Skip to main content

Trotskyist Sources at the Modern Records Centre

The Modern Records Centre holds a large collection of archives relating to British Trotskyism, from the formation of the movement in the early 1930s to the present day.

This guide contains basic background information about the Trotskyist groups represented in the Modern Records Centre holdings, together with summaries of the main collections relating to each political group. Relevant documents can also be found by searching the online catalogue.

 

British Trotskyism before 1938

The first Trotskyist organisation in Britain was the Balham Group, formed by members of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) Nine Elms Rail Group in November 1931, and also referred to as the British Section of the International Left Opposition. Members of the Balham Group were formally expelled from the CPGB in 1932, and in 1933 the group became known as the Communist League of Great Britain.

The next four years were distinguished by a series of splits in the British Trotskyist movement, mostly over entrist tactics - disagreements over whether members should “enter” or work within the Labour Party or the Independent Labour Party (ILP) in an attempt to win new recruits and influence party policy. By December 1933 the first party split had taken place over the issue of membership of the Independent Labour Party. The minority (in favour of work inside the ILP) left to form the Marxist Group. The remainder of the Communist League involved itself in the Labour League of Youth (the youth organisation of the Labour Party), but was unable to increase its membership and started to decline. In 1936 the remaining members of the Communist League attempted to re-establish themselves as the Marxist League (led by Harry Wicks and Hugo Dewar), but this collapsed the following year.

Almost as soon as the Marxist Group was formed, it too split over the issue of entrism, with members leaving to work within the Labour Party from c1934 onwards. The splinter group became known as the Bolshevik Leninist Group, which, by 1937, had evolved into the Militant Labour League. In turn the Militant Labour League divided in two, with the minority forming the Workers' International League and the majority merging with the Revolutionary Socialist League (a group originally formed by the merger of the remaining members of the Marxist Group and the Marxist League). Therefore by 1938, despite the previous four years of disunity, the British Trotskyist movement had formed itself into two main groups - the Revolutionary Socialist League and the Workers' International League.

Papers of Hugo Dewar, 1871-1981 (MSS.206) 

Hugo Dewar was born in 1908 in Leyton. Joining the Independent Labour Party in 1928, he subsequently co-founded, with F.A. Ridley, the Marxist League. In 1931, he joined the Communist Party of Great Britain, to support the fight of the Balham group against Stalinist policies, but was expelled in the following year. He took part in the founding of the Communist League and continued to be active in 'Left Opposition' groups until he was drafted into the army in 1943. On his discharge, he became a tutor in adult education, also writing many books and articles exposing Stalinism. He held firmly to his faith in revolutionary socialism until his death in June 1980.

The collection includes: small quantity of material relating to Dewar's political activities - documents re election campaign in North Battersea, 1946, and Socialist Anti-War Front (SAWF), 1939-1940; miscellaneous correspondence, 1929-1973; published and unpublished studies (including re Saint-Simon and the Communist Party in Britain), (c1935)-1981; International Lenin School study notes, (1928-1929?); left-wing pamphlets and journals, including publications from the Spanish Civil War and General Strike; and press-cuttings.

Papers of Reg Groves, 1904-1987 (MSS.172)

Born in 1908, Reg Groves' early work experience included a variety of jobs, for example messenger boy, temporary railway porter and Post Office engineering trainee; he finally became a professional journalist in 1934. He was well known as a pioneering member of the British Section of the International Left Opposition, as a Labour Party candidate, and as the author of a number of books on socialist history. He died in 1988.

The collection includes: manuscript minute book of the Communist Party of Great Britain Nine Elms Rail Group / Balham Group, Apr 1931-Jun 1932; correspondence and printed matter re the formation of the Balham Group / British Left Opposition, 1929-33; correspondence, addresses and cuttings re his standing for election in several parliamentary constituencies as a Labour Party candidate, 1938-59; manuscript and printed writings by Groves, with related correspondence and collected materials re various aspects of British socialist and labour history, 1904-87.

Papers of Denzil Dean Harber, 1930s-1940s (MSS.151)

Denzil Dean Harber (1909-66) was active in the British Trotskyist movement between 1932 and 1949, working successively in the Militant Group, the Revolutionary Socialist League (of which he was a secretary for a time) and the Revolutionary Communist Party.

The papers form four main sections: Left Opposition, Revolutionary Socialist League, Workers International League and the Revolutionary Communist Party. The Left Opposition papers include: circulars, discussion documents, etc., re the activities of the Left Opposition in Britain, 1930s; documents regarding the relationship of the Independent Labour Party (ILP) with the Left Opposition in Britain, 1930s; and papers on the Left Opposition in France, 1935-1936, and Germany, 1930s-1945.

Papers of Henry Sara and Frank Maitland, 1835-1962 (MSS.15)

Henry Sara was born in 1886. Attracted early to social ideals, with the advent of war in 1914 Sara aligned himself with the anti-militarists. Following a campaign of public meetings he was arrested and conscripted, and his continued refusal to submit to army discipline resulted in his imprisonment. After the war, Sara visited both the USA and the USSR, and despite having some misgivings, he joined the Communist Party of Great Britain in 1923. Sara became a popular speaker of some standing within the Party, but his own independence of thought and criticism of its leaders led him into direct conflict with them. His association with other "dissidents", including Reg Groves and Harry Wicks led to his being expelled from the Party in 1932. Sara aligned himself with the Balham Group, working actively with them. During this time, Sara also worked as a lecturer-organiser with the National Council of Labour Colleges. Towards the end of his life, he became a temporary employee of the Post Office, whilst still remaining active in the Labour movement. He died, after a year of ill-health, in 1953.
Frank Maitland was a friend of Sara's, and acted as his executor.

The collection includes: correspondence, circulars, discussion documents and publications regarding left-wing political activities, including material of British Section of the International Left Opposition and of the Communist League of America / Workers' Party.

Papers of Harry Wicks, 1900-1992 (MSS.102)

Harry Wicks was born in Battersea on 16 August 1905. He started work on the railways in 1919, where he was influenced by the political debates of fellow workers. Wicks initially joined the local Herald League, which, after sending delegates to the founding conference of the Communist Party in 1920, became the Battersea branch of the CP. During the early / mid 1920s, Harry Wicks was on the Southern District Council of the National Union of Railwaymen and produced and distributed the Communist railwaymen's paper the 'Victoria Signal'. In 1926, after suffering victimisation for his active participation in the General Strike, Wicks was elected to the Executive of the Young Communist League (YCL). The following year he was selected, through the YCL, to study at the International Lenin School (ILS) in Moscow, where he operated under the pseudonym Jack Tanner. After his return from Moscow in 1930, Wicks became involved with the Left Opposition and was expelled from the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) in 1932 along with Reg Groves, and later Stuart Purkiss, B Williams and Henry Sara. In Nov-Dec 1932, Wicks was sent as the delegate of the British Section of the Left Opposition to meet Trotsky in Copenhagen. Harry Wicks continued to be involved with the Trotskyist movement for the rest of his life, becoming, at various points, a member of the Communist League, the Marxist League, the Labour Party (between 1934-9), the Socialist Anti-War Front, the Independent Labour Party, and the International Socialists. Harry Wicks died on 26 March 1989.

The collection includes: drafts, transcriptions of interviews, notes, etc., re Wicks' autobiography, (1970s)-1992; documents regarding the history of the left and the activities of Harry Wicks, 1900-1982; study notes acquired at the International Lenin School in Moscow, [1927-1930]; Communist and Trotskyist journals and pamphlets, 1924-1980; publications of other organisations, including the Independent Labour Party, 1908-1979.

Extracts taken from audio recordings of a series of interviews between Harry Wicks and Professor Logie Barrow, the editor of Wicks' autobiography, are available elsewhere on our website.

 

Workers' International League, Revolutionary Socialist League, Revolutionary Communist Party and 'The Club'

The Fourth International was formed in France in September 1938 by Trotsky and his supporters. It was intended as a Trotskyist corrective to the Stalinist dominated Comintern (also known as the Communist International or Third International), an international organisation founded in the Soviet Union in 1919 with the intention of promoting world revolution.

Two groups competed to become the British Section of the Fourth International - the Workers' International League and the Revolutionary Socialist League. The Workers' International League (WIL) was formed in 1937 by a splinter group of the Militant Labour League (containing about 20 members). The slightly larger Revolutionary Socialist League (about 80-100 people) was formed in 1938 by the remnants of the Marxist Group and the Marxist League, with the remaining members of the Militant Labour League and (temporarily) the Revolutionary Socialist Party joining shortly afterwards. Although the RSL had been named the British Section of the Fourth International in 1938, it lost ground during the Second World War, as open campaigning by the Workers' International League resulted in the WIL becoming the largest Trotskyist group in Britain (around 400 members to the RSL’s 70 by 1944).

On the initiative of the International Secretariat of the Fourth International, discussions on unification took place between the RSL and the WIL in the early 1940s and at a Fusion Conference in March 1944 the two groups merged to form one unified body - the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP). At the time of its foundation the RCP was committed to "open work" (e.g. operating as a separate entity rather than working inside other political parties). Disagreements over this policy led to a major split in 1947. The minority, led by Gerry Healy, supported entry into the Labour Party. The majority, led by Jock Haston, declined in influence and by Summer of 1949 also opted in favour of entrism and merged with the minority to form a unified body known as 'The Club' in 1949/50. The Club soon splintered, with its former members going on to establish three of the most influential British Trotskyist groups: Tony Cliff - International Socialists / Socialist Workers Party, Ted Grant - Revolutionary Socialist League / Militant Tendency, Gerry Healy - Socialist Labour League / Workers' Revolutionary Party.

Papers of Colin Barker, 1938-1975 (MSS.152) 

Born in 1939, Colin Barker was a member of the International Socialists in Oxford and Manchester from 1962, and became a member of the Executive and National Committee. He was also a member of the editorial board of 'International Socialism' journal for several years.

The collection includes papers received from a former member of the Revolutionary Socialist League: mostly discussion documents, conference papers and bulletins, 1938-1944.

Papers of Jimmy Deane, [1916?]-1975 (MSS.325)

Jimmy Deane was born in Liverpool in 1921. He joined the Militant Group in 1937 and was the co-founder of the Liverpool branch of the Workers' International League in 1939. By 1945, Jimmy Deane had joined the editorial board of the 'Socialist Appeal', the journal of the Revolutionary Communist Party. The next year, Jimmy Deane was the British delegate to the International Secretariat of the Fourth International. He was one of the founders of the Revolutionary Socialist League in 1956 and was appointed as its first General Secretary. Jimmy Deane left Britain for India in 1965 and subsequently spent a few years in Fiji. Although he returned to Britain he did not resume his active role in the Trotskyist movement: he remained loyal to his political beliefs, however. Jimmy Deane died in August 2002.

The collection includes: Workers' International League / Revolutionary Communist Party minutes, resolutions, reports, statements, discussion material, perspectives and conference documents; approximately 3,000 letters, 1940-65; notes for addresses, speeches and lectures, 1940-1953; miscellaneous publications, [1916?]-1975, including Trotskyist journals and pamphlets.

Papers of Denzil Dean Harber, 1930s-1940s (MSS.151)

Denzil Dean Harber (1909-66) was active in the British Trotskyist movement between 1932 and 1949, working successively in the Militant Group, the Revolutionary Socialist League (of which he was a secretary for a time) and the Revolutionary Communist Party.

The papers form four main sections: Left Opposition, Revolutionary Socialist League, Workers International League and the Revolutionary Communist Party. The Revolutionary Socialist League papers include Central Committee and Executive Committee circulars and minutes, 1940-3, with correspondence between the International Secretariat of the Fourth International and the Revolutionary Socialist League; correspondence with the Workers International League regarding the question of fusion, 1940-3; RSL internal documents, including re factional activity, c.1942-3; RSL conference documents, 1943; and files regarding international questions, including miscellaneous Russian publications. The Workers International League material comprises a file of discussion documents, policy statements, etc., 1938-43. The Revolutionary Communist Party material includes a file of internal papers on unemployment, entrism, the ideas of the Militant Faction, etc., 1944-9.

Papers of Ken Tarbuck, 1937-1985 (MSS.75)

Ken Tarbuck joined the Revolutionary Communist Party in Birmingham in 1947. He was expelled from 'The Club' in 1950 and was a founding member of the Socialist Review Group, but subsequently became disillusioned with their work in the Labour Party. Tarbuck was briefly involved with the Socialist Workers Federation in the mid-1950s, but joined the Revolutionary Socialist League in 1957, after he attended the founding conference as a SWF observer. He joined the International Group in 1961 (later known as the International Marxist Group).

The collection includes: Duplicated leaflets, discussion bulletins, etc, including items from the Militant Labour League, Revolutionary Socialist League, Workers' International League and Revolutionary Communist Party; documents relating to the Reconstitution Conference of RSL and Fusion Conference of RSL and WIL, 1943-44; Trotskyist journals, pamphlets and leaflets, 1937-1985.

Archives of the Socialist Party (601)

The collection includes internal papers and publications of the Workers' International League and Revolutionary Communist Party, together with contemporary discussion documents, etc., relating to The Club and the Fourth International (some compiled by Ted Grant). Documents of the WIL include: internal circulars, bulletins and resolutions, copies of constitutions, issues of 'Workers' International News' and pamphlets. Documents of the RCP include: constitution, conference papers, discussion documents, circulars to members, internal bulletins, reports of meetings, issues of 'Socialist Appeal' and 'Workers' International News', pamphlets and leaflets.

 

International Socialist Group, Revolutionary Socialist League, Militant Tendency, Militant Labour and Socialist Party

The International Socialist Group (ISG) was formed in 1950 following the expulsion of Ted Grant and others from 'The Club'. In 1956 the ISG merged with the Committee for the Regroupment of the Fourth International in Britain, resulting (in 1957) in the formation of the Revolutionary Socialist League (RSL). In 1964, the group dropped the name Revolutionary Socialist League, arguing that it was a 'tendency' within the Labour Party, rather than a separate party. It became known by the name of its new newspaper 'Militant'.

By 1970 the Militant Tendency controlled the Labour Party Young Socialists and it became increasingly influential in constituency Labour parties, controlling Liverpool City Council between 1983-1987. In the general election of 1983, two Militant candidates were elected to parliament - Dave Nellist in Coventry South East, and Terry Fields in Liverpool Broadgreen; in 1987 they were joined in Westminster by Pat Wall, MP for Bradford North. From 1981 onwards, Militant came into increasing conflict with the leadership of the Labour Party; this resulted in internal divisions within the Party and a concerted campaign by the Labour leadership to expel Militant supporters. In 1991 the two remaining Militant MPs were expelled from the Labour Party, and the tendency finally abandoned its entrist tactics and moved towards the formation of an open party - Militant Labour. Disagreements over the abandonment of work inside the Labour Party resulted in a split in Militant Labour, with the minority or opposition faction, led by Ted Grant, leaving to form Socialist Appeal in 1992. In 1997 Militant Labour changed its name to the Socialist Party (except in Scotland, where it remained Scottish Militant Labour).

The Socialist Party (formerly the Revolutionary Socialist League, Militant and Militant Labour) (MSS.601)

Archives of the Socialist Party and its predecessors (including the International Socialist Group, Revolutionary Socialist League and Militant Tendency). Includes ISG and RSL correspondence files; RSL minutes and accounts; internal discussion documents and bulletins; papers of MPs Terry Fields and Pat Wall; documents re Militant's parliamentary representatives and Liverpool City Council; Labour Party Young Socialists minutes, conference papers, discussion documents and publications, etc.; files re the All Britain Anti-Poll Tax Federation; publications, including newspapers, journals, pamphlets and leaflets.

Papers of Jimmy Deane, [1916?]-1975 (MSS.325)

Jimmy Deane (1921-2002) was one of the founders of the Revolutionary Socialist League in 1956 and was appointed as its first General Secretary. Deane left Britain for India in 1965 and subsequently spent a few years in Fiji. Although he returned to Britain he did not resume his active role in the Trotskyist movement.

The collection includes: Revolutionary Socialist League minutes, resolutions, reports, statements, discussion material and perspectives; approximately 3,000 letters, 1940-65; notes for addresses, speeches and lectures, 1940-1953; miscellaneous publications, [1916?]-1975, including Trotskyist journals and pamphlets.

Papers of Tim Lewis, [1969?]-1988 (MSS.341)

Subject files containing Militant internal papers, publications, etc.

Papers of Geoff Pugh, 1964-1995 (MSS.329)

Dr Pugh joined the Labour Party Young Socialists (LPYS) in 1970 during his last year at school in Exeter, having previously become involved in politics through the Anti-Apartheid Movement. On starting work in West London, he became more active in the LPYS and sold the Militant, "but was in no sense a Marxist". The 1973 coup in Chile made him a willing recruit to "the organisation", and he remained an active and committed member of Militant from 1973 to c.1983.

Internal papers and publications of the Militant Tendency, (1964)-1985; publications produced by other left-wing organisations and groups, 1964-1995.

 

Socialist Review Group, International Socialists and Socialist Workers' Party

In 1950 expelled members of The Club formed a group around the duplicated paper ‘Socialist Review’ (published between 1950-1962). Members of the Socialist Review Group (initially numbering 33) were expected to be active in the Labour Party in order to make contacts and meet potential recruits. Tony Cliff, the main theorist of the group, disagreed with Trotsky’s assertion that the USSR was still a workers’ state, and argued that it was in fact "state capitalist" as the workers had no actual control over the state or means of production - a position summed up by the group's oft-repeated slogan "Neither Washington nor Moscow but International Socialism".

In 1962 the group was renamed the International Socialists (IS), after its journal ‘International Socialism’ (first published regularly in 1960). The newspaper ‘Industrial Worker’ was launched in 1961 with the initial intention of focusing on industrial work and disputes. The following year the newspaper was renamed ‘Labour Worker’ and, in 1968, it became the ‘Socialist Worker’. The SRG / IS co-operated with the Revolutionary Socialist League between 1961-c1963 to work within the Young Socialists (the youth movement of the Labour Party) around the newspaper 'Young Guard', and to work against the Socialist Labour League's 'Keep Left' group. From 1965 onwards the International Socialists started to break with the Labour Party and began to look instead for supporters within the growing number of protest movements.

The International Socialists were active in many protest and pressure groups during the 1960s and 1970s, including the student and anti-Vietnam War movements of the late 1960s and the anti-fascist and rank and file movements of the 1970s (notably through the Right to Work Campaign, Rock Against Racism, and the Anti Nazi League). This led to some criticism that the IS were neglecting industrial organisation amongst working class trade unionists for work in what had been considered "non-central" activities, but the work proved successful in terms of raising the profile of IS / SWP and attracting more members - membership grew from 880 individuals in 1970 to 4100 in 1980 [Ian H. Birchall, ’The smallest mass party in the world’: Building the Socialist Workers Party, 1951-1979’ (Socialists Unlimited, London, 1981)].

Disagreements over constitutional changes, the management of the newspaper 'Socialist Worker', and strategy towards the Broad Left in the AEUW led to splits in the group between 1973-5. The break with entrist work within the Labour Party was finally confirmed in 1976, when the International Socialists decided to contest the by-election in Walsall, and it was decided that from January 1977 the IS should be renamed the Socialist Workers Party.

Papers of Colin Barker, 1938-1975 (MSS.152) 

Born in 1939, Colin Barker was a member of the International Socialism Group in Oxford and Manchester from 1961, and a member of the Executive and National Committee. He was also a member of the editorial board of 'International Socialism' journal for several years.

The collection contains internal documents and publications of the International Socialists, including: committee minutes and papers, 1963-73; conference papers, 1968-72; correspondence with leading members (particularly re 'International Socialism'), 1962-69; internal circulars and bulletins, 1963-73; rank and file publications, 1966-c1976; and documents regarding the Manchester branch, 1965-71.
It also includes material relating to the Revolutionary Socialist League and publications produced by other groups, including a run of the French Trotskyist journal 'Voix Ouvrière' / 'Lutte Ouvrière', 1968-74.

Bookmark Publications, 1979-1991 (MSS.348)

The socialist bookshop Bookmarks was based at 265 Seven Sisters Road, Finsbury Park, North London. The Bookmarks Publishing Co-operative was established in 1979 to publish books and pamphlets by members of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) - individuals loaned money to the co-operative, repayable at a month's notice, and in return received free copies of all books published. The organisation is no longer trading.

A selection of publications, 1979-91, together with correspondence, circulars, reports and SWP committee papers.

Papers of Nigel (Nog) Clark, 1971-circa 1985 (MSS.489)

Nigel Clark joined the International Socialists in 1971. He was a member of branches in Swansea and Coventry, although the bulk of his involvement came in Sheffield. He was a student at Sheffield Polytechnic, 1972-1975, and was also active in national student politics. Between 1975-1976, he was a student at the University of Warwick and was politically active in the West Midlands. He became a SWP activist in Rotherham in 1977-1978 and was also active in the National & Local Government Officers' Association (NALGO) during this period. Nigel Clark was involved in supporting the 1980 steelworkers' strike. By 1984 his political activities concerned the Maltby National Union of Mineworkers and coal and steel issues in the Rotherham area. He left the Socialist Workers Party in 1988.

International Socialists 'Bulletin', 1971-1976; Sheffield branch NALGO circulars, newsletters, trades council delegations reports, 1977-1979; Coventry District International Socialists, 1972-1975; Socialist Workers Party circulars, journals, 1977-1985; Socialist Workers Party Sheffield branch circulars, 1981-1985.

Papers of Tony Cliff, 1940s-2002 (MSS.459)

Tony Cliff was born in Palestine in 1917 with the name Ygael Gluckstein. He became a Trotskyist in the 1930s and emigrated to Britain shortly after the Second World War, where he joined the Revolutionary Communist Party. After writing 'State Capitalism in Russia', which advanced the theory that the Soviet Union was a state capitalist entity, Cliff was expelled from the Revolutionary Communist Party and formed the Socialist Review Group in 1951. This group initially comprised Cliff and a small group of his adherents. It operated within the Labour Party and became known as the International Socialists. In the mid 1960s the International Socialists changed tactics and began to operate independently. The International Socialists became the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) in 1977. The SWP launched the Anti-Nazi League in 1977 and partly as a result its membership grew rapidly at that time. Tony Cliff was the author of a number of books, which explained his theories. These books included biographies of Lenin and Trotsky, and 'State Capitalism in Russia', republished by the Pluto Press in 1974. Tony Cliff died in April 2000, at which time the SWP had over 10,000 members.

Publications by Cliff, 1946-2002, and by others, 1943-1999; draft books, articles and speeches, c.1940s-2000; notes, 1940s-1990s; bibliography of works, 2002; personalia, 1945-2000.

Papers of Nick Howard (588)

Nick Howard was a member of the International Socialists National Committee and a leading member of IS in the Sheffield area.

Internal papers, including committee minutes, discussion documents and reports, 1964-1975; small number of publications, [1961]-1988.

Papers of Richard Hyman, 1970-1973 (MSS.84)

Richard Hyman is Professor of Industrial Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He was Professor of Industrial Relations at Warwick University Business School until 2001.

Includes minutes, internal papers, correspondence, press cuttings and publications, 1963-1980.

Papers of Steve Jefferys, 1959-1982 (MSS.244) 

Steve Jefferys was an undergraduate at the London School of Economics (LSE) between 1965-8, where he was a leading student activist. After graduating in 1968, he worked as a plant operator at Chrysler Scotland between 1969-1972 (where he was also an Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers (AUEW) shop steward), and later worked as a journalist in Glasgow and London. He joined the International Socialists (IS) in 1968 and was elected to the National Committee in 1970. He acted as full-time Industrial Organiser for IS (later the Socialist Workers' Party) between 1974-79.
In 1980 Jefferys began his PhD at the University of Warwick on the unionisation of the Chrysler Dodge Main plant in the USA (completed in 1984); and has subsequently worked as an academic at several English universities, most recently (2009) at London Metropolitan University.

Includes: International Socialism Group / Socialist Workers' Party: internal papers, 1966-1981; documents re industrial organisation and Rank and File, 1968-1981; Glasgow North Branch minutes, 1969-71; subject files, c1969-1980; publications, 1968-1982. Papers re student politics at LSE, 1963-[1970?] (mostly 1965-1967). Documents re Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers (and predecessors), 1966-1980. Various publications, 1959-1980.

Papers of Richard Kuper, 1950-1979 (MSS.250)

Richard Kuper joined the International Socialists in 1964. He was active in the London School of Economics (LSE) and Revolutionary Socialist Students Federation (RSSF) between 1966-69, and the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign (VSC) between 1967-69. He held positions on the editorial board of 'Socialist Worker' and 'International Socialist', and was elected to the National Committee of the IS in 1968.

International Socialists: committee papers, internal bulletins, discussion documents and circulars, etc., 1966-78; subject files, 1965-79; incomplete runs of 'Socialist Review', 1956-62, 'Labour Worker', 1964-7, and 'Socialist Worker', 1969-77; and other IS publications, [1967?]-1977.
Publications, circulars and ephemera, etc., re the LSE, 1966-1969; photocopies of Socialist Review Group minutes, (1950-1953); Workers' League publications, 1976-1978; journals and pamphlets produced by other organisations, 1965-1977.

Papers of Alistair Mutch, 1970s-1980s (MSS.284)

Involved with student politics during a rent strike at Dundee University. Joined the International Socialists in 1974 and acted as Socialist Worker organiser and member of district committee (Manchester area).

Printed ephemera. Includes International Socialists / Socialist Workers Party internal bulletins, pamphlets, leaflets (particularly from the Manchester area), and posters; Rock Against Racism publications, including 'Temporary Hoarding', nos. 1-9, 1977-79; miscellaneous student and left-wing publications from c1969-1981.

Papers of Stirling Smith, 1971-1978 (MSS.205)

Involved in student politics at Bristol University and Hull University.

Leaflets, publications, etc., re left-wing and student politics, 1971-8.

The Socialist Party (formerly the Revolutionary Socialist League, Militant and Militant Labour) (MSS.601)

Includes copies of 'Young Guard', the Young Socialists' journal produced jointly by the Revolutionary Socialist League and International Socialists, together with documents regarding the production of the journal, 1961-1964.

Papers of Ken Tarbuck, 1937-1985 (MSS.75)

Ken Tarbuck joined the Revolutionary Communist Party in Birmingham in 1947. He was expelled from 'The Club' in 1950 and was a founding member of the Socialist Review Group, but subsequently became disillusioned with their work in the Labour Party. Tarbuck was briefly involved with the Socialist Workers Federation in the mid-1950s, but joined the Revolutionary Socialist League in 1957, after he attended the founding conference as a SWF observer. He joined the International Group in 1961 (later known as the International Marxist Group).

The collection includes: Socialist Review Group National Committee minutes, 1950-53; Birmingham Branch minutes, 1950-53; correspondence between Ken Tarbuck and SRG members; 'Socialist Review', 1950-61 (incomplete series).

 

Socialist Labour League and Workers' Revolutionary Party

After a series of defections and expulsions, 'The Club', led by Gerry Healy, finally split in 1953 over the division in the Fourth International between followers and opponents of Michael Pablo. Pablo's theories were seen by some sections of the Fourth International, particularly the influential Socialist Workers Party of the USA, as contrary to orthodox Trotskyism. This led to the division of the Fourth International into two rival bodies - the International Committee of the Fourth International (anti-Pablo) and the International Secretariat of the Fourth International (led by Pablo and Ernest Mandel). Healy and his supporters backed the anti-Pablo wing of the FI.

After the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956, Healy's group attracted dissaffected former members of the Communist Party, including the journalist Peter Fryer. Fryer's publication 'The Newsletter' became the official journal of the Healyites (although Fryer himself parted company with Healy in 1959). The Socialist Labour League was formed in 1959 as an entrist organisation and dominated the Young Socialists (the Labour Party's official youth section until 1964)in the early 1960s, producing the newspaper 'Keep Left'. The SLL started to abandon entryist tactics in 1964 and began to develop itself as a separate political party, involving itself in rank and file trade unionism through its All Trade Unions Alliance. In 1973 the Socialist Labour League was renamed the Workers' Revolutionary Party (WRP), and it contested parliamentary elections under that name from 1974 onwards. Allegations regarding sexual assaults on female party members by Gerry Healy led to the 1985 split of the WRP into two groups - supporters of Healy formed WRP (Newsline), opponents formed WRP (Workers' Press).

Opponents of the Socialist Labour League and Workers' Revolutionary Party criticised Healy's interpretation of Trotskyism for its reliance on the idea of the imminent collapse of capitalism. Healy's intolerance of dissent, sometimes demonstrated through physical violence and intimidation, led to a steady loss of members. Groups established by former SLL / WRP members included Solidarity (UK), formed in 1960; the Workers Socialist League, formed following the expulsion of Alan Thornett in 1974; and the Workers Party, formed in 1979.

Papers of Alan Clinton (MSS.539)

Alan Clinton (1943 -2005) was a politician, academic and labour historian. He was a member of the Socialist Labour League from the mid-1960s to c1974. During the 1970s, Alan was instrumental in setting up the Workers' Socialist League and he devoted much time to writing and campaigning for it.

Includes discussion documents, notes of meetings, publications and publicity material, 1960-1982.

Papers of Bob Purdie, 1927-1977 (MSS.149)

Bob Purdie (1940-) was an active member of the Amalgamated Engineering Union (AEU) on Clydebank. He was a member of the Young Socialists and the Socialist Labour League in the early 1960s, but from 1966 to 1976 was a member of the International Marxist Group. A Central Committee member, 1967-74, he worked for a while as full-time London organiser. He became organiser of the Anti-Internment League, 1972-3, and was a journalist with the 'Red Weekly', 1973-4.

Includes SLL circulated documents, 1961-1970; pamphlets and 12 issues of 'The Newsletter', 1959-1963.

Papers of David Spencer, 1955-1977 (MSS.164)

Includes Socialist Labour League internal bulletins and discussion documents, 1962-1963; publications, including 'The Newsletter' and 'Keep Left', 1958-1972; and publications of other left-wing organisations.

Papers of Chris and Ann Talbot, (1923)-1994 (1072)

Includes internal bulletins, 1975-1986; documents relating to the 1985 split; pamphlets, late 1950s-1986, and other publicity material. The collection also contains documents relating to associated organisations including the International Committee of the Fourth International, the Workers League (USA) and Young Socialists.

Papers of Alan Thornett, 1951-c1997 (MSS.391)

Alan Thornett was born in 1937 and worked at the Cowley Morris plant from 1959 until 1982. He became a shop steward in 1963 and the Transport and General Workers' Union deputy convenor for the plant in 1967. Four years later, Alan Thornett was elected to the Midlands regional committee of the Transport and General Workers' Union. In addition, he served as chairman of the Transport and General Workers' Union 5/55 branch and of the Joint Shop Stewards' Committee. Alan Thornett became a national figure in the 1970s, when he became known as the "mole" at British Leyland, and he was a founder member of the Workers Socialist League, which broke away from the Workers Revolutionary Party in 1974. The Alan Thornett papers include Transport and General Workers' Union Oxford District Committee minutes, 1970-85; Transport and General Workers' Union branch 5/55 minutes, 1967-74; shop stewards' collecting books, 1963-76; correspondence files, 1957-88; motor industry publications, 1962-85; political publications, 1969-82; motor industry agreements, 1967-82; press-cuttings, 1951-81.

Papers of E.A. Whelan, 1939-1974 (MSS.95)

Tony Whelan was a member of the International Marxist Group (IMG) between 1970 and 1974.

The collection includes copies of some internal Socialist Labour League and Young Socialists material, [1960?]-1974; 51 SLL pamphlets,1960-1974; and 6 pamphlets published by Workers League, the US Trotskyist group linked with the Socialist Labour League, [1969?]-1971.

The Maitland Sara Hallinan collection (MSS.15X)

Includes large but incomplete run of The News Line, newspaper of the Workers Revolutionary Party, 1976-1978.

The Socialist Party (formerly the Revolutionary Socialist League, Militant and Militant Labour) (MSS.601)

Includes copies of various Socialist Labour League publications, including issues of 'The Newsletter', 'Keep Left' and 'Labour Review'.

 

International Group, International Marxist Group and Socialist League

In 1961 six members of the Nottingham branch of the Revolutionary Socialist League split to form the International Group. The group rejoined the RSL in 1964, only to leave again the following year. The group first identified itself publicly in 1968 as the International Marxist Group (a name which had been used within the group since at least the mid-1960s). Its broad aims were the overthrow of capitalist power by revolution and the overthrow of Stalinist state capitalism followed by the setting up of a government based on direct democratic control by the people. The IMG initially pursued entrist tactics, working within the Labour Party, and was active in the anti-Vietnam War and student movements of the late 1960s. In 1969 the group abandoned work within the Labour Party and became the British section of the Unified Secretariat of the Fourth International. Its membership peaked in the 1970s at around 1000 but by 1983 its membership had fallen to around 700.

The rise of the Bennite movement in the Labour Party, and an inability to maintain a strong stable membership, caused the International Marxist Group to reconsider its relationship to the Labour Party. In the early 1980s it reverted back to entryism although it chose not to refer to its members or branches within the Labour Party, instead referring to 'Socialist Challenge' supporters. In December 1982 the Group changed its name to the Socialist League and its associated newspaper from 'Socialist Challenge' to 'Socialist Action'. By the mid 1980s the Socialist League had begun to splinter: in 1985 the International Group broke away, whilst the rest of the SL continued as Socialist Action; in 1988 a further split resulted in the formation of the Communist League. By 1990 the circulation of 'Socialist Action' had dropped to around 500.

International Marxist Group, (1948)-1999 (MSS.128) 

National leadership records, 1967-1987; conference records, 1972-1988; records concerning women's activities and issues, 1970-1988; records concerning youth and student activity, 1969-1987; records concerning Ireland, 1970s-1981; records concerning international activities and countries outside the British Isles, (1948)-1981; records concerning the IMG in Scotland, 1970-1975; records of and concerning English branches, 1971-1974; branch statistical returns, 1976-1982; Fourth International records, 1976-1983; internal information bulletins and internal bulletins, 1972-1980; pre-conference internal discussion bulletins, 1968-1984; weekly notes to organisers and national briefings,1974-1984; international bulletins, 1969-1980; various subject files, bulletins, discussion papers and publications, (1963)-1999.

Papers of Chris Arthur, 1961-1980 (711)

The majority of publications in this collection belonged to Chris Arthur, a former lecturer in philosophy (particularly Marxism) at Sussex University, and were subsequently acquired by Ian Wilson.

Journals of the International Group (with whom Chris Arthur was involved), including 'The Bulletin', 'International Bulletin' and 'The Week'; copies of journals and pamphlets of other left-wing groups, including editions of 'World Outlook' and 'Intercontinental Press'.

Papers of Chris Bambery, 1970s (MSS.419)

After his involvement with the International Marxist Group, Chris Bambery continued to play an active role in British Trotskyism and has acted as the National Secretary of the Socialist Workers Party.

International Marxist Group pre-conference bulletins, 1973-76; internal discussion bulletins, and miscellaneous papers, 1973-74; Scottish International Marxist Group circulars and miscellaneous papers, 1970s.

Papers of Bob Purdie, 1927-1977 (MSS.149)

Bob Purdie (1940-) was an active member of the Amalgamated Engineering Union (AEU) on Clydebank. He was a member of the Young Socialists and the Socialist Labour League in the early 1960s, but from 1966 to 1976 was a member of the International Marxist Group. A Central Committee member, 1967-74, he worked for a while as full-time London organiser. He became organiser of the Anti-Internment League, 1972-3, and was a journalist with the 'Red Weekly', 1973-4.

Correspondence and subject files about Ireland and the International Marxist Group, 1961-77; journals and publications regarding Ireland, socialism and Trotskyism, the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign, China, etc.

Papers of E.A. Whelan, 1939-1974 (MSS.95)

Tony Whelan was a member of the International Marxist Group (IMG) between 1970 and 1974.

The papers include IMG minutes and related documents of the National Committee, 1970-1974; internal discussion bulletins, 1967-73; letters to members / notes to organisers, 1970-4; correspondence and leaflets, 1968-73; pamphlets, 1970-4; North-West region, minutes, reports and leaflets, 1971-3, including material concerning the 1972 Manchester Engineering dispute; London IMG, internal documents, 1973; duplicated and printed materials issued by or relating to the Irish Solidarity Movement, 1970-1972.
'International' (theoretical journal of the IMG), 1968-1974.
Rank and file trade unionists, various publications including some pamphlets produced in conjunction with the International Socialism Group; 'Intercontinental Press', 1970-4; 'Socialist Workers' Party (USA) Discussion Bulletin', 1939-1973; 'Socialist Workers' Party (USA) International Information Bulletin', 1945-74. (The Socialist Workers' Party International Information Bulletin has been de facto since 1963 and de jure since 1972 the Internal Discussion Bulletin of the Fourth International, United Sectariat); United Sectariat Fourth International report of the 1972 Fact Finding Commission on the International Marxist Group.

Papers of University of York International Marxist Group member, 1970-1979 (MSS.433)

Publications and ephemera collected by a student member of the International Marxist Group. The individual studied at the University of York in the early 1970s, and subsequently at the University of London.

Internal documents of the International Marxist Group, 1971-1973; pamphlets, journals and leaflets produced by the IMG and other (mostly left-wing) British groups, 1970-1976; German, French and USA socialist leaflets and ephemera, 1975-1979.

Maitland Sara Hallinan collection

Includes issues of the newspapers Red Mole, 1970-1973, Red Weekly, 1973-1976, and Socialist Challenge, 1978-1983.

 

Workers' Socialist League

The Workers' Socialist League was formed in 1975 by expelled former members of the Workers' Revolutionary Party, led by Alan Thornett. The WSL merged with the International-Communist League in 1981, retaining the name Workers' Socialist League. The 'new' WSL soon split into factionalism, with the expulsions of the Internationalist Faction in 1983 and of Alan Clinton and his followers in 1984.

Papers of Alan Clinton (MSS.539)

Alan Clinton (1943 -2005) was a politician, academic and labour historian. He joined, and left, several left-wing, often Trotskyist, groups and sects; he was also involved in linking students with trade unionists at Cowley car plants. His massively comprehensive 'Post Office Workers: A Trade Union And Social History' (1984) became a model for the understanding of public sector unions. During the 1970s, Alan was instrumental in setting up the Workers' Socialist League and he devoted much time to writing and campaigning for it.
He was an Islington councillor for 20 years and became leader of the council in 1994; he fought to improve the quality of services and win resources for urban development and regeneration. The modernisation of King's Cross was one of his major projects. he also lectured for a number of universities including Bristol Polytechnic (subsequently the University of the West of England) and the Open University.

Files of correspondence, pamphlets, circulars and papers re politics, Workers Socialist League, Ireland, local government and other issues. The collection also includes some material concerning Clinton's activities in left-wing student politics in the 1960s.

Papers of Alan Thornett, 1951-c1997 (MSS.391)

Alan Thornett was born in 1937 and worked at the Cowley Morris plant from 1959 until 1982. He became a shop steward in 1963 and the Transport and General Workers' Union deputy convenor for the plant in 1967. Four years later, Alan Thornett was elected to the Midlands regional committee of the Transport and General Workers' Union. In addition, he served as chairman of the Transport and General Workers' Union 5/55 branch and of the Joint Shop Stewards' Committee. Alan Thornett became a national figure in the 1970s, when he became known as the "mole" at British Leyland, and he was a founder member of the Workers Socialist League, which broke away from the Workers Revolutionary Party in 1974.

The Alan Thornett papers include Transport and General Workers' Union Oxford District Committee minutes, 1970-85; Transport and General Workers' Union branch 5/55 minutes, 1967-74; shop stewards' collecting books, 1963-76; correspondence files, 1957-88; motor industry publications, 1962-85; political publications, 1969-82; motor industry agreements, 1967-82; press-cuttings, 1951-81.

 

Other post-1960 Trotskyist groups

Papers of Dani Ahrens, 1984-1993 (MSS.401)

Dani Ahrens joined the International Group in 1985. The International Group split from the Socialist League in the same year. The Socialist League was a direct descendent of the International Marxist Group. In May 1987, the International Group amalgamated with the Socialist Group (SG) to form the International Socialist Group (ISG). The origins of SG were in the Workers' Revolutionary Party and Socialist Organiser. Both the Socialist League and the International Group (and subsequently the ISG) remained part of the United Secretariat of the Fourth International. The Journal Group was an internal codename for the International Group. Dani Ahrens moved to Brighton in 1987, where she continued her activism.

Minutes of the Central Committee, 1986-91; minutes of the Lesbian and Gay Fraction, 1988-91; minutes of the Student Fraction, 1987-90; pre-conference discussion bulletins, 1986-91; national mailings, 1986-91; International, 1985-7; Socialist Outlook, 1987-93; Brighton branch minutes, papers, 1987-91.

Spartacist League publications, 1964-1996 (MSS.275)

Spartacist League: originally formed as the 'Revolutionary Tendency' of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), the Spartacist League was formed in 1964 when they were expelled from the SWP for not supporting the Cuban revolution, as well as opposing the SWP's part in the "revisionist" United Secretariat of the Fourth International (USFI). Led by James Robertson, the SL was named after Rosa Luxemburg's Spartakusbund (the precursor to the German Communist Party). The SL's international wing, the International Spartacist Tendency (now known as the International Communist League), was formed in 1974. The Spartacist League suffered two large splits: the first being the formation of the International Bolshevik Tendency in 1985 and in 1996 a group formed by the expelled SL newspaper editor, Jan Norden (known as the Internationalist Group).

The collection centres on materials relating to the activity of the Trotskist International Spartacist Tendancy in Britain. The collection covers 3 periods:
1964-1975: The Spartacist Tendency had no permanent organised presence in Britain during this period. However the publications of the Spartacist League/US 'Spartacist and Workers Vanguard' contain many articles referring to the general political situation in Britain, and to British socialist parties and groups. In particular 'Spartacist' contains much material in the 1960s on the Healy tendancy (Socialist Labour League), and 'Workers Vanguard' has extensive coverage of the 1974 miners' conflict with the Heath government.
1975-1978: The London Spartacist Group (LSG) was active during this period. From 1975 'Workers Vanguard' has been distributed widely on the British left, both through subscriptions and single-issue sales. In this period the LSGs activity is reported and reflected in that paper, and also in various mimeographed leaflets included in the deposit.
March 1978 to the present: At the beginning of this period the Spartacist League/Britain (SL/B) was founded in a fusion between the LSG and the Trotskyist Faction (TF) of the Workers Socialist League. The TF had been formed as an internal faction in 1977, and resigned from the WSL in February 1978. In April the first issue of 'Spartacist Britain', the monthly paper of the SL/B, was published (in September 1984 the name was changed to 'Workers Hammer'). In 1980 the Leninist Faction of the WSL fused with the SL/B, and in 1981 the Communist Faction of the IMG did likewise. Materials relating to these two groups are included in the deposit, in addition to the newspapers, journals and leaflets of the Spartacist Leagues itself.
The collection comprises: 'Spartacist Britain / 'Workers Hammer', issues 1-165, April 1978-August 1991; 'Workers Vanguard', Spartacist Publishing Company, New York, issues 33-417, 1976-1986; 'Spartacist' (published in New York), 1964-1995; miscellaneous publications and leaflets, 1977-1983.

Spartacist League publications, 2000-2013 (541 and 680)

Incomplete run of 'Workers Vanguard' and 'Workers Hammer' newspaper.

Papers of Chris Taylor, circa 1970-1979 (MSS.406)

Chris Taylor (b.1954) was a member of the International Socialists between 1972-74, Workers' Fight / International-Communist League between 1974-76, and the Intervention Collective between 1976-1980.

The collection includes: Workers' Fight / International-Communist League minutes, correspondence, internal bulletins, circulars, discussion documents and publications, [1969?]-1976; Intervention Collective newsletters, bulletins (including minutes), and publications, 1977-1980; Socialist Charter discussion bulletins and issues of 'Chartist', 1976-1982; internal bulletins, discussion documents and publications from the International Marxist Group, International Socialists, Revolutionary Communist Group and Revolutionary Marxist Current; run of the journal 'Intercontinental Press', 1974-9 (mostly complete between Jan 1975-Jun 1979).

Trotskyist and other left-wing periodicals and pamphlets, 1976-2006 (661)

This collection includes publications of various Trotskyist and other left-wing groups, mostly from the 1980s-1990s. It includes journals, newspapers and pamphlets connected to the League for a Revolutionary Communist International (particularly those produced by the Workers Power Group).

 

Links