Libel charges by groups that never ever make mistakes, complaints of misinformation, bad “research” (googling), and lack of transparency in the marking system are coming in thick and fast. One group have even said “never mind about punching above our weight. We’re gonna punch you! How can you not take the vanguard, the historic organisation embodying the pinnacle of class consciousness and the historic tasks of the proletariat, seriously?”
So, here are the answers to my 50 questions. Unlike Callinicos-style apologies, I shall try to give a reason.
Which group had a faction fight at conference over whether all married members should be compelled to divorce, as marriage institutionalises women’s’ oppression?There may be others that debated this, but Bob Pennington told me in the 1980s that not only did the IMG take feminism seriously, but that some members put a motion to IMG conference in the early 1970s for compulsory divorce. The motion lost. Bob said the IMG could sometimes be ultra-left. At one point before the 1970 general election, some in the IMG were talking about physically disrupting Labour and Tory meetings, then they went on to say Vote Labour But…
Which group has a member who wrote a book subtitled “Quantulumcunque Concerning Materialist Esthetix” ? And what the hell does that mean? Technically, I guess the SWP is the correct answer, though I was never asked to shout about Quantulumcunque at the local docks. But the author was/is also a member of the left group which won the 2012 “British Gas Left-Group-With-Most-Bizarre-Name” competition, the Association of Musical Marxists. (AMM). Actually, I quite like some of the mixture of ideas in this book, and the author’s eclectic taste – but I’m buggered if I can really understand it!
Which group once said that it would ideally call for the banning of alcohol “but the workers wouldn’t understand it”? I can clearly remember seeing this printed in Militant in the early 1980s, in an article about how bad drugs are & why they shouldn’t be legalised. But I can see that a fair few groups probably took the same view.
Which group once handed out leaflets to Vietnam War Protesters explaining “Why We Are Not Marching”? According to David Widgery’s wonderful “The Left In Britain 1956-1968, this is what the Socialist Labour League (later the WRP) handed out to the rest of the left as they set off to march on the US embassy in Grovesner Square. If only Tariq Ali et al had listened………
A third of the 15 strong leadership of which Leninist Party were formerly students at Sussex University? According to Crick, 5 of the 15 strong Militant Editorial Board (in the 1980s) were former Sussex Uni students. How they built a base at Sussex University is described in Rob Sewell’s “How the Militant was built – and how it was destroyed”(But then 100% of facing Reality’s contributors were there too).
Whose stall did Simon Watney and Edward King of the lesbian & gay rights group Outrage kick over at Gay Pride in 1990? And why? Stall-kicking-over has been a long standing form of expression of anger at left groups. Most people got this – it was the RCP for acting like they agreed with The Sun’s approach to AIDS, ie it was a “gay plague”.
What was the key point about the end of World War Two according to followers of one faction of the Fourth International? I can’t remember which parts of the Fourth International, but in the SWP we were often told how because Trotsky had predicted that WW2 could end only in either barbarism or socialism, then the fact that neither had happened and Trotsky couldn’t be wrong meant that WW2 hadn’t finished in 1945. Actually, this is less mad than it sounds if you cast your Leninist-mind back to 1945. Up until that point, places “liberated” by the allies like North Africa and South East Asia, had seen Nazi or Japanese-backed regimes replaced by dictatorships headed by wannbe-dictators from the ancien regime. On top of this, the Soviet Army at the gates of Warsaw and the US Army in Northern Italy were both content to halt their advance and watch while the axis powers butchered the resistance. So you can see why many thought the war would continue in some form. And of course for people in places like Vietnam it did.
Which Fourth International Leader became a minister in the Algerian government after the revolution in 1961, and who’s funeral in his native Greece was a state event? Everyone seemed to know this – though I was corrected. Michael Pablo (AKA Raptis) was one of the leaders of Trotsky’s Fourth International. After giving help, advice and support to the NLF’s struggle for national liberation, Pablo became an advisor to Ben Bella’s government. But not technically a minister. Sorry for misleading/exciting people.
How many monopolies did Militant want to nationalise in 1965, 1970,1980 and 1990? 400, 250, 200, 150 A little known fact about Militant/SP is their special algorithm used to calculate the precise number of capitalist monopolies that parliament needs to nationalise in order to achieve a certain percentage of nationalised industry necessary to make a workers state.Before computers, they had a full-timer constantly scouring the FT Index and recalculating the precise numbers of monopolies requiring nationalisation. (To be fair on the Millie’s, having to have a “programme” when contesting seats did at least force them to relate to reformist ideas, though whether they added to reformist illusions or challenged them is debatable)
Which Leninist organisation explained the need for separate women’s organisation within Leninist Parties in order to combat sexism within the revolutionary movement in 1978? This was in fact the SWP’s Alex Callinicos’s argument with Tariq Ali in 1978,as he criticised the Fourth International for not taking sexism within revolutionary parties seriously enough!
Which Socialist Party threatened to take the Socialist Party (formerly Militant) to court, and why? When the SPGB split again in 199something, one group wnated to be called the Socialist Party. When the Militant decided to rename themselves, the Small Party of Good Boys comrades threatened court action. In future we will probably all have to talk about “The Fight For Socialism TM”
Which organisation fought hard in the 1980s to stop women, black, LGBT members of the Labour Party organising autonomously against sexism, racism & homophobia, claiming such organisation divided the workers Movement? In the early 1980s, Militant seemed to piss off everybody on the Labour Left when it came to their stance on racism, sexism and especially homophobia. While they opposed such divisions in the Labour Movement, when it came to votes in Labour meetings, they often voted against the right of the oppressed to organise autonomously as they saw fit. The last comment here gives an account of the sectarianism and/or homophobia at the Forest of Dean LPYS Summer Camp in the 1980s.
Which organisation once wrote “We must call upon beings from other planets when they come to intervene, to collaborate with the inhabitants of the Earth to overcome misery. We must launch a call on them to use their resources to help us.” believing that socialism could arrive from another planet, and that a nuclear war might be an advantage for revolutionary Marxists? (“Humanity will pass quickly through a nuclear war into a new human society – Socialism.”) Everyone knew this nugget of useful information too – it was the Posadists, followers of Posades, who were mainly based in South America.
Which organisation discovered that their leader had become senile and their main theoretician schizophrenic, before they were both removed? While I’ve never seen this in print, I’ve heard this reasoning for the split Ted Grant and Alan Woods in the 1990s from at least 3 Militant or ex-Militant supporters. As with some of the smears floating around the SWP last year, of course nobody will say where they originated from or how wrong it is to denate factional differences in this way
Which group lost a libel action brought by ITN and lost around £1 million, bankrupted their magazine? You all knew this too. The “Wejust want to be different” RCP of the 1980s had by the 1990s reduced themselves to a magazine called Lum (or L.M.). Its investigative powers, heightened by a special Marxist intellectual ability , allowed them to know that ITN’s reports of massacres by Serbs were imperialist lies. Being the class fighters that they were, they fought. And lost.
Fidel Castro was “First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba” for nearly 40 years. In July 2014 a British Trotskyist leader will, health permitting, break that record as the worlds longest standing Leninist Party General Secretary. What is his name and organisation? Peter Taffe, General Secretary of the Socialist Party, demonstrates the importance of continuity in revolutionary politics. Sean Matgamna of the AWL is only 4 or 5 years behind
Which group stood against Labour in elections and got results ranging from 111 (0.24%) and 644 (2.1%)? Nobody got this; many guessed TUSC. It was in fact the “Red Front”, an alliance (!?!) between the RCP, the RDG and RA, which in 1987 stood in the General Election. The fact that the RCP, who united the rest of the left with hostility to themselves, could get as many votes as today’s alliance of all the main revolutionary groups with the backing of the RMT Union, and on a much milder “programme” says a lot more about the failure of the left than it does any shift in public attitudes. In fact, i would say that public attitudes are far more left wing than they were inn 1987.
What was the Marxist Daily Building Fund and what happened to all the money it raised? In the early 80s, this ran parallel to Miltant’s “Fighting Fund”. They were always super-optimistic, and we were all told there would soon be a Daily Militant – especially if we handed over our entire savings/pocket money/house-keys at every Militant Rally [EDIT Sorry, I don’t know where the money went and nor does anyone else – though one SP member suggested it was spent on the roof of the HQ at Hepscott Road]
What is “The Hallas Foundation”? A pot of gold at the end of Callinicos’s rainbow. Allegedly.
Why did the International Marxist Group initially not join the “Anti Internment League”, despite the AIL’s organisation of Britain’s biggest ever Irish Solidarity march in 1972? [EDIT: its been pointed out by a former member that the IMG were involved in the AIL. I will check about claims of initially abstaining]] And what slogan about the war in the six counties were their members supposed to chant on marches in Britain? I got into real trouble with this. Sorry to those who were there at the time and who felt slurred. The IMG were involved with the AIL, and were not afraid to speak out against British involvement in the war. However, John Callaghan’s book “The Far Left in Britain” makes the claim that they didn’t throw themselves into the AIL at first. Anyway, the second part of the answer I was looking for was the slogan “Victory to the IRA!” Some sang “Oo, Aah, Up the ‘RA”, “Fuck the Queen and the UDA!” and other republican hit songs.
Which group banned its members from talking to each other across branches and international groups via the internet in the 1990s? Yes, this was the SWP in the 1990s. Back then, few were on line, and claims that the “I.S. List” wasn’t democratic held some water. However, even though it was ten years before I “went online”, it seemed me to to be more to do with the centre wishing to retain its traditional control of all communications, combined with a typical authoritarians fear of being talked about behind your back. It is rumoured that the Leathrette faction of the SWP want to return to the glorious days of the 1980s and ban all members from using emails u unless sent via the National Office.
Name 57 left wing groups in Britain. (The group does not have to be alive any more. If a name has been used twice, it counts twice) Well, according to tthe “Encyclopedia of British and Irish Political Organizations: Parties, Groups and Movements of the 20th Century”, there are at least 150. A few of these are single issue, or local and it includes anarchists. i should have asked “who’s been in the most groups” – but I could just say see question 3 in the “odd one out” section below.
True or False?
In 2013, a member of the Central Committee of the SWP hacked into other CC members computers and began leaking stories to the Facing Reality blog. While there has been some computer hacking within the SWP recently, I have to confess that the political response, language and “leadership” of the SWP CC over the last year has been so tragically predictable that I made up all the party Notes, emails, faction statements and bulletins just before the CC released their version. Sorry if this confused anyone!
In the late 1970s, it was possible to go on a left wing march against the cuts or racism and be offered two papers, “Gay Left” and “Straight Left” True. Gay Left was an extremely worthwhile journal by lesbian and gay socialists who, in the early 70s had to break from their Marxist groups in order to develop Marxist theories of gay oppression – theories later adopted by the same Marxist groups. Straight Left was a paper of the secret faction inn the Communist Party of Great Britain, though I wasn’t very straight when I read it. (I don’t think it was aimed exclusively at heterosexuals)
In a report by a police informant, Militant was described as “The most unbelievably boring and turgid newspaper I have ever read, never mind sold” False – well, it might be. Who knows what the informants really thought of our work! But imagine the poor cops who hid under the stage for hours in the 1980s listening to the speeches at a militant conference. They really did this, as the Militant were the hardest to infiltrate apparently, being super-cautious about the right wing Labour witch hunters.
A police raid on the Workers Revolutionary Party Derbyshire training centre found only used bullets, so no action was taken.True according to wickepedia and years of lefty rumours.
The IS/SWP once had an opposition faction that called itself “The Right Opposition” False – those who remember the “Right Opposition” are remembering what the IS majority’s clever label for “The Revolutionary Opposition”, which according to teacher Mike was expelled from the IS and “split into three groupuscules”
In 1980s Liverpool, GMB stewards using taxis to deliver redundancy notices to the entire council workforce, were picketed by NALGO stewards and taken to court by the local NUT True – though this is a lot more complicated that workers fighting against a Militant led council. Some union branches were controlled by the left, others by the right, or at least people who were hostile to Militant. Friends who were non-aligned trade union activists in the council at the time have a very different memory of the City that Dared To Fight to the triumphalist story still retold by the SP. However, Liverpool Council still stood up to Thatcher in a way that we could really do with now. Living in Brighton,a city with an anti-cuts council making cuts has a terribly demobilising effect because those who once said “there is an alternative to cuts” are now saying “there is no alternative to cuts except even worse cuts“. Of course those that led the fight in Liverpool were part of a workers party with extensive organic connection to union activists on the ground, able to mobilise 50,000 on the streets and lead council wide strikes. These links had been built up over three decades. All a long way from Brighton & hove Green Party, however good some of its members are.
The SWP has over 7,000 members False, unless you believe everything the SWP says.
The leader of the Alliance for Workers Liberty (AWL) produces such brilliant poetry that it is published on the groups website and sometimes even in print True – though it depends how you define “brilliant” poetry
Everybody’s favourite Left-Trainspotter paper/website, the “Weekly Worker” used to be called the “Daily Worker” When I was 16 I was such a geek I read stuff like The Leninist for fun! Years later I found myself being given leaflets and broadsheets with the mast-head “Daily Worker”, “Organ of the Provisional Committee of the CPGB”. Apart from having a different view of “organs”, I thought it was brilliant that it had to explain how they were not in the CPGB and the “Daily” part of their broadsheet’s title was merely an aspiration.
In the 1980s it was possible to go on a march and be offered to buy two copies of “Newsline” produced by rival factions of the WRP. True – I remember seeing them both on the same march! During the recent SWP split, I was almost pleased that there was no way I could imagine the SWP CC losing control of the money or the paper,as the thought of seeing two different Socialist Workers on sale would be too embarrassing for all socialists – at least when the WRP imploded, they were already to small to register for most activists.
In the 1980s, tit-for-tat killings became the norm between the 3 main revolutionary socialist groups, which saw nearly 100 dead. True. I’d heard about this for years – violent ant-imperialist protests had not been unusual, but according to wickipedia the anti-Stalinist Revolutionary Communist League (Marxist Faction) carried out a war against other socialists including the assassination of a Fourth International leader (which itself had an armed wing!). This led to “Escalating tit-for-tat killings amongst militant leftist groups …… and the total number of deaths across the three main leftist militant groups in Japan is said to approach one hundred.”. Similar internecine wars have happened in the North of Ireland, and some of the shit thrown around the internet recently within the SWP has been grim. But imagine – armed Leatherettes!
In the 1980s it was possible to go on a march and be offered two copies of “Brighton Labour Briefing” produced by rival factions of the Brighton’s Labour Left. True – I remember seeing both on a local march in the 1980s. The split off was, I think, when Tony Greenstein became the only person ever to be booted out of Labour Briefing. So with writes like the now Lord Bassam, a broader but better (?) version of Brighton Labour Briefing hit the streets. Briefly.
There are three daily papers run by left wing parties in Britain. False – there’s only two, The Morning Star (CPB) and Newsline (WRP)
A Trotskyist paper called “Workers Hamster” greeted the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan with the headline “Hail The Red Army in Afghanistan” True – although I’m not sure that their paper is called “Workers Hamster”.Somewhere within that organisation, there must be a placard making committee that teaches everybody to write long slogans in a certain font identical to the font used on a Bolshevik placard once in 1917. Only revisionists use the wrong font and short, understandable slogans. Perhaps one day thousands of Spartacist placards will be snapped up by workers on demonstrations……
At Labour Party Young Socialists summer camp in the 1980s, supporters of the Militant Tendency organised an attack on the tents of the openly LGBT campers. True if you believe many reports from non-Militant supporting LPYS people who were there. Some will say that it was as much sectarianism as homophobia. False if you believe the Miltant people there, though they will now say that they weren’t very good on gay politics.
The CPB (M-L) ( founder John Buckle), with less than 100 members, currently organise rallies where they tell their membership how they “punch above our weight” True. I don’t know why I caught this, saddo that I am, but I will be sharing the link with a selected few.[EDIT – wrong initials & John B. I should’ve said Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist). Apologies to supporters of John Birch & the CPB(M-L) ]
The SWP in 1960s USA expelled lesbian and gay members because they were a security risk. True – I heard this from Fourth International people years ago. Though some of them seem to hat each other enough to make things up, it must be said that most of the left was appalling about sexual politics until the late 1960s. Or later.
Occupy Marxism Festival was bigger than the real Marxism Festival in 2013 False – though if Facing Reality was real, everyone who’s ever been in the SWP turning up to Occupy Marxism would have seen a festival of between 50,000 and 100,000, or about 50-100 times bigger that the the SWP’s Marxism 2013.
Joan Lester, a former Labour Minister who became Baroness Lester of Eccles Cakes in 1997, was once a member of the Socialist Party of Great Britain. True – along with the former members of virtually all of the main Trotskyists groups who peppered Blair’s cabinet.
The Japanese section of the Fourth International expelled all its male members due to the high level of physical abuse of women members by male “comrades” True – but only according to something an FI supporter posted during all last years discussion following the SWP’s rape-cover-up crisis. And I’m sorry, I can’t find it. But the levels of physical abuse of women by male partners is terribly common, and justified by much of the political establishment. [EDIT : I’ve since been corrected, by someone who wrote the report, that I’ve really oversimplified things. She says “what happened is that the Japanese section was derecognised because it was thought that it had not dealt adequately with the problem of sexism within the organisation that had led to the situation where male leaders had pressurised women to sleep with them”. I wasn’t aware of this report when I did the quiz, but you can read a good example of revolutionaries trying to deal with sexual assault and rape in the minutes of the Thirteenth World Congress of the Fourth International (March 1991) REPORT FROM JAPAN COMMISSION
John Lennon wanted to join the International Socialists (SWP), but didn’t like the thought of the subs he was ask for, so he joined the Fourth International International Marxist Group” instead. True – according the oral story telling network within the SWP. It may be exaggerated for credibility value. It may be a lie, and actually he joined the Militant!?!?? All we know for sure is that there’s a photo of him selling the IMG’s ludicrously named paper “Red Mole”, and it once contained an exclusive interview between Robin Blackburn, Tariq Ali and Mr Lennon. [EDIT : Here too my “research” was sloppy – an old FI friend tells me ” I don’t think Lennon was actually a ‘member’ – more of a ‘fellow traveller’. Like SWP with Michael Rosen, though a bit more glamorous obviously.” Another reader said that Cliff had said to Vanessa Redgrave, before she joined the WRP, that she could join IS if she donated £1Million ]
Surrey was the origin of two British left groups, the New Communist Party (AKA North Korea Juche International, UK section) and Spanner (a 1980s breakaway from the SPGB (AKA Small Party of Good Boys) True – hence the slogan “Today Pyongyang, Tomorrow Guilford”
Which is the odd one out? And why?
1) Workers Power, 2) Socialist Resistance, 3) Anti-Capitalist Initiative, 4) Counterfire, 5) International Socialist Network, 6) Revolutionary Democratic Group, 7) Alliance for Workers Liberty, 8) Permanent Revolution, 9) Revolutionary Communist Party, 10) International Socialist Group, 11) Revolutionary Communist Group, 12) Red Action
ANSWER Socialist Resistance – all the rest are the children or grandchildren of the IS/SWP, whereas Socialist Resistance have many many parents, grandparents and step parents.
1) British National Party, 2) The SWP, 3) UKIP, 4) Liberal-Democrats
ANSWER Many people gave various reasons for the BNP being the odd one out, which I can’t dispute But my answer is the BNP for being the only one of the three not to have a sexual abuse and rape cover up scandal in the last year or so.
1) Ted Grant, 2) Tony Cliff, 3) Gerry Healy, 4) Sean Matgamna
ANSWER Here too many people came up with the correct answer, Sean Matgamma. My answer is more complicated than him being a “poet” or “alive”. The first three were all members of one organisation together in the 1940s then went on to run their own, pretending the others didn’t exist. Sean Matgamma has his own organisation which obsessed about the other big three and which has entered or been part of all the other three’s organisations. ?????!??? Sorry!
1) Globalise Resistance 2)Right to Work Campaign 3) Youth Fight for Jobs 4) Education Activists Network 5) Fast Food Rights
ANSWER Youth Fight for Jobs – congratulations to the SP member who got this wrong! Its the Socialist Party’s “united front”, whereas the rest are “initiatives” that the SWP “intervenes” in.
1) Costas 2) Starbucks 3) Firebox 4) Café Nero 5) Coffee Republic
ANSWER You can’t buy coffee or anything else in Firebox – formerly John Rees’s Caffinated Road to Socialism
1)The SWP telling people to pay their poll tax, 2) Militant refusing to call for the withdrawal of Thatchers Falklands Task Force, 3) The SWP saying collect money for the miners & take it to the picket lines instead of working with the Miners Support Groups and collecting food, 4) The Militant calling 1980s Syria a Workers State (deformed),5) Militant staying in The Mass party Of The Werking Class (AKA The Labour Party) quite as long as they did. 6) The procedures of the SWP Disputes Committee in 2012 7) The SWP standing Lindsey German for London Mayor under a “Left List” platform after getting “witch-hunted” out of “Respect”
ANSWER 4) The Militant calling 1980s Syria a Workers State (deformed). The other antics are the few officially admitted mistakes of the Socialist Party/Militant and the SWP. Very few mistakes may be admitted. Ted Grant once told a friend that he’d never made any big ones. Mistakes must only be admitted after a period of 10+ years, though the SP do cast a critical eye over their Labour Party days, and it only took the SWP a year and two splits to admit that there was something wrong with its rape investigation in 2012. As for Syria, I remember reading in their journal about Syria the workers state many decades ago & it seemed bonkers then. One SP member said “technically we would have called it a Proletarian Bonapartist state”. Fair enough, though the key question today is does Ass Ad’s economy reach the magic percentage of nationalised property relations to qualify for Official-CWI-Workers State Status.
So, that’s it. Now I will have pissed off someone in every group on the left for being terribly sectarian, plus everyone who knows more than me and disputes my answers, plus everyone who’s interested in my views on wider political questions and is wondering where the interesting and thoughtful blog posts are that I promised to write following the eventual suicide of the SWP.