This book is a study of the communist life and the communist experience of membership. The study places itself on the interface between the membership and the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) by considering the efforts of the latter to give shape to that experience. For those who opted to commit fully to the communist way of life it would offer a complete identity and reach into virtually all aspects of life and personal development. In regard to the latter, through participation in the communist life 'joiners' gained a positive role in life, self-esteem, intellectual development, skills in self-expression, and opportunities to acquire status and empowerment through activities like office-holding or public speaking. The British Communist Party had a strong and quite marked generational focus, in that it sought to address the experience of Party life and membership at the principal phases of the life cycle. The Party developed rites of passage to guide its 'charges' through the different stages of the life cycle. Thus its reach extended to take in children, youth, and the adult experience, including marriage and aspects of the marital and family relationship. The Party did not disengage even at the beginning and termination of the life cycle. Its spokespersons advised communist mothers on birth and mothercraft, 'red' parents on childrearing, and addressed the experience of death and mourning within the communist domain.
This book provides a clear and accessible guide to the essential features of interwar British fascism. It focuses on the various fascist parties, fascist personalities and fascist ideologies. The book also looks at British culture and develops the knowledge of undergraduate students by providing a solid source of background material on this important area of interwar British history. The focus on fascist culture throws new light on the character of native fascism and suggests a potentially rich vein of new enquiry for scholars of British fascism. The book considers the membership strength of Britain's interwar fascist parties. The ideas of racial Social-Darwinism influenced British fascism in a number of ways. To begin with, hereditarian ideas and biological determinist models contributed to the emergence of racial theories of anti-semitism. The anti-semitism of the Imperial Fascist League was of a very different order from that of the British fascism. Moreover, to Britain's fascists, artistic modernism, with its creative use of distortion, disintegrative images and general disdain for the traditional discipline of the art form, made a virtue of deformity. The search to uncover the anti-liberal and anti-capitalist pre-fascist lineage would become a highly subjective exercise in invention and take the fascists on an imaginative journey deep into the British past.
This chapter considers the first stage of the communist life cycle as it unfolded in the context of the communist home. According to 'Molly' Murphy, it was not uncommon for communist parents in 1920s Britain to favour giving their children a 'proletarian education' at home. Beyond the rearing of the 'communist baby', the chapter also looks at how older children were raised in the communist home. The chapter also considers the role of the Communist Party woman within the framework of communist mothering and parentcraft. In the narrative of mothercraft, parenting and the home, the Soviet Union was held up as a model to emulate. From early 1936, and for the next few years, childrearing advice to communist mothers was being provided through the columns of the Daily Worker on a regular basis by 'Nurse Jane Geddes'.
This chapter considers how the communist children's organisation evolved and was organised, its relationship to the wider parent Party and the Young Communist League (YCL). The communist children's movement offered its child members a quite distinct experience. Its principles and guiding ethos marked it out as a body radically different from all other contemporary children's organisations. The chapter also considers the ways the 'little comrades' were educated to take their place in the next levels of the Party structure. It looks at the mission, ethos and inner world of the children's organisation, and the Party's attempts during the interwar years to capture and retain the loyalty and enthusiasm of its youngest members. The authority and example of the Soviet Union was frequently asserted to maintain the enthusiasm of the young comrades in Britain.
Taking its cue from the anti-war legacy bequeathed to communist youth by Karl Liebknecht, the early Young Communist League (YCL) was fiercely anti-militaristic. As with the adult Party, it was decisions that were taken outside Britain which would mainly determine the form of organisation of the YCL. Institutional ties to the Comintern obliged the Communist Youth International (CYI), its national youth organs, and young communists everywhere, to give unstinting support to the goals of the Soviet Union, as the centre of world communism, at all times. The British YCL had representation on the Executive Committee of the CYI (ECCYI) at its Third Congress in December 1922. Like a responsible parent body, the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) took steps to cater for the next generational cohort of communist activists, the youth.
This chapter focuses on the contexts and circumstances in which communist marriages occurred, as well as the institution of the communist marriage, including its conventions and defining characteristics. It considers the family's role in facilitating recruitment and sustaining communist political engagement. The Browns of Yorkshire were a red family. Party stalwarts throughout the interwar period, the Browns were emblematic of the ideal communist couple. Communist couples were much in evidence in the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB). For the CPGB, the ideal was to create a single identity, a single communist personality, within the family framework, particularly within the confines of the home. As well as precipitating political activism and facilitating recruitment into communism, the wider communist family network beyond the husband and wife pairing performed an important political socialisation role by helping shape communist attitudes, values, and beliefs.
This chapter looks at the experience of Communist Party membership within the framework of international communism and its imperatives, the strict Leninist code of practice for recruits, and the British Party's fluctuating recruitment performance. Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) membership could become a 'total' way of life for some recruits, an all-consuming enterprise of personal devotion to the Party and its mission. The chapter delves into the inner world of the Party 'local' or branch by illuminating some of its characteristics and idiosyncrasies, and explores the meaning of communism for Party activists. It considers the experience of expulsion for those who parted company from the Party and the communist world. Margaret McCarthy's feelings were widely shared in the Party. The idea of the 'working class' as a subject transcending its individual elements, the proletariat as a distinct discursive entity, was a characteristic feature of communist belief.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in this book. The book presents a study of the communist life and the communist experience of membership. The study will place itself on the interface between the membership and the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) by considering the efforts of the latter to give shape to that experience. The book claims that a communist life provided a positive life experience for those who embraced the Bolshevik 'faith', although it also recognises that it could bring pain and disillusionment to others. It aims to give a qualitative sense of the experience of membership and activism as it was felt by different individuals in different ways. The book draws on the experiences, recollections and commentary of long-serving members and those who remained in the communist framework for shorter periods.
This chapter looks at representations of the 'vile' bodies of communism's principal political opponents, the 'fascist body' and the 'bourgeois body'. Like all bodies, the proletarian communist body was an expressive sign, a semiotic site. The body would function as an important site of British Communist Party (CPGB) efforts to implant the communist spirit and way of life in its members. During the interwar years the CPGB was keen to ensure the physical well-being and fitness of its activists. For communists, there was a vital connection between sport, physical fitness, and revolutionary labour. The 'young workers forced to perform one humdrum operation, day in and day out, become mere cogs in the machine with grave consequences to their mental and physical development', complained Young Communist League (YCL) Secretary William Rust in 1925.
Fostering correct habits, good behaviour and right ways of living
The Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) endeavoured to achieve political advancement through fostering bodily awareness among its membership and encouraging habits of bodily improvement. The CPGB endeavoured to shape members' personal behaviour, attitudes, habits and deportment, as well as define the code by which they were meant to live. The bourgeois 'decadent' lived a life that was, in fact, considered to be the complete inverse of that of the communist. Or at least that ideal-type communist that conformed to the Party's preferred image of its activists as models of sound habits, good behaviour and right ways of living, both in their private as well as their public lives. To Margaret McCarthy, the parent Party's attempts to inculcate habits of self-restraint and discipline in one's private life were particularly hard on a young communist.