[Book] Ted Grant Writings: Volume Two


Correspondence May - November 1942

Ted Grant to Jimmy Deane

London, May 20 1942

Dear Jimmy,

We note in the New Leader report of the Manchester conference of the Socialist Britain campaign that our delegates voted for the resolution. If this is so, it is a political error as we cannot take responsibility for the centrist, really reformist, programme of the ILP. Please let us have full details of what really took place.

The initiative of the comrades in covering Gresford with the SAs [Socialist Appeals] is very good. We suggest, if you have not already done so, that you cover the Kirby ROFs[1] with the present issue, as you are bound to make good sales and contacts with it.

The Hyde Park meeting was a big success. A crowd of 400 to 500 listened attentively and enthusiastically to our case. The few Stalinist hecklers were silenced by the crowd themselves, and altogether our reception was all that could be desired.

We have sent our contacts’ addresses in Rugby to the name and address given by you. We note from the minutes that you are approaching Changer and IP for their position on membership once again. This would be a mistake. They have shown themselves in the past as elements which could not be assimilated to our organisation. We want to turn our backs on the old outworn elements and concentrate on the fresh elements as you are already doing. If elements such as these approach us for membership and prove by their work that they are serious, that would be a different question. Otherwise we should leave them severely alone.

Before taking young Cund out of the ILP you should discuss the question with the centre when you come up to London. He may be able to do something in the Lancashire Federation. But before a decision is taken it will be necessary to consider the question carefully.

The Cannon pamphlet is already sold out but the reprint will be ready in a fortnight and we will let you have some as soon as they are ready. We have no knowledge of Mc D. in Manchester but if he takes a couple of dozens of Appeals he should be worth looking up. The contact in Barnoldwick is sympathetic to us, is a member of the ILP, and distributes a few SAs. G. of Burnley is supposed to be attending to him. Unfortunately we have not heard from G. for some time. Jock has written but up to the present we have heard nothing.

The position in relation to the RSL prior to C.’s visit you are more or less acquainted with. Our stand has been confirmed by events. The report sent out from the centre should cover this. But at any rate we expect to make big gains (i.e. all that is worthwhile) from the RSL in the near future.

Yours fraternally,
E. Grant (Secretary)

PS: The national conference will probably be held in August or the late autumn. We will send all details to you later.

E.C. Clapper to the RSL

June 21 1942

To the RSL

Dear friends:

In our opinion, your attitude towards the WIL is utterly false. Without ignoring personal difficulties inherited from the past, it is necessary to recognise that your false attitude flows directly from a false political appreciation of this group. You see in it a centrist group “moving away from us.” That is an opinion which we can by no means share. The last document we have from you on this question is that entitled Our political estimation of the WIL and dated March 29 1942. Each one of your arguments has been unable to convince us.

The internal regime

We are a little astonished to see that your first criticism of the WIL is its present regime. We do not know the organisation at first hand. Of course, it is your right to have a poor opinion of its internal functioning. Because of your suspicions (well-grounded or not, we aren’t discussing this point at the moment), you have the right to demand rigorous rules for common negotiations, you can also ask serious guarantees for the functioning of the future unified organisation. All this is your full right. But to invoke past or present mistakes in the internal regime in order to refuse any common discussion is inadmissible. Further, you present this point as a “difference of principle”, as a “fundamental difference.” But your document soon informs us that this “difference of principle” is founded upon the report of a few members who have left the WIL or who have been expelled from it. Naturally, we do not doubt the honesty of these comrades. But don’t you think that all this is a rather narrow basis for establishing “principles”? We permit ourselves to remind you also that some documents of your last national conference (1941) show that the internal functioning of your own organisation was extremely chaotic during a certain period. Now, the question of the internal regime is the first point of your “political estimation” of the WIL. Don’t you think that the outside observer could believe that you are just looking for poor reasons to justify an erroneous political judgement?

Attitude towards the war

Your accusation against the WIL in this realm comprise three points:

  1. A certain number of doubtful expressions in WIL’s publications which indicate that the group abandons defeatism to pass into the defencist camp;
  2. The use in the past, when there existed the danger of invasion, of the slogan “Arming the workers under workers’ control”;
  3. The present use of the slogan “Nationalise the war industries under workers’ control.”

Let us examine each of these complaints successively.

You give in your document (pages 2 and 3) some quotations from the WIL’s publications and in them you discover “defencism” and “opportunism”. All this criticism is not only incorrect, but even unfair. Thus you give a quotation from the WIL’s paper:

“Why did French imperialism take the road to defeat? Because to mobilise the workers to victory would have meant to arm the men who, only four years ago, rocked the capitalist state to its foundations in the great strike of June 1936. It would have been a risk that the government dare not take.”

And you add this commentary:

“From this we learn two things. One, that the WIL believes the French working class had it been ‘mobilised for victory’ by the French bourgeoisie (i.e. furnished with arms) and had no anti-working class repressions taken place, would have supported the war and would have vigorously resisted the German invasion. And this, let it be noted, within the framework of the French imperialist state. Two, that the WIL would have supported such action on the part of the French working class.”

The last sentence is absolutely inexact. You did not “learn” this from the quotation because it is not in it. Not only does the quotation not speak of “support”, but it doesn’t even say that such a situation could have materialised. Rather, it tries to prove the contrary. In order to get the spirit of the article, it suffices to cite the conclusion:

“Only the working class, organised independently of the bosses, can defeat the offensive Hitler must launch, and, at the same time, prevent a repetition of the French disaster on British soil. Only in this manner can the whole forces of the country be mobilised... But this means that the workers must organise consciously for the capture of power. Let the socialist revolution be our answer to Hitler!”

This is a fundamentally revolutionary conclusion.

Your whole method consists in taking a phrase, tearing it from the context and showing that it might permit an opportunist interpretation, even if this interpretation is contrary to the meaning of the whole article. Naturally, by searching through a year or two of the publications of a political organisation, you can find half a dozen of such phrases and with them you triumphantly erect a “defencist” and “opportunist” line! But that has nothing in common with Marxist criticism.

We are going to try to show you the flaw in your method by an example. Lenin’s expression that defeat is the “lesser evil” is often repeated (if it is well understood is another question). Let us take the complete quotation from Lenin: “There can be absolutely no doubt that the lesser evil would be now and immediately the defeat of Tsarism in the present war. For Tsarism is a hundred times worse than Kaiserism.” That quotation, taken alone, could be interpreted as justifying the defeatist policy in Russia by the comparison of political regimes. Accordingly, it would lead to the support of the present war on the side of the democracies, for there is a still greater difference between fascism and bourgeois democracy than between Tsarism and Kaiserism. Hence, etc, etc... Naturally, this whole method is false, but it is precisely this method that you employ towards the WIL. And, as we have already said, it is not only false, but unfair.

With the question of the slogan “arming the workers” we arrive at the first serious difference. Your principal argument against the slogan is that “British imperialism proved very well able to protect itself against invasion.” Thus, you have been right against the WIL thanks to... Hitler, who has not tried invasion. But your approach to the problem is incorrect for it forgets only one little thing: the state of mind of the masses. In August 1940 the invasion was a possibility (even a quasi-certainty in the consciousness of the masses). The masses had also seen the attitude of the bourgeoisie in a dozen countries (above all in France!). How to answer the question which tormented them? We have always insisted in our propaganda that while pretending to defend the nation, the bourgeoisie in reality defends its privileged position inside the nation. This is even the basis of the revolutionary policy towards the war. The slogan “arming the workers” introduces precisely a wedge between the bourgeoisie and the masses. It reveals to all the hypocrisy of “national defence”: in the hour of the greatest danger the bourgeoisie refuses to trust its own people, preferring a bargain with the “enemy” bourgeoisie. What an excellent means of agitation! Matters have not proceeded to such a point in England, but they might have reached that point and for a certain period the slogan had a deeply offensive character against the British bourgeoisie.

To all this you reply: “it is revolutionary to call upon the workers to seize power. But to call upon the workers to seize power as the WIL did, as the only way of ‘preventing a repetition of the French disaster on British soil’ is not revolutionary; it is chauvinism.” This quotation would indicate that you do not understand what chauvinism is, i.e. unity with the bourgeoisie against the revolutionary interests of the proletariat. How can “to call the workers to seize power”, be “chauvinism”, whatever the purpose may be?

Of course, these few considerations do not exhaust the problem. Perhaps there were some insufficiently clear formulae in the WIL’s propaganda; we are not closely enough acquainted with the state of mind of the English workers to measure the practical value of the slogan, etc., etc. But what we wanted to show is that the slogan, far from being “defencism” is fully compatible with our principles.

The last point of your criticism of the WIL in the question of the war is your condemnation of the present use of the slogan: “Nationalise the war industries under workers’ control!” We are obliged to say that we cannot share this opinion at all. Your argument against the slogan goes like this. At present, the nationalisation is not a “class demand”. The workers “wish for increased production in support of the imperialist war.” Consequently, the slogan “helps to maintain their chauvinism.”

All this reasoning is made up of abstract rationalism, but not of revolutionary realism. The workers convince themselves of the imperialist character of the war through different ways. The major one is the fact that even during the war the capitalists do not cease to be capitalists and heap up huge profits. The profit system, with its accumulation of riches and poverty during the war itself, clearly reveals the hypocrisy of “national defence”. On abstraction, a capitalism without private profit during the war would be much stronger to wage war. In reality the struggle against the profit system breaks the “civil peace” and leads to revolutionary actions against the bourgeoisie. And to give a perspective to this struggle, the slogan of “nationalisation under workers’ control” is one of the best.

Of course, at the beginning, many may support the slogan for patriotic reasons, for better prosecution of the war. But this is true for every slogan during the war. You write: at present, “the class issues, around which the worker struggles, are simple and elementary in character. They centre around wages, income tax, hours and conditions, and must inevitably assume acute forms as the war forces the bourgeoisie to impose increasing burdens upon the workers.” But even this struggle may be supported for patriotic reasons. A patriotic trade union leader may very well ask for a better repartition of the income tax, for wage increases, etc., in the interests of the prosecution of the war. All the arguments you raise against the slogan of nationalisation may be raised against the objectives you ascribe to the present struggle.

The problem of the Labour Party

The discussion gravitates around two points which must be strictly separated. The first is the slogan “Labour to power”; the second is the fraction work in the Labour Party.

As it appears to us, the two groups are for the slogan “Labour to power”, but with different formulations. The RSL demands a “Third Labour government”, which is the most unfortunate formula that one could imagine. It immediately indicates a continuity with the lamentable experience of the past, instead of mobilising the workers for the rupture with the bourgeoisie on the basis of a series of transitional demands. For the moment we see no serious difference between the two groups on this question. The RSL’s formula seems to us a simple mistake which must be quickly corrected.

Now, on the question of work in the Labour Party, we can only recall our general position on this problem. We are unacquainted not only with the recent documents, but even with the exact organisational situation of the two groups. Moreover, it is necessary to keep in mind such factors as the war, the internal life of the Labour Party, etc. For a long time, the temporary sojourn of revolutionaries in a centrist or reformist party has not been a question of principle, but of simple tactic for the building of the revolutionary party. We think it is by all means necessary to carry on systematic work inside the Labour Party. But under the present conditions a means of unhampered independent expression is also indispensable. These two forms of political activity should be coordinated, not one set against the other.


As well as we can judge by your documents, you are extremely provoked [annoyed] with the WIL, above all about the question of international affiliation. We would not say that the WIL is completely sinless in this matter. But it must be clearly seen that you have your share of responsibility for the difficult present situation because of your completely negative attitude.

The impression of the WIL’s leadership that we have here is that these are young comrades. If we could desire, at times, a little more firmness in their propaganda, we must recognise that they learn quickly. The last issue of their paper (that of May, with the article on the “second front”) is excellent, and to speak of “centrism”, “defencism”, “chauvinism”, etc., is simply false. It is necessary to say clearly: the WIL stands entirely on the ground of the principles and methods of the FI [Fourth International] and it should find its place in our ranks as soon as possible.

In England as elsewhere, we have the perspective of profound commotions in the next period. We must know how to prepare for them. The first step in this direction is a serious understanding with the WIL. Much precious time has already been lost. We hope you give serious consideration to these remarks and inform us of your opinion.

Yours fraternally,
E.C. Clapper

Ted Grant to Jimmy Deane

London, July 9 1942

Dear Jimmie,

Just a note to advise you to go to Belfast if that is the only means of keeping you in circulation. It is rather unfortunate that you will have to leave Liverpool at a time when things are opening out, but perhaps you will be able to do something in Belfast. At any rate if you have to go, try and get back to the Merseyside as soon as you can.

If you can make arrangements to go over to Liverpool occasionally to see how the lads are making out, that will be very useful; but make thorough arrangements for the continuation of the work in your absence, and keep in touch regularly with the lads, if only by letter.

Re. the minutes, it is not an important point and there is no need for you to worry about it.

We are pleased to see that you are doing so well with the miners near your area. Make sure that this is continued even if you have to move. Jock will probably be dropping you a line on the question of the miners very soon. Let us know how you make out in Wigan.

You’ll have seen the letter from the IS to the RSL by now. It looks as if the old “clap handies” policy is going to receive a severe jolt. It’s about time too. We will let you know all political developments as they take place.

Hoping to hear from you soon,
Yours fraternally,
E. Grant



July 28 1942

Dear Friends,

We have received the copy of your letter of January 13 1942 (the original of which failed to reach us) and your letter of June 21 1942. As you request, we have given serious consideration to your remarks and now give you our opinion of them.

1. The internal regime of the WIL.

Our criticism here is simply that the regime is not founded upon the principle of democratic centralism. To us, and we assume to you also, the maintenance of democratic centralism inside the organisation is a question of principle. We fail therefore to see how our criticism in this connection should “astonish” you. Our document, as our title shows, is our political estimation of the WIL. It would be impossible for us therefore to omit our attitude on this question of the internal regime. Nowhere do we state that “were this the only difference between us and the WIL” we should refuse discussions with them. In our opinion the present internal regime springs from the utterly unprincipled way in which the WIL was formed and helps to provide the basis for its present unprincipled policies.

So far as the factual correctness of our estimation of the WIL internal regime is concerned, we can only say that all the material and evidence in our possession confirms it.

2. The attitude towards the war.

You state that our “whole method consists in taking a phrase, tearing it from the context and showing that it might permit an opportunist interpretation even if this interpretation is contrary to the meaning of the whole article”, and you give one example in support of this statement – our quotation from Youth for Socialism of August 1940. Now we are well aware that such a method can be adopted and consequently we do not need to be shown its “flaws” by a quotation from Lenin. We deny utterly, however, that we have used such a procedure . The whole section of our document in question is an attempt to show how, under the impact of events, an erroneous attitude towards the war gradually grew up in the WIL; how it left our position to adopt a centrist one. Naturally the first manifestations were vague and ambiguous, as is in any case typical of centrism – contradictions occur in the same article.

Now as to the fairness of our conclusion, from the quotation in question, that the WIL would have supported resistance by the French workers to German fascism invasion, within the framework of the French imperialist state. In the first place it is implied in the whole passage we quote (only part of which you reproduce), secondly it flows from the attitude clearly expressed in the same article that Hitler, not Churchill, is the worst enemy of the British workers. Finally almost precisely this policy of workers’ resistance to German invasion, within the framework of capitalist rule, was advocated for the British workers by the WIL a few months later when they put forward the slogan of “Arm the workers” as an answer to the threat of invasion.

With this slogan, you state, “we arrive at the first serious difference”. This is correct in so far as all the previous differences given by us in this section of our statement merely provide the basis for and lead up to this slogan. You further state “Your principal argument against the slogan is that British imperialism proved very well able to protect itself against invasion. Thus you have been right against the WIL thanks to... Hitler, who has not tried invasion.” This remark of yours truly astounds us. Can it be that our document reached you in an incomplete or imperfect form? For what you have said is (to use your own words) “not only false, but unfair.” Let us quote from our document:

“Arming the workers to resist invasion by Hitler is stressed as the main and the most important task. Nowhere is there any suggestion that it is only in the interests of the working class to resist invasion after the resources of the country have been under the control of the workers and that, till this has taken place, the workers have no interest in national defence.”

This, friends, is our most fundamental criticism of this slogan and this you utterly ignore. But even apart from this, their basic political error, the WIL and apparently you also fail to recognise the real basis for the capitulatory attitude of the French bourgeoisie towards Hitler and the absence of this basis in the case of the British bourgeoisie. We will not elaborate on this question here, you will find our attitude clearly expressed in the statement On the attitude of our movement towards the war which was passed by our conference of September, 1941 and which you have received. We would add merely that this basic difference between the situation of the British bourgeoisie did not, as you put it, “refuse to trust its own people” but actually armed them (under its own control of course) in the Home Guard. This fact makes the WIL slogan even more “offensive” not to the British bourgeoisie, but to our whole attitude towards the war. Incidentally, you seem quite unaware that the WIL are still putting forward this slogan today: “Arming of the workers under the control of committees of workers elected in factories, unions and in the streets against the danger of Petainism.” (Point 10 of “Our programme for power”, Socialist Appeal, July 1942).

On the question of the use of the word “chauvinism” we must state that to imply, as the WIL imply, that German and not British imperialism is the main enemy is, in actual fact, “unity with the bourgeoisie against the revolutionary interests of the proletariat”, no matter what “left” coloration may be given to it: for it can only serve to divert the workers’ attention from their real tasks and strengthen, not weaken, the class truce.

As regards the slogan “nationalise the war industries under workers’ control”, we do [not] oppose this slogan when it it linked with class issues such as the maintaining and improving of workers’ conditions, and under circumstances in which it can be made clear that “control” is not separate from the question of power, be it either by a Labour government, or Soviet power according to the progress of the working class movement. But we do oppose it as a means of increasing production during imperialist war. And it is on precisely this line that the WIL advocate it. (“Workers’ control of production to end chaos and mis-management in industry to be exercised through workers’ committees.” Point 4 of “Our programme for power”, Socialist Appeal, July 1942). It is just this point of difference that you ignore and thus your remarks on this subject have no relation to the point at issue. It is true, as you say, that any slogan, however correct, can be supported for patriotic reasons, but this does not mean that we can put it forward with a patriotic coloration. To call for the nationalisation of the war industries under workers’ control in order to increase production today is to do just this.

Before going on to discuss the question of the Labour Party we must point out that all the above differences flow from the attitude which we have adopted towards the American military policy and that any discussion cannot ignore this fact. In your letter of January 13 1942 you state “among all the documents we did not find one giving a precise criticism of the American resolution end presenting another policy.” You are referring to our September 1941 conference. It is quite true that none of the documents in question gave a precise criticism of the American resolution because the resolution itself was available to us only just before the conference. We based our criticisms upon the policy as interpreted by Cannon. As however you state in the same letter that Cannon correctly interprets the policy we would have thought that you could have already commenced discussions with us upon our criticism of his line. In any case another statement on the subject was drawn up last October and sent to you. It and the previous statement together with other relevant documents were passed by our special conference a few weeks back and will shortly be received by you. We hope that this will lead to a fruitful discussion between us. We have noted with some disquiet that in your present letter (of June 21 1942) you appear to ignore all our most fundamental criticisms and to concentrate upon points of relatively secondary importance but assume that this was merely due to inadvertence. As regards the other policy to be counter poised by us to the American policy, we must point out that our policy is that of War and the Fourth [International] and the Transitional programme, i.e. that of the Bolsheviks in the last war. We do not consider that the circumstances of this war (or rather this war after June 1940) justify any new policy.

3. The problem of the Labour Party.

(a) “Labour to power” versus “A third Labour government”. We agree with you that there seems to be no serious difference between the groups on this question. When the workers support a third Labour government they obviously wish it to have a majority in the House of Commons, which its two predecessors had not. What is the difference between this and Labour to power. Incidentally we have been advocating the slogan of a “Third Labour government” since 1934 and this is the first criticism from you or your predecessors.

In recent years the WIL seems to us to have adopted the deliberately vague slogan “Labour to power” in order to free themselves from being bound by our clear slogan “For a third Labour government with a majority”.

Judging from their ambiguous formulation and their past vacillations (support of CP and pacifist candidates against official Labour candidates) we feel reasonably confident that, when a confused mass “left” wing movement develops towards the rupture of the class truce on the electoral field, serious divergences, the seeds of which already exist, will reveal themselves between those who support official Labour Party candidates and those who support adventuristic “left” candidates against official LP candidates, both within the WIL and between the WIL and ourselves.

(b) Work in the Labour Party. Our position on this question remains that laid down by past international conferences for the British section. It is contained in a recent document Industrial work and our perspectives which we are sending you again. We have a means of unhampered independent expression, as you are aware, in our paper the Militant. The difference between us and the WIL on this question are essentially the same as have split our movement in this and other countries in the past. Experience has shown that the two points of view cannot be contained in the same organisation.


From your letter we gather that you are in one hundred percent [agreement] with the policy of the WIL. True you say that it “may” have made mistakes but nowhere do you specify them. We would therefore ask you to explain to us how it happens that a group which came into existence... “as the result of purely personal grievances” (Founding conference of the Fourth International) and which was characterised as “being led on a path of unprincipled clique politics which can only land them in the mire”, (Ibid.) and as “irresponsible splitters and clique fighters” should now, after four years be characterised by you as “standing entirely on the ground of the principles and methods of the FI”? While the official [section], has apparently, in your opinion taken an entirely [in]correct course. Also we would ask you when and by what body the above characterisation of the WIL made in 1938 by the Founding conference has been reversed? You yourselves do not even appear to be aware of the past of the WIL since you state on the question of international affiliation “we would not say that the WIL is completely sinless in this matter”, while despite [the fact that] we hold fast [to the] history of our negotiations with the WIL you condemn us for a “completely negative attitude”.

At our last conference a few weeks ago, we decided to reopen discussions with the WIL upon the basis of our political line. These discussions have begun but unless (as it is most unlikely) they lead to political unity, organisational unity is out of the question. We also “have the perspective of profound commotions in the next period” but we think that the best way to meet them is on the basis of a disciplined firmly knit organisation with a correct policy.


Ted Grant to Jimmy Deane

London, July 29 1942

Dear Jim,

Many thanks for your letter and for the material you have sent from the Yanks including the material from Labor Action. As usual with these people they have been eating their words immediately after uttering them. They have reproduced the pictures from the article on Hong Kong in the April Socialist Appeal – but the usual distortions on our attitude can be expected.

Unfortunately there are no more copies available of the Permanent Revolution, so I’m afraid comrade S. will be disappointed, perhaps you could lend him a copy. I expect Jock gave you a card for Socialist Appeal reporters for which you asked. He has written an excellent reply to Hall[2] which I expect you have seen and it will be reproduced in the SA and also in leaflet form. I would certainly like to get hold of some of the mythical £10 we are supposed to be earning!

In spite of the efforts of the capitalist press and of Hall to damage us, in the long run it will be of benefit to us. Millions of workers have now heard of the WIL and the SA and we have already benefited by letters of sympathy and support which we have received from all over England. We will probably gain quite a number of new members as a result. Here is the address of one contact who wishes to join: Mr H. B. Bradshaw, 2 Bowness Road, Preston, Lancs. We have written to him saying that you will write and make arrangements to call as the Lancashire organiser.

For the last period we have been worried because Manchester was the only large city in England in which we did not have a branch in spite of its good tradition in the working class movement. It looks as if Hall and the bourgeoisie have solved the problem for us. Somebody who wrote for an SA has asked to join us and says that she has a number of interested friends. Her address is – Mrs Ellen Lewis, 8 Cuyon Avenue, Victoria Park, Manchester – and we have written to her saying that you will make all arrangements. Here is an opportunity for you to do your stuff and wipe off a blot in the political landscape where we have no branch. Incidentally you are too hard on the Daily Express, you should have read the Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph and Herald!

We have received support and some letters from miners all over the country, all our contacts and all who have read the SA, plus many of those who have not, have given us expressions of sympathy and support. We have become a definite tendency known in the working class movement.

Graham has written and suggested that he could do with more assistance from Liverpool in organising the contacts in Nelson and Lancashire. I have written to him pointing out that it is practically impossible for you to do so because of work, distance, etc. I have explained that you can hardly get time to organise the Liverpool and Merseyside area, let alone a locality 70-100 miles away.

As you have met Jock and probably discussed all the outstanding political questions which face us, I don’t think it will be necessary to write anything on these questions at the moment. Please write on any points which you would like to discuss. Sorry not to have written before but as you can imagine we have been very busy with the bourgeoisie, RSL, etc.

Yours fraternally,
E. Grant

PS: We are sending some back pamphlets for Stewart. This is the best we can do. Tell him I was unable to get anything on military subjects. Ted.

Ted Grant to Jimmy Deane

London, August 17 1942

Dear Jimmy,

Sorry not to have answered your letter immediately we received it, but we have been very busy preparing for the conference, and I did not think the matter was so urgent.

First of all I would like to impress you with the importance of attending our first national conference and bringing with you, if possible, some of the more advanced comrades as well. Please do everything you can to come, it is really vital that all the comrades who are the most advanced elements in the group should attend. If necessary make financial sacrifices, beg, borrow or steal the money, but for heaven’s sake move heaven and earth to try and attend if possible. Drop all other work for that weekend and do your best to come. Incidentally, if there are any close contacts, not members of the group, who are reliable and you think would be benefited thereby, you can bring them along as well, if they are sufficiently interested to wish to attend. Anyway, we are confident of seeing you next weekend to discuss all matters outstanding.

Re. the contacts in Preston. We advise you to take a very harsh stand on this question. We are going to raise this question very sharply with JL. What the hell does he think he is up to? He will be in London over the next weekend and would like you to be present at the discussions with him. I do not think that the question needs elaboration in this short note as we will discuss it fully with you next weekend.

Work [is] proceeding throughout the country favourably. Will give all replies to your last letters next weekend.

Very best wishes,

PS: Whatever happens be at the conference.

Ted Grant to RSL

London, September 16 1942


Dear comrade,

You will have received our letter of September 4 1942[3], which put forward our position on fusion. As you see we are very anxious that the much needed political and organisational clarification should be speeded up.

We have elected our committee of three, and will be pleased to meet your representatives on Sunday, September 27th at 10 am at the above address.

Re. your suggestions that there should be no joint discussion bulletins but that material should be circulated by both organisations independently, we accept this suggestion. But on the question of the arrangement of subjects, we believe that the Labour Party tactic and the question of the “Third Labour government” or “Labour to power” should be discussed separately, otherwise it would lead to some confusion.

We believe that there is no reason why your committee should object to these problems being discussed separately. Apart from this we would accept the arrangement of subjects to be debated as you have outlined them.

We are still waiting to receive the conference documents which you promised us in your last letter.

Yours fraternally,
E. Grant

Ted Grant to Jimmy Deane

London, September 17 1942

Dear Jim,

I’m sorry not to have heard from you for such a long time and presume that you are either very busy or ill. B. Bradshaw writes from Preston complaining that he never heard from you and the shop at Preston complains that they never received any papers. We have sent the material to them.

Has Shindler visited you to discuss the contacts in Preston? The right faction has landed as we predicted – in a hell of a mess! You have received copies of the new ultimatum issued to them by DDH and Co., you can see the position by this in a nutshell.

Why didn’t any of the Liverpool comrades pick up the papers at the station last month? We want to get the SA out right on the first of the month for the next issue and are busy preparing it now. Could you send us an article on general conditions among the dockers for the next issue – by Saturday? If you can, it will go into the issue. I think this is ample time for you to collect the material and send in the article.

How are things proceeding on the Merseyside now that you have made the new arrangement? Is it working out ok in Liverpool and does it facilitate the work of the group?

The Coventry lads are going ahead and building up sales, contacts, and the organisation generally at a rapid pace. They threaten to outstrip the Merseyside if you don’t watch your step! Sadie Morris has given us the name of a contact (given below) who is a student of Liverpool university and who is supposed to have a dozen to eighteen YCLers under his influence. Look him up and see what can be gained. How did the YCLer who wrote to you turn out?

Yours fraternally,
E. Grant

PS: Harold B. Bradshaw has written to us again saying that he has still not heard from you. In case there is any mistake, his address is – 2 Bowness road, Farringdon Park, Preston. We have written to him saying that you will contact him immediately.

Ted Grant to Jimmy Deane

London, October 20 1942

Dear Jim,

Thank you very much of your letter. The next meeting of the central committee will be held in London on Saturday, November 7th, the day before our public meeting.

I am very anxious to have a thorough discussion with you on the question of unity with the RSL and the IS. We are having a committee meeting between ourselves and the RSL on Sunday, 25th, and if you can possibly come to this meeting and also attend the central committee meeting on the 7th, it would be a good idea for you to find out for yourself what the real position is.

Will discuss all the problems, Liverpool and the group generally, when we see you, since we are busy at present with the Socialist Appeal. If you can possibly manage it within the next few days – could you send us the long promised article on the docks?

Yours fraternally,
Ted Grant

PS: Please send to us, or bring with you, your file of your correspondence with the IS as we would like to see it.

CC of the RSL to IS

October 28 1942

Dear friends,

In view of the prohibition you placed on us of criticising the WIL in any of our publications, we are unable to reply openly to the open attacks which they make upon us in their recent pamphlet Preparing for power. They particularly criticise our Labour Party tactic, which was, as you know, endorsed by the international in 1938. What follows in quotation marks is an extract from the above mentioned pamphlet of the WIL’s.

“...The present period is characterised by a radicalisation and ferment within the working class, without a mass political vent for this dissatisfaction. Insofar as the workers are moving at all at present, they are expressing themselves in the industrial field. At a later stage they will turn to the Labour Party. But to come to the workers who are advanced enough to look for a road out – with the disguise of the ‘left wing of the Labour Party’ is idiotic. These workers will turn to the ILP or to the CP, but not to the so-called ‘socialist left of the Labour Party’...”

I attach a Militant heading to demonstrate how the RSL uses the subheading “Organ of the Socialist Left of the Labour Party”.

Since they, the WIL, have made this open attack, we shall assume, unless we receive a reply from you on this subject within two months from the date of this letter, that we have the right to reply to these attacks, openly.

The CC of the RSL


New York, November 20 1942

Dear friends,

My last letter to you was dated October 1st. I am regularly receiving your publications, which I must say, I read with great interest. Herewith enclosed you will find a copy of a letter of the CC of the RSL to us, as well as a copy of our answer. The public attack on your side was really a mistake in the present situation and we must try, all of us, not to repeat such an incident.

We have just seen for the first time, the resolution passed by the conference of the RSL in June, 1942, on their relation with your group. Apart from some rather dubious considerations, the two points decided upon are excellent and coincide completely with our own resolution of August 28th. We must now work with all our energy for their realisation. The CC of the RSL informed us that during October, a committee of six, three from each side, has been created, and that the discussion has already begun in certain areas. We would be extremely glad to receive further news from you.

Best greetings,
E. C. Clapper


New York, November 21 1942

Dear friends,

We received your letter of October 28th on the public attack by the WIL. We are now engaged in negotiations with the WIL, and this incident must be treated not in a formalistic, but in a realistic way. Your policy has been attacked publicly and, of course, nobody can deny you the right to answer publicly. But we must tell you frankly that if we were in your place, we would not make use of such a right. You would lose nothing in doing this and you would strengthen, not weaken, your position in the negotiations.

This is only our advice. We repeat, nobody can deny you the right to answer. But if you make use of this right, we insist that your answer be moderate and pedagogic. You can very well explain the reasons and the character of your work in the Labour Party, but we must ask you to abstain from any criticism of the WIL, which would provoke an answer from their side. The opening of a public controversy at the present time and in such manner, would be most unfortunate.

We think fit to send copy of this letter as well as your letter of October 28th to the WIL.

Best greetings,
E. C. Clapper

E.C. Clapper to WIL

New York, November 27 1942

Dear friends,

I trust you have by now my letter of November 20th. I received your letter of October 31st, as well as the enclosed minutes of the October 25th meeting. I must say that on all the points raised at that meeting I would rather be on your side. The attitude of the RSL on the question of the joint bulletin is especially significant. I think you should insist on the RSL’s own resolution at their last conference, which decided for a joint bulletin and a unification conference after a six month period of discussion. You should firmly hold to these two points. I would appreciate very much your prompt writing and sending of documents in the present period.

Very sincerely,
E. C. Clapper


[1] Royal Ordnance Factory

[2] The WIL conducted an energetic campaign against the strike-breaking attitude of Joseph Hall, president of the Yorkshire Miners’ Association. See also Ted Grant, Writings, Vol. 1, pp. 254-8.

[3] Unfortunately it has not been possible to trace a copy of this letter.