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And Onan Cried over his Spilt Milk

November 16, 2020
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A crosspost from WeaponisedPoetry

Issue 88 of Socialist Challenge contained a four page Surrealist Challenge supplement presenting work from British and American surrealists and the Trotsky-Breton Manifesto for Independent Revolutionary Art. Whilst it was published with a disclaimer from the Socialist Challenge editorial board over violent and sexist imagery in some of the ‘automatic texts’ presented, socialist feminists staged an occupation of the Socialist Challenge offices in protest and several letters on the topic appeared in subsequent issues.

Less well known is the text And Onan Cried Over His Spilt Milk attributed to the “Sara Emanuele De Maupers Faction of the Surrealist Group in England” which attacks Socialist Challenge’s self-criticism on the issue. We were pleased not only to receive a copy of this text from John Richardson but shortly afterwards to find an article discussing it in World Revolution paper of the International Communist Current.

This latter makes the error of seeing the surrealist break with what it considered Trotskyism and feminism to be a shift to the left when it later became apparent that it represented a sharp move to the right and abandonment of the terrain of radical politics.

That said, it is unclear that the Onan text represented the views of most of those who had contributed to the Surrealist Challenge supplement.

This piece takes up the trajectory of some of those associated with the Surrealist Challenge and perhaps those who issued the Onan declaration…

There were, of course, other surrealists active in Britain at the time who remained politically engaged.

Serious Politics Begins With The Bomb…

November 14, 2020

We have two versions of a pamphlet “Serious Politics begins with the Bomb” written by veteran activist Laurens Otter and presented as “Anarchist Arguments no3”

The pamphlet is a critique of the Socialist Challenge pamphlet CND- Lessons Of The First Wave by Tony Southall and Julian Atkinson.

The first of the two is cheaply stencilled and duplicated but the second is nicely produced and printed.

(Whilst looking up Laurens Otter on Google to write this piece we learned that he had been unwell with Covid 19 earlier this year, at the age of 90. We wish him well and a good recovery )

The IMG and the Spy-Cops

November 12, 2020

From yesterday’s Guardian- at least 14 police spies infiltrated the IMG or spied on Tariq Ali:

Tariq’s evidence to the enquiry can be found here:

Click to access UCPI0000034187.pdf

Tariq Ali on New Left Books / Verso

September 8, 2020

This interview between Tariq Ali and Sebastian Budgen on the history of Verso / New Left Books should be of interest to readers.

The first half (it is very long!) has quite a bit about the IMG and the Fourth International.



2020 marks 50 years of radical publishing at Verso Books. Founded by the journal New Left Review in 1970, Verso–named after the term for a left-hand page–began as New Left Books. The fledging imprint sought to invigorate the Anglophone intellectual world with the energy and insight of the best continental philosophy and social theory.

Now, 50 years on, Verso brings you radical voices that challenge capitalism, racism and patriarchy, debate the future of the planet, and offer far-reaching proposals for social and political change.

In this video, Tariq Ali (one of the New Left Review core group that founded New Left Books/Verso), and Verso editor Sebastian Budgen, discuss the history of New Left Books, and the political and intellectual context from which Verso Books developed.

Ernie Tate

August 17, 2020

Via Phil Hearse:

Ernie Tate, who together with his partner Jess Mackenzie was an IMG full-timer in the 1960s and who many comrades may have met, has been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

It hit him suddenly last week, but he has only a short time to live.

If comrades who know him want to send a message, please get in touch with us for his email address.

Working class insurrection and dual power in Europe

August 7, 2020

Thanks to Phil Ward for supplying us with this long document by Dave Bailey which we have titled:

Working class insurrection and dual power in Europe

Phil writes:

I don’t know what the document was originally called, or its date, though it looks like 1978 from the content.  I also don’t know if it was ever originally circulated, what reception it got (it’s quite critical of Mandel’s concept of dual power), or what happened to Dave Bailey – all of which are interesting questions.
A suitable title might be “Working class insurrection and dual power in Europe”, if the original can’t be found.
Can anyone else shed any light on it?

Nationalisation or Expropriation? Preston IMG

July 17, 2020

Here is an interesting division of labour.

The pamphlet Nationalisation Or Expropriation? was translated by Preston IMG from an original French language pamphlet put out by the Ligue Communiste. It was then printed by Birmingham IMG who added this introduction…



Sexism, Sexuality and Class Struggle- a Bristol IMG pamphlet

July 15, 2020

Here is an interesting pamphlet published by Bristol IMG in the mid-1970s.

Sexism, Sexuality and Class Struggle- Men Reply

IMG Student Commission- Cracking Up…

July 14, 2020

Over the next week or so we have a few slightly obscure or unusual IMG (related) pamphlets lined up for you…

To kick off, as it links to recent posts on students, we have the IMG Student Commission pamphlet Cracking Up- Education Cuts and How To Fight Them.

1975 or thereabouts…

More on IMG Students…

July 13, 2020

Mike P writes:

In relation to the 1976 student special: at the time there were actually two NUS conferences per year, one in December and one at Easter. The December one was eventually abandoned to save money, as the Easter one tended to be the more significant one because it included elections to the executive (they were all in Blackpool I believe at that time).

The one in December 1976 was controversial and prompted the special issue because the NUS Travel commercial subsidiary company among others collapsed a few weeks before and went insolvent, nearly bringing the entire union crashing down with it. To stay afloat the NUS eventually had to sell off its profitable insurance subsidiary Endsleigh Ltd to a Dutch company to pay off the debts of NUS Travel Ltd (Endlsleigh was named after Endsleigh Street in Bloomsbury where the HQ of NUS was at the time – it’s still around owned by A-Plus and still highly profitable for its owners). The NUS came to an arrangement to pick up travel services for its members through the then smaller Irish equivalent travel organisation USIT.

It would be good to find a copy of the Red Weekly pamphlet “NUS Travel collapse – A socialist answer” advertised on the front page – does anyone have it?

[Actually, Mike, we do! Red Weekly pamphlet- NUS Services Crash ]

The main demand I recall of the IMG at the time was the NUS should be calling on the Labour government to nationalise the student travel companies and provide them as a service to students.

The Broad Left leadership of NUS were blamed for mismanagement, as well as being incapable of deciding whether they were running a business or campaigning for student rights – doing both badly. At the same time as the Travel company collapsed there was a wave of occupations around the country following a summer series of occupations of protests about closure/cuts at teacher training colleges. The Essex Uni one just before the NUS Conference is reported on but a few weeks earlier there was one at Oxford Poly where I was a student. That was significant for the IMG because Paul Brooke who was the IMG student organiser that year and put together the student special, had been the Deputy President there before he went to work in Upper Street where the IMG was then based.

I was involved in the Oxford occupation but didn’t get to go to the December 1976 conference and wasn’t in the IMG. But I got elected on a Socialist slate for the next NUS conference, in Easter 1977 where the Travel company was finally resolved by selling the insurance company. It’s hard to believe now, but one of the best organised groups at that conference was the Federation of Conservative Students (FCS), led at the time by a certain Anna Soubry, taking on Sue Slipman then the CPGB President. 4 years later they were both in Social Democratic Party together! Soubry went back to the Tories and became an MP, then went off with Change UK or whatever they were called and lost her seat at Westminster last December.

A leading light in the CPGB and former NUS President wrote a book in 1975 (Student Politics & Higher Education, Digby Jacks, 1975 published by Lawrence & Wishart) that I have a copy of. Amusingly he states (page 78) “At its foundation the NUS established a Travel department which soon acquired a pre-eminence internationally and an esteem amongst the membership which it still maintains (now as NUS Travel Ltd)”. “esteem amongst the membership” didn’t stop it going bust within 12 months of him writing these words!

By 1977 conferences the IMG had launched the Socialist Students Alliance with a range of non-aligned activists and became the largest opposition to the Broad Left on the NUS Executive [The very loud but utterly headbanging and appropriately called “NOISS” pronounced “noise”! were the IS student group later SWP). Several issues of an SSA magazine/paper called “Socialist Student” were published instead which I think you have on the site. The Broad Left was wound up in 1979 in favour of a “Left Alliance” with the Liberal Party students (there’s an article in Spring 1979’s International explaining the demise). By the time of the founding of the SDP in 1981 the student left had moved into the Labour Students organisation NOLS and the CPGB/Broad Left and SSA largely became footnotes in history.

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