Why the SWP beats up its socialist critics (1993) - For left unity in action and democratic debate about our differences

Submitted by AWL on Sat, 18/02/2012 - 01:50
Stall trashed at Marxism 2018

In 1993 SWP members physically attacked a number of AWL people attending "Marxism" 1993. We demanded the SWP Central Committee investigate the incident. They never replied to the demand, but the SWP didn't do similar again for many years until SWPers trashed an AWL stall outside "Marxism" 2018.

Why the SWP beats up its socialist critics - An open letter to SWP leader Tony Cliff, by Sean Matgamna of the Alliance for Workers' Liberty

Against violence in the labour movement - for left unity in action and democratic debate about our differences

Comrade Cliff,

First, let me bring to your attention the following incidents of intimidation, violence, and outright political thuggery by members of the SWP against members of the Alliance for Workers' Liberty. They are the immediate occasion for this letter.

Later I will return to their roots and implications. The first incident took place on Tuesday night, 13 July AWL member Jason Bonning was attacked by a group of SWPers led by Rahut Patel, a prominent member of the SWP and national organiser of your auxiliary organisation, the Anti-Nazi League.

In the bar a heated discussion had developed between Patel and a young black woman member of the AWL, Tunde Osho. Jason Bonning joined in. Patel told him to leave. The atmosphere was one of incipient violence. Outnumbered rather heavily, Jason Bonning left, and so, soon afterwards, did Tunde Osho.

As Jason Bonning went through the door, Rahul Patel attacked him. Jason Bonning states: "As I got outside the door, my arm was thrust up my back by Patel. He grabbed my shirt, tearing my shirt and my chain. He carried me in this arm-lock to the nearest wall and bashed me into the wall four times."

Patel, who is somewhat larger and heavier than Jason Bonning, was not enough. Now another SWPer joined in. "Another of the group then punched me twice". This was Gaynor Gardner.

The rough stuff was now over. But Rahul Patel still had an offensive weapon: he had the authority of "Marxism '93", as a leading SWP organiser. His final blow at Jason Bonning was to tell him yet again that he was "banned from 'Marxism'93"! Later he would shout that Jason was expelled from the ANL. This thug is obviously a man of great and manifold authority in and around the SWP! But wasn't it altogether too like the routine police operation in which the victim is first beaten and then charged? Except that here the licensed thug and the judge were one and the same person!

Meanwhile Tunde Osho had come outside, and since she had come outside, and since she had not been "convinced" by Rahul Patel in the bar, she now found herself surrounded by perhaps 15 SWPers, who, following Rahul Patel's lead, were hurling abuse at her. Jason Bonning went over to support her and was told that if he did not "fuck off" then Rahul Patel and his friends would finish the job and "kick his head in".

The Alliance for Workers' Liberty, shouted Rahul Patel, "supports David Irving", the semi-Nazi historian and Holocaust revisionist. In the second incident we were subjected to the altogether more plausible charge of being 'Zionists'! Our two outnumbered comrades left at this point. This is Tunde Osho's account of what happened, taking it from the point at which Jason Bonning intervened in her discussion with Rahul Patel:

"Jason came back and asked whether I wanted to go or not. Hearing the conversation, he joined in, in a rational manner.

"Rahul said that he wasn't talking to him and was having a private conversation with me. Again Jason tried to get into the conversation. Rahul then turned round and said Jason was to 'get out' and was banned from 'Marxism'. Jason refused to get out.

"Rahul then called for some of his comrades to help remove him. "By this time, Jason had already, stated that he was going to leave. 'A woman then came up to me and said I had to leave. Asked why, she said I was banned because I was with Jason, although Rahul said I had done nothing wrong. She chose to ignore him.

"I left. By the time I got outside I saw Jason up against a wall, surrounded by, a gang of SWP men, pushing him and asking him why he called Cliff an anti-semite. They told him to leave.

"Suddenly, I was surrounded by a bunch of SWP members shouting hysterically, that I had called Cliff an anti-semite.

"I attempted to calm them down,I said 'comrades, we are all socialists, why are you treating me like a member of the BNP?' I was then told that I was not a socialist, and not just because I was in the Labour Party. My, views on Ireland, Israel and South Africa were wrong. I was then called a racist. I did 'not do anything about the Nazis'.

"This was the most upsetting part. Jason came over and tried to stop them. One white woman replied 'I don't care if she is upset. You are all racists'."

Now, comrade Cliff, do you not find all this scandalous? Isn't it altogether reminiscent of the way the Stalinist parties taught their members to behave in the days when those organisations were drunk with bigotry, triumphalism and authoritarianism? Isn't it exactly like the Healy organisation (SLL/WRP) in the late 1960s, when they were in their last stage of transition from being a very sick political organisation to becoming a crazy destructive sect? one of two things. Either this - episode the first of the two I have to recount - was an aberration, the accidental result of drink mixed with factional animosity, or of an organiser (Rahul Patel) momentarily going round the twist and carrying a group of young SWPers with him. Or it is an extreme example of a commonplace sort of behaviour, and it grows naturally and organically - and inevitably - out of the attitude, ethos, education and emotion-charged conditioning into which the SWP "socialises" its organisers, members and sympathisers. I think it is the latter, but let us leave that open for the moment.

Events had yet to provide the rest of that week's crop of evidence. If the incident outlined above were a mere drunken brawl, then our comrades could either shrug and forget it, or complain to the organisers of "Marxism '93" against Rahul Patel's thuggery, and ask them to repudiate his pretensions to be able to declare the victim of his violence "banned" from "Marxism'93".

But they knew that talking to the "Marxism '93" organisers was a waste of time. Incidents less extreme but of the same sort have been too frequent, the arbitrary use of power by the SWP's ideological patrols at your annual "Marxism" affair is too commonplace.

Our comrades produced and distributed a leaflet recounting the facts outlined above, and organised a petition which participants in "Marxism '93" were asked to sign. This demanded that the Central Committee of the SWP and the leaders of the ANL investigate what had happened. That led directly to the other, the second, incident which is, if anything, more grotesque than the first. On Friday 16 June Daisy Forest, Tracy McGuire and Mark Sandell were standing outside the
final rally of "Marxism '93", selling Socialist Organiser and inviting people to sign the petition.

Let Mark Sandell describe what happened to him then.

"Very quickly I was surrounded by eight Socialist Worker sellers [...] "I was threatened and some of the group stood infront of me to stop me talking to passers-by. 'After about five minutes an older man started a row with me, saying over and over 'are you calling me an anti-semite?' He told me that he was Jewish.

"I told him that I did not call him an anti-semite but that I thought the logic of the SWP's politics was to be systematically hostile to most Jewish people and that the logic of that politics was anti-semitic. "He did not want to discuss this at all. He repeated over and over 'you can't call me anti-semitic'. "He grabbed my shirt and twisted it in his fist up to my throat. Then he tore the leaflets out of my, hand and grabbed the petition,

"I hung on to the petition, but was dragged to the pavement by the group of Socialist Worker sellers. "On the floor, I curled up to cover my face I was kicked in the back four or five times.

"As soon as I had some space I got up. The man who tore up my leaflets had gone. "The Socialist Worker sellers continued to threaten me and laughed when I protested at the violence: 'You deserve it, you fucking Zionist'. When I complained, other SWP members repeated this sentiment."

Here Tracy McGuire, a student of 20, describes what she saw and experienced.

"When they recognised that we were beginning to attract attention four male members of the SWP approached us, surrounded us and started behaving hostiley, to us. They called us racists repeatedly, told us to 'fuck off' and accused us of calling them anti-semitic, even though we had not".

Four additional male members of the SWP joined the others and the situation grew much worse and much more hostile. Tracy McGuire continues:

“At one point, about five men from the SWP surrounded me, shouting and accusing me of calling them anti-semitic. When I tried to debate with them on a political level, they ignored what I had to say and continued shouting. One of their comrades approached me and shouted in my face that I was a racist. His breath smelt of alcohol. I tried to walk away from him and the others.

"When I turned around I saw one of them snatch the petition which Mark Sandell was holding. Because Mark held on to the petition, he was pushed, and one of them grabbed his T-shirt and hit him. Mark and one of his attackers fell to the ground. Then about another four SWP members rushed around them. One tried to pick the SWPer off Mark, whilst the others kicked Mark. They then backed off and Mark was able to get up. His T-shirt was ripped and he had scratches and blood on his neck.

"The harassment did not stop there. Mark, Daisy and I stood our ground and remained with the petition despite continued threats and attacks from SWPers. Again they tried to provoke Mark into a fight by pushing him, saying that he deserved to have his head kicked if he - a 'Zionist'- called someone anti-semitic".

But relief was at hand: the organiser called the thugs away to other party duties. Tracy McGuire:

"They continued to harass us until an SWP member came out to tell them to enter for the final rally of 'Marxism'."

Here is what AWL member Daisy Forest experienced:

"I saw a member of the SWP grab Mark Sandell by his shirt and shove him hard whilst yelling in his face. The yelling and threatening behaviour continued. We were told that if we did not leave we would 'have our heads kicked in'.

"Then one SWP member grabbed the petition board from Mark Sandell and began ripping up his leaflets. I saw Mark try to retrieve his petition board. At that point I turned away as I was being yelled at. When I looked again, I saw Mark Sandell being thrown to the ground, held by the neck. Three or four more SWPers then rushed in and I saw two of them kick Mark while he was on the ground.

"One man told us that 'he deserved it' and that he was lucky that that was all he got. If we'd been somewhere other than outside 'Marxism', we were told, it would have been worse. "Following this, the verbal abuse continued. While arguing with about three of the SWP I was conteinptuously shoved away."

I repeat: isn't all this monstrous? Does it not add up to a picture of an organisation in the grip of a vicious culture of the sort which ate away the Healy organisation in the '60s?

But, you will say, these stories are lies concocted by members of the AWL. Lee Rock is not a member of the AWL. He is a supporter of a group of socialists who consider themselves to be an expelled faction of the SWP, the Republican Marxist Bulletin. On the political issues in dispute he agrees with you, not us. Listen to what he says he saw outside "Marxism '93".

"I saw the SO comrades surrounded by, a number of SWP members who were 'Marxism '93' organisers. Their status was clear because some of them were going through the motions of selling Socialist Worker,and they wore badges identifying them as organisers. There were at least half a dozen SWP members (all male). The SO comrades, from what I saw, consisted of two women and one man, all of whom were quite young, unlike the SWP members who were in their late 20s and early to mid 30s.

“At approximately 2.00pm I heard a number of shouts and looking around I saw the SO man lying on the floor, being kicked by several of the SWP members.

"Going to the scene of the trouble, I was passed by an SWP member who threw a number of leaflets over a railing. I saw no sign on this person, who walked close by me, of him being injured.

"By the time I got to the scene - a matter of seconds - the situation was no longer physically violent, but still very heated and aggressive on the part of the SWP members. It was obvious by the sight of the male SO comrade that he taken a bit of a kicking from the SWP. The SO comrade had a torn shirt and marks on his body which were clearly so recent as to have been the result of the kicking.

"Whilst the shouting continued between the SWP and the SO members I attempted to talk to one of the SWP members present. I stated to him that I had not seen what initially happened but that I thought there was no need for several of them to kick the SO member when he was on the floor.

"The response was that the SWP member had no problems about kicking a member of the BNP when they are on the ground. I said neither did I, but that had nothing to do with the situation at hand"

The AWL does say that, whatever the good intentions of SWP members, SWP policy is anti-semitic. You advocate the destruction of Israel, and commit yourself to this policy, even to the degree of backing Saddam Hussein's missile attacks on Israel. You are comprehensively hostile to Jews who reject the idea that Israel must be destroyed, denouncing them as "racists". You supported banning student Jewish societies. What else is that but comprehensive hostility to most Jews alive today – that is anti-semitism'?

For our part, we are entitled to form and to express such a political judgement! It is not an opinion we arrived at lightly, nor do we express it in terms of crude abuse. We do not name-call: we argue our ideas and give our reasons for holding them. There is by now a quite considerable bulk of AWL literature on the subject.

Yet the question is so emotion-charged that episodic violence might well break out between your comrades and ours even if in general the members of the SWP were people accustomed to rational discussion and debate and not what many of them seem to be now. But those incidents did not come from natural if unfortunate political heat, or the clash of young people with strongly different ideas, outraged by the arguments they were hearing. These incidents occurred in the first place, comrade Cliff, because your comrades - including leaders like Rahul Patel - are not taught much by the SWP about the Middle East, or about anything else, but crude slogans, and because they are inoculated against discussing politics with other socialists by the demonology and misrepresentation of opponents which fill the place of Marxist education in your gerry-built "revolutionary party".

They are not able to argue out the political issues. They emote where they should think. Many SWPers can not see the difference between other socialists and fascists like the BNP. Evidently - read the accounts above! - some of them do not want to acknowledge that there is any difference between non-SWP socialists and fascists. To equate socialists who have different views with fascists is to return to the worst days of Stalinism.

To equate Zionists with fascists, or at least with people who should be kicked rather than debated with, is also to revert to the worst era of Stalinism. Yet that is what many of your followers are doing now, Cliff!

In the second place, and in general, the incidents described above can be explained only in the light of the systematic promotion in the SWP of a hate fuelled sect political culture which hysterically defines the SWP as "the party" and the rest of the left as worthless or worse. This has now reached grotesque - Healyite! - proportions.

Given that culture, a group like SO/AWL which, while standing in the same basic tradition as the SWP, disagrees with you on particular issues, which raises "sensitive" questions - Israel, for example - and mocks your messianic pretensions can only be handled by way of hate campaigns, demonisation and now violence. The political violence flows organically from your entire political culture, Cliff. And, let me remind you, both incidents involved relatively senior SWP members. That is why they are significant.

I put it to you again, Cliff. is not this a scandalous business?

I have already referred to the two streams of this sort of poisonous violence in the history of the labour movement. The Stalinist party used thuggery to suppress Trotskyist critics in the 1930s and '40s, and occasionally later, because the contradictions between the truth the Trotskyists proclaimed and the lies the Stalinists were compelled by their allegiance to Moscow to purvey were sharp and unbridgeable.

The violence of the Healy organisation (SLL/WRP) had similar roots. The gap between what the Healy organisation said, its pretensions for itself, and its often crazy picture of the world was too large for them to be able to brook free discussion either in their own ranks or directed at their ranks from outside. (On the other hand, they did not, so far as I recall, organise pretend "open", "broad", public events like "Marxism '93").

They too built up in their organisation a culture of primitive religious certainties combined with hate and demonisation of other socialists and of all critics, heretics, and "anti-party elements". They too inculcated an indifference to "anything goes if it politics serves the party", "never mind the politics, think of the membership figures". They too operated a culture of revealed truth (all of it known to the Leader), and of hate and hysteria against dissenters.

In and around that organisation - like yours now – there was an atmosphere of unreason and incipient violence towards doubters, critics, sceptics and opponents that inevitably burst out in violent incidents and episodes. Members of the SWP's predecessor, IS, were occasionally its targets and victims.

These days people who remember the Healyites remember them when they were more or less completely crazy. They did not begin completely crazy, Cliff. That took a long time.

I put it to you that the SWP is already far gone down that road. That is what the two incidents outlined above signify. That is what the will tell you - if you are still capable of paying attention.

Incidents like those I have outlined grow out of the entirety of the SWP's culture, out of its everyday reality, and out of its normal internal life. The truth is that democracy at "broad" SWP events like "Marxism '93" cannot rise higher than democracy within "The Party". If you demonise your socialist critics, teach your youth to sloganise and rant before they have learned to think or even to read the basic texts of Marxism and factual accounts of modern history; if you expel any SWPer who seriously criticises what the organisation's leaders do - as you expelled Phil Taylor and Maureen Watson for criticising your mad call for a General Strike last year - how can you tolerate, even at a supposedly "open" event, the activities of independent socialists like ourselves who are comprehensively and implacably critical of what the SWP is, does, and says, and who offer alternatives?

If your young people are wound up to see a complex issue like that of Israel and the Arabs in the ridiculously false terms of a conflict of racists and their victims, or of a good people against a bad people - how can healthy, vibrant, militant, sincere young people fail to behave as your young people behave in the cases above? If you have an organisation that teaches them to think in terms of popes -yourself, God help us! - revealed truth and political devils, how can they not behave as ignorant, psychologically mutilated religious zealots always have behaved and always will behave?

Rosa Luxemburg used to insist that "Freedom is always and everywhere the freedom of the one who thinks differently". The routine intolerance of disagreement and stifling of dissent not only within the "party" but at "Marxism '93" and other such affairs is the clearest portrayal of how things stand with democracy in the SWP now, and of where the SWP is going.

I repeat: hysterical political violence is a function of the general politics of the organisation you have built, comrade Cliff. It is only one of the symptoms of that organisation's political decay. The episodes and symptoms of gross degeneration in the SWP, and of its present similarity with the Healy Group as it was in the late '60s are legion. Take the recent bizarre episode of your sudden call for a General Strike. In this letter I will let that episode stand in for many political episodes in your recent history.

Last October the brutal Tory decision to close 31 pits created waves far wider waves of outrage even than the miners and the labour movement. 100,000 labour movement activists marched in London on the Wednesday and more in heavy rain on the official TUC demo the following Sunday. It was all very inspiring, in wonderful contrast to the mood of depression that had prevailed for so long. It showed great potential. But it was only a beginning. In fact, it subsided quickly. Things are not as bleak as before the upsurge. The will to struggle in the labour movement is very much greater. But things have not gone as we would have liked, either.

The SWP's response to these events was one of the most bizarre and illustrative things in recent British politics. Your first response in Socialist Worker, as things moved towards the first national demonstration was rather like ours - joyful but cautious, and focused on practical ways of spreading and developing the movement. No talk of general strike. Then on the Wednesday demo your people turned up with masses of expensive placards and began to hand them out. They called for all-out general strike!

How you arrived at this wild flight of fantasy - it was as crazily remote from reality as anything political Gerry Healy ever dreamed up, even in his political dotage -was never explained. How had the SWP measured the mood in advance of its first - limited - manifestation on the Wednesday? That is the great mystery! If one asks who had the weight and authority, once the crazy idea had occurred to him, to carry the party with him, then for anyone who knows the SWP there is only one answer to that question: you, comrade Cliff!
The cultism at the heart of the SWP has never been more clearly displayed in public.

Everyone sometimes gets crazy ideas - what characterises the SWP now is that overnight your crazy idea was imposed on the organisation. Naturally, loud dissenters were expelled.

After a while reality impinged on your fantasies and the all-out general strike call faded, but there has never been any public accounting for this episode.

Cliff, the organisation that could be moved to raise and then drop this slogan as the SWP raised it and dropped it is a sick organisation - a cult inside a Stalinist-type authoritarian party regime. Think about it.

Suppose you were right about the need for the SWP to make this startling and sudden switch over a decade of preaching gloom and doom and of exaggerating, even during the miners' strike, the allegedly hopeless state of the labour movement. Would a serious organisation have confined itself to issuing marching orders to the ranks? Would it have stifled discussion and expelled dissenters?

If the call for a General Strike had really been the outcome of rational Marxist reasonings about reality rather than the outcome of a brainstorm in the head of the leader of a cult, then discussion would have been seen as the necessary means of really convincing the organisation. Those who were slow to "turn" and see what the far-seeing leadership had seen would not be treated as enemies to be bullied or expelled, but as precious people playing an irreplaceable role in the necessary process of creating real clarity and conviction in the party.

An organisation of politically alive and thinking people could not have behaved like the SWP did, Cliff!

This business was all the more startling and weird coming from people who had fought us and others when we called for a General Strike to back the miners during their 1984-5 strike. Almost as many miners were on strike then and for over a year! - as demonstrated on the bigger of last October's two big marches.

"The party" you have built, Cliff, is an extremely undemocratic Organisation, conceived as a machine for achieving certain mechanical tasks - flyposting, paper sales, raising money, recruiting and at its centre a cult around yourself. It is conceived as a machine for... building a machine, a machine of the Zinovievist type, or even of the Stalinist type.

The weird business with the general strike reminds me of something James P Cannon once wrote about another cult:

"I will admit that I lived sixty years in this world before I stumbled over the fact that there are such things as political cults. I began rubbing my, eyes when I saw the Johnsonites [CLR James] operating in our party. I saw a cult bound to a single person, a sort of Messiah.

“A cult requires unthinking fools for the rank and file. But that is not all. In order for a cult to exist, it is not enough for a leader to have personal followers - every leader has a personal influence more or less - but a cult leader has to be a cultist himself. He has to be a megalomaniac who gets revelations outside the realm of reality. A megalomaniacal cult leader is liable to jump in any direction at any time, and all the cultists automatically follow, as sheep follow the bellwether, even into the slaughter house."

Yet, there is more. It is not just a matter of the party's "internal regime" or of its character as a cult: it is a matter of the SWP's relationship with the labour movement. That conditions everything else.

You have good relations with some of the reformists, engaging with them in an agreed bit of roleplaying - they are your idea of the reformist labour movement, you are theirs of "revolutionaries".

In elections you call for a Labour vote – for catchpenny reasons - contradicting your attitude to Labour for the previous five years.

But within the labour movement itself you play the classic role of ultra-left sectarians. Smart-ass, opportunist, middle-class ultra-lefts who cut corners and play dodgy roles in the unions in a way honest ultra-lefts do not, but ultra-left sectarians nonetheless. Take the question of the Labour Party.

Today, the Labour Party is a small model of a political police state, with not much scope for rank and file activity. But, as the current resistance even by the trade union bureaucrats to cutting Labour-union links shows, it remains the mass party of the trade unions - the furthest the mass of the British working class has got in politics so far. What role must Marxists play in relation to such a movement?

According to every one of the great teachers of Marxist politics in the past – from the Communist Manifesto of 1848 to Frederick Engels in the 1890s, through the Second Congress of the Communist International in 1920, to Leon Trotsky in the 1930s – the role Marxists must play in this situation is to help the class develop its politics. We organise Leninist groups – ours, the Alliance for Workers' Liberty, for example to do this work. We integrate, despite the bureaucratic witch-hunters and Policemen, into the existing labour movement, fighting the bureaucrats and the right wing, helping the class forward.

By contrast you counterpose yourselves to the existing movement - implicitly your "build the revolutionary party" project is a project to build a new labour movement around yourselves, side by side with the existing labour movement. This movement cannot be bypassed. Marxists build an organisation to intervene in, reshape, renovate that movement.

Such little crazy splurges as the demand on the TUC to call an all out semi-revolutionary General Strike last October are possibly only because you are not seriously concerned with the existing labour movement except as a source of recruits to the other, 'better' movement you think you are building.

For all the "left" bluster and the quasi-anarchist attitudes and practices you train your youth in, the SWP is utterly defeatist for the working class and its labour movement.

The SWP now is a product, an epiphenomenon, of the defeats the British labour movement suffered in the '70s and '80s. With the decline of the old left of that movement, the SWP can look at the half-empty landscape and call itself "Mr Universe" if it likes, Cliff but it is an illusion. The labour movement will revive. The SWP as it is now – and it is not frozen as it is now, but degenerating fast; that is one of the lessons of "Marxism '93" - can only play a harmful role in that movement when it revives.

Such sectarian conceptions as these which govern the SWP contradict what is perhaps the single irreducible idea which distinguishes Marxist socialism from all other socialisms, the idea that the emancipation of the working class must be the work of the class itself.

The real "revolutionary party" functions always to help the working class realise and move toward realising its self-liberation: that goal determines and qualifies what the revolutionary party is, what it does and does not do, how it relates to existing mass reformist labour movements. All that is now either forgotten or in the peripheral vision of the SWP.

Because "building the party" is everything, and the politics not much or - too often now - nothing at all, the political line of the organisation, beyond a few basics of socialism, does not necessarily have to deal with the objective world and your real place in it, or with the real conditions of the working-class movement. You are a long way yet from the comprehensive lunacy which overwhelmed the Healyites, but last year's general strike episode indicates the way you are going.

Comrade Cliff, what are you going to do about the thuggery which has led me to write this account of its roots in the whole nature of the SWP? What the Alliance for Workers' Liberty will do about it is to start a campaign for a labour movement inquiry into the events at "Marxism '93".

There are enough people in the labour movement with experience of Stalinism and of the later Healyites to know that if the SWP is not tackled now it will become a much bigger problem later on.

You are nearly eighty years old, Tony Cliff. I do not for a moment question your sincere commitment to the working class and to socialism, even where I am convinced your activities have been harmful or counterproductive or, on the question of Israel and Palestine, poisonous - you yourself having been poisoned in the savagely anti-Jewish Stalinist party of Palestine in the mid-'30s. You should ask yourself what, after a lifetime of work, you want to bequeath to the labour movement of the future.

I quoted James P Cannon above on political cults. Let me finish by quoting another wise man, Groucho Marx, who joked - the joke is well known – that he would not want to belong to any club that would have him as a member. That has always struck me as good advice for anyone tempted to build himself a cult or a personal fan club.

The "unthinking fools" who followed you last year on the general strike, and the miseducated little thugs whose antics I have had to chronicle above - these, Cliff, are not the people who will build a real revolutionary working-class party, or make the socialist revolution you have spent a long life trying to prepare for. Groucho knew better. So did Karl!

The AWL, Labour and the Left


Submitted by martin on Mon, 20/02/2012 - 16:07

The leadership of the SWP ignored the letter of protest we sent about the "Marxism '93" incident. On 3 August, AWL member Mark Sandell spoke to Tony Cliff on the telephone about it. The following excerpts were included in the pamphlet republished above.

Tony Cliff: Hello.

Mark Sandell: I am ringing up about a I letter I wrote to you. At "Marxism '93" I was knocked to the floor and kicked - did you receive the letter?

TC: No. I never got a letter from you. What's your name?

MS: My name is Mark Sandell.

TC: I am sorry, I never got any letter.

MS: Well, it was outside the final rally at "Marxism". I was having a row with some members of the SWP when I got knocked to the floor and kicked in the back five times by several of your members. There must have been some sort of discussion at your Central Committee about it.

TC: I've never heard of it!

MS: You've not heard of it all?

TC: I knew that Socialist Organiser found a really exciting job not to care about Timex, not care about any activity but, like little parasites, coming to meetings with leaflets. I never even read the leaflets, and I don't believe in bloody physical fights. I don't believe it happens, and that's all. I didn't know about you, and I heard about Rahul Patel - I know Rahul, you know.

MS: This was another incident, mine occurred on Friday when I was petitioning about the incident with Rahul [... ] I think that sort of violence isn't acceptable.

TC: Of course it's not acceptable. If it happens it isn't acceptable - but I don't believe it, full stop [...] It cannot be said to me that five people attacked one person. It's stupid.

MS: Why not have some sort of investigation, why not agree to a labour movement...

TC: Why don't you...

MS: ... investigation?

TC: ...care about... er... what happened in Timex? Why don't you...

MS: I do!

TC: ...do anything? You are bug... you're doing absolutely bugger all, you are a little flea... little flea. Because one of you came to my meeting in Chalk Farm, two of them actually came, and I said to them: "You are little parasites, what are you doing here? Why do you care about that? What don't you care about... God knows what... about other much more important things?"

MS: Because...

TC: You are little parasites.

[Tony Cliff then hung up]

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