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Victor Schonfield & Ray Apps

Militant’s ‘Lip Service’

(June 1978)

Letters: Change of Tune, Militant, No. 411, 23 June 1978.
Transcribed by Iain Dalton.
Marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Dear Comrades,

Paul Schofield’s claim that Militant supporters back mandatory reselection of Labour MPs is incorrect. Some have given support in a personal capacity, but others have opposed it. In any case, my criticism was of Militant itself. Of course Militant has always paid lip service to the idea, but neither Paul Schofield nor Tony Mulhearn can point to any practical steps it has ever taken.

On the contrary, Militant has always echoed the establishment’s arguments for the present system, and connived in the establishment’s manoeuvres to prevent a vote on the principle of the 68 identical amendments submitted to the last Party Conference, by consistently pressing for additional demands. The 1977 Conference overwhelmingly accepted the NEC’s promise to sponsor at the 1978 Conference “automatic reselection in the way and sense” of the 68 identical amendments.

The NEC Working Party on Reselection was set up to break that promise, and although the Minority Report comes closer than the Majority Report, neither corresponds to the NEC’s promise. Unfortunately you did not publish the CLPD Secretary’s letter explaining our exact position, which is not as Ray Apps claims.

The Working Party has been condemned by every Regional Labour Party Conference which debated it. Instead of promoting splits in favour of three individual Working Party members – however well-meaning – Militant supporters should join CLPD in standing by the clear wishers of Conference and the labour movement as a whole.


Yours fraternally
Victor Schonfield
Campaign for Labour Party Democracy

Change of Tune

Ray Apps replies:

Instead of taking up the arguments put forward in several substantial articles and letter in the Militant, Victor Schonfield resorts to jibes and distortions.

The best answer to his latest attack is the letter he wrote to me at the time of last year’s Annual L.P. Conference (5 October).

Dear Ray: The meeting of re-selection delegates was a bit better attended than Monday’s - over 30. The following views were proposed, put to votes, and carried nem con, and I was asked to pass them on - am putting them in writing in case we miss each other!

(1) The meeting felt that the NEC request to remit should be accepted no matter what. It was better to have some chance next year than none until 1981.

(2) The meeting asked you to note that theirs was a democratic decision after full discussion, and hoped you would respect it accordingly.

(3) The meeting endorsed your shrewd tactics in exploiting the situation to get the best possible assurances out of the NEC, and confirmed wholehearted support of the composite.

Several delegates gave apologies for absence and either said they would accept whatever decisions were reached, or else gave their own views roughly on the above lines. Looking forward to the debate, and good luck with your speech.


Victor Shonfield
(My emphasis –RA)

Does this letter not completely contradict what he is now saying? Has Comrade Schonfield such a short memory?

It was the composite moved by Brighton Kemptown which ensured that the issue of reselection was debated by conference. (Well in advance, we had advised the CLPD on how they should formulate their resolutions to ensure they were debated; but they ignored this, and their 68 amendments were (wrongly) excluded from the agenda.)

The remittance of the composite, which CLPD clearly supported at the time, surely implied that the NEC, or a committee appointed by the NEC, would draw up new proposals. Once the motion had been remitted, should we then have washed our hands of the subsequent argument until the next time it came up at conference?

In fact, together with Jo Richardson, a vice president of CLPD, and Bernard Kisson, a prominent supporter of CLPD. I continued to fight on the working group for proposals that matched up the assurance given to Conference.

Our proposals, now the minority report (see Militant, nos. 400, 409), include both guarantees of a fully democratic, mandatory re-selection procedure and the retention of paragraph B (rule 7 clause XIV, Party rules) as an ultimate safeguard. If Comrade Schonfield disagrees with the report, he should say why, setting out arguments, not fire off unsubstantiated denunciations.

Finally, Comrade Schonfield says Militant “unfortunately” did not publish the CLPD Secretary’s letter. Militant was quite willing to print this (long) letter and was preparing a reply. But after at least two conversations between Vladimir Derer and the editors, Comrade Derer then told us that he did not want the letter published.

Militant is still prepared to publish Comrade Derer’s letter, or a new letter. We are not frightened of arguing our case and taking up criticism.

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Last updated: 3 June 2016