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Raymond Challinor

Frank Maitland


From Revolutionary History, Vol. 8 No. 2, 2002.
Transcribed by Alun Morgan for the Revolutionary History Website.
Marked up for by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Dear Editor

Al Richardson’s obituary of Frank Maitland was favourable and correct, but it did not, I think, mention some vital facets of his life. Frank was one of the greatest orators I have ever heard, exceptionally effective when addressing mass meetings. With careless abandon, he would fling out his arrows of socialist wisdom and vituperation. The political temperature was always higher when he sat down than when he stood up.

Yet at the same time, he was widely and well read. It is not surprising that one of the best, perhaps the best, collections of left-wing literature in Britain is the Maitland–Sara collection housed in the Modern Records Centre at Warwick University.

Frank had a genuine love of books. Reference should therefore be made to his own publishing venture. Strange to relate, this was named the Porcupine Press. It produced a number of books, including a study of the revolution of 1848, edited by George Woodcock, the leading anarchist, and, in my opinion, the best autobiography of a typical manual worker, describing his life in the first half of the twentieth century — Ifan Edwards’ No Gold on my Shovel, published in 1952. A neglected historical classic, it deserves to be reprinted.

Occasionally, Frank’s own writings have been republished. The Wildcat Group got out an assortment of articles from Solidarity, the Clydeside syndicalist journal. Entitled Class War on the Home Front, it contains material on revolutionary opposition to the Second World War. Among other things, Frank wades in on the issue of the relationship between party and class. Interestingly, while the Workers International League, Revolutionary Communist Party and similar organisations sought to use the wartime Arctic convoys as a means of re-establishing links with the Left Opposition in the Soviet Union and lost comrades in the icy waters as a consequence, Solidarity published With the Arctic Convoys by an American comrade. Though I have no proof, I suspect the writer may have been in the American Workers Party, and that Frank may have encouraged him to write it.

Though most revolutionaries in the post-Second World War period thought that when the working class moved leftwards it would be through the Labour Party, Frank thought it might be possible to win over the Independent Labour Party and use it as the weapon. Among other Marxists adopting the same position were Tom Colyer, Hugo Dewar, F.A. Ridley and Alex Auld. As a result, those studying Trotskyist history have failed to consult properly material that appeared in ILP publications.

To end with a personal note, Frank Maitland was one of the four individuals who influenced my socialist development. The other three were F.A. Ridley, Tony Cliff and Harry McShane.

On an entirely separate issue, in Al Richardson’s review of Barry Lee Woolley’s book Adherents of Permanent Revolution, Al wrongly attacks the author over Ted Grant. This is a reference to an American socialist with that name prominent in the 1930s and 1940s. His picture appears in Alan Wald’s study of James T. Farrell. He is not to be confused with our own Ted Grant whom we love and cherish so much.

Raymond Challinor

Al Richardson replies:

Please check your facts, Raymond, before rushing to print! Since Woolley describes this Ted Grant as representing England (p. 40), it is plain that he thinks it is our Ted Grant. Actually, there have been three Edward Grants in the Trotskyist movement — another was a comrade of yours in the early 1950s in the Socialist Review Group. His papers are deposited in Nuffield College, Oxford.

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Last updated: 17.10.2011