Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line: Revolutionary History, Vol. 5 No. 3


Henry Sara and A.J.P. Taylor

THE letter below was sent to The Spectator on 23 January 1994 by Ted Crawford in response to a review which referred to Henry Sara as ‘a worthless man’, but it was not printed. The letter was sent before the book had been read, but it is now clear that the offensive phrase was Carr’s and not Sisman’s. A malicious comment on Sara by Malcolm Muggeridge is quoted, but Muggeridge was renowned for his spiteful ways. Elsewhere it is stated by the author that Taylor’s siblings regarded Henry as a ‘scrounger’, and used to call him ‘comrade’ because this was less embarrassing than any other mode of address in view of his low social status. This may tell us something about both the Taylor family and the class divisions of the interwar period. Whether Sara was any more ‘worthless’ than this right-wing academic is something that we can leave to the judgement of history and the opening of the archives.

Dear Sir

Raymond Carr in his review (22 January) of Sisman’s biography of A.J.P. Taylor refers to his (Taylor’s) ‘father’s weakness in tolerating his wife’s obsession with a worthless man’, though it is unclear as to whether this is the author’s or reviewer’s judgement. This can only refer to the late Henry Sara, a self-taught working man, who, with Harry Wicks and Reg Groves, founded British Trotskyism. Harry Wicks in his autobiography (Keeping My Head, 1992, reviewed by Robert Conquest in the Times Literary Supplement, 9 July 1993) gives a short resumé (pp. 159–60) of Sara’s interesting life, which included the latter’s fearfully harsh treatment as a conscientious objector in the First World War, which prompted even Philip Snowden to ask a question in the House (it may have been in prison that Sara met the elder Taylor, who was also a CO). Worthless is hardly the adjective which comes to mind, and there are still those that honour Henry Sara, if only for his valiant attempts in the postwar period to denounce Lysenko and his theories to hostile left-wing fellow-travelling audiences.

Although a close friend of Sara’s, Harry Wicks was quite unaware of the liaison until he read about it in A.J.P.’s autobiography. Sara, whose health had been broken by his treatment as a CO, received a small allowance from the elder Taylors, but as soon as both of his parents were dead, A.J.P. Taylor, who hated Sara, cut it off.


Edward Crawford
Revolutionary History

Updated by ETOL: 21.9.2011