A vignette, with a stirring photograph, concerning the election campaign in East London of the pro-fascist Respect 'Coalition' in the current edition of Socialist Worker takes my fancy. It notes the support given by:
... leading pensions campaigner Gordon McLennan, aged 80. As a teenager in Glasgow Gordon helped organise solidarity for the democratic government of Spain against the fascist coup led by General Franco. Gordon later became general secretary of the Communist Party.
“George [Galloway] has done so well in opposing war and racism,” he said. “It’s great to be here to lend him my support in person. I’m going to be travelling up from Lambeth over the next two weeks to help get him elected.”
That's it: the post of General Secretary of the Communist Party of Great Britain is noted in passing as if it were equivalent to the chairmanship of the local branch of Amnesty International. What a doughty, principled fighter for pensioners that McLennan is. Oddly, Francis Beckett's sympathetic history of the CPGB, Enemy Within: The Rise and Fall of the British Communist Party, 1995, makes no mention of McLennan's selfless campaigning for pensioners. It does refer (p. 216-221), however, to the annual six-figure subventions given secretly by the Kremlin to the British Communist Party throughout the 1960s, with continued donations for at least another decade after that (i.e. that is what is on the record and admitted, but there is circumstantial evidence that donations continued in the 1980s). When McLennan was appointed General-Secretary in 1975, he was told of this activity by his predecessor, John Gollan. Beckett notes:
McLennan claims that he said he wanted it stopped and assumed that it stopped at once. In fact it carried on for another four years. Asked why he never checked, he says: "I wanted no involvement, all I wanted was it stopped." There is a sense here that if something is not discussed it does not exist.
Beckett also quotes McLennan's successor, Nina Temple (who presided over the dissolution of the British Communist Party):
Nina Temple says: 'Whenever you needed money Gordon would say, "Go and see Reuben [Falber, the party functionary who received the money and laundered it through the Communist Party's employee pension fund]."' When she wanted to dispute one of Falber's decisions McLennan told her: 'If you ever question Reuben you're out. Reuben looks after the money and I trust him totally.' There is one small but perhaps significant discrepancy. McLennan claims he never discussed it with Falber. Falber says there was in fact one discussion.
If I were a parliamentary candidate, I think I'd prefer to be photographed alongside Neil Hamilton.