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Marxists and the British

Labour Party

The New Turn - A Threat To Forty Years Work


Minority Document


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Our Priorities

155. Our priority at the present time is not work in the Labour Party as such, although we have to say that it is frankly a bad state of affairs, which the leadership has not sufficiently attempted to correct, that many comrades, without being expelled, have bothered to renew their party cards. That fact alone shows how we have neglected to educate the newer members on perspectives for the Labour Party.

156. But still less is the main priority the proclamation of an open organisation in Scotland, or anywhere else.

157. The main priorities for the organisation at this moment in time are cadre-building, political education and systematic work in the unions and the youth. Moreover, these priorities must be translated by the leading bodies from conference resolutions into the day to day work of the whole organisation.

158. Despite all that is said about the objective situation, the undercurrent of discontent in the working class is shown by the beginning of a shift to the left in the unions. Regrettably, because of the one-sided concentration on the "turn", the attention of the organisation has been drawn away from the vital work in the unions, where we have made significant gains in the last period, and the possibility existing of even greater gains in the future. This work is of crucial importance, not only for building powerful points of support in the working class, but also as the key to the work in the Labour Party.

159. However, if the "turn" goes through, it will do untold damage to the work in the unions. We will find ourselves tarred with the same brush as the SWP and the other sects, particularly at the present time, in the run-up to a general election, when the big majority of trade union activists will support Labour.

160. The youth remains the key to our success and a fundamental pillar of our work. The closure of the official Labour Youth organisation created problems, but we have responded well with the setting up of an open youth organisation, which must be developed, organising campaigns in the factories, estates, schools and colleges.

161. The experience of open youth work is very appropriate to this discussion. Despite the sterling efforts of the youth comrades, the establishment of an open youth organisation has not led to a mass influx of youth, in England, Wales or Scotland.

162. "But what are we supposed to do with the comrades who are expelled?" we are asked. This is really an astonishing question. One would think that this is the first time in Britain and internationally that we have had comrades expelled!

163. There are many ways of answering this question. Over the years we have developed sufficiently flexible tactics to provide the necessary organisational forms and platforms of work for expelled comrades, without ever raising the idea of an independent organisation. There are a hundred and one variations: work in the trade unions, interventions in disputes and local struggles. In areas where other Labour Party members are expelled as well as comrades, expelled committees, clubs (as Trotsky advocated the establishment of "Lenin Clubs" in the 1930s), and so on could be formed to campaign for readmission and for socialist policies. These would be "front organisations", aimed at holding the expelled comrades together, while campaigning for readmission.

164. But what is being advocated here is something entirely different: the setting up of an independent organisation which would be a party in all but name.

165. The Greek comrades, who were all expelled, never set up an independent organisation, but continued to organise and work around the paper. They regularly campaigned for the PASOK candidates at elections, despite being expelled, which was undoubtedly an important factor which facilitated their readmission. Had they pursued the line of action being advocated here, the situation would have been very different.

166. The advocates of the "turn" are casting around in all directions to find justification for their false policy. One minute they argue that the Labour Party in general has suffered such a qualitative change that work inside is next to impossible. Next they argue that there are hundreds and thousands of workers and youth who are straining at the leash to join us, but will not do so because of our link with Labour. Both arguments are wrong, but clearly imply a general national turn in the direction of an open party/organisation.

167. On the other hand, they argue that "this is not a general turn, but just something which flows from "special conditions", for example in Liverpool or in Scotland. In relation to Scotland, the national question is put forward as one of the main reasons for the "turn". This argument needs to be examined more closely.

Nationalism In Scotland

168. This is not the place to deal with the national question in Scotland in general. We will have to return to this in future material. We limit ourselves here to touching on the national question only insofar as it affects the argument in favour of the Scottish "turn". Marxists have always taken the national question seriously. Even when the national question appeared to be solved in the British Isles, before the First World War, Lenin pointed out that even here it was not completely solved. That proved to be prophetic. Our tendency has already produced material on the national question in Scotland and Wales, which we would urge the comrades to go back to.

169. The advocates of the "turn" argue that in the event of a Labour government, on the basis of a policy of counter-reforms, the Scottish nationalists can grow, attracting layers of workers and youth in particular, on the basis of a demagogically radical programme. That the SNP might begin to grow on the basis of the betrayal of reformism is entirely possible. But the argument that we could somehow prevent this from happening by setting up an open organisation in Scotland is false from beginning to end. Only by the struggle to arm the labour movement with a correct policy can a movement towards nationalism be checked.

170. Here again, we must have a sense of proportion. In the whole of Scotland, we have at most 300 active comrades. That section of the youth who might gravitate to the SNP would not be attracted by a small revolutionary organisation. To imagine this is to live in cloud cuckoo land.

171. However, the comrades have raised an important question, which deserves to be answered. How do we reach those sections of radicalised petit-bourgeois and working class youth who move towards the SNP? The answer is clear. If we had clear evidence that significant layers of young people were active in the SNP, we should send people in. Even before this happens, we could spare a group of ten or a dozen comrades to have a look around. That is precisely a flexible and audacious way of reaching the nationalist youth. But the idea we could somehow compete with the SNP from the outside, by dint of "unfurling our banner" is ridiculous.

172. If it were so easy to win workers and youth in Scotland just by "unfurling our banner", why can't we get them to join us right now? What could we do with on open organisation that we cannot do at present? Where's the difference? The answer is clear: no difference whatsoever, other than that of a signboard with "independent organisation" or whatever, written on it. And this is seriously put forward as the way to cut the ground under the feet of the Scottish Nationalists!

173. In fact there is a big danger that the only way in which an open organisation would attract layers of youth with illusions in the SNP, would be to make concessions to their anti-Labour and nationalist sentiments. In this case we would not be recruiting to our organisation. They would be winning us to their prejudices. We should not forget how many times that Lenin, while recognising the genuine national sentiments of the oppressed nationalities, fought resolutely against any introduction of national divisions into the workers organisations, let alone the revolutionary party.

174. Incidentally, it now appears that some, at least, of the advocates of the "turn" in Wales are pressing for the setting up of an independent party, because of the alleged threat from Plaid Cymru! The fact that our active base in Wales in infinitely narrower than in Scotland is evidently no obstacle for putting forward such a notion. That shows precisely the mess we will find ourselves in if this "turn" is accepted.

 

 

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