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Splits and Fusions- an archive of Trotskyist, Communist and related publications in Britain

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). Additional areas of interest include Left and Council Communists, Libertarian Socialists and Class Struggle Anarchists particularly those deriving from or moving towards Trotskyism.

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, Communist and related publications in Britain”

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The Green Machine by Frank Ridley- the first Trotskyist sci-fi novel?

Welcome to the Splits & Fusions Book Club!

An odd novel, obviously written by an intelligent man who had very little scientific background. It is original in idea, yet amateurish in presentation, at times edging into eccentricity…”

The Green Machine was a science-fiction novel written by FA Ridley in 1926.

Long out of print, it sits somewhere between Jules Verne and Edgar Rice Burroughs in its description of a voyage to Mars and the civilization encountered there…

Ridley, a prominent socialist, secularist and Hyde Park speaker, was later to found the Marxian League in 1929- a group close to but not wholly associated with Trotskyism. Perhaps in a parallel universe this group would have become the British Section of the International Left Opposition rather than the later Balham Group…

The Green Machine does not appear amongst Ridley’s works on the Marxists Internet Archive but an interesting much later essay on the theme of science fiction does…

THE GREEN MACHINE Chapter 1: The Strange Narrative Of Jinks

I will put up subsequent chapters on an almost regular basis.

The “Young Communist Action Group” and the Voice Of Labour- joke or provocation?

We’ve all sent off money for subscriptions and then had to endure a long wait. Pity those who, having sent 4 one-penny stamps for a subscription to the Voice Of Labour, journal of the Left Fraction, are still waiting over 70 years later…

It was at the beginning of October 1948 that a group (or individual) styling itself the Young Communist Action Group sent out a “Draft Programme for Workers Control” to branches of the National Union Of Teachers.

The document reads like a satire or an ultra-left parody and at least two were returned to the given address- one with WHAT TRIPE! scrawled across it in red teachers’ crayon from Shoreditch School and another with sarcastic comments pencilled on the reverse.

Very quickly (8th October) Harry Pollitt, secretary of the Communist Party, penned a short letter or press release (probably in the Daily Worker) saying the YCAG had nothing to do with the CP or YCL.

A few days later the Daily Mail declared that teachers all over the country were protesting against a “Communist propaganda circular”. Communist sympathisers in the NUT were blamed for obtaining an out-of-date list of NUT secretaries.

The Mail apparently spoke to one of the two people named on the leaflet as distributors reporting, “Mr Selby, a 35 year old hairdresser, said last night: I know nothing of this leaflet and neither does my colleague Mr Mercer.”

However, many recipients took it seriously enough to respond to the request to send stamps to Messrs Mercer and Selby, 424, St Georges Road, Glasgow in the hope of receiving copies of Voice of Labour and / or further information about the probably fictitious YCAG.

We have over 30 such letters, some with stamps still attached, many on school or NUT official stationery. It would seem there really was a thirst for a militant programme of action within the NUT rank and file and branch officials at the time and this fake one struck a chord!

We also have one terse letter asking for no further communication and three strongly worded repudiations of the document and communism or socialism in general. Two of these, from London RC schools are handwritten but use identical forms of words…

One letter from an NUT member sought clarification as to whether it was a joke having astutely noted his copy came from an East London address whereas the VOL address was Glasgow. (NB the returned copy from Shoreditch also bore an E1 postcode)

Another letter from Lancaster Young Conservatives requested copies for their library if it was not a ‘leg-pull’.

But of course it WAS a leg-pull and upon learning of the hoax the comrades of the Left Fraction went into hyper-drive.

Tom Mercer wrote to all respondents repudiating the ‘Draft programme’. He pointed out that Voice Of Labour was sold exclusively to Labour party members and asked correspondents to clarify their membership with him.

At the same time letters were sent to the NUT and its journal The Schoolmaster denying all knowledge of the YCAG.

The NUT duly responded by letter on 19th October and the 21st October 1948 issue of the Schoolmaster carried a front page article on the YCAG affair and a ‘firm reply’ from the NUT Executive.

However, despite LF / VOL protestations the Schoolmaster article says it has no way of knowing if the document is a forgery as the VOL had already “set out a draft programme very similar to that set out in the document”

The paper then continued with detailed minutes of the NUT Executive meeting and reproduced the YCAG circular in its entirety- again with Mercer and Selby’s address.

In the same issue of that journal another letter from Harry Pollitt re-stated his denial that this was anything to do with the CP.

And there the matter might have ended were it not for the fact that few weeks later, on 11th November a letter to the Schoolmaster by one A. Cox of 498, Fulham Road, London again publicised “Voice Of Labour”. We do not have a copy of this letter or the issue of Schoolmaster (can anyone help with this).

This prompted another letter (probably from Tom Mercer) setting the record straight and investigations by the Left Fraction comrades which demonstrated that there was no Mr Cox residing at the given address…

A month later Mercer was moved to send yet another letter complaining they were still being plagued by enquiries from (non-LP) NUT members.

So, what do we actually have here? A practical joke? A plot to discredit CP backed candidates and officers in the NUT? A plan by the Voice Of Labour to publicise itself and build up a stock of postage stamps?

We can certainly discount the latter as they then went to great effort to deny subscriptions to any but proven LP members!

But why then would an anti-communist plot to undermine the relatively significant ‘threat’ of the CP also attempt to draw in or implicate such an obscure and secretive grouping as the LF?

We would welcome readers thoughts in the comments below.

LEFT FRACTION file noU2 Correspondence arising out of the circular of the young Communist Action group to members of the NUT

Further googling of “Young Communist Action Group” throws up some tantalising snippets.

There is a brief mention in Hansard and a reference in the Catholic Herald to another, different, leaflet a few months later calling for support for specific Communist candidates in the NUT.

The CP believed it to be a hoax- the work of people out to discredit the CP, as evidenced by the subsequent failure of CP candidates in the NUT elections- and called for an official NUT enquiry.

The Australian magazine The Social Creditor also discussed the issue adding a few additional references (back page)…

Personally I am tempted to refer back to the letter from Lancaster Young Conservatives. Were they in the know? Who ‘placed before them’ the YCAG leaflet and why otherwise might they have sought copies of VOL and contact with the Left Fraction?

Coming out of our caves- the joy that was Melancholic Troglodytes

Here at Splits & Fusions we like to bring you the obscure and the unusual. So, to round off a weird year we bring you one of the strangest publications to come out of the late 1980s left-communist scene.

Melancholic Troglodytes was a dual language (English and Persian) magazine which ran for at least seven issues between 1996 and 2005.

Each issue was ‘lavishly illustrated’ and I remember at the time not understanding a word of what I was reading but enjoying looking at the pictures all the same.

We believe the originators of this ground-breaking journal to have been part of the loose collective which produced the Red Menace newsletter around 1989- another publication well worth a read.

We had the first four issues of MT:

Melancholic Troglodytes no1 1996

Melancholic Troglodytes no2 Jan 1998– Star Trek stuff

Melancholic Troglodytes no2.5 Autumn 1999– More Star Trek, and cinema

(Was there a number 3?)

and Melancholic Troglodytes no4 Spring 2001– Psychology and Class Struggle

Then John E went and put a spanner in the works by producing a copy of Melancholic Troglodytes no7 from May 2005 (Godfathers of Levant) so, naturally we will not rest until we have seen issues 5 and 6…

In 2003 Melancholic Troglodytes guest edited an issue of the Annual Review of Critical Psychology no3 on Anti Capitalism

(The ARCP is usually a vehicle for the middle-class musings of our good friend and comrade Ian Parker…)

MELANCHOLIC TROGLODYTES Archive

Little else is known of this mysterious group but it is rumoured that they were last seen heading north to build ziggurats in Scotland….

The Revolutionary Internationalist Movement and its supporters in Britain

This post is dedicated to Ross Longhurst / Harry Powell, perhaps one of Britains last remaining active Maoists, who died recently. I didn’t know Ross but our paths crossed on a few occasions and I looked forward to buying his Revolutionary Praxis pamphlets each year at Tolpuddle.

As a student in the late 80’s one of the delights of going to London demos was the opportunity to pick up a copy of Conquer the World the magazine of the British “RIM supps.” that is supporters of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist international aligned to the Communist Party of Peru (Sendero Luminosa).

Eventually that group appears to have split giving rise to the Revolutionary Vanguard with its paper Red Rebel.

We have no copies of Conquer The World (yet!) but we do have Red Rebel issue 3 “Justice is a streetfighter- Double-justice is a streetfighting woman!”

This issue also incorporates Bullets, a theoretical supplement with a critique of Trotskyism.

The Revolutionary Internationalist Movement itself had been formed in 1984 and amongst the signatories to its founding declaration we find the Stockport Communist Group (founded 1980 by the former secretary of the Revolutionary Communist League of Britain) and the Nottingham Communist Group- of which Harry Powell was a leading member.

And we also have a single issue of Red Star the A5 pamphlet format journal of the NCG…

REVOLUTIONARY INTERNATIONALIST MOVEMENT Archive

Intercom, or The New Ultra-Left review- snapshots of a milieu

OK, Boomer!

World Revolution memorably described some of the main participants in the Intercom project- Wildcat, Subversive Graffiti and Careless Talk- as sounding like boring heavy metal bands.

We have posted about Wildcat recently, and will look in turn at the other groups in the near future, but for now we will discuss Intercom.

Intercom was a publication and a series of conferences or national meetings aimed at regrouping the councilist, libertarian communist, anarchist-communist milieu and each issue reflected the diversity of the groups this loose definition encompassed. Intercom contained discussion texts from a variety of groups and individuals and the back section of each issue was usually made up of leaflets and bulletins previously distributed by these groups.

There were seven issues of Intercom in all- if you count the pilot issue which went under the title of New Ultra-Left Review. This was issued by the Wildcat group…

The others were put together and published by different groups and collectives:

No1- Careless Talk

No2- Careless Talk

No3- Wildcat

No4- London Workers Group, London Autonomists

No5- London Intercom group – we recommend the detailed discussions in this issue in the future of the project and the possibilities of a national regroupment.

No6- Clydeside Anarchists

The tiny groups and publications involved may be light years away, politically, from the core of this Blog, which has focused on the larger and more ‘mainstream’ groups of the far-left but publications like Intercom give a snapshot of what was going on around the fringes of the movement in the early 1980s and through the period of the Miners’ strike.

NEW ULTRA-LEFT REVIEW & INTERCOM Archive


*It is just possible that the London Autonomists mentioned above is related to the Authority Collective / Kronstadt Kids who produced a similar International Discussion Bulletin a few years before. If anyone knows, let me know!

** Thanks to The Sparrows Nest for scanning issue 5. It was long missing from our collection and we didn’t realise they had a copy all along.

From BICO to COBI…

Was it Mao who said “Teach the cadres to tidy their attics”? Well, if not, he should have, as I have just unearthed three copies of the duplicated magazine The Communist – issues 25 and 27 from 1969 published by the ICO and issue 34 from 1970 by which time it was the theoretical journal of the Communist Workers Organisation. This was the British section of the BICO, I believe, and not to be confused with the later left-communist organisation of the same name.

We also found a copy of Engels’ Critique of the Erfurt Programme in pamphlet form from BICO.

Now… COBI

The Communist Organisation in the British Isles was founded in 1974 by dissident members of BICO.

COBI changed its name to Communist Formation in 1977 and later dissolved. Between that time it published a number of papers and pamphlets.

All COBI publications appear to have the word Proletarian in the title so we have:

Proletarian- Journal of COBI. Issue 1 is titled Programmatic Documents

Proletarian Text no1 is on the Portuguese Revolutionary Councils

Proletarian Broadsides no1 and 2 are on, respectively, the ‘crack up’ of the International Socialists and “their cuts and ours”

And Proletarian Pamphlets (A4 sized duplicated and stapled tomes) 1-3 are as follows:

Communism, The Labour Party and The left

Crisis of British Capital in two parts (issued as two pamphlets) Causes and Consequences

Parliamentarism and Communist Strategy

There is surely much more material to find…

COMMUNIST ORGANISATION IN THE BRITISH ISLES Archive

Wildcat

[UPDATE 19th December 2020– Thanks to Mark S we now have the missing issues of the Wildcat bulletin no1 and no5.]

Back to the spikier end of the left-communist milieu…

Wildcat started life as a free bulletin in the Manchester area issued by ex members of the ICC / World Revolution who left at the same time as a number of other members at the start of the 1980s, plus former members of the Manchester branch of Solidarity: For Social Revolution and a few anarchist-communists.

We have a number of copies of the bulletin plus a pamphlet which appears to date from the same period.

Some issues of this bulletin were also inserts into other publications such as News Of War And Revolution and Intercom which has helped us to pull together nos 2, 3, 4, 6 and 7 so if anyone out there should have 1 and 5 get in touch!

Wildcat Bulletin

By the mid 1980s, around the time of the Miners’ Strike, Wildcat re-launched as a newspaper. A stapled four pager at first it expanded into a printed tabloid running for ten issues in all before becoming a magazine for a further 8 issues.

We have issues 1-18 except for no5 (paper) and no16 (magazine). No 16 exists at the Sparrows Nest and we have asked our friends there if they would scan it in the near future.

Wildcat newspaper and magazine

Having merged with the Staffordshire based Careless Talk collective (of which more later) Wildcat went on to have groups in Manchester, Nottingham and London (info from the ever useful LibCom site)

Wildcat also produced a number of very interesting pamphlets, most of which we have:

Class War On The Home Front– the Anti-Parliamentary Communist Federation

How Socialist Is The SWP?

Capitalism And Its Revolutionary Destruction

Open Letter to Comrade Lenin (Gorter)

Outside And Against The Unions

Leninism or Communism?

And finally we have this 25 page Wildcat internal discussion article on Ireland…. From Imperialist War to Class War from 1986.

In 1987 Wildcat split (or dissolved itself) with some of its Manchester members forming Subversion and the London group continuing to produce Wildcat as a magazine with new and distinctive ‘anti-democracy’ and later primitivist politics.

With the later decline and disintegration of the group many of its members went onto other projects, some of which we will chronicle at Splits&Fusions as materials become available.

WILDCAT Archive

The Irish Communist Group, ICO and BICO…

We previously looked at the Trotskyist Irish Workers Group of Gery Lawless which came out of a split in the Irish Communist Group.

We can now bring you some of the documents from the 1965 conference which led to the split into a broadly Trotskyist and loosely Maoist organisations- the latter then styling itself the Irish Communist Organisation.

IRISH COMMUNIST GROUP Conference Documents

The Irish Communist Organisation later became the British & Irish Communist Organisation (BICO) and its complex history is set out in excruciating detail in this Wikipedia article.

Along the way, BICO gave rise to a number of splits including the Cork Workers Club and the Communist Organisation of the British Isles (COBI) both of which left in 1974 although on completely different political trajectories. We hope to look at each of these groups in the near future.

Although a very prolific organisation with a number of regular publications and pamphlets, we only have a couple of BICO items to bring you at the moment- one issue (no17) of the journal Problems Of Communism with articles on Stalinism and on socialism and democracy and a pamphlet on Bukharin.

Hopefully one day we will manage to add a few more items to our

BICO Archive

News Of War And Revolution

We previously mentioned the ructions in the International Communist Current and its British section World Revolution in the early 1980s. Linked in part to the so-called Chenier affair, a number of groups or individuals detached themselves from the ICC at that time. The first few issues of Communist Bulletin give some detail and back ground both to these events and to the process of recomposition which followed.

One of the groups which came out of this was News Of War And Revolution. Presumably Leicester based (from their correspondence address) [UPDATE: A reference in World Revolution gives their location as being Northampton] they published at least four issues of a duplicated and stapled magazine from July 1981 to January of the following year.

We have the four issues issues here.

World Revolution published a short polemic with this group, which it characterised as an irresponsible split, in issue 42 September 1981…

We also found a January 1982 piece in Socialist Standard, paper of the Socialist Party of Great Britain, which manages to criticise both the ICC and NOWAR in equal measure…

NOWAR appears to have been a short lived group but its supporters were active in regroupment and discussion projects such as Intercom (of which more later…) and the last issue incorporated leaflets from other groups- Wildcat and Solidarity.

NEWS OF WAR AND REVOLUTION Archive

A quick look at Maoism in Britain- the CPB(M-L)

Maoism (or Marxism-Leninism or Anti-Revisionism) never had anywhere near the level of following in Britain that it enjoyed in parts of continental Europe or North America.

The Marxist Internet Archive’s Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism Online (EROL) is a very detailed and useful resource and the sections covering Britain have many interesting documents, journals and leaflets.

To these we can add a number of pamphlets issued by the largest of the British Maoist groups of the 1960s and 1970s, the Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist).

The CPB(M-L) was formed in 1968 by Reg Birch as a pro-China split from the CPGB. A decade later it switched its allegiance to Albania.

The Party was (and remains) notable for its workerist and nationalist positions- expressed in its fortnightly tabloid paper The Worker (continued by the magazine Workers)

We don’t currently have any issues of The Worker but we do have a collection of some 15 CPB(M-L) pamphlets.

Many of the pamphlets are simply and clearly written and include graphs and statistics. They include agitational pamphlets in defence of health, education and student grants as well as more theoretical discussions of food production and economic self-sufficiency, opposition to devolution and support for Irish freedom.

The CPB(M-L) also produced cheap, duplicated and stapled, reprints of classic texts. This edition of Marx’s Wage Labour And Capital is similar in style to the Moscow and Peking editions of Marx’s works.

We have also unearthed one issue of a CPB(M-L) student publication. Bolshevik vol2 no1 is the duplicated magazine of Brighton University’s Marxist Leninist Society…

COMMUNIST PARTY OF BRITAIN (MARXIST-LENINIST) Archive

Thanks to Andrew M and to Ebay for providing most of these items!