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Big Flame

Big Flame was a Revolutionary Socialist organisation which began in Liverpool in 1970. The group was named after a Jim Allen play written for the BBC in 1969 which depicted a fictional strike in the Liverpool Docks and the subsequent attempt to enact worker's control.

Front cover of Big Flame No 107, Jul/Aug 1982

Big Flame, No 107 (Jul/Aug 1982)

Big Flame had a strong presence in the car factories on Merseyside and Pilkington's in St. Helens, but subsequently set up bases in other British cities. After breaking up in 1971, the organisation was revived with a considerable influence from the group Lotta Continua.

In 1977 The Leveller noted that ‘it provokes interest out of all proportion to its size' and whilst it may never have had more than 200 members at any one time the group distinguished itself by a spirit of constant inquiry and self- examination. One Big Flame document commented that "our internal life can't and shouldn't be a peaceful and quiet one."

That spirit of inquiry was manifested in a wide range of publications dealing with broader questions than many other organisations of the Left. The 1977 publication The revolution unfinished: a critique of Trotskyism proclaimed itself to be ‘the first non-sectarian critique' and other publications dealt with questions of Ireland, fascism and racism, feminism and anti-sexism in some detail. In 1978 Big Flame joined others in the Socialist Unity electoral coalition.

The Big Flame newspaper was produced in a variety of formats throughout the life of the group alongside the journal Revolutionary Socialism and a broad range of pamphlets. Although the group was wound up in 1984, in 2009 former members set up a comprehensive Web site which is still maintained at http://bigflameuk.wordpress.com.

Big Flame archival material in our collection

We have a large collection of Big Flame newspapers and journals and copies of Revolutionary Socialism. The 1979 Socialist Unity election campaign on Merseyside is covered in some detail. In addition, we have a broad range of conference and pre-conference material, internal bulletins and discussion papers, including material which looks back at the changes in the organisation over its life.

The WCML is also home to the Jim Allen archive.