Friday, November 06, 2009

Are You Smarter than a 4th Internationalist?

How are you with your knowledge of the history of early British Trotskyism?

Do you know your Heaton Lee from your Ralph Lee? Ted Grant's real name? The first bullshit myth Gerry Healy spun about himself? CLR James's batting average for the Old Fractionians Second XI? The name of the De Leonist organisation in Scotland which turned towards Trotskyism in the thirties? Who debated for the Bolshevik Leninists' against the SPGB's Adolph Kohn at the AEU Hall in Doughty Street in London in 1936?

Well, the answers to all of the above questions will not be found in the following clip from Mastermind, but what does follow is Paul Moorhouse answering questions on his specialist subject,"British Trotskyism Until 1949'. (What's the odds that all the questions were cribbed from Bornstein and Richardson's two-volume history of British Trotskyism?)

This edition of Mastermind dates from March 13th of this year but I've only just now stumbled across the clip. I got nine answers right but that's only because I'm from the Menshevik-SadBastard Tendency.

Give it your best shot:

But there's more.

When Paul returned to the black chair for the second round, John Humphrys asked him about his specialist subject in the first round and inquired, in an amused tone, if there were any Trotskyists left?

Paul resisted the temptation to leap upon the black chair and declaim 'The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International' in its entirety but he did lean forward in his chair like the seasoned cadre that he is and gave a fifty second thumbnail sketch of what it is to be a Trotskyist today.

Humphrys said nothing in reply, thus confirming the suspicions of two million Daily Mail readers that the initials BBC really do stand for the 'Bolsheviks Broadcasting Communism'.

A quick google search reveals that Paul Moorhouse is a longstanding member of the Millies (SPEW/CWI) down in Bristol.

I'm sure he got muchos-kudos from his comrades for putting his politics before an audience of a few million (back in the eighties, Mastermind could be watched by up to 15 million people), but I wonder if he also got his nose tweaked by the local full timer for not mentioning Peter Taaffe's name at least twice during those fifty primetime seconds.

The Menshevik-SadBastard Tendency member in me can't help heckling to the computer screen that he should have said: 'Trotskyism? Past'

More on that particular episode of Mastermind over at Life After Mastermind, the blog of 2007 Mastermind winner, David Clark.


Will said...

Great posting darren.

Wot blogging used to be about.

Fucking marvellous.

John said...

Excellent. I got 6, mostly good guesses or from the recesses of my memory, but it's 5 more than I got on Bill Hicks a couple of weeks back.

Top stuff.

JM said...

He has glasses, a scruffy beard, and goes on national television looking like he just pulled his clothes out of the hamper. In the dark. In 1970. Who could have guessed he was a Trot?

mikeovswinton said...

BSISLP innit. British Section of the International Socialist Labour Party. Based in Edinburgh, weren't they? (As were the SLP at one stage. In the latter phase they published the Socialist out of North Walsham in Norfolk if memory serves. Or was it Trunch?)

I claim my prize.

mikeovswinton said...

Incidentally the REAL Fourth International was founded in 1922 by Herman Gorter and his pals.

gray said...

Chris Harman has died

gray said...

Chris Harman has died

btw, great post Darren!

Imposs1904 said...


I saw the news. From reading the tributes to him that have popped up across the net, it's obviously come as a bit of a shock to a lot of people. It obviously wasn't expected.


I'm suitably impressed by you knowing the BSISLP answer at the top of the post. I only knew of them via (I think) a Mark Shipway article that appeared in a short lived history journal devoted to the historical tendency of the Socialist Labor Party. It was put together by the late Ben Perry, who co-authored a short history of the SLP with Frank Girard many years ago.

I didn't know about Gorter and his fourth international. Tell me more.

Without your sort of knowledge I'm guessing you've got a bit of political form. Any connection with the much missed Subversion journal?

PS - You didn't answer the question about CLR James batting average.


well , going by your description, he could have been an SPGBer or even an WSPUSer. . . . this particular WSPUSer ;-)


I've not seen the Hicks show. I don't seem to remember the specialist subjects on Mastermind being so *cough* popular culture. I'm thinking of applying next year with 'Socialist Standard Front Covers 1981-1987' as my specialist subject. I think I'm in with a chance.

PS - This post was actually inspired by your mention of another Mastermind contestant answering questions on Indie Music. I may return to that particular contestant in a later post.


Cheers for the kind words. Nice to see that Sunderland winning a couple of games gives you a sunnier disposition.

Nice to also see that you haven't been lost from the blogosphere. It'd be nice if Hak was still about also.

mikeovswinton said...

Herman Gorter wrote the "Reply to Comrade Lenin" that intellectually marked the definitive split of the German Leftists from the Comintern - a point that may be disagreed with. The Fourth Communist Workers' International was declared in 1922 after a KAPD publication announcing its necessity appeared in 1921. Mark Shipway published a book some year on all this sort of thing. There are a number of websites that you may find info on this area of interest on. No I wasn't a member of Subversion. But I did mispend my youth in other ways than watching Bolton and Swinton, and listening to soul music. Three occupations that I continue with.

Incidentally, if Humphreys had wanted to be really clever he should have put the quote to the Trotskist that Dwight Macdonald was always wheeling out. It was from Leon T himself around the start of the Second World War and went along the lines of "If after Fascism and a World War etc there isn't a proletarian revolution, then we must've got it all wrong." (I can get the Chapter and Verse if you like.) Trotsky famously said of DM; "Every one has the right to be stupid. Comrade MacDonald abuses the privilege." Or at least that what Macdonald said Trotsky said.

mikeovswinton said...

You can find out more about the "real" 4Th Intl. by checking around some of your blog links. I'll leave you to work out which.

On Mastermind; a mate of mine was on it a few years back and won his first round heat, going out in the second round. He arrived at the studios a bit late and told me that the other three contestants were all pub quizzers who knew each other 'on the circuit'. He was asked where he 'quizzed'. When he told them he didn't they dismissed his chances roundly. After he beat them none of them would talk to him in the "Green Room". Which didn't bother him mightily.

Imposs1904 said...

I had/have the Gorter pamphlet. I think Wildcat published it.

The Shipway book? I guess you're referring to his book on Aldred and Pankhurst? Funnily enough - well to me, anyway - that is one of the few books I brought with me to the States four years back. Don't ask me why. Maybe it was an attack of political pretension?

So, I'd actually read about the KAPD and their International all those years ago and promptly forgotten about it. That's the story of my political life. ;-)

You'll have to help me out with my links and more info on the International, 'cos Shipway's book is quite scant about it. (Just had a quick thumb through to refresh the fading memory.) I am surprised to see from one of the references in Shipway's book that it was still in existence as late as 1933. I wonder what happened to them organisationally after '33?

I didn't know the Trotsky/MacDonald anecdote but the theme of it does seem to tie in with another story I heard. Apparently the American Socialist Workers Party initially refused to accept that the Second World War was over in '45 because there wasn't the anticipated proletarian revolution.

Maybe my memory's playing tricks on me, but I could have sworn that I was told that they didn't come around to accepting the end of the war was real until a couple of years after '45. ;-)

mikeovswinton said...

The quote is from "The USSR in War" and it is cited most clearly in the opening subsection of part 1 of "The Root is Man", also called The Root is Man,(part 1 as a whole is called "Marxism is obsolete") and it covers, in effect, pages 31-33 of the 1995 Autonomedia edition. I'd guess that this is the most accesible version. Not sure if it does quite what Macdonald says it does, but your SWPers denying the end of the war tend to suggest that it might have been taken that way by people other than DM. (I can never get the bit in Humboldt's Gift where the character based on DM insists on debating nude with -ahem- interesting consequences out of my head when discussing Macdonald.)

ajohnstone said...

belated comment on Tommy Tait of the BSISLP/RSP for you, Darren