Defend Bob Davies

SL Kenning looks at the latest developments in the Socialist Labour Party

The witch hunt in the Socialist Labour Party continues to claim victims. The latest to come to my attention is Bob Davies, a member of East London branch - it includes within it Carolyn Sikorski and Bob Crow of the general purposes committee of the NEC.

Comrade Davies has found himself excluded by writ of the National Executive Committee. It is said he does not accept or abide by the Scargill draft constitution. Comrade Davies vehemently insists he has done nothing to damage the SLP.

No proof of any wrongdoing has been presented. Neither comrade Davies nor his branch know of any charges. The NEC did not see fit to invite comrade Davies to hear the case against him. And very worryingly for the future there is no suggestion of any right of appeal.

Naturally this sad rerun of the Labour Party’s purge of communists and other leftwingers in the 1920s and 30s provoked resistance in East London SLP. Such political cleansing violates elementary working class principles and natural justice.

Initially opposition was led by the executive committee of East London SLP. Its minutes circulated to members included Patrick Sikorski’s letter to comrade Davies. Obviously it was considered outrageous. It will become notorious. As can be seen, comrade Sikorski’s missive is a combination of bureaucratic high-handedness and penny-pinching meanness.

Dear Bob Davies,

Thank you for your statement to the National Executive which has been examined. We understand that you have refused to accept or abide by the constitution of Socialist Labour. This means your application for membership is invalid and is therefore null and void. I will therefore arrange for your subscriptions to be returned to you as soon as possible, minus a small deduction for administrative charges.

Yours sincerely

Pat Sikorski
General Secretary

Item six of the July 15 meeting of East London executive committee concerned comrade Davies’ exclusion. The following remarks and appropriate response was agreed:


1. Letter provides no evidence for such an important decision.

2. Letter makes no mention of right of appeal.

3. Bob Davies was not invited to a hearing to hear NEC evidence.

Agreed: 5 for, 0 against, 3 abstentions, Richard write to gen sec explaining that we cannot accept a decision about expulsion of one of our members without points 1, 2, 3 above being addressed. That unless a response satisfactory to the EC is received we intend to invite B Davies to the next branch meeting and raise issue with branch membership.

However a mere one week later the majority of the East London branch executive had been cowed into submission. Carolyn Sikorski was dispatched in the name of the NEC to bring her wayward branch into line.

The branch executive of July 21 1996 was fully attended - Anne Brook (president), Cath Weston (vice president), Richard Brunner (secretary/treasurer), Karen Thatcher, Lee Rock, Bridget Wrufter (women’s section). Only Bill O’Dowd was absent.

It voted four to two, with one abstention, to retract its previous position. Unfortunately Lee Rock decided to submit his resignation in protest. Here is the miserable surrender statement as recorded in the minutes:

The EC accepts that our letter was mistaken. We recognise that the issue is over non-acceptance of Bob Davies’ membership, not his exclusion, and we recognise the threat the CPGB poses to the SLP. We therefore accept the NEC decision.

Lee Rock announced he was resigning from the executive and the JSA unemployed group.

NB, as a branch we have no constitutional rights to insist B Davies remain a member of SLP. That decision rests with the NEC.

East London SLP committee might have no rights under Scargill’s draft constitution. But those who call themselves socialists surely have a duty to stand by members who are being witch hunted and who are given no right of appeal. Fortunately the East London rank and file understand this.

The branch meeting of July 29 saw a fightback from below. Though branch secretary comrade Brunner disgracefully barred him from the meeting, there was a vote of 11 to seven to put the question of comrade Davies’ exclusion to the top of the agenda. Another vote of 12 to eight to admit him was turned down using a technical device - a two-thirds majority is required under the Scargill draft constitution to overturn the ruling of the branch chair.

The meeting was heated. Demands for evidence of comrade Davies’ wrong doing reluctantly produced copies of the Weekly Worker. Farcically, photocopied articles by Mark Fischer, Lee-Anne Bates and others were passed round. They called for partisans of the working class to join the SLP! What possible objection can our leadership have to that? And apart from being a partisan of the working class what relevance has this to the case of comrade Davies?

One ex-IMGer caused comrade Carolyn Sikorksi a moment of extreme embarrassment. Did she blush with rage or shame? It was forcibly pointed out that she used to be in the International Marxist Group and that she is now committed to a strategy of deep-entryism in the SLP. That is her right. But it is more than hypocritical to take the lead in witch hunting others. A black South African comrade expressed his horror at the anti-communist clauses in the Scargill draft constitution. He was, he said, a member of the ANC and a supporter of the South African Communist Party. Did that make him ineligible for SLP membership? No reply was forthcoming from comrade Carolyn Sikorski.

The East London SLP must refuse to recognise the exclusion of comrade Davies. If we allow the witch hunters to get away with expulsion without any evidence being presented, without any right of appeal, there is no hope for the SLP.

One thing that has become all too evident is that the Scargill draft constitution is more McCarthyite than socialist. We have never voted on it. But when we do let us junk its anti-communist clause 2 (points 3 and 4). In the meantime all SLPers should defend comrade Davies and refuse to accept undemocratic exclusions.

Elections and openness

As a matter of routine Blair’s Labour Party released the full results of the elections to its shadow cabinet. Having upset social democratic sensibilities by sending her younger son to a selective grammar school, Harriet Harman found herself duly punished. She was the last placed successful candidate with 149 votes.

Ann Clwyd was the highest runner up. Nevertheless she trailed far behind with 94 votes. The Labour left, as represented by the Campaign Group, was almost an irrelevance. Its Jeremy Corbyn only managed 37 votes. All this tells us a great deal about the political balance of forces in the Parliamentary Labour Party.

The reason for my referring back to what was a triumph for Blair’s whips is the secrecy that surrounds similar votes in the Socialist Labour Party. There was for example an enormous furore when in May the Weekly Worker published the complete list of our National Executive Committee election. General secretary Patrick Sikorski spoke of hostile forces and wrote to the branches making dark threats.

But what is wrong with openness? Surely without knowing the votes of all candidates in elections members are incapable of coming to an informed opinion.

What an outrage there would be among Labour MPs if Blair’s party managers had tried to withhold the shadow cabinet results. Surely Socialist Labour should be more, not less democratic than Blair’s Labour.

Incidentally I hear that comrade Arthur Scargill himself has declared that he only discovered the full results of the May 4 elections to his own party leadership from the Weekly Worker. No wonder so many SLP tops are taking out subscriptions.

News of the news

Our first Socialist News is apparently due out in the first week of September - for TUC week. Patrick Sikorski either lost the argument on the general purposes committee or decided to keep mum on his opposition to a Socialist Labour paper. President Scargill got his way. We are going to have a 12-page, 50p, ‘popular’ monthly paper.

Final deadline for articles is in two weeks’ time, August 12. So comrades who want to get their views reflected in the paper should get busy. Copy should be sent care of the NUM in Barnsley. Socialist News must not be an exclusive leadership mouthpiece by default. All shades in the SLP ought to get a hearing.

By the way one rumour circulating had it that Dave Osler was to be editor. A former supporter of Socialist Outlook, comrade Osler was, or so it was said, to be paid £2,000 per issue.