Britain's Socialist Heritage

As part of the Morning Star daily socialist newspaper's series of educational events, Scotland's Fife held a well-attended event on May 1st on the impact of the Russian Revolution on the Britain, and the demand for real democracy.

Tam Kirby, leading People's Assembly activist and member of the Communist Party leadership, unfolds the most amazing story of ordinary working people being empowered and organised - and the ruling class's war on that burgeoning grassroots democratic progress.

Councils of Action were formed local across the nation, powerful and effective local organisations combining trade unions working together hand-in-glove with local communities - championing easily understood messages which encapsulated the concerns of the community.

This is a thrilling exploration of a high point of positive & creative militancy in Britain. This is in no way a walk down some kind of memory lane - it is a call to learn the best of our movement's successful history, to learn from mistakes, to take off our blinkers and look at the reality that multitudes of ordinary people face daily, and get together with an easily understood message and defeat the establishment and it's peddling of austerity politics.


Rob Griffith Communist Party General Secretary's eulogy at the funeral of Derek Robinson in Stourbridge, West Midlands, on Wednesday (November 22):

red robboWhat drove workers in their hundreds and thousands - many with family and financial responsibilities - to down tools and leave their benches, desks and assembly lines? Not once, but 523 times, at least according to the BBC ...

Not the power of one man, not even if that man was Derek Robinson, labelled 'Red Robbo' by the hostile mass media - a badge, incidentally, that he wore with pride.
No, it was the deep human desire for dignity, respect, recognition and reward, in the face of what Karl Marx called the 'alien and dominating force' of the machine.
Derek Robinson led those workers because he had earned their loyalty. He had inspired them to fight for decent pay and working conditions.
And when he was sacked for putting forward an alternative to a misnamed 'Rescue Plan' that would sink another 25,000 jobs at British Leyland, 30,000 car workers walked out or barricaded themselves inside the factories.
That's not mentioned in Derek's obituary on the BBC website.

But we know it happened. It was even reported in a secret telegram sent by the US embassy in London to the Department of State in Washington DC on November 23, 1979.
Of course, the Americans knew all about the collusion between BL management, right-wing trade union leaders, the Thatcher government and the Security Service, MI5, to sack Derek Robinson, to undermine the mass resistance and so send a message to shop stewards across Britain: 'If we can get rid of "Red Robbo", we can get rid of you'.
One US embassy telegram refers to Derek as a 'shrewd, calculating, determined tactician'. (I think it's important to place on record the US embassy's tribute to Derek Robinson as well).Those were indeed some of the qualities with which he served the working class.
But we know that he was much more than that.
For thousands of his fellow workers, comrades, friends and family members, he was a warm, considerate, courageous and inspirational man. His was no vain or wasted life.

Amid renewed interest in the work of George Orwell, the Morning Star heads into the archives and reprints here how Harry Pollitt reviewed The Road to Wigan Pier in 1937

Harry Pollitt

'Mr Orwell will have to try again'

Poor old Wigan! What things have been done in your name! From bad music-hall jokes to literary gents trying to hang their pegs around your name. The great thing is that we who come from Lancashire long ago learned to laugh at it all, in a way those who try to raise the laughs would never understand.

Here is George Orwell, a disillusioned little middle-class boy who, seeing through imperialism, decided to discover what socialism has to offer.

What a tragedy that a man can give up a position that the best years of his life were spent trying to fit him for, and then at a crisis in his life not see the real way to go.

Fortunately, Orwell has the sense to admit his own ignorance.

He tells us: "But I knew nothing about working-class conditions…"

"When I thought of poverty, I thought of it in terms of brute starvation. Therefore my mind turned immediately towards the extreme cases, the social outcasts, tramps, beggars, criminals, prostitutes. These people were the 'lowest of the low,' and these were the people with whom I wanted to get in contact."

"But I knew nothing about working-class conditions…"

It is perhaps natural that a late imperialist policeman should only see "the lowest of the low," as the place from which to get his new understanding of social conditions and socialism. But, of course, it was completely wrong, and must be responsible for the terribly distorted view that the author seems to have of everything connected with the working-class movement.

I suspect he knows nothing about this at all.

What a pity to travel all the way from Mandalay to disguise yourself as a tramp who can get into a Limehouse lodging-house without betraying his middle-class accent.

If ever snobbery had its hallmark placed upon it, it is by Mr Orwell.

From the Morning Star

international brigade morning star sculpture

PAUL SHAW explains why RMT Glasgow shipping branch is asking for your donations to finish a monument to the blockade runners

SOME 15 years ago, Ronnie Moran, then RMT Glasgow shipping branch secretary, was approached by renowned sculptor Frank Casey looking to honour the seafarers who formed the blockade runners to Spain during the Spanish civil war.

The branch (including its then chair and former secretary Stuart Hyslop) and the RMT Scottish regional council then formulated a plan to construct a memorial incorporating the sculpture that Casey would build to create a lasting memory to the seafarers dispatched to Spain to overthrow Francisco Franco’s fascist regime.

Casey stresses the importance of a lasting memorial, saying: “The ships that were part of the struggle to preserve the democratically elected Spanish republic in the face of Francoist aggression has largely gone unremarked.”

The ships that were part of the struggle to preserve the democratically elected Spanish republic in the face of Francoist aggression has largely gone unremarked

These small ships not only had the threat from insurgent Spanish warships to deal with but also Franco’s well-armed German and Italian allies.

In total 27 British-registered vessels were lost between 1936 and 1939 and are recognised by a plaque placed on the memorial.

Willie Gallacher was Communist MP for West Fife for many years. Our speaker Jim Whyte was Scottish Secretary of the Young Communist League and helped in Gallacher's political campaigning. Jim is in a unique position to speak from his first hand knowledge of a great leader of Red Clydeside who had it out with Lenin in Russia, but who eventually came round to Lenin's way of thinking!

Willie Gallacher was a founding member of the British Communist Party (following Lenin's advice), and grew politically and in the admiration of those around him to become the Member of Parliament for the constituency of West Fife.

This meeting was held on the 80th anniversary of Gallacher becoming a Communist MP. Jim talks us though the titanic developments in Scottish and British leftwing politics from the early 1900's up to the Cold War.

The UCS Work In was a turning point in history at a British level. It was a heroic victory of the Scottish working class, led by shop stewards many of whom were Communists.

Upper Clyde Shipbuilders (UCS) was a British shipbuilding consortium created in 1968 as a result of the amalgamation of five major shipbuilders of the River Clyde in Scotland. It entered liquidation amidst much controversy in 1971, leading to a famous "work-in" campaign at the company's shipyards, led by a number of Communist shop stewards, incuding Jimmy Airlie and Jimmy Reid.

Professor John Foster who co wrote the seminal book on the Work - In, and is also a Communist, addressed a public meeting of Clydebank Trades Union Council in October 2011 to celebrate 40 years of the world famous Work In, and to draw out the lessons which we can learn from it today in our fight against another Tory government and their cuts agenda.
The full videos of that meeting are online on the Clydebank TUC website


One of Britain's leading communists, Kevin Halpin has been a fighter all his life.
As a child in Preston, he fought the poverty that saw his grandmother die in the workhouse. After the death of his mother, seven-year-old Kevin fought an increasingly harsh father. At school, he fought the teachers who dished out six of the best for questioning religion, and in the streets, he was a champion scrapper.
Later he fought the Nazis in the Mediterranean before going on to become one of the noted leaders of engineering and other workers in a lifetime of struggle for justice and a better world.

Through it all his wry sense of humour has kept him cheerful while sustaining those around him. A love of cooking and a keen enthusiasm for invention has also marked the career of this remarkable man.
His sharp observation of the world around him from early childhood onwards helps to make his account of a life lived to the full both readable and inspiring, with many a chuckle at the ironies of human nature.

Kevin has divided his account of life through the 20th century and beyond into 15 chapters.
They cover his early years in Preston; his wartime service in minesweepers; joining the Communist Party and the start of his main working life back in Britain, together with his growing Marxist education.
There's a detailed examination of the impact of the historic 20th Soviet Communist Party congress and its impact on political thinking in Britain. Accounts of political activity, historic strikes, blacklisting and the crises within the communist movement spring to life as Kevin weaves through them the pithy and humorous observations of a man who was there, saw it all and understood what was happening.

This is a book which casts new light on the development of left politics in Britain and beyond throughout the past 70 years. It is an unassuming account by a remarkable man, whose contribution to political and industrial life offers lessons for today.

Edited by Ken Keable (CPB) with an introduction by Ronnie Kasrils (SACP) and a foreword by Pallo Jordan (ANC).
All Royalties from this book will go to The Nelson Mandela Children's Fund.

The history of the Anti-Apartheid movement brings up images of boycotts and public campaigns in the UK. But another story went on behind the scenes, in secret, one that has been never told before.

This is the story of the foreign recruits and their activities in South Africa, how they acted in defiance of the Apartheid government and its police on the instructions of the African National Congress. It tells of:
" ANC Banners that unfurled
" ANC speeches that sounded through public places
" Buckets that exploded and showered ANC leaflets
" Transportation of weapons, communications, logistics
" Helping ANC fighters to enter South Africa,
" and more.....

Many recruits were Young Communists, others were Trotskyists or independent socialists; from the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands, and the USA, and they all took amazing risks.
Some paid a heavy price for their support. This is their untold story.

Ken Keable adds, re the video:
"Ronnie Kasrils has corrected me on one point that I made in the video: "All The costs were met by the Soviet Union." He says that the ANC also had many other sources of funding besides the Soviet Union. He says, "Other countries in Africa, India, Scandinavia, Cuba etc. and NGOs such as International Defence & Aid contributed enormously as did individual supporters." I am happy to acknowledge this. When I went on my two missions to South Africa, I was under the impression that my own costs had been met by a Soviet source (which they may well have been) and that was part of the basis for my remark."

364 pages
Product Code:
    Merlin Press Ltd
    Feb 2012

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