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Marxists and the British

Labour Party

The New Turn - A Threat To Forty Years Work

Minority Document

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175. For 40 years we have worked in the Labour Party. For the whole of that time the classical conditions for entrism, laid down by Trotsky, have been absent. These conditions were:

a revolutionary or pre-revolutionary crisis in society

a crisis in the organisations of the social democracy in which the leadership would begin to lose control

ferment in the ranks, with large numbers of workers looking for a way out, and beginning to draw revolutionary conclusions

the rapid crystallisation of a mass left wing, moving in a centrist direction.

176. Trotsky understood that the workers -above all in Britain - would not express themselves through the medium of a small revolutionary organisation, but that, time and again, they would look to the Labour Party. The Trotskyists would therefore have to participate in the left wing and fertilise it with the ideas of genuine Marxism.

177. It is true that the classical conditions for entry do not exist at the present time. But the perspective for the Labour Party have not altered just because of a temporary move to the right under Kinnock. On the other hand, we have built up a powerful base for the ideas of Marxism over 40 years of Labour Party work. That is precisely the key to the future. By a skilful combination of tactical flexibility and implacable firmness on principles, theory and perspectives, we have largely succeeded in frustrating the efforts of the bureaucracy to get rid of us. 250 expulsions is a very poor result for all the time, effort and money put into the witchhunt. In reality, Kinnock was frustrated by the enormous problems he faced in dealing with us.

178. After Walton, Kinnock stated that we had "committed suicide". If we do not correct ourselves, that appraisal is all too likely to come true. Contrary to the illusions of the comrades, it will not be easy to get back into the Labour Party, once we have embarked on the road of an independent organisation.

179. In the whole history of Trotskyism, never has there been a time when a turn to entry was posed that did not lead to a split. After a period outside the Labour Party, having miseducated the youth in a sectarian spirit, any attempt to put the process into reverse would cause a massive split in the organisation. The comrades would go back to the Labour Party with less people than they had outside.

180. Some of our most experienced cadres educated over a period of decades have already been lost. We do not believe that these losses can be blamed entirely on the objective situation. The neglect of theory and political education, the constant emphasis on "campaigns" to the detriment of systematic work in the unions, the attempt to find organisational solutions to political problems, and a growing tendency towards "commandism" from the centre have all contributed to this situation.

181. Now we have the attempt to push through the "turn". And for what? The comrades have yet to give a concrete answer to the question: What could we do as an "independent organisation" which we cannot already do? Distribute membership cards? Publicise meetings of the NEB? Does anyone seriously believe that this will solve the problems of growth and cadre building, or enhance our prestige in the factories and estates?

182. The Scottish document talks of being "prepared to take risks in the past - not light minded risks, but calculated risks" (para 130), but what is proposed it completely out of proportion to "calculated risks" taken in the past. Indeed the supporters of the turn are very confused about the risks involved. In a frequently stated phrase "it (the turn) is a life and death matter", while it was also stated at an aggregate meeting in London, in regard to Scotland, "let us experiment". Surely, though, it is not the Marxist method to experiment on life and death issues!

183. One can gamble on the horses or the football pools. But it is completely irresponsible to gamble on, or "experiment" with the future of a revolutionary organisation. You don't abandon a 40 year perspective on the basiit [presumably "basis it"] will enable us to grow. You do not sacrifice the investment of decades for the sake of ephemeral short-term gains, which in any case will prove to be mostly illusory.

184. The argument that it will be easy to get back in the future is false to the core. The bureaucracy has had a long experience of this tendency and the Labour leaders have all the information they need, including access to the files of Special Branch. As long as we did not put up candidates against the Labour Party, there was not much they could do about our position. The workers regarded us as an integral part of the Labour Party. But once the umbilical cord is broken, we cannot expect the trade unionists to see us in the same light. It will do us colossal damage. Had we continued on the same basis, we could have reaped the benefit in the future. Now we will find an almost insurmountable barrier blocking the way.

185. It is time to call a halt. The Walton result was a warning. We should drop the idea of standing candidates in Scotland, take the "turn" off the agenda, and then we can open up a serious and fruitful discussion on how we solve the problems which face us. There is plenty of work to be done in the unions, in the youth, the women, the black and Asian work. Above all there is a big job to be done in the field of political education, where the present discussion has already revealed big gaps. If this is done, we can easily resolve our differences, increase the level of the whole organisation, and raise ourselves to the heights demanded by the period which now opens up.

London 16/8/91



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