Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

The Weekly Worker and the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty: A Forgotten Love Affair.

with 5 comments


Spooky but True: the Untold Tale of Weekly Worker AWL Unity.

Followers of the minutiae of the left,  and there are them, will know that no bitterer enemies exist than the Communist Party of Great Britain (Provisional Central Committee CPGB-PCC). and the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty.

Both publish papers, which it has to be said, many on the left read, the former’s Weekly Worker for its articles on theory, socialist history its reports on Italy, Iran,  and some other European countries, curious letters, and serious book reviews. The AWL’s Solidarity has valuable – accurate – reports on trade union and welfare issues, the Labour Party, and covers the history of the left, and international topics. It  also carries good coverage of books.

The two groups are now locked in a never-ending battle.

“Social-imperialism” and  comparisons with ‘Stasi busybodies” are some of the milder terms used by the Weekly Worker to describe their foes in the AWL. The AWL dismisses the, admittedly groupusculaire  WW, and its key ally, the Monster Raving Geenstein Party.

Yet things were not always so….

It was in the year 2000.

Spring was coming. The world was full of daffodils and gamboling hares. And love.

Report of a partisan observer John Bridge and other Weekly Worker writers discuss the AWL 09.03.2000

Five observers from the Communist Party of Great Britain attended the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty’s 7th conference over the weekend of March 4-5. In general we met with a friendly reception. There was certainly a keen interest in our ideas, as witnessed by a sale of over 40 copies of the Weekly Worker. An impressive figure and much to the credit of the AWL – especially given that there were no more than around 80 of their comrades in attendance.


The AWL is a small organisation of serious revolutionaries – it has 110 full and a handful of candidate members – with a relatively long history in Britain’s Trotskyite milieu. Once they existed as a faction in Tony Cliff’s International Socialism organisation. That is, until they were bureaucratically expelled. Since then, led by Sean Matgamna, they have been through a labyrinthine series of name changes, primeval unities and fragile partnerships. However, what distinguishes the AWL from that which often falsely passes itself off as Trotskyism is its culture of comparative openness and a willingness to think.


We in the CPGB share and defend exactly that approach.

Love blossomed,

Rapprochement begins

Two representatives of the CPGB’s Provisional Central Committee and two representatives of the AWL’s National Committee met on Friday March 3.

Discussion began with Mark Fischer outlining the history of the PCC’s struggle for a reforged CPGB and why we put Partyism at the centre of our work. It was explained to the comrades from the AWL that we have no CPGB golden age. Our project is about the future, not the past.

We also discussed the importance of trade union bulletins and trade union work. CPGB comrades assured the AWL representatives that we had no objections to trade union work nor trade union bulletins. There was, however, the matter of priorities.

Blair’s constitutional revolution was raised, along with the national question in Wales and Scotland. One AWL comrade did not see why we were so concerned with such issues. This led on to what the CPGB’s PCC understands by economism.

The entry work the CPGB carried out in the SLP was praised and criticised by the AWL comrades. We replied that it was easy to criticise from the outside.

The commitment of the CPGB to a minimum-maximum programme was touched upon. CPGB comrades questioned the AWL about their project of a new Labour Representation Committee. We were told that this was for propaganda purposes and at the moment was of no particular importance.

The principles of democratic centralism were emphasised by the CPGB comrades, as was the need for a polemical communist press in the conditions of today. We stressed the necessity of engaging with advanced workers – ie, those susceptible to theory.

Both sides agreed to hold a further meeting in mid-March and to have a joint day school in early April on the Party question. The three headings of debate will be: economism; organising the class; party and programme.

Halcyon days!

CPGB-AWL rapprochement. 27.7.2000.

Representatives of the CPGB and the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty have been meeting to explore areas of difference and agreement between us. Over the coming weeks, we will feature edited minutes, starting here with those of the March 3 meeting. Comments and criticisms are welcome.

Agreed in conclusion: to put economism; organising the revolutionaries to revolutionise the labour movement; and Party and programme – minimum-maximum and transitional – on the agenda for a day school (date to be fixed). Next four-hander discussion: Friday March 17, to cover minimum-maximum and transitional programmes, and the nature of the ‘official communist’.

CPGB-AWL cooperation. 15.11.2001.

The Communist Party of Great Britain and the Alliance for Workers? Liberty are continuing to explore areas of theoretical difference and agreement, and are looking at the possibility of joint work. Representatives of the executive committee of the AWL and the Provisional Central Committee of the CPGB met recently to discuss a number of issues of current practical concern and issues of ongoing debate between the two organisations.


The dalliance did not last, as this document (January 2003) indicates.

Followed by,

By Paul Hampton
The CPGB, those pretentious squirrels of left-wing tittle-tattle, outdid themselves by chickening out of a debate with the AWL over Iraq.

They have sought in vain to manufacture mischief with some AWL comrades who disagree with the group’s position on Iraq. After a series of private e-mails demanding that the AWL minority agitate to “clear out the leadership of the scabs”, the CPGB invited David Broder to debate with them at their overinflated “communist university”, under the title: troops out – but when? David referred the matter to the AWL office, which generously put up Sean Matgamna to speak for our politics.

The Weekly Worker responded in the shape of a piece by a certain Ian Donovan.

Workers’ Liberty: Descent into cultism

Ian Donovan assesses the current trajectory of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty.

Being “transnational Jewish bourgeoisie” Donovan one can imagine the angle he took on the Palestine Israel issue which divided the two groups.

Yet the vicarious-Zionist AWL has issued not one word of criticism or analysis of this ultra-reactionary phenomenon, which is one of the key, concrete manifestations of Zionism today.

He defended George Galloway,

the matter in hand is to defend Galloway against the bourgeois witch-hunt.


Whether over Galloway, the question of the Iraq war, Israel-Palestine, the Socialist Alliance (where it has squandered an enormous opportunity to be joint initiators of a genuinely broad paper of a pro-party minority), the AWL is retreating headlong back into the most bizarre and unsavoury forms of sectarianism.

Our interest in this tale is waning, so I will end there, yet it remains etched on many a broken heart.


5 Responses

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  1. I recall talking to a Matgamna group member at the time of the group’s merger with the remains of Alan Thornett’s group, in 1982 I think, and I said: ‘This will all end in tears.’ He said that I was being rather cynical. It didn’t take long for me to be proved quite right; I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who felt that it was ill-fated. Jim Higgin’s quip that one should always count one’s fingers before negotiating anything with Matgamna comes to mind.

    Dr Paul

    February 16, 2018 at 6:31 pm

  2. The mad Bob Pitt and myself told some of them the same.

    However the quotes from Donovan indicate that the WW group already had serious problems of their own and that’s before the rise of Greensteinism.

    Andrew Coates

    February 16, 2018 at 6:34 pm

  3. That Dr Paul should quote the highly dishonest (if quite likeable) character Jim Higgins approvingly, and about “counting one’s fingers before negotiating with Matgamna” is a disgrace. Matgamna, in my experience, may sometimes be wrong, but is unfailingly scrupulously honest.

    Jim Denham

    February 16, 2018 at 8:32 pm

  4. I had the misfortune of meeting Matgamna in the seventies at a squatters party in Stepney. My brother was very involved in squatting and Matgamna was involved with a woman, with whom he eventually had a child, who was involved as well. I have never met a more dogmatic, humourless, disorganised individual in my life. He had difficulty finding his way around the tube and had to have a party member, whatever it was called at the time, to shepherd him around in case he got lost! If he is an example of the left as it is described here no wonder you are all so marginal.

    They had a spell of entryism for a while as the woman who is the mother of his child joined the Labour Party and became a Tower Hamlets councillor during the eighties along with a few of the Millies. All of them were abysmal as they were concerned with grand gestures and not dealing with local issues. It was the era of celebrity squatters with people like Piers Corbyn and Yana Mintoff. My brother called them celebrity squatters as they all had money but wanted to a part of something or other.

    Dave Roberts

    February 17, 2018 at 9:45 am

  5. I would have thought in any case that John Chamberlain (Jack Conrad) – I mention him in particular though the whole WW group is involved – did in the past hardly merited much attention outside our left circles, but that their present antics in Labour against the Witch-Hunt and Labour Party Marxists do not show in a credible light.

    By contrast the AWL have acted seriously in the mass labour movement, and, as their input into the Clarion indicates, are engaged in real Labour politics, not stunts.

    Andrew Coates

    February 17, 2018 at 4:56 pm

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