The Unbroken Thread

Ted Grant has been the foremost figure of Trotskyism in Britain and internationally. In the post-war period, the effects of world boom, the policies of right wing Labour Party reformism and the degeneracy of Stalinism combined to make a massive onslaught against the ideas of Marxism. While Grant's contemporaries now stand on the right of the movement, in dusty academic circles or have sunk into obscurity, the articles in this collection show the clarity of Grant's understanding and his ability to deepen and expand the ideas of Leon Trotsky.

As was the case with so many post-war political developments, the colonial revolution was shrouded in mystery and confusion to the leadership of what remained of the so-called Fourth International, as well as to the theoreticians of Stalinism and reformism. Different 'Trotskyist' sects took turns to idealise Mao Tse Tung, Ho Chi Minh, Fidel Castro, Che Guevara and others, without a glimmer of understanding about what real political forces these leaders represented. It was the Marxist tendency gathered around Ted Grant which was able to place all these leaders and movements in their correct context, explaining their origins and development.

One of the most important contributions made by Trotsky to the theoretical storehouse of Marxism was his analysis of the rise and development of Stalinism. He explained that the fundamental social gains of the October revolution remained intact, in the form of the state-ownership of the economy and the plan of production, but that the working class had been politically expropriated by a new ruling caste. Against those who saw this bureaucracy as a new ruling class, Trotsky argued that it was a parasitic growth resting on the economic base of a workers' state, and not a class.

As has already been mentioned in the introduction, there are many more articles and documents written by Ted Grant than could ever be contained in a single volume. Moreover, a section on the 'Marxist method' could, with justification, have included any or all of these contributions to socialist theory. Whatever the selection made, there would always be some glaring omissions. The three items included do not easily fit into any of the previous chapters, but the editors feel that each one is worthy of inclusion in its own right.

The end of the war brought about an entirely novel situation in Europe, presenting the Marxists with difficult and unforeseen theoretical problems. The revolutionary wave in Western Europe did indeed manifest itself in the election of left governments and the strident demands of the workers for concrete reforms and social change. But the full impact of the workers' movement was blunted by the Communist and Socialist Party leaderships, acting as a brake on developments. The precise characterisation of the post-war regimes in Western Europe and the perspectives for these countries were the subjects of intense debate within the Trotskyist movement.

In the debates about likely international developments - whether the post-war economy was heading for slump or boom, how long the post-war boom would last, whether or not capitalism had learnt to 'overcome' cyclical crises, and so on - Ted Grant often drew on the immediate experience and the statistical data of political and economic developments in Britain, for obvious reasons. In these cases, the intention was, nevertheless, to illustrate those processes that affected the advanced capitalist countries as a whole. But in addressing activists in the British labour movement it is also essential to point to those features and characteristics which, among the advanced countries, are


The most important feature of the entire post-war epoch, overshadowing and influencing all other factors, was the long, 25-year economic upswing. This represented the greatest explosion in investment, production, trade, science and technique in the whole of human history and it put its stamp on political developments in all the different parts of the world. In the advanced capitalist countries, as prosperity reached and then easily surpassed pre-war levels, it rekindled illusions in capitalism as a viable and 'natural' economic system. These illusions were transmitted to and articulated in the labour movement by the theoreticians of the right, who were indistinguishable from the


By 1938, while the rest of Europe was hurtling towards another carnage even more bloody than the last, in Spain the civil war was drawing inexorably towards defeat for the Republic.

The Spanish working class had taken the election of the Popular Front government in 1936 as the beginning of the socialist revolution and had moved spontaneously to occupy mines, offices, factories and the land. It was only the movement of the working class, arming itself and mobilising independently of the Popular Front government, that prevented a complete and immediate victory for the rebellion of General Franco in July 1936.

But what began as a civil war between a fascist regime and an


The purpose of this book is twofold. It is, firstly, to show that the modern ideas of Marxism have their direct roots in the working out of ideas in the previous period. Secondly, it is to show the central and unique role played by Ted Grant in the development of these ideas since the death of Trotsky in 1940.

This is the speech made by Ted Grant at Labour Party annual conference in 1983, appealing against his expulsion by the National Executive Committee in February of the same year. The NEC had begun an 'enquiry' into the newspaper Militant, on the urging of the capitalist press and Tory ministers, who goaded Michael Foot, the Labour leader, with having 'extremists' in his party.

These are relatively brief extracts from discussion documents, dealing with world perspectives in the post-boom period. The Marxists had not been able to predict the long duration of the post-war boom, but what was clear was that the first recession to affect all the advanced capitalist economies simultaneously, in 1974-5, marked the end of one epoch and the beginning of another. Later than may have been anticipated, events nevertheless vindicated the correct stand that had been made by Ted Grant on the fundamentals of capitalist economics.

In 1978, a radical faction of the Afghan Communist Party seized power in a military coup. The 'Saur Revolution' carried out a whole series of progressive measures. The government passed decrees abolishing the selling of brides and giving equality to women. It announced a land reform and the cancellation of farmers’ debts. These measures met with the ferocious opposition of the powerful land owners and moneylenders. This article by Ted Grant, published in 1978, contains an analysis of the revolution, as well as the phenomena of colonial revolutions and proletarian bonapartism more generally.

This is a discussion paper on Perspectives for Britain, written in 1977. There are literally scores of articles, speeches, documents and notes written by Ted Grant on political and economic developments in Britain throughout this period, but the 1977 document adequately sums up the general position of British capitalism in its long and debilitating decline.

These are relatively brief extracts from discussion documents, dealing with world perspectives in the post-boom period. The Marxists had not been able to predict the long duration of the post-war boom, but what was clear was that the first recession to affect all the advanced capitalist economies simultaneously, in 1974-5, marked the end of one epoch and the beginning of another. Later than may have been anticipated, events nevertheless vindicated the correct stand that had been made by Ted Grant on the fundamentals of capitalist economics.

This is a document, dictated in 1966, in defence of the basic tenets of Trotskyism. It was a reply to an Irish socialist, Brendan Clifford, who put the classic Stalinist position, using garbled and one-sided quotations from Lenin to show how Trotskyism was a 'counter-revolutionary trend' opposed to the ideas and methods of 'Leninism'.

A key historical document that analyses the important question of "proletarian bonapartism", i.e. Stalinism, in the former colonial countries. It explains the roots of the Chinese revolution and why the Maoist regime came into conflict with the Soviet Union, and also the nature of several similar regimes that came into being in that period. It was also the basis for the expulsion of Ted Grant and his followers from Mandel's so-called Unified Secretariat of the Fourth International.

Ted Grant's perspective that the seemingly endless boom of the post 2nd World War period would actually end and 'be followed by a catastrophic downswing, which cannot but have a profound effect on the political thinking of the enormously strengthened ranks of the labour movement' must have seen like madness to some at the time. However, as we have seen, the Marxist analysis has been proven to be more than correct in predicting the continuing crisis of capitalism over the last few decades. This text remains even today an excellent riposte to all those who thought that capitalism could by magic avoid crisis and enter a period of non-stop plenty.

In this important pamphlet of May 1958, Ted Grant analysed the Bonapartist character of De Gaulle's regime in the light of previous historical events. De Gaulle's bid for power was successful not because of his strength, but because of the treacherous policies of the Communist and Socialist Party leaders. De Gaulle's victory was an expression of the crisis of French capitalism and would inevitably open up revolutionary events and an explosion of the class struggle. While most of the Stalinist, reformist and sectarian left had written off the French workers as a revolutionary class before May 1968, Ted Grant's prediction confirmed the correctness of Marxist analysis.

The NEC of the Labour Party in 1954 argued in favour of German rearmament against the Soviet "threat". The Labour left argued that a re-armed West Germany, backed by the United States, would be facing a hostile and armed East Germany, backed by Russia, making World War III "inevitable." Ted Grant replied to both, putting forward an internationalist position.

Cutting through the superficiality of the Fabian theories, Ted Grant defends the basic Marxist position, that as long as the market dominated the economy, then there would inevitably be cycles of boom and slump. Explaining the causes for the longevity of the boom, he also points out its limitation and the inevitability, at a later stage, of new recessions and slumps. This article, although directed particularly towards the British economy, was no less relevant to the other main capitalist countries, where similar conditions prevailed and similar arguments raged.

Not only was Ted Grant's analysis of the Eastern European states able to explain the Tito-Stalin split, it could also anticipate - and this is the test of the correctness of theory, in politics as in science - other splits, along national lines, within the Eastern European monolith. More prophetically still, the document not only anticipated in advance the establishment of a Stalinist state in China after the revolution, but it predicted the inevitability of a split between the Chinese and the Russian bureaucracy, on the same basis, although on a far larger scale, as in the case of Yugoslavia.

In June 1948, Tony Cliff, an RCP member, published a lengthy document entitled The Nature of Stalinist Russia. This work has been extended over the years, and the arguments partly modified, but its essence has always been the idea that Russia, under Stalin, became 'state capitalist'. It followed from this that the other states of the Eastern bloc were also 'state capitalist'. Taken as a whole, the reply to this by Ted Grant is itself a modern 'classic', a major contribution to the theoretical arsenal of Marxism. It is to this day the most definitive defence, and a deepening, of the original arguments of Leon Trotsky, that Russia was a degenerated workers' state, and in


Using the method of Marxism to describe the regime of Tito, and hence explain the split with Stalin, this document by Ted Grant from 1949 takes the argument further and extends it to the example of China. It elaborates further the process by which Mao Tse Tung established his regime, explaining that it was, of necessity, 'deformed' from the very beginning.

Building upon the theoretical work which had already been undertaken in relation to Russia, Eastern Europe and the Tito-Stalin split, the article by Ted Grant puts forward a perspective in relation to China that is lucid and consistent from a Marxian point of view, and moreover, brilliantly prophetic. With the world 'leaders of Trotskyism' still humming and hawing, the article goes straight to the point and applauds 'the destruction of feudalism and large-scale capitalism, in this important section of Asia, even though it is carried out under the leadership of Stalinism. In its long-term implications, it is as important as the October revolution itself.'

In this pamphlet, written by Ted Grant, the RCP explained the social basis of fascism, as a mass movement based on the middle-class and set in motion by the capitalist class to smash the labour movement. Faced with the danger of social revolution and the loss of power, the British capitalists, no less than their European counterparts, would be prepared to mobilise and finance fascist gangs to atomise the workers organisations. The pamphlet describes how the British capitalists were sympathetic to Hitler and Mussolini before the war, and how they supported the nascent fascist movement in Britain around Oswald Mosley.

This article from 1948 describes and explains the 'February events' in Czechoslovakia, the so-called 'Prague coup'. Here, the Stalinist-dominated government, leaning on the working class through 'action committees', overcame the resistance of the capitalist class and carried through the nationalisation of industry and the major part of the economy. The end result, as the article explained, provided 'the economic basis for a workers' state', but without the democratic control of the state by the workers, 'all the rights which the workers still possess will be strangled and an uncontrolled bureaucracy will ride roughshod over the masses, as in Russia.'

One organisation that took the post-war IS position of the Fourth International to its logical, and absurd, conclusion was the IKD, an organisation of German and Austrian Trotskyists who had spent most of the war years in exile in Britain. It published a statement in 1943 in which it argued that the occupation of Europe by nazi Germany had led to an economic regression', that is, to the destruction of technology and advanced methods of production, in favour of small and even handicraft techniques. At the same time, the democratic rights of the masses had been completely destroyed. The conclusion they drew was that the basic tasks in the post-war period would be the struggle


After WWII, the leadership of the Fourth International were still repeating old and out-dated ideas. Among such leaders was Pierre Frank, one of the leaders of the Parti Communiste Internationaliste (PCI), the French section of the International. He wrote an article which argued that in Western Europe, there had been established only Bonapartist governments, ie 'Governments by the Sword', denying, in other words, that 'normal' capitalist democracy existed. Ted Grant's reply was a devastating critique of Frank's muddled and un-Marxist approach.

This is an extract from a resolution presented on behalf of the leadership to the RCP conference in 1946. Like the other documents dealing with Western Europe as a whole, it corrected the previous perspective of the RCP, of an immediate economic crisis after the war. The resolution went on to outline a perspective for British capitalism of 'relative stability', which, at a later stage, would give way to 'a catastrophe greater than she has experienced in the whole of her history.' 

In the immediate post-war period, the longevity of the postwar boom could not have been anticipated. What was an issue within the Trotskyist movement was whether or not there would be any economic recovery at all. The material of the British Revolutionary Communist Party, and particularly the writings of Ted Grant, argued that there was a temporary political stabilisation in Western Europe, because of the influence of the social democratic and Stalinist leaderships, acting as a brake on the workers' movement. The political recovery of capitalism provided the political basis for, and was itself further underpinned by, economic recovery.

This document was presented by Ted Grant as a policy document at the March 1945 Central Committee of the RCP, approved in August at the national conference and printed in Workers International News in September. The resolution presents a broad analysis, an estimation of the political situation coming out of the war and a tentative perspective for the future.

The text of the thesis adopted at the National Pre-Conference of Workers' International League, August 22 and 23, 1942. Edited for publication in The Unbroken Thread, full version available on the Ted Grant archive.

This is an introduction to Trotsky's pamphlet, "The Lessons of Spain: The Last Warning" (1937), written by Ted Grant in collaboration with Ralph Lee while they were in the Workers' International League: a predecessor to the International Marxist Tendency. Ted and Ralph's introduction was praised by Trotsky himself in a letter to the WIL in 1938, which was suppressed and hidden for 80 years before finally being reunited with its rightful owners.