The History of British Trotskyism to 1949

by Martin Upham



In they two years after the formation of the British Section, the Trotskyists made modest progress. Six months aggressive presentation of their views led to their expulsion in the summer of 1932. This event had only a limited impact on the CPGB though the Trotskyists had a cadre within the ILP. For a year and a half they functioned independently of parties but with an ILP fraction. At the end of 1933, however, the organization split over the tactical issue of whether or not to commit itself entirely to entering the ILP.

In 1932 the CPGB began efforts to break out of its sectarian enclave. Under Comintern guidance the “January resolution” was drawn up rejecting the excesses of the previous year which, supposedly, arose from misapplication of the line. The Balham Group challenged the resolution on two points: its thesis that trade unions might be transformed into instruments of class struggle, and the absence of any guidance for work on Germany and the Far East. [1] Balham did not reject trade union work, but it believed the principal emphasis ought to lie on an approach to the shop floor. The unwisdom of making this its main charge was illustrated by coverage of the disagreement in the Daily Worker [2], and the tone of comments by communist leaders. It was in vain for Balham to protest that its objection was to the belief that unions might be transformed into instruments. of class struggle. [3] It was equally naive to cite Dutt and Lozovsky in support. [4] The party replied that Balham’s line was sectarian and hindering the work of the Minority Movement, and that it was not, in any case, carrying out factory work. [5] It was also relatively easy to put the record straight both about Dutt and Lozovsky [6]; with the passing of time the Balham Group began to be presented as an ultra-left faction which first deviated by its hostility to trade unions. [7]

Far more efficacious would have been a drive on the United Front, Trotsky’s main preoccupation of these years. The criticisms that Wicks, Groves and Sara were making of the leadership might have obtained a stronger echo had they hit at this weakest point. In May the first issue of The Communist, published not without misgivings [8], sensibly played to their strong suit by leading with Trotsky’s 1931 article, Germany: the key to the international situation. But while calls were made for a discussion on the January resolution, and for the convening of the party congress, it was its trade union appraisal which identified the Balham group.

Sharp attacks on the leadership by Groves, Wicks and Sara at aggregates in Battersea on 20 April and 30.May, together with the publication of The Communist as the journal of the British Section of the Left Opposition, inevitably brought down the wrath of the party apparatus. Sara, who had a separate dispute with the Daily Worker [9], Groves and Wicks were all condemned by the Battersea political committee of the party for underestimation of the party’s role, defeatism, social democratic practices and “unjustifiable and unsubstantiated attacks on the leadership”. [10] They continued as party members, however, pursuing unusual cooperation with the local ILP and gathering an anti-war movement in South-West London which had genuine support. Parting of the ways with the CPGB may have been delayed by the party decision to close the discussion on the January resolution, on 24 June.

It was the war issue which finally brought matters to a head. Balham had criticized the Comintern drive for the World Congress Against War which was to be held in Amsterdam later in 1932 with strong support from non-party intellectuals. In South West London, Balham was advancing a strong Leninist line. Trotsky was arguing that unity with writers such as Henri Barbusse implied pacifist concessions and that this approach was a substitute for a working class united front. [11] Pollitt and leading party members had seen The Communist and on 17 August they confronted Groves, Wicks and Sara, demanding of the first two that they submit to discipline. They would not commit themselves and were expelled. [12] When a majority of the Balham Group refused to disown Groves, it was liquidated. and surviving members left in a party branch covering the Battersea and Wandsworth area. Hugo Dewar was expelled soon after for his defence of the Balham line at his Tooting local. Stuart Purkis, who identified himself with Balham and The Communist was also expelled. [13] Twelve members of the dissolved Balham Group circulated a statement as widely as they could setting down what had happened [14], but the repercussions were limited. The only leader who departed around this time was J.T. Murphy and he left over an entirely unrelated issue, though attempts were made to construct a link. [15] The second issue of The Communist appeared in September and the group set about building itself up.

The Balham Group found itself outside the party, with less than a dozen supporters. It was classified as a Trotskyist faction but it had a strong foot in the camp of the “third period”. [16] It was criticised by the Americans for its trade union stand [17], but Trotsky approved its intention, after the expulsion, to continue to project itself as a communist faction. [18] It was to emerge that the British and Trotsky had a different understanding of what this meant. [19] The Communist remained the voice of the party members in exile. It even declared its interest to be confined only to those prepared to join the party. [20] Trotsky wanted the British to go as communists into the wider labour movement. The Balham Group sought to restore the Communist Party to health.

This was particularly so up to the time of the Twelfth Congress of the CPGB in November 1932. Chance convened this gathering in the Battersea Town Hall, heartland of so many of these first Trotskyists. They made a written intervention, but not a verbal one [21] and were denounced from the platform by Pollitt. [22] The absence of a significant response left little room for illusions about a fight back [23], although the tone of some distributed literature suggested illusions were still nourished at least in the breast of Groves. [24] The Communist [25] reflected that torpor in the CPGB, was created by the physical absence of opposition, right (defined as Horner and Hannington), and left. It added that sluggishness also arose from the resolving of disagreements by references to decisions of the Comintern as expounded by the Party Central Committee. This was an anticipation, in microcosm, of Trotsky’s argument for breaking with the German Communist Party when it did not analyse its own failure to prevent Hitler taking power [26], but not of the conclusion he drew.

What impact did the emergence of an open Trotskyist group have? The unavoidable answer is very little. The extent of communist attacks may reflect insecurity of the CPGB leaders at this time, however small the secession. Factors bearing on the reception the Balham Group received included the timing of the expulsions [27] and the issue over which they took place. [28] This may explain in part the disparity of Trotskyism in Britain and abroad. A consideration that must also be weighed is the phase of its fortunes the CPGB had sunk to by 1932. The expulsions caused no crisis within it and were barely noticed elsewhere. [29]

The turn of the year saw the British Section building up its independent activity. Most promising was the South-West London Anti-War Committee, where the Balham Group was represented through trade union and Co-op Party members and had even been unintentionally complimented by Robson, the local CPGB organiser. [30] Even at this point however, a conflict was evident between those who still looked towards actively reforming the CPGB, an approach reflected in Purkis’s Open Letter to Harry Pollitt, and those who followed the tactics of the Balham Group in more complete opposition to the party. At this time the Opposition numbered less than thirty, all of them in London. It had about a dozen contacts. About half the membership of the former Balham Group was within it and this was still the main base of activity. It had established an existence, though a regular press only came with this New Year. [31] Yet it was hampered by a semi-legal existence which created a dispute over future tactics.

Politically, the Opposition had begun the task of making available in Britain Trotsky’s own writings, notably on Germany, the issue of the hour. But this did not yet imply the integration of the British within the International Left Opposition. Wicks was present at the informal international gathering convened in Copenhagen during Trotsky’s lecture visit to the city in November 1932. Groves attended two days of the international pre-conference held in Paris on 4-8 February 1933. Neither visit led to a satisfactory discussion about the problems the British now faced. [32]

These problems centred on the intimidating disparity between the agenda set for itself by Trotskyism in Britain, and the forces available to it. This was to cause a severe tactical dispute which would in the end destroy the group. At the beginning of 1933 there were within the British Section not only the former members of the Balham Group and their associates, but also members of the ILP who supported Trotsky’s policy.

These ILP Trotskyists traced their provenance to the Marxist League and to the formation in 1930 of a faction within the ILP which sought to disaffiliate it from the Labour Party and make it a revolutionary organisation. This faction, the Revolutionary Policy Committee, later became dominated by fellow travellers of the CPGB At this time however, it was dissatisfied with the communists and open in its views. Its leading members were aware of the ideas of Heinrich Brandler, former general secretary of the KPD. deposed after that party’s failure to seize power in 1923, and also of the critique developed by Trotsky and the Left Opposition. Early members included Bert and May Matlow, Ernie Patterson and Sid Kemp. Harry Wicks had attended RPC conferences [33], which of course had only a semi-legal character. In 1931, Patterson and Kemp were, as members of the Clapham ILP, working with Reg Groves and the Balham Group in local campaigns against imperialist war. [34]

Disaffiliationist pressure actually led to the calling of an ILP conference to discuss the matter in November 1931, but it was cancelled in the belief that the secession of MacDonald, and the holding of the general election, might impel Labour to the left. [35] At a meeting of the Party’s National Administrative Council that month Fenner Brockway urged careful choice of the time for a split and the issue over which to break. [36] In the months to come his phrase “a clean break” was to dramatize a widespread feeling in the party that it must cut itself completely free of Labour if it was ever to make progress. [37] The April 1932 Conference of the Party did not pull out but brought to the fore the essentially secondary issue of Labour Party Standing Orders which were inhibiting ILP M.P.s from pursuing ILP – as distinct from Labour Party – policy. A special conference of July 1932 resolved to come out [38], and the ILP, set about cutting itself off not only from the Labour Party but from the labour movement in suicidally sectarian fashion.

Disaffiliation occurred over the relatively unimportant issue of the obligation of ILP M.P.s to observe Labour Party Standing Orders. It was also exceedingly ill-timed, since it occurred when the Labour Party was surrendering itself to just the kind of maximalist programme so many ILP members favoured. Instead of leading to the erection of a mass socialist base, the “clean break” was an almost total disaster. [39] Those RPC members who looked kindly upon Trotsky’s programme favoured it however as did the Opposition leader himself. [40] It was felt that the ILP might be won for revolution, but only if it freed himself from the reformist embrace. This belief on the part of Trotsky and some, of the Opposition was to become increasingly important in 1933.

Complex differences developed within the British Opposition during this year. Although there were now ILP members within its ranks, these debates were conducted largely by the ex-communist cadre. Were the members of the Opposition to content themselves with publishing the views of Trotsky or were they aiming more ambitiously to build up a new organisation? If the second, what were the tactical means to this end? Wicks and Weston (Morris) [41] seem to have favoured the view that the aim was to build up an Opposition group, perhaps through work in the CPGB. Purkis favoured advocating a critical but positive platform in communist circles. Critics of this second view saw it as merely a propaganda exercise. [42]

Should the British Section try and rival the CPGB in all spheres of activity? [43] This was a utopian aim for such a tiny group, even faced by a weakened Communist Party. Less ambitiously it could use its press to expound a revolutionary alternative to CPGB policy which might guide communists. Would that mean ceasing to publish Trotsky’s articles plus material on Germany and historical issues? [44] Davis, Purkis, Wicks and Williams came together to propose that the Opposition’s main tasks were to publish essential ILO documents, train cadres in Opposition theory, organize Opposition work in the CPGB and project general “Bolshevik-Leninist” propaganda at the mass organizations. [45] Typically of the discussions of this time, the authors blurred their priorities. [46]

Mixed in with this confusion was unease at the slant Groves, effectively the leader of the Opposition, gave to its work. His critics thought he made the wrong criticisms of communist policy and attacked its leaders too strongly. [47] The composition of the executive changed twice in the early months of 1933, first to increase Groves’s influence and then to reduce it. [48] Part of the problem was that the group had continued to function informally since its establishment and proper conferences had not been convened. On 18 June a gathering was held, (called variously a members” meeting and a conference), which had before it an ambitiously detailed constitution [49] and a national committee resolution specifying the group’s main tasks as: clarifying ideas and holding regular conferences; a continuous intensive campaign on the CPGB; paying attention to the left wing youth and especially the YCL; selling a minimum 1,000 Red Flags; publishing The Communist when necessary; participating more fully in the ILO.

The National Committee had followed Trotsky when the Opposition leader called for a radical reappraisal following Hitler’s seizure of power. [50] Trotsky advised that summer that if the Comintern failed to conduct an honest inquest on such a serious defeat it was moribund. He concluded that it was time to prepare a new international. The NC presented this view to the League with an individual gloss. It suggested that a discredited KPD leadership could not be entrusted with organizing illegal work under Nazism, that ruin of the USSR or Comintern collapse would signify the need for a new international. Trotsky had gone further by arguing that the time to rebuild had arrived already. With few exceptions however, the British Section seems to have accepted this turn [51], recognising explicitly that a new party was needed in Britain.

The British Section celebrated May Day 1933 with the first printed Trotskyist newspaper the country had produced, The Red Flag. [52] It did not normally report the work of the British Section. It was a propaganda vehicle, aimed at a revolutionary audience. The stress on Trotsky’s articles on Germany and (later) Austria reflected the interests of the International Left Opposition, though from July unsigned British articles begin to appear. [53] In the first three months of publication sales of The Red Flag advanced from more than 900 to nearly 1,250. Sales, which had been divided 3:1 in London’s favour were now more healthily distributed in the ratio of 7:5. [54] In the autumn however, The Red Flag entered a decline [55], perhaps as a casualty of the factional struggle.

In its short life the British Section of the Left Opposition achieved four publications which aspired to regularity. The Communist continued despite the appearance of The Red Flag, though there was discussion about retaining it for occasional needs. [56] For Discussion, the internal bulletin, appeared in sixteen issues up to 24 October 1933. [57] The League had also undertaken in August 1932, to supply Trotsky with clippings from the British press and in the autumn of 1933, it offered these to members as an information service under the title Excerpts and Summaries. [58] While a successful press was clearly essential, there was a tendency that such a small group might overreach itself. [59]

The life of the British Section of the Left Opposition was dominated, during the six months following the June members” meeting, by a radical shift in international policy and the implications of this for its tactics in Britain. From July 1933 Trotsky was urging the sections of the ILO to follow closely the evolution of new parties; which had in Western Europe split from social-democracy to the left. [60]

He next argued that the Comintern, generally, was beyond revival and that the orientation towards reforming it must be abandoned. [61] The National Committee of the British Section supported Trotsky’s views but interpreted them to prescribe independence without foreseeing the full tactical implications they carried. [62] The late development of Trotskyism in Britain scarcely left it time to learn the old perspective before it adjusted to the new.

The British example of a “Left Socialist Organisation” was the ILP. Groves was alive to developments within it but when called on to produce a guiding document proposed no special emphasis. [63] Calls for greater emphasis on the ILP came from Graham [64] and the Translators’ Group of the British Section. [65] From abroad Trotsky and the ILO began to exert pressure on the British to take up urgently work within the ILP. They were in closer and closer contact with it on the international plane and sought to group it with those other Left Socialist parties who were prepared to work for a Fourth International. The Declaration of Four was to be the link between the open work of the ILO and the more covert activities of its British members. [66]

On 19 August 1933 a plenum of the ILO unanimously resolved that its British Section should enter the ILP. Trotsky began at once to press the point in private correspondence [67] and devoted public space to discussing the fate of the party. [68] The ILP sent delegates to the conference of Left Socialist Organisations held in Paris on 28 August, but did not adhere to the Declaration of Four. [69]

Yet Trotsky met John Paton and C.A. Smith the next day and gained a favourable impression of Smith. [70] Time was to show that the ILO was not in fact homogeneous in regarding an ILP turn for the British Section, and the Declaration of Four as auspicious tactics. [71] This had implications for the development of debate within the British Section, but the IS pressure was unrelenting. Its case was that the Section must face not a declining CPGB, but the ILP, that it must help the ILP to become “the revolutionary lever influencing the masses of the Labour Party and of the trade unions”. There was a detailed difference between Trotsky’s view and that of the IS, which had formulated its own by amending an original proposal from Trotsky himself, but the general argument was the same. [72] On 5 September the IS repeated its plea, arguing that the race with the communists would fall to the swiftest and that a prolonged dispute would be a luxury.

The injunction “our comrades must actually enter the ILP and give full effort to building up the revolutionary element in this party” [73] did not meet with clear assent in Britain. Initially there was a failure to communicate clearly, due to a lack of direct contact. [74] As it became clear that the Communist League – as the British Section was known from late August 1933 – was faced with a firm proposal, it began to define its own tactical position in response. Publicly it recorded its interest in the ILP but did not elaborate a detailed programme for transforming it into a revolutionary party. [75] Privately it interpreted the IS proposal as further support for a perspective of achieving independence. [76] In its reply the National Committee of the Communist League challenged the impression the ILP had created abroad, dismissed the specific IS proposal for an outside presence, and suggested that apparent surrender of Bolshevik-Leninist principles to the ILP “would deal a serious blow at the prestige of the Opposition”. [77]

ILP entry was a major preoccupation of Trotsky’s during September 1933 when he made four separate contributions to the discussion, [78] combining public argument with private cajolery. His case to the ILP was that it must now break with Stalinism just as the Opposition had, but after a decade of struggle. [79] He first anticipated the objections of the CL. Independence, he suggested, must be striven towards but could not always be immediately achieved and there was, moreover, a desperate need to act swiftly to forestall Stalinist penetration of the ILP. [80] The Bolshevik-Leninists, he later urged, would be the conduit for Marxism into the ILP, the only means whereby that party’s further disintegration might be prevented. On 2 October 1933 he applied further public [81] and private [82] pressure. He analysed the position in the British labour movement as a series of potential levers. The tiny CL might shift the larger ILP. The ILP, in turn might move the Labour Party. ILPers would not abandon their party for an organisation forty strong but within its heterogeneous environment the CL might have great effect. He handled the practical arguments of the National Committee with only limited patience and clearly regarded the actual mode of entry into the ILP as a secondary question. [83] Salient points in his case were that penetration of the ILP should be for a brief period, aimed at recruiting the ’revolutionary kernel” (sometimes called the revolutionary majority) of the party, and that it was a viable proposition because the party was factionalised. The October-November 1933 issue of The Red Flag led with the Declaration of Four.

October also saw factionalism develop within the Communist League. It emerged that there was a minority on the national committee, which supported Trotsky’s view while initially having little of its own to add. [84] At a second attempt this minority tried to develop a case which centred on the responsibility of the CL to ensure that the ILP retained its independence (from Stalinism). [85] The earlier the disintegration of the ILP the greater the benefit to the CPGB. [86] A battle must therefore be fought, it reasoned, on the ground where Trotskyism was strongest – that of principle. Its most powerful argument however was a negative one: a challenge to the majority to demonstrate where prospects were brighter than in the ILP – and the best chance of winning the party lay on the inside. [87] When the National Committee replied, it was clear that they were on the defensive. The attempt to marshall concrete alternatives to ILP entry served only to reveal how threadbare the case for independence was. [88] The ILP, it was claimed, was best influenced from the outside, nor would its fate be settled in the short term. [89] The Communist League ought to continue with its fingers in several pies and not confine itself to the ILP. [90] Finally, either mode of entering the ILP would discredit the Communist League. Definite positions on the National Committee were established at its meeting of 5 October 1933 [91]; after that it was essentially a question of the membership delivering its verdict.

The decisive members” meeting was convened in London under the chairmanship of Groves on 17 December, with at least three quarters of the British Section in attendance. [92] On the proposal of Max Nicholls, the meeting endorsed the Declaration of the Four Parties (for the Fourth International) and called on the National Committee to detail how this might be implemented in Britain. [93] This decision put the Communist League within the movement of the Opposition towards the Fourth International; it now had to face the tactical recommendation of most of its international comrades.

The debate opened with speeches by Sara and Graham. [94] Sara moved the rejection of Trotsky’s proposal to enter the ILP, arguing that the Opposition leader valued it more highly than the League [95] and did not appreciate the technical difficulties of working within it. Allen, who formulated the Minority view was only repeating Trotsky’s opinions. Graham’s speech was a frank reply to Sara. [96] ILP members would be far more likely to join a Communist League which fought with it side by side. He developed the “split perspective” of working within the ILP, in anticipation of a break and rejected in advance the compromise proposal of the International Secretariat. Matlow it was who advanced the IS view that those who agreed on entering the ILP should do so and formally repudiate the Communist League. Once within the ILP, they could make themselves an organised fraction. Wicks, less realistically, urged the transformation of the CL into an open organised fraction [97] which would then join the ILP. If the ILP refused, he added, present policy should be continued.

There was thus four proposals before the membership. Sara had backing from Barrett, Hanton, “Oscar”, [98] for insisting on independence from the ILP The CL, they argued, and not this muddled party, would be the future new revolutionary organization. Minority spokesmen included Kirby [99], Worrall, Kaye, Nicholls and Harber. [100] who felt that the importance of a continued existence for the Communist League was not great. Wicks’s proposal, advanced on behalf of the Battersea and Chelsea groups of the League, received support from Dibden, Temple, Lee Bradley [101] and Rowlands. [102] They insisted that work in the ILP could not be efficacious without an organized fraction and differed also from the Minority in disbelieving that the party as a whole could be won.

Sara replied to the debate, restating his view that Trotsky undervalued the Communist League [103] and that the ex-communist members had taken a far larger step than had the ILP members because they had split with their party. His speech expressed the disquiet felt from the start by the leading cadre about aligning themselves with Trotsky. [104]

Only two votes were cast for Matlow’s compromise amendment, all the other 35 delegates voting against. The Battersea-Chelsea amendment was also lost, but more narrowly, with 10 in support and 14 against. The Battersea-Chelsea votes then moved almost entirely behind the Majority whose resolution was passed 26:11. [105]

Harber, for the Minority members now declared they were going to join the ILP, guided by a letter from the International Secretariat to Groves which had not been published. [106] Groves countered that the letter had been read at the NC [107] but Harber then proceeded to read its text to the effect that the Minority must be allowed to follow its own star.

By withdrawing from the meeting the Minority made its feelings clear. Then with only the Majority voting, Wicks and Lee Bradley were put on the National Committee in place of its Minority members. This separation in the voting procedure was the parting of the ways and the meeting closed.

There was a brief time for obituaries. The Majority referred to the weighty and decisive vote of 17 December. [108] In its view the Minority argument that organisational unity could not exist without policy agreement, could not be sustained for a tactical quarrel. As a general rule majority decisions had to be respected. If they did not prevail in the ILP fraction, there would be a split at the first disagreement. Prophetically the Majority warned:

We are aware of the difficulties that many of the sections have experienced from weakness on matters of this kind. The history of many opposition sections has been and still is one of continual factional struggles and breakways. One of the reasons for this is undoubtedly, (Sic) an absence, both internationally and nationally, of a leadership which has earned the respect of the members. [109]

The Majority made a final offer: let the Minority enter the ILP and make a formal repudiation of the Communist League. It could still work under the direction of the National Committee. Refusal must mean exclusion from membership. There is no record of any attempt to take the offer up.

So ended the first phase of British Trotskyism. It had been a brief marriage of very different experiences. In the end most of those who had not been in the CPGB remained in, or returned to, the ILP. The ex-communists opted for an open organisation.

There was also a differential willingness to follow Trotsky’s advice and that of the International Secretariat. By the end of the discussion the Majority were speaking of both in very critical terms. They had not participated in the long struggle of the Left Opposition against Stalin, and they did not feel under compulsion of loyalty. Did Trotsky himself see more future for the ILP than for the Communist League as a revolutionary alternative? His writings underpin this accusation to a certain extent. Ironically, none other than Trotsky himself had criticised Stalin for expecting in 1926 a mass revolutionary current from left wing members of the General Council of the TUC rather than from the CPGB, and Minority Movement. The first split had come ominously soon. It occurred over an issue which history failed to resolve and was to bedevil Trotskyist politics for many years. The Majority’s darker predictions were borne out. This phase of Trotskyism in Britain has not been well treated. “This initial split took place without any thorough discussion or preparation, the factional lines running parallel to the personal alliances of the various individuals. [110]

But the Communist League spent quite a long time debating whether or not to enter the ILP: indeed Trotsky’s complaint was that they spent so long that crucial months were allowed to pass while the CPGB built up its influence. As for the second charge, which smacks of the folk-lore of the movement, it does seem to be true that no one changed sides during the debate, but this seems attributable to political alliances. Almost all those who were still or formerly in the Communist Party opted for an independent League [111], while those who had been won from nowhere or from the ILP set up the Marxist Group. The Communist League was an unconsummated marriage but it was politically and not personally dissolved.

WIL. was also to charge that it was the transition from critical circle to real organizing which ruptured the Communist League. Without doubt there was an element of posturing in the “independence” of Groves et. al., who seem to have hoped for an extended period in which they might develop a leisurely critique of the CPGB, but such opportunity was unlikely to arise. And it was in any case unlikely that they could make an original contribution to Opposition thought ten years after Trotsky had written the Platform of the Left Opposition.

Trotsky rebuked Ridley and Ram in 1930 for making a separate experiment from the Communist Opposition. Yet the Opposition made no headway in the CPGB and was forced out where it surfaced. Progress became possible only because the ILP existed, a confused ocean in which many exotic revolutionary specie could flourish. Was an error committed by discouraging Ridley and Ram? Surely not. The ILP of 1930 was not that of 1933. It was two years from its split with the Labour Party and did not then see itself as a revolutionary organisation. By 1933 the ILP, was in transition: to what destination turned on the strongest political influence. Trotsky foresaw working within it only until its fate was resolved. The intervention of Trotsky and the ILO had been decisive. Otherwise a minority with support short of a third of the Communist League could hardly have expected to survive. They had forced the issue at the time of the break with the CPGB and now did so again, though it seems implausible to suggest that international influence turned Trotskyism onto an unnatural path. [112] The work of building a viable British Section had scarcely begun when the split took place, reflecting the absence of a tradition of joint work among these dissident CPGB and ILP members and of a shared experience with international Trotskyism.



1. The Balham Group to the Secretariat, 1 April 1932.

2. The Vital Importance of our Work in Trade Unions, Daily Worker, 14 April 1932.

3. “The machinery remains cumbersome, reformist in structure, and useless for the waging of struggle under the new conditions.” (Balham Group to Secretariat, 12 May 1932, Warwick MSS).

4.Groves continued to admire Dutt for some years, and the Balham Group had called, not for a new communist leadership but for the introduction of new elements into the leadership, (Balham Group to Secretariat, 1 April 1932, Warwick MSS.). The illusion that some leading communists might back the Opposition took a long time to die (see below).

5. The Daily Worker, 14 April, 27 May 1932.

6. ibid., 9, 10 June 1932.

7. ibid., 7, 10 June. See also J. Shields, Economic Struggles and the Drive Into The Trade Unions, Communist Review (Dec. 1932), 57-23. But Purkis, who had been condemned the previous year for holding local industrial work in disdain, was still covering affairs in the RCA for the Daily Worker on 30 May.

8. R. Groves, op. cit., 58-9. This was the first public statement that the Left Opposition existed in Britain. Trotsky was to congratulate the British on such an “excellently hectographed” product, and indeed the typing and reproduction are superb.

9. He had been charged with spreading “pacifist stuff” for his view that the paper had overestimated the prospect of war (Secretariat to Sara, 13 April 1932; H. Sara to Secretariat, 16, 23 April 1932, Warwick MSS).

10. R.W. Robson (London District Organizer, CPGB) to Sara, 31 May, 13 June 1932;H. Sara to Robson, 7 June 1932 (Warwick MSS).

11. His case against the congress is set out in The Coming Congress against War, 13 June 1932, and Declaration to the Antiwar Congress at Amsterdam, 25 July 1932, (Writings, 1932, 113-7, 148-55). 2,200 delegates attended the Amsterdam Congress. Ten were Trotskyists but none of these were British (D. Caute, op. cit., 107).

12. R. Groves, op. cit., 66-9. Sara was suspended on 17 August, the same day,anticipating expulsion, he wrote for The Plebs an article defending Trotsky’s role in 1917 which J.P.M. Millar attempted to advertise in the Daily Worker. Sara was expelled a few days later. (J. Robson to Sara, 17 Aug. 1932; J.P.M. Millar to Sara, 3 Sept. 1932; H. Sara, Trotsky and the Russian Revolution, The Plebs, Sept. 1932, 196-8.)

13. His letter of affirmation to Harry Pollitt is given in full in R. Groves, op. cit., 86-90. See also L. Trotsky to Groves, After The British Expulsions, 6 Sept. 1932, Writings: Supplement (1929-33), 149, for comment on Purkis’s estimate of Dutt, Pollitt and Burns as “men of outstanding gifts”.

14. To Our Comrades in The Communist Party From the “Liquidated” Balham Group, given in full in R. Groves, op. cit., 81-5.

15. L. Trotsky to Groves, 27 May 1932, (Warwick MSS.). See also the Daily Worker for 10 May 1932 where the political bureau alleged, “Murphy has left the line of the International and moved towards the camp of the counter-revolutionary Trotskyists, who have always denied the possibility of building up socialism in one country and continue to assert that the Soviet Union is an integral part of the world capitalist economy”. Shortly afterwards the theme was developed by Idris Cox, (17 May), the Scottish District Committee of the Party (18 May) and Hasleden (19 May). See also W. Joss The Expulsion of J.T. Murphy and its Lessons, Communist Review, June 1932, 298-301. For Murphy’s own case for trade credits and democracy within the party see Why I Left the Communist Party, Forward, 20 May 1932, where he condemned “the unthinking automatic way in which the party regime operates and churns out its approval of resolutions – a process against which I have constantly fought”. Ironically, it had been Murphy who moved the expulsion of Trotsky from the Comintern five years earlier.

The other leading figure who might have been connected with Balham was Bell, an irregular attender at Group meetings, who had been deposed with the 0ld Guard in 1929. (R. Groves, op. cit., 52). However Bell made a hostile reference to the emergence of Trotskyism with the Group in The British Communist Party: A Short History, 1937, 150.

16. Groves’s call for the introduction of new elements into the leadership (Balham Group to Secretariat, 1 April 1932, Warwick MSS) repeated the call he had made on the eve of the eleventh congress in 1929.

17. M. Shachtman to Groves, 17 August 1932. Shachtman warned Groves against falling into an ’ultra-leftist pit”, arguing that the International Left Opposition’s view of trade unions was unchanged from that advanced by the first four congresses of the Comintern.

18. L. Trotsky to Groves, After the Expulsion, 6 Sept. 1932, Writings: Supplement, (1929-33), 149.

19. On 27 May 1932, Trotsky had invited Groves to set down his views on the left of the ILP, now about to force disaffiliation from the Labour Party. Now, (6 September, above) he called for the devotion of “a great and growing part” of Balham’s forces to a speedy intervention in the mass organizations.

20. The Communist, (Sept. 1932), 1

21. Leaflets were distributed from the Left Opposition and from the Balham Group, and slogans painted on nearby walls. The Communist was sold. But it was thought wise for the Opposition delegates in the Hall not to speak (Groves to A. Graham [Chicago], 7 Jan. 1933).

22. Unlike others Pollitt did not link Murphy and Balham. Their defections were the removal of ’poisonous elements”, right and left. The Balhamites had the full Trotskyist line, he stated: socialism could not be built in one country; united fronts should be made with Social Democratic leaders; factory councils and committees should be built and unions ignored; and war could be prevented only in alliance with those helping war preparations. Pollitt made it clear that he know of Balham’s French and American contacts and alleged, ’if they wanted to raise genuine bona fide political questions in the ordinary way of communist discussion on a footing which was up and above board it would have been allowed”.

23. The Congress was “the most docile in the history of the party” (Groves to Graham, 7 Jan 1933).

24. “We were told that we were “quibbling”. Yet the party discussion has revealed acute differences within the leadership on this question, and has found R.P. Dutt defending a view very similar to ours”, An Appeal to Congress Delegates from the Balham Group, reprinted in R. Groves, op. cit., 92.

25. In its issue for January 1933.

26. “Only one valid objection to this writing off the KPD-MU could have been raised at the time: perhaps the party will save everything if, under the influence of the terrible defeat, it clearly and sharply changes its policy and regime, beginning with an open and honest admission of its own mistakes. On the contrary, the last sparks of critical thought: has been stifled” (The Fourth of August, Writings: 1932-33, 260).

27. Groves argues that the party leaders had to clear up Trotskyism before a party congress could be convened, and points out that pre-congress discussions were opened on the Monday following the expulsions (op. cit., 69). Wicks reverses this order of events (loc. cit., 29). A more general argument must be the time-lag of four years between Britain and the USA, and even longer between Britain and France, bringing a British following for Trotsky at a time when his wider reputation was in decline.

28. It has been suggested that the CPGB was anxious to prevent Trotsky’s critique of Germany becoming known (B. Pearce, British Communist History, M. Woodhouse and B. Pearce [eds.], Essays on the History of Communism, 138-9). In 1932 and 1933 criticisms of Trotsky’s views were published by the party: A. Thaelmann, On our Strategy and Tactics in the Struggle against Fascism, Labour Monthly, Sept. 1932, 583-90; R.F. Andrews (A. Rothstein), The German Situation, Labour Monthly, April 1933, 252-6.

29. Emrys Hughes, editor of the Glasgow Forward, first acknowledged the existence of organised Trotskyism at the time of the appearance of The Red Flag. He greeted it under the title Another Sect, but wrote: “... if the Red Flag could eradicate Stalinism from the working-class movement in Britain it would please many more than the adherents of the ‘International Left Opposition’.” (Forward, 9 May 1933) At the time of the expulsions however, Hughes argued that Trotsky had exaggerated Stalin’s policy setbacks and regretted that the two had not worked together (Forward, 16 April, 2 and 9 July 1932).

30. Groves to Graham, 7 January 1933. For the anti war campaign of the Balham Group at this time, in conjunction with the ILP, see R. Groves, op. cit., 72-6.

31. The January 1933 issue of The Communist was only the third to appear in eight months, but it now came out monthly. In May The Red Flag, British Trotskyism’s first printed paper was to appear.

32. Purkis criticised Wicks for not presenting accurately differing British views on how to approach the future, (For Discussion, 8, 6 July 1933). For Wicks’s involvement at Copenhagen, see Writings: 1932, 405-6n and Writings: Supplement (1929-33), 390, and I. Deutscher, The Prophet Outcast, 181-7. Groves recollection of the pre-conference is to be found in The Balham Group, 1974, 74-5. The pre-conference wished to hold a discussion about Britain but was constrained by the absence of written documents. Despite plans to convene a more representative gathering in July 1933 no conference was held until 1936.

33. Interview with author, 30 Nov. 1979.

34. R. Groves, op. cit., 60-2.

35. R. Dowse, Left in the Centre, 1966, 178. There were some grounds for this hope. In October Herbert Morrison, recently in the Cabinet, had written “Labour must move to the Left in the true sense of the term – to the real socialist left. Not the spurious left policy of handing out public money under the impression that we are achieving a redistribution of wealth under the capitalist system. That is one of the illusions of reformism”, quoted in B. Donaghue and T. Jones, Herbert Morrison, Portrait of a Politician, 1973, 183.

36. R. Dowse, op. cit., 179.

37. Later Brockway wrote that he was “not greatly excited over the disaffiliation issue” and placed first emphasis on the development of revolutionary policy, (Inside the Left, 1942, 239-40).

38. The hand of the RPC can be discerned continuously in the events leading to disaffiliation, and much care should. be taken over the suggestion that the loss of Clydeside ILP votes to the CPGB in the November municipal elections was an influential factor. (See J. Foster, The Industrial Politics of the Communist Party, BSSLH, Spring 1979, 57).

39. 653 branches at the July conference were reduced to 450 by November. One third of the Yorkshire branches and 128 of those in Scotland were lost. London however lost only one of its 89 branches and formed. most of the new ones (R. Dowse, op. cit., 185). London was the centre of the RPC.

40. The following year Trotsky wrote, “True, one can object that the ILP just recently broke away from the Labour Party, and that we evaluated this as a step forward. That is absolutely correct: And of course we are by no means suggesting now that the ILP go back into the Labour Party and submit to its discipline. Such a policy would be a complete betrayal of the revolutionary tasks facing the British proletariat.” After the British Municipal Elections, 14 Nov. 1933, Writings: Supplement (1929-33), 323-4. Trotsky did add however that the ILP having established a separate identity, must turn towards the Labour Party and trade unions or disappear.

41. Weston had not been a founder member of the British Section but had joined by the summer of 1933.

42. For Discussion, 6, 20 July 1933. Purkis believed Wicks to have presented the differences this way at the Copenhagen gathering of November 1932. He believed that there were three positions within the League: that work should be confined to the CPGB (this he thought was held only tentatively); that work should centre on aggressive presentation of Opposition material, and the recruitment of Oppositionists to the CPGB; that the main task was to build a new organization which involved work within the CPGB (For Discussion, 6 July 1933).

43. An anonymous document Mass Work (3 Feb 1933) suggested such a course.

44. An anonymous resolution of the. time suggests devoting The Communist regularly to England and agitational articles, establishing the nuclei of firm Opposition groups, contacting the “Left Wing Youth”, and preparing a pamphlet setting down the views of the Left Opposition. It proposed deadlines for the appearance of The Red Flag, The Communist and bulletins.

45. Statement from Members of the 1931-33 Committee of the British Group of the Left Opposition, 18 April 1933, 1. No evidence as to the identity of H. Davis has been located.

46. An example of this is that an experiment issue of The Red Flag was produced probably in October or November 1932. Swabeck, when he saw it expressed disquiet that publication of this together with The Communist might tend to “diffuse the energies of a small group”. (A. Swabeck to Groves and Sara, 29 Nov. 1932, Warwick MSS)

47. The manifesto Even now they blunder, (Spring 1933), a collection of compromising quotations from CPGB leaders, was thought to have neglected to provide an explanation of the united front and therefore to be anti-party in content.

48. Davis et. al., loc. cit.

49. This constitution, several pages long, put a ceiling of 20 on local membership, though this would have represented half the national figure; it proposed a developed distinct structure, though there were no members outside London; and it recalled recent experience in the CPGB with its devotion of a whole article, (Article VII) to Organisational Democracy Safeguards (For Discussion, 6 June 1933).

50. Trotsky’s thinking can be followed in the articles KPD or New Party?, I and II, March 1933, Writings (1932-33), 137-40 and The Collapse of the KPD and the Tasks of the Opposition, 9 April 1933, Writings (1932-33), 189-97. He returned to the subject of a complete break with the Comintern and its sections several times that year.

51. The members were invited to submit statements on the proposition that a new party was necessary in Germany. Only the Battersea group and Purkis demurred. For the statements of the National Committee and Purkis see For Discussion, 24 May 1933, n.p.

52. Number One, Vol I, Sub-titled, Monthly Organ of the British Section, International Left Opposition. In June (Bolshevik-Leninists) was added to the sub-title.

53. In May The Red Flag carried Trotsky’s The German Workers Will Rise Again – Stalinism Never! on its centre pages, and in the June issue It is now the turn of Austria!. July brought a domestic contribution on the differences of Brockway and Pollitt over foreign policy, but also carried Trotsky’s A Letter on the Work of the British Section and The Problems of the Soviet Regime. One minor coup was the eliciting of a reply from Tom Mann to an open letter in The Red Flag for September 1933 calling on him to speak out for Chen Du Siu, a CCCP leader who backed Trotsky and was now in a Nationalist jail (The Red Flag, Oct.-Nov. 1933).

54. For Discussion, 28 Aug. 1933, n.p. The July Red Flag carried an impressive list of nine bookshops where it was on sale.

55. October’s issue appeared, late, as a joint issue with November – December’s issue did not appear at all.

56. The ninth issue of The Communist appeared on 6 January 1934, after the split in the Communist League, leading with Trotsky’s article A Letter to an ILP member. It is thought that circulation of The Communist reached 4-500 (A. Penn, op. cit., 86).

57. Sub-titled Internal Bulletin – British Section – International Left Opposition (Bolshevik-Leninists). Some of these were double issues.

58. For Discussion, 28 Aug. 1933. After numbers 1 and 2, (September and October 1933) no more seem to have appeared despite the promise of No.3 “early in November”.

59. An August statement of the N.C. called for the raising of a £50 press fund. Late that month the League was considering further expenditure to produce The Communist. It also planned to publish a translation from the German by D.D. Harber of Oskar Fischer’s Leninism Versus Stalinism, a compilation of quotations.

b60. In The Left Socialist Organizations and Our Tasks, 15 June 1933, Writings: 1932-33, 274-8, Trotsky analysed such parties as the German SAP, and the British ILP, as centrists moving to the left and predicted that some Oppositionists would refuse to take them seriously.

61. See It is Necessary to Build Communist Parties and an International Anew”, 15 July 1933, Writings: 1932-33, 304-11. The article was published in For Discussion, 12 Aug. 1933.

62. In a statement dated 9 September 1933 the National Committee declared its intention to go further along the path of “independent action”, with the perspective of anew party. The Section now styled itself Communist League, a terminological change made also by the International Left Opposition, (see For Discussion, 27 Sept. 1933). First public evidence of this was The Red Flag for Oct.-Nov. 1933.

63. The national committee of 20 June 1933 instructed Groves to draw up a document on the ILP. His response noted that revulsion from the CPGB had led some ILPers to make a doomed attempt to turn their party’s revolutionary one. He proposed special Opposition material dealing with both parties, the formation of fractions within the RPC and “other ILP units” and joint activities with the ILP where possible. (Our Attitude Towards the ILP, 6 July 1933, For Discussion, 20 July 1933). A special committee of the British Section was established to watch the ILP.

64. W. Graham, Statement to the NC re the Resolution of 23 June on the ILP, 11 July 1933, For Discussion, 20 July 1933. Graham had been a member of the Hackney local of the CPGB for fourteen months to June 1933 when he was expelled for anti-party work and association with the Balham Group, (Red Flag, July 1933). Graham singled out the RPC as that part of the ILP deserving of special attention.

65. The New Content of the Slogan “Reform of the CPGB”, 3 July 1933, For Discussion, (3 Aug. 1933). It seems likely that D.D. Harber (q.v.) was a member of this group.

66. Trotsky noted in August that Inprecorr was already attacking the ILP for its association with expelled Trotskyists.

67. He told J.P. Cannon (and also Shachtman) the ILP was a young party led by “a few old men” which had executed “an enormous shift towards a revolutionary position”. The more established Americans had to help the British concretize their already good connections with the party. (The ILP and the British Section, 22 Aug. 1933, Writings: Supplement (1929-33), 276-7) To Jacob Watcher of the SAP he wrote linking ILP hesitation over aligning itself with the Fourth International to its domestic fate. Entry of the British Section would create urgently needed pressure, he argued. “A few more months of vacillation and there will be nothing left of the ILP, but a memory”. (“As It Is” and “As It Should Be”, 26 Aug. 1933, Writings: Supplement (1929-33), 283.)

68. His thrust was at the ILP conception of the united front (with the CPGB) and what he considered its vagueness on international issues.(Whither the Independent Labour Party?, 28 Aug. 1933, published in The Red Flag for Oct.-Nov.1933.)

69. The Declaration of Four, signed by the Independent Socialist Party (OSP) and the Revolutionary Socialist Party, (both of Holland), the Socialist Workers Party (SAP) of Germany, and the International Left Opposition called for revolutionary forces to build a new international. The ILP never signed it, but the British Section. published it as The New International: a document of the Paris Conference, (Warwick MSS/15/3/1/15). For Trotsky’s high expectations of the Declaration of Four, see A Discussion with Pierre Rambert, Writings: Supplement (1929-33), 287-8.

70. They travelled to meet Trotsky at Royan after the conclusion of the Left Socialist conference. Maxton, another ILP, delegate had originally intended to make the trip but had to return home. Smith’s account of the interview was published in The New Leader, 13.Oct. 1933. The circumstances of the meeting between Trotsky and the ILP leaders were to be recalled for forensic purposes by the Trotsky Defence Committee at the time of the Moscow Trials, (The New Leader, 9 April 1937). It has been suggested that Jennie Lee was also of the party, (I. Deutscher, The Prophet Outcast, 263). Smith was the ILP leader who most impressed Trotsky, (From A Letter of L.D., 3 Sept. 1933, For Discussion, 24 Oct. 1933).

71. Witte, leader of the Archio-Marxists of Greece and secretary of the ILO was despatched to inform the British of the IS proposal but appears to have communicated instead his own misgivings. (Comrade Witte’s Violations of Bolshevik Organizational Principles, 28 Sept. 1933, Writings: Supplement (1929-33), 308-11.)

72. The distinction was that the IS, lead by Bauer its other secretary, believed two members should stay outside the ILP, and publicly maintain an independent press. Trotsky thought an external presence would lead to charges of factionalism being levelled by the ILP Suspending publication would avoid an occasion for expulsion. (From a letter of L.D., 3 Sept. 1933, For Discussion, 27 Sept. 1933. In Writings: 1933-1934, 71, this appears as How to Influence the ILP). Trotsky seems to have weighed the consideration that the articles published by the British would still be available in the American Militant.

73. L. Trotsky, To Jacob Walcher On the Declaration of Four, 21 Aug. 1933, Writings: Supplement (1929-33), 275.

b74. In Trotsky’s correspondence there is mention of proposed discussion on the ILP with a delegate from “the English Section” (ibid., 275). But the ILO plenum had already been held and this may be a careless reference to the impending visit of Smith and Paton. If so, then Trotsky had met no CL members since Wicks attended the Copenhagen gathering of late 1932. This may have made it easier for Witte to give the impression that joining the ILP was a proposal of individuals not a firm directive and even as Trotsky believed, to put the British into opposition, (Comrade Witte’s Violations of Bolshevik Organizational Principles, 28 Sept. 1933).

75. It was argued that the ILP, could staunch losses of membership on its right and its left, but only by standing for a Marxist policy. Abstract proclamations would prove no more efficacious for it then they had for the CPGB,(The Red Flag, Sept. 1933 ).

76. The arguments of Trotsky and those of the IS were held to be “irrefutable” by the CL National Committee on 12 September (Statement of the National Committee upon the Question of New Parties and a New International, For Discussion, 27 Sept. 1933).

77. Our Relations With The ILP, 5 Sept. 1933, For Discussion, 27 Oct. 1933.

78. How to Influence the ILP, 3 Sept.; The ILP and the New International, ( Sept.; Principled Considerations on Entry, 16 Sept.; The Fate of the British Section, 25 Sept. See Writings: (1933-34), 71-8, 84-7, 100. A further minor confusion was introduced into the debate when Trotsky wrote Principled Considerations on Entry over the pseudonym G. Gourov. It seems clear from For Discussion that the CL was unaware that Gourov and Trotsky were one.

79. C.A. Smith’s account of his interview with Trotsky appeared, late, in The New Leader for 13 October 1933. Trotsky advised Smith that the ILP, must retain its independence at all costs until it had become revolutionary which meant a transition “from an empirical to a theoretical basis” and, concretely, recognition that formation of the Fourth International was the task of the hour. In December Sara and other CL leaders were to allege that Trotsky, following his meeting with Smith, looked to the ILP rather than the CL. Though he later disclaimed it, he seems to have entertained some hopes of at least a section of the ILP leadership.

80. “Another couple of months and the ILP will have completely fallen between the gear-wheels of the Stalinist bureaucracy and will be lost leaving thousands of disappointed workers”. (Principled Considerations on Entry, Writings: 1933-34, 86.)

81. In a letter to The New Leader Trotsky corrected what he considered was a fallacious impression of the Paris Conference of Left Socialist Organizations given by C.A. Smith to The Daily Worker, (To Dispel Misunderstandings, 2 Oct. 1933, Writings: 1933-34, 123-4.)

82. When he had received the CL letter of 5 September Trotsky replied under the title of The Lever of a Small Group (Writings: 1933-34)

83. Trotsky favoured a public approach but considered that however it was achieved the CL, once in the ILP, would in practice be a faction with common discipline. In practice this was to take some time to achieve.

84. “H. Allen”, possibly a pseudonym for an American Trotskyist resident in Britain, advanced an argument leaning on the threat from the CPGB, and was much impressed that the ILP had broken with social democracy before Hitler came to power (The Struggle to Win the ILP from the control of the centrists, hand-dated 5 Oct. 1933, Warwick MSS 15/3/1/50 [1]). This document is incomplete).

85. H. Allen, F. Chalcroft, W. Graham, Statement On The ILP, 12 Oct. 1933, For Discussion, 24 Oct. 1933.

86. “The basic strategy of the Stalinists is to rob the ILP of its independence as a party in one way or another and to accomplish this task at the earliest possible moment, before these ‘Trotskyist objections’ have time to become more deeply rooted in the rank and file.” (ibid., Mi. 3)

87. Chalcroft, one of the authors, recorded his scepticism that the whole ILP could be convinced.

88. “All the many phases of work which have been possible through our independent organisation would also cease (in addition to losing the Red Flag and withdrawing fraction members from the CPGB – M.U.) and we should become a fraction, a very crippled fraction, in the ILP” (H. Sara, R. Groves H. Dewar and S. Dowdall, The Work In, And Relation To, The Independent Labour Party, n.d., For Discussion, 24 Oct. 1933.)

89. The majority believed that the decisive moment was far more likely to strike at the 1934 annual conference of the ILP at which time the Party’s National Administrative Council would have to explain the deterioration of relations with the CPGB.

90. It was claimed by the majority that a quarter of the CL was still working in the CPGB, and that a Scottish contact, not an ILP member, was selling the remarkable number of 300 Red Flags. It seems possible that this was Frank Maitland (q.v.), then running an Edinburgh socialist bookshop.

91. Jottings of one majority member for the meeting have survived: Notes for Discussion of ILP questions at National Committee meeting, 5 Oct. 1933, Warwick MSS, 15/3/1/49.

92. Near the end of the year there were 40-50 members of the Communist League (anon., On The ILP, n.d., Warwick MSS 15/3/1/18). 37 members participated in the final vote on 17 December. The meeting supported a proposal from Kaye that the majority and minority should both keep minutes.

93. The way had been prepared for this step by the National Committee which had asked each member for his or her views. No reply had been received from Williams, in whose residence the League duplicator was situated, and he now disappeared from the scene. There was controversy at the meeting over the views of Wicks, who had also failed to indicate clear support for steering towards the Fourth.

The meeting know of a report by Witte, joint secretary of the ICL, that Wicks and Purkis had both retained contacts with the Third International. But Witte was becoming discredited at this time, and while Purkis was to withdraw from the League the following year, Wicks continued to be a member. For Trotsky’s estimate of Witte, see A False Understanding of the New Orientation, 8 Oct. 1933, Writings: 1933-34, 127-8

94. W. Graham had been expelled from the Hackney local of the CPGB in June for criticising the party’s line on Germany.

95. (Majority), Minutes of Members Meeting, 3

96. (Majority), Minutes, 4-5.

97. (Minority), Minutes of the Members Meeting, 1.

98. A member of the Translators” group, possibly a foreign Trotskyist.

99. There is a conflict in the minutes as to whether or not he accepted the Minority concept of fractional work.

100. Dr. Worrall and Max Nicholls were former members of the Marxist League. Max Nicholls was a garment worker, then a member of the Hackney local of the CL. Denzil Dean Harber (1909-1966) went to the LSE in the late 1920s and took a degree in Russian Commerce. As a boy he taught himself Russian and he joined the CPGB, perhaps while at the LSE. In 1931 he travelled as interpreter with a Canadian journalist on a trip to Russia. He stayed there for three months and contemporaries recall his disillusionment on his return. He discovered the Russian Bulletin of the Opposition in bookshops, however, and made contact with the Balham Group. (Information kindly supplied by Mr. Julien Harber; Obituary, British Birds, 60, 1967, 84-6; interview with Mr. John Archer, Nov. 1973.

101. Lee Bradley, who like her husband Gerry had been a member of the Marxist League, was a member of the Chelsea local of the CPGB expelled earlier in the year.

102. A member of the Hackney group.

103. Sara alleged that Trotsky thought The Red Flag a mere reprint of the American Militant, (Minority), Minutes, (8). There is no definite evidence for this, but see above.

104. Problems of international organisation have never been LT’s strong point, (Majority), Minutes, 10.

105. Three absentee votes included in the Majority total, and two among the Minority, (Majority), Minutes, 11.

106. This letter has not been located.

107. The Minority had, seemingly, withdrawn from the National Committee, (Majority), Minutes, 11.

108. Draft Statement of the present Position of the Majority and Minority, 19 Dec. 1933, Warwick MSS, 15/3/I/52i, 1.

109. ibid., 1. This view was to be echoed from abroad.

110. WIL, Internal Bulletin, [Sept.? 1943], H.P., D.J.H., 14 A/8, History of British Trotskyism.

111. Allen was the exception. Dewar hardly counts in view of the brevity of his sojourn in the Party.

112. This is, of course, the thesis of W. Kendall in The Revolutionary Movement in Britain, 1917-21, 1969, an account of the early years of the CPGB.

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