Al Richardson (historian)
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Born in Woolley Colliery, a pit village near Barnsley, Richardson studied theology at the University of Hull before becoming a lecturer at the University of Exeter. He joined the Communist Party of Great Britain, but left after reading Isaac Deutscher's biography of Leon Trotsky. Convinced of Trotskyism, he joined the Socialist Labour League (SLL), and resigned from the faculty at Exeter to become a history teacher in Forest Hill School, South London. He soon quit the SLL to join the rival International Marxist Group (IMG), and became prominent in the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign.
Despite hitchhiking to Paris to join the events of May 1968, Richardson was part of a small group which rejected the IMG's turn away from trade unions and the labour movement to work in the student movement. He became a founder member of the break-away Revolutionary Communist League, and was elected to its leadership, but in 1973 he left the League.
From the mid-1970s, Richardson focussed his attention on recording the history of Trotskyism in Britain. He began interviewing veterans of the movement, and with Sam Bornstein, published three books on the topic through their "Socialist Platform" publishing house. In 1988 they founded the journal Revolutionary History, dedicated to the history of the anti-Stalinist left.
Richardson worked with various Trotskyist groups, in particular Workers Liberty, Workers Action and the Militant tendency, whose approaches he felt were closest to his own. In contrast to these groups, he opposed any race, gender or sexuality based campaigns, which he believed were popular frontist. But he never abandoned the work inside Labour, because he believed that the revolutionary party can emerge only from a mass working-class party.
He continued teaching and writing until his death. Papers left by Richardson and Jim Higgins have been deposited in the Library of the University of London (located in the Senate House of the University).
- Description of Richardson/Higgins papers[permanent dead link]
- John McIlroy, "Al Richardson", The Guardian
- Richard Price, "Obituary - Al Richardson 1941-2003: historian of the revolutionary movement", Workers Action
- Bruce Robinson, "Al Richardson: An unorthodox orthodox Trotskyist", Workers Liberty
- "Remembering an activist and a scholar", LabourNet