Britain's Far-Left Groups [SWP, Militant/Socialist Party] in the 1960s, 70s and 80s

Submitted by AWL on 5 November, 2008 - 7:41

Seedbed of Today's Revolutionary Left

1959 seemed to mark a nadir for the radical left in Britain. The Tories had just won the third general election in a row. The right wing was triumphant in the Labour Party.

Download the pamphlet here as pdf (2 MB).

Then, however, the Labour leaders decided to launch an official movement. And a big movement developed for nuclear disarmament.

The nuclear-disarmament demonstrations fed into the new Labour youth movement. All the Trotskyist currents were active in that youth movement.

By far the strongest of the Trotskyist currents was the "Healyites", the Socialist Labour League. This grouping was later to degenerate completely and shatter in 1985, leaving only tiny remnants.

Then there was the Socialist Review group (later IS and then the SWP), which in 1959 had only a few dozen members. The Grant tendency, later to become Militant, and today the Socialist Party and Socialist Appeal, was weaker still.

But both those groups grew; and, in a strange twist, the Militant tendency was to acquire political control of the official Labour youth movement in 1969, after the "Healyites" had spiralled off. Militant would run that official Labour youth movement, without much conflict with the top Labour leadership, for 18 years, through to 1987.

The origins of what is today the AWL also lie in the 1960s, in a small group of activists, some ex-members of the SLL, who broke from the Militant tendency in October 1966.

See What We Are And What We Must Become, and The RSL (Militant) in the 1960s.

This pamphlet describes the history of the Labour youth movement. It is a reprint of a series of articles published in Socialist Organiser in 1991, which in turn were based on articles first published in 1979.