Marxists and the British
The New Turn - A Threat To Forty Years Work
34. The decision to stand in Walton will adversely affect the organisation for years to come. It represents the beginning of an ultra-left turn which could culminate in the new turn.
35. It can lead to a complete miseducation of the new layers, especially the youth, who may move towards us in the next few years. It is a complete miseducation of the cadres, who can draw dangerous conclusions. They can become ultra-left and adventuristic, this in turn rapidly leading to passivity and substitutionalism.
36. We fully understand and appreciate the feelings of hatred in Liverpool for Kilfoyle. He has been Kinnock's hatchet man and chief witch-hunter in the area. He has trampled on socialism and those who represented it. There is no doubt about this. But these are simply subjective feelings and emotion. We cannot construct a policy on them. Such an approach would be pure impressionism.
37. Our task is not to tail end the emotional
mood of activists Leadership is a serious business and means, if
necessary, to come out against the mood of a layer of activists in one
particular area if their impatience is likely to endanger the longer term
38. Astonishingly, some comrades attempted to portray Kilfoyle as a right winger who is qualitatively different from the rest. This is simply not the case. The vast bulk of the PLP are filled with individuals of the same ilk. Many have ties with big business and the intelligence services. Workers will wonder why we are not standing against Kinnock or Hattersley? They are just as bad as Kilfoyle if not worse. What will be our response? Is it to give critical support for Labour everywhere except in a few special seats?
39. The Walton by-election is not the same as supporting the 6 Broad Left candidates in the Council election. Virtually all of them were sitting councillors and they were seen as real Labour because official Labour Party candidates were imposed undemocratically against the wishes of the ward parties. These right wingers were guilty of voting for cuts, poll tax and redundancies.
40. There is a fundamental difference between council elections and a national parliamentary by-election. Under the present conditions of unity for a Labour government, we are being portrayed as giving support to Labours enemies. This will do us damage nationally.
41. Walton also played directly into the hands of the bourgeois who wanted to portray Labour as divided in order to boost the flagging fortunes of the Tories.
42. The action has undoubtedly played into the hands of Kinnock, Kilfoyle and Rimmer, who were able to portray the result as a victory for them and a rejection of the organisation by the workers of Walton. It will now be used, as was predicted beforehand, as the excuse for a purge in Liverpool and elsewhere.
43. With the approach of the general election, the position nationally at the present time is a move towards Labour. The anti-Tory mood is beginning to turn towards a pro-Labour one (but not pro-Kinnock). This will develop increasingly as we get nearer the election. Already the opinion polls, which partially reflect this process have revealed a growth in Labour's support (although Kinnock personally languishes in the polls).
44. Throughout the trade union conferences there has been a mood for unity in order to return a Labour government after 12 years of Toryism. Millions of workers, particularly those under threat from the Tories, in the health service and local authorities for example, will be desperate to get a Labour government returned. Because of the role of the trade union leaders and the lack of a left alternative, many see a Labour government as their only hope. It would be fatal not to recognise this process developing at the present time. In fact we should reflect this process with more pro-Labour agitation and propaganda, if we are not to be cut off from these layers. Unfortunately, the paper appears to be more anti-Labour than anti-Tory these days, especially after Walton. Kinnock, and not Major, seems to be public enemy number one.
45. This pro-Labour mood is not only affecting the mass, but the more advanced layers as well. It is taking place throughout the country and affects all areas, including Merseyside and Scotland. The standing of an independent candidate against Labour at a time when the class is moving towards Labour could only damage us in the eyes of those looking for a Labour victory. We will now be perceived as sabotaging those chances, of splitting the Labour vote, etc. It will tend to cut us off from a big majority of the shop stewards and the active trade union layers.
46. It was stated at the June meeting of the NEB that standing independently was a high-risk electoral gamble. All we can say is it is possible to gamble on the horses or dogs, that is of little consequence, but we are not prepared to gamble with the fate of the organisation, of what we have built up over decades, or the work of forty years. It has also been portrayed as a simple detour! We have collectively made a colossal sacrifice for this organisation and we are not prepared to put it at risk for some half-baked ill-thought out gamble.
47. We must reject political and organisational impressionism and return to the genuine Marxist methods of analysis that have served this organisation over decades. Failure to do so will see additional ultra-left mistakes. If we do not correct this ultra-left line in sufficient time then it will lead to even greater mistakes in the future, with dire consequences for the organisation.
48. Time and again groups of honest but misguided workers have moved in an ultra-left direction, out of impatience and disgust at the behaviour of the right-wing. Invariably such adventures have led to disaster, and it is our duty to patiently explain this to our periphery. To do otherwise would be sheer opportunism. We arrive at a clear policy, then we must fight for it - even if it appears unpopular or we are temporarily in a minority. In the longer term - with correct tactics and strategy - we will be proved to be correct. After all, was that not the policy of Lenin and Trotsky?
49. We can't be pushed along to take a wrong decision. We have to resist such pressures where necessary. How many times have such pressures been exerted on comrades to take trade union positions or become councillors? If we had succumbed to all these pressures at every stage we would have been in a complete mess.
50. We could have resisted putting up a candidate. After all we have a majority of the Broad Left. In 1985 we opposed correctly the establishment of an independent District Labour Party, and we convinced the comrades that it was an adventure. The same could have been done for this by-election. It would have been very difficult, but it was in 1985, and because of the arguments and the loyalty to the organisation, comrades accepted the decision then. And we were proved to be absolutely correct.
51. Another argument used by the EB majority to justify standing was it will give us a marvellous opportunity for a dialogue with the workers. Even if this was formally correct there are many ways to conduct a dialogue with the workers, on the NHS, poll tax, or unemployment, without jeopardising our future work in the mass organisations.
52. Standing independently under conditions of an imminent general election has created additional barriers to the class and will tend to alienate workers from us.
53. It was claimed at the time that, if we don't stand we would liquidate all that we have accomplished in Liverpool over the last ten years. A sense of proportion and balance has been thrown out of the window. If all our achievements hung on this decision to stand, then they must be extremely fragile in the eyes of the Liverpool working class. We do not believe this for one moment. It was part of the irresponsible hype that was used to stampede the NEB into supporting the decision. The whole session to decide on 40 years work lasted less than five hours in total and where most comrades were limited to five minutes!
54. The arguments for standing were completely exaggerated to get the decision rushed through with the least opposition. It was posed as a vote of confidence in the Liverpool comrades. The idea of a sober analysis, weighing up all the pros and cons went out the window.
55. Carried away with their own rhetoric, leading comrades talked of thousands prepared to sleep on the streets in order to participate in this battle! There would be a big surge towards the organisation if we stood. There could be a huge increase in membership in Liverpool: we could double or treble the ranks! Another comrade suggested a similar growth nationally. Those who opposed standing were labelled as quietists!
56. It was raised that this action was somehow the continuation of 1983-87. This is false. The standing of a Broad Left candidate at this stage does not necessarily follow from that experience. We were told it was the logic of the situations. Again it does not necessarily follow. Instead of resting the argument on the abstract logic of the situation (by which they meant the subjective mood of the activists) and the need for a dialectical approach, it would be far better to analyse soberly all the factors and processes - the weaknesses and strengths - developing locally and nationally, and to map out clearly the consequences for the organisation.