathetic Robert Service concluded: “On his death-bed Lenin did not envisage a strategy of liquidating millions of innocent and hard-working peasants . . . Nor did he aim to exterminate his enemies, real and imaginary in the party . . . His vision of a future for mankind when all exploitation and opposition would disappear was sincere. That surely is the central point about his life.” See Robert Service, The Iron Ring, vol. 3, Lenin: A Political Life (London: Macmillan, 1995), 322–23.
- 69. Stephen F. Cohen, “Bolshevism and Stalinism,” in Stalinism: Essays in Historical Interpretation, ed. Robert C. Tucker, 2nd ed. (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1999), 24.
- 70. Smith, Russian Revolution, 389.
- 71. For different views, see, for example, Reiman, Birth of Stalinism; Cohen, “Bolshevism and Stalinism”; Robert C. Tucker, “Stalinism as Revolution from Above,” in Stalinism: Essays in Historical Interpretation, ed. Robert C. Tucker (New York: W. W. Norton, 1977), 77–110; Robert C. Tucker, Stalin as Revolutionary, 1879–1929 (New York: W. W. Norton, 1974); Stephen F. Cohen, Rethinking the Soviet Experience (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985); Robert C. Tucker, Stalin in Power: The Revolution from Above, 1928–1941 (New York: W. W. Norton, 1990); Priestland, Stalinism and the Politics of Mobilization.
- 72. From a voluminous literature, expressing different viewpoints, see, for example, Sheila Fitzpatrick, ed., Cultural Revolution in Russia, 1928–1931 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1978); Moshe Lewin, The Making of the Soviet System: Essays in the Social History of Interwar Stalinism (London: Methuen, 1985); Nove, Stalin Phenomenon, 75–99; Sheila Fitzpatrick, Everyday Stalinism: Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times: Soviet Russia in the 1930s (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999); Jeffery J. Rossman, Worker Resistance under Stalin: Class and Revolution on the Shop Floor (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005).
- 73. Carr and Davies, Foundations, vol. 3; E. H. Carr, Twilight of Comintern, 1930–1935 (London: Macmillan, 1982).
- 74. Quoted in Stephen Kotkin, Waiting for Hitler, 1929–1941, vol. 2, Stalin (New York: Penguin, 2018), 20.
- 75. Klehr and Haynes, American Communist Movement, 25, 54; Draper, American Communism, 187–90; Palmer, James P. Cannon, 166–67, 252–53. Draper remains an indispensable guide to American Communism in the 1920s, Palmer is a powerful update from another angle, and Zumoff, with Communist International, is a useful addition. Klehr and Haynes provide a succinct, critical introduction.
- 76. Draper, American Communism, 21.
- 77. Palmer makes clear how Cannon’s life in the WP was in some sense determined by factionalism. See, especially, James P. Cannon, 202–51, 285–315.
- 78. Membership application forms placed allegiance to the Comintern before allegiance to the party: “The undersigned declares his adherence to the program and statutes of the Communist International and the Workers (Communist) Party . . .” Cited in Draper, Roots, 263.
- 79. McIlroy and Campbell’s “Nina Ponomareva’s Hats,” 166–73, discusses control mechanisms.
- 80. Palmer, James P. Cannon, 188–201; and see also Draper, American Communism, 169–71.
- 81. Yet one scholar has observed that although it is difficult to ignore earlier instances of Soviet intervention and manipulation, “the tone in the transcripts and reports related to the deliberations of the Anglo-American Commission of 1925, for example, is surely not one of comradely equality.” See James R. Barrett, “The History of American Communism and Our Understanding of Stalinism,” American Communist History 2, no. 2 (December 2003): 182.
- 82. The episode is discussed in Draper, American Communism, 138–52; Palmer, James P. Cannon, 236–39; Klehr and Haynes, American Communist Movement, 41–42.
- 83. Palmer, James P. Cannon, 247; James R. Barrett, William Z. Foster and the Tragedy of American Radicalism (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1999), 150–51.
- 84. Quoted in Draper, American Communism, 27.
- 85. Quoted in ibid., 240. Zumoff suggests the detention of Hourwich was justified on the grounds that the Russians were right and Hourwich wrong on the question of whether the US party should remain underground or embrace legality. This is to justify the substitution of coercion for debate and democracy in resolving political differences between Moscow and the Americans. To claim “Lenin was not applying Russian fiat” (Zumoff, Communist International, 15) is to disregard the facts.
- 86. James P. Cannon, The First Ten Years of American Communism: Report of a Participant (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1962), 179–80. The conformity of this past and future rebel highlights the WP cadre’s subordination to Moscow. Cannon’s recollected “doubts and discontents” only crystallized on his own account in 1926–27 when Zinoviev joined Trotsky and they were expelled. Alexander Bittelman recalled Cannon making disparaging remarks about Stalin in 1928, but he never formally criticized the political line of the Comintern before reading Trotsky’s “Draft Program.” See Palmer, James P. Cannon, 205, 213; John McIlroy and Alan Campbell, “The Leadership of American Communism, 1924–1929: Sketches for a Prosopographical Portrait,” American Communist History 19, nos. 1–2 (2020): 17 and notes 47 and 48.
- 87. Palmer, James P. Cannon, 177–88.
- 88. Trotsky, “Draft Program,” 135.
- 89. For a good account, see Zumoff, Communist International, 112–29. See also American Commission of the Executive Committee of the Communist International, April–May 1924, 495/37/4, RGASPI, where the problems of building a Labor Party were given sobering perspective by CPGB leader Bob Stewart’s reference to British experience.
- 90. Palmer, James P. Cannon, 226–27.
- 91. Quoted in Klehr and Haynes, American Communist Movement, 49.
- 92. James P. Cannon, James P. Cannon and the Early Years of American Communism: Selected Writings and Speeches, 1920–1928 (New York: Prometheus Research Library, 1992), 420.
- 93. See Weber’s comments on the German Party in “Stalinization,” 35–37, and Palmer’s discussion of WP factionalism in James P. Cannon, 286–87.
- 94. Draper, American Communism, 282–314; Palmer, James P. Cannon, 316–49; Zumoff, Communist International, 355–64.
- 95. Palmer, James P. Cannon, 316–49, 360, 364.
- 96. Thorpe, British Communist Party, Appendix 2.
- 97. Quotations from English Commission, 495/38/1, RGASPI.
- 98. J. T. Murphy, New Horizons (London: Bodley Head, 1941), 181.
- 99. English Commission, 495/38/1, RGASPI. For the Report on Organization, see Macfarlane, British Communist Party, 73–89.
- 100. English Commission, 495/38/1, RGASPI.
- 101. For the discussion, see Macfarlane, British Communist Party, 84–87.
- 102. Lars T. Lih, Oleg V. Naumov, and Oleg Khlevniuk, eds., Stalin’s Letters to Molotov, 1925–1936 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1995), 1, 62.
- 103. Quoted in Macfarlane, British Communist Party, 141.
- 104. “Factionalism” was sometimes translated as “fractionalism.” See Degras, Communist International, 264.
- 105. For example, Robert Stewart to J. T. Murphy, 10 October 1926, 495/100/357, RGASPI.
- 106. Macfarlane, British Communist Party, 167–68; Cathy Porter, Alexandra Kollontai (London: Virago Press, 1980), 388.
- 107. John McIlroy, “New Light on Arthur Reade: Tracking Down Britain’s First Trotskyist,” Revolutionary History 8, no. 1 (Summer 2001): 40, 20–21.
- 108. Quoted in McIlroy, “Arthur Reade,” 40–41.
- 109. Quoted in Macfarlane, British Communist Party, 141.
- 110. John McIlroy and Alan Campbell, “The British and French Representatives to the Communist International, 1920–1939: A Comparative Survey,” International Review of Social History 50, no. 2 (2005): 203–40.
- 111. Roderick Martin, Communism and the British Trade Unions, 1924–1933: A Study of the National Minority Movement (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1969), 19–24.
- 112. English Commission, 495/38/1, RGASPI.
- 113. Degras, Communist International, 131.
- 114. Quoted in Hyman and Hinton, Trade Unions and Revolution, 31.
- 115. John McIlroy, “Revolutionaries,” in The Struggle for Dignity: Industrial Politics and the 1926 Mining Lockout, ed. John McIlroy, Alan Campbell, and Keith Gildart, 2nd ed. (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2007), 274.
- 116. Ibid., 274–76; Thorpe, British Communist Party, 92–99.
- 117. English Commission (Dutt, Inkpin), 495/38/1, RGASPI.
- 118. Macfarlane, British Communist Party, 103–6; Thorpe, British Communist Party, 75–77.
- 119. ECCI Presidium, 30 January 1924, CI 25, Communist Party Archive, Manchester (hereafter CPA); ECCI Presidium, “The British Labour Government and the Communist Party of Great Britain,” 6 February 1924, 495/100/134, RGASPI.
- 120. Degras, Communist International, 171.
- 121. English Commission of the ECCI, Minutes and Transcripts, 13 November–10 December 1924, 495/38/5, RGASPI; ECCI Presidium, 3 December 1924, CI 24, CPA; Lawrence Parker, Communists and Labour: The National Left-Wing Movement, 1925–1929 (London: Rotten Elements, 2018).
- 122. McIlroy and Campbell, “Nina Ponomareva’s Hats.”
- 123. English Commission, 495/38/1, RGASPI; English Commission, 495/38/5, RGASPI.
- 124. English Commission of the ECCI, Minutes and Transcripts, 13 May–1 December 1927, 495/38/11, RGASPI; CPGB Central Executive Committee, Minutes, 7–9 January 1928, 495/100/493, RGASPI.
- 125. Thorpe, British Communist Party, 117–22.
- 126. Macfarlane, British Communist Party, 221–42. For an example of interventionist directives, see “Closed Letter to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Great Britain,” 27 February 1929, reprinted in Macfarlane, British Communist Party, 308–19.
- 127. McIlroy and Campbell, “Nina Ponomareva’s Hats,” 181–82; McIlroy and Campbell, “For A Revolutionary Workers’ Government,” 545–55.
- 128. Quoted in Pelling, British Communist Party, 45–46.
- 129. Quoted in McIlroy, “Establishment of Intellectual Orthodoxy,” 189.
- 130. McIlroy, “Establishment of Intellectual Orthodoxy,” 197–233; John McIlroy and Alan Campbell, “The Heresy of Arthur Horner,” Llafur: Journal of Welsh Labour History 8, no. 2 (2001): 105–18.
- 131. Pelling, British Communist Party, 52. “For the first time in the history of the party, instead of the so-called ‘democratic’ open vote of Congress . . . a Bolshevik method was adopted . . . A list containing twelve of the old Central Committee and 23 new members was adopted by the Congress” (Page Arnot quoted in Pelling, British Communist Party, 52).
- 132. Sam Bornstein and Al Richardson, Against the Stream: A History of the Trotskyist Movement in Britain (London: Socialist Platform, 1986), 62–126.
- 133. Brigitte Studer, The Transnational World of the Cominterneans (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), 30. Studer makes no reference to the historiography of American Communism.
- 134. Ibid., 159, n. 33. To support her characterization of British research, Studer cites McDermott and Agnew, Comintern, and LaPorte et al., “Introduction,” ignoring relevant scholarship supporting the Stalinization thesis. See notes 20–22 above.
- 135. Weber, “Stalinization of the KPD,” 22–26.
- 136. Taylor and Worley, “Testing the Limits,” 241, 233. No examples are provided of branches pursuing alternative politics. While some members’ commitment was undoubtedly limited and temporary, turnover of members and policy, inactivity, and apathy may just as plausibly be considered as enhancing rather than eroding leadership control. For an argument that the Stalinization of the American party was incomplete—which again begs the question of degrees of significance—see Storch, “Their unCommunist Stand.”
- 137. See, for example, Palmer, “Rethinking the Historiography,” 143–45; Palmer, “How Can We Write Better Histories of Communism?” 214–23.
- 138. Thorpe, British Communist Party, 13.
- 139. That this relationship was unlikely to work is recognized in James R. Barrett, “What Went Wrong? The Communist Party, the US and the Comintern,” American Communist History 17, no. 2 (2018): 176–84. Barrett, however, embraces the New Left paradigm, commending the Popular Front, while understating the extent to which it was a reformist “political tactic” ordered from and rescinded by Moscow.
- 140. Perry Anderson, “The Antinomies of Antonio Gramsci,” New Left Review 100 (November–December 1976): 52, quoting Amadeo Bordiga.
- 141. Lewin, Soviet Century, 379.