Marxists and the British
The 'Open Turn' Debate
For The Scottish Turn: Against Dogmatic Methods In Thought And Action
in reply to the minority
1. The debate on the Scottish turn and Walton has revealed two distinct trends within the leadership.
2. One, a minority, says that we should remain in the Labour Party at all costs. In reality, this means at the price of retreating politically and abandoning past gains.
3. The other, the majority, proposes that we should conduct bold, audacious independent work, especially in Scotland, to extend and deepen our independent work of the last few years. The Majority is in no way abandoning a long-term orientation towards the Labour Party, which remains the traditional party of the working class in Britain. We are not urging comrades to leave the party either in England and Wales or in Scotland. But in the face of a blockage within the Labour Party, created by the right-wing Kinnock leadership at the present time, we have to continue to develop independent work and not allow our distinct political identity to be submerged through fear of expulsions. In Scotland, because of the situation which is now developing, we propose a bold, open detour in order to strengthen our forces.
4. We are confident that, on the basis of a thorough discussion of the issues involved, the overwhelming majority of our ranks will support the position of the majority of the NEB.
5. The Minority's document masquerades as a defence of entrism, while in fact putting a one-sided, dogmatic, ossified approach to the traditional organisations. Despite the denial, the Minority treats Labour Party work as "an eternal principle set in stone". (The New Turn - a threat 29) "Forty years' work" is used as an incantation. Most of the document could have been written at any time during the last forty years. There is no serious attempt to apply the lessons of the experience of entrism over sixty years, to relate our strategy and tactics to perspectives for the next period, or to discuss the concrete conditions which face us at the present time.
6. The Minority is opposed to the new turn in Scotland. Yet they conspicuously fail to analyse the situation in Scotland. (The New Turn - a threat 61-67) Moreover, they brazenly side-step any analysis of the development of nationalism and the problems it poses for a Marxist tendency. (The New Turn - a threat 168-174) The Minority starts, not from objective conditions, but from the categorical assertion that we must continue our past tactics. Their document then attempts to justify this with a series of generalities, variations of which are intoned throughout the document. This approach is a lamentable departure from the Marxist method.
7. The authors write as if they were expounding self-evident truths. But nowhere do they provide a survey of the political terrain we have covered in the past few years. There is no attempt to map out a path for the tendency over the next period.
8. The Minority are attempting to frighten comrades: If we abandon the "tried and tested" methods of four decades, we will end up in an ultra-left limbo, if not a sectarian hell. Instead of arguments, scare words are repeated time and again: ultra- left/ism 19 times, adventure/istic ten times, sectarian five times, mis-education five times, and so on. Presumably this is on the principle that if you repeat things often enough they will have some influence on people.
9. They also claim that there has been an attempt to "push through" the new turn. There is no justification for this allegation. When the proposals for new tactics were put forward in April, not one leading comrade opposed them. Plans were made for a thorough discussion throughout the tendency before any firm decisions would be taken. There was no lack of democracy. Only later did the leading comrades of the Minority come out in opposition to the majority, subsequently opposing the Walton campaign and the Scottish turn. There will be a thorough, democratic debate on all the issues they have raised.
10. The debate goes far beyond the issue of the Labour Party and entrism. It involves questions of perspectives.
A changed situation
11. As compared to the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, we face a profoundly changed situation. The long post-war economic upswing came to an end with the slump of 1974. The relatively stable relationships which prevailed during the boom period began to break down. During the 1980s, there was a catastrophic decline in the under-developed countries, giving rise to sharpened social crisis and creating the conditions for tumultuous revolutionary upheavals in the next period.
12. In the West, however, for a number of reasons, the advanced capitalist countries experienced boom from 1981 until the present. It has been a distorted, lopsided boom, accompanied by a polarisation of the classes, the growth of mass unemployment and poverty, and the beginning of the breakdown of society. Moreover, the boom is beginning to exhaust itself, and all the conditions of a new period of crisis and upheaval are being prepared beneath the surface.
13. However, on the basis of the Thatcher-Reagan boom, the Labour leaders have swung even further to the right, repudiating socialism, abandoning even the reform policies of the past, and openly embracing the market, that is, capitalism. Kinnockism developed as the counterpart of Thatcherism. The Labour leaders are no longer prepared to defend even basic trade union rights and have in many cases openly opposed workers' struggles, as in the miners' strike and in Liverpool. This is an international trend, with the Labour leaders in Spain, France, Germany and elsewhere moving in a similar direction.
14. We do not accept, however, the Minority's claim that "the Labour Party has swung to the right... reflecting a general swing to the right within society in the advanced capitalist countries over the past decade." (The New Turn - a threat 68) This is a one-sided, incorrect explanation. Prior to this debate, the leaders of the Minority would have emphatically rejected this point as an analysis reflecting a pessimistic lack of confidence in the working class. The miners' strike, the Liverpool battle, and the anti-poll tax movement all demonstrate the determination of workers to move into struggle. It is the obstacle of the right-wing Labour and trade union leaders themselves, together with the weakness at this stage of the forces of Marxism, the vital subjective factor, which has been a crucial factor in the industrial and political defeats of the last period.
15. Nevertheless, this rightward shift of the Labour leaders, under the impact of capitalist triumphalism in the 1980s, has been accentuated by the US victory in the Gulf -and above all, by the collapse in Stalinism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. Like the capitalists themselves, Labour leaders see this as 'the death of socialism', the end of the idea of a planned economy, rather than the death-agony of Stalinism, a grotesque distortion of socialism.
16. The events in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union will undoubtedly give the capitalists a temporary access of confidence, despite their growing problems at home. However, in the long run, it will clear away Stalinism and its political apologists in the labour movement in the West, which in the past were enormous obstacles to the acceptance of Marxist ideas by wider layers of workers. What is happening in the East at the moment is clearing the ground for the real defenders of Marxism. We alone defend the revolutionary role of the working class, internationalism, and a socialist (as opposed to a Stalinist) planned economy on the basis of democratic workers' management and control.
17. Conditions determine consciousness, and these changes have inevitably had a big effect on the working class. The older layer of workers, with experience of activity within the Labour Party and trade unions, retain a loyalty to those organisations, al-though many are bitterly disappointed and disgusted by the current leadership and have dropped out of activity.
18. At the same time, there is a new generation of younger workers, who have grown up during the Thatcher era and whose view of the labour movement is conditioned by Kinnock and the right-wing trade union leaders. In industrial struggles, workers have not only come into conflict with the bosses but in many cases with their own trade union leaders, especially since the leadership embraced 'new realism' and after the defeat of the miners' strike. The trade union leaders have generally supported Kinnockism and used the weight of the official apparatus to prevent industrial action, obliging sections of workers to rely on their own ad hoc rank-and-file organisations.
19. In Liverpool, workers confronted not only the Tory government and its appendages (the district auditor, the courts, etc) but the Labour leaders, who collaborated with Tory ministers to launch a counter-revolution against the people of Liverpool and its Marxist-led council. In the anti-poll tax struggle, workers face the opposition of the Labour leaders, and today non-payers are being jailed by Labour councillors.
20. It still remains true that, when the workers move onto the political arena, they will turn towards the Labour Party. At a certain stage, on the basis of big events, a new generation of workers will move into the Labour Party and begin the task of reclaiming it for the working class. At the moment, however, workers and especially the youth are not active within the Labour Party.
21. In the period before the general election, a strong anti-Tory mood may well produce a swing towards the Labour Party on an electoral plane. But many workers are repelled by the openly pro-capitalist policies pursued by the leadership at a time of growing social crisis. There are different layers of the working class, with different levels of consciousness and varying political moods. Our strategy and tactics must take account of this.
22. To reach the generation of the 1990s, especially the young workers in the workplaces, we have to raise high our own Marxist banner. If we start from the requirement that we must keep, our Labour Party cards at all costs then our banner will actually fade from view.
23. Who can deny that the situation we face internationally and in Britain is a complex one? Conditions are very fluid and can change rapidly.
24. We must implacably defend our programme and principles but we have to respond to developments with flexible tactics. This is not the 1950s, when conditions were relatively stable and a tactic could be pursued for a long period with only minor variations. Today, we cannot afford merely to cling to old formulas and turn them into rigid dogmas.
25. Had we done so in the last few years, we would have been clinging to restricted, ineffective Labour Youth meetings and empty Labour Party meetings. We would not have boldly led the anti-poll tax struggle. And now we would be advising councillors and MPs to pay up to avoid expulsion. We would have missed out on the marvellous gains we have made over the last few years.
26. We need clear perspectives, and we need correct strategy and tactics to carry them into action. Our task is to build the tendency and extend its influence. To achieve this, the turn we propose is vital.
27. To this, the Minority say: No, it is too risky. Let's hold on to our positions, keep our heads down, educate ourselves - and wait for better times. This, at bottom, is their line. Apart from being a passive, quietist approach which is alien to the fighting spirit of Marxism, this line, as we will show, fails to understand the situation which faces us. It fails to spell out any strategy and tactics that would enable us to build the tendency in the next few years.
28. "Every political turn poses a certain element of danger," wrote Trotsky (Writings: Supplement, 1929-33, p229). "However, it is much more dangerous to repeat old by-passed formulas in a new situation because of fear of such dangers."
Our orientation towards the traditional organisations and the question of entrism
29. The tactic of entry of Marxist groups into the Social Democratic parties was first raised by Trotsky in 1933-34. After the victory of Hitler in 1933, Trotsky drew the conclusion that it was no longer possible to work for the regeneration of the Communist Parties. Dominated by the Stalinist bureaucracy, the Communist Parties had become agents of Stalin's foreign policy. The criminal policies dictated by Moscow paved the way for the victory of fascism. The perspective put forward by the Communist International after 1919, for the Communist Parties to establish themselves as mass revolutionary organisations and break the mass influence of the reformist parties, was no longer viable. Trotsky came out for the creation of new revolutionary parties. However, the weakness of the Trotskyists made it vital to orientate towards the traditional reformist parties, which the Stalinist Communist Parties had failed to displace, and also to the Stalinist parties themselves.
30. For Marxists, the crucial problem of strategy and tactics is this: How can a revolutionary minority win the support of the majority of the working class and other exploited layers, particularly given the hold of the traditional mass parties over large sections of workers? In the conditions which existed in France, Belgium, Britain, and elsewhere in the 1930s, Trotsky argued that they should enter the traditional parties.
31. This tactic was based on the experience of 1918-20 when the mass Communist parties were formed on the basis of forces that largely emerged from the crisis-ridden Social Democratic parties.
32. At that time, Trotsky saw entrism as a short-term tactic: under conditions of a revolutionary or pre-revolutionary crisis in society, there would be a crisis within the Social Democracy, with the development of a mass left-wing. With the correct tactics, a small Marxist organisation could, under these conditions, rapidly grow and gain a decisive influence over the working class.
33. Trotsky's proposals for entry, however, did not gain immediate acceptance within the Trotskyist movement. Trotsky had to wage a political battle to convince the ranks, many of whom clung to the old formula of building separate revolutionary parties outside the traditional mass parties.
34. There are certain analogies with the current debate in our own tendency. In the opposite direction from now, Trotsky had to combat those within the movement who reflected the inertia of the past, clung to "tried and tested methods", and who feared the dangers of a new turn rather than recognising the opportunities which could be opened up.
35. In 1934, Trotsky wrote: "We can see that history makes use of more colours than just red and yellow. It possesses transitional shades and the art of politics consists in discerning them in order to influence their change by the appropriate means." (Writings: Supplement, 2934-40, p557) At the same time, Trotsky recognised that a new turn "occasioned by a change in the objective situation" could have "a profound impact on the organisation, whose mood reflects the previous period."
36. Trotsky always adopted a flexible approach on tactics, and fought any tendency to elevate the tactics of the past into a principle. Tactics are worked out on the basis of perspectives, strategic orientation and the concrete conditions currently facing the Marxists. To argue for the continuation of a tactic simply on the grounds that it has been tried and tested over forty years goes entirely against this method.
The conditions of entry
37. Why do the Minority repeatedly refer to "forty years"? Why not to "sixty years"? Why do they make no analysis of the whole experience of entrism and open work, internationally as well as in Britain, since the 1930s? In Britain, the Trotskyists conducted entry both in the Independent Labour Party and in the Labour Party before the Second World War. During the Second World War, our tendency conducted mainly open work. In 1945-49 there was a debate within the Revolutionary Communist Party over the question of entrism. Why is this not referred to?
38. And why the repetition of "forty years' work" without any analysis of the changing conditions over that period, and the variations of the entrist tactic during that time?
39. The Minority evidently stress "forty years" because our tendency has conducted entry work in the Labour Party since the 1950s. But there is no examination of the conditions for entry at that time, and the discussion that preceded it. The Minority refers to Trotsky's conditions of entry (The New Turn - a threat 175), but then say: "For the whole of that time, the classical conditions for entrism, laid down by Trotsky, have been absent." The Minority refers to entry as a long-term tactic. In the current discussion, the leaders of the Minority have stated that the long-term tactic pursued over the last four decades has nothing in common with the entrism advocated by Trotsky in the 1930s. But they give no explanation for this innovation.
40. How did entrism come about in 1949? Until that time, the section of the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) remained primarily an open organisation, conducting open work. In reality, complete entry came about because of the disintegration of the RCP, and because the majority of the RCP leaders went over to Labour Party entry under the pressure of the strengthening of reformism and Stalinism which took place at the beginning of the post-war period. At that time, EG considered that the tactic was incorrect, and reluctantly acquiesced to entry into the Labour Party.
41. It is not possible in this document to give a detailed history of the discussion over entrism. However, some of the key points of the discussion must be brought out, while a full account can be left to later material. In a lead-off on the history of the tendency, EG stated:
42. EG was opposed to entry. But on the grounds that the majority of the leadership was in favour of entry into the Labour Party he took the position that "a struggle would be sterile." A Letter to the members, Spring 1949, signed by EG, said :"With the development of the labour movement and the tendency within it at the present time, it is possible that entry would have to be undertaken in any event in a few years hence. The historical tendency in the labour movement has been for the Labour Party to reflect the developments taking place within the working class."
43. This was the pragmatic origin of the forty years' work! At least the letter also stated: "Entry is a tactical issue and does not involve questions of principle. Above all, it is necessary to maintain a due sense of proportion and to see the problem as purely a practical one as to the best method of deployment of the forces we possess." That was the EG of 1950. There is a marked contrast with the EG of today, who at the July meeting of the NEB declared that entrism was a "principle".
44. In 1950, EG had not forgotten the experience of the Trotskyist movement and the 1945-49 RCP debate when the leadership of the International, which had lost its bearings after the death of Trotsky, together with Healy in Britain, had argued for entry on an incorrect, opportunist basis.
45. The whole debate is worthy of thorough study in relation to the present debate within the tendency. There is not space for that in this document. However, we can refer to some key issues which are relevant to the current debate.
Orientation and tactics
46. For instance, in 1946 the International leadership called on the RCP to enter the Labour Party. This was on the basis of the completely false perspective of an imminent economic and political crisis.
47. The real situation in Britain, a statement of the Political Bureau (PB) of the RCP (March, 1947), argued:
49. Are not the Minority, in the current debate, using a similar method of argument on tactics (although their perspective is not the same): that an orientation towards the mass parties necessitates the continuation of entrism of the last forty years, and that proposals for more open work will mean a turn away from the mass organisations?
50. There is no proposal to abandon a long-term orientation towards the Labour Party and a long-term tactic of entry. What is being proposed is a detour, with a period of more open work, until there are more favourable conditions within the Labour Party. This is based on an assessment for the scope for work within the party as compared to the gains that can be made currently through independent work.
51. At that time (1947), EG argued against "the innovation of a long-term perspective" for entry into the Labour Party, the idea put forward by the leadership of the International. This discussion was related to differences over perspectives for developments in the advanced, capitalist countries, which we cannot go into here. But the discussions on the conditions for entry work are still very relevant to our current debate.
52. The real situation in Britain states:
53. At the present time, it is the bureaucratic regime imposed on the party under Kinnock, together with the related decline in active Labour Party membership, which is one of the key factors which calls for a temporary switch to more open work. Our present forces are incomparably stronger than in 1950 or in 1970 or in 1980 and therefore constitute much more of a threat to the right wing. Moreover, our comrades currently face expulsion not merely for their work within the party but also for their work outside the Labour Party.
54. In the 1945-49 debate, the RCP Political Bureau correctly lambasted the leadership of the International, Healy, and the other opportunist advocates of entry at that time, for failing to draw "lessons of a general theoretical character... from our experiences of entry in the past." They had failed to use "the experience gained through the test of events... to confirm and concretise the practical tasks" which faced them.
55. The experience of the entrism in the past was summed up by the RCP Political Bureau in the following way: "(1) In a period of healthy internal life and internal struggle within the reformist or centrist organisation into which we had entered, the Trotskyist tendency could grow; (2) When the movement was quiet and more or less dormant we did not grow but stagnated - especially if the real struggles of the workers found expression outside the Labour Party, in the unions and factory organisations."
56. What is the situation at the moment in the Labour Party? Is there a "healthy internal life and internal struggle"? Or are the organisations of the Labour Party "more or less dormant", with "the real struggles of the workers... [finding] expression outside the Labour Party"? Nobody is proposing to abandon the long-term strategy of work within the Labour Party. We will have to continue to orientate towards the party, and in the future, when there are developments within the party, the emphasis will once again switch to work within the Labour Party. But for the time being, the low level of activity within the Labour Party and the intensity of the witch-hunt make it necessary to conduct a detour of more open work in order to build the tendency and extend its influence.
57. During the second world war, after a period of work within the Labour Party, the leaders of the Workers' International League (WIL) came to the conclusion in 1941 that a change of tactics was necessary. In another speech on the history of the tendency, EG said:
59. There was no question of open work being an ultra-left adventure, or resulting in a sectarian approach. The RCP maintained its long-term orientation towards the Labour Party and adopted a sympathetic approach to Labour workers. An open tactic in no way contradicted a strategic orientation towards the Labour Party. Yet today, the Minority claims that a turn towards more open work, not the proclamation of a separate party like the RCP, will automatically turn our tendency into a sect.
60. Moreover, while conducting open work under the banner of the WIL and Socialist Appeal, the tendency continued to conduct entry work within the Labour Party in Scotland.
61. In other words, the tendency conducted a combination of open, independent work and fraction work within the Labour Party - at one and the same time - in accordance with the conditions within the party in different regions. Yet today, the Minority are arguing that it is impossible to conduct more open work in combination with continued work within the traditional organisation!
62. In 1945-49, EG discussed entrism as a flexible tactic which had to be worked out in relation to perspectives, the concrete conditions, and a practical assessment of the results which could be obtained from different fields of work.
63. In 1949, entrism was accepted by the leadership of our tendency, for want of something better: to as far as possible preserve the cadres of the tendency, and because, in any case, there were not particularly favourable conditions outside the party. However, under the conditions which prevailed in the post-war period, entrism was developed into a long-term tactic. Both reformism and Stalinism were strengthened by the relationship of forces which emerged from the second world war.
64. As our document, Problems of entrism stated in 1959: "Historically, the Marxist movement has been thrown back. It is isolated from the main currents of opinion within the labour movement itself." Illusions in reformism were strengthened. Moreover, after 1950, the advanced capitalist countries entered into a protracted economic upswing. The economic and social developments led to a strengthening of the working class. Its weight in society was increased, and the mass organisation embraced a far greater proportion of the workers than ever before. However, the boom led to a temporary softening of the class struggle and relative social peace, which inevitably strengthened the reformist leaders.
65. Our tendency had tiny forces in that period. There is no comparison to our strength in the past few years. "Our work now," stated Problems of entrism, "consists of preparatory work for the next period... Our job in the preparatory period, which still exists, is the patient winning of ones and twos, perhaps of small groups, but certainly not the creation of a mass revolutionary current, which is not possible at the present time."
66. During the 1950s, the tendency remained a tiny force with a small handful of members. The right wing, basing itself on the trade unions, dominated the leadership of the party, although the Bevanite left wing was a strong force in the constituency parties during that period. However, the tendency approached "the problem of tactics as tactics, and not as once-and-for-all fetishes." (Problems of entrism)
67. At the time of the Hungarian uprising, for instance, when the military intervention of the Soviet bureaucracy provoked a crisis within the ranks of the Communist Party, the tendency openly produced material aimed at Communist Party members in the name of an open organisation.
68. A section of the Communist Party ranks broke away from the Stalinist organisation and set up the Socialist Forums. These opened up the possibility of gains for out tendency. A statement adopted in 1957, The present situation and our political tasks, stated that the tendency "must mobilise all the forces at its disposal to intervene effectively in the work of the Forums." It recognised, moreover, that "many of the best elements will not be prepared for an entrist perspective immediately. The first necessity is the winning of a nucleus among them to the programme and banner [of the Marxist tendency]."
69. The statement continued:
71. There is, of course, not an exact parallel between the situation in 1956-57 and the situation today. At that time, the tendency had to work out an orientation towards activists with experience of work in the Stalinist Communist Party and also in the trade unions. Today, we have to orientate towards a section of workers and youth who largely have not yet moved towards the traditional political party of the labour movement. Moreover, in 1957, there was not an intense witch-hunt, as the tendency was not at that time seen as a significant threat by the Labour leadership. Today, we face an intense witch-hunt on account of our independent work, as well as our Labour Party activity.
72. Nevertheless, the 1957 statement demonstrates a flexible approach to tactics. There was no question of an open turn towards the Communist Party opposition being seen as "adventuristic" or "ultra-left". The correct method of 1957 could not contrast more sharply to the dogmatic approach adopted by the Minority today.
A new stage
73. The perspective outlined in Problems of entrism, which was not borne out, was for the return of a Labour government at the next general election. It predicted that this would "rather be that of 1929, than that of 1945". This, it was envisaged, would provoke a crisis within the Labour Party, with a swing to the left. "If we were an independent organisation at the present time [that is, 1959], we should be preparing our forces for entry. Far from withdrawing, we would be sending in more and more of our forces to prepare the way for total entry." The timescale of developments proved to be much more protracted, with a continuation of the post-war upswing until 1975. The tactic of entrism was, as a result, extended into a long-term tactic.
74. In the 1960s, the Labour Party proved a fruitful field of work. We were a small tendency. However, through our successful youth work we developed a base within the Labour youth organisation, and gained a majority. This provided a unique vehicle into the wider labour movement and for campaigning on the basis of our ideas and policies. In the initial period, the right-wing Labour leaders did not regard us as a serious threat. When they first attempted to move against us in the mid-1970s, however, the left dominated the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party (NEC), and attempts at a witch-hunt fizzled out.
75. By the mid-1980s, we had also developed a strong basis within the constituency parties, the women's sections, and other Labour Party bodies. The base that we built up from the 1960s to the early 1980s allowed us to intervene effectively in major struggles, such as the miners' strike of 1984-5 and above all the battle in Liverpool.
76. However, conditions have changed from the time that Problems of entrism was written, both objectively and subjectively. The situation internationally and in Britain has changed. The position within the Labour Party has changed. The Labour leaders have moved far to the right, and the left within the party has been routed for the time being. But at the same time, we are no longer at the stage of purely preparatory work.
77. We should not exaggerate our strength. Our primary task is still to educate and train cadres. Nevertheless, our tendency is a factor in the political situation, which both the capitalists and the Labour leaders are forced to take account of. We are no longer a small tendency which can work inconspicuously within the Labour Party. We have led mass struggles in Liverpool and, above all, against the poll tax. Our strategy and tactics have to take account of all these factors.
78. We will maintain an orientation towards the Labour Party and the trade unions, which must be fundamental to our strategy. We will also maintain a long-term tactic of entry work within the Labour Party. But we have to apply the entry tactic flexibly, and not as a once-and-for-all fetish. The Minority have ossified our rich experience of the entry tactic into "forty years' work". They are defending not the genuine method of our tendency, but a one-sided, dogmatic distortion of our strategy and tactics.
PERSPECTIVES FOR THE LABOUR PARTY
79. The method of the Minority is unfortunately to distort our position. They construct a number of straw men, all the better to demolish them.
The class character of the Labour Party
80. The Minority claim we have made "extremely serious errors of a theoretical character" (The New Turn - a threat 71) in relation to the Labour Party. They refer twice to Eric Heffer's "dodo" quote (The New Turn - a threat 71, 111-112) and four times to the US Democratic Party. According to the Minority, these show that we have written off the Labour Party as the traditional party of the working class and will be putting ourselves on the same level as the sects. This, allegedly, is the theoretical root of our "false tactics".
81. However, this is based on a crude misrepresentation of our position. Scotland: perspectives and tasks, 1991, states: "there has been a fundamental change in the situation which cannot be ignored or underestimated." (Scotland: perspectives and tasks 19) This clearly means the situation in the Labour Party. Nowhere do we "speak of a 'qualitative change' in the nature of the Labour Party." (The New Turn - a threat 70) There is no question of our joining the chorus of the sects' old melody. At the outset, the Scotland document (Scotland: perspectives and tasks 4) states: "In the long term, especially in Britain where there exists an unbreakable link between the Labour Party and the trade unions, entrism will remain a central plank in our strategy to build a powerful revolutionary party."
82. Eric Heffer's point, that "without the left, the Labour Party will become like a dodo - extinct", was quoted in an article on page 6 of the paper (5 April, 1991), not a 'centre page' article (The New Turn - a threat 111). The article reported on the Broad Left's decision to put up six independent candidates in the local elections. It quoted Heffer to make the valid point that the witch-hunt had reduced the official Labour Party wards to empty shells in Liverpool. The quote was not used in a one-sided way to argue that the Labour Party in general was finished as the traditional party of the working class. In the very next paragraph, the article stated: "The real Labour candidates fighting in the local wards are not intending to set up an independent party. They are fighting for democratic rights, for the right to select candidates of the members' choice, and for a socialist alternative."
83. This point was taken up in the latest edition of the theoretical journal, as the Minority points out (The New Turn - a threat 112):
This was done not to correct "a fundamentally incorrect perspective", as the Minority suggest, but to correct the distortion of our position by the Minority.
84. In a similar way, the Minority distorts the reference to the US Democratic Party in the Scotland document. At one point (The New Turn - a threat 106), they say 'It is no accident that the advocates of the turn compare the Labour Party to the US Democrats. This has always been the argument of the sects - that the Labour Party was not a workers' party at all." Later (The New Turn - a threat 108), the Minority put "like the Democrats" in quotation marks, as if the Majority somewhere stated that Labour was no different from the Democrats.
85. However, a little earlier (The New Turn - a threat 92c) they produce the actual quotation from the Scotland document: 'The collapse of the left has enabled Kinnock and cohorts to move the Labour Party closer to the model of PSOE in Spain and even the American Democratic Party." (Scotland: Perspectives and Tasks 17)
86. Who can deny that Kinnock wants to move closer to the model of the Democratic Party and establish a presidential-style leadership for himself? Kinnock has also tried to ape the media-orientated campaigning methods of the Democrats. Nevertheless, it remains true that the Democratic Party is a capitalist party while the Labour party is tied to the labour movement, and no one has said anything different.
87. Kinnock would like to loosen the ties with the trade unions. The 'one person, one vote' changes in the constitution are aimed at reducing the trade union influence within the party, while the unsuccessful campaign to increase individual membership to one million was aimed at giving the party greater financial independence from the unions. However, with the prospect of a general election soon and the need for trade union cash, Kinnock has been forced to compromise with the key union leaders, allowing all trade union members to vote in ballots to select constituency parliamentary candidates. The outcry of the Labour Co-ordinating Committee reflects the direction Kinnock and Co really want to travel in. They have denounced the compromise as "dangerous, undemocratic, damaging, unfair", etc, in leaving the trade unions with too much influence. The Guardian commented: 'That is Neil Kinnock's sort of language and, in private, he will probably agree with every word of it." (8 August, 1991)
88. The Labour leaders also favour state funding for political parties, and would undoubtedly attempt to introduce this in the event of a Labour government. Their aim would be, as with the PSOE leadership in Spain, to distance themselves from the trade unions. How far they will be able to move in this direction remains to be seen. Moreover, even if the right wing were able to sever the close TU-Labour Party links at local and national level, thus moving the Labour Party nearer to the position of many European socialist parties, this would not in itself end the traditional ties between the Labour Party and the trade unions. Nowhere have we argued that the link between the Labour Party and the trade unions has been broken.
89. "Only 250" have been expelled, say the Minority (in case we forget, this is repeated four times: The New Turn - a threat13, 58, 121, 177). "Despite 16 years of witch-hunts and expulsions they have largely failed, to date." (The New Turn - a threat 28). It is as though they were a seasonal hazard, nothing new. "However," according to the Minority, by extending our open work, "we are now playing into their hands."
90. This ignores the current intensity and scope of the witch-hunt. The organisational repression used by the Kinnock leadership could not by itself succeed in politically isolating the Marxists from the active rank and file of the Labour Party. But the right wing's policies and methods have led to a severe decline in the level of activity within the party. On this basis, Kinnock and company have been able to take the witch-hunt much further than in the past. The reality is that wherever comrades are effective within the party, they are expelled or their parties are suspended. The Marxists are tolerated within the party only where they do not pose a threat at the moment. Moreover, comrades are also expelled for their activities outside the party.
91. The Minority resorts to sweeping generalisations and repetition: there is no analysis of successive witch-hunts.
92. The Underhill report, the first major enquiry into the tendency, was buried (by 16 votes to 12) by the left majority on the NEC in November 1975. Another enquiry, following the appointment of a Marxist as Labour's Youth Officer in 1976, was similarly ignored in May 1977. A second Underhill report in January 1980, which fuelled a blaze of publicity in the press, was also rendered ineffective by the left on the NEC.
93. After Foot became Labour leader, the NEC (December 1981) set up the Hayward-Hughes enquiry. This followed a swing to the right on the NEC at the 1981 annual conference, which in turn marked the beginning of the right-wing counter-revolution against the democratisation of the party. At that stage, it was painfully difficult for the right wing to carry through the witch-hunt/purge. The proposal for a register of party groups was pushed through the 1982 conference, but it was only in February 1983 that the right were able to expel the five members of the Editorial Board. We delayed the expulsions through legal action and used the time to mount an energetic campaign within the Labour Parties and trade unions. Even our enemies acknowledged that we ran circles around the Labour leaders. But the conditions were entirely different from today. While the right wing, using the trade union block votes in a bureaucratic manner, had recaptured the NEC, the Labour Party's active rank and file was overwhelmingly dominated by the left. It was not only because of adroit tactics that we were able to outmanoeuvre the right, but because we had the support or sympathy of a wide section of the rank and file. Our tendency was seen as defending the gains within the party of 1979-81, and through our campaign against the witch-hunt we were able to recruit both inside and outside the party.
94. The next big wave of expulsions came in 1986 when the NEC, by that time dominated by the Kinnockite right, expelled the leaders of the Liverpool council struggle. Unlike today, when it would be rushed through the National Constitutional Committee in a few minutes, this required two marathon NEC sessions in May-June, 1986. There were still six NEC members voting against expulsion. We were able to draw on support within the party, as well as outside. The year-long miners' strike of 1984-85, created a favourable situation for us, and the Liverpool struggle drew support for the Marxists from within the Labour Party and the trade unions.
95. There is no comparison between the witch-hunt procedure prior to 1987 and the procedure following the setting up of the so-called National Constitutional Committee in January 1987. In response to our legal challenges, the leadership steadily tightened the rules. Anyway, in most cases, the judiciary was not even prepared to give us a hearing, however strong our legal case. Today, the NCC rubber-stamps the expulsions of those referred. Moreover, the range of expellable offences has been steadily widened - it is no longer merely a question of membership of the tendency, but support for the anti-poll tax campaign, or even political statements. One person was expelled for participating in a Trotsky memorial picnic. Another was expelled purely on the 'evidence' of a photo in the sales column, which was not in fact a photograph of the person concerned. These arbitrary methods are not just the result of changes in procedure. They reflect the defeat of the left and the stifling of rank-and-file activity within the party.
Closing the youth organisation
96. Nor is the witch-hunt just a question of individual expulsions. The key bodies within the party which, were able to use as a base for our campaigning activity have either been closed down or drastically restricted by the leadership. Above all, this applies to Labour's youth organisation (LYO). From the time we gained the majority, the youth section provided an unprecedented vehicle for our activity. When we were a tiny, unknown tendency, it provided an opening into the wider labour movement, as well as giving us significant financial and organisational resources.
97. The advantages of our Labour Party youth work should not be forgotten. Youth branches had delegates to Labour Party conferences, and our delegates successfully moved resolutions on key policy issues. In cooperation with trade unions nationally, we were able to run campaigns to organise young workers. Our policies were included in the Labour Party youth broadcasts, and other policies (e.g., on H-blocks, youth rights, trade union rights for the police/armed forces, etc) were adopted by the NEC when the left was in a majority. Through the Labour youth organisation we were also able to undertake a large number of international visits.
98. The LYO reached a high point in 1985, the year of the miners' strike and the Liverpool struggle. The number of branches rose to 573 with a membership of 12-15,000. However, in 1985, the attacks on the youth organisation began in earnest, beginning with a "consultation" launched by Sawyer and the NEC Youth Committee. We used YTURC to circumvent the bureaucracy, and we ran a campaign in the Constituency Labour Parties against the consultation. Nevertheless, in 1987, the age limit was cut to 22 and all regional structures were abolished. The youth paper was closed down. In 1988, the youth conference was abolished and replaced in 1989 by a "Labour Youth" conference with an electoral system which ensured the right wing would take the NEC position (despite the fact we had an actual majority of votes).
99. At the 1990 Labour Youth conference, there were only 15 youth section delegates present. We still have a majority on the National Committee and, until recently, also had the chair. However, during the Easter 1991 YRC [the Labour Youth conference] conference, the right wing called a snap meeting with three present and elected a right-wing chair. In all probability, the National Committee will not meet again.
100. This is not the result of our withdrawal from activity within the youth organisation. We tenaciously fought the witch-hunt at every stage. It is because of the overall change in the party that the right wing has been able to strangle Labour's youth organisation.
101. A similar picture emerged in the Labour Women's Organisation (LWO). During the miners' strike in 1984, the left was strengthened, and a democratic constitution was carried. A leading comrade was elected to the National Women's Committee. Between 1984 and 1988, we had between 60 and 70 delegates at the annual women's conference, and were able to use a number of women's councils for campaigning activity.
102. After 1987, the witch-hunt intensified. In 1985-87, a whole series of women's councils (e.g., Hull, Southwark, Bermondsey, Ipswich, Stevenage, Cathcart, etc) were either suspended or effectively closed down through the expulsion of their officers. In 1989, the leadership introduced a new constitution which, in effect, took the leadership of the women's organisation out of the hands of the rank and file. Our delegates were increasingly ruled out of order. Debates were rigged, with our resolutions being arbitrarily removed from the agenda. A report on this work in July 1990 indicates what was happening: "This field of work is increasingly affected by the position in the Labour Party. The councils and sections are falling in to disrepair. Although we had a good political intervention at the 1990 conference, our delegates and resolutions are being ruled out." Another report later in the year stated: "The work in the LWO has become less fruitful as the LWO has generally mirrored the decline of the Labour Party with very few activists other than our own comrades and a collapse in the women's sections and councils... Whilst we have tried to maintain our position in the LWO, it has been on a scaled-down basis. Many of our sections and councils are affected by closures and witch-hunts."
103. As a result of these developments, the comrades redirected our work in to the anti-poll tax campaign, and a number of key unions, like CPSA, NUPE, and NALGO. We also organised independent campaigns on other issues.
104. The trend in the CLPs is the same. In the early to mid-eighties, we had fifty to seventy delegates to the Labour Party annual conference, and we dominated many of the key debates. By 1987-88, this had been reduced to between thirty and forty delegates, and is currently down to a small handful. This has not come about because of any deliberate withdrawal from work within the constituencies. It reflects the decline in activity within the CLPs and the witch-hunt against our comrades.
105. In all areas where we have been effective, there have been witch-hunts. Both Liverpool District Labour Party and Broad-green CLP have been suspended for long periods. The suspension of Brighton Labour Party, in September 1990, in response to left-wing councillors opposing rent increases and cuts, shows the way things are going. In Liverpool, 27 activists were expelled before Walton, six in Bermondsey, seven in Tower Hamlets, fourteen in Pollok, eight in Bradford, etc.
106. There are also scores of supporters who are excluded from Labour Party membership, with the right-wing refusing to consider their membership. In Pollok, 180 new members were blocked from joining the North Pollok ward, which was suspended in 1988, thus excluding its 300 members from participation in the party. This means that in one ward party, approximately 500 people had either been expelled, blocked or suspended. In Liverpool, over 600 members are currently excluded from the party by suspensions.
107. The Minority argues that we should maintain nominal positions in the party, while continuing our independent work. In reality, it is impossible to separate the two. Our independent work has inevitably brought reprisals from the Labour leaders. For instance, we organised YTURC [Youth and Trade Union Rights Committee] (now YRC) and FELS [Further Education Labour Students] in order to by-pass the bureaucratic obstacles in the official youth and student organisations. Immediately, association with YTURC or FELS activity became expellable offences and led to new measures against our comrades.
An intensive purge
108. The anti-poll tax campaign has been outside the framework of the Labour parties, but it has inevitably brought us into collision with the Labour councils locally and Labour leadership nationally. The recent wave of expulsions has been aimed primarily at the leaders of the anti-poll tax campaign: Pollok, Cathcart, the suspension of Brighton Labour Party. Comrades with positions in the Labour Party have to fight for non-payment and non-implementation of the poll tax, which are now expellable offences. Should councillor comrades in Liverpool, Brighton, and elsewhere have retreated on collection and enforcement (sending in bailiffs, jailings, etc) when it came to the crucial votes? That is the only way they could have avoided suspension, investigation, and expulsion. That would clearly have discredited them in the eyes of the anti-poll tax activists and wider circles of workers.
109. By itself, the figure of 250, repeated like a litany, means nothing. (Until August 1991, in fact, the figure was only 219.) It is a question of the actual regime within the Labour Party, and of the scope for activity. The current position is completely different from 1984-85, when our influence and activity in the Labour Party was at its height. The possibility of gaining a decisive influence in major city councils like Liverpool, because of the bureaucratic control of selection procedures, has been closed off for the foreseeable future.
110. The Minority claim that a qualitative difference in the intensity of the witch-hunt has been brought about by our support for the independent parliamentary candidate in Walton. "As long as we did not put up candidates against the Labour Party, there is not much they could do about our position." (The New Turn - a threat 184) "In effect, we saved them the bother of expelling us, by practically 'placing ourselves outside the party'." (The New Turn - a threat 147) By standing parliamentary candidates, they claim, "we will give the Labour bureaucracy a perfect excuse to empty all our comrades out of the Labour Party." (The New Turn - a threat 121)
111. However, the Minority's picture of a routine level of witch-hunting prior to Walton and then a dramatic intensification, because we stood an independent candidate, does not correspond with the facts.
112. The comrades in the Minority supported the decision to stand independent candidates in the local elections. However, the Minority document (The New Turn - a threat 39) says: "There is a fundamental difference between council elections and a national parliamentary by-election." (The New Turn - a threat 40) But this distinction between supporting local candidates and supporting a parliamentary candidate is completely artificial. The victory of five of the Real Labour council candidates led to an intensification of the witch-hunt. The candidates, the nominees, and their agents were immediately expelled. Others were referred to the NCC. Moreover, following the May elections, 27 left councillors were expelled from the Labour Party.
113. Many of the comrades threatened with expulsion as a result of work in Walton were already, under threat. For instance, in one Yorkshire constituency, comrades were not surprised at moves to expel them at the General Management Committee [of the labour Party constituency] following the by-election. However, they had already frequently been photographed selling papers in the street. The only way to have avoided disciplinary action would have been to stop selling the paper. However, the constituency party is a shell compared to two or three years ago. When the comrades turned up to the General Management Committee, bracing themselves for disciplinary moves, they found that the right wing could not proceed against them: the meeting was inquorate!
114. The Minority also claim that the decision to stand in Walton shows that we are light-minded in relation to Marxists in public positions (The New Turn - a threat 126 and following). We recognise the gains they achieved in this area, and do not for a moment underestimate the enormous advantages provided by these platforms. It is totally false to say that we accept that they would have been lost anyway (The New Turn - a threat 127). We have defended past gains every inch of the way, and will continue to do so.
115. Nevertheless, it is necessary to base ourselves on a realistic assessment of what is going on in the Labour Party. We also have to be clear what the role of our public representatives is.
116. Dozens of councillors have been expelled, and there is absolutely no doubt that Kinnock has been for some time gunning for a number of MPs. The campaign to remove them intensified long before Walton. The evidence being used against some of them goes back to 1983! The question of non-payment of the poll tax was unavoidably a decisive issue. The leaders of the Minority have argued that parliamentary representatives, when it comes to the crunch, should retreat and pay their poll tax to avoid removal. Our position on this certainly had to be weighed up. However, having considered it from all sides, the majority came to the conclusion that we had to back up the decision of any MP who refused to pay his poll tax. To advise any councillor or MP to retreat on this issue would destroy the credibility of any representative who followed such advice. For the tendency to have called on MPs or councillors to pay, moreover, would have seriously damaged the tendency in the eyes of anti-poll tax activists and millions of workers. They would have concluded: "They are no different from the rest!"
The situation in the Labour Party
117. The situation in the Labour Party has completely changed over recent years. The Minority accept that there has been a swing to the right, but nowhere do they concretely examine the changed situation. The section of their document headed The Labour Party in historical perspective' (The New Turn - a threat 93 and following) offers neither historical analysis nor perspective. The objective conditions in Britain and internationally were entirely different in the 1950s and 1960s. Moreover, the subjective factor, the strength of the Marxist tendency, has also changed significantly.
118. They say (The New Turn - a threat 26) that "we gained a small glimpse [of the big gains which could be made in a period of crisis]... at the end of the last Labour government and after 1978-81, when the left wing in the Labour Party began to develop." There was a swing to the left in the unions and the Labour Party (The New Turn - a threat 100) and "we were able to take advantage of this, precisely because we had built up a unique position in the Labour Party through years of patient work." (The New Turn - a threat 101) Now, they admit, there has "been a temporary reversal of the position, with the rise of the Kinnock neo-right. The Labour Party in many areas is just a shell." (The New Turn - a threat 102)
119. However, we are reminded that this is not "the first time in history, that the right wing has dominated the Labour Party! The memories of these comrades are lamentably short." (The New Turn - a threat 94) They say that "for a period of decades, in the 50s and 60s, the Labour Party was dominated by the Neanderthal right, as were the trade unions." (The New Turn - a threat 95) In other words, this is just a cyclical swing to the right: We should sit tight in the party, hold on to our positions, and await a new turn to the left.
120. In fact, the Minority paint a one-sided, exaggerated picture of the situation in the Labour Party in the 1950s when they say that: "In the 1950s, the internal regime was marked by witch-hunts against the Bevanite left, bans and proscriptions, the repeated closure of the Labour youth organisation." (The New Turn - a threat 96) During that period the right wing Labour Party leaders relied on the support of the leaders of a number of big unions to maintain their domination over the party. However, they never managed to destroy the left within the constituency parties, as Kinnock has. "At the present time," commented Problems of entrism (March 1959), "the Transport House bureaucracy relies only on a thin stratum of its members for its machine. The experience of the last decade has had its effect on the rank-and-file... quite a big section, in various parties, supports the left."
121. In fact, from 1952, the Bevanite-dominated left held a majority of the CLP seats on the National Executive. In 1956, the left won all the seats in this section. In 1956 and 1957, Bevan won the party treasurer's seat with the support of a number of the trade unions, including the NUM, USDAW, NUR, ETU, NUPE and others. There were witchhunts, but not on the scale of the current witch-hunt. The right wing failed to expel Bevan in 1955, for instance. During the 1950s, moreover, the left began to gain ground within the unions, preparing the way for the emergence of a number of left trade union leaders in the 1960s such as Jones and Scanlon.
122. The situation in British society was entirely different in the 1950s. It was a boom period, when the working class were making gains in living standards and rank-and-file trade union organisation was being strengthened. The softening of the class struggle on the basis of a long-term economic upswing provided the basis for the convergence of Tory and Labour policies on the basis of Keynesian economics and social reform. That was the period of 'Butskellism' (that is, Tory Butler plus Labour Gaitskell). Today we have the position of a move to the right at the top of the Labour Party in a period of growing contradictions for world capitalism, when working class living standards and rights are under attack from the ruling class.
123. However, it is completely mechanical to argue, as does the Minority, that the Labour Party leadership has swung to the right, "reflecting a general swing to the right within society..." (The New Turn - a threat 68) There has undoubtedly been a swing to the right by the capitalist class, the petit-bourgeoisie, and the Labour leaders themselves. This partly reflects the growing economic difficulties faced by the capitalist class, which is no longer prepared to underwrite the liberal, reformist policies of the boom period, especially in the case of diseased British capitalism. It also reflects the failure of reformism, as demonstrated by the 1974-79 government, which was a government of crisis and counter-reform.
124. Since 1979, there have been a series of struggles (the miners, print workers, Liverpool, nurses, teachers, etc) which show the workers are prepared to fight. The role of the Labour leaders played a crucial part in the defeat or partial defeat of most of these struggles. This in turn reinforced the swing to the right of the Labour leaders. But while there is little confidence in Kinnock and Co, social surveys indicate continued if not increased support for radical policies, and even for the idea of socialist solutions, among wide sections, especially working women, youth, and black workers and youth. The anti-poll tax movement demonstrated the latent radicalism and readiness to struggle - when a lead was given. This situation is entirely different from the 1950s.
125. The developments following the defeat of the Labour government in 1979, did, as the Minority say, give us a glimpse of the changes that could take place in the Labour Party. As a result of the failure of the 1974-79 Wilson-Callaghan government, the majority of Labour's ranks drew the conclusion that only socialist policies could solve the problems facing the working class. The left dominated the CLPs, and was also strengthened within the trade unions. There was a struggle to commit a future Labour government to radical policies, and to democratise the party. This led to the new procedures on reselection of MPs and the leadership elections adopted in 1981. We were to the forefront of this struggle and played a key part in pushing through the reforms.
The Kinnock reaction
126. Before that period, the tendency was relatively small, with a limited influence in the labour movement, though we made a significant intervention in the industrial battles of 1978-79. But the prominent role we played in the struggle to transform the Labour Party brought us to national prominence, and extended our influence within the labour movement generally - which is why the right-wing's attempts to rollback the gains of 1979-81 centred on the witchhunt against our tendency. However, the drive to expel the Editorial Board in 1982-83 actually led to a further strengthening of the tendency.
127. Kinnock was elected leader in October 1983, after the 'Falklands Factor' had given the Tories a landslide victory. Labour's share of the vote fell to 28 per cent and the Labour leaders drew the false conclusion that there had been a profound swing to the right in society.
128. Kinnock was elected as a 'left' leader, but rapidly shifted to the right, adopting right-wing policies and pulling the soft left with him. During 1984-85 the Labour leaders began to shed radical policies, reverse the gains on party democracy, and oppose workers' struggles. Kinnock came out against the year-long miners' strike and urged the left Labour councils to capitulate and accept rate-capping and cuts. In contrast to the 1950s and 1960s, the tendency played a key role in events. In particular, through our position on Liverpool city council, we led the biggest mass struggle and the only one that was taken to the end. Apart from trying to distance himself from policies based on nationalisation, unilateral disarmament, etc, Kinnock fought the June 1987 election on the basis of an attack on the organisation. Incredibly, clips of Kinnock's 1985 Labour Party conference speech attacking the leaders of Liverpool city council appeared in Labour's election broadcast.
129. Labour's defeat in 1987 gave a further impulse to the right wing's counter-revolution. They were assisted by the capitalist media but above all by the defeats of working class struggles - defeats to which the policies of the Labour and trade union leaders significantly contributed. The struggle for change in the party in 1979-81 had drawn new members into activity, mainly from the ranks of petit-bourgeois and white collar workers, but also a sprinkling of workers and youth. The swing since 1987, however, together with the bureaucratic regime, has led to a drastic decline in rank-and-file activity and party membership.
130. Immediately after the 1987 general election defeat, the right wing launched a so-called 'policy review'. The essence of this was the rewriting of Labour's programme to drop nationalisation, openly embrace the market, accept membership of the European Community, accept NATO and drop unilateral nuclear disarmament.
131. The left has been routed on the NEC and within the parliamentary party since 1987. When Benn at the May 1985 NEC meeting tried to commit the party to more radical policies, he was defeated by only 14 votes to 12. Now the hard left vote on the NEC has been reduced to two: Tony Benn and Dennis Skinner. Tribune can no longer be regarded as a journal of the left. It is now a Kinnockite rag, financed by the unions, and read by very few.
132. The soft left swung over to Kinnock as a 'left leader' capable of winning the next general election. When Kinnock congealed with the right, the soft lefts either moved right or themselves dropped out of activity. The non-Marxist, so-called 'hard left' -Benn, Livingstone, Huckfield, Skinner, the Lambeth council leaders, etc - have been routed and isolated. Kinnock has concentrated policy-making and organisational control into his hands to an unprecedented extent. Kinnock dominates the NEC, and has neutralised the left in the Parliamentary Labour Party. Through his own personal staff, he is attempting to turn the Labour Party into an election machine, less dependent on the trade unions, and with a passive rank and file.
133. Any number of recent developments illustrate these trends. During the Gulf war, for instance, Kinnock and Co clamped down on the so-called 'supper club', a group of soft left MPs including Prescott, Richardson and Meacher, with mild criticisms of the Kinnock-Kaufmann line on the war. The enforced retirement of Jimmy Allison, the Scottish organiser for 14 years, shows that Kinnock will tolerate only completely tame party functionaries.
134. In June 1991 Kinnock intervened in a battle over control of the Labour Party's Directorate of Communications (that is, the publicity machine). The new director, who favoured wider involvement of NEC members, was forced out in favour of a Kinnock acolyte. This "represents the latest and most crushing example of Mr Kinnock's dominance over Labour's policy-making National Executive, most of whose members favoured Mr Underwood's retention." (Financial Times, 6 June 1991) Critical MPs were claiming that "Mr Kinnock's Moderate Tendency has been imposing the policies of pragmatism and a caring society by autocratic methods." (Financial Times, 8 June 1991) An anonymous "shadow cabinet colleague" said: "Neil is a genius at controlling the party and he has accumulated a greater concentration of power than any leader in the hundred-year history of the Labour Party."
Decline in Labour Party activity
135. This concentration of power at the top has been accompanied by a drastic decline in the membership of the party, particularly the active membership.
136. After the 1987 general election, the party membership fell to an all-time low of 260,000. This is in contrast to the membership of over one million in the mid-1950s (though the figure was probably slightly inflated by the minimum affiliation requirement of 1000 members per CLP) The leadership launched a campaign for a million members before the next general election. They claim that the 1990 membership was 311,000. However, in July 1991, the Labour Party headquarters admitted that only 104,000 had paid their 1991 subscription. The decline was blamed on administrative and computer problems following the abolition of local subs collections. In reality, it undoubtedly reflects the drastic decline of activity in the constituency and branch parties, many of which have small, inquorate meetings, and cannot find the activists to organise even election campaigns.
137. A survey of Labour Party members last year (Labour Party News, October 1990) revealed the social composition of the party membership - which is now dominated by petit-bourgeois and white collar workers. 'The typical Labour Party member is a middle-aged male, working in a professional occupation in the public sector of the economy. Just over one half of the membership is male (male 59 per cent, female 41 per cent). The average age of a party member is 46 - few are under the age of 25.
138. 'There is a very high concentration of members of the salariat (e.g., lecturers, teachers, social workers). Only one in five of the membership are manual workers. In fact, there are more school teachers than any other single occupational grouping... two-thirds of members are trade unionists but, not surprisingly in the light of the occupational profile, it is the white collar unions, often not affiliated to the party, to which they belong.
139. "The average household income of members is £18,600, but there are very wide income disparities. About 16 per cent live on less that £5000 and about a similar number take home £30,000 or more. What is clear from this data is that there is a stark social divide amongst the membership between the relatively well off and the well-qualified, and the poor and under-qualified." There is no doubt, of course, on which section the Kinnockite leadership rests.
140. The Labour Party's own survey also shows the lack of youth in the party. Only two per cent of members are between 18 and 21, and only three per cent between 22 and 25. In August 1991, moreover, it was reported that "the Labour Party Young Socialists... has collapsed to a membership of 250 with only 25 branches nationwide." (The Guardian, 16 August) In London it was estimated that less than one per cent of Labour Party members are under 25.
141. From the time it was introduced in Scotland, in April 1989, the Labour leaders signalled their refusal to support an effective struggle against the poll tax. They were 'against the poll tax', of course, but opposed a non-payment campaign and supported the moves of Labour councils to collect the tax. Support for non-payment rapidly became an expellable offence.
142. It was therefore inevitable that the anti-poll tax movement, the biggest campaign of mass disobedience in Britain's history, would develop outside the Labour Party. The mood of opposition to the poll tax was grounded in the unfairness of the tax, the burdens faced by working class families, and the enormous reservoir of grievances that had accumulated under Thatcher's government. Nevertheless, it was the policies and organisational methods of this tendency which transformed a mood of revolt into an effective mass campaign - which defeated the poll tax and brought the removal of Thatcher.
143. This struggle has been almost entirely outside the Labour Party. The forces we used to launch the struggle were previously accumulated within the Labour Party and the trade unions. But our involvement in the struggle has led to many of our most active comrades being driven out of the party.
144. We also used our positions on local councils, particularly the position we retained on Liverpool city council after 1985, as a lever in the non-payment struggle. However, this too has led to punitive measures against individual councillors and the suspension of Labour Parties.
145. It is clear that both the objective conditions and the subjective conditions are entirely different from the 1950s. We have taken the lead in major battles, particularly in Liverpool and against the poll tax. We are no longer a small propaganda group, patiently winning ones and twos within the party. While not exaggerating our strength, we have lead mass struggles against the Tories and the bosses in the last few years: now we must find a way of effectively continuing this struggle.
The approaching general election
146. Does the approach of a general election (which must be called before June, 1992) rule out a change in tactics? The Minority argues that it does. But once again, they give no clear perspectives for the period leading up to a general election and immediately afterwards. Their position takes no account of the mood of different layers of the working class and it particularly does not come to grips with the more complicated situation in Scotland.
147. Their document says:
148. They also talk of "the class... moving towards Labour..." (The New Turn - a threat 45). But what does this mean? There has been no turn towards the Labour Party in terms of membership. Writing in The Marxist (number 3, p12), in May 1991, RS wrote that the Labour Party's "organisations are empty" and referred to a "dead" or "empty" situation in the mass organisations (p12). "The Labour Party in many areas is just a shell." (The New Turn - a threat 102)
149. On the electoral plane, the slight increase in Labour's performance in the opinion polls and a turn towards Labour in a number of by-elections clearly arises from the desire of workers to defeat the Tory government.
150. The very mixed results for Labour in recent by-elections show, however, that it is an anti-Tory mood rather than a pro-Labour mood which prevails. For instance, in the Monmouth by-election in May 1991, there was a 12.6 per cent swing to Labour, and Labour took the seat from the Tories. This was because Labour was seen as the party to defeat the Tories. However, in the earlier by-election in Kibble Valley in March, there was an 8.3 per cent swing against Labour, with a massive swing of 25.8 per cent to the Liberal Democrats, who in that case were seen as the party to defeat the Tories.
151. In Walton, the 37.4 per cent fall in the Labour vote compared to the general election, in this safe Labour seat, indicated the mood of scepticism if not outright hostility towards the Labour leaders.
152. In Scotland, Labour has consistently lost votes to the SNP in safe Labour seats. In Govan, in November 1988, there was a 27.9 per cent fall in the Labour vote, with a 33.2 per cent swing to the SNP, when Sillars gained the seat. In November 1990, in Paisley North, there was an 11.5 per cent fall in the Labour vote and a 14.0 per cent swing to the SNP and in Paisley South, there was a 10.1 per cent fall in the Labour vote and an 11.8 per cent swing to the SNP. In other words, Labour held these 'safe Labour seats', but at the expense of a big loss of votes to the nationalists.
153. There are sections of the workers who, while hating the Tories, are disillusioned with the Labour Party because of the leadership's right-wing policies. Many workers, working women, young people, black youth, etc, desperately want to see a political change, but have a hatred for Kinnock and Co. Unlike workers of an earlier generation, they will not automatically look towards the Labour Party at this stage. Mass loyalty to the traditional organisation has been undermined over the last decade, not least by the role of the Labour leaders themselves. This does not mean that the historic role of the traditional organisation has fundamentally changed. But it does mean there are layers who will not necessarily move towards the Labour Party in the next few years who nevertheless could be won to Marxist ideas. Moreover, there are other, more advanced workers, who hate the Tories, want to see the return of a Labour government, but also understand the role of the right-wing Labour leaders - and understand the need for socialist policies. There is also a section of workers and youth, a minority at the present time, who are striving to find a path to the revolutionary transformation of society.
154. We have to strive to draw the advanced layers into the tendency, to win the support of a wider layer of class-conscious workers, while at the same time striking a chord with the mass of workers who want to see the defeat of the Tories. The differences in mood between different layers of workers is particularly sharp in Scotland. We can win the most advanced workers with an open campaign for Marxist policies, while our call for the return of a Labour government on socialist policies will have a much broader appeal.
155. To this, the Minority are in effect counter-posing the idea of "a mood for unity" (The New Turn - a threat 44). But how many times in the past has the "mood for unity" been used against the Marxists advancing a bold programme and pursuing independent strategy and tactics? 'The advantage of the vanguard over the masses," wrote Trotsky, "is that we illuminate theoretically the march of events and foresee all its future stages. The formless passive longing for 'unity' will receive blow after blow." (Writings 1933-34, p190). We have to respond to the most advanced workers' desire for a socialist alternative, as well as the generalised anti-Tory mood.
156. Even in a pre-election period, moreover, we have to warn the workers of what will happen in the event of a Kinnock government being returned. We have to outline perspectives and policies for the struggles that will develop after the general election.
After the general election
157. If a Labour government is returned, it would be a government of crisis, to a far greater extent than the 1974-79 government. This would especially be the case if it were a minority government. The right- wing Labour leaders would immediately attempt to secure themselves from criticism and pressure by an even more intense purge of the party, which could mean the emptying-out of the Marxists and what remains of the left.
158. The underlying position of British capitalism and the social crisis are far deeper than under the 1974-79 Labour government. On the basis of their attempt to manage the capitalist system, they could carry through only the most minimal reforms, and would rapidly move to counter-reforms, driving down workers' living standards in an attempt to salvage capitalism. This would inevitably bring a Labour government into collision with the trade unions, including a section of the union leaders. The timescale of developments cannot be exactly predicted. But there is likely to be a 'honeymoon period' before an opposition would emerge from within the trade unions. Much depends on the direction of the world economy. A recovery in 1992, which is possible, could extend the honeymoon period for a while.
159. However, a clash between a Labour government and the unions has even been anticipated by the collision on a local level between local authority trade unions and Labour councils, which are currently pushing through massive cuts, privatisation and redundancy. To date (August 1991) 65 people have been jailed for non-payment - 46 of these by 18 Labour-controlled authorities.
160. If, in the event of a collision between the unions and a Labour government, the trade union leaders had the policy of directing their rank and file into the Labour Party to transform it, there could be rapid changes within the Labour Party. However, most of the trade union leaders will attempt to hold the line for a Labour government for as long as possible, though sections of the trade union leaders would inevitably begin to reflect the pressure from below. It will take time for trade union opposition to have an effect within the Labour Party.
161. If Labour is defeated in the general election, the most likely consequence would be the removal of Kinnock by the right wing, and the consolidation of the right for a period. In the aftermath of another Labour defeat, workers would tend to turn away from the party and look for solutions on the industrial plane. In time, this would reflect itself within the Labour Party.
162. Whether the Labour Party wins the general election or is defeated, therefore, it is likely to be some time before there are developments within the party.
163. Before he came out in support of the Minority, RS wrote:
164. Thus, in May this year RS had an entirely different position from the one he now takes. He recognised then that it would take time before a radicalisation amongst the trade union ranks reflected itself in the party. He wrote:
165. RS understood things a lot better in May than he did in June! Before he did a political somersault, he recognised that the tactic of entrism, as carried out successfully by our tendency in the 1960s, 70s and early 80s, could no longer be carried out in exactly the same way today. 'The party is largely being PSOE-ised," he said, and recognised that the situation within the party was not likely to change for several years. Yet RS now denounces the Scottish turn as the "liquidation of the entry tactic" (The New Turn - a threat 140).
THE LESSONS OF WALTON
166. Our campaign for the Marxist Broad Left candidate in Walton, in June 1991, was a continuation of the struggle we have waged in Liverpool since 1983. In the eyes of the advanced workers in the cities, the by-election battle was a direct extension of the fight to defend the gains of the 47 [The Liverpool 47 Labour Party councillors who led an heroic battle against Thatcher -ed]. Kilfoyle personified the drive of the right-wing Labour council and Rimmer to carry through cuts, privatisation, and mass redundancies. To have given Kilfoyle a clear run would have been seen as an ignominious retreat. Our bold campaign, on the other hand, which reached wide layers of workers, provided a platform for socialist policies, opposed Rimmer's cuts, called for the democratisation of the Labour Party, and raised the call for the return of a Labour government on a socialist programme. The balance sheet of the campaign entirely justifies our decision to support an independent Marxist candidate.
167. The Minority refers to the balance sheet in the theoretical journal. However, they merely take up one incidental point (The New Turn - a threat 112), which we have already dealt with. They make no attempt whatsoever to answer the case for standing. Instead, the Minority constructs its own version of Walton - a straw man set up for easy demolition.
168. We were swayed, they claim, by an emotional mood of anger against Kilfoyle. We failed to stand up to the pressure of the activists who were pushing for a Broad Left candidate. We were therefore dragged into an ultra-left adventure of standing a candidate and taking the road of an independent party. (See The New Turn - a threat 36, 144). This is the false picture painted by the Minority.
169. The decision to stand in Walton is presented as some kind of 'original sin' which "represents the beginning of an ultra-left turn which could culminate in the new turn." (The New Turn - a threat 34). However, earlier on (The New Turn - a threat 4), it is said that:
170. However, the proposal to discuss a new turn in Scotland was first proposed on the NEB in April 1991. The question of standing in Walton was posed by the death of Eric Heffer on 27 May. We did not choose the timing. Nor was it raised as part of a new, open electoral tactic. The proposal to support an independent candidate arose out of the particular situation in Liverpool, and the need to continue the struggle which we have led over a period of years.
171. Even though there was not much time, the decision to stand was not pushed through. It was never posed as a "matter of principle" (The New Turn - a threat 144) that we should stand against Kilfoyle. Nor was standing ever "posed as a vote of confidence in the Liverpool comrades." (The New Turn - a threat 54) Nor was the decision to stand pre-empted by a decision of the Broad Left. (The New Turn - a threat 37)
172. The EC met with Merseyside full-timers for a thorough discussion of the situation and to weigh up the pros and cons of standing an independent candidate. The NEB was held in Liverpool, not as part of a campaign of "irresponsible hype" to "stampede the NEB into supporting the decision," (The New Turn - a threat 53) but partly because leading comrades were in Liverpool for Eric Heffer's funeral. Moreover, because holding it there was the best way to enable the NEB members to assess the situation for themselves. Leading Liverpool comrades made it clear that, despite the fact that they favoured standing, they would accept whatever decision was taken by the NEB.
173. The overwhelming majority of Liverpool comrades were in favour of standing. This was not because they had been pushed by the Broad Left. Their position was based on the assessment of the position in the Labour Party, the situation on the council, the mood of the activists, and the mood of different sections of the advanced layers of the working class, especially in the local authority trade unions. The overwhelming majority of the NEB had the same view.
174. The case for standing against Kilfoyle was not based on "subjective feelings and emotion." (The New Turn - a threat 36) It was never part of the case that Kilfoyle was a "qualitatively different" right winger (The New Turn - a threat 38). Of course, there are many others in the Parliamentary Labour Party of the same ilk. The difference, however, is in the situation in Liverpool and Kilfoyle's role in the last period.
175. The Minority (The New Turn - a threat 39) appear to implicitly accept that it was correct to stand six Broad Left candidates in the May council election. Incidentally, only three of the candidates were sitting councillors. According to the Minority, the six "were seen as real Labour because official Labour Party candidates were imposed undemocratically" and they "were guilty of voting for cuts, poll tax and redundancies." This implies that Kilfoyle was in some way more 'legitimate' than the imposed council candidates.
176. But Kilfoyle too was imposed undemocratically. Long-standing delegates were bureaucratically excluded from the selection process. There were many irregularities, which were taken up with the NEC. In the selection ballot in February 1990, Kilfoyle was declared the winner with 50.68 per cent of the votes in the electoral college as compared to Lesley Mahmood's 46.48 per cent. However, this result was based on the votes of the Ford T&GW branch, which account for 3.47 per cent of the electoral college, being allocated to Kilfoyle. At their branch meeting on 17 February 1990, the members of branch 6/562 were told that the branch committee had already sent off the ballot result on their behalf! If the members had been allowed to vote there, their votes would have been allocated to Lesley. This alone, leaving aside the other fiddles, would have given her a majority of 49.9 per cent compared to 47.2 per cent for Kilfoyle. Moreover, when Lesley Mahmood and Kilfoyle actually appeared before the Walton party members, and outlined their programme and answered questions, 93 of the HO members present voted for Lesley.
177. As regional Labour Party organiser, Kilfoyle had been responsible for rigging his own selection in Walton. He was responsible for the purge of the District Labour Party and Liverpool constituencies. It was Kilfoyle above all who ensured that the right-wingers who "were guilty of voting for cuts, poll tax and redundancies," were installed as councillors and were able to dominate the Labour Group. To try to draw a distinction between right wing council candidates and a right wing parliamentary candidate is completely artificial. The parliamentary campaign was a continuation of the council election campaign.
178. As explained more fully in the theoretical journal, we were against standing independent candidates in Liverpool in 1987, when the 47 councillors were removed by the government's auditors. The 'shadow 47', which included comrades and Broad Left councillors, were able to continue the struggle to defend the gains achieved under our leadership prior to 1987. However, the counter-revolution intensified, with a combination of the Tory government's financial squeeze on the city and Labour leaders' witch-hunt against the left. In April 1990, 16 left councillors voted against the poll tax and were subsequently suspended from the Labour group. In May 1990, the soft-left leader, Keva Coombes, was replaced by the right-wing Rimmer. In November, Labour's National Executive suspended 29 Liverpool councillors, making them ineligible to stand in the local elections. Once again, the District Labour Party was closed down.
179. In April 1991, Rimmer proposed a new cuts budget, including 1000 redundancies. This was voted through by 27 Labour councillors together with the Liberals and Tories, with 40 Labour councillors opposed. The right wing completely dominated the Labour Group, and there was virtually no possibility of left candidates standing as official candidates in the local elections. The six Broad Left candidates stood on a platform to oppose the cuts, privatisation, and redundancies. The election of five of the six candidates was a victory, but in itself could obviously not block the cuts going through.
180. At that stage, the campaign of the local authority unions and the labour movement activists continued. When Eric Heffer died, the question was posed: should we accept the official candidacy of Kilfoyle, who was clearly identified with Kinnock and Rimmer, or put up an independent Broad Left candidate opposed to the cuts and standing for socialist policies?
181. The situation is different in Liverpool because of the mass struggles fought under our leadership over a period of years. What Kilfoyle stood for and the role he had played in Liverpool was widely understood by workers. Moreover, a crucial factor in the by-election campaign was the industrial struggle of the council workers, fighting to defend jobs in the city's biggest 'industry' - the city corporation. The bosses they were up against, in this case, were the right-wing leaders of the Labour group. Kilfoyle had all along acted as their agent, and to allow him a clear run, especially at such a critical stage of the battle, would have had a demoralising effect on the advanced layers of the workers.
182. There is, undoubtedly, a hatred of the Tories among workers and a desire for a return of a Labour government. But there is also a feeling of disgust at the role played by the Labour leaders, and even a hatred of Kinnock personally. The purpose of our campaign was to appeal to the advanced layers with socialist policies and a programme for fighting the cuts locally, while making it clear that we stand for the return of a Labour government on socialist policies. The correctness of our approach was confirmed by the large degree of sympathy amongst workers on the street and on the doorsteps. There was no trace of ultra-leftism on the part of our comrades. We adopted a sympathetic attitude to Labour voters. There was little hostility to our campaign, apart from a small minority of right-wing Labour supporters, even amongst those who voted Labour.
183. The Minority have tried to pour scorn on the 'derisory' vote. However, the difference between the success of five council candidates in May and the 2600 votes in June was not because of any "fundamental" or "qualitative" difference between council and parliamentary candidates. The crucial difference was that a few days before polling day the struggle of the local authority workers against privatisation and redundancies was decisively defeated. This undoubtedly affected the mood of many workers. Many abstained from voting Labour, and many who had promised to vote for Lesley also stayed at home.
184. However, the result actually confirmed our analysis of the mood of the working class. The Tories were annihilated. The Liberal candidate only picked up about half the disaffected Tory voters. The Labour vote slumped massively from the last general election, and we gained the vote of a significant minority who went out to vote consciously for socialist policies, a fight against cuts, and an alternative to the right-wing leadership of Kinnock and Rimmer.
185. The Minority claim that the capitalists were delighted that we stood in Walton. However, the unprecedented barrage of propaganda, for instance, with several pages of the mass-circulation Daily Mirror devoted to attacking us on polling day, was motivated by the capitalists' fear of the tendency and its influence. Their thinking was spelt out by Heseltine, as explained in the theoretical journal. They bolstered Kinnock and the right-wing Labour leadership in Liverpool against us because they saw it as the best way of trying to break the movement in Liverpool and carry through their counter-revolution. The Minority argue that we should have stepped aside and given them a clear run.
A balanced assessment
186. Moreover, there is also the factor that, if we had not supported a candidate, a section of the Broad Left would have fielded their own candidate in any case. This was not the main reason for standing, but was a factor which had to be weighed up. With a non-Marxist Broad Left candidate, we would have had the worst of both worlds. They would have been branded as a representative of the tendency, and yet we would have not had full control of the campaign.
187. What would have been the position of the Minority in this case? They do not say in their document. But the leaders of the Minority made it clear that, in the event of a non-Marxist Broad Left candidate standing, they would have advocated support for Kilfoyle! That is the logic of their position. Had we followed such a course in that situation, the name of the tendency would have stunk in the nostrils of Liverpool's labour movement activists and the advanced workers.
188. We never had arty illusions that we could win the seat in Walton. The Majority resolution to the July NEB (paragraph 6) explicitly acknowledges an electoral defeat, draws up a balance sheet of our campaign, and underlines the gains of our intervention in the by-election. Undoubtedly, it is true that (as AW related in a report of our Spanish comrades' 1984 election campaign in Alava) "in the course of a campaign hopes were raised by the excellent response of the workers..." Naturally, on election night, many comrades were disappointed that we hadn't got more votes. But the vote was anticipated by the comrades leading the campaign, and the reasons were explained at our election rally. The result was not proclaimed as a "victory" in the paper (The New Turn - a threat 18) or anywhere else. That is another distortion by the Minority. There was a balanced assessment in the paper (12 July, 1991) and a full assessment in the theoretical journal (issue 46). Letters published in the paper reflected the enthusiasm of workers for the stand that we had taken.
189. Our tendency engaged in an unprecedented dialogue with the masses, far more intense than in any previous campaign. We made our mark on thousands of workers and left an important marker for the future. Our own comrades involved in a campaign learned enormously. At the election night rally in Liverpool, there was an enormous sense of confidence at what we had achieved in the campaign and a determination to build on it in the future.
An Independent Labour Party?
190. Since the by-election, a section of the Broad Left leadership opposed to the tendency have declared the formation of an Independent Labour Party. In a statement (18 August), one of their leaders said: "We see no future for people of our persuasion, on the left, within the Labour Party." In effect, a tiny minority have declared an independent party counter-posed to the Labour Party. They have even proposed a constitution declaring members of other organisations "ineligible for membership" of the Independent Labour Party! We are opposed to such a move. Immediately following this declaration, the Liverpool City-wide Broad Left issued a statement (see the paper, 30 August 1991) saying that their decision was a mistake. The Broad Left was forced to organise outside the party because of expulsions, suspensions and disbandments, "but [for the Independent Labour Party] to set up an alternative party, to turn their backs on Labour and to encourage others to leave the Labour Party is a completely different question... Our aims have always been to reclaim the Labour Party for democracy and socialism and to gain readmittance of all expelled socialists."
THE SCOTTISH TURN
191. The proposal for the Scottish turn was presented to the NEB in April. At that time, it was unanimously accepted. Plans were made for a thorough discussion throughout the tendency. This was before the question of Walton came up. The call for the turn arose out of the experience of the last few years and an assessment of the opportunities for the tendency's growth in Scotland in the next period. The case for the new turn is set out in Scotland, perspectives and tasks, 1991.
192. The tendency has built up a tremendous fund of political capital through our successful leadership of the anti-poll tax struggle. Wide layers of workers recognised that we are responsible for Thatcher's downfall and the defeat of the poll tax. Our leading figures are well known, particularly the leader of the Scottish Federation, and have enormous political authority in the eyes of workers and youth. The question is, how can we capitalise on this political credit, taking account of the complicated situation that exists, particularly in Scotland?
193. The anti-poll tax struggle, for reasons already explained, took place outside the framework of the Labour Party. While the battles over enforcement (warrant sales in Scotland, jailings in England and Wales) continues, the anti-poll tax movement is now scaling down. Given the depth of the social crisis in Scotland, however, new struggles will inevitably develop. But, in the next period, they will not in the main develop through the channels of the Labour Party.
194. The anti-poll tax struggle has already brought many sections of workers into collision with right-wing Labour councils. Although there is a bitter anti-Tory mood, there is also bitter disillusionment with the Labour Party leadership. Their right-wing policies offer nothing for Scotland, where the economic and social crisis is sharper than in the rest of Britain. In the event of a Kinnockite Labour government being returned there will be an even bigger disenchantment with Labour in Scotland than under the 1974-79 Wilson-Callaghan government. Already, there has been a massive upswing in national feeling, a massive growth in support for independence, and increasing support for the SNP. Under a Labour government, inevitably a government of crisis, there is likely to be an even bigger swing to nationalism, especially amongst the youth.
195. What tactics should we pursue to meet this situation? We have led a successful mass struggle outside the Labour Party, but because of the fettered conditions under which we have been forced to conduct our entry work over the recent period, our public profile - the aims, perspectives and independent character - of the tendency have not been clear to wider layers of workers, or even to sections of our periphery. We have to find a more effective way of drawing our periphery into the tendency. If we do not, we are in danger of losing out in the struggles of the next few years.
A bold detour
196. It is vital, therefore, in the situation which faces us in Scotland, to conduct a bold detour around the obstacles created by the right-wing Labour leadership. We must audaciously find a road to the workers and youth who, at this stage, are not attracted towards the traditional organisations. We must give the tendency in Scotland an open character, presenting a rounded-out Marxist programme, and boldly recruiting into our ranks. We must utilise the authority of our best known comrades to the fullest extent, through their clear, open identification with the ideas and policies of an open organisation. If the circumstances are favourable, we should be ready to fight a parliamentary election campaign where we have a strong base, as a platform for our ideas and an adjunct of our campaigning activity. This would be linked to our long-term orientation to the Labour Party and our demand for the regeneration of the party, through our call for the return of a Labour government on socialist policies.
197. The Minority vehemently opposes this turn. But they do not attempt to answer the case made out in Scotland: perspectives and tasks, 1991. Out of 185 paragraphs, seven are devoted to the Scottish turn (The New Turn - a threat 61-67) and another seven (The New Turn - a threat 168-174) to "Nationalism in Scotland". The latter begins with the astounding statement that 'This is not the place to deal with the national question in Scotland in general." (The New Turn - a threat 168) Instead, the approach is to try to frighten comrades with the dire consequences which will allegedly follow the abandonment of "forty years' work" and to conjure up a multitude of dangers which will allegedly accompany a new turn. Nowhere do the Minority outline any perspective or strategy or tactics for building the tendency over the next few years.
198. The position of the Minority is a recipe for stagnation, or rather paralysis. The position of the Majority offers the possibility of reaching new layers of workers and youth, of winning sections who are disillusioned with Labour and who are not looking towards the Labour Party for solutions to their problems. The tactics which we propose will enable us to win a new generation of workers, to educate them in the ideas and methods of Marxism, and to turn them back at a later stage to participate in the transformation of the Labour Party.
199. But, say the Minority (The New Turn - a threat 172), "if it were so easy to win workers and youth in Scotland... why can't we get them to join us right now? What can we do with an open organisation that we cannot do at present?" The only difference, according to the Minority, would be "a signboard with 'independent organisation'... written on it." Again, the Minority adopt the role of sceptics, raising doubts and difficulties, without seriously addressing the problems involved.
Overheads of entry work
200. We would put the question to them: what has been the price of entry work in the last period? They say we have not "got off unscathed" from more independent work. (The New Turn - a threat 104) Yet most of the progress we have made recently has been through our independent work. What position would we be in now had we not been leading the anti-poll tax struggle? However, we have paid a far higher price for entry under the unfavourable conditions of the last few years.
201. Writing on the work of the Trotskyists in the Belgium Labour Party (Writings, 1935-36), Trotsky commented that entry
The value of the entrist tactic has to be assessed on the basis of the practical gains: what we put into the work, and what we get out.
202. Under conditions of the witch-hunt which have steadily intensified, especially since 1987, we have not been able to present ourselves to the workers as a clear revolutionary alternative with our own organisation. A number of comrades have not been able to openly identify themselves with the tendency or to sell the paper. Our internal political life has been restricted by entrist security considerations (with severe limits on the internal bulletins, restriction of information, etc).
203. Moreover, the pressures of work within the party have resulted in some comrades, in practice, subordinating the tasks of the tendency to the work of the traditional organisations. Trotsky warned of the dangers of adapting to the legalities of the reformist leadership or of the capitalist state. He pointed out, for instance, that under conditions of Czarist legality in Russia,
No one is proposing that comrades should abandon their positions in the Labour Party or give up their Labour Party membership. Where we have positions, we will continue to defend them in order, as far as possible, to preserve a basis for future developments within the Labour Party.
204. But it would be entirely wrong to try to hold on to our positions at any cost: avoiding public platforms and keeping our heads down politically. We cannot accept the position, that when it comes to the crunch, comrades should pay their poll tax to avoid the danger of expulsion. This would be political capitulation which would undermine the political authority of the tendency and throw away our past gains.
205. But the importance of our presence in the Labour Party, say the Minority, "lies not in present gains, but in the future." (The New Turn - a threat 64) But no one disagrees that we have to maintain a strategic orientation towards the Labour Party. The question is: How do we win the most radical layers of workers and youth under current conditions? The Minority do not believe that there are significant opportunities. They scornfully refer to the imaginary "constituency of workers and youth (whether in Scotland or anywhere else) just waiting to join us." (The New Turn - a threat 72) We are convinced, however, that there are opportunities which must be seized. And as AW himself wrote earlier this year in relation to Spain: "You cannot feed yourself today with the bread of tomorrow. I believe that in Spain - and perhaps not only in Spain - a bold turn is necessary if we are not to lose a series of opportunities." (We deal with this point more fully later.)
206. What tactics do the Minority advocate for Scotland? It is simply 'business as usual'! They give no answer to the questions: how can we build on our success in the anti-poll tax struggle? How can we build under the conditions which concretely exist in Scotland?
207. It is impossible to turn the activists of the anti-poll tax movement into the Labour Party. Many of our leading comrades have been expelled, as the experience in Pollok and Cathcart shows. Scores of activists who could have been recruited to the party have been excluded by the right wing. In any case, policies of right-wing Labour councils have repelled a layer of workers and youth. Despite the overwhelming anti-Tory mood, there is widespread cynicism about the Labour Party nationally, and outright hatred for the right-wing Labour leaders amongst some layers.
208. There has, at the same time, been a massive growth in nationalist sentiments. This was reflected in the SNP victory in Govan in November 1989, and the recent gains of the SNP in the polls and by-elections. A System Three poll in September, 1991, showed that three out of four people in Scotland are in favour of either devolution or independence. Forty per cent supported a devolved Scottish assembly, while 35 per cent support independence. Only 21 per cent support the status quo. A much higher percentage of young people support independence.
209. In opinion polls, support for the SNP has fluctuated between 15-25 per cent. However, support for the SNP could grow massively under certain conditions. The experience of 1972-74 showed this. The SNP already has strong support and sympathy amongst young people, and is beginning to get the support of a number of shop-stewards in the steel industry and other sectors.
210. While the Labour leaders are moving more and more to the right, moreover, the SNP leaders are adopting a more and more radical face. They can no longer be dismissed as 'tartan Tories'. The leadership of the SNP has come out in favour of "the nationalisation of private monopolies, such as electricity and public transport." The convenor of Mid-Lothian SNP stated: "We intend to achieve a situation where dynamic public sector-controlled key industries will run in tandem with the private sector." The SNP is calling for the renationalisation of the steel industry. They argue that the Tories want four Trident nuclear submarines, Kinnock wants three, and they want to scrap them all and spend the money on housing and education. They are hammering the argument that the reforms of a Labour government will be limited to "what the economy can afford", which in reality will mean virtually nothing for the people of Scotland.
211. In a period leading up. to a general election, the SNP will undoubtedly outflank the Labour leaders with radical policies with a socialist tinge. This was anticipated in Sillar's campaign in Govan. Under a right-wing Labour government, with mass disillusionment in Labour and a deepening social crisis in Scotland, big layers of workers and youth could swing towards the nationalists. A Labour government is very likely to establish a Scottish assembly. Far from satisfying the SNP or national sentiment, this is likely to stimulate demands for independence and strengthen the swing to nationalism.
212. A revolutionary Marxist tendency has a duty to prepare for such a development. Our position is clear. We support the call for a Scottish assembly with full economic powers, and support the right to self-determination, ultimately separation, if the overwhelming majority are in favour of it. However, we do not advocate separation. We are in favour of a socialist Britain or a Socialist Federation of the British Isles. We are implacably opposed to nationalism and are against the splitting of the labour movement on nationalist lines. To claim that we are in favour of "concessions to nationalist sentiments" (The New Turn - a threat 173) is a scandal. The question for Marxists is: What is the best way to cut across the development towards nationalism as a reaction to the social crisis and the bankruptcy of the Labour leadership?
213. If the SNP developed a significant working class membership, obviously (The New Turn - a threat 171) we would send people in. But why should we wait for the SNP to gain a strong base amongst the youth and workers? In the course of the magnificent anti-poll tax battle in Scotland, the SNP undoubtedly gained members and support, particularly amongst young people. The SNP leaders demagogically cashed in on the battle, despite their total absence from the day-to-day organisational work of the movement. But how much more would the SNP have grown without our intervention on a class basis, which cut across the SNP's idea of a 'Scottish movement' against the poll tax? If we act boldly in the coming period, particularly with a more open, independent organisation in Scotland, we could win the best of those who might otherwise swing towards the nationalists.
214. The Minority believes that this can be done in "a flexible and audacious way" (The New Turn - a threat 171) while we continue entryist work. But under a Labour government, the existing widespread hostility towards the Labour Party could reach extreme forms. It certainly cannot be ruled out that there would be a split in the Labour Party in Scotland, with a new version of a 'Scottish Labour Party' breaking away. It is possible, moreover, that a section of the Scottish trade union leadership would support such a move under certain conditions. A section of the youth, driven by despair and desperation, could take to the road of terrorism. It is unreal to imagine that we could cut across this reaction to right-wing Labour unless we are able to make a more open appeal. Only by having an independent organisation, with an open face, would we be able to attract the best of the workers and youth.
215. We would approach the layers potentially attracted by the SNP with clear Marxist ideas and programme. We would explain the reasons for the special crisis in Scotland, linking it to our socialist programme and perspectives for the transformation of the labour movement. It is a grotesque travesty to claim that:
They have to resort to a smear to cover up the fact that they have no arguments on this issue. They do not deal with the problem of nationalism.
A decisive influence
216. The Minority argue for "a sense of proportion". (The New Turn - a threat 170) But their sense of proportions amounts to a gross underestimation, or even outright denigration, of the successes of the tendency. In the same breath (The New Turn - a threat 110) they first accept we have been responsible for "a series of dazzling victories" and then allude to Stalin's notorious phrase "dizzy with success". In reality, the call for "a realistic and sober-minded" approach, means: We are too small to have a decisive effect on the way things will unfold in the next period. Therefore, we should sit tight, cling to our position in the Labour Party, and await further developments.
217. "In the whole of Scotland," say the Minority, "we have at most 300 active comrades." (The New Turn - a threat170) So how did we manage to lead the anti- poll tax movement? If we are so small and ineffective, how were we able to organise such a mass movement? Even if we accept this figure, has not our organisation been able to act as a lever on millions of workers? Do we not have an enormous periphery with tremendous authority amongst wide layers of workers?
218. We have to work out ways of drawing on this influence and authority to build in the next few years. What is the "flexible and audacious way of reaching nationalist youth" advocated by the Minority? We should wait for "clear evidence that significant layers of young people" are active in the SNP. Then we should send people in. Before that, we could perhaps "spare a group of ten or a dozen comrades to have a look around." (The New Turn - a threat 171) These comments demonstrate that the Minority are completely and utterly out of touch with the situation in Scotland.
219. In considering the effect that even a small tendency can have, we should recall the situation in Northern Ireland between 1968 and 1970. At that time, before there was a turn to the republicans and the terrorist methods of the IRA, there was a swing towards the Labour Party both in Northern Ireland and the South. In l970, the Northern Ireland Labour Party got over 100,000 votes, drawing on support from both-Protestant and Catholic workers. Because of the bankruptcy of the right-wing Labour leaders, however, the Northern Ireland Labour Party vote soon collapsed. By 1973, the Northern Ireland Labour Party was a shell and rapidly disintegrated. However, in the north-west of Ireland, in 1969-70, there were 300-400 activists in the Labour Party and Young Socialists - a significant layer of them searching for a revolutionary way out of the crisis. Because the Labour leaders offered nothing, many of them turned towards the republicans. We had only two or three comrades there at the time. If we had had 100 cadres, or even 50 cadres, we could have had a decisive effect on that layer of young workers. Who can doubt, that with the correct policies, we would have won a significant layer of the radical activists within the party. Through them, we could have won even wider layers of workers. It cannot be ruled out that we would have had a decisive effect on the subsequent course of events in Ireland.
Advantages of open work
220. The Minority claim they favour a "flexible" approach. (The New Turn - a threat 29 and following) They "have always favoured a more independent approach to our work..." (The New Turn - a threat 31) But nowhere do they explain concretely how it is possible to combine effective Labour Party work with effective independent work - in the period before the development of a left wing within the Labour Party, which may be some time in the future.
221. They say:
222. But this is based on the idea that the main field of work is in the Labour Party, which at this stage is not an area of fruitful work (as even the Minority accept). Under current conditions, the Labour leaders would exclude anyone associated with such fronts from the Labour Party. It is not a policy on which it is possible to recruit support from the advanced workers and youth, particularly those moving towards the nationalists. Whatever the relevance of 'Lenin clubs' in the past, the idea that these can be effective in today's conditions show that the supporters of the Minority are living on a different planet.
223. The new turn we are proposing is vital in order for the tendency to grow in the situation which now faces us. To build a revolutionary tendency, Trotsky repeatedly emphasised:
224. The advantages of an open organisation in Scotland under the present conditions are clear:
(1) it would sharply pose the aims and tasks of the tendency before our own members. This in itself would be an important advance, when many comrades have lost their sense of direction within the Labour Party and when comrades involved in independent work are not clear on where it is leading;
(2) it would present a bold, clearly defined alternative to the advanced workers and youth. In our public meetings and in the course of our campaigning activity, we would boldly appeal for people to join our organisation. An open face would give us far greater opportunities of using the media to put our ideas across. We would make maximum use of the leading figures in the anti-poll tax movement, nationally and locally. At the same time, we would spell out the criteria for joining the tendency. We would have open meetings for recruiting, but we would bring people in on the basis of agreement with our ideas and a commitment to carry out the tasks of the tendency. Undoubtedly, our approach and methods would have to be elaborated and concretised on the basis of experience of implementing the tactic.
An open organisation - not a "party"
225. The Scottish turn would mean giving our tendency in Scotland an open form. It does not mean creating a "front organisation". A front would still not give the organisation a clear profile. It would involve all the overheads of maintaining a separate structure, which would have no advantages. In any case, as with YTURC, PELS, YRC, etc, any such front organisation would immediately be proscribed by the Labour leadership, and any association with its activity would become an expellable offence.
226. Giving the tendency an open face, however, does not mean proclaiming a new party. We would not abandon our positions in the Labour Party, but attempt to hold on, where possible. But the main emphasis of our work, while the current conditions prevail in the Labour Party, would be on independent, open work. This is not an abandonment of entrism as a long-term tactic, but a detour under current conditions.
227. The Scottish document clearly states (Scotland: Perspectives and Tasks 127):
228. The Minority's tortuous reference to the Independent Labour Party (The New Turn - a threat 129 and following) is a red herring. The Scottish document (Scotland: Perspectives and Tasks 40) simply makes the point that if we were able to operate within the Labour Party as the Independent Labour Party did before 1932, there would be no need whatsoever to raise the question of open work. There is not the slightest suggestion that we should in any way base ourselves on the model of the Independent Labour Party. Moreover, the Minority document gives a misleading impression: the Independent Labour Party received about 100,000 votes, but had 16,733 members after it broke from the Labour Party in 1932. However, the organisation was already in terminal decline. The leadership followed a vacillating left-reformist policy, and attempted to find an accommodation with Stalinism. The Independent Labour Party lost its Scottish youth section to the Stalinist YCL in 1928, and the Independent Labour Party membership as a whole declined rapidly after 1931. This was primarily a question of the false perspective, programme, and tactics followed by the Independent Labour Party leadership.
229. The Minority attempts to represent the Scottish turn as a move towards "an independent party" (The New Turn - a threat 80); "a policy of an independent party by instalments" (The New Turn - a threat 81); "the setting up of an independent organisation which would be a party in all but name" (The New Turn - a threat 164); and "a general national turn in the direction of an open party/organisation." (The New Turn - a threat 166). Once again the minority rely on the repetition of distortion rather than arguments.
230. Declaring an open organisation for a period is not the same as declaring an independent party. It is not just a question of a name, but of the perspectives. The Minority are obviously muddled on this issue, or else they are deliberately confusing the issue.
231. To proclaim an independent party would be to base ourselves on the perspective of the Communist Parties in the 1920s, in the period after the Russian revolution and the formation of the Communist International. Then the perspective was one of a struggle to break the influence of reformism and build new mass parties on the revolutionary programme of the Communist International. This is not our perspective at the present time. We base ourselves on the perspective that there will, at a later stage, be a turn towards the Labour Party. Its role is far from exhausted. We are obliged to conduct a tactical detour because of the current conditions in the Labour Party, not abandon our long-term strategy of an orientation towards the party.
232. We will never adopt the ultra-left approach of the sects. The position of the SWP is that the Labour Party is finished as a mass party. They appeal to workers to join the SWP as an alternative mass revolutionary party of the working class.
233. Our approach, with an open organisation in Scotland, would be to appeal to the workers on the basis of our own ideas, programme, tactics, etc. But part and parcel of our policy would be the transformation of the Labour Party: the fight for socialist policies for Labour, the democratisation of the party, and a call for trade unionists to move into the party and transform it. We would in no way counter-pose ourselves to the Labour Party in a sectarian manner. We would have a completely friendly approach to rank-and-file Labour Party members.
234. If we decide to stand independent candidates, including possibly an independent parliamentary candidate on the basis of an assessment of the concrete situation, it would not in any way contradict the perspective of a long-term orientation towards the Labour Party.
235. If we fight a parliamentary election, or elections, counting our vote will not be the decisive question. Our aim will be to take our ideas to the widest possible layers of workers, and to recruit new members. There is no question of proposing a purely electoral tactic, though the electoral plane is very important, particularly in Britain. A parliamentary campaign would provide a platform for our programme. It would allow us to utilise the tremendous political authority of our leading figure in the anti-poll tax struggle.
236. The electoral battle would be linked to our campaigning activity - in the workplaces, in the trade unions, and amongst the youth. As in Walton, a parliamentary campaign would allow us to reach much wider layers than in our day-to-day activities, precisely "to conduct a dialogue with the masses."
237. We would boldly present our programme in a sharp, rounded-out way. We would appeal audaciously to the radicalised youth attracted towards nationalism. While raising our own banner, we would call for the return of a Labour government on socialist policies. There is no contradiction at all in this.
238. In the past, the Communist Party, when it still had a basis amongst a layer of workers, stood parliamentary candidates against the Labour Party. They gained very low votes, but even on the basis of their left reformist policies and apologies for the Stalinist bureaucracy in Eastern Europe, they gained the sympathy of a layer of the Labour lefts who saw them as defending left policies which had been abandoned by the right-wing Labour Party leaders.
239. A Labour government is likely to concede the establishment of a Scottish assembly. There would then be a strong case for our contesting seats with our own candidates. Assembly elections would be a vital area of political struggle in Scotland. If proportional representation were introduced, it is not ruled out that we could win seats. Assembly positions would provide us with a valuable platform. Nevertheless, the main emphasis of our campaign would be to take our programme to the widest layers, cut across support for the nationalists among the youth, and draw new supporters into the tendency.
240. In the future, when there is the development of a mass left within the Labour Party, far from being criticised for standing candidates, we would be applauded for keeping the banner of socialism flying during a difficult period. We will gain credit from having warned in advance of the course to be taken by a right-wing Labour government and the consequences of its policies under conditions of crisis.
"ULTRA-LEFT ADVENTURE" - OR BOLD EXPERIMENT?
241. What is the Minority's conclusion: "It is time to call a halt." (The New Turn - a threat 185) Carry on as usual! Discuss "the problems which face us". Get down to "political education, where [there are] big gaps". What a conclusion! This is not a guide to action but a prescription for paralysis.
242. The Minority are appealing to the illusory security of "tried and tested methods", in other words, of habit and routine. They are trying to play on comrades' fear of fresh tactics, which by their very nature have yet to be proven. We will be cut off, claim the Minority, from the trade unions and the organised labour movement. We will be branded as sectarians. By appealing to radicalised, impatient youth, we will be dragged into one ultra-left adventure after another. Education will be neglected, and there will be no training of cadres. In the future, when new opportunities for work in the Labour Party open up, our miss-educated youth will baulk at entry. In any case, after open work, we will not get back into the Labour Party. This is the scenario conjured up by the Minority.
243. The Minority document pours scorn on the idea of an "experiment" and of being "prepared to take risks." (The New Turn - a threat 182) But do they really believe that the success of any new tactic can be guaranteed in advance, before it is tested by experience? As Trotsky said, a tactic can lead to success or disaster, depending on how it is put into practice. Successful revolutionary work requires an organisation, as Trotsky put it, which "knows how to manage its affairs consciously and skilfully in the swirl of events". When arguing the case for entry in the 1930s, then a new tactic which met with resistance within the ranks, Trotsky said: "I do not fear to use the term 'experiment'. We will hardly lose a single member; whether or not we win something more or less, the future will show." Trotsky's approach had nothing in common with the leaders of the Minority.
244. Let us consider some of the objections raised by the Minority.
A turn away from the organised labour movement?
245. The Minority claims "there has been a gradual drift of some comrades not just away from the Labour Party, but from the organised labour movement as a whole. This has not been corrected by the leading comrades. The culmination of this process was the adventure of Walton..." (The New Turn - a threat 104) But what is their evidence for this?
246. The mass anti-poll tax movement, because of the role of the Labour leaders, was mainly organised outside the framework of the traditional organisations. Nevertheless, we have made every effort to turn the anti-poll tax movement towards the mass organisations. The struggle has been taken into the local authority unions, into CPSA and into workplaces. On the other hand, many anti-poll tax activists have been blocked from joining the Labour Party.
247. How can Walton be described as the culmination of a turn away from the organised labour movement? The Real Labour candidate was supported by an overwhelming majority of the Broad Left, which embraces the activists of the Liverpool Labour Party, who are currently excluded from the official party. The Real Labour campaign drew on strong support from within the local authority trade unions. It is the official Labour Party, in Liverpool and many other areas, which has become cut off from the real labour movement.
248. The Minority claims that "the attention of the organisation has been drawn away from the vital work in the unions..." (The New Turn - a threat 158) and assert that "if the 'turn' goes through, it will do untold damage to the work in the unions." (The New Turn - a threat 159) Undoubtedly, there has been a low level of industrial action in the last few years. But on our part, there has been no turning away from the work in the unions. Earlier this year, we held a successful national industrial meeting, which was organised precisely to bring together our leading trade union comrades, assess the work of the past period, lay down perspectives and tasks for the next period and underline the vital importance of trade union work in the next period.
249. Undoubtedly, union work is "the key to work in the Labour Party." (The New Turn - a threat 158) At the moment, however, the opportunities are within the workplaces and in the unions, not within the party. We now have crucial points of support in key unions and will strengthen our position in the struggles of the next period. When trade union activists turn towards the Labour Party in the future we will have a powerful position amongst those activists. Our comrades will be an integral part of the turn towards the party.
250. We are already conducting open work in a number of unions. With all our weaknesses, we represent the only coherent organised left wing in the trade union movement. We have no intention of adopting sectarian policies or ultra-left tactics. On the basis of correct policy and methods we will continue to grow. The attitude of workers is not determined by whether or not we hold party cards but by the content of our policies and by our approach.
251. In the past our basis of support in the party, particularly in the Labour youth organisation, was an enormous advantage in reaching wider layers of workers. But this Labour Party "legitimacy" was not the only factor: our influence has always been based on our ideas, our record of struggle, and our method of approach.
252. We are an independent, revolutionary tendency, whether inside or outside the Labour Party. Our orientation is a question of the most favourable tactics for building the tendency. There can be no "umbilical cord" (The New Turn - a threat 184) between a revolutionary tendency and a mass reformist organisation. It is false to claim that we have established "Trotskyism [as] a recognised legitimate section of the Labour movement" (The New Turn - a threat 13, 25) purely on the basis of our position within the Labour Party. How many sectarian organisations have there been in the Labour Party and yet never established their "legitimacy" in the eyes of workers?
253. The Minority even claims (The New Turn - a threa t119) that "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)." At the time when we played a prominent part in the struggle of the Labour Party left for reselection of MPs, radical policies, etc, there may have been an element of truth in this. At the present time, however, workers and youth seeking a radical alternative look towards us in spite of our position within the Labour Party.
A danger of ultra-leftism and sectarianism?
254. According to the Minority, a turn towards open organisation inevitably means a turn towards ultra-leftism and sectarianism. Their method is repeat, repeat and repeat again!
255. The new turn "signifies a break with the policy of entrism, and a turn in the direction of an ultra-left, sectarian policy..." (The New Turn - a threat 4) The Labour leaders will be able to "brand us as one of the sectarian groups on the fringes." (The New Turn - a threat 13) We will be no better than "the sects, who try and create phantom 'mass' revolutionary parties outside of the time, experience, and consciousness of the masses." (The New Turn - a threat 21) Our anti-poll tax work has led to ultra-leftism (The New Turn - a threat 33). Walton is the beginning of an ultra-left and adventuristic turn (The New Turn - a threat 34,35). Apparently, it is only "a solid base and tradition in the mass organisations" which has "set us apart from the sectarians who inhabit the fringes of the labour movement." (The New Turn - a threat 63) The workers will "see little difference between us and say, the SWP" (The New Turn - a threat 120) And so on, and so on (e.g., The New Turn - a threat 101, 109, 159).
256. But surely it is ideas, perspectives and methods which determine whether or not a tendency is ultra-left or sectarian. Is it only our work within the Labour Party that has separated us from the SWP and the Healyites? The Minority accuse us of a "desire to reap where we have not sown" (The New Turn - a threat 67), a classic definition of sectarianism. But it is precisely the need to reap where we have sown, in the anti-poll tax movement, amongst the youth and in the unions, that requires a detour at the present time. Another definition of sectarianism is: turning your backs on the masses. Which is sectarian? Bold, open work amongst the workers and youth? Or emphasising Labour Party work, when there is no activity within the party?
Winning the youth
257. According to the Minority, we will inevitably miseducate our membership in an ultra-left manner if we adopt the Scottish turn, "...having miseducated the youth in a sectarian spirit, any attempt to put the process into reverse would cause a massive split in the organisation." (The New Turn - a threat 179) In any case, we have apparently already seriously erred in this direction, "...neglect of theory and political education... constant emphasis on 'campaigns'... 'commandism'..." (The New Turn - a threat 180) And so on, and on.
258. It is not clear, however, who will be miseducating whom? The Minority suggest that the tendency will be dragged down the ultra-left track by "raw workers and youth." This is somewhat paradoxical, as they also believe that "To imagine that there is a huge constituency of workers and youth... just waiting to join us at the moment we leave [the Labour Party] is false from beginning to end." (The New Turn - a threat 72) But of course, in the Minority's sceptical eyes, we are grasping for "easy solutions, short- cuts, organisational panaceas" (The New Turn - a threat 86) and we will continue, they allege, to feed them "a steady diet of slogans, activism and campaigns, without attending to their political education." (The New Turn - a threat 88)
259. What is this, but a crude ploy to counter-pose political education to political action? Moreover, does it not reveal the Minority's contempt for "raw workers and youth", who can apparently be won merely with a few slogans! Their document has nothing to say on the mood of young people, and puts forward no strategy for building amongst youth.
260. In the past the Labour youth organisation was the main vehicle of our intervention among youth. However, we were long ago forced by the right-wing Labour Party regime to use our own independent campaigns (YTURC, FELS, YRC, etc). The youth are not attracted to the Labour Party at the moment, and many feel contempt or hatred for the right-wing Labour leaders, who they rightly see as part of the 'establishment. Perhaps, for the Minority, this is what makes them "raw" - their failure to see the need for a Labour Party card? But why, without Marxist ideas, should young people join the Labour Party at the moment?
261. The burning grievances of young people, their hatred for the Tories and other symbols of wealth and power, and their alienation from the Labour leaders are the raw material for a desire to change society. A section of youth are instinctively searching for a revolutionary path. It is vital that we develop methods of recruiting among this layer of youth, and this requires clear policies, effective tactics, and bold action.
262. The Minority has plenty to say about the dangers of this work - but nothing to say on how we should build amongst the youth. The new turn will be an extension of our independent work in the trade unions, amongst young workers, amongst working class women, among black workers and youth, and in the movement for gay and lesbian rights. We have to have an approach that will allow us to take up all the issues which concern young people - nuclear weapons, the destruction of the environment, the crisis in the third world -and put a rounded-out Marxist position on such issues. From this work we will recruit fresh comrades, who will enormously strengthen the tendency and provide new forces with which to intervene in the Labour Party in the future.
How do we educate cadres?
263. Another recurring Minority theme is the alleged neglect of political education and cadre building. Repetition is again the essence of the style, with variations on this theme in about 17 paragraphs. We would have grown far more in the recent period, they claim, if "more attention had been paid to political education, cadre building and consolidation." (The New Turn - a threat 87) There has been a "neglect of theory and political education" with a "constant emphasis on campaigns". (The New Turn - a threat 185)
264. No one would disagree with the need to pay more attention to political education. Over the last few years, we have been leading a mass movement, and as a result political education has suffered as compared to previous relatively quieter periods. The whole of the leadership agreed on the need to stress education and cadre building, and began to take steps in this direction last year (for example, stressing the need for leading comrades to delegate routine in the anti-poll tax work and concentrate on consolidating the tendency). Are the Minority saying that we should not have been so involved in the anti-poll tax struggle? That is the logic of their criticism. Yet many of the best cadres we have were won and developed through that struggle, and are now playing a key role in the tendency. It has not been those comrades who have been lost through the "revolving door syndrome", but in the main a layer of comrades who were not to the forefront of recent struggles.
265. What lies behind the Minority's stress on the "neglect of education"? There are two things.
266. Firstly, it is a ruse to substitute generalities about education and cadre building for argument on the political issues at stake - the question of the entry tactic and open work. This slips out in a number of comments: "...we have neglected to educate the newer members on perspectives for the Labour Party." (The New Turn - a threat 155) "...the general political level of the organisation has gone down considerably... That fact is unfortunately reflected in the present discussion, where the fundamental ideas of the tendency have been lost sight of." (The New Turn - a threat 89) But the Minority's real allegation is that the majority of the leadership has "lost sight" of the "fundamental ideas of the tendency". This precisely comes back to the issues of perspectives, strategy and tactics which are currently under debate. If the Minority fundamentally disagrees with our position, they have to argue their case. It is no argument to attribute our position to "a neglect of education"!
267. Secondly, the Minority are incorrectly counter-posing the need for education and the development of cadres to active intervention in the workers' movement. For good measure, they characterise the leadership's direction of this campaigning work as "commandism". (The New Turn - a threat 180)
268. The Minority's approach is completely one-sided. We need to strengthen theoretical education and correct weaknesses in the training of cadres. We have to respond to comrades' need for theory and ensure that all comrades study the fundamental ideas of Marxism and apply theory to contemporary developments. However, cadres are not developed only through study and theoretical discussion, but also through experience of participation in the struggle of the proletariat and through the work of building the organisation. For every cadre there is a vital interaction between theoretical development and practical activity. The monotonous stress of the Minority on one side of the equation reveals that they have a poor grasp of dialectics.
269. Pursuing campaigning activity at the expense of education and cadre work would undoubtedly lead to 'activism', which cannot provide a secure base for the growth of the tendency. But the Minority's approach would lead to impotent abstentionism.
Physical power of thought
270. What is the Minority really saying? On the one side: "our work in the actual party structures has been minimal in recent years... The importance of this presence lies not in the present gains..." (The New Turn - a threat 64) Yet they warn that we will find "life outside the Labour Party... far tougher" than we imagine. (The New Turn - a threat 8) There is no "huge constituency of workers and youth... just waiting to join us..." (The New Turn - a threat 72) Stripped of the frills and leaving aside the attempt to caricature our position, this means: it is difficult to make gains in the Labour Party at the moment, but it would be just as difficult outside, therefore let us concentrate on political education and cadre building.
271. This is a formula for stagnation. If it were adopted, it would lead not to the education of cadres but to the disintegration of the tendency. The proponents of this approach recall those characterised by Trotsky as:
272. On another occasion, Trotsky wrote:
273. This is the approach we must adopt. The Minority's plea for "education" has nothing in common with revolutionary Marxism.
How will we get back into the Labour Party?
274. The Minority claims that through more open work we will only make "ephemeral short-term gains" (The New Turn - a threat 66, 183), and will miss out on future opportunities within the Labour Party (The New Turn - a threat 64, 100 and following). 'The argument that it will be easy to get back in the future is false to the core... Had we continued on the same basis, we could have reaped the benefit in the future. Now we will find an almost insurmountable barrier blocking the way." (The New Turn - a threat 184)
275. This is no different from the arguments used by those who opposed the entry tactic when it was first raised by Trotsky in the 1930s. The critics of entrism said: "They will not let us in. They will expel us." Trotsky replied that whether cadres were working in a trade union or in a traditional reformist party:
276. When the issue was under discussion in Spain earlier this year, AW took the same position as Trotsky, contrary to AW's current position on Britain (Spanish report, 28 February-9 March, 1991, page 4): "When the masses turn back to the PSOE, it will not be possible for the bureaucracy to exclude us. The leading comrades may be kept out, but that is not an insurmountable obstacle." AW also gave the example in Britain of Healy's raiding tactics in the 1960s: "An historical point. In 1960, Healy, who was on an ultra-left binge and understood nothing about the Labour Party, nevertheless put all his forces inside the YS and got a majority, which he later wrecked."
277. The Minority also gloss over the experience of Greece. Interestingly enough, the Minority's draft document, said: "(83) But won't we get back, like in Greece? (Need an answer)." However, in their document (The New Turn - a threat 165) they skate over what happened. The Greek comrades were all expelled but, "never set up an independent organisation", merely organising 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."
The Greek experience
278. Virtually all the Marxists were expelled from PASOK in 1976. While the tendency naturally orientated towards PASOK members, its work was independent, open work under its own banner. In 1984 the tendency launched an independent campaign to put pressure on the right-wing PASOK leaders to contest the presidency against Karamanlis, whom they were previously going to give a clear run. However, the PASOK leaders were forced to change their position. Our intervention, through an independent, open campaign from outside PASOK (because of previous expulsions), had a decisive effect in galvanising working-class pressure for a PASOK candidate against the reactionary Karamanlis. As a result, the right was defeated and PASOK took the presidency. Nevertheless, Papandreou imposed a repressive, PSOE-type regime on the party. During the PASOK government's austerity measures between 1985 and 1987 the party leadership moved to stifle all opposition within the ranks, leading to the closure of many local branches. For a period after the end of 1986, the tendency had no links with PASOK branches.
279. It was the mass radicalisation of the Greek working class during the political crisis of 1989 that produced a revival of activity within PASOK, and created conditions for our comrades to re-enter the party. The Marxists' return was "based solely on the support of the rank and file and despite the opposition and the resistance that many local bureaucrats put up, and without any restrictions or conditions imposed on them." (Workers' International News, number 5) The Marxists were readmitted to PASOK, not on account of any self-imposed limitations on their open work, but because events produced a mass turn by the workers towards PASOK, and a fresh layer of party activists welcomed the Marxists into the ranks.
280. Given the right-wing policies of the Labour leadership in Britain, the defeat of the left, and the prevailing internal Labour Party regime, it would take a massive change to create the conditions for fruitful work within the Labour Party. This will only come about on the basis of events which would impel the trade union rank and file, youth, tenants, and other sections into the Labour Party.
281. When these sections turn back towards the Labour Party, we will go with them. We will be active in the factories, in the trade unions, on the estates, amongst the youth -just as we have been during the anti-poll tax struggle. The advanced layers who first turn back towards the party will include our comrades, cadres who will play a leading role in the struggles of the next period.
282. The Minority are straining for arguments when they say that these workers will reject us because of our open work and independent candidates. Hostility towards our standing candidates at the present time comes from the Labour leaders, Labour councillors, and current Labour Party members who are under the political influence of the leadership. New layers moving into the party in the future would, from the start, be in opposition to the present leadership. They would judge us on the basis of our policies and our record.
283. Trotsky also dealt with this issue in the 1930s:
284. Of course, "the Labour Party leaders have all the information they need..." (The New Turn - a threat 184) This is the position whatever tactics we pursue. We can never go back to the position of the 1960s or 1970s, when even the leaders of our tendency were only known to relatively small circles of activists, and the Labour leaders did not regard us as a serious threat. We have now led mass struggles, and are regarded by the bourgeois strategists and the Labour leaders as a factor in the political situation in Britain. It is unlikely, therefore, that even with the mass turn back to the party, all our leaders will be readmitted to the party. But the majority of our ranks would turn back to activity in the party and, on the basis of a renewal of the membership and a swing to the left, the Labour leadership could not exclude them.
Development of a mass left wing
285. It is not possible to say at this stage exactly how a mass left will develop in the Labour Party. No one has advanced a rosy, abstract "tidal wave" theory, with "the Labour left welcoming us back with open arms." (The New Turn - a threat 143) This is the Minority's own invention.
286. Under certain conditions, there could be a rapid turn towards the party by active layers of workers. On the other hand, it is possible that it could "take place over a period, with ebbs and flows..." (The New Turn - a threat 122) There is also the possibility, of a right-wing split-away from Labour under conditions of crisis, with the renewal of the rank and file of the party through an influx of workers. There could also be left-wing split-aways. Even if it were of an episodic character, it could be necessary temporarily to orientate towards such a development in order to win leftward-moving workers going with such a movement, without abandoning our strategic orientation towards the traditional parties.
287. However the development of the left takes place in the party, we do not see our task as that of organising the left, as the Minority seems to imply. We have always had the perspective that an influx into the party would strengthen the left reformists, and under certain conditions, a centrist current. We have never had the idea that "the Labour left [would] welcome us back." (The New Turn - a threat 143). It is not a question of participating "in the creation of the left from the beginning..." (The New Turn - a threat 125) In whatever way a mass left wing develops, the left-reformist and centrist leaders will be hostile to Marxism, and we will have to conduct a struggle to break their influence over big sections of workers.
288. The Minority put forward the scenario that, unless we are firmly entrenched in the Labour Party well in advance of a swing to the left, "we will in effect hand over control of the left wing, at least in the crucial early stages, to the Bennites and others." (The New Turn - a threat 123) This is a peculiar innovation in perspectives. Have we not always recognised that the "Bennites and others", who will represent the line of least resistance for most leftward-turning workers, are likely to be in the majority in the early stages? Our success in winning workers away from left-reformism and centrism will depend, not on the length of time we have been in the party, but on our ideas and programme, and on the strategy and tactics that we pursue. When there is a turn to the left in the Labour Party, we will be there as a revolutionary tendency fighting for our ideas within the development of a mass left current.
289. We will be in a far stronger position to fight for revolutionary ideas within the Labour Party in the future, if in the mean time we have strengthened our forces through bold intervention in the struggles of workers and youth. We cannot simply await future developments!
THE LESSONS OF SPAIN
290. The Minority (The New Turn - a threat 57) complains that "the example of the Spanish comrades standing an independent candidate was also dragged in by the hair to justify the situation in Liverpool." Spain, they argue, "was entirely different." However, AW's report, Lessons of the Basque elections (Bulletin of Marxist studies, Summer 1984), it was stated that "the analysis of this experience provides a wealth of lessons for Marxists in Britain and other countries." According to the Minority document (The New Turn - a threat 59) "the Spanish comrades drew the necessary conclusions [after the 1984 campaign], and have not attempted to repeat the experience." However, in the bulletin report, AW report wrote:
291. Moreover, the discussion on standing independent candidates has continued within the Spanish organisation. In a report on Discussion on tactics in Spain (8-15 March 1989), AW argued that "it is particularly necessary that we should stand out at this time. From that point of view, there would be a strong argument for putting up our own candidates." In a Spanish report to the International (28 February-9 March, 1991), AW wrote: "I believe it is urgent for the International to re-discuss the question of tactics in relation to the mass organisations. Even in Britain, the time may come when we have to readjust..."
292. There are differences between Spain and Britain, of course, but there are also similarities. The Minority argue that all the comrades in Spain are expelled anyway. However, as we have shown, we have reached the limits of effective activity in the Labour Party under current conditions. In Spain, say the Minority, PSOE has been in power for eight years, whereas in Britain there is the prospect of a general election and the possibility of a Labour government. The election is clearly a factor which has to be taken into account.
293. However, Kinnock has gone a long way towards PSOE-isation of the Labour Party in advance of a general election. He has imposed right-wing policies, established a bureaucratic regime based on expulsions, and the leadership has effectively opposed all major workers' struggles (the miners' strike, print workers' strike, anti-poll tax campaign, etc). If a Labour government is elected, the position would rapidly become almost identical to the current situation in Spain, with an intensified purge of Labour's ranks and a clash between a right-wing Labour government and the active ranks of the labour movement.
294. First, the Lessons of the Basque elections: the Spanish section decided to support an independent Marxist candidate, standing on the platform of the Left Socialist Candidature (CSI), in Alava, in the February 1984 elections for the Basque parliament. This obviously meant standing against PSOE, which gains approximately one-quarter of the votes in the region in general and municipal elections.
295. The background to this decision was the turn to the right by the PSOE leadership, and a purge of the Marxists and the destruction of the Young Socialists, a purge that was particularly intense in Alava. This was the situation prior to the election of the Gonzalez government in October 1982. Then Gonzalez's government began to carry out a quasi-Thatcherite policy of attacks on workers' living standards, which brought it into collision with workers who mounted a series of strikes. Under pressure from the government, the UGT leadership expelled the entire provincial executive of the union.
298. Does this not have strong parallels with the position in Liverpool? In Liverpool, the right-wing Labour and trade union leaders have launched an unprecedented series of attacks on the living standards of the workers and on the workers' organisations. The active layers of the labour movement in Liverpool drew the conclusion that only by standing independently could they defend their own interests and fight the right wing. Why was it "virtually impossible" to campaign for the PSOE and UGT leaders in Alava, while in Liverpool it was the case of our being "dragged down the road of an independent party"? (The New Turn - a threat 80) In Liverpool "we could have resisted putting up a candidate." (The New Turn - a threat 50)
299. In Alava, the tendency undoubtedly organised an effective and outstanding campaign. PSOE, on the other hand, had to rely on "hired hands, expensive public relations firms, and bourgeois printers."
300. In Lessons of the Basque elections AW says:
"Lenin defined agitation as 'dialogue with the masses', and this perfectly describes the CSI's election campaign. The ideas of Marxism for the first time were heard by thousands of people. At the same time the countless discussions with ordinary workers and their families were of invaluable assistance in increasing the Marxists' awareness of the mood of the masses, their consciousness and their aspirations. This, in and of itself, represents a colossal conquest."
301. In Alava, it is one thing - apparently in Liverpool, another. The Minority (The New Turn - a threat 51) dismiss this advantage of the campaign. There are many other ways they claim of conducting a dialogue with the workers, e.g. NHS, poll tax, etc. This is undoubtedly true, but it leaves out of account the enormous scope for mass work provided by election campaigns.
Exactly the same applied in the Walton campaign: the election made it clear that Lesley Mahmood stood for the return of a Labour government on socialist policies, democratisation of the Labour Party and socialist policies, and the defence of the gains made in the struggle in Liverpool. It does not follow, as the Minority now claim in their document, that to stand an independent candidate automatically and unavoidably means the proclamation of an open party counter-posed to the mass party of the working class. An independent candidate can still be orientated towards the regeneration of the mass parties.
303. The bulletin report also says that "the general mood was extremely hostile to the Socialist Party." Because of the failure of the PSOE government, the nationalists had made gains in the Basque country.
Does this point not apply to the situation in Scotland, particularly the situation that would develop if a Labour government introduced a Scottish assembly?
304. In the event, the CSI polled 2507 votes, or about two per cent, which fell short of the five per cent necessary to elect an MP. The PSOE vote was higher than expected, undoubtedly due to the reaction against the assassination by Basque terrorists of a leading PSOE senator three days before polling day.
306. Yet the Minority claim that we gave comrades an exaggerated impression of the likely result in Walton. On the contrary, the overwhelming majority of the leading body and the full-timers responsible for the campaign had a very sober and realistic assessment of the likely outcome. At the NEB which discussed the decision to stand, only EG raised the possibility of winning the seat (although he was opposed to standing anyway). However, as AW's comments on the campaign in Spain indicate, any enthusiastic, energetic campaign which gets a good response from a whole layer of workers inevitably raises the expectations of comrades, however sober the appraisal of the leadership.
Discussion on open tactics, 1989
307. In March 1989, AW reported on a discussion on tactics within the leading body of the Spanish section. The question of the orientation of the tendency, including the question of standing independent candidates, was posed by the complicated situation which followed the general strike of 14 December, 1988.
The UGT leadership was divided, with the majority line undoubtedly one of abstention (that is, not advocating support for PSOE).
311. The report raises the possibility that the Communist Party's electoral coalition, "Izuierda Unida", would pick up some support in the election campaign:
312. One of the leading Spanish comrades, R,
315. Summing up the discussion, AW wrote:
329. It is hardly necessary to comment. Virtually point for point, AW of yesterday answers AW's arguments of today. It is dangerous to draw automatic tactical conclusions from general perspectives: yet in Britain, apparently, it is imperative for us to continue forty years of "tried and tested" methods. AW recognised new kinds of obstacles to entrism in the Social Democracy: yet in Britain, it seems, we are merely experiencing just one more witch-hunt. In Spain, particularly in the Basque Country, union activists have turned away from PSOE and a majority of the youth is alienated. Yet in Scotland, there is apparently no need for a change in tactics to take account of a similar situation. Spain shows that it was "possible to exaggerate the dangers of tactical turns and independent (semi-independent) work". Yet the Minority document's arguments against the Scottish turn is based almost entirely on exaggerating the danger of a tactical turn. In Spain, AW considered that it would be correct to stand candidates against PSOE, without in any way prejudicing a future turn towards the socialist parties.AW argues that "Spain is different". While, of course, there are differences, many of the factors on which AW bases his arguments for more open tactics in Spain also apply in Britain, especially in Scotland.
More discussion on open tactics, 1991
330. Earlier this year, AW wrote a further Spanish report (28 February-9 March 1991). Once again he addressed the problem of orientation and tactics. "There is no doubt that the Spanish sections campaign against the war was a resounding success... The comrades had a major impact on the political life of the country. They have built up a colossal authority and prestige." However, the challenge is to recruit the youth influenced by our campaign. "There is, unfortunately not an automatic relation between leading masses in struggle and getting them to understand the need to join a revolutionary party once the struggle is ended." Of course, the growth of the organisation is influenced by the objective situation, the capabilities of the organisation's cadres, the policies of the tendency - but it also depends on adopting effective tactics."
332. The report then goes on:
341. Once again, AW on Spain answers AW on Britain. In Spain, open work today does not rule out entry tomorrow. In Spain, all our comrades are expelled - but when the mass turn back to PSOE, "it will not be possible for the bureaucracy to exclude us." What is so fundamentally different in Britain, where "only 250" have been expelled - but where there is currently very little possibility of revolutionary work within the Labour Party? How will the British Labour leaders be able to keep us out, when the mass moves back into the party?
342. Or is the crucial difference in Britain that "we have a number of comrades in key public positions"? Is AW arguing that we should hold back for fear of losing public positions? Why did we work for positions in the first place, if not as a platform to strengthen our intervention in the labour movement? We were never deluded that we would hold all our positions indefinitely. In any case, since when has it been possible to defend gains on the basis of a defensive stance? We may lose some positions, but we will gain new positions in future struggles. Surely we cannot decide our strategy and tactics on the basis of holding on to positions? The positions that we hold will be even more vulnerable if we allow opportunities for growth to slip away through inflexible tactics.
343. Earlier this year, AW considered that it was "urgent for the International to re-discuss the question of tactics in relation to the mass organisations. Even in Britain, the time may come when we have to readjust..." But when the question was re-discussed, on the basis of the new conditions that have developed in Scotland, AW completely rejected the proposal for a change in tactics on the basis of arguments that he had just demolished in relation to Spain.
344. Is this not a case of acute political schizophrenia? One position in Spain, another in Britain?
345. The Minority opposes the Scottish turn. But they offer no way forward for the tendency in the next period. They adhere to dogmatic methods in thought and action.
346. Theory should be a guide to action. In contrast to the Minority's position, Scotland: perspectives and tasks, 1991, together with this document, outline perspectives, strategy and tactics which correspond to the situation we currently face. We are confident that, on the basis of the ideas outlined in these documents and elaborated in the debate, we will build on the successes of recent years, strengthen the tendency, and greatly extend our influence within the working class.
12 September, 1991