Review of ‘Revolutionary Communist at Work: A Political Biography of Bert Ramelson’


My review of Revolutionary Communist at Work: A Political Biography of Bert Ramelson by Roger Seifert and Tom Sibley has just been posted online at the IHR’s Reviews in History site here. Ramelson was the Communist Party of Great Britain’s Industrial Organiser in the late 1960s and early 1970s as the trade union movement underwent a massive campaign of industrial militancy. The role of the CPGB within the movement at this time has been highly debated ever since. Seifert and Sibley’s book is an attempt to reassess the industrial strategy of the CPGB, through the lens of the life of Ramelson who has become a controversial figure in the historiography of the Party.

I state in the conclusion to my review:

This biography oscillates between some very good historical details of Ramelson’s role in the Communist Party between the 1940s and the 1980s and some very grandiose rhetorical flourishes about the importance of the class struggle and the revolutionary outlook of the CPGB. Its use of Ramelson’s personal papers, interviews with leading CPGB activists and other primary source materials makes it definitely worth reading for those interested in the history of the Communist Party, and modern British labour history more generally, but some readers may be frustrated by the particular language used, as well as some of the claims made, by the authors.

The great thing about Reviews in History is that it offers the opportunity for the authors to reply to the review and below my review, you can read the response by Seifert and Sibley. It is fair to say that we disagree over a number of things.

Readers might also be in reading a debate between Ian Birchall, Peter Waterman and Seifert and Sibley over at the blog of the London Socialist Historians Group here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

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