Born on 20th November 1928, Monty first joined the Young Communist League in 1941 as a precocious 12-year-old in Henley-on-Thames. From the outset he took Marxist ideas very seriously. While still at school, he read Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and, unusually, Trotsky the latter to such an extent that it has been suggested that Monty was briefly drawn to Trotskyism, in reaction to the extreme popular frontism of the period. Self-evidently, from his later course, he was much interested in Trotsky. Whatever the actual truth of this, with the onset of the Cold War, any attraction there may have been certainly faded and he remained continuingly loyal to the Communist Party, if at times highly unconventional.
For Johnstone was never far from controversy and became increasingly associated with revisionist trends inside the Party. He was particularly critical of the Party in 1956, along with those who were soon to leave.
During the mid-1960s, he and other leading figures became influential on a number of London based YCL activists in the Young Communist League, which began to fix it towards revisionist positions. After the Warsaw Pact intervention in Czechoslovakia, Johnstone produced, at the request of the YCL, `Czechoslovakia's Struggle for Socialist Democracy’.
After almost a decade of exile from the top ranks of the Party, Johnstone "was at last respectable again and in demand to address meetings" (Becket p165).
The YCL also produced his initial historical analysis of Trotsky in its theoretical journal, “Cogito”. Despite a promise in this, Part 1, of an early appearance of Part 2, it was seven years before he produced the remainder of the work.
Johnstone was at the heart of support for the “Euro-Communist” position. From here on, as Beckett has written, when he acknowledged the "tireless Monty Johnstone who has been generous with his deep knowledge" with his own book, Beckett also pointedly noted that Johnstone had "spent many years of his life making sure that the darkest secrets of international Communism are not swept under the carpet" (p viii).
Like most revisionists with a remaining belief in an element of Marxism, he joined Democratic Left after the dissolution of the CPGB. A historian, he was a member of the editorial board of the Socialist History Society journal, which came out of DL. Following Democratic Left’s own demise, he became active in the Alliance for Green Socialism.
Ill-health dogged his remaining years and Johnstone died on 22nd June 2007, aged 78.
Sources include: Francis Beckett "Enemy Within" (1988) pp164-5; www.greensocialist.org.uk – Green Socialist (Journal of the Alliance for Green Socialism)
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