Ted Grant Book Launch
FACTIONAL STRUGGLES in the Trotskyist movement live on almost as long as their participants. Ted Grant has fought his whole life in the labour movement, but it was no surprise that he was asked, at the public meeting on 21 May to launch his new book The History of British Trotskyism, why he had betrayed the Open Party Faction of the Revolutionary Communist Party in 1949. For George Leslie, a member of the Faction, this was still a question waiting for a proper answer 53 years on.
Grant is now nearly 90 and has recently been ill, so his speech at this book launch and celebration of ten years of Socialist Appeal will probably be one his final public appearances. Already he has outlived his two most important political adversaries in the movement: the disgraced Gerry Healy, and SWP leader Tony Cliff. Once upon a time all three were within a single organisation.
The meeting was in the Brockway Room at Conway Hall and the room was packed, with nearly a hundred present. A pretty good turnout when one considers that on his expulsion from the Militant group in 1992 Grant left with only a handful of supporters. Those included Alan Woods and Rob Sewell who also took the platform at the meeting.
Woods gave the main political report. Socialist Party leader Peter Taaffeís comment that Grant and Woods were "mere theoreticians" was a sore point still, and the subject of much head shaking when referred to in his speech. Yes, ten years on, the factional struggle within the Militant tendency is still at the nappy stage. Though you couldnít but agree with Woods that the Socialist Party hasnít yet lived up to the expectation of its founders. Woods also recalled the struggle of the Trotskyist movement against Stalinism and recounted the fate of those Russian Trotskyists who ended their days in the Siberian concentration camps.
A little unsteady on his feet, Grant focused on one central point: a revolutionary movement has to be built on the fundamental ideas of Marxism; nothing can be built except on this basis. In a sense it seemed that his lifeís work is concentrated in this idea. Not a bad point but hardly a position unique to Grantís own tendency.
The audience received Grant with real warmth. The worst Iíve heard his political opponents say about him Ė those that broke with him in the early 1990s Ė is that he is unworldly or eccentric, but none denies that here is a man who has fought his whole life for the revolutionary ideas he believes in.
A collection was taken of some £2000. "Why canít my organisation collect money like that?" commented the ISG comrade next to me. Itís possible Woods would have replied "you reap what you sow"; for a Marxist, heís awfully fond of quoting the bible.
As to George Leslieís question, well there was no answer that could satisfy George, though Grant deals with this question in some detail in the book. We headed for the pub. We knew the result, Healy got the party he wanted in 1949. In 1985, when Healy was expelled from the WRP, James Robertson (leader of the Spartacist League) wrote to Healy saying "it went wrong back in the RCP". Maybe it did but there again ...