Marxist Group (UK)

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The Marxist Group was an early Trotskyist group in the United Kingdom.

Its origins lay in the Communist League, the first Trotskyist group in the country. Trotsky advised the group to enter the Independent Labour Party (ILP), which had just disaffiliated from the Labour Party. He believed that the group should work for a "Bolshevik transformation of the party".[1]

The majority of the Communist League argued against joining the ILP in favour of maintaining an open party, but allowed thirty of its members led by Denzil Dean Harber to form a secretive "Bolshevik-Leninist Fraction" in the ILP. This difference in orientation essentially split the party, and in November 1934, sixty Trotskyist ILPers officially formed the Marxist Group.

While, perhaps due to this delay and infighting, the Group never achieved the influence hoped for by Trotsky, it did win new members, including C. L. R. James. Ted Grant also joined the organisation, having moved from South Africa. By the ILP Conference of 1935, it claimed a similar strength to the Revolutionary Policy Committee, which was sympathetic to the Communist Party of Great Britain.

The Group soon realised that the ILP did not have mass influence outside Glasgow, and sent John Archer to check the actual strength of the party around the country. Trotsky proposed drawing up a manifesto around a militant programme, including a call for a Fourth International, and requesting signatures to see how much influence the Group had. While the Group was unable to reach a decision on this, at the 1936 ILP Conference, none of its motions were passed. Because these motions included a clear call for the Fourth International, many members of the Group were expelled from the ILP, including James. James then convinced the remainder of his organisation to exit the ILP.

Outside the ILP, the Group began working with the Marxist League, another Trotskyist group, and in early 1938, the two joined to form the Revolutionary Socialist League.


  • Robert J. Alexander, International Trotskyism, 1929-1985
  • Sam Bornstein and Al Richardson, Against the Stream