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Splits and Fusions- an archive of Trotskyist publications in Britain

This is the post excerpt.

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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”

IS and the turn to Democratic Centralism

imagesWe are pleased to host John Rudge’s comprehensive account of the 1968 IS conference which you may download here:

PDF format

ePub format

Mobi format

John writes: “Following the recent online publication of my account of the 1968 debates within IS that led to “the turn to Democratic Centralism”, I have had requests to produce a “user-friendly” version. People also wanted to be able to navigate across the text. The question was, how to do it?

My friends at “Splits and Fusions” immediately stepped up to the plate and offered their services.

I am immensely grateful to Rob Marsden and Keith Sinclair of “Splits and Fusions” for their hosting of this piece of IS history. James Bowen is the driving force behind the production of this “user-friendly” and navigable document – without him it would never have happened. Thanks.

 We all hope that the research will not only clarify history, but also provide some lessons for today.”

The Intervention Collective

Intervention fAccording to a participant, Paul Hoggett, the Intervention Collective was “a free wheeling Marxist discussion forum led by a very thoughtful self taught intellectual, Ken Tarbuck who had rejected orthodox communism back in  the 1930s”

Like Paul, members “had been in various Trotskyist sects during the 1970s”
The collective put out a magazine, Intervention. We have three issues (below) and a fourth (and maybe more) was at least planned if not published.
Additionally, there was a substantial Intervention Discussion Bulletin of which we have nos 1, 7 and 8 plus a supplement to no 8. The last page of no 8 ends abruptly but we have two idenctial issues, both with the same fault so perhaps the last page was always missing!
A second bulletin Intercorr appears to be more ‘internal’. The ‘special’ for November 1978 reprints a Socialist Charter discussion piece and then has Intervention commentary on it.
Intercorr Volume 3 no5 for April 1980 is a scrappier affair including a resignation letter and a schedule for an Intervention / Chartist day school on Ireland which also appears to have involved Big Flame.
Discussions with the Socialist Charter group would appear to have been a significant focus of the Intervention Collectives work…

 

The Marxist Worker Group

As a young lad growing up in Chorley I spent the hot summer of 1976 lighting fires and playing with ladybirds, little knowing that just a few miles from my door interesting developments were taking place on the far left…

Beyond a brief Wikipedia outline little remains of the Marxist Worker Group online so we are delighted to be able to publish this account by a participant, Neil Duffield.

Marxist Worker Group – my own recollections

My partner, Eileen Murphy, and myself moved to Bolton in 1971. In the same year I joined the local branch of the International Socialists (later to become the SWP). I knew very little about far left politics and even less about Marxist theory, but having grown up in a South Yorkshire pit village I’d always considered myself a socialist.

A man called Andrew Hornung belonged to the branch and acted as a sort of mentor to those of us like myself who were more or less starting from scratch. But not long after I joined, and to my great surprise, we were told one day that the entire Bolton branch had been expelled. Apparently Andrew had been part of a faction within IS, led by Sean Magamna. I didn’t know what they stood for or the nature of their differences with the IS leadership. But it seemed the rest of us had no choice – we’d been kicked out.

Following that, Andrew moved to London and, along with Magamna and others formed Workers Fight. The remainder of the old IS branch drifted off in different directions. Only one or two of us, including myself, opted to join Workers Fight.  But we worked hard and were soon joined by several others, campaigning around issues such as abortion and contraception, equal pay for women, Thatcher’s ‘Fair Rents’ act (we helped organise a rent strike of council tenants), Ireland, the Shrewsbury pickets, and were centrally involved in the fight against racism and the National Front, helping to form an active Bolton Anti-Fascist Committee.

But it wasn’t long before things started to go awry. Locally we’d grown to around a dozen active members. At least half were women, most of whom were centrally involved in the Bolton Women’s Liberation Group. And several of us had young children. As a group we strove to take on board both the demands and the ethos of the women’s liberation movement, organising child care at our meetings amongst other things, and pressing Workers Fight as a whole to do the same. But the leadership of Workers Fight refused to take this on board, insisting that family life and child care must come second to ‘revolutionary activity’. For her vociferous stand for women’s rights within the organisation, Eileen Murphy was eventually expelled. The rest of us resigned in solidarity.

But by this time we were a larger group and had established a strong presence in the local trade union movement and various campaigns. We decided to form our own group – the Marxist Worker Group. Not with the aim of becoming yet another ‘future revolutionary party’, but basically to educate ourselves in the history and theory of socialism and to look for a chance to unite with other groups at some point in the future.

Throughout this period there had been a small IMG group in Bolton consisting of one or two comrades. I don’t know the details of what happened but somewhere along the line they became the Revolutionary Marxist Current (a national break-away from the IMG). We’d worked with the local comrades over a number of years and proposed a series of talks with the possible aim of joining into one organisation. The talks turned out to be longer and more protracted than we’d expected and, for a variety of reasons, eventually foundered.

We carried on as MWG for another few years. As part of the work we did in local campaigns we stood as candidates in the local elections – first as Troops Out candidates and later as Anti-Fascist candidates in wards where the NF were standing.

It must have been around the late seventies when the IMG nationally put out a call for Socialist Unity and invited organisations like ourselves to talks towards that end. We responded and eventually joined (I suspect we were the only organisation to do so), agreeing to the condition that we would join as individual members rather than as an organised group. Once again we stood in local elections – this time as Socialist Unity candidates.

Socialist Unity

I think we felt we’d achieved as much as we could as a small local group and that we’d managed to learn a great deal through our process of self-education.

We’d joined the IMG in good faith and remained in it for several years but after expressing our disagreements over a number of issues and practices, we eventually found ourselves being accused of ‘entryism’. Eventually, one by one, demoralised and disillusioned, we gradually drifted out of the IMG.

Most of us continued to work as activists in women’s groups, the trade unions and various campaigns. And many of us still do, and still consider ourselves socialists, though I suspect hardly any belong to current far-left organisations.

During the four or five years of the Marxist Worker Group’s existence, there were probably around twenty to twenty five members – about a dozen at any one point in time. Most of us lived in and around Bolton, where the majority of our activity was focussed.

Neil Duffield

2018

Splits&Fusions now plans an archaeological expedition to the north, in the hope of uncovering issues of the Marxist Worker magazine…

Fight Racism Fight Imperialism- The RCG

frfibanner

1988. One of the first things this aspiring lefty student did, upon arrival in Lancaster, was look for suitable attire. So, I soon kitted myself out in a couple of t-shirts bought from Single Step- the local wholefood co-op. One was a rather nice Nicaragua solidarity Sandino t-shirt, the other had a simple constructivist design of circles and wedges and the words “Fight Racism, Fight Imperialism”. I wore it for months, little realising that rather than simply being a neat slogan, it was actually the title of a newspaper published by the Revolutionary Communist Group

As we have mentioned before, our definition of Trotskyism, for the purposes of this Blog, is quite elastic and we include the RCG here on the basis of its origins- as a faction within the International Socialists in the mid-1970s. That said, as evidenced by the papers and journals presented here, the RCG evolved rapidly away from Trotskyism towards a form of third-world Marxism or Marxism-Leninism (in the process throwing off the group which would become the Revolutionary Communist Tendency / Revolutionary Communist Party)

We present here the nine issues of the RCG journal Revolutionary Communist and an ongoing collection of the newspaper Fight Racism Fight Imperialism (around 45 issues added so far). Issue 1 appeared as an A4 bulletin but thereafter it was a 12 or 16 page tabloid which continues to this day.

Also we have a collection of Irish materials including two issues of the Hands Off Ireland bulletin which was later incorporated into the newspaper.

Then we have a file of miscellaneous bulletins, pamphlets and leaflets including a pamphlet from the Viraj Mendis Defence Campaign with which the RDG was intimately involved.

REVOLUTIONARY COMMUNIST GROUP ARCHIVE

We are particularly interested in acquiring / loaning further issues of FRFI…

RCG_logo

The third man- a personal query

Reagular readers will forgive me for using this blog to pursue a personal query, only tangentally related to the Splits and Fusions project, and for asking their help.

For many years, since first reading Martin Upham’s history of British Trotskyism I have been both intrigued and perturbed by a reference in chapter seven on the Youth Militant and Labour League of Youth.

Footnote 49 reads: “Willis, Harry Rigg and Alec Bernstein spoke for the Advance majority deploring the “treasonable role of the Barcelona insurgents”, Advance (June 1937), Youth Militant (June 1937). “

Now, it is easy to identify Ted Willis and a bit of digging identifies Alec Bernstein but of Harry Rigg there is no record.

The reason this interests me is simply that I had a great uncle by the name of Harry Rigg and it is only quite recently, with access to free genealogical databases, that it occurred to me that “Harry Rigg” is probably not as common a name as I had assumed and that ‘my’ Harry would have been around the right age (20 years old) to have been in the LLOY in 1937.

And that is as much as I know. I have no other reason whatsoever to believe he was involved in the LP, the CP or, indeed, interested in politics at all.

I never met Harry that I know of and now he, and his siblings (of which there were many) are all dead. I did, however, make a point of going to his funeral a little over ten years ago.

So, what I really would like to know is whether anyone has access to Youth Militant Vol2 No5 June 1937 and / or Advance June 1937 and whether either of these identify Harry’s LLOY branch.

Lancashire, more specifically Chorley, would clinch it.

Or perhaps LLOY membership records still reside in an archive somewhere…?

What I do know of the later life of ‘my’ Harry is that he joined the RAF as a gunner on bomber planes during World War 2. After the war he lived openly as a gay man at least from the 1960s and he worked in the music industry- as a promoter or talent scout of some sort. He was probably based in the north-west- Manchester / Stockport area.

Trotskyist Organization of the United States

TruthThere does not appear ever to have been a British group of followers of the Hungarian Trotskyist Michel Varga (Balasz Nagy) but we do have a small collection of documents from the Trotskyist Organization of the United States.

The somewhat complex origins of the TOUS, in two factions expelled from the US SWP in the early 1970s are outlined here.

The group was an affiliate of the Vargaite International League for the Reconstruction of the Fourth International– later referring to itself as he Fourth International (rebuilt) or simply the Fourth International.

The ILRCFI split in 1984, expelling its leader who went on to form the Group of Opposition and Continuity of the Fourth International. The TOUS remained with the International League.

The TOUS produced a newspaper- The Truth– of which we have seven issues and a duplicated magazine The Fourth International of which we have five.

We also have a late 1980s Manifesto of this version of the Fourth International which must be a contender for most typos per square inch…

For good measure, in our VARGAITE ARCHIVE you will also find a couple of isues of their Swedish section’s paper Proletar Offensiv and a copy of International Young Guard- their youth paper…