Martin Thomas: pub gossip

AWL dishonesty

Dave Isaacson refutes a rather bizarre accusation

During the debate on the compatibility of supporting the Socialist Platform and simultaneously the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty’s social-imperialism, it came as no surprise that CPGB comrades were accused of telling “lies” by AWL members. It really is par for the course when dealing with such a slippery outfit that it refuses to face up to the reality of its political positions.

However, what did surprise every CPGBer in the room was that, in the same breath as accusing us of lying, AWL member Ruth Cashman went on to claim that earlier this year “the CPGB” had approached “the AWL” about setting up a “revolutionary platform” within Left Unity. Faced with widespread, visible and audible incredulity (“What?!”) from CPGBers, the comrade turned to point at me, saying that I knew all about it, as I was at “the meeting”. Presumably this was meant to highlight our hypocrisy, or stupidity.

The accusation was backed up in another contribution by leading AWLer Martin Thomas. Yet, by the time Martin got round to hitting the keyboard to type up his report of the meeting, the story had morphed somewhat. No longer was it “the CPGB” talking to “the AWL”, implying some official approach, but a conversation between two individual members of our organisations. Always keen to maintain his reputation for meticulous dishonesty, Thomas reported Cashman’s intervention in these terms: “Ruth Cashman pointed out that only a couple of months ago Tina Becker of the Weekly Worker group had proposed to her, Ruth, that AWL and WW cooperate in starting a left platform within Left Unity. This report caused outcry among the WW people, subsiding into the claim that it was just ‘something said in a pub’.”1

It is true that Ruth, Tina and myself were sat together in a pub - on May 11 following Left Unity’s first national meeting - having a conversation. Neither Tina nor myself are on the CPGB’s leadership or authorised to negotiate joint platforms on behalf of “the CPGB”. As an aside, it is amusing to note that, had we ever decided to use a snippet from a pub chat such as this (Ruth certainly had critical things to say about the AWL’s sectarianism in past engagements with the CPGB) as a polemical tool, then we would without a shred of doubt be met with hysterical howls of derision and charges of gossip-mongering from the AWL.

It is important to note, however, that we were not the only three around the table talking through the day’s meeting. With us were Ged Colgan, a member of the International Socialist Network, and another ex-Socialist Workers Party member. Amongst the general chat about Left Unity’s prospects and the proceedings of its first national meeting, Tina and I did indeed float the idea of a Marxist platform being formed within Left Unity - for those serious about developing socialist unity around solid Marxist principles. What made Ruth think this was an approach to the AWL I do not know. This certainly is not how the idea was framed. If there are AWL members who want to fight for unity around such principles, they will have to do so in militant opposition to their own group’s political positions and method.

This half-formed idea of a Marxist platform was far more directed at the likes of the ISN and ex-SWP comrades, when it was raised by Tina and myself (we also mentioned some individuals who are now in the Socialist Platform). The ISN clearly has both a left and a right - with the likes of Tom Walker and Richard Seymour backing the reformist Left Party Platform and others such as Paris Thompson arguing for the ISN to support the Socialist Platform.

If any doubts lingered in the heads of AWLers, surely they would have been dispelled when within a week of this pub chat they received a reply from the CPGB’s Provisional Central Committee to an official approach from the AWL to numerous groups to form a “transitional organisation” of the left. The CPGB could hardly have been more clear when we told the comrades that their “operative political method - right back to the International Communist League days - has been to launch unity offensives with other political groups, as a cover for what are in essence shabby recruitment raids”. We concluded: “A thorough and open break with the sectarian method you use and pro-imperialist politics you espouse - and the leading clique which maintains both - are preconditions for any ‘unity’ overture from your organisation to be taken in good faith.”2

Enough said .


1. www.workersliberty.org/story/2013/09/14/ two-and-half-months-debate-socialism-or-vote-catching.

2. ‘Pull the other oneWeekly Worker May 16.