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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Archives Unfold Tale Of British Party Arm

Britain's Communist Party is slowly buying copies of its own documents that provide a fascinating record of the relationship of a small party with its Soviet big brother, said a British historian.


All the member parties that comprised the Communist International, known as the Comintern, regularly sent their important papers to its central archive in Pushkinskaya Ulitsa in Moscow until Stalin shut down the organization in 1943.


Among the tens of thousands of documents in the archive are verbatim transcripts of all the Central Committee meetings of the British Communist Party, recorded with the scrupulous attention to detail that characterized a communist organization.


"No other party in Britain has got such complete material", said Monty Johnston, a historian and researcher in the London archives in a telephone interview Tuesday.


A total of 1, 200 frames of microfilm arrived at the Communist Party archive in London on Tuesday, costing the Democratic Left party - the old party's successor - several hundred dollars.


The documents the party has already received cast light on the dramatic days when the Comintem threw itself into the war against Hitler on Sept. 3, 1939, only to do an abrupt turnaround a few days later and declare it an "imperialist conflict".


The stenogram of the British Communist Party meeting reveals that Stalin, who had signed his notorious pact with Hitler only weeks before, met with Georgy Dimitrov, general secretary of the Comintern, on Sept. 7 in Moscow and denounced the declaration of war on Germany issued by Britain and France.


The British party, meeting to discuss Dimitrov's report, overruled the protests of its leader, Harry Pollitt, and came out against the war it had enthusiastically supported a few days before.


"We knew about this in very general terms before, but never had the verbatim record of what actually happened until now", Johnstone said, adding that he hoped the new consignments from Moscow would throw up similar fascinating gems.


The London archive, he said, was especially interested in the records of the visits to Moscow by Pollitt, who was head of the British party from 1929 to 1956.


The party never attained the success of some of its European counterparts and was virtually invisible in Britain by the 1980s, but still had some influence in the 1920s and '30s.


In 1937 Pollitt pleaded with the Soviet authorities for information about Rose Cohen, a British Communist who had married a Russian Comintern official and disappeared in the purges.


Pollitt also met with Stalin on several occasions. The records of those meetings are still in a secret Kremlin archive and have not yet seen the light of day. But Johnstone hopes he will soon get copies of those as well.