Clarification and Context

Please see the following statement by Professor Gus John in response to an article/interview published in The Guardian last Thursday 8.10.20.

 'As someone who with Wilfred Wood and John La Rose constituted the black presence on the early Institute of Race Relations Council and was not just a witness to, but part of that historical coup that displaced the majority planter class membership of that council, I can bear testimony to the importance of that struggle to the building of an independent black political movement in Britain. The political trajectory of Race Today and Race & Class and the complementary function both journals performed in that movement cannot be separated from other key events and developments that both defined and shaped that movement. In this regard, it is important that [the article] highlighted the historical role both of Sivanandan and of Darcus in rescuing the Institute of Race Relations and setting it on an entirely different path in the service of oppressed and marginalised communities rather than as a not so remote control arm of the state.

'It was with those lens that I approached the Guardian interview [...] I was sorely disappointed to see that there was no mention whatsoever of John La Rose in [the] interview as published, especially in the context of New Cross, the founding and work of the New Cross Massacre Action Committee and the Black People's Day of Action and that historic demonstration. I say 'as published' because I see no reason [...] to rewrite that history, especially as [Leila] clearly express[es] the need for this and future generations to be more informed and conscientised about the post-war struggles of our and our parents' generation, an awareness which this wretched schooling system structurally denies them. It may be, therefore, that some erasure occurred in transcription, either on Kehinde Andrew's part or on the part of those at the Guardian who edited his submission. 

'If that's not the case, then I would be concerned that something is done urgently to correct the record that the Guardian has now set down in history.

'We had an Alliance, properly so called and we all worked out and subscribed to a political method that was built on discipline, rigorous political analysis not least about our relationship with the state and its apparatuses and, fundamentally, on trust. It is this that informed and underpinned our activism. 

'I well remember driving from Manchester on the evening of the fire and joining Alliance members in discussing the tragedy and how we would respond. I well remember the overcrowded public meeting at Deptford Town Hall the following day and at Moonshot. I well remember all the meetings we had and the action we took in support of those traumatised young people whom the police were hellbent on framing and criminalising so that they could be made to bear the blame for the fire. I well remember our preparation for the inquests and for the pickets outside the inquests. I remember above all the strategic approach proposed by John and discussed and agreed by the rest of us with regard the planning, organising and leadership of the Black People's Day of Action. I well remember the drafting of the declaration to be handed to Parliament during the march and John leading the delegation to hand over the declaration. Darcus' was a prominent and unmistakable voice on the day and in the run up to the demonstration, but the Alliance - and the RTC as an integral part of it - remained in the leadership both of the New Cross Massacre Action Committee and the Black People's Day of Action. The excellent lawyers who worked with us, the late Ian Macdonald, Mike Mansfield and Rock Tansy were never in any doubt at any stage that they were working as advocates for families and survivors, yes, but as part of a disciplined and organized political response by the community under the leadership of the Alliance.

'Nothing of that is conveyed in the Guardian's reporting of [Leila Hassan's] interview with Kehinde Andrews.

'Andrews himself is far too young to have experienced the response to the New Cross Massacre, either by the state or by us in the leadership of the political movement that spawned the New Cross Massacre Action Committee. I am not aware that he spoke with other members of the Alliance before or after [t]his interview. [...] As an academic and a pioneer of British Black Studies, however, and one who is doing extremely important work with young black activists/scholars and aspirant academics I would expect that he, too, would have both a political and professional interest in recording such major historical events faithfully and in facilitating an understanding of both our advances and our defeats in the last 7 decades or so.

'In the final analysis, among the key messages to which our movement bears testimony are that:

- the power of the people is superior to the power of the state, moral or military and

- we must maintain a fundamental belief in the power of collective action, with a clear and common purpose, to bring about change and to displace tyranny.

'Emphasising the centrality of the ever so powerful movement of which we were a part, one that the state knew it could not ignore, does not in any way eclipse the selfless contribution of any single one of us... We projected Strength in our unity and we sought to lead by example, especially given the foolishness and backwardness we witnessed (and are still witnessing) in our communities up and down the land daily.

'So, in conclusion, I believe that as it stands, the Guardian interview is a dishonour to the memory of John La Rose and to the part that the Alliance played in that period of post-war British social and political history. As such, it is also a dishonour to the memory and historical contribution of other members of the Alliance who have gone before, including members of the Race Today Collective.'

The GPI fully supports and endorses Professor Gus John's statement.