As a sat one morning drowning my sorrows one Monday morning, in a shabby, deserted pub near Euston station, I notice two men at the bar, one old, the other middle aged, both badly dressed. As they sat at the booth behind mine, I notice that their conversation betrays both familiarity and mistrust. Family, I presumed.
Wrongly. For soon realise that I’m overhearing some kind of semi-official meeting between Comrade C of the Workers Socialist Party (my party), and Comrade T of The Workers Party (our competitor). Shocked, I grab my iphone, and hit record.
What follows is a verbatim transcript of their brief encounter, though the first couple of exchanges are from memory.
COMRADE T : Well, here we are again.
COMRADE C : Yes, nearly fifty years you’ve been coming here is it not?
COMRADE T : Yes comrade, fiftieth anniversary next year. You see consistency is important in revolutionary politics.
COMRADE C : Agreed, naturally.
COMRADE T : [chuckles] Of course. except that Comrade Jimmy Rock’s replacements have both gone off the rails and seem more interested in selling cappuccinos, or selling out to Scottish Nationalism. I mean, like c’mon Comrade C, how did you manage to get it all so wrong?
COMRADE C : Excuse me Comrade T, but enough.The whole premise of these meetings is to facilitate good communication and avoid misunderstanding, not rake over past mistakes.
COMRADE T : Mistakes? ah, so you admit that you make them?
COMRADE C : Yes. No! The Leninist Party is the distillation of the highest form of proletarian consciousness and its historic mission. Ergo, the inadmissibility of errors.
COMRADE T : Impossibility you mean!
COMRADE C : That’s what I said. If the revolutions vanguard is seen to make mistakes it will lose the trust of the masses.
COMRADE T : Definitely! Or the trust of the membership. they can be so fickle.
COMRADE C : Absolutely. As Comrade TC once said, democratic centralism is the organised distrust of the membership.
COMRADE T : Er, actually I told him that sitting at this very table back in ’68. Anyway, you lot do admit mistakes. Like telling everyone to pay their poll tax….
COMRADE C [interrupts] Excuse me but that’s not…..anyway, at least we never tried to sack an entire council workforce…….
COMRADE T [interrupts] OK! calm down, calm down! And there was me thinking it was just Comrade B that couldn’t resist sniping. Let’s stick to the agreement. No sniping. In any case, we’re both agreed on the potential political damage caused by admitting mistakes to the membership and supporters.
COMRADE C : Unless its over 20 years ago – I’m within the 20 year rule.
COMRADE T : And we’re supposed to be here to ensure our organisations don’t tear each other apart or appear too similar. D/you remember the time when you nearly set up a National Trade Unionists Network just after we’d planned to. Imagine if both groups’d had the same name! Though why you called it “Gizza Job!” I’ll never understand
COMRADE C : But that was Comrade B, before he openly began to espouse popular frontism and movementism.
COMRADE T : Yeah yeah, but anyway, we have business to complete.
COMRADE C : Well, our only issue is that we’ve had a report that your paper sellers have arrived early and stole our Thursday pitch at South London University.
COMRADE T : Oh dear. Well, I’ll look into that. Now, as you may have heard, what we’d like from you at the moment is some support over our sexual harassment issues. You definitely owe us one there.
COMRADE C : Well comrade, you certainly deserve payback for that. we all noticed that not one single WP member had a word of criticism over our Party’s handling of that bloody Delta business – not even on facebbook.
COMRADE T : No problem comrade. A genuinely proletarian party has no trouble understanding revolutionary discipline.
COMRADE C : Unfortunately we seem to have more than our fair share of bourgeois bloggers and keyboard warriors. though you seem to have the same problem now too.
COMRADE T : Ah! So you do read them then?
COMRADE C : [coughs] Er, well, er, sometimes.
COMRADE T : Then you’ll have seen that we’re having more on line accusations of sexual harassment.
COMRADE C : And members questioning whether the recession’s caused simply by capitalists hoarding money I see….
COMRADE T : You mean not understanding Marxism comrade. Anyway, we expect total support from your members over these accusations. No public criticism. No jibes and comments in our campaign work. no involvement in damned facebook discussions.
COMRADE C : Certainly, certainly. But unfortunately I can’t speak for all our membership these days. We still have a problem with those who wish to use the internet to turn our party into a debating society.
COMRADE T : Yeah, I know. I don’t understand why you don’t just expel them.
COMRADE C : Some are dying to, but it’s about damage limitation. And not losing the majority of the membership.
COMRADE T : We managed losing most of ours OK. We’re still here, and growing.
COMRADE C : Perhaps, Comrade T, but I don’t think we could get away with telling our members our recent trouble was caused by our two leading members either going senile or developing schizophrenia. Though Comrade Jed Burrow’s senility was very believable.
COMRADE T : Hmmmmm……..Don’t underestimate the power of the absurd. It worked for us, but that was pre-internet, and it’d hardly explain rape allegations comrade.
COMRADE T : That’s pretty much it, and we seem to have recruited some women with, er….. personal problems. Of course, had it not been for your Delta case, we wouldn’t be in the spotlight.
COMRADE C : And the blasted internet.
COMRADE T : Definitely! I take it you’ve seen that our rules for dealing with sexual misconduct are finding their way onto the world wide web.
COMRADE C : Yes. Unbelievable revealing that. Totally outrageous. But It’s what comes of working with Soft Maoists and anarchists.
[ a few moments silence]
COMRADE T : So. That’s all agreed then? You’ll instruct our members not to engage in any discussion in our internal affairs.
COMRADE C : Yes, yes. And you’ll sort out you South London University comrades.
COMRADE T : No problem.
COMRADE C : O.K. then. We’ll meet again in two months time.
COMRADE T : Yes, same time, same place. I trust it’ll be you again, splits permitting!
COMRADE C : Ho ho. Maybe I’ll bring a cake for your 50th anniversary.
COMRADE T How bourgeois!
With the sound of chairs scraping, I look up and see the two men heading to the door in silence, having still not seen me.