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On October 14, 2017, Efraim Carlebach interviewed Ian Birchall at Birchall’s home in Edmonton, north London. In 1962, Birchall joined the International Socialists, a tendency led by Tony Cliff and the organizational forerunner of the extant Socialist Workers Party (UK), founded in 1977. Though he is no longer a member of the Socialist Workers Party, Birchall has remained a leading figure of the International Socialist tendency for over half a century. He is the author of numerous publications including the 2011 biography, Tony Cliff: A Marxist For His Time[i]. What follows is an edited transcript of the interview.
Since Jeremy Corbyn took leadership of the Labour Party in 2015, he and his party have been the North Star for many on the Left. This reorientation has raised old questions about the Left's relationship to the Labour Party. At the Oxford Radical Forum in March the description for a panel on “Corbyn, Labour and the Radical Left” put forward a number of symptomatic propositions. It registered the fact that “several socialist tendencies which had previously campaigned against the party now committed to supporting it under Corbyn’s leadership” and that Corbyn’s election to leader “was largely viewed as a moment of triumph for the far left.” But what is the Left? And what would mean for it to triumph?