Clause 4?

Stanley Harrison
Stanley Harrison

8:34 PM - Nov 30, 2005 #1

Can anyone shed any light on the "Clause 4 Group"? I can find little or nothing apart from something on wikipedia and a website run by Dave Fisher.
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Anonymous
Anonymous

2:24 PM - Dec 01, 2005 #2

Clause Four was a grouping of left-wingers in the National Organisation of Labour Students who were opposed to the Militant group. In fact I think at one time everyone in NOLS was either in Clause Four, or Militant. There wasn't any right-wing.

The wikipedia article on the CPGB claims that Clause Four was set up by Fergus Nicholson.

Is that true?

Albert
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Kim Philby
Kim Philby

9:53 PM - Dec 05, 2005 #3

The Clause 4 members I knew in the 1970s made no bones about it -- they all knew that Nicholson had set it up. Whether every member of Clause 4 knew about Fergus' role is another matter. At the time the Militant Tendency openly refered to them as a CP entryist group though it is unclear to what extent King Street actually approved of C4's antics (though they certainly turned a blind eye).

Clause 4's origins and aims are cloaked in secrecy like everything Straight Left does and it continues to this day. It was amusing to note the C4's webmaster's comment "As in times past, privacy will be rigourously respected". He hardly needed to mention that!

After defeating Militant in the NUS C4 tried to prolong its existence through the trade union movement without any great success. And all it ultimately achieved in the student movement was the elevation of worthless CP apparatchiks like Sue Slipman and David Aaronovitch who both became turn-coats.

The most prominent member of Clause 4 that I can recall is Fraser Kemp, now a Blairite MP in one of the Newcastle seats.

pip,pip

H A R Philby
(Col.retd)


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Guy Burgess
Guy Burgess

11:18 AM - Dec 06, 2005 #4

My, my, the Clause 4 website (and the webmaster's blog) seems to have vanished into the ether. For those who missed it this is the cached page:

The Clause 4 Group
A.K.A. Clause 4 - The Tribunite Paper for Youth and Students
A.K.A. Operation Icepick
... and by many less flattering epithets


Dedicated to the Clause 4 Group of Labour Party members active in the National Organisation of Labour Students (NOLS), the Labour Party Young Socialists (LPYS), the National Union of Students (NUS) and the wider Left during the 1970s and 1980s.

While there may eventually be other public web pages on the site, the bulk of it will remain private, with access restricted to those who were at some time members of the Clause Four organisation. Former Clause 4 members who interested in accessing the site or merely in contacting long-lost friends, are invited to email us from the feedback form below.

Amongst the, admitedly vague, objectives of the site are thoughts about compiling an outline history and membership list of the Clause 4 group. So please tell us anything you care to remember about your own involvement in Clause Four and the people or activities with which you were particularly associated. Even if you no longer wish to associate yourself with the Clause 4 group or with this site, we will try to put former Clause4 members in touch with old friends and colleagues they might like to reach. As in times past, privacy will be rigourously respected.

Dave Fisher
Webmaster
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Donald Maclean
Donald Maclean

10:22 PM - Dec 07, 2005 #5

The Clause 4 members I knew in the 1970s made no bones about it -- they all knew that Nicholson had set it up. Whether every member of Clause 4 knew about Fergus' role is another matter. At the time the Militant Tendency openly refered to them as a CP entryist group though it is unclear to what extent King Street actually approved of C4's antics (though they certainly turned a blind eye).

Clause 4's origins and aims are cloaked in secrecy like everything Straight Left does and it continues to this day. It was amusing to note the C4's webmaster's comment "As in times past, privacy will be rigourously respected". He hardly needed to mention that!

After defeating Militant in the NUS C4 tried to prolong its existence through the trade union movement without any great success. And all it ultimately achieved in the student movement was the elevation of worthless CP apparatchiks like Sue Slipman and David Aaronovitch who both became turn-coats.

The most prominent member of Clause 4 that I can recall is Fraser Kemp, now a Blairite MP in one of the Newcastle seats.

pip,pip

H A R Philby
(Col.retd)

Well, if we're going to list Clause 4'ers who have moved on to higher realms then we must include:

Mikes Gapes -- Labour MP for Ilford South and "founding convenor" of the group

and, of course, the great George Galloway, himself who is now leader of the RESPECT group in parliament.

I can think of a few who didn't quite make it like Conway Xavier (I think that was his name) who joined a number of groups after leaving C4 including a couple of years stint in the NCP. He was a shop-steward at the Childrens' Hospital in London but was eventually dismissed during the Thatcher era.


Donald Duart Maclean
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Albert Inkpin
Albert Inkpin

9:46 AM - Dec 12, 2005 #6

Conway Xavier was a member of the YCL after he left the Labour Party. He then rejoined the Labour Party and then joined the NCP. His name appeared a lot in Labour Monthly - I think he contributed a fiver a month to their fighting fund. According to web-site from the Oxford Union, he died in 2000.

When he was invloved in an industrial dispute at Great Ormond Street hospital, the Sun or the Daily Mail had a leader about him. It started by saying "Plain old British Communism isn't good enough for Mr Conway Xavier..." and then mentioned that he was a member of the New Communist Party. Is that the only time a tabloid has ever mentioned the NCP?

Albert
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Kim Philby
Kim Philby

7:55 PM - Dec 12, 2005 #7

Apart from Conway Xavier's strike the only time the NCP has been mentioned by the tabloids (as far as I can recall) was by the Evening Standard in a post-Soviet review of British communist and left parties sometime in the early 1990s. The NCP,CPB and some others were mentioned in a half-page article.


season's greetings chaps,

pip,pip,

H A R Philby
(Col.retd)
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Ann Silery
Ann Silery

1:15 PM - Dec 16, 2005 #8

I was very sad to see that Conway Xavier had passed on as I knew him in the early 80s when he was a militant shop steward at the childrens hospital at Great Ormonde Street.

Conway was a member of the NCP at the time and he had recruited four other porters to the party at the hospital. They usually could be found together at some pub or another though their favourite was one in the Grays Inn Road. The NCP group was a "unit" under the rules at that time, and attached to a north London branch but most of the business was done over a drink -- which in those days was still the custom amongst a large chunk of the labour movement. Another haunt was a 24 hour Chinese restaurant in Soho called the "Kowloon" that was particularly handy, in the days when these places were hard to find, for shift workers.

Conway was a serious drinker but this never seemed to affect his ability to play chess in the pub -- which he did against all comers -- nor his ability to argue the toss on the issues of the day.

At least once a week his regular contacts in the NCP would pop in: Steve Flanders who did the lay-out at the New Worker; Andy Brooks, who then was a leading trade union figure in CPSA, a civil service union, and Martin Spellman, another union activist in POEU, the post office engineer's union.
Steve F, who was a fairly long-standing friend of Conway's, helped him produce a rank-and-file newspaper for NUPE Conference (called "Hospital Worker" I think) and a series of NCP booklets focusing on the problems of hospital staff under the masthead of "Hospital Unionist".

The Fleet Street editorial denouncing Conway and the NCP that Inkpin refers to came at the time of his victimisation at the hospital and the problem was partly of his own making.

Conway was "offered" promotion to a supervisory post that was a NUPE grade. Now, as you know, porters wages were rock-bottom then, and he was strapped for cash, so he accepted it. Caution had been urged by his comrades. I remember Andy Brooks in the pub telling Conway that he couldn't wear two hats at the same time and get away with it and Martin Spellman was of a similar mind. Both of them were on the Central Committee of the NCP but at the end of the day it was Conway's decision. The problem was that Andy B and Martin S both worked in grade structured unions so this problem never occured in their own environment. If you were promoted in CPSA you had to join the appropriate supervisory union and POEU was a skilled workers union in itself. NUPE was different and Conway believed that the strength of the union in the hospital would deter Management from taking him on while the promotion would put him in a better bargaining position.

Management however had other plans. Within a matter of months Conway was given an instruction that was contrary to NUPE's position. He refused and was sacked for "disloyalty to management". The union called an official one-day protest strike and mass picket of the hospital ( I think the General Secretary of NUPE himself turned up) while NUPE full-timers held negotiations with the hospital management. But Management calculated correctly that their poorly paid workers could not sustain a prolonged stoppage on the meagre strike-pay NUPE had available and refused to budge.

Conway went on NUPE victimisation pay for a year that at least enabled him to get by while the case went to the Industrial Tribunal. He never was re-instated and during that time he drifted away from left politics and union work. I last saw him after his marraige (late 80s or early 90s) when he was working for a community press in Blackfriars Road, London.

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George Hardy
George Hardy

6:38 PM - Dec 16, 2005 #9

Well, if we're going to list Clause 4'ers who have moved on to higher realms then we must include:

Mikes Gapes -- Labour MP for Ilford South and "founding convenor" of the group

and, of course, the great George Galloway, himself who is now leader of the RESPECT group in parliament.

I can think of a few who didn't quite make it like Conway Xavier (I think that was his name) who joined a number of groups after leaving C4 including a couple of years stint in the NCP. He was a shop-steward at the Childrens' Hospital in London but was eventually dismissed during the Thatcher era.


Donald Duart Maclean
Mostly in the House of Commons or the Scottish parliament. Apart from Fraser Kemp, George Galloway and Mike Gapes previously mentioned you should add the following Labour MPs John Mann, John Denham and Mark Lazarowicz and MSP's <argaret Curran, Johann Lamont and Sarah Boyack.
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Ann Silery
Ann Silery

3:16 PM - Sep 10, 2008 #10

I was very sad to see that Conway Xavier had passed on as I knew him in the early 80s when he was a militant shop steward at the childrens hospital at Great Ormonde Street.

Conway was a member of the NCP at the time and he had recruited four other porters to the party at the hospital. They usually could be found together at some pub or another though their favourite was one in the Grays Inn Road. The NCP group was a "unit" under the rules at that time, and attached to a north London branch but most of the business was done over a drink -- which in those days was still the custom amongst a large chunk of the labour movement. Another haunt was a 24 hour Chinese restaurant in Soho called the "Kowloon" that was particularly handy, in the days when these places were hard to find, for shift workers.

Conway was a serious drinker but this never seemed to affect his ability to play chess in the pub -- which he did against all comers -- nor his ability to argue the toss on the issues of the day.

At least once a week his regular contacts in the NCP would pop in: Steve Flanders who did the lay-out at the New Worker; Andy Brooks, who then was a leading trade union figure in CPSA, a civil service union, and Martin Spellman, another union activist in POEU, the post office engineer's union.
Steve F, who was a fairly long-standing friend of Conway's, helped him produce a rank-and-file newspaper for NUPE Conference (called "Hospital Worker" I think) and a series of NCP booklets focusing on the problems of hospital staff under the masthead of "Hospital Unionist".

The Fleet Street editorial denouncing Conway and the NCP that Inkpin refers to came at the time of his victimisation at the hospital and the problem was partly of his own making.

Conway was "offered" promotion to a supervisory post that was a NUPE grade. Now, as you know, porters wages were rock-bottom then, and he was strapped for cash, so he accepted it. Caution had been urged by his comrades. I remember Andy Brooks in the pub telling Conway that he couldn't wear two hats at the same time and get away with it and Martin Spellman was of a similar mind. Both of them were on the Central Committee of the NCP but at the end of the day it was Conway's decision. The problem was that Andy B and Martin S both worked in grade structured unions so this problem never occured in their own environment. If you were promoted in CPSA you had to join the appropriate supervisory union and POEU was a skilled workers union in itself. NUPE was different and Conway believed that the strength of the union in the hospital would deter Management from taking him on while the promotion would put him in a better bargaining position.

Management however had other plans. Within a matter of months Conway was given an instruction that was contrary to NUPE's position. He refused and was sacked for "disloyalty to management". The union called an official one-day protest strike and mass picket of the hospital ( I think the General Secretary of NUPE himself turned up) while NUPE full-timers held negotiations with the hospital management. But Management calculated correctly that their poorly paid workers could not sustain a prolonged stoppage on the meagre strike-pay NUPE had available and refused to budge.

Conway went on NUPE victimisation pay for a year that at least enabled him to get by while the case went to the Industrial Tribunal. He never was re-instated and during that time he drifted away from left politics and union work. I last saw him after his marraige (late 80s or early 90s) when he was working for a community press in Blackfriars Road, London.
Pleased to see that Conway is still remembered on this site up on the web:

http://cohse-union.blogspot.com/2007/10 ... -1982.html


well worth the visit
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