British Labour movement

Clause4 700Ever since the formation of the Labour Party in 1900, there has been controversy on the left over whether or not to participate in the party. To develop a correct understanding of this question, it is important to look at the experience of the past. Our task is to learn from history in order to avoid unnecessary mistakes. History, after all, is littered with the wreckage of small sectarian groups who attempted to mould the workers’ movement into its preconceived plans and failed.

Different “Marxist” groups have made one mistake after another on this key question. Towards the end of the 1960s, a number of left groups abandoned work in the Labour Party in disgust at the counter-reforms of the then Labour government. They wrote off the party and set about building their own independent revolutionary parties, ignoring everything that had been written on the importance of the mass organisations. The more isolated they were, the more ultra-left they became. Rather than connect with the real movement, they continually sought to tear the advanced workers away from the mass. They saw their prime task as to “expose” the leadership through shrill denunciation. This has been the hallmark of all these different sectarian groups. With such antics they end up playing into the hands and reinforcing the position of the right-wing leaders.

— From Britain: Marxism and the Labour Party – Some important lessons for today

More than halfway into the Second World War the mood among the British workers was changing. The bourgeois could feel the changing mood and attempted to manoeuvre by making false promises. All this was putting pressure on the Labour Party, where the contradiction between the leaders in the coalition government and the workers in general was becoming ever more evident.

In 1942 the British Stalinists launched a vicious campaign of slander and lies against Trotskyism. Ted Grant, in the best traditions of Marxism, used the weapon of truth to reply to the Stalinists, whose methods were without honour, truth and conscience.

In the middle of the war the ILP was floundering. Not having a fully worked out Marxist programme, it combined opportunism and sectarianism at the same time. They could not understand the method as outlined by Ted Grant at the time, which was not to issue mere denunciations of the Labour Party leaders. It could “only be done by demonstrating to the masses, by their own experience, that their leaders are incapable of representing their interests.”

In 1942 a slanderous campaign against the Socialist Appeal waged by the Communist Party leaders was backed up by the Sunday Dispatch, infamous for its early enthusiastic support of Hitler, Mosley and the Blackshirts. They shamelessly joined forces to accuse the Trotskyists of being Hitler's agents! Here is Ted Grant's reply to these slanders.

In 1942, Mr. Hall, President of the Yorkshire Miners' Association viciously attacked the Socialist Appeal. In his attack, Mr. Hall claimed that "subversive influences outside the miners' association" were responsible for the unrest in the mines, and that these forces were "pro-Nazi". Ted Grant responded to these slanders point by point, explaining the real reasons for unrest on the coalfields.

In 1942 the Socialist Appeal, organ of the Workers' International League, came under a sever attack launched by the mouthpiece of the coal-owners, The Daily Telegraph, and echoed by the entire national and provincial press, the Tories, the Communist Party, the Liberals and the Yorkshire miners’ TU leaders. The aim was to get the Socialist Appeal suppressed. Why? Because the SA was giving a voice to the anger of the Yorkshire miners as they came into conflict with both the bosses and their own strike-breaking trade union leaders.

In 1942, a censure motion by the extreme right wing of the Tory Party was proposed in order to replace Churchill with a military general. The ruling class was playing with the idea of using the Royal Family as a cover for introducing some form of Bonapartist rule.

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.

After Hitler’s invasion of the USSR, the Stalinist CPGB leaders followed the U-turn decided in Moscow and became the most loyal supporters of Her Majesty’s war effort. In order to cover their left side, they launched a vicious attack on the Socialist Appeal and the ILP. We publish here the Workers’ International League’s reply where Ted Grant challenges the Stalinists to a public debate, and an exchange of letters with ILP leader Fenner Brockway.

As part of a general attempt to slander revolutionary ideas as pro-Nazi, the Labour Party's newspaper, Daily Herald, ‘accidentally' included the report on the trial of the Minneapolis General Drivers' Union, also leaders of the Socialist Workers' Party (Fourth International), into a report of the trial of 33 German spies. Here is the vibrant protest of the Workers' International League, by Ted Grant.

After the first few months of war in March 1940, preparations for an even worse scenario of slaughter were being undertaken by all imperialist powers by mobilizing the masses of each country against the "enemy". The labour and Stalinist leaders' bankrupt policies left the workers unarmed. Here Ted Grant makes a balance-sheet of the first months of War.

With preparations for war in full swing the small Workers' International League gathered around Ralph Lee and Ted Grant was the only voice that stood out defending a real internationalist position. Here we provide our readers with the lead article of the August 1939 edition of Youth For Socialism, signed by Ted Grant.

As armaments were piled up in preparation for the Second World War Ted Grant explained that, “This war machine is for the defence of the trading interests and the colonial loot of British imperialism, for what is making for war is the intensified and sharpened struggle for markets between the different countries of the world.”

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