Comrade Al Richardson remembered

About 80 people attended the March 13 memorial meeting for Al Richardson, the founding editor of Revolutionary History magazine.

Chaired by Al’s close collaborator, Ted Crawford, the meeting heard speeches from, among others, Richard Price of the Workers Action group, and the Socialist Workers Party’s Ian Birchall, a prominent member of the RH editorial board. Al was probably politically closest to Workers Action in his later years. Comrade Price related the major influence that the books Al co-wrote with Sam Bornstein, on the history of history of the Trotskyist movement in Britain, had on his own political evolution after the demise of the Workers Revolutionary Party.

Both speakers gave their own accounts of how Al Richardson managed to draw in individuals from a variety of political currents, primarily from the Trotskyist movement, to collaborate on the production of a journal that, particularly in its early years, made available material from that movement in a variety of countries that had simply been buried for decades. It was also noted that more recently, the subject matter of the journal has somewhat broadened out beyond this initial narrow focus, and was undoubtedly now the premier Marxist historical journal in the world.

While these achievements were rightly put down to Al’s drive and his abilities as a historian, various speakers made clear that Al also had his faults. He tended to regard such things as women’s rights, gay rights, etc as diversions from class politics and occasionally came out with some fairly memorable statements of political backwardness on these kinds of questions. It was also made clear, however, that Al was a man of a very kind disposition, always ready to help comrades, whether it be with their own political research or practical matters like with finding them temporary accommodation. One particularly emotional moment came during the discussion period, with a contribution from a comrade from Sweden who was staying with Al when he discovered he had passed away.

Various speakers from the floor paid their own tributes, including Al’s colleagues from Forest Hill School, where he taught for many years. The meeting was fittingly concluded with the singing of the Internationale.