The Socialist Labour Party and the leadership of early British Communism

McIlroy, John and Campbell, Alan (2020) The Socialist Labour Party and the leadership of early British Communism. Critique: Journal of Socialist Theory, 48 (4) . pp. 609-659. ISSN 0301-7605 [Article] (doi:10.1080/03017605.2020.1850817)

[img] PDF - Final accepted version (with author's formatting)
Download (564kB)


The Socialist Labour Party (SLP) contributed a small number of members to the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) founded a century ago, compared with the considerably larger British Socialist Party (BSP). Nonetheless, some historians have claimed that leading SLP members, well-versed in Marxist theory, proved to be excellent leadership material and figured disproportionately in directing the early CPGB. ‘Bolshevisation’ of the party in the mid-1920s saw them crowded out by opportunist ex-BSP activists more amenable to Moscow, with a deleterious impact on the CPGB’s theoretical clarity and political fortunes.

Absorption in mundane activity blunted the former SLPers’ theoretical edge and ‘will to revolution’. A statistical analysis of compositional trends on the CPGB Executive Committee, 1920–1928, combined with examination of the 19 ex-SLPers who sat on it and more detailed exploration of major ex-SLP protagonists, confirms they punched above their weight, not just initially but through the 1920s. However, the turning point was not ‘Bolshevisation’ but the onset in 1929 of Stalin’s leftist Third Period. There is scant evidence that former SLP representatives were replaced in the leadership by former BSP activists. The idea of conflicting SLP and BSP political identities persisting beyond the party’s ‘bedding down’ period is exaggerated and fails to facilitate understanding of CPGB development during its first decade.

Item Type: Article
Research Areas: A. > Business School
Item ID: 32776
Notes on copyright: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Critique: Journal of Socialist Theory on 01/10/2020, available online:
Useful Links:
Depositing User: John Mcilroy
Date Deposited: 15 Apr 2021 10:28
Last Modified: 29 Nov 2022 18:15

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Activity Overview
6 month trend
6 month trend

Additional statistics are available via IRStats2.