Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line: Revolutionary History, Vol. 6 No. 4


Apparachiks and Stewards’ Committees

Dear Editor

In his article published in Revolutionary History (Volume 6, nos. 2/3, pp. 160–76), Alan Christianson appears to be regarding the old Revolutionary Communist Party as a mass party. How can there be ‘Apparatus Men’ in a party of a few hundred people? Apart from that, it was necessary for the leadership of the RCP to tackle all the nitty gritty work of the office – typing, duplicating, stuffing envelopes, cleaning up, etc. – hardly the work of apparachiks!

The import of Christianson’s article is that there is no need for a revolutionary party because the shop stewards’ committees had taken over all functions ‘political, trade union and economic’. Such a theory might have appeared relevant in 1955 when this article was written, but it has not stood the test of time. Therefore, Christianson did not discover a great revolutionary truth, but only a flash in the pan! Obviously, rank and file movements, shop stewards’ committees, etc, are at their height during periods of full employment. Perhaps Christianson imagined that welfare capitalism was here to say. If so, I’ve got news for him!

Christianson claims that the leadership of the RCP lost interest in the trade union movement, and turned away from mass struggle. I disagree here entirely, for all of us, right up to the end, were expected to attend our trade union branches, be elected to Trades Councils, and so on. Regular meetings were held at the centre for members of each union represented, to coordinate work. And it has to be remembered that the membership of the RCP was largely working class.

No doubt Christianson has fond memories of stewards’ Central Committee meetings in the pub, but this nostalgia is not enough on which to build a revolutionary theory.


Sheila Lahr

Updated by ETOL: 30.9.2011