South Wales District, Communist Party of Great Britain

Scope and Content

Circulars and Handbills 1932-1948

Administrative / Biographical History

The Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) was founded on 31 July 1920 at the London Unity Conference. It was an amalgamation of a number of existing socialist parties and interest groups into a single political party. These included the British Socialist Party, the Socialist Labour Party, the Workers' Socialist Federation and the South Wales Socialist Society. The highest authority in the CPGB was the National Congress which decided the programme, policy and rules of the party. Below this level, the organisation was divided into district congresses and individual branches. The party commission on organisation had concluded that district congresses should correspond to clearly identifiable social, economic and administrative areas.

The industrial areas of south Wales provided a large percentage of the national membership and therefore became a division of the party in its own right. By 1925, there were 30 pit and factory groups affiliated to the CPGB in Wales which was far more than in other districts. These groups were seen as local political branches and were a major party of establishing a unified working class. Importantly, almost one-third of the total membership of the south Wales district were also members of trade unions and were already very active in terms of education and promotion of communist ideas.

During the Spanish Civil War (1937-1939) and the World War Two (1939-1945), membership of the Communist Party reached its height in Britain. However, once the Cold War had begun, support for the CPGB went into decline and the party had to be subsidised by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. This relationship caused a number of divisions and splinter groups from the main party, particularly when the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia in the 1970s. Disputes about the leadership of the party and policies resulted in the formation of two rival parties; the Communist Party of Britain and the Communist Campaign Group. In 1991, the CPGB voted to change the party name to the Democratic Left in order to increase popularity and support for socialism.

Source: Political Parties of the World, 3rd Edn, ed. Alan J Day. (Chicago, 1988)

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