Trotskyism and the New Left (Socialist History 54, Autumn 2018)

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Publication date: February 1, 2019

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Madeleine Davis

John Kelly’s excellent study argues that while the British Trotskyist groups have been extremely unsuccessful in fulfilling their stated aims, principally building a mass revolutionary party, their main impact has come through involvement in wider social or political movements. This involvement has taken forms that have varied at different times and between the groups, from entryism within the Labour Party, to acting as junior partners in broader social movements in which Trotskyists might be competing for influence with other groups, to helping create and sustain movements in which they acquire a dominant influence, and finally to the creation of ‘front’ organisations exclusively controlled by a specific Trotskyist group. A related set of arguments made in relation to this Trotskyist involvement with social movements is that any success within the latter has not translated into membership gain or electoral success, has tended to be achieved at the costs of downplaying doctrine, and that these movements have often been a bridge out of, as well as into, Trotskyism.