Published: as a supplement to Combat, No.1, March 1975.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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AT A MEETING OF THE MARXIST-LENINIST ORGANISATION OF BRITAIN HELD IN LONDON ON NOVEMBER 16th, 1974, MICHAEL WATKINS-BAKER, WHO HAD BEEN SECRETARY OF THE MLOB FROM ITS FOUNDATION IN 1967 UNTIL HIS RERMOVAL FROM THAT POST ON NOVEMBER 13th., 1974, WAS EXPELLED FROM THE ORGANISATION.
The immediate events leading up to Baker’s expulsion were as follows:
On October 28th., 1974 a young and relatively new member of the MLOB, CS, visited Comrade Bill Bland, Chairman of the MLOB since its foundation, together with Baker and presented to him a deposition of “charges” of breaches of the MLOB Constitution against a certain Comrade PT. After hearing the “evidence” presented by CS, Comrade Bland expressed the view that he could see nothing in this “evidence”, even if entirely true, which would justify charges against Comrade PT. CS then declined to sign her deposition of “charges”, but it was eventually agreed by all parties – including Baker and Comrade PT, against whom the “charges” had been levelled – that Comrade Bland should, in his capacity of Chairman, conduct an informal investigation into the matter and report to the MLOB.
Comrade Bland received full cooperation in his investigation from Comrade PT, but the written statement of “evidence” promised by CS was not forthcoming and the interview mutually arranged between CS and Comrade Bland for November 5th was cancelled by CS, who had meanwhile “disappeared” from her home. Asked on the telephone by the Chairman on November 8th if he had seen or knew the whereabouts of CS, Baker replied in the negative. It was, however, later discovered that CS had for several days been staying at Baker’s flat, presumably so that she could not be questioned by the Chairman.
MEANWHILE BAKER HAD GONE TO THE PREMISES WHERE HE KNEW THE LITERATURE STOCKS AND PRINTING PRESS OF THE MLOB WERE STORED, ARBITRARILY AND WITHOUT AUTHORITY SEIZED THEM (the latter with the assistance of two youths unassociated with the MLOB) AND TRANSPORTED THEM TO HIS HOME.
The Chairman’s report of his investigation was issued to members of the MLOB on November 10th. Its main conclusions were:
l) that CS had visited Baker, as Secretary, without any prior intention of bring “Charges” against any comrade, in order to seek his advice on differences which had arisen between herself and Comrade PT on tactical questions in connection with anti-fascist work;
2) the Comrade PT had recently criticised Baker for “leftism” in his theoretical formulations and practical activity and had thereby incurred the hostility of Baker;
3) that CS was persuaded by Baker that her account of events could form the basis of “charges” against Comrade PT;
4) that the deposition bringing “charges” against Comrade PT was drafted and typed by Baker, although made out in the name of CS;
5) THAT THE CHARGES INSPIRED BY BAKER AGAINST COMRADE PT WERE COMPLETELY FALSE AND HAD BEEN LAID IN AN ATTEMPT TO ELMINATE FROM THE MLOB A COMRADE WHO HAD EXPRESSED CRITICISM OF BAKER.
Here it must be said that, over a considerable period of time, not only Comrade PT had made criticism of Baker for his “leftist” orientation in theoretical and practical work. This had manifested itself, for example:
1) in his pressure to form “paper” organisations without the slightest mass base;
2) in his pressure to erect “ “left-sectarian” barriers in united front organisations, so weakening their potential strength;
3) in his pressure to hold public meetings without the mass base for such meetings having been won;
4) in his attitude of openly expressed suspicion of potential recruits who showed an interest in the MLOB;
5) in his use or counter-productive virulent personal abuse at meetings involving other organisations and in published statements about them;
6) in his programmatic formulations favouring the formation of “revolutionary trade unions” alongside the reformist trade unions without the mass basis for such unions having been won;
7) in his presentation of theses repudiating, in the name of “creative Marxism-Leninism, from a “leftist” standpoint certain formulations of Lenin without adequate grounds;
8) in his reluctance to approve a critical analysis, made as a result of intensive research of certain serious “leftist errors” made by the Communist International in relation to the struggle against fascism in 1931-33, resulting in his holding back publication of the report embodying this analysis for almost two years;
9) in his pressure that the MLOB should repudiate obligations entered into by international agreement for the defence of the People’s Republic of Albania, despite its continuing character as a socialist state;
10) in his expressed view that “leftist” deviations, even in periods of decisive struggle, were not of great significance,
In his report, the Chairman expressed the view that Baker had held the leading position of Secretary of the MLOB for many years because of his generally high theoretical level and strong personality, and that he (the Chairman) had
“.. .never had any reason to doubt Comrade Baker’s dedication to the task of building a Marxist-Leninist Party and a Marxist-Leninist International.”
If this is so – and I believe it to be so – the question arises: is there some serious flaw in his psychological outlook which could lead him to bring ’charges’ which are patently false against Comrade PT, believing this action to be necessary in the interests of the MLOB?”
The Chairman attempted to answer this question by postulating that Baker’s logical approach to the MLOB had been distorted by egoism along the following lines:
“1. Comrade Baker has the highest theoretical level of any member of the MLOB.
2. A Marxist-Leninist organisation or party should have as its leader the comrade with to highest theoretical level.
3. Therefore the maintenance of Comrade Baker as the leader of the MLOB is necessary to· preserve its character as a Marxist-Leninist organisation.
4. Since critics of Comrade Baker’s theoretical formulations or practical activity may undermine his position as leader of the MLOB, and therefore undermine the character of the MLOB as a Marxist-Leninist organisation, these critics represent objectively a revisionist danger to the MLOB (or are outright agents of imperialism).
5. New members of the MLOB, unless they are (and are likely to remain) sycophants of Comrade Baker, may become critics of Comrade Baker and so have to be regarded with suspicion.
6. Therefore, a ’left-sectarian’ pattern of tactics must be adopted in the work of the MLOB in order to reduce this ’danger’ to a minimum.
7. Members of the MLOB who consistently criticise the theoretical formulations or practical activity of Comrade Baker arc undermining the leadership of Comrade Baker and so threatening the Marxist-Leninist character of the MLOB.
8. Therefore since these critics represent a revisionist danger to the MLOB (or an outright imperialist agents) it is necessary to drive them from the MLOB – either by a campaign of icy hostility or by bringing ’charges’ against them which will lead to their expulsion.
9. Any measures necessary to maintain Comrade Baker as leader of the MLOB are ethically justified.”
The Chairman’s report continued:
“In my view, the false ’charges’ brought against Comrade PT are the latest result of this distorted logic and in my view must be the last.
Either the MLOB becomes a small ’left-sectarian’ group consisting of Comrade Baker and a few sycophants, an organisation riven with intrigue;
or the MLOB discards this false logic and advances to the building of a genuine Marxist-Leninist Party.
On this basis the report recommended THAT BAKER BE REMOVED FROM THE POSITION OF SECRETARY OF THE MLOB AND DEMOTED TO THE CATEGORY OF CANDIDATE MEMBER.
“The MLOB will proceed in its work of building a Marxist-Leninist Party, and it is my sincere hope that it will do so with Comrade Baker.”.
Since Baker had, as Secretary of the MLOB, arbitrarily cancelled the meeting of the MLOB which had been fixed for October 28th., and was apparently unwilling to call another, on November l0th., at the request of London members of the MLOB, the Chairman called a meeting for November 13th.
This meeting, after full discussion, ADOPTED THE CHAIRMAN’S REPORT IN PRINCIPLE AND, IN PARTICULAR, ITS RECOMMENDATIONS THAT BAKER BE REMOVED FROM THE POSITION OF SECRETARY AND DEMOTED TO THE CATEGORY OF CANDIDATE MEMBER, BOTH BY UNAIMOUS VOTE.
(Baker declined to attend the meeting, although, in a recorded telephone conversation with the Chairman on November 13th., he had recognised its validity).
A new Secretary was elected at the meeting on November 13th., again by unanimous vote, in the person of Comrade Bernard Charnley.
Baker, who had meanwhile seized by force the property of the MLOB in what can only be called a coup against the organisation, then “called” a meeting for November 16th. in London, claiming in his letter to members to still be “secretary” of the MLOB. In order to minimise confusion to members, the new Secretary, Comrade B. Charnley, decided to regard Baker’s calling of the meeting for November 16th. as a request for a meeting, which he endorsed, so making this meeting a valid one constitutionally.
At this meeting, Baker attempted to press (again through the medium of his acolyte, CS) the ’charges’ already brought (and dismissed) against Comrade PT, but now extended to include Comrades Bland and B. Charnley.
The completely self-contradictory, spurious nature of this new manoeuvre was revealed even at a quick reading of the statement which accompanied the new “charges”:
l) by the fact that Comrade Bland, accused of “breaches of the MLOB constitution , was described as “… always moving in a constitutional manner” (p.6)
2) by the fact that Comrade Bland, accused of forming a “faction” against Baker, was in same document accuse of seeking to form a “faction” with Baker (p.5)
3) by the fact that (as the minutes of the meeting show) Comrade Bland, accused of forming a “faction” with other comrades to bring about the winding up of the Red Front movement spoke and voted at the September meeting of the MLOB against the motion to wind up the Red Front movement, which was defeated;
“Cde. Bland... had only a few days beforehand joined with Cde. Charnley in the preparation of proposals precisely for the disbandment of the RFM.” (p. 5)
4) by the fiction that the deposition of “charges” dated November 16th. alleged that “evidence” that Comrade Bland had been:
“...engaged in disruptive, factional activity”
had been known
“.... over a period of twelve: months – since, in fact, October 1973”,
yet on October 28th., 1974 Comrade Bland was asked by Baker and CS to carry out an investigation of identical charges against Comrade PT, and was accepted by both as competent to carry out this investigation.
CLEARLY, THE EXTENDED “CHARGES” INSPIRED BY BAKER WERE BROUGHT, NOT BECAUSE OF ANY FACTIONAL ACTIVITY WHICH INCLUDED COMRADE BLAND, BUT BECAUSE BAKER HAD BEEN MADE AWARE THAT THE REPORT Of COMRADE BLAND, AS CHAIRMAN, HAD FOUND THAT THE ORIGINAL “CHARGES” (against Comrade PT), WHICH HE (BAKER) HAD INSPIRED AND DRAFTED, WERE SPURIOUS.
At the meeting of the MLOB on November 16th, accepted as valid by all members present, the Chairman ruled that both meetings (of November 13th. and 16th.) were valid, together with all decisions that had been taken or would be taken. This ruling was challenged by Baker (in relation to the November 13th. meeting) on the grounds that an invitation had not been sent to one member who had recently moved to the Midlands and whose new address was known only to Baker It was pointed out that, even had this member been able to attend, and even had he voted against the decisions taken, the outcome would have been unaltered. The challenge was then put to the meeting and lost (with one dissentient vote).
The Chairman then addressed Baker:
“You must accept the fact, Comrade Baker, that you have lost the confidence of the majority of the members. That may be an unpalatable fact, but it is a fact. And a Secretary who has lost the confidence of the majority of the members of a democratic organisation cannot hope to succeed in maintaining his position by this kind of manoeuvring”. (Transcript of recording of Meeting).
It was pointed out to Baker that, as a member of a disciplined organisation, he could only accept the decisions taken, which gave him the opportunity, as a member of the MLOB on probation, to win back the confidence of the members – in the words of the Chairman’s report:
“.. .in order that comrade Baker may once again play the leading role in the MLOB commensurate with his theoretical political level”.
Asked by the Chairman if he was now willing to accept the decisions adopted in relation to himself, Baker replied that he was not. The Chairman then moved his expulsion from the MLOB for gross violation of the discipline of the MLOB, and this was carried (with one dissentient).
Baker has since been served in writing with the notice of his right to appeal against this disciplinary action, in accordance with the Constitution of the MLOB.
The work of the MLOB may be briefly hindered by the fact that, as the situation stands at the moment, Baker has seized the entire property of the MLOB and embezzled its central funds, which were in his keeping.
Nevertheless, the elimination of an element with the grave deficiencies manifested by Baker can only be of benefit to the MLOB, and its work of building a Marxist-Leninist party of the working class will proceed.
W. B. Bland,
Marxist-Leninist Organisation of Britain,
17b, Brindley Street,
London S.E. 14