Scottish Labour History Society Newsletter

July 2023

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Opening text

Willie Thompson (1939-2024)
With great sadness we must report the death of Willie Thompson, a longstanding member of the Scottish Labour History Society, occasional member of our committee, contributor to Scottish Labour History and generous donor to the Society. Formerly Professor of Contemporary History at Glasgow Caledonian University, Willie had retired to Sunderland and was a Visiting Professor at the University of Northumbria and President of the Socialist History Society. An active member of the Communist Party of Great Britain for thirty years until its dissolution in 1991, he played a key role in the Party's Historians Group, in publications such as Scottish Marxist and in the compilation of archives held at Caledonian. His numerous publications in political history and theory may be found in the catalogues of Pluto Press. A full obituary will follow in Scottish Labour History later this year.

Socialist History Society Podcast on the Break-Up of the USSR
When the USSR ceased at the end of 1991, many observers remarked on how peaceful the break-up seemed, compared with the violent disintegration of the former Yugoslavia. Over three decades on, it is apparent that many questions were not settled in 1991, but simply postponed. In this talk, Socialist History editor Francis King looks at the Soviet background and the way the USSR broke apart, and how the political leaders of the Union republics settled accounts with the centre – but not with one another. This ‘unfinished business’ of the end of the USSR continues to express itself in political instability, rampant corruption, meddling by external powers, virulent nationalism, gross inequality, economic stagnation and now Russia’s war in Ukraine, which threatens to turn a regional disaster into a global one. Listen at

Crowdfunding a Biography of Christian Rakovsky
Almost erased from history, Christian Georgievich Rakovsky (1873-1941) will be the subject of an English translation of the definitive 2014 Russian biography. Scholars Georgy Chernyavsky, Mikhail Stanchev and Maria Tortika have combed archives in Bulgaria, Ukraine, Russia, Britain and the US to discover Rakovsky’s multifaceted political and personal life. Bulgarian by birth, Romanian by citizenship, French by education, he was active from the Balkans to Zurich to St Petersburg. Opposing the Balkan and 1st World Wars, he became a friend of Trotsky, joining the Bolsheviks in 1917. In 1919 Lenin nominated him to head the Soviet Ukrainian Government, later (1922-3) confronting Stalin’s ‘great Russian chauvinism’. The result was banishment as Soviet ambassador to Britain and France (1923-7), before joining the Left Opposition (1927), expulsion from the CPSU, arrest, exile, show-trial and execution. The biography casts new light on an erudite Marxist who, as both Bolshevik and Left Oppositionist, analysed and confronted some of the major challenges to the Soviet revolution. More at…

Arbejderhistorie is one of the journals SLHS receives on exchange subscription with like-minded organisations throughout the world, published under the auspices of the hugely impressive Workers' History Museum in Copenhagen, Denmark. Issue Nr. 1 2023 has just arrived, to join our file of back numbers. Unfortunately, the Society's officers include no-one fluent in Danish! If any member does know Danish, we would be glad to share and learn: contact

Island Brigaders
Liam Turbett is the author of Island Brigaders, a 36-page study of three volunteers from the Northern & Southern Hebrides who joined the International Brigade to fight in the Spanish Civil War. Copies can be obtained, price £5 +p&p from Island Brigaders will be among related publications reviewed in Scottish Labour History, available later this year.

Verso Books Summer Sale
Verso Books, one of the largest independent, radical publishers in the English-speaking world, has launched a summer sale, from 21 June to 14 July. There is a 50% reduction on all titles, with a third book free when two are purchased. History authors include Tariq Ali, Perry Anderson, Michele Barrett, Robin Blackburn, Ronald Fraser, Christopher Hill, Eric Hobsbawm, Yvonne Kapp, Tom Nairn, Sheila Rowbotham, Edward Said, Albert Soboul, R H Tawney, Dorothy Thompson and Ellen Meiksins Wood. More at…