The History of British Trotskyism to 1949

by Martin Upham



The “Bolshevik-Leninists” in the Labour Party worked in the political area with the greatest potential for Trotskyist growth in the 1930s: the Labour League of Youth. It took two years for them to concentrate in the LLOY, and they thus lost their best chance to rival communist sympathisers on equal terms, They were also hampered by arguing a tactical case for which it was difficult to obtain support. In 1937 communist pressure on the League became more intense and a debate between Stalinism and Trotskyism took place, with Trotskyism on the defensive. The Bolshevik-Leninists gained sufficient backing to pass beyond exclusively youth work, but remained confined within Labour Party boundaries. This circumscribed growth. Differences of style among the Bolshevik-Leninists, now known as the Militant Group, maimed their organisation at the end of 1937.

Within the Labour League of Youth there was throughout the 1930s a strong desire for autonomy and widespread political criticism of the party’s leadership. The League was small in 1934 when Ted Willis, a Tottenham Leaguer who had moved to the left and Roma, younger sister of Hugo Dewar, combined in opposition to Labour’s Peace and War policy at its 1934 conference. Willis successfully moved rejection of the League of Nations and a call for the formation of anti-war committees by ninety to seventeen. [1] There were at this stage no definite factions either of communism or Trotskyism [2], though CPGB interest in the League was growing. [3] It was possible for Dewar and Willis to collaborate in a small unofficial journal Youth Forum. [4] During 1935 and 1936 communist influence grew on Willis and other leading activists within the League. The Trotskyist presence hardened with the departure from the ILP, for the League of Youth and, (initially), the Socialist League of Stuart Kirby [5] and D.D. Harber early in 1935. [6] It seems no definite faction was formed at once but in October of that year with Roma Dewar, they published Youth Militant, a duplicated journal. [7] Two months later a group of London League members led by Ted Willis launched the duplicated Advance with an initial print run of 500. [8] Around these journals rival factions would crystallize.

1936 was a critical year for the League of Youth. Within its ranks there was mounting resentment at the NEC policy of curtailing political debate. [9] Defenders of the official position were few and on the defensive. [10] Youth Militant supporters, six strong, formed themselves into the “Bolshevik-Leninists in the Labour Party” in February of that year. [11] At that time they controlled the League’s London Advisory Committee and were selling 250 copies of their journal. [12] They shared with Advance an intransigent opposition to a memorandum from the National Executive which sought to restrict League activity to social matters. But whereas Advance favoured a merger with the Young Communist League to form a mass youth movement, Youth Militant argued for a breakaway from the Labour Party and the establishment of .an independent League. [13] In the Spring months of 1936, Advance gained ground against Youth Militant in the London Region. Youth Militant was unable to transform its position on the Advisory Committee into strength at quarterly conferences. [14] Advance carried its views forty-two to sixteen at the first of the year against not only the Bolshevik-Leninists, but others of different persuasion as well. [15] The League met in national, conference at Manchester that summer. There was only one dissenter from a South Tottenham resolution condemning the memorandum. Roma Dewar was returned to the National Advisory Committee as its only Trotskyist [16], but a narrow majority backed unity of the left parties. [17] Following the Manchester decisions the YCL approached the League of Youth to propose a YCL-LLOY merger. [18]

Through 1936 the Bolshevik-Leninists built up their support in the League of Youth. Sales of Youth Militant more than trebled to 800 by October. [19] In the same period they grew from six to sixty members, mainly by recruiting people new to Trotskyism. Forty of these were within the League of Youth. [20] Harber attended the youth conference of the ICL of 1 August 1936 following the international pre-conference. The youth conference resolved that the Fourth International could be built only by a resolute struggle against the Second and Third Internationals and the International Bureau of Revolutionary Socialist Youth Organisations. [21] Taken with the “Geneva” resolution and Trotsky’s writings, this was a strong inducement for assembling all personnel in the Labour League of Youth. Some former Marxist Groupers came over to the Bolshevik-Leninists following the debacle at the Keighley conference of the ILP. [22] On 11 October 1936, twenty six Bolshevik-Leninists attended the national meeting of the groups and put a strong line based on the Geneva conference. The Marxist Group conference of the previous day effectively marked off those ILPers who were now prepared to join the Labour Party. [23] In the autumn Don James and two others came over from the Liverpool ILP. [24] The Bolshevik-Leninists also encountered a loose association of dissident Marxists who sold Trotsky’s pamphlets and the American Militant in Hyde Park and at Marble Arch. They were inducted before 1936 was out. [25] Against these accessions had to be balanced the failure to achieve a modus operandi with the Marxist League [26] although both it and the Bolshevik-Leninists had an interest in each other’s field of work. [27] But Bolshevik-Leninists had played some part in launching Fight as an FI journal in October. [28]

The Bolshevik-Leninists, (who from summer 1937 became known as the Militant Group), operated within what became known as a “split perspective”. They intended, like all other Trotskyists who in these years joined larger parties, to leave with the foreseeable future. Hopefully, this break would be made with an enhanced membership. [29] But the corollary of aiming at a breakaway was that the entrists and not the party apparatus would decide the timing. It therefore became vital that they should not be compromised by unconstitutional activities before they had sufficient opportunity to gather support. This was not a new problem: it had preoccupied members of the Marxist Group in the ILP. Some of them were now among the Bolshevik-Leninists and fear of premature expulsion was to be a steady influence on their behaviour. The Bolshevik-Leninists knew they had to establish a separate identity and give the appearance of intending a permanent Labour Party presence. [30] For the moment they had strong backing from Trotsky and the International in their stress on party activities. The International Bureau, when it rapped the knuckles of C.L.R. James for an ill-considered departure from the ILP, endorsed the Bolshevik-Leninists” fear that an outside group for the Fourth International would compromise them. [31]

Thus while the Socialist League, with communist support, confronted the Labour Party apparatus virtually courting expulsion, the Labour League of Youth, also with communist support, backed away from a clash and restrained its demands. [32] Trotskyism. found itself arguing for the Socialist League to stay within the party and the Labour League of Youth to come out, though in both places it opposed the imminent Unity Campaign. [33] Youth Militant rejected the Advance policy of local fights against the memorandum and proposed an independent League. [34] Although Advance was to weaken its resistance to the memorandum, it was Youth Militant which had the more difficult case to argue. Its strategy was less concrete, more speculative, and as well as the contemporary spectacle of the doomed Socialist League, there was the salutary example of the fate of the ILP to hold up as a warning of what happened to those who defied Transport House. [35]

In 1937 there was far more sourness than before in the debate within the League. The change of mood coincided with increased communist bitterness towards Trotsky and his followers arising from the first Moscow trial of August 1936 and the development of the revolution in Spain. It turned on the different reactions of the two factions to the decision of the Edinburgh conference of the Labour Party to uphold the NEC memorandum. Ted Willis and Advance concluded that the battle against it had failed to rouse youth and ascribed this failure to introspection and deadlock in the London area where three papers other than theirs circulated. [36] From this time they discouraged the projected YCL merger and advised against the split policy of Youth Militant, described as “throwing in the sponge”. Youth Militant persisted with its policy of fighting for an independent League and became principal advocate of defying the NEC. [37]

With the Socialist League decision to join the Unity Campaign three discernible groups within it were left with the problem of how to react. As well as the Marxist League and the Militant Group (who had five SL activists) there were those like Margaret McCarthy and Garry Allingham who had no group. Within the Militant Group a speedy dissolution of the Socialist League was anticipated and a proposal by Harber that it seek a merger with these “centrists” was discussed [38], Had his proposal been adopted and the attempt met with success it is possible that a step away from isolation, similar to that taken by the Communist League of America in 1935, might have considerably enhanced Trotskyism’s clout. [39] But there is a depressing significance in discussion of merger with these individuals rather than with the Marxist League. On the Trotsky Defence Committee [40] and in the SL it was clear that membership of the Labour Party was practically the only thing these two factions had in common. But the Militant Group did feel keenly the need for common Trotskyist action in face of the Unity Campaign and its January initiative led to the meeting of all factions on 14 February 1937.

Youth Militant’s circulation was 1,600 in February and it had established contact with 70 Leagues [40], but a February 1937 gathering of the Leagues showed it to be on the defensive. In the spring it printed its programme for youth, a platform intended to revive the League and prevent membership loss to the YCL or Mosley. The League was faced” with the NEC memorandum. To capitulate meant extinction; to reject meant dissolution. Youth Militant proposed that the League should take its own organisation into its own hands and build a mass base. It would then seek affiliation to the Labour Party (from which it would sever no ties in the interim) as an autonomous unit. The programme provided by Youth Militant was for the most part a standard Trotskyist analysis of imperialism, the danger of war and the rise of fascism. Its immediate demands were for a total rejection of all activities connected with war preparation – rearmament, industrial conscription and exposure of the League of Nations; for resistance to fascist advance not by employing state forces but by use of workers” defence corps; for industrial action to prevent arms being sent to suppress colonial movements; for the right of all working class parties to affiliate to the Labour Party; for the closed shop, industrial unionism and the forty hour week; for a labour movement campaign against the embargo on arms for Spain and the banning of volunteers, and for an international commission of enquiry into communist allegations against the POUM. [41]

On 4 April 1937, the London Leagues met and condemned Youth Militant by a majority of three to one. It had committed a tactical error by condemning a summer campaign projected by Advance as a non-political concession to the requirements of the memorandum. In February a Youth Militant supporter called for a League conference to be summoned. [42] The National Advisory Council of the League, dominated by Advance supporters, shortly moved to convene an unofficial conference. Youth Militant criticised the nature of its arrangements [43] and insisted that a healthy youth body could only be built outside the party. [44] The conference, it predicted, would decide if there was to be “a Revolutionary Socialist Youth Organisation, or ... a pale and feeble imitation of the Young Imperialists?” [45] The debate between Advance, (assisted by the YCL), and Youth Militant grew increasingly sharp. Indeed from the time of the second Moscow Trial of February 1937, there is little to choose between YCL attacks and those mounted by Advance on the Trotskyists. [46] Programmatically they were accused of lining up with the bourgeoisie and the gutter press over the Trials, with Transport House and The Times over the Unity Campaign and with the POUM against the Spanish Government “objectively aiding the fascists”. [47] When the unofficial conference convened at Whitsun 1937, it upheld the Advance perspective for League growth and trounced the Trotskyists on Spain. Conference was held in London, the base of Advance and provider of more than seventy five per cent of the delegates. [48] The debate on Spain occurred simultaneously with the Barcelona uprising. Emergency resolutions were allowed and Sid Bone and Charles van Gelderen put forward the case against suppression of working class parties. In a tumultuous debate delegates’ indignation was restrained only with difficulty and a different resolution was carried by acclamation. [49] Trotskyist strength among the delegates did not rise above a dozen votes on any issue. [50] It can only have been potential rather than present Trotskyist appeal which sparked the vituperation of YCL and Advance attacks on Youth Militant after the conference. [51] Spain [52] and the unofficial conference marked off a phase in the development of the League of Youth and a stage in the growth of the Militant group as well. [53]

Youth Militant did not pull out of the League after Whitsun, but the group felt its limited opportunities in the youth movement rivalled by Labour Party potential. Carriage of the Advance programme by the LLOY, meant “complete oblivion of the League as a political. organisation”. The only hope was felt to be links with the Socialist Left fighting for party democracy. [54] Youth Militant supporters were to have a hand in launching the Socialist Left Federation in June 1937 though this initiative came to little; Advance on the other hand did lead the League to a spell of rapid growth even with its less ambitious orientation. When the 1937 Labour Party conference reinstated Willis, his paper and the NAC with official status their prestige as people who had argued that a modus vivendi might be reached was much enhanced. [55] Youth activities by the Trotskyists continued but they never passed the strength reached by the time of the Whitsun conference. [56] They retained control of some London Leagues and even expanded, but their own coverage of their activities reads as a catalogue of defeats. At quarterly conferences of the London Leagues they were steadily and depressingly voted down. [57] It may have been this impasse as well as lack of money which led to the absence of a delegate from Britain’s Trotskyist Youth from the August 1937 meeting of the International Youth Bureau. One attempt to concretise the Trotskyist alternative was a startling proposal that the LLOY should merge with theYCL That body had no enthusiasm for it and Advance, which had itself moved in this direction a year earlier, now opposed the plan. [58] The Trotskyists stayed within the League of Youth but felt they now had outlets in the Labour Party itself. The last Youth Militant for the time being [59] offered model resolutions for submission to party conference that autumn. In July 1937 the duplicated Militant [60] absorbed the printed Militant to give one printed monthly. [61] Under the editorship of E. Starkey Jackson, with assistance from Margaret Johns, the Militant was a less introverted paper which dropped its knockabout lampoons of Willis et al. for a broader appeal. It had some claim to being the best paper yet produced by British Trotskyism and was certainly the first to appear with consistent regularity. But it is arguable that the change from a youth paper was made late [62] and certain that the Group had not yet shown it could transcend mere commentary on union affairs. [63]

Militant’s real drive was towards Labour Party change. It insisted – quite wrongly as it turned out – that the only hope for the League of Youth was as part of the movement for democracy now accelerating within the party. This was a time when defeats for the Divisional Labour Parties led them to rally and secure constitutional success in their drive for expression within the party. [64] The first printed Militant declared:

We therefore call far the immediate creation of a left-wing organisation which will include all Labour Party workers who are willing to struggle for a revolutionary programme and leadership, an organisation which can offer to the workers a clear socialist alternative to the policies of treachery and despair of the existing leadership. [65]

For a time the Militant Group hoped, like the Marxist League, to fill the vacuum with the Socialist Left Federation, formed by twelve Labour Party members in June. Led by a Bureau of seven, whose members included Groves and Harber, it managed some initial growth. Militant’s hopes were to be dashed, but it did take the opportunity here and elsewhere to explain its conception of unity in opposition to that in the name of which the Socialist League had sacrificed itself. [66] Because of willingness on either side to engage in war, Militant’s shots were aimed equally at right and left, [67] with the League of Nations singled out for particular attention.

By August 1937 Militant had established a national identity. Its paper, whether in its youth or adult incarnation, was probably the best known Trotskyist journal and certainly the chief organ of the movement within the Labour Party and the League of Youth. Circulation was still below 2,000 although it was known that it could pay on a 3,000 print run. Militant was to make an admirable break with Trotskyist tradition by appearing monthly for several years. Members were separately organised not only in eight London areas but also in groups in Liverpool, Sheffield, Leeds, Hull, Glasgow, Norwich and Leicester. Membership was in double figures in London and Liverpool. It was still overwhelmingly a Labour Party group, though ILP members had been retained in Liverpool, Glasgow and elsewhere. [68] When delegates gathered in London for the annual conference on 1-2 August 1937 they had every reason to believe they had established the most stable organisation yet in British Trotskyism’s chequered history [69] and certainly that they had convened the most representative gathering to date. Yet the same conference revealed that different local groups were operating in different ways. Some were working secretly and presumably not selling papers at all. The August conference was confronted by an executive resolution, moved by Harber, which called for the setting up of a front organisation to advance most of the Bolshevik-Leninist programme in the Labour Party. It would not, he suggested, call for the creation of a new party and the Fourth International. So long as the Bolshevik-Leninists continued as a disciplined group within it, steering towards a split, centrist degeneration like that shown by the ILP and the Socialist League could be prevented. During the debate there was some unease. After all, there had been a vacuum at the heart of the Marxist Group in the experience of some of those present. [70] Harber’s proposition for such an organisation to be set up was carried easily, but the majority for keeping a Bolshevik-Leninist faction in being was far narrower. [71] This debate overlapped a tactical dispute over whether or not to enter the Socialist Left Federation. The Liverpool Group proposed staying clear of “centrism” which, moreover, it believed to be very weak in this case. Jackson explained the EC fear that ignoring it might isolate the group from the left of the old Socialist League and permit the emergence of new centrist currents. Before he carried the day [72] there was the expression of much misgiving. Essentially the Liverpool/EC clash on the SLF was over timing, since the decision to set up what was to be the Militant Labour League was already made and the whole group would give up the SLF in September. Once again however, the important and the unimportant had been inverted. It was true that Militant was easily the premier British group, but the moment for maximum impact in the Labour Party had been six months earlier. Militant had managed a leaflet to the special conference of the Socialist League which had decided to join the Unity Campaign, but, as Jackson reflected:

When the SL capitulated to the Stalinists we were unable to capitalise (on) the situation because of our unpreparedness. At that time we had five members in the SL. [73]

In the trade unions the Militant Group was doing practically no work. This was a general weakness of Trotskyism in the 1930s. For this particular group it might be disastrous because, as Davis observed, when the intended split from the Labour Party took place, trade unions would be its lifeline. Of course the split perspective maintained for the Labour Party was not applied to the trade unions: Trotskyism had no time for “red unionism”. But when discussion took place at conference there was a revealing confusion between rank and file organisation and strike committees and all references to disputes were clearly made by observers. [74] Two months after conference trade union activity extended only to the semblance of an AEU fraction [75], a foothold in the NUR [76] and the Musicians’ Union [77] and a presence (shared by the Marxist Group) on the Metro Council of the Shop Assistants’ Union. [78] When a comparison is made with the capable industrial workers the CPGB had within its ranks, this was poor. John Goffe, a management trainee, was industrial organiser. An attempt was made to improve matters in November with the decision to promote joint fractions with the Marxist Group in the AEU, SAU, and NUC. [79] When, following workers” sanctions, policies over Abyssinia and Spain, the Trotskyists proposed blacking war supplies for Japan in 1937-8, they lacked the influence to make the policy stick and the policy’s fortunes varied with communist interest. [80]

The August conference was noteworthy, finally, for the introduction to the Militant Group of four recent arrivals from South Africa, best known of whom was Ralph Lee, a Trotskyist well known in the Johannesburg labour movement. [81] They had given up hope of further progress in South Africa although they had played a leading role in some industrial struggles. On Haston’s proposal, all four were made members of the group but they took no part in the proceedings and for the time being proposed no new departures.

The decision to set up its own front organisation within the party did not mean that the Militant Group had given up the Socialist Left Federation. Faced with the historic decision of the Parliamentary Labour Party not to oppose the arms estimates Militant declared:

Here too is an opportunity for the newly formed Socialist Left Federation to win its spurs by showing the workers how the capitulation of Cripps and Co. to the Communist Party has inevitably led to the desertion of the socialist anti-war struggle. [82]

War was the paramount issue for all Trotskyists, a prime source of their hostility to the Unity Campaign. They did not believe action by capitalist countries, however presented, or by the League of Nations, could be progressive or a means of keeping peace. It would lead instead, he believed, to a new imperialist conflict. Hence their distaste in the autumn of 1937 for League sanctions against Japan: this would lead to a war not for democracy but for plunder. [83] But while Militant could see no difference between Attlee and Morrison and Cripps and the CPGB in view of their common willingness to countenance a war, it was not sure everyone else had grasped the point.

The only reason why the minority and the communists do not openly support the arms plan is because they do not “trust” the National Government to carry out this line in a sincere manner. If the interests of British Capitalism demanded a temporary alliance with France or the Soviet Union this opposition would collapse immediately ... [84]

In Militant’s view resting on imperialist alliances was a false policy: it was the working class which could prevent war. The paper criticised the SLF, for condemning the right and not the left for this folly. It committed itself to pushing the Federation [85] and applied as a body to join it. Refused, it took up an invitation to its members to participate on an individual basis. As a result it now found itself in difficulties on its right and on its left. It clashed bitterly with the Marxist League and Groves, who believed that the SLF should not be made into a Trotskyist body for this would narrow its appeal. [86] Militant sought to become the official organ of the SLF and the Group took factional steps to bring this to pass. [87] Clashes occurred every month at SLF bureau meetings, without Groves’s domination ever being challenged. On 23 September 1937 the SLF. called on Militant to cease publication and rally all forces behind the broad body. [88] “But Militant concluded that the Marxist League had parted from Bolshevik-Leninism [89] and in October disappeared from the SLF. Within the Group there was disquiet at these efforts, notably in the Liverpool Group, led by Don James. On 18 September it resolved not to, implement the SLF, tactic; a week later it stopped selling Militant which, it claimed, was giving one third of its space to SLF affairs. [90] The Liverpool Group was suspended on 9 October 1937 just before the Militant leadership as a whole itself despaired of the SLF and turned away from it. Militant now launched its own front organisation against war, the Militant Labour League, and in November 1937 printed eight pages for the first time. The League was the public presence of the Group in the Labour Party. Group members were active in other organisations [91], but it was the Labour Party which really interested them. MLL members were expected to be in the party, membership of which was considered to be a badge of political understanding.

In the autumn of 1937 the Militant Group had behind it a year’s steady activity, but it could not claim the kind of progress which would make possible a strong Trotskyist impact. Increasing emphasis on the Labour Party conflicted with the extravert inclinations of the former Hyde Park group, which had dwindled almost to nothing before it was reinforced by Ralph Lee and his comrades from South Africa at the August conference. There was some awareness within the Group leadership that activities around their paper were too much confined [92] but it was the revived Paddington Group which really pioneered street and canvassing sales. [93] Ralph Lee joined the National Committee in September in recognition, it seems, of his ability and energy. The Paddington Group worked on its local YCL as well as the League of Youth and began to recruit from its outside activities. [94] There is no evidence in 1937 of actual political disagreements between Paddington and the rest of the Militant Group. [95] Its internal regime was . considered a model by the centre. On the resignation of K. Alexander from the executive, Haston was elected to the vacant position. [96] There was a minor clash over the centre’s ban on the issue of an anti-fascist pamphlet, but the partisans here bissected the December split. And when stylistic criticisms of Militant were made the response of the Group was to place Ralph Lee and Richard Frieslich on the editorial board. [97]

The worm in the apple was a series of rumours which reached Militant Group leaders in October 1937 about the record of Ralph Lee, and about which they received confirmation in the second week of November. [98] Lee was accused of calling out 300 Bantu workers in February on a hopeless issue and of leaving for Europe in the middle of the strike. Money collected for the strikers” benefit was also said to be missing. Even before the rumours were confirmed, Group leaders had acted upon them. [99] Lee himself was only informed of them late in the day and the assurances given him of confidential treatment were false. [100] A special executive of 13 November, from which Harber and Jackson were absent, unanimously recorded its confidence in Lee. The next day the matter surfaced lengthily at a General Members’ Meeting, where Lee charged that the Group was under control of a bureaucratic-clique who feared loss of control to him. Jackson, Harber and others had admitted they had handled the affair badly, but protested no evil intention. It was Lee who stated that the group was faced with a split over whether or not the leadership should be expelled. At the conclusion of discussion the meeting resolved by only one vote to take the soft option of reducing Harber, Jackson. and van Gelderen to probationary membership. [101] It then proceeded to elect a new executive which included neither Lee nor them. But when this executive met on 20 November it considered correspondence from parties to the quarrel, including a letter from Harber, Jackson and van Gelderen claiming their suspension as full members to be unconstitutional. This argument was upheld and, on Haston’s proposal, the new executive dissolved itself in favour of the old! [102]

The discussion over Lee, which seems to have occupied the whole Militant organisation for two months reveals little sense of proportion. In their letter to the executive Harber, Jackson and van Gelderen spoke of it being the “only revolutionary group”. A letter from Harber to Betty Hamilton, (a French member of the Central branch who had backed Lee), talked of only fifty functioning members in London, ten of whom were on the EC. [103] One group member who tried at least to understand how such a minor affair could gain this importance was Michael Tippett, who detected a residue of the “low political and moral level of the past” (by which he meant the Marxist League and the Marxist Group). Those longest in the movement, were, he thought, the most likely to be drawn into personal recriminations. Exhibitions like those at the General Members” Meeting, which he had not attended, would be “unthinkable in a group of comrades that felt the living revolution as at all imminent”. Tippett thought the situation was worsening and called for a new leadership, free of suspicion. [104] Another explanation was volunteered by Hamilton who thought group members were recruiting their personal friends rather than working in the wider movement. [105] Tippett’s fears were confirmed in December. Camille (Klement) the IS secretary expressed alarm at the “bad internal situation” in the group [106], and the centre was deluged with letters from members levelling (and occasionally retracting) charges. Frieslich and Lee failed to attend editorial board meetings; Lee [107] and Haston [108] refused to turn up at the executive. Tippett at least attempted to generalise [109], but it is impossible to dissent from the lament of K. Alexander who had witnessed two months of strife and frenzy from afar:

I sign for the translation of all that labour power into the more fruitful channels of work in the Labour Party. [110]

On 19 December 1937, a GMM heavily condemned splits and called for adherence to Group decisions. But Lee and his supporters insisted on the expulsion of the officials who had mishandled the affair. When this did not happen they withdrew. [111] Tippett and Hamilton, nominated for the vacant EC places, refused to fill them. There is some evidence that Lee himself anticipated independent activities and he and his supporters certainly began at once to seek outside backing. [112] The Militant Group set in train its cumbersome expulsion machinery. [113] A few days later the Central Group withdrew, and on 16 January a majority of the North Group ended its participation in the main organisation.

Jackson believed Lee intended “a publishing centre independent of the Groups” [114], and the Marxist Group joined him in protesting at such a project. Workers International News, the first theoretical journal of British Trotskyism had been under discussion on the Militant executive, but it now became Lee’s flag-bearer. He and the others were expelled formally on 17 February 1938 [115], and faced the united opposition of the other groups. [116]

The split was formalised the following year by a letter from nineteen former Militant Group members to the Group. [117] Much of the letter was concerned with the Lee affair, but what seems to have rankled most within it was the failure of the group majority to curb a leadership “untrustworthy, incapable, irresponsible and dishonest”. The letter also alleged that the confidence of the signatories in the Group had been “long undermined” by the way it functioned [118], that the Lee affair was a symptom. The failure of the membership to replace its leaders is thus presented as a last straw. Politics, however, did not intrude into the list of indictments. The Militant Group countered that there was no evidence of this alleged long degeneration, that it was being produced ex post facto. In its view it was Lee who had a degenerate history as the letters from South Africa suggested, and who had now split from “insane egoism”. [119]

The “Lee split” was not the first in British Trotskyist history, but it was to be the most controversial. [120] Previous splits had all been difficult to defend since they had in each case occurred over a tactical difference. This split was also difficult to defend since no political differences emerged at all. It can only be explained by a personal clash and divergence of style. The Militant leadership had crystallized during 1937, not a long period for a stable cadre to hang together. Lee and his comrades represented a different political tradition and Lee in particular had a talent for the vivid or cruel phrase. Had Militant been progressing rapidly in the later months of 1937, factionalism would have taken root only with far greater difficulty. What also lay behind the split was a growing emphasis on exclusive Labour Party work by the Group and its leaders, while Paddington was a marriage of two extravert experiences. Group leaders and Paddington foresaw a different path to growth, and by the empirical test of results it was the second which would be most successful in the next ten years.

In 1938 the Militant Group attributed the failures of Trotskyism in 1937 to “the weakness of our forces and their dispersal in several organisations”. [121] This empirical verdict could be applied to the whole decade, but it does not provide a full explanation. Certainly a full Trotskyist mobilisation in the Labour League of Youth in 1934 or 1935 might have radically altered that movement’s subsequent history; at the very least communists and their sympathisers within the League might have been counter-balanced. But the Trotskyist appeal was vitiated by forces beyond its control, notably the flexibility of communist policy and the international campaign against Trotsky. The communists also showed themselves able to adjust their tactics at every stage. The Militant Group seemed by contrast to be arguing an abstract strategy for pulling young people out of the Labour Party, and it involved communist co-operation which would certainly not be forthcoming. Although the organisation established by 1937 was superior to its predecessors it did not represent an impressive alternative to the other political movements of the time: it showed an unhealthy preoccupation with the activity of its Trotskyist rivals, and an overweening fear of the Labour Party apparatus. These features blunted its cutting edge and contributed to an atmosphere where a split which was to have far-reaching consequences could take place.



1. Advance, April 1938; J. Cleary and N. Cobbett, Labour’s Misspent Youth, (P), 28 July 1979, 6.

2. However, Trotsky believed that there were three groups in Britain as early as July 1934 (L. Trotsky to H. Dewar, July 1934, Warwich MSS).

3. O. Bell, The Leftward Development of the British Youth Movement, Inprecorr, Vol.14, no. 33, 8 June 1934, 890-I.

4. N. Cleary and J. Abbott, op. cit., 6.

5. Kirby was a minority spokesman during the debate within the CL of December 1933. Sometime after this he left Britain for Japan, returning later to pursue an academic career (Interview with J. Archer, Nov. 1973).

6. They withdrew individually, a step they later considered a mistake. Others with whom they were in contact with the ILP also were interested in the League of Youth, (A.B. Doncaster et. al., to the International Secretariat, ICL ([April? 1935], H.P., D.J.H. 5/2). Both Harber and Kirby attended the IS plenum of spring 1935.

7. Beneath its masthead the journal proclaimed itself “the first result of a Committee of Young Socialists in Organised Youth Movements” (A. Richardson, op. cit.).

8. Advance was printed from June 1936.

9. For the running battle between young Labour Party members and the National Executive see J. Ferris, The Labour League of Youth, 1924-1940 (University of Warwick M.A. thesis, 1977), and Z. Layton-Henry, Labour’s Lost Youth, J.C.H., Vol.11, 1976, 275-308,

10. Arthur Peacock, editor of The New Nation, the official League journal, gave his account in Yours Fraternally, 1945, 18-26.

11. Statement by the Bolshevik-Leninists Group to joint session of British Trotskyists, For Discussion, No.1, 28 Nov. 1936, 15.

12. Advance, April 1937; ibid. The NEC memorandum reduced the League’s age to twenty-one and forbade it to discuss policy.

13. J. Ferris, op. cit., 108 and passim; Advance, Nov. 1936. For the memorandum, see LPCR (1936).

14. On many occasions the London Advisory Committee was deadlocked five to five (letter from Ernest Harrison, Advance, Aug. 1936).

15. At conference and on the NAC Roma Dewar was accused of making “unity with reactionary elements”, ibid.

16. J. Ferris, op. cit., 94.

17. Youth Militant, April 1937.

18. For the merger proposal of John Gollan, YCL national chairman, see Advance, Aug. 1936. Gollan cited as proof of the worth of his proposition the merger of socialist and communist youth in Spain and their imminent fusion in Belgium. These were the very developments that most alarmed Trotsky and increased the urgency of his plea for concentration in the League of Youth.

19. A Short Statement, loc. cit.

20. ibid.

21. Youth And The Fourth International, Documents, 108-112,

22. Among those stimulated by the “Geneva” resolution and the Interview with Collin” were John Goffe and John Archer (P.J.B., 1910- ), two Yorkshire activists (Interview with J. Goffe, July 1974).

23. After this Marxist Group conference Max Nicholls, Bert Matlow and John Robinson entered the Labour Party. E.L. Davis and Starkey Jackson, who were to take leading positions, came over in September 1936. Davis had been introduced to Trotskyism by Margaret Johns, whom he met at a union meeting. Jackson was an ex-communist.

24. This branch was to grow to eleven members by August, retaining one Harry Cund, as an official of the ILP who had not been asked by that party to leave, (Militant Group 3, Minutes of National Conference, 1-2 Aug. 1937).

25. It effectively became the Paddington branch of the Bolshevik-Leninists by 1937. Most prominent among its tiny membership was Jock Haston (1912- ), a former seaman and steeplejack who had left the CPGB in disagreement with its line on Germany (J.P.M. Millar, The Labour College Movement, 1979; interview with J. Haston, July 1973; J.H. to [members of the Club?] 10 June 1950, H.P., D.J.H., 158/111).

26. Each organisation blamed the other for this. For the Marxist League, see Chapter V. The Bolshevik-Leninists claimed they had made a number of approaches to the Marxist League for unity.

27. At the time of the Unity Campaign there were claimed to be five followers of the Militant in the Socialist League. The ML was involved with the Socialist Youth Committee, an outgrowth of the Socialist League, which tried unsuccessfully to gain support in the League of Youth during 1936.

28. Interim Reply of the EC, Militant Group, 5 Aug. 1937, Inter-Group Relations, [Sept.] 1937, 2.

29. See R.W., On the Work of Bolshevik-Leninists in the Labour Party, Sept 1936, Warwick MSS 15/4/1/10. R.W., who did not show great knowledge of Labour Party procedure, foresaw establishing independence from the party, within a year of joining, with a following of hundreds of workers.

30. R.W. advised his readers not to act as “wise strangers” or declare their future exit from the rooftops (ibid.). Trotsky had also remarked that one did not enter the Labour Party and declare “I am a revolutionist” (see above).

31. The Bolshevik-Leninists launched a duplicated paper, Militant, in February 1937. Its circulation was below 500 (Minutes, 20 Feb. 1937, H.P., D.J.H. 2A/4). On 13 December the Bureau wrote of the Bolshevik-Leninists, “they declare that an independent group outside could only cause them harm because they would in that case be regarded as agents of an alien organisation”, (Declaration of the International Bureau). By 1939 Trotsky had apparently moved away from this view. See note to Fighting Against the Stream, Writings: 1938-39, 150n.

32. From late 1936 Advance campaigned for building up membership within the Labour Party, a policy the League of Youth endorsed on 8 May 1937. Meanwhile Challenge was made into a weekly journal in the effort to build up YCL membership too (J. Ferris, op. cit., 107-8). Ferris attributes LLOY resistance to the memorandum to pressure from leading League members being due to pass twenty one in 1938. Communist advice was now that the League of Youth should turn its back on “splitters” and devote itself to youth activity “and not only to a fight against the LP Executive”, (W. Cohen, For Discussion, Dec. 1936, 7; Z. Layton-Henry, Labour’s Lost Youth, J.C.H., 11, 1976, 283). There was some communist bewilderment at the change in YCL policy to opposition to a merger, (For Discussion, Nov. 1936, 32).

33. F.L. Brown, Advance, March 1937.

34. Youth Militant, Sept. 1936.

35. Advance, March 1937: this example was given by Ted. Willis. The influence of the CPGB on Advance during 1937 is marked: Gollan, Sloan and R.P. Dutt all wrote articles for it that year.

36. Advance, Nov. 1936.

37. A third policy proposal of this time was that of Bob Edwards of the ILP Guild of Youth who projected all three youth movements as obstructed by their parties and recommended unity between them, ibid.

38. Minutes, London EC, 20 Feb. 1937, H.P., DJH. 2A/4.

39. In 1935 the CLA fused with the American Workers Party of the Rev. A.J. Muste. This merger took place outside a social democratic milieu however.

40. Minutes, London EC, 20 Feb. 1937, H.P., D.J.H. 2A/4.

41. Youth Militant, April 1937.

42. S. Bone, Advance, Feb. 1937, advised one to free the League of Labour’s “throttling control”.

43. Under the arrangements, two resolutions, both submitted by the NAC, were to be the only ones tabled. One effectively yielded to the memorandum, the other committed the Leagues to a campaign around Labour’s Immediate Programme. Local Leagues could only table amendments. Youth Militant threatened a shadow agenda.

44. To remain in the party is to commit suicide, to end the League as a political organisation. The only road for the League is to part company with the party for a while, to form an independent Socialist Youth organisation, with its own programme. Having developed a programme on a political basis, the Socialist Youth organisation could then apply to the L.P. as an autonomous body, retaining its right to discuss policy and its right to call national conferences and elect its own Executive body. On this basis only can the League go forward (Youth Militant, April 1937).

45. Youth Militant, May 1937.

46. To Advance they were “middle class types” with a disruptive record. It declared there was no place for them in a living movement “as there is no place for boils on a healthy human”. They produced no concrete proposals, only “monotonous talk of splitting” (Advance, March 1937) .

47. ibid.

48. 130 out of 170 delegates came from London but the capital had only one fifth of total LLOY membership of 3,500, (Youth Militant, June 1937). Of course London was also the chief base of Youth Militant itself which controlled branches at Stoke Newington, East Islington, Peckham and Golders Green.

49. Willis, Harry Rigg and Alec Bernstein spoke for the Advance majority deploring the “treasonable role of the Barcelona insurgents”, Advance (June 1937), Youth Militant (June 1937).

50. “Carried with twelve votes against – carried with twelve votes against – this is the story of the conference as far as voting was concerned”, A. Bernstein, Advance, June 1937.

51. John Gollan at the YCL annual conference declared “these people have been sheltered too long in the hospitable ranks of the League of Youth. These people must be driven out of the working class youth movement for the enemies they are”. Conference passed a resolution, “Drive Out the Trotskyists” which insisted expulsion of the Trotskyists was a pre-requisite for unity (Youth of Britain Advance, 1937, 31-2; See also J. Gollan, What Next for Youth Unity?, 1937, 13). The NAC of the League of Youth was aware that Trotskyism was being suppressed within the Socialist Youth of Belgium and France (Advance, May 1937). The next month Bernstein informed Advance readers that “the link up between the Trotskyists and the Fascists is shown clear for all to see” and called for Roma Dewar, Van Gelderen, Fred Emmett, Ken Alexander and Bone to be cleared out as wreckers.

52. Only in the ILP was there a comparable debate between followers of the communist and Trotskyist lines. Space was also given in Advance for June 1937, but see A. Marwick, Youth in Britain, 1920-1960 Detachment and Commitment, J.C.H., Vol.5, No.1, 1970, 49 for the handling of Spain by youth movement papers.

53. Fight for June 1937 declared its opinion that the LLOY would rapidly decline if Youth Militant did not increase its influence, a development it thought unlikely.

54. Youth Militant, June 1937.

55. Advance, Oct. 1937. Outside the Trotskyist movement there seems to have been little comment on the modification by Advance which had allowed the NEC to come to terms with it.

56. Youth Militant sellers covered the Battersea conference of the YCL This may have encouraged Gollan to urge young people to “expose the wrecking aims and activities of the Trotskyists” in his YCL pamphlet What Will London’s Youth Do? (1937), quoted in R. Black, Stalinism in Britain, 1970, 110.

57. The 27 June 1937 conference heard delegates from Trotskyist branches at East Islington and Peckham. Paddington, East and West Islington had resolutions on the agenda. Trotskyist views on unity and workers” sanctions against the Japanese were crushed at the autumn conference (Militant, Oct. 1937).

58. J. Jupp, op. cit., 223-4.

59. This was the issue for June 1937.

60. Militant was launched as a duplicated monthly on 15 January 1937.

61. The Militant, sub-titled “(Incorporating Youth Militant) Organ of the Militant Group in the Labour Party”.

62. The democratic ferment among Labour Party members had been commented upon by the International six months earlier, (Declaration of the International Bureau, 13 Dec. 1936. For the successful campaign of DLPs to increase constituency representation on Labour’s NEC, see B. Pimlott, op. cit., 123-38.

63. See Bus Militants Expelled, of August 1937, with its list of propagandist “warnings”. Only in October 1937 did the paper report participation in an actual struggle, that to organise a Croydon engineering firm. The author, John Goffe, was an apprentice manager in Sheffield.

64. A meeting of DLP.s after the crushing of the Left at Edinburgh in October 1936 led to agitation which resulted in the constituency section being expanded from five to seven seats, (B. Pimlott, op. cit., 112-5). Militant welcomed the extension of the constituency section on the grounds that this part of the party was more sensitive to the mood of the masses than “the bureaucratically controlled trade unions”. But little improvement was foreseen since celebrities like Cripps and Mellor were more likely to secure election than members of the rank and file.

65. Militant, July 1937.

66. Militant condemned in August 1937 the unity programme which “consisted of piffling reforms and contained no more radical demands than can be found in the Immediate Programme of the Labour Party”. Its conception of unity implied temporary agreement on specific issues by labour movement organisations, and it had available the precepts of early Comintern congresses for support.

67. “The Communist Party and its henchmen of the “Unity” bloc are using this confusion in order to foist policies on the workers which, although they are trapped out in left-wing phrases, in actual fact are every whit as reactionary as those of the Labour bureaucracy” (Militant, Aug. 1937). The alternative policy can be seen in resolutions on Spain which Militant influence had brought on to the 1937 Labour Party conference agenda: Fairfield (Liverpool) called for a workers’ boycott of arms and goods for Franco; East Islington sought a workers’ republic in Spain.

68. Militant Group, Minutes of National Conference, 1-2 August 1937, 1-3.

69. The success – and failures – of the Militant Group must be attributed in large measure to the leading cadre which it had established. D.D. Harber was the dominant political influence within the Group and E.S. Jackson, its secretary. With E.L. Davis and Margaret Johns, they remained its leading figures to the end of the decade.

70. K. Alexander was also aware of the difficulty the Americans had experienced.

71. The first point was carried forty eight to thirteen with one abstention the second thirty eight to twenty with one abstention. (The Militant Group, Minutes of the National Conference, Aug. 1-2, 1937). The Liverpool Group favoured having no secret faction and merely using the Militant Labour League which was the name the front organisation was given.

72. By a vote of forty to eighteen on the EC report, ibid., 8.

73. ibid.

74. ibid., 9-12.

75. Minutes of Executive Committee, 9 Oct. 1937, H.P., D.J.H. 2a/6.

76. Sydney Bidwell was on the London District Council of the union and assistant secretary of his branch (Minutes of G.M.M., 14 Nov. 1937, H.P., D.J.H. 2a/7).

77. Principal activist was Michael Kemp Tippett (1905- ) a Royal College of Music graduate who taught French at Hazlewood until 1931. He then entered adult education in music, working for the L.C.C. and the Royal Arsenal Cooperative education departments. Tippett had worked for a time with the Marxist League and Marxist Group and was now the organiser of Socialist International Press, a translators’ group service formed on an IS initiative on 1 March 1937, (Who’s Who, Statement of MT, 8 Jan. 1938, HP, DJH – 2A/ 100).

78. Each group had one member there in 1937.

79. Minutes of Executive Committee, 27 Nov. 1937, Har. P.

80. Militant, ILP and CPGB all called for a ban on munitions to Japan in October 1937 and the NUR Executive was deadlocked on an embargo motion. Some action was taken on. the docks. In 1938 however, the CPGB ceased to support the policy (B. Pearce, Stalinists and Blackshirts, The Newsletter, 19 Nov. 1960).

81.Ralph Lee, Millie Kahn (1913- ), Richard Frieslich and Heaton Lee (1916- ) left South Africa in June. On arrival, Lee met Trotskyists from different organisations but several meetings with Harber convinced him to join Militant (Interview with E. Grant, Jan. 1973). His induction was later considered by Jackson to be a great mistake since the only information to hand about Lee was that which he himself had provided, (E.S. Jackson to South African Trotskyists, 30 Dec. 1937, H.P., 2B.3.15). Ralph Lee had been a communist since 1923 and had risen to the executive of the South African party. Possibly it was in 1930 that he left it and joined the International Workers Club, modelled on the Cape Town Lenin Club, which was not Trotskyist but interested in the Fourth International. He was a pioneer Trotskyist in Johannesburg, advancing Trotsky’s views in the Club and one of the founders, with Millie Kahn, of the Workers’ Party of South Africa (Johannesburg branch). After a 1935 split these two rebuilt the branch. He helped organise the Bantu laundry workers, who struck in 1934 and, through the revived Workers’ Party, the African Metal Trades Union in January 1937. His record led the Metalworkers to ask his help when on 23 February they embarked on a strike which they abandoned, defeated, ten days later, (Sapire to Militant Group, 21 Feb. 1938, H.P., 2B.3.26; Anon., Report on R. Lee, reports on metalworkers and laundry workers disputes in Fight, May 1937). Heaton Lee, who was no relation to Ralph Lee, was a mining engineer who had met Ann (Angel) Keen, a non-political South African Jewess, on the boat to England. She became politically convinced and joined the Trotskyist movement the following year. In Johannesburg the other three had also known Ted Grant, who had travelled to England in 1934 or 1935. This strain of South African Trotskyism should be distinguished from that in Capetown in the English speaking division, whence Charles van Gelderen, his brother (who remained there), and Millie Matthews hailed (Interview with. M. Haston, July 1973; interview with A. Keen, 30 July 1974). For a communist impression of the South African Trotskyists in 1936, see G. Hardy, Those Stormy Years, 1956, 228-36. More detached is H.J. and R.E. Simons, Class and Colour in South Africa 1850-1950, 1969, 503-4, 508-16.

82. Militant, Aug. 1937.

83. Militant, Sept., Oct., 1937.

84. Militant, Sept. 1937.

85. By printing membership forms for the SLF in its pages, ibid.

86. Interview with R. Groves, April 1980.

87. In September 1937, it resolved to recruit to the SLF, only those sophisticated workers who were ready for it, to form new SLF. branches under its own control, and to make Jackson its faction. organiser, (Militant Group, [EC] Minutes, 19 Sept. 1937). The aim was to win an SLF majority.

88. Militant, Oct. 1937.

89. Minutes of Executive Committee, 9 October 1937. This same month the Marxist League dissolved itself thus bearing out Militant fears. It wrote that the Bureau included those “who, by their weakness and vacillation contributed to the defeat of the left wing in the Socialist League” (A. Dean, SLF Leaders Sabotage Left Wing, Militant, Oct. 1937).

90. Minutes of Executive Committee, 9 Oct. 1937.

91. Margaret Johns was secretary of the Co-op political council in St. Pancras; both the Militant and Marxist Groups had members on the Islington Co-op political council in 1937. Margaret Johns also joined the London Labour Party executive in November of that year.

92. Jackson had told the August conference that a Labour Party sales base for Militant was too narrow and advised that an outside drive should be mounted.

93. Only one or two groups had contributed to the increased sales recorded in the autumn (Minutes of GMM, 12 Sept. 1937, H.P., D.J.H. 2a/5; 10 Oct. 1937, H.P., D.J.H. 2a/6; 14 Nov. 1937, H.P., D.J.H. 2a/7).

94. It claimed these had led to the disbandment of the Paddington YCL (Minutes of GMM, 12 Sept. 1937, H.P., D.J.H. 2a/5). In November it took control of the Paddington League of Youth (Minutes of Executive Committee, 11 Dec. 1937, H.P., D.J.H. 2a/9c). Among the recruits made around this time was Gerry Healy, another ex-communist seaman, encountered in Hyde Park sales.

95. None of its members had dissented from approval of the EC report to the August conference which included, inter alia, the SLF tactic they were later to condemn.

96. Minutes of GMM, 10 Oct. 1937, H.P., D.J.H. 2a/6.

97. ibid. The Group also prepared local supplements to Militant (Minutes of Executive Committee, 11 Dec. 1937, H.P., D.J.H. 2a/9c).

98. The source of them was Charles van Gelderen’s brother in Cape Town. Charles van Gelderen reported confirmation to Jackson, the Group secretary, on 11 November.

99. When Sid Sandel, Group literature and secretary and British agent for Pioneer Press was forced to resign due to failing eyesight, it was proposed to replace him by Millie Kahn who had been agent for Pioneer in South Africa. Pioneer raised no objection to Kahn, but it was Margaret Johns who, after a slight delay, replaced Sandel. Kahn lived with Lee and the doubts about him inhibited Group leaders from letting Kahn have the post. She was finally approached only after the eruption of the affair had led to the suspension of Harber and Jackson, (Jackson to Pioneer Publishing Association, 4 Oct. 1937; Pioneer to Jackson, 14 Oct. 1937; Jackson to Pioneer, 26 Oct. 1937; H.P.,. D.J.H 28/2; Minutes of Executive Committee, 20 Nov. 1937, H.P., D.J.H. 2a/7.)

100. Jackson informed Lee of the rumours verbally, gave him a copy of the 11 November letter, then wrote to him on 12 November. He told him not to be inhibited in his activities and that the accusations were probably Stalinist fabrications. Jackson added that Harber and van Gelderen alone were privy to the charges, but they certainly reached Johns, Goffe and Archer, who also relayed them to IS member “Camille” while in Paris as an observer at the PSOP conference, (van Gelderen to Jackson, 11 Nov. 1937; Jackson to Lee, 12 Nov. 1937; Lee to Archer, 16 Nov. 1937; Archer to Lee, 19 Nov. 1937). At a special executive of 13 November Lee obtained confirmation that knowledge of the charges had leaked out, (Minutes, H.P., D.J.H. 2a/7).

101. Minutes of GMM, 14 November 1937, H.P., D.J.H. 2a/7., In December these minutes were challenged by Frieslich, Haston, Healy and Grant as distorted to show Lee in an unfavourable light.

102. Minutes of Executive Committee, 20 November 1937, H.P., D.J.H. 2a/7. Haston later explained that his motivation was that this second step logically followed from the first, (Minutes of Executive Committee, 27 November 1937, H.P., D.J.H. 2a/9a).

03. D..D Harber to Hamilton, 25 November 1937, H.P., D.J.H. 2a/9a.

104. As from the Central Group, 26 Nov. 1937, H.P., D.J.H. 2a/9a.

105. B. Hamilton to Harber, 8 Dec. 1937, H.P., D.J.H. 2B/3/7.

106. “Camille” to Jackson, 5 Dec. 1937, H.P., D.J.H. 2a/9b.

107. His attitude was thought not “Bolshevik” by the Group leaders.

108. Haston was protesting at the minutes of the 14 November G.M.M. and declared he no longer expected objective records of meetings, (Minutes of Executive Committee, 11 Dec. 1937, H.P., D.J.H.2a/9c). He charged that the manoeuvres of Harber et al. had “a deep political significance” (J. Haston to the Militant Group, 12 Dec. 1937, H.P., D.J.H. 2a/9c). What this might have been is a mystery.

109. M. Tippett [to the Militant Group], 11 Dec. 1937, H.P., D.J.H. 2a/9c. Tippett linked the Lee affair to the suspension of the Liverpool Group and concluded that in the face of war those anticipating illegal or semi-legal work would have to look elsewhere for leadership.

110. K. Alexander to Jackson, n.d., H.P., 2B.3.33. Alexander was the only opponent of Lee in the Paddington group. During the affair he was out of the capital.

111. The withdrawal took place early in the meeting during discussion on matters arising from the minutes of the November G.M.M. They may have just pulled out of the meeting, (Interview with E. Grant, Jan. 1973). Group leaders believed they were leaving the Group, (Comments of E.C. on Statement of Former Members of Paddington, Central and North Groups, [March?] 1938, H.P.). Tippett, who was well-disposed towards them, believed they should have followed the meeting through, (Statement of Comrade M.T., 8 Jan. 1938, H.P. 2a/10a). Everyone who accompanied Lee was from his own Paddington group, (E.S. Jackson to [South African Trotskyists], 30. Dec. 1937, H.P. 2B.3.15).

112. In October Lee had written to Camille (Klement) of the International Secretariat concerning the founding of a Marxist theoretical journal in England, (Statement of P.J.B. (Leeds), 8 Dec. 1937, H.P., D.J.H. 2a/9b). A pilot issue of Workers International News appeared on 18 December, a day before the final meeting and regular monthly publication of it from 1 January 1938 (although the January and 18 December issues are similar) argues more than twelve days preparation. Lee obtained the participation of former Marxist Leaguer Hilary Sumner-Boyd, and with other Paddington group members he approached disenchanted Advance followers in the East End with whom the local Militant group had been in contact (H.P., D.J.H., 2B.3.16).

113. This existed as a result of a Paddington proposition introduced at the time of the disciplinary action against the Liverpool group. It amounted to a national consultative referendum on expulsions.

114. E.S. Jackson to Sapire, (Johannesburg Group), 17 Feb. 1938, H.P., 2B.3.25.

115. E.S. Jackson to Lee, H.P., 2B.3.25.2.

116. C. Sumner to IS, 6 Feb. 1938, (See Chapter VI).

117. To the Militant Group, 10 March 1938. Signed by K. Chapman, F. Clifford, T. de Moor, B. Fisher, R. Freislich, B. French, T. Grant, J. Haston, B. Hamilton, G. Healy, D. James, K. Kemshead, M. Kahn, H. Lee, R. Lee, T. Mundy, H. Ratner, M. Tippett, E. Truman.

118. There had been a clash in September 1937 over the suppression of an anti-fascist leaflet by the leadership, but leading Group figures were ranged on both sides over the issue. As the Group pointed out in its reply, there was no record of objections by Haston or Lee, both of whom were members of the leading bodies.

119. Comments of E.C. to Statement of former members of Paddington, Central and North Groups, [1938], Warwick MSS

120. Nor has the controversy died. See the account in M. and J. Archer, Notes on Healy’s Role in Early Days of the British Trotskyist Movement, Intercontinental Press, 10 May 1976, 772-5.

121. Militant Group, Statement on Fusion with the RSL, 27 May 1938, R. SL, Internal Bulletin, 3, (July 1938), 4.

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