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It is hard to see what political use militants could have made of such material, or of the section on Dialectical and Historical Materialism in Stalin's History of the CPSU, which became required reading after its publication in English in 1939, beyond a broad sense of history progressing through a struggle of oppo- 38 CAPITAL & CLASS sites and a scepticism about ideals or abstract principles as compared with proletarian experience . Whereas in labour college classes some attempt had to be made to demonstrate the political usefulness ; in one case we found that dialectics was used by a union official to develop a strategy of response to Taylorist de-skilling-a labour college activist and one-time CP member, he considered Party education in dialectics greatly inferior to that which he had received through the labour colleges .

In this context the idea of Labour Colleges as local centres of a 'left wing movement' in the General Strike period was the last dying spasm of the Plebs League and the phase of British working class politics in which it had played such an important part . When the League passed away as a separate 34 CAPITAL & CLASS body shortly after the strike, the strength of the institutional links between the NCLC and the national organisation of a clearly socialdemocratic trade union movement and the stark choice, at the political level, between Labourism and Communism, suddenly seemed obvious .

Less coherent and less stimulating in some ways, it presaged a major shift in emphasis in CSE, and a period of rapid change and growth . It was decided to hold the 1976 conference on the theme of the labour process, and to make it a residential weekend conference held outside London . The Conference Committee soon began to play a much more active role than before . It broadened into a representative body co-ordinating a number of local and working groups, which decided to prepare for the conference through consistent collective work .

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