Ken and the rise of Socialist Action

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Andrew Hosken, Ken: The Ups and Downs of Ken Livingstone, Arcadia Books, 10 April 2008.

Chapter 18: 1985-1994. Ken and the rise of Socialist Action, 1985-1994

In October 2007, the Evening Standard published a list of the 25 most influential people running London.[1] Livingstone headed the list which contained the names of 13 other individuals who worked directly or indirectly for the mayor, four of the people on the list were Livingstone's closest mayoral advisory they have also been members of a tiny Trotskyist party which has worked closely and discreetly with Ken Livingstone for more than 20 years.

Socialist Action is an organisation so discreet and secretive that it does not even admit its own existence and its members will not confirm they have ever belonged to the group. When I interviewed Ken Livingstone about Socialist Action for this book, he pressed me for evidence at first, before acknowledging its existence and the importance of the role played by those who had been associated with it.

It has a website and it has a printing press and those who have been associated with it have enjoyed great influence over London. By my calculation, at least five of the mayor's advisors are or have been members of Socialist Action, and there are several others who do work for the mayor or organisations with which he is associated. They include: Simon Fletcher, the mayor's chief of staff; John Ross, director of economics and business for the Greater London Authority (GLA); Redmond O'Neill, GLA director of public affairs and transport; Mark Watts, GLA climate change advisor; and Jude Woodward, senior policy advisor. Others have included Atma Singh, the former advisor on Muslim issues and Professor Alan Freeman, who became prominent in the Unison branch at City Hall, and also runs the Venezuelan Information Centre - a propaganda organisation of which Ken Livingstone is president.

The concentration of power by Socialist Action is the more astonishing when according to Ken Livingstone, it has probably had no more than 120 members in the last decade.[2] On the face of it, Livingstone appears to have drawn much of his political talent

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from a comparatively small political gene pool. Livingstone's close association with Socialist Action is an integral part or his story. Under his patronage, the group has become probably the most successful and influential revolutionary Marxist organization in Britain. Socialist Action has long been Livingstone's guiding light, his foot soldiers, his mentors, and his political family. It is clear that from 1985, Socialist Action set out to make itself indispensable to Ken Livingstone and to seek control, or 'hegemony' over the forces and groups making up the Labour Left. It has proved phenomenally successful.

Socialist Action has made remarkable attempts to cover its tracks and even disappear altogether as an organisation, as part of the deep entryist policy adopted in the mid 1980s to protect members from any potential Militant-style purge. In part it has derived its power over the years from its secrecy and its deniability. As tar back as 1983, the group resolved to disappear from public consciousness, or as one internal document put it at the time, to bring about 'the dissolution of the public lace'.[3] Leading members of Socialist Action are unquestionably talented and highly able but they blundered in thinking they could make their organisation invisible because they have left a paper trail a mile wide.

In their early years, members of Socialist Action churned out him hundreds of agendas, documents and other discussion papers which I have been able to obtain. They tell the remarkable story of how the group absorbed itself into the Labour Left and became a major force within it; as well the efforts it made to disappear from view as an organisation. Socialist Action made a concerted attempt to cultivate Ken Livingstone back in 1985 in the wake of the failed rate capping campaign. John Ross, the leader of the group, interviewed Livingstone for its relatively new paper, also called Socialist Action. Livingstone had already heard about Ross as the author of a small book called Thatcher and Friends which predicted the terminal decline of the Tory Party.[4] 'I recognised this was someone with formidable intellect,' says Livingstone. 'After the rate capping fiasco, when most of the rest of the hard left were boycotting me, he turned up and did an interview and we started talking about economics and I realised this was somebody who could give me the grasp on economic policy which I didn't have, So when I became an MP I retained him to actually do that'.[5]

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John Ross's influence grew from that moment; he became Livingstone's most important advisor from 1985 onwards. After Livingstone, he is the most influential personality in the mayor's office. The rates farce stripped Livingstone of most of his Left contacts and friends. Ross supplied Livingstone not only with the support and network he needed to continue but also the education necessary to tackle the Labour leadership on the vital battleground of economic policy. For 20 years, Ken Livingstone has really been a double act; John Ross and Socialist Action have been the silent partners.

Ross worked as a lecturer at Enfield Polytechnic and once he fought the Newham North East parliamentary seat as the candidate for the International Marxist Group, the forerunner to Socialist Action.[6] By the time Ross met Livingstone, he had emerged triumphant from an internecine struggle within the International Marxist Group, or IMG, one of Britain's main Trotskyist parties. During 1982, the IMG split over strategy: how to bring about that elusive revolution. That split led to the creation of Socialist Action.

The IMG was built fundamentally out of the student movement of the late 1960s and helped organise some of the biggest protests against the Vietnam War in London.[7] During the 1970s its revolutionary strategy was focused on industry and the unions, which made sense during this period of economic instability and intense industrial unrest. Members, often highly educated, were encouraged to get blue collar jobs to play a role in encouraging the workers to turn towards revolution, 'The Turn'.

An internal IMG note in 1982 reiterated, '…it is vital that we are rooted among the industrial workers, going through joint experiences with them and drawing common lessons. Any other perspective will only alienate us from the forces who will be key in building a revolutionary party and expose us to class pressures'.[8] Jobs were often advertised internally: 'London Transport are taking on bus drivers at Stamford Hill; contact Wood Green Job Centre'; or 'Jobs available in small chemical factory in Hounslow; we have a comrade who is a convenor.'[9]

But the IMG had always been hopelessly confused about its approach to the Labour Party: to enter or not to enter. 'We hopped into the Labour Party around 1975,' wrote member John Marston, in his exasperated letter of resignation December 1982, 'and then out again in 1977 for the joys of regroupment and Socialist Unity. Any pretence of a strategic perspective, vanished.'[10]

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In late 1982, the IMG split over whether or not to join the Benn crusade within the Labour Party, or the 'Bennite Current'. A paper presented to the IMG's conference in December 1982 stated: 'It is clear that, at the leadership level, fundamental differences are emerging as to the nature of the party we are trying to build and how to build it. A gulf is developing between those who, basing themselves on the positions of the 1981 conference, wish to build an independent combat party rooted in the industrial working class, and those who are moving towards the idea of an ideological tendency operating in the Labour Party as left critics of the Benn current.'[11]

John Ross was at the forefront of the internal struggle to ditch the industrial strategy and get all IMG members to join the Labour Party en masse and then seek to control the Left bloc within it. Supporting Ross was another key figure in Livingstone's political career, Redmond O'Neill. At the December 1982 conference, Ross carried the day and over the next few months IMG members joined the Labour Party. A minority who disagreed with the policy of 'deep entryism' split away and formed its own party, the International Group which became a political irrelevance. Despite becoming Labour members, the Ross majority still remained organised as a separate political organization. They decided to rebrand themselves as the Socialist League, and to establish a newspaper called Socialist Action. Like Militant, the group became known by the name of their paper rather than as the Socialist League.

'The next steps towards a revolutionary party comprise a fight for a class struggle within the Bennite current,' said one discussion paper at the time. 'For this a new newspaper is necessary - one that is seen as the voice of revolutionary socialists within the Labour Party and which can thereby give political expressions to the mass struggles of workers and youth who in the next period will seek overall political answers within the Labour Party. '… Socialist Action will fight for leadership within the Bennite Current.'[12]

The Socialist League/Socialist Action met for the first time as a central committee at the Intensive English School in Star Street near Marble Arch for the start of a two-day conference on Saturday, 22 January 1983. The official launch of Socialist Action took place the following morning[13] and it first appeared on 16 March. The group's old paper, Socialist Challenge, ceased to exist.[14]

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The group's overall revolutionary objective did not change, only the strategy to bring it about, as an internal document in January 1983 made clear: '... Socialist Action believes that it will be impossible to make the transition to socialism without incurring the armed resistance of the ruling class and thereby the necessity for violent self-defence by the working class.'[15]

From the outset, Ken Livingstone was clearly an important force within the 'Bennite current' for Socialist Action. John Ross and comrades identified two Bennite wings: the Labour Co-ordinating Committee, a left-wing coalition within the Labour Party comprising Chartists from Briefing, and the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, CLPD.

Socialist Action identified the second wing 'crystallising around forces such as the Campaign Group of MPs, Livingstone, the left of Labour Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (LCND)... and the constituency left...'[16] Its slogans were now: 'Deeper into the Labour Party!', 'Deeper into the trade unions!', 'For a new newspaper!',[17] 'Defend socialist policies!', 'Stop the witch-hunt!', 'Remove the right-wing Labour leaders!'[18]

Socialist Action threw itself into the general election of 1983: 'Throughout we want to forge a fighting alliance of forces by linking up with the trade union left wing and to struggle for the inclusion of Labour's socialist policies in the manifesto, for Labour to give a fighting lead against the Tories and against the witch-hunt [Kinnock's purge of Militant.]'[19]

Coming just six months after the launch of Socialist Action, the 1983 election defeat was a shattering blow. "The Bennite left has been outmanoeuvred and disarmed,' pronounced one internal post-election Socialist Action discussion paper. 'As a result the Bennite left has suffered serious defeats in the election: the defeat of Benn, the failure to select Livingstone, and the loss of other left MPs.'[20]

Led by John Golding, the NEC now stepped up its purge of the Militant Tendency. This sent a tremor through the Labour left, particularly among those entryist Trotskyist groups like Socialist Action. The hard left, including Benn and Livingstone, supported Labour Against the Witch-hunt, or LAW, established in October 1982,[21] but it certainly did not provide enough of a security blanket for Socialist Action.

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Like Militant Tendency, Socialist Action was a party within a party, something explicitly forbidden under Labour Party rules. Like Militant Tendency, it was organised around a newspaper and like the Tendency, it had assets which clearly identified it as an organisation in its own right. Socialist Action had a bookshop in Islington at 328 Upper Street called the Other Bookshop, as well as that absolute requirement of any self-respecting revolutionary group, a printing press, Lithoprint Ltd, based not far from the bookshop at 26-28 Shacklewell Lane in Stoke Newington. Socialist Action still owns Lithoprint and its members are the company's directors. As a Socialist Action paper made clear in 1985: 'Lithoprint is a company totally under the control of the organisation.'[22]

In September 1983, Socialist Action took the decision to disappear from public view. This meant closing down the Other Bookshop and taking extreme security measures to guarantee invisibility and deniability. Two months after the decision, Socialist Action's leadership drew up a document entitled The dissolution of the public face'. It said: 'This is a historical fact - namely that the public face dissolved itself. This requires no public announcement but all bodies of the [Trotskyist] world movement must be informed and act accordingly.'[23] Some members disagreed with the decision; one wrote: 'The September meeting took a momentous decision. It voted 23 for and one against to formally dissolve our public organisation. The decision was taken on the basis of a false prognosis: that following the Labour Party conference there will be an immediate witch-hunt of our supporters within the mass organisation.'[24]

Although the purge stopped at Militant, no one at Socialist Action was taking any chances. The paranoia was evident in a Socialist Action document marked 'top secret', and called 'Practical implementation of the new security measures in the centre'.[25]

The note warned that Socialist Action had to be on its guard against any unexpected visits from the media, and that 'any undesirable material should be kept out of sight'. In addition the print shop must be just a print shop and the bookshop just a bookshop,' it added. There had to be checks on anyone entering both buildings. 'This is important,' continued the note cryptically, 'because these areas have outside visitors, although some the most sensitive visitors at present (i.e. GLC) come UPSTAIRS frequently.'[26]

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One big problem was the post office box number used Socialist Action, it was the same box number as for the bookshop, the newspaper and its youth wing, later called Youth Action: P.O. Box 50, London N1 2XP. 'We cannot continue with sending everything out with the same box number,' according to the security document. 'Moreover, the box number is in the name of an organization.'

Comrades were instructed to consider security even when writing memos and other documents: 'It is possible to write them so they appear to those not in the know that they do not necessarily originate from an organization - i.e. writing in the third person, using more of a commentary style etc… If documents are written with security in mind, there should not be so many problems.'[27]

It also meant being extra careful about what was thrown out: 'We have a real problem in that we have no idea what happens our rubbish when it is taken away by the bin persons… 'The only solution is to make the rubbish safe before it is takers a way which means we have to get a shredder.' [28] A new cleaning rota was instituted; leading figures, in Socialist Action, including John Ross and Redmond O'Neill, took it in turns to clean HQ. [29] Leading members now started using pseudonyms: Redmond O'Neill was 'Lark', Jude Woodward was 'Lee', while another member, Ann Kane, was 'Swift' [30] Alma Singh, who was 'Chan' says, 'The reason was secrecy so as not to let people outside know who was doing what' [31]

After the closure of the bookshop, members met in rooms above pubs in the local Hackney/Islington area, namely, Cedar Room pub in Islington, the Cock Tavern in Mare Street, the Lucas Arms in Grays Inn Road and Tylor's in Shacklewell Lane near the print shop. The witch-hunters did not come for Socialist Action, but secrecy and security became second nature to the group over the next quarter of a century.

During the mid to late 1980s, the group did successfully ingratiate itself with the Labour Left, For a fee, Socialist Action put its printing press at the disposal of many left-wing groups, including the CLPD and the Socialist Campaign Group for MPs. [32] At one stage, Socialist Action was losing an average of £762 a week and the press was vital for earning extra income. [33] It experienced money anxieties throughout the 1980s.

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Trotskyist parties always inflate their membership numbers with their sense of self-importance but by the mid 1980s;.it is clear that about 500 people belonged to Socialist Action. This is made obvious in an internal document which stressed the importance of selling 4,000 copies of Socialist Action a week: 'This means an average of eight per comrade.'[34] Later, Socialist Action members would be encouraged lo give 10 per cent of their pay to the party.' [35] Its members acquired a reputation for being intelligent, hard-working and even subservient to powerful left-wing figures, which meant they were often despised by other voices on the far left. Gerry Healy's News Line was one: 'This is how they [Socialist Action] see themselves: the chosen few, the brains trust, the-intellectual elite, the bright people with all the smart answers who are just waiting for the poor old working class to catch up. [36]

Certainly, Socialist Action considered Ken Livingstone to be influential and clearly took time to cultivate him. In a rather convoluted reference to Livingstone's importance, one paper from John Ross showed that 'an intelligent reformism of the Livingstone type can incorporate elements of support for the oppressed. Socialist Action of course welcomes such support. But it does not represent intelligent reformism as the answer to Kinnock.' [37]

Livingstone remembers being paid a visit by John Ross shortly after his falling out with the Chartists and the others on the far left over rate capping. 'He was the first in to say this was a temporary setback,' remembers Livingstone. Ross grew in importance, particularly after Livingstone became an MP. He had always felt vulnerable dealing with balance sheets, finance and economics,'[38] as Reg Race had observed at the GLC.[39] With a first class economics degree from Oxford, Ross proved to be a valuable teacher for Livingstone, who says; 'When I became an MP I employed John Ross to teach me economics, basically to be my economics advisor, and he'd turn up three times a week and we'd go through what was happening in the British economy and the world economy. He'd explain the theories behind it. This went on for two years. And after about 18 months to two years we were asked to do a debate at a fringe meeting about the way forward and we went through it and I knew I was on top of the brief.' [40]

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By 1985, according to Atma Singh, a former long-term member of Socialist Action, Livingstone was possibly the most important figure on the Left; the group considered both Arthur Scargill and Tony Benn to be spent forces. 'They supported Ken Livingstone to make him as powerful as possible,' says Singh. 'Socialist Action understood that what they were after was some political power. If they couldn't see a way of getting political power, they just wanted to be the most powerful; the term they used was [to achieve] "hegemony over the Left". So they wanted to be the main group to dictate what was going on in the Left.' [41]

Socialist Action became increasingly powerful on the left of the Labour Party. Members of the group were elected to important positions in key left-wing bodies and campaigns, including CLPD, Labour CND and various student bodies, including its own, Youth Action. Socialist Action stood for many of the same issues as Livingstone: equality regardless of race, gender and class, troops out of Ireland; unilateral disarmament. It was for the miners and the Greenham Common Women, Fidel Castro and so on, and against Kinnock and his witch-hunt and pretty well everything else for which be stood. Atma Singh says that Socialist Action was 'instrumental' in getting Livingstone elected on to the NEC in 1987 and 1988. [42]

But some felt the group was becoming too aggressive and divisive. In 1987, a member of another Trotskyist group Socialist Viewpoint wrote to complain of Socialist Action's sectarianism in relation to yet another left grouping, the Labour Left Committee: 'Since S.A. have been participating, they have sought to be deeply involved in various joint projects. But they have also lied and taken over one project for themselves which makes their motives in participating in other projects very suspect.' Socialist Action thought other far left groups 'are to blame for setbacks and defeats and should be smashed'.[43]

The group and its links to Ken Livingstone first came to attention over its bitter sectarian battles for control of the anti-racist movement. From the mid 1980s, Socialist Action had long supported a campaign for black sections within the Labour Party.

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At the forefront of the campaign was the journalist and left-wing activist, Marc Wadsworth, who worked closely with John Ross to secure support for black sections from the Socialist Campaign Group of MPs. Ross promised to use his influence with the Campaign Group. 'If the Campaign Group did not support black sections,' wrote John Ross to Wadsworth in March 1986, ;this would lead to a problem between Socialist Action and the Campaign Group, not between Socialist Action and the black section. Support for the black section is a bedrock of politics'.[44] The Campaign Group did support Wadsworth[45] and despite Kinnock's initial reluctance,[46] black sections under the umbrella of the Black Socialist Society were eventually recognised by the Labour Party in October 1990.[47]

In 1991, Marc Wadsworfh set up the Anti-Racist Alliance, or ARA, an organisation which would be predominantly led by black people in the struggle against neo-Nazis and racism. The organisation acquired offices in Red Lion Square in Clerkenwell and soon secured the support of powerful trade unions like the Transport and General Workers Union. [48] Wadsworth approached John Ross for Socialist Action's support for the new campaign. Wadsworth says: 'I went way back with Socialist Action. Socialist Action not only supported the principle of self-organisation for black people's campaigns but they also appeared at the time to support that much thornier issue of black leadership. We had white allies but we did it ourselves. Socialist Action appeared to us to be very good on principles very dear to our heart.'

Ross suggested appointing Ken Livingstone, as co-chairman of the ARA, a titular position only, leaving the bulk of the work with co-chair Leela Ramdeen. Eventually, approximately seven Socialist Action members were put on the executive committee, including some who later became Livingstone's mayoral advisors.

The establishment of the ARA acted as a 'provocation' for Socialist Action's main rivals on the Trotskyist far left, the 'Socialist Workers Party, or SWP, which then decided to resurrect its own dormant anti-racism organisation, the Anti-Nazi League, or ANL. These two anti-racism organisations and the causes they espoused now became proxy warriors for two Trotskyist organisations - the SWP and Socialist Action - fighting to control this important campaign. Ken Livingstone went to extraordinary lengths to help join Socialist Action in its sectarian scraps with its main rival.

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The SWP/SA race war rapidly forced itself on the attention of the Socialist Campaign Group of hard left Labour MPs who had always strived to make links with their fellow travellers on the Left outside the PLP and were often perplexed by their uncomradely feuds. Tony Benn's diaries make it clear that the spat was already an issue in early 1992. On 15 January 1992, Benn wrote that there had been a 'flaming row between those who support the Anti-Nazi League in its recreated form' and the Anti-Racist Alliance 'supported by Ken Livingstone and the Black Sections' adding: 'It is absolutely absurd that there should be these arguments between anti-racist organizations. It is left-wing politics at its most ludicrous.' [49]

At the annual general meeting of the Campaign Group a fortnight later, another row broke out between Bernie Grant, the black MP for Tottenham who supported the ANL, and Ken Livingstone when Wadsworth attempted to distribute an ARA leaflet. Grant tried to prevent distribution, at which point Livingstone stood up to leave saying, 'I am leaving if this behaviour continues… This is how Kinnock behaves. We have always been allowed to distribute literature.' Benn observed, the 'boiling hatred' between the two groups, describing it as 'so crazy'.[50] It perhaps was not that crazy when you realise the increasing importance that Trots placed on anti-racism politics. During the early 1980s, black people had been predominant among those rioting in Brixton, Toxteth and Bristol. Here was a large group of people possibly in need of leadership who really understood oppression and injustice.

The ARA highlighted what it claimed to be a rapid increase in the number of racially motivated attacks in Britain, from 4,383 in 1988 to 7,780 three years later. [51] But within two years the ARA would be destroyed in a nasty internal battle over campaigning strategy between Ken Livingstone and Socialist Action on one side and Marc Wadsworth and his supporters on the other. The trigger was the most infamous racial murder since the war.

The murder of Stephen Lawrence, an 18-year-old black student, by a gang of white racists on 22 April 1993 was a shocking and seminal event. He was stabbed to death in an unprovoked attack near a bus stop in Well Hall Road near Shooter's Hill in southeast London. It later led to an inquiry by the judge Sir William Macpherson who strongly criticised the failure of detectives to bring the killers to justice and condemned 'institutionalised racism' within the Metropolitan Police. [52]

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Marc Wadsworth, as national secretary of the ARA, contacted Stephen's parents, Doreen and Neville Lawrence, and played a significant role in bringing the tragedy to public attention. According to one BBC commentator later: Wadsworth was determined to present the Stephen Lawrence case differently, and to break through the indifference of the tabloid press towards black victims of racism'. Wadsworth highlighted the fact that Lawrence wanted to be an architect and that he had been law abiding, diligent and respectful. 'We were saying to white society: "Stephen Lawrence was like you." [53] Few people thought .it a coincidence that the bookshop-cum-headquarters of the far right British National Party were in Welling, not far from where Lawrence died.

Wadsworth says he came under increased pressure from the Socialist Action contingent to use the Lawrence couple more aggressively in the ARA campaigns: 'They wanted complete control and the problem was how they were going to move that campaign along. Their primary aim was their sectarian battle with the SWP. They wanted to use the Lawrence campaign to trump the Anti-Nazi League.'[54] He says he told Socialist Action: 'We've got to have a much more softly-softly approach to this couple. They're not a pushover; not that I would want them to be. I'm black myself and a parent. You can't just use them as pawns.'

Racial tensions increased during 1993 and culminated on 17 September 1993 in the shock victory of the British National Party a by-election cor- Millwall, a seat on Tower Hamlets Council in east London. The flash point came in October 1993 when the ANL and the ARA held rival protests on the same day. Wadsworth's 'crime' was to organise a peaceful anti-racist demo of 3,500 people for 16 October 1993 in central London after police consultation while 12 miles away up to 15,000 people attended a violent ANL demo at the BNP's bookshop. To make matters worse, Doreen Lawrence attended part of the ANL protest. [55]

It is clear that the Lawrence parents were becoming increasingly confused about being caught in the crossfire between the two groups. They had come to realise that the ANL was a 'front for the Socialist Workers Party'. Writing later, Doreen Lawrence said,'... the various groups that had taken an interest in Stephen's death were tearing each other apart and were in danger of destroying our campaign which we wanted to keep focused and dignified.'[56] In the end, Doreen and Neville Lawrence wrote to both the ANL and ARA to demand that they 'stop using Stephen's name'.[57]

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Wadsworth claims that Ken Livingstone and Socialist Action now colluded to get rid of him because he would not do what they wanted, 'Socialist Action thought they could impose decisions on me including how we focused on the Stephen Lawrence campaign,' says Wadsworth. 'When I refused to go along with that they said, OK we're going to get rid of you.' Through late 1993 and early 1994, the ARA deteriorated rapidly.

A former Socialist Action member of the ARA insists Wadsworth's strategy was wrong, both in terms of the Lawrence campaign and towards the BNP by-election victory in the East End: "The correct response was to have a demo in the East End and Marc didn't want to do that so he was increasingly separating himself out from the most important issues that were going on in racism in order to pursue his own things.' [58] On 17 March 1994, Livingstone chaired a meeting of the ARA executive. [59] During the four-hour 'rowdy meeting' in a House of Commons office, Wadsworth threw a punch at Livingstone. He says: 'It was at one of these crazy meetings where he was making these rulings and telling me to shut up that I launched at him. I didn't actually hit him. I hit his hand. I was going to hit him. This had gone on for months and he treated me like a boy sitting next to him.' [60] At another meeting, on 30 March 1994, Livingstone and the Socialist Action contingent failed by only one vote to persuade the executive to dismiss Wadsworth on grounds of professional misconduct. [61]

The infighting continued for another six months as Livingstone and Socialist Action attempted to wrest control from Wadsworth. On 23 September 1994, the Anti-Racist Alliance issued the foil towing statement: 'Ken Livingstone, supported by a faction called Socialist Action and a handful of unprincipled and unrepresentative members of the executive committee, has been waging relentless campaign to sack the national secretary. This behaviour is undemocratic and has led to unnecessary divisions in the ARA which the chair has made even worse by his repealed attacks on national office staff.' [62]

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'When they come for you they are incessant and they are like pit bulls,' Wadsworth says of Socialist Action. 'It's just incessant obsessive politicking.'

On 30 September 1994, Livingstone went to the High Court to determine voting rights for the delegates to the ARA's forthcoming annual meeting and an out-of-court settlement was reached. At the meeting on 15 October 1994, both Livingstone and Wadsworth stepped down; Wadsworth gave way to Kumar Murshid, a future Livingstone mayoral advisor on race but not a member of Socialist Action. Murshid walked away from the job after turning up at the ARA offices to find that Wadsworth had changed the locks. ARA collapsed rapidly after unions including the Transport and General Workers Union withdrew support. By February 1995, the National Assembly Against Racism, or NAAR, had been established largely by Socialist Action members, namely Redmond O'Neill, Jude Woodward and Anne Kane. [63] Former member Atma Singh says that Socialist Action was so used to splits and sectarianism that 'breaking one organisation and creating a new one is nothing dramatic for them'. [64] Lee Jasper, who became Livingstone's senior mayoral policy advisor on equalities, was its first secretary. He had also been one of the few non-Socialist Action opponents of Wadsworth on the ARA.

Today, the NAAR is one of Britain's biggest anti-racism groups with several subsidiary organisations, all supported strongly by Mayor Livingstone. Members of Socialist Action would continue to work closely with Livingstone throughout the 1990s. But they would come into their own when Livingstone became the first directly-elected mayor of London.


  1. Evening Standard, 5.10.07
  2. Ibid.
  3. Internal Socialist Action paper, UW file no. mss.128.212
  4. John Ross, Thatcher and Friends, The Antomy of the Tory Party, Pluto Press, 1983
  5. Interview, Ken Livingstone, 28.12.07
  6. Guardian, 2.10.00
  7. Resignation letter, John Marston, file no. mss128.2i2, 9.12.82, University of Warwick (UW); Interview, Keith Veness, 5.10.07
  8. Document, 'The IMG is in crisis', 1982, UW file no. mss.i28.229
  9. Document, 'Jobs, jobs, jobs', UW file no. 11158128.229, 11.11.82
  10. Resignation letter, John Marston, 9.12.82, file no. mss128.212
  11. Document, December 1982 conference, UW file no. mss128.229
  12. Document, Socialist League/Socialist Action central committee, UW file no. mss128.i29
  13. Agenda, Socialist League, launch of Socialist Action, 22/23.1.83, UW file no.mss128.i29
  14. Letter from Phil Hearse, Socialist Challenge, February 1983, UW file no. mSS.128.212
  15. Document, by 'Roberts' for January 1983 plenum central committee, appen¬dix 2,16.1.83, UW file no. mss128.2i2
  16. Document, central committee, 14.3.83, UW file no. mss128.2i2
  17. Document, Socialist Action, 1982, UW file no. mss128.229
  18. Document, Socialist Action, 2.11.82, UW file no. mss128.229
  19. Ibid.
  20. Document, Socialist Action central committee mailing, 'The Leadership bat¬tle in the Labour Party,' p$, 1983, UW file no.mss128.2i2
  21. Michael Crick, Militant, pp190-191
  22. Document, information bulletin, 'For members and sympathisers only', July 1985, UW file no. mss128.23O
  23. Document, "The dissolution of the public face,' by 'Roberts', 17.11.83, UW file no. mss128.2i2
  24. Document, internal Socialist Action memo, 11.11.83, UW file no. mss128.2i2
  25. Document, 'Practical implementation of the new security measures in the centre,' 1983-1984, UW file no. mss128.247
  26. Ibid.
  27. Ibid.
  28. Ibid.
  29. Document, 'The new cleaning rota, The office', 2.1.84, UW file no. mss128.247
  30. Interview, Atma Singh, 29.1.08
  31. Ibid.
  32. Author interviews
  33. Document, central committee report, 6/7.11.82, UW file no. mss128.229
  34. Document, central committee report, 22.1.83, UW file no. mss128.2i2
  35. Interview, Atma Singh, 27.1.08
  36. News Line, 24.11.84, p8
  37. Document, central committee report, circa October 1986
  38. Interview, Ken Livingstone, 25.10.07
  39. Interview, Reg Race, 23.8.07; See Chapter 15
  40. Interview, Ken Livingstone, 25.10.07
  41. Interview, Atma Singh, 27.1.08
  42. Ibid.
  43. Letter to all participating organisations in the LLC, from Jenny Fisher, Socialist Viewpoint
  44. Letter, John Ross to Marc Wadsworth, 15.3.86
  45. Sunday Times, 8.3.87
  46. The Times, 14.4.07
  47. The Voice, 9.10.90
  48. Interview, Marc Wadsworth, 1.10.07
  49. Tony Benn, Free at Last, Diaries 1991-2001, Arrow Books, 2003, (see 15.1.92)
  50. Ibid., (see 29.1.92)
  51. Guardian, 20.2.93
  52. Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, by Sir William Macpherson of Cluny, February 1999
  53. BBC News Online, article by Nick Higham, 19.2.99 ( hi/special_report/i999/02/99/stephen_lawrence/282378.stm)
  54. Interview, Marc Wadsworth, 1.10.07
  55. Sunday Times, 24.10.93
  56. Doreen Lawrence, And Still I Rise, Seeking Justice for Stephen, Faber and Faber, 2006, pii7
  57. Ibid.
  58. Off-the-record briefing, December 2007
  59. Evening Standard, 31.3.94
  60. Interview, Marc Wadsworth, 1.10.07
  61. Evening Standard, 31.3.94
  62. Guardian, 24.9.94
  63. Interview, Marc Wadsworth, 19.1.08
  64. Interview, Atma Singh, 27.1.08