This article originally appeared in the Bulletin on August 12, 1988
On June 1, 1988, five men in the city of Leeds in Britain were found guilty of conspiring to commit acts of violence during football matches. In at least one case, the targets of the violence were black workers and youth. Among those convicted and subsequently sentenced to four years imprisonment was Patrick Slaughter, the 23-year-old son of Cliff Slaughter, the present political secretary of the Workers Revolutionary Party.
Slaughter, a law student whose only link to the workers’ movement is through his father, was convicted on the basis of evidence gathered by police who, during a covert operation, had infiltrated a racist gang called the Yorkshire Republican Army, which allegedly planned and incited football match violence.
The police accused Patrick Slaughter of being one of the group’s ringleaders and chief instigator of racist violence, along with David Brown, a 26-year-old former paratrooper and Falklands War veteran, who was also convicted at the end of the trial and sentenced to prison.
While claiming innocence, Slaughter never took the stand to refute the charges against him. Nor did his attorneys challenge evidence which placed Slaughter at different football matches all over England where the alleged acts of racist violence took place. Most significant of all, Slaughter never disassociated himself from the other defendants, even though David Brown, alias “Para” Brown, has been publicly identified as a fascist. It has been reported that two years ago, during an international gathering of fascists in Leeds, a well-known Swedish fascist was given lodgings by Brown. Another trial defendant has also admitted that he is a sympathizer of the fascist National Front.
Following the trial, Workers Press, the weekly organ of the Workers Revolutionary Party, has published two statements defending Patrick Slaughter, one of them written by Cliff Slaughter, which amount to hysterical diatribes against the International Committee of the Fourth International and its British section, the International Communist Party.
Slaughter’s article, which appeared in the issue of July 9, denounces the ICP as a “despicable little group of provocateurs” who are “slandering Patrick Slaughter as a racist and a fascist.”
The second article, published in the issue of July 16, denounces a member of the ICP, John Upton, for “telling anybody in the Hull area that Patrick Slaughter is a fascist.”
In both articles, the claim is made that the ICP has attacked Patrick Slaughter out of “sectarian hatred of the WRP.”
The fact is that until now neither the ICP nor any other section of the International Committee had issued any public statement on the case of Patrick Slaughter. It is Cliff Slaughter and the WRP who have chosen to use this case for the purpose of attacking the International Committee and the ICP—though, in our opinion, we doubt very much that British workers will feel any sympathy for the plight of Patrick Slaughter.
The defense of Patrick Slaughter by the WRP and its political secretary is utterly without principle. Other than his happening to be the son of the WRP’s political secretary, on what basis is the WRP proclaiming Patrick Slaughter a martyr of the labor movement?
Patrick Slaughter is a 23-year-old middle-class punk who apparently enjoys the company of racist scum like “Para” Brown. He was never a member of the Trotskyist movement or in any way active inside the British workers’ movement.
At no time in the trial was there any reference made by the prosecution to the political activities of Cliff Slaughter or any indication given that the purpose of the trial was to attack the Workers Revolutionary Party.
There is no doubt that the use of undercover police in a covert operation represents a threat to the workers’ movement, even if the immediate target of police activities is, as in the Leeds case, right-wing and neofascist elements.
In assessing such cases, Marxists always warn workers that the conspiracy laws used by the capitalist state against racists and fascists today may be used against revolutionary workers tomorrow. Indeed, the state prosecution of right-wing groups is often little more than a trial run for the use of conspiracy laws on a far wider scale against the real enemies of the ruling class in the socialist and trade union movement.
However, in making such a warning, Marxists do not extend the slightest political sympathy to the fascists and the racists, nor do we call upon the working class to defend them. We point out to workers that such exemplary prosecutions of a handful of racist thugs like those in Leeds will do nothing in the long run to prevent the growth of a fascist movement. Therefore, we advise workers to fight the racists and fascists by relying on their own strength as a class, not by depending upon the institutions of the capitalist state.
The Workers Press distorts this basic revolutionary approach by writing, “It is a basic question of working-class morality that questions of racism, alleged and real, are not dealt with by the state but within the working class itself.”
What is the meaning of this little word “within”? Since when do Marxists consider racists part of the workers’ movement who are to be fought from within? Racists and fascists should be fought by the workers’ movement, not within it. In other words, workers should deal with trash like Brown and Slaughter by building defense guards that will acquaint their faces with the pavement and send them on their way.
Cliff Slaughter can shout his head off and denounce the ICFI and the ICP to his heart’s content, but he won’t persuade anyone except the politically sickest associates of the WRP that Patrick Slaughter is the innocent victim of a frame-up.
Had he been falsely accused, it would have been Patrick Slaughter’s responsibility—and Cliff Slaughter should have insisted upon it—to take the stand, disassociate himself from elements like “Para” Brown, and refute the charges. Instead, he remained silent.
In a letter to a radical newspaper in Leeds, Slaughter attempted to defend his son’s silence by claiming, “Not to appear in the stand is a right. If the exercise of that right is to be used to discredit the accused, that amounts to a deadly serious attack on hard-won democratic rights.” [Slaughter’s emphasis.]
Certainly, every accused has the right to avoid self-incrimination; but the alleged victims of a political frame-up do not generally base their trial defense upon the exercise of that right! They welcome the opportunity to answer their accusers and clear their names.
When an individual is accused of a crime, there are a number of reasons why a lawyer may advise his client not to take the stand. But the main reason against taking the stand is the sober calculation that the defendant will be damaged by his own testimony. While the courtroom jury ought not to draw unfavorable inferences from Patrick Slaughter’s silence, the far more important jury—that of the workers’ movement—has every right to draw negative conclusions.
Though he chose not to testify, the Workers Press reports that prior to being sentenced, Patrick Slaughter made a personal statement in which he claimed, “He and his friends were well known among Leeds United supporters and others as consistent and outspoken opponents of racism and the National Front.” That statement, of course, was a lie; for as we have already noted, Slaughter’s associate “Para” Brown has been publicly identified as a well-known fascist.
In the conclusion of the July 9 article, Slaughter wrote, “It would not be worth wasting space on these ICP ‘provocateurs’ if it was not necessary for us to warn readers against being provoked by them. They hope that their slanders—a substitute for politics—will bring about a physical confrontation. They will be disappointed.”
Like the criminal who shouts, “Stop thief!,” Slaughter attempts to camouflage his own intentions by attributing them to his opponents. The wild claims which he now makes about ICP plans for physical confrontations are best exposed by noting that the very individual whose activities are cited as an example of menacing behavior, John Upton, is a disabled ex-construction worker who has been confined to a wheelchair for years.
What, then, is really behind this sinister talk of physical confrontations? Unable to politically answer the exposure of his opportunist politics by the ICP and the ICFI, Slaughter is trying to use his son’s case to create his own provocations against the Trotskyist movement. It is peculiar, to say the least, that the only two articles which have appeared in the Workers Press on the case of Patrick Slaughter have been devoted almost entirely to denouncing the ICP and the ICFI. No attempt has been made to provide a factual exposure of the allegations against Patrick Slaughter, nor, aside from a sickening comparison between Patrick Slaughter and Des Warren, has there even been a genuine appeal for working class support. Instead, it appears that the WRP and Slaughter are using this case for the exclusive purpose of attacking the ICP and the ICFI.
On the surface, it would appear that this line of attack will not be very fruitful for the WRP and Slaughter. No politically conscious worker will hold against the ICP its hatred of all that Patrick Slaughter represents. But the WRP’s hysterical attack on the ICP is not addressed to the working class at all. Rather, Cliff Slaughter is addressing his appeal to the most reactionary elements in the lumpen proletariat and middle class who hate the workers’ movement and are likely to feel sympathy for the politics and plight of Patrick Slaughter. Among those elements are the very forces with whom young Slaughter junior associated. It should be noted that during the trial, Cliff Slaughter was observed frequently during recess periods in animated and friendly discussion with “Para” Brown. Like his son, the pampered middle class bullyboy, Slaughter seems to thrive in the company of the excrement of capitalist society.
We therefore take Mr. Slaughter’s threats of provocations seriously. The Workers Revolutionary Party has the responsibility to monitor the activities of its political secretary carefully and keep him under control.