As soon as this pub closes

Tony Cliff, founding figure of the British Int...

Thanks very much to my old comrade Richard Kuper for reminding me of this extremely irreverent, but  detailed and devastatingly accurate overview and history of the British left from the late ’80s. He suggests that it is still relevant in the light of the SWP’s slow motion car crash – and I’m afraid that he is right. Here is a flavour of the piece, written by the irrepressible although not always politically acceptable, John Sullivan, late of this parish (who is also Dolores O’Shaughnessy by the way). Enjoy.

September 1986 TUC Conference: Lunchtime 

The entrance to the conference hall is nearly deserted. The delegates have retired to adjacent hostelries to sink enough pints to allow them to sleep through the afternoon debate, so most literature sellers have taken a break.

Only two groups remain. One (the Spartacist League) are chanting “General Strike Now”, while another (the International Communist Party) try to drown them out with “Build the ICFI” (International Committee of the Fourth International to the uninitiated). Do they hope to convert each other? Or myself, the only other listener? Surely not, but each feels that the first to leave would be chicken. I am glad my daughter is not in sight as she is probably warm and dry – on the other hand she has my coat. Resisting the temptation to raise my own slogan (Smash neo-Kantian revisionism!) I leave both groups to the sardonic screaming of the gulls. The rain drizzles from a lead grey sky as I walk to the station. “So what”, you may say, “I never did care for Brighton.” However, the two groups, and their rivals who have gone to lunch, form the core of organised British socialism. If a bureaucrat temporarily wakes from his slumber during the afternoon and feels any guilt about applauding the hypocritical rhetoric coming from the platform, he has certainly in his youth been a supporter of one of the socialist groups. This work is to be commended for providing the uninitiated with a guide through the labyrinth.

Dolores O’Shaughnessy

This entry was posted in History, Humour, Reviews, Socialism, The Left. Bookmark the permalink.

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