Recently, we published an article dealing with the struggle inside Militant and the CWI in 1991-1992. Since the publication of my first article last week, we have received many messages of support. Mostly, these have come from comrades who 30 years ago supported the Taaffeite Majority, but were completely ignorant of what was going on behind the scenes.
All these comrades have expressed their utter shock, anger and indignation at what they have learned. They have also offered their solidarity and thanked us for enlightening them. That is already sufficient justification for our decision to publish the facts. These were the reactions of honest comrades who want to know the truth. But there are still some people who only tell parts of the story that suit their purposes. Their sole aim is not to tell the truth but only to “wash their hands” and justify their roles.
Alan Woods and Ted Grant accused the leadership around Peter Taaffe of organising a secret clique, behind the backs of the elected bodies and membership. As a result, the Taaffe group unleashed a ferocious battle to discredit them and drive them out. Eventually, an Opposition was formed. This intensified the efforts of the Taaffeites to crush us, using the most disgusting methods.
Taaffe and his supporters vehemently denied there was a clique. And although we knew very well that the clique around Taaffe existed, it was almost impossible to prove, given the clandestine way it operated. But that is no longer the case. Stephen Morgan, a full-timer for the CWI, was part of Taaffe’s faction. He was put in charge of an office in Ghent (Belgium), which was used to organise against the Opposition that had emerged in the International. This Opposition had a lot of support. In fact, outside Britain, we had a majority. Morgan was Taaffe’s unconditional supporter, and as an international full-timer he played a prominent role in helping to drive out the Opposition.
Morgan subsequently came into collision with Taaffe and was sacked as a full-timer. In 2012, some 20 years after the Opposition was expelled. He published an article entitled “Why I was ‘sacked’ from the CWI – Reflections on its Degeneration”, in which he finally spilled the beans. He admitted that “I was indeed part of the Taaffe clique.” Perhaps a better title for his piece would have been “Confessions of Clique Member”.
He wrote this to “clear his name”. His conclusion about the faction fight of 1991 is that, at bottom, the methods used by both sides were somehow the same! This hypocrisy is typical of people who played an active role in the degeneration of Militant and the CWI. They now find it necessary to cover their tracks to obscure their own roles.
Morgan played a very dirty part in all this, and his subsequent “confessions” will not exonerate him, nor the rest of the clique to which he belonged. The fact that he later fell out with his boss is hardly surprising. The methods of bureaucratic clique politics – which prevent any healthy airing of criticism and treat all disagreement as betrayal and disloyalty – are a finished recipe for crises, expulsions and splits.
Only after he had been ditched by Taaffe, it seems, did Morgan “see the light”. Hence, the very belated confessions and attempts at self-justification lack any significance or value. The only interesting thing about this lamentable document is that he openly admits there was a clique, organised by Taaffe at the centre, of which he was part. It gives us a glimpse of how the clique operated. Let us look at what he writes:
“Looking back, it is ironic, just after Militant had been the focus of a witch hunt by the Labour bureaucracy, a similar ‘witch hunt’ took place inside Militant’s own ranks with the aim of also extinguishing free debate and democracy. Who was more ruthless is anyone’s guess. The witch hunt spread internationally through the CWI and, on the same criteria, of being independently-minded, leaders of sections in the CWI, who posed a potential threat to Taaffe were likewise removed.”
Peter Taaffe had no problem in Britain. He had been carefully preparing the ground for years. He had assembled a solid base from which to attack and remove Ted Grant when the opportunity arose. But he had a problem in the International, where Alan Woods enjoyed considerable authority. This was not only due to his theoretical level, but because he had created the Spanish section from scratch in underground conditions. It was at that time the second biggest section in the International.
Looking around for points of support in the International, Taaffe discovered a weak link in the person of Steve Morgan. He was a figure of no importance in the international centre, where his incompetence was well known. He was regarded as notoriously lazy, inefficient, self-indulgent and extremely self-centred. As a result, he was put in charge of some smaller, peripheral sections and groups in Eastern Europe, where he failed to achieve any serious results.
Feeling his talents were not sufficiently appreciated, Morgan had grown resentful. That made him an easy target for Taaffe, who specialised in the method of playing on people’s bruised egos (“Alan Woods does not treat you as an equal. Your talents are not appreciated”, etc.). Predictably, this method worked very well with him, as he himself admits:
“At the first inkling of a split I unhesitatingly went with Taaffe. When they called me in Budapest to secure my loyalty, it was almost a foregone conclusion. I was not a person who liked old habits of behaviour or thinking. I was a fighter and Taaffe was a good tactician, who created a campaigning organisation. Moreover, it was a change of an epoch, which needed people to ‘think out of the box’ and to act adventurously, in order to make the best of it. […]”
Explaining his unhesitating support, Stephen Morgan gives the usual excuses employed by the clique to cover up their motivations. Ted and Alan were “old school… We need new ideas. We need to bring on the youth – that means clever people like you,” etc. This was music to his ears, and that was how he was recruited to the clique “unhesitatingly”. Now, at last, he could feel important. From an insignificant person at the international centre, he was catapulted into exalted heights. He became part of the leadership:
“I was part of a secret, shadow International Secretariat chaired by Taaffe, which operated entirely independently of the structures of the CWI and, indeed, of the British section and took totally independent decisions from the legitimate bodies. It wasn't a faction initially, simply a secret group around part of the leaders deciding how to manoeuvre against Grant and Woods and use others, like John Throne and Roger Silverman as temporary tactical allies.” (Emphasis added)
Like many others, Morgan participated with gusto in the campaign of lies, slander and calumnies against the Opposition. He was not the only one. But not all were on the same level of viciousness. For example, it is unfair to place Throne and Roger Silverman in the same bracket as one another.
It was obvious that Roger felt extremely uncomfortable about the hooligan methods of the Majority. As far as I remember, he tried to stay out of the witch-hunting campaign. At worst he can be accused of cowardice. Throne, by contrast, was in his element in the role of Witchfinder General. Morgan was like that too. He recalls those exciting days with relish:
“I was a valuable ally against Grant and Woods, in the CWI office, in the UK and among CWI sections. When I was called back from Hungary, it wasn't because of political reasons. It was because they wanted all-hands-on-deck to fight the internal battle. They wanted to make absolutely sure that those who seemed to be with them would not step out of line. As far as they were concerned, the consolidation of new groups in Eastern Europe could go hang. The victory of the clique came first.” (Emphasis added)
In his statement, Morgan repeats the lie that “both” factions were preparing to split. That is entirely false. There was absolutely no intention of splitting in the ranks of the Opposition. Ted Grant said: “We will fight, fight and fight again, and if it takes two or three years, we will win the majority.” But we did not have two or three years, nor even one year. Taaffe was mortally afraid of a genuine debate. And as a member of the clique, Morgan knew that his only intention was to use every dirty trick to push us out.
Steve Morgan exaggerates his importance in the ranks of the Taaffeites, who soon realised that his services were of little value. He complains that they never really trusted him, which is probably true. People of that sort are rarely trusted by anybody. Only gradually did he realise the sad truth: his valuable talents were not really appreciated by his boss:
“With the exception of Peter Taaffe, I had good relations with all the other comrades in his clique and considered a few of them, like Tony Saunois and Bob Labi as personal friends. But being the way I was, I always sort of had one foot in the clique and one foot outside. […]”
And here was the rub!
“The problem with me was, you can't have one foot in and one foot [out] of a clique. You are either in or out. And if you decide you're in, then you have to sell your soul to the devil.”
That transaction had already been completed (unhesitatingly, as they say). Steve Morgan’s soul had been bought and paid for. The price he received was not very satisfactory to the vendor, but Taaffe must have thought he had got a really bad deal. He always demanded absolute obedience – no ifs or buts. When Taaffe no longer had any use for Morgan, he was cast off like a used dishrag. He informs us:
“My ‘sacking’ was in fact an expulsion by other means. I don't know for sure, but it seemed that Bob Labi, another IS [International Secretariat] member and part of ‘our’ clique, thought that was also the reason I ‘left’ and didn't know I'd been sacked. The reason I mention it is because there was mostly [sic] definitely a clique within a clique in the IS, a ‘triumvirate’ of Peter Taaffe, Lynn Walsh and Tony Saunois, who prepared the plans in advance of the shadow IS.” (Emphasis added)
When Morgan was a fully paid-up member of the clique, he enthusiastically supported the sacking of Opposition full timers; the withholding of wages and maternity leave; and the brutal hounding and “expulsions by other means” of better people than himself. But when the same methods were turned against him, he began to squeal. This reaction seems to be quite common, to judge from more recent events.
Steve Morgan moans about the injustice of it all. He writes:
“Even after the Woods/Grant split, I think we all remained a little naive and trustful. Perhaps, we felt that most of the problems stemmed from the IMT and that after the difficult and unpleasant affair of the split was over, things would be better, even much better than before and open and honest discussions would flourish without any dirty tricks.”
Now, this is a most interesting admission. It appears that it was okay to use all the “dirty tricks” in the world to get rid of Ted Grant and Alan Woods. It was perfectly fine to stifle all “open and honest discussions” in the fight against the Opposition. But once that “unpleasant affair” was over, we could have a situation that would be “even much better than before”. In these statements, we do not find the slightest hint of “naivety” or “trustfulness” – only a disgusting amalgam of dishonesty, hypocrisy and cynicism.
Morgan trampled over every element of internal democracy and (by his own admission) handed complete control of the organisation to “a secret, shadow IS chaired by Taaffe, which operated entirely independently of the structures of the CWI and, indeed, of the British section”. How could this lead to anything but a continuation and deepening of the morass of bureaucratic degeneration? And that is exactly what occurred.
Have the lessons been learned?
Morgan fell victim to the degenerate regime he helped to build. He deserves no sympathy. In fact, there would be absolutely no point in reading this pathetic document, except for one thing. We have seen similar cases repeated more recently. In July of this year, Taaffe expelled the Irish and other sections of the CWI who dared to criticise his leadership.
That was like an action replay of what occurred 30 years ago. The exact same clique used exactly the same dirty methods. The only difference was that this time the Minority expelled the Majority! Or rather, the Majority have “placed themselves outside the organisation”. This is exactly the same formula they used against us three decades ago. Of course, only a fool can fail to understand that this is merely a fig-leaf to disguise a dishonest and cowardly expulsion.
Some might ask why we bother to devote time and effort to things that happened 30 years ago and which nobody knows anything about. To start with, the phenomena we are describing do not belong only to the past. They are being repeated today, with the damaging effect of demoralising people who have spent their lives fighting for socialism. These methods are discrediting the banner of Trotskyism in the eyes of the working class and its vanguard.
We are publishing this information precisely because it is not known. Those responsible for these scandals have gone to great lengths to cover their tracks and conceal the facts, so they can repeat the same crimes. For that very reason, it is necessary to shine a bright light on these obscure corners, to publish the facts and put the record straight.
The reason why this is necessary is very simple. To this day, there are people who are still trying to falsify the truth and deny what really happened. That naturally applies to Taaffe and co., who have every reason to lie about how they manoeuvred to expel Ted Grant – the founder of our movement – and destroy the Militant. Their methods come straight from the copy-book of Stalinism – including the falsification of history. So their conduct was perfectly predictable.
But I am sorry to say that this also applies to others who ought to have learned their lesson, but clearly have not. We are referring here to those leaders of the CWI Majority faction who, for reasons of personal prestige, continue to repeat the old lies about the past. To conceal their own role in those scandalous events, they attempt to blame Ted Grant for the 1992 split, or to place him in the same bracket as Peter Taaffe. That is a monstrous slander. It puts the victim on the same plane as the assassin. It thereby provides a surreptitious justification for the latter – and for those who supported him.
By falsifying the record, these people commit a double crime. In concealing the truth, they make it impossible for the new generation to draw the correct conclusions. This allows the old cancer to continue to spread, poison and destroy. History repeats itself, and it will go on repeating itself until people stop lying about the past, honestly admit their mistakes and draw the necessary conclusions.
In the words of Trotsky: “The motor force of history is truth, not lies.”
As part of the historical record, we publish below, for the first time, three letters from 1991; and the “Open Letter” against expulsion of the Opposition in early 1992, for the information of our readers.
Letter to Comrades from Ted Grant
Last night, at the national Centre, an episode occurred which is without precedent in our movement.
Using the pretext of “security”, Peter Taaffe and his supporters on the EC instigated a search of Opposition comrades' bags. They pretended that this was for the purpose of finding internal minutes.
The argument about security is nonsense. They have already blown all “security” by going to the press, radio and TV with details of the organisation nationally and internationally.
They searched the bags of myself and my secretary, Alistair Wilson, which we accepted under protest. When nothing of interest was found in our personal belongings I proceeded to open the door in order to leave when a full-timer slammed the door shut and interposed himself between me and the door, physically preventing me from leaving the premises.
When challenged, the person concerned, Andy Beadle, replied that he “was acting under the instructions of the EC” to prevent me from leaving the premises “until an EC member came down to give permission”. The fact that I have been a member of the organisation for fifty years and a member of the EC since its inception evidently counted for nothing with this comrade, or the people who have given him his orders.
By these hooligan actions, these comrades have denied me my freedom of movement, effectively making me a prisoner, at the whim of individual full timers and the EC-Majority faction.
It goes without saying that this behaviour has all the hallmarks of a provocation, leading to a situation which could have caused a far more serious incident. The only thing which prevented this was the restraint shown by comrade Alistair and myself in the face of such extreme provocation. This incident is neither isolated nor accidental. It forms part of a systematic campaign of provocation and harassment against Opposition supporters in the national Centre orchestrated by Peter Taaffe and his supporters on the EC with a view to driving us out of full-time work, removing us from our positions and bringing about an open split in the organisation. We wish to make it clear that we have no intention of splitting, leaving full-time work or resigning from any of our positions. However, we cannot and will not tolerate the utilisation of neo-Stalinist methods and police provocation at the National Centre.
If any one of these provocations had occurred in an ordinary workplace then the workforce would have undoubtedly walked out the gate.
The EC-Majority faction is abusing its position, in the false belief that its provocations will go unnoticed by the membership. They are mistaken. We will denounce these methods, which are completely alien to all our traditions, to every member of the organisation in Britain and internationally.
At this moment in time I feel unable to go to the National Centre, because the present climate of hatred towards the Opposition, which has been deliberately whipped up by the EC-Majority, means that my physical integrity and personal dignity can no longer be guaranteed. I am further recommending to other comrades of the Opposition, who have also suffered systematic harassment, that they should avoid going to the Centre until satisfactory assurances are given by the EC-Majority that these provocations shall cease.
I appeal to those comrades who wish to defend the integrity of the Marxist tendency to do everything in their power to oppose these methods and defend the elementary, democratic rights of the Opposition.
Letter to the British EC from Alistair Wilson
13 December 1991
In answer to your letter dated 11 December 1991, I would like to make the following points:
1. For the last four years I have been working as Ted’s personal secretary. As such, my working responsibilities consist in assisting comrade Ted in carrying out his political work. I have always taken the responsibility extremely seriously and neither Ted nor anyone else have ever found fault with my work up until now.
2. Comrade Ted has suffered from serious illness in recent months, involving hospitalisation on two occasions and long periods of convalescence, under strict doctor’s orders. During this time, he has had no one to help him on a full-time basis in attending to his needs, other than myself. No help has been forthcoming from yourselves. In fact, on several occasions, using various excuses, he was denied the use of the Centre’s car, something which had always been taken for granted in the past.
3. My absence from the centre during the past period was exclusively due to this situation. I challenge you or anyone else to criticise my record of attending the Centre the entire previous period when I have been working full-time.
4. Until such time as am I removed as Ted’s secretary, I shall continue to fulfil my obligations to him. If this entails absence from the centre, for certain periods, I do not see why anyone should object to this, particularly as you are all aware of the situation in which Ted has found himself in.
5. It has become increasingly clear to me that the EC-Majority faction has organised a systematic campaign to drive the supporters of the Opposition out of full-time work. You succeeded with cde Stephanie Harrison. The next targets were Davy Brown and myself, to be followed by Rob Sewell, Ted and all the others. I have experienced continuous harassment from your supporters in recent months. I have been prevented from access to telephones, computers and now even Ted’s office, in an attempt to obstruct my work and undermine my morale. You have not succeeded in affecting my morale, which remains as firm as ever. But I do feel bound to draw the line when it comes to the disloyal and rude treatment you have meted out to Ted.
6. Even before the latest incident, you attempted to put pressure on me, as a means of getting at Ted. Using the excuse of my alleged absence from the Centre, the reasons for which you were well aware of, you tried to get me to agree to “conditions of work”, which would effectively have removed me as Ted’s secretary and which have never been required of any other full-timer. I was told I would have to come to the Centre every single day until Christmas, including weekends, [and] I was not allowed to take any “time off”. If I did so, I would have to produce a doctor’s certificate, and so on. I have been a member of the tendency for fifteen years. I have been a full-timer for over seven years. Never have such conditions been required of me before. Is this the normal way of dealing with full timers? If so, then I demand to see a list of all the other Centre full-timers who have been required to accept such conditions. If not, then it is clear that such a measure is designed to pressurise and harass me as a supporter of the Opposition. In reality your “conditions” are a farce. When I was ill and provided the required doctor’s certificate you still sent me a recorded delivery letter (2 December 1991) demanding that I explain my absence. When I did go to the Centre at the weekend (7 December 1991) with the prior knowledge of yourselves, the door to my office had been locked.
7. The EC-Majority faction did not stop there. You did not only require my presence at the Centre, but also demanded that I work “under the direction of the EC". What does this mean? Ted is a member of the EC, and not the least important one. I work – and have always worked – under his direction.
The demand that I should “work under the direction of the EC” clearly means that I should no longer work under the direction of Ted Grant. You are determined to deprive Ted of his secretary, in order to try to isolate him and deprive him of the assistance he needs to conduct effective political work in defence of ideas of which you do not approve. This is a scandalous move which I cannot and will not accept. I believe the big majority of comrades, including supporters of the Majority position, will not accept the bureaucratic bullying of the comrade who founded this tendency and has sacrificed his entire life to build it.
8. The campaign of harassment and provocation at the Centre has reached a new low with the institution of a police regime, of searching comrades’ bags when they enter and leave the Centre. By the way, your assertion elsewhere, that the searching applies to all comrades is false. On 7 December when Ted and myself went to the Centre to collect some of his personal belongings, which were rigorously searched by EC-Majority members, comrades Ruth Campbell and Helen Watson left the centre before the very eyes of these same EC members, but were not asked to undergo a search. Although Ted and myself find this whole situation absolutely repugnant (Ted voted against it at the EC), we were prepared to accept under protest the searching of our bags on December 3. However, the subsequent actions of comrade Andy Beadle in attempting to physically prevent Ted from leaving the Centre, despite having found nothing in his bags, “until an EC member came and gave permission for him to leave”, is absolutely unacceptable.
Only thanks to the restraint shown by Ted and myself was a more serious incident avoided. That is the lengths the regime instituted at the Centre by the Majority faction have taken us. I should add that I do not blame comrade Andy Beadle for what happened. He was clearly acting under instruction from the EC-Majority faction. There is no doubt in my mind that a decision of such importance could never have been taken without the personal knowledge and consent of the general secretary, comrade Peter Taaffe, who must take full responsibility for what occurred.
9. As a result of this scandalous provocation, and the atmosphere of hatred which has been deliberately whipped up at the Centre by the EC-Majority faction, comrade Ted Grant now considers that his physical integrity can no longer be guaranteed at the Centre. At the very least, he would be subject to all kinds of insults, indignities and provocations, which would have a damaging effect on his health, which has already been undermined by the intolerable treatment he has been subjected to for the last seven months.
I wish to state categorically that I fully solidarise with Ted on this question. It is completely unacceptable that a comrade like Ted – or anyone else – should be subjected to this kind of treatment. No worker in industry would ever accept it. Why should we?
I also want to make it clear that I have no wish or intention to give up full-time work. If the EC-Majority faction is serious about overcoming the present difficulties, the solution is in its hands: cease your provocations and harassment, give us reasonable guarantees that our elementary rights will be defended and enter into discussions with the Opposition to avoid conflicts of this nature and confine the discussion to the political questions from which we can all benefit from.
10. As far as your remarks about wages are concerned, I interpret them as a crude attempt at blackmail, similar to the attempt to blackmail comrade Linda Douglas by threatening to stop her maternity pay, unless she pressurised Rob Sewell to sign a document resigning from certain positions.
I am well aware that my wages are paid from members subs – as are those of all of you. Yet only supporters of the Opposition are reminded of this fact. Those who support the Majority faction – or who simply remain silent – are neither reminded about wages, work, punctuality or anything else.
What determines whether you come in for harassment is not determined by the quality or quantity of your work, but simply which side you are on. This fact is known to every full timer at the centre.
Let’s speak clearly: your letter contains a thinly veiled threat of the sack. This is the method of the Majority Faction in “answering” the Opposition.
11. You ask me to condemn Opposition supporters who allegedly have reduced their subs. You make no mention of the Majority supporters who have done this. You know perfectly well that, long before this crisis began, the EC was seriously concerned about the number of comrades who were reducing their subs and cancelling standing orders.
Why? Because they supported the Opposition? That did not even exist at the time. In part it reflected the pressures of a difficult objective situation. But in part it was because they were dissatisfied with the way the tendency was being run.
That discontent has increased in recent months, and I predict it will increase still more because of the unhealthy and undemocratic regime which suffocates criticism and dissent, and is perfectly expressed in your letter.
Rather than ask me to condemn this phenomenon, which considerably pre-dates the crisis, you had better ask yourselves what are the political reasons for it, and provide the kind of leadership that inspires people to make sacrifices and give of their best, because they believe in ideas.
12. You say the “EC does not dispute...” Since when has the EC got the right to determine how the Opposition raises the funds which it needs to get its ideas across to the membership in Britain and internationally, in a situation where the EC-Majority faction has denied us access to printing facilities and refused to distribute our material?
Since the National Congress, nearly two months ago, you have deliberately suppressed our document The New Turn: What is the Alternative. You have even violated your own undemocratic rule which states the “EC has the right to hold up a document for three weeks in order to produce a reply”.
This is a deliberate sabotage of the Opposition standpoint. You have persistently demanded that the Spanish section should distribute not only your documents but also articles from the paper, faxes, and every piddling sub-clause that you consider relevant. You have further demanded that all this be sent to every last member in Spain.
Yet you have deliberately suppressed the Open Letter of the Spanish EC, which you have had ready and translated since the Congress. What kind of hypocrisy is this? One law for the “Majority” and the British EC and another for everyone else.
Under the circumstances, how is the Opposition supposed to react? There is a deliberate attempt to silence us by suppressing our material. At the same time the Majority faction has unlimited access to the resources of the apparatus, the members’ subs and into the bargain its own finances.
13) While lecturing the Opposition about finance, this faction nevertheless sent 13 of its supporters to Spain in a vain attempt to undermine the Spanish section (they got one vote – the most expensive vote in history). They sent five to Italy (they got NO votes there).
Some of these “Majority” supporters were in Spain for over a month including comrade Nick Wrack, the national treasurer. I ask the EC a direct question: Do you condemn the actions of the national treasurer, Nick Wrack, who, at the time of the most serious financial crisis in our history, deserted his post at the National Centre to go to do factional work in Spain?
Further, do you condemn the international treasurer, comrade Soraya Lawrence, who absented herself for a similar period to do factional work in Italy and Spain, despite the fact that the International was verging on bankruptcy?
We calculate that these trips cost in the region of £4,000. It was said that this money was “raised by supporters of the British Majority faction.” Without a proper and independent scrutiny of the finances we will have to take your word for that. Subsequently, comrades Lynn Walsh and Phil Frampton have been sent to do faction work in Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Australia.
These trips will have cost thousands more. Who paid for them? You ask me to condemn the Opposition’s appeal for £6,000 to buy printing facilities. Will you condemn the £6,000 and much more which has been allegedly raised by “Majority” supporters for their factional work? Will you condemn the suppression of Opposition documents and the refusal to print and distribute our material which leaves us with no alternative but to find alternative means to publish our ideas?
14. At the last IEC, the Majority faction moved a resolution which said that the funds of the International could no longer be used to pay for the internal debate and that from now on these costs must be met by either the national sections or by the factions themselves.
The Opposition warned that this would be a disastrous step, which would polarise the situation and solidify the factional groupings who would have to raise their own funds. The Majority faction persisted, and the resolution was carried, with the Opposition voting against.
The Opposition therefore has no alternative but to raise its own funds, as decided by the IEC. We do not tell the Majority faction how to raise its money (very large amounts as we have seen). Nor do we accept their right to tell us how to raise ours, or what it can, or cannot be spent on.
15. A week ago, a leading member of the Majority faction on the IS, comrade John Throne, announced in Belgium that the Belgian Minority (i.e. supporters of the British Majority faction) now had a factional Headquarters in Ghent. He added that comrade Steve Morgan (hitherto an international full timer) would now be working in Belgium on a permanent basis as a factional full timer.
This means that all talk about occasional donations for travel, etc. is absolute nonsense. What is good for your supporters in Belgium is good for the British Opposition. You have forced us to take these steps. You cannot complain of the consequences. You say that extra money should be paid to the organisation. Then why did you not donate the thousands of pounds you have spent on foreign trips to pay off some of the debts of the British organisation and the International?
16. Your entire conduct shows that you pursue a policy of double standards. Your letter, with its threats of blackmail, will not intimidate me or any other supporter of the Opposition. It will be seen by the membership for what it is: an attempt to slander the Opposition, in order to justify reprisals against full-timers who support our views, and prepare the way for a split in the organisation. This will never be accepted by the rank and file.
I repeat: the only way to solve the present conflict is not by bullying, threats and blackmail, but by a return to the democratic methods of the past. End the harassment, stop the slander, and work together with us to create conditions where a discussion of differences can take place in an atmosphere of tolerance and calm. Once we have suitable assurances from you on this, we can discuss the necessary measures to put an end to the present abnormal situation and work to build the tendency.
Letter to British Executive Committee from Davy Brown
16 December 1991
I have been fifteen years a member of the organisation, nine years as a full-timer, the last five of these as a member of the organisation department. Over this whole period there has been no major criticism of my work. In fact, as a district full-timer I had the fastest growing district in Britain for two years in succession.
In the organisation department I have been responsible for both the Labour Party work and parliamentary work. Yet over the last 4 months I have had all my responsibilities stripped from me and I have been removed from my job as parliamentary organiser and bureaucratically replaced by comrade Mike Waddington, a former supporter of the Opposition who publicly recanted his views at the CC and was rewarded by being put in my place.
I was not given any alternative work, but then to add insult to injury, I was then accused of not doing anything! Instead I was subjected to a campaign of systematic harassment, specifically from comrade Ian Parker who worked in the organisation department. It was generally known that this comrade was not one of the hardest working comrades at the centre, in fact before the dispute broke out the ‘General Secretary’ had made it known that he wasn't fit to be a full-timer and shouldn't be in the org department.
For a period of weeks this comrade would harass me every morning, his tactics consisted of sitting on top of my desk and haranguing me: “you’re getting fucked. Why don't you give in? When we get to the rank and file in Spain, we'll split them from top to bottom. What’s wrong, you're not looking very well today; we should drown all the Minority”, and so it went, for at least half an hour every morning.
It is clear that no comrade would dare to act in this manner without the consent of the ‘General Secretary’ or the EC.
In 100 different ways my work at the centre was made untenable; I was not given a security number to enter the building, my phone was removed from my desk and I wasn't given access numbers to the computer or the photocopiers.
At the same time a campaign of vilification was instigated to blacken my name in the ranks of the organisation. Let’s look at the specific instance of Germany, where Lynn Walsh claimed at the congress, that I'd not asked permission to go there.
The only reason I went to Germany because I was asked at short notice by comrade Ted, who was ill at the time, having been in hospital. This fact was known by every member of the EC. If I had not gone then the Opposition would not have been represented at the German NC. This body had asked for a speaker from the Opposition.
A number of lies have been put into circulation regarding this incident:
a) That I didn't ask permission to go.
As soon as I knew of the proposed visit I immediately contacted comrade Francis Curran – who in effect has replaced Rob Sewell as the national organiser – I also informed Tony Saunois of the International Centre. At this time none of these comrades expressed any opposition to the visit. At the time this seemed logical to me. How could the Majority determine who would go to defend the point of view of the Opposition in Germany? They'd have no more right to do this than we would to determine who they'd send to represent their point of view in other sections.
On this, as on all other questions, you have blatant double standards. Thus, it was okay for Nick Wrack to absent himself from his duties as head of the Finance department, not for five days as in my case but for five weeks in his! Examples of this sort can be multiplied at will, but only one comrade has been singled out, of course by coincidence it just happens to be a supporter of the Opposition.
b) Another lie is that I went to Germany without the permission of the German NC.
This is such a blatant untruth that the German EC refused to read out a resolution sent to them by the British EC. The fact is that the German comrades, unlike the British EC, fully recognised the right of the Opposition to designate its own speakers, and were quite happy for me to speak as the official representative of the Opposition, on the debate on the Scottish turn.
The truth is that the Majority faction waited until I was on my way to Germany before calling a special meeting to condemn me in my absence and without the slightest warning to accuse me of absenting myself from the centre.
This transparent manoeuvre was directed not only against myself but against comrade Ted for whom I was standing in.
What was Ted supposed to do? Drag himself from his bed to go to Germany? Is this how you show your concern for Ted’s health?
The next step in the campaign of harassment was to send me to work in the canteen. I'd like to make it clear that in principle I have no objection to doing any work in the organisation, but, under the given circumstances, it was clear to me it was part of an attempt to pressurise me into giving up full-time work. Nevertheless, I agreed to go into the canteen and worked there [for] a week. When the time was up comrade Keith Dickinson tried to persuade me to continue to work there, arguing that I had nothing to do (if this was the case, then it was only as a result of being systematically removed from my positions by the Majority faction). My response was to point out that there were 80 other full-timers in the building who should share the responsibility, including him. Keith Dickinson had no answer for this and was obliged to back down.
The latest and clearest evidence of the attempt to drive me out of full-time work was the suggestion that Alistair Wilson and myself should work in the print shop. It is quite incredible that the ‘General Secretary’ in person should find it necessary to go to the comrades of the printshop and argue that Davy Brown must be sent there “to do the most menial jobs until he leaves.”
The fact is that I've never intimated to the ‘General Secretary’ or anyone else that I intended to leave full-time work. It is therefore clear that the ‘General Secretary’ had made my mind up for me.
This explicitly confirms something that has been clear to me for some months, that the EC-Majority faction has decided to campaign to drive every Opposition supporter out of full-time work and to try to provoke a split in the organisation.
This is clearly shown by the attitude to my partner Linda Douglas.
On this I have only the following to say. I am prepared to face all the attacks, the slanders, the harassment and pressures that are directed against me because of my political views and support of the Opposition, but I consider it to be an absolute scandal that the so-called Marxists of the EC-Majority should put pressure on my partner as a means of getting at myself and the Opposition as a whole.
Comrade Linda Douglas has been a member of the organisation for more than twelve years. She’s been full-time for eight-and-a-half years, during which period she has worked in self-sacrificing manner, doing a whole range of jobs; from compositing, to Black and Asian department, the Youth department, poll-tax work and parliamentary work.
She served as our representative on the NEC [of the Labour Party], being the first black person to serve on this body.
At present, Linda is eight-and-a-half months pregnant, expecting another child in January. We already have a two-year-old daughter. We are dependent for our existence on our wages as full-timers who have dedicated our lives to the organisation.
Two months ago it was agreed that Linda should receive maternity pay and maternity leave. It should be made clear that this refers to the period of enforced absence from work from mid-November onwards, this is an elementary right of any female comrade who is compelled temporarily to take leave as a result of maternity. We took it for granted that in a Marxist organisation which prides itself on its attitude towards women (Sara Thornton campaign, etc.) that the rights of our own comrades would be guaranteed. This would apply whether the comrades concerned support the Majority faction or the Opposition, but it seems we were mistaken.
On the 28th November, Linda and myself went to the centre as arranged to obtain the wages already owing to her and to finalise the amount of maternity pay she'd receive and the date when she'd re-commence full-time work.
To our astonishment we were intercepted by comrade Nick Wrack who asked us to attend a discussion in Francis Curran’s office. Present were Nick Wrack, Francis Curran and Brian Ingham. At this meeting we were informed that unless comrade Rob Sewell signed various documents resigning from positions in the tendency (and unless we put pressure on him to do so) then Linda would receive no further pay.
All that you were prepared to offer was the pay already owed to Linda up to the 30 November but on the fundamental question of maternity pay, not only would this not be paid but there would not even be any discussion on the subject.
Because of the absolute storm of protest over this action the Majority faction was forced to beat a tactical retreat. At least in words, you felt compelled to issue a statement assuring the rank and file that Linda would receive her full pay and maternity benefit. This is in flat contradiction to the position vehemently expressed by comrade Nick Wrack, with the full support of comrades Francis Curran and Brian Ingham at the meeting. And it remains to be seen if your promise will be honoured in practice.
You ask me about my alleged absences from the Centre. I have been a full-timer at the Centre since 1986. I ask you to check my attendance level for the whole of this period and you'll see that my record compares favourably with any comrade in the building. This is an indisputable fact. If I have been absent on a number of occasions in the last two months, this has been due to the fact that my wife has been in an advanced state of pregnancy with a young daughter to care for. In addition to this, I have been suffering from a kidney complaint which has involved numerous visits to the hospital and doctors. If necessary, I can provide written proof of this fact.
However, I am formally requesting that the EC furnishes proof that it is carrying out similar investigations into the attendance records of supporters of the Majority.
It is clear that your sole aim is to continue your campaign of harassment against the Opposition, which has already succeeded in driving one full-timer out of full-time work.
The real intentions of the Majority faction was shown by the institution of a police regime of provocations, involving the searching of comrades’ bags allegedly on the grounds of “security” and the scandalous ill-treatment meted out to comrade Ted, who no longer feels safe to go to the Centre. I feel that the intention of the Majority is to provoke a serious incident like the incident involving physical violence organised by comrade Farouk against comrade Tanvir and the expulsion of Opposition supporters.
Our only recourse, given this situation, is to appeal to the members to exert pressure on the EC-Majority faction to desist from these methods, which threaten to damage the organisation we have worked for years to build up.
I wish to make it clear that I'm opposed to any idea of a split and I have no intention of giving up full-time work, or resigning from the organisation. I'm ready to work at the Centre the moment that the EC gives reasonable assurances that our safety and self-respect will be safeguarded. We are willing to discuss these issues with the representatives of the Majority in an effort to achieve agreement to safeguard the unity of the organisation.
On the other issues in relation to finance, I have discussed them with comrade Alistar Wilson and I fully subscribe to his point of view as outlined in his letter, which you'll have received at the same time as this.
Open Letter to Supporters of the Majority – The Expulsion of the Opposition
17 January 1992
On Thursday, January 16, just before 12am, the Majority faction of the Executive Committee (EC) voted to expel comrades Ted Grant, Rob Sewell and Alan Woods.
The decision to expel us was in fact taken at a meeting of the EC held on Monday 13, of which we were neither informed nor invited to attend.
On turning up at the National Centre, we were, at first, denied admission and kept waiting at the “tradesman’s entrance” until the General Secretary and other EC members decided to come down to address us.
Even then, they attempted to deny us access to the Centre (we had not yet had an opportunity to defend ourselves, or even hear the charges against us, let alone be expelled). Comrade Lynn Walsh began to read out a prepared EC statement, till Alan objected that we had come to attend an EC meeting, and were not prepared to discuss serious matters in the entry hall of the Centre.
After our protests we were allowed to enter the EC meeting room, where we were presented with a resolution stating that we had “placed ourselves outside the ranks of the tendency” and that anyone else who continued to support the Opposition would be treated in the same way.
We pointed out that these were extremely serious charges and even more serious measures being proposed, and asked the comrades to produce the evidence. This they refused to do, referring us to their last national circular, alleging, in terms which appear to be copied from a Walworth Road [Labour's old headquarters] circular, that we constituted a “separate organisation.”
Alan pointed out that he had been expelled from the Labour Party 12 months before, and that even the Labour bureaucracy provides the evidence before expelling people.
The “evidence” of a stooge
The reason why the EC refused to give its “evidence” is that it is based upon the reports of a spy, sent along to the Opposition meeting by the Majority faction. Entirely false and misleading reports have been put in circulation nationally and presented to comrades as though they were the official minutes of the meeting. In reality they are the report of a stooge of the Majority, full of inaccuracies, lies and half-truths intended to distort the position of the Opposition.
Since when did we begin to go in for the method of spies and agents provocateurs in internal debates? These are the methods of a Stalinist regime, not the methods of Trotsky. They should be condemned with disgust by all honest supporters of the tendency.
On this basis, and on this alone, the EC expelled the founder of our tendency, comrade Ted Grant, after fifty years of struggle for the ideas of Marxism in Britain and internationally; comrade Alan Woods, founder of the Spanish tendency and a member of the International leadership, with 30 years of work for the tendency to his credit; and comrade Rob Sewell, the national organiser who built the tendency in South Wales and worked for it for 26 years.
Comrades, just how far have the leaders of the Majority faction taken us on the road to the abandonment of democratic Marxist principles?
Provocations against the Opposition
The argument that we have “split” and formed a “separate organisation” is false to the core.
As a Minority faction, formally recognised five months ago by the Central Committee, we have the right to organise our own meetings, separate and apart from the official meetings of the tendency at local, regional and national level. Indeed, we had a national aggregate last November, which discussed precisely the same issues we discussed last weekend. No accusation was made then of a “separate organisation”, despite the fact that all the proceedings were well known to the leadership.
The Majority faction holds regular meetings, raises large amounts of money to fund its operations, and also uses its monopoly of the financial and technical resources of the tendency, funded by the contributions of ALL comrades, to further its factional ends.
They have no need either of full-timers, printing facilities or separate premises, because they use the existing apparatus as if it were their private property while denying the Opposition access to these facilities.
The Majority Faction has suppressed the documents of the Opposition. They have refused to distribute our reply to Lynn Walsh’s “Dogmatic” document, which was printed three months ago, and kept it locked up at the centre.
While conducting a dishonest campaign to discredit the Spanish comrades as allegedly “undemocratic”, they have refused to circulate the Open Letter of the Spanish CC to the British comrades.
The ideas of the Opposition were being suppressed by the apparatus.
Worse still, they introduced a regime of systematic harassment against Opposition full-timers, who were removed from their positions. Davy Brown, for instance, was removed as full-timer in charge of parliamentary work and ordered to work in the canteen, and so on.
A police regime was introduced in the Centre, involving the searching of comrades' bags, which led to an intolerable incident involving physical pressure against comrade Ted.
Finally, just before Christmas, three Opposition full-timers (Rob, Davy and Alistair) were “suspended” (i.e. sacked) from their jobs.
All these measures were intended to harass the Opposition and provoke us to split, but they failed.
A “Separate Organisation”?
We are accused of raising money to finance the Opposition. But the Majority faction has spent thousands of pounds to finance its own operations in Britain and internationally. Where is the difference?
The Majority faction pushed a resolution through the International Executive Committee – against our Opposition – which compels us to raise our own funds. They then accuse us of doing just this. Where is the logic in this?
The Majority faction has a factional centre in Belgium, where they are in a minority. In Britain, the three suspended full-timers decided to rent a small office in January to be able to continue the work of the Opposition. If it is acceptable for the Minority in Belgium, why is it impermissible for the Minority in Britain?
We decided to buy a modest printing machine (paid for by money collected by our own supporters) because they refused to print or distribute our material. We would, of course, prefer to utilise the resources of the tendency, which ought to be our democratic right, but under no circumstances will we allow ourselves to be silenced.
They complain about the resolutions discussed at our national committee. But what is discussed at meetings of the Opposition is the affair of the Opposition. We do not interfere with what is discussed at the closed meetings of the other faction nor do we send spies and provocateurs along to them.
They claim we discussed a “new Constitution”. That is nonsense. We had an important discussion on the nature of Democratic Centralism (which has been systematically violated in the present regime of bureaucratic centralism, and, for information purposes, we distributed the original ‘Constitution of British Trotskyism’ of 1944!) No new constitution was either discussed or adopted.
They talk about a “public paper”. But no such paper exists, nor did we make any plans to print one. We decided to launch a Bulletin of the Opposition as a basis for putting our faction on an organised footing.
However, even if we did decide to publish an open journal, that would not constitute a “separate organisation”, any more than did the fact that Bukharin published an independent daily paper (Kommunist) in opposition to the line of Lenin and the Central Committee in 1918. How did Lenin react to this? Did he expel Bukharin? Did he say that Bukharin had “placed himself outside the organisation”?
Nothing of the kind. Lenin confined himself to political persuasion and argument. The problem is that the leaders of the Majority faction are not capable of arguing a political case, and try to solve political problems by organisational (bureaucratic) means. That is the road which leads directly to neo-Stalinist and sectarian degeneration.
All kinds of things are discussed at our meetings. All kinds of different opinions are freely expressed – unlike the meetings of the tendency, where only one line is now permitted to be heard and all other views are treated as “heresy”.
But the position unanimously adopted at the end of our national meeting was not to split, but on the contrary, to launch a unity petition, appealing to the tendency to unite on the basis of a scrupulous respect for internal democracy, this, and nothing else, reflects the official standpoint of the Opposition. Yet the Majority remains silent on this, and spreads the lie that the Opposition has “split”.
A Dishonest Expulsion
Let us call things by their right name. The decision of the British EC is a dishonest and cowardly method of expelling all supporters of the Opposition. From now on, all comrades will be required to take a “loyalty oath”. Those who are not prepared to denounce the Opposition will be automatically declared to be “outside the organisation”.
The leadership is afraid to use the word “expulsion” because it evokes bad memories of Stalinist and Social Democratic parties. But in reality, the position they have adopted is even worse than this.
By a peculiar, twisted logic, the only difference between expelling somebody and declaring them to have “placed themselves outside the organisation” is that, in the latter case, you have no right to appeal.
This is the position that all supporters of the Opposition now find themselves in. We are faced with the alternative: give up the struggle for what we believe in, or face automatic expulsion with no right of appeal.
For us, there can only be one answer. We have given our lives for the struggle for genuine socialism and the emancipation of the working class. We will never abandon our principles, no matter what pressure is put upon us to do so.
We reject with contempt the attempt to blackmail us into surrender. We will not lie down and “play dead”. We will fight against these bureaucratic expulsions. We will not abandon the tendency we have built to its fate, but will continue to fight for a change of course.
The present policies and tactics of the leadership will mean the destruction of the tendency. The expulsion of the Opposition will only accelerate the process by removing the last elements of restraint upon the Majority faction.
Comrades! Do not allow this to happen. Oppose the expulsion of the Opposition, with all your might. Fight to return the tendency to our genuine traditions of Marxist policies, a democratic internal regime and a clear orientation to the mass organisations of Labour.
Ted Grant, Rob Sewell and Alan Woods
These historical documents help to put the record straight against all those who would attempt to distort the past. There is plenty more that we could reproduce, but at this point, these documents are quite sufficient to illustrate the truth. Ours is a spotless banner. We turn our backs on those who use lies and bureaucratic methods – which are the methods of our enemies, and have no place in the revolutionary movement. “Ours is not to weep or laugh, but to learn.”
As opposed to the liars, sceptics and bureaucrats, our task is to prepare the future forces, on a genuine basis, for the revolutionary epoch that lies ahead. That can only be based upon truth. “The truth,” as Leon Trotsky explained, “is always revolutionary.” This is the proud task of the International Marxist Tendency.
You can find a full account of these events in the biography of Ted Grant by Alan Woods: Ted Grant: the Permanent Revolutionary. Click here to order it from WellRed Books!