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Marxists and the British

Labour Party

The New Turn – What Is the Alternative?


Minority Document


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How Will the Party move Left?

52) Are we proposing to bury our heads in the Labour Party? Absolutely not. The preparation for a new Labour government must mean a consistent, well-orchestrated drive to the trade unions. Industrial work must assume, not in words but in deeds, a vital cutting edge to the work of the organisation in the next period. The reaction to the counter-reforms of a Labour government will come first in the trade unions and industry. This will then become reflected in the Labour Party itself. We are likely to see a re-run of the radicalisation of 1977-81, but on a much higher level. Unfortunately, the new turn will completely undermine our position and isolate us from these shifts to the left in the Labour Party.

53) The comrades argue that we will all get back into the Labour Party later. However, according to the majority document "No one has advanced a rosy, abstract 'tidal wave' theory, with 'the Labour left welcoming us back with open arms.' This is the Minority's own invention." (For the Scottish Turn 285). Yet it is the original Scottish document that we read the following: "Moreover, when such a tidal wave takes place, it would become almost impossible for the forces of Marxism to be excluded from the Party." (Scotland, Perspectives and Tasks 37, our emphasis). Clearly the 'tidal wave' theory is not an invention of the minority, but expressed bluntly the tremendous difficulties of us getting back into the Party, unless there was a pre-revolutionary crisis in society.

54) In fact the Scottish document draws analogies with pre- revolutionary Spain and France in 1934. This, however, is a mechanical view of the formation of a left in the mass organisations. It will not be built in one big bang which allows all the expelled to be drawn back in. The left in the Labour Party will emerge through all sorts of partial struggles of the class over a period of time.

55) The view of the EB majority is contradicted by the latest edition of the theoretical journal (TJ). This says: "a new left wing would develop in the Labour Party but this time it would be a working class left, based on the trade unions, with our supporters to the fore. Then the majority who have been expelled today would return."(p 7-8 our emphasis).

56) Here everything seems so easy and simple. There is no talk of a tidal wave or a pre-revolutionary situation, only the development of a left wing. However, the bureaucracy has had more than 50 years experience in fighting infiltrations from the Stalinists and 40 years fighting the Trotskyists. Lists of expelled would be excluded. It would take big events to get us back in - if it was possible to make a second turn after being so long outside of the Labour Party. Moreover, even new comrades won in the future would be linked to the paper which would be seen as having broken from the Labour Party.

57) The tragedy is that as the left begins to develop we will still be outside of the party. We will have renounced participation in the formation of the left from the beginning. We would have handed it over to the left-reformists on a plate. Without the turn it is likely that we could have played a decisive role in the early stages of the left's development in the party. Now that will be closed off.

58) As for perspectives in the eventuality of a Tory election victory, we stand by the explanation given in the British Perspectives 1991 document:

"after a certain period of despair, particularly at the tops of the movement, it would prepare the way for massive class battles in industry, reflecting themselves in the unions and the Labour Party. There would be struggles both in the public and private sectors. One layer after another would be forced into battle to defend their living standards. The timing of these events is not possible to determine exactly. It could unfold within six or twelve months depending on the recession. A Labour defeat would see the likely removal of Kinnock as Labour leader and a battle open up for the succession. Under these conditions it could not be ruled out that a struggle within the apparatus of the party could trigger off a movement from below. This could serve to draw a layer of workers into the party." (British Perspectives 1991, 140, Our emphasis)

59) Yet according to the EB majority in the theoretical journal, less than six months after the above statement was endorsed, we read the opposite view: "If the Tories win the election ... there will be ructions in the Labour Party and the trade unions but this would not compel workers to move into activity in the party."(p8, our emphasis). What made us change our minds so radically in five months?

60) The EB majority is attempting to revise perspectives to play down any possibility of a leftward development in the Labour Party for 4 or 5 years or even 8 years according to some leading majority speakers. This delay, they maintain, is due to the counter-revolution undertaken by Kinnock and the elimination of party democracy. But wasn't this understood at the time of the national event last January? At that time we all agreed that: "The illusions that the Party leadership have settled matters by tying up the Labour Party constitution in order to try and guarantee a permanent right wing majority will be shattered by events"? (British Perspectives 1991 189). And again, "The laws of the class struggle are much stronger than the conspiracies, schemes and calculations of right-wing officials in the Labour Party and trade unions."(British Perspectives 1991 156). To justify their turn the leadership exaggerate the power of the Labour Party bureaucracy to hold back the tide of events, as if their will alone will forever determine the character of the Labour Party. One leading comrade in Wales, even went as far as comparing Kinnock's grip on the Labour Party to the grip Stalin held on the CPSU!

61) To shore up their proposals, those in favour of the turn have raised the example of Greece to show how expelled comrades can be readmitted. All the Greek comrades were expelled in the mid 1970s from PASOK. They were recently readmitted into the party by a groundswell towards the left. However what is important from the Greek experience is the fact that they did not set up an open revolutionary organisation/party - despite the fact they were all expelled. They were always considered supporters of the Marxist paper and expelled members of PASOK.

62) Their "open" work, referred to in the 'majority’ document, (For the Scottish Turn 279), did not constitute declaring an open revolutionary party on the lines of the Scottish Turn but was on the lines of our past work. They did not stand in any general election against PASOK but on the contrary campaigned energetically for PASOK candidates. We did stand as independents in local elections, twice. However, the traditions in Greece are entirely different to Britain. In the local elections there is a tradition of many independent candidates who stand against the PASOK slate. Often they win and are then invited to join PASOK. No one has been expelled in Greece for standing independently in local elections. In Sweden and Ireland the comrades stood independently in local elections where list and proportional representation electoral systems meant there was no danger of splitting the vote. In Britain, the proposed 'turn' would place us in a totally different position, and establish barriers between ourselves and the Labour workers.

As an aside, the attempt to justify the turn by publishing AW's comments on Spain is completely false from beginning to end. The material relates to the concrete conditions and circumstances in Spain, at a time when there had been a right wing Socialist Party government in power for almost a decade and where virtually all the comrades have been expelled from PSOE for ten years. How can this possibly compare with the situation in Britain with 220 expulsions, 11 years of Tory government and standing on the eve of a general election.

63) The comrades argue that we were fully justified in standing in Walton because of the special conditions in Liverpool and the attacks by the right wing council on the achievements of the 47.

'The key consideration for supporters at each stage was how best to defend the gains made by the 47 and preserve the morale and combatively of the most advanced Liverpool workers." (Theoretical Journal p6)

64) According to the EB majority document Kilfoyle personified the "counter-revolution". "To have given Kilfoyle a clear run would have been seen as an ignominious retreat." "the balance sheet of the campaign entirely justifies our decision..." (For the Scottish Turn 166).

65) There are many individuals - particularly in the PLP -who personify the "counter-revolution" in the Labour Party and the abandonment of the principles of socialism and the class struggle, but we have never suggested that the way we fight them is to stand against them in elections. What is going to happen in the general election - are we now going to stand again against Kilfoyle so that he does not get a "clear run"? After all does he not still represent the "counter-revolution" in Liverpool?

66) If it would have been "criminal" and a "dereliction of duty" not to stand in June, as the paper said at the time, then the same would apply in the general election. However the comrades are rather cool about this idea now after the experience of the bye-election. They realise that the result would be far worse in the general election. How does all this experience help defend the gains of the 47?

67) The comrades talk about the balance sheet being justified. Yet it is clear we completely misjudged the mood of the class, hoping the reformist trade union leaders locally would escalate the industrial action against the council. We also misjudged the way the working class themselves saw the bye-election. The comrades hoped it would be a repeat of the May elections, despite the warnings of the Opposition at the time. The vote itself showed the way the workers viewed both elections completely differently. In the May elections, the Broad Left candidates, as well as being closely linked with the fight against cuts and redundancies, were seen as the legitimate Labour candidates. The imposed official candidates were completely identified with the counter-reforms of the Council. That is why in the one ward in Walton where the Broad Left stood in May, in Anfield, the Broad Left candidate got 1,600 votes and Labour came third. And yet in the bye-election we managed to get just 1,000 more votes throughout the whole constituency, despite all the resources that were put in to win the seat.

68) The workers in Walton did not want to undermine Labour's chances at the approaching general election. We warned of this beforehand, but the comrades were blinded by their feelings towards Kilfoyle and did not take a rounded out view of the situation and the implications that flowed from it.

69) But the leadership suggested victory was possible to the rank and file comrades. We were told things were neck and neck. PT stated we would get 10-15-20,000 votes. FC believed we were heading for another by-election defeat for Labour similar to Govan. As a result of these high expectations, the target for growth was doubling or trebling the ranks in Liverpool. BI went as far as to put forward the doubling and trebling of the ranks nationally. Where did all this appear on the balance sheet'?

70) DC (Liverpool) in the paper stated that the struggle was between Labour and Real Labour, that the Liberals were a spent force. Yet on the day, there was a 13% swing to the Liberal Democrats who came second. In fact if we had picked up an extra 6,000 votes from Labour (which the comrades hoped for), it would have resulted in victory for the Liberal Democrats!

71) In June DC explained in the paper: "Now a genuine workers party is in the making (the Broad Left)...But the official party is withering on the vine. It will have no activists and declining support." He also agreed in the paper in April with Eric Heffer's statement that "without the left the Labour Party would 'become like the dodo -extinct'". This completely underestimates the colossal reserves of support the Labour Party has not only nationally but in Liverpool. Without the left, the Labour Party will probably gain over 10 million votes in the next election. It is far from extinct or declining in support. Whereas the "genuine workers party", the Broad Left, as the Opposition we predicted in June, has already split in Liverpool after a few months.

72) In the paper, the whole tone was of a great success in Walton. "2,600 Votes For Socialism" was the banner headline. There was no mention of a defeat. The stand of the Broad Left against Labour has even been compared in the paper to Keir Hardie's stand against the Liberal Party in the period before the formation of the Labour Party. This comparison was made in the paper without any qualification. The clear implication - which will seriously miseducate newer comrades - is that the Broad Left is the 'new' Labour Party replacing the old 'Liberal' Labour Party. How can the present Labour Party be seriously compared with the major capitalist party of the last century? Again there is an attempt to blur the class character of the Labour Party to justify the "fundamental" change in its character. Ever since the election there has been an attempt to re-write the history of Walton and play down what was promised and what was really achieved.

73) To say that if the Broad Left didn't stand, that our position was to give full support to Kilfoyle is a complete distortion. What have we done in every general election or bye-election in the past. For us it is a class question of supporting the Labour Party against the bourgeois parties, irrespective of their candidates. But this is not unconditional. We should have campaigned (independently) for a Labour vote, an immediate general election and Labour to power on a socialist programme. We would have firmly criticised Kilfoyle's programme and record, and put forward our own. This is exactly what we would do in a general election. What else are the comrades suggesting - abstention, or what? They remain embarrassingly silent over this issue as they don't like to admit that Kilfoyle will be given "a clear run" and we will have to give him critical support.

75) Walton provided the political climate to move against our public representatives. You won't find it on the charge sheet, but it was made clear at the time that this constituted the key opportunity to move against us. As the "Independent" (26 September, 1991) explained, "the (Labour) leadership is adamant it was the challenge by a Broad Left candidate against the official Labour candidate in the Walton by- election that galvanised Labour into rooting out remaining militants out of the party."

 

 

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