Labour History

Defecting: Esmonde Higgins Leaves the Communist Party

Labour History (2004), 87, (1), 83–102.

Abstract

Esmonde Higgins joined the Communist Party in Britain in 1920; he joined the Labor Party in Australia in 1944. Between those two dates he searched for a political practice that was revolutionary and liberal, practical and intellectual. His defection from Communism was inevitable once it became institutionalised and dogmatic, which is to say almost from the moment of his joining. This article follows the process of his defection, from doubt to disenchantment to apostasy. It concentrates on his experience of crises in his political practice expressed particularly through his personal relations with his comrades and his role as an intellectual. It suggests that Higgins avoided the rancour often found in Cold War ex-communists by dedicating himself to finding a new language for the workers’ movement, and to constructing workers’ education as a site where intellectuals and activists could be brought together. E.P. Thompson’s distinction between disenchantment and apostasy is drawn upon to clarify this suggestion.

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Author details

Irving, Terry

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