Marxists and the British
The New Turn - A Threat To Forty Years Work
117. Timing is of the essence in politics in general and tactical turns in particular. Yet they decide to put up independent candidates against official Labour on the eve of a general election after a period of twelve years of Tory government, when the overwhelming majority of workers (and youth) will be looking towards the Labour Party, despite the crimes of Kinnock, for an alternative.
118. It is not just a question of how this would be seen inside the party, which in many, but not all, areas is virtually empty -although that will change. Despite the entirely false attempt to portray the opponents of the "turn" as "deep entrists"(!) buried in the Labour Party, there is no disagreement that the big majority of our work at this stage has to be outside the Labour Party, in the unions, in the factories and on the estates.
119. However, there are thousands of workers who are not at present active in the Labour Party who nevertheless looked towards us as being, in effect, the Marxist wing of the Labour Party, even though they knew we had a separate organisation (they also knew why we denied it).
120. Whatever our wishes, once we set up an open organisation and stand candidates, we will be seen to have broken with the Labour Party, and the colossal wealth of sympathy we have built up will be squandered. It is true that we can pick up individual workers who have moved a bit ahead of their class, although we will not retain them once they see that the promise of rapid growth as an open organisation fails to materialise. But for every one who we win, there will be ten, fifty, a hundred who will be repelled by the "turn". They will see little difference between us and, say, the SWP. This will especially be the case in the trade unions, the shop stewards committees and amongst the activists in the broad lefts.
121. Moreover, we will give the Labour bureaucracy a perfect excuse to empty all our comrades out of the Labour Party. The fact is that, until now, despite all their efforts, the bureaucracy has only succeeded in expelling about 250 comrades. And most Labour workers were opposed to the witchhunt. Now, however, their attitude will be "We're very sorry, but you've left the party. You've got your own canoe: so now you can paddle it!"
122. "Ah", the comrades say "but it will be easy to get back into the Labour Party once there is a "tidal wave" towards the left, we will be triumphantly reinstated". Alas, the comrades are fooling themselves on this question also. The creation of a mass left wing inside the Labour Party will not be on the basis of a "big bang" or a "tidal wave". More likely it will take place over a period, with ebbs and flows, reflecting all kinds of partial struggles in society.
123. Had we remained inside the party, those radicalised workers who moved in would undoubtedly gravitate to us, in preference to the middle class trendy lefts. Having abandoned the positions won over a long period, we will, in effect hand over control of the left wing, at least in the crucial early stages, to the Bennites and others.
124. However, it would be an illusion to think that these official "lefts" would be more friendly towards expelled Trotskyists than the right wing. They fear us as the Devil fears holy water. While mouthing left phrases, they would do everything in their power to keep us out.
125. In any event, by forfeiting the possibility of participating in the creation of the left from the beginning, we will have created a rod for our own back - and that of the working class .All this would be unnecessary if we just kept our heads and concentrated on building on the positions already won.
126. The light-mindedness of the position advocated by these comrades is shown up in relation to our public representatives. The gains on the electoral plane represented an historic conquest, the importance of which cannot be overstated. It took years of effort to achieve this position. Yet these gains have now been placed in jeopardy, and the situation would be even more serious if we were to go ahead with the turn in Scotland.
127. The argument that 'we would have lost them anyway' is absolutely staggering. Trotsky pointed out that a revolutionary who is not capable of defending gains made in the past will never be capable of carrying through the socialist revolution in the future. This argument is precisely the kind of 'quietism', defeatism and fatalism which the advocates of the 'turn' quite falsely attribute to ourselves.
128. The fact that the bureaucracy is striving to remove them is nothing new - the LP bureaucracy have sought this many times in the last few years, including conducting detailed inquiries. Yet, until now, each time they have pulled back, fearful of the unknown consequences. But the answer is not to hand them over to Kinnock on a plate, but to fight to retain them. To lose such an important gain would be a serious setback. To lose it out of sheer irresponsibility is unforgivable. And for what? For a few thousand votes or fifty new comrades? The whole thing shows that the comrades have not thought their arguments through to the end. They should therefore stop, reconsider, and have the courage to recognise that a mistake has been made, before the situation reaches the point of no return.