Tuesday, 9 October 2018

The Revolutionaries Who Gave Up And Went Home

One of the more interesting and certainly the most stylish Trotskyist group to ever exist in this country was the (now defunct) Revolutionary Communist Party. Originating as part of a faction then led by David Yaffe inside the International Socialists (now the Socialist Workers Party) who split to form the Revolutionary Communist Group (RCG) in 1974.

A section around Frank Furedi was expelled from the RCG  for opposing the organisations attempt to influence the Communist Party (CPGB) & the Anti-Apartheid Movement (AAM). This group went on to form the Revolutionary Communist Tendency.


At first the RCP published a theoretical Journal Revolutionary Communist Papers which was similar to the RCG's equivalent Revolutionary Communist, with the purpose of creating a revolutionary propaganda group.

The group like so many others the RCP became obsessed with Ireland, specifically supporting the republicans setting up several front campaigns including  Smash The Prevention of Terrorism Act and the Irish Freedom Movement. Their propaganda was from the beginning provocative calling for the "war" to be brought to Britain!

Surely that caught the attention of the security services as bombs were occasionally being used on the mainland. It's difficult to remember that once terrorism was from dissident Irish rather than fanatical Islamists of today .


The group then announced with a least a modicum of humour that they were "a tendency to become a party" as the organisation changed it's name. The main publication of the organisation was by then The Next Step which suddenly morphed into designer communism which actually was widespread amongst middle class fashionistas in the eighties.

This period saw an expansion of membership and influence amongst a particular social strata of the trendy. There were exceptions such as the rather old fashioned writer Paul Flewers, but taken as a whole they were stylish and developed a reputation (unproven) for "horizontal recruitment".

They launched a annual bash called Preparing For Power designed to compete with the SWP's annual Marxism event. Attendance exceeded the 1,000 mark and led to their developing a distinct ideology that was out of step with the rest of the left.

Rather than participate in existing campaigns they set up their own. Workers Against Racism which was condemned by other leftists for "kidnapping" immigrants. Their shocking policy of rejecting the aids crisis showed the beginnings of their "contrarian tendency"


The RCP also established a short lived electoral alliance in the form of the Red Front but only attracted the attention of a couple of tiny groupscules. They last stood in the 1992 general election fielding 8 candidates who got derisory votes.

There was one area where the RCP became  a bit more successful when they got their glossy well produced magazine Living Marxism into WHSmiths. Only the CPGB with the daily Morning Star and Marxism Today had succeeded prior to that.

There are no other journals of this type on general sale today as far as I know.

Then the organisation began to wind down. Their last Campaign Against Militarism was the least successful not recalled by even the most diligent of the trot spotters around at the time and then came the dissolution of the RCP over a gradual period.

Not that they told anyone for a while! One of their number, James Heartfield wrote:

Since the end of the Cold War, we were involved in discussions about the appropriateness of a democratic centralist organisation in today's conditions. The decision to wind down the party is not a ruse or subterfuge, it is the practical outcome of those discussions. If you follow the articles in LM, such as the one you posted on Pen-L, you can see the debate we had, re-presented for public consumption. I'm sure I have already argued on these lists that the Leninist style of organisation just is not appropriate when there is no substantial struggle for working class leadership.

In plain English: there will be no revolution in this country.

Living Marxism had been sold to one of their own and re-branded as LM., denoting a move away from their origins. LM continues for a while until their continuing contrarianism finally got them into real trouble and denounced the ITN programme about genocide and concentration camps in former Yugoslavia as fake.

ITN sued and won bankrupting the magazine and the publishers which cost them around one million pounds! The last issue of LM appeared in the summer of 2000.

However although the RCP and it's legacy journal had gone it was not quite the end.

The same core group of people including Mick Hume, Brendon O'Neill and Frank Furedi went on-line to form the Spiked! website where their distinct contrarianism developed into a form of libertarianism. A story for another day!

You can find Spiked! here!

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