Albert Samuel Inkpin was born in London in 1884; he joined the main Marxist current in Britain, the Social Democratic Federation (SDF) in 1906 and the National Union of Clerks in 1907. He rose rapidly in the socialist movement, being made Joint Assistant Secretary in 1907, a post he maintained until 1913. Inkpin took a leading role in the campaign against the "national" socialists, pro-imperialist forces, who controlled the journal `Justice’, which had been the official organ of the SDF.
With the reorganisation of the bulk of the SDF into the Social Democratic Party and then the British Socialist Party, founded in 1911 in Manchester, as a result of the merger of the Social Democratic Party with other socialist groups,he began to take an even more central role. Inkpin succeeded H W Lee as the General Secretary of the BSP in 1913.
During the First World War a sharp struggle developed in the party between the internationalist trend and the social-chauvinist trend headed by the long-term leader of the SDF, H M Hyndman. In February 1916 a group of the party's active members founded the newspaper `The Call’, which played an important part in uniting the internationalists. Inkpin was editor of The Call, which became the BSP’s official organ, from 1916 to 1919. The annual conference of the BSP held at Salford in April 1916 condemned the social-chauvinists and they subsequently left the party.
Inkpin remained in the role of BSP national secretary until it joined with others to form the Communist Party in 1920. He was a key figure in the anti-war movement from 1914 and represented the BSP at the Zimmerwald Conference of peace forces in the international socialist movement and also took a leading role in agitation in support of the Russian Revolution.
He was active in the organising of the Leeds Conference 1918-9, attended by J R MacDonald and Philip Snowden, at which it was agreed to set up workers’ and soldiers’ councils in emulation of the Revolution in Russia. In 1919, Inkpin represented the BSP as an observer in Berlin during the famous Kapp Putch.
He was the key figure for the BSP at all the socialist unity conferences/committees during the 1919-21 period. Indeed, the main report at the founding congress – over the weekend of July 31 and August 1 1920 – was given by Inkpin as Secretary of the Joint Provisional Committee of the Communist Party. In 1920, he was prosecuted by the British authorities for having printed and circulated Communist Party literature and was sentenced to six months in prison. With the arrest and imprisonment in May 1921 of Albert Inkpin and Bob Stewart, the National Secretary and National Organiser respectively. He was accorded the honour in 1921 of being made a President of the Communist International, along with Lenin and Trotsky.
A central committee member of the British Party from 1920, he was also its first General Secretary from 1920-1922. In early 1922 the Comintern established a Commission of Investigation into the British Party which looked exhaustively into the party's organisational structure and culture. At the St. Pancras Congress held in March 1922, a Comintern report was endorsed and a Commission was established to carry through the reorganisation of the party from top to bottom. Harry Pollitt, Palme Dutt and Harry Inkpin, brother of Albert Inkpin, were selected to serve on the Commission. He then became its National Organiser during 1922-3 and was back again in 1923 as General Secretary.
Inkpin was one of twelve Communist leaders taken into custody between 15-17 October 1925, in anticipation of the impending General Strike, and charged with violation of the Mutiny Act of 1797. On 26 November a jury found all of them guilty and various sentences were imposed. Inkpin got six months and all of them were out of action in the vital period of preparing for the great strike.
Like all significant Communist leaders, Inkpin was spied on by MI5 from the earliest days. This took the form of inserting agents who performed arguably illegal acts. For example, released MI5 files [KV 3/327(1919-1927;minute 55a October 1926)] reveal that Party documents were “borrowed” from Albert Inkpin's briefcase at the termination of the 8th Annual Congress of the Communist Party by one of their agents who was present.
In 1929, the much younger Harry Pollitt replaced Inkpin as General Secretary. In all Inkpin had led the Party for nine years, after 13 years as a senior official of Britain’s socialists. Inkpin now became secretary of the Russia Today Society and Friends of the Soviet Union until his death in 1944.
Partial source: Sunday Worker 25th October 1925 (thanks to MW); and other material
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