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Bolshevism and the British Left

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Bolshevism and the British Left

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Bolshevism, Syndicalism and the General Strike: The lost

Part 3 The Lost World of A.A. Purcell

Written by Kevin Morgan

This, the third and final volume of Kevin Morgan’s widely acclaimed series Bolshevism and the British Left, centres around the figure of Alf Purcell (1872-1935), who was one of the leading personalities in the British and international labour movement. Purcell was most famous as one of TUC ‘lefts’ of the 1920s. He was Labour MP for both the Forest of Dean and Coventry, as well as being the founder of a working guild in the spirit of guild socialism, the controversial president of the International Federation of Trade Unions and the man who moved the formation of the British communist party. A sometime syndicalist and associate of Tom Mann, his experiences in the militant Furnishing Trades gave rise to the uncompromising trade-union internationalism which features so centrally in these chapters. With the squeezing of his syndicalist approach, as the labour movement polarised into Labour and communist currents, Purcell died a politically broken figure. Morgan uses Purcell’s biography to explore wider controversies – among them the rival modernities of Bolshevism and Americanism; the reactions to Bolshevism of anarchists like Emma Goldman; and the roots of political tourism to the USSR by British labour delegations in which Purcell featured so prominently. The volume also includes a major challenge to existing interpretations of the general strike, which it compellingly presents, not as the last fling of the syndicalists, but as a first and disastrously ill-conceived imposition of social-democratic centralism by Ernest Bevin.

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Labour Legends and Russian Gold

Bolshevism and the British Left Part 1

By Kevin Morgan

This is the first book in a three-volume series which looks at the relationship between different sections of the British left and Bolshevism in the first half of the twentieth century. The main focus of this first book is on funding and political resources. Kevin Morgan goes far beyond the question of Russian gold, to dig beneath a host of myths and misconceptions. He shows that Labour’s parliamentary advance was itself inconceivable solely on the basis of the workers’ and trade union ‘pennies’ with which it is usually identified. In addition to the virtual market that developed in Labour’s parliamentary nominations, there was almost always a need to cultivate private benefactors – not excluding Russian ones. Thus, as Morgan shows, George Lansbury drew on a wide variety of financial sponsors to create the space both for his own political career and for Labour’s daily newspaper, the Daily Herald. As for the communist party itself, Russian subsidies often gave rise to fierce internal conflict and controversy: it was certainly regarded as mixed blessing by many. Kevin Morgan has uncovered fascinating new material on this period of left history, and through his insightful analysis a much more complex picture than hitherto emerges, both of Labour-communist relations and those between the CPGB and the Comintern.

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Webbs and Soviet Communism, The

Bolshevism and the British Left Part 2

By Kevin Morgan

This is the second book in Kevin Morgan’s series Bolshevism and the British Left. It explores how the veteran Fabian socialists Beatrice and Sidney Webb came to regard Stalin’s Russia as a ‘new civilisation’ and the hope of the world. Through a meticulous reconstruction of the Webbs’ thinking, Morgan offers a challenging reassessment of accepted stereotypes. Drawing on their diaries, papers and published writings, he assesses the couple’s complex political evolution over some four decades, and shows how much more significant were their individual responses than the cliché of ‘two typewriters beating as one’ would suggest.

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