Marxists and the British
The New Turn - A Threat To Forty Years Work
The Entrist Tactic
21. A great part of the political capital of the organisation in Britain and internationally was the fact that we were conceived as a component part of the labour and trade union movement. We were entirely different to the sects, who try and create phantom "mass" revolutionary parties outside of the time, experience and consciousness of the masses.
22. We have explained many times that our organisation deepened, developed and extended Trotsky's ideas on entrism. But even these previous explanations really underestimate our approach. Our conception of work in the mass organisations is qualitatively different from what Trotsky envisaged.
23. Trotsky put forward his idea of classical entrism in the early 1930s, when there was a leftward swing in the ILP which had split from the Labour Party. The British Trotskyists were advised to enter the ILP to win sections to a revolutionary standpoint. By 1935, as the ILP stagnated, more fruitful work opened up in the Labour Party. To break their isolation, British Trotskyists were then advised to enter the Labour Party.
24. Entrism then was considered a short-term tactic of entering reformist parties when in ferment, penetrating the growing left wing and rapidly crystallising the revolutionary opposition. The perspective then was for a more rapid development of the independent revolutionary party and objectively the possibilities for this existed. (See Problems of Entrism for a more detailed explanation).
25. Our conception of work in the Labour Party and unions has been entirely different. Our work in the mass organisation of the British working class was of a long-term character. Our fundamental task was to establish the cadres, train them theoretically and link them to work in the mass organisations, the Labour Party and unions. We had to establish ourselves as a legitimate tendency in the labour movement.
26. Our long-term work in the Labour Party was not aimed at what we would immediately gain inside the party. In fact 99% of our gains came from outside the Labour Party. But our whole orientation aimed at maintaining and defending our party links. The objective of our long term Labour Party work was to make big gains in a period of crisis and ferment in society which would inevitably be reflected in the ranks of the Labour Party and unions. We gained a small glimpse of this development at the end of the last Labour government and after 1978-81, when the left wing in the Labour Party began to develop.
27. There is no short cut to the building of the revolutionary party. Up to now, these arguments have always been our fundamental approach: the revolutionary party in Britain will be built through the trade unions and Labour Party - there is no other way in Britain. The same is true in relation to the European reformist organisations. With this approach we built our international.
28. The Labour bureaucracy has been desperately trying to split us away. They want to sever the links between ourselves and the Labour Party. Despite 16 years of witchhunts and expulsions they have largely failed, to date. However we are now playing into their hands.
A Flexible Approach
29. Of course we must be flexible in our approach, as long as this does not cut us off from the mass organisations or jeopardise our future position. Our work in the Labour Party is not an eternal principle set in stone. Under certain conditions we would break from the party. For example, if we had hundreds of thousands supporting us and a strong base in all the major unions then there could be a sound case made out for leaving the party. But even then, it would not be automatic.
30. Some comrades have raised the example of the independent open organisation of the WIL and RCP of the 1940s. True it is an example of flexible tactics under the given circumstances of the time. (See Problems of Entrism). However, the key question posed at that time was a rapid development of the open revolutionary party. This does not apply to the present modern conditions. There is no immediate prospect of a rapid development of an open revolutionary organisation. Our conception of long term work in the mass organisations is fundamentally different to the tactics employed in the 1940s.
31. We have always favoured a more independent approach to our work, taking initiatives in the trade unions, in the factories and on the estates. There is nothing new in this. But this work was always conducted on the basis of a fundamental method of approach determined not from what the Labour Party is at present but what it will become and develop into in the future.
32. With the most likely approach of a Labour government, our task is not to turn away from the Labour Party, but on the contrary, to begin to strengthen our Labour Party work in preparation for the battles that will take place in the unions and be reflected in the party. This in no way means to bury ourselves in the Labour Party. That would be a fundamental mistake. But we must urgently correct the drift of comrades out of the party in failing to renew their cards. Why do the work of the right wing and expel ourselves?
33. Our correct turn to the poll tax has produced a certain ultra-leftism towards the Labour Party (understandable with the rotten role the Labour leaders have played at local and national level). But this mood must be corrected by patient explanation and education. Unfortunately, far from doing this, the leadership is reinforcing it, with its policy in Walton and the proposed turn.