Physical attack on opponents

Letter to Socialist Workers Party central committee from Communist Party of Great Britain

Dear comrades

We are writing to express our concern about an incident outside one of the plenary sessions at this year’s Marxism. An outline of what happened is given in the personal statement from Mark Fischer and James Bull. We note that the basic veracity of this account has not been challenged by SWPers on any of the numerous discussion forums where it has appeared.

We regard this as an extremely regrettable incident. Arising from our work together as allies in the Socialist Alliance, we hoped that a more civilised, genuinely revolutionary culture would evolve on the left. Indeed, we have commented favourably on what we saw as the stirrings of such a sea change several times in the Weekly Worker. The revolutionary left should be able to collaborate despite our differences, with the democratic right to openly express dissent, with respect and comradeship.

We have grave concerns about the current political turn of the SWP leadership towards what we characterise as an unprincipled bloc with elements of the mosque. As you are aware, these concerns are hardly unique to the CPGB. They are shared by the majority of your bloc partners in the SA and - as illustrated in some of our more calm exchanges with your own comrades attending Marxism - by a not insubstantial number of SWPers themselves.

We are sure that you agree with us that these misgivings and criticisms must not be silenced with violence, or the threat of it. Although he conceded it would “not be easy to achieve”, your comrade John Rees spoke at Marxism of “knitting together the left and the trade unions … many people in the muslim community and the existing forces in the SA” (Marxism tape, no186, cited in Weekly Worker July 10 - our emphasis).

No one, let alone the left organisations in the SA, will be convinced of the correctness of this new turn if the only ‘arguments’ deployed are threats and physical intimidation. If you have the arguments comrades, you don’t need the violence.

Worryingly, comrade Chris Bambery told our comrades before the attack that he took “no responsibility” for what was about to happen to them. This implies two things to us:

  1. That comrade Bambery was aware that a physical assault was in the offing.

  2. That he (at least) tacitly approved. If he did not, why not use his authority in the organisation to make sure that it did not happen?

In contrast to comrade Bambery’s ‘Pontius Pilate’ stand, we believe that the SWP central committee must look into this incident and make its view public. There are important principles involved. We believe it is incumbent on the leadership of what is currently the largest group on the revolutionary left to make its position on violence in the workers’ movement crystal clear to people both in the wider movement and to all members of the SWP, at every level of the organisation.

With communist greetings

Mark Fischer
for Provisional Central Committee, CPGB
July 15 2003