Reg Groves


The Balham Group


Chapter 3

Up to 1931, most British communists had scant knowledge of communist oppositional groups abroad, though the names of many departed and expelled leaders were familiar to us through the Comintern’s frequent and abusive references to them – hobgoblins haunting the corridors of the Comintern, constantly being exorcized by incantations in the cabalistic terminology of epigonal Leninism.

Leon Trotsky, however, was known to us by his writings, and was much in the news. Exiled to Alma Ata in 1928, he was deported in 1929 to Turkey. In that year he asked for political asylum in England, the country to which he had travelled in 1902, after his escape from Siberia, to meet Lenin, Martov, Plekhanov, Axelrod and other Russian exiles. Labour Home Secretary J.R. Clynes rejected the application. [35] During 1930, Trotsky’s autobiography was published here, [36] and occasional interviews with him appeared in the newspapers. But that there were organized groups in Europe and America supporting the Left Opposition and Trotsky was unknown to us – until one bright cold spring morning in 1931, I called at the Bomb Shop in Charing Cross Road, to buy some pamphlets and say hullo to old Henderson, who ran it.

Henderson was short, rotund, brusque in manner, with bristling white hair, pointed beard and scarlet tie; his was the only socialist bookshop in the West End. An open-style shop – unusual then – it had been designed and decorated in red and gold and emblazoned with the names of past rebels, by socialist painter Walter Crane. Its defiant name, red doors and window frames, and display of socialist and anarchist publications, incited upper-class louts and their toadies to heave an occasional brick through the full-length plate glass door and windows, to daub blue and white paint on to the red, and sometimes to break in at night and wreck the interior. All this Henderson expected. What provoked him to outbreaks of shouting was the nonpolitical behaviour of boys and lads from the ‘buildings for the industrious working classes’ which rose several storeys high above the shops in Charing Cross Road. All of us on our way to school kicked over Henderson’s dustbins and boxes; and on evenings and Saturdays in summer hit many a sixer through his back windows.

So when, in 1925, grimy and in working overalls, I walked into the shop for the first time to buy a socialist weekly, Henderson glowered at me, recognizing me as an erstwhile dustbin kicker and hitter of sixers, one whose younger brothers were still at it. After I had called regularly for some time. Henderson became affable, clearly seeing me as a brand plucked from the burning, and over the years talked helpfully to me about socialism, anarchism, and the books I ought to read.

On sale in the shop on that later day in 1931 were bundles of two American weeklies – Labor Action, run by Jay Lovestone, an expelled ‘Rightist’, and The Militant, published by the American Left Opposition, with articles in it by Trotsky himself, which appeared the more promising publication. The three or four numbers bought that day were passed round among six or seven of us – and our little world was enlarged. There were others, communists who were working for a reformation of the Comintern and its national sections, for a restoration of inner-party democracy, and an international programme of, nopt just socialism in one country, but world revolution.

Our first letters to the Americans were merely orders for pamphlets advertised in The Militant. But then Henderson’s supplies were cut off for not paying the accounts. He explained this to me indignantly, for he made nothing on the few copies he sold, and would be much out of pocket if he posted unsold copies back to America. We wrote to the Americans explaining Henderson’s problem, saying how important these isolated sales were, and telling them who and what we were, and what we were trying to do in the party.

The Americans were adamant. [37] In the end we had to order our own copies by post if we wanted to go on reading the paper. More letters were exchanged during the summer; but we made it clear to the Americans that we were not prepared to set up a Left Opposition group in Britain. We went along with them on much, such as the restoration of full inner-party democracy in the national sections, a diminution of Russian command of the Comintern, and a recovery of the communism of the founding fathers. And we were deeply shaken by Trotsky’s powerful indictment of Comintern policy in Germany, based as it was on the formula that social democracy and National Socialism were ‘varieties of fascism’, or, in Stalin’s words, ‘not opposite poles but neighbours’; by Trotsky’s warnings of the disaster that would follow for workers in Germany, Russia and throughout the world if that policy was persisted in; and by his call for a principled united front of the Social Democratic Party and the Communist Party to check and defeat the Nazis. All these things we would raise in the party, and fight for, but as members, not outsiders.

We were reassured by Arne Swabeck’s statement that ‘the Left Opposition’s views are not at all those of splitting the communist movement but of unifying it, naturally expecting every Left Oppositionist to work within the party for our views, endeavouring as much as possible to remain a member of the party without however sacrificing these views’. [38] But in a later letter Swabeck wrote: ‘our international secretariat, nevertheless, proposes that some concrete steps should be taken towards organization in a preliminary sense’, and added: ‘Albert Glotzer ... youth representative on our national committee ...’ after visiting Trotsky, and the international secretariat, would ‘stop over in England for the purpose of being helpful in bringing our various contacts together’. [39]

Another letter told us that Max Shachtman was also coming to England ‘to do whatever possible to help towards the formation of a Left Opposition group in England’, another from Albert Glotzer, staying at Kadikoy, Turkey with Trotsky, confirmed his intention of visiting England, telling us that ‘our task in England is the building of an organization of the Left Opposition’. [40]

Uncomfortably, we felt we were being hurried; that a decision was being thrust upon us. To become a group of the Left Opposition meant expulsion merely for ‘conspiracy’, for breaking the rules; and in circumstances that would incline our party comrades to condemn us unheard, and allow the party leaders to justify absolute repression of discussion by reference to the fabricated but nevertheless widely circulated and believed slanders against the ‘Trotskyists’. We all had ties of comradeship with many party members; the party occupied our waking hours, was our vocation, our social life. Our complete commitment was to the revolutionary party, which for us, at the time, was the Communist Party, however sadly it may have gone awry.

Our opinions had also been sent to Trotsky himself. He wrote, urging that ‘the British Left Opposition must begin systematic work. You must establish our staff centre, though a small one. You must build your own publications, even on a modest scale ... It is necessary to have a steady, uninterrupted activity, analysis, critic and propaganda. It is necessary to educate our cadres, although in the first stages, few. When, in England, more than elsewhere, communism in a short time can conquer the consciousness of the wide masses, so can conquer within communism, in the same short time, the supremacy of the ideas of the Left Opposition, that is the ideas of Marx and Lenin.’ [41]

Trotsky’s arguments were reiterated by Albert Glotzer of Chicago when he arrived; and by Max Shachtman of New York – urbane, witty, a theoretician of agility and much experience. Meeting Henry Sara, Stewart Purkis, Billy Williams, Harry Wicks and myself, he took up the theme of setting up an open Left Opposition group. ‘Someone,’ he said in a discouraging phrase, ‘has to go to the altar, someone has to be sacrificed.’ The candidates for sacrifice looked at each other but said nothing. We remained unconvinced as to the wisdom of the course suggested, though we did agree that it would be useful to begin the regular publication of a journal. There it was left. We were not yet the British Section of the International Left Opposition; and it was to be several months before we became so. [1*]

From the shadowy world of these obscure little meetings, we came out into the unheeding, bustling, seemingly-invincible world of Britain’s rulers, the Britain of the National government, now strongly in command. The revolutionary hours had passed, the multitudes fallen away in bewilderment or despair. Registered unemployment remained around three million; distress and destitution spread like a medieval plague. Here, indeed, the issues of the day were being debated in action among our fellow-workers.

Labour Party leaders – most of them out of parliament – were denouncing ‘MacDonaldism’ as the head and fount of all offending, thereby diverting blame for the party’s disgrace and defeat from themselves to their former but now departed heroes, MacDonald, Snowden and Thomas.

Five members of the Independent Labour Party (ILP) had been returned to parliament, all intransigents [2*]; they rejected new attempts to curtail their right to speak and vote freely, particularly as those attempts were being made by those who had backed the MacDonald administration and all its villainies, and bawled abuse at the ILPers for refusing to do the same. ILP leaders and members, however, were divided on ILP-Labour Party relationships, and not until July 1932 did an ILP conference vote disaffiliation from the Labour Party by 241 votes to 142.

Politically discredited, few in number, inhibited by a reformist philosophy and by obsequiousness to parliamentary procedures and fetishes, the Labour Party in the House of Commons was impotent to check the government’s legislative onslaught on the social services and the unemployed.

The bright day was done; the aspirations and endeavour of fifty years were in ruins. A shaken movement surveyed the wreckage, and as the survivors of the disaster began picking up the pieces, it was plain to the most election-minded constitutionalist in the ranks that the government and the employers could be resisted only by action in the workshops and in the streets. So, as at the end of the General Strike, it was the men and women of the union branches, trades councils, Labour parties and socialist societies who took up the task of rebuilding the shattered defences of labour and of restoring the movement’s morale in renewed struggle against hunger, poverty and oppression. They were busy on labour exchange committees; on relief bodies and councils, fighting countless individual cases of injustice; they set up, through the trades councils, associations of unemployed trade unionists; but they also made public protest on ever-mounting scale.

In hundreds of towns and cities, union and socialist banners were lifted against dark winter skies; there were swirling, turbulent clashes with police, incited by authority to deny rights of procession and to use brutality in doing so. A long steady explanation and action began; a stubborn rearguard action that was after a couple of years to halt the capitalist offensive, and compel the enemy to retreat, and make meagre but encouraging concessions.

The battle had to be local – how could it be otherwise in the absence of a national leadership? the ILP was divided and uncertain, and the CP remained isolated and mistrusted. In the alchemy of a brewing revolutionary situation one vital element had been missing – a revolutionary leadership able to reach the masses.

‘The Communist Party’, wrote Tom Bell later, ‘was still isolated, through neglect of mass work in factories and trade unions. To remedy this a special commission was appointed ... The results were expressed in the January (1932) Resolution ...

‘Almost immediately, a group of Trotskyists appeared in the South-West district of London (the Balham Group). This group, headed by Groves, Purkis, Sara and Wicks, who had been secretly flirting with the local Independent Labour Party for a time, opened an attack on the central committee ...’ [42]

‘Almost immediately’ – as though, like Prospero’s spirits, we had been conjured out of the air! Tom Bell knew better, of course, for he had been attached to the group for a while, and had, with a companion, attended a few meetings. [43] He found nothing amiss – else we should have heard about it from district and national party officials. Our members were all active in party causes, and group meetings were concerned almost entirely with planning, reporting and discussing these activities. Policy discussions arose from that work, or from documents issued by the district or national leadership. Our ‘flirtation’ with the local ILP branches during the 1931 crisis and after, was open and public, not secret; and at the time of which Bell was writing we were not an organized group, much less ‘Trotskyists’; we were busy and convinced members of a party we still hoped would train, educate and organize a revolutionary leadership among the British working people. But our opposition to the party functionaries hardened as they became more and more openly the pliant creatures of the Russian bureaucracy, and we were increasingly aware that reform of the British party would require also reform of the Comintern.

The Central Committee’s ‘January Resolution’ had been produced because of the Comintern’s continued dissatisfaction with the British Communist Party. Not, as some suspected, because the Comintern wanted a revolutionary party and a revolution in Britain, or anywhere else, but because the Comintern, being transformed into a department of the Russian state, a state controlled in the interests of the dominant party caucus by a bureaucracy and a secret police, expected Comintern national sections to serve them, not the interests of the working people.

We, like most communists, had supposed that a successful revolution elsewhere would benefit Russia and its people. So it would, but not necessarily Russia’s rulers, whose power would be imperilled by such a revolution, unless they could control it as they now controlled the destiny of Russian people. The thought was no sooner whispered than brushed away – but it was true, though it was to be a long time before most of us would admit it openly, to ourselves or to others.

We went on uncomfortably wearing clothes that no longer fitted us, thinking ourselves as more correctly dressed than the Stalinists; more determined defenders of soviet power, more truly communist. Our doubts were, if not dispelled, at least held in limbo by our respect for Trotsky’s brilliant mind, experience and revolutionary integrity; he argued forcefully and with a wealth of Marxist precept and theory that the Russian state owned all land and industry, controlled production, and distribution of wealth, and remained therefore a worker’s state, temporarily off-course because of wrong leadership and wrong policies.

It did not convince us deep down in our troubled and uneasy consciences, but it seemed better to let such profound and complex matters lie undisturbed; and to go on shouting that the Soviet Union must be defended – and that revolutionary uprisings in other countries were the best way to do it. We could not hope to escape calumny, but at least we could do battle on issues of our own choosing and so limit the area of misrepresentation and distortion to manageable proportions.

An early reaction to the January resolution was a letter sent to the party secretariat drawing attention to criticism of party policy contained in the letter of 26 August 1931, which was refused publication in the Daily Worker on grounds that it contained ‘incorrect and unhelpful opinions’. As the January resolution contained similar criticism and admitted the errors in policy, would the secretariat now withdraw its statement? [44] The secretariat would not: ‘We are surprised that instead of seeing the Comintern resolution as a guide for future action, you are attempting to utilize it in order to justify your own sectarian and academic tendencies.’ [45] We noted the reference to ‘Comintern resolution’ with interest.

These letters were read to the Balham Group on 4 March. The group – which had discussed the January resolution on three occasions, beginning on 15 January – resolved to put its criticism in resolution form: and at the meeting of 18 March ‘a discussion took place on the Central Committee (January) Resolution ... a resolution drafted by Comrade Groves was agreed unanimously by the group to be sent to the secretariat. The group also agreed that representation be made to the London party committee for an urgent and overdue aggregate.’ [46]

The group’s resolution was sent on 1 April, the day of fools; in it the group questioned the Central Committee’s formulation on the party’s activities in the trade unions, which said that the trade union branches must be transformed from organs of class collaboration into organs of class struggle ... The whole line of the party at the Leeds congress and since has been to maintain that job organization can alone be the unit of ‘an organ of class struggle; that the very structure, limited scope, organization, constitution and leadership of the unions make them unsuitable as organs of class struggle.’

The group also pointed out that the two major features of the international situation were not mentioned at all in the resolution – the war in the Far East, and the crisis in Germany, where the Nazis were advancing to power. ‘The resolution was drafted at a time when the dangers in the Far East and the approaching crisis in Germany were clearly visible, and it should have set out the tasks of the party in relation to both.’

The group went on to call for a party congress, which was two years and more overdue. ‘We regard the amount and extent of the discussion allowed on the resolution to be quite insufficient. In view of the present unsatisfactory state of the party as depicted in the resolution itself, we suggest: full open discussion in the party press as a preliminary to a party congress, the date of which should be fixed without further delay.’ [47]

The group’s criticism was published in the Daily Worker for 14 April, with a reply from the secretariat which ignored the major arguments and accused us of ‘underestimating the trade unions’. At the regular group meeting on the day following publication, the secretariat’s answer was discussed, and rejected indignantly by the members as inadequate as a reply and untrue in its accusations against the group.

At an aggregate meeting of South-West local members held in Battersea on 20 April we defended our statement and enlarged our attack on the leadership and its policy. On 12 May, the group drew up its reply to the secretariat, denying accusations of underestimating the importance of work in the unions, and that union branches were, as the Central Committee resolution said, ‘organs of class collaboration’ or that they could be ‘transformed’ into ‘organs of class struggle’, a role for which they were unsuited.

In support of our argument, we quoted R.P. Dutt’s Labour Monthly notes, in which he asked, ‘Do the trade unions provide the means of mobilising the workers for the present struggle? To say this is to be blind to obvious facts ... (Could) control of the trade union machine be a means to leading the workers’ struggle? No, experience has shown repeatedly that this is nothing less than a constitutional reformist delusion ... the fighting front of the workers can only be effectively built up in the early struggle at the point of production ...’ [48]

Even more to the point was a statement by Lozovsky, chief of the Russian-based and controlled Red International of Trade Unions: ‘That we want to explode the trade union apparatus and destroy it, of that there cannot be the slightest doubt.’ [49]

Balham again drew attention to Germany, and the international situation. ‘We believe this (a party congress) to be more necessary now than ever before ... The menace of war which grows in the West and the East demands a party united on the basis of conviction and belief in the line of the party. Only a full, unfettered discussion within the party can make this possible. [50]

This appeared in the Daily Worker but without Lozovsky’s words, which had been deleted, and with a condemnatory reply by the secretariat. [51] Though the quote from Lozovsky had been suppressed, the Daily Worker published two articles by the [...] Balham Group! [A]

On 3 May, another aggregate meeting of South-West local members was held in Battersea, at which district organiser R.W. Robson, and other party functionaries were present, and spoke. We put forward the Balham resolution, and attacked party policy and leadership. Henry Sara and Harry Wicks were among our spokesmen. A few days afterwards, three of us received letters from the district party office.

Henry Sara was charged with ‘supporting the general accusations of the lack of integrity, trickery, cowardice, and stupidity which were levelled against the party leadership by Comrade Groves’. Harry Wicks was accused of supporting ‘the remarks of Groves which accused the leadership of the party of trickery, of being opposed to criticism and discussion...’

The quotations varied somewhat, for letter number three said ‘it is reported that ... you stated that “the policy which has wrecked this local organization has also wrecked others. Battersea represents the state of the party in other parts of the country ... it is not better but worse than in January”, and for this you blame the “stupidity, hesitation and cowardice of the party leadership in the period of September to December 1931”.’ The letters asked of us, did we ‘maintain these views... on the present leadership and policy of the party?’ [52]

We replied, rejecting the ‘reported’ quotations as inaccurate and out of context, and pointed out that our opinions on these matters were set out for all to see in the Balham Group resolutions and related statements.

Reports on the state of the party in several major areas were in the hands of the centre. ‘Let these be published in full for discussion in the party press and then we shall be in a position to re-assert our statement or to modify it.’ [53]

When the secretariat declared that the Balham resolutions were the work of ‘one or two well-known sectarians‘ [54] it was clear to us that they were trying to isolate some of us from the rest of the group, so that they could demand our submission to official policy, or expel us. What the party functionaries did not understand was that the members were convinced that what was being done was right, and, in fact, not one was to desert in the hectic two months that followed.

Our aim, the aim of all, was to battle on and compel the calling of a party congress and the holding of the pre-congress discussion that could be expected to go with it; and in the discussion and at the congress present our criticisms and ideas to the party membership.

But it looked as though the party leaders were deferring announcement of a date for the congress until we had been subdued or silenced. We renewed our demand for a congress, while offering a re-phrased resolution paragraph on trade union policy which we hoped would make our position clearer, and harder for the leadership to refuse discussion or distort our viewpoint. [55]

Events were forcing us, however, into further immediate assaults on party and Comintern policy, so jeopardizing our chances of securing a congress. Indeed, our situation had been rendered the more precarious, for impelled by the alarming situation in Germany, we had risked the publication during May, of the duplicated journal The Communist, containing Trotsky’s Germany, the Key to the International Situation, and the statement that the British Section of the Left Opposition was now established.

It was published anonymously and circulated carefully and secretly; it was a reluctant, uncertain gesture indeed, and the response to it was a loud, disconcerting silence. Not all of us were convinced of the wisdom of it – but once done there could be no going back on it. We began pressing anew for a party congress, and for educational and agitational activity by the party over the situation in Germany. [56]

In June, Arne Swabeck wrote from New York of the Communist, ‘naturally we greet its appearance with considerable joy .... It is our hope however that you will be able, when the next issue appears, to establish a regular address and give some direction for the revolutionary workers ... how to get in touch with you’ [57]; and, several weeks later, ‘It is our hope that you will soon be able to have another issue.’ [58]

An address! Whose? We were too closely linked as friends, and as critics of the leadership, for one of us to come out as publisher of the Communist without bringing suspicion on all the others. To the affluent Americans we must have seemed reluctant martyrs – but then we were but privates in a tiny isolated unit of the army of world revolution, our armaments pitiable, our provisions scanty. Some of us were held back too by anxiety to make plain to our party comrades that we were fighting for, not against the party; and by the knowledge that whatever support we mustered among them for an inner-party discussion, a congress and policy changes, would disintegrate if the movement appeared to be promoted from the outside, which it certainly had not been.

In those last few months in the life of the Balham Group, its minutes show the members busy on routine party work, but carrying on as well an acrimonious correspondence with the London District Committee and the Party Secretariat, on four issues – on the formulation of trade union policy, an issue we had to put aside when told that no more letters from the group on the subject would be published in the party press; [59] on the party leadership’s proposal that the London District Committee should, like the Central Committee no longer be elected by the members but handpicked by an appointed ‘commission’; on the absence of any party discussion or campaign on events in Germany; and on the need for the holding of a party congress and a pre-congress discussion.

Among local concerns recorded in the minutes was the problem of unemployed organization and on this, too, we clashed on policy with district and national leadership. Efforts to rejuvenate the local branch of the party-controlled NUWM had come to nothing. The Wandsworth Trades Council had formed an association for unemployed trade unionists, but the party had declared war on such bodies and ordered members to break them up. Bill Pyne, by artful and devious argument, had secured the group’s permission to join the association; his reports on it convinced us that we should support it and help make it an effective, fighting organization among the unemployed. [60] The district committee rebuked us for this, and ordered us to bring our members and supporters out of the association and enrol them in the NUWM. The Group ignored this instruction, [61] and the association, backed by the Trades Council, and, before long, led by our members, grew in numbers and influence. Many of the trade unionists we met and worked with then became supporters in the years ahead. Several months afterwards, the party itself reversed its policy of destroying the associations, and ordered members to support them.

The minutes show us maintaining our friendly relations with the local ILP branches, particularly the Clapham branch, whose New Morris Hall was often the venue for our occasional public meetings, socials and conferences. The comradeship which had begun in the autumn of 1931 with such staunch socialists as Sid Kemp and his brother, Alwynne Wynne, and Miriam Knibbs, Ernie Patterson, Harold Ratten, and several others, was to endure until the coming of war scattered us all, and the old days were done.

It was at the New Morris Hall amid the excitements of late 1931 that we met Hugo Dewar. An ILPer for a couple of years or so, he was, in 1931, a member of the Marxist League, a small organization of which none of us had heard, and which revolved around the unusual personality of freelance socialist and secularist, Francis Ridley. Marxist League members had, we learned, been reading and circulating The Militant; and Ridley and an Indian member, Chanda Ram, had sent Trotsky a thesis on the theme that ‘Great Britain is at the present time in a transitional phase between Democracy and Fascism’, to which Trotsky replied at some length in The Militant, concluding, ‘It would be very sad if the critical members of the British Communist Party would imagine that the opinions of Ridley and Ram represent the opinions of the Left Opposition.’ [62] Hugo Dewar had disagreed with the Ridley-Ram thesis, and now linked up with us and the ILP at Clapham in our campaign against the National government’s ‘economies’; and presently joined the CP, becoming a member of the Tooting Local, linking up as an individual with the Balham Group in its struggle within the party.

The district leadership was uneasy about our collaboration with the ILP, and sharply critical when we joined with the ILP in establishing a committee to organize the May Day demonstration. [63] Because of events in the Far East, we kept the joint committee in existence after May Day, to campaign against ‘imperialist war’ – Japan’s invasion of Manchuria in 1931 had culminated in a successful conquest of the province, and in February 1932, Japan set up there the puppet state of Manchukuo, a base for further military adventures at the expense of China, and maybe of Russia. The Comintern had ordered its sections to mobilize opinion and protest against this plot of the imperialist powers against the Soviet Union, and the CPGB had called for the setting up of anti-war committees; and the campaign shaped itself along the usual lines – the workers’ fatherland was in danger, Britain and other imperialist powers were supporting Japanese aggression against Russia and China, and the workers had to take militant action against their imperialist governments; the social democrats, the left socialists and the pacifists had to be exposed as allies of the imperialists. ‘Pacifism is the twin ally of the bloodiest imperialism,’ wrote R.P. Dutt, calling for ‘neither imperialist patriotism nor pacifism but the active mass fight for the destruction of imperialism and the victory of Socialism.’ [64]

Hardly had these words appeared in print when the ‘Leninist line’ on war was repudiated: a Comintern-backed campaign was launched for a spectacular world congress against war, the public appeal being made by French pacifist Henri Barbusse, and addressed to progressives, liberals, pacifists, as well as to the working classes.

The promptness with which CPGB members obeyed Comintern instructions and jettisoned orthodox Leninist policy on war in favour of attitudes it had always denounced; the fervour and haste with which members argued for the new policy; the sight of comrades we had known and respected for years as principled Marxists and devoted communists, distributing an appeal couched in liberal and pacifist terms for a projected world parade of non-revolutionary, anti-revolutionary and most non-socialist notabilities, should have shocked us into looking a little more thoroughly into our own ideas and actions and at the course we had set for ourselves. We did not. Instead, we championed the accepted Leninist position on war. We still believed that such departures from orthodoxy were temporary aberrations from principles shared in common, the correctness of which we had – or would admit to ourselves – no doubt. We were still in the same psychological sphere as the people with whom we were in conflict – our differences, we told ourselves, were limited to certain issues. Even after we had been expelled, and were being ostracized and vilely abused, we continued to believe this; and some remained in that mind, making no reassessment, not looking behind causes to effects, nor wondering what obscure questionings stayed us from the absolute capitulation of so many admired and worthier comrades. When the appeal for the World Congress Against War was launched, and for a British pre-Congress at Bermondsey to precede the greater charade at Amsterdam, we opened what was to be our final campaign as members of the CPGB.


1*. A letter was received from P. Frank of the Left Opposition International Secretariat, dated 9 January 1932, but we do not appear to have established any formal relations with that body – about which we knew little or nothing – for several months.
2*. The three ILP-sponsored candidates returned were James Maxton, Dick wallhead and John McGovern. David Kirkwood and George Buchanan were sponsored by their unions, but refused endorsement by the Labour Party, so they joined the ILP group.


35. Manchester Guardian, 19 July 1929, and Daily Herald, 22 July and 25 July 1929.
36. Leon Trotsky, My Life, London 1930.
37. Arne Swabeck to R. Groves, 8 August 1931. Earlier letters have not survived.
38. ibid., 29 September 1931.
39. ibid., 29 September 1931.
40. ibid., 26 October 1931.
41. Trotsky, letter to R. Groves, 27 October 1931.
42. Tom Bell, The British Communist Party, London 1937, p.150.
43. There are fleeting references to Bell in the Rail group minutes but he seems to have faded away after a time. See p.11 and p.27 for references to his absence.
44. Letter: R. Groves to Secretariat, n.d.
45. Letter: Secretariat to R. Groves, 29 February 1932.
46. Balham Group minutes, p.60.
47. Letter: Balham Group to Secretariat, 1 April 1932.
48. R.P. Dutt, Labour Monthly, February 1932, pp.76-78.
49. A. Lozovsky, RILU Magazine, 15 February 1932.
50. Letter: Balham Group to Secretariat, 12 May 1932.
51. Daily Worker, 27 May 1932.
52. Letters: District Committee to R. Groves, H. Wicks, H. Sara, 31 May 1932.
53. This note is missing in the published text.
54. Daily Worker, 10 June 1932.
55. Balham Group minutes, 10 June 1932, p.91.
56. Letter to Secretariat, 13 June 1932; Secretary’s reply 24 June 1932. ‘Central Committee resolutions’, we were told, ‘are circulated for discussion and carrying out, not for reformulation by party units.’
57. Arne Swabeck to R. Groves, 8 June 1932.
58. Arne Swabeck to H. Sara and R. Groves, 25 July 1932.
59. Balham Group minutes, 28 June 1932.
60. ibid., 8 April 1932.
61. ibid., 15 April 1932.
62. Militant, 12 December 1931.
63. Balham Group minutes, p.86 (13 May 1932) and p.88 (n.d. but presumably 3 June 1932).
64. Labour Monthly, May 1932, pp.267, 268.

Remark by MIA

A. In the book there appears to be a typesetting error here where part of the penultimate paragraph is repeated. The published text reads: ‘Though the quote from Lozovsky had been suppressed, the Daily Worker published two articles by the Red International chief on trade union apparatus and destroy it, of that there cannot Balham Group!#8217;


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