Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 27 July 2006

Ted Grant 1913-2006

Militant pioneer dies

TED GRANT, one of the founders of Militant, the forerunner of the Socialist Party, has died at the age of 93 in London. Grant, of South African origin, was one of the foremost leaders of the Marxist, Trotskyist movement of the last 60 years. He made a major contribution on a number of important theoretical and political issues, such as his analysis of the phenomena of 'proletarian bonapartism', the development of deformed workers' states in Eastern Europe and China in the post-1945 situation.

Peter Taaffe, Socialist Party general secretary

At first, he leaned towards an analysis of Russia and Eastern Europe as 'state capitalist', but soon corrected this. Ironically, the main theoretician of what is now the Socialist Workers' Party (SWP), the late Tony Cliff, took up the discarded ideas and developed them into his erroneous theory of 'state capitalism'.

Ted Grant's reply, in his pamphlet, 'The Marxist Theory of the State', even today is a very effective answer to 'state capitalist' ideas and analysis of the processes at work in the Stalinist states in the post-1945 situation. The same was true of his analysis of the Chinese revolution and on a number of other issues.

Even at that stage of course, his best period politically, he was not politically infallible, as some of his latter-day supporters maintain. He correctly opposed going into the Labour Party when the time was inappropriate in the late 1940s, only to capitulate to those Trotskyist forces who joined the Labour Party after the Revolutionary Communist Party disintegrated in 1949.

He rationalised this on the basis that 'it didn't really matter', given the isolation of Marxism, whether Marxists were in the Labour Party or outside. In fact, at that stage, an independent tactic would have been much more effective, with work concentrated in the trade unions.

Nevertheless, Ted Grant did maintain a thread in defending the basic analysis of Trotskyism against ultra-leftism and opportunism. This allowed a new generation, like Keith Dickinson, Ted Mooney, Terry Harrison, with others like myself and Tony Mulhearn, joining the Trotskyist movement in Liverpool a little later. This was the main base, together with London, and isolated ones and twos in areas like South Wales and Nottingham, of what subsequently became Militant.

The launch of Militant

IN HIS obituary of Ted Grant, Alan Woods claims that, "in 1964, we decided to launch a new paper called Militant. We held our first meeting in a small room in a pub in Brighton". This is a blatant piece of historical falsification, which is unfortunately a trait of his small organisation when dealing with the history of Trotskyism in Britain.

In fact, Alan Woods was not involved in any of the activity in the Labour Party Young Socialists on a national scale until after 1964. Militant was founded in 1964 but it certainly was not established "in a pub in Brighton", where Alan Woods just happened to be studying as a student at that stage.

The founding of Militant was a product of discussions mainly in Liverpool and London. This farcical attempt to rewrite history does no justice either to the memory of Ted Grant or the contribution that he made. It is a self-serving attempt to enhance Alan Woods' own 'historic' profile.

I was elected as the first editor of Militant in 1964, and the only full-timer in 1965, with Keith Dickinson working with me as an invaluable unpaid 'part-timer' for the paper from 1965. This began a long collaboration with Ted Grant, which was not always easy, but which lasted for 25 years.

Ted Grant's strength was his defence of the main propositions of Marxism applied to contemporary events. His weaknesses, evident from the very beginning of our collaboration, was his dogmatic approach and his incapacity to recognise and develop the independent talents of others, particularly the younger generation who were filling out the ranks of Militant. This was tolerated by other Militant leaders on the basis that, in general, there was political agreement, although important clashes took place on some issues, particularly on nuances and approaches.

Ted Grant made a very important contribution in the 1960s and 1970s to the development of Militant as a significant force in the British labour movement. However he was sometimes found wanting, particularly in the rapidly changing situation in the 1980s.

For instance, his lack of tactical awareness and flair was a source of conflict with some of the main figures in the Liverpool drama from 1983-87. At this period, while Ted Grant was respected by the supporters and leaders of Militant, it had been evident for some time that his best days, particularly on the public platform, were behind him.

This was not the first time in the history of the Marxist movement that a leader can play a leading pioneering role at one stage, but prove to be lacking once the situation changes. The tragic example of Plekhanov, the 'father of Russian Marxism', comes to mind. He was also decisive in the period when the task was to put down roots, to stubbornly defend Marxism against opportunism and ultra-leftism. But Plekhanov proved to be utterly helpless in the face of great events, when the rhythm of the class struggle and history changed.

New times, new tests

AS MILITANT grew to become the most effective and largest Trotskyist movement in Britain and most of Europe, it was necessary to present our ideas in the most popular and accessible form, without watering them down or hiding what we stood for. Other younger speakers and leaders of Militant were more involved and able to fulfil this task than Ted Grant. This in no way devalued his past contribution nor undermined the role he could still play in the development of Militant and Marxist ideas.

However, he did not recognise his limitations, which led to increasing clashes in the ranks of Militant in the late 1980s. This was combined with his failure of analysis on key contemporary events. One such occasion was the October 1987 'Black Monday' financial collapse on Wall Street. Ted Grant argued that this was a precursor to a new 1929-type slump. This was opposed by myself, Lynn Walsh and the majority of what became the Socialist Party.

Similar clashes developed on other issues, such as perspectives for South Africa, and including the issue of Stalinism, at a time when the signs were there that not only was it disintegrating but that a return to capitalism, not something previously encountered, could take place in Russia and Eastern Europe.

Ted Grant and Alan Woods, because of their incapacity to understand the changed situation, gave critical support to the organisers of the coup in the Soviet Union in 1991. They justified this on the basis that Trotsky had envisaged the position of 'critical support' for a section of the bureaucracy. However, the bureaucracy had so degenerated there was no wing, in 1991, which still adhered to the planned economy.

Ironically, as we have seen earlier, one of Ted Grant's great historical merits was his analysis in the post-1945 situation of the development of the Stalinist states of Eastern Europe under the pressure of Russian Stalinism. However, he was incapable of recognising the changed reality in these states in the early 1990s. Together with Alan Woods, it was only in the late 1990s (!) that he came to the conclusion that capitalism had indeed returned to Russia.

Labour Party

This was the background to the split of the Ted Grant/Alan Woods group from the ranks of Militant in 1992. He had failed to win support for his ideas, only receiving 7% of the vote at a national congress of Militant supporters. The ostensible basis of the split was the launch of an open organisation in Scotland, which was denounced as a "departure from the work of 40 years".

The 'tactic' of work in the Labour Party had unfortunately become so ossified in the minds of Grant and Woods that it became a permanent, undeviating 'strategy', irrespective of the collapse of the 'traditional organisations'. Unbelievably, they maintain that socialists and Marxists should still work within the Labour Party because it is still a 'workers' party' at its base!

After the split of 1992, their groups in Britain and elsewhere were on the margins of the labour movement. They are not a factor in most of the crucial issues confronting the trade union and labour movement.

Alan Woods has become a 'benevolent adviser' to Hugo Chavez and, latterly, has also abandoned the perspective of 'workers' democracy' for Cuba. He believes that Fidel Castro is 'critically' doing the job of Marxism and Trotskyism in Cuba. This is ostensibly because of Castro's latest attacks on 'corruption', and his intent to mobilise a layer of young people against this. However, while recognising the great gains of the Cuban revolution, if they are to be maintained, it is vital that workers' democracy is established in Cuba, both for the country and for the wider revolution in Latin America.

So in marking the death of Ted Grant the new generation of socialists should recognise his great contribution on the level of ideas, in one of the most difficult periods in history for the Marxist movement. At the same time, it is necessary to learn from his mistakes and avoid them if we are to build a movement capable of establishing democratic socialism in Britain and worldwide.

The Rise of Militant, by Peter Taaffe - Read online

Buy online

Militant's real history, by Peter Taaffe - Read online

The State: a warning to the labour movement - Read

Buy online

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.

In The Socialist 27 July 2006:

Invasion of Lebanon

Bush gives green light to the Israeli onslaught

Eyewitness account from socialist in Lebanon

Thousands march against Israel's attacks on Lebanon

'The politicians and generals are dragging us into the quagmire'

When Israel occupied Lebanon (1982-2000)

No politics please, we're anti-war

Socialist Party NHS campaign

Resistance grows to NHS cuts and closures

NHS workers must organise for action

Physios protest at lack of jobs

Romsey says: "Save Our Birthing Centre"

Strike ballot at NHS Logistics

Socialist Party youth and students

Young people in revolt

Socialist Party campaigns

Class - a matter of life and death

Schools victory scored in Bury

Hope and desperation

John McDonnell's leadership bid

Militant pioneer dies

Bus drivers vote to strike

Socialist Party national trade union meeting


Home   |   The Socialist 27 July 2006   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  

Related links:


triangleThe Socialist Party is being evicted - we need you!

triangleNHS: use the 3 February protests as a launch pad for a mass movement

triangleBirmingham Central Socialist Party: From Militant to the Socialist Party

triangleObituary: Maureen Mulhearn 1945-2018

triangleWaltham Forest Socialist Party: A socialist look at the Vietnam war

Ted Grant:

triangleHistorical Roots of the SWP

Labour Party:

triangleNo fudge with the right wing

triangleCarlisle debate - socialism or social democracy?

triangleCorbyn's left must seize the advantage in Labour's civil war


triangleManchester Socialist Students: 200 years of Marxism

triangleCardiff East Socialist Party: Catalonia, Scotland and Wales


triangleAfter 80 strike days Mears workers achieve victory


triangleCaerphilly & RCT Socialist Party: 100 years of votes for women


triangleRussia: Ali Feruz, journalist and human rights activist, freed from jail

Socialist Party:

triangleLively discussion at East Midlands Socialist Party conference


triangleCzechoslovakia 1968: 'Prague Spring' challenges Stalinism


triangleNorth London Socialist Party: When Liverpool council defied the Tories


triangleCapitalism v cricket


triangleNew musical on life of Castro

News and socialist analysis

News and socialist analysis



Outrageous sentence for TUSC agent in 'misleading electors' court case


Tamil Solidarity

Facebook sides with state repression - reinstate the Tamil Solidarity page



How can students and young people fight the Tories?


Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland talks process paralysed



Like rats from a sinking Ukip



Blairite mayor faces open election after democratic 'irregularities' - fight for a no-cuts mayor



Tories raid 1bn from NHS facilities budget - unions must act



Usdaw victory - Socialist Party member Amy Murphy wins presidential election


Tamil Solidarity

Tamil youth march for justice


Foreign Aid

Oxfam scandal: we need democratic aid and working class solidarity



Building support for Corbyn's anti-cuts policies in the local elections



What we saw: Tory-Blairite EU love-in



Rent doubles in a decade: cap rents, build council homes!


Public ownership

McDonnell says Labour would put services 'irreversibly' in workers' hands



We can win the fight for the NHS

triangleMore News and socialist analysis articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777


Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 0798 202 1969

East Mids: 0773 797 8057

London: 020 8988 8786

North East: 0191 421 6230

North West 07769 611 320

South East: 020 8988 8777

South West: 07759 796 478

Southern: 07833 681910

Wales: 07935 391 947

West Mids: 02476 555 620

Yorkshire: 0114 264 6551



Alphabetical listing

February 2018

January 2018