The Communists

Part 2 - The birth of the CPGB

Well Chuffed, Going Postal
Theodore Rothstein (Russian: Фёдор Аронович Ротштейн, Fyodor Aronovich Rotshteyn; 14 February 1871 – 30 August 1953) was a journalist, writer and communist. He served as a Soviet ambassador in the 1920s

How are political parties born, one of the more recent ones is UKIP and it seemed to know what it was about from day one. The lefties of course could never do anything so simple, they had to have massive fall-outs accompanied by the usual hatred which seems to be their trademark. It used to be said that during the Spanish Civil War the various shades of left wing opinion hated each other more than they hated Franco.

Theodore Rothstein played a major part in the creation of the CPGB. He was working for the War Office on translations and reporting on what was going on in Russia but at the same time was overseeing the arguments underway about uniting the various left wing parties and societies that openly supported the Bolshevik Revolution.

There were in general two points of view. Either become a part of the Labour Party or set up a separate organisation. To add fuel to the fire the Russians were trying to influence their friends in Europe to intervene and try to stop the military help being given to the White Russians who were fighting the Bolsheviks. There was a lot of resistance from the left against the imperialist war.

To go back a bit, in 1864 the left started the First International. It consisted of trade unionists, anarchists, French socialists, Italian followers of Garibaldi and Mazzini, former Chartists and Owenites, no not the boy Jones. It all collapsed in 1876 because of strife between followers of Marx and the anarchists. The left reserve their most violent hatreds for each other.

In 1889 they set up the Second International, this organ of the socialist workers (maybe they did work in those days) was mightily against any military conflict. It collapsed in 1914 when the German SPD came out in favour of the war.

Undeterred, in the midst of the civil war raging in Russia, the Bolsheviks created the Third International or Communist International. This is the one that was abbreviated to Comintern of which many of you will have heard. This was part of Lenin’s plan to export communism and revolution to the rest of the world and led to the creation of communist parties across Europe. This split the socialists in the west along reformist and revolutionary lines. Those who supported reform now called for the resurrection of the Second International and there was the usual bun fight.

For some reason the Daily Herald in the UK was seen as key to the direction the left was about to take. Theodore Rothstein was channeling money to the cash strapped Herald from Moscow and Special Branch were on to him.

There were three main socialist bodies vying for the lead role in the embryonic British Communist Party. They were the British Socialist Party, the Socialist Labour Party and Sylvia Pankhurst’s (daughter of Emmeline) Workers Socialist Federation. Rothstein was big in the BSP and able to influence it. The SLP and WSF were against the BSP because it wanted the new party to seek affiliation to the Labour Party. Sylvia was invited to Moscow to attend the International Congress in 1919 but was unable to go, her credentials were much appreciated by the continental Bolsheviks.

For some reason Lenin was asked to adjudicate and decided that two communist parties would be the answer. One affiliated to the Labour Party and another, revolutionary one, working outside. Sylvia now decided to go to Moscow to argue her case and Rothstein set off hot foot behind her. As soon as he left, Special Branch made sure he could not return.

On Silvia’s return, the SLP, the BSP, the ILP and the South Wales Socialist Society all came together to form the Communist Party of Great Britain, or CPGB. One of their first acts was to apply for affiliation to the Labour Party, this was turned down. The CPGB then developed along two lines, one open, the other secret; the secret one being created for purposes of espionage.

They all eventually came together to form their new party but the old hatreds must have remained and probably do to this day. The end result was Communist Parties all over the place and the Comintern up to its neck in spies and subversion. The Comintern survived until 1943, the theory behind its dissolution was that Stalin wanted to show that he was not trying to foment revolution in all other nations, telling porkies to further your cause is not limited to the Religion of Peace.


© well_chuffed 2018

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