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They originated from those former supporters of the Revolutionary Communist Party who continued to look to Ted Grant for leadership. After he was expelled from Gerry Healy's group The Club in 1950 they reorganised as the Revolutionary Socialist League in 1953 and affiliated to the International Secretariat of the Fourth International in 1957.
Initially less intent on a policy of entrism into the Labour Party than the other Trotskyist groups, they became convinced of the need for this tactic during the 1950s. This was signaled by their document Problems of Entrism published in 1959.
The newspaper The Militant was founded in 1964 with Peter Taaffe as editor, when the majority of the group broke from the International Secretariat of the Fourth International with the minority forming the International Group, which was to develop into the International Marxist Group.
Militant had a period of steady growth during the late 1960s and the 1970s. In 1970 they won a majority in the Labour Party's youth movement, the Young Socialists, and in the early 1980s they started taking control of various local Constituency Labour Parties. On this basis Militant succeeded in having three Members of Parliament In the early 1980s a broad left alliance with a large Militant contingent took over leadership of the ruling Labour group on Liverpool city council and were engaged in a struggle with the Thatcher led central government for extra funding. In the late 1980s and early 1990s Militant initiated the mass movement against the Poll Tax that eventually undermined both that Tax and Thatcher herself.
Although, as Trotskyists they did not really share the same analysis of much of the rest of the Labour Party left, they were a visible component of that coalition. Many Labour figures saw the Militant tendency as a primary reason for their "loony left " image, as portrayed by the press. Ineffective attempts to control Militant were made by party leader Michael Foot in the early 1980s, and were carried on with more vigour by Neil Kinnock. In what many people saw as a crucial stage in the turnaround of Labour, Kinnock made a speech to the Labour Party Conference in 1985 that attacked Militant entrism and their record in Liverpool Council.
Over the next couple of years the Labour Party machinery successfully purged Militant at the same time as Militant was leading the mass movement against the Poll Tax. By begining of the 1990s most of the Militant group abandoned were no longer carrying out entrist tactics and in 1991 formed themselves into a separate party, first calling themselves Militant Labour (and in Scotland, Scottish Militant Labour) and latterly in England the Socialist Party, a constituent element of the Socialist Alliance which they later left in 2002. The minority in Militant, led by its founder Ted Grant and by Alan Woods went on to set up the Workers International League better known by the name of their publication, Socialist Appeal. The Scottish Socialist Party is led by former Militant activist Tommy Sheridan and has six MSPs. The majority was led by Peter Taaffe who took the role of general secretary.
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