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John Archer Memorial Meeting

Mike Calvert

AROUND 30-40 people attended the memorial meeting held to commemorate the life of veteran British Trotskyist, John Archer, held in London on 29 April.

The event turned out to be quite a lively discussion between supporters of Socialist Outlook and others, who advocated the standing of candidates against the Labour Party in the general election, and those like Johnís own comrades in the Fourth International/International Centre of Reconstruction, myself, and his former associates from the Socialist Labour Group, who opposed this.

The meeting heard three major contributions. The first was from Johnís son Bob Archer, who spoke eloquently and movingly about his dad, and about Johnís politics and his attitude to the Labour Party. The second speaker was Jean-Pierre Barrois from the International leadership of the Lambert current Ė Johnís organisation Ė who sparked the discussion about the election by recounting several discussions he held with John on this very question.

The last speaker, a former SLG member said: "One of the hardest areas of Johnís political personality for many to understand was his insistence that a revolutionary organisation had to have a governmental perspective and in Britain that means it has to have a role to play in the politics of the Labour Party. Practically speaking, in the post-war period that meant comrades entering the Labour Party to carry out the political work of organising with the rank and file in the party whilst seeking out the best elements to win to Marxism and campaign with on the issues of the moment.Ē The Labour Party Ė if destroyed by Blair and his supporters Ė would leave a void, a gap, that the far left is incapable of filling.

This led to an intense debate. In contributions from the floor people like Dot Gibson and Alan Thornett, whilst giving their recollections of John, launched into polemics in support of the Socialist Alliance election campaign. Others such as Steve and Harry Stannard, two former SLG members, spoke in defence of staying in the Labour Party.

The majority of those at the meeting supported Stan Newens, who contended that support for the Socialist Alliance and destruction of the link between the trade unions and the Labour Party would lead to thousands leaving the Party and then years and years in the wilderness.

The discussion again became quite heated when Charlie van Gelderen spoke from the floor and said that John had never been for the Fourth International, but had supported every little tendency that wanted to reconstruct it from the outside. Charlie claimed that the United Secretariat was the organisation that best represented the continuity of the FI. This bought loud protests from many present, who insisted that it wasnít the case that John was not for the Fourth International. Bob pointed out that even though he himself disagreed with the views of the FI/ICR, nevertheless John believed they represented the FI and he was loyal to the ideal and to his organisation.

Bob made clear in his speech that John was a very principled man. He could have chosen to be a respectable Labour Party figure and this would have led him into a prosperous political career. He chose the path of the revolution.There are too few good comrades left like that.