Sub-fonds W - Communist Party Wales District

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Communist Party Wales District


  • 1884-2002 (Creation)

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0.837 cubic metres (93 boxes)

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Biographical history

The Communist Party in Wales was a district of the Communist Party Great Britain (CPGB). It constituted a Welsh Executive Committee, and a Welsh District Committee which was administered by a Secretariat. The district was further divided into area committees (e.g. West Wales, Rhondda, East Glamorgan, Monmouthshire) and city committees (e.g. Cardiff), and again into branches.

Most of the branches were located in industrial South Wales although there existed a small West Wales district and a North Wales district. The North Wales district of the Party was set up in 1937, and remained small in comparison to the South Wales District. The first Communist Party All-Wales Congress was held in Cardiff in 1945, although a South Wales Congress had been held since 1920.

The Communist Party did not win a parliamentary seat in Wales, but its influence in South Wales in the first half of the twentieth century was significant. In 1927 the CPGB had 7,377 members, 2,300 of which were from Wales. In 1933 Arthur Horner came within 3,000 votes of winning the East Rhondda parliamentary seat, and in 1935 Harry Pollitt, the prospective parliamentary candidate for East Rhondda, got 38 per cent of the vote. Communist local councillors were strong in South Wales, there being 16 Communist local councillors in 1936. In 1979 Annie Powell was elected mayoress of the Rhondda, becoming the first Communist mayor in Britain.

In South Wales, there was close co-operation between the Communist Party and the Unions, a relationship that did not exist in other parts of Britain. Arthur Horner, President of the South Wales Miners Federation, 1936-1946, was also a member of the Communist Party South Wales District Committee. Membership of the Communist Party in South Wales in 1935 trebled following protests against the means test for unemployment benefits. The Party in South Wales also organised anti-fascist protests, and arranged support for the Spanish Civil War. Following the Second World War the Communist Party membership was in decline, but the party continued to contribute to the political debate in Wales on issues such as devolution and socialist planning, and candidates continued to stand in local and general elections until the Party came to an end in 1991.

In 1927 Idris Cox became the full time organiser of the Communist Party, and he was the editor of 'Party News'. Bill Alexander was Bert Pearce's predecessor as full time Secretary of the Wales District until 1960, and Bert Pearce filled the post until 1984. His successor was David Richards, followed by Les Skeates from 1989.

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Scope and content

The group consists of Communist Party Wales District papers, including papers relating to Congress, 1945-1991, the Welsh executive committee, 1958-1991, and the Wales District, 1916-2002. The group includes publications, 1884-1998, subject files, 1935-2000, and files relating to Party education, 1929-1998, devolution in Wales and Scotland, 1936-1998, industry and industrial disputes, including the miners' strikes, 1892-1998, campaigns for peace, anti-apartheid, peoples march for jobs, and the poll tax, 1919-1995, and elections, 1934-1996.

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Arranged into ten groups: congress, executive committee, district committee, elections, publications, devolution, industry, campaigns, subject files, and party education.

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Preferred citation: W

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  • Text: W.