Marxists and the British
The New Turn - A Threat To Forty Years Work
73. For the past decade the main part of our work has been outside the Labour Party. We have been pursuing, in effect, an independent, or semi-independent tactic. What else was the meaning of the anti-poll tax campaign? The advanced workers know perfectly well that we are an organised group. If they have not joined us in greater numbers in the last period, this has not been because we had Labour Party cards in our pockets, but for entirely different reasons - mainly because they understood that the class as a whole has not yet begun to move on the political plane. They sympathise with our ideas, but see us as a small revolutionary organisation. They understand the colossal task which still lies ahead to transform this into a real mass force capable of changing society.
74. But the main reason for our slow growth has been the lack of trained cadres capable of explaining our perspectives and convincing workers and youth. The complexities of the present world situation means that it is not possible to win people (as it was in other times) on the basis of a couple of slogans. It is necessary, in Lenin's phrase, to patiently explain our general ideas, programme and perspectives. The idea that the workers and youth on our periphery would readily join if only we broke our link with the Labour Party is demonstrably untrue. In reality, it would be more difficult, not easier to recruit and consolidate them.
75. The comrades argue that it is necessary to take decisive action even if there is not 100 per cent certainty that there are no risks involved in making the turn. But there are risks and there are risks. To throw away the accumulated capital of 40 years work on the basis of a gamble would be the height of irresponsibility. We have taken, and will take, decisive action - as in the struggle in Liverpool and the poll tax. But that did not entail a tactic which would inevitably lead to all our forces being emptied out of the Labour Party. If the Scottish turn is implemented that would not be merely a risk but a certainty.
Implications Of The Turn
76. Nor would it be possible to limit this turn to Scotland alone, as some have argued. The authors of the document themselves admit that the outcome of this discussion will also have far-reaching implications for the tendency elsewhere in Britain and even internationally, (para 1.)
77. That, by the way, is an argument in favour of having a calm and unhurried discussion, giving every point of view a fair hearing, not rushing through the discussion before the members have had a chance to fully digest the differences.
78. This is especially the case as differences only emerged clearly once it became clear that what was being proposed was not an extension of our previous open work, but the formation of an open organisation which may stand independent candidates against the Labour Party.
79. After the setting up of an open organisation in Scotland (whether it is formally called a party or not is not decisive, as was stated at the NEB. In practice it would amount to the same thing) the results would immediately be felt in the rest of Britain.
80. To demonstrate the sheer impossibility of maintaining two separate tactics, north and south of the border, it is sufficient to consider just one thing: the line of the paper. If the paper gave support to independent candidates in Scotland, it would be impossible for comrades still in the Labour Party elsewhere to use the paper. Furthermore, there is already strong support amongst leading comrades in other parts of the country to advocate the same turn. Thus, we would be dragged down the road of an independent party.
81. The advocates of the turn vehemently objected when we accused them of adopting a policy of an independent party by instalments. But this is just what their ideas add up to.
82. The advocates of the Scottish turn allege the existence of specific conditions in Scotland, which do not apply elsewhere. The same argument about special conditions in Liverpool was used yesterday to justify the Walton turn and we predict that tomorrow, we will be told about special conditions in Wales, Birmingham, London and elsewhere to justify the same things.
83. It cannot be denied that every area has special conditions which must be borne in mind. After all, in Scotland and Wales we have the national question which we must address ourselves to.
84. However, the comrades must prove to us that the specific conditions they refer to are sufficient justification for breaking with the entry tactic, not just in their area, but throughout Britain. To date, we have heard no serious argument which would justify this.
Moods Of Impatience
85. We believe that the argument in favour of the turn in both Liverpool and Scotland is a reflection of a certain mood of impatience and frustration on the part of some of the comrades, for the slowness of our growth, despite the success of the anti-poll tax campaign.
86. But impatience is a notoriously bad counsellor, leading inevitably to errors of an ultra-left or opportunist character. The supporters of the turn are looking for something which does not exist - easy solutions, shortcuts, organisational panaceas - to solve complex political problems. That is the easy road to disaster.
87. In reality, we could and should have grown far more as a result of our interventions on one condition: that more attention had been paid to political education, cadre-building and consolidation. In the absence of this, we have inevitably had a revolving-door syndrome, with new recruits entering by the front door and rapidly leaving by the back.
88. It was not wrong to recruit raw workers and youth. But it was entirely short-sighted to imagine that we could hold them on the basis of a steady diet of slogans, activism and campaigns, without attending to their political education.
89. It is undeniable that the general political level of the organisation has gone down considerably in recent years. That fact is unfortunately reflected in the present discussion, where the fundamental ideas of the tendency have been lost sight of.
90. Under the guise of putting forward allegedly new ideas (which are not new at all), the advocates of the turn have forgotten the fundamental propositions of Marxism in relation to the mass organisations.
91. When we contemplate a major turn then it is necessary to re-state the fundamentals.
92. The advocates of the turn continuously claim that the Labour Party has changed. What does the change consist of? The Scottish document says:
a) The prolonged economic upswing of the 1980s, which has only now come to an end, and the disintegration of Stalinism have combined to help shift the balance of forces within the labour movement decisively in favour of the openly pro-capitalist right wing, (para 14)
b) Left reformism, which for decades commanded considerable support within the labour movement, has for now been routed.
c) The collapse of the left has enabled Kinnock and his cohorts to move the Labour Party closer to the model of PSOE in Spain and even the American Democratic Party. (para 17)
d) Kinnock's Stalinist-style regime seeks to ruthlessly root out heretics who refuse to conform to the new image, (para 18)
And the authors of the document conclude that clearly, there has not taken place merely a shift to the right. There has been a fundamental change in the situation which cannot be ignored or underestimated, (para 19) (Our emphasis throughout [Editor's note: No emphasis in the original])