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Al Richardson (1941-2003)

Meryl Fernando

AL RICHARDSON, editor of Revolutionary History, died in his sleep in London on 21 November 2003. Death had come like a thief by night and cut off a useful life. He was 62 and was a lecturer in a senior school. He joined the left movement in Britain as a young man.

Two decades ago, as stated in the preface to The War and the International, the book he co-authored with Sam Bornstein, he discovered the need for a history of Trotskyism in Britain, as there was a paucity of such material available. He also recalled that the Marxist pioneers themselves realised long before he did the difficulties of trying to influence socialists by writing books.

Beginning a decade ago, a history of Trotskyism in India was published by Revolutionary History detailing the role played by the Bolshevik Leninist Party of India, of which the most important unit was the Lanka Sama Samaja Party. Since then numerous volumes have been published, covering the Trotskyist movement across the world, from Bolivia to Poland and Belgium, and from Ceylon (Sri Lanka) to Vietnam.

Volume 6 No.4, Blows Against the Empire. Trotskyism in Ceylon: The LSSP 1935-1964, appeared in 1998. A lengthy review with the caption "The Golden Afternoon of the LSSP" appeared in the Sunday Observer (Sri Lanka). The reviewer called it "a labour of revolutionary love". The book contained not only favourable accounts of the LSSP but also criticisms as well. One such criticism was that the foray to India under the BLPI flag was an adventure.

Recently a documentary history of Vietnamese Trotskyism titled The Revolution Defamed, edited and annotated by Al Richardson, was published by Socialist Platform. In the foreword he stated: "The real history of Vietnam’s revolutionary movement has always been surrounded by a fog of ignorance in English-speaking circles, some of it the fault of the Trotskyists themselves. In spite of the appearance of an entire issue of Revolutionary History devoted to it in 1990 (Volume 3 No.2) and Ngo Van’s Revolutionaries They Could not Break in 1995, it could still be claimed as late as 1998 that ‘a noteworthy Trotskyist movement did not exist in Indo China’." (He cites Y. Ranjith Amarasinghe’s assertion in his study of Trotskyism in Sri Lanka, Revolutionary Idealism and Parliamentary Politics, p.240.)

Richardson continues in the foreword that The Revolution Defamed affirms the credentials of Vietnamese working-class revolutionaries as internationalists as well as showing the link between their activities in Vietnam and in the emigration, and establishes once and for all the responsibility of Ho Chi Minh for destroying this splendid movement.

There is no doubt that the editorial board of Revolutionary History will continue the good work begun and carried on with devotion by Al Richardson.