• Foot Cook Pamphlet

    Foot Cook Pamphlet


    On pages 483-85 I discuss the differences between Cliff and Paul Foot in relation to AJ Cook.  John Rudge, who has been of great help to me with bibliographical information, has pointed out to me that there is material relevant to this in the “Bookmarks Publications” archive in the Modern Records Centre at Warwick http://dscalm.warwick.ac.uk/DServe/dserve.exe?dsqIni=DServe5.ini&dsqApp=Archive&dsqDb=Catalog&dsqCmd=NaviTree.tcl&dsqField=RefNo&dsqItem=BOO#HERE

    [Culpably, I failed to consult this archive during my research.]  I reproduce below the letter I received from John.



    I’ve read the Bookmarks archive stuff from Warwick concerning the Paul Foot “A.J. Cook” pamphlet. If you recall this is what the archive catalogue says:


    “MSS.348/2/16 Paul Foot, ‘A.J. Cook’ 1985. Annotated first draft, with criticisms by Peter Marsden and Tony Cliff. ”This came in for heavy verbal criticism at the publications committee (before publication). Tony Cliff was also working on AJ Cook for his book on the General Strike. In the event Cliff backed down, putting forward only four criticisms … and the pamphlet went ahead [in 1986]” [Peter Marsden].”

    By way of clarification the Bookmarks archive contains the annotated first draft of the pamphlet by Foot, a letter from Pete Marsden to Foot (4/12/85) containing Cliff’s 4 criticisms, a letter from Pete Marsden to Foot (13/5/85) containing his own reactions to the draft and a letter from Foot back to Marsden (23/5/85) in response to his inputs.

    The main thing to say is your own astute observations on the pamphlet in the Cliff biography pp. 483-485 are supported. Here are a few snippets of interesting information:

    1.Marsden’s letter of 4th December 1985 to Foot containing Cliff’s criticisms on the pamphlet says, “There are only four of them, and his [Cliff's] overall comment was that it is an “excellent” pamphlet. The blast I got at the publications committee from Alex Callinicos and Pete Binns was the over-reaction of acolytes”

    2. Of the 4 Cliff criticisms 2 are issues of fact or interpretation and the other 2 are the politics. The first political one being the issue of sectarianism. Paul’s draft had a paragraph which would have been a third paragraph on page 31, “In times like these, it seems to me, sectarianism is if anything an even greater menace for small socialist organisations than is accomodation to reformism. For one thing, we ourselves are less likely to criticise each other for sectarianism, while anything which smells of reformism is stamped on with gleeful fury. For another, the time to abuse and insult reformist socialists, if there ever is such a time, is when they are strong, not when they are weak.” Cliff asked for the paragraph to go and it did. The other issue Cliff raised was Arthur Scargill. Paul Foot’s original last line of the pamphlet was “Arthur Cook was undoubtedly one, and Arthur Scargill is undoubtedly another.” Cliff said “Scargill isn’t dead yet and could do any number of wrong things yet. We shouldn’t make him a saint yet!” Foot dropped Scargill’s name from that last line.

    3. Paul did elucidate some of his reasonings around the generality of this last issue in his letter to Marsden of 23rd May. Paul writes “The point I’m making is that it is quite easy for someone reared in our tradition to criticise Cook or Scargill. We can just bang them into the formulae about trade union leaders, and get on with the rank and file. Easy, but wrong. Because we have to appreciate that from time to time leaders get to the top of the miners’ union who retain (for a number of reasons, or just out of sheer good luck) really genuine revolutionary sentiments which emerge at the height of the miners struggle. We can learn from that, and from the miners’ admiration from that, every bit as much as we can gain from criticising it.”