From Cradle to Grave- the Spartacist League (Britain)

One casualty of the Covid-19 pandemic has been the international Spartacist tendency. In this tightly centralised outfit, crisis and paralysis in the US section has generalised across its ‘international’ the International Communist League and publication of its flagship fortnightly Workers Vanguard and all national section papers appears to have ceased.

Little light escapes the Spartacist event horizon but it would appear that the death of founder-leader Jim Robertson in early 2019 led to a deep, and presumably still unresolved, faction fight.

This was compounded by Covid and lockdowns- a perfect storm which led to the Sparts being all but absent from the Black Lives Matter movement of 2020 publishing neither a paper nor a leaflet anywhere… Ironic given that the SL US has a strategic orientation toward the building of a Black led revolutionary party.

Of course, I do hope I am wrong and rumours of the Sparts’ demise are greatly exaggerated- after all, I have a subscription to Workers Vanguard, Workers Hammer and Spartacist with a few quid still to run.

Now, most of the historic press of the SL is already online with full runs of the early Workers Vanguard and other publications available through the MIA/ETOL’s International Communist League / Spartacist League periodicals page

We would like to bring you some British materials from the early Spartacist League, the factions from which it was initially built and responses to it from opponents.

Some of this was very briefly covered at Red Mole Rising and we will recap below.

 Spartacist Britain no1 for April 1978 reports the formation of the Spartacist League (Britain) through the winning of a group, the Trotskyist Faction, from the Workers Socialist League. A second group from the same source, the Leninist Faction, was to follow.

These fused with a pre-existing nucleus of non-native cadres, the London Spartacist Group. We have just two items under the name of the LSG.

In line with the Spartacist policy of winning splits from other revolutionary organisations the first is a detailed leaflet or bulletin aimed at the International-Communist League (Matgamna group).

A second from the same period is an intervention into the WSL sponsored Campaign for Democracy in the Labour Movement.

Both are from October 1977.

We have both a programmatic document of the WSL Leninist Faction and a political response to the faction in the WSL Internal Discussion Bulletin (written by our friend J Plant.)

We also have this fascinating and scathing document by one of the defectors to the Spartacist League who quickly broke with them.

Later the WSL Published the substantial pamphlet Spartacist Truth Kit.

A couple of years later the same scenario was to be played out again- this time in the International Marxist Group and centred on the West Midlands where a number of long-standing cadres were won to Spartacist positions and organised first the Communist Tendency and then the Communist Faction.

Matters came to a head with the expulsion of this group early in 1981.

We present here the IMG Political Committee Dossier from May 1981 which deals in detail with the events leading up to the expulsion.

The Spartacist league’s own take on events, under the headings of “Revolutionary regroupment” and “Purge in the IMG”  can be found in Spartacist Britain no 33

A few Spartacist League (Britain) items from the late 1970s and early 1980s may be of interest to readers:

First up a Student Spartacist bulletin from the LSE, March 1981 and a flyer for Spartacist Society class series to be held at the LSE and North London Poly.

Several leaflets were billed as supplements to Spartacist Britain.

Here you will find ones covering the 1979 election of Thatcher, miners strike 1981 and the Falklands war.

Several others target the left in general or specific groups eg this one on Poland and the TKP (a link to the later CPGB Leninist faction I think…),

This one aimed at Ernest Mandel from 1981,

One on resignations from the SWP in 1979

And a meeting on how the left failed Derry in 1968

There are plenty more like this in the folder below…

LONDON SPARTACIST GROUP archive

SPARTACIST LEAGUE BRITAIN Leaflets and Bulletins archive

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