Weedy Wanker on the Mike Squires GroupMay 19 2007 at 10:44 PM
|John Gregory Chamberlain |
Response to Re: In the Independent
Less than charitable
The Independent ran an intriguing story on May 12 centred on the expulsion of Mike Squires from membership of the Marx Memorial Library. Unfortunately, the paper dropped a clanger by stating that the Communist Party of Great Britain was at the centre of an attempted ‘takeover’ of the library. Lawrence Parker reports
This after comrade Squires, - erroneously referred to in the article as a “CPGB member” - had gone to reasonable lengths to ensure that the journalist - Sara Newman - knew that he was a member of the Morning Star’s Communist Party of Britain (CPB) and that it was the CPB that was being accused by the library’s management committee.
This story began over a year ago, on April 18 2006, when the Morning Star published a seemingly innocuous letter from comrade Squires (a respected labour movement historian who had become a member of the CPB), urging trade unionists to join the MML in line with the recent appointment of Mike Hicks as trade union liaison officer. He received a recorded delivery from library chair Mary Rosser, in which she objected “most vehemently” to the Star letter’s content and proposed Squires’ removal from membership.
By the time his appeal before the finance and general purposes committee had come around on May 11 2006, the issue of the ‘suspect’ letter had fallen away and comrade Squires faced allegations of forming the ‘Mike Squires group’, whose aim was allegedly to recruit members to the MML in the service of a political party (the CPB) in order to take control of the library (see ‘From Star wars to library wars’ Weekly Worker May 25 2006). Incidentally, the comrade has never denied meeting up to discuss the library with other like-minded members, not all of whom are CPB members.
Comrade Squires was then informed of his expulsion and a further appeal was heard by the library’s annual general meeting on April 28 2007. This meeting confirmed his expulsion by around 50 votes to 20. Those in attendance were also treated to a 37-page dossier outlining the activities and ‘crimes’ of the ‘Mike Squires group’, including email correspondence between library members and comrade Squires.
In this dossier, comrade Squires was “held to have formed a group … which has used the medium of a political party, the Communist Party of Britain, to attempt to mobilise members of that political party to join the charity and to vote at meetings of the charity, in line with the agenda of the Communist Party of Britain”. It is also alleged that he has intimidated and harassed library staff and that it has cost the MML more than Ł20,000 in order to combat this ‘group’ (there has thus far been no indication as to how this huge figure was arrived at). Needless to say, the comrade strongly rejects these allegations.
The ‘clincher’ for Rosser and co, however, appears to be that the supposed activities of the promotion of a political party - the CPB - in the library could threaten the MML’s charitable status. Therefore, comrade Squires, cast as the CPB’s main animator, has to be expelled. However, the management committee’s arguments are a smokescreen in what is essentially a long-running factional battle among the remnants of ‘official’ communism.
If the CPB is intent on taking control of the MML, then it is making a bad job of it. The low vote against comrade Squires’ expulsion at the recent AGM and the noticeable absence of leading CPB comrades at AGMs over the last couple of years would suggest a distinct lack of mobilisation and that a process of disengagement is taking place. Comrade Squires admits that it has been problematic getting CPB members involved in the MML (he puts this in the context of a very small organisation with many other calls on its time). As we have commented previously, sections of the CPB have expressed concern in its own documents that its activity - or lack of it - is reaching a critical point (‘Money for old rope’ Weekly Worker November 23 2006). The CPB appears to have largely given up on securing any influence in the MML, which has obviously been hard on those of its members who don’t want to throw the towel in.
Therefore, a key plank of the management committee’s case for expelling comrade Squires falls flat. Why then was it invented? Some of it, as Squires himself feels, is undoubtedly “sour grapes” against the CPB’s current leadership. In 1998 the CPB split into two rival factions and the main battleground was the Morning Star. Things came to a head when the management committee of the People’s Press Printing Society, which owns the Star, attempted to sack John Haylett as editor. The PPPS was led by Rosser and former CPB general secretary Mike Hicks. This caused a strike of Morning Star journalists and eventually it was Rosser and Hicks who were forced out.
So revenge certainly has a part to play, even though comrade Squires only joined the CPB in 2006. However, the motives of Rosser and company run deeper. They want to secure the MML as a base for their own Marxist Forum faction, a ‘discussion group’ set up in 1999 after the removal of Rosser, Hicks and Ron Bellamy from the CPB. As Bellamy wrote in 1999, “This Marxist Forum arises from an urgent need - to find a way out of the acute crisis in the Communist Party of Britain caused by the sectarian and anti-democratic conduct of the leadership” (reproduced on the group’s website, www.marxistforum.com). The ‘non-political’ fig leaf of protecting the charitable status of the MML is being used by Rosser in order to further the aims of her own political grouping - to make life difficult for the CPB. Seen in this light, comrade Squires’ expulsion becomes all too easy to explain.
‘Official’ communist turf wars aside, this is a disaster for the wider Marxist movement. The MML, through the control of this unprincipled clique, is an asset that is effectively being taken away from any kind of democratic control. The days in which you could roll up at Marx House, join at the counter and then attend the AGM are long gone. Rather you will be asked why you need to use the library and to provide academic references. Although this does not necessarily mean that people would be stopped from using library materials, anyone with Marxist politics (other than the approved Marxist Forum version of Rosser and company), who might want to play some role in deciding how their membership fee is used, actually becomes a problem in the eyes of the management.
All of which suggests that this institution is currently a rather unflattering memorial to one Karl Marx.
- Squires gets into local Islington rag! - Kim Philby on May 23, 2007, 9:11 PM
- "Are you now or have you ever been…" - John Williamson on May 25, 2007, 4:34 AM
- Sour grapes from sour people - Maxim Gorky on May 25, 2007, 9:30 PM
- La Rosser Nostra - John Williamson on May 28, 2007, 3:51 AM
- The Straight Left enigma (reply to John Williamson) - Guy Burgess on May 28, 2007, 1:50 PM
- Re: The Straight Left enigma (reply to John Williamson) - Todor Zhivkov on May 28, 2007, 6:30 PM
- tangent - Jeremy Hawthorn on May 28, 2007, 8:06 PM
- Yup - Jeremy Hawthorn on May 28, 2007, 9:07 PM
- Re: Yup - Todor Zhivkov on May 29, 2007, 12:13 AM
- OK - Jeremy Hawthorn on May 29, 2007, 9:39 AM