john

Document Sample
john Powered By Docstoc
					Document 1 – CPGB PCC factional attack on opponents within the Campaign for a Marxist
Party

Witness statement by John Pearson

On 8 February 2008, I received the following e-mailed communication from Comrade Hillel Ticktin,
a member of the Campaign for a Marxist Party’s committee.

“Dear John Pearson,

The Committee of the CMP has set up a ‘judicial’ investigation into the complaint of Lyndon White against you.
The ‘judicial’ committee consists of Moshe Machover, Sandy McBurney and myself. I am acting as Chair. The
allegation is that you threatened to ‘lamp’ him verbally and then wrote to him a letter in which you suggested that
you would reveal circumstances that he would not want known, unless he ceased his criticism of you.

We have received a written complaint from Lyndon White which includes a copy of your letter to him. We are
anxious to receive your version of events before deciding on the detailed procedure, if it is required. As you will
no doubt agree, it is not acceptable in any organisation for members to threaten one another. If you feel that the
description of events is incorrect or lacks context, we would be glad to receive your account.

The procedure, if invoked, will involve the consideration of the views of both sides by the ‘judicial’ committee and
direct consultation with the parties by the committee as a whole. Thereafter a decision will be made on the issue
and a consideration of the resolution.

Best wishes,
Hillel Ticktin”

I replied, the same day, stressing that the leadership of the Communist Party of Great Britain
(Provisional Central Committee) (CPGB PCC) and notably John Bridge, had utilised this complaint as
part of an ongoing factional attack on their perceived political opponents within the CMP, including
myself and that they were employing longstanding dirty methods, which had included the setting up
of myself through Comrade White.

I reported to Cde. Ticktin that my response to the attack would be to publish an exposure of the
methods and actions of the CPGB leadership. The statement constitutes the publication that I referred
to.

The CPGB PCC campaign against the comrades of the CMP opposition and myself in particular, has
moved up a gear following the formation of the Trotskyist Tendency of the CMP, on 1 March 2008
(http://www.sademocracy.org.uk/CMP_Trotskyist_Tendency/). 5 of the 9 founding members of the
CMP TT were former committee members of the CMP, who were all ousted as a consequence of
CPGB block voting at the Campaign’s reconvened Annual General Meeting on 24 November 2007,
(http://www.marxistparty.org/conference.html). I was elected unopposed as the tendency’s convenor.

In that capacity, I sent a letter on 18 March announcing the formation of the Tendency, to the CPGB’s
newspaper, Weekly Worker. In the letter, I stated, “The overwhelming number of revolutionary
Marxist groups, in Britain and internationally, derive from the Trotskyist tradition. The Trotskyist
Tendency recognises no principled reason why these comrades should not be in a single pro-party
organisation and we will strive to win them to join the CMP. By building on the methodological and
political gains of Trotskyism, such as the transitional method of connecting with the working class,
e.g. through the promotion of a strategy of workers control as a link to the communist future; and by
developing an understanding of the application of the theory of permanent revolution within today’s
international theatre, we will strive to forge unity and to develop a process of resolving the crisis of


Page 1 of 12
Marxism. We urge comrades … to join the CMP if they are not already members and, if they agree
with its Platform …. to also join its Trotskyist Tendency”.

Even though the whole of the paragraph I quote was editorially deleted from the letter,
(http://www.cpgb.org.uk/worker/713/letters.html), the Weekly Worker editor, Peter Manson
nevertheless referred to my removed call for unity, in his own letter, published in the paper on 27
March 2008 :-

“Comradely threat

It is all very well for John Pearson to call for the unity of Marxists (Letters, March 20). But on what basis?

During the lunch break of the November 24 CMP conference, comrade Pearson threatened to physically assault
another CMP member for having referred to him as a “political idiot” on a discussion list. Pearson has not denied
making this threat and indeed appeared to confirm it when conference resumed.

Is it possible to remain united in the same party or pre-party formation with those who consider violence, or
threats of it, to be a suitable response to strongly expressed criticism? Not in my opinion. John Pearson must
apologise for and renounce this disgraceful behaviour if he wishes to be accepted as a comrade.

It would be useful to hear the views of his comrades in the CMP Trotskyist Tendency, who have elected him as
their convenor. Does this mean they approve of threats of violence as a means of settling disputes among
Marxists?

Peter Manson
South London”

Comrade Manson’s publication of his own letter coincided with his refusal to publish a second letter
sent by me as Convenor of the CMP Trotskyist Tendency, in which I replied to criticism of the
Tendency from Comrade Jim Padmore, which had been printed in the previous week’s issue.

The import of these linked actions by Cde. Manson is clear. On the pretext that the Trotskyist
Tendency has acted inappropriately by electing an ‘offender’ as its convenor, (despite my having been
convicted, at that time, of nothing), Manson in his capacity of Weekly Worker editor, will refuse to
publish any official Tendency communications or statements. This is blatant interference in the right
of a tendency of the CMP to elect its own officers and it must be vigorously resisted.

In the final paragraph of his letter, Manson issues an invitation to my comrades in the CMP TT, to
explain whether their electing me as their convenor means that they approve of threats of violence as a
means of settling disputes among Marxists. Dave Spencer has already hurled this question back at the
CPGB leadership, in his response to Manson’s letter, published after drastic cutting, re-titling and the
amendment of Lyndon White’s name to “Lawrence Parker” by the editor, the following week :-

“Political idiot            {A substituted sub-title devised by Weekly Worker editorial staff}

Peter Manson has a nerve. He asks if the Campaign for a Marxist Party Trotskyist Tendency “approve of threats
of violence as a means of settling disputes among Marxists” (Letters, March 27). Yet he knows full well that at the
CMP conference last November, TT members voted without exception for the resolution calling for a code of
conduct for the CMP. This resolution would have ruled verbal and physical abuse out of order and would have
been a basis for establishing comradely behaviour amongst Marxists. It failed because Peter Manson and his
CPGB comrades voted as a bloc against it!

So the question should be, do the CPGB approve of verbal and physical abuse as a means of settling disputes
among Marxists? If they do not, then why did they vote as a matter of party discipline against the resolution on a
code of conduct for the CMP?



Page 2 of 12
On the question of John Pearson, it is clear to me that John reacted to a deliberate provocation - the verbal
abuse from Lawrence Parker. I also was on the receiving end of Lawrence Parker’s verbal abuse. I would find it
difficult to threaten him even if I wanted to because I haven’t a clue who he is. Strange that somebody you’ve
never met or worked with politically finds it in order to dish out verbal abuse. How to explain that?

In my opinion, you have to look at the context in which Lawrence Parker was operating. The context was that the
CPGB had declared open season on the CMP committee in a series of articles in the Weekly Worker. We were
called variously Bakuninites, drunks, Bonapartists, etc, and I was accused of using the CMP journal, Marxist
Voice, for factional purposes. All of these were lies and misrepresentations. Lawrence Parker as a loyal CPGB
member decided to join in the fun by verbally abusing the CMP committee. That is what I think.

Dave Spencer
Coventry”

Dave is absolutely correct in linking lies and misrepresentations with the employment of verbal abuse
by the CPGB leadership. They not only approve of such methods but actively utilise them in their
factional fighting. This is not a new phenomenon, as I will now demonstrate.

Peter Manson and Lyndon White (Lawrence Parker) take their lead in the matter from John Bridge
(Jack Conrad, John Chamberlain). Bridge is the Chair of the CPGB’s Provisional Central Committee
and the acknowledged leader of the organisation. He authored an article in Weekly Worker, published
on 27 September 2007, under the title, “Sober up or spiral down further into irrationality” (
http://www.cpgb.org.uk/worker/690/cmp.htm), which ostensibly reported on a meeting of the CMP
committee, attended by Bridge as a substitute for committee member, Nick Rogers The article
actually served as a platform for a full-blooded factional attack on his opponents, who were at that
time the elected leadership, the committee members of the CMP.

Bridge sets the scene for his rant with the smear that the committee members were under the influence
of alcohol and hence behaving irrationality. This is followed up with an attack on two committee
decisions, both of which had been carried by large majorities. The first was the decision to elect a
permanent Chair for committee meetings, to replace the previous, unsatisfactory ad hoc practice of
seeking a volunteer Chair at the beginning of each meeting. This decision represents, “Bonapartism”,
cde. Bridge asserts. Interestingly, and without a word of explanation of the patent contradiction, the
successor CMP committee that was elected at the 24 November 2007 AGM has elected a permanent
Chair, Cde. Yassamine Mather.

The second decision objected to by cde. Bridge, was the committee’s resolution to extend its e-mail
discussion group to the full CMP membership and to apply a code of conduct for contributions to the
group’s discussions. “Insulting, abusive and uncomradely behaviour” was, as Bridge correctly reports
in this instance, to be outlawed. The Chair was to be assigned the duty of applying the code, with
power to remove offenders from the group, subject to confirmation by the next committee meeting.
“The words, ‘idiot’, ‘twerp’ and ‘scab’ have already been prohibited [and] doubtless the permanent
Chair will add thousands of other similarly wicked phrases and expressions to the blacklist”, cde.
Bridge somewhat hyperbolically comments. Not finished on the subject yet, Bridge brands the
committee’s attempt to promote decent standards of civility and comradely behaviour as, “an
infantilisation of our political culture”. As if insult and name-calling is itself anything other than
infantile!

Bridge calls upon CMP members and simultaneously lays down the leadership imperative to his own
CPGB members amongst them, to “keep on expressing yourselves in a robust, adult and, if you so
choose, a colourful manner”. “Defy the censor”, he exhorts, adding that, “the occasional insult is a
small price to pay for freedom. Even a sustained campaign of crazy invective is worth putting up
with”.

The lines of campaign are thus clearly set out and the paradigm for any persons within the CPGB
PCC camp who wished to impress Bridge is established.
Page 3 of 12
With these instructions motivating the most slavish of Bridge’s followers, how can anyone believe
that Peter Manson’s suggested submission by me, in the form of an apology for something I am
alleged to have said in a private conversation with White, would have seen off the CPGB campaign of
lies, distortion, abuse and provocation?

Still using his committee meeting “report” for grandstanding, Bridge assures Weekly Worker readers
that they need not, “worry about calling me a ‘twerp’ or some other ‘uncomradely’ word. It is
necessary in politics to develop a thick skin”.

Anybody who knows anything about the internal regime, or even just the history of the CPGB under
Bridge, will recognise this statement as a clear lie. Crossing Cde. Bridge was and is indeed a cause for
“worry”, without the need for any personal abuse to have been involved. For instance in 1997, Peter
Manson’s predecessor as Weekly Worker editor, Lee-Anne Bates, was removed from her position and
subsequently driven out of the organisation, in response to her dubbing Bridge in the columns of
Weekly Worker, not as an ‘idiot’, nor a ‘twerp’, but an “official optimist”. The context was Lee-
Anne’s contention, shared by the two CPGB members in Scotland, Mary Ward and Nick Clarke, and
by others in London and Manchester, that the leadership had expressed an exaggerated view of the
impact the organisation had had upon the referendum campaign on the formation of the Scottish
Parliament. Bridge’s campaign against Lee-Anne had begun with a PCC resolution requesting her
resignation as editor and was followed by a “20 Questions” indictment, authored by Bridge and
presented at the next members’ aggregate meeting.

The treatment that Lee-Anne experienced was cited by Mary Ward and Nick Clarke as “a major
contributing factor in our decision to resign”, in their letters to Weekly Worker, published on 23 July
1998 (http://www.cpgb.org.uk/worker/250/fororvliq.html). Mary elaborated that, “We believe that the
culture and method of polemic both within the organisation and within the Weekly Worker is wrong
and we have raised this within the organisation on numerous occasions. We believe that this method
repels people from, rather than attracts people to, the CPGB. I can understand the spin put on events
by Mark Fischer, but he too is well aware that all is not well within the organisation at the highest
level”. Nick Clarke added, “When it comes to principle, it is some leading members of the Party who
actually defend as a point of principle the use of invective and insult against internal or external
dissenting comrades, as if it is part of the Leninist tradition. I disagree: yes, we should have sharp and
incisive debate, but it should be comradely (see Lenin v Luxemburg in the Right of nations to self-
determination). On numerous occasions I have raised this criticism only to be dismissed as "soft".
Abuse, disguised as Leninist polemic, is no substitute for constructive criticism that genuinely
attempts to reach the truth, not bury it” and “The leadership seems unable to accept, as valid, any form
of criticism of itself by members. This is not healthy. Some comrades express criticisms in private,
but there is a reluctance to do so in print or in public because of the 'polemical' mugging that may
follow”.

No less so than Lee-Anne Bates, Mary Ward and Nick Clarke were no political ‘greenhorns’ or
lightweights. Mary had been leader of the Labour group on Dundee Council, leaving that position to
join the CPGB. Nick had been a former National Organiser of the CPGB. Their departure wiped out
the CPGB in Scotland at that time.

The battle that these three took on against “the culture and method of polemic ... within the
organisation” now needs to be engaged by the membership of the CMP, against the Bridge-Manson-
White campaign to set-in that same culture within the CMP.

As a CPGB supporter, then member, for 6 years, 1997 – 2003, I have myself experienced the
phenomenon that Nick Clarke describes, viz “The leadership [inability to] accept, as valid, any form
of criticism of itself by members”. I and the Manchester CPGB branch were consistent critics of
leadership policies, believing, as I still do, that criticism is a vital component of democracy and
essential to the process of arriving at correct positions viz-a-viz the action to be taken in relating to the
Page 4 of 12
class struggle. In response, I saw the psychological methods that were employed by the ‘Leader’
(Bridge). In fairness, I admit that other leading comrades did not behave this way [indicating, I think,
what cde. Clarke was referring to when he said, “Mark Fischer, .... is well aware that all is not well
within the organisation at the highest level”]. I began to be concerned about the condition of cde.
Bridge’s bladder, until I realised that his visits to the toilet seemed to coincide with my taking the
floor to speak in opposition to him. I now understand that this was intended to indicate his contempt
for my intellect. He didn’t need to listen to what I was saying in order to be able to dismiss it. These
methods also included invitations by Bridge to the CPGB members assembled at their aggregate
meetings, to consider the state of mind of internal opponents. I recall separate occasions when Jim
Gilbert and Ian Donovan had both differed with Bridge and, in their absence, the latter asked us to
bear in mind their mental state. I will always be grateful to Ian Donovan for alerting me – on an
internal CPGB e-mail discussion list – and for reporting his objection to, Bridge’s suggestion to a
London CPGB members’ seminar shortly before my expulsion, that I was perhaps not a full shilling
(or words to that effect).

Ian Donovan is a Trotskyist who was recruited to the CPGB from the Spartacist mileu (this was also
incidentally, Mark Fischer’s political background). The internet encyclopedia, Wikipedia records the
Chamberlain/Conrad/Bridge group’s early [and quite intriguing!] orientation towards the Sparts, an
organisation which is notorious for its own concentration upon using personal abuse and psychology,
against both internal and external opponents, (see
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communist_Party_of_Great_Britain_%28Provisional_Central_Committe
e%29). Ian had, in full public on the Bloody Sunday commemoration march in London in January
1999, struck and drawn blood from, a female comrade, the Sparts organiser, Eibhlin McDonald, who
had taunted him as an “RUC supporter”. Branded by the Sparts as “a dangerous lunatic” and clearly in
serious political and potentially criminal trouble, Ian found unexpected solace and support from the
Conradites.

In the ‘Party Notes’ column of Weekly Worker, published on 25 February 1999, CPGB National
Organiser and ex-Spart, Mark Fischer, set out his organisation’s view of the Donovan-McDonald
incident, thus, “In other words, it is impossible to consider this moment of madness in isolation. Just
as juries - even as they find people guilty and worthy of punishment - can cite extenuating
circumstances, the Communist Party urges that due weight is given to the modus operandi of the
SL/B. We believe that it should be recognised as a contributing factor in this incident and also stands
worthy of condemnation”.

Modus operandi of course, is not at all relevant, per Bridge, per Manson, per White, when it comes to
considering what might have been said during John Pearson’s man-to-man private conversation with
White on 24 November 2007, as opposed to its relevance to the extent of needing to be condemned, in
relation to Ian Donovan’s drawing of blood from the face of Ms. McDonald, on the London Bloody
Sunday commemoration in 1999.

In a reply toDave Spencer from the editor of Weekly Worker, published again as a letter in his own
paper, on 10 April 2008 (http://www.cpgb.org.uk/worker/716/letters.html), Cde. Manson draws a
demarcation line between threatened violence and verbal abuse, “Actually, had comrade Spencer
moved instead a straightforward motion rejecting violence as a means of resolving disputes among
comrades (although it seems from his letter that he is not opposed to this after all), then it goes
without saying that the CPGB would have voted for it. Unlike comrade Spencer, our opposition to
such violence is both theoretical and concrete. But his ‘code of conduct’ was something else. It sought
to bar what he calls “verbal abuse””.

What an insulting and grossly ludicrous juxtaposition we have here from these master-spinners of
double-speak the members of the CPGB PCC!



Page 5 of 12
Well, Ian did not find his new political home very much more comfortable than his old one. He very
soon experienced, at a CPGB “social” at the Brunel University location of the Communist University
Summer School, the modus operandi implications of the exchange of Robertson for Bridge. Bridge
performed his customary party piece – he sang, straight into Ian’s face, the thirteenth verse of his
favourite song, “Red fly the banners, ho!”. This verse boasts of how 13 is the number of holes a
“communist” hero put into Trotsky’s head.

Ian later became another resigner from the CPGB. He recognised the abuse that the organisation’s
leadership relied upon. In March 2005, he came out on the UKLN e-mail list about what he insisted
was the racist put down he had experienced whilst a journalist on Weekly Worker (Do an advanced
search on author ‘Ian Donovan’ content ‘Roger Dark’ to locate the thread in the Yahoo Group
archives for UKLN http://groups.yahoo.com/group/UK_Left_Network/msearch_adv). Without
consultation Ian had been assigned the pseudonym of “Roger Dark”. Ian’s partner is African.

As to Lyndon White, this appears to be a case of the abused turning abuser. Few can know better than
comrade White how Bridge utilises abuse in the stamping of his leadership status. A member of my
Manchester CPGB branch for a few short months in 2000 before moving to London, White had
formed a relationship with a female comrade in London, who was a member of the Provisional
Central Committee. One Monday night, he came to the branch meeting, extremely upset. He had been
in London over the weekend and, at the post-Sunday seminar social gathering in the pub, Bridge had,
sexually harassed White’s girlfriend. In White’s presence, the leader had offered wagers to his PCC
companions upon his chances of having “fucked her by Xmas”. White left the organisation very soon
afterwards.

Manchester CPGB comrades had no reason to doubt the veracity of cde. White’s allegation. I would
suggest that Bridge’s behaviour was not aimed at the female comrade, but at White himself. It was
about the ‘pecking order’ – a subject previously referred to by an earlier group of ‘plank-walkers’
including yet another former Weekly Worker editor, (see CPGB pamphlet ‘Problems of Communist
Organisation’ – no electronic version found). Former Workers Revolutionary Party comrades have
told me how the Healyite organisation had conventions forbidding sexual relationships between rank-
and-file members and members of the Central Committee. Bridge’s organisation enforced a similar
rule but informally, psychologically.

White has recently ‘returned to the fold’, although cde. Manson insists, he has not rejoined the CPGB.
This return has coincided with the publication of his pamphlet (under his pen name, Lawrence
Parker), “The Kick Inside - Revolutionary Opposition in the CPGB 1960-1991” (2007). The work is a
follow up to White’s MPhil thesis on 'The Communist Party in South Wales, 1945-70', ( Cardiff
University, 1997, see : http://www.swan.ac.uk/history/staff/williams/williamsteaching.html) and its
production involved in-depth interviews with members of the CPGB PCC, for which White
acknowledges his gratitude, “My overall assessment of The Leninist [was] informed by interviews
with comrades from The Leninist/CPGB, which were brutally frank and honest by the bland standards
of the present-day left”. A servant have they found?

The CMP Trotskyist Tendency, in its Platform, has dissociated itself, “from the organisational
methods of most Trotskyist Groups from 1938. These can be characterised as a) bureaucratic
centralist with a top-down elitist leadership, often with a single guru-like figure, and b)
sectarian in the sense of wishing to control or destroy broad movements or campaigns. We
are in favour of an open democratic party with rights for factions and tendencies”.

The Tendency members, as Dave Spencer pointed out in his aforementioned reply to Peter
Manson’s Weekly Worker letter, all voted, at the 24 November 2007 AGM, in favour of his
proposal that the CMP should adopt a code of conduct which would have outlawed verbal

Page 6 of 12
and physical abuse. The motion was defeated by 14 votes to 12, a result entirely accounted
for by the CPGB’s whipped block vote.

There is a clear connection between the position outlined in the Platform and the vote at the
AGM. In opposing the methods of the leaders of the bureaucratic sects, the CMP TT has
appreciated the role of psychological abuse in the bureaucracy’s strategems for maintaining
their control. It is important to such bureaucratic cliques to be able to belittle the intellect of
rank-and-file critics within their organisations. As a further illustration, a Democratic
Socialist Alliance comrade from Manchester, who was a member of the IMG in the 1970’s
recalls how “we weren’t supposed to speak to the likes of Ali or Blackburn – they were ‘the
thinkers’”. Branding rank-and-file opponents, or potential opponents, as incapable of
understanding their strategies, or of “not thinking dialectically”, is a well used weapon in the
armoury of elitist political bureaucrats. Manchester CPGB was always openly referred to by
Bridge, as “a backward branch”. Bullying is all about the undermining of confidence. It is
important to bureaucratic leadership cliques that they can retain the ability to brand internal
and external opponents as “idiots”, “stupid”, backward”, etc.

It is the same issue that we experience with managers in our workplaces. Her Majesty’s
commanding class and the workers’ movement’s bureaucratic caste share the same bourgeois
methodological culture, the method of “management”, a method counterposed to workers’
control.

By its Platform statement and by its vote for the code of conduct, the CMP TT has affirmed
that it stands with workers who reject and resist being treated in a belittling, bullying, abusive
manner.

For me – [and this is my own view, not one which has been expressed by the Trotskyist
Tendency] - it is ABC that it follows, that if an organisation – [and the CMP under CPGB
control is an example] – will not adopt a collective resolution to eliminate abusive, insulting
and uncomradely behaviour, then the rank-and-file worker is entitled to take individual,
private steps to stop his own victimisation.

By courtesy of Rab Butler’s 11-plus examination, I had the dubious privilege of attending a
grammar school and thereby met for the first time, the offspring of Her Majesty’s middle
class. I soon learned how important it was for some of the trainee commanders of men to
recognise the lower orders as “cretins”, “peasants”, “idiots”, “thickos”, etc. I also witnessed
the phenomenon of bullying and the refusal of the school authority to do anything about it.
They did not because training in the ability to bully was essential to the preparation of their
charges for civil society under capitalism. I had to make private arrangements with the bullies
to avoid their attentions and it was a lesson well learnt, which I have had recourse to use in
adult life.

On 31 March, cde. Ticktin wrote again to me,

“Dear John Pearson,

You promised an alternative explanation of the allegations of Lyndon White, which you characterised as a 'set-
up'. It is now some time since you wrote.

If nothing further is forthcoming, it would be reasonable that you provide an apology, and thereby bring the issue
to an end.


Page 7 of 12
Awaiting your early reply,
Hillel Ticktin

I replied on 2 April, viz :

“Dear Comrade Ticktin,

I am currently working on my response to the CPGB's campaign against me and I require more time to complete
it.

I would advise you that, unlike my adversaries, I am a full time wage slave. This consumes 65 hours per week of
my time. All of my political work has to be done within the free time that remains to me after rest and
recuperation.

I disagree that it would be reasonable for me to unilaterally apologise and I also disagree that such an action
would bring the issue to an end.

As long as comrade Bridge's organisation advocates, encourages and practises, the use of personal abuse
within the relations between Marxists, then repetitions of the current dispute are inevitable.

If you want to look for a negotiated settlement, then I would suggest that the most fruitful course would be for you
to persuade the CPGB leadership to end its opposition to the adoption of a code of conduct for the CMP. A
decision by the CMP committee to call a membership aggregate meeting to consider a recommendation to adopt
a code based upon that proposed by Dave Spencer at the 2007 AGM, but defeated by the CPGB whipped bloc
would be an action that would help create an impression that the committee genuinely wishes the CMP
project to succeed.

With comradely regards,
John Pearson”

Cde. Ticktin suggested that an apology from me would bring the issue to an end. This, I think, was an
incorrect assessment. The campaign of abuse against its opponents from the leadership of the CPGB
PCC, will quite clearly, unless it is fought and defeated, continue. The editorial re-titling under
‘Political Idiot’, of Dave Spencer’s 3 April letter to Weekly Worker, to which I have referred
previously, would seem to offer evidence of my contention.

Looking back a bit further, we should remind ourselves that the attitude of the CPGB leadership
towards the CMP was revealed very soon after the inaugural conference of the Campaign on 4
November 2006. Weekly Worker, 9 November 2006 (http://www.cpgb.org.uk/worker/648/agg.htm),
reported a CPGB aggregate meeting, held the day after the CMP conference, at which Nick Rogers
had been elected as the CPGB’s only nominated CMP office-holder, (London Organiser). Cde.
Rogers is reported as “[warning] against putting all our energy and resources into a project which may
come to nothing. He suggested that what really matters is our discussion with the Critique group, and
our previous discussions with them have revealed significant differences.

At the inaugural conference itself, the wolf had appeared, cloaked in sheep’s clothing. A comradely
spirit had prevailed and some solid work had been done in drawing up 16 founding principles, to form
the basis of the appeal to Marxists to unite in working towards the creation of a programme for
working class self-liberation and for the founding of a revolutionary party built upon democratic
principles. Having received, from CPGB comrades Lee Rock and John Bridge, firm assurances that
the CPGB did not intend to take over the campaign, the conference had even resolved to instruct the
newly elected officers to enter into fusion talks with the CPGB.

Within a matter of months, the attitude of the CPGB leadership towards the CMP comrades who did
not fall within cde. Roger’s category of people they wished to talk to, became crystallised.

In April 2007, the Democratic Socialist Alliance (DSA) published, as a “work in progress”, a draft
programme for the CMP, written by comrade Phil Sharpe, a much experienced and capable
theoretician, (http://sademocracy.org.uk/CMP_Trotskyist_Tendency/Programme.htm). Mike MacNair
Page 8 of 12
reviewed it in Weekly Worker, 19 April (http://www.cpgb.org.uk/worker/669/programme.htm). In
response to criticisms of the ideas of himself, John Bridge and Hillel Ticktin within Phil’s document,
cde. MacNair suggested, “if the campaign is to define itself by a programme which includes specific
and explicit formal rejection of the arguments put forward by CPGB comrades (Jack Conrad and
myself, pp12-23) and by Critique - in particular Hillel Ticktin - (pp 82-95), it might as well proceed
immediately to a formal split with us”. He went on, falsely, to suggest that, “ the structural core of
comrade Sharpe’s positive policy - the section on ‘Party and class’ in pp8-12 - argues the case which
the Campaign for a Marxist Party was founded to reject: that is, that the task of Marxists is to build a
‘new workers’ party’ on the basis of something less than the fundamentals of Marxist politics (exactly
how less is never explained) and a ‘Marxist tendency’ within it”.

The CPGB leadership’s rallying call, “against halfway-houseism” was thus first sounded and soon
built up into a crescendo.

In an article published on 31 May 2007, Weekly Worker editor, Peter Manson, railed against
“halfway-houseists”, naming Phil Sharpe and Dave Craig of the Revolutionary Democratic Group
(RDG), and suggested, “Hence we need to reaffirm once more that what is needed is a Marxist party,
not yet another halfway house project, and politely point out to some comrades that they could well be
in the wrong organisation”.

On 14 June 2007, in an article setting the scene for the CMP AGM on 23 June, the same author,
returned to the attack, this time focussing on Phil Sharpe. He stated a complaint from the CPGB that,
“comrade Sharpe is being promoted by office-holders - whether consciously or not - as a kind of CMP
theorist. At the first membership aggregate in March it was comrade Sharpe who was asked to
introduce a discussion on programme. Perhaps not all the current committee were familiar with the
content of his rambling, 95-page, 82,000-word so-called draft programme - but they ought to be. After
all, in it he advocates a non-Marxist “workers’ party”. Despite that, a good number of those present at
the March meeting seemed to think that comrade Sharpe’s meanderings were just the thing”.

Cde. Manson continued, “We are more than willing to publish comrade Sharpe’s views in the
Weekly Worker, and to have him as one of a panel of speakers at a CMP day school. But we are doing
that for the same reason as we publish comrade Craig. Namely in order to show beyond a shadow of
doubt the complete muddled-headedness and misguided nature of what is being proposed. Let us be
clear - if comrade Sharpe’s views were regarded as in some way typical of the CMP, it would be a
disaster. We would be a laughing stock that, quite rightly, would not be taken seriously. I am sorry if
my critics regard such a statement as “personal abuse”, but for us the continued existence of the CMP
as a vehicle for the promotion of a Marxist party is important. What we are engaged in, let me stress,
is political criticism, not character assassination. And, as far as I know, comrade Sharpe himself
understands this perfectly well”.

If the smearing of a comrade’s thought out views as “muddle-headed”, “misguided”, potentially
“disastrous” and “a laughing stock” is not the material of character assassination, then one wonders
what is! Certainly, no CPGB writer other than, briefly, Mike MacNair has made any attempt to
counter cde. Sharpe’s arguments. Moreover, “[The willingness] to publish comrade Sharpe’s views in
the Weekly Worker, and to have him as one of a panel of speakers at a CMP day school” did not last
long. By the time we get to cde. Bridge’s aforementioned booze and irrationality rant, we see Weekly
Worker readers being advised, “Frankly, neither comrade Sharpe nor comrade Spencer should be
entrusted with key positions of responsibility in the CMP. Both constitute a hazard” and “Another act
of collective twerpism. The committee expressed the view that comrade Sharpe should be one of
the speakers at the next national CMP school - on the contemporary working class - to be held in
Glasgow. Obviously, once again I disagreed ... I urge Glasgow comrades to ignore the CMP
committee. As presently constituted it represents nothing. Except itself. Decide for yourselves whom
you wish to speak. Somehow I think you will not choose comrade Sharpe”.


Page 9 of 12
Mike MacNair had bravely contradicted cde. Bridge at the committee meeting, pointing out that it was
CPGB policy to ostracise Phil Sharpe only on the issue of the party, due to his alleged “halfway-
houseism”. The Glasgow day school was to be on a different subject, the contemporary working class.
I congratulated Mike on his bravery in contradicting his leader.

Stung by this, cde. Bridge does not let this go in his article, “[John Pearson] boasts: “Comrade Bridge
was in a minority of one - and was even contradicted, bravely, by CPGB comrade Mike Macnair”
(posting, September 23). His memory is perhaps impaired somewhat by the effects of Guinness. ... It
is true that comrade Macnair did not sufficiently protest against putting forward comrade Sharpe as a
CMP platform speaker. He adopted an equivocal position. We spoke about all this after the CMP
meeting. Over a refreshing cup of tea. I think comrade Macnair now fully accepts that it would be
wrong for the CMP to be seen as promoting or giving credence to the ideas of comrade Sharpe in any
way. Doing so simply brings discredit upon us all. It has to be said, however, that there is nothing
‘brave’ about CPGB comrades openly expressing disagreements with one another under such
circumstances. It is healthy and perfectly normal”.

So, Mike is put right. The leader prevails. As it must be, so it will be.

This tour-de-force rant against the now thoroughly demonised opposition, the CMP committee
majority, was not finished even now. Returning to the attack against the third member of his demonic
trio, Dave Spencer, Bridge stated, “since Birmingham and September 22, I have had the chance to
read his latest e-list postings. Here he talks darkly about boycotting our forthcoming national
conference. Alone, that is more than sufficient to show why comrade Spencer is totally unfit to chair
the November 24 conference. If he deigns to turn up. We need another, less embittered, chair. That is
clear”. This was a direct lie. No e-mails from Dave Spencer said any such thing and, for this particular
excess, Bridge was forced to apologise and retract. Nevertheless, Dave was pushed out of the 24
November conference Chair, in favour of his successor-to-be, Yassamine Mather.

On 7 October, in a posting to the unofficial ‘National CMP’ e-mail list set up by Nick Rogers, Peter
Manson returned to the fray, with an answer to a question from me about the CPGB attitude towards
membership conditions should a CMP-CPGB fusion go ahead. This reply is worth quoting in full,
because it demonstrates the intentions of the CPGB leadership towards its opponents in the CMP :-

“To: national-cmp@yahoogroups.com
From: force4@ntlworld.com
Date: Sun, 7 Oct 2007 15:49:04 +0100
Subject: [national-cmp] CMP-CPGB merger


I am replying to a point raised by John Pearson over a week ago. I apologise for the delay, but this is
a serious issue that demands consideration, so I decided to wait until I had enough time to respond
properly. Unfortunately, however, comrade Pearson has just announced his departure from this list.
But that does not negate the usefulness of this discussion.

Comrade Pearson wrote on September 29 in a posting directed to me:

"Finally, can I raise one new and, I think, very important point. In a posting in another thread,
addressed to Dave Spencer, you expressed the view that the CMP, under its new committee that will
be elected at the 24 November re-convened conference, should prioritise the taking forward of a
process of fusion with the CPGB.

"OK then, supposing this merger process is successful but that, up to the point that it is successful,
your views on accepting all comers into CMP membership have prevailed. Would you foresee the
merged organisation eschewing the CPGB's requirement that membership includes a commitment to
action, in order that all the inactive people who have been recruited to the CMP can remain members
of the merged organisation? Or will the merger be accompanied by a purge?"
Page 10 of 12
This is indeed an important point (although it needs to be said that comrade Pearson's motive in
raising it is clearly not to facilitate such unity: rather he hopes to obstruct and prevent it). The merger
would involve the coming together of two organisations with very different levels of activity,
commitment and therefore membership-requirement criteria. Recruits to the CMP do not commit
themselves to anything apart from paying an annual membership subscription, whereas recruits to the
CPGB are expected to take part in agreed actions, sell and support our paper, pay dues, raise
criticisms and doubts, propose alternatives, etc.

Nevertheless, at the CMP founding conference in November 2006, it was agreed without opposition
that the committee should enter into fusion talks with the CPGB. So how in practice could these two
organisations fuse? Would a "purge" be necessary?

Before I answer that, it is worth emphasising the reason why such a merger would be so significant. It
would send out a clear message to the whole of the left: the coming together of Marxists as Marxists
is not only necessary; it is possible now and is actually taking place. In other words, while the rest of
them - despite the failure of the Socialist Alliance, Scottish Socialist Party, Campaign for a New
Workers' Party and Respect - dream up yet another halfway house schema, we will be demonstrating
in practice that a formation that openly stands on Marxist principle, not some reformist, nationalist or
populist tosh, can begin to make headway.

Any steps actually taken by the CMP in the direction of a Marxist party, whether or not that included
merger with the CPGB, would of necessity mean the tightening of discipline and the stepping up of
the level of commitment. The membership criteria for a new organisation arising out of a CMP-CPGB
merger would obviously be the subject of discussion and agreement, no doubt arrived at after a
degree of compromise. But it should surely be regarded as a pre-party formation.

The CPGB has made clear that it would hand over all its assets - the Weekly Worker, printshop,
funds, website, etc - to such a formation, but it is clear that, if those assets were not to be
squandered, the degree of commitment and discipline that brought them into being and saw them
develop could not be ignored. At the same time, there are CMP comrades who are unused to such
commitment and it would be foolish not to take that into account. But the new formation would have to
operate in a much tighter way than the CMP does at present. It would have to be organised on the
basis of democratic centralism.

So would that mean a "purge"? Yes, but not in the way comrade Pearson implies. It is evident that a
number of comrades would "purge" themselves. These come under four main categories (with a good
deal of overlapping).

1. Those hostile to the CPGB - most notably comrade Pearson himself - would never entertain being
part of a disciplined organisation in which the CPGB made up the most numerous grouping, let alone
accounted for the majority of members.

2. Those who have made clear their opposition to democratic centralism or those who simply are not
prepared to accept collective discipline cannot be expected to sign up to a formation where such
collective discipline is required.

3. Those whose relationship to a Marxist party is a platonic one. That is, while they accept in the
abstract that such a party is necessary, they may not be prepared to make the appropriate personal
commitment at this time. No doubt such comrades would remain supporters, even if they dropped out
as members.

4. Those who in reality do not believe that a Marxist party is immediately necessary or desirable,
despite their CMP membership, may not join a pre-party formation that is a step towards one.
However, I personally do not think that belief in the necessity of some kind of intermediate stage or
halfway house is sufficient in itself to exclude such comrades from membership of a Marxist party or
pre-party formation - it is necessary to win the argument with such comrades. In any case, the
pressures of bourgeois society continually reproduce such opportunism and it is to be
expected variants of it would constantly reappear in a Marxist party.

Page 11 of 12
So, yes, any stepping up of discipline would result in some comrades dropping out ('purging'
themselves). That is nothing peculiar to the CMP, but is typical across the left in this period. The
CPGB also encounters membership loss when a stepping up of activity is required (such as during
the 2003 anti-war upsurge or even our annual Summer Offensive fundraising drive). Shortly before his
departure comrade Pearson referred to our comments on this question in Jack Conrad's book,
Problems of communist organisation', which does indeed note not only the negative aspect
associated with membership loss, but the positive benefit in terms of morale and organisational
efficiency when less committed comrades drop by the wayside.

It is interesting that comrade Pearson wrote the comments above in the context of my objections to
the bureaucratic procedure for membership application devised by himself and unfortunately accepted
by the committee. Comrade Pearson seems to be denying the need to achieve a greater degree of
discipline and commitment, while at the same time still insisting that applicants to the loosely
organised CMP must be closely vetted. This is highly contradictory.

In my opinion the CMP should accept into membership all those who say they agree with our aims.
But we must try to win them to the higher, more committed form of discipline that Marxist organisation
requires.

Peter”

So we see four categories of current CMP members who are expected to “self-purge”. Category 1 is
those hostile to the CPGB and “most notably comrade Pearson himself”.

In the light of Cde. Manson’s statement, who can continue to agree with Cde. Ticktin that an apology
from me would have “[brought] the issue to an end”?

Of course, it would have done no such thing.

As I have explained, we are dealing with a method of character assassination, abuse, psychological
manipulation, provocation and bullying. CMP members cannot shirk the political fight against the
methods of the Bridge-ites. Unless these methods are eliminated, they will wreck the CMP project.

The alternative approach that I suggested in my second reply to cde. Ticktin - of a negotiated
settlement - has been spurned by the 3 CMP committee members who determined the complaint
against me on 11 May. I asked that Cde. Ticktin consider using his influence to seek to persuade the
CPGB PCC to withdraw its whipped block vote against a code of conduct for the CMP and that a
special members’ aggregate meeting be held to adopt such a code. The CMP TT’s observer at the 11
May committee meeting reports that Cde. Ticktin explained his refusal to support such a course of
action. Although he had supported the need for a code of conduct at the CMP conference on 24
November 2007, he now felt that it would be too difficult to come up with an agreed draft!

The matter had been referred back by Cde. Ticktin’s ‘judicial’ commission to the full committee, on
the twin grounds that, “you consider at least one member biased and because you have made the
whole discussion politically linked”, (e-mail from H. Ticktin to J. Pearson, 1 May 2008). The
aforesaid 3 (out of 7) committee members – (cdes. Ticktin, Bridge and Rogers – 2 of these being
CPGB members) – resolved, without having asked any questions on any aspect of my statement and
without taking any other witness evidence, to suspend me indefinitely from membership of the CMP.
No reference to the full membership of the CMP for confirmation was mooted and no right of appeal
was referred to.

I therefore, myself, put the matter in the hands of the full membership.




Page 12 of 12

				
DOCUMENT INFO
Shared By:
Categories:
Tags:
Stats:
views:41
posted:1/14/2012
language:
pages:12