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New Left Review I/4, July-August 1960

Harold Silver

Can the Clubs Grow?

the relationship between ideas and men of ideas, on the one hand, and working-class and popular action on the other, has not been looked at very closely in post-war Britain. It should be becoming increasingly clear, however, that orthodox communist views, for example, of automatic working-class leadership of national liberation movements and the like, fall down when you look at the world that is with us. If we look no further than the liberation struggles in Latin America, the movement that brought down Syngman Rhee, and the dawn of democratic action in Turkey, we can see how far they have been student-stimulated, not working class-organised. On all important anti-colonialist issues, the British universities have, since the war, been in action long before the trade unions. Yet ideas and ideamongers have become increasingly suspect in the British Labour movement, and in starting from this point—of the relevance of ideas in general for crystallising working class action—I am neither “justifying” the incapable intellectual that Wesker gets at very justly in Roots, nor baiting workingclass organisations. I am merely stating the tragic situation of working-class and rank-and-file Labour suspicion of ideas, at a time when every worthwhile political expression by the Labour movement (e.g. the Labour Party on apartheid and the AEU on nuclear disarmament) derives, initially, from sources outside the working class, outside the Labour Party.

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Harold Silver, ‘Can the Clubs Grow?’, NLR I/4: £3

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