Wm. Paul

The Manchester Conference

By Our Special Correspondent, William Paul

Source: The Communist, April 30, 1921
Publisher: Communist Party of Great Britain
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

THE Communist Party of Great Britain held a special Conference at the Grand Hotel, Manchester, last week-end. The work of the Conference was to discuss the Constitution and Rules of the Party. There were 144 delegates present and 32 branches were not represented.

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The first business of the Conference was to elect the chairman of the Party. For this important task there were three nominees. Comrades Malone, Gallagher and Macmanus. By a large majority, and afterwards by a unanimous vote, Comrade Macmanus was elected chairman. In his opening speech, which has been reported in the Press, the chairman stated the attitude of the Party in opposition to all other Labour organisations. He unflinchingly declared that revolution was, in the last analysis, a problem of force—of class power. He mentioned that the Executive Committee had expelled Robert Williams, and that the Party was not afraid of any legal action which might be taken against it.

* * * *

The feeling of the delegates regarding the miners’ strike was very well expressed in the following resolution:

This Conference of the Communist Party of Great Britain, meeting within a week of the greatest betrayal of the workers in the history of Britain, declares its whole-hearted sympathy with the mining workers, who were so treacherously abandoned by the leaders of the Transport, Workers and Railwaymen, and congratulates them upon their steadfastness in the face of the failure of their allies. It calls upon the rank and file, who were no party to this betrayal, to drive their betrayers from their official positions, and urges the rank of the Triple Alliance and of the other organised workers to take heed of this lesson and to prepare against a repetition, of this disaster by reorganising the Unions on a class basis and with a class war policy.

Comrade Kirker, of Bowhill, one of the most active Communists in the Fifeshire coalfields, moved the resolution and stated the miners’ case. He was ably seconded by J. J. Vaughan, of the Electrical Trades Union, who showed that the Triple Alliance had refused valuable assistance and that it did not desire to show the ruling class how anxious the organised workers were to demonstrate their solidarity with the miners.

Ellen Wilkinson, of the N.U. of Distributive Workers, added to the general indictment of the Triple Alliance by proving that it had no intention of utilising the wonderful assistance which the workers in general were willing to give the miners. Other speakers spoke in the same strain and the resolution was unanimously carried.

* * * *

The solidarity resolution, as it was called, was moved by W. Paul and seconded by J. T. W. Newbold. This resolution, which was also carried unanimously, reads: —

This Conference of the Communist Party of Great Britain once more places on record its appreciation of the great and noble fight still being maintained by the working class of Russia in defence of its proletarian freedom against the onslaughts of Capitalism. Further, this Conference sends its greetings to the oppressed workers of Germany crushed between the upper and nether millstones of the militarism of Foch, Lloyd George, and Briand, greedy for reparations and indemnities, and the capitalism of Stinnes and his bought Government at Berlin. It greets the workers of all lands, and assures them that British Communists will be steadfast with them in this world crisis and in the coming World Revolution.

A further resolution, on unemployment, was also carried.

When the second session opened the delegates got down to the serious business of drafting the Constitution of the party. After a brief discussion, the following was agreed to:—

Constitution: Aims and Objects

“The name of the Party shall be the Communist Party of Great Britain. The Party is affiliated to and adheres to the Statutes and Theses of the Communist International.

“The objective of the Party is the establishment of a COMMUNIST REPUBLIC of a socially and economically equal people. It works for the total abolition of the present system of wage slavery through a social revolution, and holds this to be PRE-EMINENTLY the task of its existence. It seeks by EDUCATION to win the adhesion of the masses to Communism, and by AGITATION to spur the workers on towards the Social Revolution.


“As a method of attaining the Social Revolution, the Communist Party urges the adoption by the workers of Great Britain of the Soviet or Workers’ Council system so successfully applied in Russia.

As a necessary means of achieving the transition from capitalism to Communism the Party stands for the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. It realises that capitalism will challenge every inch of the ground covered by the advancing working class, and, aware from the experience of history of the dangers of counter-revolution it holds the dictatorship of the revolutionary masses to be the only safeguard against subversive conspiracy and counter-revolution.”

The statement of Methods provoked a long and interesting debate. It was here that one noticed that the Communist Party had attracted the vigorous minded young revolutionists of Britain, who had emancipated themselves from the phrases, tactics, and doctrines which were in existence prior to 1914. Every point of difference was taken up and carefully scrutinised. The differences were not fundamental, and in some cases were merely a difference in phrasing. Everybody was zealous that the party position should be clear and free from all ambiguity.

The following was then considered:—

Immediate Action

“The Communist Party will devote itself to the immediate work of educating the masses in the principles of Communism. It will conduct an unflinching, campaign against the power of capitalism, and relentlessly strive by industrial organization, agitation, and revolutionary political, and parliamentary action, to urge the working class on towards revolution.”

The spirit of the Conference regarding immediate action was to be wherever the masses were and to be with them in all their fights. It seemed as though the Communist Party had accepted the theory that wherever it saw a working-class head the policy was to hit it with the propaganda club. But not only propaganda. The delegates were unanimous that the best propaganda was for the Communists to win the approval of the masses by action.

The Conference passed on to decide what were the obligations of members to the Party. This was speedily decided upon.


“Membership of the Communist Party is open to all who accept the Theses and Statutes of the Communist International. The Party claims from its members loyalty and fidelity to the general will of the organisption, and insists upon the subordination of all other interests to those of the Communist Party. It expects of its members that they will impose a self-discipline and that they will respond to the Party’s demands and needs.”

There is no equivocation here. It is stern discipline of an army—of a revolutionary army in the front trenches of the class struggle.

* * * *

Considering that the agenda was a booklet containing twenty-two pages of closely printed matter, it was only by a miracle of organization that the delegates were able to discuss every item without rushing the final items during the last few moments of the Conference.

The rules, and the amendments, alone occupied seventeen pages. The reason why there were so many amendments was because almost every branch in the Party had something useful to contribute to the organisation of a perfectly adjusted fighting machine. Due to the brilliant work of the Standing Orders Committee (Comrades Mellor, Hodgson, Kerran, Hawkins, Cocker and Simpson), many of the trifling differences that existed between branches were settled in committee. But there were several points upon methods of using the party machinery which provoked keen debates. The Conference faced the fact that it was creating an organisation of an avowedly revolutionary character. The difference between the Communist Party and every Socialist organisation in the country lies in the difference between theory and action. The Communists are not building up their movement to talk about revolution in an abstract way. They are creating their party to accomplish revolutionary deeds.

Such a Party must expect the attentions of the police and to become target for cruel persecution. The wholesale imprisonment of our members, up and down the country, is a fair indication of the Party’s revolutionary work. Knowing this, the conference had to face the fact that the democratic British Government might attempt to outlaw the Party and its members. This possibility did not deter the delegates. Indeed, the Birmingham delegates, where the branch has suffered most severely, moved a resolution congratulating the magistrates and police of that city for their undying service to the cause of the capitalist class and for recognising the true function of the modern