Review: Paul Flewers and John McIlroy (editors) 1956: John Saville, EP Thompson and The Reasoner Merlin Press, 2016, pp450, £20.
Thanks for reviewing our book. There are two points I’d like to make.
Firstly, we decided to republish the three issues of The Reasoner in 2016 because it was the sixtieth anniversary of Khrushchev’s Secret Speech, the Hungarian Uprising and the publication of The Reasoner, which came about because of the ructions within the CPGB and the Stalinist movement worldwide caused by the ‘Secret Speech’ and subsequently by the events in Hungary. We were both surprised that only fragments of what was an important journal had ever been republished, and felt that all three issues should be republished in full, along with selected related documents and retrospective appraisals. That the many admirers of Thompson’s writings did not themselves take on this task over the those 60 years is an interesting question.
Secondly, your assertion that we ‘largely provide Thompson and Saville with a pseudo-left cover for their anti-Marxist positions’ is misplaced. In our three pieces, we make it clear that neither Saville nor Thompson broke cleanly from Stalinism and that they both continued to adhere to classic aspects of Stalinism, most notably popular frontism, as can be seen especially in Thompson’s anti-nuclear-weapon campaigning. In my essay on Thompson and Stalinism, I noted both his inability to present a coherent analysis of Stalinism, and his hostility to Trotskyism that he inherited from his Stalinist days.