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Bill Hunter, 92 years of age, 73 for Trotskyism.

New comrades and contacts have asked about the history of Bill Hunter. We are publishing a short account of his struggle in the workers and Trotskyist movement, which will be continued in the next issue.

It is also to celebrate the 30 years of the International Workers League founded in 1982. Bill with a number of others made the decision to join the IWL in 1988, forming the ISL and he was on the International Executive Committee of the IWL in the early 1990s.

Significantly for today, Bill’s first meeting with Trotskyists was during a struggle against the British Communist Party and Stalinism. Even though the Soviet Union no longer exists some Communist Parties retain influence and their methods and policies can be traced to the Stalinism of the past, as in South Africa, the southern countries of Europe and in Britain. We publish at a time when in the workers’ movement are still heard ideas that at least. The Soviet Union was ‘socialist’. However that obscures what the Soviet Union was.

{module Propaganda 30 anos – BRASIL}In his autobiography Bill recalls attending a meeting of the Left Book Club, which was used as a front of the Communist Party, early in 1939. During the meeting Harry Wicks (one of the founders of the British Trotskyist movement, who shared a platform with Trotsky at his last public speech in Copenhagen in 1932*) opposed what the Communist Party said and after the meeting Bill talked to him and this began his 73 years in the Trotskyist movement.

Bill was already active in the working class before becoming a Trotskyist. He says in the autobiography, “I remember an enormous meeting in a street which went up the hill near Clapham Junction. Sir Oswald Mosley [the British fascist leader] was trying to speak and was prevented by the crowd shouting: ‘Rats, rats, we’ve got to get rid of the rats!’ The jingle was taken from an  advertisement for rat poison which was broadcast from Radio Luxembourg…”

He also started reading Marxist literature including the “History of the Russian Revolution”, which was given to him by his sisters as a Christmas present. He joined the Wicks-Dewar group which had been formed by those expelled from the British Communist Party in 1932 which was known as the Balham group, and in 1941 they joined the Independent Labour Party.

In 1944 he joined the Revolutionary Communist Party. The rest of this article is taken from the Workers Press, October 1986. “I was moved primarily by the fusion of the two Trotskyist groups – The Workers International League and the Revolutionary Socialist League – out of which the RCP was formed, and by the arrests of four Trotskyist leaders. They were charged with conspiracy and furthering a strike.

The Communist Parties were openly opposing workers’ struggles, colonial struggles and revolution. They had accepted money from the state in India and become a recruiting agency for British imperialism.

In my own case, they had conducted a campaign – and failed miserably – to take away my credentials as convener of the Chrysler factory in Kew, on the basis that I had a ‘policy of opposing the war and supporting strikes’.

The British CP opposed the campaign in defence of four Trotskyists who were arrested and tried in 1944, a campaign which gained wide support in the Labour movement. The four were accused of conspiracy under the Trades Dispute Act of 1927 and of furthering an illegal strike.

The Trades Dispute Act had been passed as a punitive measure after the general strike in view of the opposition of the Labour movement to this act, the CP declared that the government should not have used the Trades Dispute Act but that there was enough other legislation which could have been used.

That Stalinism was counterrevolutionary was something that was clearly before us. Its policies were clearly dictated by the interests of the Soviet bureaucracy in its agreements with the Western imperialist powers. In 1945 they openly declared that, in Britain, in the interests of the Yorkshire agreement, a Labour government should invite Churchill and Eden into the Cabinet.

I felt, with other Trotskyists at the time, that the movements of proletarian revolution and colonial revolt, which were dominating the world at the end of the war, could only intensify their collision with Stalinism and it would be completely exposed.

With the masses colliding with its counter revolutionary role, then the road would be opened immediately for the rapid expansion of the real Communist alternative to Stalinism. Now, history did not proceed as mechanically as this. There was more on the ground than there was on our map.

We were, in any case, applying Trotsky’s analysis of the nature of Stalinism without his Marxist skill, experience or maturity. The conflict between the Revolutionary strivings of the masses and the Soviet bureaucracy did not reach the climax of the type we expected immediately after the war.

However, and let me underline this, it is this conflict and the other contradictions within Stalinism that have dominated the post-war world. When one considers seriously the world since the end of the war… the crises in the Stalinist movement stand out as a dominating feature.

If not in the way we young Trotskyists of 1944 expected, the fundamental contradictions between the Soviet bureaucracy on the one side and, on the other, the revolutionary origins of the Soviet Union and world Revolutionary movements, have led to a rapid time scale of explosions.

Three years after the war came the Yugoslav – Soviet break in the opposition of Stalin to the extension of the Chinese revolution. In 1953, a mass movement broke out openly against the Stalinist regimes. In June, there was an uprising of East German workers. In July, in the Soviet Union, came the great strike of slave labourers in the Vorkuta camp, where 250,000 down tools.

Three years later were the Polish disturbances and the Hungarian revolution. Only a decade after the crushing of Hungary, there was the revolt in Czechoslovakia. The beginning and then the end of the 70s saw Poland erupt again.

Little over a decade after the end of the war Khrushchev made his speech at the 20th Congress of the CPSU. It reflected a great discontent under the surface. It was an attempt to meet fundamental problems with a partial adjustment, to deflect the hostility to bureaucratic role as such, against the ‘Stalin cult’.

The speech only helped to stoke up and widen throughout the world the very fires it was meant to dampen down. For us it was as if a black fog had been riven apart. The truth now had to be listened to, the lying slander had to be repudiated.

To be sure, only went so far; but he declared that ‘honest Communists were slandered, accusations against them were fabricated, and the revolutionary legality was gravely undermined’. Communist Party members awoke to the shock of Khrushchev revealing ‘mass repression’ and ‘barbaric tortures’.”

(to be continued).

* Harry Wicks remembering the Copenhagen meeting of Trotsky: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/services/library/mrc/explorefurther/harrywicks/