Historic opportunity demands widest possible debate

THE publication of the proposed Constitution and Rules may come as a shock to those who have welcomed Scargill’s call for a Socialist Labour Party, but have so far been excluded from debates.

A meeting last Sunday was by invitation only, and many were quite obviously excluded, primarily those in other leftwing/revolutionary political organisations. Even Tommy Sheridan from Scottish Militant Labour had trouble receiving an invite apparently.

This is disgraceful, given his own and his organisation’s history of struggle in Scotland, whatever criticisms we may have of it.

The Provisional Central Committee of the CPGB feels that so far the debates towards a Socialist Labour Party have been conducted in a conspiratorial manner at odds with the interests of the working class. A party which can truly serve the interests of the working class will be forged through struggle itself and at the initiative of leading partisans of the class. It cannot be hatched by a handful of selected trade unionists and Labour Party members, whatever their proud and militant history.

Following Sunday’s meeting the Constitution and Rules, drafted it seems primarily by Scargill, is now in circulation. It has to be said that this document does not bode well for the success of a future Party. Nevertheless by its publication the working class as a whole now has a document around which to take forward discussions.

Unfortunately it still seems unclear how widely this document was intended to be distributed and how open it is for change. More invitation-only meetings are planned for January. A special meeting has been arranged for the Scottish Socialist Forum, since these comrades were the main opponents of the proposed Constitution on Sunday.

As communists we would have much to disagree with both in detail and the whole approach of the document. But fundamentally Clause II on eligibility for membership would doom this Party as useless to the working class from the beginning and so must be opposed.

Other areas of the Constitution can be fought through and won and lost in the course of struggle and the heat of debate. But if individual members in other political organisations - let alone those organisations themselves - are excluded, this battle cannot take place. We are led to believe that ‘other political organisations’ would include animal rights campaigns, CND, Amnesty International presumably, not to mention the Labour Party.

As Scargill implied in his original call for a Socialist Labour Party, he is obviously terrified of what he calls ‘sectarian’ wrangles. So he is in particular concerned to keep out organisations on the revolutionary left.

This is to misuse the term sectarianism. It does not mean battling over ideas, over programme and action. This is an absolute necessity for a party truly of the working class. The working class is not a homogeneous ideological clot. Millions of different ideas on all areas of life exist in our class. The vast majority of these are influenced by the ideas of the ruling class, the bourgeoisie, since theirs is the ruling ideology. To discover the scientific ideas that can liberate humanity in all spheres of life the working class has organisation, open ideological struggle and unity in action as its weapons.

It is such a party that must be forged if it is going to mean anything for our class, if it is going to be capable of leading the working class to victory, making us into a ruling class capable of liberating the whole of humanity.

This is why the publication of this proposed Constitution and Rules must be the beginning of the widest possible debate around the type of party we need.

The only criteria for being included in this debate is an individual’s or organisation’s willingness to fight for socialism. The Scargill draft should be taken as a contribution to that debate - nothing more - from an authoritative and respected leader. The final decision must rest with the democratically convened founding conference of the party. No one has the authority to decide on its behalf what sort of organisation should be founded.

Scargill’s original document - Future strategy for the left - stated that the new organisation must be built through a special ‘Discussion Conference’ to which “all those committed to founding such a Party should be invited with the aim of formulating a constitution and structure”. Surely the extremely restricted, invite-only December 10 meeting was not the ‘Discussion Conference’? At the very least, the wider meeting mooted for February 13 of next year should have the authority to adopt a draft constitution of the party - providing it is genuinely democratic and representative of “all those committed to founding” a party to challenge Blair [my emphasis]. The final decisions should still rest with the founding congress of the organisation.

Ironically, Future strategy for the left points out that it was the ‘modernisers’ of the time - the Labour right wing - that were responsible for “introducing the bans and proscriptions which were prevalent in the 30s and later during the Cold War period of the 50s”. Is the new organisation going to go one better and proscribe communists and other revolutionaries from its very foundation?

There is no more room for secret meetings or hidden debate. The party of the working class is the property of no one but the working class itself. A party which is built bureaucratically around a few individuals’ own schemes cannot possibly rally the energy, imagination, discipline and commitment of leading sections of our class. Brought together to unite their differing ideas in common struggle for truth in theory and practice, our class is an explosive combination. To deliberately keep workers divided around the basis of different political affiliations and organisations is the worst manifestation of sectarianism, and a crime against our class.

To seize this historic opportunity now requires the fullest open debate amongst all partisans of the working class, already organised or not.

Lee-Anne Bates