Ted Grant

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Ted Grant
Born Isaac Blank
(1913-07-09)9 July 1913
Germiston, South Africa
Died 20 July 2006(2006-07-20) (aged 93)
London, United Kingdom
Nationality South African
Occupation Political theorist, writer, activist
Movement Militant tendency, International Marxist Tendency
Religion None (atheist)
Website
http://www.tedgrant.org/

Edward "Ted" Grant (born Isaac Blank; 9 July 1913 – 20 July 2006) was a South African Trotskyist who spent most of his adult life in Britain. He was a founding member of the Militant tendency and later Socialist Appeal.

Early life

Grant's father had settled in South Africa after fleeing Tsarist Russia in the nineteenth century. His original family name is reported as "Blank" also in his autobiography, but the Guardian in an obituary suggested that his full birth name was kept unknown.[1]

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, 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 the movement.

On the journey he changed his name to 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 against fascists. 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.

Political activities

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. In 1945, Ted Grant, together with Jock Haston and others, argued that there would be a new but limited period of economic expansion of the 1950s and 1960s in the west. This contrasted with the perspectives of the American Socialist Workers Party led by James Cannon in 1945.[2]

After the break up of the RCP, Grant reluctantly joined Gerry Healy's faction, but was soon expelled. He formed a new, small tendency in the Labour Party which, during 1952 and 1953, called itself the International Socialist Group after its quarterly magazine, The International Socialist.[3] 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 newspaper Militant.

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. Throughout this time Grant and his colleagues formally denied to officials of the Labour Party that 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 shift to the left in the 1970s, in which constituency Labour Party General Management Committees (GMCs) 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.

Labour Party responses

The left had lost their majority on the Labour Party's National Executive Committee in 1982, and the five members of the editorial board of the Militant newspaper, Grant, Clare Doyle, Peter Taaffe, Lynn Walsh and Keith Dickinson, were expelled from the party on 22 February 1983, while Michael Foot was still leader.

The decision was subsequently endorsed by the full conference of the party, where the union block vote (often used at the discretion of the union general secretaries) 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 trade union delegates voted against expulsion.[4] This measure did not however stop the growth of Militant.

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 Militant. At first only a handful of leading Militant members were expelled; their (by 1987) three Labour-elected members of parliament were still under the Labour whip in the House of Commons.

The expulsions from the Labour Party later resumed, by Militant's own tabulation amounting to 219 by August 1991,[5] 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.

Grant's expulsion from Militant

At the end of the eighties Militant was active 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. Grant worried that his organisation was shifting away from interpreting Trotsky's theories and indulging in "activism"; he had argued that Militants MPs should pay the poll tax to protect the group.[6] 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 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[7] 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 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 attempted to work up from Trotsky's theory of the Soviet Union as a degenerated workers' state.[8] Grant 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.).

Trivia

  • He is depicted as Jed Burroughs of the Burrowers League in Tariq Ali's satire Redemption (Chatto & Windus 1990 ISBN 0-7011-3394-5).
  • Ted Grant's collected works are in the process of being published by Wellred Books; so far, the first two volumes have come out, covering the periods 1938–1942[9] and 1943–1945.[10]

References

  1. ^ Wade, Bob (27 July 2006). "Obituary". The Guardian (London). 
  2. ^ Bornstein and Richardson "The War and the International", p.110, 176
  3. ^ Register of the Library of Social History Collection
  4. ^ Taaffe, Peter, The Rise of Militant Chapter Twenty-three
  5. ^ McSmith, p.116
  6. ^ Andy McSmith Faces of Labour: The Inside Story, London: Verso, 1996, p.114
  7. ^ Hamilton, Fiona. The Times (London) http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/obituaries/article692611.ece |url= missing title (help). 
  8. ^ Meikle, Scott (1982). "Has Marxism a future?". Journal of Socialist Theory 13 (1): 103–121. doi:10.1080/03017608208413276. Retrieved 13 July 2012. 
  9. ^ Grant, T. (2010). Writings, Volume One – Trotskyism and the Second World War. London: Wellred Publications
  10. ^ Grant, T. (2012). Writings, Volume Two – Trotskyism and the Second World War. London: Wellred Publications

Further reading

  • Grant, T. (2010). Writings, Volume One – Trotskyism and the Second World War. London: Wellred Publications
  • Grant, T. (2012). Writings, Volume Two – Trotskyism and the Second World War. London: Wellred Publications
  • Grant, T. (1989). The Unbroken Thread. London: Fortress Books
  • Christophe Le Dréau, « Repères pour une histoire du trotskisme britannique, 1925–2005 », Communisme, 2006, 87, numéro spécial « Regards sur le communisme britannique », pp. 149–160.
  • Woods, Alan (2014). The Permanent Revolutionary. London: Wellred Publications

External links