This is the post excerpt.
Welcome to Splits&Fusions.
Here we will showcase documents from the various tendencies of what can broadly be described as the Trotskyist movement in Britain (with a nod to Irish, US and other publications in the English language).
In most cases items will be presented without much in the way of editorial, beyond a brief (and hopefully factual) description of the group. Continue reading “Splits and Fusions- an archive of Trotskyist publications in Britain”
An outline of the Left Fraction which existed within the Revolutionary Socialist League from the 1940s can be found on Wikipedia whilst a more detailed, but partisan, account was written by a key participant- Harry Selby- in 1964.
What neither source mention is that in the early 1940s the Left Fraction also styled itself the Leninist Fraction.
We have two issues of “The Organ of the Leninist Fraction of the British Section of the Fourth International”. From April 1942 and January 1943, respectively, each is a substantial duplicated bulletin taking up key questions around issues such as Democratic Centralism and the so-called American Military Policy.
We will return to the Left Fraction in the future with a more substantial collection of documents…
When the Workers International League split from the Militant Group in 1937 it began publication of the theoretical magazine Workers International News whilst supporters in the Paddington Labour League of Youth produced a duplicated paper Searchlight.
Searchlight soon gave way to a a national youth paper- Youth For Socialism as a tool for intervention in the LLOY, heavily focussed on combating the influence of the Stalinist ‘Advance’ faction.
We have 28 issues of YFS in our archive covering the period September 1938 to May 1941.
The paper appeared in several formats – as both a magazine and as a printed tabloid paper- 4 or 6 pages.
Earlier issues are notable for their wonderful cartoons, some of which are reproduced here.
Whilst many of the issues are in excellent condition, some are in very poor condition and the paper crubles to the touch. We have scanned them all- including volume 1 issue 10 for June 1939 of which only the top half of each of the six pages remains!
Not to be confused with Hugo Oehlers group in the US, the British RWL was a short lived split from the Revolutionary Socialist League following the RSL conference in 1939. The details of the split and evolution of the group can be found in Bornstein and Richardson’s “War and the International” pages 35 -39 but essentially it was the section of the RSL membership which wished to continue doing ‘open’ work rather then entrism as the Militant Group / Militant Labour League.
At first it considered itself the ‘true’ RSL and kept both that name and the publication Workers Fight before adopting the name Revolutionary Workers League.
The group was short lived and most of its membership ended up in the Workers International League by the end of 1940.
The copies of Workers Fight we have do present something of a mystery as there are two “New series no2”- one a duplicated paper from December 1939 and the other a printed paper from January 1940 whilst there is also a printed paper from late December!
In addition to the three pamphlets under the RWL imprint, the RSL pamphlet Alibi-Arms for Spain was also published by this group.
ADDENDUM: During scanning of early 1980s Socialist Organiser we found this short obituary of veteran Trotskyist Bert Atkinson. Bert was one of a number of CP members who were expelled and joined the RWL before ending up in the WIL.
We have just finished scanning a couple of hundred copies of Socialist Organiser starting with the un-numbered October 1978 issue, which we think may be the first issue, and issues for January and April 1979. Our first numbered issue is no12 for October 1979.
The main run is then nearly complete from issue 20 June 1980 through to issue 200 in October 1984.
At the outset the paper is a broad vehicle of the Labour left around the Socialist Campaign for a Labour Victory and as such it regularly featured articles from leading figures on the left- Tony Benn, Dennis Skinner, Jeremy Corbyn, Jon Lansman and the CLPD as well as the Workers Fight / International-Communist League, the Chartist Tendency and others.
From issue 45 July 1981 the paper went weekly as the I-CL fused with the ‘old’ WSL to create the ‘new’ WSL and the WSL paper Socialist Press merged into Socialist Organiser. The paper did, however, maintain its broad character.
SO is essential reading for both its coverage of the debates on the Labour left and the witch-hunt of socialists and of the struggles in industry, particularly the car-plants at Cowley and Longbridge but also more generally.
Our run finishes in late 1984 at the height of the Miners Strike and at around the time the WSL split again- with the Thornett / Lister ‘old’ WSL and a substantial group originally from the Matgamna I-CL forming the Socialist Group – a slightly complicated tale which we hope, eventually, to tell.
Socialist Organiser continued for at least another decade as the paper of the Socialist Organiser Alliance and later the Alliance for Workers Liberty.
If any reader has papers from this later period, we would be happy to take them off their hands and give them a good home online…
It is always a pleasure to uncover a group about which, it seems, nothing previously has been written.
One such is the Revolutionary Marxist Group which appeared to have a presence in London and Birmingham, at least, in the late 1960’s. The RMG shares its name with both the Irish and Canadian USFI sections at the time but it does not appear to be linked in any way to them.
From the evidence of the five issues of its “Worker-Student Bullet-In” (sic) which we have, the RMG was primarily made up of Black (Afro-Caribbean?) members.
Politically, it seems to have been aligned, unofficially perhaps, with the Pablo tendency. Thus issue 6 reprints a Czech workers self-managment manifesto and issue 7 articles on self-management in Algeria.
Other pamphlets and texts by Pablo were available from the group’s address.
Our ARCHIVE has issues 3 to 7 of the Worker-Student Bullet-In.
Does ayone have any further issues or information on this fascinating group?
MILITANT GROUP ARCHIVE
1935- A group of former members of CLR James’ Marxist group left the ILP and entered the Labour Party, working primarily in the Labour League of Youth.
The clandestine group, including Denzil Harber, Roma Dewar and Charlie Van Gelderen, was known internally as the Bolshevik Leninist Group and began publication of a paper “Youth Militant”.
In 1937 saw the publication of “Militant” and adoption of the name Militant Group.
In November of that year, the Militant Labour League was lauched as a more ‘open’ organisation with the aim of creating a mass ‘centrist’ current around the Militant newspaper. This project does not appear to have been a great success, attracting few forces beyond the Trotskyist core*
Following a split (which formed the Workers International League) the Militant Group, along with remnants of the Marxist League and the Revolutionary Socialist Party fused to form the Revolutionary Socialist League with ‘Militant’ continuing to appear as the organ of the Militant Labour League.
In 1944, the RSL fused with the WIL to create the Revolutionary Communist Party. An entry faction around Van Gelderen remained in the Labour Party at this time and revived both the name Militant Group and the publication Militant.
*However, some evidence for an independent life of at least some MLL Branches may be adduced from this publication of a Workers Songbook by the Leed branch…
Following our publication of the Communist Party’s ‘report’ on Trotskyism in Britain Evan Smith has kindly scanned a copy of Betty Reid’s Ultraleftism in Britain a polemical pamphlet from 1969 which covers similar ground.
If any comrades can point us towards some of the responses to this pamphlet, we would be grateful. The SLL at least are supposed to have published a review…