JIM HIGGINS, who has died aged 71, was a leading activist in the socialist and trade union movements between the 1950s and 1970s. He played a major role in building the membership and influence of the International Socialists, the organisation which preceded the Socialist Workers Party.
Jim was born in Harrow and joined the Young Communist League at 14. Two years later he left school and went to work for the Post Office as a telecoms engineer.
Following national service in the Far East, where he suffered isolation and suspicion as a result of his politics, he returned to Britain to become active in the Communist Party and the Post Office Engineering Union. He left the party in 1956 following Khrushchev's denunciation of Stalin and the Russian invasion of Hungary.
Jim was attracted to the ideas of Trotskyism. After a short spell in a group led by Gerry Healy, he joined the Socialist Review Group that had been founded by Tony Cliff and Michael Kidron. They developed the theories of the permanent arms economy, which explained the comparative stability of post-war capitalism, and state capitalism, which described the class nature of Russia and its satellite states. The group became the International Socialists in the mid-1960s.
Jim was encouraged to leave his work in the Post Office Engineering Union, where he was on the national executive, to become national secretary of the International Socialists.
This was at a time when the International Socialists had grown fast as a result of the French and Czech events of 1968, opposition to the Vietnam War, and an increase in trade union militancy.
Jim, a widely read, warm, funny and charismatic man, was effective both as an organiser of IS and a contributor to Socialist Worker. In the mid-1970s, however, the organisation was involved in a fierce debate about its future direction and the style of the paper. Jim, with many others, left.
The fierce arguments of 30 years ago should not be allowed to obscure the enormous contribution Jim Higgins made to the growth of the Marxist movement in Britain.