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20121Re: Barry Sheppard's two visits to Sydney in 1969

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  • Ed Lewis
    Jul 19, 2005
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      (From Marxmail)

      It's not often I agree with Bob Gould, but his criticism of aspects of
      the Sheppard book is right on.

      I found the account of Sheppard's royal emissary visit to Australia in
      1969, and his conducting of one-on-one 'interviews' with members of
      the Australian group absolutely bizarre. On the one hand it doesn't
      surprise me that an emissary of the US SWP, especially someone like
      Sheppard, would behave in this way, but I am surprised that
      self-respecting Australian leftists actually consented to this
      ridiculous nonsense and didn't just tell him to sod off.

      I guess one thing the US SWP leadership had going for it in these
      kinds of episodes is their sheer brazenness.

      I agree with Bob, however, that anyone who was part of any SWP
      leadership that behaved this way, and who expects to have any
      credibility after (belatedly) breaking with Barnes, needs to come
      clean about certain things. Sheppard hasn't.

      Interfering in groups all over the world, splitting groups, conducting
      secret factional warfare and so on was part of the day-to-day
      methodology of the leadership that Sheppard was part of. I know this
      because I was briefly part of the Barnesite faction in the British
      section of the FI - it was actually the double standards, epitomised
      by people like Sheppard, that led to me deciding I couldn't stomach it
      any more and leaving.

      I recall when this faction, called The Faction, was set up in 1982 or
      83 and demanded all kinds of rights within the IMG that were at the
      same time being vigorously denied to the opposition within the US SWP.
      It was 'explained' to me by Connie Harris, one of the chief SWP hacks
      in Britain, that the same standards could not be applied to the IMG as
      to the SWP, because the US SWP was on a higher plane.

      Around this time, the Aussie section, led by the Percys, had expelled
      a group of prominent members, including Nita Keig, Debs Snookal, Dave
      Deutschmann, Ron Paulsen (who supported the US SWP, with which the
      Aussie leaders were having serious disagreements).

      Who should turn up in Britain to undertake a secret tour around the
      branches of the Faction, and behind the back of the IMG leadership,
      but Nita Keig. All co-ordinated, of course, by New York.

      At one of the most fractious times in the existence of the Faction,
      and its contestation with the IMG majority leadership, we were being
      urged by New York to break discipline all the time and to push the
      leadership as far as possible. Sheppard played a central role in
      this, and attended an internal Faction national conference at the
      time, even though there were no declared international tendencies.
      (The IMT group in the US SWP got expelled for less; at least when they
      met with Mandel, there were international declared tendencies.)

      The IMG leadership asked for the right to address the Faction
      conference and the Faction leadership opposed this. Myself and others
      argued against the Faction leadership and won. (We got the silent
      treatment and all kinds of glares and infantile/spoilt brat behaviour
      as a result.) I could see no good reason why the IMG leadership
      should not be allowed to address the conference, especially when
      someone from the leadership of another section (Sheppard) was in
      attendance and in secret discussions with the Faction leadership, not
      only behind the back of the rest of the IMG but also behind the back
      of the Faction membership.

      At the same time this kind of secret factional activity was being
      carried out by Sheppard, he and Barnes and their gang were busy
      organising the expulsion of most of the old working class cadre of the
      US SWP.

      The simple fact is that the US SWP leadership believed it had the
      god-given right to do what it wanted, when it wanted, where it wanted,
      anywhere in the world, much as the same as the US ruling class does.
      It inflicted Healy on the British movement and carried out all kinds
      of other mind-boggling activities of interference to the detriment of
      many national organisations.

      Hopefully, Sheppard's future book/s will be a little less
      self-serving. Until then, I wouldn't touch the guy with a 40-foot
      barge pole.

      Philip Ferguson
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