Anglo-Catholic Trotskyism?

In his autobiography I Couldn't Paint Golden Angels, long-time British Anarchist Albert Meltzer writes that the original British "Trots" were made up of "Anglo-Catholic priests" who "called themselves railway clerks, the nearest they could reasonably get to sky pilots." He adds that "Trotskyist histories omit the prefix 'Father' to their names."

TrotskyHow many were actually priests, I don't know. It is true that the nucleus of the tiny Left Opposition group that gathered around tbe "Balham Group" to struggle within the British Communist Party against that party's "absolute submission . . . to Stalin and the rulers of Russia" were veterans of the Railway Clerks' strike of 1925-26. The Catholic Crusade played an important part in that strike, at least four of its supporters (Stewart Purkis, Bill Williams, Ruby Raynor, and Bert Field) being numbered among its most militant leaders. The strike committee met in the lodgings of The Rev. John Groser, leader of the Poplar group of the Crusade.

The acknowledged leader of the Balham group, Reg Groves, had been a supporter of the Catholic Crusade and would go on in later years to write an adulatory biography of Conrad Noel and co-author one of the few histories of the Great Rebellion of 1381 that gives the John Ball and the rebels their due.

Whatever may have been the failings of the "Left Opposition" -- and there were many -- they did speak out "against the destruction of true socialism and communism, and . . . did so when almost everyone else on the Left, especially the intellectuals, remained silent, or cheered on Stalin and the bully boys." We can be proud of the Anglo-Catholics, priests or otherwise, who played even a small part in this (sadly) ineffectual but necessary protest.