The following article is forming the basis of one of the workshops at the upcoming "Communist Party Building School" - it is essential reading for anyone with an interest in Marxism and the British working class.

This article was first published in Praxis - Bulletin of the Marx Memorial Library, number 155, Spring 2012, Pages 18-25

We start with a paradox of British politics. In Britain the Communist Party has never won more than very limited electoral support and has at best secured only a couple of members of parliament. Yet as a party it has on occasion exercised very major influence within the working class movement. In the 1920s, 1940s and 1970s in particular, the resulting mobilisations compelled the ruling class of one of world’s great imperial powers to retreat, change tack and adopt radically new strategies of rule.

This paper considers how this influence was exerted and the origins of the style of work adopted. It argues that the source was two-fold. On the one hand, it stemmed from the party’s adoption of a particular model of mass engagement in the 1920s derived from Lenin and his immensely influential Left Wing Communism. Later, however, this was supplemented by the party’s own active learning – itself a product of its immersion within the mass movement. In terms of learning, however, the paper also notes that historically there was a reverse process. Lenin’s own understanding of the relationship between the party and the wider movement was powerfully influenced by the lessons which Marx and Engels drew from their analysis of the British working class.

Marxism and the British Working Class

John Foster: Marxism and the British Working Class