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Mandel / Johnstone debate on video…

November 24, 2022
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This lunchtime my old comrade Rick Hatcher called round and handed me four Sony large reel video tapes from the late 1970s.


They contain a debate between Ernest Mandel and Monty Johnstone of the CPGB. Possibly others took part in the debate – Rick thinks at least one CP woman (maybe Bea Campbell) was on the platform.


I am now getting quotes to have the tapes digitised- they have not been viewed since the 1970s and are in an old format Sony V-32 for Helical Scan tape recorders.


It might be an expensive job though- over £100 per reel to get it done professionally.


So if anyone here either remembers the debate or has contacts in the A/V field who might be able to do this cheaply, please get in touch!!

Mike Davis (1946 – 2022): A class fighter – obituary

October 31, 2022
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An obituary for Mike Davis on the Counterfire website which references his time in the IMG.

Chris Bambery remembers Mike Davis in a moving tribute to a class fighter

I first met Mike Davis in Edinburgh on a picket outside the Kings Theatre not long after the terrible September 1973 coup in Chile. Inside the English dancer, Margot Fonteyn, was performing fresh from appearing on the stage in Santiago de Chile where tens of thousands butchered by the military were fresh in their mass graves and thousands more suffered barbaric torture in the prisons and camps of General Pinochet.

On the picket outside I was approached by a young American who had clocked I was clutching a bundle of “Red Weekly,” the paper of the International Marxist Group to which I then belonged. Mike Davis, then in his late 20s, introduced himself. In truth for an 18 year old who’d just commenced at Edinburgh University it all seemed a bit intimidating but over the coming weeks and months I got to know Mike and he was not just great company but an education.

For Mike brought with him, firsthand, not just his experience on the US left but direct accounts of the working class and its struggles in his native Los Angeles. He was fresh from being involved in a truckers strike where he described that the commonsense strategy in dealing with scabs was to put a sniper on a flyover above the freeway as it went up a hill and the trucks slowed. Mike argued for good sense, for collective not individual action to win over, or at least neutralise, the scabs, not kill them!

As a Scottish teenager my knowledge of California came from the Beach Boys. This was a million miles away from “Surfing USA!”

Mike grew up first  in Fontana, outside Los Angeles, centred on Kaiser’s steel mill and on trucking. His father was a meat cutter. Growing up in the 1950s the American Dream seemed real. There were well paid jobs and the trade unions were strong.

Anti-communism dominated and when the family moved to Bostonia, east of San Diego the town was dominated by stories about a supposed Chinese invasion from Mexico. Mike joined the Devil’s Pups, the kids grouping associated with the US Marines Corps.

But other influences would pull him in an altogether different direction, in the shape of Jim Stone, the husband of a cousin of Mike’s and a civil rights activist. In 1962 Mike accompanied Stone to a protest outside a bank which only employed whites. “Rednecks” tried to intimidate them but Mike began his voyage on the left, working at the San Diego offices of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE).

By this time, he had to start work as a meat cutter, aged 16, after his dad was laid off after a heart attack. But despite that he did finish high school and won a scholarship to Reed College in Portland, Oregon. He was a fish out of water, all too aware that as a working class kid he didn’t fit in and was eventually expelled, apparently for having moved into his girlfriend’s dorm. It was the start of Mike’s often uneasy relationship with academia.

Mike returned to LA – he was always at home in Southern California – and in 1964 became for the next three years  an activist with Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), organizing sit-ins and protests across California. The Vietnam War radicalised him further and he would join the Communist Party, running its bookstore in LA. But after two years he was kicked out because of his opposition to the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia.

Mike told me some of this and I had to suppress my awe when he would talk of working along with Angela Davis, who had obviously been a friend as well as comrade prior to his expulsion.

After his stint as a trucker he enrolled at the University of California Los Angeles and after three years came to Edinburgh on a fellowship to study Irish history. His interest in Ireland and his commitment to defeating British imperialism gave us something in common. He was a good IMG member, a good activist and great company over a few beers.

Mike’s membership of the IMG also brought him into contact with New Left Review and its editor, Perry Anderson, at that time sympathetic to the IMG and the Fourth International to which it belonged. Anderson convinced Mike to work at NLR in London from 1980 until 1986. Despite those dark Thatcherite years Mike began writing more, encouraged by his comrades at Meard Street.

The result was Mike’s most important book, in my opinion, “Prisoners of the American Dream,” most important because he was writing about his own people, warts and all. It remains the one book I’d recommend anyone wanting to find out about the US working class, its struggles and defeats to begin with.

The book came out during the Ronald Reagan years and while it charts the heroic victories of the US working class in the 1930s and 1940s he shows they left little legacy, particularly in terms of political advancement. Trade union officialdom remained tied to the Democrats, false friends always, and unable to overcome the racial divides.

What it does is chart how, consequently, US labour were unable to resist the first wave of neo-liberalism in those Reagan years and working-class communities like Fontana and Bostonia were devastated.

We drifted apart in the 1980s but we re-established contact in 1991 just after the April uprising in South Central following the LA Police Department’s beating of Rodney King. I invited him to address a major rally organised by the British Socialist Workers Party, of whom I was now National Organiser, at North London’s Alexandra Palace.

Mike turned up, gave a short but pointedly Leninist speech, ending with a clenched fist salute. The SWP had a small but real working class base and Mike liked talking to miners and carworkers as well as Black youth. Those were the people he felt most at home with.

Over the years we kept in touch and met up whenever he crossed the Atlantic, till eventually he had to give up travelling. He and Tariq Ali suggested I write A People’s History of Scotland and he was much in my mind as I did so, not that I could match Mike’s writing skills. He was pleased I was a Dad and I was pleased he’d found happiness with his Mexican-American partner, Alessandra Moctezuma.

In the course of writing this I was chatting to a member of Sinn Féin and recommended Mike’s “Late Victorian Holocausts: El Niño Famines and the Making of the Third World” to him as a must-read concerning the sheer brutality of British imperialism.

The theme of much of his later writings was the catastrophes capitalism was bringing down on our heads. Mike, like Walter Benjamin, did not believe we are on a train taking us to a progressive future. Instead we are on one which is out of control and heading for disaster – as has been proven by the Pandemic. We need to get off that train before it’s too late, and there isn’t much time left.

Mike leaves an extended family in California, Mexico and Ireland.

I think back to that evening outside the Kings Theatre when I first met Mike. He liked Scotland, and Ireland, because while the weather and the beer were different from LA and Southern California he was at home in working class communities. Back in California he never lost those connections whether it was with gang members in South Central LA (he defended them against the state but was very critical of them and urged a different approach) or those fighting for trade union rights.

His books will remain his greatest legacy, and will bring light and joy to many, but it’s as a class fighter I will remember Mike.

Steel- The Coming Redundancies

September 18, 2022
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An IMG pamphlet I hadn’t seen before (thanks to Keith):

Steel- the Coming Redundancies and How To Fight Them by Dave Bailey.

56 pages long, this is an in depth look at the development of the steel industry.

In Defence of United Red Bengal

September 16, 2022
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Following our posting of the pamphlet Soviet History Falsified, Staffan L. sent us another item from the Socialist Workers Party of India.

In Defence of United Red Bengal is a 12 page pamphlet. Billed on the reverse as no1 in the ‘Che’ series it consists of a statement from the Fourth International and an article by Tariq Ali following his visit to India in May 1970.

More leaflets from the Spanish State

September 14, 2022
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We previously posted a number of leaflets from the FI Section in the Spanish State.

Here we have two more similar leaflets, both of which appear to be dual language- Spanish on one side and French on the other and produced jointly by the LCR-ETA VI and the (French) LCR or the FCR.

Not being proficient in either language, I rely on other comrades to provide some context….

FCR LCR – ETA VI

LCR LCR – ETA VI

Many thanks to Staffan for providing these.

John and Yoko at work…

September 8, 2022
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A lovely photo posted by Tariq Ali on Facebook, and one I hadn’t seen before.

Note the compact cassette recorder on the table- a bit of a rarity in 1971 still but one was used to record the famous interview at about this time…

And is the other paper on the table The Sun?

Soviet History Falsified- Ernest Germain

August 22, 2022
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This nicely produced pamphlet was scanned for us by Keith S.

It was published for the Socialist Workers Party, India, probably in the early 1970s (although apparently not dated) with a short introduction by Sitaram Kolpe. The main part of the text is taken from Germain / Mandel’s Thirty Questions and Answers about “The Communist Party of the Soviet Union”

SOVIET HISTORY FALSIFIED: WHY?

Our comrade Alain Krivine is dead, his fight continues

March 12, 2022
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From the NPA:

Our comrade Alain Krivine left us today, at the age of 80.

We, the comrades of the NPA, join in the grief of his family, his loved ones, and all those who recognised themselves in the struggles he led.

For more than 65 years, Alain was a tireless activist, present in all the struggles against the ravages of the capitalist system, against injustice, for emancipation.

An activist excluded from the PCF, founder and leader of the JCR, the LCR and then the NPA, leader of the Fourth International, Alain has never denied his youthful commitments. He was, for whole generations of activists, a model of constancy, an inexhaustible resource, an exemplary comrade.

We will remember his self-sacrifice, his warmth and his humour. Until the end of his life, Alain did not give up and did not give in to the pressure of “You’ll get over it with age”.

In the coming days, we will communicate about the tributes that will be organised, and we will come back to Alain’s life and fights at length.

Bye, old man, and thanks for everything. Let’s keep fighting!

Montreuil, 12 March 2022

Those who would like to send texts of condolences and homage can send them to the address: alaink@npa2009.org.

Larry Herman 1942-2021

March 8, 2022
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Larry Herman, photographer, member of the IMG and later the Communist League has died.

Grardian obituary here.

“Agitator”- Voice of the Socialist Club, Sussex

January 6, 2022
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A joint post with Splits&Fusions.

[7th January- amended, corrected, updated and added to!!]

The Agitator was a two page weekly news-sheet of the Sussex University Socialist Club.

The club was intended as a general forum for all revolutionary socialist students and it is clear that, at least, supporters of both the International Marxist Group and the International Socialists were involved.

We have 13 issues of Agitator which all appear to date from the 1971-1972 period.

The sheet advertised the regular weekly Socialist Club meetings, educational meetings and a variety of other campus activities, meetings and protests as well as taking up issues within the Students’ Union and campus authorities.

However, by March 1972 the International Socialists chose to leave the Socialist Club and set up their own campus society- as reported in the issue for March 21st 1972.

Agitator continued at least until May (possibly for a lot longer but the latest dated issue we have is May 25th 1972)

I am sure there will be readers of this blog who remember the Agitator and the Socialist Club…

AGITATOR- VOICE OF THE SOCIALIST CLUB Archive

Not represented in the University of Sussex Socialist Club at this time would be supporters of Militant.

Militant controlled the Labour Club and issued its own newsletter Red Letter of which we have five copies. They also date from the early 1970s with the earliest we have being from January 21st 1970.

RED LETTER- SUSSEX LABOUR CLUB Archive

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