Communist Party of Great Britain

The Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) was the largest communist party in Great Britain between 1920 and 1991.[7] Founded in 1920 through a merger of several smaller Marxist parties, the CPGB gained the support of many socialist organisations and trade unions following the political fallout of the First World War and the Russian October Revolution. Ideologically the CPGB was a socialist party organised upon Marxism–Leninist ideology, strongly opposed to British colonialism, sexual discrimination, and racial segregation. These beliefs led many leading anti-colonial revolutionaries, feminists, and anti-fascist figures, to become closely associated with the party. Many prominent CPGB members became leaders of Britain's trade union movements, including Jessie Eden, Abraham Lazarus, Ken Gill, Clem Beckett, GCT Giles, Mike Hicks, and Thora Silverthorne.

Communist Party of Great Britain
General Secretary
Founded31 July 1920[1]
Dissolved23 November 1991[2]
Preceded by
Succeeded byDemocratic Left[3][4]
(1991–1998).
Communist Party of Britain (1988–present).
NewspaperDaily Worker
Membership
  • 60,000 (peak; 1945)[5]
  • 4,742 (dissolution; 1991)[6]
Ideology
Political positionFar-left
International affiliationComintern

Many miners joined the CPGB due to the party's involvement in the 1926 UK General Strike. In 1930 the CPGB founded the Daily Worker (Morning Star), which outlived the party and is currently the largest and longest-running socialist newspaper in British history. In 1936 many members of the party were present at the Battle of Cable Street, helping organise resistance against the British Union of Fascists. During the Spanish Civil War the CPGB worked with the USSR to create the International Brigades, recruiting well over half of the 2,500 members of the British Battalion,[8] which party activist Bill Alexander later commanded.[9] During WWII, several young CPGB activists led by a teenage Norman Le Brocq founded and led the resistance against the German occupation of Jersey, creating the Jersey Democratic Movement to the various resistance cells.[10] Leading CPGB activists were involved in protests for public access to bomb shelters, organising the evacuation of 3 million children to the countryside, and were heavily involved in post-war negotiations concerning educational reform and the creation of the British National Health Service (NHS). Following the allied victory over the Nazis in 1945, CPGB membership nearly tripled after the end of WWII, reaching the height of its popularity.

During the mass migration of British African-Caribbean people, known as the Windrush Generation, the CPGB dedicated much of its political activity to opposing British racial segregation, inspiring many leading black rights activists to join the CPGB, including Trevor Carter, Charlie Hutchison, Dorothy Kuya, Billy Strachan, Peter Blackman, Henry Gunter, and Len Johnson. The most famous of these black CPGB activists, Claudia Jones, created Britain's first major black newspaper and founded London's Notting Hill Carnival, the world's second-largest annual carnival. In 1956 the party experienced a large loss of membership due to its support of Soviet military intervention in Hungary, taking the party almost a decade to recover its lost membership. During the 1960s, CPGB activists raised money and equipment to donate to Vietnamese communists fighting in the Vietnam War. In 1984, the leader of the CPGB's youth wing Mark Ashton founded Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners, recognised as a turning point for the recognition of LGBT people in the UK.

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the party's Eurocommunist leadership decided to disband the party, establishing the Democratic Left think tank. The anti-Eurocommunist faction had launched the Communist Party of Britain in 1988.