Paul Flewers at
Tue Aug 5 14:57:58 MDT 2003

I think that Einde O'Callaghan is correct when he says that not all
renegades from the left were rat-bags from the start. It's very easy to say
that so-and-so was rotten to start with, a diletante, opportunist, shyster
or whatever, but in my experience it's not always so.

Older members of the British SWP will know of Roger Rosewell, possibly have
even known him. Now he was considered as a dodgy character by not a few
Cliffites right from the start, and he ended up doing some very dodgy
business for the Tory council leader in Westminster (she is now being
pursued for around 20 million quid, and is squirrelled away in Israel). But
I remember another SWPer from years ago, a prominent militant in the civil
service union I joined; he always had a rather glib and slippery approach,
and I wasn't exactly surprised when he slid to the right. Yet I know of
other equally slippery people who have stayed on the left. Then one can take
Steve Corbishley, a very bright and serious leading member of Sean
Matgamna's group whom I knew -- he came close to recruiting me to his group
25 years back -- who went off to build their group in Australia, became
demoralised and reverted to the Catholic church, turning his back on the
left for ever. He was one of the last people I'd have expected to have
deserted the left. Then what about the group I supported for several years,
the (British) Revolutionary Communist Party? Sure, our rather
publicity-conscious and deliberately confrontational approach, and the fact
that many of our members and supporters (although not myself) eschewed the
rather scruffy personal appearance of most British lefties, were seen as
flashy and glib; but I nonetheless considered that the group's leading
members were sincere. Yet the whole lot of them -- that's right, every one
of them -- almost overnight junked the old Marxism without any public
explanation, just giving up everything they only yesterday supported. Were
they all rotten from the start. No, I don't think so; I knew these guys
pretty well.

To see all renegades as rotten from the start is to dodge the very important
question of the pressures of bourgeois society upon people and
organisations, a process that has rotted many left-wing groups, which so
often end up aping the worst aspects of the society we want to replace.
Cynical attitudes and practices within left-wing groups can lead to the sort
of cynicism that rejects the left altogether. Renegades are not born, they
become what they are, and for many reasons. It's understanding those reasons
that will help us to plot and to see the reasons behind the trajectory of

Paul F

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