• Rebel, Rebel

    I am most grateful to my friend John Rudge for allowing me to publish here his careful and detailed study of SR/IS/SWP youth publications. It is a valuable contribution to the history of the tendency.

    Rebel Rebel:


    The Youth Publications of the SWP from the 1950’s to the 1980’s

    John Rudge                                                                                      Version 0.4  5th August 2015



    Introduction                                           ………………………………………………………..  3

    Young Chartist: 1951                             ………………………………………………………..4

    The Young Socialist: 1957 – 1958           ………………………………………………………..7

    Rebel: 1960 – 1961                                ………………………………………………………..  11

    Young Guard: 1961 – 1966                     ………………………………………………………..16

    Rebel: 1966 – 1967                                ………………………………………………………..24

    Rebel: 1971 – 1973                                ………………………………………………………..28

    Fight: 1976 – 1978                                 ………………………………………………………..31

    Red Rebel: 1978 – 1981             ………………………………………………………..33

    Some Closing Thoughts                                    ………………………………………………………..36

    Chronology                                           ………………………………………………………..38

    Acknowledgements                               ………………………………………………………..39

    Literature Cited                                      ………………………………………………………..39


    In his biography of Tony Cliff (Birchall, 2011) Ian dealt with the Socialist Review Group’s youth paper Young Chartist in one sentence. This seemed perfectly acceptable, as, in point of fact, this was one sentence more than most people knew about this publication beforehand. It did lead me to think however that finding out a little more about Young Chartist might provide a useful service.


    It was only during the process of pulling my research together that it became apparent that the whole area of the youth publications of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and its predecessor organisations was insufficiently recorded. On that basis I have extended this research note over a much longer period.


    At the outset I have to say that what to include and what to exclude under the heading of “youth publications of the SWP” is not quite as clear cut as one would think. I have excluded publications aimed specifically at students in higher education – in the history of the SWP, “student work” has generally been a different area of activity from “youth work”. I have also excluded youth publications of united fronts such as Rock Against Racism’s Temporary Hoarding or the Anti-Nazi League’s School Kids Against the Nazis, even though the SWP were integral to their appearance.


    By way of a pre-emptive apology I admit to being less than happy with certain aspects of this note.


    Firstly, despite a thorough search of most of the public archives known to contain historical SWP material, youth publications have been hard to come by. Paradoxically, the hardest material to find has been that relating to the most recent years of the period covered i.e. Fight and Red Rebel.


    Secondly, it is quite difficult, indeed frankly impossible, to separate a history of youth publications out from the history of the time they were published. For reasons of time and space I have not been in a position to give more than a flavour of the political history of this thirty-year period.


    Thirdly, I was only a personal participant in these events from 1974 onwards (the year I joined IS), but even then I was not an “active” participant in youth politics. I joined IS as a teenage worker having gone straight from school to work and into the field of trade union activity. Even though employed, I did take part in the London to Brighton Right to Work March in 1978, but even so I have little recollection of the youth publications of the time – whether that is wholly a product of my imperfect memory or a product of their lack of relevance to me I cannot say.


    Finally and, of course, history is not neutral. This is a history of SWP youth publications written by someone who has been associated with that organisation for forty years – and this implies agreement with the main thrust of the politics and the actions of that organisation (at least in the period under consideration).


    I have referred extensively to the youth publications and documents of other political organisations in order to try and get a fuller understanding of the context for all manners of political events and actions. The archives of the Socialist Party and of Jimmy Deane at the Warwick Modern Records Centre have been particularly useful. That said, I have no illusion that in writing this history of SWP youth publications that I have also written any sort of history of the youth publications of the other political organisations of the time. I have not.


    It is worth making one other obvious but important point up front. Just because this history is focusing on the actual youth publications of the SWP and its predecessor organisations it does not mean that in the periods when no Party youth publications were published there was no youth focused activity undertaken. Work of one sort or another with youth occurs throughout the period of this history, it is just that it does not always take a specifically organisational or publication-orientated form.


    I would be extremely interested to hear from anyone who has access to any SWP-related youth publications or has information on the subject.

    The Publications


    1. Young Chartist: 1951


    The “Foundation Conference” of the Socialist Review Group, the forerunner of the SWP, took place on 30th September – 1st October 1950 and was attended by 21 people. The notes of that meeting record the membership of the Group as 33, including 19 who were members of the Labour League of Youth (LLOY).


    The first recorded decision of the founding meeting is under the title of “Youth Work” and states that, “agreed that a duplicated paper be launched over the signatures of small number of London comrades. Then seek support from other Leagues. Editorial Board to be decided by Secretariat”.


    Given that almost 60% of the founding members of the SRG were also LLOY members and, indeed, one of these (Jeanne Hoban) was on its 22-person National Consultative Committee, the decision to set up a youth paper is not surprising. Neither is the organisational method surprising as LLOY branches in different locations already produced their own publications. In this respect it should be noted that amongst the other Trotskyist remnants of the recently deceased Revolutionary Communist Party, the Grant-Deane tendency had a base in Liverpool and had acquired control of the Birkenhead LLOY publication Rally [Rally = Read About the Labour League of Youth]. Rally had been produced since September 1949 and as at October 1950 (Vol. 2 No. 4) it was a professionally produced and presented 16-page publication. The Healy Group published the first issue of its own youth paper Socialist Youth at the end of 1950. It was professionally printed and in newspaper format. Of interest, but no particular significance, is the fact that the Healyite paper was published by Audrey Brown of Edmonton LLOY. Audrey Brown had been a member of the “Club” since her schooldays in Newcastle and was later better known as the Labour MP Audrey Wise. Coincidentally, November 1950 also saw issue number 1 of Keep Left. This was a roughly typed and duplicated “magazine” produced by “the combined Wembley Labour Leagues of Youth” – a small beginning from which something larger was to grow.


    Notwithstanding the wording of the decision of the SRG founding conference on its own youth paper it is clear from the records that joint working with the Grant-Deane’s on youth work and Rally was, at the very least, a possibility. Anil Kumaran, one of the founding members of the SRG, actually had an article on imperialism published in the October 1950 issue of Rally and Duncan Hallas wrote to Jimmy Deane on the subject of co-operation on the 28th October. Jimmy Deane replied to Hallas on 3rd December with a set of concrete proposals that were discussed and a way forward agreed at the SRG National Committee on 9th-10th December. Further correspondence took place during January-February 1951 and on 23rd February Hallas asked the SRG Secretariat (i.e. the Birmingham branch) to endorse the outcome. The Secretariat refused and instead authorised Ken and Rhoda Tarbuck to travel to London the following day to attend a joint SRG/Grant-Deane tendency youth meeting where the Rally situation was to be discussed. The Tarbuck’s were instructed to ask for the following: a) a 50/50 Editorial Board, no concessions on this point b) if possible, reduction in the overall number of E.B. c) E.B. to be the Management Committee d) extent of debts, and the impossibility of accepting any large amount e) re-siting of Rally.


    Ken Tarbuck covers the story in his unpublished autobiography and in recounting that no agreement was forthcoming he states that the Grant group were “not prepared to give us this [i.e. 50/50] representation but the most they were prepared to offer was one or two people from our group on the EB…..It was clear that they wanted us to sell their journal but were not prepared to relinquish one iota of control” (Tarbuck, 1995). In point of fact these recollections written over forty years after the event do not seem entirely consistent with the proposed terms on offer from the Grant-Deane group as outlined in the papers of Jimmy Deane deposited at the Warwick Modern Records Centre (see e.g. Hallas, 1951 and Deane, 1951).


    Following the failure of these talks Tarbuck advises that a special meeting of the SRG National Committee was called and it was decided to go ahead and produce an independent youth journal called Young Chartist. The published records indicate that, in fact, three meetings were held in the immediate aftermath of the failure of talks with Grant-Deane. The first of these was a meeting with London youth comrades where it was agreed to set up the SRG’s own youth paper. The second was an emergency meeting of the SRG’s Secretariat on Monday 26th February to receive the report of negotiations and consider the London youth decision. The Secretariat endorsed the decision to set up the SRG youth paper. The third meeting was an emergency meeting of the SRG National Committee held on 10th March that was called to discuss a document circulated by Manchester comrades.


    This document dated 28th February 1951 addressed to all members of the SRG was signed by Bill Donnelly, Ted Morris and Don Hallas (i.e. Manchester members of the SRG). The document deals in detail with the purpose of collaboration with the Grant-Deane group in youth work and a joint youth paper, the proposed agreement reached with them, the basis of rejection of the proposed agreement and the wider political ramifications. The document is extremely firmly against the course of action being taken in setting up Young Chartist. The document concludes by asking “all comrades to seriously think out the implications of our present line, to reject the conception that everything is decided by manoeuvres, and that somehow we are going to be outmanoeuvred. We believe that our group has everything to gain by accepting the proposed agreement and loyally carrying it out. In our opinion there is no other principled course to take”. From my look at the relevant archive material it does seem that the Manchester document fairly reflects the written terms on offer from the Grant-Deane tendency although, of course, one cannot know what happened in the face-to-face meeting in London. The major sticking point concerned the status of two so-called independent members of the Rally EB. In any event, after two votes proposing alternative courses of action were lost at the Emergency National Committee meeting the third motion, “That we start our own Youth Tendency paper” was passed.


    Young Chartist Vol. 1 No. 1 duly appeared dated March 1951 with a cover price of 3d and a print run of 500 copies. It’s opening editorial poses the question “Why has Young Chartist been brought out…since there are already three printed papers published for Leaguers”? The answer given runs “Here is our reason: every one of the three papers that has come out so far has, in spite of a pretence of unity and democracy, taken up a certain political position. They represent the views of certain tendencies within the League. Young Chartist is openly and unashamedly moving out in political opposition to these papers. We reject the policies of all three!……” In a separate “Editor’s Column” it states that “we invite LLOY’s to send a representative to the Editorial Board and help to shape the policy of this paper and make it your own paper”.


    The publication details and contents of the three known issues of Young Chartist are as follows:


    Vol 1. No. 1 March 1951

    Published by Jeremy Beckitt, 11, Poplar Road, Ashford, Middlesex.

    Editorial Board: J. Beckitt – Northwood LLOY; R. Grange – Marylebone LLOY; E. Morris – Wythenshawe LLOY; G. Carlsson – Hampstead LLOY.


    “Editorial” pp. 1-2

    “Jazz in Britain and America” pp. 2-3

    “Conscription: The Socialist Attitude” by G. Carlsson p. 4

    “The Key to Conservative Youth” p. 5

    “Youth and the Labour Party” by R. Challinor p. 6


    Vol. 1 No. 2. June 1951

    Printed by Wm. Ainsworth, 16, Rowdale Road, Birmingham, 22a.

    Published by J. Beckett, 102, Ducks Hill, Northwood, Middlesex.


    “Editorial; The Campaign for a Youth Charter” pp. 1, 3.

    “L.L.O.Y. National Conference – Easter, 1951” by Jeanne Hoban pp. 2-3

    “The Curtain Falls” – Review of book edited by Denis Healey p. 4

    “Report on the 14th Conference of the YCL” p. 5

    “Film Review – Storm Warning” p.6

    “Increased Productivity” p. 7


    Issue number 2 is particularly interesting because of the subject matter of its editorial. The “Youth Charter” was a programme for youth that had been developed and championed by Rally. The Charter was originally published in three parts in the Rally issues of August, September and October 1950. It was subsequently published as a standalone document in early 1951 and gained some traction within the LLOY. During the earlier negotiations with Rally the SRG had been generally supportive of the Charter. This stance is maintained in this editorial and Young Chartist agrees that a Charter or Programme for Youth is essential, it suggests some additional items that should be included and pledges itself to help in the fight to achieve it. The Youth Charter is destined to raise its head again in 1963.

    Vol. 1 No. 3 July 1951

    Printed by Wm. Ainsworth, 16 Rowdale Road, Birmingham, 22A

    Published by J. Beckett, 11 Poplar Road, Ashford, Middlesex


    “Editorial” pp.1-2

    “The Trade Union Movement” by R. Carlsson – pp. 3-4

    “Contemporary Music and the People” by A. Spink – pp. 4-5

    “For Votes at 18” by Jeanne Hoban – p. 5

    “Leaguers! Picket the Spanish Fascist Embassy!” by Anil Kumaran – p. 6

    “The Socialist Approach” by J. Beckett – pp. 7-8


    Ken Tarbuck states in his autobiography that “although a few issues [of Young Chartist] were published it did not survive very long”. I am of the opinion that there were not more than these three issues published. By the SRG National Committee in September 1951 it was reported that “Young Chartist spent 50% more than they produced”. There was also a resolution passed at that same meeting to re-open negotiations with Rally and that task was allocated to Raymond Challinor. Unbeknownst to the SRG they had already missed the boat on joint working as the Grant-Deane’s had decided to take Rally down the route of having regional sub-editorial boards. Jimmy Deane wrote to Ellis Hillman on 10th October stating “With regard to Rally. The Cl[iff] group has made fresh approaches, and with more modest demands than on the previous occasion. We shall not come to any terms with them, if they wish to push Rally they can do so and can take part in any subEB’s in their areas. Indeed we shall welcome them to do so. What we want is to have sub EB’s formed which are truly representative, that is composed of people who are active in [the] League and desirous of developing a genuine Socialist Youth movement”. Unsurprisingly, Challinor, at the next SRG National Committee on 17th-18th November 1951, reported that he had had no success.


    It is certainly the case that a number of those SRG members most closely involved with Young Chartist seem to have departed the scene early-on, with degrees of acrimony ranging from extreme to none at all. In the first place, Ron Grange (Young Chartist Editorial Board), Ellis Hillman and A.N. Other (assumed by me to be Jeremy Beckett, publisher of Young Chartist) were all expelled by the London branch of the SRG in October 1951 (Tait, 1951). Interestingly, Beckett wrote to his Liverpool contact in Rally in October 1951 stating “Don’t worry your heads about the “Cliffintern” they have no significance in the youth field at all!” (Beckett, 1951). Secondly, Allan Spink (author of an article in Young Chartist Vol. 1 No. 3) also appears to have left the SRG around October 1951 (Spink, 1951). Finallly, Anil Kumaran (Moonesinghe) and Jeanne Hoban moved to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) early in 1952.


    What happened to Young Chartist needs, however, to be seen not only in the context of an organisation like the SRG which only had a few dozen members but also in the context of the LLOY being in a downward trajectory. The editorial of the June 1951 issue of Rally cites “the now almost politically dormant L.O.Y.”. The SRG’s own Socialist Review journal produced a 4-page “League of Youth Supplement” in April 1954 written by Stan Newens. Its opening paragraph reads, “The greatest problem facing the Labour League of Youth today is its declining membership. Despite all efforts to expand, many leagues are ceasing to function and many of those which survive are only just hanging on”.


    After years of friction between the youth organisation and the Labour Party bureaucracy the LLOY was disbanded in 1955. It has been stated by Michelle Webb in her history of Labour Party youth organisation that the pinnacle of the second LLOY was 1951 (Webb, 2007).


    There is no doubt that Young Chartist was a failure by any measure. Rather than be an organiser for youth and a bridge into the SRG the paper and the circumstances, timing and method of its launch all conspired to have the opposite effect. Whether anything would have been much different if the SRG had progressed joint working and a joint paper with the Grant-Deane tendency is doubtful. What I would say is that the political case made by the Manchester SRG comrades in their document of 28th February seems compelling. Even so, Rally itself also eventually succumbed to the chill winds of the period.


    2. The Young Socialist: 1957-1958


    In the October 1957 (Volume 6 Number 12) issue of the SRG’s newspaper Socialist Review James D. Young has a front-page article titled “Capitalism, Labour and Youth”. The author reflects on such things as the role of the mass media in society and the failure of the education system to cater for working-class youth. He also notes that “there has been a new upsurge of working class activity in every section of the Labour movement during the past two or three years. As the Tories get bolder, more and more young workers turn to the organized Labour movement as a way out of their present difficulties. Therefore members of the Labour Youth sections have got to campaign inside the Party for the right to live a completely free and independent life. While we are taking part in the day-to-day struggles of the workers, and while we are co-operatively working alongside adult members of the Party, we have got to fight for our right to publish our own papers, to help to shape the Party’s policy, and even to make our own mistakes. For this we need a national organization – we need to re-constitute the Labour League of Youth as an independent body, with its own programme and its own constitution.”


    The next issue of Socialist Review in November 1957 (Volume 7 Number 1) marks the beginning of what was to be a regular youth component of the paper with its own title and own numbering. Hence, in this issue we have The Young Socialist Number 1. The section, for the want of a better description, is sub-titled “For an Independent Socialist Youth Movement” and this issue is given over entirely to a major (one and a half pages) article “Youth and the Armed Forces” written by Tony Young, Chairman, Isle of Thanet Youth Section.


    It is in the Socialist Review (December 1957) issue that in the pages of The Young Socialist (the sub-title has been dropped) we get an editorial with the context and aims for this publication. It states:


    “For the past two years youth has been stirring into revolt. In Hungary and Poland, young workers and students fought back against extreme political and economic repression with the techniques and slogans of socialist revolution; here, in Britain, it was only a politically conscious minority of young people who came out into the streets to stop the Suez War. But although tempers in Britain have cooled with the usual bromides since then, undercurrents of resentment and rebellion remain.


    Militant young socialists can get more than nostalgic memories from those heroic days last November. We can see what huge powers exist in youth, what huge energies are released under pressure; under pressure and with a militant lead, these powers, these energies will be transformed into action.


    Over the next few months, the direct attacks of the Tories on our living standards – short-time working, higher rents, dearer food, cuts in social services – will make young workers start looking around for a lead. This we in the Youth Sections must provide, but if we are to do the job properly, we must educate ourselves for it. If we want to translate energies from jeering at policemen, laughing at the Queen’s voice, dressing up like James Dean, we cannot be content with routine denunciation of Tory methods and motives. We must present constructive, radical socialist alternatives. We must show the need to transform society. We must make Socialists. And to make Socialists we must educate ourselves. Keir Hardie’s slogan can serve us well today: EDUCATE, AGITATE, ORGANIZE. And Education must still come first.


    The aim of The Young Socialist is to help us in these tasks: to examine the issues affecting us, and present them in socialist terms; to work out a programme, and see how to bring it into effect; to weld together individual Youth Sections and college Labour Clubs into an effective movement for international democratic socialism. And socialist education is the tool.”


    Another interesting item in this issue of The Young Socialist is the opening part of an upcoming pamphlet by Michael Kidron “What is Socialism?”. It is all the more interesting, as I am not aware that the pamphlet was ever subsequently published.


    The January 1st 1958 issue of Socialist Review is the first fortnightly issue of the paper and it contains The Young Socialist Number 3. The editorial states, “Things are moving: the formation of new Sections is reported in many areas, but from these reports two conflicting aims can be made out…”. On the one hand are the Sections “custom-built to the measurements of the Transport House bureaucracy” to provide willing workhorses and with a heavy emphasis on socials and record evenings. On the other hand, is a healthy minority of Sections “which feels that for us to try to compete with the local flick-house, dance hall or youth club is to squander our resources….The political minority sees that the only justification for the Sections is political; that therefore the main emphasis in planning our activity must be given to political education and discussion, and everything else must flow from this. We must realize that the form a labour youth movement should take is not only an organizational question; it is political. We have to choose whether to be socialists or socialites.”


    Issue number 4 has the second part of Mike Kidron’s pamphlet “The Fight for Socialism”. Issue 5 (February 1st 1958) is interesting for an article on an opposition group recently formed in the Young Communist League titled “Revolt in the YCL”. An editorial introduction to the YCL article has this to say “True, the right-wing leaders don’t make the Labour Party the most exciting place: but we believe the place for the militant young socialist is in the Labour Party Youth Sections; the Labour Party is the Party of the British working class, and although the Sections are still relatively weak we believe they can be built up into an effective socialist youth movement. A minority of young socialists has, however, chosen to join the Young Communist League. We believe they are mistaken. In the review of recent events there, printed below, we show some of the reasons why, and how the struggle for a socialist program in their organization is even harder than in our Sections. Although we don’t agree with all their ideas, there is enough common ground for us to be pleased to play host to these comrades.”


    Issue number 6 has the third part of Kidron’s pamphlet, this time on “how does arms production get round the problem of over-production?” plus a letter from Spain containing a university student program for action. Issue 7 is given over to education system matters and issue 8 (Mid-March 1958) has another instalment from Mike Kidron.


    Young Socialist (“The” was dropped from the name with effect from number 4) number 9 opens with an admission. In bold type is printed:


    “The “Young Socialist” has recently received complaints that its attitude towards youth is vague and that it lacks a clear and consistent program. We cannot completely agree with this. Yet we feel there is a measure of truth in this criticism. We are, therefore, inviting readers to discuss “A Policy for Youth”. The first article appears below. It discusses what a Socialist attitude towards youth should be and suggests a minimum program of demands. Further articles will follow.”


    This first article is written by Harold Freedman of Chingford YS. The points he suggests as being fundamental to any socialist youth policy are:


    1. Reorganization of the educational system. This would include:


    a)     Comprehensive school system

    b)    Free state education up to 18

    c)     Apprenticeship as part of the education system. This would be the first step towards the abolition of the division between mental and manual labour


    1. Full adult status at 18. This, of course, would include the right to vote


    1. The abolition of conscription


    1. An independent Labour Youth movement, with the right to participate in the formation of Labour’s policy

    The other main article in this issue is one on “Tom Mann – Revolutionary Socialist” written by Jimmy Young.


    Much of Issue 10 (Mid-April 1958) of Young Socialist is given over to a report of a day-school held by the Shoreditch and Finsbury Labour Party Youth Section. In the morning session Mike Kidron presented on the situation of youth in industry. The reply to the question “How to Fight Back?” is given as “By building up a militant socialist youth movement with a consistent socialist program. Youth is fundamentally revolutionary; uprooted from the sheltered life of home and school and put down into the impersonal world of the capitalist system, young people see life in a more generalized yet clear-cut way than their elders.”


    In response to the question “What Sort of Program?” the reply is “A socialist program would include:


    • Free state education to 18
    • Comprehensive schooling with adequate maintenance grants
    • Continuing education in the bosses’ time (no night school)
    • Free time for cultural activity: no overtime; a 40-hour week
    • Higher wages – a man’s pay for a man’s work for young workers
    • Full apprenticeship training under fully paid instructors
    • Apprenticeship to the Shop Stewards Committee or trade union with no private indenture to employers
    • The vote at 18
    • No conscription”


    The program is interesting for its focus on the workplace, which perhaps reflects the subject of the Kidron session rather than any intrinsic lack of interest in the subject of nuclear disarmament. The front page of this issue of Socialist Review is actually given over to the H-bomb with the headline “The Budget and the Bomb”.


    In the second session of the school in answer to the question “how do we get it?” Robin Fior (another SRG member) and Youth Organizer of Uxbridge Constituency Labour Party, “suggested the kind of organization that we need. The old League of Youth had shown fatal weaknesses long before the NEC administered the final back-stabs. Firstly, it was too narrowly based, purely on local parties. As a result it was too specialized: Young workers and students were not represented in an organized way. Secondly, it was not allowed to discuss “politics”. Since Suez and Hungary the new Youth Sections had done quite well, but, alone, they wouldn’t be able to cope with the difficult problems ahead described in the first session. To do this we needed a Youth Section of the whole Labour Party – a National Youth Section, consisting of youth sections of trade unions (e.g. the AEU), Labour student organizations (now in NALSO merely “associated!” with the Labour Party) and the local Sections, with an autonomous national structure competent to make policy and represented on the NEC.” [bold type in the original]. Overall the outputs of the day-school are probably a fair reflection of current SRG views on the taking forward of youth organisation and youth policy.


    Roger Cox, who is an SWP member to this day, had been a member of the Shoreditch Labour Party since the age of 13 in 1953 and Fior and Kidron made an indelible mark on him. Interviewed in 2009 Roger had this to say:


    “Then arrived on the scene two contrasting characters and the impact they had was quite unimaginable really. One was Robyn Fiore (sic) and the other was Mike Kidron. These two toffs, gents, spoke very posh. They came and had these arguments with us, do you know this, and they were incredibly unpatronising and quite funny, and again they were from this different world, a world which was more sophisticated, and again there was this opportunity to actually have a better understanding of the world, and they used to go around various groups of youngsters talking to them to lure them into Tony Cliff’s front room where he gave these lectures on Marxism”. (Quoted in Hughes, 2015)


    Roger joined the Socialist Review Group in 1958. Writing in his autobiography (Cliff, 2000) Tony Cliff recounts how, in that year, Roger Cox and another six or seven members of the Youth Section of the Shoreditch Labour Party used to visit him every Sunday to listen to these lectures on Marxism. Cliff was also invited to speak at one of their branch meetings in the rooms of the Labour Party.


    Issue number 10 of Young Socialist is also of interest for having a letter printed from Beryl Deane of the Editorial Board of the Rally publication. In commending an article in an earlier issue of Young Socialist Deane highlights that the Labour Party Youth Sections must give direction to young people and that “we must offer to them a program of demands for the betterment of their conditions and call on them to join us to press these demands. The paper Rally has begun to produce such a program and the Young Socialist can help to do the same. Discussion to clear our ideas is essential, and every paper which directs itself to youth must participate in this and give a lead.” Here is a clue that joint working with Rally might be a possibility further down the road.


    Roger Cox and John Phillips of Shoreditch and Finsbury YS are given most of the space in the next issue of Young Socialist (number 11 – May Day) to write on the subject of policy for apprentices. The issue gives a first hint that possibly the concept of a youth section within the pages of Socialist Review was not working well with an editorial comment that states “we have a space problem. Unless readers get a move on and push up sales in Youth Sections, Apprentice Clubs, Colleges and Universities so that YS [Young Socialist] can cut loose from SR [Socialist Review], we’ll continue to have a space problem. Anyway, this issue can only find room for one-quarter of the material we’ve received. We’ll try our best to publish it in the future.”


    Issue 12 (Mid-May 1958) leads with an article on “Office Workers – The Problems” plus a “Policy for Youth” by Tony David Smith an EC member of NALSO (the Labour Party student organisation). There is also a review of a new pamphlet by Frank Allaun “Stop the H – Bomb Race”.


    John Crutchley, Willesden Youth Section and NATSOPA member, is given most of the first page of Young Socialist number 13 to reply to the Office Workers article in the previous issue. Mike Kidron continues his series, this time on the subject of “Nationalisation and Workers’ Control”. Kidron opens his contribution with:


    “Even if the British economy were completely nationalized we would still be dependent on the world market. The Control Plan would still have to take account of the fact that more than half of our food and vast amounts of raw materials must be imported and paid for with exports. We would still have to compete with foreign capitalists in selling our goods. Accumulation would still appear as an imperative necessity and wages would still have to be kept down in order to allow this accumulation. Otherwise we would lose our export market, be unable to import and be starved out of existence. Socialism in one country is impossible.”


    Issue 14 (Mid-June) also leads off with an article on NALSO, this time by Ken Coates. In the next part of Mike Kidron’s “The Fight for Socialism” series he states the case for workers’control. There is a short report on the second of Shoreditch Youth Section’s day schools from which we learn that in the morning session Tony Cliff lectured on “Sex and Socialism” and in the afternoon Roger Cox “opened a useful discussion on the position of youth in the industrial struggle”.


    It does have to be said that given space is seemingly an issue the propensity for Young Socialist to focus on very long articles is perhaps strange. I am sure the explanation is that there is a focus on the education of socialists – issue number 15 has a full page article titled “Working Class Culture” by John F. Crutchley of Willesden YS – and this takes up all of the space available. The article drew a response in the next issue (number 16 – mid-July) from M. Maddison of Stoke Newington YS who opens with “If sex, syncopation and Sinatra are the Holy Trinity of working class culture – as John Crutchley suggests in his recent article (July 1st) – then I’m going to quit politics and (in the words of Candide) “go and work in the garden”. Not only do I refuse to accept the sanctity of the trinity; I challenge its significance as the kingpin of working class or any other culture”. With debates like these one certainly needs more space!


    The 17th and last issue of Young Socialist appears in the Socialist Review of September 1st 1958. It contains the concluding part of Mike Kidron’s series on “The Fight for Socialism” and another contribution, this time from John Phillips, on working class culture.


    It does seem that Young Socialist, as a section within Socialist Review, was an interesting experiment. Given the small number of young cadre available to the SRG at the time I can only assume that this was felt to be a better option than attempting to build a separate youth publication. However, one has to note that the former Grant-Deane Tendency, with fewer members than the SRG went down the other route – Walton Labour Youth Section published a new Vol. 1 No. 1 of Rally in November 1957 with Beryl Deane on its Editorial Board.


    As was admitted as early as issue number 11 of the Young Socialist, the format chosen by the SRG put constraints on what might otherwise have been possible. It must also, by definition, have made it more difficult to get the publication accepted within the broader ranks of youth, being as it was, incorporated within the pages of an avowedly revolutionary socialist paper with a coverage of the full political and industrial spectrum.


    There is no reason recorded within the paper as to the precise reason for dropping Young Socialist although the timing does coincide with the launch of the International Socialism journal. Human resources and finance most likely both played a part.


    Of course, none of this meant the end of coverage of youth matters in the main pages of Socialist Review. In the October 1959 issue there was a major two-page spread on “A Charter for Youth” as an attempt to kick off discussion on the subject. The draft charter presented included sections on “Youth and work”, “Youth without work”, “Youth and study” and “Youth and politics”.


    3. Rebel: 1960-1961


    It has been well documented by a number of writers (e.g. Birchall, 1981 & 2011; Cliff, 2000) that in the first ten years of its existence the Socialist Review Group barely grew at all. It is also well known that things began to change from 1960.


    The nuclear arms race and the threat of nuclear war led to the launch, in 1958, of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), an organisation committed to unilateral nuclear disarmament by Britain. In 1959 there was a sizeable march attended by some 60,000 people followed in 1960 and 1961 by two mass Aldermaston marches culminating in rallies, both of around 100,000.


    Politics, and particularly politics involving young people, was back on the agenda. In tandem with this was the defeat for the Labour Party in the 1959 General Election and a realisation on the part of the Labour leadership that they were not connecting with the younger generation. There is little doubt that they also realised that the best “foot-soldiers” for the party were the youth and they needed to get them back on board. The third attempt to have a Labour Party youth organisation, this time called the “Young Socialists”, was thus launched in 1960.


    In terms of the main Trotskyist groupings of the period the former Grant-Deane tendency were, from 1957, the Revolutionary Socialist League (RSL) but in 1960 their paper Rally only really existed in Merseyside, Nottingham, South Wales and Tyneside (Fancy & Phillips, 1962; Sewell, 2002). The Healyites had launched the Socialist Labour League (SLL) in 1959 (which was promptly proscribed by the Labour Party) and already had their well-established youth paper Keep Left. This put them in pole position to exploit the opportunities opening up but in a statement that says much about the politics of the SLL, Gerry Healy’s biographers tell us that at the SLL’s first annual conference in June 1960 “the SLL leaders immediately decided on a strategy to win the Young Socialist national committee over to Trotskyism” and that this was to be a “highly secret operation” (Lotz & Feldman, 1994).


    CND and the fight against the bomb and the launch of the Young Socialists also, of course, provided fertile ground for the Socialist Review Group and they immediately recognised the importance of the link between the two. It did not take long before this took organisational shape. In an undated [but circa March 1960] document, “Notes for Aggregate Discussion” on the subject of “Youth Work” it states the following “The formation of the new Labour Party Youth organisation, resulting in many new Young Socialist branches being formed, has brought so many new faces into the youth movement, that we can no longer be sure of the influence of the left wing. “Socialist Review” youth [are] responsible for forming the organisation, “Young Socialists Against the Bomb”, to co-ordinate the work between Young Socialist branches and the Youth CND. We feel that this is especially important as it is almost certain that any influx in the future into the Young Socialist branches will come from the Youth CND. In conclusion it is necessary, we feel, that we have a youth paper partly to link up the Left in the Young Socialist branches and partly as a paper for “Young Socialists Against the Bomb”.”


    The notes of a youth meeting held on 29th May 1960 advise that “Socialist Review was prepared to contribute £10 an issue until the paper got on its feet”. Minutes of a “Young Socialists Against the Bomb” meeting held on 5th June tell us that the initial title of the new youth publication was agreed as LEFT FOCUS – for Socialist Youth Against the Bomb – a decision that clearly did not last long as the first issue of Rebel (with the subtitle “For Socialist Youth Against the Bomb”) was published in July 1960 (although the actual publication is undated). The print run was 600 copies. The publication has 8 pages, is approximately A5 in size, cost 3d and is blue in colour. The publisher is “M. Bristow, 75 Cromwell Avenue, N.6” and whilst not noted on the publication, John Phillips was the first editor. The policy of the publication is set out in “Our Aims” as:


    • Unilateral nuclear disarmament and the withdrawal from NATO and all other military alliances
    • Immediate self determination for all colonial peoples and the withdrawal of British troops from overseas
    • Nationalisation under workers control
    • Votes at 18
    • Comprehensive schools
    • The return of a Labour government pledged to the above programme


    The contents of Rebel No. 1 are:


    “Editorial” – pp. 1-2

    “Art in Capitalist Society” by Topaque Blair – pp. 2-3

    “The Labour Party & CND” by C. Hislop – p. 4

    “The NATO Dilemma” by “Rimain” – p. 5

    “Capitalism and War” by Terry James – p. 6

    “From the Branches – pp. 7-8


    The minutes of the SRG Executive Committee held on 6th August 1960 report that “the first issue of Rebel has been sold out and it is intended to print 2000 copies of the second issue.”


    Tony Cliff in his autobiography (Cliff, 2000) somewhat immodestly claims sole credit for this SRG youth paper. He writes “when I came to the conclusion that the groups of youth connected with us, however small they were, needed a paper of their own, as Socialist Review did not fit them and could not serve as their organiser, the idea of Rebel was born….So I convinced Chanie to buy a tiny Adana hand-printing machine. We set the text for the first Rebel letter by letter. This took hours and there was an urgency, as the new Rebel was needed for a coming demonstration. We had to put one sheet at a time in the machine. I remember the blue paper, and also how agonising the job was. Each sheet had to be laid out on the floor or on furniture separate from the next, so that the ink would dry, as we somehow could not get the thickness of the ink right. For the other side of the four page paper we had to repeat the process.” As is so often the case it seems from a story Ian Birchall tells that Cliff was not so keen to claim credit when things went wrong. Ian writes in relation to the production of Rebel, “on one occasion they ended up illegible, whereupon Cliff put the blame on John and Mary Phillips because they had been away on holiday” (Birchall, 2011). C’est la vie.


    Actually, having had during the course of my research the opportunity to read the notes of many meetings from this period, I do now take some exception to Cliff’s claim that “for perhaps six months I was the only member of the Socialist Review Group involved with Labour Party youth” (Cliff, 2000). For me, this misses the point that there was a group of active young members of the organisation committed to youth work and it was they, every bit as much as Cliff, who “dared to act” and “created the facts”.

    In his little-known but interesting autobiography Alan Woodward reports that “Rebel readers meetings were usually held at the “King and Queen” pub in the Harrow Road W.2., on a Saturday night…Minutes of the first Rebel Editorial Board [show that] myself, Maureen [James], John and Mary [nee Bristow] Phillips, Chris Davison and Jenny Spencer, Brian [Lynam], Will [Fancy], Bill [Vester] and someone called John Curry, who is unidentified, attended” (Woodward, 2012).


    Will Fancy will have been over-age for the Young Socialists at this time but John Palmer tells me (pers. comms.) “as a member of the Rebel editorial board I remember Tony Cliff suggesting that I get Will Fancy to come along and “advise”. I think this was because Will was more level headed and experienced than many of the militant but raw recruits we initially attracted”.


    The contents of Rebel No. 2 dated September 1960 are:


    “Say No to NATO” – pp. 1-2

    “Propaganda and the Vital Myth” by Dai Vaughan – pp. 3-4

    “Young Socialists or Socialites?” by Martin Seller – pp. 4-5

    “U.S. Economic War on Cuba” by David Reynolds – p. 6

    “From the Branches” – pp. 7-8


    As can be seen, the lead article on NATO has no named author so, based on documentary evidence in my possession, I am delighted to be able to attribute it to Peter Sedgwick. It is an interesting article in which Peter shows “that the only sort of government that is capable of implementing CND policy is one which is revolutionary Socialist and internationalist.” He describes the policy he expounds as “subversive neutrality”. David Renton has kindly placed a copy of the article on his excellent “Lives Running” website here:




    Another interesting article in this issue is “Propaganda and the Vital Myth” by Dai Vaughan (1933-2012). This is a very early article on film and the cinema by someone who was to go on to become a pre-eminent documentary film editor.


    Rebel No. 3 dated October 1960 consists of:


    “Editorial” – pp. 1-2

    “Jets and Bombs: A Review of Clive Jenkins’ pamphlet” by Will Fancy – pp. 2-3

    “The Students” a report from Nigel Harris, Chairman of NALSO – pp. 3-4

    “Southern Region Conference: A Delegate’s Comments” – pp. 4-5

    “The Rapacki Plan” by D. Austin – pp. 6-7

    “ Conscription” by Robert Tyne – pp. 7-8


    The editorial of this issue discusses the news that the Labour Party intends to launch a monthly paper for Young Socialists. To say the least Rebel had no illusions and they wrote, “But, despite the many frivolous and cynical comments we could make about this new penny (or threepenny?) from heaven, the fact remains that even though we are told that it is our paper, a paper for youth, a paper which believes in youth, we know damn well that the Labour Party have decided to do this without asking or consulting us, the youth they are trying to impress. For this reason Rebel will continue to be published until the Labour Party allow youth papers and all material related to the Young Socialists to be controlled by us.”


    By October 1960 it is clear that there was increasing concern that the Labour Party bureaucracy would clamp down on Rebel and the meeting of the Hackney-Shoreditch SRG branch discussed this on both the 28th October and the 11th November. One of the topics concerns who was to be shown as the publisher of the paper and the preferred option was to print a list of youth sections in which there were supporters. It was felt that this would prevent individuals being picked off for disciplinary action.


    With effect from issue number 4 the format of the publication has been changed to become a small newspaper of 15 inches x 10 inches with four column printing and photographs. A considerable improvement. The paper shows that it is “published by individual members from Chelsea, Paddington, Southgate, Peckham and Shoreditch Young Socialists”.


    By the time issue number 5 of Rebel was printed in February/March 1961 it is known from minutes of the SRG South London branch that the Rebel Editorial Board consisted of six members with SRG member Harold Freedman as Acting Editor. The issue has a poem “To the Overlords” written by Dai Vaughan. The poem is shown in Vaughan’s online bibliography as appearing in “Peace News” for October 1962 – so you can have read it first in Rebel!


    At this same time the SRG Executive Committee of 4th February reports that a letter had been received from a member of the Editorial Board of Rally in Nottingham putting forward proposals for a merger. The EC referred the matter to the Rebel EB with the recommendation that the proposals be accepted.


    Ian Birchall correctly states that Tony Cliff was anxious to achieve co-operation with other groups in the field of youth work (Birchall, 2011 p.203). Indeed, that desire extended beyond youth work as outlined in Cliff’s 1960 document “Some Remarks on the regroupment of Marxists”. Cliff argues for two very basic programmatic demands for a broad Marxist trend in Britain 1) In home policy: the nationalisation of the basic industries, banking, etc, under workers control 2) International socialist policy: withdrawal of British troops from the colonies; independent, direct working class action against the Bomb; withdrawal from NATO. Cliff continues “the question of attitude to Russia in case of a third world war, which has bedevilled Marxists for a long time, is today scholastic and lifeless. If a third world war breaks out it will mean the end of humanity, and therefore any discussion on possible policies during or after such a war is at best a useless scholastic argument, and at worst a numbing of the fear and hence antagonism to the threatening war. For us the aim is not, as it was for Lenin before the H-bomb, to turn an imperialist war into a civil war, but to prevent the imperialist war, the annihilation of civilisation. (Because of this, although I have a certain conception of Stalinist Russia – believing it to be State Capitalist – I feel sure I would not have any practical differences with Marxists who have a different conception, provided that all agree to the above two-point programme).” At a practical level Autumn 1960 saw the (re)-launch of the International Socialism Journal with an editorial board that was not confined to SRG members.


    In all fairness, it should be recorded that in respect of the RSL, Jimmy Deane was also a champion of joint working around youth work (see e.g. Sewell, 2002 p. 210 & McIlroy, 2003).

    By April the potential for merger had extended to also now include New Generation in Leeds and Labour’s Northern Voice (Youth Page). A meeting held in Nottingham between their Rally people, Rebel and “Rose” [Paul Rose, editor of the LNV Youth Page and a future Labour MP] resulted in the following proposals being agreed for reference back to the groups: 1. Completely open paper 2. All editorials and unsigned articles to be unilateralist and Left 3. Organisation to be based on local readers’ meetings with someone responsible for business. Each region to send 2 delegates to a national meeting. London to constitute EB. Nottingham to print. Rose to be business manager. 4. Paper of 4, 6 or 8 pages to include one page from Labour’s Northern Voice, while one page from our paper to be included in LNV – this would save money. LNV to subsidise losses on first 3 issues to £100. 5. Programme of Rebel accepted except “Public ownership under workers’ and consumers’ control” 6. Name to be new.


    The front page of Rebel number 6 (April/May 1961) has two articles. One titled “Whose Bomb?” makes it clear that the paper is resolutely opposed to all H-Bombs, whether British, American or Russian. The other “Is there a Gaitskell at the bottom of your Garden?” addresses New Advance, the Labour Party youth paper whose editorial in its February issue had been “Is there a Trotsky at the bottom of your Garden?”


    An informal (although minutes exist) merger meeting also took place at the YS Rally in Skegness in May.


    The May 1961 (number 7) issue of Rebel has an article “Three Steps Forward: A Personal View of the Young Socialist Conference” written by Paul Rose. The three steps forward he identifies are on disarmament – “we re-affirmed our fundamental belief in Internationalism and our refusal to accept the use of weapons of mass destruction in any foreseeable circumstances”; on public ownership – “in which the vast majority of delegates demonstrated their commitment to the principle of public ownership and support of Clause Four”; and on the resolutions asking for Gaitskell’s resignation and supporting Scarborough decisions – “which were soberly put and handsomely carried by two to one majorities”.


    The Rally Youth Group on Merseyside met on 9th June to discuss the Nottingham meeting outputs and expressed broad agreement although they did put forward a number of points for discussion at the final merger meeting in Liverpool on 24-25th June. These points are minuted in their document “Rally-Rebel Merger. Views of the Merseyside Comrades” dated 9th June and include the make up of the Editorial Board, circulation, layout, the slogan (they were not keen on “Socialist Youth Against the Bomb” and “would prefer “Youth for Socialism” or some similar slogan”), supporters and the name of the paper (they suggested “Progress”). Under the heading of “Policy” they pose “three possible alternatives which merit consideration:


    a)     That the question of policy be determined prior to the launching of the journal

    b)    That it be left to the elected Editorial Board

    c)     That it be discussed in detail at a Conference after the initial three month period is over


    The minutes continue, “we are here referring only to Editorial policy, fully agreeing with the “open” policy for other articles”.


    At the end of July 1961 a two-day National Editorial Board (NEB) meeting of Young Guard was held in Nottingham with delegates from East Midlands (300), London and Southern Region (900), Merseyside (300 – of which 50 would be overseas circulation), Glasgow (250), Leeds (100), South Wales (50) and Manchester (no figure quoted). The figures in brackets show the number of the initial monthly sales of Young Guard that each area expected to achieve.


    Chris Davison (SRG) was unanimously elected as the editor of the paper but it is clear from the minutes of the meeting that the size and make-up of the initial Working Editorial Board (WEB) remained highly contentious. A compromise was eventually reached whereby the WEB would be five strong – one from Merseyside, one from Nottingham and three from London but that any two would have the right to exercise a veto on items to which they particularly objected. The make up of the NEB was less contentious it being based on numbers of regional supporters. The slogan “The Paper with a Programme for Youth” was agreed and it was also agreed that the programme that was drafted at the Liverpool meeting would be published as it stood for the first three issues of the paper. Paddy Wall of Merseyside submitted a draft Editorial Statement, being an explanation of the reasons for launching Young Guard. It was agreed that the Editor should incorporate the ideas expressed in the first editorial. Attending this meeting were, East Midlands – Brian Biggins, Geoff Kingscott; London and Southern Region – Malcolm Tallantire, Mike Rustin, Chris Davison; Merseyside – Keith Dickinson, Paddy Wall; Glasgow – Gus MacDonald, A.N. Other; Leeds – Hedley Taylor; South Wales – Dave Matthews; Manchester – Chris Drew.


    Writing very much later Keith Dickinson states that the whole collaboration on Young Guard had been, from the RSL point of view, based on their “Programme for Youth” (Dickinson, 2013). The meeting minutes or documents I have seen in either the Jimmy Deane or Socialist Party archives do not support such a view having been agreed. Indeed, the earliest version of the programme I have seen in these archives is titled “Youth for Socialism: A Suggested Transitional Programme” and is dated May 1962. A shorter version of the same document titled “A Socialist Programme for Youth” is dated July 1963. Both documents are, however, based upon the “Youth Charter” produced by Rally in 1950.


    John Palmer has the lead article in Rebel issue number 8 on the subject of “NATO or Internationalism?”. The final paragraph has a certain flourish:


    “Whatever the Tories and the military and business bosses in this country say, British Labour and the British working class have no interests in supporting NATO. Nor have they any in supporting the Stalinist war machines of the Soviet Union. Peace and socialism will come through neither. They will only be achieved when British Labour gives a lead to the working class and colonial freedom movements of the world in organising active opposition to the war machines of both east and west. Let British Labour say “A curse on both your houses….neither Belsen nor Hiroshima, neither Hungary nor Angola….BUT INTERNATIONAL SOCIALISM NOW!”.


    The last of the nine editions of Rebel was published with the date July-August 1961. Under a banner heading of “Rebel Must Go!” it announces that “in September comrades from London, the Southern Region, East Midlands, Manchester, Merseyside, Leeds, Glasgow and South Wales will co-operate to produce a new paper, Young Guard”. This last issue of Rebel shows that it “is published by individual members from Holborn & St. Pancras South, Chelsea, South Paddington, Southgate, Peckham, Ramsgate, Shoreditch & Finsbury, Harrow East, Willesden, Hampstead, Stoke Newington, Oxford, St. Pancras North, Withington (Manchester), North-East Leeds, Maidstone, Kingston, Guildford, New Malden, Wallasey, Gilmoss, Kilbirnie YS branches and Woolwich, Kingston and Thanet YCND”.


    The balance sheet for the short-lived Rebel publication certainly has a credit amount showing. John Palmer has described the relative positions of the Trotskyist organisations on the Bomb to me (pers. comms.) as follows “the absolutely unambiguous opposition of Socialist Review and Rebel to ALL nuclear weapons (including the so-called “workers bomb” of the Soviet Union) was a major attraction to young socialist militants – as opposed to the Healyite defence of the Russian bomb and the Rallyites’ ambiguous stance”. Rebel attracted a number of talented individuals to the organisation such as Chris Davison and involved a whole host of the SRG’s younger members it its activities. Unlike Young Chartist it was launched at the right time with the political awareness and activity of layers of youth on the rise.


    As Davison has said, “Rebel was a fresh concept of politics compared to the tired old politics of orthodox Trotskyism” (Birchall, 2011 p. 206). The paper gained sufficient presence to help facilitate the coming together of the SRG, RSL, LNV, New Generation, sections of the emerging New Left, newly radicalised apprentices and others in a new joint venture.


    4. Young Guard: 1961-1966


    The name Young Guard is generally said to be taken from the youth section of the Belgian Socialist Party, the “Jeunes Gardes Socialistes”, who had played a significant role in the recent Belgian General Strike. This must certainly be true. The name, however, also had a more local pedigree that would have been known to those aware of the previous youth work of the SRG and the RSL. Back in the days of the LLOY, Jeremy Beckitt the publisher of Young Chartist was a member of Northwood LLOY and their “official organ” was called Young Guard.


    Issue number 1 of Young Guard appeared in September 1961, with the subtitle “A Paper with a Program for Youth”. The publication has six pages (10 inch x 15 inch) with four column printing and photographic blocks from Tribune and other sources. The editor was Chris Davison and the Business Manager Keith Dickinson (Merseyside RSL). The paper is shown as “published by individual members from…” and then provides a list of forty-four different “Young Socialist” branches and four “Youth CND” branches. It was printed in London at St. Martin’s Printers, 86d Lillie Road, S.W. 6. 2000 copies were distributed.


    The editorial “Introducing Young Guard” is reproduced in full below:


    Young Guard is produced by comrades who want to see a young socialist paper with a consistent policy, entirely free from outside interference and based democratically on the socialist youth movement. We want this paper to be a modest and genuine reflection of young socialist views, being neither confined to the straight-jacket of a party machine nor preoccupied with its own achievements.


    Our editorial policy will be aggressive and socialist, broadly based upon the decisions of the first Young Socialist Conference. We shall fight for the basic socialist demands of unilateralism and workers’ control of industry and pledge ourselves to support the apprentices in their struggle for better pay and conditions. We shall campaign for a democratic Young Socialist movement and play our part in building the Young Socialists into a considerable force inside the Labour movement. Young Guard will be an open paper and we shall encourage discussion on the controversial issues which confront Young Socialists. With the active participation of many young socialists Young Guard could become the paper our movement really needs.


    Young Guard will call regular readers’ meetings in different parts of the country so that all can participate in running the paper. It will be a rank and file paper and as such will depend entirely upon you to write the articles, sell the paper and donate money. If Young Guard is to succeed it needs your support.”


    The programme of the paper as printed in “Our Aims” is:


    • Unilateral renunciation of all nuclear weapons and the withdrawal from NATO and all existing military alliances;
    • The return of a Labour Government based on the nationalization under workers’ control of the banks, insurance companies, land and major industries;
    • The self-determination of the colonial peoples and the withdrawal of all British troops from overseas;
    • An internationalist policy based on co-operation with genuine labour movements throughout the world;
    • Votes and full legal rights at 18;
    • Three-year apprenticeships, full trade union rights and the ending of blind-alley employment;
    • Free access to the highest educational facilities for all and the replacement of the tri-partite system of education by comprehensive schooling;
    • The full development of and free access to sporting and cultural facilities;
    • The building of a democratic Young Socialist movement pledged to achieve the above programme working in conjunction with young socialists from other countries


    Issue Number 2 of Young Guard was published in October and the number distributed was increased to 2600. A thorough review of progress to date was made at the SRG Executive Committee meeting held in Leeds on 7-8th October. This was led off by Chris Davison who stated, with a particularly acute political analysis and a real sense of history, “of all the areas with which we work YG has the best opportunity of expanding. This opportunity may come to an end in a year or two when the YS is likely to come into direct conflict with the LP machine and has to retreat; or it may be ended earlier by blunders on our part.”


    The November 1961 issue (Number 3) had a distribution of 3000 copies, which already compared favourably to a circulation of only 4000 (much of it unpaid) for the official Labour Party youth publication New Advance.


    The first National Editorial Board meeting of Young Guard since the actual launch of the paper was held in Leeds on 4th- 5th November. It is clear from the minutes that, even at this early stage, keeping the paper going as a co-operative venture was going to need the political dexterity of a Lenin and the patience of a saint. Keith Dickinson, on behalf of the Merseyside comrades, moved a resolution expressing concern “at the way the position of Editorship has been used in order to put the State Capitalist position in articles which can only be interpreted as editorial comment”. In moving he referred specifically to one item from each of the first three issues of the paper i) a six- sentence snippet on some Moscow students in issue number 1 ii) the editorial in issue number 2 which was titled “SAD – MAD – BAD! Tests must be stopped. All bombs must go” and iii) the slogan on page one of issue number 3 “Megaton Madness Must Stop. No to all bombs! No to all tests!”. Looking back from 2015 it does seem incredible – but it is true!


    Major issues were alive for the left press in the Young Socialists during 1962, in particular the banning of Keep Left (although it was to be over another two years until, as Sean Matgamna described it, “the Labour Party goes for a purge, Keep Left goes for a split” (Matgamna, 1993) and a proposal to also ban Young Guard (see Young Guard Issue No. 9 – June 1962). John Palmer (pers. comms.) has this extremely interesting story to relate as regards this subject (although John cannot be 100% certain of the date):


    “I remember one editorial board meeting at John and Mary Phillips’ flat attended clandestinely by Anthony Greenwood, a prominent left-wing MP who had been a long-time member of the Labour Party NEC, to tell us of the threat to the paper from Transport House. He – and Ian Mikardo – also warned me at another meeting that the NEC had their eyes on myself, Chris Davison and Gus MacDonald because of “extremist” speeches we had made to YS meetings. I had a couple of meetings with Tony subsequently as well as with Ian Mikardo MP and Frank Allaun MP at the Labour Party conference that year. They all apparently opposed any NEC disciplinary measures planned by the right wing although I am less sure this extended to a defence of Keep Left. The latter, of course, were actively seek exclusion as part of Healy’s “get rich quick” strategy for the Socialist Labour League – later the Workers Revolutionary Party”.


    Following an inquiry the Labour Party National Executive Committee decided not to proscribe Young Guard, although to achieve this outcome the NEB of the paper at their meeting on 22nd-23rd September had to accept the following terms:


    1)     The tone of the paper be improved;

    2)     Our “aims” as printed each month be changed to make it clear that we would work for the return of a Labour Government whatever its policies and that we wanted the Young Socialists to remain part of the Labour Party;

    3)     We make it clear that Young Guard is open to Young Socialists of all opinions to express their views;

    4)     We cease to have speakers at our readers meetings, as it gave the impression that we were a faction within the Young Socialists


    A resolution accepting the N.E.C.’s demands and instructing the Working Editorial Board to continue to criticise the bureaucratic leadership in every way possible was passed 21 votes to 7.


    Details of the Labour N.E.C. inquiry, an account of the two meetings held between Young Guard representatives and the NEC, the conditions imposed and the reasons for signing are given in an editorial in Young Guard Issue No. 12 – October 1962. This editorial ends as follows:


    “Let it be said quite clearly that we are under no illusions whatsoever as to the motives of the N.E.C. in not taking action to proscribe Young Guard. They wish to use us as a propaganda weapon to justify their proscription of Keep Left.


    The fact is that Keep Left never requested an interview with the N.E.C. and their whole approach to the question has left them without an effective voice in the YS. WE INTEND TO PUT THE CASE FOR SOCIALIST POLICIES FOR LABOUR AS VIGOROUSLY AND EVEN MORE EFFECTIVELY THAN EVER. IF THIS INVOLVES CRITICISMS OF THE LABOUR LEADERSHIP, AS UNDOUBTEDLY IT WILL, THEN WE WILL CRITICISE.


    Above all we believe that our continued existence is extremely important if the left majority in the YS is to have a voice and an organ of expression. Basic education not faction building have always been our objectives…they will continue to be as long as we are able to get to print.”

    [NB: Capitalisation as per the original text].


    It is not the purpose of this article to tell the story of the Young Socialists – many adequate histories already exist but the launch of Young Guard as the third contender alongside Keep Left and New Advance had both problems and opportunities. The extended piece on the subject by Will Fancy and John Phillips tells the story up to Autumn 1962 in a particularly informative way.


    Their article explains how and why the Healyite Keep Left was the first rallying point of the left in the YS but how its policies set them apart from the mainstream. The Keep Left support of the Russian “workers bomb” – “a weapon different, by some subtle alchemy, from the western “capitalist bomb” – certainly did not chime with many young socialists. For some interesting real-life experiences of this aspect in the North-east of England see Charlton (2009). As Birchall (2011) also writes, “Keep Left…embodied some of the worst features of the Healy tendency as it had developed since 1950. It had a dangerously unbalanced political perspective, believing there was an imminent threat of fascism in 1961. This led to a sectarianism in which its own importance was grossly exaggerated and political opponents were vilified”.


    Fancy and Phillips have this to say about Young Guard as at 1962:


    “It has managed to avoid many of the defects of Keep Left. It is a democratic paper. Delegates to its quarterly National Editorial Board meetings are elected at open readers meetings held monthly in London, Glasgow, Nottingham, Liverpool, Swansea etc. The number of delegates is proportional to area sales. This NEB elects a working editorial board which, for technical reasons, is centred on London. Its columns straddle the whole range of the Young Socialist left, from Christian Socialists to syndicalists. There is no question of unanimity: debates have taken place on the Common Market, Cuba, Russia, religion and many other topics. That is not to say that there are no agreed principles on which the paper is based. On the contrary, each issue features a program, backed editorially, advocating unilateralism, the return of a Labour Government, coloured freedom, workers’ internationalism, etc.”.


    However, these two authors (both prominent SRG members active in youth politics past and present) are also critical and they continue:


    “Although Young Guard has managed to avoid many pitfalls, it is far from being the journal of political education it should be. Quite rightly it has never attempted to substitute itself for the Young Socialists but it has also not attempted to offer a political perspective for Young Socialists who, for one reason or another, usually age, retire from the youth movement. More important, it has studiously avoided certain political topics – the workers’ bomb, the nature of Russia, economic perspectives of capitalism, the nature of political leadership, the United Nations, the colonial revolution, and so on, a discussion of which is essential if the unilateralism of the Young Socialists is to develop into full Socialist maturity.


    There are a number of reasons for this ambivalence to hard Socialist theory. One, certainly, is the identification of Young Guard with the Young Socialists and the fact that the former owes no allegiance to any outside body. Since most Young Socialists are young politically there is little spontaneous pressure on the editorial board to raise relatively abstruse theoretical issues. More important by far, however, is the conscious avoidance of disputed issues and territory by the political ‘evolues’ on the Young Guard editorial board lest the unity achieved among all strands of opinion within Young Guard be endangered. Since these disputes drive deep, it is feared that the bitterness of a clash would burst the journal asunder.


    This is an unfortunate view. Not only is unity not worth having if it cannot bear the strain of ideological conflict, where these bear on the major questions of the age, but unless the issues at present ignored in Young Guard are raised, the paper will fail in its educative functions in the Young Socialists, and leave the movement ideologically weak. Finally, unless Young Guard explore the implications of unilateralism seriously – and some of the embargoed issues are central to such an explanation – it will ultimately bore its Young Socialist readers into retirement” (Fancy & Phillips, 1962).


    I should report that this article provoked a long response from Gavin Kennedy, a former leader of Keep Left and a reply to it by John Phillips, in the Spring 1963 issue of International Socialism journal.


    Largely unspoken in the Fancy & Phillips article are the other pressures that were often simmering sometimes in the background sometimes more openly, namely those of an organisational character. To put it in a brutal manner the question of control. It has been common currency to describe Young Guard as an SRG/IS paper even during the period when this was not formally the case but it does seem clear, and Ian Birchall confirms (Birchall, 2011) the fact, that SRG/IS always had, to all intents and purposes, editorial and organisational control. Not only did they have it, but also they did not want to lose it. As Ian wrote in 2010 in his dedication to Chris Harman, “I first met Chris Harman in the spring of 1963, in Peter Sedgwick’s attic. We had gone to Liverpool for a meeting of the Young Socialist paper Young Guard. There had been a danger that control of the paper would pass from the International Socialists (IS) to various orthodox Trotskyists, but we won the vote” (Birchall, 2010). This vote was not, however, going to be the end of the story.


    As at October 1962 the print run of Young Guard was 3500. The November 1962 (No. 13) issue had a re-vamped style undertaken by Monica Foot, on lines drawn-up by designer Reuben Fior, and was printed in Glasgow. Apparently the new style was well received and sales for the month increased by 250. The print order for April 1963 (No. 17) was 5000 copies and the editorial in that issue states that “since last October our circulation has gone up at least 50%”. The “YS Conference Report” in this issue written by Chris Davison gives a feel for the current situation in the YS. He writes:


    “Three years of strife between the Young Socialists and the Labour leadership has inevitably had its effect on our movement. The annual conference at Easter made this very clear. Gone was the tremendous enthusiasm and excitement of the first conference. In its place was an air of suspicion, tension, even of foreboding. The overall impression of the conference was of considerable confusion over the political issues involved and a desire to turn away from politics towards the comforting prospect of an approaching Labour election victory”.


    In an interesting article titled “YS Conference Dilemma” in the same issue (April 1963) John Palmer outlined what one can presume to be an agreed view of the IS members in Young Guard. He starts by outlining the frustrations experienced in the development of the YS and the fact that “at the back of it all has been an ever-present danger of a head-on collision with the Party which might prove the end of the YS and gravely damage the outlook for Labour”. John continues “in the coming year it will not be enough to demand no more expulsions or suspensions, no more muzzling of our national committee, it will not be enough to demand an end to the smothering of democracy in the YS…..The onus is on the YS to find a relationship with our Party which will radically reduce and eventually eliminate the sources of these frictions and clashes which are leaving such a bitter heritage in the ranks of the young people joining the YS. One thing must be made clear above all. There is no future for the YS outside the Labour Party” [bold type in the original, my italics]. The main demands to be pursued are “freedom of political discussion and publication at all levels in the movement, control over our “official” paper New Advance and above all freedom of our national committee to execute the decisions of our annual conference”.


    The political messages I draw from John Palmer’s article (but they are not wholly drawn in the article itself) are that i) the forces do not exist to build a sizeable socialist youth movement outside of the Labour Party ii) to move for an independent youth movement would inevitably lead to policies in opposition to the Labour Party and separate the youth from the Labour Movement iii) more autonomy for the YS is the goal to progress towards a viable socialist youth movement which will, in turn, build the whole left in the Labour Party iv) whilst this is being achieved young socialists need to work unstintingly for the rightward-shifting Labour Party – it is the price revolutionaries are forced to pay for working in a social democratic organisation. These issues are, in fact, covered in a contemporaneous pamphlet “The YS and This Question of Autonomy” written by Frank Rowe and published by the tiny Socialist Current group. It may or not be a coincidence that according to the obituary of Frank Rowe that was written by Ted Crawford (1994), Frank Rowe was in regular contact with IS members, including many who were in Young Guard.


    Be that as it may John Pamer advises (pers. comms.) that “my article on the Labour Party was written after extensive discussion with Tony Cliff, Michael Kidron and Jim Higgins. The only comrade to express any reservations about the line on the Labour Party was Alastair MacIntyre who was then editor of Socialist Review and who was more willing to consider life outside the LP. Cliff fiercely opposed a break with the LP at that time”.


    Issue No. 19 (August 1963) saw printing return to London and to the previous format of the paper but September 1963 was to see far greater changes.


    The “Editor’s Notes” in the October 1963 issue of Young Guard state the following:


    “Seventeen delegates and several visitors from London, Glasgow, Liverpool, Leeds, Nottingham and the South attended the National Editorial Board of Young Guard at Skegness on 15th September. The main item of the agenda was the discussion of documents presented to the NEB by London and Liverpool supporters, the first being a draft introduction to Young Guard based on the constitution and aims of the paper, for primarily Young Socialist readership, the second a proposed transitional programme for youth, based on the Rally Youth Charter. The NEB adopted and amended the introductory Young Guard document for circulation, rejecting the transitional programme as inappropriate for the purposes of Young Guard as a Young Socialist forum. At this decision the Liverpool delegates, of the former Rally tendency, withdrew their participation. A resolution from London that “Young Guard is an open democratic paper of the Young Socialists. Its editorial policy and contents are determined by the majority of its supporters through open readers’ meetings, electing through the national editorial board the Editor and the Working Editorial Board to express this majority opinion” was carried. Also [carried] was a resolution from a Nottingham comrade that editorial treatment of articles should respect the spirit of their contents.”


    So ended the involvement of the RSL in Young Guard.


    Did they jump or were they pushed? Perhaps it was a bit of both. Whichever it was, they were prepared. Rally supporters had met the weekend before, the output of which was a document “Which Way for Young Guard”. The opening sentence of the document is “There is a crisis facing Young Guard”. It then goes on to catalogue the grounds upon which the “tendency round Rally” feel that they have been ill-treated by the “tendency round Rebel”. The grounds include a) avoidance of discussion on a Programme for Youth; b) “the “State Capitalist tendency put[ting] forward an alleged “Youth” alternative with all the principled differences put forward as the programme of the paper. For instance they classify Russia and China as “Capitalist” countries; c) issues over international policy; d) attitude to the H-Bomb; e) organisational issues such as the removal of the Business Manager of the paper (a Rally supporter). The closing two lines of the document read “There must be at the very least a democratic right of full participation and airing of the viewpoint of the Marxist tendency, within the pages of the paper. Without this it will be impossible to continue further collaboration.” Dickinson (2013) cites in particular a refusal to publish their articles on Algeria as an issue.


    From my perspective the editorial note in Young Guard is quite right to point out that policy is determined through laid-down and established democratic processes and that these were adhered to. It is also the case that the RSL programme document was widely known within Young Guard beforehand, it having been officially distributed for debate by Chris Davison as early as May 1962. The one thing I would say is that it is perhaps a shame that the phrase “rejecting the proposed transitional programme as inappropriate for the purposes of Young Guard as a Young Socialist forum” was not followed by a brief description of precisely why this was thought to be so. Of course, this RSL document “A Suggested Programme for Youth”, subtitled “Youth for Socialism: A Suggested Transitional Programme” emanated from the political tradition that says that a movement must have a programme – even if it was written many years earlier – and this one was to all intents and purposes written in 1950. It is also a long-established political truism, and one expounded by Tony Cliff, that the best programme in the world is worthless without the forces to fight for it.


    Ian Birchall (pers. comms.) reminds me that, “on the “transitional programme” question it should be remembered that the IS position was to reject the whole notion of “transitional demands” – demands which could win wide support but which capitalism could not grant. Especially in the boom period it seemed very unwise to try and determine exactly what capitalism could not concede”. Intriguingly, the SRG was in broad agreement with the programme in its earlier 1950 incarnation but, in any event, from my own reading of it the contents were not going to be much help in mobilising any new forces in the here and now and will have likely served to put off many of the existing ones.


    The RSL went on to produce the Militant newspaper (subtitled “For Youth and Labour”), the first issue of which was published in October 1964.


    The departure of the RSL from Young Guard provided an opportunity to reorganise the editorial and administrative structures. Gus MacDonald, who was now working for Tribune and drifting out of IS on the way to left Labour, was elected editor in place of Chris Davison. New Editorial Board members and production, business and distribution groups were also appointed. Presumably not all was doom and gloom as, apparently, the November issue sold out its print run.


    Jim Higgins recounts how by 1964 “the atmosphere in the YS branches was almost uninhabitable for those of a delicate disposition or a distaste for sectarian irrelevance” (Higgins, 1997). His article from the June 1964 edition of Young Guard “A Weekend with the Lumpentrots” (it actually appeared under the name of Mike Caffoor as Jim was too old for the YS at the time) provides a particularly grim picture of the activities of Keep Left supporters at a West London YS weekend school. Probably even more disconcerting is the article in the May 1964 issue under the title “Ugly Scenes”. This is the report of a meeting held on Easter Sunday where Roger Protz, Editor of Keep Left, was billed as the main speaker. At this meeting, John Robertson the chairman of the outgoing YS National Committee and prominent SLL member delivered his famous threat, “Young Guard are political scabs….if you don’t get out of our way we will go over your bodies”. Roger Protz resigned as editor of Keep Left after this meeting and was later, of course, a long-time and very successful editor of Socialist Worker.


    By September 1964 it was felt necessary for Young Guard, RSL, Tribune and others to launch a “Save the YS” Campaign at a London rally – as the front page of Young Guard stated – “every YS member who opposes political expulsions, and the lunatics of Keep Left is invited along”. A report of the rally, which was deemed a success, appears in the October (No. 29) issue of Young Guard. Gerry Healy was to walk his youth supporters out of the Young Socialists in Autumn 1964, retaining that name for his own youth organisation and holding their own national conference in February 1965. The Labour Party was forced to rename its organisation as the Labour Party Young Socialists (LPYS).


    For the 5th Conference of the LPYS in November 1965 the Labour Party NEC decided to place severe restrictions on what could be discussed i.e. no resolutions of a general political nature were to be allowed. The Young Guard headline for September 1965 (No. 35) exclaims in large bold capital letters “IT’S A BLOODY FARCE!” and underneath it states “The YS grew as a political movement through opposition to the bomb. Now we can’t even discuss it”. The front page article is lucid and begins thus, “The stage has been set for a showdown; battle is about to commence. The decision of the NEC of the Labour Party to place severe restrictions on the YS Conference to be held at Malvern on 20th- 21st November is the logical conclusion to their conception of the functions of a socialist youth movement. At its conception in 1959 the YS were given an extremely liberal constitution. Theoretically this remained true, in practice it was never fulfilled. A YS National Committee existed but it was never allowed to campaign upon the democratic decisions of the YS conference. A YS journal – New Advance – was created but its control was firmly kept in the hands of the Transport House bureaucracy. Regions and Federations existed but they were not allowed to organise on a political basis. Always the YS was kept firmly under the control of the fatherly bureaucracy: always to ensure that the child would not stray from the role which had been chosen for it. But it was not a child which had been created, which would grow independently of its parent body, but a moron which would be irrevocably tied to the needs of the Parliamentary Labour Party, and to its centre Transport House. What was created and what remains today in a muted form, is an organisation which serves as canvass fodder”. The article identifies the cause of the shackling of the YS Conference on the Labour Governments about-turn on radical policies and the criticism that would receive – “Harold Wilson’s untarnished image is more important than a political youth movement”. The article is not only lucid but also realistic – “for Young Socialists this is the biggest challenge we have yet had to face, and paradoxically it may be our last.”


    In lieu of political debate an 11-page document from the Labour Party N.E.C. titled “Rebuilding Britain” was instead presented to the Conference. An introductory section of the document on “The State of the Nation” is eerily familiar today. It reads, “The Labour Government was returned in 1964 because through 13 years Conservative policies had been tried and found wanting. The clearest indication of failure was the gigantic deficit on our international payments account they left behind….In these circumstances there were clearly two tasks for the new Labour Government 1) To restore solvency in our international accounts an indispensable condition on which the future rebuilding of Britain would depend 2) To tackle the underlying weakness of the economy which had led to the huge deficit” (Labour Party, 1965a).


    The N.E.C. document attracted 24 motions at the conference – none of which could be described as fully in favour (Labour Party, 1965b) – and it was comprehensively voted down. Indeed, a motion that stated “….the document “Rebuilding Britain” is merely an apology for the Government’s adoption of Tory financial policies, and for its failure to fulfil its election promises…” was passed. The Conference also took umbrage at the other attempts to hamstring the YS that had been passed at the Labour Party Conference in October but the organisation was, nonetheless, in serious decline. Precise membership figures are difficult to come by but Matgamna (1993) estimates a maximum membership at November 1965 of 7500 against a claimed membership of 25000 at Easter 1964. Coggins (1965) suggests that the figure “is unlikely to exceed 5000”. On the organisational level published figures from the YS Annual Conference Reports show:








    No. of YS Branches






    No. of Delegates at YS Annual Conference







    It is perhaps no surprise that this was the time chosen for Young Guard to publish a pamphlet on the Young Socialists that was 90% history and 10% programme for the future. Roger Protz wrote the “Introduction” which began “writing a history of the Young Socialists is a depressing task. So much was hoped for when the movement began five years ago. Heady visions of a mass socialist youth movement filled many minds and it seemed at long last that a free, independent and democratic organisation could be built that would serve the dual purpose of recruiting young people and revitalising the Labour Party. Five years have passed and the vision remains unfulfilled” (Protz, 1965). Mike Coggins, the author of the pamphlet, makes the argument that the YS can still succeed as a socialist youth movement given the right autonomy, democracy and control over its own finances and press – but my reading of the introduction leads me to think that even Protz didn’t believe this was realistic at this time.


    Young Guard was now struggling for money and starting to appear less regularly. In the last seven months of its existence four issues were published, culminating in the last issue (number 39) in April 1966. In these last months of the paper Fred Lindop and Mike Caffoor both had a period as editor and I have seen one report that states that sales near closure were only 650 copies.


    Ian Birchall (pers. comms.) does make an important point “the decline of Young Guard by 1965 has to be placed in context. In late 1964 it was decided that from January 1965 Labour Worker would move to fortnightly publication. The group had 200+ members and many of us were pushing up against the YS age limit. There just were not the resources to run a youth paper alongside LW”.


    Ian’s point is backed up by contemporary documents which show that around the time of closure of Young Guard the IS had less than 300 members organised in 19 branches, 10 of which were in the London area. Of the membership only 81 were also members of LPYS.


    How will history remember the Young Guard years? As always the judgements are influenced by the political standpoint of the person making them.


    Bob Pitt, writing in his account of the political career of Gerry Healy, tells us that “Healy completely outmanoeuvred his opponents on the left. Despite pooling their resources to bring out the paper Young Guard in competition with Keep Left, the SLL’s rivals – Tony Cliff’s state-capitalist tendency, Ted Grant’s supporters and the forerunners of the International Marxist Group – were unable to equal the gains made by Healy’s faction” (Pitt, 1989). Sean Matgamna (1993) writes “What divided the two groups, Keep Left and Young Guard? Keep Left believed in building a serious Marxist organisation within the labour movement, and that the time to work at it was at hand”. For the RSL, Dickinson (2013), cites what he saw as “the lack of democratic collaboration in Young Guard” and that “the actions of the IS confirmed the view of most of our Merseyside youth comrades who had opposed the closing down of Rally”. From the IS tradition Ian Birchall summarised as follows “It was part of the success of Young Guard that it was able to break out of the traditional milieu of revolutionary politics. The cultural atmosphere around Young Guard – characterised mainly by beer-drinking and folk-singing – may not have met the approval of revolutionary purists or puritans, but it enabled a new generation of young workers to move towards the traditions of Marxist politics. But Young Guard did not merely adapt to a milieu; it also fought to relate this milieu to the class struggle. The young people who were turning to socialism in this period were mainly workers – manual or white-collar – but they had no traditions of trade union organisation. The typical political evolution of a young comrade at this time was as follows: first get involved in CND demonstrations, then join the Young Socialists, and, via Young Guard, come into IS” (Birchall, 1981). On the other hand from within IS, to expand on the earlier comment quoted from Chris Davison, “Chris Davison now thinks that Cliff was mistaken in pushing for the merger with Rally. What had originally attracted Davison to Rebel was a fresh concept of politics compared to the tired old politics of orthodox Trotskyism. But Young Guard was pulled back into sectarian infighting” (Birchall, 2011). On a similar tack to Chris Davison, although he does not draw the conclusion that the merger was mistaken, Alan Woodward (2012) recalls London Young Guard Readers Meetings and cites “the endless droning voices of RSL activists like Keith Dickinson repeating the slogans that made up most of their politics.”


    What is certainly the case is that the cadre recruited to the IS during the Young Guard period remained central to that organisation for at least the next fifteen years and perhaps this poses a key question – how does one measure success? If success is defined by the common aim of the various groups to build a mass socialist youth movement then everyone failed. If success is measured by how many people you get elected to a National Committee, how many supporters you can claim at any given time or whether you want steel-hard Bolsheviks for their fifteen minutes of membership before they march out of the organisation then Bob Pitt and Sean Matgamna are right. If, however, success is measured over the longer term then Birchall has it.


    Young Guard never actually “died” in public. It therefore never got a burial or an obituary, which is a shame as the views of Pitt, Matgamna, Dickinson and Birchall are all written long after the event. A contemporary view of what Young Guard meant for the IS can be gleaned from an extended state of the organisation report that was produced by John Phillips in the late summer of 1966. Phillips wrote “In trying to analyse how the group is progressing and, more important, what needs to be done to improve its effectivity it is important to outline briefly the course taken by the group over the past ten years or so to see how it reacted and changed in tune with events in the world outside. For the whole of the 1950’s we get a virtually static picture. We faced the world as a tiny propaganda group (25/60 members), stable in membership and activity with no impact whatsoever……1960 brought the Young Socialists, following, and aided by, the CND movement, and with it the real world of fragmented politics into the group. With the rise of Rebel, and later Young Guard, we worked as a group among the youth and identification with the outside world came through these papers and not through Socialist Review or International Socialism [journal]…..The decline of the Young Socialists in 1964/5 brought recurrent crises in Young Guard – musical chair editorship and spasmodic production – and the recruitment from the YS into the group and the greater part of the group’s activity slowed down considerably. Over this whole period the group grew to about 240 members, almost entirely through YS and student activity and marked time on all other fronts” (Phillips, 1966) [underlining in the original].


    Clearly the Young Guard experience was seen internally within IS as qualitatively and quantitatively important – even if perhaps the end results had not matched some expectations. Nonetheless IS and the LPYS had not yet had their last hurrah.


    5. Rebel: 1966-1967


    A “Youth Report” written for IS members by Mike Caffoor in the summer of 1966 advises that:


    “Since the decision to close down Young Guard there has been a noticeable rise in YS membership particularly in the Southern Region. It was felt by many comrades that we should make inroads into this new membership and that it should be done by starting a broad, democratic, left-wing journal. We held a meeting on June 26th, which was attended by 200 Young Socialists. The meeting voted that a conference be held at which the programme, name, constitution etc. of the paper should be decided. This conference was held on July 31st and was attended by 200 members from over 70 branches and the paper, Rebel, was established. It will initially circulate in the London and Southern Region but it is hoped to get national support. Comrades should get their branches to take Rebel, write for it and financially support it.”


    Rebel issue number 1 was published in September 1966 (although no date appears on the issue. In fact it is an annoying feature of this whole incarnation of Rebel that none of the issues is published with a date). The subtitle of the paper is “a democratic journal of the young socialists”. The publication has eight pages (11 inch x 17 inch) with four-column printing and is stapled. The selling price is 6d. The editor is Ian Craib, the Business Manager Mike Petrou and Circulation Manager Martin Rowlands. The Editorial Board is Shirley Abrams, Mike Caffoor, Bob Cartwright, John Larke, Roger Rosewell and Sean Thompson. It is printed by Equity Printers, 1 Regent Square, London, W.C.1.


    The paper commences with an editorial statement “Why Rebel?” the first paragraph of which reads thus:


    “Two years of Labour Government have brought disillusionment to many, confirmed the grim forecasts of many and distributed confusion all around. It will soon bring the misery of unemployment to the same people who voted it into power and it has already made determined attempts to cut their standard of living. The desire to oppose and alter the Government’s reactionary run into an ignominious grave was the motivation of the 70-odd LPYS branches from London and the South who were represented at the July meeting at which it was decided to form this paper. We believe that the Labour Party Young Socialists can play a vital part in the coming struggles to deflect the Government back onto the lines that would create the sort of society that many of us hoped for when we first joined the Party, and we hope that this paper will be the beginning of a revival of Socialism in the YS Branches and, consequently the GMC’s and Wards”.


    The editorial goes on to identify the main issues of the day as “Incomes Policy and Wage Freeze, Vietnam, Immigration and Nuclear Weapons”.


    In terms of the running of the paper it states “there will be regular quarterly Readers’ Meetings to control the policy and activities of the paper and all members of the Editorial Board are elected liable to recall by these meetings”.


    The programme of the paper which was agreed at the 31st July conference is published under a “Statement of Aims” and is as follows:


    • Complete opposition to the Prices and Incomes policy, Pay Freeze and all anti-Trade Union legislation
    • Support for all rank-and-file workers movements, especially the Shop Steward Defence Committees
    • Nationalisation under workers’ control, without compensation, of all the basic industries, Banks, Land and Insurance Companies as the only solution to the problems facing the working class
    • Against imperialism; for the withdrawal of all British troops from overseas; Victory to the N.L.F. of South Vietnam and other National Liberation movements; the handing over of all imperialist assets
    • Against Racialism: for the withdrawal of immigration controls and the unity of all workers, regardless of race, colour and creed
    • For Unilateral Nuclear Disarmament and opposition to all military pacts
    • Votes and full legal rights at eighteen.


    A feature of this and all subsequent issues of Rebel are the terrifically designed front page – for issue 1 it is a picture of US President Lyndon B. Johnson superimposed on a group of US troops with the banner headline “the Johnson Gang. WANTED FOR MURDER”.


    An undated (but clearly it was between issue number 1 and issue number 2 of Rebel) internal IS document in my personal archive states that the sales figure for issue number 1 of Rebel was 3000 and that orders for the second issue were 2200. The final print run of issue number 2 was 3000 copies.


    Issue Number 2 of Rebel appeared in November and featured two full-page articles within its eight pages, one on Rhodesia and the other on Hungary 1956. The latter proved to be controversial – see below.


    In another one of his Secretary’s Reports, this time in reviewing the work of the IS Group for 1966 for the Quarterly Executive Committee on 7th January 1967, John Phillips had this to say on the Young Socialists and Rebel:


    “It should be said that the IS comrades in the YS do not appear to be making much of an effort either to co-ordinate activity or, much worse, to follow up any contacts that are made in the way that it was done, or attempted, in the days of Young Guard. For example the London Rebel readers meetings are apparently quite big but no attempt seems to be made to visit or chase the supporters up and get them into some sort of activity. If this is not done then the group around Rebel would seem to be little more than a publishing house, which may be interesting but of little value to comrades working in a YS that would appear to be wide open to the sort of influence that we can exert. Even on the level of a publishing house the degree of mismanagement is fantastic (Rebel could have appeared two months ago with a minimum level of organisation). Our comrades in the YS should give serious consideration to the problem of their perspectives in the YS and of involving Rebel supporters in local activities of the sort being carried out by most IS branches”.


    The minutes of this Executive show that it was agreed “that a sub-committee of the Working Committee should have an early meeting with IS members active around Rebel to discuss long term perspectives and practical organisation”.


    The IS Group Internal Bulletin of February 1967 features the report of this sub-committee set up to discuss the nature of the Group’s work in the Young Socialists and in Rebel. The discussion and report revolved around three areas, namely a) the contents of Rebel b) the organisation of Rebel c) Group youth work.


    On the issue of the contents of the paper this was generally agreed to have been good for the first two issues. It was, however, thought that to “achieve a clear political identity and to serve as a recruiting paper” less emphasis should be placed on foreign questions and a balance achieved with matters of immediate concern to British youth. It was also thought that “factional backchat was of no value” and that running “a “hard line” paper was absurd, and that articles opposing the Group’s line should be encouraged and that our members should reply”. On the organisational side the need for monthly readers meetings was emphasised with these being held outside London as frequently as possible. It was also suggested that the present Editorial Board was regarded as “old Young Guard clique” and that resignations of some comrades would be useful. As regards the Group’s Youth Work the members present felt that the Group had let this slide in recent months and some organisational changes were suggested. It was firmly re-iterated that all decisions on Rebel were for Rebel Readers Meetings but “the Group is entitled to organise its own youth work within and outside Rebel”.


    It does seem odd to me that the report concludes “that less emphasis should be placed on foreign questions” as I was under the impression that at this time Vietnam was a key issue in mobilising radicalised youth.


    Rebel issue number three (circa February 1967) is probably only going to be remembered for the first outing of the slightly bizarre “Super Trot” cartoon strip and the front cover being a cartoon based on Louis XV’s supposed phrase “après moi, le déluge”. One begins to wonder who the paper was being aimed at! The print run was 3500 copies. The report produced for the Rebel Readers Meeting on 26th February shows that the paper remained overwhelmingly centred on the London and Southern Regions.


    Rebel issue number 4 (published around March 1967) has something of a focus on the upcoming LPYS Conference due at Easter. There is also a stinging letter from Ian Birchall (of Wood Green CLP – Ian had actually resigned from the IS Group in early 1967) concerning the article on the Hungarian Revolution in Rebel number 2. An editors note states that many other letters had been received on this article. According to an undated (but circa April 1967) Editorial Board Report “the increase in circulation has continued over the past two months and 4000 of issue number 4 were produced and being sold”.


    Fred Lindop provides a detailed report of the LPYS Conference in the IS Group Internal Bulletin of April 1967. It seems that the conference was smaller than in previous years with roughly 210-220 delegates and 300 or more visitors. Rebel was the largest group with 35-40 delegates, Militant had about 17. There was a sizeable right wing but the conference was “predominantly centrist-soft left”. A full-page report back on LPYS Conference is also included in Rebel number 5 (circa July 1967).


    Fred Lindop’s report in the April IS Bulletin and an appeal for discussion on youth work was taken up with gusto in the May bulletin. Roger Protz, in an extended contribution, writes “Fred Lindop’s report on the conference in Bulletin 3, though clear and concise in itself, sums up quite neatly all that is wrong at present with IS youth work: there is no conception of work outside the Labour Party framework, no programme designed to build a tendency both inside and outside the party. If I say our youth work is almost completely social democratic in approach this is not sterile cliché-mongering but an accurate assessment of methods and ideas……Rebel must appear in the YS as a clear-cut tendency – I trust no one will still argue that Rebel is a broad paper; such ideas may be nice in theory but, given the present level of fragmentation of the socialist left, rarely work in practice. It must be audacious, state quite clearly that it is unswervingly hostile to the government, the party bureaucracy and its gendarmes in the regional offices. It must organise demonstrations, rallies, schools and turn its members and supporters outside the boundaries of the party by helping in industrial disputes, to build links with young workers in industry, help build tenants organisations, CARD branches, all under the banner of Rebel and the Young Socialists. It must struggle to win a national identity for the YS and the paper, to put the YS on the map as a marching, go-getting, lively youth movement that is involved in all the many struggles of the labour movement and its periphery”. In response to the rhetorical question that such a turn will run the risk of our youth comrades facing proscription and expulsion Roger says “it would be foolish to think that Marxists working in the social-democratic party can avoid casualties or even mass expulsion as the tempo hots up”. In one of Roger’s well-turned phrases “Marxists working in a social-democratic milieu sometimes have to kick the opposition in the goolies”. He finishes off with “Rebel, as a paper and as the group’s tendency in the Labour Party YS, must attempt to forge that link between politically conscious young socialists and young workers, the only link that has any meaning in the struggle to build a real socialist youth movement” [underlining in the original].


    Just to reinforce the dilemma and confusion in the organisation around youth work and Rebel in particular this same May 1967 Internal Bulletin contains another long article on a whole range of IS activities, this time by Ian Mooney from Glasgow, someone who had been extremely active in the YS earlier in the 1960’s. Ian opens his section on youth work with “when we finally get round to Rebel there is little we can do but register amazement at how the Group’s involvement in the LPYS has been completely without direction and discussion. Rebel itself symbolises this. Here the paper is identified with us, has a large circulation, whose style and humour is heartily despised by most of us and yet over which we have little control”. Ian sees the YS in 1967 as being different from the YS in 1960-1964. He sees today’s YS as being more concentrated in the county towns and the commuter belts of the industrial centres with a membership composed of middle and professional classes who see a chance of getting on with the Labour Party. He dismisses them as “they might as well be Young Conservatives, for all they appear to do is have dances etc. While it no doubt sounds moralistic, the old YS believed in some objective, however much it proved an illusion, while the new YS believes in nothing except having a “swinging time” with politics thrown in”. Ian Mooney’s recommendation is that the IS Group disassociate itself from Rebel and let the paper sink or swim on its own. To be fair, it does have to be said that, for some time, Ian had been hostile to Labour Party entry work.


    It was left to Fred Lindop (on behalf of the IS Youth Sub-Committee) to try and square this circle and this he tried to do soon afterwards in an undated report that I have in my personal archive. Perhaps believing that the best form of defence is attack he opens by stating “there is a better prospect of successful political activity and recruitment in the field of youth work at the present time and in the foreseeable future than at any period since 1962-63”. Lindop dismisses the views of Ian Mooney out of hand although he does welcome Roger Protz’s document even though “when it comes to a perspective and positive proposal for youth work….Roger is very much out of touch with reality; he has romantic illusions about the nature of the youth activity possible in the present situation – that is, predominantly propaganda not agitation – and he ignores our very limited resources in numbers and ability”. Lindop does agree with some criticisms of Rebel -  “Rebel has many faults…It has had too much on foreign issues and national politics and not enough on the problems and experiences of young people…; too much pseudo-intellectual London Diary type comment and too many esoteric jokes..”. In particular there is disagreement with Protz’s view on the type of paper that Rebel should be. Lindop writes “In our opinion to be of any use in recruitment in the present confused situation, Rebel must be a broad paper, within the framework of its aims and constitution, to be able to appeal to and involve Young Communists, Young Liberals, apprentices etc., as well as primarily the YS. There has been indecision, woolliness, and tedious and vacuous articles. But in our opinion, these have been the result of organisational or personal political failings rather than anything inherently wrong in the concept”. The overall message seems to be keep going, do more, do better and it will be okay.


    Ian Birchall (pers.comms.) says, “one aspect of Mooney’s critique that should be drawn out is the growing role of students. In the 1960-63 YS most activists were young workers who had left school at 15. There were some students, but they were very much a minority. But the sixties were a decade of rapid expansion of higher education and by the time of the second Rebel there were far more students involved. Ian Craib, who was the first editor of Rebel, must have been an undergraduate at the time. He became a distinguished academic – Professor of Sociology at Essex”.


    Rebel number 6 was published around September 1967 and for all the earlier talk about making the paper more relevant to the lives of young people there is no material in the issue that fits that bill. The issue is completely non-memorable. The Rebel AGM was held on 10th September and it is clear from the statement produced by the Rebel Editorial Board that all was not well.


    Rebel number 7 had the good fortune of being published to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the 1917 October Russian Revolution. It did therefore give the opportunity for a nice front- page picture of Lenin. There is a feature on “Youth in Action”, a strike report and a look at the Young Liberals. From later correspondence I have seen it is also the case that a none-too-serious article on the subject of devaluation seems to have gone down like a lead balloon resulting in calls for the editor to resign. Depressingly, probably the most noteworthy item in the issue is a misprint. A letter on the formation of a Youth Committee for the Movement for Colonial Freedom was sent from a student at Balliol College, Oxford. It is signed “fraternally, Christ Hitchens”!!


    Ian Birchall (2011) managed to deal with this incarnation of Rebel in two sentences. “A new youth paper, Rebel, was launched in 1966; it was lively and well designed, but it had no new audience to appeal to, and tended to rely on in-group references and jokes, notably in the “Supertrot” strip cartoon. It did not last beyond the following year”. I really have nothing to add other than that David Widgery (1976) states that some readers’ groups did persist after the paper foundered.


    6. Rebel: 1971-1973


    According to Widgery (1976) it was on the initiative of Manchester Rebel supporters who had been producing their own local duplicated magazine that a new edition of Rebel as a national publication was started. The reality doesn’t seem quite that straightforward. Certainly at the IS Easter 1971 Annual Conference it was the Manchester No. 1 branch that moved a motion in favour of the setting up of a national youth paper as a prelude to the launching of an IS youth movement. This motion was in opposition to the perspectives document submitted to the conference. The branch submitted a document in support of their motion in which they talk about their local paper, Rebel, which apparently up to the start of 1971 was produced monthly and had “never failed to sell less than 500 copies to the youth of the city”. It is worth mentioning that the Manchester No. 1 branch was, in effect, the Workers’ Fight branch in the city, and that the demand for a youth paper was very much a part of the Workers’ Fight factional programme. In the event the Manchester motion was amended to only call for a youth sub-committee to be formed from representatives of units of organisation involved in youth work. Whilst this decision appeared to have all the hallmarks of an attempt to kick the issue into the long grass that proved not to be the case in practice.


    There is an extremely interesting discussion document in the IS Bulletin of June 1971 on the subject of IS and Schools Work written by Charlotte Brunsden of Exeter IS. She deals in detail with the Schools Action Union (SAU) and concludes that there is a huge potential for influence and, in due course, membership from work in this area. The minutes of the IS Executive Committee for 5th July duly provide details of an agreed IS position towards school work and work within the SAU. This was followed by an IS Youth Conference held at Cottons Gardens on Sunday 8th August. Sixty delegates representing twenty-nine IS branches were present and sessions dealt with 1) Work in the SAU 2) Work in LPYS 3) Reports on Revolutionary Socialist Youth (RSY) groups 4) Youth in industry 5) Youth paper – Rebel – and how to use it 6) Perspectives for future work. At the conference it was reported that the latest issue of the Rebel produced in Manchester had a print run of 1300 copies. I do, in fact, have one copy of the Manchester Rebel in my personal archive and it is a 16-page A4 sized duplicated and stapled paper with a good selection of articles ranging from national issues like the Tories Immigration Bill and abortion to what it is like to be in the Royal Navy and local stories from Manchester and surrounding areas.


    The IS Youth Conference passed the following motion that was subsequently agreed by the IS National Committee “This conference calls on the National Committee to provide the facilities for the production of Rebel as a monthly printed newspaper. We consider a printed paper to be a necessary first step towards the construction of a revolutionary youth organisation…”.


    The first issue of the new national Rebel was duly published in November 1971. The publication has four pages, is roughly A3 in size and sold for 3p. The print run was 4500 copies that were distributed to over 54 IS branches. There is no named editor but it had been previously agreed that the IS Youth Sub-Committee would act as the Editorial Board for the first issue.


    The front page is given over to youth unemployment “Dead-end life for youth under Tories”. Other articles include Mary Whitehouse and the Festival of Light bigots, Ireland, George Jackson, the music industry and football.


    In an editorial column under the title “Rebel is going to fight!” the purpose of paper is explained as follows:


    Rebel is a revolutionary socialist youth paper. We fight to end the system in which the lives of ordinary people come second to the profits of a few. We fight to end the system in which thousands at a time can lose their only means of living just because the factories they work in don’t make money for a few owners any more. Rebel aims to build an organisation of young people who will fight alongside adult workers to throw out the bosses and their government. We want to establish a society where working people rule. A society where scientific knowledge – automation and nuclear energy, for example – are used for the benefit of humanity, not for its degradation. In a word, we want socialism. If you want to help us get it, become a Rebel supporter. Sell the paper to your friends, workmates, fellow students. Help to build a Revolutionary Socialist Youth movement”.


    This is, of course, the first youth paper produced by the organisation outside of the Labour Party. This reflects both the changed reality for IS as now being an organisation capable, on however small a scale, of activity and interventions in its own right and the perceived lack of prospects for meaningful work in what remained of the LPYS.


    The National Committee Report to the April 1972 IS Conference (but clearly written somewhat earlier) has this to say about this first issue of Rebel “the issue was not much of a success due to the inadequacy of a four page printed paper and also due to the style and content of some of the articles. The editorial structure has since changed and strengthened and the issue appearing in February will prove to be much better. The National Committee has agreed to subsidise Rebel to the extent of £50 per issue for three issues and therefore the size of the paper will increase to eight pages. Technically the paper will also improve considerably. Rebel will appear every two months. A Rebel readers’ meeting was organised in London”.


    In a document “Perspectives for Rebel” issued as one of a pack of discussion documents for a further IS Youth Conference on 4th March 1972 Mike Caffoor, the Chairperson of the Youth Sub Committee, is keenly aware of the difficulties faced in competing with the youth papers of other left groups and the underground press with no full-timers and few resources. His view is that “we are aiming at working class youth (roughly between about 14-18). Therefore Rebel will concentrate on issues facing school leavers, apprentices and other young workers (including those on the dole). Our most obvious problem is that most of Rebel is not being written BY this group, but FOR them.…we hope the false start of the first printed Rebel has been overcome, and that the days of Rebel (Junior Socialist Worker) are over. The paper should be undogmatic and seek to raise issues rather than grind away at “the answers”…”. The Conference was duly attended by 85 delegates with sessions on “Apprentices and Young Workers”, “Rebel” and “Building a Youth Movement”.


    The next issue of Rebel is not numbered but is dated February/March 1972. It has indeed been increased to eight pages. Charlotte Brunsdon is named as the editor and Hilary Vitofsky is the Business Manager. Design and layout is by Roger Huddle and, of course, this is evident in the attractive and innovative presentation. The poor response to the first issue has done nothing to dim the aims of Rebel. The front page article “Talk about Revolution – lets see action” ends with “Rebel is going to build a movement to SMASH THE SYSTEM. Not by lobbying MPs asking the Tories or their Labour pals to be nice to us, or by having tea with the vicar, but by taking action ourselves. Rebel will be useful to you, whether you are at school, in a job or on the dole. You need to know the facts if you are going to win arguments; you want to know the problems that other young people face and how they are solving them, Rebel will provide all that. Rebel is produced by the International Socialists, it’s a fighting paper, fighting the Tories, the bosses and anyone else who does their dirty work for them”. Here for the first time is a statement linking one of the youth papers by name to the organisation itself. From my personal perspective, however, I cannot see much evidence that the organisation is not still writing FOR its audience in this issue but it does at least have a marvellous poem called “I Can’t Hear Myself Think”. The poem is unattributed but I happen to know that it is by Roger Huddle as it appears in a small collection of his verse titled “To Arms”.


    The design of the Rebel  issue dated April/May 1972 is a Roger Huddle tour de force. Editorial is listed as by Judy Williamson, Julian Wells, Donny Stone (Ian Birchall has pointed out that the Gluckstein family were fond of pseudonyms such as cliff and rock so this person is presumed by me to be Donny Gluckstein) and Charlotte Brunsdon. There is a lot of interesting information included in the issue as well as full page features on gay liberation, “the politics of dope” and the role of the police and army. Reviews are included of the films “A Clockwork Orange” and the “Devils” and the music single “Give Ireland Back to the Irish” by Paul McCartney and Wings and the album “200 Motels” by Frank Zappa. 7500 copies were printed.


    The next (June/July 1972) issue of Rebel has a slimmed-down Editorial Board of Judy Williamson, Donny Stone and Charlotte Brunsdon. An encouraging aspect is the substantial number of readers letters in the “Rebel Rousers” feature, although it does have to be said that a couple of these are critical of some aspects of the paper.


    This issue has a full-page interview with three apprentices involved in the occupation of the Wingrove and Rogers factory in Kirkby. Another full-page feature on schools includes a “Schools Charter” produced by the Brighton Rebel group. There are articles on the police and the armed forces, “who killed Stephen McCarthy”, Marc Bolan and Angela Davis to name but a few. And how is this for a headline, “Colleges of Education, one step from school with the same bullshit”.


    Issue number 4, which is undated, appeared sometime in late summer/early autumn 1972. Attentive readers will note that that whilst this issue is numbered as four it is actually the fifth issue in total. One is forced to conclude that the numbering had started again from one from the February/March 1972 issue. Charlotte Brunsdon is shown as the Editor working along with Judith Williamson and Andy MacDonald. Circulation is quoted as being 7000. Two-thirds of the front page is devoted to an extended version of “What Rebel Stands For”. This states that Rebel has produced both a “Young Workers Charter” and a “Schools Charter”. The “Young Workers Charter” is reproduced in full in this issue and was drawn up and approved “by the conference of young workers held by Rebel in June”. My feeling is that this issue is moving towards what was envisaged for the paper as there are again items of useful information and longer articles but also smaller articles and reports written by or provided by readers or local Rebel groups. By this time Rebel groups listed in the paper are Blackpool, Birmingham, Glasgow, Kirkby, Manchester, Merseyside, Oldham, Blackburn & Accrington, York and London. There were certainly other groups in existence as I have a photocopy of the “Rebel Coventry Bulletin Vol. 1” published by “Coventry Rebel Branch”. Whilst the bulletin is undated it is advertising a Rebel Public Meeting with David Widgery speaking on “The Underground and Politics” on 6th June – and the year must be 1972.


    The IS Bulletin of January 1973 gives a very full update of the activities of the IS Youth Sub Committee (YSC) and Rebel for 1972 – it doesn’t really make happy reading.


    The first issue it reports is that at the November meeting of the YSC a smaller working group was set up to oversee activity, including to act as the Rebel Editorial Board. This group consisted of David Widgery, Louis Lemkow, Donny Stone and Judy Williamson. Secondly, it advises that support for the paper from branches in terms of articles and finance was poor. The print order is confirmed as being 7000 but “at no point did the paid circulation exceed one-third of the print order despite repeated requests for money….The group centrally continued to subsidise Rebel usually in excess of the agreed subsidy of £50 per issue”.


    Rebel issue number 5 is again undated but was published in January 1973 – there is a printed apology for its late production. The number of local Rebel groups listed has increased from the previous 10 to 20. There is a “Rebel Feedback” page that contains reports on the activities of the “main Rebel branches which have mostly been going for almost a year now” – these are Norwich, York, Brighton, Glasgow and Manchester.


    Rebel number 6 reports in some detail on the Rebel Conference that was held in Manchester on 24th February attended by about 100 Rebel members. Sessions took place on schools work, young workers and apprentices and Rebel organisation and the paper.


    The proposals to reinvigorate the paper clearly came to little as the eighth (numbered as “7”) and last issue of Rebel appeared in April 1973. The IS National Committee of July 1973 passed a motion recommending that Rebel be discontinued but explaining that the decision should not be interpreted as ending youth work.


    Whereas the previous Rebel (1966-1967) could not find an audience when being focused largely on the LPYS this incarnation of Rebel (1971-1973) could not find an audience outside it. It seems that the overwhelming majority of IS members nationally were never fully won to the idea that a revolutionary youth movement was an achievable goal to which they should dedicate time, money and effort when industrial and other struggles were in full swing. Indeed, Ian Birchall says (pers. comms.) “a great many members of the leadership, including Cliff, were not interested in a youth paper and gave it no encouragement. The priorities of building Socialist Worker and a rank and file movement seemed much more important. Cliff in particular used to argue that we didn’t need a youth paper because most of our members were young so there was no need for a separate youth publication. So it’s hardly surprising that Rebel never really took off”.


    On the other side of that coin it could be argued that when Rebel was being locally produced in Manchester it had a print run of 1300 for six IS branches.


    The whole experience does also say something about the internal workings of IS at the time. A youth paper was got off the ground because a case was made by a section of the membership between annual conferences and the facility existed for the case to be heard, agreed and acted upon. It has to be said that the same could not happen in the SWP today.


    7. Fight: 1976-1978


    It is an oft-recorded fact how, as the level of industrial struggle dropped from year to year (13 million strike days in 1974, 8 million in 1975, 3 million in 1976), the IS rank and file strategy and the IS initiated National Rank and File Organising Committee (NRFOC) was left isolated and on the shelf. It was in these circumstances that, at the beginning of 1976, IS made the turn towards a Right to Work Campaign in response to the rapidly growing issue of unemployment. The campaign was something of a success and its most visible manifestation was its series of Right to Work marches.


    In the late summer of 1976 campaigning was in hand for the latest Right to Work March in September from London to the TUC in Brighton. As part of the campaign material a small newspaper Fight was sold, particularly around the dole queues. It was a four page, A3 sized publication printed on cheap paper and was sold for 2p. The response did, however, provoke an IS Central Committee document “Building a Youth Movement” in the September 1976 IS Internal Bulletin.


    The CC document starts thus “Right to Work Campaign activities around the dole queues has had much better results than was originally envisaged, one of the results being reflected in the make up of the London to Brighton march, where it is likely that over half of the marchers will not be in IS….In particular, it is likely that a large number of the non IS marchers will be youth….In the main, it is unemployed young workers the Right to Work Campaign is attracting, but in addition, there is a handful of school students, apprentices, young blacks and other young workers”. The question posed by this was “how to build on this potential after the march?”. The answer given is “It is clear that young workers are wide open to socialist ideas. If we have a situation of having groups of young workers around us prepared to campaign about unemployment, and at the same time open to socialist ideas, then we must try and seize the opportunity and attempt to build a youth movement. The word “movement” should not be taken to mean something big and grand. On the contrary, we are talking about ten different cities with hardcore youth of about 6/8 per branch, and a very fluid group of youngsters who would identify with them, of perhaps some 300/400. Even this objective is one almighty task for our organisation. Every organiser can tell many stories of the difficulties of trying to organise young people, the “now you see them – now you don’t” being the most popular”. The proposal was for a separate organisation with its own organisational structure, based around activity and held together with a national youth paper. The CC document states “the production of Fight seems to have been well received. Most areas report sales 10 to 15 times more than Socialist Worker. It will be necessary to turn Fight into a political newspaper”. The document ends with a realistic appraisal “Finally, it should be said that there is no automatic guarantee of success. Experience over the next few months will tell whether or not we can build a permanent youth movement”.


    The first “proper” issue of Fight was published in October 1976 and is subtitled “Paper of the Socialist Worker Youth Movement”. The paper is again 4 pages, A3 and sold for 2p. There are no editorial details given but there is a request for “copy and photographs for articles, reports etc., for the next issue” to be sent to Geoff Heaton in Glasgow. Geoff was IS Youth Organiser. It is printed and published by Socialist Worker Printers and Publishers at Cottons Gardens, London.


    There is an editorial giving the rationale of the paper under the heading “Why This Paper?”. It opens with:


    “It doesn’t take a genius to know that young people have a hard time of it. Every way you look at it, we get screwed”. It ends with “We will be organising action, not dead-end action that divides black and white, but action that builds a fighting unity of all young people – black and white, employed and unemployed, and school students. We will be picketing, marching, occupying, flyposting and leafleting. We will confront the union leaders about unemployment and union rights for apprentices and trainees. We will be building in the factories, on the dole queues, and in the schools and colleges, as well as creating an enjoyable social life. We want to build awareness and confidence in young people so that we can have our say in our own lives and get rid of this rotten system altogether. Fight is your newspaper. It’ll be appearing monthly from now on. If you want to fight back, take out a subscription, or better still, order some to sell to your mates, write articles and letters for the paper, and join the SWYM”.


    The main articles in the paper are on the Right to Work Campaign, anti-NF activity and the struggle in Soweto.


    The December 1976 issue of Fight announces that “the Socialist Worker Youth Movement is a revolutionary socialist organisation of young workers, unemployed and school students. We support the ideas and policies of the International Socialists and their paper, Socialist Worker.” The feature goes on to detail the programme of the SWYM listed under the headings of “Against Unemployment”, “For Apprentices and Young Workers”, “For School Students”, “Against Racism”, “Against Sex Discrimination” and “For Internationalism”. In lieu of an editorial is a column called “Why Socialism?” written by Gary Bushell. It is announced that from January 1977 a new 8-page edition of Fight will be launched with a cover price of 5p.


    Regrettably to date I have not been able to locate any further issues of Fight and I would welcome contact from anyone who has copies. What can, however, be said is that the issue of youth work was debated at the 1977 SWP Conference that summer and it was agreed that such work should continue to be centred on the issue of unemployment. By May 1978, Roger Green the current Youth Organiser, writing on behalf of the Central Committee in a document “School students, school leavers and the SWP” was taking a different tack. Now the opportunity was seen very much around school students – this change being heavily influenced by the success of the Anti-Nazi League publication School Kids Against the Nazis (SKAN) and Rock Against Racism’s paper Temporary Hoarding.


    It has to be said that the CC document was argued against in quite a cogent way by two members of the SWYM National Executive Committee, Selwyn Stein and Mick Pearce, who state that “SKAN is no replacement for a youth movement….Rock Against Racism and SKAN relate to the SWP Youth Movement in the same way as the ANL relates to the SWP. SKAN and RAR are needed to draw the youth, once they have fought racism, to discover the socialist alternative in SWYM. So SWYM is needed to fight on all the youth issues, not only racism”. They propose that the SWYM should be recognised as the youth movement of the SWP rather than an autonomous organisation and given the funds and political support to that end.


    In the event the motion passed at the June 1978 SWP Annual Conference states in part that “Conference also notes that we have tried and failed to build the Socialist Worker Youth Movement (SWYM). With virtually no branches and no real paper, SWYM does not exist as a political organisation. The SWP, as presently constituted, will not successfully hold the school students and youth recruited into the SWP. The opportunity of building a SWP Youth Organisation exists at present and we are in danger of letting this slip away”. The motion calls for the formation of an SWP Youth Organisation that would have its own structure and organisation, but would be the youth wing of the SWP and not an autonomous organisation. Other actions included calling an SWP Youth Conference, developing and building SKAN, appointing at least three youth organisers and launching a new youth publication.


    There was an interesting handout (Information Sheet No. 19) distributed at the Conference in support of the youth debate with the following information about youth SWP membership:


    A)    There are approximately 350 members under 18 (175 school students)

    B)    Since January 1978 82 school students at least are known to have joined

    C)    Under 18 membership: school students Aged 16-18 = 131; Under 16 = 44

    D)    Total SKAN’s sold – 8000 copies each of nos. 1 and 2

    E)    100-200 letters are sent into SKAN weekly


    I have seen local publicity and campaigning material issued by SWYM groups in South London and Preston. How wide any SWYM group network was I do not know.


    Clearly the publication of Fight had come to a close well before May 1978. According to Stein and Pearce, “the last issue of Fight sold out of 1000 copies we printed in the first week and we could have sold 5000 copies”.


    Tony Cliff is very critical of his own performance, and the performance of the organisation, as regards publications in this period of downturn in struggle. In his autobiography he states that “inability to face reality led us to undertake a quixotic rush to produce more and more magazines…….. we suffered from fetishism of paper; if you can’t act – publish!” (Cliff, 2000).


    8. Red Rebel: 1978 – 1981


    Things moved fairly rapidly following the June 1978 SWP Conference and in the next Internal Bulletin (No. 6 – undated but Autumn 1978) Roger Green provides an update on youth work. He reports “Since Conference we have held a national meeting attended by over 70, a weekend school, produced a Rebel badge, a supporters card and a broadsheet. Now we need to start to build Rebel”. An insight into the immediate past experience is perhaps provided when he writes, “we will not build Rebel if like its predecessor SWYM, it quickly becomes a rather narrow circle of friends who don’t have a periphery to work with”. The focus is still seen as school – with a focus on building SKAN and the National Union of School Students (NUSS) and unemployed work.


    I had resolved against covering publications like SKAN and Temporary Hoarding in this brief history being as they were the publications of broad united fronts with which IS/SWP were involved. I will stick to this resolve but given how during the course of this part of the write-up SKAN, in particular, has featured so heavily I will give it a few lines.


    The first issue of SKAN was published early in 1978 as an 8-page, A4 magazine selling for 5p. It is full of small photographs, photomontages, line drawings, interesting facts and news – about the things school students are going to be interested in. The second issue of April 1978 focuses on the upcoming “Carnival Against the Nazis” with an interview with Tom Robinson. Again it’s packed with news on SKAN and other anti-fascist activities as well as having pieces on the Asian Youth Movement and Soweto school students. There is a full-page article on “What’s Behind the Young National Front?” which starts as follows “Question: What’s behind the Young National Front? Answer: No new wave. No soul. No punk. No reggae. No power pop. No heavy metal. No blues. No rock. The National Front will stop the music. It’s those jungle rhythms you see. No long hair. No short hair. No denims. No bin liners. No safety pins. The National Front won’t permit it. They like uniforms you see. No black skins. No brown. No yellow. They only like pink people you see”. Brilliant! By issue No. 3 SKAN is increased to 16 pages for the same price of 5p.


    The first issue of Red Rebel that I have access to is dated November/December [1978] but as no issues of the paper were numbered (and many had no date) I suspect this is actually the second-ever issue and not the first. This contention is backed up by the fact that I have access to publicity issued for a Rebel meeting in Oxford titled “That’s Not the Way it’s Got to Be” to be held on 7th September with John Rose as the speaker. One side of the leaflet advertising the meeting states that “Rebel is the new Socialist Worker Youth organisation”. In any event the paper is A3 in size, 8 pages and selling price is 5p. There are no editorial details provided.


    The aims of the Rebel Group and the paper are outlined under the heading “Rebel is Going to Fight”:


    • For control of our own lives
    • For decent jobs and wages as a right, not the dole queue
    • For our rights at school. For a fighting National Union of School Students
    • Against racism. For black and white unity
    • Against the Nazi NF. We don’t want Nazis now or ever
    • Against the oppression of women
    • Against the oppression of gays
    • Kick out all the bosses
    • For a socialist revolution


    The issue has a wide range of articles from the Rebel Schools Charter and the NUSS, Football Fans Against the Nazis, the Lewisham 21, Iran, reports from various Rebel Groups and more.


    Reviewing progress in December 1978 Roger Green wrote, “From the circular we sent out it would seem we have around 20 Rebel groups. However most of these are small, no more than 5 comrades. In about 6 places we have larger groups that meet regularly e.g. London 2 groups, Liverpool, Leeds, Newcastle and Glasgow. There was a reasonable response to the last Rebel paper. Around 50 branches ordered 2500 copies. By far the largest proportion of youth involved in Rebel are at school”. Specifically on the paper Roger had this to say, “There are a number of problems with the paper. We are trying for a layout style that is visually exciting and yet easily read. It mustn’t look like a junior Socialist Worker or an SWP’s Temporary Hoarding. It is obviously going to take a few issues before we get the style right. The other problem is the balance between the popular agitational and the political ideas. The paper must have enough political meat to satisfy our youth SWP comrades and many of those are highly politicised but at the same time it must appeal to the rebels who will buy the paper outside gigs, at school and outside football grounds”.


    The next issue is dated January/February [1979] and has reports of local youth activity from Newcastle, Belfast, Reading, Sheffield, Preston and Chelmsford. Interestingly it seems that the latter group had produced their own 16-page Chelmsford Rebel that they had started to sell outside schools. They report selling 70 copies at 10p each in three days. Major features in this issue include “Rebel Music” that has an interview with punk band “Angelic Upstarts”, “Ireland: The Story Behind the Bombs” and “Rebels of the Past” – an interesting look at the Spanish anarchist Francisco Sabate (“El Quico”).


    The March/April 1979 Red Rebel issue has a mixture of articles on schools, including a strike by 500 students at a Finchley school, in support of their caretaking and cleaning staff, music, drugs and young workers. On the subject of apprentices Rebel has the following – we say –


    • Full trade union rights for apprentices including the right to strike
    • All apprentices to be fully represented on shop stewards committees
    • Full wage for the job
    • Training to be organised by shop stewards and apprentices
    • No discrimination against women getting apprenticeships
    • Same job security as guaranteed to other workers under the Employment Protection Act and the Industrial Relations Act


    May 1979 was the month of the General Election with the Labour Party led by James Callaghan and the Tories led by Margaret Thatcher. An SWP Youth Election Special of Red Rebel was produced with a picture of Callaghan and Thatcher on the front cover and the banner headline “Vote for Either? You Must be Joking!” The headline is interesting as the “official line” of the SWP is contained in the April 1979 issue of Socialist Review as, “socialists will, therefore, be forced, reluctantly and against their wishes, to call for the return of a Labour government (although voting, in the few constituencies where they will stand, for candidates to the left of Labour)”. This was clearly not a line that was going to seem attractive, or indeed sensible, to any self-respecting young rebel. The article in this Special “Our Life – 20 minutes of democracy: 50 years of boredom” has an altogether more attractive analysis. It states, “….the last bit of democracy we got was in 1974. Most people put their little cross next to Labour. You know it makes sense, they told us. Trouble is, it didn’t. In the Spring of ’79, what have we got? Black kids stabbed in the road. Fascists on the high street. One and a half million out of a job. Wage cuts and less places in college. Of course we didn’t vote for all that. We’re not masochists. No, we voted for “a better life for all”; “the irreversible shift of wealth in favour of working people” and “a brighter tomorrow”. And it’s no use swapping sides in the two horse race this time round….”.


    Another special was produced for the Right to Work March to the TUC in Blackpool in September.


    In the August 1979 SWP Internal Bulletin Mike Pearse, current Youth Organiser, gives his update on youth work and says that, so far, five issues of the newspaper have been issued with a paid sale of around 1400. He goes on to say “the original idea of Rebel was to be a school student/young workers’ organisation. From the beginning and more so now we found this was not viable, mainly because of the different oppressions young workers and school students find. At the moment there are about a dozen active Rebel groups meeting regularly and producing Rebel and NUSS school bulletins etc. All the groups apart from one are solely made up of school students”. Mike gives details of how the SWP now controls the leadership of the NUSS and thus that, going forward, the main orientation of Rebel has to be around school students and the building of NUSS.  The SWP Annual Conference Report of January 1980 shows that a motion was carried endorsing the central line on building NUSS.


    The next issue of Red Rebel I have access to is undated but is published around April 1980. On the “Rebel News” page is a “Charter – What We Stand For” which includes sections on schools, across the world, jobs and race. The closing part of the Charter states that “Rebel is the youth organisation of the Socialist Workers Party. We say that to build a socialist society we have to organise ourselves independently of the Labour Party and Parliament. It is only through revolution – that is taking power ourselves – that we will achieve socialism”. Other articles include the “Rebel Guide to Safe Sex”, “Skins Against the Nazis”, news on NUSS activity from various places and a double-page feature on the police.


    In preparation for the SWP Annual Conference the Central Committee published a one-page “Youth Perspectives” in the December 1980 Internal Bulletin. The gist of the document is that “over the last 18 months our youth work has been more successful than for many years. But the reason for our success is the limited and restricted area of work we have concentrated on. We do not have a perspective for or an organisation for most youth; instead we have concentrated on school students, usually aged between 14 and 16”. At this time the NUSS is quoted as having 10000 members and “for 18 months it has been dominated by the SWP”…..”and the NUSS is the best way for us to keep a permanent presence in the schools”…..”but the success of NUSS and our youth work will depend on the ability of NUSS to involve itself in other, larger movements on more specific issues – in particular the fight against nuclear weapons and the fight to get the British Movement out of the schools”. The place to link all these things together is the newspaper but “to do this successfully the Rebel paper needs to be much better organised. We are now attempting to put it on a firmer footing and produce it twice a term”. The actual motion passed at the Annual Conference concludes by stating that the paper is needed “as a focus for recruiting youth to the SWP”.


    This perspective is clear from the Red Rebel issue (as usual undated) but published in January 1981. In design it has moved to being an 8-page A4 “glossy” production with colour. Under the heading “NUSS – Our Union” it says “this year we are attempting to build the confidence of our members inside schools by urging them to take on the small demands we can win. What are these demands?….The demands which we are campaigning around nationally are – school uniforms, corporal punishment and petty rules. There are hundreds of issues we can take up, for example, trousers for girls, restrictions on movement in school, homework, detention, certain teachers behaviour…”. Most of the rest of the issue is taken up with anti racist and anti nuclear items. There is an advertisement for a “Rebel Conference” to be held at Sheffield Polytechnic on 7th February. Speakers listed include Tony Cliff, Peter Alexander, Steve Marsh, Neil Davies, Hardy Desai, Simon Ogden and Joanna Rollo.


    Another undated issue of Red Rebel I have seen can be placed at May 1981. In size it has increased to a 16-page A4 format. Articles included are on The Peoples March for Jobs, the Brixton riots, CND, “Who Can Trust Tony Benn?”, NUSS and ANL news and views etc.


    The last issue of Red Rebel that I have identified is again undated but, from the contents, I can confidently date it as being published in September 1981. News from local groups is noticeable for its scarcity. Contents are aimed towards building the next Right to Work March from Liverpool to the Tory Conference in Blackpool starting 8th October, the CND national demonstration in London on 24th October and a TUC youth lobby of Parliament on 30th November. There is a double-page interview with someone who spent fourteen months in borstal and another spread giving a report back on the Troops Out Movement delegation to Northern Ireland.


    Whilst a debate on Youth Work took place in the pages of Internal Bulletin numbers 5 and 6 in late 1981 based on activity in Sheffield and Leeds (in which the irregularity of Red Rebel is mentioned as well as the assertion that “the NUSS is in a disastrous state of affairs”) I cannot identify any debate taking place on Youth Work at the Annual Conference that year. On that basis my current assumption is that Red Rebel foundered in 1981.


    This would make sense as by this time the downturn analysis that had been debated within the Party for a considerable period had been accepted and a youth paper was certainly not a part of the present perspective. The same applied to most of the other publications that had been launched in the rush to publish – the Punjabi paper Chingari, the Urdu paper Chingari, the Bengali paper Pragati, the black workers paper Flame and finally, in 1982, the women’s paper Womens Voice.

    Some Closing Thoughts

    It is a commonplace that revolutionary organisations have always attempted to recruit the youth to its ranks. They are the most courageous, the most free from ”conservatism”, the ones with the freshest ideas on how to get things done and then to do them. It is also, however, a lesson learned through the school of hard knocks that struggles specifically involving youth go up and then drop down again, often with enormous speed. How then should a revolutionary socialist organisation seek to influence and recruit youth to the cause of revolutionary politics? What has the SWP attempted to do in this arena over the 30-year period in question? What has succeeded and what has failed?


    The organisation, unlike some others on the revolutionary left, has tried to engage in youth work in a range of ways – both organisationally and in terms of specific audience – dependent on the perceived political needs of the day. Attempts have been made to; work within the Labour Party youth organisation under its own steam; work within the Labour Party youth organisation jointly with other political organisations; build a youth movement as an independent body; build a party youth movement with autonomous organisation and build a youth movement that is a part of the SWP. Equally, the youth targeted has changed with the circumstances of the times and has included focuses on Labour Party members, CND members, young workers/apprentices, the unemployed, school students and anti-racist youth. One thing that has been consistent throughout is that the organisation has never succumbed to any sort of youth/student vanguardism.


    All of the attempts at youth-work covered in this note have been relatively short lived and none of the publications succeeded in gaining a circulation of more than a few thousand. With the partial exception of Young Guard it is probably true to say that none of them made any sort of mark on the political landscape of their day and certainly none of them has left any sort of legacy on the political landscape.


    Ian Birchall (pers. comms.) has made the point to me “that there was a group of comrades radicalised by the CND/YS experience in the early sixties who stuck with the organisation for fifty years or more. Despite the efforts of the Grim Reaper there are still a number of us – some still in the SWP, others active on other parts of the left. I don’t think the same can be said for later youth papers”. This is true for the SWP and, I think, it is also true for the revolutionary left in this country more widely. Why this should have happened for this generation of youth in this time and this place is a matter outside the scope of this particular note. It is a success that a whole group of young people was sufficiently radicalised to form the backbone and leadership of left organisations for decades to come. On the other hand it is perhaps a failure that this generation was not able to develop the following generations of youth.


    That said, and it has been discussed earlier, that a debate on success versus failure can be a fruitless one as success can take a variety of shapes, often-unexpected ones and even perceived failures can sow the seeds for something better. Certainly the outcomes of political activity by a revolutionary political organisation cannot be measured in the same scientific way as, for example, the outcomes of business activity by a business organisation. It is also a fact worth reinforcing that, in almost all instances, the SWP and its predecessor organisations set itself deliberately modest goals when embarking on youth initiatives. It could almost be said that some were even attempted on something like a “suck it and see” basis.


    Writing this brief note on what the SWP has done in the field of youth work at various times and in various circumstances is useful as a record but at best it is a guide to possibilities. There is no law that says that what worked in the 1960’s will work in 2015 any more than there is a law that says what failed in the 1970’s will not work in 2015. Political organisations of the revolutionary left need to always be prepared to adapt to the needs of the times they live in and the real social, economic and political forces they face.


    There is only one certainty. Youth has rebelled in the past and in a world of climate catastrophe, wars, globalisation, lack of affordable housing, zero hours jobs, massive debts and the rest they will do so again. When it happens we can expect an exciting time – how the Left reacts will define the change it brings.






    Labour Party annual conference launches The Scheme for the Organisation of Youth under which the first Labour League of Youth is established.


    First Labour League of Youth disbanded.


    Second Labour League of Youth established. From 1948 age limits for membership = 16-25 years.


    September/October – Socialist Review Group Founding Conference held. SRG has 33 members.


    March – First issue of Young Chartist published.

    June – Second issue of Young Chartist published.

    July – Third (and last) issue of Young Chartist published.


    Labour League of Youth disbanded – Reverts to youth sections under control of local parties.


    October/November – Hungarian revolution.


    November – First (Number 1) The Young Socialist: For an Independent Socialist Youth Movement section published in Socialist Review newspaper.


    September – Last (Number 17) Young Socialist section published in Socialist Review.


    CND formed.


    January – Cuban revolution.

    Easter – First large Aldermaston march and rally (c60,000).

    October – Labour loses General Election.


    Easter – Mass Aldermaston march and rally (c100,000).

    Young Socialists launched by the Labour Party. Age limits for membership = 15-25 years. SRG has  circa 60 members

    July – First issue of Rebel published.

    October – Labour Party Conference passes motion in favour of unilateral nuclear disarmament.


    Easter – Mass Aldermaston march and rally (c100,000).

    August – Last issue (No. 9) of Rebel published.

    September – First issue of Young Guard published.

    October – Hugh Gaitskell, new Labour Party leader, overturns unilateral nuclear disarmament policy   at Labour Party Conference.


    Socialist Review Group becomes the International Socialists (IS). IS has circa 100 members.

    June – Keep Left proscribed.


    September – RSL split from Young Guard.


    September - Keep Left/SLL depart YS and sets up own youth organisation.

    October – First issue of Militant newspaper published by RSL.

    October – Election of Harold Wilson’s Labour government.


    Young Socialists renamed “Labour Party Young Socialists” (LPYS).


    April – Last issue (No. 39) of Young Guard published.

    September – First issue of Rebel (A Democratic Journal of the Young Socialists) published.


    October – Last issue of Rebel published.


    January – Tet offensive in Vietnam.

    May/June – General strike in France.


    June – Election of Ted Heath’s Conservative government.


    November – First issue of Rebel published.


    April – Last issue of Rebel published.


    February – Election of minority Labour government led by Harold Wilson.

    October – Election of majority Labour government led by Harold Wilson.


    July – Labour government introduces wage controls.


    February/March – Right to Work March from Manchester to London.

    October – First issue of Fight published.


    January – IS changes name to the Socialist Workers Party (SWP). SWP has circa 3500 members.

    August – Lewisham anti-NF demonstration.


    April – First ANL Carnival.

    May (at the latest) – Last issue of Fight published.

    Autumn – First issue of Red Rebel published.


    April – Blair Peach killed by police at Southall.

    May – Election of Margaret Thatcher’s Tory government.


    Last issue of Red Rebel published.



    Ian Birchall read the earlier drafts of this note and made a number of perceptive and informative comments. I thank Ian for his continued assistance in making my endeavours pass for some semblance of history. John Palmer, an active participant in both the earliest iteration of Rebel and in Young Guard, also read an earlier draft and provided an array of new information and eye-witness observations. Fred Lindop also read an early draft. I also thank Julian Vaughan who, as well as reading an earlier draft has also helped in locating publications.


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