Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line: Revolutionary History


Peter Taffe and Tony Mulhearn, Liverpool: A City That Dared to Fight, Fortress, London 1988, pp.497, £6.95.

Although the main thrust of this book deals with the last half dozen years and hence lies outside the scope of this magazine, it does include a preliminary sketch on the history of the labour movement in Liverpool and one or two hints about the part played in it by the Trotskyists.

Appendices 4 and 5 contain matter supplied in interviews by Jimmy Deane and Tommy Birchall. Along with several interesting details we are told that Charles Martinson, who later stood as an RCP candidate in the council elections, left the Communist Party when he was in the International Brigade over the attacks made on the POUM, and joined the Trotskyists when he got back to Britain.

Such items as these supplied by these veterans stand in marked contrast to what appears in Taffe and Mulhearn’s text whenever it touches on that time. Thus we are told (p.34) that already in 1938 Ted Grant was the “theoretician and principal leader of Trotskyism in Britain” There is no mention at all of D.D. Harber’s Militant group that Deane and Birchall joined to begin with and to which Grant belonged himself, that it was Gerry Healy who brought the Liverpool youth into the WIL, or that Ralph Lee, who had converted Grant to Trotskyism whilst still in South Africa, was far more prominent as a theoretician in the WIL to begin with than was Grant. And Haston and Tearse do not merit a mention at all.

A quick recourse to Trotsky’s Stalin School of Falsification should convince the writers how little credit they gain from this attitude to history.

Al Richardson

Updated by ETOL: 5.7.2003