Thursday, July 13, 2017

Tankies, Mate . . . (2005)

Book Reviews from the December 2005 issue of the Socialist Standard

John Callaghan, Cold War, Crisis and Conflict, Lawrence & Wishart, £15.99
Geoff Andrews, Endgames and New Times, Lawrence & Wishart, £15.99

Lawrence & Wishart's 'official' history of the CPGB is completed by these two volumes which, somewhat overlapping, cover the years from 1951 to the party's oh so sad demise in 1991. Taken together this pair resemble the first two dry-as-dust academic tomes by James Klugmann published in the mid-60s rather than the more readable but scanty volumes of Noreen Branson. The similarity between them ends there however. Callaghan's task of covering the middle years of the 50s and 60s was more difficult given the rather arbitrary starting and ending points (1951 and 1968) and, despite the excitements promised in the title, the era was a largely static one so far as the CPGB was concerned. Callaghan however rises to the challenge and his book is an excellent survey of the organisation during the era.

The same cannot be said of the other offering. Whereas Callaghan is dispassionate in his treatment of the CPGB, Andrews' book reads like a polemic rather than a serious history. His supposition that the downfall of the CPGB was due to the decline of the industrial working class sounds like a Holocaust denier's rantings:"They just vanished mate". (On the other hand this is slightly more plausible than one version which points a finger at the CIA)

And with his constant waving of "the Soviet Mantra" and even a snide mention of "tankies", it is obvious which side he was on in the Civil War in the party. Not that we could give a monkey's for either side.

Both were downright reformists. And just how low down this supposedly revolutionary organisation was can be judged in the book. One 'demand' was for the reduction of National Service from two years to one. Not even the SWP in its current Mad Mullah Alliance phase is that bad. So Callaghan gets ten out of ten while Andrews' book gets him a wooden spoon rapped over the knuckles - and the CPGB? A nice cosy corner in the great dustbin of history specially reserved.

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