Party can. still reform ranks to fight again
By DOUGLAS HYDE SEVERAL thousand punch-drunk British Communists are at this moment reeling around within their party looking for someone to blame for all the blows they have received in recent weeks and months.
Krushchev is far away, and so the tendency at this moment is for them to strike out rather blindly. and not always too accurately at their own leaders.
Damaging publicity has been given to the resignations of members of the staff of the Daily Worker and of some "second line" leaders of the Communist Party.
Often, the leaders themselves — and who can blame them?—have appeared hardly to know where the were going.
Yet it would be wrong to suppose that the Communist Party in Britain is finished. It has experienced, and survived, other crises which have led to at least as many, if not more, resignations, although the amount of confusion has rarely, if ever, been exceeded.
A special congress has been called for next Easier. There should be some interesting and almost certainly acrimonious discussions for the Press to report. But the most interesting of all closed sl P reos ourrniably, be held behind d d
My guess, however, is that the astute leaders reckon that by then thc hullaballo over Hungary. both among the general public and within the party, may have died down. Communist leaders have an invincible belief in the shortness of the public memory and in the short-lived character of most attacks of public conscience.
Leaders such as R. Palme Dutt, John Gallen and Harry Pollitt, who grew up in rigid Communist strait jackets, may not find it easy to adapt themselves to an entirely new mood within the party. But either they must do this or face the prospect of leading a very shrunken party.
They must be particularly distressed at this moment by a tendency on the part of their own members to discuss the party's business. and in particular to air their criticisms of the leaders and of official policies in the nonCommunist Press
Yet this has grown naturally during recent months, out of the official declarations that Communist parties everywhere are now to adapt themselves to national traditions and customs.
As happens from time to time. the members have taken these declarations as being a whole truth when they should have known that they were only a half truth. So, after their letters to the Daily Worker and other Communist papers have been rejected or suppressed. they have, in the best British tradition sent them off to the editor of the New Statesman and Nation, who has been happy enough to give them space. Among those who have resigned, three of my former colleagues on the Daily Worker staff warrant special mention. Gabriel, the political cartoonist, to whom I have already referred. was a symbol of the "incorrupt ability" of the Communist. He is a likeable, very human person.
Peter Fryer, who resigned after the Daily Worker had failed to publish his factual reports [ruin Budapest, is a very different sort of Communist. He joined my staff as a young. cocksure, rather arrogant but undoubtedly intelligent young reporter. He took the world and himself very seriously.
Soon he had built for himself a reputation as a lecturer on dialectical materialism and from time to time wrote very serious feature articles on various aspects of Marxism for his paper.
One assumes that he had for some time been finding the Marxist interpretation of a rapidly changing party line difficult, if not embarrassing.
His position would be more difficult than that of the top leader who "hands down the line" to the faithful, or than that of the ordinary rank and filer who, after years of being at the receiving end, has long since given up interpreting anything.
Even so, his resignation must have come as a shock to the party leaders. One can imagine them saying: "If Peter Fryer is not proof against what is happening Is Hungary, then who can we trust?"
His place has been taken in Budapest by Sam Russell, whom I expected to resign when, some years ago. he was given the task of reporting the trial and sentencing to death in Prague of his former comrade and colleague on the Daily Worker, Ludwig Freund. He survived it, however, and now his humanity is once more being put to a severe test.
Like Peter Fryer, Patrick Goldring, another defector, joined my staff as a young reporter a couple of years after the end of the second World War. He is the son of Douglas GoIdring, the well known author.
Patrick had gone with a crowd of students to work as a volunteer on the "youth railway" in Yugoslavia when Tito was the hero of Communists. It was this which brought him into the Communist movement.
He is an example of the young intellectual who has been emotionally attracted by Communism because of a sensitive social conscience. He announced his resignation its the columns of the New Statesman. Of the Communist union leaders who have resigned since the events in Hungary, John Hornet is the most important. Indeed, he is the only one who cart be described as a "national" leader.
The Fire Brigades Union, of which he is the secretary, is small and so has little weight when it comes to votes at the Labour Party and Trades Union Congress conferences. But the F.B.U. has for years been very active on political questions within the I.abour movement and has been one of those which has frequently tabled resolutions which have led to debates in which the Communist Party line was strongly advanced.
In this sens. the confusion now existing among the formerly proCommunist leaders of the F.B.U. robs the Communist Party of a useful means of making jts policies known in the Labour Party and T.U.C.
John Horner's resignation will have badly shaken some of the Communist Party members, since he was for sometime an executive member of the party itself.
But as yet no " heavyweight" Communist trade union leaders, or top leaders of the party, have resigned.
It is still quite possible for the party to reform its ranks, sort out its position at the special congress next Easter—and live to light another day.
A Communist Party which has adapted itself to British traditions —in Its tactics, though not in its philosophy — may yet have a renewed, or even greater, appeal than heretofore to our Left-wing intellectuals and trade unionists.