Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Left Unity, the Bermondsey Crisis, John Tummon Statement.

with 23 comments

From Bermondsey to the English Republic,  by way of the Caliphate…..

In the interests of international revolutionary unity we publish this dossier:

“In January 1649 England was declared a ‘Commonwealth’. It was destroyed by Cromwell’s counter-revolution. Yet it remains an historic marker for democratic revolution and an inspiration for today.”

The Republican Socialist General Election Campaign for Bermondsey and Old Southwark 2015.

Republican Socialist Stands for Bermondsey

The Republican Socialist Party (RSP) has chosen its first ever parliamentary candidate for the constituency of Bermondsey and Old Southwark, the seat currently held by Simon Hughes. Steve Freeman, who stood for the constituency as an independent in 2010, has agreed to stand.

Steve Freeman

Republican Socialist candidate for Bermondsey and Old Southwark.

This daring and principled initiative – a matter of ‘honour’ we hear – has not been universally welcomed.

The latest CPGB (Provisional) Party Notes states,

We note with some genuine concern that Left Unity member Steve Freeman (over the years a frequent contributor to the Weekly Worker) has announced that he will contest the May 7 general election in Bermondsey and Old Southwark under the banner of the “Republican Socialist Party” (which is made up of Steve and two mates). He is therefore opposing Kingsley Abrams, a candidate jointly backed by the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition and Left Unity. Politically, this amounts to sabotage.

 The leadership of the Communist Platform in Left Unity has issued a statement about his candidacy. Steve’s reply to Kate Hudson, which could seal his expulsion from Left Unity, is being discussed at length on Facebook and is also available in the Weekly Worker.

 We urge the comrade to behave in a responsible manner and immediately step down as a candidate. If he refuses then it is clear that the national council is duty-bound to initiate disciplinary proceedings against him under clause 18(a) of the constitution.

Communist Platform:

Communist Platform statement on the candidacy of Steve Freeman

1. Steve Freeman has announced that he is a parliamentary candidates in Bermondsey and Old Southwark for the May 7 general election. He is standing as a Republican Socialist. He is therefore opposing Kingsley Abrams, a candidate jointly backed by the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition and Left Unity. Politically this amounts to sabotage.

2. Comrade Abrams is a former local councillor and was the official Labour candidate in the 2001 general election. He lost to Simon Hughes, but got 30% of the vote. Comrade Abrams fell foul of the Labour Party machine after speaking out against austerity. He describes himself as old Labour and recently resigned from the party after 30 years of membership. Comrade Abrams then offered to stand under the banner of Tusc and LU – an offer that was eagerly accepted at both a local and national level. Southwark LU officially endorsed him on February 25.

3. Though comrade Abrams is not a member of LU, he is without doubt the right candidate to back. He is not only challenging Simon Hughes once again, but mainstream Labour hopeful Nick Coyle. His central slogan is ‘No to austerity’. 4. Comrade Freeman is a member of Left Unity. Till recently he was in charge of its constitutional commission and put himself forward for its national council in internal elections. His criticisms of old Labour and Tusc are well founded. The idea of a Labour Party mark II is illusory and doomed to fail. However, comrade Freeman’s ‘republican socialism’ amounts to little more than a leftwing version of English nationalism. 5. Even if he advocated a politically principled socialist programme comrade Freeman would be wrong to stand. The left in Britain is woefully weak and dividing of our forces in the general election can only but damage our cause. Political criticism is perfectly legitimate – indeed it is required. But when it comes to the May 7 general election our motto should be ‘Unity in action’. 6. We urge comrade Freeman to behave in a responsible manner and immediately step down as a candidate. If he refuses then it is clear that the national council is duty-bound to initiate disciplinary proceedings against him under clause 18(a) of the constitution.

John Tummon faction statement, March 26,

The Constitution section on Tendencies states that “Tendencies have a right to be heard, to organise meetings, to produce literature, to distribute materials at LU meetings and, in general, to try to influence and/or change party policy, but must not do so in the name of LU or any of its constituent bodies”. At the initial conference, it was made clear from the acting transitional leadership body, in response to either the CPGB or some other group, that this included the right to criticise LU from the outside. This surprised me, and many others, at the time

Since Steve’s candidature is aimed solely at bringing to the rest of the Left and the wider public the argument for incorporating socialist republican principles into policy and practice, his campaign is therefore one of critical support for the LU candidate.

The history of Left participation in elections shows that the chances of either candidate getting more than 1% of the vote are slim indeed, so in what way will LU be harmed by this? At this stage in LU’s growth, electoral participation is purely about raising the profile of socialist arguments against neoliberal orthodoxy (austerity, war, smashing the public sector, etc) and there is no reason whatsoever to imagine that Kingsley Abrams’ campaign will be harmed in respect of his or the LU branch’s ability to raise an anti-capitalist profile. Kate might argue that the electorate will be confused by both Steve and Kingsley standing as rivals, but the same is the case in all of the seats where LU / TUSC are standing as rivals to the Greens, which is why I voted against LU standing in Stockport (In the event the vote went against me [3 for standing, 2 against and 2 abstentions]. The reality is that confusing the electorate only matters when a party has a chance of making a political breakthrough, which is plainly not the case in Bermondsey.

Section 3d, as Kate has interpreted it, could be used against any LU member who, like me, reserves the right not to support an LU / TUSC candidate under the circumstances of a very split local vote.

I think she would have a hard time proving a breach of the LU constitution, because a) there is a contradiction between the section she wants to use and the section on Tendencies and b) because section 3d of the constitution has nothing to say on circumstances in which a candidate is standing for an electoral alliance that includes LU and an outside organisation; you would have to convince the Disputes and Appeals bodies that 3d was clearly meant to cover electoral alliances as well. Good luck with finding evidence for that!

The fact is that many LU members have felt uncomfortable about LU standing on a joint electoral platform with TUSC for a variety of reasons, including its dubious commitment to gender equality and its economism. Basically, you are asking the organisation to privilege LU’s relationship with an external organisation over its relationship with an internal tendency.

Now the CP says the RSA comes down to English Nationalism, backed up by the usual Trotskyist hack, John Penney This is the CP’s analytical conclusion after reading through a statement which makes several references to the need to bring the lessons of Scotland to England; i.e. the Scottish democratic revolution.

Which part of the dictionary did they use to reach this, I wonder?

As a member of Left Unity, the Republican Socialist Tendency and the Republican Socialist Alliance and who has argued for months that my local branch should not be standing against the Greens, I find myself in agreeing with the suggestion of Dave Church, who told the last RSA meeting that no organisation on the Left should stand candidates anywhere unless and until they know through polling that their local, grassroots work has built up at least 5% of the vote.

For months now I have been challenging Trotskyists within LU to show me the strategic political arguments for electoralism and the silence is deafening – there is clearly nothing but habit & hope (both misplaced) that this will miraculously ‘increase our profile’. It never does – you can count on one hand the number of times more than 1% has voted for a Left candidate. LU has degenerated into one not so big ball of internal wrangling around the leadership’s consistent attempts to expel people with whom it disagrees or whose actions it finds disagreeable. The 10,000 who signed up for a new party of the Left have, as Mark says, taken a look at LU and gone with the Greens. LU has missed the boat in recruiting the people who have been politicised in the course of this parliament; the project of left unity has instead become a paper exercise of a joint venture with the suddenly well heeled SP and SWP; crucially, it does not involve having made any sustainable inroads into the mass of people.

As John Pearson has shown on the Unoffical Left Unity Facebook page, the case against Steve is thin at best but, behind it, lies a much more important issue – the culture of puffed up leftist wrangling over things that will not matter within months and don’t matter at all to the people we need to be attracting to create a socialist movement. Electoral initiatives are mostly a diversion, anyway, and one that always takes the left back to square one. What irony if this turns out to be the issue that buries LU. For the umpteenth time, can anyone tell me the political theory behind the left participating in elections, how it fits into political strategy and the evidence that it does this.

Caliphate John and the Republican Socialists, what a combination!

Tummon seems to be arguing simultaneously that the left (that is, the non-Labour left)  should not stand against the Greens, that the left should not stand if they are likely to get less than 5% (which would mean nearly everywhere, if not everywhere), and that cde Freeman should stand because he is in “critical support” of the candidate he is opposing.

Oh and why should they present candidates in elections anyway…????

Poor old Steve Freeman…. Will he now face the full might of the “the principles and guidelines of behaviour set out in the safer spaces policy (appendix 1)”? Will he follow Kate’s well meaning advice?

“I urge you to withdraw your candidacy and support the ‘Left Unity – Trade Unionists and Socialists’ candidate, Kingsley Abrams, who has been endorsed by Southwark branch and Left Unity national council.”

Looks like expulsion….

Bo ho. VOTE LABOUR! Back the Socialist Campaign for a Labour Victory !


23 Responses

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  1. I prescribe some puppies

    Paul Canning

    March 27, 2015 at 2:56 pm

  2. It’s surely only a matter of time until Comrade Tummon is forced to expel the rest of the party membership and to reluctantly appoint himself Chair.

    The party will have to be renamed ‘Caliphed Unity’, of course.


    March 27, 2015 at 4:29 pm

  3. “Politically this amounts to sabotage” – priceless

    Boleyn Ali

    March 27, 2015 at 4:29 pm

  4. I think Caliphate John’s contribution is pretty priceless as well.

    For anybody trying to untangle it this quote may help,

    “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. — ‘Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.’ — Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.”

    ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance To be great is to be misunderstood.”

    Andrew Coates

    March 27, 2015 at 5:39 pm

  5. Caliphate John elected to Left Unity National Council.

    “North West: Brigitte Lechner, James Thorne, Ali Treacher, John Tummon. ”


    Andrew Coates

    March 27, 2015 at 6:32 pm

  6. Paul Canning: What little rascals!

    Sue R

    March 27, 2015 at 7:42 pm

  7. Sound of one jazz hand waving.

    Sue R

    March 27, 2015 at 7:45 pm

  8. what a nasty spiteful one sided article, a hatchet job, carried out on John Tummon. How dare you?

    support Labour! what a joke. attack the independent left, and support Labour. its not wonder that most on the left wonder what the purpose of your propaganda is.

    to stir up islamophobia and seperate the working class into muslim vs non muslim. just like the edl but from a different side.

    there is nothing wrong with patriotism, as Billy Bragg has argued. all of the successful left wing movements in the world have been patriotic. the cubans are patriotic, the vietnamese are patriotic etc.

    to back all this Charlie Hebdo propaganda about free speech. as if the drawings were not hugely provocative? look at this protest to a lar vilks film which muslims found pornographic and insulting;

    frankly this is not about free speech, and i think you know it as well. this does not justify charlie, but frankly, people die all the time in palestine, iraq, etc. I dont think you can expect everybody to shed tears for some crappy cartoonists in a rather second rate rag which needed to stir up controversy to boost its flagging sales.

    Tummon lacks a real understanding of dialectics, he has gone too far in one way, while you have gone too far in the other way.


    March 27, 2015 at 9:44 pm

  9. why did stormfront invade the comment section


    March 28, 2015 at 6:09 am

  10. I am banning Jackson under our Safe Spaces Policy – okay, because he’s a Nazi headcase.

    Not sure about the other far-right type, ED: he needs nurturing.

    Andrew Coates

    March 28, 2015 at 1:07 pm

  11. When Caliphate John’s heroes are using actual hatchets on innocent people’s bodies in Iraq and Syria, that’s just part of a ‘progressive’ sweeping away of colonialist structures.

    When John gets mocked by Andrew, now that’s real, horrifying violence. I’m shocked at your uncomradely lack of empathy, Andrew, and your moralistic, Eurocentric presumption that Kurds, Yazidis, christians and others don’t actually want to be chopped up, enslaved, raped and murdered as part of the anti-imperialist struggle.


    March 29, 2015 at 12:57 pm

  12. What Lamia said: this Tummon wanker should be encouraged to go over to Syria and explain to ISIS why their present policies need just a bit of tweaking in order to make them fully acceptable to Western “leftists” like himself.

    Jim Denham

    March 29, 2015 at 6:15 pm

  13. @Paul Canning – prescribe or proscribe? 😛


    March 29, 2015 at 7:19 pm

  14. Whilst sundry sectarian Lefties, fascists and right wingers on this blog have (justified) fun at Left Unity’s “Caliphate John Problem” , let’s not forget that John Tummon’s dreadful proposed amendment to a motion on the Middle East to Left Unity November Conference, secured just a laughable THREE votes (including the two proposers). LU Conference actually voted overwhelmingly to absolutely condemn the reactionary barbarism of ISIS/Islamic State, and supports the right of the Kurds to secure arms from whatever source to combat this theocratic clerico-fascist menace.

    I myself think it was “free speech soggy liberalism gone mad” to allow Tummon and his Class War co-thinker to put this rubbish to Conference – but that’s Leftie free speech liberalism for you. Yes , Tummon has now been elected to the large Lu National Committee as a North West rep – but I don’t suppose there was any competition for these positions. That the political damage produced by electing Tummon to a LU leadership body isn’t grasped by comrades in the North West is just another example of the “early days” naivete of our young broadly based party.

    I posted this on the “Bermondsey Dispute” discussion on our Left Unity Website yesterday , as a riposte to Tummon’s now perpetual whine that he is being misrepresented – yet to be published though !

    “Let’s just remind ourselves shall we of just a flavour of the toxic amendment to a motion on the Middle East that John Tummon put to our LU Conference in November :

    ” …………To show solidarity with the people of the Middle East by supporting the end of the structure of the divided nation states imposed by the Versailles settlement and their replacement by a Caliphate type polity in which diversity and autonomy are protected and nurtured and the mass of people can effectively control executive authority’. Left Unity distances itself specifically from the use of intemperate, inaccurate and moralist language such as ‘terrorism’, ‘evil’, ‘fundamentalist’, ‘viciously reactionary’, ‘murderous’, genocidal’, etc in discussion about the Middle East; these terms are deployed by people and forces seeking not to understand or analyse, but to demonise in order to dominate, and they have no place within socialist discourse.” and
    “We also distance ourselves from the Eurocentric brand of secularism that believes that the peoples of the Middle East must accept western terms of reference by consigning their religious faith to a separate part of their lives from their political aspirations, if they are to develop progressive societies.”

    This , and much, much, more disgraceful pro theocratic dictatorship nonsense was then reproduced by right wing (and Left wing) enemies of Left Unity all over the global blogosphere , and press, to tar us as a “pro Islamic State party of Loony lefties” .

    John Tummon, a quite clear repeated apologist , by his own words, for pro Caliphate fundamentalist Islam in the Middle East, and someone who repeatedly also denies that there is any point in Left Unity’s democratically agreed core electoral strategy, has now been elected to be on our National Committee as a North West rep ! His repeated positive comments on the supposed “anti imperialist” role of ISIS/Islamic State, and his position on a leadership body of Left Unity, bring our democratic socialist ( and feminist ) party into disrepute. Our leadership need to “get a grip” and expel this person from our party ASAP.”

    johnleftieJohn Penney

    March 30, 2015 at 12:31 pm

  15. Caliphate’ John Tummon resigns from Left Unity, “John Tummon April 1, 2015 at 7:45 pm (note time, so it’s not a funny) – Reply
    John Penney
    Get your Bolly out – I have resigned from Left Unity. You are one of the reasons why!”


    The John Penny comment he refers to contains this (note Tobias Abse), ” Your repeated clearly stated support for the theocratic Caliphate ideology and claims for the supposed “anti imperialist credentials” of Islamic State has already gone all around the world blogosphere, bringing our party into serious disrepute. By any interpretation of our rules you yourself should have been expelled long ago for that disgraceful episode alone. ”

    Andrew Coates

    April 2, 2015 at 10:55 am

  16. Tendance Reaction to Tummon’s Resignation.

    Andrew Coates

    April 2, 2015 at 11:49 am

  17. An otterly satisfactory outcome.

  18. Is that small furry mammel clapping or showing jazz hands? It’s difficult to tell.

    Sue R

    April 2, 2015 at 9:20 pm

  19. In defence of Class War.

    While I agree with the gist of John Penny’s view of the pro-Isis motion put to the Left Unity conference, when he points out that the seconder was a “Class War co-thinker”, it might give the impression that this particular chap was therefore reflecting a Class War viewpoint on this occasion.

    Not so.

    While, at one point, he was a parliamentary candidate for them (“for a laugh”), he most certainly is not any more.

    And the following posts on Ian Bone’s blog, I think, give a much truer reflection of their, very strong, anti-Isis viewpoint.



    John R

    April 2, 2015 at 9:31 pm

  20. Er…that should be ‘mammal’.

    Sue R

    April 2, 2015 at 10:05 pm

  21. @ John Penney,

    John, your criticism of John ‘Caliphate’ Tummon all along has been noted and is creditable.

    What’s less impressive is your frankly daft characterisation of posters here as “sectarian Lefties, fascists and right wingers” and the tolerance for Tummon inside Left Unity as ‘soggy liberalism’. No mainstream left or right or liberal party would attract anyone at all who would come out in favour of the ISIS headchoppers. Left Unity did so because what Tummon does share with most of the far left is a totalitarian outlook, wherein the mass murder of innocents is not necessarily a bad thing in itself so long as it can be viewed as serving a ‘progressive’ purpose. He just differs from his fellow totalitarians about ISIS.

    To chuck out smears like ‘fascist’ is not only false, it is meaningless coming from other totalitarians. To add in ‘liberal’ as an insult just compounds the idiocy. It is Left Unity that fucked up, it is not a conspiracy by the Labour-Conservative-Fascist-Liberals of your imagination.

    Good luck without Tummon. You will still have to do a lot better than a Putinesque/Faragesque grouping of everyone else on the political spectrum as a bunch of liberal-fascists. Your worst enemies are yourselves. Your party needs to apologise – Tummon should have been expelled months ago – and move on. If you keep trying to shovel blame onto your party’s critics instead of yourselves, grotesquely smearing those critics as fascists, don’t expect others to let this go.


    April 3, 2015 at 12:01 pm

  22. Lamia – Try actually reading my post lad, – rather than concocting a completely spurious Straw Man misrepresentation of it to feed your own confused right wing mind set . My reference to “Free speech liberalism gone mad” was quite clearly a reference only to the naïve belief within Left Unity as a seriously open democratic socialist party that unlimited freedom to put forward any viewpoint at all in conference motions is more important than the serious damage to the party’s image done by two eccentrics promoting a viewpoint that , from the voting, reflects the view only of THREE members (and at least two have now left).

    So, Lamia, try to pay attention – the bonkers view of ISIS held by Tummon and his chum obviously therefore reflects no wider “totalitarian outlook” at all in Left Unity’s membership – regardless of your paranoid ravings. Your attempt to tar the radical socialist Left with a disregard for human life is truly laughable. Was it the radical democratic Left that invaded Iraq solely to grab its oil , and set in motion the current rolling humanitarian disaster consuming the Middle East ? Is it the democratic radical Left currently enforcing neoliberalism across our globe which is resulting in mass starvation, poverty, and ever growing civil wars as people fight over the crumbs left by the ever richer superrich class ? No it isn’t , Lamia, that would be your capitalist chums – hiding behind their facades of mainstream bourgeois political parties – spouting all their cynical “human rights” rhetoric – whilst backing dictators and kleptocrats everywhere.

    Good try, John R, to disassociate the seconder of the Tummon amendment from Class War. But he was actually an “official” Class War election candidate for fuck’s sake – so hardly just a peripheral connection to Class War there ! But yes, I actually do accept fully that Class War, like Left Unity, is totally opposed to ISIS and all it stands for. There are always a few mavericks who will pop up to discredit ones organisation. The point is to deal with them. In this case both Class War and Left Unity shamefully took too long to do so – to the advantage of the mixed bag of rightwingers, sectarian Lefties and the odd fascist, posting across the global blogosphere , and who also on this blog displayed an unswervingly hostile attitude from day one on Left Unity. I don’t politically grudge the odd fascist and rightwinger doing that actually – they are what they are – TWATS – but the sectarian attitude of other Leftwingers to an attempt to build a broad radical democratic left party in the UK is just juvenilia.

    John Penney

    April 5, 2015 at 4:45 pm

  23. @ John Penney,

    as expected, instead of showing the humility due from the pro-Islamist, pro-rape far left, you try again to hector. I’m not interested. Your part of the far left will get nowhere so long as you seek to lecture others from a position of zero moral credibility. Carry on with your couple of hundred warped self-righteous old git comrades. You’ll all die disappointed.


    April 5, 2015 at 7:46 pm

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