Left Review was a journal set up by the British section of the Comintern-sponsored[1] International Union of Revolutionary Writers (previously known as the International Bureau for Revolutionary Literature; also known as the Writers' International), established in 1934 and continued until 1938.[2][3][4][5] Left Review's editorial board was headed by Montagu Slater, Edgell Rickword, Amabel Williams-Ellis, Tom Wintringham and Randall Swingler.[6][3] From 1936 to 1937 Rickword was the sole editor: he was succeeded by Swingler, who remained at the position until the magazine ended.[2]

The first issue published a position statement by the Writers' International, which declared Britain's economy and culture were in a state of collapse, expressed opposition to fascism and imperialism and support for the Soviet Union.[2] Left Review then invited writers to respond. The issues that followed published responses, such as the one by Lewis Grassic Gibbon in the February 1935 issue, and opinions on the nature of literature.[4] The magazine carried articles on politics and culture, along with some short fiction and poetry.[2] Left Review carried articles by a number of noted left-wing writers, including W. H. Auden, Winifred Holtby, Naomi Mitchison, Storm Jameson, Herbert Read, James Hanley, Arthur Calder-Marshall, and Eric Gill.[7]

In May 1935 Left Review published an editorial strongly criticising the Silver Jubilee celebrations of King George V, arguing such expensive celebrations were inappropriate at a time of high poverty and unemployment. The editorial was signed by several prominent writers and artists, including A. L. Lloyd, Pearl Binder, Tom Wintringham, Eric Gill and Ralph Fox.[8] The same year Anthony Blunt began to contribute to the magazine.[9]

MI5 recorded the names of all contributors to the magazine and kept detailed files on several of Left Review's contributors as possible "security risks", including C. Day-Lewis, Wintringham and Rex Warner.[10]

In 1937 Left Review was subject to criticism after Fredric Warburg revealed in a letter to the New Statesman that Left Review had refused to carry an advertisement for John Dewey's book The Case of Leon Trotsky, which published the report of the Dewey Commission which had defended Trotsky from attacks made on him during Stalin's show trials.[11] In response, Randall Swingler defended the decision not to carry the advertisement, stating "there is a line at which criticism ends and destructive attacks begin, and we regret that this line separates us both from Dr. Goebbels and from Leon Trotsky.".[11]


  1. ^ Murphy, J.F. The Proletarian Moment: The Controversy over Leftism in Literature, Chicago: Un. of Illinois Press, 1991
  2. ^ a b c d Craig Werner, "Left Review and Left Literary Theory" in British literary magazines. Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, 1983-1986. Volume Four. ISBN 031322871X
  3. ^ a b James Smith, British Writers and MI5 Surveillance, 1930-1960. Cambridge Cambridge University Press, 2012 ISBN 110703082X (pp. 2–3).
  4. ^ a b "The role of writers in British society". The Open University.
  5. ^ Christa Knellwolf, Glyn P. Norton, Christopher (2001). The Cambridge History of Literary Criticism. Cambridge University Press. p. 158. ISBN 0-521-30014-2.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  6. ^ Adrian Caesar, Dividing Lines: Poetry, Class, and Ideology in the 1930s Cultural Politics Manchester University Press, 1991. ISBN 0719033764 (p. 203).
  7. ^ Margot Heinemann, "Left Review, New Writing and the broad alliance against Fascism", in Edward Timms and Peter Collier, Visions and Blueprints: Avant-garde Culture and Radical Politics in Early Twentieth-century Europe Manchester University Press, 1988. ISBN 0719022614 (pp. 118–9)
  8. ^ Dave Arthur, Bert: The Life and Times of A. L. Lloyd. London: Pluto Press, 2012, ISBN 9780745332529. (pp. 52-3)
  9. ^ Richard C. S. Trahair; Robert L. Miller, eds. (2012). Encyclopedia of Cold War Espionage, Spies, and Secret Operations. New York: Enigma Books. p. 37. ISBN 978-1-929631-75-9.
  10. ^ Smith, 2012 (pp. 35–6).
  11. ^ a b Michael Woodhouse, Brian Pearce (editors), Essays on the history of Communism in Britain. New Park Publications, 1975 ISBN 0902030779, (p. 235).