MIA: ETOL: Writers: International Socialist Tendency:



The International Socialist Tradition

Links to biographies and writings of writers associated with the International Socialist Tradition archived in the Marxists Internet Archive (MIA) or the Encyclopedia of Trotskyism OnLine (ETOL).

In the late 1940s, the Trotskyist movement was wrestling with the fact that the Red Army had created “People’s Republics” across half of Europe, shortly to be joined by China, but Stalin’s reactionary bureaucratic caste remained firmly in control, whilst capitalism had restabilised itself in the West.

A majority of the Trotskyists adopted the idea of “deformed workers’ states” to decribe these states, an extension of Trotsky’s description of the Soviet Union as a “degenerated workers’ state.” Tony Cliff, however, developed the theory that Russia wasn’t a workers’ state but a form of bureaucratic “state capitalism.” It is this idea which has characterised the International Socialist Tradition ever since.

State Capitalism in Russia, Tony Cliff, 1955

Associated with the idea that the Stalinist states were “state capitalist,” was a corresponding hostile attitude to the labour and trade union bureaucracy. Tony Cliff was expelled from the Trotskyist Movement and founded the Socialist Review Group.

The Origins of the I.S., Duncan Hallas, 1971
Origins of the SWP, Jim Higgins, 1997

At the beginning of the 1960s the Socialist Review Group adopted the name International Socialism (also the name of their new theoretical magazine) but from 1968 the group was usually called the International Socialists. During the early 1970s the group developed a small but significant base in the working class and became one of the largest groups, if not the largest group, on the British revolutionary left. After the election of the Labour government in 1974 the group suffered a crisis which led to the departure of a number of leading comrades and the loss of a number of important trade union militants.

In 1976 the group became the Socialist Workers Party and managed to stabilise itself. At the end of the 1970s the group developed the theory of the downturn to explain the decline of working class struggles during the period of the Labour government.

The Smallest Mass Party, Ian Birchall, 1973/1981

During the 1970s the International Socialist tendency extended its influence from Britain, at first to the other English-speaking countries, and especially in the 1980s and ’90s to every part of the world. Although fraught by differences from time to time over orientation to the workers’ movement or to the student or other social movements, they have proved to be one of the most stable Marxist political organisations since the 1950s.

The following writers were leading members of the International Socialists in Britain whose works are archived in the MIA or the ETOL

Tony Cliff

Tony Cliff (1917–2000) was born in Palestine to Zionist parents in 1917, and became a Trotskyist during the 1930s and played a leading role in the attempting to unite Arab and Jewish workers. At the end of World War II, he moved to Britain. In 1950, after developing his theory of bureaucratic state capitalism, he was expelled from the Fourth International, but continued to consider himself a Trotskyist, though open to other Marxist ideas. Tony Cliff remained a foremost ideological leader of the International Socialists till his death in 2000.

Duncan Hallas

Duncan Hallas (1925–2002) was born into a working class family in Manchester, and joined the Trotskyist Workers International League during World War II. Conscripted in 1943, Hallas participated in a mutiny in Egypt after the end of the War. Back in Britain he supported Tony Cliff’s ideas and was a founder member of the Socialist Review Group, but drifted away during the 1950s. In 1968 he rejoined the International Socialists, and from that time he was a leading member of the organisation, a great populariser of Marxism and an inspired speaker, until ill health forced him out of active politics in 1995.

Jim Higgins (1930–2002) was born into a working-class family in Harrow and joined the Young Communist League at 14. He broke with the CP in 1956 following Khrushchev’s “secret speech” and the Soviet invasion of Hungary, later joining the Socialist Review Group. In the 1960s he was elected to the Post Office Union’s National Executive, but resigned to become National Secretary of the IS in the early 1970s. Quarrelling with other IS leaders in the mid-1970s, he resigned to build a new life as a journalist.

Michael Kidron

Michael Kidron (1930–2003) was a leading theoretician of the Socialist Review Group and the IS from the mid-1950s until the mid-1970s, when he dropped out of active politics. Kidron developed the theory of the Permanent Arms Economy as an explanation of the long post-war boom; he also made a critique of the interpretation of Lenin’s concept of Imperialism.

Paul Foot (1937–2004) was a major investigative journalist, who joined the International Socialists as a young man in the early 1960s. During the 1970s he served as editor of Socialist Worker for a period, but he also had a regular column in Private Eye, a satirical magazine that also did serious investigative journalism; later he had a weekly column in The Mirror, a mass circulation tabloid daily, and during the last decade of his life for The Guardian, a liberal daily. He also published a number of influential books based on his investigations and a number of popular pamphlets that were introductions to revolutionary socialist politics.

Chris Harman (1942–2009) was a leading theoretician of the International Socialists and the Socialist Workers Party from the 1960s until his death. He further developed the economic analysis pioneered by Michael Kidron and wrote a series of major theoretical works on Marxist economics as well as various works on contemporary and historical topics. He was editor of Socialist Worker from the late 1970s until 2004. He also served as editor of International Socialism twice, once for a short period in the 1970s and then from 2004 until his death.

In Britain the International Socialist Tendency has produced a number of journals and magazines over the decades. Some of these have extensive archives here in ETOL.

Socialist Review (1950–1962)

International Socialism (1st series) (1958–1968) (1969–1974) (1975–1978)

Socialist Review (1978–present)

International Socialism (2nd series) (1978–1991) (1991–2003) (2003–present)

Over the decades a number of other writers with archives in MIA or ETOL have been associated with the International Socialist Tradition:

Geoff Carlsson
Raymond Challinor
Bassem Chit
Hugo Dewar
Audrey Farrell
Pete Glatter
Reg Groves
Brian Manning
Paul O’Flinn
Peter Sedgwick
Harry Wicks
Julie Waterson
David Widgery

The following living authors associated with the IS Tradition also have articles in various parts of ETOL:

Chris Bambery
Colin Barker
Peter Binns
Ian Birchall
Alex Callinicos
Norah Carlin
John Charlton
Andy Durgan
Lindsey German
Mike Gonzalez
Pete Green
Nigel Harris
Alistair Hatchett
Mike Haynes
James Hinton
Nick Howard
Richard Hyman
Steve Jefferys
Gareth Jenkins
Jim Kincaid
Eamonn McCann
Alasdair MacIntyre
John Molyneux
Jonathan Neale
John Newsinger
John Palmer
Roger Protz
John Rees
Chanie Rosenberg

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Compiled by Andy Blunden & Einde O’Callaghan

Last updated on: 10 May 2015