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Tuesday, 14 October 2014

'Des Derwin and when people choose to speak and chose not to speak' by John Throne

John Throne is a writer and political activist, now living in Chicago. He was a member of the Bogside Defence Committee in Derry in 1969, and spent the next 25 years of his life as an organizer for the socialist movement internationally. John has written extensively on political issues. But The Donegal Woman, published in 2006, was his first book. It tells the story of his grandmother, hired out as a child to a farmer who raped her and made her pregnant. The novelist Jennifer Johnston has said: “The story is relentless in its savagery…but he also has a wonderful lyrical quality to his writing.” John was a Featured Reader at the September 2006 Over The Edge: Open Reading. He sent me this response to my rebuttal of Des Derwin’s politically motivated criticism of poem Irish Parliament’s Last Remaining Holy Man Speaks On His Retirement:

Kevin Higgins's piece in response to Des Derwin is brilliant. I wish I could write like that.

I would like to comment here on just one aspect of the internal life of the SP [Socialist Party]and the CWI [ the 'Committee For A Workers International to which the SP is affiliated] over which Joe Higgins presides in Ireland. Kevin mentions what is called the control commission. I think the CWI changed the name of the control commission to something sounding more democratic after its internal life came under more scrutiny. I had exactly the same experience as Kevin with this so-called control commission. This is a body elected at conference. Only rank and file members are allowed to sit on it. It is supposed to hear disputes and then report back on what it finds, and give its opinions. After my debates and being expelled I asked not only for my right to appeal against my expulsion, which was denied, but also for my right to meet and discuss with the control commission and let the control commission hear my side of the story. The CWI refused to allow the control commission to meet. This was a Stalinist manoeuvres.

Joe Higgins was part of this decision. He never opened his mouth to defend my right to appeal against my expulsion nor my right to have the control commission hear my case. He said I had got myself into the trouble myself and I would have to get out of it myself, in other words he threw me overboard. But not only that by supporting all the undemocratic measures taken against me and the denial of my rights he joined with the rest of the SP and CWI leadership to push my head under the water.

I have said before and I will say it again. Joe Higgins fights for the working class and the working class owes him a debt. But Joe Higgins does not fight for members of his own organization who are expelled, lied about, slandered and denied their rights. If he cannot avoid speaking on these issues he participates in the lies, slanders and denial of rights which are carried out against such members. This is contemptible behaviour. When it comes to internal life Joe Higgins is unquestioning in his support for the undemocratic and corrupt internal life of the CWI. This is a stain on the record of Joe Higgins. Unless he has the courage to come out openly and admit to his participation in this injustice, in fact his leading role in this injustice, and take up the fight against these injustices then this stain will not go away.  If he does stand up then the leadership of the SP and the CWI will go after him to try and undermine him and break him. He has a choice to make. He should choose to take a principled stand.

But this is not just about Joe Higgins. This is much more important than that. It is about trying to rescue the left from a method of working which dooms it to insignificance and a corrupt internal life. To be a serious revolutionary socialist you have to build a revolutionary socialist organization. To do so successfully you have to be prepared to speak out not only against capitalism but also against false methods in the workings, both external and internal of the revolutionary organizations. And to share any thoughts and criticisms with the working class. Joe Higgins and the rest of the leadership of the SP/CWI are not prepared to do this. As a result they seriously damage the prospects for building a healthy mass revolutionary organization which can end capitalism and build a democratic socialist world.

John Throne.