Love and Mr Lewisham

Last week the Weekly Worker pub­lished a letter from Richard Tisdell, in the name of comrades in the Lewi­sham and Greenwich branch of the So­cialist Labour Party (Rotten actions’, February 12).

The letter strongly denounced the fact that we had previously published a document also penned by comrade Tisdell “in spite of his specifically declared wish that it be for internal use only”. The letter states that our action in publishing the first document (‘Abolish the block vote’ Weekly Worker January 15) was “a gross vio­lation of the democratic rights of our rank and file members and demon­strates a contempt on the part of the CPGB for the SLP and its membership”.

When we received a copy of com­rade Tisdell’s document, we had to weigh up his individual desire to keep his views secret against the need of the SLP membership in particular, and the working class movement as a whole, to understand the different currents of thought within the party. One such current of major signifi­cance is that of the shadowy Fourth International Supporters Caucus, whose theory and practice are cer­tainly very similar to those of com­rade Tisdell (perhaps that is why he claims Fisc is non-existent).

Fisc’s entire strategy for the SLP suffered a body blow when Arthur Scargill pulled 3,000 block votes out of the bag at the party’s December 13- 14 congress in order to abolish the black section - one of the linchpins of the type of neo-Labourite organisa­tion Fisc and others want to create. Their view of the need to build around militant trade union leaders led them to adopt a fawning and unquestion­ing attitude to Scargill. They were happy to back the witch hunt in the SLP of communists and democrats who were not prepared to give the leadership unconditional and uncriti­cal love.

The use of the block vote and the abolition of the black section has left this current in a crisis - a crisis that comrade Tisdell admirably expressed in his document. On the one hand, he wrote, his SLP branch should “resist the temptation to become localist, de­claring UDI and disregarding the au­thority of the NEC”. On the other hand it ought to “make clear to NEC mem­bers that we are not prepared to pro­vide candidates and fund elections if we continue to be denied effective democratic representation at the con­gress”.

It is our duty to put before the class all ideas relevant to the building of working class organisations. Unlike Socialist News, the SLP’s occasional paper, we seek to publicise contend­ing political shades and factions. In other words, far from wanting to “in­hibit internal discussion”, as the Lewi­sham and Greenwich comrades suggest, we seek to stimulate and generalise debate. Why does comrade Tisdell wish to restrict discussion to a handful of comrades in south Lon­don? Is he ashamed of his views?

And what of his silly allegation that we had underhand motives for omit­ting the introductory paragraph of his document? We did that not because we wished to disguise the fact that he was going to be absent and “wished to raise a few points for discussion”, but because it was clearly irrelevant to the content of his Fisc-inspired document.

The comrade make great play of the fact that we publish “the real names” of SLP members while our “own jour­nalists hide behind noms de plume”. Like many papers of the left (including Socialist News) the Weekly Worker does not publish the real names of all its contributors for rea­sons of political security. This neces­sary practice ought to be recognised and respected. For example, if com­rade Tisdell wishes to write to us us­ing a pen name, we would have no objection whatsoever - it is the ideas themselves that are important.

However, he did not avail himself of that possibility the last time he wrote to us. His letter to the Weekly Worker concerning the abolition of the Labour Party’s clause four was pub­lished under his real name on Decem­ber 15 1994 - then he had no objection to our “hypocrisy”.

Jim Blackstock