Monday, 13 September 2010

Oliver Cromwell and the English Revolution by Sarah Creagh, Marxism 2010

Perhaps unintentionally this short lecture given by member of the SWP (Socialist Workers Party) highlights the intellectual decline of the SWP. The lecture was given by a person who admitted in the lecture tape recording that until three months ago she knew little on the subject of the English Revolution.

In the past the SWP could have drawn upon a significant number of university lecturers the major one in this field being Brian Manning who was their leading spokesman on the English Revolution. Although Manning has since died others could have given the lecture a far higher level.

Perhaps due to the political crisis raging through the SWP it has been deprived the main party of a growing number of their leading cadre. One person who would have been capable of delivering a better lecture would have been John Rees whose doctoral thesis is on the Levellers and the English Revolution has since resigned from the party. Another is Norah Carlin who has written extensively on the English Revolution. I have no information if she is still a member.

I have no intention of belittling the speaker Sarah Creagh but this was a very rudimentary lecture and covered no new developments. In fact until the last moment you would have never guessed that this lecture was given by an organisation that purported to be Marxist.

Much of the analysis would not look out of place on an A level course. While portraying this period as a transformation from Feudal property relations to a more capitalist market there was little on how this came about. Although given only forty minutes she still could put far more emphasis on the capitalisation of agriculture which was central to the revolution.

Towards the end there seemed to be confusion on what type of revolution took place at first Creagh described it as a political revolution only then to say it was a partial bourgeois revolution

Another small but significant aspect of the talk was the recommended reading for the subject was A Peoples History of England by  A L Morton who was a member of the Communist Party historians group and The Levellers and the Putney debates by G Robinson who is a supporter of the Labour Party. Not to mention Christopher Hill or Brian Manning was bizarre.

Historically the SWP has held the position “Of fighting for the English revolution” which translated is not a historically materialist approach to the revolution but a conception of revolution as a pure spontaneous action.

The SWP historians were heavily influence by the Communist Party historians and according to Ann Talbot “The Communist Party sponsored a form of “People’s History”, which is typified by ALL. Morton’s People’s History of England in which the class character of earlier rebels, revolutionaries and popular leaders was obscured by regarding them all as representatives of a national revolutionary tradition. This historical approach reflected the nationalism of the bureaucracy, their hostility to internationalism and their attempts to form an unprincipled alliance with the supposedly democratic capitalists against the fascist Axis countries. People’s history was an attempt to give some historical foundation to the policies of Popular Front—the subordination of the working class to supposedly progressive sections of the bourgeoisie and the limiting of political action to the defense of bourgeois democracy—which provided a democratic facade to the systematic murder of thousands of genuine revolutionaries, including Trotsky. It was the approach that Christopher Hill was trained in, along with E.P. Thompson, Rodney Hilton and Eric Hobsbawm, who were part of the Marxist Historians Group and came under the influence of Maurice Dobb and Dona Torr”.

Further work on the SWP will be made at a later date.
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