Old Kent Road 1972

The Old Kent Road. Nov 1972

Late at night after 11pm, after we went round the pubs on the Old Kent Rd, I was so  exhausted. I was also fed up with the SLL. I gave all my donations to 'R" expecting to get a lift back . But instead, 'R' looked at me with distrust and said, ‘I am checking the money…. Sean, you are a bit of a bourgeois individualist, you know?  So I need to check the details.’

'R' counted the money and said ‘ What’s is going on? Sean, you have taken some money!  What’s going on?‘ I went through all of my pockets and there was no money.

“ Sean, you cunt, you  are lying!!’ 'R' reached round, and went through my pockets and then ferociously said ‘You are lying! You have dropped of the money before bringing it to me!’.

I protested and 'R' immediately said ‘Shut up!’ We spent about 2 hours in 'R's car, and then he felt around, and said ‘Oh shit...I have found the money!’ It was in his pocket. Finally he dropped me in New Cross at 1am. I had no money and had to walk back home. It was 3 or 4 miles and I had had it with the SLL.

I went into hiding from them. I stayed at my brothers Hugh’s place. My mother would say to the SLL members who came up to the front door “He is not here!”  Eventually, Malcolm Tierney, the Actor,   tracked me down in my school at Walbrook College . He came up to the 2 floor staircase .He grabbed me by the throat, and punched me,  and angrily said  “Sean! You pathetic wanker! You know what you? You are just a bourgeois  individualist! You make me sick! You have got a deep hatred of the revolutionary power of the working class! You disgust me!”

I had heard it all before.  For 10 minutes   I waited while Malcolm continually ranted, and then  3 off my fellow students can along,  and Malcolm finally left.

I was 15 years old. Malcolm was 34 years old.

The  Socialist Labour League was fundamentally undemocratic. A SLL member said: ' Healy ruled with an iron fist. "Dialectical materialism”, was shoved down the throat of the recruits, and  it was done at a frantic pace, 24 hours, until the students could not think. There was always a crisis at the annual camp. In Healy's mind, a camp without some sort of crisis was a failure. It was, of course, a trick with mirrors, an illusion created in the hothouse atmosphere of a camp under tent, and aided by the slight delirium that comes with lack of sleep. At the same time, also had an uncanny ability to make you personally feel that you were engaged in a tremendous struggle.

Healy once told someone privately that the purpose of these crises was to bring out the real contradictions within the camp. "If one doesn't develop naturally, then I create one," he said."

One comrade who dared in the Camp to  differ from Healy wrote ‘ ‘The comrades ‘had been up since six am or earlier, were clearly bleary eyed, dazed and caught up in the isolated world of the camp with its tensions, guards and continuous discussion of the outside world in terms ever more stark and unreal. An atmosphere of complete hysteria dominated the meeting.... Healy, with his face getting ever redder and in an extreme emotional state, stood in the centre of the circle, facing me. Finally it was just too much for me. I stood up. “I ... I disagree with the entire proceedings”, I stammered. Healy rushed up to me and shook his fists within an inch of my face shouting “I will destroy you”.’

Worse than that, the world of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, and Mao -  and now Gerry Healy -  were now spreading “"dialectical materialism’. It is mumbo, jumbo, pure garbage.

Consider the laws of dialectical materialism:

'Unity & Struggle of Opposites (contradictions: one becomes two). Struggle is permanent, unity temporary. Internal motion is primary over external. Find the main contradiction and the primary side of that contradiction (which will prevail?). Quantity becomes Quality. Quantitative change adds up to a qualitative LEAP. Quantitative change has limits which, exceeded, transform into qualitative change. Reinventing of the New (Negation of the Negation). Change is irrevocable, not circular, but like a spiral. When things change, we witness something entirely new, yet carrying forward aspects of what it was.'

Imagine a party, going into a meeting, and  repeating these ‘laws’.

That’s the Communist Party. All through the 20 century, and now in China. In Russia, China, Eastern Europe, Vietnam, Cambodia under Pol Pot, and  Western Europe. Quite frankly there has not been a place that the Communist Party did not exist.

Dialectical materialism. Even the name sounds bogus.  When you read it, it is bogus, clumsily written, and unquestionably wrong.

What about the Family? Love? Sharing? Helping your neighbor? Having a good time? Come to that, what about Science? The whole of the world is based on scientific thinking.  Read down the list of Nobel prize winners. The USA and the UK, rank 12 TIMES what Russia and China in terms of numbers.

“Dialectical materialism’ has killed more people than the entire world war II. Think about it: WWII was responsible for the death of over 60 million people. But  Stalin’s policies also killed 50 Million and Mao, killed 68 million people. Shot, raped etc.

These deaths all occurred under the guise of "dialectical materialism’. Together Stalin and Mao killed 110 million people. Think about it: more people than World War II.

I am deeply ashamed that I fell for the bullshit of “dialectical materialism.” At least I can say I was only 14 and I ‘got it’ by 16.

Eventually they threw me out of Walbrook College. I was screwed. I didn't have a job card. I went along to be unemployment office and I  said ‘I'm from Ireland. I don't have my birth certificate.’  I was 16 years old but I tricked the Social Security clerk, that I was 18.

I am almost 60 years old now. Forty Six years ago, I was selling Keep Left on Lewisham High Street on saturday afternoon. A  Russian man, properly 60 years old, came up to me.  He pleaded with me about the appalling state of the Soviet Union. I laughed, and I said to my comrades that the Russian man is daft.

Yesterday, as I went to Whole Foods, as saw  two young men campaigning enthusically on the street about 'Socialism'. 

I wonder if the left wing youngsters, now think that I am stupid.

Working for the SLL

Bit by bit the ‘resistance’ was building up.  The International Socialism Group, who the SLL loved to hate, immediately supported the Lewisham three, as did the left wing of the Labour party. The Barristers that the SLL hired,  were from the Old Bailey, London. Greenwich Magistrates Court had not seen any top lawyers, and they are going to see them now.  By the time the court case happened, we were pretty famous in London. Well, amongst the Far Left. Every left wing newspaper was for us. We went to court 2 times, and  the SLL had top solicitors  to represent us. Unfortunately, the police purged themselves. We got off with a severe warning.

I worked every single day for the SLL. In the  morning, regardless of school, I got up to sell the  Workers’s Press, call on potential members for money, and arguing politics with them. In the night in was Party Meetings, more arguing politics with potential members.

Cowan said ‘We  absolutely need fresh members. Why don’t to hire somewhere?’

So, In the spring of 1972 I went down Manor Lane road to Lochaber Hall. It looks like a church hall because that is exactly what is was; it was built in 1910 as the church hall for Holy Trinity in Glenton Road – quarter of a mile away on the other side of Lee High Road.  

Now, after the war, it has become un-used. The sign in the porch said the warden lived down the road. I went up to his door,  and rang it. The warden came up to the front door. I asked him to a rent for hall. He looked at me and calmly said “Nonsense  young man. You look too young!’.

I replied that  we were a group that caters to the unemployed.  I argued. We bickered for a while, and he grudging  said “OK, we will  let Lochaber hall’.

By the 3rd time we had the Dance   at Lochaber Hall, the West Indian kids were so, so tired of me.  They used to shout at me ‘Bloodclot!!!’ ‘Bumbaclot!!’ but I constantly said  over and over again, loudly,   “Don’t you want the Tories out? You have to make up your minds! Come on!!” . By 10.00 pm, the West Indian kids were tired of me, and exhausted.

My message, passed down from Gerry Healy, was really, really goofy.  Gerry Healy said in 1972 “ The strategic task of the next period – a pre-revolutionary period of agitation, propaganda and organisation – consists in overcoming the contradiction between the maturity of the objective revolutionary conditions and the immaturity of the proletariat and its vanguard . It is necessary to help the masses in the process of the daily struggle to find the bridge between the present demands and the socialist programme of the revolution. "

Eh? What??

In  the church hall the adolescent boys went from saying ‘Bloodclot!’ to eventually sitting down wearily in resignation,  and as I said “ Don’t you want the Tories out?” Maybe 50% of them didn’t know ‘The Tories” but I kept on shrilly saying ‘It’s the working class, or the Upper Class!!!  Don’t you want the Tories out? It’s  the Young Socialists with the real agenda to kick the Tories out!! Either you are in it, or you are out!!!’

By the end of the night I have a few weary recruits.  Bit by bit, we built the group.

I used to go into the Clapham HQ once a week. I used to see Gerry Healy once a month. He would wander down the stairs. He did not talk to me - I was just a 14 year old boy, a young socialist, why would he bother with me? He had more important things to do. Gerry Healy was  planning a revolution. He  was a cult. He brainwashed people.

I didn't know it at the time but Daddy had written a letter to Gerry pleading with him to stop it. Daddy had gone along to the local Trade’s Union plumbing head, and said what up what about the Socialist Labour League? The local Trade union laughed. ‘They Socialist Labour League? They are  all bananas! The SLL is 100% bananas!’

My Father  wrote the letter, but  Gerry Healy did not reply…..

I was going to Brockley County Grammar School.  I arranged a strike. Well, sort of a strike but eventually the SLL was keeping me busy from 6.00 am until 11.00 pm. I stopped going  to school, but I did not tell my parents.

Bit by bit I was gathering round a large number of recruits. Soon, we would open up in Brockley and Downham. We went to one 1 meeting a week in south east London, to 4 a week in Lewisham, Peckham, Brockley and Downham . Membership was seriously up.

We had the Empire Pool Wembley in March 1972, which marked the culmination of a Young Socialist national Right to Work march, drew a crowd of over 8,000 - though some of them were no doubt there partly for a concert featuring such attractions as the rock group Slade.

In 1972 spring the SLL south eastern London branch  changed the leadership. The new boss was working class - 'T'- and he was hard core. On Sundays down at Peckham Housing Estate, we went through, for 5 or 6  hours, the works of Marx, Lenin and Trotsky. There was about 10 of us, and two leaders. 

For 12 weeks we went through it, and finally it dawned on me that it was so, UTTERLY boring. Actually, It was so mind numbingly boring, reading chapter and chapter of of  Volume 28 of the Collected Works of Marx and Engels, containing Marx's main work Das Kapital. It was just silly. Volume 28 of Marx? Ha!! Bit by bit I was loosing interested. I haven't even laughed in 6 months. Everyone in the SLL was deeply unhappy. Seriously unhappy, and it was because the SLL leadership was viciously unhappy!

Arrested At Lewisham 1971

It was 7am at Elliots Brothers in Lewisham, I was selling ‘Keep Left’.  I was standing under the railway arches, and a policeman and up to me and said ‘Gotcha! You have been arrested’.  Eventually, there were 3 of us arrested.  Winston, a   black boy about a year older than me, and a 24 year old man, 'x', who at the  BBC as a Camera Man.

We were all taken in a van, and 'x' said ‘Are you going to prosecute us?…’ 'x' had not finished when the Policeman said ‘Grievous bodily harm! I saw you putting the boot into the policemen!. This was just nonsense. The first we saw the Police was when we were arrested.

For me, it was excellent. Everyone in the SLL believed Lewisham Police was pro National Front, and in my 14 year brain, I now believed them.  As the police station, they put us in 3 different cells.  For me, it was the bad cop and the good cop. The bad cop came in first. He immediately said ‘You bastard!!’ and  smacked me  in the stomach. The then good cop came in. He said ‘Why don't you go back to school? ’ (actually; he made sense, but I do not realize it).

Several hours later my Father came down to the Police Station to arrange my release. He was shocked and said “Did they beat you?”  He was relieved it I told him ‘No, not really’. The policemen said that  the Court Case will be at Greenwich Magistrates Court next month

I went out and saw in front of the Police station and saw both  Winston and 'x'. Winston had clearly suffered more  than me. Sadly, he was Black - not a good thing in 1970s Lewisham.  But he smiled and he  gingerly said ‘I’m ok!”.

'x' was gloomy. ’ I hate that place! It is awful! Now, the police are after the SLL! It is awful!. What on earth do we do?’’.

For me, I could not understand 'x'.‘ The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.’  If the police were after us, that’s great!! The revolution would happen faster! I went home with my father, convinced  that 'x' was a bourgeois intellectual. As Gerry Healy said: ‘  The Socialist Labour League is the only organisation with a revolutionary policy which can politically prepare the working class to meet the present crisis.’

I meet with Claire Cowan, the head of the SLL South East London branch, in the Cafe at Lewisham. I didn't not have any money for the coffee, but she paid.  She agreed with me. 'x' was a bourgeois intellectual. And she quickly  said that  the SLL will want me to plead ‘Not Guilty’ next month in Greenwich Magistrates Court. She wisely said ‘Trust me. The SLL is doing to make a big deal of it’. The Keep Left  and  the Workers Press unquestionably said on the  front page next week: “Drop all charges against the Lewisham Three!!!’

I was 14 years old in 1971

For me, at 14 years old, I was fed up with the National Front - a Fascist group. They had taken over Lewisham High Street and they selled Fascist newspapers. They had poured petrol in the letter boxes in Asian homes in Lewisham and set them on fire. A bunch of skinheads at the school where members.  So, I set out to try to stop them.

As I walked down Manor Park, Lewisham, it was late. It was about midnight. As I came to my home, a car pulled up, and four guys got out. They were instantly on me. They  forced me to the  floor, shouting obscenities. “You wog loving cunt!!’ told me to get down on my knees, and then on the pavement. They were National Front members. They had knives. For 5 minutes they put my head on the floor. One of them said ‘Commie cunt!  What are you doing helping  Pakies and Wogs? If you don't stop, we will kill you! Fucking kill you!!’.

Eventually, they went into the car,  and left. I picked myself up, dusted off my clothes,  and entered my home. I was bloody and  shaken - but I was pleased. Good!!   I was a member of Socialist Labour League, (SLL)  run by Gerry Healy, with my brother Paul. I worshipped Gerry Healy. I was 14 years old. The reason why NF were gentle, because they were shocked  at my age. Good! Of course, let’s  say in a year, when we start the revolution,  the four fascists will be rounded up and shot. Good riddance.   I went to bed around 12.30 at night. I set the alarm for 5.30am - I had to go out and sell “Keep Left’ magazine at Elliott Brothers Ltd Century Works (Electrical Engineering), Lewisham. There was work to do.

The SLL used the Young Socialist as their own youth section. I joined them.  It was run through the "centre" in Clapham - the SLL's Headquarters - in a doctrinaire and almost militaristic fashion. The Annual Conferences of the Young Socialists were stage managed by the Healyites.

There was always a ‘crisis’. The ‘Crises’ went on for ever, by the force of Gerry Healy’s personality. Healy's ability to commit great crimes, sprang from the strength of his personality. When he walked into a room, everyone went quiet. Healy could touch you. He could make you feel almost physically the socialist dream. It was not his physical size- he was almost a dwarf, but   he looked like a giant to me. Perhaps it was like L Ron Hubbard.

But Healy was an unbelievably powerful speaker. In a general meeting where he was speaking, he would be late, and he would start out whispering quietly. Someone would say “I can’t hear you!’, and the comrades would say to the man “Scch!!!! Shut up comrade’!!. Then, after 10 minutes  Healy suddenly  raised his voice, violently jabbing his finger, and exploded into ferocious verbal crescendo, and then again and  he whispers  for 5 minutes, and exploded into another verbal attack. It was stunning and strangely real. In the 1930’s, Healy acted as a Comintern courier into Nazi Germany and apparently (so he says) saw Hitler speak.

He would  inspired fear and frantic loyalty  wherever he went. Healy run  the organization in  a violent way,  and physical terror against anybody who dared disagree with him. If you ever disagreed with him,  he would crush you.