Politics of openness

Jim Blackstock replies

How foolish of comrade Fischer. Clearly our national organiser has no sense of humour. How could anyone misinterpret the words that appeared on the SDG website? For those who missed them last week, here are the “light-hearted and irreverent remarks” about the Weekly Worker:

“This poisonous shit sheet denouncing the whole left (including their own correspondents), produced by a bunch of ultra-left nutters with half the price of a printing press, is, nevertheless, a source of (often ill-gained) documents and news of the far left. Wash your hands after reading.”

This harmless jocularity having “touched a raw nerve”, comrade Fischer “overreacted” with these furious words: “I confess I am absolutely delighted with this passage ... it is so refreshing to see the SDG actually say what it means ... The author is to be congratulated.” Easy, Mark.

Strangely though, no sooner has comrade Long dismissed the significance of the website remarks than he immediately contradicts himself: “Our impious comments do however sum up much of the feeling many socialists have regarding the CPGB.” Yes, I am sure he is right. That no doubt explains why the SDG and its allies have on so many occasions - unsuccessfully - tried to exclude, expel and generally demonise the CPGB and CPGBers.

Many on the left also share the SDG’s contradictory attitude about our press. Comrade Long is not the only one who without fail rushes round to his local Weekly Worker seller every Friday afternoon so as to be one of the first to pick up the latest so-called ‘gossip’ about the left. Personally I think such comrades should refuse to read what may well turn out to be “ill-gained” information.

On second thoughts, perhaps we should turn this moralism on its head: if, despite themselves, so many find the information gleaned from the Weekly Worker both interesting and useful, why does just about the entire left seek to keep such information under wraps? Why do they pretend that they have no internal differences and refuse to argue out their disagreements before the whole class? Obviously, when we lift the lid on the SLP, SWP, SPEW, CPB, the Democratic Left, etc, they are none too pleased. It is all very well taking delight at the embarrassment of others, but when it is your own group’s failings that are being exposed, many can only resort to wild insults and witch-hunting (not the SDG of course).

Comrade Long is typical of so many in believing that to indulge in open polemic, external and internal, is a sign of weakness. Thus he points to strongly worded letters in last week’s paper criticising the views and actions of one of our leading comrades and regards this as evidence of “tensions and strains within the organisation”. According to comrade Long, our national organiser must have been trying to distract attention from these “failures” by launching such an unwarranted attack on the SDG.

I have news for him: as editor of the Weekly Worker I have no intention of suppressing critical comment. The intense, public debate about such an important issue as the British-Irish is actually a sign of our strength. If workers are to become a ruling class, they must master every detail, every nuance of policy, strategy, tactics and organisation. Nothing and nobody must be above criticism. It is gratifying to learn that comrade Long regards our paper as “informative, entertaining reading”, but astounding that he claims that such issues dealt with by the Weekly Worker are “not serious politics”.

It is precisely fear of criticism that has led sections of the left to attempt to exclude the CPGB over and over again. The “light-hearted” remark with which comrade Long concludes his piece is an excellent example of ‘many a true word’. He erects a smokescreen of allegations concerning our “disruption” - everything we touch “turns to dust”, it seems - in justification. No wonder “discussion seeking to draw together comrades for a [failed - JB] London Euro challenge proceeded without the involvement of the CPGB in the important stages”. We just could not be trusted to refrain from reporting conflicting views, not least as the pretensions of the SWP, SPEW, ILN, SO and SDG “turned to dust”. Don’t we realise that attempts to form a left election bloc are no business of the working class?

The most serious - and pathetic - allegation in comrade Long’s letter relates to the CPGB’s attempt to engage with the SLP. I am not referring to our ‘lack of influence’ - the circulation of the Weekly Worker speaks for itself. No, I am talking about the claim that “a leading CPGBer ... narrowly escaped expulsion for putting women who had fled domestic violence at risk”. What on earth could this despicable individual have done? It turns out that female members of comrade Long’s SLP branch (along with male members) had been put “at risk” ... through being sent a copy of the Weekly Worker! Apparently this ‘abuse of confidential information’ (names and addresses were freely circulated) endangered members’ security.

This sexist claptrap would be laughable if it were not such a grave accusation. We take the political and personal security of militants and left activists very seriously indeed and take careful steps to ensure that any potentially compromising details we receive never fall into the wrong hands. And incidentally we received information regarding the SLP from many more sources than comrade Long imagines (another pointer to the influence we won). But, like the good SLP loyalist he was, comrade Long felt duty-bound to actively participate in the anti-communist witch-hunt, fingering alleged “members or supporters” of the CPGB - until it dawned on the poor man that the Scargill leadership did not give a damn about the likes of Nick Long, so he limply resigned, walking out without a fight.

Comrade Long is forever proclaiming that his latest organisation is ‘the answer’. The last one was the SLP, then along came the SDG. Now it is his Socialist Network.

We hear that the launch date of October 16 is no accident. It coincides with SPEW’s ‘Socialism 99’ weekend. Given the programmatic crisis wreaking havoc in its ranks - Scotland, Liverpool gone already - it is not surprising that a layer of SPEW activists are expected to attend the SN launch. There is even talk within SPEW of the financially important Welsh organisation sending observers.

Either way, the CPGB is more than willing to “examine and reassess how socialists should organise”. But we will continue to argue strongly for openness and against the attempts to exclude communists actually boasted about by comrade Long.