LSA Enquiry 1999

Below is the full text of the conclusions of the labour movement inquiry convened by the London Socialist Alliance into the Eibhlin McDonald incident in January 1999. Note that the vile Spartacist League leaflet Gerry Downing has dug out to smear me was explicitly condemned by a bona-fide labour movement inquiry. I dont know of many such inquires, but one that I do know of was convened in the 1970s to deal with smears by Gerry’s mentor, Thomas Gerard Healy, against Balasz Nagy, the former leader of his Hungarian group. Gerry in smearing me by resurrecting a leaflet that was condemned by a workers enquiry is emulating his mentor Gerry Healy, and voluntarily taking ownership of the most vile aspects of the Sparts as well. How far he has fallen in a few months!

That Downing is utterly cynical is shown by this article

Reply by Ian Donovan to slanderous attacks

This clearly shows that in 2015, when he agreed with my political positions, he publicly defended me against these ‘slanderous attacks’ and posted the article I wrote about this on the SF website himself (‘socialistfight’, who posted it, is Gerry’s username). So in trying to use this against me, he shows himself to be a contemptible hypocrite of the very worst kind. When were you lying Gerry, in 2015 when you posted and thereby endorsed my defence against what you called ‘slanderous attacks’? Or are you lying now? I have no reason to  believe you were lying then, any more than you were when you defended my views on the Jewish Question to Andrew Neil and Phil Collins in March 2016 on National TV.

Incidentally, if anyone tries to delete this article to falsify history, be aware that not only do screenshots and the text of it still exist, but it also exists in web archive sites such as waybackmachine. It cannot be successfully erased.

Its obvious that Downing is lying now. About all these things. I don’t care. This is not yesterday’s news, this is ancient bollocks and a sign of absolute screaming desperation on his  part.

It is also true that I suffered from a kind of disability, a post-traumatic stress disorder, for more than a decade after I left the SL/B. I eventually recovered from it but it was difficult. The Spartacists knew this full well and exploited it to provoke this, as the report pretty explicitly acknowledged.

So this posting exposes  Gerry Downing, as a vile bigot, attacking me because I used to suffer from a disability. This is even more pathetic than those who attack people who currently have disabilities. Why doesn’t he go the whole hog and call me a “fucking spastic” or some other choice epithet of the far right?

Downing is contemptible. This this shit exposes him as motivated by the same kind of hatred and degeneracy that drove the Healyites and Robertsonites at their worst.


Report of inquiry into the violent incident between Ian Donovan (editor Revolution & Truth, Chair of London Socialist Alliance) and Eibhlin McDonald (member of the leadership of Spartacist League/Britain) at the Bloody Sunday commemoration march on January 30 1999


At the Bloody Sunday commemoration march on January 30 comrade Ian Donovan, a former member of the SL/B, hit comrade Eibhlin McDonald hard in the face. She suffered a wound over her right eye and had to be given stitches in a nearby hospital. The police temporarily arrested Ian, but let him go soon after when Eibhlin refused to press charges against him.


In the build up to this violent assault, Eibhlin confronted Ian at the demo calling him a “RUC-Supporter” and shouting at him that he “should form a contingent with the Socialist Party and write on their banner ‘Socialists for the RUC'”[1].



Commission participants were Toby Abse (Independent Labour Network and LSA), Tina Becker (LSA, SLP), Lee Rock (Socialist Perspectives) and Bob Pitt (Labour Party and What Next?). The inquiry took part on April 3 at Conway Hall in central London, from 10am to 3pm. Various observers were present. Ian Donovan, Geoff Palmer (Hackney SLP and former SL/B member) and Mark Fischer (CPGB, personal capacity) supported their written statements with verbal contributions to the commission.


Written statements were received from the International Bolshevik Tendency, Workers Power, the Socialist Labour Party (Hackney branch), Dave Douglass (NUM Branch Secretary Hatfield) and Mark Fischer (CPGB, personal capacity). We also noted the leaflet ‘Ian Donovan is a dangerous lunatic’, issued by the SL/B on February 2 1999.


In the preparation for this enquiry comrade Donovan provided us with a large amount of background material. The SL/B refused to take part and did not supply any material on the grounds that the enquiry is a “scandal” and “wilful cover-up for Donovan’s cowardly act of thuggery”[2]. The commission regrets this decision.



There is no dispute about the basic facts of this violent incident. Ian Donovan did launch a violent assault on comrade McDonald which resulted in a quite serious injury. There can be no justification for this kind of attack, particularly on a woman by a physically much larger man, and least of all when the perpetrator of the assault is a socialist. We unequivocally condemn this action. Violence employed to resolve political differences has no place in our movement. We are pleased to note that Ian himself wholeheartedly condemns his own actions and distances himself from a statement he made in the middle of February, describing the incident as a “tactical error” that should “not to be condemned as contrary to working class morality, but rather as a stupid piece of individual terror against a target”.[3] The commission also notes comrade McDonald’s refusal to press charges against Ian. This, we recognise, is to her credit and that of the SL/B.


Nevertheless, we are convinced that this incident has a serious background that prompted Ian, described by witnesses as a “a gentle soul”[4] to behave so much out of character. He has no history of violence in the socialist movement or of using such methods to resolve political differences.


Ian gave the commission an account of his experiences as a member of the SL/B and the severe nervous breakdown he suffered in 1986/7 at the end of his period of membership of the SL/B, which incapacitated him for a number of years afterwards. Comrade Ian submitted in evidence a letter he had written in 1990 to the editorial board of Revolutionary History (on which the SL/B was then represented), accusing the leadership of the SL/B – and Eibhlin McDonald in particular – of direct responsibility for his breakdown and of systematically psychologically abusing him and other members of the organisation.


Whatever the accuracy of Ian’s charges (and other documentary evidence submitted to the commission suggests that he was not the only victim of the Spartacists’ extreme cult-like internal life), the fact is that the leadership of the SL/B knew (a) that Ian Donovan had suffered a damaging breakdown at the end of his period of membership of the SL/B and (b) that he blamed the SL/B leadership and comrade McDonald in particular for causing this suffering.


Yet the commission heard evidence that the SL/B had a record of repeatedly and systematically provoking Ian when they came across him at public events – one of Hackney SLP’s resolutions explicitly refers to “the SL/B’s long-time baiting of Ian Donovan”[5]. Witnesses could recall several occasions when they saw Ian being surrounded by members of the SL/B shouting at and abusing him. At the founding conference of the Socialist Labour Party the SL/B singled out Ian and other comrades of the IBT to the SLP stewards, denouncing them as “scabs”[6] – a claim that has been backed up by comrade Geoff Palmer. On another of these occasions Eibhlin McDonald turned around to one witness, saying: “fucking nutter”[7]. We also note in this context the SL/B leaflet issued soon after the violent incident on February 2 describing Ian as “a dangerous lunatic”, “mentally unhinged”, a “violent misogynist, anti-communist nutter” and an “apologist for British imperialism, in the tradition of Arthur Henderson who led the cheering in parliament when James Connolly was shot by a British firing squad”. Finally, to accuse someone of being an RUC supporter, at a demonstration attended by hundreds of republicans and socialists is provocative beyond belief.


Given the history of comrade Ian’s relations with the SL/B, this would appear to be behaviour of quite incredible stupidity and insensitivity, which was always likely to cause an incident such as that on the Bloody Sunday march. We condemn such anti-human behaviour towards other socialists. It drives valuable socialists out of the workers’ movement. This is an unforgivable crime.


We have been presented with evidence that shows that even the leadership of the ICL (then iSt) has not always been in agreement with the behaviour of their British leadership. Following a letter to the iSt by Ian in which he condemned the leadership of the SL/B for conducting ‘whispering campaigns’ against some of their members, Eibhlin McDonald and Len Myers were temporarily removed from the SL/B leadership by an extraordinary executive decision of James Robertson, the leading figure in the iSt. In June 1987 this episode was referred to obliquely in a SL/United States document, where it suggested that the SL/B had been led by a “fragmented leadership exhibiting ‘malign neglect’ of its members’ political and personal health and welfare”[8].


Further, we condemn the manner in which the SL/B behaves in relation to its political opponents. This organisation has a record of provocation in the British workers’ movement, consciously falsifying the positions of opponents in order to brand them. We note in this context an article by Jon Brooks (spokesman of the international secretariat of the ICL) in Workers Hammer from 1996:


“Unable to deal with a somewhat more complex reality, the SL/B resorted to ‘simplifying’ (i.e. falsifying) the positions of our opponents. That is the kiss of death, enabling our opponents to dismiss us as liars and thereby keep their membership sealed off from our criticism. And if we have to lie about our opponents in order to deal with them it means we have no confidence in ourselves and our program.”[9]




The commission recommends that Ian should issue a clear unambiguous public apology to Eibhlin. Ian should also step down as chair of London Socialist Alliance. Furthermore, he should not stand for any offices in the workers’ movement for at least six months. We recommend to the LSA that they also condemn this action of their chair.


Judging by the evidence we were provided with we would also recommend to the leadership of the ICL that similar action be taken against the SL/B. However, we are conscious that as the SL/B refused to take part in this enquiry there is an unavoidable ‘bias’ in the material in front of us. Therefore we feel that we are not in a position to unequivocally issue such a call. Therefore, we call on the ICL to establish an enquiry to examine the provocative behaviour and the abusive internal regime of its British section. We are willing to assist such an enquiry. Failure to do so would be seen as condoning the provocative and abusive behaviour of the SL/B


Finally, we believe that the whole of the left should take on responsibility in such matters. If we see a situation such as that of January 30 building up, we have a collective obligation to intervene and calm things down before the argument reaches the stage of violence.


[1] Ian is chair of the London Socialist Alliance of which the Socialist Party is an affiliate of. The SL/B believes that therefore Ian “defends” the “Labourite Socialist Party which are notorious for refusing to call for British troops out of Northern Ireland and for sponsoring fascistic Loyalist Billy Hutchinson in their meetings”, in: ‘Ian Donovan is a dangerous lunatic!, leaflet by the Spartacist League/Britain, February 2 1999.

[2] Letter of SL/B to London Socialist Alliance, March 12 1999.

[3] Ian Donovan article on the internet, February 19 1999

[4] Geoff Palmer and Mark Fischer at enquiry, April 3 1999

[5] ‘Against violence in the workers’ movement’, Hackney North SLP resolution, March 3 1999

[6] This is one of the often-made allegations against the IBT that in the US, it “scabbed on a strike of New York build maintenance workers in 1996”, in: Workers Hammer, March/April 1999

[7] Statement of Mark Fischer at enquiry, April 3 1999

[8] ‘Toward Revolutionary Conjuncture’, Conference document, SL/US 1987

[9] ‘Opponents Work. Propaganda SL/B and SpAD’, Workers Hammer, July 7 1996