The rise and fall of the Communist Party of Great Britain, 1928-1983

In 1920, a group of revolutionary socialists attended a meeting at the Cannon Street Hotel in London. The men and women were members of various political groups, including the British Socialist Party (BSP), the Socialist Labor Party (SLP), the Prohibition and Reform Party (PRP) and the Workers' Socialist Federation (WSF).

The formation of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) was agreed upon. It later emerged that Lenin had provided at least £55,000 (over £1 million in today's money) to help fund the CPGB.

Before the British General Strike of 1926, a large number of CPGB leaders were imprisoned on charges of "seditious conspiracy". But the CPGB's support for the strike increased its membership, particularly in Glasgow, east London and Wales, parts of which became known as "Little Moscow".

The party was active in organizing various rallies and demonstrations. Some of this ended in violence, notably in 1936 when Communist marches clashed with blackshirts from Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists in and around London's Cable Street.

From a body of only 2,555 in November 1930, the CPGB's membership reached its high watermark at 60,000 in 1943 and 103,000 votes in the 1945 general election, leading to two elected Communist MPs.

The following year the CPGB received over 500,000 votes in local elections and claimed 200 councillors as a result. The party was at the peak of its influence from 1945 to 1956. Its membership suffered the biggest loss after the Hungarian Revolution of 1956.

Despite being directly funded by the Soviet Union from 1956 to the late 1970s, the party became something of a pressure group and was further weakened by internal conflict. In 1991, after the collapse of the former Soviet Union, it was decided to dissolve the party for good.

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