The Trust was founded in 1980 by Norman
Melburn and named for his friend and fellow Marxist, the lawyer Barry
Amiel. Both men are now commemorated in the name of the Trust, following
Norman Melburn's death in 1991.
The general objectives of the Trust are to advance public education, learning
and knowledge in all aspects of
(a) the philosophy of Marxism
(b) the history of socialism, and
(c) the working class movement.
The trustees have adopted the following statement as a working translation
of the Trust's objectives: Marxism is not a fixed interpretation of history
and society but a critical method which generates a different critique
in different periods and situations. As a philosophy, its purpose is to
understand the world in order to change it. It is therefore a philosophy
which takes creative account of other critiques of society as part of
the reality which it seeks to understand and change.
Historically Marxism has sought to understand capitalist society, and
the change which it has worked for has been to a socialist form of society.
Its critique has now necessarily expanded to include twentieth-century
socialist societies and the received Marxist tradition itself. These societies
have played a central part in the history of socialism and the working
class movement. The future not only of such societies, as they depart
from the past, but of every society in which a new form of socialism is
argued for or attempted in the future, will be a part of the history of
socialism. The part played by the working class movement past, present,
and future, is in itself a proper object of study, both in its own right
and as a part of the history of socialism and the study of Marxism.
Thus the Trust's objectives may be seen as parts of a continuing process
of understanding the development of modern societies in the light of the
intellectual and social movements which have sought and still seek to
transform them to non-exploitative and egalitarian societies. The Trust's
funds should be deployed accordingly.
The Trust as well as initiating activity or research in pursuit of these
objects, is open to applications for funding. The Trust will give financial
assistance to bodies or individuals for projects which the Trust considers
fall within the scope of the Trust's objective.
Previously funded projects have included: the organisation of lectures,
discussions, seminars and workshops; the carrying out of research, written
work and publications; and the maintenance of libraries and archive material.
the trustees |
My father Barry Amiel and his friend Norman Melburn
two ordinary men.The fact that there is a Trust in their names
is a tribute to them and their combined one hundred years of
political activity. It also befits the Trust’s prime objective of
sharing a Marxian understanding of the world with ordinary
men and women everywhere, as a prerequisite for changing it.
Both sons of Jewish shopkeepers in London’s East End,
Barry and Norman were – like many thousands of others -
brought to Marxism and communism by the extraordinary
events of the 1930s and 40s: the rise of fascism; its thwarting
on the streets of London; its triumph in the Spanish Civil
War; and its eventual overthrow worldwide in 1945.
By the outbreak of the Second World War, both - still in their
teens - were active in the anti-fascist movement, and their
interest in learning about Marxism and sharing
with others continued throughout the war (to the point where
Barry, as a ‘known agitator’, was denied promotion).
The two men, nodding acquaintances at school, became
comrades and firm friends when they returned from the war
and became active in the Communist Party, whilst pursuing
their professional careers (Barry as a lawyer, Norman as a
chartered surveyor). Their political education continued; on
people’s doorsteps and at factory gates; in Communist Party
meetings and classes; and through the many publications
that poured out from political organisations of the day, the Left
Book Club and so on. Although remaining loyal to their core
beliefs and political affiliations, both Barry and Norman
continued to read widely throughout their adult lives,
questioning political orthodoxies and embracing new ideas,
engaging enthusiastically with younger people of the left at
events like the Communist University.
It was in this spirit that Norman conceived of the Trust in the
late 1970s, initially intending with Barry’s legal help to create
a bricks and mortar residential college. When Barry died
prematurely in 1978, the work to create the Trust, now named for him,
Of course this was before the World Wide Web had been
thought of, and Norman himself died before the idea of his
college as a virtual web-based one could become a reality.
Now that it is, both men would have been thrilled that
the ideas that were so important to them can now be shared
and developed more widely than they could ever have
Stephen Amiel 2004