1990s >> 1996 >> no-1106-october-1996

Pamphlet Review: Secret history of secrecy

Lobster special issue The Clandestine Caucus by Robin Ramsay £5.

This is an interesting and well-researched pamphlet into “anti-socialist campaigns and operations in the British Labour Movement since the war”. Having said this, the extent of the “anti-socialist” campaigns referred to is minimal, as what Ramsay is primarily concerned with are the manoeuvres of US and British capital against the left-wing of the Labour Party and the misnamed Communist Party of Great Britain. He claims that “the history of Britain’s union and labour movement is one of continuous conflict between socialist and anti-socialist wings”. But what is generally meant by this is the conflict between open supporters of the interests of the British capitalist class (from Bevin to Blair) and those who fancy themselves as a new ruling elite presiding over a system of state-run capitalism (the various radical poseurs and Leninists who make up the British Left).

The accounts of the involvement of the British and US security services in the British trade union movement are fascinating and Ramsay lifts the lid on a whole range of techniques used to shackle genuine trade union militancy and democracy, detailing the organisations set up by British and US capital with the aim of combating working-class self-activity. The ways in which the capitalist class manoeuvres on both a national and international level to ensure its political and economic hegemony is a difficult subject to approach given the highly secretive nature of many of its organisations, but Ramsay does a good job without ever giving in to the temptations posed by far-flung conspiracy theories. It is possible to develop an educated guess at the agendas of clandestine bourgeois outfits like the Bilderberg Group and the Pinay Circle, but Ramsay is more concerned with hard facts than speculation—and the evidence he uncovers is worrying enough.

There is a small slip on page 16, where one trade union militant is described as being “an active and anti-Stalinist member of the Socialist Party of Great Britain”. This could well be taken to mean that there could be such a thing asa Stalinist member of the Socialist Party, which—given our opposition to vanguard politics and dictatorship in all its forms—is of course ridiculous.
Dave Perrin