Marxists and the British
Note on the Militant Tendency
The Militant was unique of all groups on the far left during the late 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. It did not suffer any major splits in its ranks from the birth of the Militant newspaper in 1964 until the ‘Open Turn’ of 1991. How did it remain so cohesive, when the parties from the Trotskyist tradition were renown for splits, mergers, and more splits, as a result of false policies and personality clashes? And what brought about the departure of Ted Grant and his group, who now refer to themselves as the Ted Grant tendency (www.marxist.com)?
The later chapters of 'The Rise of Militant' indicate from time to time how Ted Grant failed to grasp the new world situation as it developed through the 1980s. It is instructive to quote this summary from Peter Taaffe, general secretary of the Socialist Party, writing in 1995:
The Militant Tendency’s orientation within the British Labour Party provided revolutionary socialists with a whole range of tools with which to "translate" Marxist theory into "programme, strategy and tactics" in a way which related to ordinary working class people in the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s. But the profound change during the 1980’s disorientated those who became the Minority. Their claim that the ‘Open Turn’ was a "threat to forty years work" summarised an ossified approach, an inability to adjust to the reality on the ground, a fear of change.
The Militant had remained a remarkably cohesive party, avoiding the splits which plagued other far left groups, due to a combination of a clear understanding of events, and an ability to "translate" this understanding into action alongside the "real movement of the working class."
No organisation with a clear revolutionary Marxist outlook can gain such mass support as was shown in Liverpool in 1983-1987 and in the battle against the Poll Tax in 1988-1990 without a healthy internal atmosphere and democracy, and a skilful, detailed, realistic political orientation which it can readily negotiate with the working class.
A careful political orientation brought confidence in the leadership of the party, and provided the basis for the unique atmosphere of honest, fraternal debate and exchange at all levels on all subjects, which remains the hallmark of the Committee for a Workers’ International. And this constant exchange within the party ensured that the Militant remained finely attuned to the "feel" of developing struggles in which its largely working class membership were involved.
Nevertheless, important turns in policy are rarely achieved without loss, and the fundamental realignment of the ‘Open Turn’ resulted in the loss of a mainly inactive, out of touch layer from the Militant Tendency.
The period of the 1990’s was difficult for Marxists. But the ‘Open Turn’ began a period of re-orientation and re-arming which prepared the Committee for a Workers’ International for the 1990s and now for the growth of new forces during a new millennium, a millennium that has already been marked by decisive events such as the invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003, and will see in the near future mighty calls struggles developing in different countries.
This period promises to be a very fruitful one for Marxists in the task of creating the forces that can liberate mankind once and for all from the horrors of capitalism.