Free Expression- a Trotskyist journal in the ILP

FE CoverIn Appendix F of his History of British Trotskyism Martin Upham writes:

“Interest in Trotsky, never absent from the ILP, increased in 1942 with polemical articles sustained subsequently by WIL. Wicks and Dewar, with support from Maitland, took over the open forum Free Expression, and by 1943 had turned it into a Trotskyist vehicle.”

Note 22 continues: “Wicks promised a limited attempt at changing Free Expression into ‘a Marxist theoretical journal’ in October 1942, and that month it proclaimed itself ‘a Revolutionary Socialist monthly’. (H. Wicks to Sara, 1 Oct. 1942, Warwick M.S.S. 15/3/1/66). From November it was a regular Trotskyist journal, publishing articles by Trotsky himself, former oppositionists and Hugo and Margaret Dewar.”

We have six full issues of Free Expression in our archive– April 1941, November 42, January and February 43, January and June 46.

Note 2.jpg

Additionally we have a series of individual articles from Free Expression in 1942/3- see hand-written note here and the more detailed one below which gives a description of the contents.

It seems these articles were circulated in this form by Hugo and Margaret Dewar.




Note 1


The Revolutionary Socialist Party- from De Leonism to Trotskyism

DefendPerhaps the first historical Trotskyist pamphlet I ever owned was given to me as a wedding present some 25 years ago. The marriage is long gone and the comrade who gave me the pamphlet died, tragically young, a few years later.

But I still have the pamphlet Defend The Soviet Union published by the Revolutionary Socialist Party and I have been fascinated by that group ever since.

Originally a DeLeonist group based in Scotland, for a time the RSP fused with the RSL and was thus part of the British Section of the Fourth International.

A detailed history of the RSP and its predecessors can be found in this manuscript “From DeLeonism to Trotskyism” by Tony Milligan (we have been unable to trace Tony to seek permission to publish this document which may, or may not have seen publication elsewhere).

Prolific publishers, the RSP produced many pamphlets, both under its own imprint and as Tait Memorial Publications.

In the late 1930s, 1940s the RSP published the Workers Weekly of which we have four issues, a pamphlet issue and a supplement reprinting Trotsky on Mussolini’s fascism.

More items will be added to our REVOLUTIONARY SOCIALIST PARTY archive as and when they come to light.

UPDATE: We have just added a catalogue of RSP pamphlets compiled in the early 1990s by Mark Shipway.

A quick update…

Splits and Fusions now on Facebook

We now have our own page on Facebook here:

And we will put a link to this in the sidebar >>>>

Come up to the lab and see what’s on the slab…

We have quite a few ongoing projects over the next few months.

Firstly we are ongoing with scanning the first couple of hundred issues of Socialist Organiser- from its inception as a broad paper of the Socialist Campaign for a Labour Victory through to the early-mid 1980s.

As previously mentioned, we have several hundred later period Workers Press to get through.

Historical material from the Militant Labour League and the Revolutionary Socialist Party of the 1930s and 40s is almost ready to post.

And we expect to have small collections of documents from the Revolutionary Communist Group, the Refvolutionary Communist Party Tendency / Party, the Marxist Party, and more Lambertist and CHartist materials in the next few months.

Who else has an archive?

A number of tendencies have now put their own archives of papers online, which saves us a job.

We will be compiling a list of known archives of left-wing, broadly Trotskist papers. Let us know what you stumble upon on the internet.

Just yesterday I found that the small Workers Fight group linked to Lutte Ouvriere’s Internationalist Communist Union now had all back issues of its eponymous paper online…


Workers Revolutionary Party (Workers Press)

TraitroAs the Workers Revolutionary Party split in two, each of the warring factions, at first, sought to publish their own version of the daily Newsline. So it was that we had the pantomime spectacle of rival papers under the same masthead- one proclaiming “Gerry Healy expelled” and the other replying “Oh no he’s not!”

However, within a couple of months, towards the end of December 1985, the anti-Healy grouping around Cliff Slaughter, Tony Banda and others abandoned the Newsline in favour of a re-launched weekly paper Workers Press. Thereafter the two groupings claiming the name Workers Revolutionary Party were known respectively as the WRP(Newsline) and WRP (Workers Press)

We present here the first 160 issues of Workers Press from December 1985 up to April 1989.

The paper is interesting for a number of reasons. Firstly, the early issues document the unfolding split within the WRP and give a commentary on the rival Newsline group as the Torrance leadership moved from defending Healy to sidelining him leading to the Healy-Redgrave split and formation of the Marxist Party.

Similarly, we find coverage of the ongoing decomposition of the WRP (Workers Press) itself as various groups, tendencies and prominent individuals split away. So, we see the split of Michael Banda, the group around David Hyland, aligned with David North’s Workers League in the US which was to become first the International Communist Party and later the Socialist Equality Party and the International Socialist League which aligned itself with the Latin America based Morenoist International Workers League.

Alongside polemic with their erstwhile comrades, Workers Press opened its pages to a wide range of British and international Trotskyist groupings and, in its pages we find debates, polemics, articles and letters from and to Workers Power, supporters of the United Secretariat and its British section, adherents of the Lambertist tendency and many others including the Workers International League which had itself decamped from the Newsline side of the split…

Having been cut loose from the International Committee- both the North and Healy claimants to that mantle- the WRP (Workers Press) sought to develop its own international contacts, a process which led to the formation of the Preparatory Committee for an International Conference of Trotskyists– an attempt to re-found the Fourth International.

Copies of Tasks of the Fourth International– journal of the Preparatory Committee can be found here, along with its successor The International.

Many thanks to Barry for loaning his holdings of Workers Press and to Keith S for scanning part of his own collection.

The remaining issues of Workers Press- some 340 issues taking us to June 1996- will be scanned eventually.

CONFIDENTIAL The Position of Trotskyism in Britain

PositionDo they mean us?

This ‘confidential’ internal document, The Position of Trotskyism in Britain, produced by the Communist Party in January 1964, takes a look at the groupings to its left.

Considering some of the execrable treatises on this subject from the Stalinist stable (“Quite Right, Mr Trotsky!” anyone? Yuck!) this is a well written and reasonably honest and accurate account, presumably produced for educational purposes.

The document looks first at the development of Trotskyism in Britain before the Second World War, through the 1953 split and on to the impact of the 1956 events which rocked the CP itself.

The second section covers developments in the FI in the early 1960s and the 1963 reunification.

The third section then concludes with a survey of the current Trotskyist movement with a discussion, first, of the (un-named) British Section of the United Secretariat and then of the the Healyite Socialist Labour League.

Also in the spotlight are the newly formed Posadist group- Revolutionary Workers Party and Solidarity- a non-Trotskyist grouping but with its roots in Trotskyism.

Finally, the 22 page document references International Socialism and the paper Young Guard then active in the Labour Party Young Socialists.

Jointly posted with Red Mole Rising


Towards “Militant”- the 1950s RSL

SFightAs we have seen, the origins of the Revolutionary Socialist League lay in a fusion of Ted Grant’s International Socialist Group with the scattered British supporters of Pablo’s International.

For a while this group issued two main periodicals.

Workers International Review, launched in September 1956, was a continuation of the Fourth International magazine whilst Socialist Fight from 1958 onwards was a four page tabloid newspaper.

However, the group proved to be unstable and soon split again with some later going on to constitute the International Group as a rival for the title of British Section of the FI.

From 1960 the Grant RSL turned its attention to recruitment in the newly established Young Socialists, the Labour Party youth wing, and in 1964 Socialist Fight gave way to a new paper Militant.

(We do not intend in the near future to post much more on the Militant group although we recognise it as one of the more significant and durable organisations within the fold of British Trotskyism. In the guise of the Socialist Party, this tendency still exists and maintains a sizeable cadre so it is to be hoped that one day supporters themselves might undertake the work of building up an historical archive of publications.)



Committee for the Regroupment of the British Section of the Fourth International

743px-Logo_of_the_Fourth_International.svgThe 1953 split in the Fourth International, which saw Healy’s “Club” constitute the British Section of the International Committee, was quickly followed by the entry of Pablo’s British supporters around John Lawrence, into the Communist Party leaving the International Secretariat without a viable section.

However, a small group of Cypriot supporters of Pablo, based in London, began production of a duplicated magazine Fourth International.

They were soon to be joined by a group of Ceylonese students, by British Trotskyists of the so-called Left Fraction which traced its history back to the RSL of the 1940s and by the then non-aligned Trotskyist Sam Bornstein.

Together they became the Committee for the Regroupment of the British Section of the Fourth International and Bornstein became the editor of Fourth International.

Shortly afterwards, they were joined by Ted Grant’s International Socialist Group and the fused organisation became the Revolutionary Socialist League.

At the 1957 Congress of the Pabloite Fourth International (International Secretariat) the RSL was officially recognised as its British section.