I have to admit this when I'm bored and have nothing better to do, I go into UK Left Network, a Yahoo list usually filled with unbridled sectariana. My excuse is that it can be useful to search through that list to find out what some people say about the AWL.
Usually the contributors are obsessive sectarians with little concern for objectivity or truth, like Tony Greenstein. If anyone took the word of such people as truthful, without checking the facts on our website, well they are not likely to have the critical independence to be valuable socialists. But occasionally they point out gaps where we have issued no statement yet.
One of these is McNeillage taping of Sheridan. So I replied to what I presume is an SP member the following (slightly edited grammatically) who wants us to demand the expulsion of NcNeillage (the guy who videoed Sheridan) and accuses us of sucking up to the SSP.
1) Was it wrong for McNeillage to tape Sheridan?
Well it is certainly pretty bizarre and shows how bad the relationship and trust were between Sheridan's comrades, and his very close comrade in this case, and Sheridan before the split. If any comrade, without my knowing, recorded conversations with me or made verbatim notes, I would draw the conclusion that there was insufficient trust for us to remain in the same organisation for any period.
I have known union members take tape recorders into meeting with their managers which is, I understand, illegal under the law. I know people take videos of meeting's speakers and release them on YouTube. I don't regard it as immoral, it is just people should draw the political conclusions from it.
2) The video having been recorded, was it wrong for it to be released? Considering that Sheridan's lies had made the SSP members unjustly vulnerable to perjury and other serious legal action. No I don't think it was wrong.
3) Was it wrong to release it to the NoTW?
It could easily have been distributed through YouTube so yes, I think that that was wrong, very wrong. Why? Firstly, as a principle the working class movement should be as independent of the capitalist press as is possible. Secondly, and one of the reasons why the former principle is important, because Sheridan and other people can use that fact to divert people from the more important issues.
4) Condemn use of the NoTW?
Would you not issue press releases to them but you would to the rest of the bourgeois press? Where do you draw the line?
Certainly I would condemn any collaboration with any part of the bourgeois press that brings into question the integrity and independence of a socialist organisation or activist. I think McNeillage's actions did that. So I guess I would go along with condemning that along with condemning those who lie to the masses, want their comrades and their organisation to lie to the masses, want to make your organisation vulnerable to legal action. Would those who demand McNeillage's expulsion do that, I wonder?
One final point, I think it was extraordinarily naïve of Sheridan and his supporters to believe that it so easy to lie today. I made this point to Rosie Kane a couple of weeks before this blew up. I think it quite possible that SSP EC meetings may well have been bugged by some intelligence agency. It is very easy and very cheap to do. Just think how disastrous it would have been…had the SSP leaders gone along with Sheridan and his lies only at the eleventh hour for a tape suddenly to appear, making them all out to be liars. Lies don't work any more, nor does covering up for them.