Dave Renton

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Dave Renton

David (Dave) Renton (born December 1972[1]) is a British barrister, historian and author. He was a long term member of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and has written a number of books including Fascism, Anti-Fascism and the 1940s.

Early life and education[edit]

Renton was born in London in 1972, into what he has described as "a family which saw history as its canvass." His great aunt was Dona Torr the Communist historian, his grandfather the shoe designer Kurt Geiger. One uncle was an activist in Equity, the actors' trade union, while another was the Conservative MP Tim Renton, Baron Renton of Mount Harry.[2] He was educated at Eton College where became a member of the Labour Party. He then studied history at St John's College, Oxford under the labour historian Ross McKibbin.[3]

Before becoming a Barrister, Renton was an academic historian and sociologist, teaching at universities including Nottingham Trent, Edge Hill, and Rhodes University in South Africa.[4]

He joined the Socialist Workers Party in 1991, but resigned in 2013.[5]

Renton was also a county-standard middle-distance runner. He is a follower of Liverpool F.C..

Historical writing[edit]

Renton's first short book, based on his undergraduate dissertation, was a pamphlet history of anti-fascism in 1930s Oxford. This was followed by a PhD at the University of Sheffield on fascism and anti-fascism in 1940s Britain. Renton studied there under Professor Colin Holmes and Dr Richard Thurlow.

Renton's book Fascism, theory and practice criticised the "new consensus" theory of fascism associated with Roger Griffin and others, in which fascism is understood as a form of palingenetic ultranationalism. Renton's approach was to analyse fascism as a specific form of reactionary mass politics. In contrast to Griffin, Renton placed greater emphasis on what he portrayed as a key contradiction between the popular support many fascist parties have enjoyed, and their ideology, which he characterised as radically inegalitarian and anti-democratic. Fascism, in Renton's argument, was always a tentative politics, capable of rapid growth but also (if opposed) organisational lethargy or even collapse.[6]

His 2000 book Fascism, Anti-Fascism and the 1940s was widely reviewed internationally.[7][8][9]

In When we touched the Sky, Renton considered the part played by British anti-fascists in the Anti-Nazi League and Rock Against Racism (RAR) in their fight against the National Front.

Renton has also written histories of the British Communist Party and biographies of Leon Trotsky and C.L.R. James.


Since 2009, Renton has practised as a barrister at Garden Court chambers in London, in employment, housing and family law.[10]

Renton's clients have included the Bank of Ideas and Dave Smith, a construction worker who in 2012 and 2013 sued Carillion (JM) Ltd for blacklisting, in the aftermath of the Consulting Association scandal.[11] It was during Smith's Tribunal hearing that the information first came into the public domain that construction workers had been spied on by the police or security services.[12]

Renton was for several years the author of an employment law blog Struck Out, which accompanied a book of the same name.

Political activism[edit]

In 2003–2006, when Renton worked full-time as a national official of the lecturers' union Natfhe (now the University and College Union), he was a member of the national steering committee of Unite Against Fascism.

In 2012, Renton was one of the organisers of the 2012 Counter Olympics Network protest against the London Olympics and took part in protests highlighting the Olympics' role in the gentrification of East London.[13]

In 2013, Renton was one of the many SWP members to be caught up in the “Comrade Delta” Crisis. Renton supported the female complainants and became a prominent critic of the SWP leadership, publicly criticising their decisions in a series of posts published on his blog, Lives; Running.[14]

In May 2014, he published a piece in the London Review of Books naming the individual who had been the police’s principal suspect for the death of Blair Peach, and setting out deficiencies in the inquest which had prevented the jury from having access to findings of the police investigation in the killing.[15]

He is a member of the London Socialist Historians Group and the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers.


  • Fascism: theory and practice 1999, Pluto Press. ISBN 978-0-7453-1470-9
  • Fascism, Anti-Fascism and the 1940s 2000
  • The Twentieth Century 2000 (with Keith Flett)
  • This Rough Game 2001
  • Marx on Globalization 2001
  • The Communist Party since 1920 2002 (With James Eaden)
  • Classical Marxism 2002
  • New Approaches to Socialist History 2003 (with Keith Flett)
  • Dissident Marxism 2004
  • Trotsky 2004
  • Sidney Pollard: a Life in History 2004
  • British Fascism, the Labour Movement and the State 2004 (With Nigel Copsey)[16]
  • The Congo 2006 (With Leo Zeilig and David Seddon)
  • When we touched the Sky: the ANL 1977–1981 2006
  • CLR James: Cricket's Philosopher King. 2007 Haus Publishing
  • Colour Blind? Race and Migration in North East England 2008
  • Struck Out 2012
  • Lives; Running 2012
  • Socialism from below 2013


  1. ^ The Rentons: A Family History by Dave Renton, dkrenton.co.uk, 2013. Retrieved 6 October 2013. Archived here.
  2. ^ Author by Dave Renton, livesrunning.wordpress.com, 2015. Retrieved 24 August 2015.
  3. ^ Biography by Dave Renton, dkrenton.co.uk, 2013. Retrieved 6 October 2013. Archived here.
  4. ^ 'About the author', David Renton [1], 'Dissident Marxism'.
  5. ^ Dave Renton "To my comrades, of any party or none", livesrunning, 17 December 2013
  6. ^ See the reviews listed at http://dkrenton.co.uk/theory.html
  7. ^ Kelly, Sean (Spring 2001) Fascism, Anti-Fascism and the 1940s (review), Labour History Review, page 112.
  8. ^ Coupland, Philip (August 2002) Fascism, Anti-Fascism and the 1940s (review), Canadian Journal of History, page 391.
  9. ^ Cronin, Mike (October 2001) Reviews of Books: Europe: Early Modern and Modern, American Historical Review, page 1459.
  10. ^ David Renton, Garden Court Chambers, April 2013. Retrieved 9 April 2013.
  11. ^ David Renton acting in Employment Appeal Tribunal case on blacklisting, Garden Court Chambers, October 2013. Retrieved 11 October 2013. Archived here.
  12. ^ Boffey, Daniel (2012-03-03). "Police are linked to blacklist of construction workers". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2016-03-07. 
  13. ^ "Counter Olympics Torch Relay". 
  14. ^ Platt, Edward (2014). "Comrades at War". 
  15. ^ Renton, Dave (2014). "The Killing of Blair Peach". London Review of Books. 
  16. ^ Thorpe, Andrew (2007) Review of Nigel Copsey, and David Renton. "British Fascism, the Labour Movement and the State." The English Historical Review. 122.495: 281–283. Print.

External links[edit]