Red Clydeside: A history of the labour movement in Glasgow 1910-1932


The Communist Party and the Labour Government, 1924

by Communist Party of Great Britain

image from Red Clydeside collection

The CPGB initially strived to find accommodation with the Labour Party and between 1920, when the CPGB was founded, until the electoral defeat of the Labour party in October 1924 the relationship between the two political parties was relatively amicable. The CPGB attempted to affiliate to the Labour party on a number of occasions between 1921 and 1923. The CPGB tactic of affiliation was grounded in the believe that communists could bring greater influence to bear on the Labour party from within, eventually transforming the Labour Party into a revolutionary organ of the workers in the struggle against capital.

The failure to secure affiliation led the CPGB to take the option of trying to influence Labour Party policies by means of individual party members. Surprisingly, nothing stopped CPGB members from also becoming members of the Labour Party until this option was cut-off under revisions of the Labour Party constitution in 1933. Thus at the 1923 Labour Party conference there were 430 communist delegates and in the December 1923 General Election the CPGB put forward nine candidates, seven of whom stood under the Labour Party banner.

Whilst the CPGB sought to maintain an amicable relationship with the Labour party the right-wing leadership of the party were becoming increasingly concerned about the electoral damage that the growth of Communist influence within the party could have. This concern became very pronounced during the term of the 1924 minority Labour government when the right-wing press coined the phrase 'in office but not in power' to describe the relationship between the Labour government and the CPGB. After the defeat of the Labour government in the General election of October 1924 as a result of a the infamous Campbell case and the notorious forgery of the Zinoviev letter, the Labour party leadership initiated a campaign to purge all communist influence from within the ranks of the Labour party and the Trade Unions.

Source: Bissett Collection, Glasgow University Special Collections