Trotskyism in May 1945: Down with the Churchill Coalition! Labour to Power on a Socialist Programme!

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Sixty years ago in the closing stages of the Second World War, and for the first time in Britain, a Trotskyist party contested a Parliamentary election. This was the little known Neath by-election on 15th May 1945.

The Trotskyists at this time were organised in the Revolutionary Communist Party, a small party established in March 1944. Unlike today’s “revolutionary” grouplets that water down their programme in the most opportunist and reformist fashion, the RCP was not out to win cheap votes, but to raise the fundamental tasks of the working class in the clearest, sharpest and most principled way. The party’s platform was uncompromisingly revolutionary:

“In the whole course of the war”, proclaimed the party’s paper, the Socialist Appeal of January 1945, “not a single election has been fought wherein a direct revolutionary appeal has been made to the electorate. The Revolutionary Communist Party will make this election a test of the real feelings in the ranks of the working class. Our candidate will fight on a platform of uncompromising hostility to the imperialist war, for the breaking of the Coalition, for the overthrow of the Churchill Government and for Labour to take power on a Socialist platform...

“The Trotskyist candidate will fight the election on the basis of international socialism; he will conduct his fight on the traditions of the great socialist teachers of our time – Marx, Lenin, Liebknecht and Trotsky. For the overthrow and destruction of Nazism as well as the monarchist and capitalist quislings and governments set up by Anglo-American imperialism in ‘liberated’ territories. Land to the peasants and factories to the workers throughout Europe and the world! Not the military domination of Europe by the Allied imperialist armies, but a United Socialist States of Europe. In particular he will appeal for a hand of friendship and fraternity to the German working class for the overthrow of Hitler and the establishment of the Socialist brotherhood of European nations – Against Vansittartism – against reparations, against blockade and revenge on the German working class.”

The Revolutionary Communist Party was formed from the unification of two Trotskyist groups, the remnants of the ineffective Revolutionary Socialist League (the official section of the 4th International) and the much larger and successful Workers’ International League, which had developed a significant industrial base. Its founding conference deliberately chose the name Revolutionary Communist Party in contrast to the pro-war “Communist” Party, which it dubbed “His Majesty’s Communist Party”.

Ever since its inception, the young party had been subjected to a witch-hunt by the gutter press as well as persecution by the forces of the state. Led by the reactionary Daily Mail, which only a few years earlier had been a vigorous supporter of Sir Oswald Mosley and his British Union of Fascists, the press had accused the newly-formed RCP of being responsible for the “present discontent in the coalfields and other sections of industry by poisoning the miners’ minds both against their own leaders and the government.” They referred to the Trotskyists as “Stalin-haters”, after the Mail had switch from Hitler to become a fervent admirer of Joseph Stalin, and urged the government to take firm action against these militant “trouble-makers”.

The Churchill government swiftly obliged with Special Branch raids on the headquarters of the RCP and members’ homes in Nottingham, Glasgow and Newcastle. At that time the party was giving assistance to apprentices in Tyneside in their opposition to the Bevin Boy scheme, which forced young workers into the mines. Four leaders of the RCP, including its general secretary Jock Haston, were framed and arrested on charges of furtherance of an illegal strike, conspiracy and incitement. They were imprisoned under the Trades Dispute Act of 1927, brought in after the betrayal of the 1926 General Strike, the first and only time the Act was used in Britain.

Eventually, they were released on appeal on 23rd August 1944 after a successful Labour movement campaign involving Aneurin Bevan MP, James Maxton MP, S.O. Davies MP, Sidney Silverman MP, and others. Such was the success of the campaign that the protests, to the alarm of the government, even reached into the Armed Forces.

Throughout the war, the Trotskyists consistently and heroically put forward a revolutionary programme in the pages of its newspaper Socialist Appeal. Its banner heading “Our Programme for Power” proclaimed:

“An end to the coalition with the bosses. Labour and trade union leaders must break with the capitalist government and wage a campaign for power on the following programme:

  1. Immediate despatch of arms and material to the Soviet Union under the control of the trades unions and factory committees.
  2. Nationalisation of the land, mines, banks, transport and all big industry without compensation.
  3. Confiscation of all war profits – all company books to be open for trade union inspection.
  4. Workers’ control of production to be exercised through workers’ committees to end chaos and mismanagement in industry.
  5. Equal distribution of food, clothes and other consumers’ commodities under the control of committees of workers elected from the distributive trades, factories, housewives’ committees and small shopkeepers.
  6. Sliding scale of wages to meet the increased cost of living with a guaranteed minimum.
  7. Repeal of the Essential Works Order and all other anti-working class and strikebreaking laws.
  8. Clear out the reactionary pro-fascist officer caste in the army and Home Guard. Election of officers by the soldiers. Trade union wages for all workers in the armed forces.
  9. Establishment of military academies by the trade unions at the expense of the state for the training of worker-officers.
  10. Arming of the workers under control of committees of workers elected in factories, unions and in the streets against the danger of invasion or Petainism.
  11. Freedom for Ireland, India and the colonies
  12. A socialist appeal to the workers of Germany and Europe on the basis of this programme in Britain to join the socialist struggle against Hitler for the Socialist United States of Europe.”

This programme constituted an application of Trotsky’s “proletarian military policy”, which allowed the Trotskyists to re-orientate themselves to the new situation of world war. Trotsky explained that in the present context it was incorrect to advance the old slogan of revolutionary defeatism – the defeat of “one’s own” imperialism – in a crude fashion. He explained that while Lenin had advocated this position in the First World War, it was in a different context aimed at the advanced guard and not the broad masses. The workers’ vanguard was taken totally unawares by the betrayal of the leaders of the Second International and their capitulation before their separate national bourgeoisies. Lenin was therefore attempting to combat chauvinism and educate the revolutionary cadres in the spirit of internationalism.

In the circumstances of the Second World War, it would have been completely wrong to give any impression to workers that the Trotskyists favoured support for the “enemy” imperialism, especially given the justifiable hatred of British workers for Hitler and the Nazis. This would have constituted a ridiculous inverted chauvinism, a position advocated by the Revolutionary Socialist League – which doomed it as a sect vegetating in the environment of the bedroom.

While the RCP opposed the imperialist war, which it regarded as a continuation of the First World War, it refused to put forward a pacifist or “peace” programme, which had no appeal for workers faced with Hitler’s armies. Instead, the Trotskyists exposed the war aims of the imperialists, who supported Hitler when it suited them, and advocated instead a genuine revolutionary “war against fascism”. Such a war could not be fought under the leadership of Churchill and the capitalists, but only when capitalism was overthrown and the working class were in power. This military programme served to connect with the advanced class-conscious layers of the working class who distrusted Churchill but who wanted to fight fascism. This was especially the case after the fall of France in 1940 and the betrayal of the French ruling class.

The RCP’s programme also contrasted sharply with that of the so-called Communist Party, which, after the German invasion of the USSR in mid-1941, had become an open supporter of Churchill and the war effort. On the industrial front, the Stalinists opposed all strikes and became the most blatant strikebreakers. All work stoppages were denounced as a betrayal of the war effort, while class collaboration became the key platform of the “Communists”. As a consequence, the Trotskyists were labelled by the Stalinists as agents of Hitler, who must be driven out of the workplaces. On the electoral front, the CP became the most ardent chauvinists (“the only good German is a dead German”) and as well as an enthusiastic cheerleader for the Coalition government.

“For Labour to fight by-elections where the government candidate is a Tory is not the way forward,” stated the “Communist” Party. “Everything that Labour does must be directed towards strengthening national unity. To fight elections on the Labour versus Tory basis would open up issues that divide.” The Stalinists fully supported the wartime political truce, whereby if a by-election occurred, the party holding the seat simply nominated a candidate and the others agreed not to stand.

The Trotskyists were determined to expose this myth of “national unity”. An important opportunity came in early 1945 when a by-election was called in Neath, South Wales, after the death of the sitting MP. This would allow the RCP to enter the electoral field and engage in mass work to contrast their programme with those of the other pro-war parties.

South Wales was regarded as a fertile area for the RCP for a number of reasons. First of all, the area was traditionally a stronghold of both Labour and Communist Parties. But with Labour in a Coalition with Churchill and the “Communist” Party loyal to the Coalition, this alienated many advanced workers, a layer of whom could be attracted to a revolutionary alternative. The militant traditions of the South Wales working class were also reflected in the high level of unofficial strikes, especially in the coal industry. Of the thirty pits in South Wales, which, during the war experienced more than five stoppages, twenty were in the anthracite district of West Wales. Under these circumstances, the strikebreaking actions of the “Communists” served to repel the best militants. While the RCP had no illusions in winning the seat (where Labour had a huge majority), it hoped to connect with the socialist and class-conscious traditions and undermine the position of the “Communist” Party in South Wales.

The announcement of the RCP to stand Jock Haston, its general secretary, as its candidate in Neath badly stung the “Communist” Party. The West Wales CP sent a letter to the local Evening Post denouncing the RCP: “In contrast to their policy of disunity and strikes the Communist Party stands for national unity of all people who are for the defeat of Germany and for a people’s peace... We call upon the people to reject the policy of these proved enemies of the workers, as their policy is definitely opposed to the present and future interests of the working class.”

The RCP hit back by challenging the Stalinised “Communist” Party through the press to a public debate to back up their slanders, but they constantly refused. This was followed by Haston’s speaking tour throughout the constituency, beginning at the Miners’ Welfare Hall in Gwaun-Cae-Gurwen, the heart of the anthracite coalfield. Chaired by local miner John “Crown” Jones, a new Trotskyist recruit, Haston exposed the counter-revolutionary role of Churchill and the British Labour and trade union leaders in Greece and Europe. “The workers of Britain”, he said, “must show that their internationalism is based on ‘Workers of the World Unite’ by clasping the hands of the workers of Europe and Germany and forcing their leaders to break the coalition.” The report in the Socialist Appeal told of “a magnificent response” and “growing demand for our pamphlets.” By early February 150 copies of “ABC of Trotskyism” had been sold. More meetings were planned with Haston, Ted Grant, the editor of Socialist Appeal, Ajit Roy and a Greek revolutionary.

The “Communist” Party kept churning out the lies about fascist agents and traded blows about the Moscow Trials. However, the RCP contrasted their proud role of being prepared to go to prison for their class at a time when the CP was engaged in class collaboration and strikebreaking.

Practically the whole of the RCP’s membership, some 400 comrades, were mobilised to help in the campaign, coming to Neath whenever they could, sleeping on floors, and donating whatever money they could. Small offices were rented in Alfred Street, Neath, which were a hive of activity. Such was the impact of the campaign that members of the local ILP volunteered to help, and some were to join the RCP after the election.

The CP instead volunteered to help the Labour campaign, but this was rejected. Nevertheless, they continued to attack the Trotskyists. “Thus the Trotskyists are not fighting for Socialism. Their fight is a fight to save Fascism. They are the Agents of Fascism in the ranks of the working class. They are Wolves in Sheep’s clothing. They are a greater menace and far more dangerous than a Fascist paratrooper.” They poured out a stream of abuse in a series of leaflets and a pamphlet entitled “Trounce the Trotskyists”.

The fierce response of the RCP to these attacks was continually concluded with a challenge to the CP to debate. Over time, this was having a big effect within the Stalinist ranks. Election meetings of the RCP were large by any standards, but especially in comparison with those of the Labour Party and the Welsh nationalists, who were also standing. “More and more workers are beginning to talk about our programme. Go into any café or pub and the subject under discussion is the by-election – the difference between the Trotskyists and the Stalinists”, commented a report in the Socialist Appeal.

The CP held a public meeting in late April on the subject “Trounce the Trotskyists”, with 300 present. A week later 750 attended an RCP meeting in the Gwyn Hall, Neath. It was the biggest meeting so far of the election campaign and was addressed by Ted Grant, Bob Condon, Miners’ Agent Cannock Chase, and Jock Haston. “We have opposed this war from the beginning. This is a war for profits. The working class can only fight fascism by taking power into its own hands”, stated Haston.

Mounting pressure within the ranks of the CP for a debate with the Trotskyists was now forcing the hands of the leadership. Eventually they had no alternative but to relent. The debate took place on the eve of the poll. “The greatest mass rally of Neath workers to be held in the Gwyn Hall since 1929, when Ramsay Macdonald addressed the meeting, took place on Sunday, May 13th, convened in support of Comrade Jock Haston, the Revolutionary Communist Party Candidate”, reported the Socialist Appeal.

Some 1,500 workers packed into the debate, where Alun Thomas, leader of the West Wales CP, took on Jock Haston. Hundreds were left outside as the hall reached capacity. Thomas, behind a giant banner “Long Live the 4th International”, opened by saying that it was not the usual policy of the CP to debate with Trotskyists. Unfortunately, he said, there were some politically backward people in Neath who had been persuaded by the demagogy of Haston. He went on to defend the class-collaborationist record of the CP and explained that the Moscow Trials had proved conclusively that the Trotskyists were fascists. “Haston wants to hasten things. He has never said Hitler was wrong. He has never said anything against Hitler... Haston and Hitler are the only two who are right... Haston has come to this election to confuse and split the workers.” He concluded, to the shock of much of the audience: “In Russia they defeated fascism because they shot all the Trotskyists and the Fifth column scum, and if we had our way, these people on this platform would be shot.”

Haston opened his reply by saying that Thomas’ statement about it not being the CP’s policy to debate with Trotskyists was the only true part of his speech. However, the CP had been forced to debate.

He then went on to deal with the Moscow frame-up trials, the CP’s policy of “peace on Hitler’s’ terms”, the Stalin-Hitler Pact, Third Period Stalinism where the CP advocated the physical smashing of Labour meetings, the expulsion of Trotskyists for advocating a united front to defeat Hitler, the bureaucratisation of the USSR, and the capitulation of the CP to Churchill and reformism.

Throughout the debate, Haston was assisted ably by Ted Grant who was busy handing Jock relevant quotations from the Stalinist press used to crush Thomas’ arguments.

“In the course of this campaign”, stated Haston, “we have attempted to raise the fundamental political issues before the working class. Anyone who has studied the literature distributed by ‘His Majesty’s Communist Party’ or attended their meetings will find concentrated slander but no political attack.”

On election day the RCP managed to achieve a magnificent 1,781 votes for revolutionary communism. The Socialist Appeal supplement brought out soon afterwards explained under the headline “Trotskyism Lays Roots in Wales”:

“The advanced section of Neath workers demonstrated by their vote that they want an end of the policy of class collaboration and reformism pursued by their leaders, and are demanding a fighting policy against the capitalist class.

“At a time when the policy of international socialism is under violent attack from not only the capitalist class, but from every section of the Labour and Stalinist movement, the fact that in a small area of Wales, 1,781 workers voted for a policy of revolutionary socialism, holds out great hope for the future of the working class movement. This vote was cast in face of the bitterest and most hysterical slander campaign to be seen in an election for many years.”

As expected the Labour Party polled over 30,000, which still reflected the great loyalty of workers to Labour, while the nationalists gained some 6,000 votes. The RCP’s vote was qualitatively different, representing the most class-conscious workers looking for a clear Trotskyist lead. Even then, the RCP never had a sectarian approach to the mass organisations, unlike the sects of today. “The discussions with Labour Party members were always on the plane of how best to change the Labour Party policy by fighting from within”, stated the Socialist Appeal. “We explained that in the General Election when the Labour Party was standing on an independent platform we would call on the workers to support the Labour Party and vote Labour. We would not create the illusion that the Labour Party could solve the problems of the working class with its programme of reforms. Throughout the campaign we would put forward our alternative policy as the only solution to the problems of the working class.”

Over £130 worth of literature – a massive figure in today’s terms – was sold in the three months of the campaign. Some 7,500 copies of the special February edition of Socialist Appeal were sold – approximately one to every three houses. Hundreds of copies of the “ABC of Trotskyism” were sold, in fact it was sold out, as well as many hundreds of other pamphlets. About 2,000 of each issue of the Socialist Appeal were sold and some 30,000 leaflets were distributed. There was chalking, whitewashing and billposting, paper selling, canvassing, speaking and endless contact work.

The RCP concluded in an internal report: “1,781 votes for a bold policy of class struggle and internationalism despite V.E. Day celebrations, Buchenwald horror campaigns, the high pressure slander efforts of the Stalinism, and the very strong Labour traditions of the Welsh workers is sufficient proof of the existence of this... (revolutionary) tendency... what votes we did get were definitely votes against the Labour Party as a programme and for the policy of Revolutionary Communism.”

In the Socialist Appeal supplement, the party summed up the whole experience: “What is the lasting achievement of the campaign? It can be seen already in the heightening of the political consciousness of organised Labour in this area. To the older generation of workers, embittered and disillusioned by the repeated betrayals of Reformism and Stalinism our campaign for Revolutionary Socialism brought a new inspiration and revived the will to struggle. To the working youth from the mines and the factories, hundreds of whom listened with rapt attention to Comrade Haston and our speakers, our campaign came as a rousing call to prepare themselves by study and understanding for the great class battles of our epoch. Trotskyism has found its roots in Wales. But its richest harvest will be reaped in the years to come. Our campaign has begun the process of unifying the mighty power and fighting capacity of Welsh Labour with the ideas and principles of militant Socialism – of Trotskyism. Out of this combination will be born a new fighting leadership – a tower of strength for the entire working class movement in Britain in the coming struggle for Power.”

Although the heroic work of the RCP did not result in the building of a mass Trotskyist party, mainly for objective reasons, the party laid down great traditions. Today, we stand on the shoulders of those comrades who did so much. In particular, the work of comrade Ted Grant, the political secretary of the RCP as well as its key theoretician, provided the unbroken thread of Trotskyism throughout those years to the present day. Even now, in his advanced years, Ted helps to educate and train the new generation of comrades. Today, we can find inspiration in the Neath by-election and the past struggles of the Trotskyist movement. To quote Jock Haston’s closing remark to the pre-election mass rally: “Long live the International solidarity of the working class! Workers of all lands unite; you have nothing to lose but your chains. You have a world to win!”

Educate Yourself

  • Educate Yourself
  • The Fundamentals of Marxism
  • Dialectical Materialism and Science
  • Historical Materialism
  • Marxist Economics
  • The State
  • Russia, Lenin, Trotsky and Stalinism
  • Anarchism
  • Feminism
  • Fascism
  • The National Question
  • Revolutionary Strategy
  • Revolutionary History

Socialist Appeal are proud to publish this basic guide to help focus your studies of Marxist theory and practice. Visit the various tabs to find links to introductory articles, classic texts, and audio talks for different topics. We also invite our readers to become acquainted with the more basic ideas of Marxism by starting with the recommended short reading list, going through the FAQ section, reading this article that combats the myths about Marxism, and listening to the following audios:

Why Marx Was Right - Alan Woods

What is Marxism? - Alan Woods

What Will Socialism Look Like? - Fred Weston

What is Socialism? - Rob Sewell

We will be expanding and developing this section over time. Please contact us if you have any questions, or if you'd like any suggestions on what to read next.

Reading the classics of Marxism is the best way to understand these ideas. At first it may seem difficult, but every worker and young person knows that things worth having are worth working hard for!  Patient and persistent study, discussion, and ultimately, the day to day application of these ideas over a lifetime are the key.

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Marxist theory is the basis upon which our analysis, perspectives, program, and participation in the movement are based. It is our "guide to action." This why Socialist Appeal and IMT place so much emphasis on political education. To this end, we have created an extensive Education Plan to assist comrades in their political development. This is an important resource.

However, it's length and scope may seem daunting to new comrades. With this in mind, Socialist Appeal has compiled a shorter list of classic works and other important writings we think will serve to lay a strong foundation in the ideas and methods of Marxism. We would like to encourage all our supporters and those interested in learning more about Marxism to read (or re-read!) through the works on this list.

This selection of writings is an excellent introduction to many of the fundamentals of Marxist theory. There are many other writings that could be added, but this selection provides a strong basis for those wishing to equip themselves with the necessary ideas for the daily work of fighting for socialism.

Many of these are smaller books or pamphlets; some are more lengthy books; and others are just short articles. This

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Dialectical Materialism is the philosophy or methodology of Marxism. Every political movement, party, or even statement of any kind bases itself, consciously or unconsciously, on some sort of philosophy or world outlook. Marxism is concerned with effecting a radical change in society, and therefore requires an exceptionally clear, thoroughgoing, and systemic set of philosophical principles.

The ideas of Dialectical Materialism, based on the best traditions of philosophical thought, are not a fixed dogma but a system of tools and general principles for analysing the world materialistically and scientifically.

If we are to understand society in order to change it, this cannot be done arbitrarily, since the human will is not master of nature; rather, our ideas and thoughts are reflections of necessary material laws. Instead, we must seek to understand the laws of how human society changes. By following our education plan for Dialectical Materialism, the reader will familiarise themselves with this way of looking at the world so that they too can begin to apply Marxist ideas.

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Historical Materialism is the result of Dialectical Materialism applied to human society and history. It encompasses the general theory of how and why society develops in the way it does. A deeper, more concrete understanding of these principles in combination with a study of real, living history of class struggles enables us to come to a general understanding of where capitalist society is headed and what political strategy is required to successfully influence the course of events.

The basic principles of Historical Materialism are that human society has inherent laws guiding it - its developments are by no means arbitrary or accidental, nor the mere subject of the will of great men and ideas. Human individuals can and do influence society according to their ideas, but only ever within definite material constraints and conditions. Above all, the law determining historical development is that of the development of the means of production - meaning economically productive technology, science, technique etc. The extent of the development of the productive forces determines the social relations of production - i.e. the structure of society, class relations etc. Each social system has its inherent laws of motion. If we want to overthrow capitalist society, we must understand how

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Marxist economics is the study of the laws of motion of capitalist society. Why does capitalism perpetually go into crisis? Why does mass unemployment exist? Are commodity production, the domination of the market, and rich and poor natural, immutable states of being for humanity? Or are they merely the products of this specific mode of production - capitalism? If so, is there any way capitalism can exist without these problems, or by minimising them?

Marxist economics is a “holistic” way of analysing capitalist economy. It starts out by placing it in its real historical context (rather than dreaming up abstract idealisations of capitalism to justify it, as bourgeois economics does), studying all its interconnections and contradictions, rather than artificially isolating one aspect of it. In doing so, Marxist economics lays bare the functioning of capitalism; the exploitation and injustice inherent within it. Those who want to get to the essence of why, in the 21st Century, despite having a more advanced understanding of the world than ever before, humanity seems plunged into perpetual crisis it cannot get to grips with, should look no further than Marxist economics, beginning with the writings of Marx himself.

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Like money, the state is something we are all very familiar with and take for granted, but its real essence tends to elude us. The ideologists of capitalism have tried, in various ways, to justify the capitalist state as supremely rational; a neutral arbiter for society, and the embodiment of justice. For Marxists, the state is not at all neutral, nor just. It is certainly anything but rational. We must strip the vale of mysticism away and reveal the state’s real basis. To do that, we have to treat the state historically - taking in its origins, rise, and eventual fall.

The state has not always existed. It is inseparable from class society. Ultimately, it is the instrument for the ruling class to oppress and hold down the masses, guaranteeing the status quo and the sanctity of property. Although the modern state performs many other functions, these are secondary to its real basis - the protection of a set of property relations. To do this, it needs “armed bodies of men” and a monopoly on the use of violence. To establish socialism, it will not be possible for the working class to use the state as it currently exists - that is, with

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The Russian Revolution is the greatest event in world history for Marxists. For the first time, the working class successfully took and held power. The slaves fought back and won. For these reasons, the name of Lenin and Trotsky, and the entire 1917 episode, has been deliberately dragged through the mud by the bourgeoisie ever since.

Naturally they are aided in this task by the degeneration of the revolution and by the existence of Stalin’s monstrous dictatorship. However, Stalinism represents the opposite of Bolshevism’s real traditions, which readers can read about in this section, as well as the Marxist explanation for why Stalinism took place and what this means for our movement.

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Radicalised youth, seeking to understand how to change modern society, naturally tend to look to both Marxism and Anarchism in equal measure. The question as to which philosophy, or which combination of the two, has the best answers, has long been at the forefront of the minds of revolutionaries.

Anarchism is naturally attractive to all those correctly alienated by bureaucracy in the revolutionary movement. Anarchists are certainly correct to reject Stalinism and careerism. However, it is not sufficient simply to reject these phenomena. We need to understand why bureaucracy and oppression exist and what role they play, in order to understand how to avoid them. We believe that, for all its opposition, Anarchism has little to say about the alternative to bureaucracy. Instead, it is Marxism’s historical materialist method that allows us to understand these problems. In this section the reader will find a series of articles dealing with anarchism and the issues that anarchism raises.

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The discrimination and oppression of women is integral to class society, such that Engels even referred to it as the “first class oppression”. Along with the class system itself, the oppression of women often takes on the appearance of being natural, immutable and eternal, since it has been with us for so long.

But Marxism is a historical science, concerned with understanding the fundamental changes that society goes through. It cannot be satisfied with comfortable prejudices. A study of the origins of human society, as Engels famously conducted in his book The Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State, reveals that the oppression of women is by no means natural and was not even known for much of our history. As Engels explains, the oppression of women arose with the emergence of class society and private property; it will fall with it.

Marxists are fully in solidarity with feminists: we are irreconcilably opposed to the oppression of women and fully support the struggle for their emancipation. We believe this will be achieved through the class struggle, since that is the basic locomotive of history in a class society such as ours. However, Marxism represents a distinct set of

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Fascism is something of a bogeyman in modern British society, and has an almost mythical character in bourgeois public opinion. But despite constant talk of it, very little is said about why it happened and how it may or may not happen again.

Fascism is really the death agony of capitalism and the “distilled essence of imperialism”. The fascists in Germany, Italy, Spain and other countries were only able to come to power on the back of defeats of the working class. Ultimately, the madness of fascism expresses the historic crisis and dead-end of capitalism that had arrived by the early 20th Century, alongside the inability of the working class to take power and replace capitalism with a workers’ state, due to the corruption of their leadership, in the form of both reformism and Stalinism. Fascism could and should have easily been avoided had the working class possessed a militant and united leadership prepared to take power.

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The question of nationalities - that is, the oppression of nations and national minorities, which has characterised capitalism from its birth till the present time - has always occupied a central position in Marxist theory. Once again, the historical materialist approach of Marxism dissolves the apparent “natural” role of the nation as a necessary expression of human society. Nations have by no means always existed, nor will they always exist in the future.

The nation as we know it today is a product of the development of capitalism and its need to unify peoples into units of a certain size (depending on the level of the system’s development – e.g. more recently formed nations tend to be much bigger) to consolidate the market. The contradictions and tensions between nations are a result of capitalism’s “combined and uneven” development. The contradictions of the capitalist mode of production itself force each ruling class to expand outwards, developing a global market and imperialism in the process.

The violent tensions that this process breeds in turn give rise to nationalism, racism and wars. There is no way a successful world revolution, abolishing the global capitalist system, can take place without a careful and nuanced understanding of the

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Socialist Appeal is the British section of the International Marxist Tendency, which is active in around 40 countries. Our aim is to spread the ideas of Marxism, in an organised fashion, in the labour and youth movement. Only the British working class has the ability to change British society, because of the central role they play in production and their shared interest in establishing socialism.

However, we must carefully study the history and traditions of the British working class in order for Marxist ideas to connect with them. There are all too many groups who simply declare themselves the vanguard of the British working class, and have a dismissive attitude to the class’ real traditions.

In this section readers will find a series of articles explaining our position on the class struggle in Britain, the key points in the history of the British working class and the lessons to be learnt from them, and the strategy of the Marxists in relation to the movements of the masses.

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The ideas of Marxism and the need for a revolutionary party are not the result simply of a single individual, but arise from the study of history - the history of class struggle. In this respect, the revolutionary party is often referred to as being the memory of the working class, and our task is to learn the lessons from history in order to prepare for the revolutionary events taking place today and in the future.

In this section we present a series of articles and audios covering the key revolutionary struggles in history - from the early class struggles in Rome to the tremendous movements of the working class in the 20th Century. By reading and listening to these, our readers should gain a good overview of the history of the revolutionary movement and the main lessons to be learnt from these.

For analysis of 21st Century revolutionary movements, check out the News and Analysis sections of the website!

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