Socialist Challenge – Blair Peach special

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SC Blair Peach special 01Double click on image to enlarge

In the aftermath of Peach’s killing, the next issue of Socialist Worker focussed on his death. Friends describe hundreds if not thousands of copies of the issue being sold, especially in Southall. In a sense it is not surprising that the SWP took the killing seriously; Blair Peach was a member of that party.

What is striking is that the SWP were not alone in seeing Peach’s death as a blow struck against the whole left.

The above is the front page of a special issue produced by Socialist Challenge, the paper of the International Marxist Group. Other pages included an obituary for Peach, written by Bernard Regan of the IMG and the Socialist Teachers Alliance (“above all else, Blair was an Internationalist”), as well as a detailed chronology of the events of 23 April, accounts of other anti-fascist protests taking place at the same time (including in Leicester, on the weekend of Peach’s death), articles describing the electoral campaign then being waged by Socialist Unity in the Southall constituency, descriptions of how Labour had relied on the police in an increasingly authoritarian fashion, and articles setting out how policing might be organised differently in a future socialist society.

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2 responses »

  1. You are doing a fantastic job collecting this material, Dave, but I am puzzled by your take here. Perhaps you have been warped by recent events.
    So you write: “it is not surprising that the SWP took the killing seriously; Blair Peach was a member of that party.” The obvious implication is that if Blair Peach had not been an SWP member the party would have taken the killing less seriously. This seems to me to be quite obviously false. Certainly many SWP members knew Blair personally and were deeply distressed and angry, but that was not the primary motivation behind the party’s intervention. If any demonstrator, of whatever organisation or none, had been killed by police while on an anti-fascist demonstration, the party’s response would have been the same. This can be seen very clearly from events five years earlier, when Kevin Gately was killed by police at a demonstration against the National Front. The IS response was clear. The next week two thousand IS members marched through London with placards reading “Murdered by Police”. Socialist Worker then faced a threat of action for criminal libel.
    Then in commenting on the special issue of Socialist Challenge you write: “What is striking is that the SWP were not alone in seeing Peach’s death as a blow struck against the whole left.” Now it is true that the issue of Socialist Challenge was very good and that the IMG comrades should be commended. But it was not particularly “striking” – I should have expected nothing less. It is true we had political differences with the IMG, and in this period we even found ourselves standing against each other in parliamentary by-elections. (Please, please, Left Unity and TUSC, do not let such an absurdity be repeated!) But we worked together with IMG members in various rank-and-file groups and the IMG had responded very positively to the ANL. Both SWP and IMG members recognised that an event like the killing of Peach overrode any political disagreements they might have.
    Sectarianism is a real problem on the left and needs to be confronted. But implying the possibility of sectarianism in a situation like this, when it never crossed the minds of any of us – SWP, IMG or non-party – is distinctly unhelpful.

    • Ian, I didn’t mean to suggest the degree of sectarianism that you imply, but only something much, much more banal – that of course the SWP would stand up for Blair, and it is welcome that they were not alone.

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