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Further Splits in the Marxist


Left in Britain
a
John Callaghan
a
Wolverhampton Polytechnic
Published online: 12 Nov 2007.

To cite this article: John Callaghan (1988) Further Splits in the Marxist
Left in Britain, Journal of Communist Studies, 4:1, 101-103, DOI:
10.1080/13523278808414906

To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13523278808414906

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PROFILE 101
Trotskyism; but see Olivia Gall, 'Huella de palabras: Clave a tiempo', El Buscon (Mexico
City), No.13, 1984, pp.162-76.
2. In the elections of July 1985, the Revolutionary Workers' Party (PRT) won six seats in the
Chamber of Deputies: see Barry Carr, 'The Elections of July 1985 and the Mexican Left', The
Journal of Communist Studies, Vol.2, No.l (March 1986), pp.76-8.
3. "Trotsky: Revelador Politico del Mexico Cardenista' was held at the Universidad Nacional
Autdnoma de Mexico, Mexico City, 18-29 May 1987. In addition to the papers to which
reference is made in this brief review, presentations were made by Carlos Monsivais, Enrique
Avila, Peter Katel, Olivia Gall (on Trotsky's relationship with General Francisco Mugica,
Cardenas's main liaison with the Soviet revolutionary), Ricardo Perez Montfort (on the
Mexican Right's response to Trotsky), Octavio Rodriguez Araujo, Manuel Aguilar Mora
(on 'Siqueiros versus Trotsky'), Antonio Saborit, Maria Teresa Aguirre, Victor Manuel
Durand, and Vlady.
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4. Four partial transcriptions from oral history interviews conducted by Dr Olivia Gall with
Felix Ibarra, Octavio Fernandez, Manuel Rodriguez and Adolfo Zamora were published in
Cahiers Leon Trotsky, No.26 (June 1986), pp.55-85.
5. Curtiss's papers in Los Angeles constitute an important source for the history of Mexican
and Latin American communism and have been extensively used by Olivia Gall and also in
the preparation of the Writings of Leon Trotsky series published by Pathfinder Press in the
USA.
6. Copies of the two-reel 50-minute film (made between October 1939 and April 1940), have
been deposited in archives and libraries in Stanford, Harvard, Glasgow and Grenoble
universities.
7. Alejandro Galvez Cancino, 'L'auto-absolution de Vidali et la mort de Mella', Cahiers Leon
Trotsky, No.26 (June 1986), pp.39-54.
8. For a fuller discussion of this issue see Barry Carr, 'Crisis in Mexican Communism: The
Extraordinary Congress of the Mexican Communist Party', Part I, Science and Society,
Vol.50, No.4 (Winter 1986-87), pp.391-414; Part II, ibid., Vol.51, No.l (Spring 1987),
pp.43-67.
9. A revised edition of Dr Gall's doctoral dissertation, 'Trotsky et la vie politique dans le
Mexique de Cardenas' (Universite des sciences sociales de Grenoble, 1986) was due to be
published by Ediciones Era in Mexico City in late 1987.
10. Campa's memoirs were published in 1978: Valentin Campa, Mi testimonio: Memoriasdeun
comunista mexicano (Mexico City: Ediciones de Cultural Popular, 1978).

Further Splits in the Marxist Left in Britain


An image of Lenin berated the passing shoppers above the slogan 'Preparing for
Power' in an advertisement for the Revolutionary Communist Party's summer school
in 1987. Several thousand people attended the Socialist Workers' Party's seminars on
Marxist theory; and even more turned up to the Communist Party's cultural weekend.
But each of these organizations has been more productive of splits than of seminal
ideas in recent years, and together with the Workers' Revolutionary Party they have
done much to litter the far Left with Leninist groupuscules.
Splits on the Trotskyist Left are nothing new, but the contagion has now spread to
the CPGB, which was always thought to be immune. It is also of note that the
'direction' travelled by these ideological itinerants follows no clear pattern, but has
involved Trotskyists rediscovering the socialist credentials of the USSR, while
erstwhile Stalinists recover their critical faculties only to talk like Trotskyists.
On 23 August 1987, for example, Gerry Healy and Vanessa Redgrave launched a
new 'Marxist Party' at the Riverside Studios, Hammersmith, with Healy declaiming
'We are part of the Soviet Union! It is our home!'. The long-awaited 'political
revolution' predicted by Trotsky, they claimed, had already begun, with glasnost being
102 THE JOURNAL OF COMMUNIST STUDIES

but a mild first symptom of the gathering storm. It was this process - 'the highest
expression of the upsurge of the world revolution' - that had provoked the formation
of the Marxist Party itself. It will be recalled, however, that the septuagenarian Healy
was expelled from the Workers' Revolutionary Party in October 1985. This had led to
the creation of a second WRP comprising those who remained loyal to Healy. But even
among this group - led by Sheila Torrance - a majority would only tolerate the former
leader in an 'advisory' capacity. Before long - in fact in January 1986 - the Healy group
realized that WRP(2) was an unsuitable place to be. In the event Torrance also left the
party, taking its paper News Line and 200 members with her. With the formation of the
Marxist Party there are thus now three groups where there had once been just WRP(2).
The original WRP fared no better. Having rid the organization of the tyrannical
Healy, his former henchmen found themselves in disagreement. Michael Banda,
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Healy's number two for over 20 years, now repudiated Trotskyism altogether and
established Communist Forum, which took up the defence of the USSR and briefly
collaborated with The Leninist until this former Communist Party faction sheet tired
of Banda's uncritical love of things Soviet. While Cliff Slaughter hung on to WRP(l)
and its journals Fourth International and Workers Press, another group departed to
form the International Communist Party. Altogether, then, six groups have emerged
from the implosion of the WRP in October 1985, and of these at least two - the
Bandanistas and the Marxist Party - have definite pro-Soviet sympathies. The latter
organization has already been nicknamed the Thespian Tendency to denote its
lightweight character, as well as the financial significance that Vanessa and Corin
Redgrave have within it. It seems safe to say that further combinations can be expected
among the remnants of the WRP.
Around the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) a different solar system
exists, consisting of the various factions expelled since January 1985. The largest of
these is the Communist Campaign Group (CCG), which is more or less supported by
the Morning Star. These await further turmoil within the CPGB as a means of re-
entering the fold and changing the leadership. Though they are dubbed Stalinist by
their opponents, it is not true to say that the CCG and the Morning Star take an
uncritically pro-Soviet position. Such can be found, however, in Communist, the
publication of Straight Left - another of the former faction sheets. All of these are
scorned by The Leninist, which has gone on a longer ideological odyssey than any of its
rivals in search of the original corruption of the CPGB. This has taken its readers
remarkably close to the positions associated with Trotskyism on such key issues as the
degeneration of the Comintern, the opportunism of Popular Frontism and the nature
of true Leninism.
The leaders of the Socialist Workers' Party (SWP) divided the Trotskyist tradition
in the 1940s when they adopted the state capitalist heresy. It is only fitting, then, that
their own dissidents should reject this shibboleth. Such was the case in the mid-1970s
when the Revolutionary Communist Group (RCG) was formed to re-examine the
revolutionary tradition from Capital and the Philosophical Notebooks up, as it were.
This highly scholastic enterprise in time produced two activist organizations - the
original RCG, which renounced Trotskyism altogether, and a Revolutionary
Communist Party, which retains a Trotskyist view of the USSR. Evidently the studies
begun in 1974 had led to the conclusion that anti-racist and anti-imperialist issues must
be emphasized if progress towards socialism is ever to take place in Britain, with its
legacies of empire and the continuing oppression of Ireland. Accordingly, the RCG
weekly newspaper, Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! seeks to build a 'coalition of the
dispossessed', which it has itself counterposed to the 'white heterosexual working
class'. The latter are seen as including a labour aristocracy and as supporting social
PROFILE 103

imperialism and the racism of the trade unions and Labour Party. If Ireland is'the key
to the British situation', and if no progress towards socialism is possible so long as
racist and chauvinist attitudes permeate the British working class, it follows that the
vanguard must fight on these fronts above all others. Such is the reasoning and such is
the practice. Since 1982 the RCG has dominated the City of Westminster branch of
Anti-Apartheid, which it has used as a base to pursue a line at variance with those of the
London ANC and the South African Communist Party. When David Kitson was
released after 20 years of imprisonment in South Africa, he identified himself with the
RCG, which has supported the non-stop picket of the South African Embassy in
London since April 1986.
The Revolutionary Communist Party's weekly, The Next Step, also emphasizes
anti-imperialist and anti-racist issues, and through fronts such as the Workers Against
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Racism (WAR) seeks to build its organization in the ghettos. These were the
constituencies where it put up its Red Front candidates in the 1987 general election. It
has perhaps 500 members, and unlike the RCG is sufficiently loyal to its 'state
capitalist' origins in the SWP to reject the socialist pretensions of the USSR. This is the
group that is 'preparing for power'. So too, in a way, are the Socialist League, Red
Action, the Spartacist League and a host of other groups. What most of them have in
common is a belief in the need for a Leninist vanguard. But there are others, such as
Class War, that go beyond this, and use a version of the 'vanguard' theory to justify
political violence.

JOHN CALLAGHAN
Wolverhampton Polytechnic