British Communists and the 1932 turn to the trade unions

McIlroy, John (2015) British Communists and the 1932 turn to the trade unions. Labor History, 56 (5) . pp. 541-565. ISSN 0023-656X [Article] (doi:10.1080/0023656X.2015.1116789)

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The Comintern’s Third Period, 1928-1934, based on Stalin’s ‘second revolution’ in Russia, capitalist crisis and the claim that social democracy and fascism were twins, generated sectarian, ultra-left politics which proved inimical to Communist activity in trade unions. This article sheds new light on that issue by revisiting three connected episodes: the British party’s (CPGB) renewed turn to the unions, heralded in the January resolution of 1932; the roles Comintern staff and CPGB leader Harry Pollitt, played in this initiative; and the subsequent attempt by Pollitt to revise the politics of union work. This triptych reviews both primary sources and the recent historiography. It argues that some accounts have overestimated the novelty of the January resolution, blurred its meaning, and exaggerated Pollitt’s part in it. The resolution did not attempt to change the line but its application. Its impact was limited. Subsequent bids to go beyond it were muddled and unsuccessful. The 1933 move towards the united front, and the ensuing turn to the popular front, possessed more profound significance in the creation of an effective Communist presence in trade unions than the events of 1931- 1932.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Published online: 08 Jan 2016
Research Areas: A. > Business School > Leadership, Work and Organisations
Item ID: 18763
Notes on copyright: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Labor History on 20/10/2015, available online:
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Depositing User: John Mcilroy
Date Deposited: 18 Jan 2016 11:33
Last Modified: 09 Jun 2021 17:29

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