Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line: Revolutionary History, Vol. 7 No. 1
Work in Progress
Summer on the Continent
THE PAST of the revolutionary movement continues to arouse the liveliest interest and to influence the political scene on the continent. On the morning of Saturday, 30 August 1997, several hundred people gathered around the grave of Lev Sedov in the Thiais Cemetery in the southern Parisian suburbs to commemorate his death and that of his father, Leon Trotsky. Comrade Daniel Gluckstein, the General Secretary of the Parti des Travailleurs, made a brief but moving speech pointing out that we should remember not only L.D. Trotsky and his son, but all the other working-class militants who fell victim to Stalinism at this time, whether they be Trotskyists, like Erwin Wolf; Anarchists, like Camillo Berneri; POUMists, like Andrès Nin and Kurt Landau; or Mensheviks, like Marc Rhein. What Hitler did to the workers’ movement from outside, he said, Stalin did from within.
Meanwhile, our sister organisation, the Centre d’Études et de Recherches sur les Mouvements Trotskystes et Révolutionaires Internationaux, has moved from its rather cramped premises at the bottom of the Rue Saint-Denis to a fine new headquarters on three floors further north at 28 Rue des Petites Ecuries, Paris 75010. They were opened at a ceremony on 12 June in the presence of Fred Zeller and Yves Dechezelles. Those wanting to obtain the latest of its Cahiers (no. 88, March 1998), on the Renault strike of 1947, should send 25 francs and the cost of postage to this new address. The previous number included a translation of John McIlroy’s essay on Trotskyists and Stalinists in the 1945 Docks Strike from Revolutionary History, Volume 6, no. 2/3. The latest Cahiers Léon Trotsky (no. 61) includes the essays by Y.R. Amarasinghe, Kumari Jayawardena, Meryl Fernando and Wes Ervin from our last issue.
Meanwhile, the Courant Communiste Internationaliste of the Parti des Travailleurs hosted two days of study on 18–19 October commemorating the eightieth anniversary of the Russian Revolution. We can only hope that, like similar projects in the past, the full account of these discussions will appear in print in the none-too-distant future. Those who were puzzled to read the announcement and proposed contents of the first four issues of the new magazine Les Cahiers Lénine-Trotsky in no. 14 (620) of the new series of La Verité (May 1995, pp. 131–4), but were disappointed not to see them appear, will be glad to know that the journal has only been delayed due to technical problems, and has not been abandoned.
Meanwhile, other publishing projects are going vigorously ahead. On the journalistic side, we have Daniel Coquema’s De Trotsky à Arlette (Éditions Plein-Sud, 1996) and P. Bourseiller’s Cet étrange M Blondel. Pierre Broué’s magisterial Histoire de l’Internationale communiste was brought out by Fayard on 9 October, and the book on the murder of Pietro Tresso and his three Trotskyist companions in 1943 by the Stalinists that he wrote last year with Raymond Vacheron, Meurtres au Maquis (Éditions Grasset), has caused quite a stir (see reviews below, pp. 221–7).
Meanwhile in Italy, two of the surviving Communist partisans responsible for the Rome bombing that led to the massacre of the Ardeatine Way have been accused of setting up a deliberate provocation to get the Germans to murder militants from rival organisations, in particular Bandierra Rossa (see Revolutionary History, Volume 5, no. 4, Spring 1995, pp. 131–2).
There has always been a lively interaction between history and politics in France and Italy. It is difficult to imagine anything similar happening here.
Babeuf Bicentenary Conference
ON 16–17 October 1997, a conference was held in Saint-Quentin, France, to mark the bicentenary of the execution of Gracchus Babeuf, seen by many as the first revolutionary Socialist. Saint-Quentin was Babeuf’s birthplace, but it was only in 1989 that the municipality named a square after the great revolutionary.
In 1993, a number of inhabitants of Saint-Quentin – many of them local historians or activists in the labour movement – formed ‘The Friends of Gracchus Babeuf’, which now has an international membership, and publishes a regular bulletin. It was this association that called the conference, and although a number of academic historians presented papers, the conference was held quite independently of any academic institution. It reflected the international interest in Babeuf, with speakers from Russia, the USA, Brazil and Britain, as well as France.
The various papers showed that there is still much to be said about the importance and influence of Babeuf. For too long, Babeuf has been seen either as a belated Jacobin or as a Utopian Socialist. He was neither, but had both a Socialist programme and a commitment to practical organisation. The papers dealt with aspects of Babeuf’s life and thought – his involvement in the campaigns against taxation in Picardy; the social and political base of the conspiracy in 1796, not just in Paris, but throughout France, and the importance and example of Babeuf’s ideas and example for the development of French Socialism between 1797 and 1848. A particularly rich source, until recently not much exploited by historians, is the three-month trial of the babouvistes in the spring of 1797, of which a complete stenographic record exists.
It is hoped to publish the papers presented to the conference. Anyone wishing to contact ‘Les Amis de Gracchus Babeuf’ can do so at 30 rue des Patriotes, 02100 Saint-Quentin, France.
The Wheeldon Case
ALICE WHEELDON was a Suffragette and a Socialist in Derby who helped conscientious objectors on the run from the police and army authorities during the First World War. She, two daughters and a son-in-law were arrested and tried for conspiracy to assassinate the Prime Minister, David Lloyd George. Alice Wheeldon was sentenced to 10 years in jail, her daughter Winnie to five years, and her son-in-law Alfred Mason to seven years.
At a meeting organised by the Independent Labour Party in Derby in February 1917, Alderman Benton of Leicester accused the authorities of a frame-up intended to discredit Socialism and conscientious objectors. A defence fund was set up. Secret papers recently released by the Public Record Office have shed new light on the rôle of MI5 agents in this affair, according to a two-part report in the local paper, the Derby Evening Telegraph, on 26 and 27 December 1997. After a hunger strike, Alice Wheeldon was released in December 1917. She died in February 1919, was buried in Nottingham Road cemetery in Derby, and a red flag was laid on her coffin.
Another of Alice Wheeldon’s sons-in-law was Arthur MacManus, who became a founder member and the first Chairman of the Communist Party of Great Britain, and earned the right to be buried in Red Square.
The fate of another member of the Wheeldon family seems to have been different. According to the Derby Evening Telegraph, Alice Wheeldon’s son William had been a conscientious objector during the First World War, and was a fugitive when the Lloyd George murder plot trial of his mother and sisters was held at the Old Bailey. The paper reports: ‘After the war, he emigrated to the Soviet Union, took Soviet citizenship, and worked as a translator for the Soviets. But in 1927, he was executed as a suspected capitalist agent, according to historian Nick Hiley, who has studied papers released by Moscow since the fall of Communism.’
History on the Internet
IN THIS note, I intend only to deal with Internet resources that provide access to original source materials or serious works of presentation or interpretation. Such resources are increasing, both in number and usefulness, and we will attempt to maintain current information about them, and report on them from time to time. However, they are greatly outnumbered by resources primarily concerned with the ‘discussion’ of the positions or passing thoughts of individuals or groups. Many of these ‘discussions’ and all too many of the positions and passing thoughts ‘discussed’ are of a depressing quality. (This of course is no accident; it is simply a reflection of the real position of aspiring – and poseur – revolutionaries in the late 1990s, and of the real situation of the working class.)
Revolutionary History has established its own website, which can be accessed at <http://www.compulink.co.uk/~jplant/revhist>. Here we present information about our work and publications, including prices and availability, together with detailed lists of contents. We also use the resource to draw attention to publications and projects with which we have some relationship or affinity, or shared interest (for example Socialist Platform, Porcupine Press, New Interventions, What Next?, Journal of Trotsky Studies).
It is also very useful for us to be able to make available material which we have not been able to publish, for reasons of space, or because we have not had a theme issue into which it could easily fit. Making such material available was the first objective of our web site (as well as promoting the sales of our publications, of course). Sometimes, too, we have working notes and correspondence which develop information of interest to researchers and scholars, but which would not fit easily into the format of our journal. At present, we have the following list of unpublished articles available:
We intend to present our out-of-print material on the site in the near future, and work is at an advanced stage on the Vietnam issue. The Trotsky Project (see below) has also prepared some of this material for presentation on their web site, and we will in the near future provide access to this via links and/or by reformatting it to fit our own style.
We also offer a collection of other documents that have come our way, and which we think are of value to those making a serious study of the revolutionary movement. This list grows regularly, but at the time of writing consists of the following:
A problem with operating a web site is to strike a good balance between simply making available important material for study, as a library or archive might do, and introducing some coherence and organisation into the presentation of the material to encourage interest and participation. Our collection of material on the web seems to have reached the point at which such questions are becoming more important, and we are likely to be making changes to the design and operation of the site for some time. Comments and feedback from users will be welcomed.
The Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL) is a continuing project, aimed at providing a complete documentation about the history, the ideas and the activity of the international Trotskyist movement, centring upon the figure of Leon Trotsky and continuing today. This involves compiling information from various sources and historical documents about several thousand individuals, and of hundreds of groupings and publications, and making them available in Internet. The aim of the ETOL is to be the key location in Internet where anybody interested in Trotskyism will go when doing research work. Its web address is http://www.trotskyism.org.
The ETOL will also reproduce original historical documents, and provide links to other locations on the net which contain further documentation. In that sense, especially with the addition of further documents in languages other than English, the ETOL intends to be an on-line repository about the history of the Trotskyist movement. Clearly, this a larger and more generalised project than Revolutionary History’s own web site. Several present and former members of the Revolutionary History Editorial Board are contributing to the project, and there is an encouraging level of participation from people in a number of Trotskyist tendencies as well as from independent Socialist scholars. The project has been able to mobilise cooperative (or at least non-hostile) working between these different viewpoints to a perhaps surprising degree. (By way of illustration, it includes people who have publicly described the present writer as an enemy.)
The ETOL is making available some of Revolutionary History’s out-of-print articles, as well as other material prepared by project supporters, such as Shachtman’s book The Fight for Socialism.
The project is operated through an Editorial Board, with the following membership: Amaury Verron (Fr), Bob Evans (USA), Bruce Burleson (Ca), Bruce Robinson (UK), Chris Chrome (UK), Chris Faatz (USA), Dave Berger (USA), David Stevens (USA), David Walters (USA), Emil Sinclair (Lu), Emile Fabrol (Fr), Fabio Cerulli (It), Franco Ferrari (It), Geert Cool (Be), Gerry Downing (UK), Heiko Khoo (UK, China specialist), Hugh Rodwell (Se), Ilario Salucci (It), J.J. Plant (UK), Jean Christophe Helary (Fr), Jean-Michel Vaysse (Fr), Jeffrey Booth (USA), Jim Monaghan (Ei), Jim Paris (USA), John Gowland (Au), Jorn Andersen (Dk), José Villa (UK), Keith Sinclair (UK), Luciano Dondero (It), Luigi Candreva (It), M. Razi (Ir), Neil Fettes (Ca), Ninel Thuan (Fr), Per I. Mathisen (No), Peter van Heusden (Za), Philip Bolton (UK), Raymond Po (Ar), Rob Jones (Ru), Ron Painter (Ca), Sally Ryan (USA), Shigeochan (Jp), Tom Condit (USA).
There is also an Advisory Committee, which is meant to keep an eye on the entire ETOL project, and provide some kind of guarantee that this is a serious undertaking. Currently its members are Al Richardson (UK), Alan Wald (USA), Bryan Palmer (Ca), Carlos Rebello (Br), Charles Wesley Ervin (USA), Doug Henwood (USA), Ernest Haberkern (USA), Franco Grisolia (It), Jose Castilho Marques Neto (Br), Marco Ferrando (It), Paola Vottero (It), Ralph Dumain (USA), Ralph Schoenman (USA), Rick Kuhn (Au), Scott McLemee (USA), Shane Mage (USA), Steve Bloom (USA), Ted Crawford (UK).
The Marx Engels Internet Archive: To access this valuable site go to http://www.marx.org. The following have been recently added to this site:
Updated by ETOL: 3.10.2011