Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line: Revolutionary History, Vol. 5 No. 3
Correcting a Misunderstanding
Thank you for crediting me with some of the work of translating the commentary on Trotsky’s discussions with Walcher in the latest Revolutionary History. It came as a considerable surprise to me, I might say.
I can’t imagine who informed you that Pete Flack had any part in it. I can assure you that he had none. At that time he was the leader of the Leicester Branch of the Workers Socialist League, and would probably have had no enthusiasm for any collaboration with the East London branch, whose leading role in the WSL’s entry work he opposed politically. (He was later to lead a small group out of the WSL which was originally in some form of collaboration with the US Revolutionary Workers League, which had been part of the Trotskyist International Liaison Committee. They published Workers International News for some months, and I lost sight of them after that.) It may have been Mike Jones (who was in the WSL at the time) who suggested that Flack was involved, but whoever it was, he was categorically wrong. In fact, I did all the translation, typing, duplicating and most of the distribution myself. I had some assistance in checking the translation from a comrade in Newham North-east CLP who had some contacts with the OCI, and who had kindly bought for me in Paris the volume of Trotsky’s Oeuvres from which the material was translated. I did some of the translations during the more tedious sessions of the NALGO annual conference.
The intention behind the collection was to continue the work of Clinton and Chappell in their three-volume anthology of Trotsky’s writings on Britain. The main point of interest in the Walcher discussions was therefore Trotsky’s assessment of the Independent Labour Party, much more than his analysis of the German crisis of 1923. I cannot comment on the attitude taken by ‘the modern Trotskyist movement’ to the document, but I can say that within the WSL and its periphery, the collection was received with great interest.
Among comrades who had the time and inclination to study the texts as closely as they deserve, a commonly expressed view was that they made it more, not less, difficult to have a simple idea of Trotsky’s line on a number of issues at this time. You mention that the text can be read, at least in part, as indicating that Trotsky was re-evaluating the events of 1923. At the time I produced the translations, much greater concern was generated by the suggestion that he was also re-evaluating the entry tactic in Britain, and by the precise nature of the relationships Trotsky appeared to be proposing with groups such as the SAP, Mot Dag, etc.
P.S. I don’t suppose it will do any harm now that I am not a Labour Party member, but at various times during entry work in the Labour Party, I was called upon to deny formal membership of the WSL. For this reason, I never intended my name to appear in the 1979 collection of translations. I should have liked to have had the chance to decide whether my name could now be associated with it before it appeared in print.
The Editor replies:
Sorry about the acknowledgement. But until you wrote to us, none of us knew your whereabouts. The information about Pete Flack alleged involvement indeed came from Mike Jones, as you surmised.
Updated by ETOL: 22.9.2011