The 'core' leaders of the Communist Party of Great Britain, 1923–1928: their past, present and future

McIlroy, John and Campbell, Alan (2021) The 'core' leaders of the Communist Party of Great Britain, 1923–1928: their past, present and future. Labor History, 62 (4) . pp. 371-412. ISSN 0023-656X [Article] (doi:10.1080/0023656X.2021.1910805)

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Building on a previous study of the executive committee (EC) of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) in the 1920s, the 19 activists who formed the ‘core’ of the party leadership – a category defined by service on four or more of the five committees elected between 1923 and 1928 – were analysed. Biographical material and statistical data were utilized to explore their origins, age, occupation, education, earlier allegiances, party experience and future destinations. The entire cohort, the 19 ‘core’ leaders, together with the 20 Communists who served less frequently on the EC, 1923–1928, were then compared on the above variables with the group which had sat on the committee during the CPGB’s foundation period, 1920–1923. Those born in England decreased from 69% in the first period to 50% in the second; the proportion of Scots increased from 22% to 36% while the Welsh remained below 10%. Both cohorts were overwhelmingly white, male and working-class. Aggregating the two groups across the 9 years from 1920 to 1928, skilled workers made up more than 40% of the CPGB leadership – 26.4% were metal workers. Less than 16% of the leadership were miners, considerably less than among the membership generally, while 11% had attended university. Only 5.4% were female although women constituted 16% of CPGB members. Only two men of colour featured on the EC while more leaders than members came from middle-class backgrounds. At least 27% had not only left the EC but the CPGB itself by 1930; at the other end of the spectrum, 35% of the 1920’s leadership appeared on the committee beyond this period while four, the ‘core of the core’ served into the post-war years. There was diversity but ultimately political uniformity. CPGB leaders either accepted the authority of the Comintern or alternatively left the party as individuals. Constrained by the context, a dysfunctional model of organization and Soviet policy, they fell short of the Bolshevik model of the revolutionary leader.

Item Type: Article
Research Areas: A. > Business School
Item ID: 33812
Notes on copyright: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Labor History on 15 Jun 2021, available online:
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Depositing User: John Mcilroy
Date Deposited: 15 Sep 2021 08:18
Last Modified: 22 Feb 2022 04:36

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