Smears and innuendoes

Leading members of the Scottish Socialist Party are yet again attacking the Weekly Worker - this time for feeding members' email addresses to the bourgeois media. Such absurd lies tell you a lot about the party's difficulties, argues Weekly Worker editor Peter Manson

Claims that the CPGB and Weekly Worker are conscious or unconscious agents of the state and/or bourgeoisie have once again been raised within the Scottish Socialist Party. I have been accused by press officer Eddie Truman of deliberately feeding the bourgeois media with material for anti-SSP stories, while fellow ultra-nationalists say this is all part of "a long-running campaign to destabilise the SSP". The latest round of anti-CPGB hysteria followed the publication of a muck-raking article in the Edinburgh-based Sunday Herald by the paper's Scottish political editor, Paul Hutcheon, as sections of the media seek to whip up anti-left sentiment in the run-up to the G8 protests in July. The article's headline - "SSP slammed over link with Irish terrorists" - gives you a flavour of what it contains (May 29). The entire basis of Hutcheon's 'story' is the 'revelation' that the Scottish Republican Socialist Movement, the main SSP ultra-nationalist platform, backs Irish groups "that have been associated with" violence in Northern Ireland. According to Hutcheon, "SRSM bosses regularly issue 'solidarity' statements to the Irish Republican Socialist Party, whose military wing is thought to have murdered more than 100 people during the troubles, including former Tory MP Airey Neave. They also claim to be friendly with an IRA splinter group that opposes the 'treacherous destruction of arms' and which criticises Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams for being too moderate." The butt of the article is quite clearly not the tiny SRSM, but the SSP itself. Convenor Colin Fox has apparently been urged by unnamed SSP members to expel the SRSM as "an embarrassment for the SSP, which has always shunned any link with terrorism". The Weekly Worker can hardly be blamed for this vacuous nonsense, since anything resembling an accurate fact in relation to the SRSM seems to have been taken from the group's own website. In fact it is the following paragraph that started the anti-CPGB blame game: "An internal SSP discussion site was also shut down recently after it became a forum for bickering. John Patrick, the party's animal rights spokesman and SRSM member, called an SSP member a 'British arsehole'." Clearly our paper is Hutcheon's source for much of this (see Weekly Worker April 7 and 14). After a link to the Herald article was posted on the SSP's newly established discussion list (which replaces the previous forum), a member commented: "Their knowledge about a discussion group being closed down is more interesting [than allegations about the SRSM]. I wonder where they got that from" ('SSP Discuss', May 29). Another comrade came back immediately with the response: "The Weekly W**ker, from what I've heard." In fact, I never reported the closing down of the previous 'SSP Debate' discussion list, which Truman insisted upon immediately after my April 14 article. On that same date he informed SSP members: "For the second week in a row the Weekly Worker newspaper has carried material from this list in seeking to attack individual members of the SSP. It is obvious that somewhere in amongst the more than 100 subscribers to the list someone is either passing on the posts to the list or has given access to their login to the WW. For that reason the list will now shut up shop, as it means that SSP members are unable to discuss issues relating to the SSP without those discussions becoming public" (SSP Debate, April 14). What Truman omitted to explain was why he considers political debate must be conducted in private. Could it be something to do with his own desire to cover up the one-sided, hypocritical and undemocratic way he abuses his power as moderator? My articles dealt with his arbitrary removal of an anti-nationalist comrade from SSP Debate for "trading insults", while at the same time allowing his nationalist co-thinkers the leeway to express themselves in more abusive language - not to mention engage in it himself. I also reported the open announcement by Scottish Socialist Voice columnist Kevin Williamson of his one-man 'boycott' of the SSP general election campaign - Williamson responded by accusing me of attempting to "inflict public damage" on the SSP simply by reproducing this call to scab on his own party! Both Truman and Williamson are SSP ultra-nationalists, close to, but not members of, the SRSM. No doubt still smarting from the Weekly Worker's exposure of his contempt for democracy, Truman has now decided the time is right to launch a fresh attack on this paper: "The CPGB/Weekly Worker have moved beyond being a must-read for journalists hostile to the left," he wrote, going on to declare definitively: "'Peter Manson' gave emails to the Sunday Herald from the old SSP Debate list" (all further quotes from SSP Discuss, May 29, unless otherwise stated). Let us be clear what is being implied here. The Weekly Worker is no longer merely a useful, if unwitting, tool of the enemies of the working class: we are now actively aiding and abetting them. The allegation that I "gave emails" to the Herald or anyone else is an outright lie - and Truman knows it. But it is par for the course for this provocateur. No doubt it is true that the Weekly Worker is a "must-read" for bourgeois journalists, and I am certain that they will account for a few of our 12,000-18,000 weekly online readers, along with representatives of various state agencies. But I can assure comrades that our readership is overwhelmingly made up of working class partisans - who also find us a "must-read" simply because we tell the truth. But for a section of the SSP, along with a whole swathe of the left, the truth is not only expendable - it is downright embarrassing and of more use to our enemies than ourselves. This particularly applies to the truth about the left's own internal practices. And often its politics are so weak that the left would prefer to live with lies than confront the truth. That is certainly the case with the SSP ultra-nationalists, who are so incapable of dealing with our critique of their divisive, anti-working class ideology that they are forced to resort to blatant fabrication instead. Take SRSM supporter James Carroll. This was his first contribution to the anti-CPGB witch-hunt: "What's also interesting about the WW is where the SNP got hold of a rather old interview with Bob Goupillot from the same publication, that the SNP have been using to put the idea about that any cooperation with the SSP would be used by the SSP as some sort of entryist operation ... Given that I can't imagine that Bob "¦ would have publicised it, and I doubt that many SNP members are WW readers, I wonder who was responsible for this bit of shite-stirring, but I don't suppose we need too many guesses. More ways of killing a cat, so to speak." So an interview (or extracts from it) with comrade Goupillot, published by the Weekly Worker in the run-up to the 2001 general election campaign, has apparently resurfaced four years later as an anti-SSP weapon in the hands of the Scottish National Party. I do not know where or when it has been reproduced and cannot remember much about the contents of the interview, but surely it is not beyond the intelligence of SSP comrades to answer the SNP? It is beyond James Carroll, in any case. All he can do is wring his hands and complain that the SNP is putting its own spin on the exchange of ideas between myself and comrade Goupillot - and, of course, pretend to believe the CPGB has the time or inclination to go around suggesting what line of attack others might care to employ against the SSP. It does not seem to have occurred to Carroll that in this day and age it is possible to tap a phrase into Google and come up with what you are looking for in seconds. That, at least, has entered the head of Steve Kaczynski: "It may also be that the WW is regarded as a good source on leftwing internal conflict and Fleet Street subscribes directly or looks it up on the net." Comrade Kaczynski also notes, correctly, that the security services are quite capable of passing "suitable titbits on to the media". They would certainly be looking at ways to hit the organisers of anti-establishment protests prior to the G8. But Kaczynski goes on to agree with Carroll that "the CPGB/Weekly Worker has been engaged in a long-running campaign to destabilise the SSP". He adds: "Since the SSP favours independence and the WW prefers the UK to remain intact, the WW is clearly motivated to embarrass the SSP and do harm to its organisational integrity and election prospects. Tossing scraps to the bourgeois press is a good method towards that goal." Conspiracy theory gone mad. Comrade Kaczynski, who is a former member of the CPGB and therefore ought to know better, goes on: "The WW defend it all as 'openness before the class', but it is class enemies who have been making use of all this 'openness'." So if we have criticisms of the left we should keep them to ourselves, just in case our opponents can also make use of them. A slight problem, though, Steve - how, in that case, do we achieve clarity and overcome mistakes, backwardness and opportunism? And how are the workers - the future ruling class, remember - supposed to grasp the nature of those problems and come up with solutions? But comrade Kaczynski was generous in one sense: while he states that the Weekly Worker is "a hostile publication", he is prepared to concede that it is "unnecessary to suppose that it is a state-run operation - an unprovable assertion to make, this side of a revolution or revelations from the security services. Simply based on what it can be shown to have done, it is an enemy publication and should be treated as such." James Carroll then came in for a second bite of the cherry: "Whether the CPGB is directly state-run or not is irrelevant. Objectively, it is operating in the interests of the state by passing information to the Herald that then creates a public climate where the state has an excuse to take action against the SSP and its members by way of the Terrorism Act and similar legislation." So let me see. A Herald journalist reads the Weekly Worker and finds out about the breaking of party discipline by a leading comrade and the gagging of internal dissent, and before you know it SSP members find themselves snatched in a 6am raid. Amongst all this nonsense there was a voice of sanity: that of comrade Hugh Kerr, former Labour MEP: "Comrades, you are engaging in the paranoia of the left. If we are open in our politics and have nothing to hide or be ashamed of, then we don't have to worry. Don't forget the Bolsheviks made the Russian Revolution with a member of the tsarist secret police on their central committee. The Weekly Worker performs a useful function as the gossip sheet of the left and of course British intelligence and journalists read it - as they probably read this list." Quite right, Hugh, although I would have to disagree with your description of this paper as a "gossip sheet" - if that were so, it would hardly be performing a "useful function", would it? But comrade Kerr's admonition had no effect on Eddie Truman. He posted a long 'charge sheet' against the CPGB on the SSP list as well as on the UK Left Network - most of it regurgitating old allegations that have long since been dealt with in our pages. Amongst his filthy accusations are the strong implications that allegedly false information contained in articles published in the Weekly Worker had been 'fed' to us (presumably by state agents), that they led, directly or indirectly to the arrest of SSP members; and that we had "spent "¦ nine months attempting to do one thing: associate sections of the Scottish Socialist Party with violence and terrorism". A minor lie, by comparison, is that "The CPGB "¦ wrote to the Scottish Socialist Party demanding the expulsion of the SRSM comrades from the SSP." Truman remarks: "Accusations of involvement with black propaganda by the state are very difficult to prove by their very nature. The best that can be done is to lay out the facts and people have to draw their own conclusions "¦ As I said, people will have to make their own mind up about the role of the CPGB and the Weekly Worker in the socialist movement." In my opinion, people will have to make their own mind up about Truman: is he a cynical liar, pure and simple, or is he a disturbed individual? It would be easy, however, to dismiss all this as the ravings of one man. But this man happens to be an influential member of one of the larger left organisations in this country. Truman is making serious allegations that ought to be put to the test. Let us agree to the setting up of a tribunal, made up of respected independent working class politicians, that is able to examine all his charges, take statements, hear witnesses and arrive at considered conclusions. Will Truman and the SSP cooperate? Or will they keep peddling nationalist lies? Peter Manson