Marxists and the British
The New Turn - A Threat To Forty Years Work
57. The example of the Spanish comrades standing an independent candidate was also dragged in by the hair to justify the situation in Liverpool. To begin with the situation is entirely different to Spain and the position of the Spanish organisation. Almost all the Spanish comrades have been expelled from PSOE for the last ten years. In Spain you have a right-wing socialist government in power. Furthermore, the comrades in Alava stood in a regional election (for the Basque parliament). The decision to stand was taken after the entire UGT trade union organisation in Alava, led by us, was disaffiliated by the bureaucracy, the comrades were already expelled from the Socialist Party.
58. What has that got to do with the present situation in Britain, where, despite all the efforts of the bureaucracy, only about 250 comrades have been expelled? Far from having a right-wing socialist government in power, we have had eleven years of Tory government and are on the eve of a general election, when inevitably the thoughts of the workers will centre upon the election of the Labour Party, despite the aversion of many workers towards Kinnock and the right-wing.
59. The analogy is false from beginning to end. Furthermore, the Alava comrades, having waged a brilliant campaign, got only a similar amount of votes to the Walton result. Unlike the British leadership, the Spanish comrades drew the necessary conclusions, and have not attempted to repeat the experience.
60. The Walton result has now been presented as proof of the need to implement the Scottish turn! The consequences of this behaviour are extremely grave for the entire organisation if they are not corrected in time.
The Scottish Turn
61. The Walton turn was a serious mistake, but one which could have been corrected. Instead, by insisting on calling a defeat a victory, the comrades are preparing the way for an even bigger mistake in Scotland - one which can have disastrous consequences for the organisation in Britain, and even internationally.
62. The document on the Scottish turn says quite correctly that history is littered with the corpses of would-be revolutionary groups who have run aground on the rock of ultra-leftism. Unfortunately, the course of action advocated, if adopted, would end up in just such a shipwreck.
63. For decades we have, through patient and painstaking work, built up a solid base and tradition in the mass organisations. This has given us a priceless advantage, and is one of the main things that set us apart from the sectarians who inhabit the fringes of the labour movement.
64. It is not merely a formal question of work in the Labour Party. Our work in the actual party structures has been minimal in recent years. In practice, we have been pursuing independent or semi-independent work, while maintaining the vital link to the Labour Party. This has enabled us to get the advantage of both independent work and maintaining a presence in the Labour Party. The importance of this presence lies not in present gains, but in the future, when the radicalisation of the working class inevitably finds its expression, first on the industrial plane, then on the political plane with the formation of a mass left wing inside the Labour Party.
65. Our work over decades has been a preparation for this. We have succeeded in establishing a unique position within the Labour movement, which is fundamental for the future perspective. All this is now threatened by the proposed turn.
66. Despite all the claims to the contrary, the Scottish turn would represent a fundamental break with the methods of the past. The advocates of the turn allege the need for tactical flexibility and improvisation. This has been the basis of our work for many years. But at no time have we sacrificed our long-term strategic goals for ephemeral short-term gains.
67. Tactics are decided by concrete conditions, but must always be weighed against long-term considerations. Tactics are subordinate to strategy. However, even on tactical grounds, the case for the turn is false from start to finish. It is an attempt to find a shortcut to solve the problems of party building: a desire to reap where we have not sown. It will end up in ultra-leftism, opportunism or a mixture of both.
Has There Been A Fundamental Change In The Labour Party?
68. What are the concrete conditions in Britain at the present time? It is true that the Labour Party has swung to the right (not for the first time), reflecting a general swing to the right within society in the advanced capitalist countries over the past decade. Conditions for work in the Labour Party are more difficult. However, that does not signify a qualitative change as the advocates of the turn imagine. Nor does the fall in individual membership of the Labour Party, or changes to internal party structures.
69. To complain that the Party Conference no longer controls the Labour Party and that the Labour Party is now controlled by the Kinnock clique is to look at the Labour Party of the past through rose tinted glasses. Although gains were made in the early 1980s on the issues of party democracy, the machinery still remained in the hands of the bureaucracy and even then was dominated by the right wing Parliamentary Labour Party. For Marxists, changes in the structure of the Labour Party are not the decisive question.
70. As long as the basic link with the unions remains, it is wrong to speak of a qualitative change in the nature of the Labour Party. This particular melody has been sung by all the sects for decades. We should not join in this chorus now.
71. Flowing from this false idea that a fundamental or qualitative change has taken place, extremely serious errors of a theoretical character have been allowed to creep into the paper - such as the statement that without the left-wing the Labour Party will become as extinct as the dodo, or superficial comparisons with the American Democrats (a capitalist party).
72. Over many decades the Labour Party has gone through all kinds of transformations, to the left and to the right, reflecting the ebbs and flows of consciousness of the class. The move to the right merely reflects that at this stage the bulk of the workers have not moved onto the political plane. They are not active in the Labour Party. But neither are they active in any other political organisation. To imagine that there is a huge constituency of workers and youth (whether in Scotland or anywhere else) just waiting to join us the moment we leave the Labour Party is false from beginning to end. As long as the umbilical cord linking Labour to the unions remains unbroken, the Labour Party will remain the organised political expression of the working class. This is irrespective of whether it is led by Neil Kinnock, Tony Benn, or anyone else.