Letter to What Next? On Stuart Kirby

From John Archer:

Al Richardson takes offence from the fact that I did not mention a certain name in my thesis "Trotskyism in Britain: 1931 - 1937".

The man in question played a certain role in our early years. I first met him at the LSE in 1927. He later joined the Communist Party, and was sent to report for the "Daily Worker" - to Moscow in 1931. He came back deeply aware that the reality was very different from what his Party was telling us, and in this way contributed to my own early development.

By the end of the 1930's, like others, he had moved away from us, and is believed to have made himself responsible later for actions which we would strongly condemn.

My thesis was written eighteen years and more ago. Now suddenly Al seems to be hinting that I had some dishonest motive for not mentioning this man's name there.

No one who reads the thesis at all attentively will fail to see that it names no more than a few of our activists. My own name, for example, is not mentioned, except as the author.

I was primarily concerned, not with personalities and anecdotes, but to clarify the political questions with which we all had to struggle as best we could. I worked on the basis of the documentary evidence then available.

Is a historian wrong to accept Trotsky's advice, when he wrote, in the Preface to the first volume of the "History of the Russian Revolution":

"This work will not rely in any degree upon personal recollections. The circumstance that the author was a participant in the events does not free him from the obligation to base his exposition upon strictly verified documents. "

It is evident from the Bornstein-Richardson books that the method of their authors differs widely from mine. I leave it to readers to judge which method produced work of greater value in the long run to militant workers, or brought out better the inner connection of the events.

But anyway, thank you, Al, for making my point in such a practical way.