Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Socialist Action, Shadowy Gurus of the new Labour Leadership – Exposed!

with 18 comments


Labour Briefing AGM circa 1981. Pic: Sunday Telegraph.

Rumbled by the Telegraph and Andrew Gilligan!

For much of Labour’s history, the idea that the party was covertly influenced by revolutionaries, Communists and terrorists was dismissed as a fiction propagated by Right-wing tabloids.

But now it is true.

Very worrying.

Mr Ross, now an economic adviser, was a prominent member of an international Marxist group. In an election speech in 1974, Mr Ross – quoted in a biography of former London mayor Ken Livingstone – said: “The ruling class must know that they will be killed if they do not allow a takeover by the workers. If we aren’t armed there will be a bloodbath.”

The Sunday Telegraph has also uncovered evidence of how other key figures around Mr Corbyn, including his chief of staff, Simon Fletcher, as well as Mr Ross are or were members of a tiny, secretive Trotskyite sect, Socialist Action, which seeks a communist revolution and believes that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a “tragedy for humanity”.

In secret documents (so secret they do not publish them NOTE) seen by this newspaper, Socialist Action calls itself the “revolutionary wing of the Labour Party” and describes how it performed a “clandestine form of entry” to infiltrate the party.

Among groups on the revolutionary Left, Socialist Action is unique in another way. It already has substantial experience of power.


Socialist Action started as an overt organisation fighting elections in its own right, initially known as the International Marxist Group (IMG). Mr Corbyn’s brother, Piers, was a prominent IMG member and fought an election for it in the 1970s.


Modesty prevents us from mentioning another prominent member of the IMG in the 1970s, behind a world-famous Blog.

A main focus of the group’s attention was the monthly news sheet London Labour Briefing, a key instrument of the takeover of the 1980s party in the capital by what became known as the “loony Left”.

Briefing, set up by a separate group of Trotskyites, was strongly influenced (?????)  by Socialist Action. Mr McDonnell and Mr Corbyn, too, were both closely linked to it.

Some might possibly note the word “separate” and quibble about the word Trotskyist,  but, hey, left’s continue the fun!

According to the authoritative Parliamentary Profiles by the late Andrew Roth, Mr Corbyn, a political activist and councillor, was the general secretary of its editorial board. His byline appears frequently from the first issue in 1980 and he usually chaired main fringe meetings of Briefing at events such as the Labour Party conference. According to the March 1983 issue, he ran Briefing’s mailing list.

Mr McDonnell, another bylined writer from the early 1980s, remains a key figure at Briefing, now affiliated with the ultra-Left party pressure group he chairs, the Labour Representation Committee (LRC).

Briefing’s pages seethed with calls for “mass extra-parliamentary action” and it ran hit-lists of “traitor” Labour MPs and councillors to be purged. The group gave 30 pieces of silver – well, “silver milk [bottle] tops” – to former Labour prime minister Jim Callaghan.

A lifestyle section agonised about whether it was “bourgeois” to have children, while municipal tea dances put on by London councils were denounced as “heterosexist” as well as “primarily racist” (because they “reflect comfortable white society”).

Mostly though, Briefing, like Socialist Action, avowed what it called a “British revolution” – its motto was Trotsky’s “Take the Power”.

Yes, we are well and truly rumbled.

Labour Briefing is well-known for its close ties with Socialist Action (note snazzy SA site!).

They share the word “socialism” for a start!

Taking Power?

We should ask politely, if not at all…

But here’s the rub: I can even now recall the warmth with which much-missed Briefing Editorial members, such as Leonora Lloyd  and Mike Marquesse talked about their secret ‘guru’  John Ross.

Briefing, in a coded message to supporters, with due reverence, once published a photo of the Leader under the title, “A rare daylight picture of John Ross”.

Even today the influence of Socialist Action on the Briefing and the LRC is only equalled by the mighty forces of Socialist Fight and the Posadists, not to mention the Brent Soviet.

Andrew Gilligan: Bless!


18 Responses

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  1. A Tory mate sent it to me and I had to tell her that I fully understood why the Brixton riots happened as I had seen the cops strip searching black men in the streets. Lame-o.

    Paul Canning (@pauloCanning)

    September 27, 2015 at 1:36 pm

  2. One hopes they do not go into the issues of Chartist edited by Chris Knight in the 1970s…..

    French Maoism in the same period is about the only comparison.

    Andrew Coates

    September 27, 2015 at 3:44 pm

  3. This Telegraph article is a scandal.

    It refuses to recognise the “significant role” (see below) of the Revolutionary Communist League in forming Labour Briefing.

    Look, Telegraph!! They even have the word “Communist” in their title!!!

    From an article by Chris Knight in this week’s Weekly Worker –

    “Following my expulsion, I joined with others in forming the relatively short-lived Revolutionary Communist League, whose members went on to produce the Chartist newspaper before playing a significant role in establishing Labour Briefing.”


    John R

    September 27, 2015 at 4:54 pm

  4. What happens when the telegraph gets hold of “My Love Life” by C. Knight (and the reply that followed, entitled, as I recall “Our Love Lives”)?

    Jim Denham

    September 28, 2015 at 9:01 am

  5. http://www.chrisknight.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/my-sex-life2.pdf

    “All of us had to suffer to become revolutionaries. In my case the suffering was primarily sexual.”

    More on Historical archive documents 1969-1980.

    Knight, C. (1980) My Sex-Life. Women & Labour Collective.
    Part One, Part Two, An ending

    Knight, C. (1980) Revolutionary Consciousness.

    Chris Knight: http://www.chrisknight.co.uk/the-soldiers-charter/

    Andrew Coates

    September 28, 2015 at 10:28 am

  6. “Ann and I finally made love – to add the final touch – during the Labour Party Conference in Blackpool. I felt again that I was doomed, though I still held out the hope that perhaps the socialist revolution itself might conceivably save me.”

    I think a comic version of this pamphlet should be produced.


    September 28, 2015 at 11:54 am

  7. I’m waiting for the Sun/Mail/Telegraph highlighting the pivotal role of the Poasdist(s) in the Labour Representation Committee (Chair John McDonnell) in securing Corbyn’s victory.

    “Flying Saucer Trots back Corbyn!” “We told you Socialism was “Alien” to British values!” “Dolphins say, “Mandatory Re-selection Now!”


    John R

    September 28, 2015 at 1:47 pm

  8. She must be in excitement:

    “It is important that J Corbyn himself proposes the reorganization of the Labour Party. His election as leader marks the moment when the imperialist Blairites have been repudiated by the masses, and forced to step back.

    The Blairites are already in league with the capitalist class to unseat Corbyn. To remedy this, the Corbyn leadership will have to allow a greater participation of the workers’ mass organisations, Andromedans, Time Lords, and aquatic allies, in the Party. The political way of doing this is to let the anti-austerity and anti-imperialist sentiment of the masses determine the Party’s policies.”


    We wonder how the Brent Soviet will rise to the occasion, they (he) sent me Birthday greetings, but apart from that have been quiet recently.

    Andrew Coates

    September 28, 2015 at 4:11 pm

  9. The only one of Chris Knight’s revelations I found mildly disturbing was the admission that he used to read ‘State and Revolution’ for relaxation.


    September 28, 2015 at 8:01 pm

  10. …and that it got him finally laid, at that Blackpool LP conference a while later. I would be sceptical of anyone who chatted me up using Lenin as the prop to do so.


    September 28, 2015 at 10:24 pm

  11. I suppose I would rather people used ‘State and Revolution’ for trying to pull than for reconstructing the social order. It’s unlikely to work very well if used as a chat-up prop, but at least it’s unlikely to do much damage in that capacity.


    September 29, 2015 at 12:11 am

  12. When I was a student, my love life was more ‘One Step Forward, Two Steps Back’ whereupon there’d be a personal Crisis at The Party.

    John R

    September 29, 2015 at 10:49 am

  13. Why or why did you give the link to that pamphlet ‘My sex life’. What sort of person bought such a pamphlet? I wish I could unread it.

    The first far Left (sic) publication I recall buying (although I think I had replied to a Socialist Standard ad before then) was the Chartist in the most unlikely location of Stockport’s Merseyway shopping centre in about 1979.

    I have just gone to wash my hands again, thoroughly, in case a few atoms still may remain there from that exchange with someone who presumably knew this guy.

    Thank God that the Seventies – and all they involved – recede ever further into fading memory.

    Southpawpunch (@Southpawpunch)

    September 29, 2015 at 6:09 pm

  14. thank you for remembering Andrew Roth ..antoinetteputnam@gmail.com his widow.

    antoinette putnam.

    September 29, 2015 at 6:44 pm

  15. Yes, Punch, all the information I needed from that pamphlet was included in this short summary I read in the mid-1990s; not that, at the time, I believed the Chris Knight’s “My Sex Life” really, actually, existed, for sale and public distribution.

    “Some time in 1979, the group’s majority expelled Chris Knight and Graham Bash for disruption, because CK made a wild speech somewhere. They and some others now formed the ‘Chartist minority’. This group had an immediate impact on the left when, breaking a silence of some years’ duration, they put out their first publication. This was ‘My Sex Life’, a pamphlet in which CK told of his courtship and marriage, and of his psychical impotence and which pocket Ann put the contraceptives in as she went off to meet her lover.

    “There was something for everybody. The insensitive could mock and laugh, the prurient indulge themselves, alert political scientists pigeon-hole one more strangemanifestation of sectarian paranoia, and Freudians feel that they had at last uncovered the root and stem of this group’s obsession with ‘power’, with taking, grasping, worrying at, THE POWER!

    “The SCLV’s platform had called for ‘no rent and rate rises’. After the Tories won the 1979 election, and cut local government funding, many of the Labour local government leftists to whom the Chartists looked up as people of ‘power’ used rate rises to evade both immediate cuts and direct struggle against the government.”



    September 30, 2015 at 1:07 am

  16. It’s a long time since I read AWL stuff and seeing the name Tom Rigby on the beginning doesn’t encourage me to read further. It looks like a classic example of bad Left writing – a jumble of minor and major points, changing wildly from detailed (almost) minutes to big picture stuff with little structure or development of an argument.

    It’s a shame so many Lefts write badly because I fear even future academics will never work out the differences if all they have to go on are texts like this. One of those things that I don’t think they will understand will be the significant differences that there were, as most mainstream comment now seems to presume that Benn/Corbyn/Militant/Briefing/Trots (and even Marxism Today!) were all ‘sort of together’ then. I think this will be the source of knocking media stories about Corbyn for some time to come

    For the sake of future historians, let me tell you how it was then. From the right – Corbyn (2015) is fair bit to the right of that old fraud Benn and the Viscount was then pretty much similar to the Briefing crowd (although the latter really believed it, at least for a while). Slightly to their left was their Chartist component; they still made some red noises occasionally. A bit to their left was Militant (although culturally miles apart) and Militant were so deep into entryism that what was actually, at first, their cover politics (left reformism) became what their members believed. A lot left of the rest were the Trots. Now people like the SWP did see themselves as a lot harder than, say, the IMG (because the latter were in Labour) but they weren’t correct; I’d put them all as pretty similar left centrists.

    And out there, on the most far Left and on my tod – then and now – was and is me.

    Southpawpunch (@Southpawpunch)

    September 30, 2015 at 5:24 am

  17. The predecessor of Socialist Resistance, the International Socialist Group (the only group from the IMG that is actually part of the Fourth International (Mandelites), was heavily involved in Briefing – not Socialist Action which has pursued its own merry course since the mid-1980s.

    Some key figures in the late 80s and early 90s were originally from this group, though like most of us they drifted away from Trotskyism and towards broader democratic socialism.

    I can’t remember exactly when they stopped doing this but it was in the early 1990s.

    From then on ISG – in the process of becoming SR – were swept in whatever way the wind blew, from the Socialist Alliance to Respect (which they left not primarily because of Galloway’s own disgusting personality and politics, but over his opposition to Scottish nationalism) and latterly Left Unity.

    Reports indicate a renewed interest in the Labour Party.

    Andrew Coates

    September 30, 2015 at 11:28 am

  18. A chance arises to replace the most reactionary government in living memory (even for Tony Benn were he still alive) with a government that would have a policy of reversing austerity through public investment, consistent anti racism and pro peace/anti nuclear, and all ou can do on this blog is indulge in “trotskyist” gossip. You are truly, truly lost to socialism.

    john cutts

    February 10, 2016 at 10:27 pm

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