Ted Grant

Letter to an Opposition Communist

Source: Workers’ International Review, vol. 2 no. 2 (April-May 1957)
Transcription: Francesco 2009
Proofread: Fred 2009
Markup: Niklas 2009
Note: Ted Grant wrote under the pseudonym of George Edwards

Dear Comrade,

As a result of the discussion some comrades and I had with H. last night, and with yourself and J. in the past, we have decided that it would be just as well to write formally to you and the comrades expressing our idea as to the type of co-operation we envisage.

For us, the development of the opposition inside the Communist Party is of national and international significance. It arises, of course, out of the crisis in Stalinism opened up by the Khrushchev report and the Hungarian Revolution. This movement can become an important lever in the reorientation and development of a Marxist vanguard, nationally and internationally. For us it represents a break from the shackles of Stalinism of the second generation of Communists, and the development of the Marxist Movement on a world scale.

As we explained to you on more than one occasion, our aim in this connection is to help with all the resources that we possess both ideologically and organisationally, the development of this tendency. We invite suggestions from you on how best we can assist this development.

We would like to make it clear that there is no question on our part of domination or dictation either on organisational or political questions. With the development of our two tendencies against different backgrounds and with two totally different histories, there are bound to be different ways of looking at things, different methods of work, different ideological bases. But it is precisely the differing backgrounds that could be so valuable in the coming together of these two tendencies which can mutually enrich and fructify one another’s conceptions and work.

The fusion of two tendencies

For us it is a question of the fusion of two tendencies of Communism, of the International Communist Movement, which broke away at different stages from the swamp of Stalinism. Unless these two tendencies can find a way of coming together, great damage can result to both, and the development of a Marxist Movement in Britain could be impeded for many years. That is why we consider it so important to arrive at a common agreement and a common understanding of the basic problems that face the workers’ movement.

Of course we recognise that it is inevitable there should be suspicion and even distrust, first, as a consequence of the painfully disillusioning experience of the betrayal of Stalinism, and secondly because of the differing backgrounds of the two tendencies. We think that it is a natural and, indeed, very healthy development that the comrades should wish to re-examine all the basic arguments, in the light of their own experience in the Communist Party and mass movement in the past period; this in an endeavour to find the correct way of building the Marxist tendency in Britain.

One of the positive features of the betrayal of the Communist Party is that the militants, both workers and intellectuals, who have had their eyes opened, are not prepared to accept anything on trust, or the mere say so of any individual or organisation. This can be a great gain for the movement, it means that any tendency which is not scrupulously honest and democratic will, quite rightly, be rejected. A Marxist movement requires, not automatons or dummies, but a healthy, democratic discussion on policy, tactics, method of work and organisation, in order to develop a party and leadership which can fulfil its historic mission.

A discussion on principles

We on our part, of course, stand by the basic ideas and principles of our movement. These are not new principles but the ideas of Marx, Lenin and Trotsky applied to modern conditions; theory, as of course you are fully aware, is not an exotic growth but a guide to action. At the same time, because of the weakness of our forces in the past epoch it has not been possible to apply these ideas in action, in Britain, as far as the mass movement is concerned. The current which is now issuing from the Communist Party has a great experience of mass work which can make an extremely valuable contribution.

We have no intention of trying to dictate or impose the acceptance of all our ideas on the Movement; on the basis of joint agreement on fundamental principles which we have in common, in relation to the national and international tasks (Soviet Union, the need for Marxism, the role of Stalinism in the last ten years, etc.) at the present time; on the basis of working together, we are confident that any disagreements will be ironed out in the mutual clarification which will take place.

A joint enrichment

Our ideas and the fresh ideas and methods of work of your tendency, if joined together, can fertilise and enrich the stock of Marxism. Out of the coming together of these two currents of Communism can come the synthesis of a flexible party with bold initiative so far as mass work is concerned and which will, at the same time, base itself on the theories and methods of Lenin and Trotsky.

This letter is not a finished document but the jotting down of a few ideas, in order to put our relations on the firm basis of mutual trust and goodwill. We are confident that working together can ensure mutual confidence and loyalty between us in order to achieve the main task: the training of Marxist cadres on a national scale which will form the basis for building the mass party, by the adoption of one tactic or another in the coming epoch. By our common work and experience we will arrive, I am sure, at agreement on this. This of course is not the immediate task that confronts you.

However without our coming together within the next year or so, perhaps more, perhaps less, we believe serious damage can be done to both tendencies, and can delay the building of a Marxist current in Britain for many years. An exceptional opportunity has been given, which is only too rare historically, of clarifying and preparing organisationally and politically the cadres, for the great tasks that lie ahead in Britain, in the next epoch. For our part we would not wish to do anything which would prevent the coming together, or would drive apart these two equally important trends, which are so vitally necessary for the development of the Marxist tendency in the British Labour Movement.

Yours fraternally,