20121Re: Barry Sheppard's two visits to Sydney in 1969
- Jul 19, 2005(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
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
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