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Notable Individuals of the Communist Party of Great Britain

Notable Individuals of the Communist Party of Great Britain

Individual deposits within the CPGB archives are significant both for the biographies of the individuals concerned and as a record of the wider activities of the party and its ancillaries. The dividing line between these materials and the party's institutional records is indeed extremely blurred. Even in the post-war decades, the CPGB's greater attention to archival matters could never have extended to a systematic records management policy for its several departments, sub-national divisions and ancillary organisations. Some areas, of course, are poorly documented, or must be followed up elsewhere. But important survivals for many key bodies were either derived from personal deposits, or else remain within them, and are essential to the richness and integrity of the archive as a whole.

The range of leading figures covered by the personal deposits is impressive but not exhaustive. Of the party's founding generation of leaders, figures like MacManus, Bell and Inkpin, who died before the new interest in preserving its history after 1956, appear to have left no significant documentation of the organisation's formative years. Instead, it is figures whose longevity extended into and beyond this period, Pollitt, Dutt and Gallacher being notable examples, whose papers provide some of the most important materials in the archive, particularly for historians interested in this earlier period. Between the 1950s and the 1980s, it seems that most leading communists who deposited their papers put them in the party archives. This was especially true of figures who died after the party history was inaugurated after 1956, and before the factional disputes of the 1980s. With the split between 'loyalists' and 'hard-liners', however, an important figure like Andrew Rothstein left his papers to the Marx Memorial Library, which was loosely aligned with the latter. Apparently for reasons of long association with the library, communists like the historian and research worker, Noreen Branson, and the sometime MP for Stepney Mile End, Phil Piratin, also left papers to the Marx Library; while for similar reasons important personal holdings can also be found in the Working Class Movement Library in Salford and in the Gallacher Memorial Library in Glasgow. Nevertheless, the party archives contain by far the most important collection of personal papers relating to British communism.

Kay Beauchamp (CP/IND/KAYB)

Kay Beauchamp (1899-1992) came from a traditional Anglican-Conservative background, but was preceded by a sister Joan Beauchamp (1890-1964) who played an important role in the anti-conscription movement and became a foundation member of the CPGB. Kay herself joined the party in 1924 and was one of the original staff members on the Daily Worker in 1930 before briefly attending the Lenin School. Her first husband was the book dealer Graham Pollard, who left an important collection of documents relating to the St Pancras CPGB, in which both were involved in the 1920s. These are now held by the Bodleian Library in Oxford. Beauchamp's own papers relate primarily to her later activities. Over several decades, she maintained her commitment to local campaigning activities, first in Finsbury, where she was briefly a communist councillor, then in Hackney. With her second husband Tony Gilbert, she was perhaps more prominently identified with the anti-colonial and anti-racist movements, and was active as a foundation member of the Movement for Colonial Freedom (later Liberation). Dating mainly from the 1970s, her papers provide an important complement to the MCF's own archives, deposited in the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies.

Ben Bradley (CP/IND/BRAD)

Benjamin Francis Bradley (1898-1957) was a communist metalworker, born in Walthamstow, who was sent to India to promote militant trade unionism in 1927 and sentenced in the infamous Meerut Conspiracy Trial five years later. This provoked an enormous outcry, and in Britain, according to Stephen Howe, "probably inspired more left-wing pamphlet literature than any other colonial issue between the wars". Bradley's papers are an indispensable source for the episode and include extensive prison correspondence, documents from the Meerut trial and records of the international campaigns of solidarity with the defendants. They also contain his notes for a projected autobiography and materials relating to his later political activities. For several years Bradley continued to be involved in anti-colonial activities and between 1934 and 1940 served as secretary of the League Against Imperialism and its successor, the CPGB's Colonial Information Bureau. He also spent periods as the Daily Worker's circulation manager and, briefly before his death, as national organiser of the Britain-China Friendship Association. His papers bear witness to the genuine internationalism that was one of the outstanding qualities of many communist activists.

Rajani Palme Dutt (CP/IND/DUTT)

The papers of R. Palme Dutt (1896-1974), theoretician, thesis draughtsman and unfailing guardian of the 'international line', are one of the most important deposits. Dutt had many critics, who alleged that he was concerned less with collective endeavour and effectiveness than with ensuring that his own views were recorded, for future vindication if not always immediate enactment. There is an interesting parallel in this regard with criticisms sometimes made of Tony Benn by Labour Party colleagues, and it is perhaps no coincidence that Benn's and Dutt's are among the best documented careers in their respective parties. Already, before the opening of the CPGB archives, there were made accessible in the British Library some thirty-odd bulky volumes of Dutt's draft theses, articles and correspondence. To these should be added not just the twenty-five boxes catalogued as Dutt's papers, but many of the files on party congresses and leading committees which are in fact Dutt's own. For the formal party line, Dutt's papers are a major source; and for the years 1924-36, when Dutt lived in Brussels but served from afar on the CPGB's central committee, they provide a particularly full record of his necessarily written interventions. Dutt had a formidable intellect, whether or not he always employed it wisely, and was also prepared to propound his beliefs in wider intellectual milieu. There is consequently an illustrious correspondence, sometimes grimly revelatory of his Stalinist mentality, that takes in literary, cultural and political figures like Max Eastman, Bertrand Russell, Harold Laski and Augustus John. There is also much that attests to Dutt's active anti-colonialism, as well as the beginnings of an autobiography and materials relating to his wife, Salme. More sensitive documents relating to Dutt's early manoeuvrings with Salme and Harry Pollitt were entrusted to Pollitt's official biographer, John Mahon, and are now available in the Working Class Movement Library in Salford.

Hymie Fagan (CP/IND/FAG)

Born in 1903, Hymie Fagan was an East London communist recruit of the mid-1920s who attended the Lenin School in Moscow before taking on a variety of journalistic responsibilities within and around the CPGB. His papers include a fascinating unpublished autobiography providing a relatively rare inside glimpse of the Lenin School as well as a vivid depiction of the Jewish East End and its clothing industry. The manuscript also includes an interesting account of the history of the Peasant's Revolt which Fagan published for the Left Book Club in 1938, England Arise. Other files relate to Fagan's activities as the CPGB's national election agent in 1945, when the party reached its apogee of two MPs, and the study of nationalisation that he published in 1960.

William Gallacher (CP/IND/GALL)

The archive has extensive papers of William Gallacher (1883-1965), described by Andrew Thorpe as "one of the most significant public figures the party ever produced" and second only to Pollitt in this respect. The basis for such a claim is clear: already a well-known figure in his native Scotland, between 1935 and 1950 Gallacher served as the CPGB's longest-serving MP for the constituency of West Fife. The profile this gave him within the party led, amongst other things, to several volumes of autobiography, the first of which, Revolt on the Clyde (1936), has been seen as a prototype of the genre internationally. Gallacher's papers include files relating both to his parliamentary work and to his later spell as party chairman between 1950 and 1956. He also preserved copies of his poetic efforts, whose appearance in print is explicable only by reference to his personal standing, and a series of detective stories which not even this was sufficient to see into print. In one of his books of memoirs Gallacher described how, as a matter of revolutionary vigilance, he had acquired the habit of destroying all notes of meetings he attended, even those sent him by Lenin himself. For this earlier period of Gallacher activities in the party's inner leadership, which date from the CPGB's foundation, there is consequently little trace in his papers, though an important, unguarded memoir survives in the papers of the CPGB history commission (q.v.).

Long groomed as Pollitt's successor and attaining the general secretaryship of the CPGB in the difficult year of 1956, John Gollan (1911-77) was to retain the position for some two decades, almost as long as Pollitt himself. If Gollan never made the same impression on the wider world, some communists even muttered about a 'cult of impersonality'. The high regard in which he was held by party loyalists is attested by the biographical research carried out in the last years of her life by Margot Kettle (q.v.). Long before he became party secretary, Gollan had occupied a number of key positions both in the party apparatus and at the Daily Worker. Born in Edinburgh in 1911, he had also played an important role in the 1930s youth movement, as secretary of the Young Communist League. Among the activities documented are his imprisonment for anti-militarist activities in 1931; the apprentices' strikes of 1937; and his involvement in a broader youth movement, including the preparation of an unpublished book on conscription and military service.

Wal Hannington (CP/IND/HANN)

Wal Hannington (1896-1966) was a London-born toolmaker and foundation member of the CPGB who became synonymous with the inter-war movement of unemployed workers. For unexplained reasons, Hannington's personal collection relating to the NUWM became divided between the CPGB archives and the Marx Memorial Library. With the NUWM's suspension of activities during the Second World War, Hannington made his way back into the engineering industry and in 1941 was elected one of the three national organisers of the Amalgamated Engineering Union (AEU). He lost the position at the height of the Cold War, in December 1950, but three years later was elected the AEU's assistant divisional organiser for north London and retained the position until his retirement in 1961. His papers contain an extensive documentation of his activities within the AEU, including his proposals for the reorganisation of the union and the controversy over his book, The Rights of Engineers (1944). They also document his resentment against those within the party apparatus and its engineering networks who several times in the 1950s vetoed his candidacies for more senior union positions, and whom he accused of "walking over the face of honoured foundation members of the Party". One of the outstanding militants of his generation, Hannington left two books of memoirs but still awaits the biographical treatment he deserves.

George Allen Hutt (CP/IND/HUTT)

Allen Hutt (1901-73) was a Cambridge-educated communist who joined the CPGB in 1922 having previously been national secretary of the communist-dominated University Socialist Federation. Through a paternal lineage of master printers, Hutt took pride in a family involvement in the publishing industry dating from the seventeenth century. Translating this into a left-wing context, Hutt worked variously for the Daily Herald, whose staff he joined in 1923, the communist Workers' Weekly; the Soviet news agency TASS; Palme Dutt's Labour Monthly; and Trade Union Unity, a short-lived venture of TUC 'lefts' like A. A. Purcell. His trade union contacts were reflected in his first book Communism and Coal (1928), a collaboration with Arthur Horner, and his voluminous correspondence with the Fife miners' leader David Proudfoot. After a spell at the International Lenin School and two years as chief sub-editor at the newly launched Daily Worker (1930-32), Hutt produced a series of books on British working-class politics, the best of them, The Condition of the Working Class in Britain (1933), revealing a flair for the investigative side of journalism as well as its technical aspects. It was nevertheless to the latter that Hutt owed a reputation that extended well beyond the left. In 1936 he joined the co-operative-owned Reynolds news with a special brief for the paper's redesign and six years later rejoined the Daily Worker following its temporary wartime ban. These were halcyon days for British communists, whose optimism for the post-war world was focused on the 'new' Daily Worker that would match the best that Fleet Street had to offer. Hutt as chief sub-editor made perhaps the outstanding contribution to such a goal, and earned the respect both of his colleagues and of his profession. These activities are well documented in Hutt's papers, which include an important personal correspondence going back to the 1920s. For a quarter of a century Hutt also sat on the executive of the National Union of Journalists, edited its monthly paper and in 1967 was made its president. He remained with the Daily Worker until his retirement in 1966: the year in which, to his dismay and contempt, the paper changed its name to the Morning Star.

Margot Kettle Papers (CP/IND/KETT)

Margot Kettle (née Gale) was never in the first or even second rank of CPGB activists, though she did play an important role during the war years as an undercover communist in the students' movement. In the course of these activities, she established a wide range of contacts in the youth and student movement, and it was on these that she drew for two major unpublished research projects towards the end of her life. The first, undertaken in the 1980s, was her Recollections of a Younger World aimed at recovering the memory of the anti-fascist generation of the 1930s. As well as her manuscript and correspondence with publishers and others, the papers include Kettle's transcripts of interviews with contemporaries in the youth movement. Though Kettle was unsuccessful in finding a publisher, she then turned her attention to John Gollan, the subsequent CPGB general secretary who in the 1930s was one of the leading figures in the youth movement. Again working drafts and correspondence can be found alongside interview transcripts, and provide an insight into the older generation of the 1980s as well as its halcyon days some decades earlier.

James Klugmann (CP/IND/KLUG)

A student communist recruit of the early 1930s, James Klugmann was to attract more controversy than almost any of his party comrades. Partly this was attributable to his alleged involvement in spy-related activities in 1930s' Cambridge; partly to his wartime role in SOE in Yugoslavia, where he is said to have favoured Tito's cause, as indeed he might have been expected to. More certainly, Klugmann did, as noted elsewhere, write the terrible tract, From Trotsky to Tito, which has often been taken as a token of how far British communists were prepared to take their Stalinist commitments. Though his work as a party historian won few admirers beyond the party's own ranks, reform-minded communists of the 1960s and 1970s did remember him as a sympathetic figure, both through his role in the party education department and as editor of Marxism Today. Sundry papers and educational materials give a glimpse of these activities. For those unable to use the Moscow archives, Klugmann's notes also provide a useful indication of some of the more important materials for the so-called 'Class against Class' period. Which materials he thought to include, and which to exclude, would provide an interesting insight into the mentality of the official party historian, but not surprisingly has yet to find a historian with the time and opportunity to carry out the necessary comparison.

George Matthews Papers (CP/IND/MATH)

George Matthews was the son of a Bedfordshire farmer who joined the CPGB, initially as an undercover activist in the Labour Party and the University Labour Federation, around 1938. After coming out as an open communist in 1940, Matthews's party career made rapid progress, and he joined the CPGB's Executive Committee in 1943, remaining a member until 1979. From 1950-7 he was the party's assistant secretary, and then editor of the Daily Worker / Morning Star (1957-74) and head of press and publicity (1974-9). In the estimation of some of his colleagues, he would have made an obvious and competent secretary of the Party, but according to Harry Pollitt himself was ruled out on grounds of his middle-class, farming background. After retiring from his other party responsibilities, Matthews continued to work part-time in the library and played a significant role in the discussions which led to the archives being made publicly accessible in Manchester. Perhaps for this reason, his are among the notes and papers that can be found scattered in other files and classes through the archives. Though Matthews was regarded as one of the CPGB's experts on agriculture, his papers cover the broader range of political and industrial activities that he encountered in the course of his responsibilities. There is little, however, of a personal character.

Ivor Montagu (CP/IND/MONT)

An ebullient polymath of patrician background, Ivor Montagu was never one of the CPGB's inner circle of leaders and spent only a short spell on its executive committee during its experiment with a free congress vote for the body in the mid-1940s. Nevertheless, Montagu was a significant journalist and publicist of communist causes, whose less intensive involvement in party activities allowed him scope for an extraordinary range of interests. A naturalist by training; he was also variously a film critic, film director and (with Alfred Hitchcock) producer; a sportsman and pioneering proselytiser for table tennis; the Daily Worker's correspondent in post-war Germany and at the Nuremberg trials; the author of books on Mongolia, Eisenstein and the Berufsverbote, as well as of the briefly controversial Traitor Class published in 1940; and president of Southampton FC Supporters' Club, as well as a lifelong member of the Fabian Society. With the exception of Montagu's film-related materials, which were deposited in the British Film Institute, all of these interests are represented in Montagu's papers. Particularly noteworthy is an extensive correspondence ranging from Ilya Ehrenburg and the playwright Sean O'Casey, the latter regarding Hitchcock's version of Juno and the Paycock, to Ellen Wilkinson and Solly Zuckerman. Sadly, two files contain only photocopies: one containing correspondence with Bernard Shaw, and the other concerning Trotsky's application to come to Britain in 1929. The irony of Montagu's involvement in this episode was noted, with a delicate regard for his anonymity, by Isaac Deutscher in his Trotsky biography.

John Thomas and Molly Murphy (CP/IND/MURP)

One of the most important of the CPGB's founding leaders, J.T. Murphy took on a number of key party responsibilities over the course of the 1920s. As CPGB representative in Moscow between 1926 and 1928, he took on a key supporting role in a wider history as the man who moved Trotsky's expulsion from the Executive Committee of the Comintern in September 1927. Though remaining a loyal follower of Stalin, whose hagiography he later published, Murphy in 1932 provided a rare case of a high-level expulsion from the CPGB over a seemingly recondite issue. In other countries, where the forced or voluntary exclusion of leading party figures was rather more frequent, their papers and reminiscences provided a fruitful source for historians. Murphy too published an interesting though not sensationalist volume of autobiography. However, his papers did not become accessible until after the demise of the CPGB, when they were located in the possession of his family by Murphy's biographer Ralph Darlington. Though Murphy's early activities are more fully documented in Moscow than in Britain, the papers provide insight into his views after breaking with the party and include draft letters to the deposed American communist leader Earl Browder. The deposit also includes material relating to Murphy's wife, Molly Murphy, who served as a nurse in the Spanish Civil War. Her autobiography, partly scripted by her husband, has since been published under the editorship of Ralph Darlington.

Harry Pollitt (CP/IND/POLL)

Harry Pollitt (1890-1960) was the CPGB's general secretary from 1929 to 1939 and 1941 to 1956. In the Stalinised communist party, the general secretary's role was a crucial one, which after the manner of Stalin himself combined oversight of the party apparatus with the projection of exemplary leadership qualities. Though Pollitt took some time to establish his authority, by the mid-1930s he functioned as de facto party 'leader' and a sort of tribune of the anti-fascist left. How telling it was that when his tenure was interrupted in 1939 on account of his resistance to the Comintern's anti-war line, no other party figure attempted to combine these functions. Pollitt was therefore able to resume his old responsibilities with the Nazi attack on the Soviet Union in June 1941, and continued to exercise them until the immediate aftermath of the Khrushchev speech in 1956.

His personal papers include extensive materials collected by his devoted disciple John Mahon, whose official biography of Pollitt was published in 1976. It is not always possible to identify which of the materials were kept by Pollitt and which were assembled by Mahon. Nevertheless, the coverage goes back to Pollitt's early years before the formation of the CPGB, including documents and recollections collected by Mahon and Pollitt's own personal memorabilia. Coverage of the inter-war years is uneven, but includes substantial correspondence with Dutt from the 'Class Against Class' period, in which together they contrived Pollitt's accession to the party leadership. There is also an important documentation of disputes over the war and party policy during the Nazi-Soviet pact. Voluminous drafts and speech notes begin in the late 1930s, and Pollitt's visits to a number of countries in the post-war period are carefully if not always revealingly recorded. There are also draft chapters and correspondence providing insight into the production of his autobiography, Serving My Time. Pollitt's sixty or so trips to the USSR are not so fully documented, and for the crisis point of 1956 one must consult the files of general secretary's correspondence (CP/CENT/SEC).

As if to underline the vulnerability of the archives, two letters to Pollitt have been cut precisely where they seem to promise revelation: about early party wranglings and Moscow during the purges respectively. Given the sensitivity of these questions, and, on the CPGB history commission, Pollitt was particularly cagey about the first of them, it is easy to see why Pollitt might have wielded the scissors. Any archive is as much as anything defined by its absences; it is rare, however, that these are so clearly indicated.

Bert Ramelson (CP/IND/RAM)

Of Russian birth, Canadian-Jewish upbringing, a legal training, and principal work experience as a trainee manager for Marks & Spencer, Bert Ramelson seems an unlikely figure to have headed the CPGB's famous industrial machinery. Nevertheless, by the time he arrived in Britain having fought against fascism in the International Brigades, Ramelson was a dedicated communist of unusual capability. After wartime experiences including an active involvement in the forces' parliaments, he was sent to Yorkshire as a full-time party worker and eventually Yorkshire district secretary. It was in this capacity that he was confronted with the crisis year of 1956, and notably the unofficial paper The Reasoner published by the Yorkshire-based historians and party rebels, John Saville and Edward Thompson. Subsequently Ramelson succeeded Peter Kerrigan as the CPGB's industrial organiser and it was here that he attained legendary status as industrial strategist or wirepuller, depending on one's political perspective. The Ramelson papers deposited in the CPGB archives include personal and miscellaneous correspondence, mainly from the 1980s and with much relating to the internal party strife so characteristic of the decade. There are also EC and Yorkshire district papers dating from the 1950s onwards.

Claude Tayler (CP/IND/TAY)

In some cases, like the Tom Mann materials in the papers of Dona Torr, the provenance of materials in the archives not directly relating to the CPGB is relatively clear. Other materials must have found their way into the party library by a route and at a date that is now obscure. Claude Tayler is certainly such a case. A Lincolnshire Labour Party organiser in the 1920s and a Congregationalist minister, from the evidence of his papers we know that Tayler had also spent time in the USA and had some involvement with Republican Clubs in New York and the Ohio People's Party. There is also some indication of his interest in R.J. Campbell's New Theology. But at first sight there is nothing in his papers to explain how they found their way into the archives of the CPGB; and for fuller details of Tayler's life, one imagines it will require the expertise of a specialist in something other than communist history.

Dona Torr (CP/IND/TORR)

A Marxist editor and translator of the 1930s, Dona Torr became the doyenne of the party's younger historians initially through her involvement in writing a biography of Tom Mann. Begun in 1936, while Mann was still alive, only a first volume of the full biography had been published by the time of Torr's death in 1957. Nevertheless, Torr was a mentor generously acknowledged by some younger communist historians, E.P. Thompson in particular; though others, Eric Hobsawm being one, thought her work more of propagandist than of historical value. Torr's study of Mann would certainly have been massively documented, and doubtless would have met its object of underlining Mann's crucial legitimising role in linking the CPGB to Britain's indigenous socialist revival of the 1880s. Torr's working papers include many original items of Mann's, whose correspondents included contemporary labour and socialist figures like Keir Hardie, H.M. and Hyndman and Peter Kropotkin. There is also a memoir by Harry Pollitt, described as remarkable by Mann's biographer Joseph White, as well as Torr's own extensive historical correspondence.

William Wainwright (CP/IND/WAIN)

A CPGB member from 1931, Bill Wainwright worked in a series of party and other political posts from the war years onwards. These included spells as secretary of the British Soviet Society and a heavy involvement in peace-related activities in the 1950s. Wainwright's papers, of a somewhat miscellaneous nature, include significant materials relating to the CPGB's science and technology committee, mostly from the period 1959-75 when Wainwright was a member of the party executive. Extending into the 1980s, the papers also contain materials relating to Wainwright's dismissal as the Morning Star's science correspondent at the height of the party's factional troubles in 1984-5.

Jack Woddis Papers (CP/IND/WOD)

Having joined the CPGB in Hendon in 1937, and worked as a full-time worker in the party's London district, Jack Woddis was another of those communists whose activities became channelled into internationalist and anti-colonialist commitments. According to Stephen Howe Woddis was the first open communist (in 1961) on the central council of the Movement for Colonial Freedom; and from 1965 until his death in 1980 he was also a member of the CPGB's executive and political committees, as head of the party's international department. His papers mostly relate to these activities, including draft and published articles published both under his own name and under a variety of pseudonyms. The papers also include his lectures at the African Trade Union School and African Workers' University in 1962 and the manuscript of a book on African trade unionism dating from the mid-1960s.

Miscellaneous Individuals (CP/IND/MISC)

A wide range of smaller though not necessarily less significant deposits are grouped as CP/IND/MISC. Among them is an impressive collection of unpublished memoirs. These include materials of interest to historians of trade union activism, for example those of the London railway union activist, Jock Nicholson, and of one of the CPGB's large cadre force within the engineering industry, Bill McElroy. Mick Jenkins, another of the autobiographers, became a CPGB district secretary in the East Midlands; but perhaps the most interesting chapters of his autobiography describe the making of a young Jewish communist in his native Manchester. For historians of Jewish communism, there is a further important source in the shape of David Goldinger's autobiography, available in his original Yiddish as well as English. This recounts Goldinger's Lithuanian childhood and his service in the Tsar's armies, as well as his later involvement in the Jewish Workers' Circle and tailoring unions. There is also an unpublished biography of Helen Crawfurd, the Clydeside suffragist and ILPer who joined the CPGB on its formation, played a leading role in Workers' International Relief and was a member of the CPGB's Central Committee until her marginalisation in 1929. Idris Cox, one of the most important Welsh communists of the inter-war years, has left a shorter autobiography. For many years Cox was the CPGB's Welsh district organiser, and subsequently he worked at King Street as secretary of the International Department. E.R. Pountney, technically the proprietor of the Daily Worker, left several files of documents relating to the paper as well as another of the autobiographies.

Perhaps the best-known of these mostly unpublished authors was the communist autodidact Tommy Jackson: party maverick, author of works on Dialectics and Charles Dickens, and famously in need of a wash, a comb and a coat hanger. Readers of Jackson's wonderful early memoirs, Solo Trumpet, will discover that its unpublished sequel, Interim Report, shows many of the constraints and evasions that historical writing about the CPGB itself usually involved. There are also typescripts of the published memoirs of D.N. Pritt, the Labour MP expelled from the Labour Party for his pro-Soviet stance in 1940 and subsequently re-elected against official Labour opposition in 1945. Though Pritt never formally joined the CPGB, the memoirs were published in 1965-6 by the 'party' publishers Lawrence & Wishart, which gives an accurate enough picture of his political allegiances. However, Pritt's memoirs are, by and large, not very revealing and show little of the communists' supposed penchant for self-criticism. Other papers of Pritt's are held by the British Library of Political and Economic Science, London School of Economics.

Other groups of papers relate to particular political or intellectual interests of their depositors. Marian Ramelson, wife of Bert Ramelson (q.v.), was a pre-war Yorkshire district organiser of the CPGB, having previously attended the Lenin School. Her papers in the archive relate to her activities in the women's movement (including a notebook and diary as delegate to the Conference of Women of Asia in December 1949) and the historical researches on the women's suffrage movement, on which she was to draw for her book, Petticoat Rebellion. The papers of Glyn Evans include a precious documentation relating to the Workers' Welfare League of India. Correspondence deposited by Brian Pearce and Christopher (Kit) Meredith provides a vivid insight into the opinions and expectations of younger CPGB members around the end of the Second World War.

Another deposit from an older socialist tradition is the small collection relating to John Lincoln Mahon, a steadfast follower of H.M. Hyndman and father of his namesake, the communists' future London organiser. The papers mainly date from after Hyndman's break with the internationalist majority of the British Socialist Party (BSP) in 1916 and document Mahon's involvement with the unfortunately named National Socialist Party and 'Kill Bolshevism' fund. Other non-communist figures represented in the archive include the dockers' leader and Liberal Minister, John Burns, for whom there is a single, rather miscellaneous file; and papers of C.K. Cullen, later a CPGB member, relating to his activities as an ILP activist and councillor in Poplar, East London. Another Poplar councillor, William Sell, was a police striker in 1919; and there are also papers relating to the case of ex-Inspector of Police, John Syme, a leader of the National Union of Police and Prison Officers, collected by the Labour MP and Scottish miners' leader, Robert Smillie. Other individuals represented in the CP/IND/MISC materials including the longstanding member of the CPGB executive and political committees, Peter Kerrigan; the sometime secretary of the London Trades Council, Julius Jacobs; and Jack Cohen, a leading activist in the YCL and CPGB in the 1920s and later a lifelong party worker.

CPGB History Materials (CP/HIST)

Already by the 1960s, James Klugmann was warning of the stream of students beginning to take an interest in the CPGB's history. At the same time the party itself seemed an organisation increasingly defined by its past. The catalogues of the 'party' publishers Lawrence & Wishart were one sign of this. So was the increasing profile of the archives themselves. The flurry of interest in communist history in the 1970s was not for the most part maintained into the following decade. On the other hand, with the final years of the party and access to the archives, historical interest revived and has not as yet run its course. One result of this was the enrichment of the archives by a number of miscellaneous deposits by historians of the party or activists interested in its past. These include theses, draft papers, transcripts of oral history interviews and autobiographical materials.


Authored by Professor Kevin Morgan

Professor Kevin Morgan

Kevin Morgan is the Professor of Politics and Contemporary History at the University of Manchester and recipient of an AHRC Fellowship for the project ‘Communism and the cult of the leader’. Professor Morgan is also the editor of the journal 'Twentieth Century Communism' and a trustee of the Communist Party of Great Britain Archives Trust and the Working Class Movement Library.


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