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The Case of Comrade Richardson

August 11, 2016

We are pleased to receive this guest post by comrade Dominie.

9780850366006Al Richardson (1941–2003) was an important historian of the British Trotskyist movement.

Along with his co-author Sam Bornstein he wrote and published “Two Steps Back: Communists and the Wider Labour Movement, 1939-1945”, “Against the Stream: A History of the Trotskyist Movement in Britain 1924-1938” and  “The War and the International: A History of the British Trotskyist Movement” 1937-1949 as well as establishing the journal Revolutionary History.

It is also well known that he was a member of the International Marxist Group for a period in the 1960s.

Red Mole Rising has recently been given this document – “A Statement on Resignation from the London Branch of the International Marxist Group” dated 12 February 1969.

A number of writers have written that Al Richardson was expelled from the IMG, including comrades I have a great respect for. For example, John McIlroy wrote in his Guardian obituary[1]  that Al Richardson had been “Expelled at the end of the 1960s,” whilst Bruce Robinson wrote on the AWL website that “He (AR) was expelled from the IMG[2].” I am not aware of these comments being challenged at the time of publication.  John McIlroy did however explain, in his Revolutionary History appreciation, that Al Richardson resigned in February 1969, quoting from the document featured here.

Al Richardson, himself, wrote that; “I had been expelled from the International Marxist Group for suggesting that its members should join trade unions or the Labour Party”[3]  Academic institutions have also retold the idea that he was expelled [4]

More recently two accounts have appeared from those were active in the leadership of the IMG in the late 1960s. The most substantial is Ernie Tate’s “Revolutionary Activism in the 1960s” with Mike Martin also contributing his experiences on this site[5].  Ernie Tate wrote that “I have seen it written that we expelled him (AR). That is simply not correct”[6].  Mike Martin wrote in an email to the author “Nobody was expelled, least of all for suggesting people join a union. Nobody appealed.”[7]

When there is a disputed event then going back to the documents for answers is usually the best way. Certainly, on the basis of this document, the version of events from Ernie Tate and Mike Martin would appear to be correct.  Al Richardson and his friends stated that he had been expelled from the IMG whereas Ernie Tate and Mike Martin both said not.  This document seems to clearly vindicate the accounts of Ernie Tate & Mike Martin.
[1]  http://www.theguardian.com/news/2004/jan/24/guardianobituaries.obituaries

[2] http://www.workersliberty.org/node/1479

[3]Richardson, A. “Ellis Hillman (1928-1996)” in Revolutionary History Vol. 6 no 2/3 pg.252-3  http://revolutionaryhistory.co.uk/index.php/obituaries/1200-ellis

[4] . http://www.aim25.ac.uk/cgi-bin/vcdf/detail?coll_id=7680&inst_id=14

[5] https://redmolerising.wordpress.com/2015/12/17/guest-post-a-short-account-of-the-international-marxist-group/

[6] Ernest Tate “Revolutionary Activism in the  1950s & 60s Vol 2 pages 260-261

[7] Mike Martin to the author  18/12/15

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. ihbirchall permalink
    August 11, 2016 6:49 pm

    In employment law there is something called “constructive dismissal”, whereby an employee resigns because the employer has made it impossible for him/her to continue working. I wonder whether the concept of “constructive expulsion” might be used for situations like this.

  2. Mike Martin permalink
    August 14, 2016 7:52 am

    I have never heard of a constructive dismissal case where a group of people left collectively. Al’s clique simply stopped turning up to branch meetings. The atmosphere in the branch was pretty bad, for all concerned, compounded by the “big branch” mentality of the pro SWP tendency that was emerging that meant we had to go through a lot of tedious business week after week. It must have been worst of all for the new recruits who endured a couple of meetings and then left.

    Al’s main contention was that the rest of us knew nothing of the labour movement. His grouping was no better placed, with one exception who went on to become a full time union officer.

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