Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line: Revolutionary History


The Marxian League

Dear Comrades,

I showed your article by Albert Glotzer to F.A. Ridley, and he volunteered the following additional information about the Marxian League mentioned in it.

About 1929 or 1930 I delivered some personal lectures at a cafe near the British Museum to raise money, and several Trotskyists came to them, including Hugo Dewar. In 1930 or 1931 we founded the Marxian League, and Hugo Dewar became the de facto leader and organiser. We had any number from about a dozen to twenty at the lectures, and a few more might come in towards the end. One of the first to attend was Dr Worrall, who met his first wife there, and there was Max Nicholls, a dapper little man who came along with another young Trotskyist named Nardell, who later disappeared. They were quite inseparable. Phillip Gunawardena, a small, active fellow who was a very good talker, came there, and one lecture was attended by Colvin R. de Silva, who became a well-known lawyer who pleaded before the Privy Council.

An important figure was Chandu Ram, a Hindu whose real name was Aggrawalla. He was a friend of Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, a lawyer who was later to become very famous as the Governor General, the Prime Minister and President of Mauritius. Aggrawalla’s parents must have had some money, as he never seemed to do any work. He changed his name to Chandu Ram to evade the authorities. He told me that he was prepared to lead an expedition to root out all the Indian princes! At the end of the British Empire there were 305 princely states varying in size from a few acres to state like Hyderabad, larger than France. He was a small fellow, very active on his feet, and was killed in a motor car accident shortly after he went back to India, but I did not find this out until long afterwards. He attached himself to me as a sort of guru, or spiritual leader, and was a very useful bloke.

We published a paper called The New Man named after a journal produced by the Communist Party of Cyprus, which I edited, insofar as anyone did, and wrote most of the articles. Aggrawalla wrote one or two, as did Dr Worrall, as far as I can remember. Several issues came out ranging over such subjects as the Stalin-Trotsky conflict and the world as it looked at the time. The journal lasted in all about a couple of years, and a lot of the material I wrote was incorporated in a book, Next Year's War, (Secker and Warburg, 1936).

We did not have a platform in Hyde Park, but we did have one meeting in Trafalgar Square. I had a row over the booking with Dr C.A. Smith, as he wanted it for the ILP at the same time. Harry Pollitt, the big noise in the Communist Party at the time, was invited to debate with me, but he either declined, or didn’t turn up. But I did have a debate in Finsbury Park with Tommy Jackson, a man of enormous learning and an expert on Irish politics. He never washed or changed his clothes. We debated ‘Socialism in one country’ some time between 1931 and 1933.

We all believed in the great rosy dawn, since Thatcher was not even a dark cloud in the future then! Anti-war propaganda played a big part in our activity, and we wrote a lot of articles about it. We thought the revolution was coming very soon, and we used to conduct expeditions around the West End looking for suitable sites for barricades! Eventually we packed up. I can’t remember how. We Just faded away.

I feel sure that these reminiscences will be appreciated by the readers of your esteemed journal.

Ellis Hillman

Updated by ETOL: 1.7.2003