Far Left Book Competition

far left cover

As regular readers of this blog are probably aware, our edited collection Against the Grain: The British Far Left from 1956 will be published by Manchester University Press next month. To publicise the book, I am running a competition through this blog (and hopefully cross-posted with a few others) to win a copy of the book (to be posted anywhere in the world). Below are ten questions on the history of the British far left (ranging from 1949 to 1987), which all have answers that can be found on the internet. Please email your answers to hatfulofhistory@gmail.com. I will hold the competition open until 11:59PM on Monday 6th October (Adelaide time or +9.30 GMT). All of those who get 10 out of 10 for the answers will have their name put in a hat and one winner will be drawn on Tuesday 7 October. The answers and the winner will be posted on this blog once the winner is notified via email. The outcome of this draw will be considered final and no negotiations over answers will be entered into. Sorry, but contributors to the collection cannot enter the competition.

So here are the questions:

  1. What electoral district did Harry Pollitt contest for the Communist Party in a 1949 by-election?
  2. Stuart Hall and Ralph Samuel were both on the editors of which new left journal?
  3. Gerry Healy’s The Club was transformed into the Socialist Labour League in which year?
  4. What was the name of the anti-Vietnam War organisation that the CPGB initially supported, in rivalry with the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign?
  5. The first issue of the modern version of Black Dwarf appeared in 1968 (the ‘We Shall Fight, We Shall Win’ edition). What was its volume and issue number?
  6. In 1972, Peter Doyle, as a member of the Militant Tendency, acquired which position on the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee?
  7. What was the name of the SWP’s black activist newspaper?
  8. Which factional journal first appeared as a ‘Communist Theoretical Journal’ in the winter of 1981/82?
  9. In July 1985, Anti-Fascist Action was established by Red Action, Searchlight, the Newham Monitoring Project and several other groups in which London building?
  10. Who was the first Conservative MP to be interviewed in Marxism Today?

Once again, please email your answers by Monday 6th October to hatfulofhistory@gmail.com.

If you aren’t lucky enough to win a copy of the book, you can purchase a copy (for a slightly discounted price) here.

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Filed under Announcements, Appeals, bloggy stuff, Books, For sale

Phil BC profiles me for All That Is Solid Blog

Screen Shot 2014-09-28 at 7.08.44 pm

Every Saturday Phil BC at All That Is Solid… blog interviews a labour-y blogger person, asking a set set of questions. This Saturday Phil BC profiled me, asking me questions about blogging, academia and left-wing politics (amongst other things). You can read my very insightful answers here.

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Local legal history: A microcosm of the South Australian government’s ‘law & order’ agenda under Rann

While I was a criminal justice researcher in the public sector, I got really interested in sentencing laws in Australia and their history. This might form part of a broader paper about the pursuit of a ‘law and order’ agenda in South Australia under the 2002-2011 Rann government.

Rann

As Don Weatherburn wrote in his book Law & Order in Australia (pp. 28-32), state governments across Australia started to promote tough ‘law and order’ agendas in the 1990s and into the 2000s. Both Liberal/National and Labor governments have been keen to promote this agenda (taking inspiration from the United States and the UK). South Australia was no exception. Although South Australia had a Liberal government for most of the 1990s, it was not until the final years of the Olsen government that ‘law and order’ became a hot political issue. This delay in joining the ‘law and order; bandwagon probably owes much to the small ‘l’ liberal outlook of the Attorney General Trevor Griffin, who had been part in the position of Attorney-General (or Shadow Attoryney-General) since the late 1970s. But once Mike Rann became Labor leader in South Australia in the late 1990s, he was willing to push this ‘law and order’ agenda – a policy area where Labor had seemed weak traditionally.

Rann’s ability to promote Labor and himself as ‘tough on crime’ and in tune with the concerns of the tabloid media first pressured Griffin and the Liberal government into reforming the law concerning break and entering during a moral panic over ‘home invasions’. The Criminal Law Consolidation (Serious Criminal Trespass) Amendment Act 1999 introduced tougher penalties for break and entering offences, but also inserted into the Criminal Law (Sentencing) Act 1988 an instruction for sentencing judges that stated:

A primary policy of the criminal law is to protect the security of the lawful occupants of the home from intruders…

Once Rann’s Labor government came into power in 2002, s. 10 of the Criminal Law (Sentencing) Act 1988 was amended on several occasions to instruct sentencing judges that they needed to consider certain things before handing down their punishments to offenders. But the amendments made seem to have had little coherence and look as if they were inserted into the legislation after a particular issue became a media storm for the Rann government. For example, the Statutes Amendment(Bushfires) Act 2002 stated that in relation to bushfires and arson, the primary policy should ‘bring home to the offender the extreme gravity of the offence’ and ‘extract reparation from the offender… for harm done to the community’.

In 2005, the Statutes Amendment (Sentencing of Sex offenders) Act, among other things, inserted another primary policy into s. 10. This third primary policy of the section now stated:

A primary policy of the criminal law is to protect children from sexual predators…

There was little explanation by the Government for the reason for inserting the new primary policy concerning child sex offenders, other than the Attorney-General Michael Atkinson asserting that ‘[t]his government is tough on convicted paedophiles and pederasts’ and that it related to the State Strategic Plan’s priority about reducing crime rates (House of Assembly, Hansard, 11 April 2005: 2274). Opposition MP Vickie Chapman said that this amendment would ‘create a plethora of primary purposes’ and proposed that ‘surely it is a contradiction in terms to have more than one primary or chief purpose’ (House of Assembly, Hansard, 4 May, 2005: 2516). In the Legislative Council, Robert Lawson further declared that this amendment was ‘window dressing’ and that the Government were ‘just simply seeking to put political rhetoric into the sentencing legislation’ (Legislative Council, Hansard, 26 May, 2005: 1949).

Chapman also asked the Attorney-General whether the two prior primary purposes had had any impact upon the sentencing decisions by the courts, asking for sentencing comments which refer to these primary policies, with Atkinson stating that he only aware of one case explicitly mentioning this policy (House of Assembly, Hansard, 4 May, 2005: 2516).

Indeed when the Rann governmment tried to insert another primary policy into s. 10 in 2007, Opposition Leader Isobel Redmond questioned why the insertion of another primary policy statement was necessary, based on the impact that the three previous primary policy statements had had on sentencing. Redmond said that she had asked members of the legal community whether these primary policy statements had had any effect on sentencing and claimed that ‘each of them was at a loss to give me any precise answer’, adding:

I simply wonder how, in practice, it will make any real difference to the way these matters are dealt with when an offender is before a sentencing judge (House of Assembly, Hansard, 6 March, 2007: 1935).

By the end of the decade, s. 10 was a conglomerate of different primary policies that reflected the reflexive nature of the Rann government to public/media concern over certain ‘law and order’ issues. Before these primary policies were removed from the legislation in 2012-13, the primary policies of s. 10 read:

(1b) A primary policy of the criminal law is to protect the safety of the community.
(2) A primary policy of the criminal law is to protect the security of the lawful occupants of the home from intruders.
(3) A primary policy of the criminal law in relation to arson or causing a bushfire is—
(a) to bring home to the offender the extreme gravity of the offence; and
(b) to exact reparation from the offender, to the maximum extent possible under the criminal justice system, for harm done to the community…
(3a) A primary policy of the criminal law in relation to offences involving firearms is to emphasise public safety by ensuring that, in any sentence for such an offence, paramount consideration is given to the need for deterrence.
(4) A primary policy of the criminal law is to protect children from sexual predators by ensuring that, in any sentence for an offence involving sexual exploitation of a child, paramount consideration is given to the need for deterrence.

As the title of this blogpost said, this s. 10 can be seen as a microcosm of the ‘law and order’ agenda of the South Australian government under Rann. In 2012, legislation was passed by the new Jay Weatherill government  that removed the terms ‘primary policy’ from the Criminal Law (Sentencing) Act, which came into effect in March 2013. The new s. 10 now specified that in certain cases concerning serious criminal trespass, arson, child sex offences or firearms, the court had to take certain things into consideration. The new s. 10 read as:

(2) In determining the sentence for an offence, a court must give proper effect to the following:
(a) the need to protect the safety of the community;
(b) the need to protect the security of the lawful occupants of their home from intruders;
(c) in the case of an offence involving the sexual exploitation of a child—the need to protect children by ensuring that paramount consideration is given to the need for general and personal deterrence;
(d) in the case of an offence involving arson or causing a bushfire—
(i) the need to protect the community from offending of such extreme gravity by ensuring that paramount consideration is given to the need for general and personal deterrence; and
(ii) the fact that the offender should, to the maximum extent possible, make reparation for the harm done to the community by his or her offending.

As John M. Williams has argued, ‘law and order’ was central to the vision of the Rann government, seeing it as a potential vote-winner, a measure to demonstrate that the government ‘as listening’ to the public and the media and something to undermine the criticisms of the Opposition. This examination of s. 10 of the Criminal Law (Sentencing) Act and how it was subject to various amendments over the decade that Rann was in power reveal that this government tried to subvert the independence of the criminal justice system and bend the decision-making of the courts to the political will of the ruling government. As the Rann era passes into history, hopefully historians, political scientists, lawyers and criminologists will start to examine the major shifts in the South Australia’s criminal justice system since the late 1990s and determine how they fit into a wider ‘law and order’ trend amongst Australian state governments.

Photo credit: Gary Sauer-Thompson

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Filed under Australian history, Australian Labor Party, Criminal justice system, Criminology, Elections, Hansard, Law & order, Legislation, MIke Rann, Parliament, Policing history, Sentencing, South Australia, Uncategorized

Chinese students at Grunwick? An overlooked aspect of the strike

Grunwick Strike Committee Banner, designed by Jayandi and painted with Vipin Magdani, UK, 1976. NMLH.1993.604, ©People’s History Museum, Manchester, UK.

Grunwick Strike Committee Banner, designed by Jayandi and painted with Vipin Magdani, UK, 1976. NMLH.1993.604, ©People’s History Museum, Manchester, UK.

I am currently looking through the photographs I took in the archives during my recent UK trip and today have been looking through the papers of the Grunwick Strike Committee (held by the Modern Records Centre at the University of Warwick). This material will probably be used in my forthcoming book on the Communist Party of Great Britain and the politics of race.

Whilst reading these archival papers, I found two references to Chinese students being used as workers during the Grunwick strike and the query by APEX (the union in charge of the strike) as to whether the company was using this labour to break the strike. This is interesting because I had not come across this allegation before in the literature on Grunwick. The strike at Grunwick between 1976 and 1978 is probably most well-known because it brought together South Asian workers and the trade union movement really for the first time for ‘effective’ industrial action, despite the strike eventually failing. The ‘face’ of the strike was Jayaben Desai, who represented the largely South Asian and female workforce that picketed the company during the strike. We also know that a number of African-Caribbean workers (also constituting a large female contignent) were involved in the strike, but as Linda McDowell, Sundari Anitha and Ruth Pearson have recently written, they have ‘largely disappeared from the historical record’. But until now, I had not read anything about any Chinese students working at Grunwick either before or during the strike.

The first document mentioning Chinese students working at Grunwick is an internal APEX memo from one of the union’s research officers to its London Area Organiser, Len Gristey. The memo, dated 24 May, 1977, said:

On Friday 20th May I had a telephone call from Mr. Frank Douglas, who claimed to have some inside knowledge about the workings of [Grunwick Processing Laboratories]. He says at the present time, Grunwick are endeavouring to hire Chinese students from local colleges who cover their staffing requirements over the summer period. He says that he knows that Grunwick are counting firmly on having a supply of labour from this source, and urges us most strenuously to get in touch with local colleges of education, polytechnics, technicals and the like, with a view to making our position on Grunwick known, thus discouraging Chinese students from taking up employment with the company.

The second document is an internal letter, dated 7 September, 1977, from Gristey to APEX’s General Secretary, Roy Grantham, stating:

[N]one of us are able to establish anything at all concerning very recent employees who joined the company around the time of mass picketing, many of whom appear to be of Chinese or Japanese extraction. Some of these are undoubtedly students and I would therefore assume that their colleges would have checked on the question of their entering this country, but as regards those others who are not students I regret that it is impossible at this moment to secure any type of check upon them at all. The police are unable to assist in this matter because, of course, they do not know who the individuals are anyway.

These are the only two documents that I have come across that mention Chinese students at Grunwick, so I am unsure whether the matter was pursued any further than these memos. I have no idea who Frank Douglas was or what his motives were for contacting the union. Was he concerned with Grunwick’s attempts to hire labour to break the strike? Or was he concerned that the workers were Chinese?

One possible reading of the second document is a reinforcement of past prejudices within the labour movement and the suspicion that ethnic minority workers were being recruited en masse as strikebreakers. Neither document confirms that Chinese workers (students or otherwise) were employed at Grunwick and merely alleges that people of ‘Chinese or Japanese extraction’ had been working there during the strike.

It is also interesting that Gristey mentions the possibility of using the police to make enquiries into these workers at a time when relations between the labour movement and the police were very low after the violent clashes between police and picketers in the summer of 1977.

Has anyone come across any other mention of Chinese students/workers at Grunwick? The Grunwick Strike Committee used to produce a weekly newsletter. I would be interested to see if this was mentioned in it.

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Filed under Anti-racism, Archives, British 'race relations', British History, Contemporary history, Grunwick, Immigration, Intersectionality, Jayaben Desai, Racial discrimination, Strikes, Ugandan Asians

The British far left and Scottish devolution in 1979

As the referendum on Scottish independence draws ever closer, Phil BC over at ‘All That is Solid’ (formerly A Very Public Sociologist) has done an excellent job of summarising the positions of the main Trotskyist groups in Britain on Scottish independence. Furthermore, someone on the Leftist Trainspotters mailing list summarised the three possible positions taken by nearly all the far left groups in the UK on the topic:

YES: Counterfire, ISG (Scotland), SWP, SPEW, rs21 (inc. IS Scotland), SSP, RCPB-ML, Socialist Resistance, Scottish Republican Socialist Movement, Class War, Solidarity, RCG, A World to Win

NO: Workers Power, Socialist Action, CPGB-ML, AWL, Socialist Appeal, CPB-ML, Socialist Fight, CPB, Spartacist League, International Communist Current, SEP, WRP (Newsline), Communist Workers Organisation (Aurora), International Socialist League, Respect

ABSTAIN / NO LINE / OTHERS: IS Network (no line but majority for Yes), CPGB(PCC) (abstain), SLP (no position but will respect outcome of vote), SPGB (abstain), Plan C, Left Unity (no position nationally but Republican Socialist Tendency pushing for Yes), Anarchist Federation (vote yes or abstain), Spartacist League (“The referendum does not pose an issue of principle and we are not taking a stand for or against independence”)

In my discussions about this with Phil, I suggested that it would be interesting to compare the positions of the far left groups with their position on Scottish devolution back in 1979. Without going to the library to get the physical copies of the various left-wing journals from the time, I have had a quick scan of the internet and found some material on the positions of the Communist Party of Great Britain and the Socialist Workers Party. Material relating to Militant and the late 1970s International Marxist Group are hard to find on the internet!

MarxismToday-1977dec

The UNZ archive of the CPGB’s Marxism Today shows that the Communist Party did support Scottish (and Welsh) devolution and devolved parliamentary bodies, but were divided over the prospect of future Scottish independence. Firstly, like many in the radical ‘Yes’ campaign today, Willie Thompson, editor of the CP’s Scottish journal Scottish Marxist, argued in 1977 that devolution offered the possibility of breaking away from centralising influence of monopoly capitalism in Britain (emanating from London) and the possibility of establishing a socialist foothold through the proposed devolved assemblies. Bert Pearce, the CPGB’s Welsh Secretary, argued that devolution was important for the advance of socialism in Britain, but warned against Scottish or Welsh independence, writing:

To recognise the right of self-determination does not at all mean that it is always and everywhere essential or progressive to opt for the separation of each nation into its own national state. The struggle for national rights, and for progress and socialism, can effectively combine and reinforce each other within a multi-national state. In Britain it is clearly in our best interests for the rapid achievement for socialism and for the quality of society when we get it, to maintain and strengthen our unity. 

Scottish Morning Star journalist, Martin Gostwick, challenged Pearce in a 1978 issue of Marxism Today, saying that he equated ‘advancing the unity of the peoples with the continued existence of the Union of Great Britain’. Gostwick’s position was that Scottish (and Welsh) devolved governments might eventually want to assert their independence and, like Thompson, Gostwick believed that this might be the starting point for a socialist alternative to the current ‘monopoly-dominated state’. However Gostwick warned that independence could not be an immediate goal and suggested the slogan ‘independence – if, and not yet’.

Glasgow Area Secretary for the CPGB, Douglas Bain, wrote in August 1978 that the Communist Party supported devolution and acknowledged that the devolution of power might lead to a longer term push for self-government (and possible independence), but highlighted that in the forthcoming referendum, the Scottish National Party might subvert the devolution debate towards nationalist ends and stifle any attempts to implement a more socialist agenda. After the failure of the 1979 referendum, Jack Ashton, the CPGB’s Scottish Secretary, stated that the prominence of the SNP in the campaign for devolution had driven many trade unionists to vote ‘no’ or abstain from voting. Ashton also blamed Scottish Labour for isolating itself on the ‘yes’ campaign and its refusal to work with others, such as the CPGB.

MarxismToday-1978aug

In contrast to the CPGB, the Socialist Workers Party came out in favour of a possible Scottish socialist republic, offering a critical ‘yes’ vote at the referendum because the break-up of the present unionist state was necessary to challenge the capitalist status quo led from London. Taken from the Socialist Review archive, I was able to find an article on Scottish devolution and the SWP’s attitude towards the SNP. I have reproduced it below because it is difficult to link to the specific article within the archive (hopefully it is readable).

sr1-30

sr1-31

This position was different from the one put forward the Central Committee of the SWP in September 1977, where they argued in the journal International Socialism for an abstention from voting in any forthcoming referendum. The statement said:

This means that if a referendum is eventually held in Scotland and Wales we abstain. This is not a position that means ducking the arguments. Far from it. Most of the time our members in Scotland will be arguing with people who are in the ‘Yes’ camp. We will be saying to them:

‘We do not mind if you get your devolved (or independent) parliament. But don’t believe that it will improve your condition one iota. Only class struggle can do that.’

Our abstention will mark us off from the rest of the Labour movement, retreating in fear before the new reformism, without aligning us with the Unionist, British nationalist camp.

Our position will be somewhat analogous to that of our American comrades faced with a choice between Democrats and Republicans. They know that most of their workmates will vote for the bourgeois reformism of the Democrats, and have to say to them, ‘OK, vote Democrat then – and see what good it does you!’

It’s not as nice as being able to earn the applause of one side or the other – but it is a distinctive revolutionary position that will enable us to put our politics across.

I have been unable to find anything from Militant from 1979, but found a 1992 piece from Ted Grant on Scottish nationalism. The piece is interesting because it was written amidst the schism within Militant over whether the group should become a formal political organisation or remain an entrist one inside the Labour Party, with Scottish Militant Labour being the first foray by Militant into open politics. Grant opposed this move and used this piece to attack SML.

While searching the depths of the internet, I found two interesting pieces on the Encyclopaedia of Anti-Revisionism Online regarding the positions of Britain’s Maoist parties on devolution. The Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist), started by ex-CPGB member Reg Birch, opposed devolution as seen in this article. The CPB (M-L) saw devolution as part of a counter-revolutionary plot to split the working class in Britain, writing:

The British working class whether in Scotland, Wales or any other part of Britain should declare a resounding NO to devolution, or any other policies which will come in the future, aimed at dividing and weakening our class. We as Marxist-Leninists are totally opposed to divide and rule. -We have to make the ruling class’s divide and rule inoperable by our unite and liberate…

Working class unity makes it impossible for the capitalists to go on in the old way of divide and rule. Working class unity enables us to combine our tactics for defending our class with the strategy of liberating our class. Working class unity is revolutionary.

Chwyldroad nid Trosglwyddiad.

We are for REVOLUTION not DEVOLUTION.

On the other hand, the small Communist Workers Movement, a breakaway group from the CPB (M-L), supported devolution if desired, but also proposed that Scottish and Welsh workers might be better served if they remained within the UK and co-operated with the English working class. In their journal, New Age, the CWM wrote:

English communists should take on the work of convincing English working people that Wales and Scotland should have the right to leave Britain if they choose. Welsh and Scottish communists should mainly work to persuade the working people of their nations that, although they should have the right to decide whether or not to remain within the British state, they should use that right in favour of staying with the English working class in the same state.

The question of devolution back in 1979 might seem more straight forward than the referendum on Scottish independence to be held next Thursday and the disarray that the British far left has found itself in over the prospect of an independent Scotland. But looking back at these documents from the late 1970s, the British far left was far from united on the question of devolution for Scotland and Wales.To paraphrase Karl Marx, ‘once as tragedy, twice as farce’…

 

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Filed under Anti-revisionism, British far left, British History, British Road to Socialism, Britishness, Communist Party of Great Britain, Communist Workers Movement, Contemporary history, CPB (M-L), Devolution, Entryism, IS/SWP, Maoism, Marxism, Marxism Today, Marxism-Leninism, Militant/Socialist Party, Nationalism, Scotland, Sectarianism, Trotskyism

New book project: British Communism and the Politics of Race

A CPGB pamphlet from 1961

A CPGB pamphlet from 1961

I am very happy to announce that I have recently signed a contract with Brill’s Historical Materialism book series for a forthcoming book, tentatively titled The Communist Party of Great Britain and the Politics of Race, deliverable early next year. Here is a little about the proposed book:

This book examines how the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB), as a large and an influential force within the British labour movement, responded to issues of ‘race’ and immigration from the late 1940s to the early 1980s – from the era of decolonisation and large scale migration to the early days of Thatcherism and the inner-city riots. Informed by its anti-colonial activism in the inter-war period, Communist Party was an attractive option for black workers who had migrated to Britain in the late 1940s and 1950s. In this period, the Communist Party was one of the first labour organisations that campaigned against racial discrimination and against racial incitement. However its anti-racism was subsumed by the wider struggle for socialism and industrial militancy, and the labour movement, including the CPGB, was often seen as unresponsive to the needs of Britain’s migrant communities and black workers. The CPGB can be seen as a microcosm of how the British labour movement related to the issue of ‘race’ and how the centrality of class was contested by other forms of politics, informed by ‘race’, such as black power, migrants’ rights and various forms of anti-racism.

The history of the Communist Party’s relationship with black workers was the history of a squandered opportunity, one that saw a steep decline from the 1940s and 1950s, when many black activists were attracted to the Party due to its historical anti-colonial stance, to the 1980s, when the Party was in disarray and the black communities were wary of a labour movement that had for so long minimized the problems of racism that black Britons faced. At the heart of the division between the CPGB and black workers was the belief that colonialism and racism were borne out of capitalism and that anti-racism/anti-colonialism were subordinate to the dynamics of class struggle. The CPGB faced major problems in convincing white workers, including the Party’s own members, to be actively involved in the fight against racism and colonialism – how and why this occurred is the focus of this book.

The theme of how the Communist Party lost its close relationship with black workers and the potential that was squandered frames the book’s investigation, addressing a gap in the cultural history of the British left. The book demonstrates an understanding of the extra-parliamentary forces at work in social policy in Britain and an insight into how government and its critics established social policy at legislative and practical level. The book takes up the argument that while the British left, particularly the Communist Party, has not been able to usher in a socialist revolution, its role in political activism, especially in the areas of anti-racism and anti-fascism, has been significant.

The book will attempt to show how the Communist Party went from one of the most influential political parties for Britain’s migrant workers to one of relative insignificance, overshadowed by other political organisations and by other forms of political activism. It will explore how the Communist Party, as part of the wider labour movement, was traditionally a vehicle for progressive politics and how the British labour movement has historically dealt with issues of ‘race’ and the problems facing Britain’s black communities. The book will argue that the Communist Party, as well as other sections of the British left, are integral to understanding the broader history of anti-racist politics in Britain and the transition from the more abstract anti-colonial politics of the early post-war era to the domestic anti-racism of the 1970s and 1980s.

I am very excited to be contributing to this excellent series of historical and political scholarship and am very grateful for the enthusiasm that the series editors have shown for the project. My recent trip to the UK garnered some brilliant new sources for the book (particularly the material from the Indian Workers Association archive in Birmingham and the Grunwick Strike Committee papers at the University of Warwick), which makes me doubly excited… Now on with the writing!

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What have the Trotskyists ever done for us?

trot_tree2

Polly Toynbee wrote a very bizarre article for The Guardian today that a bunch of rebel Tory MPs are turning into the ‘Trotskyites of the right’. I think that Toynbee is using the term ‘Trotskyite’ as shorthand for sectarian and I find her comparison with the entrists inside the Labour Party in the 1980s unconvincing. Unlike Militant or Socialist Action in the early 1980s, I would be more inclined to argue that the Tory rebels (and possible UKIP defectors) are motivated by self-interest, rather than having a well-considered agenda. Entryism into the Labour Party for the far left was a strategic decision – these Tory rebellions seem to be merely opportunistic.

And while the Labour right and those who defected to the Social Democratic Party (such as Toynbee) might view the ‘Trotskyites’ as having ruined the electoral chances of Labour in the early 1980s, it seems weird to use the term ‘Trotskyite’ as one of abuse. Having just finished editing a collection of history of the British far left, it is clear that Trotskyists, while sectarian and uncompromising at times, have had a profound effect on British politics since the 1940s.

Here is a very quick list of areas of British politics that Trotskyists have had a significant part in:

  • Fight against Oswald Mosley’s Union Movement in late 1940s
  • Critique of Soviet Union while not (or rarely) indulging in anti-communism
  • Significant part in campaign against Vietnam War
  • Establishment of Rock Against Racism and Anti-Nazi League
  • Resistance to Thatcherite policies by Liverpool City Council in 1980s
  • Significant part in anti-Poll Tax movement
  • Leading role in Stop the War campaign

Now I’m sure we can all think of incidents where Trotskyists have behaved poorly, but we cannot dismiss their impact outright.

what-have-romans-ever-done-for-us

 

Trotsky pic from Denver Walker’s Quite Right Mr Trotsky here.

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