The party`s suicide and (umpteenth) post mortem



The party`s suicide and (umpteenth) post mortem
August 2012
Issue 3, Vol 1, New Series
The party’s suicide and
Chris Birch
post mortem
his book is an account by eight people who joined the Communist Party
of Great Britain in the 1960s, ’70s and
’80s and, with one exception, remained
members until the party’s demise 20
years ago. As a communist who joined
the party in 1948, I found the book
extremely interesting.
Its subtitle, however, is misleading. It is
as much about life in the party in its last
20 years as about the lives afterwards of
some former members, who went their
separate ways, joining the Green Party,
the Labour Party, the CPB, Respect or no
party at all.
It is a very readable account. Andy
Croft, the poet, writer and publisher, edited the book and provides both a useful
introduction and a final chapter. The former reminds us of some of the party's
many achievements; the latter describes
his exemplary party branch and emphasises the party's outstanding contribution
to British cultural life.
The party had getting on for 60,000
members at its peak [Andy says 60,000,
but Noreen Branson in her ‘official history’ says 56,000 –in 1942] and during its
lifetime it had five Members of Parliament (Cecil L’Estrange Malone, Walton
Newbold, Shapurji Saklatvala, Willie
Gallacher and Phil
reviews After the Piratin), not to mention Wogan Phillips
Reflections on (Lord Milford) in the
House of Lords. In
life since the
CPGB, edited by addition there were
several hundred ComAndy Croft.
munist councillors
Lawrence &
Wishart, 2012, and Daily Worker
sales reaching
As Andy reminds us, 20thcentury British
history was unmistakably shaped by the
Communist Party – most obviously in the
General Strike, the Hunger Marches, the
Battle of Cable Street, the formation of
the International Brigades, the occupation
of the London tube stations during the
Blitz, the Forces Parliaments, the Squatters’ Movement, the post-war dock
strikes, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the
Clydeside Apprentices’ Strike, the Notting Hill Carnival, the UCS work-in,
Grunwick, the miners’ strikes of 1971,
1974 and 1984 and the People’s March
for Jobs.
And organisations like CND, the AntiApartheid Movement, the Movement for
Colonial Freedom, and the Vietnam and
Chile Solidarity Campaigns were maintained for many years by the hard work of
individual party members.
But from the mid-1980s onwards, acLike Lorna, Stuart Hill joined the Lacording to the contributors, the party ‘was
bour Party. He found that in Darlington it
visibly dying’, party activity was
was run by Alan Milburn as a Stalinist
‘collapsing’, membership ‘was hemorfiefdom. Dave Cope also eventually
rhaging’, ‘the European communist tradijoined the Labour Party. Mark Perryman
tion had become untenable’ and ‘the only
went into T-shirts and joined Respect.
sensible response to the collapse of comAlistair Findlay believes that there’s no
munism appeared to be the dissolution of
future without Marx. Andrew Permain
the CP’.
ended up advising the Green Party.
One contributor, Kate Hudson, did not
But all the contributors, even Andrew
see it like that. Her
chapter, entitled ‘A
political error of
vast proportions’,
is selfexplanatory. It
was to my mind
the most powerful
and cogently argued in the book
but the last few
pages were something of an anticlimax and, in the
end, her argument
failed to convince
Jimmy Reid addresses a meeting in 1951, just before the strike
me. All the other
chapters were extremely interesting and,
who found party members to be
except for the chapter by Andrew Pear‘essentially disturbed people, some of
main, chimed with my own experience of
them outright crazy’, gained from having
being a party member for more than 43
belonged and miss the party, as I do.
years (from February 1948 to November
Perhaps I may be permitted to end on a
personal note. I think the party I joined in
Lorna Reith has found the Labour Party
1948 was a very different one from the
very different from her old party. “At
one these contributors joined much later.
local branch level life is pretty dull. CerIn those distant days, we were afraid to
tainly there isn’t the level of political dego away on holiday in case we missed the
bate there used to be in the CP.” But the
revolution. Unless you were on the mailLabour Party “provided a framework”
ing list for Harry Pollitt’s Political Letter,
that “looked to protect and improve the
you fixed your branch meeting for soon
lot of ordinary people” and “it was a
after Labour Monthly had been published,
broad church and never felt the need to
so that you could get the party line from
automatically defend the party leadership
Palme Dutt’s ‘Notes of the Month’.
or particular policies.”
Continued foot col.1 p.3
Ruth First: A Revolutionary Life
David Horsley
First was referred to time after time as
activist, revolutionary, and revolutionary
socialist and I was perplexed that no one
referred to her as a communist, so during
reports on a
conference devoted to the South
African Communist and writer
n Thursday 7th June, a conference,
A Revolutionary Life: Ruth First
1925-1982 was held at Senate House,
London under the auspices of the Institute
of Commonwealth Studies. Over 80 people attended this day-long symposium
which was addressed mainly by academics.
Albie Sachs, veteran of the South African liberation struggle and a leading figure in the country’s judiciary, spoke first
as a close comrade of First, and made a
very moving address.
Others spoke on her life as activist and
writer and on her years in exile in the
UK. Unfortunately, one or two of these
contributions were rather dry and academic and did not reflect the spirit of
their subject. The best speeches were
from those who had worked with her.
Publicity for the launch in May 2010 of the
Ruth First Rhodes Scholarship. Albie
Sachs made the announcement
discussion I asked why the" C" word had
not been used and went on to say that
Ruth was a leading member of the South
African Communist Party for many years
and this had obviously contributed fundamentally to her development as a person,
scholar and revolutionary. My intervention was met with a small burst of applause from members of the audience.
After the lunch break, the contributions
were uniformly better and Anna Maria
Gentili, an Italian academic and communist was outstanding in her recollections of working with Ruth in Mozambique where she lived and worked from
1977 to 1982. The last section, Remembering Ruth was the highlight of the day
and Alpheus Manghezi who was a researcher and co-author with Ruth in
Mozambique, spoke so eloquently of her
as an inspiring and resourceful comrade
and co-worker. His account of her
But we learned. We came to realise that
Palme Dutt was not infallible, that the
'party line' could be wrong.
We began to think for ourselves. My
branch submitted a resolution to the party’s national congress in 1957 demanding
a critical reappraisal of the party's postwar economic analyses. We learned from
1956. We were very critical of the 'trial'
and execution of Imre Nagy. We learned
from 1968. And we learned from life.
And most of us remain Communists, although our party is no more.
It is perhaps a sign of the times that the
Morning Star has given the book a very
favourable and friendly review.
Swing, Farmer, Swing
Griffin explained his
historical investigations
into the deep social and
economic conditions of the farm labourers who were facing displacement from
their work and loss of their homes with
the introduction of threshing machines.
He uncovered a level of organisation and
coordination in the “Swing” resistance
which occurred over a vast area stretching from Maidstone, to Dover and almost
as far as Canterbury.
Sparked by one incident in the Elham
ew research into the rural incendiary movement known as the
“Swing” riots was presented at our talk
on 17 May by Carl Griffin, author of
the first major study of this popular protest movement since Hobsbawm and
Rude’s classic pioneering work,
Captain Swing, which became a
bestseller in 1969.
Ruth First (cont)
against imperialism and apartheid and
suffered persecution and imprisonment in
South Africa and ultimately was forced
into exile in the UK and later in newly
liberated Mozambique where she worked
with men and women of her new country
as well as with ANC members. A letter
bomb sent by apartheid agents ended her
life in 1982, but her memory and ideas
live on to inspire us in our current
The conference was followed by a book
launch. South African publishers HSRC
Press have just published two books in an
exciting new series called Voices of Liberation. Albert Luthuli and Ruth First are
the first subjects and will be followed by
books on Chris Hani, General Secretary
of the South African Communist Party
until his assassination and Patrice
Lumumba, another victim of racism and
imperialism. The book on Ruth First
compiled by Don Pinnock contains a time
line and biography and a selection of her
writings from the 1950 s to the 1970s.
A quick look through my copy makes
me urge anyone with an interest in the
South African freedom fight to buy a
copy as soon as possible. We need to not
only remember our heroes but to study
their works and learn from them.
untimely death was extremely moving.
Bridget O' Laughlin, another co-worker
was equally moving. Ms. O'Laughlin's
memories of the dreadful assassination of
Ruth by South African secret police
brought a tear to the eye as she remembered the red coat Ruth had worn on that
last fateful day. Gillian Slovo, one of her
three daughters concluded the conference.
She talked about her father Joe Slovo and
his relationship with Ruth. This long
sometimes stormy marriage lasted despite
imprisonment in South Africa, exile in
the UK and final years in Mozambique.
Ruth First was an outstanding
person.She chose at a very early age to
devote all her life to the South African
people who were suffering the most
vicious forms of racial oppression.
She was proud to call herself an African
and was loved and admired by Black
South Africans as much as she was feared
and loathed by the murderous apartheid
regime that she fought to bring down.
Ruth was also a lifelong Communist
who joined the Party in 1942 at the age of
17 and remained a member until her
death in 1982.She was a fighter for
women's rights. She devoted her skill as
journalist and scholar to the struggle
Valley in East Kent in 1830 when threshing machines were destroyed and the culprits arrested, the movement grew very
rapidly and became identified with the
mythical figure of Captain Swing when
threatening letters were sent to farmers
and landowners signed with the name of
“Swing”, whose meaning Griffin suggested may have meant “swing on the gallows” or it might have been an allusion to
the “swing” motion made by threshing.
Griffin said that Captain Swing was
portrayed almost as a romantic figure in
early studies of the movement by, for
example, the Hammonds, but contemporary accounts were sensationalist “instant
histories” written from an unsympathetic
point of view. The voices of the actual
participants in the hundreds of Swing
actions were almost impossible to find,
except for the anonymous letters, if these
were indeed really all written by farm
workers as there is some doubt about
their authorship.
The speaker explained that the journalistic campaign on behalf of rural workers
waged by William Cobbett was blamed
by the authorities for inspiring the Swing
revolt, but this was definitely not the
main reason for the activities.
Griffin argued that social distinctions
between travelling artisans, farm labourers and other rural workers were not as
clearly defined as often assumed and that
various groups were likely to have been
involved in the Swing incidents.
Recent research by historical geographers such as Andrew Charlesworth has
revealed that the activities closely mirrored the main road network from which
it can be inferred that those involved were
used to being highly mobile.
The protesters could not simply be dismissed as “rural Luddites”; they were not
immediately reacting to the introduction
of machinery in a knee-jerk way because
threshing machines first came into use in
the 1790s and Swing broke out decades
later. The protests were in fact concerned
with a broad range of grievances headed
by poor wages and unemployment but
A scene from the play by Peter Whelan
on Captain Swing with its opening night on
26 June 1978 .
workhouses were a particular focus of the
action, Griffin argued.
Captain Swing in this important new
assessment emerges as an extremely well
organised and sophisticated movement of
rural workers who had clear political objectives and as such it was clearly not
simply a desperate reaction against machines.
Riots, as Griffin’s study suggests, are
one manifestation of a sophisticated form
of resistance and are never ends in themselves. In fact, riots often mark a failure
of politics or break out in response to
deliberate provocation by the authorities
and become a pretext for savage state
repression. And the violence of the
workers, of course, pales into insignificance when set against the harsh
measures inflicted by the magistrates,
police and the state.
Carl Griffin’s book is called “The Rural
War” and is published by Manchester
University Press.
David Morgan
How to Wreck a Promising
improvement). His political background
was in the Militant organisation, a secretive Trotskyist tendency which flourished
in the eighties as entryists in the Labour
Party. In the nineties this morphed into
two separate entities, the Socialist Party
of England and Wales (an unfortunate
acronym!) and the Scottish Socialist Party, with Sheridan, now a major public
figure, as its leader, especially after he
was elected to the Glasgow City Council
and continued as a very effective grassroots activist in his local base of Pollok.
The SSP however was broader than Militant had been; it was a coalition of diverse Leninist groups and left wing activists who recognised its promise.
It was Scottish devolution however
which brought Sheridan and the SSP fully
to the forefront when in the first election
for the Scottish Parliament he was elected
under the proportional representation system as the party’s sole MSP. Gall recounts the story that when in order to take
his seat he was obliged to affirm allegiance to the Queen, her heirs and successors, he pledged himself instead ‘to her
hair and accessories’, and was a most
effective parliamentarian. In the second,
2003, Scottish election, the SSP, not least
due to Sheridan’s reputation, secured a
major breakthrough, winning six seats.
Gall identifies the weakness in this collective, but is perhaps overcautious and
pessimistic in judging its potential.
On one weakness however he is not
mistaken – the SSP was far too dependent
for its success on Sheridan’s abilities and
reputation, and within a year, thanks to
his irresponsibility, it was all falling
apart. The Murdoch press had got hold of
the fact that he was visiting sex clubs and
Gregor Gall, Tommy Sheridan, From
Hero to Zero?: a Political Biography,
Welsh Academic Press, 2012.
his biography is not without its
shortcomings. The index is inadequate, the style is rather clunky,
the syntax often contorted, and Gall follows the annoying practice of constantly
referring to ‘Tommy’ rather than
‘Sheridan’. Nevertheless it is rivetingly
readable, one might almost say
‘unputdownable’. The account of its sub-
ject’s career to date (he is still only in his
forties) has the qualities of a Shakespearean tragedy; a socialist politician of enormous talent and charisma – and no less
enormous ego – whose mother, a keen
socialist, believed that he was marked out
for a special destiny.
Sheridan, born in 1964, first came to
notice in the anti-poll tax campaign of the
eighties, which, despite his youth, he led
with great strategic and tactical skill and
made a mighty contribution to Thatcher’s
downfall and poll tax abolition (though
the replacements for both were no great
pursuing extra-marital affairs; the truth of
which he admitted to the SSP executive –
and then tried to pressurise its members
to lie in court on his behalf in the libel
suit which in spite of all advice and exhortation he insisted on going ahead with.
Naturally most of them rebelled against
such an outrageous and insulting demand,
and though Sheridan won the case and
big damages (in 2011 he was imprisoned
for perjury) the SSP was irreversibly split
and finished as a political force, losing all
its MSPs in the 2007 elections. What remains of it now continues as an ineffective rump, while Sheridan went on to establish an alternative called Solidarity,
which is essentially no more than his fan
It was an episode of gross and grotesque
irresponsibility and a bitter blow to the
hopes of the left in Scotland and more
widely. Sheridan’s first irresponsibility
was his sexual behaviour, which, as he
should have known in view of his position, was certain to be dug up and publicised by the toxic tabloids. When that
inevitably happened it must ruin his valued reputation as an upright citizen and
family man and do serious damage to his
party. He should have remembered
Charles Stuart Parnell. Even so he might
have saved something by simply making
a public denial and shrugging off the accusations, which, though a lie, would
have been far less damaging than the
course he followed. Worst of all was his
attempt to make his colleagues perjure
themselves and then denounce them as
scabs and traitors when they refused.
So ended the most promising advance
by the socialist left in Britain for many
decades. The role of the individual in
history was confirmed once again in a
most negative fashion. Gall permits himself to imagine a ‘might have been’ sce-
nario when he reflects on the difference
that someone with Sheridan’s previous
standing and abilities could be making
in a country subject to the inflictions of
the Cameron regime and the pitiful inadequacy of the Labour Party opposition.
Willie Thompson
Solidarność not
Mick Costello’s very welcome and
well-deserved tribute to Bert Ramelson,
and to Roger Seifert and Tom Sibley’s
excellent biography of him, (See March
edition of SHS Newsletter) contains one
small error which gives a wrong impression.
In 1984-85, during the British miners’
strike, it was not, as Mick suggests, the
independent trade union Solidarność
which was responsible for the deliveries
of Polish coal which undermined the
strike. It was the Polish government,
dominated by the Polish United Workers’
Party - the Polish Communist Party.
Although Poland was no longer under
martial law by 1984, Solidarność
remained illegal, and the right to strike in
Poland was very severely curtailed. Less
than three years before, on 16 December
1981, Polish riot police had shot dead
nine striking miners at the Wujek colliery
near Katowice.
Given that history, and given that the
Polish government regarded the British
miners’ strike purely as an opportunity to
sell some extra coal for hard currency, the
lack of support from Poland is hardly
surprising. But the blame lies not with
Solidarność, but with Poland’s ostensibly
communist rulers at that time.
Francis King
What do we do about Labour?
Socialist History Society member Eddie Adams sent in a reply to an article that appeared in the Newsletter back in December of last year. Eddie’s
reply was overlooked by the Editor and an apology given. What Eddie has
to say about the Labour party and what Socialists should do about it is
food for thought, and we are pleased to belatedly reprint it below.
Mike Squires raises this question in
the December Newsletter and it is a
question the left needs urgently to deal
with. Mike argues that the party is no
longer a socialist organisation in leadership or organisation and the question is
can it be so in the future? I think that is
very debatable. I don't think socialists
should mark time and hope for progressive developments.
The failure of Miliband and Balls to
support the public sector strikes shows
us where they are taking the party. We
need to adopt a twin strategy that gives
the left a cohesiveness and strength
which involves not standing against one
another in elections and building grassroots campaigns that embrace all the left
but are not dominated by any group.
The calls for a new party of the working
class are premature as this can only
come about after the work in the localities has been done and a united base
built. We have seen in the past that these campaigns have been used by the
SWP and Socialist Party to bolster their
The twin to this is how we should deal
with the Labour Party. We should urge
Socialists in and outside the party not to
give support to any candidate that hasn't
got a commitment to socialism and we
should urge the trade union movement
to only endorse candidates and support
them financially if they will fight for
their union policies. We need the unions
to cease giving a general donation to the
Labour Party until it returns to a democratic structure with policies decided at
its conference. Clem Atlee in his book
The Labour Party in Perspective argued
that to attract support “I believe that it is
only a clear and bold policy that will
attract their support. It is not the preaching of a feeble kind of Liberalism that is
required but a frank statement of the full
Socialist faith in terms which will be
understood”. He goes on to talk about
MacDonald's betrayal of the Labour
Party and that “He had for some years
been more and more attracted by the
social environment of the well-to-do
classes”. Doesn't that remind you of the
New Labour clique? .
In the present situation the market
economy is not fit for purpose and the
ruling class are desperately offloading
their problems onto the people. It is time
for unity of the left and a recognisable
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Volunteers for Spain Celebration
clenched fist salute.
ne of the highlights of
Report by
Almudena Cros, of the Spanish
the year is the annual
Association of the Friends of the
commemoration for the
International Brigades, then
2,500 British volunteers who
of the Spanish people's
went to Spain between 1936 and
high regard for the international1938 as part of the International
ists who went to Spain to fight
Brigade to defend the democratifascism, many of whom made the ultically elected government and assist the
mate sacrifice. Paco Marin, a Spanish
fight against international fascism.
musician then sang an
These men and womemotional rendition. A
en are honoured by the
young poet Francesca
International Brigade
Beard then recited two
Memorial Trust which
excellent poems, one
holds a remembrance
on Guernica.
ceremony on London's
I.B.M.T. Executive
Southbank in Jubilee
Rodney BickGardens, beside Ian
an outWalter's fine sculpture
dedicated to the Brilinked
George Brown, compaOn Saturday 7th July,
ny commander of the
Jim Jump, Secretary of
British Battalion killed
the I.B.M.T. , welat the battle of Brunete
comed the many people
in 1937 and Jack Jones,
beside the memorial
who survived to beand introduced folk
come a labour moveduo Na-Mara. They
legend. He also
were followed by Marstated that 1936 was the year of the Berlene Sidaway and Dolores Long, presilin Olympics which the new Spanish govdent and chair respectively of the organiernment boycotted while today, the year
sation, presenting remembrances of Briof London Olympics, another reactionary
gaders who had passed away over the
onslaught was being made on public seryear.
vices and peoples' living standards.
Several wreaths were laid in honour of
the volunteers which was followed by a
The event closed with singer Ewan
minute’s silence. Since last year’s comMclennan leading us in the British Brimemoration, the statue has had a new
gade song "Jarama" followed by "The
plaque which was unveiled by David LoInternationale"
mon, now aged 93, and one of the survivThe I.B.M.T. has a membership open to
ing four members of the original 2,500.
all. It holds events and talks throughout
He was greeted with great applause and
the year and publishes a fine newsletter.
some emotion as he gave the anti-fascist
Request for Information
about Irma Petroff
Irma Petroff was the widow of Peter
Petroff, a Russian revolutionary who ended her days as a member of the Parliament Hill Fields Communist Party
Branch in March 1968. She appears to be
a friend of Lavenda Aaronovitch, the wife
of Sam, and provided information to
Frank Tanner for the Communist Party
History Group in 1955. She was not at
that time a member of the CP, but involved in the FSU.
Irma led an extraordinary life: a leading
member of the German Social Democrat's
Youth movement and a supporter of
Liebknecht before WW1, she moved to
Kentish Town, lived with Peter Petroff
from 1913, active member of Kentish
Town BSP, opposed the war from a revolutionary perspective, went up to the
Clyde with Peter to support the Glasgow
working class in their struggle with the
wartime government which Maclean and
the Petroffs thought could be turned into
a revolutionary situation.
She was interned in Aylesbury concentration camp, liberated by the Russian
October revolution, was Radek's deputy
in the Communist German POW movement before peace with Germany was
She urged Stalin to allow the Volga
Germans to have their own Soviet Republic in which she became a leading Commissar, worked with her husband for the
Soviet Embassy in Berlin in the 1920s,
left the Communist Party over the rise of
Stalin and the fall of revolutionary democracy in 1925, and opposed the Nazis
as a potential grave threat to the interna10
tional working class movement from
1930 onwards.
Irma also worked with the anti-Nazi
underground in the weeks after the
Reichstag fire when she and her family
were on the run, escaped to Paris and finally got back to England. Little is known
of her from 1940 onwards but she supported the war against fascism, opposed
the Russo-German Non- Aggression Pact,
supported the Russian invasion of Finland
and thought, from the end of 1939, that
the Red Army and Soviet Russia would
be the decisive factor in defeating Nazi
Her eldest child Margaret, later called
Millie Margaret, married Laurence Jones
in 1944. They were both CP members.
So if anyone has any information or
recollections about Irma, Margaret or her
husband Laurence please let me know.
Scott. [email protected]
London Chartism
David Goodway in his survey of Chartism, as reported by David Morgan
(Newsletter, May 2012), demolishes what
he claims are eight fallacies of Chartist
studies. One of his eight "fallacies" remains valid:
The alleged fallacy that "Chartism never really found much support in London"
is actually confirmed by his own figures.
He mentions 8,000 Chartists in London,
2,000 in Sheffield and 3,000 in Leicester.
Taking the 1841 census figures we see
that London's 8,000 Chartists were a mere
0.4% of the 2,070,000 population. Sheffield's 1841 population of 111,000 gave it
a "Chartist density" of 1.8%. Even more
remarkable was Leicester where no less
than 5.6% of the 53,000 population were
Continued col 1 next page
Shirley Kaufman 1921-2012
age and remained politically active to
the very last breath. Her final action was
to go out and vote in the May elections.
Until the age of five, Yiddish was her
primary language, but later she became
a voracious reader of English literature
inspired by her father’s love of books.
She absorbed the meanings embedded in
the great
classic novels of Dickens, the
George Eliot, Jane Austen and Anthony Trollope, using
their observations of
human charShirley, branch secretary, 1945
acter as a
guide to her
own understanding of people’s behaviour.
Brought up in an impoverished family
in London, she endured significant hardship and would recall excursions with
her mother to the local market to pick
up vegetables that had been discarded at
closing time by the stallholders.
Her childhood was a lonely one given
that there was an age gap of 11 years
between herself and her three brothers.
Shirley was never a religious person and
didn’t feel the need to rely on any external power beyond for support. Her family was support enough and her devotion
was to wider social justice and human
dignity for all.
Living in Hackney in the 1930s at a
Shirley Kaufman, whose death at the age
of 90 we mourn, was a Communist for all
of her adult life. She never wavered in her
commitment to the principles of human
solidarity which she acquired at an early
age and she worked tirelessly for a world
free of exploitation and oppression. Her
history was the history of the 20 th Century. She was one of the last of that generation of Jewish immigrants who came to
this country in flight from appalling persecution in central Europe.
She was a Communist from an early
London Chartism continued
Chartists. Given that the Yorkshire city
had a density more than four times that of
London and the Midlands city more than
ten times it is evident that London Chartism was much weaker.
Of course London had a different occupational structure than Leicester or Sheffield, but that does not explain the undoubted weakness of Chartism in the
Great Wen. As a consequence of its size,
London has more of most things (good,
like real ale pubs or bad, such as homelessness) in absolute terms than most
towns and cities in Britain, but that does
not necessarily make it a Mecca or Sodom for particular subjects.
Robert Laurie
David Morgan adds: The short review of
this talk could not do full justice to the
detailed arguments of the speaker which
provided one of our best public meetings
in a long time. The Socialist History Society is therefore pleased that David
Goodway has agreed to write an Occasional Paper based on his contribution
which we hope to be able to publish soon.
On Your
ere we go again. All
pumped up and ready for
the Olympics, and what happens? Yet another failure by
the private sector and as always
the mess has to be cleared up
by the taxpayers: once again we have to
prop up an incompetent multinational —
when will they ever learn!
G4S may lose a little bit of cash by their
failure, but what we do know is that many
other large corporations will make a killing from this jamboree. But it wasn’t
always like this.
Seventy one years ago in 1931, the So-
cialist Workers Sports International organised an alternative
Olympics in Vienna, Red Vienna as it was known. Workers’
sport was a flourishing antidote
to what was viewed as ‘capitalist
sport’ by those on the left, and there was
a myriad of different workers’ sports organisations in all the developed and even
underdeveloped capitalist countries.
Representatives of these organisations
and their supporters descended on Vienna
and were welcomed by the city’s Social
Democratic governors.
Thousands of sports men and women
intervention in Chile.
Sid and Shirley fought apartheid in
South Africa and until the demise of the
racist regime in Pretoria, the Kaufman
family never bought or consumed one
single South African product.
Shirley deeply respected all comrades
who shared her own profound integrity
but she could be severe with those whose
affiliations she judged to be merely skin
Shirley Kaufman was remembered with
great affection by all her family, friends
and comrades at her funeral service held
on 21 June at the City of London Crematorium. This tribute is based on the fond
memories that were shared on that occasion. Shirley’s life is a celebration of
what’s best in humanity and it is a privilege to be able to pay tribute to her.
The Socialist History Society sends its
deepest condolences to Shirley’s husband
and comrade, Sid and the whole Kaufman
Shirley Kaufman cont
young age she encountered the rise of
fascism and its odious attempts to whip
up anti-Jewish hatred among Londoners.
Determined to resist, she became active
in the Young Communist League as this
seemed to be the only serious organised
opposition and it was here that she was to
meet her future husband Sid, whom she
recruited into the YCL. Having met initially as comrades they were to be married for over 65 years.
The love of reading which never left her
remained one of her main interests along
with her devotion to her family; together
Sid and Shirley had three children and
five grandchildren. Her character embodied the “loving kindness” referred to in
the bible. Her politics was an integral part
of who she was and despite bringing up
her children on a far from generous
“party wage” she found time to be active
against Franco’s Spain, she campaigned
against the bomb in CND, took part in
resistance to the Vietnam war and the US
David Morgan
SHS Public Meetings
from 26 countries participated in the
games and over 250,000 watched the final
day’s events.
These games were staged one year before the official Olympics which took
place in Los Angeles in 1932.
The Workers’ Olympiad far surpassed
its official rivals — in both spectators and
participants. There were fewer than 1,400
athletes competing in Los Angeles, compared with over 80,000 in Vienna.
In addition to the Socialist International
— which organised the Vienna games—
the Communist International had its own
RSI, the Red Sports International. The
RSI had large numbers of workers’ sports
organisations from Germany and Czechoslovakia affiliated to it, and these were
barred from competing in Vienna. They
held their own separate “spartakiada” in
Berlin. This was attended by Communist
affiliated workers’ sports groups from
throughout Europe and the United States.
So, maybe next time the Olympics come
around we should think about organising
an alternative. If our socialist forebears in
the 1930s saw it as ‘bosses sport’, dominated by the ruling class and the drive for
profit - what on earth would they think
We have a heritage of opposition to this
denigration of sport; let’s reclaim it. Sport
is for all and shouldn’t be sacrificed to the
highest bidder.
Mike Squires
A L Morton Memorial
7pm Tuesday 25th September
Details of talk to be confirmed
Battles within Battles:
Radicals, Secularists, Socialists
and Feminists and the Struggle
for Working Class Loyalty at the
End of the 19th Century
7pm Wednesday14th November
Speaker: Deborah Lavin
Jointly sponsored with the
Freethought History Research Group
The above two meetings take place at the
Bishopsgate Institute, opposite
Liverpool St Station
Che Guevara
and Revolutionary
Prof. Eric Hobsbawm
Vice President:
Stan Newens
Stefan Dickers
Greta Sykes
David Morgan
[email protected]
Francis King
[email protected]
Editor, Newsletter: Mike Squires.
[email protected]
Mail: 50, Elmfield Road, Balham, SW17 8AL
7pm Thursday 11th October
Nicola Seyd presents an
illustrated talk of her memories
of Cuba in the summer of 1960
Jointly sponsored by Cuba
Solidarity Campaign
Venue to be announced.
AGM Report from the Secretary
he SHS is broadly in very good
shape is the positive message to
come out of this year’s Annual General
Meeting which took place on 12 th May.
Our membership stood at 309, although
only 211 had paid up at the time of the
AGM. The meeting, which was chaired
by SHS Vice-Chair Greta Sykes, heard
reports from the Secretary and Treasurer
which led to a constructive discussion
where some useful ideas on the Society’s
future work and activities were raised.
The Secretary thanked Stefan Dickers,
the SHS Chairman, and the Bishopsgate
Institute for hosting our varied programme of meetings over the past year.
In 2012, the Society had embarked on a
series of meetings on popular protest
movements which had been well received; with the talk on Chartism delivered by David Goodway in April attracting particular enthusiasm.
The Newsletter was praised as an important tool for the Society to communicate with its members and as an aid for
recruitment. It should be more widely
used and members were urged to send in
their contributions to the editors. Mike
Squires and Sid Kaufman were thanked
for leading on the editorial and design.
Turning to the vital area of funds,
Treasurer Francis King expressed moderate optimism about the financial health of
the Society: he told the meeting that both
expenditure and income were up in the
past year; sales of our publications, both
the journal and Occasional Papers, were
stable, while entry at meetings had shown
an increase; this latter was attributed to a
more vigilant collecting of donations.
Francis, who is now also the editor of our
journal, Socialist History, was thanked
for all his work in continuing to balance
the books and the various other tasks he
had taken on over the years.
An appeal has gone out to members to
pay their subscriptions on time and more
importantly not to take out concessionary
rates if they can comfortably afford the
full rate, as the former does not actually
cover the cost of servicing an individual
The meeting agreed that the Society
should do more to promote itself to attract
new members and more people to its
events, but this could only be achieved
through more volunteers. At present the
Society thrives because of the dedicated
work of a few stalwarts. Let’s hope in the
coming year more people come to see the
value of what we are doing and are prepared to lend a practical hand to make us
a stronger and more vibrant organisation.
The existing committee and officers
were re-elected unanimously at the conclusion of business.
On the suggestion of Willie Thompson,
the Society agreed to plan a special conference and possible publication to mark
the anniversary in 2016 of the foundation
of the SHS’s illustrious predecessor, the
Communist Party History Group. This
was widely thought to be an excellent
The AGM was followed by a public
meeting on the intriguing theme of Communism and Freemasonry which turned
out to be a highly entertaining talk from
Ron Heisler who ranged widely over the
occasional overlapping fortunes of these
two very distinct movements. Rather than
pursuing a strict thesis, Heisler presented
a “work-in-progress” which was anecdotal and irreverent but stimulating. The
talk was much appreciated by the
David Morgan
Recordings of lectures available for purchase
The Socialist History Society has recorded many of the Saturday lectures we
have hosted over the past decade or more and DVD/CDs* of these lectures are
available for purchase at £2.00 post free within the UK. Below is a list of the
lectures available. Copies can be ordered by post from Mike Squires at 50,
Elmfield Road, Balham, London, SW17 8AL. Please make cheques payable to
Socialist History Society.
*Please specify
Linda Clarke
Building Capitalism
Royden Harrison
Britain's Industrial Decline
Mike Waite
The Young Communist League and Youth Culture
Chris Searle
Biographies of Imperialism
Renella Cere
Gramsci and Italian Fascism
Willie Thompson
Inter War Fascism
Roger Griffin
The (Counter?)Revolutionary Dynamics of Nazism
Tony Atienza
Spain, Franco and Fascism
Jim Fyrth
The Meaning of the 1945 Labour Victory
Richard Saville
Nationalisation and the 1945 Labour Government
Steve Iliffe
1945 and the Origins of the NHS
Ken Lunn
Race, Immigration and the Labour Govt
Andy Croft
Betrayed Spring: The Cultural and Literary Scene 1945-51
Dennis Ogden
Soviet Foreign Policy during the Cold War
Bill Moore
The Peace Movement in the Cold War
John Saville
The Cold War in the Mediterranean
Beryl and Wolf Wayne Branch Life in the CPGB in the Cold War
Fred Halliday
US Foreign Policy in The Cold War
Chris Williams
Welsh Nationalism
Hakim Adi
West African Nationalism
Ralph Russell
Indian Nationalism
Bill Moore
Police Spies in the Labour Movement -Sheffield 1918-21
Anna Davin
Aliens and Little Britons
David Edgerton
The British Warfare State
Sheila Rowbotham
A Century of Women
John Holford
Social Movements, Learning and the Left
Brian Manning
The English Revolution-Decline and Fall of Revisionism
David McLellan
Marxism as a Millenial Movement
Willie Thompson
Early Christianity and the Early Class System
Jane Ennis
William Morris-Green Socialist
Peter Robinson
Portugal 1974-75-The Forgotten Dream
Jim Mortimer
The Formation of the Labour Party-Its Lessons for Today
Zafar Khan
The Clash of Islam and Christianity
Francis King
Could Socialism have been built in the Soviet Union?
Mary Davis
Sylvia Pankhurst
Andrew Whitehead
Radical Clerkenwell
Mike Squires
The CPGB and Class Against Class
Dave Renton
Fascism and Anti Fascism in the 1940s
Ken Coates
Nuclear Power Politics in the Cold War
Richard Hart
The Caribbean Revolts of 1937/38
Chris Searle
The Progressive Current in Jazz
Linda Colley
The Lash, the Imperial Soldiery, and another making of the
working class
Kevin Morgan
Communist Biographies
Paul Foot
Red Shelley
The SHS has received a request from the editor of the online Review 31 for
volunteers to review history titles. If any member feels keen to contribute please get
in touch with the editor below and mention your specific areas of interest.
Review31 was launched in October 2011 to provide intelligent reviews of the most
interesting works of non-fiction in an accessible format. Its contributors are a diverse
mix of academic and non-academic talents with a progressive slant.
Contact: Houman Barekat Editor, Review 31
Email: [email protected]

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