History of British Trotskyism book launch

On May 21, 2002 Socialist Appeal organised a successful public meeting in central London. More than 100 people packed Conway Hall, with some having to stand, to hear Ted Grant launch his new book History of British Trotskyism. The event was also to celebrate 10 years of Socialist Appeal, and 75 years of Trotskyism.

Chairing the meeting, Phil Mitchinson, said that Conway Hall was an historic venue, which had witnessed innumerable workers' meetings. He said that the speakers on the platform had a joint total of 152 years' experience in the Trotskyist movement. Ted Grant, he said, was "the living embodiment of Trotskyism."

Greetings were read from Austrian young socialists, who paid tribute that: "Comrade Ted has kept the flame alive through very difficult times and inspired us to join the fight for socialism." Esteban Volkov, Trotsky's grandson, also sent greetings.

Mere Theoreticians

Alan Woods, editor ofSocialist Appealand a close collaborator of Ted's for over 40 years, spoke first.

He said that when the Soviet Union and Stalinist regimes collapsed ten years ago, the strategists of capital proclaimed the "end of Socialism". Fukuyama thought that the class struggle had finished. But colossal instability has followed.

Recent events had included an Italian general strike, events in Venezuela and - in Argentina - the beginnings of revolution. "What else is it when you have three presidents in a week? The only thing lacking was a revolutionary party."

He said: "I fight for the old ideas because we're still faced with the old problems."

75 years ago, Trotsky and the left opposition had been expelled from the Communist Party and persecuted. Many of them were imprisoned and executed - and Stalin thought he had solved the "problem" - "But you can't kill a good idea."

"TheCommunist Manifesto, which is 150 years old, describes the present world situation and explains it."

Members of the Editorial Board ofSocialist Appealhad been dismissed from Militant 10 years ago as "mere theoreticians". Their first fundamental task had been to defend the basic ideas of Marxism. The bookReason in Revolthad been published and became an international bestseller.

The website, Marxist.com, which he called the "brand leader", had attracted 1,000,000 visits up to November 2001 and increasing numbers of visits (several thousand) every day.

Alan pointed to the beginnings of reaction to the capitalist market. He said: "The germs of revolution are present in America. There are a few surprises in store."

He believed that people were looking for ideas - not agitation - they already knew how poor they were! "Marxism, as Lenin said, is all-powerful because it is true.

"We are optimistic - we have faith in our class, the proletariat. With these ideas, we will not fail."

Paying Tribute

The next speaker, Rob Sewell, talked about the history of the Trotskyist movement. He said: "The new book sets the record straight about our origins."

He explained how Ted Grant had been recruited by Ralph Lee in Johannesburg in 1928 and they had come to work in Britain in December 1934.

"The real history of British Trotskyism begins with the formation of the Workers' International League (WIL) in early 1938. The leadership of Ralph Lee, Millie Lee, Jock Haston and Ted Grant made history in establishing the most successful Trotskyist group in Britain."

With the formation of the WIL, "eight individuals plus Ted Grant turned their backs on sectarianism and aimed for the broad layers of the working class."

He said that during the second world war they had argued not for pacifism, but for a revolutionary war against Hitler.

After the invasion of Russia by Hitler in June 1941, he said that the Stalinists took on "a rabid chauvinist and strike-breaking role" which was decisively challenged by the WIL. They had gone on to found the Revolutionary Communist Party in 1944, which stood Jock Haston as a candidate in the Neath by-election in 1945. The campaign helped to establish an important base in Wales.

Rob went on to pay tribute to many of those who had been involved in the struggle over the years, including miners' leader Trevor James, the Deane family in Liverpool, especially Jimmy Deane, and Pat Wall who had "connected with the working class and helped establish a base on Merseyside."

He criticised the original Fourth International, which had made one blunder after another. Gerry Healy and Mandel had undermined the movement from within.

Socialist Appeal had since republishedLenin and Trotsky - What They Really Stood Forwhich has sold well internationally and has now just been published in Russian.

Enduring Optimism

The final speaker, Ted Grant, said: "Our methods, ideas and policies have been shown to be correct again and again in the history of the movement."

He emphasised: "The fundamental ideas of Marxism and Trotskyism are the same. This meeting could be the start of a new phase in the movement. We must find fresh layers of the class - students and youth - to win to the ideas of Marxism."

Floor speakers included Al Richardson who spoke about how the WIL had been rooted in the working class and how Haston had been so concerned to develop each new comrade politically, that you could say he "fell in love" with every recruit.

The meeting hall included a colourful display of original posters from the Revolutionary Communist Party around the walls and the London Region RCP banner from the 1940s. A collection of photographs from the early years of Trotskyism was also on show.

Many speakers paid tribute to Ted's enduring optimism and Fernando d'Allessandro said: "Ted has preserved the ideas. We should be absolutely confident that we can build on the traditions of Trotskyism."

The enthusiastic meeting raised more than £2,000 in a collection. Nearly 100 books were sold, together with a quantity of other material.

If you have not done so already, check out the book and alsobuy your copy onlinetoday!

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