Fred Bunby was a member of the pre-War WIL and later the RCP. He was active in the Grant group in the 1950s but later drifted out of active politics. An obituary by Sheila Lahr appeared in Revolutionary History v7 no1.
This is the first entry in our Lost Voices series of interviews.
Interview given by Fred Bunby to Sam Bornstein on Sunday 26th March 1978 in London. Al Richardson and Bert Atkinson present.
Supplementary questions by Al Richardson and Bert Atkinson.
SB: When did you first come into the working class movement?
FB: I first joined the Labour League of Youth in Liverpool in 1935 or 1936.
SB: How old were you then?
FB: I was about 19 or 20 then.
SB: Can you tell me something of the make up of the League of Youth in those days, the kind of people who were in it and what they worked at?
FB: In those days, the Labour Party League of Youth was solidly working class. I don’t think you would find a petty-bourgeois in the Labour League of Youth then. On the other hand, the YCL was predominantly petty-bourgeois. There were hardly any workers, they were mainly Jewish, at the inception of the Popular Front period.
SB: When did you first come into contact with the Trotskyist movement?
FB: I first met Healy in 1938. He was on a visit to Liverpool and there was a Trotskyist group there of the RSL-MLL Their national leaders then were Starkey Jackson, Harber and a few others, and they had a group in Liverpool. Grainger, Kossof, and Don James – they were the older ones, and they also had about half a dozen youngsters in the Kirkdale Labour League of Youth and they were in the RSL-MLL. I never fancied them. Although I was in contact, I never formally joined them, so it wasn’t until ’38 when Healy came to Liverpool and he contacted us. We were then in the Fairfield League of Youth, the members whose names I remember were Arthur Leadbetter, Frank Foster, a couple of others and I. There were only about five of us, and Healy persuaded us to join the WIL group, although we were still on friendly terms with the young comrades in the RSL. A couple of months after the formation of the WIL in Liverpool, Healy persuaded all the youngsters in the Kirkdale League of Youth to break from the RSL and come over to us. There were seven or eight of them: Eric Brewer, Jimmy Deane, Johnny Birchall, Harry Matthews, and a couple of others whose names I can’t remember now. So, in Liverpool, we had a group of about a dozen strong in WIL, all of us youngsters, probably the oldest amongst us then would be about 22 or 23.
SB: So, in 1938, there were about a dozen people who joined the WIL group, mainly from the League of Youth, and some from the RSL. What trade union work were the people with you doing? What did they work at?