Papers of Dr. Edward Grant

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Collection includes material selected from a list provided to the Brynmor Jones Library, University of Hull. There is a small amount of political correspondence with the majority comprising printed publications.

Primarily in English but some items in Russian and French

Administrative / Biographical History

Edward Grant (1913 - 2006), known as Ted, was born in Germiston, just outside Johannesburg, South Africa. His birth name was Isaac, but his surname is unknown, widely recorded as 'Blank'. Following his parents divorce he stayed in the boarding house run by his mother. It is believed that it was through one of her lodgers, Ralph (Raff) Lee, who had been a member of the South African Communist Party, that the young Isaac became a Marxist. In the autumn of 1934 he left for England with Max Basch (later known as Sid Frost), meeting Trotsky's son, Leon Sedov on a stop-over in France. On his arrival in England Isaac took the name Ted Grant in order to protect his family in South Africa from anything that may happen to him.

Both men joined the Marxist Group within the Independent Labour Party, but Grant soon left and joined the Trotskyists working in the Labour Party's youth organisation, the Labour League of Youth. He helped develop the Bolshevik-Leninist Group within the Labour Party, later known as the Militant Group, after the name of its paper. Grant had also become actively involved in the struggle against fascism, including participating in running battles against the Black Shirts in the East End of London, notably in Cable Street.

Grant's early experiences in South Africa had given him a sound theoretical grounding in Marxism, but dissatisfaction with the leadership's development of the Militant Group resulted in a row that culminated with Grant and others forming a new group called the Workers International League (WIL) in December 1937. The new group's focus on the broader layers of the organised working class marked the real beginning of British Trotskyism. Grant played a leading role in this along with Millie Lee (formerly Millie Kahn) and Jock Haston. Grant was national secretary of the WIL and editor of their paper 'Youth for Socialism to Socialist Appeal'. He was also the political secretary of the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) which was founded in March 1944.

In the immediate post-war period changes to the organisation's leadership and direction resulted in the combining of the WIL and RCP in 1949, a move that was not supported by Grant. The merger led to numerous long standing members being expelled, including Grant after 22 years membership of the Trotskyist movement. He was also a member of the Executive Committee of the Fourth International, and had his expulsion ratified at the Third World Congress on the motion of Ernest Mandel.

By the end of 1950 the Party had been destroyed and Grant attempted to salvage what he could of the RCP. In May 1951, the first national conference took place in London. It was reported that there were 20 members in London and 11 in Liverpool, with a scattering of contacts around the country. The group had no alternative, but to work within the Labour Party. It was decided to launch a theoretical magazine every two months. Members Jimmy Deane, Arthur Deane, Brian Deane, Alec Riach, Sam Levy and others helped to gather funds to launch the new publication. The first issue of the new magazine called 'International Socialist', with Ted as its editor, appeared in February 1952. However, the lack of resources meant that the magazine appeared only spasmodically between February 1952 and April 1954.

In 1953 a split took place leaving Britain without a section. After some discussions, Grant's group was recognised as the official British section. By the end of the year a new magazine, 'Workers International Review', was launched. In early 1957 the Revolutionary Socialist League was launched as a result of events in Hungary, but was short lived. Grant edited a new publication, 'Socialist Fight', between January 1958 and June 1963.

In 1960, the Labour leadership re-established the youth section, called the Young Socialists. It attracted a large number of people with its papers 'Keep Left' and 'Young Guard' (see U DP/213/2/2). Grant's group was the smallest, but its base expanded, especially in Liverpool, but also London, Tyneside, Swansea and Brighton. In 1964 it launched its own paper, Militant. Further disagreements resulted in the expulsion of Grant's group from within the International and the group decided to focus more closely on the mass organisations of the working class.

The 1970s were considered to be a political watershed nationally and internationally. The defeat of the Wilson government and the coming to power of Heath ushered in a period of heightened radicalisation in the working class. By 1970, the movement had won a majority on the national leadership of the Labour Party Young Socialists, and they started a campaign to build up the youth organisation, from 100 members in 1966 to over 500 by 1975. In 1974 the Committee for a Workers International was set up along with members from other countries. By 1980 the Militant tendency had 1,000 active supporters registered. Again disputes resulted in the expulsion of the Editorial Board in 1983, including Grant. In 1984 Trotskyist, John MacCreadie was elected to the General Council of the Trade Union Congress against the backdrop of the miners' strike. The highpoint of the Militant tendency was 1988 when Grant addressed 7,500 supporters at Alexandra Palace in London, including Trotsky's grandson Esteban Volkov.

Grant's political guidance created the strongest Trotskyist tendency since the days of the Russian Left Opposition. Their financial fortunes improved to include a turnover of over a million pounds a year, a large premises, a big web printing press, capable of printing a daily paper and around 250 full time workers. They had roots in many trade unions and Labour Parties, including about 50 councillors and three Marxist MPs. The National Anti-Poll Tax Union, which had been formed by the organisation following the introduction of the Tax, led to widespread national civil disobedience and contributed to its repeal.

Grant stressed the need to educate and train new members, but this was largely ignored. Peter Taaffe, editor of the paper, and his supporters favoured activism over theory. Grant's strong leadership was able to hold things together in the short term, but relationships deteriorated until Grant and his supporters were expelled. They went on to launch the 'Socialist Appeal' magazine in 1992 and in 1995 began publishing books, beginning with 'Reason in Revolt' by Alan Woods and Ted Grant. The movement's books and pamphlets have been translated into over 19 languages.

The new group, with Grant playing a leading role, grew to include international success, particularly in Spain, Italy, Mexico and Pakistan. Its website attracts an expanding worldwide audience. It is believed that the group's success is due to its base on the classics of Marxism with Grant's political experience providing the bedrock of the movement with his contribution over 60 years. His Trotskyist approach to the method and orientation of the movement helped make it a major factor in British politics.

Grant is reported to have been approachable and knowledgeable on a wide range of topics, from football and horse racing to literature and culture. He was an accomplished public speaker, speaking with humour. He had a passionate interest in Marxist economics and philosophy and followed the developments of modern science closely. Following health issues he moved to a residential home near Romford and died shortly after his 93rd birthday.

Information taken from and


U DP213/1 Correspondence 1951-1954

U DP213/2 Printed Publications 1888 - 1969

Conditions Governing Access

Access will be granted to any accredited reader.

Custodial History

Purchased from Dr. Edward Grant, July 1997.

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Labour History Archive and Study Centre, People's History Museum, Manchester

Modern Records Centre, Warwick University

Nuffield College Library, Oxford University