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  1. I never intended to retire in 2003 at the age of 62. I hoped that I might be allowed to go on working until I just couldn't crawl into work any more. I enjoyed running the large Access to Higher Education course which I'd set up – and since expanded further with new subject options– more then a decade previously. But there were many worry-inducing things happening in Further Education in those days. I had strange pains in the chest. I went to the doctor's expecting he'd at least run a stethoscope over me. But he didn't give me any kind of physical examination at all. 'It's stress' he just told me . I tried to carry on – but now I knew what it was it was very difficult and the pains returned.

     

    Having retired a bit early I had to decide what to do next. Initially, nothing! I just concentrated on relaxing and the chest pains going away. Then, as much to give me a bit of exercise as anything more noble I got the local Clarion cycling club going at the beginning of 2004. I was already working on the project which eventually became the book Romancing the Revolution in 2011. There was no hurry. The research I did, mainly involving reading microfilm copies of Left wing papers in the library at the University of Sussex, continued. I was exploring what I called 'the myth of soviet democracy' – the notion that the workers' councils in revolutionary and post-revolutionary Russia epitomised a 'real democracy' remote from and superior to the very limited claims to democracy of parliaments and assemblies in even those countries most advanced politically. This was a crucial factor, I was to show, in rallying much of the Left to at least give houseroom to Leninism and Communism.

     

    I'd already done a seminar on this at Sussex in 2002 and three years later I would follow this with another one on the ILP's response to what was happening in Russia. By then I was teaching at Sussex part-time on the first year undergraduate history course. The late Alun Howkins who had been an 'external' for the history option of my Access course got me the job – which was just what I needed at the time and I hope satisfactory from the students' point of view.

     

    The problem – which grew with time as I got ever further into completing the MS - was who was going to publish it? I'd had enough problems finding a publisher before. You tend not to be taken seriously by academic publishers unless you work at a university. The answer was totally unexpected. In 1909 I had a message from Alvin Finkel, a member of the editorial board of the Canadian Labour movement quarterly Labour/Le Travail asking me to write a review article for it. The books in question covered much more recent periods than I was really familiar with except in a very casual way and I tried to get out of it pleading too great ignorance of the history involved. But Alvin insisted and I wrote the piece which appeared later that year

     

    In the course of corresponding with Alvin I had mentioned the project I was working on and he showed interest telling me he was on the board also of Athabasca University Press in Edmonton. To cut a long story a bit shorter they agreed to publish it but there was one further twist. Up to then my title had been 'The Myth of Soviet

    Democracy and the British Left' It was the evening before we were setting off for a longish holiday in France. The phone rang. AU Press thought the title wasn't snappy enough and suggested 'Romancing the Reds'. I thought that was unhelpfully confrontational and suggested 'Romancing the Revolution.' And that's what it became.

     

    Cheeky note from daughter uploading this....

    He says he's retired but as you have read above - it looks like he is still very much enjoying working to me!

  2. The second book I had a hand in – well a lot more of a hand as I'll explain - has the rather ponderous title Democratic Ideas and the British Labour Movement 1880 to 1914 . It was published by CUP in 1996. Of the 13 chapters all but four of them were based on my 1982 Sussex University D Phil thesis 'Socialists and Democratic Form. Positions and Debates' - an even less snappy and inspiring title! My co-author Logie Barrow drew on his own thesis about Robert Blatchford and the Clarion movement to supply the rest of the book. He traced the movement for greater democracy and against bureaucracy in the trade unions of the period

     

    More than any thing else my research which began, part-time, in 1975 had been inspired by a sentence at the end of Walter Kendall's then quite recently published The Revolutionary Movement in Britain, 1900-1920.

    The revolutionary movement, before the transformation took place had been ultra democratic, opposed to leadership on principle, opposed to the professionalisation of the Labour movement almost as an article of faith.

     

    The 'transformation' was the advent of the Communist Party and of the dogmatic Leninist approach to socialism more generally. What I'd found after about 6 years of research largely on the newspapers and other records of the various components of pre-1914 British socialism was that – though some trends in the opposite direction manifested themselves from time to time – Walter had been broadly right.

     

    I tried to get a book based on my thesis published much earlier but had given up hope

    when Logie, suggested we could combine my stuff with some of his own . When we got to the stage where publication was imminent he suggested that since the greater part of the book had been based on my research my name should come first on the title page and cover. But I insisted that since 'a' comes before 'u' we ought to stick to alphabetical order. From time to time I've regretted my insistence when – not unreasonably – people have assumed that my contributions were those of Logie and asked me detailed questions about what was going on the trade unions in the 1890s that I had trouble answering..

     

    The thing that had surprised me the most when I set about researching in the mid-'70s was the attitudes and policies of the Social-Democratic Federation (SDF) I'd formed the impression of an austere bunch simply parroting the Marxist orthodoxy of the day. But the truth was quite different -as I hope the book demonstrates along with much else. My revaluation of the SDF is something that years later I have returned to writing about.(See Blog 6)

     

    The 1996 book looks at all the main components of the pre-1914 socialist movement in Britain – the SDF/BSP, the ILP, the Fabians and the Clarion movement. It does indeed give lots of examples of the 'ultra-democratic' aspirations and the anti professionalisation that was very much a major feature of Left-wing thinking of the time, of the Communist Party and of the dogmatic Leninist approach to socialism more generally. What I'd found after about 6 years of research largely on the newspapers and other records of the various components of pre-1914 British socialism was that – though some trends in the opposite direction manifested themselves from time to time – Walter had been right.

     

    I tried to get a book based on my thesis published much earlier but had given up hope when Logie, suggested we could combine my stuff with some of his own . When we got to the stage where publication was imminent he suggested that since the greater part of the book had been based on my research my name should come first on the title page and cover. But I insisted that since 'a' comes before 'u' we ought to stick to alphabetical order. From time to time I've regretted my insistence when – not unreasonably – people have assumed that my contributions were those of Logie and asked me detailed questions about what was going on the trade unions in the 1890s that I had trouble answering..

     

    The thing that had surprised me the most when I set about researching in the mid-'70s was the attitudes and policies of the Social-Democratic Federation (SDF). I'd formed the impression of an austere bunch simply parroting the Marxist orthodoxy of the day. But the truth was quite different -as I hope the book demonstrates along with much else. My revaluation of the SDF is something that years later I have returned to writing about.

     

    The 1996 book looks at all the main components of the pre-1914 socialist movement in Britain – the SDF, the ILP, the Fabians and the Clarion. It does indeed give lots of examples of the 'ultra-democratic' aspirations and the anti professionalisation that was very much a major feature of Left-wing thinking of the time.