On a heavier note - a reply to Ben Drake
Liz Davies and
Ben Drake asks: “On a
heavier note, can I ask that you clarify your comments on finances in
the Socialist Alliance? I don't think you meant to imply fraud or dodgy
dealings, rather what you felt were formally incorrect procedures. But
people might mistakenly read in darker implications, especially as this
is a public access website.”
happened in the Socialist Alliance was much more serious than “formally
incorrect procedures” and does indeed carry “darker implications”. Ben
appears here to be innocently reflecting the self-serving falsehoods
disseminated by the SWP leadership about this affair.
What follows is a brief
summary by Liz Davies and Mike Marqusee of the events that led both to
leave the Socialist Alliance, of which Liz was, at that time, national
1. As chair of the SA,
Liz was one of the authorised signatories of cheques drawn on the
Socialist Alliance account. In October 2002, she became aware that at
least three individuals had been involved in forging her signature on a
number of Socialist Alliance cheques over a period of several months.
2. The individuals were
the SA National Secretary, the SA Membership Secretary and the SA
full-time office worker. The office worker and the National Secretary
were both prominent members of the SWP. Indeed, the National Secretary
was a long-standing SWP full-timer with overall responsibility for the
SWP's relations with the Socialist Alliance.
3. The repeated forgery
of Liz's signature was kept secret from Liz herself as well as from the
Treasurer and the SA Executive. It was only discovered by accident.
4. It has been claimed
that the signature was forged as a result of emergency requirements.
There is no truth whatsoever in that claim and no evidence to support
it. Liz was readily available to sign cheques for bona fide requirements
and was in touch with all three individuals on an almost daily basis
throughout the four month period during which the forgeries were taking
place and being kept secret. She was a regular visitor to the SA
office, where they worked.
5. When Liz discovered
the forgeries, she immediately registered a strong objection to the
practise directly to all those involved. The first response was a
threatening telephone message from one of the SWP’s most prominent
Central Committee members. This was one of several attempts to bully us
into silence (followed up by a smear campaign).
6 . The SWP members
involved in the forgery refused to accept that it was a serious matter
or that the practise was wrong. "It's a matter of convenience where we
come from," Liz was told by the SA National Secretary, who berated her
for informing the other national officers of her discovery. The SWP was
absolutely determined that the affair be covered up and that the guilty
parties not be held to account in any form.
7. When Liz insisted on
reporting the forgeries to the SA Executive, the SWP members’ response
was to call her a "scab", accuse her of "witch-hunting" and argue that
no steps at all should be taken against the perpetrators. Sadly, this
irresponsible and unethical position was endorsed by most of the rest of
the Executive, including the representatives of Socialist Resistance,
the AWL and the CPGB.
8. Several weeks after
Liz's resignation, she was given (on her insistence) a list of 7 cheques
on which her signature had been forged. Five of those seven cheques were
made directly payable to the three individuals involved or to ‘cash’.
The five cheques were drawn for a total of more than £3,000. Liz had
been completely unaware, until she received this list, that the forged
cheques had been made payable to the perpetrators.
We are sure that
activists on the left will understand why, in the autumn of 2002, we
were reluctant to make any of this public. We were worried about various
potential repercussions and especially about the damage that such
publicity might have had on the anti-war movement at a crucial stage in
its development (during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq). However, at
this stage, there seems no reason not to provide Ben with a straight
reply to a straight question.
It is vital that Ben and
other members of the SWP realise that this was not a dispute over
procedures. The forging of the cheques was
not an administrative
error or a blunder by an inexperienced individual. It was a sustained
course of deception and financial impropriety engaged in by experienced
individuals occupying major positions of trust and responsibility. It
was an offence not only against the SA officers, but the SA as a whole,
all those who had paid dues to it and all those who had offered it
support. It betrayed a shockingly cynical contempt for essential
democratic procedures and rudimentary principles of accountability.
We therefore stand by
Mike's statement in his reply to Ben: “In
the Socialist Alliance, flagrant financial dishonesty was practised by
SWP full-timers over a period of months. When this was uncovered,
accidentally, the SWP leadership (with help from others) blocked all
efforts to bring those responsible to account.”
This whole matter is
very much about politics and political principles. Those who have
claimed otherwise are either protecting themselves or living in denial.
Sometimes the truth is
unpalatable, but it is, nonetheless, the truth.