[Marxism] 1956: John Saville, EP Thompson and The Reasoner

Ken Hiebert knhiebert at shaw.ca
Tue Jan 31 08:32:57 MST 2017

Paul Flewers and John McIlroy (editors), 1956: John Saville, EP Thompson and The Reasoner (Merlin Press, pp 450)

When Nikita Khrushchev denounced Stalin in his ‘Secret Speech’ in 1956 the leaders of the Communist Party of Great Britain attempted to deal with an unprecedented and unwelcome situation by carrying on as best as normal. Many party members were not satisfied with their prevarications, and one result was The Reasoner, a substantial duplicated magazine produced by party historians John Saville and EP Thompson. The three issues of The Reasoner gave an outlet to critical party members’ feelings; for the leadership this was mutinous behaviour. Dismayed by the party leaders’ endorsement of the Soviet invasion of Hungary, Saville and Thompson, along with thousands of others, resigned their party membership.

Although The Reasoner has been mentioned in many historical studies, its text has never been republished until now. This book reproduces all three issues, together with key CPGB statements on the issues that the magazine raised. John McIlroy has provided an extensive introduction that investigates the history of intellectuals within the CPGB and an essay that analyses the political evolution of John Saville, and Paul Flewers has provided an essay that assesses EP Thompson’s views on Stalinism and the Soviet experience.


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