Ian Birchall: The International Socialist tradition – a response to "International Socialist Tradition at the Crossroads"
- Category: Ideas and Arguments
- Published on Monday, 25 November 2013
- Written by Ian Birchall
Some time ago the IS Network website published a set of documents introduced by Chris Ford, and entitled International Socialist Tradition at the Crossroads. These dealt with the faction fight in the International Socialists from the period 1973-75. Ford describes this period as a “key turning point in the history of the International Socialist tradition”, and argues that it can help to explain the SWP’s current crisis. Ford strongly sides with the positions taken by Jim Higgins in this dispute.
Many comrades will be aware of Jim Higgins’ own account of the events, available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/higgins/1997/locust/index.htm and recently republished by Unkant. There is much interesting material in this, and it is written in an entertaining fashion. However, comrades should be aware that it contains a number of inaccuracies. While it is good that comrades should examine the historical record critically, my own view, as one who participated in the events, is that Higgins’ perspective was misguided, and that his criticisms do not provide us with a key to understanding the SWP’s current difficulties. Comrades concerned to get a balanced view of the events may be interested to look at two reviews of Higgins’ writings I published in the journal Revolutionary History. These are available at:
There is also a longer account of the events at http://socialistregister.com/index.php/srv/article/view/5432#.UpFT3-Jta_Q
In his introduction Ford quotes three sentences by myself. These are taken from a private letter I wrote in 1989, and Ford quoted it without my authorisation. If comrades would like to see the context from which the sentences were taken, the full text of the letter is available at http://grimanddim.org/tony-cliff-biography/1989-letter-re-higgins-and-cliff/
However, those who want to discuss the issues seriously would do better to consult my biography of Tony Cliff (Bookmarks, 2011), which gives in chapters 8 and 9 an extensive account of the dispute, based on interviews with participants. Comrades are of course welcome to query my interpretation of events, and if there are challenges as to the accuracy of my version then I shall be happy to publish corrections on my website http://grimanddim.org/tony-cliff-biography/ But I think it would be best if judgements were made on the basis of all the available material.