October 26th was Comrade Bill Landles’ 85th
birthday. He is an active supporter of the Socialist Appeal in Britain
and of the IMT. His activity goes right back to the days of the Workers
International League during the Second World War, where he played a
role in the apprentices’ strikes. He is a living link to those early
pioneering days of our movement.
Bill Landles speaking at the
Socialist Appeal conference this year
Comrade Bill Landles was 85 on October 26th.
By coincidence, in the old Russian calendar that is also the date of
Trotsky’s 130th birthday, and the anniversary of the Russian
revolution. This is highly appropriate because Bill has devoted the
whole of his thinking life to the cause of the October Revolution and
the ideas of Lenin and Trotsky.
also represents another important anniversary. It is exactly 65 years
since Bill joined the Workers’ International League, founded by Ted
Grant and a small group of supporters in 1944, during the Second World
history is the history of our tendency: the tendency of Ted Grant that
is today embodied in Socialist Appeal in Britain and the International
Marxist Tendency on a world scale. At this year’s World School of the
IMT, comrades listened fascinated to a speech by Bill, in which he
related his experiences in the
Trotskyist Movement since the 1940s. It is rvital that the young generation of Marxists understand where we come from, and which ideas, methods and traditions we defend.
Bill Landles was born in Wallsend in 1924. He was an apprentice engineer at Reyrolle, and was one of a truly rer
generation of young proletarian revolutionaries in that working class
bastion, Tyneside (the North East of England), with its coal mines,
factories and shipyards. Among these were Heaton Lee and Ann Keane, as
well as Ken Skethaway, T Dan Smith, Jack and Daisy Rawlings, and of
course Herbie Bell.
Bill used to go selling the old Socialist Appeal
with Herbie in the pit villages around Wallsend. I am not surprised
that Bill found that selling papers with him quite a daunting
experience! As a young comrade in the 1960s I remember that formidable
old comrade who put many young comrades to shame in selling the
Militant house to house in the mining villages on a Sunday morning.
Everybody knew Herbie and so he had record paper sales. Nobody else had
the same luck!
was recruited into the Workers International League in 1944 by two
worker comrades. He was at the Tyneside branch meeting where Jock
Haston announced the formation of the RCP, in a broad Scottish accent:
"we have a name, we are the Rrrrevolutionary Communist Parrrty".
branch used to do an open air meeting in the Bigg Market every weekend.
Bill regularly spoke at these meetings and one day was asked to speak
at a meeting in Glasgow. When he arrived at the venue, he was ushered
through a side door and onto the stage where about 1000 people were
waiting to hear him speak. A real baptism of fire for a 20 year old lad!
of the most outstanding activities of the RCP was its participation in
the 1944 Tyneside Apprentices strike. Bill was a leader of the strike,
and was, together with Bill Davy, a member of the strike committee.
2009 is the 65th anniversary of the strike, and I believe the Tyneside
comrades are going to produce a pamphlet on it. This was a very
significant event, because it took place during the War, when all the
Labour and trade union leaders were opposed to any strike action.
Stalinists were particularly rabid in their hostility to strikes,
denouncing the Trotskyists and worker militants as “agents of Hitler”,
allegedly betraying our soldiers. However, the soldiers did not share
this view. The Eighth Army published a reply to the Daily Worker, with
the title: “It’s the right to strike we are fighting for.” The leaders
of the strike and the RCP were put on trial, and Bill was called as a
comrades had a lot of problems with the Stalinists, who even resorted
to fist fights. The RCP stood in a by-election in Neath, in South
Wales. Bill didn’t go to but he attended the meeting when the comrades
came back and reported on their fights with the Stalinists.
Bill took on the role of Herbie Bell’s election agent in the Buddle
Ward by-election in 1945. In the same year Bill was called up into the
RAF and lost contact with the RCP. He joined the Labour Party and has
been active ever since. But he never changed his views or wavered in
his loyalty to Marxism and Trotskyism. In the late 1970’s he came back
into contact with the tendency when a comrade in Blyth sold him a paper
and he was heard to say: "Ted Grant… I know Ted Grant!" Bill joined
the Militant and was particularly active in the anti poll tax movement,
representing people in court.
differences developed in Militant between the supporters of Ted Grant
and the ultra left Majority, Bill Landles immediately sided with the
opposition and has been active with us ever since. Now, when many young
comrades are joining Socialist Appeal, Bill is as enthusiastic as ever,
giving lectures on Marxism and explaining the history of our tendency
to the new generation.
Bill is by far and away the most enthusiastic comrade. He regularly sells Socialist Appeal
and this year attended the World School for the first time. Bill
attends the weekly meetings without fail and he is a stickler for
discipline. He told the comrades: "during the War anyone who was late
for a branch would be told off by the chairman". Recently was able to
give a firsthand account of how the WIL branch in Tyneside used the Transitional Programme in their work.
order to build the Marxist tendency it is necessary to build strong
roots in the mass organizations of the working class. Bill has always
worked in the Labour Movement, and has recently taken over as Labour
Party Branch secretary in Blyth, he is also a member of the GC and CLP
executive. He is looking to renew his trade union membership with a
view to playing a role on the trades council.
avidly reads the papers, and is particularly interested in economics.
He has two children and four grandchildren including Emily aged 3 who
he looks after while Amanda is at work. This year, in fact, three
generations of the Landles family attended the World School of the IMT.
But above all he insists on comrades giving him the details of how
capitalism affects the working class.
Grant always spoke of the Unbroken Thread that connects our tendency to
the ideas and traditions of Marxism, which we can trace through the RCP
and the WIL, right back to the International Left Opposition, the
Third, Second and First International. Ted stressed that, while this or
that detail might have to be changed, the fundamental ideas of our
movement remain the same as they were when the young Marx and Engels
wrote the Communist Manifesto – that most modern of all documents.
we celebrate Bill’s birthday, we can take his life as a model to
follow, a life of selfless dedication to the cause of the working class
and socialism, a model of consistency, hard work in the mass
organizations of the working class and a firm and unwavering defence of
the ideas of revolutionary Marxism. We will celebrate these
anniversaries in a manner of which Bill would be proud: by continuing
his work to build the Marxist tendency that can guarantee the victory
of World Socialism.
his 80th Birthday as well as flying an aeroplane, he received a phone
call from Ted Grant. He was absolutely delighted by this because Ted
Grant had been his hero for 60 years. He has informed his doctor that
he intends to live for at least another 20 years so that he can see
comrade Bill, on behalf of all the comrades of Socialist Appeal,
Marxist.com and the International Marxist Tendency we wish you a happy
birthday, and many, many more, until that dream is finally made reality
through our common work and struggle!
Here are some transcriptions from Socialist Appeal from that period.
Socialist Appeal vol. 7 no 13, September 1945
TROTSKYIST CANDIDATE TO FIGHT WALLSEND
Newcastle comrades have chosen Comrade Herbert Bell as their candidate
for Wallsend Municipal Election. Comrade Bell has behind him a life
time of service to the working class movement. He played a primary role
in the building of the Labour Party and I.L.P. in several areas being
the founding member. He was one of the first Labour councillors at
Newbiggin. At Scarborough in 1929 he was Labour Party agent and
increased the vote from 800 to 7,600. Today he is a leading member of
the R.C.P. in the North East. Having lived and suffered on Tyneside as
a worker between the two world wars he is familiar with the problems of
the Tyne workers.
their first leaflet to Wallsend workers, our Newcastle comrades state:
“During the General Election, the R.C.P. threw its organisation into
the fight for a Labour Government, while reserving full rights of
criticism of the Labour Party policy. Now we fight side by side with
the workers to endeavour to ensure the full implementation of the
Labour Party policy, and to prevent sabotage by the capitalist class.
DO NOT, HOWEVER, BELIEVE THAT THE LABOUR PARTY PROGRAMME IS, OR EVER
CAN BE ADEQUATE TO SOLVE THE MAJOR CRISES WHICH LIE AHEAD, AND WHILE WE
WHOLEHEARTEDLY SUPPORT EVERY ACTION AGAINST THE CAPITALIST SYSTEM WHICH
THE LABOUR PARTY TAKES, WE WILL AT EVERY STAGE ADVANCE OUR OWN
shall do this in the coming weeks in leaflet form, and while throughout
the whole of the North East the R.C.P. will urge support for the Labour
Party against moderate and other Tory candidates, in this Ward we have
decided to place our programme before the electorate in order (a) to
popularise it, and (b) to test the feelings of the electors.”
Socialist Appeal Supplement Mid-September 1945
Trotskyist Contesting Wallsend Election
publication of the election address of Herbie Bell marks the first
important step in the campaign of the Tyneside R.C.P. in the coming
programme outlined in his address should receive the warm approval of
all those who voted Labour in the General Election in the belief that
the time was ripe for making a break with capitalist policies and for
the introduction of basic socialist changes in the economic and social
structure of the nation.
the last few weeks strong under-currents have been rising throughout
the Labour movement due to the increasingly evident tendency of the
Labour Government to placate and appease the capitalist class.
Bell emphasises that any such attempt to compromise with vested
interests would spell disaster for the working class and can only end
in a return to the old days of poverty, mass unemployment and wage cuts.
the years between the two wars, Tyneside was transformed into one huge
derelict area by the policy of Big Business. Nationalisation, says the
manifesto, should be carried through without compensation to the
capitalists, without any appeasement of Big Business and the running of
the industries should be placed, not under the control of the old
managements, but in the hands of the workers themselves.
no phoney promises, Comrade Bell points out that it is impossible to
have any real planning whether in industry, or houses or social
services, without full control of the financial resources. He points to
the inadequacy of Dalton’s proposals which do not touch the big
financial institutions which run the country.
the Tyneside, where industry is so intimately connected with the world
markets, the foreign and international policy which figured so largely
in the General Election, must play an equally important part in the
municipal elections. Here Comrade Bell underlines the urgent necessity
for the unity of the workers of this country with those of the European
and other countries, victors and vanquished alike.
workers can march forward to a better world not by copying the methods
of their imperialist masters, but by waging a struggle against the
capitalist class. “In raising these issues before you”, says Comrade
Bell, “I do so knowing that when you ousted the Tories, you did so
demanding sweeping changes. If returned to Wallsend Council, I shall
support the Labour Party in every step they take against the
capitalists and the Tory Party, but will condemn every step the Labour
leaders take along the road of appeasement of Big Business. Let us
together press the Labour Party forward in order to ensure a solution
to our problems.
problems confronting us are terrific; we can only solve them by bold
measures; the people are demanding such. Vote for the R.C.P. candidate.
Vote for Herbert Bell.
Socialist Appeal Supplement Mid-October 1945
HERBIE BELL CAMPAIGN UNDER WAY by W. LANDLES
canvassing reveals] …a wide circle of unexpected sympathisers who were
attracted to the R.C.P. policy during the General Election.
workers say that the LP has done nothing yet, but ‘give them time’] Our
comrades are able to point out that while the Labour leaders have “done
nothing” for the workers they have done much for the boss class [using
troops to break strikes, urging miners to work harder, etc.]
positive statement of Comrade Bell’s case which is an elaboration of
the 12 point programme of the R.C.P. and an explanation that all the
local problems, whilst important in themselves, must nevertheless be
fought for within the framework of our general programme, is receiving
a good hearing.
the comrades get their loudspeaker apperatus into play, every voter in
the district will hear the case of the R.C.P. put by leading comrades
in the district including Comrade Bell himself.
Socialist Appeal Supplement Mid-November 1945
RCP Election Results
Revolutionary Communist Party is on the political map in
Wallsend-on-Tyne as a result of the magnificent election fight
conducted in the Buddle Ward by Comrade Herbert Bell…
the Town Hall staff commented on the fact that the only real
electioneering was carried out in the Buddle Ward, and the local
Kemsley press grudgingly admitted that it was the best and most
interesting contest in Wallsend. Our candidate polled over 10% of the
winning vote, which was 2,149. Comrade Bell polled 265.
[The contest led by the candidate and 20-year old election agent Bill Landells (sic)]
[The local party threw itself into campaign. “…the amount of propaganda work done was terrific”]
Stalinists had originally intended to run a candidate but withdrew when
the R.C.P. put Comrade Bell into the field. The reason they withdrew
was to be seen during the campaign. Our organisation literally swamped
them! The local Communist Party, on their own initiative, got out a
leaflet attacking Comrade Bell on the usual slanderous lines employed
against the Trotskyists. They started delivering it one evening, the
following evening Comrade Bell had a leaflet out in reply, and to the
chagrin of the Stalinists, our Comrades completed the canvass of their
“reply” before the Stalinists finished distributing the original!
home canvassed four times; 1,100 copies of Socialist Appeal sold on the
doorstep. Several militants won over from CP. Sales of Socialist Appeal
up; a number of supporters won]