Jack Conrad’s party refers to him as “the founder editor of ‘The Leninist’, which was first published in November 1981”. But there is a bit more to him than that. In the first place, Jack Conrad isn’t Jack Conrad.
SWP loyalists need to get themselves up to speed about who this guy is whose paper is allowed to get exclusives about what is going on inside the SWP before the rank and file, not due to any fault of their leadership, but because Richard Seymour’s faction has made a pact with the devil. I know one or two things about Conrad and his close associates, and about what he knows about at least two police spies on the far left.
Firstly, Conrad set up a meeting with me the first chance he got after I started sending material to his paper. He and other members of his group tried to recruit me. They did this repeatedly despite the fact I was obviously separated from them by a political chasm. I told Conrad that these differences should not get in the way of mutual respect (hopefully mutual), certainly not of our working together for common aims which I assumed we were both doing since his Scottish members were committed members of the Scottish Socialist Alliance.
At our one-to-one meeting (I insisted that what I wanted to tell him was confidential and I wouldn’t let just anyone listen in to what I was going to tell him), I handed him the same evidence I had previously handed to Alan McCombes about a state agent on the SWP’s central committee. I have long since gone public as to who that police spy/asset is: Chris Bambery.
Although ‘Jack Conrad’ was pretty much only the second person I had spoken to about Chris Bambery, McCombes had promised me during the meeting he set up in a closed-off room in a pub in Paisley that he would pass my evidence to Peter Taaffe and other members of the Socialist Party’s leadership. McCombes also promised me together they’d pass it on to Chris Harman. I had been told by Alan McCombes that he would pass it on to other members of the CWI, including (obviously) the executive of Scottish Militant Labour. However, as I have explained, Frances Curran cornered me during lunch break at the second conference of the Scottish Socialist Alliance.
Away from prying ears, Frances Curran wanted to share with me the hostility of the SML’s entire executive to the motion they had all voted for, along with the rest of conference asking the SWP to join the SSA. Curran told me that I had set a trap for the SML’s executive who were not given enough time to think of a way of stopping the motion going through without exposing their credentials as champions of left unity as hypocritical, especially as I had already won the approval of the SSA’s non-SML national secretary, Allan Green.
Frances Curran told me all this with a smile on her face. I was relaxed about this implied criticism. I didn’t feel in the least bit intimidated nor ashamed of what I had done. I felt I was on solid ground. While I had clearly breached SML’s collective responsibility, I knew that I did so entirely legitimately because ever since recruiting me to SML, McCombes broke his word to me about absolutely everything, ensuring that I was kept in the dark about every single SML branch meeting, aggregate and internal bulletins. I was faced with one fait acompli after another after I had signed up to accept SML discipline and hand over 10% of my income. McCombes clearly excluded me from all the democratic channels within SML because he knew I would challenge most of what he was doing at the time: self-evidently, Alan McCombes was making preparations to dismantle SML as a democratic centralist organistion, and to split from the CWI. This was a fact I tried to alert Peter Taaffe to. My attempt to shop him to his boss was unsuccessful.
Alan McCombes was, by his own account, subjected to a one hour grilling from his national secretary Mike Waddington on the phone about a letter I sent to Peter Taaffe explaining my anxieties about what McCombes intended. McCombes, in turn, subjected me to a one hour telephone call, blowing his top for the audacity of going over his head to the national leadership of the SP. Unfortunately, Mike Waddington bought McCombes reassurances. Six months later, Peter Taaffe learnt to his cost that my assessment of McCombes behavior was entirely correct. Anyway,…
Since McCombes broke his side of the bargain, I felt under no obligation to abide by collective responsibility to SML’s executive. That is why I shared my conference motion committing the Scottish Socialist Alliance’s leadership to appeal, yet again, to the SWP to climb on board for the unity of our class. Curran told me that the only reason the SML’s executive decided they could afford to vote for it was because they felt confident that the SWP central committee would reject this appeal as they had every previous one. I responded to this by reminding Curran what I had told Alan McCombes almost a year prior to this: when Chris Harman gets to see the evidence about Chris Bambery, the balance of forces within the central committee will change radically and that means Harman will be able to win a majority within the SWP to revert to the position he had advocated in the wake of the defeated Miners Strike: the closest possible organisational unity between the SWP and the CWI’s groups north and south of the border.
That is when I discovered that something had gone spectacularly wrong. Frances Curran told me that Alan McCombes had never shared any of the evidence I gave him about Chris Bambery to the SML’s executive. She said this was the first time she’d heard anything about this. She told me that while it was possible that McCombes told the rest of SML’s executive, she didn’t know why he would do that. Nor did I. I was not sure what to make of Curran told me. It didn’t occur to me that he might have broke his word to me about this. Why would he? It made no sense. Given the way McCombes behaved after I tried to get Tommy Sheridan to investigate Frances Curran’s own criminality vis-a-vis a malicious eighteen months prosecution of me, trying to trick me into breaking an illegitimate bail condition to trigger a pre-existing arrest warrant, helping corrupt cops who were involved in my hospitalisation, etc, etc, etc…. I think it is now safe to assume that maybe there is a reason why McCombes never passed on the evidence that I gave him a couple of months after the SSA’s first conference, evidence about the national secretary of the SWP being a police spy who had for decades been unconstitutionally purging members of the SWP without reference to the rest of his central committee’s colleagues.
Okay. That’s quite a long way into this blog post and I’ve said precious little about Jack Conrad. Most of what I have set out so far is background to the story about Jack Conrad. Firstly, as I have explained before, Conrad told me, as I had already been told by another member of his ‘Provisional Central Committee’, that I should join the CPGB but not resign from Scottish Militant Labour. Both of these PCC members wanted me to act as a spy within the CWI. As I had already explained to his colleague, notwithstanding an admiration for the literary skills of many of his writers (it was only years later that Peter Manson confirmed that the paper was written by about six people under twenty different names: he even enlisted me in this charade once, editing one article into two pieces, one a letter by some non-existent individual), I thought their critique of ‘economism’ was ridiculous. It was nothing more than the cheapest abstract propagandism, sectarianism and ultra-leftism that had nothing in common with Lenin’s critique of economism. It was the abstentionist ‘politics’ that Amadeo Bordiga deployed to remain pure. It was the ‘historical nothingness’ that Gramsci wrote about, ideas that could gain no traction on history as it examined the workers’ movement from the outside. It was the ultra-leftism that helped pave the way for Mussolini’s rise to power in much the same way as the Stalinised KPD helped Hitler’s Nazis take power without resistance from the workers’ movement.
I also explained to comrade Conrad that even if my respective attitudes towards his group and the SML were to change enough for me to choose his (which I considered absolutely impossible at that point), I’d still never ever act as a spy for one fragment of the left inside another. That type of behavior cannot but breed paranoia. I would have nothing to do with that. Well, I was to learn from Jack Conrad and other members of his party that some of those who are now in the forefront of trying to smash the SWP to pieces disagreed with me about that. One of those is Phil Burton-Cartledge.
Phil Burton-Cartledge was one of three CPGB members who I know for a fact were simultaneously members of Peter Taaffe’s Socialist Party, the others being Lawrie Coombes and Harry Paterson.
Phil Burton-Cartledge, by the way, was one of the few people until relatively recently that I shared my anxieties about Chris Bambery with. Phil Hamilton as Burton-Cartledge called himself at the time worked hard to win my trust, until I shared with him the same information that I’d shared with McCombes and then Conrad. I think this might have a bearing on why he is working with Catriona Grant, Richard Seymour, Jack Conrad (real name John Chamberlain, I believe) and Chris Bambery himself. Every one of these people know about the evidence that I gave to Alan McCombes in this pub in a room in Paisley all those years ago.
What Alan McCombes did with the evidence I handed him is something he won’t tell me. What Jack Conrad/John Bridge/John Chamberlain did with the exact same evidence that I handed him is something else I do not know. Maybe, like Alan McCombes, he binned it. And maybe there is a reason for that. Just saying…