On 20th July 2006, the Marxist theoretician Ted Grant died after more than seventy years of political activity. His death marked the end of an era, but not the end of the struggle for the ideas he always defended.
His lifetime struggle to defend Marxist principles, resulted in Ted bequeathing us a precious legacy, a wealth of material in the form of articles, speeches and notes spread over the last 70 years. These works constitute an "unbroken thread" in the defence of Marxism and deal with a host of theoretical, political as well as organisational questions thrown up by the workers' movement in Britain and internationally.
This does not mean to say that Ted was infallible. He made mistakes, as did all the great Marxist teachers. But they were fewer than most and the main thing was that he learned from them. From our point of view, it is the method that is important, the dialectical method that permeates all his writings.
Under the influence of Ralph Lee, an expelled member of the Communist Party, Ted joined the Trotskyist movement in the late 1920s.
Both Ralph (22 years old) and Ted (only 16) were engaged in pioneering work helping to set up a small Trotskyist group in Johannesburg. Through this means they attempted to establish contact with the black South African workers. They had a certain success under the circumstances but suffered from the general harsh climate of the South African regime.
The earliest piece (in our possession) written by Ted Grant is from April 1935 - a letter to Leon Sedov, the secretary of the International Communist League. At this time, Ted was a member of the Marxist Group inside the ILP but had come into conflict with the opportunist stance of the group's leadership. Through this letter, it was Ted and a few other comrades who alerted Leon Sedov, and through him Trotsky, about the more favourable opportunities for Marxism inside the Labour League of Youth. Within a matter of months, Trotsky had drawn similar conclusions and called for a new orientation towards the Labour Party. "The British section will recruit its first cadres from the thirty thousand young workers in the Labour League of Youth", wrote Trotsky.
From the Second World War onwards, Ted Grant became the main theoretician of the Trotskyist movement and wrote important works on the evolution and character of Stalinism in Eastern Europe and China. He defended the real methods and traditions of Trotskyism and applied them to the new situation that emerged after the war. As a result, these theoretical works served to reorientate the movement in Britain, a task the leaders of the International after Trotsky's death were incapable of performing. Ted went on to explain the post-war upswing and the importance of the mass organisations in the evolution of the working class, which laid the theoretical basis for the launching of the "Militant Tendency", the most successful Trotskyist movement in British history.
For Ted Grant - and ourselves - theory is not a secondary question. It is of fundamental importance and constitutes an accumulation of generalised historical experience over generations. Theory is the distilled essence of experience which serves to guide us in the ebbs and flows of the class struggle. Ted's ability to develop Marxist theory was extremely valuable in this epoch of sharp and sudden changes. His unique contribution needs to be preserved and made available to the new generation.
While a number of Ted's writings have been published, many remain unpublished or out of print, and therefore inaccessible to many. A volume of his selected works entitled "The Unbroken Thread" was issued in 1989, three years before his bureaucratic expulsion from "Militant" and the loss of his archives, but this book has been out of print for some years. A valuable website - tedgrant.org - serves to publish much of the old documents, but it is not complete and is no substitute for the printed copy.
That is why we are appealing to all our readers and supporters to help raise the necessary resources for the publication of the collected works of Ted Grant, the only Marxist theoretician who genuinely developed and built on the ideas of Leon Trotsky after the Second World War.
Over the last year we have added many valuable documents written by Ted during the Second World War on the Ted Grant Internet Archive (see www.tedgrant.org) which, together with other material, we intend to reprint in a book. Comrades have been working on this project for the last 12 months, searching archives, scanning and retyping material, in preparation for this book. We hope, after all the necessary notes and references are finished, that it will be published in early 2008.
We - those who knew and worked with him - have a responsibility to preserve Ted Grant's priceless legacy: his ideas.
We therefore call upon all comrades and friends to give generously to this appeal. This project will be a fitting memorial to Ted's life and work for the cause of the working class.
- Ted Grant: 1913-2006 by Alan Woods (July 20, 2007)