I will pit my history of struggle for revolutionary politics post the 1985 WRP split with Lawrences’ any time he wants.

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07/06/2022 by socialistfight

Lawrence Parker’s personalised latest attacks on me is typified by the outrageous ageist and sexist remark at the end of his tirade on WW May 5, I am, “a tired old man, terminally addicted to the dubious art of playing snooker with a rope”. Furthermore, whilst denying he is a third campist of Stalinist origins he then confirms that that he is just that, “as a much younger CPGB member” he tells us; that is presumably before he joined the WIL in the mid-1990s. His criticism of third campism – presumably his target is the UK SWP – is conjunctional, they constantly seem to veer into supporting the ‘first camp’ and the politics of the ‘lesser evil’”; they are simply not third campism enough. In fact, that quote describes all third campists, as Trotsky explained in his conflict with Max Shachtman in 1939-40, “from a scratch to the danger of gangrene”. And Lawrence’s Stalinophilia is certainly more developed than anyone else that I have encountered in the CPGB.

But, whilst the CPGB often refers favourably to aspects of Trotsky’s politics they agree with, I have seen very little from Lawrence on this, apart from his latest letter – WW May 19. I was surprised to learn that he was a member of the Workers’ International League in the mid-1990s; I certainly never encountered him when I was a member.

I joined the WIL from the Tony Guard’s Revolutionary Internationalist League when I decided they had become adherents of identity politics in conformity with the US Revolutionary Workers League and its leader Leyland Sanderson. Two instances confirmed this for me. First was their opportunist relationship with one Chris Brind, simply because he was an out gay man who was therefore a revolutionary, they concluded. After RWL funding trips to the USA Brind broke with the group and became a right wing Labour councillor, voting through all the cuts demanded of the council at that time.

Second was Alex Olowade who was similar revolutionary because he was an out gay Black man, the two essentials for being a revolutionary, it was implied. The RWL had a perspective of an alliance between the ‘specially oppressed’ and the working class which strove for “the Democratic Dictatorship of the Proletariat and the Specially Oppressed”, the same as the Menshevik version with the peasantry instead of the specially oppressed. After I resigned from the RIL there was a meeting to which he and Tony Gard came to defend me when I was sacked from Willesden bus garage. A fight broke out in the street between an Irish man and a Black man for an unknown reason. A large crowd of West Indian onlookers spilled onto the street to watch, stopping all traffic. The Irish man was winning, and the Black man pulled a knife. “Cut him, cut him, cut him” shouted Alex in great excitement. Fortunately, the watching West Indians were far more civilised, they immediately moved in and stopped the conflict they had been enjoying up to that point, thus potentially saving the Irishman’s life and the Black man from a life sentence. No police needed.

But I learned much from the RIL, special oppression as against class reductionism and the reaffirmation of the correct position of defeat of the British expeditionary fleet in the 1981 Malvinas war. The WRP’s Mike Banda had defeated Gerry Healy’s line of neutrality in the conflict on this; not everything the WRP said and did was wrong. I learned after the split in 1985 that most of the things we said about other groups were true but also most of the things they said about us were also true. The RIL were part of the international group, TILC, that broke with both Sean Matgamna’s line of support for the fleet and Alan Thornett’s line of a plague on both your houses.

The WIL were far better and had a consistent line on special oppression, asserting that were plenty reactionary out gay men. They certainly did not have a position, “as boringly Labourite as possible” but developed a sophisticated line on the United Front, on why work in the Labour party was necessary when sufficient democracy prevailed. Revolutionaries and the Labour Party (September 1994) is part of the Documents of the Leninist-Trotskyist Tendency online and is a “condensed overview of the attitude of the main revolutionary currents in Britain towards the Labour Party, and an attempt to sketch what we believe to be a correct orientation”. It is a serious contribution to Marxism IMHO (https://www.marxists.org/history/etol/document/ltt/index.htm).
It is true that they collapsed into Labourism; I broke with them on that. They now publish the Labour Briefing (original) with others which is simply a left reformist outfit with no revolutionary aspirations whatsoever.

As for the farcical sentence, “The WIL leadership weren’t horrible or spiteful people, but their attitude to Downing was akin to keeping a small child occupied in a hidden playpen with very soft toys” I would respond with the old Gaelic saying, “Dúirt bean liom go ndúirt bean léi” – “a woman told me that another woman told her”, as proof of what a pathetic idiot I am. I met a man yesterday who told me that Lawrence Parker was the biggest Stalinist scoundrel going, I might lie and who could prove I was not telling the truth?

I will pit my history of struggle for revolutionary politics post the 1985 WRP split with Lawrences’ any time he wants.

Gerry Downing 

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