Born in Walthamstowe in 1898 as Benjamin Francis Bradley, Bradley was an engineering worker who joined the Communist Party and became a key figure in the Metalworkers Minority Movement.
A member of the London District Committee of the Amalgamated Engineering Union, he was a sent to India in 1927 by the British Communist Party, which had been urged on by the Comintern to do something about its responsibility for building progressive movements in the British Empire. Bradley’s specific remit was to help organise trade unions in India.
The British Communist Party had been engaged in this work for some time. Earlier, the Communist MP, Saklatvala, had made contact with Communist groups that had recently been established in India. He liaised with George Allison who had been sent to work in India under cover. When Allison was deported back to England, in 1928, he was replaced by Ben Bradley.
No doubt, this move was timely and highly successful since it is a matter of record that, throughout 1928 and 1929 there was a strong wave of strikes, on the railroads, in ironworks and in the textile industry, resulting in a massive growth of trade unions.
Bradley aided railway trades unionists organise, became a member of the Executive Council of the Girni Kamgar Union and was Treasurer of the joint strike committee during a major Bombay cotton strike.
The British Government ensured arrests of prominent trade unionists and Communists, which included Ben Bradley and some thirty trade unionists in 1929.
|The Meerut conspirators|
The subsequent court case became known as the Meerut Conspiracy Trial, 1929-1933. Bradley was sentenced to ten years penal transportation.
The trial, in front of an English civil servant, resulted in sentences of between three years, and transportation for life. The Conspiracy Trial received wide publicity, and because of the indignation it aroused, the sentences were later reduced, and some of the prisoners released. When Ben Bradley returned to England in 1933, he was met at Victoria Station by Saklatvala on behalf of the Communist Party.
Bradley is pictured (right) with Indian comrades in 1930
On his return, Bradley worked for the Party’s Colonial Department. The paper, “The Anti-Imperialist People’s Front In India”, written by Rajani Palme Dutt and Ben Bradley, often simply described as the Dutt-Bradley thesis rapidly emerged. This gave an analysis of the situation prevailing in India at that time, projecting a strategic alliance that would be required in the struggle against imperialism alongside a tactical approach to be worked out in different stages.
Pic: Bradley had been a naval rating from 1916-18
Bradley was also associated with the British League Against Imperialism, which had devoted itself to the campaign on behalf of the Meerut prisoners. After the rise of Nazism in Germany, the international centre of the League Against Imperialism moved to London. After a short while, Ben Bradley became the new secretary of the British section.
Between 1934 and 1940, he served as secretary of the League Against Imperialism and the Communist Party’s Colonial Information Bureau. During the Second World War, he was assigned national responsibility for the Communist Party’s growing `literature’ work, as the sale of pamphlets and booklets in workplaces and communities reached a new high. (The main picture at the start of this entry, above, of Bradley is from 1943, when he was engaged in this work.)
Later, he was the Daily Worker’s circulation manager and, briefly before his death in 1957, the national organiser of the Britain-China Friendship Association.
Bradley is pictured below with his wife Joy and daughter Josephine on holiday in Scarborough in July 1946.
A tentative autobiography was begun by Bradley. see picture