On Compromise

Lenin's arrival at the Finland Station

Lenin’s arrival at the Finland Station


On April 16th in 1917 Lenin arrived back in Russia after years in exile.  In a speech at the Finland Station, having just disembarked from the ‘sealed train, he called for a socialist revolution in Russia as a prelude to a worldwide revolution. Not for the first time, and certainly not for the last, Lenin had shocked his supporters with his crystal clarity about the goal but his endless flexibility about how to achieve it.


He was often derided by supporters and enemies alike for his willingness to compromise in the interests of the longer-term aim. He explained his reasoning in an article written when he was terminally ill in 1922 and published posthumously:

“Let us suppose the car you are travelling in is attacked by armed bandits. Let us suppose that when a pistol is put to your temple you surrender your car, money and revolver to the bandits, who propose to use this car etc to commit other robberies.


Here is undoubtedly a case of compromise with highwaymen, of agreement with them. The agreement, though unsigned and tacitly concluded, is nevertheless quite a definite and precise one: “I give you, Mr. Robber, my car, my weapon and money; you rid me of your pleasant company.”


The question arises: Do you call the man who concluded such an agreement with highwaymen an accomplice in banditry, an accomplice in a robber’s assault upon third persons  despoiled by the bandits with the aid of the car, money and weapons received by them from the person who concluded this agreement?


No, you do not.


The matter is absolutely plain and simple, down to the smallest detail.


And it is clear that under other circumstances the tacit surrender to the highwaymen of the car, money and weapon would be considered by every person of common sense to be complicity in banditry’.


The conclusion is clear: It is just as silly to renounce the idea of literally all agreements or compromises with robbers as it is to acquit a person of complicity in banditry on the basis of the abstract proposition that, generally speaking, agreements’ with robbers are sometimes permissible and necessary.”


V.I.Lenin, Collected Works,vol. 30 pp.492-3



The wisdom of Pablo

Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso


On 8th April 1973 Pablo Picasso left us:

“Our goals can only be reached through the vehicle  of a plan,  in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success”


Inspired by the bombing of Guernica, Spain, during the Spanish Civil War, Pablo Picasso completed this most famous piece, Guernica, in 1937.

Inspired by the bombing of Guernica, Spain, during the Spanish Civil War, Pablo Picasso completed this most famous piece, Guernica, in 1937.






And I always thought


And I always thought : the simplest of words

Must suffice. When I say what things are like

It will rend the hearts of all.

That you go down if you don’t fight

Is surely clear to you.


Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956)


Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956)

Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956)



On paranoia

Dr Monro


Dr Monro is concerned: even paranoids have enemies. He is regularly receiving emails from three sources. The Hong Kong tailors often inform him that they are in town and would like to arrange a fitting. The Eat Out Magazine frequently flies into his inbox. Finally, a company keeps asking him:do you need a new golf buggy?


Dr Monro’s internet profile is clearly that  of a well -tailored, obese golfer.. Dr Monro pleads not guilty on all three counts


Follow Dr Monro on twitter - https://twitter.com/BSixPrincipal


Dr Monro tweets!


Dr Monro, aka BSix Principal, is now tweeting!




Brian’s Brexit

Brian Clough

Brian Clough


There is a lovely story in Daniel Taylor’s book, ‘I Believe In Miracles ‘ about Brian Clough’s European Cup -winning Nottingham Forest. Clough was notorious for wanting the ball played on the ground (‘If God had wanted football played in the air he’d have put grass in the sky ‘) and to feet. When he joined the club in 1975 a player asked him if he should play the ball down the channel.


Clough replied:


” The Channel is a stretch of water between England and France. Pass it to feet or I will be throwing you in it.”



Sounds of Silence 2

Martin Luther King

Martin Luther King


“In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends”


Martin Luther King



Sounds of Silence 1

Gabor Szabo, Miles Davis & Emeritus Professor Paul Black of Kings College London

Gabor Szabo, Miles Davis & Emeritus Professor Paul Black of Kings College London


“Nothing strengthens authority as much as silence”

Leonardo da Vinci


I have just discovered the music of Hungarian -American jazz guitarist Gabor Szabo. It is beautiful, often melancholic. The most striking thing is the spacing; his playing is sparse, uncluttered, but you can’t imagine any other notes being used.


It reminds you of Miles Davis who used space and silence so powerfully. “Don’t play what’s there, play what’s not there.”


Yet in leadership and teaching we are often afraid of silence. We jump in quickly, often to say something daft just to fill the gap.


Emeritus Professor Paul Black of Kings College London spoke to our teachers in 2007. He asked a question and waited about three minutes in an uncomfortable silence until somebody piped up. He then said: “See, if a question is worth asking, then it’s worth giving people time to think about an answer.” How often do we  do that?



Everyone an Anton


Anton Chambers & Clare College

Anton Chambers & Clare College


A Level results day last Thursday took me back to 2004. I was Director of the Sixth Form College in Tower Hamlets. On one of the proudest moments of my professional life,we got four students into Cambridge University. This was such a  breakthrough not only for the College’s staff and students but also for the whole  community.


One of the four was Anton Chambers. He  got AAB in his A Levels but the offer from Clare College was AAA. I remember discussing this with the admissions tutor. She was so keen to take Anton but was having to persuade her colleagues. She was risking her professional career and standing More broadly, if it went wrong it could have set back the widening participation agenda at the College for years.


It didn’t go wrong; in fact, it went brilliantly right. Anton was a star student and graduated with a first class degree in Law.


As the new academic year approaches, we need to remind ourselves; Everyone can be an Anton. That is our ambition.




On the second day


July 7th: Ten years ago today I was on my second day of interviews and activities for the job of BSix Principal. One session was a group task with the other candidates in which we had to design posters about student attendance. Two candidates said “Give it the students to devise the message and design the poster.” This resulted in a heated discussion because I felt strongly that this was an abdication of responsibility. What if the message appeared to condone absenteeism? What if the design wasn’t in keeping with the College’s image?


This is where we sometimes get student voice wrong. It isn’t always right and it shouldn’t always be followed. That doesn’t mean that you haven’t heard or listened. You often find this in everyday life. Someone will say to you: “You aren’t listening to me.” When what they really mean is: “You’re not going to do what I want.” The answer is: “I have listened to you but I disagree with you and I’m not going to do what you want.”


Sometimes, we have to give people what they need, not what they want. (And we can disagree about that as well).