Saturday, October 29, 2011

“GENESIS” – earliest days and prehistory of SOLIDARITY

Origins of an influential libertarian socialist organisation - Part 1

Based on extracts from a working draft by John Quail, plagiarised with permission by LW.

In the beginning: a gripping tale of splits and factions, in which our heroes finally escape from the scary authoritarian left, after many adventures

The first issue of the magazine that was to become Solidarity was published in October 1960. Called Agitator for its first few issues, it was produced by ‘Socialism Reaffirmed’– the group’s name being also the title of what was effectively a manifesto, libertarian and autonomist in content, issued the same month. In brief, the earliest members of the Socialism Reaffirmed group were expelled from or left the Socialist Labour League (SLL, precursor of the Workers’ Revolutionary Party, its heirs and assigns) at various times in 1960 and formed a new organisation with a new perspective which then attracted further recruits.

Trotskyist background
The SLL emerged in 1947 from a split in the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), a short-lived unification of the UK Trotskyists, following a dispute about the correctness or otherwise of joining the Labour Party as a clandestine faction, the alternative being to continue as an open independent party. It was now forbidden to

Sunday, October 9, 2011

After Cable Street - Joe Jacobs, 1940-77 - Meeting

Wednesday 12 October, 8 p.m.
at the Wood Green Social Club, Stuart Crescent, N 22.
(The WGSC is 100 yards up the hill just up from the tube station, cross the gardens and there we are, opposite the Civic Centre)

Joe Jacobs' life was important for two reasons. The first was that he was one of the best examples of a political working class activist who automatically associated with the Communist Party of Great Britain at its peak. Yet within a few years, the CPGB had lost the leadership of many of this group and in Joe's case had expelled him twice, simply over their Stalinist politics and practices. His example could be written tens of thousands of times in the CPGB's long decline into political conventionality and disintegration.

Secondly Joe did not just hide himself away and pack in political activity but joined what was by far the best example of a libertarian marxist group , Solidarity, sometimes called Solidarity-for-workers'-power. Here he participated in full and worked in both an industrial and political context - he was an ace reporter and writer.

Even so, Joe found himself increasingly in conflict with the organisation and through his contact with more libertarian politics eventually was expelled here as well. Joe had made contact with the Echanges et Mouvement group, effectively a council communists off-shoot, that is sitting outside both the marxist and main anarchist movements. His relations with E&M were terminated by his early death in 1977.

Hence Joe's life and times are hugely significant especially for socialist libertarians who identify themselves as being in this broad category. The events of his life, outlined below, should be put into these two contexts.

In 1936, Joe had defied the CPGB and mobilised dissident communists organising against the fascists of Oswald Mosley. His comrades did stop the fascists from marching through the East End, but at great personal risk. In the following years Joe played a less public role but was active right up to his death. His story is at last told here.

He did war service and did a spell in the nick after a clash with an officer. After returning to his work in the clothing trade, Joe was as active as ever in the workplace and led a strike/occupation at a factory in Warren Street. He fell out again with the Communist Party, too much thinking for himself, and moved towards less authoritarian politics. Joe had always been critical of the CPGB policy of concentration on the official trade union structure, favouring building up the working class organisation at the workplace. Eventually he left manufacturing and began work at the Post Office at Mount Pleasant. After brief contact with trotskyists he also turned to a more radical alternative, libertarian marxism.

He joined Solidarity for workers' power and was active in writing reports of industrial events . He was a very diligent writer about the important Post Office workers' strike in 1971, as he had just retired from employment at the PO. Next he was prominent in the dispute with the Big Flame over the 1972 Fisher Bendix strike and that organisation was forced to back down. Joe also wrote for the [at best] monthly journal doing reviews and suchlike.

Available from Housmans bookshop
Joe was increasingly involved in international contacts. He had lost friends as volunteers in the Spanish Revolution [/Civil War] and later took a serious interest in French libertarian groups. He was enthusiastic about the council communist group Echanges et Mouvement. Ultimately this new version of politics took him away from Solidarity and he was expelled after a pointless campaign for change. His politics were now centred in this aspect of ideas and activity. Joe had worked on his autobiography and had practically finished the key passages when he died in 1977. His daughter completed his manuscript and published the book privately, the great classic Out of the Ghetto.

Alan Woodward has written up his life story since 1940 for Gorter Press, and the book will be available at cost price. Currently celebrations are taking place of the 75th anniversary of the great Cable Street Resistance which gave Joe his most important role in organising against the fascists of Oswald Mosley. This curiously has been written out of the official version.

Numerous other events and publications will be involved in the events of the never-ending fight against fascism. We celebrate Joe's life, mourn his early death and continue the struggle of his efforts.