Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line: Revolutionary History, Vol. 8 No. 3


Marinus van der Lubbe, George Orwell
and Walter Tapsell

Dear Editor

Having read the series of articles by Sylvia Pankhurst, How Hitler Rose to Power, in New Times and Ethiopian News of 3, 10 and 17 December 1938, I record my conviction that Marinus van der Lubbe was an honourable if misled revolutionary working-class hero, faithful to his anarcho-syndicalist direct action principles to the very last.

The slander about his moral degeneracy and all the other abuse poured on him by the Nazis and Communists alike was totally without foundation. Van der Lubbe stated from the first to the last that he did set fire to the Reichstag and continued to assert this to the very end. He did so in the mistaken hope that it might spark off a German revolution.

History has treated him very badly, and has been quite wrong. He should be added to the honourable rank of working-class hero, and his name restored to its proper place amongst martyrs for the cause.

To move on to Gordon Bowker’s recent biography of George Orwell, you will be interested to note that it cites Walter Tapsell’s Report on ILP Contingent from Spain in 1937 that mentions Orwell, and also shows how Orwell was spied on by David Crook, who was working for the Comintern apparatus, having received instruction from Ramón Mercader. George ‘Green’, the father of Audrey Wise, told me that Walter Tapsell returned from Spain very dissatisfied, and was sent back by the Communist Party, and George told me that he died there mysteriously. George was a long-standing party member dating from the 1920s, and was a full-timer for a while. I want to put this on record. Have you seen the Tapsell document, which is in the Marx Memorial Library?

Warmest regards

Walter Kendall

Updated by ETOL: 23.10.2011