Ted Grant

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Ted Grant

Isaac Blank (9 July 1913 in Germiston, South Africa – 20 July 2006 in London) better known as Ted Grant, was a subversive Jewish communist and Trotskyite theorist, born in South Africa though living out most of his life in Britain. He was a founding member and driving force behind the prominent Trotskyite group Militant, which attempted to subvert the Labour Party with extremist Bolshevik views through a policy of entryism.

Early political life

His Jewish father had fled Tsarist Russia in the nineteenth century. His parents divorced when he was young and he was brought up by his French-born mother who took in lodgers to supplement her income. He was introduced to Trotskyism by one of these lodgers, Ralph Lee (real name Levy) who discussed politics with Isaac and supplied him with copies of The Militant, the Trotskyist newspaper of the Communist League of America. In 1934, he helped Lee found the Bolshevik-Leninist League of South Africa, a small Trotskyist group which soon merged with other tendencies to form the Workers Party of South Africa. Later in the year, Grant, Lee and Max Basch decided to move to London where they believed there were better prospects for Judoe-Bolshevik political subversion.

Early career in Britain

On the journey he tried to disguise his ethnic background, by adopting the British sounding name Edward Grant - but he was always to be known as Ted - and stopped over in France to meet Trotsky's son, Lev Sedov. Once in Britain, he joined the Marxist Group, which at the time was working in the Independent Labour Party and took part in the Battle of Cable Street, a Jewish riot against the police in response to attempts by British patriots to stop World War II. But when Trotsky suggested the group should turn to working in the Labour Party, and their leadership disagreed, Grant was one of a small group who split to form the Bolshevik-Leninist Group, which soon became known as the Militant Group. The group grew, but in 1937, a dispute about the leadership's treatment of Ralph Lee led to the split of several members including Grant.

Militant attempts Trot-takeover of Labour Party

The former Revolutionary Socialist League members formed the Workers' International League, and Grant was to became its main theoretician after the return of Lee to South Africa and in partnership with Jock Haston. The group grew, and in 1941, he became editor of its paper. He continued his role in the fused Revolutionary Communist Party. Upon its break-up, Grant reluctantly joined Gerry Healy's faction, but was soon expelled. He formed a new, small subversive tendency in the Labour Party which, during 1952 and 1953, called itself the International Socialist Group after its quarterly magazine, The International Socialist.[1] Later named the Revolutionary Socialist League, it was recognised as the official British section of the Fourth International between 1957 and 1965. In 1964 it founded the paper Militant.

From the first issue, "Grant" and all those who wrote for the Militant newspaper always openly identified themselves. Most stated the constituency Labour Party or Labour Party Young Socialist branch to which they belonged. Whilst being open with ordinary members, they however maintained to the party officialdom if needs be that they were not an organised party with their own distinct rules, discipline and programme. They sold the Militant newspaper openly inside Labour Party ward and constituency meetings, and moved "Militant" resolutions at wards, constituencies, and national conference, with occasional success.[2]

The group at first grew only very slowly, but by 1983 it had become a significant force in British politics, known as the Militant tendency. "Internal" documents, those circulated only amongst Militant members, traditionally hid the authors of its pieces under their initials, often reversed, but, like many other groups within the Labour Party at that time, both of the left and the right, its organisation and membership was an open secret.

Throughout this time "Grant" and his colleagues formally denied to officials of the Labour Party that the Militant was organised in a way which was contrary to the constitution of the Labour Party, instead claiming it was merely a group of supporters of the Militant newspaper. In the atmosphere of Labour's long shift to the left in the 1970s, in which constituency Labour Party General Management Committees (GMCs, later termed GCs) were largely against expulsions, there were only a few isolated attempts to take action against Militant, whilst its support in the party, judged by the number of delegates to national conference which supported its motions, seemed to grow.

Under Labour Party leader Michael Foot the National Executive Committee (NEC) expelled the so-called "Editorial Board" of the Militant newspaper, namely the "Political Editor" "Ted Grant", "Editor" Peter Taaffe, Keith Dickinson, Lynn Walsh, and the Militant national treasurer Clare Doyle in 1983. These members of Militant represented the leading members at that time. The decision was subsequently endorsed by the full conference of the party, where the union block vote (a vote cast by each union in one single block, often used at the discretion of the union general secretaries, and which at that time commanded the overwhelming majority of votes at conference) swung behind the expulsions, while 80% of the delegates of the General Management Committees of the Constituency Labour Parties were against and a considerable number of rank-and-file trade union delegates voted against expulsion.[3] This measure did not however stop the growth of the Militant.

Kinnock takes action

But by 1985 the atmosphere had changed - Militant were effectively running Liverpool City Council as well as having 3 MPs. The grouping was advancing within the Labour Party but also faced a new leader, Neil Kinnock who was determined to remove the Militant tendency presence from the party. Kinnock's closest advisers were often from the ranks of the Labour Party's student organisation NOLS led by the Clause Four or associated with the Labour Co-ordinating Committee.

The resulting confrontation saw many leading Militant tendency members expelled from the Labour Party and created a dynamic within the organisation that led many to question the policy of entryism. They argued that the Militant tendency was able to grow outside Labour and that the Labour Party's position on the poll tax revealed it to be out of touch with working class opinion. At first only a handful of leading Militant tendency members were expelled, and most of the organisation's thousands of members and their three Labour-elected Members of Parliament could not be expelled.

In 1986 the Labour Party comprehensively over hauled its rule book, at the same as expelling leading Militant tendency members in Merseyside, with a view to making it possible to systematically remove members of entryist parties such as the Militant tendency.

However, Militant MP Terry Fields was removed as a Labour MP for not paying his poll tax, less than two weeks after being released from jail after serving sixty days for the same crime.[4] Militant supporter Dave Nellist MP was suspended from Party membership around the same time, for a "sustained course of conduct bringing the party into disrepute" despite the fact that he had just been voted "Backbencher of the year" by the Conservative supporting Spectator magazine.[5]

The expulsion from Militant

At the end of the eighties the Militant tendency had enjoyed considerable success in the anti-Poll Tax movement, and there was a feeling by some members that continued support for the Labour Party was impeding the growth of the tendency. A debate arose within Militant wherein Peter Taaffe and his supporters argued in favour of abandoning the entryism tactic, and instead standing candidates against the Labour Party in the Liverpool Walton by-election, 1991 and then in the 1992 UK general election in Liverpool and Scotland. Ted "Grant" opposed this, and after the ensuing lengthy internal debate and special national conference which confirmed the decision to leave the Labour Party, Grant was expelled from the Militant tendency together with Alan Woods in 1992[6] after a document allegedly written by their faction emerged in the mainstream media which stated that they intended to split Militant and the Committee for a Workers' International [Citation needed].

Following the expulsion they started a new group in the Labour Party, known by the name of its publication, Socialist Appeal. The split also left Grant and his supporters outside the Committee for a Workers' International, but he and Woods were able to found the Committee for a Marxist International (now called the International Marxist Tendency) with international supporters. He spent much of his time following the split on his writing until he suffered a stroke in 2003 at the age of 90, while he was giving a speech. Ted Grant died on the 20 July 2006, at the age of 93.

Trotsky's grandson Vsievolod Platonovich Volkov said in 1997 that Grant's "deep knowledge of Marxist theory, and particularly the thoughts and works of Leon Trotsky, leap from the written page. Such a knowledge is the fruit of a long life tenaciously dedicated to the meticulous study of Marxism both in theory and in everyday practice."

Main ideas

Ted Grant described himself as a Marxist, a Leninist and a Trotskyist. In his ideas, one can recognize a strong emphasis on the following issues:

  • So-called "Socialist" states born after World War II are defined by Grant as "deformed workers' states", i.e. "proletarian Bonapartist" regimes. Thus he denies a qualitative difference between Stalin's USSR and such countries. In particular, Grant deepened Trotsky's theory on proletarian Bonapartism: he foresaw the likelihood, in the 1945-1991 world situation, of the establishment of new bureaucratised "workers' states" in backward countries, also on the basis of left-wing military coups and peasant guerrilla wars. According to Grant, variants between such regimes have a minor importance and the clashes counterposing their leaderships are just instrumental in supporting the interests of conflicting bureaucracies. Differently from most Trotskyist groups, Ted "Grant" believed that also Burma and Syria, though their leaders were not delivering Communistic speeches, were to be included in that same category when they had a planned economy. For all these countries, he supported a classic Trotsky's demand: a workers' "political revolution" aimed at restoring or establishing "workers' democracy" while preserving economic planning, as asked by the workers' wing of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956.
  • Heavily stressed was the importance of the "united front" tactics worked out by the Third International in the 1920s and a renewed version of the entrist tactics which Trotsky advised some of his followers to adopt in the 30's. According to Grant, Trotskyist groups joining large left-wing parties and the most important unions was a practical implementation of the united front in those difficult conditions Trotskyists had to face after 1945, when the Fourth International was far from being a gathering banner for most workers and leftist youth. In particular since the late 50's, "Ted Grant" developed an original concept of entrism (which he described as being a different concept than the classic entryism and also an opposing vision to Michel Pablo's "deep entrism" or "entrism sui generis"): the revolutionists should have worked "inside, outside and around the mass organisations" for "workers begin to move through their own traditional mass organisations" and therefore "outside the workers' movement, there's nothing". This stance resulted in the Grantist groups on a world scale leaving the Fourth International after 1965, since "Grant" considered other Fourth Internationalists as having degenerated into sects under the influence of the ideas of the petty bourgeoisie (guerrillaism, left-wing nationalism, studentism, third-worldism, feminism etc.).

References

  1. Register of the Library of Social History Collection
  2. A Militant resolution calling for the nationalisation of the commanding heights of the economy was first passed at Labour Party national conference in 1972 by 3.5 million votes to less than 2.5 million.
  3. Taaffe, Peter, The Rise of Militant Chapter Twenty-three
  4. "Mr Fields has chosen to break the law and he must take the consequences." - Labour Leader Neil Kinnock MP, quoted in Militant issue 1050, 19 July 1991
  5. Pat Wall MP, the third tendency supporting MP, died.
  6. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/obituaries/article692611.ece

External links

  • Tony Cliff — another deviant Jewish Trotskyite in Britain.