In our survey of what can loosely be described as the Oehlerite tradition in Britain mention was made of Joe Thomas and Dennis Levin leaving the ILP to form a group called the Workers League in the early 1950s.
We are pleased now to be able to bring you a very substantial collection of Workers League materials- principally some 160 issues of the Workers News Bulletin (probably about half of the number published in total between 1954 and 1960), along with three different versions of the Workers League’s flagship publication the Draft Manifesto for a New Workers Party, and a few interesting leaflets… The leaflets include an interesting flyer calling a protest meeting over Hungary and then a similar flyer subsequently calling it off…
The Workers League emerged in 1954 at a time when the Trotskyist groupings- Healy’s Club and a smaller group around Grant- were deeply buried in the Labour Party. It was a period in which small groups were leaving the Communist Party (soon to be come a flood in 1956) and groups such as the ILP were slowly decomposing…
The Workers League attempted to relate to these developments and thus the weekly Workers News Bulletin is a goldmine of info on the left milieu of the time.
One of the earliest issues we have recounts the formation of the Federation of Marxist Groups which brought together Harry McShane and Eric Heffer’s Socialist Educational Groups of Glasgow and Merseyside respectively, with elements from the ILP (FA Ridley) and others.
It seems the Workers League did not long stay in the orbit of the FMG and played no part in it becoming the Socialist Workers Federation shortly after.
Issue 39 of the Bulletin is devoted to the internal squabbles in the SPGB (the Turner controversy) whereas Volume2 no26 sees the launch of the WLs regular public forums with an un-named speaker from the Socialist Review Group on the Labour Party. Sadly this discussion does not appear to have been written up in a subsequent issue.
Another Forum was led by John Roddam of the Movement for World Socialism. It is not clear whether or not this is to be identified with the SPGB / World Socialist Movement.
Volume 2 no50 comments in detail on the British CP congress after Khruschev’s secret speech and later that year devotes much space to the Hungarian Revolution.
Commenting positively on the Nottingham Marxist Group’s pamphlet “Why we left the Communist Party” leads to a correspondence across several 1957 issues with P(at)J(ordan)…
Later still, the Workers League, having commented extensively on the industrial perspectives of the Healyite Newsletter turns its attention to Brian Behan’s split from that group.
As far as we can tell, we do not have the final issues of WNB, our run ending in December 1960 at which time Joe Thomas was still a member…
If anyone has any of the missing issues- the very early or later ones- or the projected Workers League theoretical journal (which may or may not have been published) we would love to see them.
WORKERS LEAGUE ARCHIVE